Change the Government, Change the Rules

With the election entering its final days, it has been a rather lacklustre affair with little energy and certainly nothing that indicates there is big thinking coming from the Coalition. It is bewildering that throughout the entirety of the election campaign, there has been nothing said about the sort of Australia the Coalition will deliver. Every day we just see the Prime Minister attacking others and their ideas but offers very little other than to say “look at our record.

So let’s look at the Coalition’s record.

Coming to power in 2013 we saw how quickly the promises from that election melted away with Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey declaring that there were ‘leaners and lifters’ and a budget that put freezes on Medicare rebates for doctors’ visits, diagnostic imaging and pathology. The policies the Coalition have pushed through Parliament with the support of independents and One Nation encouraged insecure work and stagnating wages. The Coalition has done absolutely nothing to address the significant increases in the cost of living as more and more people are finding it more difficult to make ends meet – potentially having to work 2 and 3 jobs to make ends meet.

Under Turnbull we saw more of the same from the Coalition. The only difference is the language was not nearly as brutal and there was no longer any reference to ‘leaners and lifters’ . But there was still nothing done to address the increasing casualization of jobs, the ongoing stagnation of wages and increasing living costs. The Coalition hasn’t ended the freeze on pathology fees which means people needing medical assistance are still be paying gap fees; and it’s only going to get worse as the gap fees get larger.

The Coalition has continued its assault on working people by refusing to back increases in the minimum wage. They have been unapologetic about making it harder and harder for low-paid workers as penalty rates are taken away across a range of industries. And to add insult to injury, the cuts to penalty rates hasn’t resulted in more shifts on weekends or more people being employed; it was just another lie from the Coalition and industry.

For the duration of the election campaign climate change and healthcare have been big issues with more and more health professionals stepping forward to highlight how much climate change is already impacting on our health and well-being. It’s another reason why the Union says that after two terms of LNP Government ridiculing international warnings about climate change threats to the environment and our health we must have a new direction.

Unfortunately we’ve heard absolutely nothing from the Coalition about how they will ensure that our future healthcare needs are being met or how they will ensure there’s a national framework to address our health and well-being as the climate changes. We can only assume that they will continue to freeze Medicare payments for pathology testing but we’re not getting much better from the ALP who have only promised to unfreeze Medicare payments for pathology tests as they relate to cancers and their treatment. We have to note this is a major step in the right direction but it doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing the out-of-pocket expenses for Australians who need to get regular tests done to manage their medical conditions. It also speaks to the utter failure of our political leaders to understand the importance of pathology to every aspect of health care.

There has not been nearly enough detail put forward to address the long-term mental health needs of the country. There remains an acute shortage of resources and staff being devoted to the mental health and well-being of Australians. We only need to look at the Head Space model which is failing to have the long term impact it was expected to have and isn’t able to cope with the growing complexity of issues people are presenting with. In many cases those people who aren’t able to get help through Head Space are falling through the cracks.

With climate change having a major impact on our health and well-being it’s only the Greens and Labor who have agreed to create a national framework to deal with the health impacts of climate change while the Coalition will not make the same commitment.

The sad fact remains that the Coalition is not and has not properly ensured the future healthcare needs of Australians are being met. And it appears they have no interest in explaining the sort of Australia they want to create when they’ve spent the entire election campaign attacking others.

It’s clear that it’s time to change the government to change the rules.

Paul Elliott

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