03/08/2007 - 18:58

An interesting state of affairs in View from the Arch

03/08/2007 - 18:58


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The line between state and federal politics blurred this week as the PM announced funding for a Tasmanian hospital, while the Opposition Leader promised a WA specific infrastructure fund. Meanwhile WA's Paul Omodei was told to shape up and Mohamed Haneef

An interesting state of affairs in View from the Arch

The line between state and federal politics got blurrier this week as the Prime Minister announced funding for a Tasmanian hospital, while the Opposition Leader promised a WA specific infrastructure fund. Meanwhile WA's Paul Omodei was told to shape up and Mohamed Haneef shipped out.

Oh Mersey!

The Prime Minister's YouTube profile JohnHoward2007 got its second video in the early hours of Wednesday morning when the PM, ditching the salutation "Good morning" for the less time-specific "Hello there", announced the government would spend up to $45 million per year to ensure Devonport's Mersey Hospital would continue its existing services, after the Tasmanian Government earmarked it for a downgrade.

Under the plan, the commonwealth will provide funds directly to a trust run by members of the community, including health professionals, business leaders and members of local government.

Mr Howard said he would write to Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon outlining the proposal.

"We will be making some requests of the state government but they are certainly going to be very reasonable," he said.

"But in the end let's just remember one thing - people in local communities are not fussed as to who provides a service as long as a service is provided."

According to AAP, clinical experts have warned the Mersey region is too small to sustain hospitals at both Devonport and the larger one at Burnie.

The Mersey lies in the electorate of Braddon, held by Liberal backbencher Mark Baker by just two per cent.

Mr Howard said told ABC radio the Mersey could be a test case for other local hospitals.

"If this works out well, and we have every reason to believe it will, then it may be something that we will do in other parts of the country," he said.

But Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd wasn't so eager to embrace the idea, telling reporters in Perth the decision was "disappointing".

"I am disappointed that Mr Howard, six weeks before an election is called, reaches out and cherry picks a hospital here and cherry picks a hospital there and says 'well I've got a local fix for you'. It's a much deeper problem than that," he said.

For his part, Western Australian Health Minister Jim McGinty told ABC online that the state would welcome Commonwealth funding for hospitals.
"I would welcome any additional funding coming into Western Australia's hospitals, but it's a pity that it's driven by an imminent election and a marginal seat. Now that's no way to base health care planning," Mr McGinty told ABC online.

"A decade ago John Howard, when he came to power, funded the state's hospitals 50/50 with the states, today he slashed his contribution to public hospitals down to 30 per cent in WA, and the state government meets the other 70 per cent of health care costs."

Rudd's WA infrastructure policy

The Western Australian government was markedly less cynical about an announcement by the Federal Opposition leader of exactly how he would build an infrastructure fund for the state.

Mr Rudd, who announced the plan earlier this year, committed a Labor government to setting aside 25 per cent of future Commonwealth Petroleum Resource Rent Tax revenue from the Gorgon gas fields for the fund, which he said could create contributions of up to $100 million per year.

An announcement from Mr Rudd's office said the fund would help to build the economic and social infrastructure of WA's north, and would examine the future of the state's port access roads.

If the Gorgon Gas Development was delayed, he would look at using the revenue stream from the Pluto gas fields to service the fund.

For her part, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan gave Mr Rudd's plan strong support, saying the commitment would end unfair treatment by Canberra.

Mr Rudd also used his presentation to tell attendees at a Perth business forum that, if elected, his government would create a national policy and planning body known as Infrastructure Australia within 100 days of Labor being elected.

"It will have a deadline of 12 months to produce its first infrastructure priority list to set a clear agenda for government investment in infrastructure," Mr Rudd said.

Infrastructure Australia would have three divisions to deal with policy, regularity issues, legal, tax, planning and infrastructure finance matters; auditing and evaluation.

"A federal Labor government will through Infrastructure Australia expedite the standardisation of tender processes and contract documentation between commonwealth and state jurisdictions for the use of private public partnerships and other relevant procurement options," he said.

Rudd's Housing Affordability Plans

Mr Rudd was full of funds this week, telling the South Australian Press Club on Monday a Labor government would create a fund valued at $500 million over five years, to which local governments would apply for grants for new infrastructure and other planning and approval costs.

"Currently new home buyers pay for essential housing infrastructure such as water and sewerage and community-wide infrastructure such as roads, parklands and libraries through local and state government taxes and charges," Mr Rudd said.

"Often this is not infrastructure essential for building a house, but infrastructure that will benefit the whole community for generations - yet the cost is being met by new home buyers.

"Under Labor's plan, local governments will apply through a competitive process to receive grants to cover some of the cost of new housing infrastructure," he said.

Treasurer Peter Costello said Mr Rudd had got his sums wrong on Labor's new fund, saying the actual saving would be $645 a house.

"He's got his numbers wrong because there are about 150,000 new homes released every year in Australia. $500 million over five years will lead to a cost reduction of about $645 a home," Mr Costello told Sky News.

"So even if the amount were passed on in full, the saving on a $300,000 home would be about $645. That's not a large amount and I don't think he's thought about how to make sure it's passed on in full."

Bits and Pieces

  • WA Opposition Leader Paul Omodei received another negative poll, with rumours flying around he had been warned to improve his performance, or face being replaced. Mr Omodei received respectively the criticism of ALP state secretary Bill Johnston and support of Deputy Opposition Leader and heir apparent Troy Buswell.
  • Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews defended his decision to cancel the visa of Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef on character grounds as Kevin Rudd made his first criticisms of the government's actions. Mr Rudd will have more opportunity to do so when Parliament resumes next week.
  • And Federal Sports Minister George Brandis visited Perth to gather information to help him decide whether the Commonwealth would contribute towards the cost of a new stadium, telling ABC online that Subiaco Oval was "plainly less than the people are entitled to hope for."

The final word

In a week where Shadow Health Minister Nicola Roxon declared war on Shrek, and Channel 9's Kerri-Anne Kennerley handed Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile a whip on air and urged him to "beat me, beat me", according to The Australian, the final word goes to the new front bench of the Victorian government.

While Arch couldn't find any jokes about wild horses dragging new Premier John Brumby into his role following the resignation of Steve Bracks, the nomenclature of his new cabinet nonetheless had pun-seeking headline writers rubbing their hands in glee this week.

Mr Brumby's Treasury will be run by Lenders. John Lenders, to be exact, while the Minister for Finance will be Tim Holding - sadly lacking the "s" to make the phrase work better.

And while small business will be assisted by a Helper, that being agriculture minister Joe Helper, it would seem that an opportunity has been tragically missed for former health minister Bronwyn Pike.

Ms Pike had been in contention for the Treasury portfolio, but instead was awarded an expanded role as Education Minister.

Unfortunately, fisheries were not tacked onto her new portfolio.


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