Delivering Our Election Commitments

The 2008-09 Budget delivers on the Australian Government’s election commitments to reform the nation’s health and hospitals system on behalf of all Australians, providing better health care for working families.

Page last updated: 13 May 2008

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13 May 2008

The 2008-09 Budget delivers on the Government’s election commitments to reform the nation’s health and hospitals system on behalf of all Australians, providing better health care for working families.

We understand that working families want to be able to get the health care they need, when and where they need it – and we intend to deliver on that.

Health reform is both a vital social priority and an urgent economic priority. Keeping people healthy makes sound economic sense – healthy, active people participate in the workforce, engage in the community and contribute to the national economy, while easing the burden on the system.

After 11 years of neglect, there is much to be done.

First and foremost, measures in this Budget underscore the Government’s commitment to ending the blame game between the Commonwealth and States and Territories. This is central to our reforms.

Through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process, we have begun working to eliminate overlaps and duplication, ushering in a new era of Commonwealth-State cooperation in delivering health services to all Australians, when and where they need them.

No more buck passing. No more cost shifting. The new Australian Health Care Agreements (AHCAs) will better reflect how health services need to be delivered. The current agreements will be extended for 12 months with an extra $1 billion provided, ending eleven years of neglect of our public hospitals.

The Government will also invest $600 million to work with the States and Territories to cut elective surgery waiting lists. The Government will provide greater and more affordable access to dental health for working families, teenagers and people most in need. The Government will invest a total of up to $780.7 million over five years, helping to slash the public dental waiting lists and provide preventative dental check-ups to teenagers.

The Budget contains funding for the Government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission that began its work in February. The Commission will develop a long-term plan for tackling current and future challenges in the health system.

In line with our election commitments, we will establish 31 GP Super Clinics across the nation, locating health professionals in communities where they are needed most. We will upgrade hospital facilities and equipment, particularly in regional and rural Australia. We will build a health workforce for the future by encouraging up to 8,750 qualified nurses to return to the workforce and creating 90 new Commonwealth supported places in nursing in the second semester of 2008, with a further 1,170 places in 2009.

Other initiatives expand support for obstetricians and other doctors providing specialist support in the bush, double the amount of placements of medical students in rural communities, provide additional rural scholarships, and seek to increase the supply of a skilled health workforce for rural, regional and remote areas.

These initiatives are on top of the Government’s investment in up to 50,000 additional health vocational training places, announced in March this year, to tackle the health workforce crisis. The training places, which will target areas of chronic skills shortage, such as dental health, nursing and Indigenous health, will start coming online from 1 January 2009.

All of these initiatives will help families in urban, rural, regional and remote Australia get the health care they need and deserve.

This Government also recognises the urgent need to invest in primary and preventative care, in order to keep people well and out of hospital.

The GP Super Clinics, costing $275.2 million, will bring health professionals together in one place, providing a one-stop shop for many health services and much greater convenience for patients, particularly those with complex and chronic diseases.

The Government is strongly committed to improving the delivery of maternal and child health services. Initiatives in this Budget support pre- and post-natal services and care for mothers and children, and continuity of care throughout childhood.

A total of $25.6 million over four years will provide a health check for four-year-old children. An $85 million national plan for perinatal depression will, with funding of $55 million from the Commonwealth and $30 million being sought from States and Territories, provide much-needed support for women who are at risk, or who experience depression during pregnancy or in the first year following pregnancy.

New funding takes up the fight against alcohol abuse, with the Government committing $53.6 million to tackle binge drinking. Another $15 million is committed to help reduce smoking, along with a national campaign to educate users of ‘Ice’ and other drugs. The Government is sending a clear message – that drug and alcohol abuse is dangerous to individuals and unacceptable to the community.

Indigenous health remains Australia’s most confronting health challenge – the most distressing demonstration of health inequality in the nation. The Government has committed to closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within a generation.

Measures in this Budget are designed to set the foundations for real and lasting progress in this most critical of areas. They include $89.6 million to provide better access to child and maternal health services to give Indigenous children an equal start in life and a $21.5 million boost to health services in the Northern Territory.

The Government is fighting cancer through a $249 million National Cancer Plan over five years to improve diagnosis and treatment, including new cancer centres to serve city, regional and rural patients.

The Government is delivering on a number of election commitments on aged care. To cater for the nation’s changing demographic, the Budget sets new directions for older Australians, ensuring they get the care they want, need and deserve, whether in quality aged care accommodation or, increasingly, in their own homes.

The Government will improve the transition between hospital and aged care by committing $293.2 million to provide older people who no longer require hospital care to help them recover and regain their independence before making a decision about their longer term care needs.

The Government is also providing $300 million in zero real interest loans to aged care providers – a measure that will provide up to 2,500 aged care beds where there is a shortage of residential care beds.

While delivering health reform, the Budget also signals a new era of responsible spending.

The Budget includes substantial savings through new efficiencies in services and programs. Several measures reduce funding for programs, some of which have been underspent and undersubscribed, end duplication and redirect funds from programs that are not doing the job.

In undertaking long overdue reform of the health and hospitals system, the Government has embarked on an important journey, with the aim of delivering the modern health system that Australia deserves.

The 2008-09 Budget marks the start of that journey.

Media inquiries only: Sean Kelly – 0417 108 362
For all other inquiries please contact the Minister's office – 02 6277 7220