JOHN MENADUE. The failure of the National Party on rural poverty and rural health.

Country electorates have the most disadvantaged people, the poorest health and inferior health services.  But the National Party does very little about it. Barnaby Joyce  continually tells us that  country constituents are the poorest and that the National Party is always looking out for them.

But there is scant evidence that they are ‘ always looking out for them’ in any serious way to address their problems. Apparently, Barnaby Joyce knows the problems but refuses to do much about them. He spends more time smoodging Gina Rinehart and looking for a headline from our gullible press.

I have yet to hear of a National Party member who gives serious attention to rural poverty and poor rural health. So much of National Party political energy is directed to kowtowing to the mining industry and the Liberal Party . If it has any serious focus on rural matters, it is usually on behalf of well-to-do corporate farmers and business people in country towns.

The health of rural people is by far the worst in the country and mainly because they are poor. The social determinants of health tell us very clearly that poverty and poor health are linked.

In its July 2019 Fact Sheet, The  National and Rural Health Alliance reported  the disadvantage that country people suffer  in their health and in health provision.

In aggregate, people who live in rural areas have shorter lives and higher levels of illness and disease risk factors than those in major cities. This can be explained in part because they have poorer access to goods and services and educational and employment opportunities, as well as lower levels of income. Australia-wide evidence shows that:

  • the health of rural people is poorer than that of their city counterparts;
  • accessing primary care, dental care, allied health and specialist services is more difficult and in many regions requires greater time and expense on travel and accommodation;
  • shortages of health professionals, including doctors, allied health professionals, pharmacists and dentists, become more pronounced with remoteness;
  • the health of Indigenous people living in rural and remote areas is significantly worse than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts;
  • the viability of many rural hospitals is uncertain and there has been a serious loss of capacity for maternity services and other procedural care in rural areas;
  • it is difficult to attract and retain health professionals in rural and remote areas, particularly those who study and train in metropolitan areas; and
  • infrastructure in rural and remote areas for health services and health-related activity is limited and being further eroded by a lack of ongoing investment.

The National Rural Health Alliance has also advised us that

Country people in particular are adversely impacted by the additional non-claimable surcharges where there is no re-course either through Medicare or through private health insurance funds for re-imbursement. These additional fees apply in general practice (rural and remote areas are over-represented by non-bulk billing practices where choice of alternative provider is limited), specialists consulting in the community, and of course in private hospital settings.

The government provides an $12 b annual taxpayer subsidy for private health insurance (PHI) which benefits the wealthy  in the cities and enables policy holders to jump to the head of the queue for private hospital admission. But there are very few private hospitals in the country. As a result, the benefits of this large subsidy for PHI go largely to wealthy people in the cities.  I have not heard a squeak from any member of the National Party about this and how it disadvantages their constituents.

Surely it is time that  National members of parliament who represent some of the poorest people in Australia did something to look after the health of their constituents. They seem focused on miners and the wealthy in their constituencies and doffing their caps to the Liberal Party .

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7 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. The failure of the National Party on rural poverty and rural health.

  1. Michael Hart says:

    John and others a quick snapshot of how it works out if you a country resident. Now I am semi-retired with full private health cover and no major illnesses (good). My partner works in the local Base Hospital. We therefore have inside knowledge as to what is achievable and what is not. First, the turnover in Doctors is diabolical, my GP retired, no you cannot go to an alternate practice – their books are closed to new customers. The turnover means I have seen 7 yes 7 different GPs in the past 12 months, they do not stay. Only 1 of 7 practices I know bulk bill so you pay or you cannot go (I can, most cannot, so they have to go to Accident and Emergency at the Hospital). The lack of specialist services means long trips to major centres, so if you have a brain cancer for example, you have to drive to Newcastle, any of the specialties are the same, those that are here are overworked. Dental limited services and generally average ability – me I go to Port Macquarie, an 8 hour round trip.

    The NSW Government forced New England into the Hunter Region and has plundered the group for funds for the Hunter Region. They built a brand new Hospital at Tamworth cost some 300 plus million, not one extra bed capacity despite the regions show steady population growth. The pressure on staff is intense and constant to move people in and out due to bed space, not to mention the Registrars and Interns cycle in and out month by month, so their is no continuity, no resposibility and little interest in the local health picture. The pressure on Tamworth is multiplied because it has to pick up the surrounding areas as far as Moree and west. Staff are seriously stressed and burned out and resignations continued unabated as good people give up and quit, maternity services are in a diabolical mess with only one Obstetrician in Tamworth and he is going to retire, like Canberra this has created an internal culture within professionals that best could be described as toxic, everyone is at everyones throats. .

    Obesity is endemic, drug and alcohol problems endemic, domestic violence a problem and poverty prevalent. All these problems bounce back hard on the Health Services and its professionals, the flood of new victims is never ending. Unemployment is not insignificant and gambling is an issue. The pressure with the downturn now being created by this drought is acute. And so it goes on.

