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Beazley proves he doesn't understand health.

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22 October 2001

Today, on Perth Radio, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley tried to imply that the Commonwealth Government would ‘clawback’ public hospital funding to the States because of the success of the Coalition’s private health initiatives.

"Mr Beazley is being deliberately misleading on this issue and proves once again that he doesn’t understand health," Dr Wooldridge said.

"The five year Australian Health Care Agreements on public hospital funding signed in 1998 between the Commonwealth and each of the State and Territory Governments provides for the Commonwealth to compensate the States for any fall in private health membership.

"This clause was necessary because the previous Labor Government ignored the private health system for 13 years while private cover membership fell from 65% in 1983 to 34% in 1996, placing enormous strain on our public hospitals.

"Just as the States were to be compensated for a fall in private membership, the States also agreed to a mechanism for the Commonwealth to claim back funding if the number of Australians with private cover increased.

"Owing to the stunning success of the Coalition’s 30% Rebate, which Labor voted against, and the Lifetime Health Cover policies, the number of Australians with private cover has doubled in recent years to almost 9 million.

"The Commonwealth was therefore entitled to claim back nearly $3 billion in funding from the States because of the increase in private health membership over the remaining life of the Agreements.

"However, in September 1999 the Government gave an assurance to the Parliament that the ‘clawback’ clause would not be invoked and that guarantee was again given to Questions in the House on November 2000 and in May 2001.

"Further, that assurance was reiterated by the Commonwealth to the States at the meeting of the Australian Health Ministers in July this year. The Commonwealth also stated this position in its recent response to the Senate’s Public Hospital Inquiry.

"The Coalition’s commitment to public hospitals could not be any clearer. The Coalition is allowing the States to keep an extra $3 billion in public hospital system funding that they otherwise would not be entitled to - this is on top of the record $32 billion the Coalition is delivering in public hospital funding to

the States.

"Mr Beazley has been caught once again stretching the truth on the issue of hospitals. He is demonstrating that he has no understanding of the health system and by doing so makes himself look foolish and opportunistic," Dr Wooldridge said.

Media Enquiries: Craig Simonetto, Office of Dr Wooldridge, 0413 722 281