The Prime Minister was almost choking on his own grin as he wound up at the National Press Club yesterday, no doubt guessing that the worm had well and truly turned on Tony Abbott.

Perhaps he mightn’t have been looking quite so chuffed with himself if he’d been thrown a few tough and curlies. Here are a few that it would have been nice to have had asked.

  1. One of the top recommendations from the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission was for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Authority to drive improved health service delivery for Indigenous people. Has your government done anything to advance this recommendation? If not, does it intend to? (In fact, was there any mention at all of Indigenous health yesterday, or did I miss something?)
  2. How will your plans for hospital financing and governance address widespread entrenched inequities in the health system, that result in the better off generally having better access to better care? And why didn’t your recent Health and Hospitals Network document make addressing health inequity a key priority?
  3. What are your government’s intentions regarding the Medicare Select proposal floated by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission?
  4. Why is your government committed to subsidising the private health insurance industry — a policy that is widely denounced for being inequitable and inefficient, including by the public hospital lobby? (And why do journalists insist on framing their questions about this issue as if they are advocates for the private health insurance industry?)
  5. When will you announce how your hospitals plans will relate to your plans for primary care?
  6. Can you define primary care and why it is important? (His statements yesterday suggested he has a shaky grasp on this.) On a similar note, can you explain why public health and prevention strategies will deliver better health outcomes than increasing your investment in hospital services?
  7. When will you announce your plans for mental health?
  8. Given the wealth of evidence that it is primary care and prevention which lay the foundations for both an equitable efficient health system and a healthier population — why is your government so focused on hospitals?  I know the worm loves hospitals, but isn’t it a leader’s job to help transform public debate and understanding of complex issues?
  9. Does your focus on hospitals mean you care more about politics than Australians’ health?
  10. What does Minister Roxon think of you running the health portfolio?

Sorry, no questions for Mr Abbott. He didn’t seem to have that much to say.

Peter Fray

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