Federation review ‘tarnished’ by health funding cuts: SA Premier

States and territories cannot trust the Commonwealth on future agreements, the SA Premier warns, if “sovereignty in their own sphere” means no mutual skin in the game.

The federalism white paper process — launched only months ago — has already been tarnished, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said in a rare appearance before a federal Senate hearing.

Taking aim at the health cuts announced in the federal budget, Weatherill said the ripping up of six national health partnership agreements threatened that process as nether side could trust the other in future agreements. Weatherill told the Select Committee on Health on Thursday:

“We hear the language that governments should be sovereign in their own sphere, therefore states should take responsibilities for public hospitals, commonwealth should have responsibility for other elements of the system. Nobody is seriously suggesting the states and territories can wear a cut of this size. It’s plainly an attempt to steal a march on one of the parties going into a negotiation on the future of federation, a process we’d already agreed to resolve.

“This notion of sovereign in your own sphere. If it makes sense for anything, it certainly doesn’t make sense for health. There are so many complex interrelationships between the commonwealth and the states in relation to health, it’s impossible for one level of government to regard itself as an island and think it can conduct its affairs independently of the other level of government. Indeed, each will frustrate the other’s objectives if that were to happen. You only need to look at what has happened with the policy proposal about the $7 co-payment.

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