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The Health Reform Time Warp

By Andrew Laming - posted Tuesday, 15 February 2011

In the health reform time warp, it’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right. The PM describes dumping reforms of her predecessor as her ‘greatest triumph.’

The only new money is $200 million brought forward a year, by terminating a bureaucracy conceived by Kevin Rudd. His funding splits of 60:40 are now an aspirational 50:50 which is the perfect blame formula because no one is principally responsible.

There was negligible additional money yesterday, merely an end to the shell and pea game of State GST money being federally re-branded.


As Rocky Horror reminds us ‘time is fleeting and madness takes its toll.’

As the aptly named Magenta in the 1975 cult classic movie reminds us, this will last ‘not for very much longer’ before confessing ‘you’re into the time slip.’ Not a cent of these reforms arrives in this election term and not a cent in the budget’s forward estimates.

PMs should be judged on performance in their election term, not what is promised on behalf of future generations of Australians when they aren’t around to be called to account.

Four years after promises to fix the nation’s health system and nearly two years after it was meant to be completed, the Prime Minister is still talking to Premiers rather than delivering for patients.

The massive cost shifts of outpatient care, after-hours general practice and aged care/bed block remain unthreatened by these reforms.

Now billions in debt, the Federal Government reforms are now all pushed into ‘another dimension, with voyeuristic intention.’ It’s called the ‘out years,’ where Government can promise with impunity because it’s so far into the future, there is no compulsion to explain how it’s all paid for.


Whether it is carbon, the NBN, health or even Closing the Gap, reasonable short-term goals are replaced with nebulous and distant targets.

This is the new Labor tactic; massive promises, committing to spend away future administration’s resources so that promises don’t appearing on their ledger. Yesterday’s deal won’t see a single extra dollar until 2014/15, eight years after Mr Rudd’s election winning promise to fix the health system.

Governments now have a massive plan for every policy challenge. Ordinary people seeing little but rising prices and failing services could be forgiven for being ‘spaced out on sensation, like you’re under sedation.’ There are billions promised over the next decade but nothing flows while the current administration is in power.

Glorious press releases promise an end to the buck-shifting blame game. Meantime, these revolutions leave stakeholders fearing for their jobs and their future. In the case of health reforms, little has changed for patients except $200 million being brought forward a year; the equivalent of around half a percent extra.

We all want a Government with long-term vision and planning. But for Australians, that has come at the price of any action now. Ideally we need both. Apologising for the past and promising the future is of little use if administrations don’t take full responsibility for their own lack of action now.

Politics is little different to physics. It is based on force and time; what we spend and when. ‘If the pelvic thrust really drives you insane, Let’s do the time warp again.’

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About the Author

Andrew Laming is the Federal Member for Bowman in Queensland and the Shadow Spokesperson Regional Health and Indigenous Health.

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