Bill Shorten put health front and centre of this election campaign when he used his Budget Reply speech to announce our $2.3 billion Medicare Cancer Plan.
This is the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke introduced it in the 1980s.
It’s an acknowledgement that too many Australians face significant out-of-pocket costs when they’re fighting for their lives.
Cancer makes you sick but it shouldn’t make you poor.
Labor talks a lot about Medicare. That’s because we created it, we value it and we’ll always seek to protect and strengthen it.
But we’re not just talk. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.
Our Medicare Cancer Plan will deliver up to six million free scans and three million free consultations.
It will drive down cancer out-of-pocket costs across the whole system.
It will slash public hospital waiting lists for cancer patients.
And it will deliver new funding for new specialised cancer nurses, anti-tobacco measures, children’s cancer groups, regional radiation centres – the list goes on.
By contrast, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government conducted an 18-month review of out-of-pocket costs and the best they could come up with was … a website.
So Bill and I will of course be talking much more about our cancer plan in the coming weeks.
But that’s not the only thing we’ll be talking about.
Throughout our time in Opposition we fought hard to end the Liberal’s five-year Medicare rebate freeze, which was a wrecking ball through primary care and forced up costs for patients across the board.
Finally, a few weeks ago, the Government capitulated and matched Labor’s long-standing promise to end this damaging freeze.
Call me a cynic – but it’s hard to trust a government that stubbornly persisted with a policy for five years only to pledge to lift it six weeks before an election.
Bill and I will also be announcing more details about our plan for improved public hospital funding.
Last year we announced a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund – to bridge the gap between the 45 per cent of efficient price growth the Morrison Government is delivering and the 50 per cent they promised to pay.
The AMA itself has said the Morrison Government’s current funding formula will “doom our public hospitals to failure”. We must do better.
We’ve already announced $1 billion of our fund will go towards targeted capital investments – building new units and wards, upgrading emergency departments, and delivering better infrastructure to provide expanded services.
We have already announced dozens of projects across the whole country, in the capital cities and the regions.
We’ll have more to say about the rest of the money in this fund before election day – but every public hospital in the country will be better funded under Labor.