latest_news_blue.png

  • Featured post

    ADVANCED SECRET PLANS TO PRIVATISE MEDICARE EXPOSED

    Health Department officials have today revealed the Government has been working in secret for 18 months on plans to privatise the Medicare payments system.

    In Senate Estimates today officials confirmed a $5 million 20 person taskforce has been established to advance the privatisation project, with the first tenders due back within a fortnight.

    However, the project, which the Department describes as examining the “commercial possibilities” of the Medicare payments system, has been kept from the public and the Parliament, with none of the tenders listed on the official government AusTender website.

    Estimates has heard that the Government has been secretly pursuing the plan after a request in late 2014 from former Health Minister Peter Dutton.

    Today’s revelations that this process has been underway for 18 months, at the request of Government, involving significant resources of funds and staff from Health should be of deep concern to all Australians who care about Medicare.

    The Turnbull Liberals’ advanced, secret plans to sell off Medicare services could jeopardise the patient data of every Australian and the jobs of 1400 staff at centres all around the country.

    Despite protests from the Minister, it is clear these proposals go way beyond simply “digitising” the Medicare payments system.

    If enacted, this plan, from the failed Commission of Audit Report, would mean that these important functions would be delivered for profit, not with the best interests of patients in mind.

    Today’s revelations confirm that after spending their first two years in office trying to kill Medicare, the Liberals will now spend 2016 trying to sell it.

    WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2016

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.

    This is a joint release with Labor's Shadow Health Minister Catherine King MP and Labor's Shadow Minister for Human Services Senator Doug Cameron.

    Download this Media Release

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    15 PER CENT GST WOULD MAKE HOME OWNERSHIP MORE UNAFFORDABLE FOR MANY

    The dream of home ownership would be even more difficult under the Turnbull Governments ‘on-again, off-again’ plans to increase the GST to 15 per cent.

    Modelling by the Housing Industry Association (HIA) shows a house and land package would cost about $30,000 more and upwards of $60,000 over the life of a loan.

    It’s clear that any increase to the GST would see increased costs for home buyers and reduced confidence for businesses who rely on the housing construction market.

    Over the past two and a half years housing affordability has worsened for thousands of Australians, particularly those low and middle income households who are renting or trying to save to purchase a home.

    The first rental affordability index, released by National Shelter late last year, shows that some Australians families are spending as much as 65 per cent of their income on their weekly rent.

    According to Moody’s, Sydney households spend an average of 39 per cent of their income on mortgage repayments, up from 36 per cent a year ago, the highest level since 2001. Homeowners in Melbourne spend an average of 32 per cent of their income on mortgage repayments, up from 29 per cent a year ago.

    It’s clear that the Turnbull government has no plans to address housing affordability other than a plan to introduce a 15 per cent GST which would dramatically increase costs on a new home.

    The HIA also argue that a higher GST would have a negative impact on economic growth in states and territories, putting extra pressure on budgets that rely on a stimulated construction sector.

    Industry groups are lining up to tell Malcolm Turnbull and his government  that any increase to the GST will only make new housing more expensive and potentially lock out thousands of Australians from being able to purchase a new home.

    The PM should end the uncertainty and rule out slugging Australians with a 15 per cent GST.

    TUESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2016

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.

    Download this Media Release

    1 reaction Share
  • Featured post

    PORTER’S ISSUE PAPER ON HOUSING AFFORDABILITY NOTHING MORE THAN A STALLING TACTIC

    Yesterday the minister responsible for housing confirmed his only housing affordability strategy – a “working group” – is nothing but a stalling tactic to put the issue off the agenda until after the next budget and potentially the election.

    The working group will be made up entirely of government bureaucrats who won’t report until 30 June, 2016, well after the next budget is due to be handed down.

    Embarrassingly, this working group announcement which will provide advice to government on what to do about housing affordability issues in Australia comes after more than two years of the Abbott/Turnbull government, three housing ministers, millions of dollars in cuts to programs and no housing policy to speak of.

    The Turnbull government has a very poor record on housing policy and its disappointing to see that after more than two years in government the only decision they are prepared to take is to convene meetings, release an issues paper and delay any real action or solutions for another day.

    Since 2013 the Abbott/Turnbull government has done nothing but cut funds and capacity from programs designed to address housing affordability in Australia. They have;

    • Cut  $132 million to homelessness services over 3 years
    • abolished the National Rental Affordability Scheme and cancelled Round five of that scheme
    • cut funding to Homelessness Australia, National Shelter and Community Housing Federation of Australia
    • axed the Housing Help for Seniors program
    • abolished the National Housing Supply Council
    • disbanded the COAG select Council on Housing and Homelessness

    The lack of affordable housing is something that affects millions of Australians every day  whether it be young people who can’t afford to enter the housing market, families living in severe housing stress as they have to spend more and more of their income on unaffordable rents, people with a disability with little choice of suitable housing or women and children escaping domestic violence with find themselves with nowhere to go.

