Campaign day 8: Tropic Now investigates ALP’s health cuts claims amid allegations of fibbing

This week, the ALP candidate for the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt, Elida Faith, claimed the LNP had cut $7.2 million from the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service.

The claim was immediately rejected by the incumbent LNP MP for the electorate, Warren Entsch, who said Ms Faith is running her federal election campaign based on a lie.

Tropic Now has attempted to get to the bottom of it.


Red flag

Two media releases were sent out from Elida Faith’s office over the past two days, none of which attributed the source of the claimed cuts.

When asked during a news conference where the cuts came from, Ms Faith couldn’t answer.

The media releases themselves also seemed ambiguous and somewhat contradictory.

The first read, “We have already seen $7.2 million cut from our Cairns Hospital.”

The second read, “Warren Entsch and Scott Morrison are cutting $7.2 million from the Cairns Hospital.”

So which is it and where is the proof?

The explanation 

Despite repeated attempts, Tropic Now was unable to speak directly to Elida Faith about the matter.

Her media advisor refused to be quoted but sought to explain where the cuts came from.

She said it was all to do with the Health Reform Agreement and a refusal by the LNP to bump up the Federal Government’s contribution to hospital funding from 45% to 50%.

According to Ms Faith’s officer, the Gillard ALP Government had introduced an even federal/state funding split in 2011, which was axed by the Abbott Coalition Government in 2014.

She said former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised to reinstate the 50/50 funding agreement in 2017, but didn’t.

According to the spokesperson, that amounted to $160 million less in federal funding for Queensland over three years from 2017-2020, which equated to $7.2 million less for the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, a figure the ALP arrived at based on modelling, including hospital presentations and population.

What are the facts?

The current Health Reform Agreement runs from 2017-2020.

Under the previous agreement, which was introduced by the Gillard Government in 2011 and came into effect in July 2014, the Commonwealth was to fund 45% of the growth in hospital activity based on the national efficient price, and from July 2017 the Commonwealth’s share was to climb to 50%.

Following the 2016 COAG meeting, then Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the 45% agreement would continue from 2017-2020, with increases capped at 6.5% a year.

Can it be called a cut?

According to Elida Faith’s office, the answer’s yes, with her media advisor saying the State Governments expected the rise, so were left high and dry.

However, the 50/50 deal from 2017 was never budgeted for by the Gillard Government, because forward estimates aren’t done that far into the future. Can something that was never budgeted for be called a cut?

Conclusion: Funding for the Cairns Hospital has increased

In 2013/14 funding for the CHHHS was $656.75 million.

In 2018/19 funding for the CHHHS was $936.7 million.