The Federal Budget Threatens the Health of All Australians

May 23rd, 2014

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Many people have been left feeling hard done by after the release of the Abbott government’s first federal budget – but the true repercussions may not be felt for years. Dr Liz Hanna of the Australian National University, and president of the Climate and Health Alliance, explained how the health of Australia could be irrevocably changed.

Hospitals

The budget has proposed cuts of $50 billion to hospitals. Analysts predict that these cutbacks will force struggling states to push for a rise in GST in order to sustain their already overloaded services. In fact, this was recommended by the Commission of Audit.

In addition, Medicare is in the early stages of being dismantled as everyday Australians must pay for each and every visit. This could have huge repercussions for the health of the nation, as less people visit doctors for check ups and small niggles, which can catch serious problems early on.

Australia has worked hard for its Medicare system, and we seem to be slipping into a flawed model. As Hanna writes, “We deliver better health outcomes than the more expensive American model, yet this government pushes us away from a health system regarded by many as “the envy of the world”, and towards that poor performing system.”

Preventive health

Cuts to high-tech research that help to support preventative health care will also come into effect, and the health of the people will be drastically affected. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on preventing diseases, between 3 and 40 dollars are saved in treating that disease at a later date. Of course, health is about more than just money. Imagine the benefits investing in preventative health has on individuals, families and society.

Transport and climate

Even the cuts to transport and climate change initiatives will have an effect on Australia’s health:

  • Roads are being promoted over rail, discouraging healthy lifestyles, walking and the more environmentally-friendly public transport.
  • By scraping renewable energy incentives and promoting fossil fuel industries, resulting climate change could lead to higher temperatures, harsher weather and much personal suffering.
  • Cuts to social benefits increase the gap between wealthy and poor, leading to poorer health in general for a large demographic.

As Hanna explains, this government has come to power under false pretenses, with repeated promises of “no surprises” and “no cuts” and now the health of Australians will suffer for it.