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Latham pledges $1b for hospitals -

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Broadcast: 22/09/2004

Latham pledges $1b for hospitals

Reporter: Greg Jennett

CHRIS CLARK: There's no end in sight to the soaring tally of health funding promises in the
election campaign.

In the latest, Mark Latham has come up with a $1 billion dollar parcel for hospitals, and the signs
are there's more to come.

The Labor Leader claims the election will be a referendum on Medicare.

But John Howard says economic management and security will be the issues.

From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.

GREG JENNETT: The Labor leader was impressed with the technology at a Brisbane hospital. But not by
the tales of woe from hospital staff.

HOSPITAL SPOKESPERSON: Some of them are dying in corridors there, and that's not the way it's
supposed to be.

GREG JENNETT: Mark Latham is putting up $1 billion to turn things around.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: I can announce that Labor has a $1 billion plan to upgrade our
public hospitals and lower out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

GREG JENNETT: It includes: money for nearly 2.5 million free specialist consultations, extra
specialist registrars in public hospitals, more specialist services in rural areas, and more travel
assistance for country families needing

specialist help in the cities.

With these and his previously announced Medicare and public hospital promises, Mark Latham is
setting up a single issue election.

MARK LATHAM: When it comes down to it, on 9 October it's a referendum about the future of Medicare,
it's a referendum about the future of health care in this country.

GREG JENNETT: $800 million of Labor's $1 billion package would come from federal competition
payments, voluntarily redirected into health under a deal with the Labor premiers and chief

MARK LATHAM: We've sat down with the States and said, and they've agreed, the biggest priority
we've got is improving our public hospitals.

TONY ABBOTT, HEALTH MINISTER: It's most unfortunate the Labor Party has abolished an existing
policy - the Medicare safety net - to bail out the State Governments.

JOHN HOWARD, PM: October 9 will be a referendum on who can better manage the Australian economy and
keep this country strong at a time of international terrorism. They are the two dominant issues of
the election.

GREG JENNETT: Precisely why the prime ministrial limo glided into Melbourne's eastern suburbs for a
chat about middle Australia's mortgages.

VOTER: As I said before, it makes a difference of several hundred dollars depending on what the
interest rate's doing at the time.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, that's why we talk about it a lot and very deliberately for people who have big

GREG JENNETT: John Howard's only spending promise of the day was a relatively modest $90 million
for young tradesmen and women.

JOHN HOWARD: The Coalition will fund tool kits worth up to $800 each for about 34,000 new

GREG JENNETT: In Canberra, the Treasurer and his opposite number were plying their tools of trade,
crunching the numbers in an argument over policy costings.

Peter Costello has run the ruler over Labor's tax and family payments package, and says he's found
a massive funding shortfall claiming it hasn't covered this year's cost of the low income offset
Labor plans to abolish next year.

PETER COSTELLO, TREASURER: They have an error in their costings of $700 million.

SIMON CREAN, SHADOW TREASURER: He hasn't analysed the package - we have. And not only have we
analysed it, we've had it independently verified. So his claim is wrong, dead wrong.

GREG JENNETT: Each is daring the other to get their claims verified by Treasury.

Greg Jennett, Lateline.

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