Labor has lashed the WA Premier for missing a crisis meeting of his state and territory counterparts to discuss the federal government’s planned public hospital funding cuts.
The opposition has also taken aim at Colin Barnett for saying the cuts won’t kick in for several years, with WA hospitals facing a $196 million reduction in funding over four years from July 1.
“Mr Barnett has been saying ‘it’s four years away, there’s nothing to worry about’. This is not a problem that is a long way away in the future. This is on us now,” WA opposition leader Mark McGowan told reporters on Monday.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency about addressing this.
Mr McGowan said Mr Barnett’s non-attendance was “reprehensible and unforgivable“, and his priorities were out of whack, given he reportedly attended a Hugh Jackman event and a football game instead.
“Originally, I thought it was just slackness and laziness. Now I think it’s irresponsibility.
“He should have been on an aircraft to Sydney to argue the case for the state.
“This is going to impact people’s lives.”
A spokesman for Mr Barnett last week said the best forum to discuss the matter was the next Council of Australian Governments meeting, which he would attend.
Federal opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said it was extraordinary that the first time the state premiers heard about the “cruel” cuts was two hours before the budget was handed down.
“It is a complete contempt of states and territories,” Ms King said.
“It’s a shame the Western Australian Premier doesn’t appear to be as angry as the other states.”
Ms King said the federal government should not be funding the Medical Research Future Fund from the new Medicare co-payment and other savings to hospital and health spending.
She said Labor was committed to fighting the cuts.