Labor premiers Daniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill have rejected Malcolm Turnbull’s $30 billion hospitals funding boost, prompting federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to accuse them of “shortchanging patients”.
The Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra yesterday was dominated by the Prime Minister’s proposed $30bn increase in public hospital funding over five years from 2020.
Mr Turnbull won support for the hospital funding deal from West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan and Liberal NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Under the hospital funding package, the commonwealth pays 45 per cent of hospital funds and caps annual spending growth at 6.5 per cent.
Mr McGowan said he would have liked more money on the table but warned that Western Australia’s poor share of the GST carve-up meant he had little choice but to accept the commonwealth’s offer.
“To have potentially put at risk funding for health for Western Australia’s hospitals was not something I was prepared to do,” he said.
Mr Weatherill, the South Australian Premier, said the proposal fell short of the 50 per cent in commonwealth funding proposed by the former Rudd and Gillard governments, with the Labor leader also taking aim at the government over its corporate tax cuts.
“Important background to any discussion about health and education is the $80bn cut out of health and education back in 2014,” he said.
“You remember the argument at the time was that we couldn’t afford it, but apparently now we can afford $65bn worth of company tax cuts.”
Mr Andrews said the deal did not provide “sufficient funding to ensure every Victorian gets the care that they need”.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk opened the door to supporting the new funding agreement if the state received back-pay from the commonwealth of about $170 million arising from abnormal cost increases in state health services.
The commonwealth is obliged to cover a portion of these cost increases, with the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority and the National Health Funding Body analysing price spikes between 2014 and 2016, with a report due in months.
“We are owed about $170m. If that is forthcoming, we would be satisfied,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Mr Hunt said Mr Andrews had “turned his back” on more than $7bn in extra funding for Victorian hospitals while Mr Weatherill had missed out on more than $1.5bn.
Mr Turnbull said the commonwealth proposal was “generous” and an agreement on public hospitals funding would be reached by the end of the year.
He said NSW and Victoria had also indicated their intention to sell their Snowy Hydro stakes to the commonwealth.