The Abbott Government has confirmed it is preparing to rip another $1.3 billion out of the Health Budget, but is refusing to say what areas it is targeting.
In Senate Estimates yesterday the Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash declared the Government remained committed to hiking the price of prescriptions by $5 for general patients and $0.80 for concession card holders.
“The government policy hasn’t changed.”
Fiona Nash, Senate Estimates, 1 June 2015
But in a confusing performance, the minister today abandoned this position after admitting the measure would not pass the Senate, and committed instead to making a further $1.3 billion in health cuts.
“We absolutely remain committed to the savings that are allocated to the measure.”
Fiona Nash, Senate Estimates, 2 June 2015
This is now the Government’s fourth position on the prescription price hikes in three weeks.
The government recommitted to the increase in the Budget on the May 12 Budget, then, just nine days later the minister announced she was dropping the proposal because it would not pass the senate, blowing a $1.3 billion hole in the Budget.
Before the day was out, Treasurer Joe Hockey forced the minister to reinstate the PBS price hikes, a decision confirmed yesterday by Assistant Minister Nash.
Now, the on again, off again, on again PBS hike is off again, to be replaced by an as yet to be declared $1.3 billion further hit to the health Budget.
Neither the Assistant Minister nor the Secretary were able to reveal what areas of health were now in the government’s sights, or when these further cuts might be unveiled, with Senator Nash only saying that “we’re hoping soon perhaps”.
Today’s evidence confirms that not content with having cut $60 billion from health last year, and another $2 billion this year, the Minister has been instructed by Joe Hockey she has to raid the Health Budget for a further $1.3 billion.
The Minister must immediately come clean on what further health cuts she now has in her sights. More cuts to hospitals? More cuts to general practice? More cuts to drug and alcohol programs?
This yet again highlights that Tony Abbott only ever sees health as a target for Budget cuts and only Labor can be trusted to look after Australia’s health system.