It's that time again for my weekly E News Letter. If you would like a copy please contact my office on 02 4262 6122.
On Australia Day flags are flown with special meaning. Let's make sure our best is on display. If your Australian flag has seen better days I will replace it with a new one.
JUSTIN SMITH: The Government has promised to pause, listen and consult over changes to Medicare, whether it be co-payments and rebates, will you be one of the groups they are consulting with?
STEPHEN JONES: I’d like to think so. Look can I start by saying I welcome the fact that they have finally come to their senses on dumping the plan, a mad plan, to slash the Medicare rebate by $20 dollars for short consultations. I think it was the wrong plan and doctors were right to turn their surgeries into a protest zone to point out the problems with it. But there is unfished business, the GP Tax Susan Ley made quite clear in her statement is still on the table and the freeze on rebates is still on the table. They should be putting a stop to those plans and sitting down and talking with the profession, health consumers and yes, the Opposition as well about what needs to be done.
Prof Dennis Pashen from the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) said today the cumulative effect of the government’s changes to Medicare “could ultimately affect access to services; the ability of communities to recruit and retain doctors; and the sustainability of rural practices.”
Labor’s spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health Stephen Jones MP today called on National Party MPs and Senators to join with Labor in rejecting Tony Abbott’s reworked GP Tax.
LIBERALS ABANDON ABC NOWRA
The decision to close ABC Nowra and 4 other ABC Radio sites is a slap in the face for Regional Australia.
ABC Nowra employs 2 journalists that report on local stories affecting the Shoalhaven and Illawarra communities.
This is a fundamental breach of the Governments pre-election promise that there would be:
“no cuts to the ABC or SBS”
[Tony Abbott SBS, 6 September, 2013].
Immediately after the election, the Government initiated their plan for ABC budget cuts with the secret Lewis Review into Public Broadcasters. While refusing to release the report, the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull has then announced $254 Million worth of cuts to the ABC leading to job cuts and station closures.
I can understand why the Minister who lives in the inner city of Sydney is less interested in stories from regional Australia but I’m perplexed by the inaction of the Coalition’s regional and rural MPs. They have failed to stick up for their communities.
Ann Sudmalis campaigned under a platform of no cuts to the ABC – now she is supporting a Government which is cutting the ABC station in her own electorate.
Watch the speech that calls out Ann Sudmalis as barracking for the fire and the firebrigade.
Labor MPs Anna Watson and Stephen Jones have welcomed the creation of new concept designs for substantial upgrades to key West Dapto roads as part of Labor’s commitment to improving flood-free access for local residents.
“While the State Liberal Government has only promised the allocation of funds for the Fowlers Road extension, no action has been seen on the road and no construction will take place for at least another two years.
“The former State and Federal Labor Government’s provided Wollongong City Council with $40 million in total funding since 2010 ($26 million interest-free infrastructure loans by State Labor and $14 million by Federal Labor under Building Better Regional Cities Program) .
“This funding has seen the construction of new local road links and bridges at Cleveland Road and Shone Avenue, West Dapto.
“Labor’s funding has led to real roads and better road access, while the Liberals have only made promises – none of which have yet to materialise”, Ms Watson said.
Member for Throsby Stephen Jones said, “I’m very pleased that the $14 million provided to Wollongong City Council by the former Federal Labor Government is ensuring safer, flood-free access for West Dapto residents.
“The concept designs Council is releasing for public comment includes the construction of two new bridges, road widening to four lanes, installing traffic lights and boom gates at the rail crossing at Wongawilli.
“The release of these concept designs now mean the local community can provide important feedback before the bulldozers get to work”, he said.
Wollongong City Council has organised an information session for the concept designs at Wongawilli Community Hall on Thursday evening, 27 November 2014 commencing at 6pm.
Further information can be found at Council’s website: http://haveyoursaywollongong.com.au/proposed-upgrades-to-wongawilli-and-west-dapto-roads1
Today is World Diabetes Day and Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Health, Stephen Jones is calling on the Abbott Government to re-think its ill-conceived GP Tax that will slug local patients an additional $13.4 million per year and deter thousands with chronic diseases like diabetes from seeking treatment.
“The Illawarra is ground zero for diabetes. The incidence of diabetes is about 5.6 per cent of the population nationally. In our region it is close to 6.5 per cent, almost one percentage point above the national average”, said Jones.
“This is likely a conservative figure, as the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study reveals that while 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, up to half of the cases of type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed.
“This is part of the reason bulk-billing rates in the Illawarra are at historically high levels, increasing over the last five years, to 91.7 per cent.”
Local GPs understand that patients in the region with chronic diseases like diabetes require bulk-billing in order to have access to basic preventative health care and avoid the most expensive part of the health system – the public hospital system.
The Abbott Government’s GP Tax and hike to prescription medicines will slug local patients with $94 million over the next four years.
“The last thing we should do with diabetes patients is discourage them from seeing a doctor. Avoiding treatment will mean many end up facing the most dangerous consequences of the disease including blindness, loss of limbs and end-stage kidney disease”, said Jones.
“A disproportionate number of Illawarra diabetes patients are already suffering – they are the ones who can least afford this Government’s reckless tax.
I’m calling on Tony Abbott must dump the GP Tax as a matter of urgency.”
Latest life expectancy figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics should be a wake-up call to the Abbott Government over its complete lack of a health plan for rural and regional Australia.
ABS data shows a massive 14 year gap between the life expectancy of a person in remote NSW of just 67.8 years, compared to the average Australian of 82.1 years.
The Abbott Government has no comprehensive rural health policy and has abandoned preventative health in rural and regional communities, axing the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) – the only body dedicated to improving preventative health policy at the Commonwealth level
This can only hamper efforts to tackle conditions such as chronic diabetes, obesity and complications from heavy smoking which have a much higher incidence in rural and regional areas.
In the past 12 months, Tony Abbott has cut health and hospital funding by more than $50 billion, setting our health system back decades.
He has cut over $125 million from Indigenous health programs, many of which were targeted at disadvantaged communities in rural and remote Australia, introduced budget measures that will rip $1.4 billion from rural and remote general practices. On top of this, he has announced a medicine price hike, announced a GP Tax that will rip the heart out of Medicare, destroyed Labor’s community-focused Medicare Local network and abolished Health Workforce Australia, an crucially important body set up by Labor to help address Australia’s growing health workforce challenges.
These cruel cuts will only make things worse for patients in rural and regional Australia.
Rural and regional Australians deserve a Government that will champion their health needs, not one that makes hollow promises to get elected and then completely betrays them.
From today, every motorist in the region will pay more for petrol because of Tony Abbott's new $2.2 billion petrol tax.
Despite promising no new or increased taxes before the last election, and having his petrol tax budget measure shot down by the Senate earlier this year, Tony Abbott has bypassed Parliament to ensure thousands of locals will pay more for their petrol.
The indexation of the petrol tax to CPI by the Abbott Government means Australians will pay around $19 billion more for petrol over the next decade.
Sharon Bird says within the next five years, the average motorist will be paying an extra $135 for petrol every single year because of this new tax from Tony Abbott.
“Australians in regional areas like the Illawarra and those running small businesses will be particularly hard hit by Tony Abbott’s increasing petrol tax”, said Ms Bird.
“Local families are already struggling to make ends meet with the cost of living because of this Government’s unfair budget – the last thing they need is to pay more tax every time they fill up the car.”
“This is a sneaky move by the Abbott Government, trying to get through the back door what they couldn’t get through the front”, said Stephen Jones.