    But not a jot of meaningful action or work by State or Federal representatives or Government.

  2. Charles Lowe says:

    John – even your diabolical insight will not alter this repeated reality. I only with it could – and would.

    Mate – as you know better than almost any one of us – the running is up to Labor.

    Oh no. Fitzgibbon is so much more concerned, publicly, about the treachery of so many of his Hunter voters that he has no time for our bigger picture. Not to mention the complete lack of competence he personally possesses to address it – even if he were to simply read your lines!

    John – I can only urge you to nail the Opposition for simply not being one – as I try to. (You’ll just be far more effective than yours truly!)

  3. Michael Hart says:

    John you have just described the New England area and its Federal and State political representatives perfectly, in terms of the Health Services, Education and any other form of service or infrastructure that would make a small difference to the lives of most people in the country. Paul Sullivan added a little more colour.

    To the deliberate neglect and wanton indifference that all country communities suffer you can add the predatory behaviour and exploitation by the city based corporate sector in telecommunications, transport, and retail.

    The current unprecedented (but not unexpected) excruciatingly destructive dry that is now destroying inland Australia, its agriculture and its communities has it seems finally exposed once and for all for all to see, the self interest and colossal failures of land mangement, water management, health services, community services, transport, infrastructure policies devised and arranged by ignorant but cunningly greedy self interested National Party politicians. To borrow a phrase from Mr Warrent Buffet, that, “when the tide goes out you can see who has been swimming naked”, well now the water has run out you can see who has been swimming naked and it is not pretty, the rest of us are covered in mud.

    • Richard Ure says:

      Was Tony Windsor worse? Surely not. At least Tony advocated for the sort of communications that would have helped them become part of the rest of Australia.

      Yet the electorate, acting on what it was told to do by the “good retailer”, failed to support him when, on that basis alone, Tony would have supported them more than the bloke they keep voting back into office.

  4. Paul Sullivan says:

    From a lifetime of living and working in Western NSW, before retiring to the coast, I can confidently say The National Party and before The Country Party has never given two hoots about working class country people. They were, in my younger days, there for the landed gentry, the Squatocracy, and now, its still about them, large agribusiness and large scale irrigators and a few business big wigs in regional centres. Their idea of an education is making sure no member of the exclusive group they represent has to send a kid to a local or nearest town public school. Health policy is allowing the local Anglo-Saxon descent (dwindling numbers) into their social set.
    Sport policy is monopolising the local tennis courts and supporting a rugby union team made up of their sons.
    Election after election they fool the locals into voting for their candidate by doing the rounds of the local pubs, buying the locals a beer, warning them about the city based Labor Party and its Greenie and commo mates. This leaves the locals feeling great that Mr. So and So actually spoke to them and is a great bloke. Try to explain to them that The great bloke or woman has never done a thing to improve their lot in life, as presided the withdrawal of practically every service the town had to offer and has opposed every application in the courts for a pay rise and fought tooth and nail against any improvement in working conditions, will immediately see you of being accused of being a leftie greenie.
    The Nationals and their forebears have pulled of the greatest con in democracy, in getting people to vote against their own interests so the privileged few can maintain and hoard their advantages and pass on through the generations.
    The Nationals have somehow maintained this, whilst being led and made up of weak chin wonders who wouldn’t know a hard days work if it hit them in the face. George Christensen is hardly a prime example of a hardworking farmer. Most of the rest have never set foot on a place as an actual farmer, they are right wing chancers of very small intellect.
    Gone are the old war horses, one did not necessarily like, but could respect, Black Jack McEwan, Doug Anthony, Sinkers Sinclair and the rest of that era.
    Sadly, I never see this changing, as when I visit Hay, Bourke and some other old stomping grounds, the tip ya lid to ya social betters of the National Party are still in place. If not a Nat voter, its Pauline or the Shooters etc, never a Party like Labor that believes in social inclusion and equity in education, health and other services the coast and city take for granted.

  5. Andrew Farran says:

    Many issues here. There is a variety of circumstances among rural and remote regions and towns, each with their own specific issues. Most of these come down to finance and here there is a squeeze between the relevant State government and its authorities and local shire councils. Increasingly State governments have been passing over to shires responsibility for functions previously their’s without corresponding funding. As for the Commonwealth government, funding for local
    government has been random (dependent to some degree on who is the local member and what is in his or her interests). There is also a Constitutional issue with respect to the direct funding of shires.

    Local government itself is in a finite box with little if any scope for generating significant funds themselves. Shire rates are at a maximum and are regarded more as a penalty than a contribution to community wellbeing.
    Frankly it is a mess compounded by poor communication and mutual distrust between country and city.
    The quality of rural representation by the parties recently in our parliaments has been poor. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.

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