Well, the debate between Rudd and Abbott on healthcare has finished. As I feared, Abbott was unable to come forth with an actual alternative- he believes that for the moment his role is to oppose bad plans, bad plans like the Government’s health reform. I also heard (via the web) the suggestion that he can’t promise anything until the budget comes out and he knows what money he has to use.
Both sides agreed that the “blame-game” had to stop and real results were needed. Rudd’s plan is for the Federal Government to provide 60% of the health funding, and the state to provide 40%, currently the ratio is reversed. However, health would still be a State responsibility. Rudd threatened that if the Premiers refused to co-operate and work together with him, then he would go to the people, get a mandate for reform and, if necessary, increase the Government’s share of healthcare funding to 100%.
According to Abbott, Rudd’s plan has serious problems. “And that’s the whole point- the blame game won’t end. The feds will provide most of the money; the states will provide all of the control. The blame game continues.” Instead, Abbott wants hospitals to have local boards that actually have the power to spend the money that they need. The moderator then asked him how that would stop the blame-game. According to Abbott, once the hospital’s budget is established, then the hospital will spend as it needs to meet it’s needs.
Rudd looked cool and calm, and delivered his speeches very well. It was a risky strategy for Rudd to adopt- allowing Abbott air-time to attack the government, in order to give the government plan air time as well. I think it’s working for Rudd. Abbott looked like he didn’t actually have a plan, and any plan will look better than no plan. This battle is not yet finished, but I think Rudd is on the front foot with an actual policy to show.
Abbott suffered because he could only be negative, since he had only the roughest sketch of a policy that he supported. He ended his wrap-up speech by calling on the Prime Minister to have three election debates. Abbott said that this debate was not an election debate because no election had been called.
I hope there will indeed be more debates to follow, with Abbott providing a clear policy that he supports, instead of a general principle and criticisms of the government’s plan. Then the fun will really begin.