Content warning: mental health, suicide, drug use in no explicit detail.
Health has been at the forefront of the public mind and political debate over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions have greatly disrupted our lives and put a great strain on the healthcare system.
What do the parties and candidates say about healthcare in Australia?
Key people: Greg Hunt MP (Minister for Health and Aged Care), David Gillespie MP (Minister for Regional Health), David Coleman MP (Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention).
The pandemic response involved both the Federal and State Governments, working together in the newly formed National Cabinet (albeit with some disagreements over border closures). Federal Government actions included closing international borders, increasing welfare payments with Jobseeker and Jobkeeper and overseeing the vaccine roll-out.
The Government also funded some 9,000 new ventilators and increased Australia’s National Medical Stockpile (including masks, gowns and ventilators).
Telehealth was another innovation to provide health access online, which proved especially helpful during lockdowns and across rural areas.
More Liberal policies include:
- Adding 2,900 new listed drugs to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and discounting the general script price by $10.
- Establishing the Medical Research Future Fund for long-term health and medical research.
Key people: Mark Butler MP (Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing), Emma McBride MP (Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health).
Labor has criticised the government’s pandemic response, including the lack of a dedicated quarantine system and the vaccine “strollout”.
Healthcare is a big theme of the Labor campaign, including support for frontline workers, better access and quality of healthcare services.
Labor also has a proposal to build 50 new Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, some of them expanding existing clinics, which are meant to ease pressure on the emergency system.
More Labor policies include:
- Creating an Australian Centre for Disease Control for better pandemic preparation and response management.
- Discounting the PBS general scripts by $12.50 (a slightly more generous discount than the Coalition proposal).
Key people: Senator Jordan Steele John (Spokesperson for Health (including Dental and Mental Health)
The Greens want a more preventative approach to tackle health issues. They also highlight Medicare funding for dental services and expanding support for mental health (including unlimited mental health sessions).
A new National Centre for Disease Control would help prevent future pandemics, partnered with new COVID-19 vaccine research and a domestic vaccine manufacturing facility. They also want an increased foreign aid budget to support global health and vaccine distribution.
More Greens policies include:
- Increase support for community-led First Nations health services and preventative medicine, including the maternal health program Birthing on Country.
- Harm reduction approach to drug use, including pill-testing and safe injecting rooms.
- Research the impact of climate change on human health.
Many of the Independent candidates have a background in health. Incumbent Helen Haines (Indi) has healthcare experience as a nurse and researcher, with her campaign advocating for more investment in rural health.
Among the new “Teal Independents” candidates, Professor Monique Ryan (Kooyong) is a paediatric neurologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Carolyn Heise (Cowper) has worked in the healthcare and advocacy sector, including as director of Cancer Council and director of nursing in Coffs Harbour. Sophie Scamps (Mackellar) is a doctor and GP in her local electorate.
Australian Democrats want to address food insecurity with better access to nutritious food and increase investment in digital and Telehealth services. They also want a Royal Commission into Australia’s COVID response, along with dedicated quarantine facilities and more medical research.
Animal Justice Party advocates for the health benefits of a plant based diet (unsurprising) along with removing any subsidies for intensive animal industries.
The Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party (SFF) advocate for more affordable medications, especially for people in rural areas, and a permanent Health Emergency and Pandemic control centre.
Reason supports more affordable and available healthcare, with investment in preventative services and more bulk billing including dental care.
Fusion wants vaccines to be free and easily available, also supporting mandates in certain professions. They also want a harm minimisation or health centred approach to drug use.
There are also a range of so-called “freedom parties”, most of whom were around before but have gained a new raison detre to oppose COVID restrictions or vaccine mandates. This includes the United Australia Party (UAP), One Nation and Liberal Democrats.
Animal Justice Party
Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party