Posts Tagged ‘federalism’

Tim Dunlop breaks down some of the figures on federal-state proportional funding for hospitals:

In trying to untangle the rhetoric from both parties about their hospital policies the other day, one aspect I only touched on was the issue of funding. I noted that “the Federal Government…seems to be using the moment to decrease the amount of money they put into the system. The usual split between State and Commonwealth is 50/50, though under Mr Abbott the federal share has dropped to about 45%. The Health Minister is now talking in terms of a 40% Commonwealth share, at a time when costs are rising.”

In fact, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicates that the Federal funding share has already dropped to 41% of the total.

Tim talks about the implications of this in terms of the Coalition’s new policy of forming local hospital boards, but it’s worth noting what this says about the historical situation. State governments (or, at the very least, some of them) have been increasing their spending on the health system in an attempt to improve one of the most vital services a government can provide. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth has allowed its investment in health to slip so that the states are shouldering more of the burden than ever before. Meanwhile, the federal Government happily attacks the states on two fronts: (i) they aren’t operating health services at an adequate level, and (ii) state governments running into debt are responsible for interest rate rises.

In other words, the Commonwealth keeps the money in their very deep pockets (all the better to fund advertising campaigns with), and they get to hit the states for both spending too much and not spending enough.

If you want to hear what the other side of politics is saying, Nicola Roxon has a piece in the GG today.

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Rudd’s hospital strategy

I’ll hold off on saying anything about whether Kevin Rudd’s proposed approach to managing the health system is good for health at this stage – like the AMA, I agree that more detail is needed (although I disagree that a Commonwealth health system is less capable of dealing with different needs around the country – as it is, state health systems are broken into regions, and a Commonwealth system can do the same).

I will say that politically it was a nice hit back – it gets headlines, shows a strategic vision, and it suggests a willingness to go up against the Premiers if need be (thus weakening Howard’s “wall-to-wall Labor” scare campaign) – but only after attempting a cooperative approach.

The next few days should be interesting, as the reactions start to play out and the Howard Central has to get a meaningful response together. Tony Abbott’s effort was just plain weak – he had to fight off the fact that he had floated something similar, and the “big echo” argument is preposterous. Proposing to take over the entire responsibility for the hospital system is entirely different from taking over a single hospital, which then needs to interface with the remainder of the health service which is still state-run. Howard’s approach was not a “test case”; it was a publicity stunt. And now it’s been overshadowed by a meaningful strategy – something Howard often struggles to come up with.

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Listen to George

Clear, concise, and correct.

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Attention, Newcastle

To those who want the Pasha Bulker rudder, follow these steps:

  1. Ask Morris Iemma to arrange purchase of the item from the ship’s owners.
  2. Wait for Iemma to refuse.
  3. Make sure John Howard knows that the NSW government has refused to fund your purchase.
  4. Wait for the Commonwealth government to buy you a rudder.

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George Megalogenis points out Howard’s hypocrisy and Rudd’s shortcomings on the issue of federal-state roles and responsibilities.

The key point emerging from all of this posturing about hospitals (oops – I guess I should really use the singular), interest rates, schools, roads, etc. is that it’s tactical point-scoring without an emerging policy direction, on both sides of politics.

John and Kevin, here is your task: develop a clear model of Commonwealth-state relations, create policies that reflect it in a coherent manner, and campaign on them. If you’re not willing to do that, shut up about what’s wrong with the states or what’s wrong with how your opponent is treating the states.

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What I don’t get

  1. Why does John Howard talk about the state governments with such obvious contempt? He conveys an expectation that everyone agrees that the states are being run badly and that we’ll all believe him when he says that all the problems with hospitals/schools/housing/inflation/etc. are their fault because we know they’re incompetent. Does he not realize that the voters he is speaking to are the same ones who elected those governments?
  2. Given the consistent poll results showing a reasonably hefty swing against the coalition, should Howard be focusing on the most marginal of seats or should he let seats like Braddon fall where they may and worry about hanging onto the ones where there are a few percentage points in it? The Government’s situation (and behaviour) seems so desperate, it would seem that hanging onto a bare majority of seats would be a reasonable target at this point.

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Grab a hospital, grab a headline

I’ve been out walking the world a bit these past few days, and haven’t had a chance to say my piece about the Commonwealth hospital takeover beyond a brief snark. Others have now said many of the things I would say, so this is a bit of a “me too” entry (not that I condone metooism, Kevin).


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The desperation

Wake up and smell it.

The Howard Government: Buying your votes, one marginal seat at a time.

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Accentuating the differences

It seems like today saw a push by Kevin Rudd to water down the “me too” criticisms of his similarity to Howard. The Labor announcements about removing cartoon characters from food advertising and giving greater discretion to the states in how they spend their Commonwealth funding were clearly intended to generate a response from the Government (and they did), highlighting to those voters who had started to wonder whether Kevin was a Howard clone that there are differences between them on policy – just not on many of the big-ticket items.

The nutrition-oriented ban on cartoon characters fits pretty well with the general image Rudd has been creating of a man who is looking out for everyday people. Is it too hard to buy a house? Are the grocery stores and petrol stations ripping you off? He’s Kevin, he’s from Queensland, and he’s here to help. I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of regulating food marketing in this way, but I also don’t think this policy was designed to be a vote-changer. It’s a fairly trivial initiative that mainly serves to create an apparent distinction between Labor’s approach and the Government’s.

The proposed changes to the state funding model seems a bit more substantial, but the other thing it does is to play into the recent focus on how state issues are being handled. Much has been made of the number of fronts on which the Howard government has been fighting the states. The approach of Howard and his Ministers has been to attempt to circumvent the states – pushing ahead with taking control of the Murray-Darling river system without agreement from Victoria, exploring bypassing the state governments in funding public housing, etc.

Rudd is hinting at an alternative approach where the states will have more discretion in how they direct funding into services but, according to Bob McMullan, will remain accountable for outcomes. I would imagine he can expect widespread support from the Premiers, which means that the relationship with the state governments seems to be a key discriminator between the PM and his opponent. It puts the ball back into Howard’s court to establish how his approach to the states will produce better outcomes, given that it will clearly have more conflict associated with it.

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Howard’s hypocrisy

The states can’t be critical of the Commonwealth – that’s “trying to score a political point.”

What’s that, inflation is high? Let’s blame the states.

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