Many people interested in Medicare and the wider health debate have also been waiting for a Health debate to come up at the NPC before the 2 July election, but the chances are looking slim despite the huge issues at stake in health in this election.
Invitations for an NPC health debate have been issued, as is customary, to both the Labor and Coalition campaign headquarters. Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King has made it clear she is interested (see her tweets above and below), but not so Health Minister Sussan Ley.
NPC chief executive Maurice Reilly told Croakey today there had been “no positive response” on Ley’s availability from the Coalition.
Are the Liberals “shielding” Health Minister Sussan Ley from debate about health as political journalist Michelle Grattan contended in this recent article?
Health Minister Sussan Ley had a glitch when she said she wanted to end the Medicare rebate freeze but “Finance and Treasury aren’t allowing me to do it just yet”. The last thing Liberal campaign HQ wants is a vulnerable minister to be exposed to a serious grilling on one of the hottest topics of the late stage of this campaign.
As Grattan pointed out, health debates at the National Press Club during election campaigns go back a long way:
- 2013 Tanya Plibersek versus Peter Dutton
- 2010 Nicola Roxon versus Dutton
- 2007 Tony Abbott versus Roxon (somewhat memorably)
- 2004 Abbott versus Julia Gillard
- 2001 Michael Wooldridge versus Jenny Macklin.
And this election campaign has seen a number of debates for other major portfolio areas: Scott Morrison versus Chris Bowen (Treasury), Mathias Cormann versus Tony Burke (Finance), Julie Bishop versus Tanya Plibersek (Foreign Affairs), Marise Payne versus Stephen Conroy (Defence), Christopher Pyne versus Kim Carr (Industry), Michaelia Cash versus Brendan O’Connor (employment) – you can watch them here via the ABC’s archive.
But not health, despite it being consistently rated as one of the top issues of the election campaign, and with a huge range of policies that deserve to be closely examined by both sides of politics, as well as the furious debate around the Medicare ‘privatisation’ issue.
King’s spokesman has said she is still up for a debate at the National Press Club (as long as there’s enough notice now that we’re into the final 10 days of the campaign).
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale is scheduled to speak at the NPC tomorrow (Thursday), with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to deliver final speeches there on Tuesday and Thursday next week.
Time is clearly running out for a Ley/King debate but Reilly said the NPC would “move heaven and earth to make it happen”, given the importance of health to Australians and the national budget.
Croakey has contacted Ley’s office to ask whether the Minister will be participating in a debate with King at the NPC and if not, why not?
We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, check out our ongoing compiliation of scorecards on public health policies now being released by a number of key organisations.