Today's launch of the National Rural Health Alliance's Election Scorecard saw commitments from the major parties to provide answers to the questions posed - and advice from Tony Windsor for country advocates to keep calling for reasonable but specific consideration by government.
Representing Minister Plibersek, Andrew Leigh summarised some of the Government's current programs relating to three of the Alliance's focus areas: health workforce, disability care and high speed broadband. The DisabilityCare launch sites are the beginnings of the scheme's national roll-out, and health workforce programs are increasingly reaching a broader range of health disciplines. Dr Leigh confirmed the Labor Party's commitment to fair access and good health for people irrespective of where they live.
Andrew Laming, speaking for the Liberal-National Coalition, reported that on many of the priority issues nominated by the Alliance there appears to be little difference between the parties. The areas where Dr Laming said there could be disagreement are balancing rural health infrastructure with workforce support; the quality and speed of broadband justified by the needs of GPs in rural areas; the best way to combat the effects of climate change in rural communities; and the public-private mix in expanded dental services.
For the Greens, Richard Di Natale expressed unreserved support for the NRHA's principles and proposals, based on a clear understanding of rural people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage as well as poor access to services. He referred specifically to the Greens' proposal for bringing oral and dental care into Medicare and for expanding the tax base so that new expenditures on that initiative and others such as disability care were affordable. Dr Di Natale made the case for the NBN as "first class infrastructure that will support the possibilities of tomorrow".
Tony Windsor paid credit to those in the room for their continued efforts, warning that they would have to work even harder in the future for the wellbeing of country people. He advised rural and remote advocates against being captured by the political process, and lamented the fact that the condition of people in rural areas normally becomes a minority interest of urban-oriented political blocs. “Health and education are always priorities for rural people,” Mr Windsor said, “and the NBN is the infrastructure of the century.”
The Alliance's Scorecard will be updated online at http://ruralhealth.org.au/advocacy/election as the responses from the parties are received. Richard Di Natale said today that the Greens find very little to quarrel with in the Alliance's bids. Andrew Laming threatened to add in rural commitments beyond those listed - thus seeing the Coalition scoring more than 35! And Andrew Leigh reaffirmed the ALP's belief in a ‘fair go’ for all, wherever they live.
So it seems possible that the Scorecard's water tanks might be running over. That would be nice.
Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660