The Commonwealth Government, formerly under John Howard and then continued under Kevin Rudd, received international criticism for quarantining welfare payments in select Indigenous communities throughout the Northern Territory. The conflict, legally at least, was the suspension of Anti-discrimination legislation in order to target the policy to Aboriginal communities.
Labor has since announced a plan to re-instate the Anti-discrimination Act. This will unfortunately not mean the end of compulsory welfare quarantining, instead it will be implemented Australia wide regardless of race.
Well, it seems now that Uncle Kevin has extended the quarantining of Commonwealth funds, with a plan to hold bake up to a third of GST payments currently received by the states, to be paid directly to health services under new health financing arrangements.
This seems to be the first announcement of a series of health reforms, and by far the most politically challenging. The next round of reforms need to address the funding and co-ordination of primary health services, basically treating people before they require the more expensive option of hospital care.
Another announcement we should be waiting for: ditching the 30% private health insurance rebate. Perhaps the funds saved from this will be used to smooth the agreement of the states over the ‘theft’ of GST payments?