Gillard threatens to bypass states on health funding
By chief political correspondent Simon Cullen
Updated 6 minutes ago
Video: Watch Julia Gillard’s comments today (ABC News)
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard is threatening to bypass state governments and directly fund local hospitals amid a new row over health budgets.
The Commonwealth and Victorian governments have been involved in a long-running feud over $107 million that was cut from the state’s allocation of health funding, resulting in bed closures and a blowout in elective surgery waiting times.
Ms Gillard says the funding adjustment was based on revised population figures, but last night she wrote to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu to say the money would now be given directly to local hospital networks.
“That money won’t pass through Premier Baillieu’s hands,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Adelaide.
“And what we will do to balance the books is we will cut $107 million off other sources of funding to the Victorian Government.”
She says Victoria will lose $55 million in reward funding it would have received under national economic reforms, with the remaining money to be recouped through cuts to other grants.
In her letter to Mr Baillieu, Ms Gillard said the Commonwealth’s overall contribution to Victoria’s health system was being increased by 26 per cent, and accused him of running a “disingenuous and purely political campaign” in relation to last year’s $107 million adjustment.
Across the board, Commonwealth funding to the states was scaled back by $1.6 billion because it said population growth had not been as high as the Bureau of Statistics had previously predicted and funding should be curtailed accordingly.
Audio: Federal and state governments face off again over health (PM)
But Mr Baillieu has described the population figures as “dodgy” and says the restoration of the $107 million is only a “short-term political fix”.
“That $107 million only covers this financial year, so from July 1 the cuts that were previously announced will resume and there’s a further $368 million of cuts in Victoria in the [forward estimates],” he told Fairfax radio.
The Prime Minister’s fight with Victoria is threatening to spread to other states, including Queensland, which has today demanded the Commonwealth reverse a $103 million cut in its allocation.
Ms Gillard has written to all premiers and chief ministers warning them they will suffer the same fate as Victoria if they engage in “game playing” over health funding.
In the letter, Ms Gillard says the states can elect to return to the Howard-era funding deal, which she claims would cost Queensland $2.3 billion over an eight-year period, or have future Commonwealth payments made in arrears, as opposed to the current system which provides money to the states upfront.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says today’s announcement by Ms Gillard in relation to the Victorian health system is an admission that “the feds” had cut funding, adding that he would have no problem with federal funding going directly to his state’s hospitals.
“What isn’t acceptable is that they are saying ‘what we’ll do is take the $103 million out of other programs in Queensland’ and who knows what that means?” he told Fairfax radio.
“What they are doing now is even more outrageous. It’s just a sad, sick joke.”
Scribd: Letter sent by Julia Gillard to Ted Baillieu
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner says Ms Gillard’s actions in relation to the Victorian Government are “bizarre”, although it will help that state’s hospital patients.
“It doesn’t absolve the Commonwealth from providing restoration of this funding right across Australia to all of the other states and territories,” Ms Skinner told Sky News.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has declined to buy into the argument, saying he has a “good working relationship” with the Federal Government on health policy.
The Federal Opposition’s Health spokesman Peter Dutton says the funding stoush between the Commonwealth and some states is already having an impact on patient care.
“I’m very worried about patients in Victoria who have been written to, who have been told that their elective surgery was not going to proceed because of the Government cuts and now they restore the funding,” Mr Dutton told ABC News 24.
“The question is whether or not the funding is going to be restored to Queensland and New South Wales and South Australia in particular. They’re the other jurisdictions that were hit very hard.”
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says the Commonwealth is “open” to the possibility of doing to other states what it has done with Victoria, by directly funding local hospitals and recouping the money through other savings.
Topics:health, health-administration, government-and-politics, federal-government, federal—state-issues, vic, australia, qld
First posted 5 hours 44 minutes ago
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