Nurses champion Robin Hood tax to shield public health from Americanisation

As the G20 prepares to meet in Brisbane this weekend, nurses and midwives from across New South Wales and Queensland have challenged world leaders to implement a Robin Hood tax (a financial transactions tax) to support universal health care systems in Australia and across the globe.

The group, together with local and international affiliated union groups, raised concerns about state and federal health funding cuts, the privatisation of public hospitals and essential health services, coupled with the dismantling of Medicare and the intrusion of private health insurers into medical decision making.

Representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) travelled more than 1500 kilometres from Wollongong to the G20 in Brisbane to generate discussion on the merits of a Robin Hood tax and how the additional revenue stream would ensure the delivery of quality public health care over the longer term in Australia.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said rather than advocating for a broadening of the GST base, which would only hurt low and middle income earners who are already doing it tough, the federal government needed to take tax reform seriously.

“The Prime Minister called for a measured debate on the federation, including a discussion on tax reform, and we have responded to this by raising awareness of how a Robin Hood tax would stop our public health services from shifting further down the track of a two-tier, Americanised health system,” Mr Holmes said.

“What we’re seeking is not new concept or idea.  It’s a modest levy between 0.005 and 0.05 per cent on the trading of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures, options and credit default swaps.

“It could be designed in a way to specifically target financial institutions engaged in transactions at high speed and frequency, while shielding low and middle income families through other taxation changes.”

President of the NSWNMA, Coral Levett, said given current budget constraints and the ongoing impact our ageing population will have on Australia’s health system, it was time the government stopped searching for short-term fixes and focused on constructive discussions with international counterparts.

“With so many international delegates in our backyard, our government has the opportunity to show some real leadership and engage in talks with European G20 members about how their EU Financial Transactions Tax (EU FTT) will work from 1 January 2016 and how a global arrangement could help bring the Robin Hood tax to Australia,” Ms Levett said.

“We’re mindful of the steps being taken to try and address the issues of tax avoidance, tax evasion, base erosion and profit shifting by large multinational companies – what we’re advocating for would generate billions of dollars in additional revenue.

“Much needed revenue which could be used to ensure public health and aged care services are well funded in Australia, as well as assist in the global fight against poverty and help to tackle climate change.

“As nurses and midwives, we are calling on all G20 leaders and government representatives to put patient safety and quality of care within all communities around the globe at the forefront, as a basic human right,” she said.

Over the past two weeks members of the NSWNMA have held community forums at Wollongong, Parramatta, Gosford, Newcastle, Tamworth, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Tweed Heads as part of road tour to discuss bringing the Robin Hood tax to Australia.

In a show of solidarity, the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) joined the tour at Gold Coast University Hospital along with representatives from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Community and Public Sector Union, the American-based National Nurses United, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Global Nurses United and Public Services International.

During a G20 International Conference hosted by the QNU, all groups pledged support for tax justice, the importance of keeping universal health care in Australia and the need to fight against the impost of privatisation on essential health care and other public services.

More details on the Robin Hood tax campaign are available at

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