I sat through the National Press Club’s appearance by our Prime Minister. It was vintage Rudd and I use the term “vintage” to mean “same old, same old.”
He announced his new plan for solving the problems in our public hospitals by keeping patients out of them. This is a good idea because our hospitals are dangerous places full of Golden Staph and MRSA. Many people die in hospital because of poor hygienic conditions. Besides, hospitals cost a lot to run and lack competent staff and beds. The challenge, of course, is to keep the public healthy so that they do not require hospital admissions. That is called preventative medicine, but more about that at the end of this post.
The federal government would fund 60% of the cost of our hospitals while the states would be responsible for 40% of the cost. This should put a stop to the annual arguments with the states over funding, Rudd said, but didn’t explain how that would be achieved. When asked whether this was a cop out so that one side could still blame the other he naturally did not answer the journalist’s query. Instead, he went on about “working families” deserving the best health system and who can argue with that? I find myself hissing loudly when Rudd mentions working families as if single people, couples and retired people don’t matter. And they probably don’t, according to him.
I didn’t hear anything that convinced me that Rudd has the answers. It was all very general and full of platitudes about “things are not good enough.” I am left with the impression that the 60% and the 40% responsibility equation is a recipe for conflict and passing the buck. You are either in charge or you are not. Why should the states strive harder when Rudd promises to take the burden from them completely if need be? I would hand it over to the Prime Minister in a flash, but I suspect Rudd wouldn’t want that because then he could not blame the recalcitrant states for his failings.
Interestingly, there was no mention of that “partnership” alliance that Rudd had been gushing about with the Premier of South Australia. Surely this was the opportunity to announce that they will all work together for the good of the country. But no, we got the impression that this was going to be a bit feudal. The Lord of the Manor will be in charge and his vassals in the states will oblige or else. This is a typical approach by Kevin Rudd who is not known for his conciliatory governance.
The Education Revolution is nothing compared with the problems in our health system. A few curricula changes with plenty of Dreamtime and didgeridoos, a few memorial halls, a few lap tops in the library and we are done, but Health is a big challenge for any government.
This is especially so if you are not going to make the hard decisions such as taxing tobacco out of existence and stopping drunken driving by adopting zero tolerance to driving under the influence of alcohol (and drugs for that matter.) It would indeed be a courageous government who would tackle the tobacco and alcohol lobby who are responsible for the deaths of so many people here.
This would be true preventative medicine and would free up hospital beds for those whose ill health is not self-inflicted. Without such changes, however, I cannot believe that Rudd is serious.