Hissy fit or a plane to catch? Minister walks
Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday February 12, 2011
WELL into Thursday night's cabinet discussion about Julia Gillard's revamped health package, Kevin Rudd told his colleagues he could not support it, slammed his folders shut and stormed out. One source described it as a "dummy spit". Another as a "hissy fit".In fact the Foreign Minister had only about half an hour to make a 7.55pm plane, but after his outburst colleagues did not think he was leaving so suddenly because he was late.Gillard was yesterday as complimentary as she could be about her predecessor's work, given she was axeing big parts of it. She said her vision for health was "standing on the shoulders" of Rudd's vision. The former prime minister thinks some of the most important parts of his vision are being squashed.His biggest change had been to make the Commonwealth the "dominant funder" of health. A $10 million advertising campaign spruiked it last April:"The Australian government is delivering the most significant improvement to our health system since the introduction of Medicare ... For the first time the Australian government will take dominant funding responsibility for our health system."The Commonwealth was to become the dominant funder by clawing back about 30 per cent of the states' GST revenue. But Western Australia refused. With a Liberal government in Victoria and another likely in NSW, and after a year of fruitless talks, the Rudd funding model was, in the words of a colleague, "dead in the water". Enter Gillard's 50:50 funding deal.But without the GST the Commonwealth had less to spend, dropping the promise to fund 60 per cent of the capital costs of hospitals and to pay for 100 per cent of primary care and GP services.Rudd told the cabinet he understood political realities meant the funding deal had to be changed, but he wanted the government to dominate the new "funding pool" that Gillard is proposing as a compromise, even if only by contributing 51 per cent. The rest of the cabinet thought the 50:50 "equal partnership" idea would be a much more credible "sell" to the states.Rudd reacted tersely to a comment that Gillard shouldn't offer any more money to the states at the Council of Australian Governments meeting tomorrow since they had already extracted so much, apparently taking offence at the inference he had been a soft touch. And he was concerned about the retreat from funding primary care.Yesterday Rudd's only comments on the new health plan were supportive.It's obvious he would be pained to watch policies he worked so hard on being systematically disassembled - like the recent cuts to the green car fund and the global carbon capture and storage institute and the reworking of the Murray-Darling reforms and the mining tax.But Gillard argues that getting most of the reforms through is better for patients than getting nothing done while she argues endlessly with the premiers. The rest of her cabinet agrees. It seems that the premiers will, too.