Budget reply covers health, tax

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Labor promises tax cuts for low-income earners including those working in ‘retail, hospitals, pharmacy and fast food’

The Australian Labor Party has made a key health commitment in its Budget reply, promising to invest $2.3 billion into a Medicare Cancer Plan to support people undergoing cancer treatment.

“Cancer is one of the biggest killers in our country. One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our life. 145,000 of our fellow Australians are diagnosed with cancer every year, and 50,000 die,” said Labor leader Bill Shorten in Parliament on Thursday night.

“For so many people, cancer makes you sick and then paying for the treatment makes you poor.

“And I think a lot of Australians would be surprised to learn that all those vital scans and tests and consultations with specialists aren’t fully covered by Medicare.”

Mr Shorten said if elected, his party would provide $600 million towards eliminating all of the out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging, and $433 million to immediately cover specialist consultations for cancer patients.

He also promised that every cancer drug recommended by the PBAC would be listed on the PBS.

On tax, Mr Shorten said people earning between $48,000 and $126,000 would get the same tax refund, no matter who they voted for in May.

But he added that the Liberal Budget does not do enough for the 2.9 million Australians who earn less than $40,000 – about 57% of whom are women.

“Childcare workers and classroom assistants, hairdressers and office managers. And they are parents returning to work, part-time,” said Mr Shorten.

“In a lot of cases, these are the very same workers in retail, hospitality, pharmacy and fast food who have already had their penalty rates cut.”

He promised an extra billion dollars in tax refunds for low-income earners.

“Under Labor’s changes, which will apply from the 2018-19 financial year, workers earning up to $37,000 a year will receive a tax cut of up to $350.

“For workers earning between $37,000 and $48,000 a year, the value of the offset will increase up to the maximum offset of $1,080,” he said.

“We will not be signing-up to the Liberals’ radical, right-wing, flat-tax experiment, way off in the future, a scheme which would force a nurse on $50,000 to pay the same tax rate as a surgeon on $200,000,” Mr Shorten continued.

“We won’t back a plan that gives a retail worker on $35,000 less than $5 a week while an investment banker pockets more than $11,000 a year.”

On the topic of the National Disability Support Scheme (NDIS), Mr Shorten highlighted that a Labor government would “get the NDIS back on track” after the Federal Budget revealed there had been a $1.6 billion underspend on the program.

Associate Professor Bob Davis, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Disability network, told newsGP the “underspend” was the result of “delays in the rollout of plans, the bureaucratic maze that even the most capable of carers or people with disability struggle to get through, and the difficulties that people with plans have in accessing services that are not there.”

The 2019-20 Budget delivered by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Wednesday night made some strong promises specifically for pharmacy including:

  • $215 million over three years from 2020-21 to provide additional remuneration to community pharmacies through increased Administration, Handling and Infrastructure (AHI) fees on all PBS scripts, which has been partially funded by reallocating funding from 6CPA professional programs. 
  • $15 million over three years from 2020-21 for additional Community Service Obligation payments to pharmacy wholesalers. 
  • $15 million in 2018-19 to promote quality use of medicines by patients through medication management programs in community pharmacy.
  • aligning public and private hospital pharmacy pricing with the community pharmacy pricing arrangements from 1 July 2019.
  • $7.2 million for a PBS-subsidised take-home program for naloxone to help reduce overdose deaths from opioid abuse.
  • $7.7 million over four years for a new unit of clinical pharmacists to be established within the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and work directly with residential aged care providers to educate them around best practice use of medicines.

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