Standing up for Canberra

Health Funding - Constituency Statement (2013)

Since the swearing in of the Abbott government, I have had a constant stream of my constituents contacting me to let me know about how its cuts are affecting them. From public servants who are fearful of losing their jobs, to NGOs fearful of losing their funding, to multicultural organisations fearful of not receiving their capital grants. One recurring theme has been that these fears are coming from the health sector. Now this surprised me immensely, because I recall quite clearly the coalition promising prior to the election that they would not cut health or education. We have seen them do a fairly impressive double backflip on education, which has ended up with them throwing money to the states with no funding model to back it up and with no commitment to needs-based funding or to targeting disadvantage.

But it would appear that behind the scenes they are also doing some pretty impressive somersaulting on health funding. Far from their promise that there would be no cuts, the message I am hearing from the health sector is that they are being told not to rely on any government funding. Nongovernment organisations, research organisations, peak bodies, community organisations who work tirelessly in the health space are now fearing the worst. These are the organisations who promote preventative health messages, who undertake lifesaving research, who provide awareness about the symptoms of disease, and who provide support to those Australians who are seriously sick and dying.

Now so far these fears are based on anecdote. Organisations have been tipped off and have spread the word. Though only anecdotes, based on the government's performance so far, why should these organisations believe otherwise? Since coming to power, the government's record in health has included: ripping $100 million from the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital; abolishing the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council, a body that has existed for almost 50 years and has been giving advice to governments since Menzies; backflipping on the promise not to close any Medicare Locals; abolishing the expert panel on the marketing of infant formula, because this government is not interested in getting accurate information about significant areas of health policy; and placing the jobs of departmental staff at risk and moving those awaiting redundancy to a permanent departure lounge.

This is a far cry from the government's pre-election promise that they would not cut health. I am asking the government, I am asking Minister Dutton, to come clean and to provide certainty to these organisations that are reliant on government funding to carry out the vital work they do for the health of this nation.

I am also asking the government to ensure that they come through with the multicultural capital grants program. I visited the Jewish centre here in Forrest just the other day for Hanukkah. They are still waiting for their $10,000 grant. They have already spent that money on shelves and chairs for their little library and they are waiting for their grant of $10,000. I am asking the government to come clean with the money

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