THE HON CATHERING KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt have comprehensively failed the Budget test for our health system.
At the same time as they are giving big business a $80 billion tax handout, Turnbull and Hunt have decided to persist with their $715 million in cruel cuts to hospitals over the next two years.
They have also locked in further cuts for the five years from 2020.
They are keeping their Medicare rebate freeze in place for years to come, forcing up out-of-pocket costs to see specialists.
They have failed to do anything to address the private health insurance affordability crisis.
And they have failed to adopt Labor’s plan to scrap the unfair and discriminatory tampon tax.
The Budget also includes over $1 billion in new health savings. While the Liberals claim they will “reinvest” or “redirect” this money, Australians know better than to trust Malcolm Turnbull on health. The Liberals must urgently clarify where this money is going – or admit it’s another $1 billion cut from health.
Even by the Liberals’ low standards, this is a dismal effort. It proves once and for all they care more about showering their rich corporate mates with tax cuts than they do about the health of ordinary Australians.
New listings on Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – as recommended by independent experts – are welcome. But this is just the ordinary business of government – the very least the Liberals can manage.
Meanwhile, their hospital cuts are putting doctors, nurses and hospital staff under increasing pressure; forcing delays in surgeries; and making emergency department waiting times even worse.
They somehow have the gall to trumpet a paltry – and already budgeted – rise in the Medicare rebate for GP visits. But let’s not forget that comes after years in the deep freeze, with out-of-pocket costs for GPs increasing by more than 20% over the last few years.
Meanwhile, other elements of the Medicare rebate freeze – including for specialist visits – will remain in place for years to come.
The Budget says nothing about the ever-increasing costs of private health insurance, which are battering household budgets and forcing many Australians to ditch their cover.
Instead of adopting Labor’s bold plan to cap premium price rises at 2% for two years, Turnbull and Hunt are doing nothing more than persisting with their industry-designed too-little too-late changes from last year.
The Budget also had nothing to say about the tampon tax.
A Shorten Labor government will abolish this unfair tax once and for all. Our plan is fair, fully costed and has already attracted the support of leaders in every state and territory.
The Liberals are happy for women to keep paying more for their essential sanitary items.
Australians know that Labor will always invest more in health than the Liberals, who want nothing more than to privatise and Americanise our world-class health system.
WEDNESDAY, 9 MAY 2018