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health care: ALP slips up « Previous | |Next »
May 24, 2007

Mike Steketee's op-ed, ' Evidence of illness not a private matter', in The Australian is important as it addresses the politics of health, which is rarely mentioned these days as a hot button issue. He says that Health Minister Tony Abbott's favourite way of taunting Labor is to say the Howard Government is "the best friend Medicare has ever had".

This is actually chanted in Parliament by the Coalition MP's during Question Time at the end of Abbott's reply to a dorothy dixer. Abbott leads the chant. The ALP rarely asks questions on health these days, let alone searching ones. Abbott has done his job well--negated the ALP's ownership of health.

Steketee says that this kind of taunting by Abbott:

.. hurts because Medicare was the Hawke government's proudest social policy initiative, but the Coalition has had great success appropriating it for its own purposes. In 1993, when Paul Keating had an unexpected election win not only by campaigning against the GST but also against the Coalition's anti-Medicare stance, voters preferred Labor over the Coalition on health policy by a margin of almost 25 per cent, according to the Australian Election Survey, a detailed opinion poll conducted by academics after each election. By 2001, this gap had narrowed to 13 per cent and in the 2004 election it shrank further to 6 per cent.

Abbott rubbed the sore hard last week by saying that Kevin Rudd had not even mentioned health in his budget reply speech, and he then trumpeted the Government's budget measures.

Steketee is dead right on this. Abbott runs circles around the ALP on health. And the ALP allows him to. They just sit there and squirm. Federal Labor realize that they've dropped the ball, that Abbott has it, and that they are not doing much to get he ball back. Maybe they are hoping that it will slip from Abbott's hands?

The ALP has let this issue slip even though the Government has used the cover of Medicare to engineer a large shift of health resources from the public to the private sector. The shift to private health has induced higher health costs since doctors are able to charge more for private patients, and private health funds are less able to control costs than a single national insurer. Yet the ALP has let the issue slide to the backburner.

Steketee says that Labor has been holding its fire on health announcements but it has no appetite for picking a fight with the private sector. In terms of healthcare reform, it cannot go back to the fully fledged welfare state and it must live with the mixture of public and private health when it addresses the rising costs of health care as well as as quality, access, efficiency and equity.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:24 AM | | Comments (19)


I notice Aboriginal health has been left out of the alluded to Abbott rhetoric.
The first major change to health under Howard happened very soon after he was elected. Public Dental services were scrapped.
Both State and Federal governments have dismantled what was the best health system in the world. I know this from my own personal experience as a nurse, i do know that fiscal people have replaced medical people in the running of Public health to the detriment of all, including private patients, who depend on public facilities in times of emergency.
Abbott made a major announcement prior to the lead up to the last election, when he promised very costly changes to health, after the election, Howard back flipped on the promise.
In the coming election Rudd might not need to mention health at all, as there must be a growing number of people who are able to concentrate for longer, and as a result remember better.

yes you are right re indigenous health. I noticed that Lowitja O'Donoghue a co-patron of the Stolen Generation Alliance said yesterday in a speech in the Great Hall at Parliament Houseto mark the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Bringing Them Home report, that Aboriginal people were dying of despair as those in power looked the other way. The event was held in the

Ms O'Donoghue said that not only had the Howard Government ignored 35 of the 54 recommendations in the report, which dealt with the separation of indigenous children from their families, the Government's funding was drastically inadequate to meet the needs of indigenous people.

Lowitja O'Donoghue received a standing ovation.

Yes I have noticed that Rudd is very quiet on health. Beatties answer is to throw money at it(not sure what state your in).
I think Rudd was a bit reluctant to answer questions re Doctor Death in Queensland because he was actually known as Dr Death when he was Goss's right hand man. Googling "Dr death Kevin Rudd" will answer why.
On the upside..with all the staff cut backs and silly stuff in hospitals it is good to see that nurses are now being paid better for their efforts. My wife is one and we have had many late nights with a few wines discussing the health system with work mates. I think we may of reached a solution. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was.

I live in both SA (family) and ACT(work). Beattie reckons more GP's on the ground will do the trick--as does Tony Abbott. SA is very GP orientated. They represent the conservative understanding of medical politics.

But the extra numbers will not be enough to meet the demand, given the extent of workforce shortages. So there is a need to turn other (allied health) professionals (including nurses) to help deal with chronic illness and so keep people out of hospitals. That's the progressive side of medical politics--the ACT.

yes I know where you are my comment was directed to Jaye.
Yes it would be nice to go back to the days when there was a good GP on every street corner but. Its not that way anymore. The uni system here decided that they were going to be very stringent on who they even trained and that was a good idea at the time but it created a shortage of reasonable doctors which should be resolved in 3 years or so. Until then people get sick and need prescriptions and lets hope the real sick ones end up at Specialists.

It's not obvious' that a shortage of reasonable doctors will be resolved in 3 years or so.' Not even the Divisions of General Practice in Canberra reckon that--too many retiring; not enough coming through. The shortage grows especially in rural and regional Australia.

Health workforce shortages is a big problem given the growth in demand.

I think in general there is an over supply of training in most areas of education. I watched a soccer game today with a primary teacher on my left and a student teacher on my right.
The student was second year and her year had 200 students in it (gold coast) times that by all the students Australia wide. What percentage will get jobs. The teacher on the right says 10% maybe!

Howard has created a skill shortage in too many professions and trades, he has appropriated public money for private interests.
Australians live a mickey mouse existence, and exist on mickey mouse jobs, they have been blinkered and conned.
Australians believe they have reached the dizzy heights, when they qualify for a large mortgage, and possess a share portfolio. They will receive a reality check when the inevitable fiscal correction happens.
Health and happiness is already a mirage created by the masters who manipulate the slaves to aspire to be in their likeness.
Howard beating his chest about his economy is about him demonstrating his loyalty to the masters.
Australian governments are stripping away the rights of people, by creating quality of health care for those who can pay for it, and less quality of health care for those who are unable to pay for it.
Two billion dollars of the federal health budget goes directly to the Private sector, every year.
Whilst fiscal people manage public health facilities, care for people's health will never improve or be adequate enough.

there is something wrong then when class rooms are crowded and many kids leave school early without bothering to finish or gain the basic qualifications. That is the point where skill shortages start.

I agree with you about the Howard Government's failure to address the skills shortages, even they attacked student going to university and said that vocational education was just as good as a university education. They really did lose the plot, and it shows how far they have moved away from the Menzies liberal tradition.

However, the states are also responsible. During the 1990s they have allowed public education in their schools to run down and endeavoured to run TAFE as a business charging high fees.

Australia has walked away from investing in education for over a decade---let the market take of it was the attitude, education was a private thing not a public good.

We now see the consequences in terms of skills shortages and the high cost of education.

Education: At my local state high school there are 180 year 12 students 49 of them are engaged in apprenticeships of various types that will when they leave year 12 will put them at some point of year 2 of their trade qualification.
32 of them are studying one subject of their chosen uni course. If they complete that 1 subject satisfactorily they have a guaranteed place in the course.
The skills shortage is being addressed. Perhaps Over addressed!
Health: What your saying is quite correct but it is the old story..Show us a health system that works and we can afford it and we will copy it. Australia's health system has its faults but it generally works. Of course you get better service if you pay but thats the way the world operates not just the hospitals.

49 apprenceticeships + 32 at uni equals 81 students doing some sort of post schooling qualifications.

81 out of 180 is not even 50%. That's a very low percentage. So what has happened to the other 50%---unskilled? What future do they have? Casual workforce on minimal wages?

We should be aiming at 90% of school leavers going onto further education if we are to upskill the nation in a global world. The ALP is dead right on this. Its' a black mark against Howard.

I'm not arguing that the health system in Australia is bad. That's a red herring. I'm arguing that health workforce shortages (lack of skills) is a real problem that needs addressing.

I'm also arguing that addressing it by pumping out more very expensive medical students will not solve the workforce shortage problem. Allied health care professionals (including nurses) need to be bought in more and upskilled.

And I'm also arguing that health care should not be reduced to hospitals.The right health policy is to prevent people from both developing chronic illnesses and ending up in crisis care in hospitals. You need more health people on the ground to do this and that means greater skills training and more education.

I thought the 45% of student was quite good perhaps too good. I shows that the teachers are doing a good job... Kids find there place in the world at different stages. lots need that break from study after 12 years of rules and assignments. Walking out of year 12 and having a break and working or traveling or just sitting around for a while doesn't put them on the scrap heap for life.
Classing kids as unskilled workers as they leave the gates of year 12 is perhaps a little harsh.

90% OMG......The taxi drivers all have I.T degrees already!

Once again my health comments were directed to Jaye

the ALP argument is that productivity has declined under the Howard Government, and that the next boost in productivity to ensure economic growth needs to come from investing in the skills of the workforce.

The 45% of school leavers going on to post school education is the reason why there is a need to invest.

There must be something amiss in the regional economy of the Gold Coast if IT people are still driving taxis.

There is always a percentage of people that really do nothing with their lives other than go to work, go home ,breed. Only I would say half of kids want to go onto something else. The other half want to get a job to buy a car or move out of home. It would be impossible to get 90% of school levers and that includes those that have left before year 12. Remember that my original comment was about my local State high school. kids in private school would have higher numbers moving on to something else.
Kids have more options to study now and can get a degree or training on line. Leaving school and getting straight into something is not the be all anymore.

I don't think an IT degree is a guarantee of a job...far from it. Like Teaching, Environmental Studies, Marine Biology and many other courses. About as useful as a BA in Whistling.

better the education road than the unskilled low wage road of AWA's. AWA's only work for you if you have good skills and these are in demand from a booming economy.

An example of the effects of health workforce shortages.

yes I suppose that I am sick of people criticizing the Government that the education system isn't working or is stuffed up. Surely it isn't a question of throwing money at the unis to create places. I mean look at the intelligence level of those working in unis. It is huge. Isn't it their jobs to make it work. Why does it always have to be the governments fault?

the criticisms have been directed at the Howard Government because it has underinvested in higher education in the last decade.

The criticisms are also directed at state governments because they have underinvested in TAFE and vocational education.

The neo-liberal strategy has been to turn TAFE and universities into businesses.

The key point is that govermnment is not going to get the health workforce it needs in the future without investing in education at many levels. With a $100--200 000 degree debt students are going to go where they earn big dollars fast to pay off the debt.