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New figures support Commonwealth position on hospital funding.

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Figures on health spending released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show what a petulant stunt was the walk-out by the Labor premiers and chief ministers from last month’s COAG meeting.

These figures show that the Commonwealth continued to spend more on Australia’s public hospitals in 2001-02 than the states and territories. According to the AIHW, the Commonwealth’s share of total public hospital spending in 2001-02 was 47.9%, compared with a state and territory share of 46.2%.

The AIHW has now published public hospital spending figures for the first four years of the five-year Australian Health Care Agreements (AHCAs) that ended on 30 June 2003. These figures show that Commonwealth spending was higher than total state and territory spending in each of those four years.

These figures support our position in recent negotiations over the new AHCAs that the states and territories should be required to match the growth in Commonwealth spending on public hospitals over the life of the new Agreements to qualify for the maximum Commonwealth grant.

The AIHW figures also show that the real issue behind Labor’s petulant stunt at COAG was the premiers’ unwillingness to make a firm financial commitment to their own public hospital patients. Because of our insistence that the growth in Commonwealth spending be matched, public hospital patients around Australia have a commitment in advance for the first time from states and territories to spend an adequate amount on their own public hospitals.

The AIHW is Australia’s national agency for health and welfare statistics and information. The previous Labor Government established it as an independent Commonwealth statutory authority in 1987. It receives core funding from the Commonwealth and additional funding on contract to a number of government and non-government clients.

23 September 2003