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The Election Wrap: damning policy report cards, media under fire, climate warriors and campaign shockers

Each Wednesday during the election campaign, Croakey is publishing a rolling wrap of health and election news. We welcome submissions and suggestions.

In this wrap, Jennifer Doggett, covers the second leaders’ debate, housing issues, mental health and media bias. She also reports on questions from experts and commentators about the invisibility of COVID-19 and health inequality in the campaign.

Don’t miss our selection of tweets-not-to-miss, campaign shockers, and listings of health and community stakeholder election policies, as well as upcoming events.

ICYMI, here are part one (13 April), part two (20 April),  part three (27 April) and part four (4 May) of this series. Also see the latest edition of the #AusVotesHealth2022 election report card and The Accountability Report.


Jennifer Doggett writes:

As the campaign begins its final countdown and pre-polling opens, reports of dirty tricks, dog whistles and media bias are increasing, reducing the focus on the issues that matter to the electorate in what was already a “policy-lite” campaign.

Week three of the campaign kicked off with an unedifying second leaders’ debate which was hosted by the Nine Network, and described by the ABC as “full of accusations and acrimony”.

Both leaders appeared to mislead the audience on aged care, the Prime Minister by claiming credit for exposing the problems within the sector, and the Opposition Leader by confusing Labor’s position on the Royal Commission into Aged Care with the earlier banking royal commission.

In response to Mr Morrison’s claim during the debate that he ‘blew the whistle’ on aged care, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Federal Secretary Annie Butler released a statement saying, “the Prime Minister’s claim is not only astonishing, it’s offensive.”

“Aged care nurses and workers have been campaigning to fix the crisis in aged care for years. In 2016 the ANMF presented comprehensive research, which outlined what was needed to fix chronic understaffing in the sector, to the Government – this was ignored. We conducted a cost-benefit analysis, which outlined the costs of implementing safe staffing ratios with increased wages and the benefits that would be gained, and developed an implementation plan to guide the process of addressing the core problems in the sector, which were, again, ignored,” she said.

On Twitter, many journalists joined the criticism of the second’s debate’s conduct (as per below), with some lamenting that ABC had been excluded from hosting any of the three election debates; the final one was hosted on 11 May by Channel Seven.


Health announcements

In an effort to reduce any daylight between it and the Government on health, Labor has raced to match the Coalition’s spending commitments in a range of areas, including assisted reproductive technology services, embryo storage and rural and regional doctors. Labor also committed to deliver additional perinatal mental health and wellbeing services.

The LNP made a raft of commitments on cancer, including funding for a pilot program and linear accelerator in Northern Tasmania and a new comprehensive cancer centre in South Australia. It also committed $16.6m (already announced as part of the 2022-23 Budget) to establish a National Allergy Council and $24m for a geriatric urgent care centre at Flinders University.


Affordable housing

Housing affordability was in the news this week with the Reserve Bank’s announcement of a 0.25 point increase in interest rates which could lead many Australians into mortgage stress.

Labor’s proposed shared equity housing scheme, which would provide people on low incomes with a commonwealth equity contribution of up to 40% of the purchase price of a new home, received some support this week from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

At a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, the Premier appeared to reject Morrison’s criticism of the scheme and indicated that his Government would consider supporting it.

“I’m open to all ideas in relation to how we can drive home ownership. We cannot have an Australia that can’t house its children,” he said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt entered the debate promoting his party’s commitment to build one million homes, including affordable $300,000 homes for people locked out of the housing market, low-income housing with rent capped at 25 percent of people’s income, and new rentals.


Mental health

The LNP targeted rural and regional mental health last week, with announcements of a new Headspace centre for North Geelong and Bannockburn and Head to Health centres for Armadale, Reid, Canterbury, Maranoa, Onkaparinga, Burnie, Devonport and Burt. Tasmania also received commitments of $5.2m for suicide prevention and mental health services.

Both Adelaide and Sydney received funding for $14m for a new mental health centre in Liverpool and South Australia received $12.6m for a new child mental health service in Adelaide and $13.7m for suicide prevention activities.

While the Coalition attracted criticism from advocates for transgender equality and continued playing to its conservative Christian constituency, it also announced $4.2 million (over three years) for services to support the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ Australians.

Labor also focussed on mental health this week, announcing that it would reverse recent cuts to telehealth psychiatric consultations for people living in regional and rural Australia.


Climate and health

The health sector continued vigorous advocacy for climate action, often in collaboration with other stakeholders.