A 66-year-old man who is trying to ‘save Medicare’ has been legally threatened by the Department of Human Services (DHS) for using the Medicare logo on his not-for-profit website.
The ‘irony’ is that the department is not turning its attack dogs on the Coalition and the Labor party for doing exactly the same thing.
The Commonwealth Solicitor, on behalf of the DHS, has threatened legal action against retired grandfather Mark Rogers, for running a website that supports Medicare.
“The department is concerned about the misuse and misrepresentation of the Medicare brand, not legitimate use in public debate,” said Human Services Minister Alan Tudge.
Mr Rogers has been running the ‘Save Medicare’ site for two years.
Bill Shorten said “attacking a grandfather for wanting to save Medicare” was a new low for Malcolm Turnbull.
“Mark Rogers only wants to preserve Medicare for his grandkids and Malcolm Turnbull is calling in his lawyers to try and stop him,” said Mr Shorten. “When he [Malcolm Turnbull] throws the book at an ordinary Australian trying to save our universal healthcare system, it’s no wonder Australians don’t trust Mr Turnbull with Medicare.”
Mr Rogers has been fighting for Medicare since he joined a small advocacy group in 2014. He set up the group’s website www.savemedicare.org because he thought it a worthy cause.
“I wear a lot of activist’s hats, things I think will save the country,” said Mr Rogers. “And I found this little Medicare group and they didn’t have a web page. And I thought, Oh, I can do that, with a bit of help from technical people. And that’s it.”
On 16 November, Mr Rogers received an email demanding he remove the “the unauthorised use of Medicare name and logo” from the website or he could be on the hook for costs and damages.
Suffice to say, Mr Rogers was surprised by the threat.
“I don’t know whether gobsmacked is a current word, but I think I was so surprised by this, I don’t know if I was highly distressed,” he said. “I mean, I still don’t believe it’s real.
“That came out of the blue, totally out of the blue. There was no, ‘Let’s have a chat. We don’t like some of your content’. That was it.”
The Coalition and Labor regularly use the Medicare logo to support political campaigns. Mr Rogers wants to know why they haven’t received the same letters and threats.
Under Section 41C of the Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973, the Medicare brand can’t be used “in connection with a business, trade, profession or occupation”, which technically means that Mr Rogers should be safe from legal action on that point.
And whilst he may be liable for using the brand “as, or as part of, the name or emblem of a newspaper or magazine owned by, or published by or on behalf of, an association”, Mr Rogers does not intend to profit from its use. He just wants to save Medicare.
“You look at the last election, there was all sorts of stuff floating around with the Medicare logo on it,” he said. “And they are big powerful groups. And here am I a retired grandfather who thinks healthcare is important and Medicare needs to be stronger.
Yesterday, Labor’s Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, asked the Prime Minister:
“Will the Government be threatening legal action against the Liberal Party, the member for Forde (LNP’s Bert van Manen), the Minister for Trade, (LNP’s Stephen Ciobo); the member for Bonner (LNP’s Ross Vasta) and the Health Minister (Liberal Sussan Ley) who have all used the Medicare logo in their own political material?”
To which the PM replied: “I will see if that litigation is as he has described.”
Do you think this action is fair? Should other bodies using the Medicare logo also be threatened with the same legal action? Is this indeed a new low for the Government?