Croakey recently published an article, How the “Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs” slashed health funding, estimating that the Budget cut about a hundred million dollars annually from Indigenous health spending.
In response to questions about the accuracy of the calculations involved, the article’s author, who writes under the pen name “William Foggin”, did some more digging.
One thing has become clear: the level of transparency around Indigenous health spending is as clear as mud.
Perhaps tomorrow’s Budget Estimates Hearing – on Cross Portfolio Indigenous Matters – will cast some more light on a subject where uncertainty is causing a great deal of anxiety around the country (see tweets at the bottom of this post).
“William Foggin” writes:
Several people have suggested my recent contribution on changes to Indigenous health funding overstated the budget reductions because of transfers from the Department of Health to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
This was the table I had drawn from the Department of Health portfolio budget statements:
Adding these transferred amounts back in to the Department of Health Indigenous sub-program estimates in the 2014-15 portfolio budget statements results in spending on Indigenous health of:
This would be a good news story, but for the fact that the Budget shows savings from the “rationalisation” of Indigenous programs in both the Health and PMC 2014-15 portfolio budget statements:
Totally confused now? So was I.
I went where I should have gone to start with: Budget Statement 6 in Budget Paper 1, which sets out a functional classification of the Commonwealth budget according to
“an international standard classification of functions of government that is incorporated into the Government Finance Statistics (GFS) reporting framework” (2014-15 Budget Paper 1 page 6-1).
This should compare apples with apples no matter which portfolio basket they are in. The table below shows the reported expenditure for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sub-function:
Now with all due respect to the Treasury and Finance boffins who put Statement 6 together, these figures do look a little odd – in some years they are greater than the Department of Health Indigenous health sub-program and in some years less. One would expect a more consistent pattern.
However, I believe the overall message is clear: as well as the burden imposed by the GP co-payments, AMSs are going to have to cope with substantial reductions in other Indigenous health spending over the next few years.
Perhaps the Indigenous estimates hearing tomorrow will allow interested Senators an opportunity to seek greater clarity on how big the reductions really are and how they will be distributed.
• Read the previous article by William Foggin
Meanwhile, Marita Hefler, who is tweeting for @WePublicHealth this week from Darwin, has been hearing of the anxiety and uncertainty being felt in Aboriginal health services.