Union responds to the Federal budget

This year’s federal budget is a mixed bag depending on where you stand in Australian society. Unfortunately it appears that if you’re not a millionaire or the CEO of a major multinational then there’s not too much to celebrate.

But as has been widely reported one of the better outcomes from this year’s federal budget is the lifting of the Medicare freeze. The announcement sounds exciting but before we start popping champagne corks we have to remember that the lifting of the Medicare freeze will be done over time. And at this point in time the only freeze to be lifted is the Medicare rebate for GP visits. While this is an important step to making healthcare more affordable, it still means that people are paying growing out-of-pocket costs to get pathology and radiology tests done.

And there still remains a slavish commitment to supporting private health insurance companies through continued subsidies. This is despite growing evidence that private health insurance is delivering a lot less than originally claimed with difficult or complex health situations still being dealt with in the public health system.

But generally there are positive outcomes for healthcare in the federal budget but unfortunately it does nothing to increase the ability of our public hospitals to deliver critical clinical services. And while increased funding to medical research is welcome, it is difficult to see how research outcomes will be implemented as the State and Federal governments fail to properly fund medical scientists.

The increase to the Medicare levy to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme is welcome. There are significant increases in funding to support the NDIS including funding toward mental health services. But as with anything from the Turnbull Government we will have to dig through the detail before we can fully give this initiative the thumbs up. There has also been a general increase in funding to mental health but there is concern that the funding doesn’t necessarily link up with funding priorities and initiatives outlined by the State Government. While there could be some duplication the fact that additional funding has been provided to mental health is welcome but again will depend on the detail.

Another very good outcome from this year’s budget is that paid parental leave has not been touched and remains intact. This is a great outcome which means that parents will be able to get the time they need to bond with their child and allow time to get into the swing of a new child in the household along with dealing with things like childcare.

It’s also good to see the Government seeking to make medications more affordable with new drugs being added to the PBS. Unfortunately as with some of the other measures, the devil is in the detail and it will take some time to dig through the details. But while adding new drugs to the PBS is welcome, the Turnbull Government hasn’t reversed its decision to make common, over-the-counter pain and headache medication prescription only, which will ultimately increase the cost of these medications.

One of the worst aspects of this budget is that it failed to do anything about climate change or protecting our precious environment.

But despite the promises from the Treasurer and early leaks suggesting this budget would be less terrible than the last couple, this federal budget guts higher education, fails to make housing more affordable and does little to secure the future for public health, education or embracing future industries and jobs.

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