In a further sign of the chaos and dysfunction within the Abbott Government, the Minister for Health is now giving out conflicting explanations for the funding of the Medical Research Future Fund depending on who she is talking to.
On Monday, the minister could not have been clearer, insisting all savings from the review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule would be directed to the MRFF.
"If there are savings it will go into the Medical Research Future Fund, as we promised in the last budget."
Health Minister Susan Ley, Sky News, 1 May 2015
But now, in response to concerns from the Australian Medical Association that health savings should be reinvested back into the health system, the Minister has told AMA President Brian Owler a different story.
"I clarified this last night with the minister’s office. If there are savings identified through the review these would be reinvested into health rather than all going off to the Medical Research Future Fund."
This is just further evidence of the complete chaos that passes for health policy from this government with the minister changing her message depending on who she is talking to.
The government promised the MRFF would be operating by January first this year, but four months after that deadline, it hasn’t even introduced the MRFF legislation into Parliament.
This is despite Tony Abbott insisting last year Australia could not afford to wait to establish the fund.
“The cures of tomorrow are the research of today and that’s why it’s so important that we get cracking.”
Tony Abbott, Radio 2GB, 20 June 2014
Meantime, all the health cuts the government promised would be directed into the MRFF, such as the billions cuts from public hospitals, dental programs and preventative health continue, continue to pile up, boosting Treasurer Joe Hockey’s bottom line.
Labor is prepared to work in a bipartisan way to support health and medical research, but not at the expense of cutting vital services and hurting today’s patients.
There remains a disturbing lack of detail about the proposed fund, such as how the fund will operate, what its scope will be, as well as the potential impact on existing funding and fundraising processes.
The government has only itself to blame for this mess, after creating such high expectations in the research community that it would deliver the promised $20 billion fund.
The minister’s contradictory messages on the fund simply highlights the chaos and dysfunction in the Abbott Government as she scrambles to backflip on her government’s unrealistic promises.