The Abbott Government has finally admitted its petty and heartless Budget cut to the subsidy for Australians suffering from debilitating Inborn Error of Metabolism (IEM) conditions was based on wrong information.
However, the sting in the tail is that further unspecified cuts to health will be made to pay for the minister’s bungling.
Around 900 Australians are diagnosed with rare genetic conditions such as Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Homocystinuria (HCU) which require them to have an expensive and protein restricted diet to prevent brain damage.
With no warning or consultation the Abbott Government abolished a small subsidy, worth around $250 per month, paid to 985 families people to purchase the special food they need so children with this condition do not suffer brain damage.
Labor repeatedly raised this issue in the Parliament, but our concerns for these families were repeatedly dismissed by both the Prime Minister and Health Minister.
"Foods for people managing protein metabolic disorder are now more readily available and cheaper than when the programme began”
Sussan Ley, 25 May 2015
“There are now far more regular supermarket items, like cornflour that can replace wheat flour and rice milk that can replace dairy milk, for people managing protein disorders.”
Tony Abbott, Question Time, 26 May 2015
Now, more than two months after the Minister was first made aware her Government bungled, she has now admitted Labor was right, and the grant should not have been cut.
“It has become clear to me that unlike other food-related illnesses or allergies, this condition cannot be managed using food alternatives you can buy in the supermarket.”
Sussan Ley, Statement, 31 July 2015
Despite initially insulting the families by dismissing their concerns as a “scare campaign” the Abbott Government has now admitted it should never have cut this grant.
Labor welcomes this long overdue recognition that the Minister got this badly wrong but other areas of the health sector should not be made to pay the price for her bungling.
Who else will in the health sector will now have to pay the price for this Government’s ineptitude in health?
Instead, the Minister should immediately restore this grant to the 985 families, and offer a full apology for the distress caused by her petty and cruel Budget cut.