With surgery waitlists in crisis and a workforce close to collapse, why haven’t we had more campaign promises about health?

This election campaign has been somewhat different to most past campaigns. Traditionally, the Coalition campaigns on the economy and defence, while the Labor Party tenders its credentials on health and education.

However, this time around has seen a dearth of announcements across all portfolios, and from both parties.

Health care is no exception, despite COVID blowing out surgery wait times and a health-care workforce close to collapse.

Why are political parties and voters so apathetic to the health-care debate? Writing in The Conversation this month, Macquarie University’s Henry Cutler and Jeffrey Braithwaite ask why there isn’t more healthcare debate and what are the major parties offering?

Health policy announcements so far

The Coalition promises to reduce out-of-pocket costs for medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and will give more people access to the seniors’ health-care card. These policies are targeted at older Australians.

Labor has also promised to reduce out-of-pocket costs for pharmaceuticals and increase access to the seniors’ health-care card. It will introduce GP urgent care clinics and will support aged-care wage increases and mandating nurse time in residential care homes.

These are mostly promises to increase funding. No party has sought to engage in serious debate on reform, despite a long list of identified system issues and intense pressure points.

  • Henry Cutler Director, Centre for the Health Economy, Macquarie University
  • Jeffrey Braithwaite Professor, Health Systems Research and Founding Director, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University