What do the parties and candidates say about healthcare in Victoria? Farrago's resident policy wonk Benjamin Cronshaw reports.
Welcome to the new Policy Comparison Series for the Victorian State Election 2022. With each article we will cover a different policy area and what the parties and candidates have to say (including a rotating lineup of minor parties).
With the COVID-19 pandemic, states were at the forefront of the health and emergency response (including lockdowns and other restrictions). Health was one of the most challenging (and polarising) issues of the last few years—between people buying bedsheets of Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s face to fierce criticism and protests over health orders. Health was also covered in the Federal Election here.
What are talking points from the different parties about healthcare and what are their policy promises going forward?
Ministers: Mary-Anne Thomas (Health; Ambulance Services), Jaclyn Symes (Emergency Services)
Pandemic management was a major part of the last term. With health orders and travel limits to manage the spread of COVID-19, Melbourne was one of the most locked-down cities in the world (maybe not the most). During this time, the Premier Daniel Andrews, donning his North Face jacket, held daily press conferences for a record 120 days straight. While there was a health imperative to "flatten the curve” and prevent cases from spiralling, the measures were nonetheless contentious and tiring for the community. The “Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021”, which transferred the power over pandemic orders from health officials to the Premier and Health Minister, also generated controversy.
In their election platform, the Victorian Government claims a record of building and upgrading hospitals and hiring some 26,000 healthcare workers. They have also pledged to create a new role of Paramedic Practitioners, who can treat people in the field (avoiding the need for hospital trips where possible). They have also promised to make studying nursing and midwifery free.
Shadow Ministers: Georgie Crozier (Health; Ambulance Services), Brad Brattin (Emergency Services) Emma Kealy (Mental Health)
Health plays a major role in the Opposition's campaign, including criticising the record Andrews Government and pledging more funding for the health system. This includes diverting money from transport and infrastructure projects towards health spending, promising to build 20 new hospitals and recruit 40,000 new nurses and midwives.
On the pandemic, they criticised the long lockdowns under the Andrews government, but also promised to build a Dedicated Infectious Response Centre.
The Liberals have also called for improving ambulance response times and “ramping” issues, which leaves people waiting outside hospitals. Their policy on the “000 crisis” includes delivering more funding for emergency services and upgrading the 000 command centre.
Spokespersons: Tim Read (Spokesperson for Health), Ellen Sandell (Emergency Services)
The Greens have a variety of policies for healthcare. On mental health, the Greens want funding for 500 more psychologists and psychiatrists to be placed in schools and public clinics.
For pandemic management and prevention, they want to create a National Centre for Disease Control in Melbourne, along with providing more public health information about COVID-19, and vaccines in general.
They also have called for more funding and accessibility for dental care, gender diverse healthcare, and maternal and reproductive services.
The Animal Justice Party supports a publicly funded healthcare system, including support for mental health services. Their animal focus comes in emphasising the health benefits of plant-based diets and wanting to end subsidies for the meat industry.
The Derryn Hinch Justice Party supports voluntary assisted dying (VAD). They also want mandated nurse to resident ratios in aged care homes.
Liberal Democrats are critical of “COVID alarmism,” criticising lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask mandates. Basically, they believe all government pandemic restrictions should go and we should instead learn to “live with COVID.” Criticism of the Andrews government and lockdowns is a common theme (perhaps even their raison d’être) amongst a few more micro parties, such as Angry Victorians, the Freedom Party and Restore Democracy.
The Sustainable Australia Party wants to promote more preventative healthcare, including education about food and exercise. They also want an excise on sugar products and a ban on junk food advertising in children’s TV hours. They have also called for more affordable primary healthcare and dental services.
Animal Justice Party
Derryn Hinch Justice Party
Hannah Ryan. 29 July 2020. “‘He Makes it so much nicer’: Brett Sutton, the “silver fox lining’ of Victoria’s second-wave lockdown.” The Guardian.
Rachel Eddie. 30 October 2021. “‘We’d all love to see less of the COVID commander’: daily COVID pressers end their run.” The Age.
RMIT ABC Fact Check. 25 October 2021. “Josh Frydenberg says Melbourne is the world’s most locked down city. Is that correct?” ABC News.