GST snatch not much to do with healthcare improvement – 15 March 2010

“The recently announced and much trumpeted “healthcare reform” package is a ‘tax–grab’ sandwich with a dab of casemix to give it a health flavour,” Mr Stephen Milgate, Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund said in Sydney today.

Sadly, an opportunity has been missed to put independent hospital boards into all public hospitals.

“Furthermore it appears that we are to have a new regional bureaucracy to supplement existing state and federal health bureaucracies. This will enable the blame game to continue with new players and more excitement as the inevitable rationing of healthcare services meets undeliverable expectations of free healthcare”, Mr Milgate said.

The comments by the joint architect of Medicare, Professor John Deeble, in his recent Medical Journal of Australia article are particularly concerning,

“The so-called $50 billion reform package is largely spin, derived by summing the higher federal government share of specific service payments over 15 years, and ignoring the fact that it is already paying that money through the distribution of the GST.”

The ADF also notes the comments by eminent OECD, Harvard and Monash Economics Professor Henry Ergas, rebutting claims that the package will end the blame game and strengthen the states’ finances, “Overall, the spaghetti-like chart for the scheme could have been devised by Barry Jones: little wonder it hasn’t been released. The bottom line: everyone will still have someone else to blame.”[1]

“Claims that the plan is a way of strengthening the states’ finances seem bizarre.” [2]

Most distressing is the assessment by the former Queensland Royal Commissioner into Bundaberg Hospital, Tony Morris, QC, “Perhaps such gallows humour is out of place in discussing health-care reforms. But if one did not laugh at the absurdity of Rudd’s “fix”, the only alternative would be to cry at the shamefully cynical political opportunism with which this retrograde package of non-solutions is presented as the universal panacea for a healthcare system already in extremis.” [3]

“It appears that another opportunity to implement constructive improvements to our healthcare system has been strangled in the rush to snatch one third of the states’ GST”, Mr Milgate said.

Stephen Milgate (02) 9567 5595 (BH) 0425 283 411


[1] Prof Henry Ergas, Health FAQs for the confused, The Australian, 5/3/10

[2] ibid

[3] Tony Morris QC, The hospital cure: more spin doctors, The Australian, 5/3/10