Labor has called once again on the Abbott Government to finally back down on its pathetic, unfair and heartless attack on Australians suffering from debilitating Inborn Error of Metabolism (IEM) conditions.
Around 900 Australians are diagnosed with rare genetic conditions such as Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Homocystinuria (HCU). In order to prevent the development of brain damage, renal failure and other serious conditions, people with IEM must abide by an expensive, protein restricted diet.
Today in the Federation Chamber Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones, called on Minister Ley to reverse this cruel cut to a program that costs just $3 million a year but is enormously beneficial to those with IEM conditions.
He read from a letter sent to him by a constituent with the condition, who noted that the cost to the Government of providing the subsidy was far less than what would be incurred through recurring hospital visits for those unable to afford the correct foods.
Despite saying that the Government would not be stepping away from what is in the Budget in a “formal sense”, Minister Ley did concede that the Government was under pressure to act. She revealed that many members of her own Government had joined Labor in raising with her the outrage from families hurt by this disgraceful Budget decision.
It comes after several months of pointless anxiety being suffered by families who relied on this measure.
For over a decade the federal government has been providing a small subsidy, currently worthy $250 per month, to these 900 families to enable them to purchase the specialist food they need so children with this condition do not suffer brain damage.
The products, must of which have to be shipped to Australia, can cost as much as $20 for a pack of protein modified pasta or $68 for a block of cheese.
But the Government ripped this modest assistance payment away without any warning or consultation just two days after the Budget.
The decision to axe this program highlights once again the unfair and heartless nature of this Government and its insistence on targeting the most vulnerable members of the community.
This pathetic and small-minded measure only succeeds in punishing families reliant on this small contribution to help cover the costs of protecting children with this very rare disease from suffering brain damage or premature death.
Labor remains concerned that the Government has hidden similar cuts like this to small programs for Australians suffering severe health conditions as part of its overall $2 billion cut to health in this year’s Budget.