Piecing together the budget jigsaw

So many pieces to the budget jigsaw, so little idea of the final design.

We're forcing everyone - including the poor, pensioners, children, the homeless, the mentally ill - to pay $7 to see their GPs because there's a hole in the budget.

But, hold on: instead of ploughing the money back into hospitals, or education, or roads, we're putting it into a fund to research ways to stop people from getting sick.

So it won't have any immediate impact on the budget?

In other words, it's not really to counter the emergency?

No, but it is a rather clever idea for the very long term: people won't get sick in the first place, so they won't need to see a doctor.

And, yes, there will be less of a need for doctors!

Which has got to be part of the plan to fix expenditure on health, as, with uni fees going up, fewer students can afford to study to become doctors.

Expect cures for everything from the common cold to cancer, from measles to AIDS, even for our growing resistance to antibiotics.

But, you say, this research is likely to take decades and may not produce any results?

And will we find a cure for broken bones?

Maybe only rich sportspeople will go to doctors - after all, the $7 co-payment is but a drop in the bucket for the likes of Buddy Franklin.

And, you ask, why do we need to do this as other countries already have research institutes?

Well, of course they do. The US has lots of them - I'm thinking for example of the not insignificant Johns Hopkins and Harvard among many others - and I'm sure they're already hard at work finding cures for cancer and all the other ailments.

But, you point out, they still haven't come up with cures with all the money and genius at their disposal, so what chance do we have with our minute population and even smaller number of researchers?

I mean, it's been pointed out ad nauseam by the people who are introducing this intriguing regime that we can't influence global warming by cutting emissions because our population numbers are so tiny.

So what chance is there of our resolute, but outgunned, researchers coming up with the antibiotic to kill golden staph?

And, even if they succeed, what will the outcome be?

We'll all live longer and have to pay even more to see those decreasing numbers of GPs for ailments our researchers haven't found cures for.

That's if they haven't died already because they couldn't afford to see a GP before the cures had been found.

And if they die, well, they won't need doctors.

Absolutely brilliant.

How about trying for different ways to repair the budget emergency?

Such as not spending $89 million on looking for a missing Malaysian plane that's really not our problem.

Or perhaps trying to tax multinationals - such as Google and Apple - that contribute zilch while earning billions here?

No, that's too hard. We can't even negotiate with Clive Palmer to look at the budget documents, let alone Sergey Brin and Tim Cook.

Do you think that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey must know what they're doing, as they're prepared to wear the political pain?

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The author is a Fairfax Media journalist.

This story Piecing together the budget jigsaw first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.