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More insurrection and revolt against Howe

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Media Release Dr Bob Woods Shadow Minister for Health 13/4/92 MORE INSURRECTION AND REVOLT AGAINST HOWE

West Australian Health Minister Keith Wilson's threat not to attend tomorrow's Australian Health Ministers’ Conference is an indication of the crisis in our health system, Federal Shadow Minister for Health Dr Bob Woods said today today.

" To have a senior state minister boycott a major meeting on the eve of its occurrence is a chilling indictment of the lack of confidence in Brian Howe's handling of the health portfolio" said Dr Woods.

" In a document which fell off the back of an ALP truck and was fortuitously brought to my attention, West Australian State Minister Kevin Wilson expresses his displeasure that the conference is not being held after the Prime Ministers and Premiers' meeting in May, at which he had hoped a number of matters could have been discussed " which bear directly on the capacity of government to support a nationally consistent system of

health care delivery."

The tone of the letter is hostile and threatening to say the least and demands that by 9am today, Brian Howe give Minister Wilson an assurance that a number of specific items will be discussed at tomorrow's meeting. Kevin Wilson says that unless he receives these assurances his trip to Sydney may not justify the expense. In other words the scheduled meeting will be a complete waste of time.

The letter complains that there has been " a dramatic reduction in the real level of Commonwealth funding for hospital Medicare since the inception of the Medicare scheme. No amount of finessing...can hide this fact". It also warns th a t" the time may have come for serious consideration to be given to charging for hospital outpatient

services with appropriate safety net provisions."

This latest confrontation again casts doubt on Brian Howe's handling of the health portfolio. So far he has managed to alienate his parliamentary colleagues over the medical services co-payments, the Victorian State Government over the level of Medicare agreement funding and now the West Australian Government. Is there

anybody who thinks Brian Howe is doing a good job?

I call on the Commonwealth to enter into sensible negotiations with a view to achieving a level of funding which will maintain health standards at, at the very least, an acceptable level.

It is a sorry state of play when the Deputy Prime Minister can't even keep his own political team on side. Australia's crippled health system needs dedicated team work, not division and dissent."


f o r further information contact Dr Wood* or Leiaa O'Connor on 02 746 8200. After hours contact Dr Wood» 02 744 1872 or Leiaa O’Connor 02 797 6233,

commonwealth "”1 P A R L IA M E N T A R Y L I B R A R Y f m i c a h I

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Hon. Brian Howe, ΜΓ Minister foe Health, Housing _ _

and Community Service· I 0 APR B92

Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Brian

You will recall that T wrote you recently regarding the scheduling of this year's Health Ministers' Conference,

My view was that it would be more productive for this year's Conference to be held following the planned meeting in May between the Prime Minister and Premiere to discuss j

fundamental inter-governmental jurisdictional and funding j issues. These issues remain unresolved following the I

previous series of Special Premiers' Conferences.

Clearly because of Health's social policy and economic importance it is never likely to be within the capacity of Commonwealth and State Health Ministers to independently set j national health system undertakings. This can only be done by Heads of Government in the nontext of overall national policy and economic settings.

Therefore, if the Health Ministers' Conference is to go ahead as scheduled it ie essential, I believe, for the Health Ministers to discus* and hopefully establish consensus on a number of fundamental matters which bear directly on the capacity of governmOnt to support a nationally consistent

system of health care delivery.

This would enable the preparation of advice to the Prime Minister and Premiers to assist their deliberations at the Heads of Government meeting in May.

Specifically, in my view, it is absolutely essential that Ministers discuss and determine the advice which should go to the Heads of Government meeting in relation to the following matter·.

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1. The Si*· of the Funding Fool for Health, Particularly

Hospital Medicare

Any objective assessment of hospital Medicare funding will clearly show that there has been a dramatic

reduction in the real level of Commonwealth funding for hospital Medicare since the inception of the Medicare scheme. No amount of finessing of the figures can hide this fact.

2. Medicare Enrollee Entitlements

Given the growing gap between Medicare scheme

entitlements, particularly in regard to hospital

services, and the available government funding, if

additional funding is not available it is essential that there be a review of the scope of Medicare scheme


The question is, is there a need now to set formal

limits to universal health coverage, particularly in regard to relatively low cost treatments and services.

The question of limits to universal coverage needs to be seriously canvassed amongst Health Ministers if the essential elements of the Medicare scheme are to be

preserved and all Australians are to continue to have access to affordable high quality health care.

For example, the time may have come for serious

consideration to be given to charging for hospital

outpatient services with appropriate safety net


3. The Future Role of Private Eeelth Insurance

The apparent unwillingness of the Commonwealth to

entertain real discussion on private health insurance arrangements as they affect public hospital usage and revenue is untenable- There is a role for private

health insurance or there Isn't. The current situation is confusing and unfair to individuals and should not be allowed to continue for the period of the next hospital Medicare agreement.

4. The Principles of Agreement Which Should Apply Between the Commonwealth end the'States in Regard to Their Joint Health end Aged Care Responsibilities

It was hoped that the Special Premiers' Conference

initiative would establish the principles under which future Commonwealth and States inter-jurisdictional arrangements would function. As this is likely to be a major matter for discussion at the Heads of Government

f t


meeting in May, it would no doubt be helpful to the

Heads of Government if the Health Minister· were to

provide their considered views as to the principles

under which Commonwealth/State health and aged care policy and funding agreements should operate,

5. Future Jurisdictional Arrangements for Aged care

This is a matter which has developed into a major issue for both Commonwealth and State Governments, As the

Commonwealth's apparent position indicates aged care transenda other responsibilities of government e.g. social security, housing etc apart from health. Again while the ultimate decision will need to be taken by the

Heads of Government it would be desirable for Health

Ministers to formally convey their views on the matter.

I would be grateful therefore if you would confirm by 9am

Monday (WST) that you will support ample time for discussion of the above fundamental and high priority matters before time is given to my other items on the Conference agenda and particularly before any discussion on the contents of the

AHMAC position paper on health and aged care.

If I am unable to gain your assurance in this regard I will

need to consider very seriously whether I could justify the expense involved in travelling to Sydney to attend next

week's Conference. Also it would reinforce my earlier stated view that this year's Health Ministers' Conference should be rescheduled until after the Heads of Government meeting in May.

Yours sincerely