Medicare system under threat, says opposition
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has used his centre-left Labour Party’s official campaign launch to cast July 2 general elections as a referendum on the future of Australia’s universal health care system.
A Labour government introduced government-funded Medicare in 1983 to provide free or subsidised health care for all Australian citizens and permanent residents. Labour argues the conservative coalition government plans to privatise Medicare - a claim Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull denies.
“If you want to know why this election will make a difference to you, your family, your street, your workplace, to Australia’s future, I can give you the answer of why politics matters in one word: Medicare,” Shorten told a Sydney auditorium yesterday in front of the slogan: “We’ll put people first.”
The government has been quick to assure the public that the popular heath care system is not under threat.
Turnbull, who will launch his conservative Liberal Party’s campaign next weekend, announced on Saturday that his government had scrapped plans to outsource the Medicare payments system to private enterprise.
“Medicare will never ever be privatised,” Turnbull told reporters.
“What Bill Shorten is doing is peddling an extraordinary lie so audacious... it defies belief.”
Six weeks after the election was called, Shorten launched his campaign in western Sydney where Labour hopes to win several seats from the government.
An opinion poll published by Fairfax Media on Saturday showed Labour ahead of the government with support of 51 per cent of respondents compared to 49 per cent for the conservative coalition. But this lead is within the poll’s 2.6 percentage point margin of error. The poll was based on a survey of 1,437 voters from June 14-16.
Many analysts don’t believe Labour’s support will deliver the 21 seats it needs to form a majority in the 150seat House of Representatives, where parties form governments.
All but one of Labour’s surviving prime ministers attended the launch: Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard. Kevin Rudd, who was ousted by Gillard in a party showdown in 2010 then replaced her in a similar coup in 2013, was in Russia on business.