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Down to business: Health to dominate Albo's first national cabinet

Politics

Health funding will be top of the agenda when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets state and territory leaders for the first national cabinet under the Labor government.

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Before the meeting on Friday, state premiers called on the commonwealth to restore its share of the funding to an equal partnership.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said health reform would be “front and centre” for her government and her counterparts in other states. She and other premiers and chief ministers have called for a 50-50 funding deal to be restored.

“Health has to be front and centre at today’s discussion,” she said.

“National cabinet worked well in terms of dealing with the pandemic, but now is a great opportunity to discuss a lot of issues and get things done for this country.”

The even health funding split between the states and federal government was introduced under former prime minister Kevin Rudd but his successor, Tony Abbott, cut the federal share to 40 per cent. Malcolm Turnbull increased the contribution to 45 per cent.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said he wouldn’t be a “lone voice” in calling for extra funding from the federal government.

“I don’t think there is a state government or a territory government in the nation that isn’t having to endure scrutiny over the performance of the hospitals, particularly the ambulance service and also ambulance ramping at emergency departments,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

Albanese said he had inherited $1 trillion in debt from the Morrison government and was “not in a position” to implement “everything we would like to do immediately”.

He said he was optimistic about the outcomes at the meeting, but stressed immediate health concerns such as Covid healthcare funding would be examined.

“There’s a range of issues with regards to hospital … there’s a 50 per cent deal that’s in place until September because of the pressure that’s there on the hospital system,” he told Sky News on Friday.

“The states and territories are interested in health reform … there’s a range of pressures on the system.”

He said productivity reform was one of his agenda items.

WA Premier Mark McGowan flagged discussing labour market shortages, and is pushing a campaign for people on the east coast of Australia to move west.

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said economic reform was needed for Australia to remain competitive against other countries.

“To secure the future, national cabinet will need to re-imagine our economy by building on its existing strengths while also pursuing new opportunities in growing and emerging industries,” she said.

“We need to lift productivity so employers can share the dividends of better performing workplaces with their teams through higher wages and better conditions.”

Albanese hosted the state and territory leaders at The Lodge for dinner on Thursday night ahead of the meeting.

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