Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail
Sophie Scamps (Mackellar, Independent) Share this | Hansard source
I rise today to speak about the government's health measures in the 2022-23 budget. Health is a human right, and there needs to be equitable access to health care for all Australians. All Australians deserve and want the best in health and health care. They also want a government that is fiscally responsible and invests strategically to ensure value for money and return on investment. The best return on investment is prevention, and taking a long-term view. We need to plan for what we know is on the horizon, whether it be preventable chronic disease, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for health risks associated with climate change or the GP crisis.
This is the first federal budget that took wellbeing into consideration, but it does not go far enough to invest in the area of prevention of disease. We know that 87 per cent of deaths in Australia are linked to chronic illness, and almost 40 per cent of chronic diseases can be prevented by addressing lifestyle factors. The National Preventive Health Strategy recommends that a target of five per cent of the health budget be dedicated to preventive health. However, this budget does not deliver on that. Most notably, one of the biggest risk factors to many chronic diseases, obesity, isn't addressed. The budget does not mention, let alone invest in, the newly announced National Obesity Strategy. This is a powerful strategy, but it will have no benefit sitting as a pile of papers on the minister's desk.
Australia bore the brunt of our failure to plan for the pandemic, and yet this budget also fails to plan for the ongoing nature of the pandemic. We're in the midst of yet another wave of COVID-19 and we are staring down the barrel of long-COVID impacts. Yet MBS COVID-19 measures are only budgeted to the end of this year. That won't even get us to the next budget. Additionally, the budget fails to recognise the impacts of the pandemic on mental health, including the spike in eating disorders. Many of my constituents are calling for an extension of the additional 10 psychology sessions.
Also worryingly, the budget for public hospitals is $2.4 billion less than forecast in May 2023. Meanwhile, hospitals are at breaking point. One of my particular focuses is advocating for the government to address the GP crisis. If general practice folds, then the entire health system goes down with it. I know that the minister recognises this as a major challenge, however the budget doesn't reflect the measures needed to turn around the current trajectory that will lead to a deficit of 11,000 GPs by 2030—and this is across both rural and urban areas. Measures to increase the Medicare rebate, increase bulk-billing incentive and bolster GP numbers require strategic funding over the forward estimates to drive the required structural change.
Finally, the issue that is recognised by the World Health Organization and the Australian Medical Association as the greatest challenge to human health is climate change. I welcome the establishment of the Centre for Disease Control. It firmly demonstrates that this government recognises the benefits of planning for major public health emergencies in Australia, such as the increased incidence of diseases associated with climate change. It will allow Australia to catch up with the other OECD countries, after years of experts calling for it to be established. The $3.2 million in this budget is small but it will get the ball rolling.
Finally, this government failed to allocate money for one of the greatest issues to come out of the pandemic—eating disorders and the increase in mental health issues. The services in my electorate are struggling, and there is no certainty that the additional psychology sessions will remain—something that many of my constituents have been vocal about. So I ask the minister: What will the government do in upcoming budgets to address the lack of funding for strategic planning commitments such as the National Obesity Strategy, the Centre for Disease Control, ongoing pandemic risks and mental health? When will the government increase the Medicare rebate for GPs and the bulk-billing incentive, to relieve the burden on our struggling primary healthcare system? Will the next budget be a health budget and a true wellbeing budget?