Turnbull government threatens to sue grandfather over 'save Medicare' website

The Turnbull government has threatened to sue a retiree who established a little-visited website that campaigns against cuts to Medicare, accusing him of unauthorised use of the healthcare system's green and yellow logo.

The use of Medicare against the government has become a point of extreme sensitivity for the Coalition since its near-death experience in July and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's angry election night claim that unions "peddled lies" to voters in text messages purportedly sent by Medicare.

But Mark Rogers, a Sydney grandfather of two, said it was "beyond over the top" and "Monty Pythonesque" for the government to threaten him with court and damages for his part-time personal crusade to protect Medicare.

On Wednesday last week he received a legal letter from the Australian Government Solicitor giving him less than 48 hours to shut down his "Save Medicare" website and agree to never use Medicare branding again.

"I've committed a terrible crime, I don't agree with a government policy," Mr Rogers told Fairfax Media.

"Medicare belongs to the people anyway, the government is simply the caretaker and yet I'm being pursued like I'm producing and selling a counterfeit product through Aldi or Coles. I'm trying to build the brand of Medicare rather than diminish it. It is the government which has threatened Medicare by cutting billions of dollars out of it."

The government is pursuing Mr Rogers, who spends part of his week minding his two granddaughters, even though the Liberal Party used the Medicare logo in election ads in which Mr Turnbull insisted its future was safe.

Mr Rogers also compared the government's pursuit of him with the Liberal Party's current obsession with freedom of speech and loosening section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

"It seems to me the government wants to make freedom of speech available for people who agree with their opinions but if you don't you get the Australian Government Solicitor thrown on to you." he said.

Mr Rogers's website and domain name is similar to Labor's "save Medicare" campaign website but the ALP has not been threatened with legal action, Fairfax Media has confirmed.

The letter to Mr Rogers from the Government Solicitor was sent on behalf of the Department of Human Services.

"DHS has recently become aware that you have registered the domain name savemedicare.org and that you are using the 'Save Medicare' logo incorporating the distinctive green and yellow Medicare branding and colour scheme," the solicitor wrote.

"DHS has not authorised you to use its Medicare name and branding. Your unauthorised registration and use of a domain name, Facebook subdomain and Twitter handle incorporating the Medicare name ... is misleading or deceptive and infringes our client's copyright in the Medicare logo." 

The government gave Mr Rogers until last Friday at 4pm to remove all use of the logo and take steps to cancel the domain name.

"If you do not agree to do each of these things by the above deadline, our client reserves the right, without further notice, to institute proceedings against you, seeking injunctive relief, damages and costs."

Mr Rogers defied the initial directive, saying he needed more time to consider his position and seek legal advice.

"We own our own home and have some superannuation but I can't afford to fight the government myself," he said.

Mr Rogers said he established the website in December 2014 after attending a rally hosted by the protest group Save Medicare Sydney.

"They didn't have a website and I thought I could do something useful for them in my spare time," said the retired computer software programmer and manager.

He said the website only ever gets traffic when the group hands out flyers but otherwise "goes to sleep".

"If they don't hold a rally the hits dwindle away to close to nothing," he said.

The Health Services website states: "We have very strict guidelines around use of the department's names and symbols, including logos. We do not allow use of any of our names and symbols on other websites, unless we have granted prior permission."

On Wednesday, GetUp! said it was launching a petition calling on the government to back off from its threat to Mr Rogers.

"This is a true David vs Goliath story – a vindictive government using the enormous legal resources at their disposal to intimidate people into silence," said GetUp!'s Natalie O'Brien.

During Question Time, Tony Burke, the manager of opposition business, asked Mr Turnbull whether the government would also sue Coalition MPs who used the Medicare logo in election material.

Mr Turnbull responded: "I will see if that litigation is as he has described."

Later, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge indicated he would not call his department off the pursuit of Mr Rogers.

"The Department is concerned about the misuse and misrepresentation of the Medicare brand, not legitimate use in public debate," he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed it was a "new low ... attacking a grandfather for wanting to save Medicare".

"Mark Rogers only wants to preserve Medicare for his grandkids and Malcolm Turnbull is calling in his lawyers to try and stop him," he said.

Follow us on Twitter

The story Turnbull government threatens to sue grandfather over 'save Medicare' website first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide