Australia’s biggest health crisis saw the establishment of a national cabinet and more than two years later health remains front and center as the group meets for the first time since Anthony Albanese became Premier minister.
- State and territory leaders want consistency in health financing and improved primary care
- Daniel Andrews says government must not make ‘Scott Morrison cuts’
- Albanese rejected the prospect of committing to additional funding
State and territory leaders want consistency in health funding and improved primary care to reduce the number of people in hospitals.
At the height of the pandemic, the then Morrison government increased Commonwealth funding to public hospitals to 50/50, but this is due to expire in September and all state and territory leaders want this extended.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the government should not make the “Scott Morrison cuts”.
“All we want is time, we want to buy time to do really important work, whether it’s three months, six months, whatever it is, we can’t proceed in September to cut funding of health at the national level, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Victoria, along with a number of other states and territories, has also raised concerns about the number of Australians using the emergency department as their first resort for care.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said some hospitals are overcrowded because primary care has not been properly managed and the problem spans multiple states.
“This challenge is not just about money…what we also have to deal with as a nation is what we are doing to manage the demand,” he said.
“There are a lot of people in hospital emergency departments who frankly don’t need to be there, they come from the aged care system… or they don’t have access to the GP.
“If someone is in a hospital because they have not been able to access a GP, we have a problem with the delivery of health services that is beyond the control of the states.
A spokesperson for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said hundreds of elderly and disabled people are expected to receive care outside of the hospital system.
While health is a priority for states and territories, leaders are keenly aware that they will not walk away with a “magic bullet” at the end of today’s meeting.
Yesterday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ruled out the prospect of committing to additional funding.
“We inherited a trillion dollars in debt with little to show,” he said.
“It is in this context that we will consider the discussions to come, we are not in a position to do everything that we would like to do immediately.”
Mr Albanese highlighted the Government’s pledge to fund new GP clinics which aim to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments in a bid to boost support for primary healthcare.
Labor shortages to fill
The premier said today’s meeting will focus on a range of issues, including ways to reduce cost of living pressures.
“I want productivity to be at the center of this agenda and I will discuss that…and we will definitely have a discussion on energy as well,” he said.
There have been almost daily meetings of energy ministers discussing the electricity crisis on the east coast, and it is expected that today’s meeting between state leaders and territories focuses on issues other than electricity.
One is migration and skills shortages: New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have signaled plans to discuss labor issues.
Businesses have repeatedly raised concerns about difficulties in finding qualified staff and some have called for changes to make it easier to hire skilled workers from overseas.
The Northern Territory, meanwhile, wants to discuss projects in energy, critical minerals and manufacturing, as well as labor needs.
How will the national cabinet work under Albanians?
While there are unlikely to be any major announcements on the health, energy or jobs front, the group is expected to try to work out how the national cabinet will perform in the months and years to come. come.
Mr Albanese said he wanted to make changes to how the group works.
“I’m going to work on these things cooperatively…I want to see how we can involve local government, I’ll discuss it with them…and I’ll discuss how we move forward in the future,” he said.
State and territory leaders have previously agreed that the national cabinet has performed reasonably well during the pandemic because the group is focused on a single crisis.
However, a spokesman for the Premier of Queensland said there were now “several” crises, such as health, skills shortages and energy, and he said leaders would consider how to deal with them at the better.
“[For example] who should be on this body, how often will it meet,” he said.
Mr Malinauskas said he was “open-minded” about how the national cabinet will operate in the future and who should be included.
“There is a role, if not an urgent need, for transparent collaborative state and Commonwealth engagement, regardless of political persuasion,” he said.