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Labor promises almost $1 billion for Medicare and GPs if it wins federal election

By political reporter Stephanie Dalzell
Labor has pledged $750m to improve patient access to GPs and decrease pressure on hospitals.  (ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)

Federal Labor is entering the election campaign home stretch armed with a promise of almost $1 billion in new Medicare and primary-health funding if it wins next weekend's federal poll, as both leaders prepare for a frenetic final week of campaigning.

The pledge consists of $750 million over three years for a new "Strengthening Medicare" fund which aims to improve patient access to GPs including after hours, decrease pressure on hospitals and better manage complex and chronic conditions.

It also includes $220 million for grants of up to $50,000 for GPs to train staff, upgrade IT telehealth systems, buy equipment and improve ventilation and infection control.

If Anthony Albanese wins on May 21, Labor will also create a Medicare task force that will be chaired by the health minister and include peak body groups such as the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian College of GPs and the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation.

"Every day, everywhere I go, people talk to me about how it's getting more and more difficult to see a doctor," Mr Albanese said.

The plan was immediately welcomed by Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Omar Khorshid who said it "put general practice on a pathway to a more sustainable future".

In 2019 Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a 10-year Primary Healthcare Fund, but the AMA has accused the Coalition of stalling on the promise.

"The primary care fund announced today by the ALP, if implemented, is a strong down payment that will help realise the recently completed 10-year primary health care plan — a plan which has remained completely unfunded by the government," Dr Khorshid said.

"The ALP's primary care fund pledge will allow investment in programs that will improve access to services for patients including GP after-hours services and the Workforce Incentive Program. We welcome the ALP commitment to work with the AMA on the implementation of primary-care reform."

Dr Khorshid's comments stand in stark contrast to those made last month, when the AMA criticised Labor's promise to fund 50 bulk-billed urgent care medical centres, saying it was a "small-target" pledge which would do nothing to alleviate pressure on emergency departments.

On Saturday, Health Minister Greg Hunt argued the pledge lacked detail.

"This morning we've seen another day, another train wreck from Mr Albanese," Mr Hunt said.

"It's ever more clear that he's just not up to it.

"Today we've seen a billion-dollar slush fund from the leader of the opposition for undisclosed recipients, through undisclosed recipients, through undisclosed ministerial processes, through undisclosed parties for undisclosed purposes."

Coalition promises to spend $20m expanding high school sports program

Labor's health pitch comes ahead of the Liberal party's official campaign launch on Sunday.

The Coalition is promising to spend $20 million expanding a high school sports program to an additional 700,000 high school students if it is elected.

The Sporting Schools program offers year 7 and 8 students access to partnerships with 35 national sporting organisations, including the AFL and the Netball Australia.

Mr Morrison said if he was returned to government, the program would be expanded to include year 9 and 10 students.

That would broaden its reach to 2.9 million pupils.

"Getting more young people involved in sport helps keep our kids active, builds confidence and it provides a way for families to connect back to community sporting clubs as we bounce back from the pandemic," Mr Morrison said.

"It also creates opportunities and connections to support those students who want to make their sporting dreams a reality."

The government is also promising to provide $4.8 million worth of grants to help surf lifesaving clubs across Australia buy vital life-saving equipment such as rescue boards and defibrillators.

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Dive Deeper:
Labor promises $970m investment in Medicare and general practice ahead of final week of election
Australian Medical Association says pledge is a ‘strong down payment’ in boosting primary health care
Albanese pledges to strengthen Medicare
With one week until the election, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has unveiled a $750 million boost to Medicare across the…
Day 34 of the federal election campaign
Scott Morrison will begin day 34 of the federal election campaign in Melbourne, while Anthony Albanese will start in Darwin.
Albanese promises health, Indigenous voice
The Northern Territory has attracted significant interest from both major parties this campaign given its two federal seats, both held…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Morrison hails close ties with India and Albanese pledges $970m for Medicare – as it happened
Scott Morrison reiterates new pitch to voters, promising a ‘gear change’, and Anthony Albanese reveals plan to boost primary healthcare.…
GP Access is effective, efficient, economical and saves Australia's health system millions
A new level of federal-state collaboration is needed to keep this crucial service.
Get all your news in one place