    The Minister’s own issues paper indicates that there are 657,000 low income households across Australia experiencing rental stress and 318,000 low income households experiencing mortgage stress.

    The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2016 reports that there are 187,500 households on the waiting list for public housing dwellings across Australia despite public housing systems operating with an occupancy rate of 97.9 per cent. The same report tells us that 42.5 per cent of low income households are experiencing rental stress and that that figure is worsening.

    As the Prime Minister and his Ministers continue to talk up a 15 per cent GST many Australians locked out of the housing market or living every week in housing stress would be right to ask whether this government has its priorities right.

    The social consequences of the current housing  markets, particularly on low and middle income households requires more action from the Turnbull government than a government controlled working group which isn’t going to report until half way through the year.

    WEDNESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2016

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.

    1 reaction Share
  • Featured post

    MORE ACTION LESS TALK REQUIRED FROM TURNBULL ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTRALIA

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

    - MORE ACTION LESS TALK REQUIRED FROM TURNBULL ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTRALIA -

     

    After almost 2.5 years in government and three housing ministers it's good to see the Prime Minister finally talking about the issue of homelessness in Australia, but the real test will be whether he can match his words with action to address homelessness.

    The  ‘Ask Izzy app’ developed by the Salvos and launched by the Prime Minister today is a fantastic initiative and will be a really useful resource to link people experiencing homelessness with services designed to support them. 

    But the Turnbull government cannot hide from the fact that since coming to government in 2013 they have slashed millions of dollars from homelessness funding and silenced the voices of homelessness advocacy organisations at the same time. 

    In the last two budgets $88m in capital funding was cut from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. This money was specifically allocated to help to build more crisis accommodation across Australia.

    The government also cut funding for organisations like Homelessness Australia, National Shelter and the Community Housing Federation of Australia. 

    And while they were cutting they also abolished Round Five of the National Rental Affordability Scheme, introduced under a Labor Government, which boosted the supply of affordable housing in Australia by 26,000 and without coming up with any replacement program. 

    For the past two years the Turnbull government has failed to show any leadership in addressing the issue of housing affordability or how to support the ever increasing numbers of Australians who are experiencing housing stress. 

    Malcolm Turnbull never misses a positive photo opportunity and a chance to talk the talk but it’s time for him to match the talk with action and properly resource the homelessness sector so they are able to deliver the services and support where and when they are needed the most. 

    FRIDAY, 29 JANUARY 2016.

     

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

    - TOO LITTLE TOO LATE -

     

    Q: After two years, three ministers and no housing policy........what do you do? 😕 

    A:  Establish a working group 👎

    After two and a half years in office, a revolving door of ministers and no housing policy to speak of the Turnbull government has finally woken up to the fact that housing affordability is an issue facing an ever increasing number of Australians and has decided to convene a working group to figure out what to do about it. 

    Since being elected the Turnbull/Abbott Government has been so focussed on fighting each other, on cutting payments to families and vulnerable members of the community and on planning to introduce a 15% GST that those Australians who have been struggling to afford somewhere to buy or rent a house have been largely ignored.

    It’s a terrible indictment on this government that the most comprehensive statement to date on housing policy from the Turnbull/Abbott government was when the former Treasurer Joe Hockey gave his free advice to those locked out of the housing market by telling them to "get a good job that pays good money".

    Ministers Kevin Andrews, Scott Morrison and Christian Porter have done nothing to address housing affordability and better support those living in housing stress during their terms instead choosing to refer housing issues off to the never-never as part of the federation white paper process.

    There has been plenty of evidence to inform the government just how big an issue housing affordability is with reports by Moody’s and National Shelter just to name two, both released in late 2015, showing that renters are spending more and more of their incomes on their weekly rent while the proportion of income being spent on mortgages, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne is increasing.

    Some Australians families are spending as much as 65 per cent of their income on their weekly rent.

    The National Shelter Rental Affordability Index revealed low income families on $500 a week in New South Wales would have to spend 65 per cent of their income to rent a property under current market conditions. In Queensland it’s 54 per cent, South Australia 59 per cent, in Western Australia 57 per cent and in Tasmania 54 per cent.

    Being able to pay a mortgage or save up the weekly rent is a daily struggle for too many in this country and it's only getting harder particularly for young people, people with a disability, single women and children, single income families and  senior Australians.

    The underwhelming decision by Minister Porter to establish a working group clearly indicates that the Turnbull government has a no ideas and no solutions to the housing affordability challenge and that any relief for those living in housing stress is a long way off.


