THE HON CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt face four key tests in the health portfolio in today’s Budget.
- Reverse their $715 million in cuts to public hospitals.
- Drop their entire Medicare rebate freeze immediately.
- Fix the private health insurance affordability crisis.
- Scrap the tampon tax once and for all.
Malcolm Turnbull can find $80 billion to give big business a tax handout – but he can’t properly fund Australia’s health system.
The Liberals’ hospital cuts are doing tangible damage across Australia: surgeries are being delayed, emergency department waiting times are blowing out, and doctors, nurses and hospital staff are under increasing pressure.
Australians know that Labor will always invest more in the public hospital system than the Liberals, who want nothing more than to privatise and Americanise our world-class health system.
The Liberals will no doubt trumpet a paltry rise in the Medicare rebate for GP visits – but that comes only after years in the deep freeze, with out-of-pocket costs for GPs increasing by more than 20% in this time.
Meanwhile, other elements of the Medicare rebate freeze will remain in place for years to come.
Turnbull and Hunt should ditch the freeze immediately and in full.
They should also do something real to address the private health insurance affordability crisis.
Australians are paying more and more for less and less, or ditching their private health insurance because they cannot afford to keep up with the relentless annual price rises.
Labor has a real plan to improve affordability: we will cap the annual premium price rises at 2 per cent for two years, saving the average policyholder $340. In stark contrast, the Government’s plan – designed by the industry itself – is doing little to bring down costs, with the latest average premium price rise still close to 4 per cent.
Finally, Turnbull and Hunt should adopt Labor’s plan to end the unfair and discriminatory tampon tax.
Labor’s plan is fair, fully costed and has already attracted the support of leaders in every state and territory. No more excuses – it’s time for this tax to go.
If Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt want to do right by Australia – and restore some of their shattered credibility – they need to pass all four of these key tests.
MONDAY, 8 MAY 2018