Election 2022: Labor kickstarts campaign with focus on health policies

By Tom Ravlic

April 12, 2022

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese does the rounds. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Australian Labor Party is seeking to firm its health credentials with the release of a series of policies in the opening days of the election campaign, including a promise to provide $31 million funding for telehealth psychiatric services.

That funding will provide access to psychiatric services via telehealth to people in regional and rural areas over a four-year period.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government had let the country down on continued access to mental health services, with significant changes made to remove Medicare items earlier this year.

“This is so important. During the pandemic we have seen real pressure on people’s mental health in particular,” he said.

“We should regard people’s access to mental health care is no different to if someone breaks an arm.”

The announcement on the psychiatric services follows a promise to boost a service providing help for Australian children suffering from hearing loss with a total of $6.5 million in funding.

A digital service to help Australian children suffering from hearing loss will receive $1.5 million in development funding and physical hearing service centres will get the balance of that promised funding.

Albanese unveiled the development funding that will go to Shepherd Centres, a service that provides early intervention services for hearing loss for children, for the development of the online service that is known as HearHub.

“HearHub is a national digital service that will deliver hearing tests, educational resources and practical support for families online. This will benefit children with hearing loss and related communication difficulties such as autism spectrum disorder,” a joint statement released by Albanese and Butler said.

The digital online hub is not the only service provided by Shepherd Centre, with Labor promising to provide $5 million in funding for physical Shepherd centres in both Tasmania and New South Wales.

“Two new Shepherd Centres will be established in Launceston and Hobart, the first in the state, with $2.5 million in funding,” Albanese said.

“$2.5 million in funding will also go to a new Shepherd Centre in Oran Park in Sydney’s southwest, to provide services for hearing impaired children and their families in the fast-growing Macarthur region.”

The funding promise for the Shepherd Centre, which is a provider under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, comes as representatives of different health lobby groups push their barrows for attention from political parties and their candidates.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation issued a statement urging action on a range of fronts, including improved funding and regulation of the aged care sector and the maternity care system, and gender equality in workplaces.

Dementia Australia has also called on candidates and political parties to declare what commitments they are prepared to make to improve the quality of dementia health care.

It would like to see compulsory dementia education for aged-care workers, a national dementia palliative care program established, and a guarantee of long-term funding for the Dementia-Friendly Communities program.


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