Two years on from the election it is clear that Tony Abbott has betrayed his Nationals colleagues and ignored healthcare in rural and regional Australia.
The Nationals’ pre-election document Our Plan for Regional Australia promised the world for health outcomes in the bush but almost every promise has been broken.
The Promise: The Nationals said that their Regional Health Plan would ensure that “Australians living in the regions get a fair go from the health system”.
The Reality: This year’s Budget alone saw the Government cut more than $960 million from a range of health programs. This includes the Rural Health Outreach Fund, which aims to improve access to medical specialists, GPs and other health providers in rural and regional Australia.
The Promise: They promised to provide a full-time regional health minister with a “primary focus on the welfare of regional Australians”.
The Reality: Unfortunately the minister responsible for rural and regional health, Senator Fiona Nash, has admitted at Senate Estimates that she was out of the loop and “not privy to any discussion” around the creation of the GP Tax.
The Promise: The Nationals also promised pre-election that they would deliver “increased Medicare rebates” and “increased financial support” for Doctors in the bush.
The Reality: The exact opposite has occurred, with the Government’s GP tax by stealth – the freezing of Medicare rebates – hitting rural and regional areas particularly hard. It is outside of major cities where bulk billing rates are lower, chronic disease rates are higher and GP practices are at risk of closing up shop.
After two years of Tony, the Government has failed to listen to rural health experts, and outline what they are going to do to improve healthcare in rural and regional communities.