Australia

Where the major parties stand on health

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SBS News looks at the health policies of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.

Labor came within a whisker of winning the 2016 federal election, as health policy controversially dominated the final stage of the campaign.

This time around, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is again putting the Australian health system at the centre of his bid for The Lodge.

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SBS News

Labor's proposed changes to the tax system around housing, income and investments, means Mr Shorten has a potentially sizeable war chest.

In early April, he announced a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund which he claimed "will deliver more hospital beds and health care workers, more capital upgrades and tackle waiting lists". 

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.
AAP

This came after his $2.3 billion Medicare Cancer Plan. The package, announced in Labor's budget reply, included $600 million for diagnostic imaging and $500 million to cut public hospital wait times for cancer treatment.

Mr Shorten said it was "the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt during a visit to Mount Druitt Hospital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt during a visit to Mount Druitt Hospital.
AAP

On the campaign trail on Thursday, Mr Shorten announced a $115 million Indigenous health package to ensure that Indigenous Australians have "the right to grow old". 

Labor has also said it will impose a 2 per cent cap on private health insurance price rises for two years, which it claims "will save an average family $340".

For longer-term changes to the health system, the opposition has floated the idea of a powerful advisory body.

The Australian Health Reform Commission would develop and oversee long-term reforms, with the overarching aim of ensuring Australians can access affordable, high-quality health care.

"Labor is determined to break the cycle of short-termism that all too often afflicts policy making in this country," opposition health spokesperson Catherine King said, when the commission was announced.

Bill Shorten speaks to mother Cassandra and her one-day old daughter Myah.
Bill Shorten speaks to mother Cassandra and her one-day old daughter Myah.
AAP

The Coalition has less money to play with, which it would argue is far more prudent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program will "fund projects and services in every state and territory, supporting patient care while reducing pressure on community and hospital services".

The funding boost will go towards four key areas: specialist hospital services, drug and alcohol treatment, preventive, primary and chronic disease management; and mental health.

The Coalition had a big mental health spend in the April budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the Coalition would invest $461 million in "Australia's most significant youth mental health and suicide prevention strategy".

"It is a national tragedy that we lose so many people to suicide and that so many people live a life of quiet desperation ... This issue demands our ongoing attention and resources," Mr Frydenberg said.

And with an election looming, Mr Morrison splashed the cash in Victoria, announcing a $496 million investment to "back Victoria's position as a global leader in health and medical research".

The amount included $80 million to create a new national cancer treatment facility at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

"This investment will be life-changing for so many of our sickest Australians, including many children battling cancer," Mr Morrison said.

The Coalition has also been highlighting how private health insurance premiums increased by 3.25 per cent this year – the lowest rise in 18 years.

"We are taking steps to make private health insurance more affordable," Coalition material states.

Health Minister Greg Hunt called Labor's idea of a 2 per cent cap "policy on the run".

Liberal MPs visit the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Liberal MPs visit the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
AAP

Meanwhile, the Greens plan to undertake far larger health care reforms.

The party wants to end the private health insurance rebate and integrate dental services into Medicare.

It also aims to aggressively tackle "looming health crises like obesity, diabetes and heart disease", with such measures as a sugar tax and a partial ban on junk food advertising.

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