Election 2013 results: what’s in store for health?

by Stephen Duckett

Published at The Conversation, Sunday 8 September 2013


The Coalition adopted a small target, steady-as-she-goes election strategy, giving no hints about what the new government’s intentions will be on the health front.

The Coalition health leadership is quite experienced. Likely health minister Peter Dutton served as a minister in the Howard government and has been shadow health spokesperson since 2010.

The team going into the election also included two medical practitioners as shadow parliamentary secretaries: Andrew Laming and Andrew Southcott.

One clear commitment is that the bureaucracy will get a haircut. The Department of Health and Ageing has already started to downsize, but the Coalition’s savings initiatives will require further reductions in staffing.

The alphabet-soup of portfolio agencies, each with its own staffing establishment is also to be reviewed, with agency mergers or abolitions on the cards.

Medicare Locals, originally thought to be in danger of extinction, have since got a reprieve, now to face a review of their

corporate practices … to ensure funding for patient services isn’t being unduly diverted for administrative purposes.

Dutton has made it clear the review will not lead to reductions in programs.

Other commitments, to expand general practice training, and scholarships for nurses and allied health professionals in areas of need, are sensible, incremental steps.

Finally, it is important to remember Abbott was health minister in the Howard government (2003-2007), claiming as his achievements that he:

introduced the Medicare safety net for people with big out-of-pocket expenses, increased hospital funding by A$2.2 billion, increased Medicare bulk billing rates, expanded Medicare beyond doctors, and resolved the medical indemnity crisis.

Whether he will be a meddler in, or a “sympathetic ear” for, the portfolio is as yet unclear.


The Conversation