This morning Tony Abbott’s health minister signalled the government plans to go back to the bad old days of zero support for children’s dental health.
Labor initiated the Growing Up Smiling Scheme (renamed by the Abbott Government to the Child Dental Benefits Scheme) because we have a major problem in Australia with children’s dental health. This problem completely neglected by the Liberals when they were last in office, and addressed by Labor.
According to the AIHW, in 2009 the proportion of children who had experienced decay in their baby (deciduous) teeth ranged from 42% for 5 year olds to 61% for 9 year olds. The proportion of children with permanent teeth affected by decay ranged from 5% for 6 year olds to 58% for 14 year olds.
In the first month of this scheme more than 18,200 children were able to access dentists. The scheme provides $1,000 per child over a two calendar year period for dental services and provides access for millions of families who would otherwise not have it. It is a scheme that has been desperately needed, and Labor was proud to deliver it.
$2.7 billion has been budgeted for the package to provide access to dentists for at least 3.4 million children aged 2 to 17.
This government is determined to restrict access to health services and has no plan for the families who cannot afford dental care for their children.
Despite not opposing the scheme in opposition, it seems the Government is already planning to cut dental benefits for millions of kids.
This morning the Minister for Health told the Parliament:
“I put on the record some early concerns about the way in which the Child Dental Benefits scheme was structured… we will continue to monitor that program very carefully because I do have some concerns about the way in which this scheme was designed".
Labor notes that the scheme’s operation has commenced under the Abbott Government and that the Minister for Health, if he had concerns about the schemes structure, had the opportunity to amend it prior to its commencement in January 2014.
This is just yet another example of the Abbott Government laying the ground work for cuts and destroying universal healthcare in Australia. They are pulling the same trick they did with their new GP Tax, and Australian families won’t fall for it.
What the Minister if really trying to say is that he intends to cut the Child Dental Benefits Scheme. This is from a government that is not upfront with the Australian public.
Instead of releasing the report by its Commission of Audit so every Australian knows what cuts are planned, decisions that will hurt families are being made in secret – something that is fast becoming a characteristic of this government.