Minor Parties: Health Policies

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Election night has come and gone and with the numbers too close to call several minor parties may hold the balance of power.

PH News takes a look at the health policies of the Independents and the minor parties to examine how they might influence the 45th Parliament.

Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Mr Michael Roff said the outcome of the election will be watched with interest, but the Association had considerable experience working with a hung parliament.

“If a minority government is formed APHA will work with both Houses to ensure Australians access to affordable hospital care of the highest quality and will continue to champion the cause of private hospitals,” he said.

The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is likely to have five members from outside the major parties, with a possible extra member from the Nick Xenophon Team.
They are:

Adam Bandt – The Australian Greens
The Greens have campaigned on a number of issues in health and APHA has kept track of their policy announcements on its Federal Election 2016 page (include link). The most significant policy announcement from a private hospitals perspective is the move to get rid of the private health insurance rebate (the rebate). The Greens have stated the savings from the rebate would be injected into several initiatives to support public health.
More information.

Rebekha Sharkie – Nick Xenophon Team (potentially also Andrea Broadfoot in Grey)
The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) has made some general statements about health care below. They have committed to the rebate, but want to see it reinstated to 30 percent, with the view that private hospitals take pressure off the public system. APHA has sought further detail from the party on their rebate policy.
General statement: High quality, easily accessible health care is a fundamental right for all Australians. With an ageing population and rising health costs that outstrip CPI, there needs to be a new approach that focuses on preventive health care.
Along with the rebate the NXT team wants to see targeted funding to reduce chronic medical conditions, expanded telemedicine for regional communities and resources directed to maximising patient outcomes.
Other issues:
The party also has a mental health policy, which again is focussed on preventive measures and calls for mental health to be a government priority. It also wants substance abuse considered as a health and not a criminal issue, with well-funded rehabilitation programs and takes a broad view, seeking programs and an Australia-wide change in culture to minimise addiction.
More information

Bob Katter – Katter’s Australian Party
Katter’s Australian Party does not have any health related policies publicly listed.
More informationl

Andrew Wilkie – Tasmanian Independent
Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie has declared he will not be entering any deals and will assess each piece of legislation in the new parliament on its merits.
He has made some statements about health care policy, including endorsing the means testing of the private health insurance rebate. However, he opposed the removal of the rebate (in June 2013) on the lifetime health cover loading because of the impact on older Australians.
Mr Wilkie has publicly supported the Mental Health Commission’s blueprint for reform of the sector and continues to lobby for its implementation.
He is in favour of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide and legalisation of medicinal cannabis (after successful trials), he is against a GP co-payment and is interested in incentivised vaccination programs. Mr Wilkie is also supportive of allied health and is concerned this sector is undervalued and underfunded.
More information

Cathy McGowan – Indi Independent
Ms McGowan has raised concerns about long waiting lists for hospitals, access to general practice, mental health support and the issues of an ageing population.
She does not have a stated policy on the private hospitals sector, but raises a number of broader health issues with a particular focus on Indi.
Mental health: improvements are needed in the national mental health plan to address gaps for rural mental health provision to address the particular issues faced by rural Australians. Ms McGowan also hopes to develop a regional mental health plan to reach those who are missing out on support.
Aged care: Ms McGowan wants the formula for aged care reviewed to address disadvantage and she will also work to secure more Aged Care Home packages.
Other issues: Ms McGowan will push for improved telehealth initiatives, additional funding for capital works to upgrade local hospitals and to retain Medicare Locals (sic).
More information

The Senate
Despite moves to reduce the number of minority parties and Independents in the Senate there will again be a number of smaller parties and Independents in the Upper House.
Their policy positions are below:

Pauline Hanson – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has four health-related topics in her manifesto, without an overall vision for the Australian health system.
Nurse training: Ms Hanson’s party believes nurse training needs to return to the hospital floor in order to improve patient care. The party argues that the academic environment of nurse training is impacting in two ways – one of which is nurses not able to adjust from computer learning to ward work and the other is being forced to study at Universities results in little family support, nurses having to work to support themselves and the resulting negative impact on their ability to commit to their studies.  Working in the hospital, for a wage, would the party believes solve those problems.
The Drug Ice: The Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party believes Australian should take a ‘three strikes and you’re out’’ approach to ice addiction. This would involve addicts caught three times with the drug would be forced into a rehabilitation program that they must pay for through seizure of goods or income (either through employment or welfare payments). For drug dealers the party proposes a minimum term one year in gaol per gram of the drug sold and their assets sold to offset the costs of their prison term. Foreigners caught dealing drugs should be sent back to their country of origin to serve their time (subject to treaty arrangements with individual countries).
Medicinal cannabis: One Nation is supportive of medicinal cannabis trials for Australians who are suffering.
Euthanasia: One Nation supports calls for euthanasia laws in Australia for people over 18 years old. The medical will must appoint two executors and stipulate when the person’s will is to be carried out. A medical doctor familiar with the person’s case along with the two executors must agree to the procedure going ahead.
For more information

Jacquie Lambie – Jacquie Lambie Network
The Jacqui Lambie Network is another minor party that does not have a stated health policy, but identifies some health issues as important.
The Network has a particular interest in veteran’s affairs, including the distribution of the Health Gold Card. The Network wants to see the Gold Card automatically granted to all Australian veterans who have served in war-like or war-zones.
More information

Derryn Hinch – Justice Party
The Justice Party does not have an overarching health policy.
Euthanasia: the Justice Party supports euthanasia.
More information

The Australian Greens
See policy above.

Nick Xenophon – Nick Xenophon Team
See policy above.

Potential additional Senators, yet to be determined:

Bob Day – Family First

David Leyonhjelm – Liberal Democrats

For an overview of the announced election promises of the Coalition, the Australian Labor Party and The Australian Greens click here.

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