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Labor has no credibility on rural health.

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The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge

Minister for Health and Family Services


MW 199/98

4 September 1998




The Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge, today said that he was “disa ppointed and bemused” by Labor’s response to the Coalition’s commitments for rural, remote and regional health announced yesterday.


The Coalition policy includes $50 million for new rural GP retention grants, $42 million for 30 new Regional Health Service Centres, $10 million in capital funding for a Medical School at James Cook University in Townsville, and $13.2 million for a Clinical School to based at Wagga and developed by the University of New South Wales.


Labor’s health spokesperson, Michael Lee, predictably criticised the Coalition’s initiatives but offered no positive ideas or alternatives.


“Michael Lee’s credibility in rural and regional Australia is zero,” Dr Wooldridge said.


“This is the man who did nothing as Communications Minister after Labor signed away the analogue network for mobile phones.


“This latest stunt will do nothing to improve Michael Lee’s credibility in the country.


“Instead of welcoming this new investment of $115 million for rural health care, Mr Lee just pointed to Labor’s cynical promise for hospital funding.


“Labor’s promise of extra money, should it materialise, will just be swallowed by big city hospitals. There is no guarantee that one cent of this money would ever be received by country health services.


“Michael Lee also pointed to a 1996 Labor promise to establish the James Cook University Medical School in Townsville. He neglected to mention the 1974 Labor promise, or the 1983 Labor promise, both of which were broken. The Howard Government has actually delivered, after a quarter century of broken Labor promises.


“Over 13 years under Hawke and Keating Labor’s neglect of rural Australia led to the shortfall of doctors in country towns, while the Carr Labor Government in NSW is busily closing hospital services in the bush and starving health services of cash.


“Rural Australians can’t afford to risk disappointment by Labor again,” said Dr Wooldridge.


“While the Coalition has spent three years building a solid plan to make rural health stronger, Labor have been playing a game of catch up. Michael Lee’s response to our policy announced yesterday shows he has a long way to go,” Dr Wooldridge said.


Media contact:

Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge's Office, 02 9563 4073 or 0412 137 699