JOHN MENADUE. The National Party is silent on rural poverty and poor rural health.

Dec 3, 2016

Country electorates have the most disadvantaged people, the poorest health and inferior health services.  But the National Party does very little about it.

Last year on Q & A, Barnaby Joyce said

“Our constituents are the poorest, that’s one thing we do know and so we are 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 problem but refuses to do much about it.

I have yet to hear of a National Party member or a country Liberal Party member for that matter, who gives serious attention to rural poverty and poor rural health. So much of its political energy is directed to following the Liberal Party and gaining ministerial positions. If it has any serious focus on rural matters, it is usually on behalf of well-to-do farmers and business people in country towns.

The evidence is clear about the National Party’s failure. ABC Fact Check last year said

“Three separate data sets all indicate that the National’s electorates are on average poorer or more disadvantaged than those represented by Labor and the Liberal Party … Associate Professor Oliver at UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics told the ABC ‘From a proportional perspective, there are more in poverty in National electorates than there are in the other two parties’. He added that ‘Electorates represented by the National Party have a lower score showing greater disadvantage on average than Labour and the Liberal’s [electorates].”

On health, the disadvantage story in rural Australia is the same. In his address to the National Press Club on 25 October 2016, Martin Laverty, CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service said

Health outcomes and health access is worse in the bush than city.

  • Remote Australians die on average two and a half years earlier than people in the city.
  • Type 2 Diabetes rates are 3.7 times higher.
  • You are four times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident on a country road than a city road.
  • Suicide rates are seven times higher.

Social factors – poverty, education and housing are key determinants to these disparities. 

So too is health care access. People in regional and remote Australia see doctors at half the rate of people in the city, medical specialists and dentists at a third the rate and mental health professionals at a fifth the rate.” 

Clearly, the National Party and Barnaby Joyce are not seriously looking out for the disadvantaged people and the poor health services they receive in rural Australia.

One obvious example of how the National Party fails to serve its country constituents is in private health insurance. The Australian taxpayer provides an $11 billion p.a. subsidy for private health insurance. The main beneficiaries of this subsidy are private health insurance holders in the cities who can jump the public hospital queue and access private hospitals. But there are very few private hospitals in rural Australia. The National Party shows no interest in its constituents being dudded in this way.

The recent major reverses by the National Party are not at all surprising. It is neglecting many struggling country people.



See also ‘John Menadue. The Coalition, rural poverty and rural health’.

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