Getting some answers from the ever wise Dr Karl
A couple weeks ago I was asking Dr Karl about hangover cures that were proven by science to which he replied that there was no such thing. So instead, we got talking about science, that one time he ran for the Senate and what he thought of health budgets.
What’s one thing that you wish people would know or do?
If there’s one thing - people should know this. Here it comes. Everything is made of atoms. You said one thing. That’s one thing. Everything is made of atoms. So straight away, with regard to mobile phones causing cancer – you look at atoms. You know what atoms are. And you say oh, some radiation knocks off some electrons. And some doesn’t. And radiation which knocks off electrons cause cancer and those that don’t knock off electrons don’’t. So straight away you use that as a basis. Can you think of any other one single thing that’s just as useful and important? Your cells are made of atoms. Everything is made of atoms except for 96% of you, apart from that everything is made of atoms. It took people thousands of years to work that out.
I remembered a couple of years ago, you were running for senate – would you consider trying that again?
Ah no, unless you got 5 million dollars. Do you know how much funding Hillary Clinton has? 36 billion. It was gathered by a variety of means, you can look it up on the SuperPAC and you’ll find the answer. In my case, all we could afford was 5000 dollars - A 30s advertisement on Sunday morning after the non stick fryer pan ads but before the border and fundamentalist redneck Christians from texas. And therefore nobody saw the ads. That’s the sort of money we need, 5 million dollars.
The government likes to play around with the health budget when it comes to cutting costs. Do you have an opinion on what the government should never touch?
Well it’s complicated. First you have to work out how things have changed before figuring out where to go next. So, you know that old saying – those who do not know their history are dead to repeat it? Going into the health budget – in Australia the system used to be that medical care used to be really expensive.
So basically, the philosophy that Gough Whitlam brought in was, because you pay taxes, you get medical care – but purely socialised government medicine, not private care. It’s all government medicine. The moment it starts to be private it gets really expensive, because in addition they want to make a profit and the only way to do that is charge more. You have this situation in America, where by factor of 2 to 1, they’re one of the world’s most expensive medical system.
Going back to our health care budget, it’s broke up into many parts – it’s private, it’s public. Here’s something deeply fundamental, which is medicine is not a commodity like other commodities. So specifically, it is not a commodity like a car. If you get a car – you know what you want, whether you want a red car or convenient car that’s easy to park, whatever – you know what you want. Whereas in medicine you don’t know what you want - you have a pain in your tummy and all you know is you want it fixed. And the history is, people have acknowledged the training of doctors and in society, doctors always had a position where they are comfortable. Not famously wealthy. They were better off than the average person.
After the second world war, some people in the medical profession tried to change this to get fabulously wealthy rather than seeing it as a calling. On one hand you had people on one side who wanted to use it to get fabulously wealthy, on the other hand you have a few grandfather clauses. It means things are the way they are even though they’re unjust or wrong simply because it’s been that way. For a while, pathology used to be very expensive then with various technologies and computerisation, they became really cheap yet charged the same rates.
So you’ve got this complicated amount of money, that in some cases, not enough I see is going in the right direction – in other cases it’s going in the wrong direction. Too much is going to people it shouldn’t be going to. So when you say cut it, I would see it as a philosophical view and re-jig the whole system and get rid of private medicine and go public. It’s not a simple answer.
If you had become a pollie though, do you think that would’ve affected your standing as one of the most trusted people in Australia? You were voted 9th by Readers’ Digest in 2014.
Of course. Looking at politicians though, overwhelmingly they’re pretty smart. You have to be and they work really hard. They work incredibly really hard. You can never accuse a politician of being lazy. They’re there at 6 o’clock in the morning, raising the flag at some RSL and at 11:30 at night they’re at some high school dance. They’re working all the time and everybody tries to have a go at them.
The reason why I wanted to be a politician is because I wanted to have some power. In some countries in the world, power grows out of the barrel of a gun. With an Australian, power grows from the laws. We’ve got this 3 part system – we have the cops, the judiciaries and the law makers. Three separate branches and the power comes from the law maker. I wanted to be there, changing the laws. i wanted to go into the senate so I could be more independent rather than the political party.