    THURSDAY, 14 JANUARY 2016

    1 reaction Share
  • Featured post

    LABOR TO LEAD DISCUSSION ON TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICIES FOR THOSE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

    LABOR TO LEAD DISCUSSION ON TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICIES FOR THOSE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS

     Labor welcomes the decision of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) today in the case of Ella Ingram v QBE Insurance.

    Ella Ingram was refused a claim for a school trip to the United States worth $4292.48 based on the blanket exclusion that she had a mental illness. 

    Today the VCAT found in favour of Miss Ingram and determined that she had been unfairly discriminated against by the company under their policy.

    Last month Labor wrote to insurers and mental health organisations inviting them to attend a roundtable to discuss the issues raised in this case and to examine the issues of mental health conditions and insurance cover more broadly. 

    Mental illness affects one in five Australians every year and it is important to make sure our insurance industry is operating fairly for more Australians.

    It is expected that this roundtable will be held in February 2016.

    We acknowledge the efforts and determination that Ella, her family and legal teams have gone to in seeking this outcome. 

    FRIDAY 18 DECEMBER 2015

    This is a joint media release with Jim Chalmers MP

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    CONSUMERS MUST BE EQUAL VOICES AT THE TABLE OF REFORM

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

    CONSUMERS MUST BE EQUAL VOICES AT THE TABLE OF REFORM

    Last month the Federal Government, in their response the Mental Health Commissions review announced wide reaching reforms which, if implemented well, could change primary mental health care for the better.

    The reforms involve moving from a one-sized fits all approach to a more flexible and responsive system designed and delivered around local needs and stepped care. Not many who know the current system would argue against this approach but - as with all reform processes  - whilst the high-level direction looks good the success of these changes in the long term will depend on how they are designed and implemented on the ground and how consumer expertise is utilised to inform key decisions before they occur.

    One of the weaknesses of the Government’s response to date has been the failure to prioritise consumer and carer involvement from the very beginning of the reform process.

    The Government response tries to talk the talk with language like “person centred care”,  “consumers will benefit from a local service system built around their needs" and “consumers will benefit from better targeted services” but disappointingly this is language that continues to talk to them about them rather than talking with them and being informed by them.

    Too often in health reform the voices of consumers are not involved early enough and they rarely occupy a seat at the decision-making table.

    Mental health consumers and the carers that support them are tired of a service system that tells them what’s best for them once the priorities have been decided and the services designed and then belatedly asks their opinion. 

    Too often this is the same mental health system that has failed them at every stage of their or their loved ones illness and yet the reluctance to include them in the earliest reform stage (ie before it begins) seems destined to continue.

    Perhaps the clearest example of this is when the Government says in their response that “they will develop with consumers and carer’s a participation framework to guide future national reform” but then fails to identify it as an area for immediate action or include it as part of the three year-implementation timetable. So the firmest commitment on consumer and carer participation as part of the new mental health system is something that is to be developed at a time yet to be determined.  Surely we can do better than that.

    With some of the reforms due to start in January 2016 and the Primary Health Networks ramping up their increased role and capacity ready to commence in July 2016 there is a real risk that any meaningful consumer engagement will come well after the heavy lifting has been done and the paperwork all signed off.

    This will be too late.

    A new mental health system that is informed and influenced by the people who use it will improve it. Consumers are in a unique position to educate those who fund and provide mental health services about what works, what doesn’t, what frustrates, what makes life easier and most importantly what assists them in their recovery.

    To exclude, omit or ignore consumers whether it be deliberate or otherwise will ensure that whatever the reformed system looks like in the end it won’t have benefitted from the engagement, advice and decisions of the experts who use it.

    Successful mental health reform can only be realised if consumers and carers have an equal and respected voice alongside other stakeholders and are involved at every stage and at every level of the reform process.

    Before, during and afterwards.

    This opinion piece was first published on Croakey on Friday,18 December  2015.

    **For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au. Other services include Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 beyondblue: 1300 22 4636**

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    MENTAL HEALTH SECTOR CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT SUICIDE REDUCTION TARGET

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

     -MENTAL HEALTH SECTOR CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT SUICIDE REDUCTION TARGET -

    A leading mental health sector organisation has joined the call for the Turnbull Government to adopt a 50% suicide reduction target as recommended by the National Mental Health Commission in its recent expert review of the sector.

    Suicide Prevention Australia has released its response to the Government’s mental health reform package and calls repeatedly for a suicide reduction target of 50% over 10 years to be adopted.

    On Monday the Chairman of the Lifeline Australia Board, John Brogden also lent his support for a 50% suicide reduction target to be adopted by government.

    In the Government’s response to the mental health review, released last month, they failed to respond to the recommendation to set a national suicide reduction target of 50% despite the Labor Party offering bipartisan support for such a target.

