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PMs health plan looks a bit sick
letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 15 April 2010

As with climate change, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has locked himself into a view that it is in the national interest for the federal government to intervene in the operation of public health policies now mostly being run by states. As Victorian Premier John Brumby has pointed out, this involves riding roughshod over the states, even threatening a referendum (“Victoria airs its main issues in Canberra”14 April).

But while health reform is needed, it is hard to believe the electorate sees this coming via a bigger federal role. The recent total failures of federal intervention in education and insulation, amongst numerous others, must surely mean voters doubt the feds can implement better policies.

Relevant is whether the bribes of additional federal money would result in additional total spending on public health. If, after additional money is provided by the federal government, the states made offsetting reductions in their own funding of health, there would be no additional increase in total funding of public health.

To justify the provision of additional federal funding, the states would thus have to be required to fund pre-determined levels of spending that would add to total public health funding. Unless Mr Rudd can assure voters of this, the whole scheme will be another federal failure.

Des Moore
Former OIC federal/state relations
Australian Treasury, South Yarra.

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