Groups call on Government to deliver secure health and education funding at COAG

Peak community, health and education groups today called on the Federal Government to forge an agreement with the states and territories at this week’s COAG meeting to guarantee critical health and needs based education funding into the long term.

The groups, including ACOSS, Consumers Health Forum, the Australian Education Union, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Australian Council of State School Organisations, want to see the funding for public hospitals that was taken out of the National Health Reform Agreement restored, and a commitment to fund the full six years of needs based education as proposed by the independent Gonski Review, beyond the current 4 year commitment.

Healthcare services and schools are vital to the wellbeing and future prosperity of our country. Yet the funding shortfall following the Federal Government’s $80 billion cuts to the health and education budgets over the next decade will cause great harm, especially as it unfairly impacts people who can least afford access to private schools and healthcare.

In a united call, the groups highlighted the need for the Commonwealth to cooperate with states and territories in these important areas of shared responsibility, which will require more resources over time as the population ages and costs increase. These extra funds will need to come from the strengthening of government tax bases through equitable tax and federation reform as well as greater efficiencies in the delivery of services.

The principles of universal access should underpin reforms. Health services must be available for all who need them, when they need them and schools must be adequately resourced so that all children get the support they need to reach their potential.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“The current funding deficit must be addressed at this week’s meeting. The states and territories, who are responsible for delivering these services simply do not have the capacity to plug the gap. Ultimately, the Commonwealth must work constructively with the states and territories to guarantee stable and adequate funding into the future for the universal services that we all want as a community.

“We must not squander the opportunity to deliver revenue growth through fair tax reform. The future of services depends upon it. Given the critical nature of the funding shortage and the tight fiscal environment, investment in services should be a higher priority than funding election year tax cuts.

Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells said:

“The restoration of health funding is a critical first step. Longer-term, we must shift from a focus on hospitals to strengthening primary and integrated care to keep people out of emergency wards and hospitals in the first place. We must invest in new models of integrated care and in primary health care-led health reform. This will deliver better health outcomes and a more efficient and effective health system.”

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said:

“We want to see bi-partisan support in Parliament for the full six years of Gonski, not just four, because this will deliver funding straight to the schools and students who need it. There is widespread support for the needs based Gonski model in the community and amongst our elected leaders. It is lifting results and helping children – what’s missing is the political will to commit the funding needed for the long-haul.”

Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore said:

“The worst affected by the failure to adequately fund healthcare services are socioeconomically disadvantaged groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people in rural and remote communities, who have difficulty accessing medical and other health services already. We know equitable education and good health care help address inequity – let’s make it happen.”

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition National Director Leo Fieldgrass:

“Needs based school funding is vital for all students to thrive in 21st century Australia. Targeting funding to educational needs will raise individual and community outcomes, boosting economic growth. Young people and families expect a long-term commitment from politicians to the Gonski model of equitable education.”

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht:

“Health system funding arrangements should not be changed in isolation from the impact this will have on other parts of the health system and should not be unilaterally imposed by the Commonwealth. We support reforms that maintain and enhance the equity, accessibility and sustainability of the Australian health system to the benefit of the whole community. This requires a commitment to the long-term and durable funding of the health sector.”

Australian Council of State School Organisations President Phillip Spratt:

“Inclusive access for all to high quality health care and a fully resourced education system underpins the sense of fairness and fair go that is Australia. Transparent, straightforward and sufficient needs based funding is vital to support the two-thirds of Australia’s 3.6 million school aged students, their parents and the communities that rely on public education as the first, and in some cases the only choice for their child’s future.”

Media Contacts:

ACOSS: 0419 626 155
Consumers Health Forum: 0429 111 986
Australian Education Union: 0437 971 291
Public Health Association of Australia:  0421 749 608
Australian Youth Affairs Coalition: 0450 427 584
Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association: 0487 783 775
Australian Council of State School Organisations: 0419 986 547