    Labor is deeply concerned that rather than embrace a 50 per cent target, the Government used yesterday’s mid-year budget update to slash $141m over four years from mental health services.

    Every year in Australia around 2,500 people take their own lives through suicide and approximately 65,000 people will attempt to take their life.

    Whilst a suicide prevention target cannot on its own prevent tragic and unnecessary loss of life to suicide it would assist to raise awareness of suicide and the services that are there to support people in their time of need.

    It would also allow progress to reduce the suicide toll each year to be measured and importantly it would ensure that suicide prevention receives the strongest possible attention from government.

    In October this year, Labor accepted the Mental Health Commission’s expert recommendation to adopt a suicide prevention target and indicated that we would initially develop these strategies, in government, through 12 regional targeted suicide prevention initiatives.

    Labor joins Suicide Prevention Australia in calling for the Turnbull Government to adopt a suicide prevention target to help ensure that less lives are tragically lost to suicide each year and renews our call for the Government to adopt the 50% target as recommended by the Mental Health Commission.

    WEDNESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2015

    ** For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au. Other services includeSuicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 **

     

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    TURNBULL TARGETS PEOPLE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

    - TURNBULL TARGETS PEOPLE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS - 

    Yesterday's mid-year budget update has exposed the Turnbull Government’s harsh decision to slash $141m over four years from mental health services. 

    Just this week the Prime Minister spoke of the economic cost of mental illness and argued that "we have a vital vested national interest in addressing it" yet he knew that at the same time he had approved $141m in cuts to the mental health system.

    Yesterday's MYEFO says:

    As a result of streamlining programmes, the Government will achieve savings of $141.0 million over four years from 1 July 2015. Savings for this measure have already been provided for by the Government and will contribute towards the related expense measure The Australian Government's Response to the National Ice Taskforce Final Report.

    These are cuts that not even Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey could fathom.

    Just three weeks after the Government announced their response to the mental health review many mental health services remain in a state of limbo about their future without any funding certainty beyond the next six months. 

    And as if funding uncertainty wasn't bad enough today these organisations, who provide much needed services for people with a mental illness, now have to worry about how and where these funding cuts will be made. 

    Today's decision by the Turnbull Government to slash funding from the mental health system is short-sighted and will put greater pressure on an already stretched system. 

    The Turnbull government must immediately come clean on exactly where these cuts will be made, what services will be cut and when these cuts will commence.  

    It's simply not fair to drop bad news like this at the end of the year and then leave the sector without any information. 

    If this is the way mental health reform is going to be run by this government then it's doomed before it even begins.  

    WEDNESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2015

    Add your reaction Share
  • Featured post

    LABOR WELCOMES NORTHERN TERRITORY INDIGENOUS REMOTE HOUSING POLICY

    SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER

    SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

    SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

     

    LABOR WELCOMES NORTHERN TERRITORY INDIGENOUS REMOTE HOUSING POLICY

    Labor welcomes the announcement of Northern Territory Labor’s Indigenous remote housing policy, which will build new homes, rooms and living spaces under a record $1.1 billion ten-year housing program.

    Chronic housing problems and overcrowding have a significant detrimental impact on the health, education and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory.

    Housing is the single biggest concern of Aboriginal Territorians living in the bush.

    Northern Territory Labor has shown it is committed to addressing the serious housing challenges facing remote Aboriginal communities.

    This record investment in housing will increase the supply of new housing, with an emphasis on local decision making about where and how new housing is constructed.

    The package includes funding for refurbishments with an emphasis on creating appropriate living spaces for the elderly, people living with disability, mental health condition or recovering from dependency on alcohol or other drugs.

    Northern Territory Labor is listening to the genuine concerns of Aboriginal peoples.

    That’s more than can be said for the Abbott/Turnbull and Giles Governments.

    The Abbott/Turnbull Budget in May this year ripped $95 million from remote Indigenous housing and prematurely ended the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.

    Seven months later, it is not clear what the Abbott/Turnbull Government's funding contribution for remote Indigenous housing will be under the new Remote Housing Strategy.

    Uncertainty looms as negotiations continue, with no details about how the new Strategy will operate.

    The Abbott/Turnbull Government must clarify how the Commonwealth will contribute and work with State and Territory Governments to deliver appropriate housing for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

    We cannot close the gap in health, education and employment until we address the most basic of needs - the provision of appropriate and affordable housing.

    It is clear that only Labor will continue to work hard to acknowledge and deliver the change that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need and aspire to for future generations. 

    MONDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2015

    - Joint media release with HON SHAYNE NEUMANN MPHON WARREN SNOWDON MP

     

    Add your reaction Share
    Stay updated Volunteer

    Instagram me @KatyGMLA