Rudd questions Abbott's health plans
FORMER Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to commit to 50-50 health funding if he is elected to the top job.
Mr Rudd has also questioned whether Mr Abbott had secret plans to withdraw funds from the current Federal Government investments in Medicare Locals, GP Superclinics, preventative health or emergency department upgrades in Queensland's public hospitals.
"Will he withdraw funding from any of those programs which are still on way? If so, which and by how much?" he asked during a Queensland Media Club lunch in Brisbane on Thursday.
"Will he commit to the Commonwealth's 50% contribution to the future health and hospital needs of the country or not?
"This is too important just for politics, it's about fundamental public health and hospital reform to equip this state and country for the future."
Mr Abbott was on a flight from Perth back to the east coast on Thursday afternoon and the questions could not be put to him.
Mr Rudd said the Gillard Government had committed to a Commonwealth-State agreement where each would provide half the required funding for health services around the country.
He said that figure would be reached by 2017 but more than a billion dollars invested in the past five years was already evident in "virtually every hospital, every region, in every party of the country whether the political seats are held by the Labor party, Liberal party or the National party".
"It is absolutely fundamental for the future of the public hospital system, which is the backbone of the Australian medical system, for these institutions to remain world class," he said.
"That required cold-hard cash and the predictability of those cash flows into the future."
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls, in a release that went out Thursday morning, said the Gillard Government had cut at least $342 million from health to 2015-16 and was prepared to "rip-off Queensland cancer patients in a desperate bid to save his budget".
Mr Nicholls made the comments amid suggestions the Federal Government was considering amending the Minerals Resource Rent Tax to limit refunds mining companies could claim against state royalties.
He said the Federal Government, in its mid-year economic forecast, had cut $174 million in payments to Queensland in 2012-13 and $756 million in 2015-16.