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Byron Shire
June 22, 2021

Govt accused of cutting road, hospital funding

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Page MP Kevin Hogan says GetUp’s figures that point to massive cuts for local hospitals are wrong. Photo Darren Coyne

Activist group GetUp has accused the Coalition of gutting north coast hospital funding in the federal budget while Page Labor candidate Janelle Saffin said road funding has been slashed as well.

GetUp says local-level projections of $57 billion in federal health cuts have revealed the cost to hospitals in Page of up to $404.8 million over the next decade.

The group says the cuts would see the following fund stripped out of local hospitals:

  • Casino Hospital $25.5 million
  • Grafton Base Hospital $85.2 million
  • Kyogle Multi Purpose Service $32.3 million
  • Lismore Hospital $218.2 million
  • Maclean Hospital $32.6 million
  • Nimbin Multi Purpose Service $11 million

GetUp says the cuts to Lismore hospital alone would be the equivalent to not funding 137 doctors, or 243 nurses, or 131 beds

Spokesperson Alycia Gawthorne called on Nationals sitting member for Page, Kevin Hogan, to ‘listen to warnings from peak doctors and nurses groups that patient care is already being compromised and many hospitals are reaching breaking point.’

‘He should stand up for Page voters and demand that funding be restored to a safe level,’ she said.

‘The Coalition’s attack on public health is already ringing alarm bells for voters, with protecting our universal health system polling as the key vote-changing issue this election time. Mr Hogan would do well to be worried.

‘When you show up at Lismore emergency room, the last thing you want to worry about is whether there’s enough staff or beds to deliver the care you or your loved one needs,’ Ms Gawthorne said.

But Mr Hogan has taken issue with her comments, saying the figures were skewed.

‘There have been no funding cuts to hospitals. Funding to our public hospital system is increasing each and every year,’ Mr Hogan said.

‘The Turnbull government recently signed an agreement with the NSW Government to inject an extra $2.9 billion into our public hospital system. This means NSW hospitals will receive more than $30 billion over five years.

Total funding for health is also increasing. When the Coalition was elected in 2013, $64 billion of federal government money was spent on health. This has increased every year and will reach more than $79 billion in 2019/20 – that’s an increase of 23.4 per cent.

‘This report by GetUp has already been widely discredited. It does not include the recent $2.9 billion injection nor does it use the correct funding formula for regional hospitals which receive ‘block funding’.

But GetUp says its projections are based on Parliamentary Budget Office figures and estimates from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

They have published an interactive map of health cuts by hospital and urged voters to sign their local petition.

Janelle Saffin holds Page by 4.2%
Labor’s candidate for Page, Janelle Saffin, says the Coalition has cut highway funding for the region by stealth.

$351 million less on roads: Saffin

Labor candidate and former member for Page, Janelle Saffin, has also accused the Coalition of fudging the figures, this time on highway funding.

She said the federal government ‘quietly cut funding for the Pacific Highway duplication by $351 million in this month’s 2016 budget, adding to last year’s $130 million cut.’

She said the government has forecast spending of $1.369 billion on the Pacific Highway, ‘$351 million less than the $1.72 billion it promised in its 2015 National Partnership Agreement with the NSW Government.’

‘Just a year earlier, the government had again quietly cut funding by $130 million on what it had promised in its 2014 Budget’ Ms Saffin said.

‘The Pacific Highway is critical for the movement of freight and people up and down the New South Wales coast.

‘The completion of its duplication is a national priority, both in terms of road safety and economic productivity.

Ms Saffin said the former Labor Government invested a record $7.9 billion in the Pacific Highway including the bulk of funding for the Ballina bypass and all the funding for the Alstonville bypass.

‘While the Nationals Member for Page Mr Hogan has talked big on infrastructure, the Pacific Highway cuts reflect the fact that infrastructure spending has gone backwards.

‘They’ve tried to paper over their failures by re-announcing projects that were started by the former Labor Government to pretend they are new.

‘And while the Prime Minister goes on about the importance of cities, the disappointing Nationals have gone missing in action when it comes to investing in infrastructure for the regions.

‘Only a Shorten Labor Government can get the Pacific Highway duplication back on track and deliver the infrastructure investment our nation needs to underpin economic growth.

Mr Hogan told Echonetdaily, ‘The federal government had allocated $5.64 billion in the Budget to complete the Pacific Highway by 2020.

‘This money is drawn down as it is spent. The speed at which this happens can be affected by construction delays due to such things as wet weather,’ he added.

‘The money is all there, all accounted for and we are building this as fast as possible,’ Mr Hogan said.

Rail line promise

Ms Saffin said federal Labor would also progress planning for a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra, which she described as ‘a project the Coalition has ignored.’

‘High speed rail would revolutionise interstate travel and boost economic development in regional centres along its path, including the communities of Casino and Grafton,’ she said.

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