$4.2 Billion Health and Ageing Budget Tackles the Big Issues

The Budget includes major new funding for medical research, treatment of mental illness, more health workers, and prevention of chronic diseases.

Page last updated: 09 May 2006

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9 May 2006
ABB056/06

The 2006-07 Budget announced tonight includes major new funding for medical research, the treatment and prevention of mental illness, more health workers, and prevention of chronic, avoidable diseases.

The foundations of our health system are strong. This Budget will fortify those foundations to meet the diverse health challenges that face us as individuals, and as a nation.

Improvements in our health rest on quality research. Almost one third of the additional health and ageing spending allocated in this Budget will go to enhance and sustain our world class medical research, with new funding for individual researchers and for leading medical research institutes. This commitment follows the Government’s announcement of its decision to sell Medibank Private Limited, and completes the Government’s response to the 2004 Investment Review of Health and Medical Research (the Grant Review).

The mental health reforms detailed under the Government’s contribution to the COAG Mental Health package, as announced on 5 April 2006, should make a big difference to Australians who have ongoing or episodic mental illness. People who might have been forced deeper into illness, social isolation or, in many cases, related drug problems, will have access to the medical and personal support they need.

COAG also discussed the challenges in delivering health and community care services to people in rural and remote areas. In response, and as part of its contribution to the COAG Health Workforce package, as announced on 8 April 2006, the Government is continuing a major expansion in the number of doctors and nurses being trained within our higher education system.

A proportion of new medical places will be bonded to areas of workforce shortage to encourage doctors to work where they are needed, such as outer city suburbs and rural areas.

A new phase of the National Illicit Drugs Campaign should make young people more aware of the dangers associated with drugs such as methamphetamines. New treatment options will also be developed to deal with this frightening new wave of drugs, while a National Cannabis Control and Prevention Centre will provide a focus for policy on reducing the use of cannabis.

Continuing its enduring pledge to right the health inequalities of Indigenous people, the Government is also making a concerted effort to stamp out petrol sniffing, as well as equip services in these communities to identify and treat people with mental illness and other substance use disorders. These measures, together with enhanced services and more doctors and nurses for communities, will be an important step in helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to better health.

As the population ages, prevention of illness and promotion of good health management will be very important in ensuring quality of life and limiting the growth in the nation's health costs. This Budget provides funding for a major package of measures to promote good health, which will be jointly funded by the states and territories, in line with COAG’s February 2006 commitment to "Promoting Good Health, Disease Prevention and Early Intervention".

A strong private health sector takes pressure off the public sector, and provides choice and diversity. Changes to the regulation of private health insurance should make health insurance a more attractive and cost-effective option for many families and individuals. They should give consumers much more choice in the products they can buy and the services for which they are insured.

In February 2006, COAG agreed to accelerate work on a national electronic health records system to support the refocus of the health system to promote better health and community care for all Australians. The Budget provides funding to build our national e-health systems, including an Individual Health Identifier for each Australian, which will provide the key to more efficient and safer health treatments. The Commonwealth will contribute $65 million and the states and territories $65 million in the period to 30 June 2009.

Media contact: Kate Miranda 0417 425 227

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