Labor has ramped up a “Mediscare” style attack campaign over Scott Morrison’s pick for Health Minister on week two of the campaign.
Anthony Albanese was in Brisbane today where he visited flood victims and doubled down on criticism over the PM’s announcement current Social Services Minister Anne Ruston will become Health Minister if he is re-elected.
The Opposition Leader has seized on comments Senator Ruston made in 2015 when she said Medicare was “not sustainable in the future without some change” after the then-Abbott Government had unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a GP co-payment.
“To suggest that the trajectory of the cost of this particular service, which Australians justifiably take for granted, is not a problem is extraordinarily naive,” she said at the time.
Mr Albanese claimed these comments were evidence the Government would cut health spending if re-elected.
“(She) has said that the current model is not sustainable …. if Scott Morrison is re-elected we can expect cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to other essential services, because this is a Prime Minister who only defines action by what is in the short-term political interest,” he said.
The Prime Minister, however, said at his press conference in Perth that both he and Senator Ruston had ruled out cuts.
“I thought Anne Ruston, who I announced yesterday (as health minister) should we be successful at the election, said yesterday there would not be any cuts. And I would repeat that today,” he told reporters.
Senator Ruston claimed it was a “desperate scare campaign by the Labor Party”.
“Medicare is sustainable. We have invested in new elements of Medicare like telehealth, because we have a strong economy,” she said.
In the 2016 election, a major part of Labor’s attack campaign was arguing the Government had plans to privatise Medicare which was denied at the time. This was widely known as the “Mediscare” campaign.
In the press conference Mr Albanese also faced questions about his announcement the party would spend $135m to trial 50 new urgent care clinics if it is elected to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments.
Mr Albanese was asked how many nurses would be needed for the clinics and how he planned to recruit them given the current shortage of healthcare workers.
He said the clinics would be run by private operators so it was for them to decide.
“These won’t be run by the government. These won’t be run centrally … These will be determined by the people who run the centres, which is existing GP clinics and … community health centres,” he said.
Asked about new polling which shows he has lost support as preferred Prime Minister, Mr Albanese said he had consistently said the Labor were the underdogs of the campaign.
“I’m not a commentator. What I know is that Australia needs a new Government. Australia needs a better future, and the feedback that I get around the country…is that Australians really know that this government’s tired. It’s out of puff, it’s out of time,” he said.