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Premiers walk out & Australians miss out as the Prime Minister blackmails the States.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON SIMON CREAN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH JULIA GILLARD MP

PREMIERS WALK OUT & AUSTRALIANS MISS OUT AS THE PRIME MINISTER BLACKMAILS THE STATES

All Australians will suffer as a result of today’s arrogant refusal by John Howard to put their health care needs first.

On the same day it was revealed that bulk billing rates had plunged from 73.9 to 68.5 per cent in the past financial year to the lowest level in a decade, John Howard and his Health Minister, Senator Kay Patterson, have behaved disgracefully in relation to the healthcare agreements with the States.

The Howard Government’s policies are killing Medicare, forcing more and more people who can’t find a doctor who bulk bills into the emergency departments of public hospitals.

Despite this, Senator Patterson boycotted meetings with the States, and now John Howard has joined his Health Minister in blackmailing the States to sign inadequate five-year agreements that will put even more pressure on public hospitals and their already overstretched emergency departments.

The States made it clear they wanted to reform the health system - to save Medicare and bulk billing to ensure people didn’t unnecessarily go to hospital emergency departments, to strengthen aged care so frail aged people didn’t end up in acute hospital beds because they have no where else to go, to deal with the cost-shifting and gaps in the current health system.

Australians deserve much better. It’s their tax dollars that the Howard Government is withholding from the States, and their right to decent affordable health care that is being trampled by an arrogant Prime Minister and an incompetent Health Minister.

Only a Crean Labor Government will save Medicare and work with the States to ensure all Australians get access to affordable quality healthcare.

CANBERRA 29 AUGUST 2003