MP Stephen Jones critical of regional funding while GP tax remains

Throsby MP Stephen Jones has criticised the federal government for touting a plan to build better GP facilities in regional Australia while at the same time refusing to back away from its GP tax.

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce last week announced that the government would provide a $52.5 million infrastructure fund to GP practices in rural and regional areas.

A total of 175 infrastructure grants of up to $300,000 would be available to successful practices, who would have to match the contribution to build facilities to take on more trainees.

"I don't begrudge them handing out grants but my concern is the Coalition MPs in regional Australia are trying to pull the wool over their constituents' eyes," Mr Jones said.

"They're slashing billions of dollars from regional hospitals and slugging people who have to go to their GP but they're saying 'don't look at that, look at the fact we're putting a few dollars into renovating some GP practices'.

"There's no point building more primary health facilities when their GP tax will cripple regional GP practices and force many of them to close."

Mr Jones, shadow assistant minister for health, said Australians in regional and rural areas already suffered from poorer health than their metropolitan counterparts.

"Australians living in rural and regional areas generally have lower incomes and much poorer access to health services than those living in cities," he said.

"They have a greater incidence of chronic disease and are more likely to have diabetes, to develop skin cancer, arthritis and be overweight or obese."

Mr Jones said the Coalition had promised before the election to make regional health a high priority.

However, he said, the federal minister in charge of rural and regional health - Fiona Nash - had admitted she was not involved in the development of the GP tax and had not requested any modelling be done on how it would affect the health of rural and regional Australians.

"Every couple of days we discover new information about the impact the proposed $7 Medicare co-payment is likely to have on ordinary people.

"The government has got to go back to the drawing board," Mr Jones said.

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