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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Taking pressure off Australians the priority for 2024

With the new year well and truly underway, many people will have set their goals for 2024 and are working hard to make them a reality.

I am sure there are plenty in our community who are hoping for an easier year ahead.

2023 had its fair share of challenges, and global events had a significant impact on us here in Australia.

While it was tough for everyone, I am really proud of the Albanese government's achievements in this difficult time.

One of Labor's biggest election commitments in 2022 was improving the health outcomes of people in our community. Key to this was saving the GP Access After Hours clinics, including the clinic at Belmont Hospital in my electorate of Shortland, and establishing two Medicare Urgent Care Clinics in the region. I am so pleased we made this a reality last year.

By restoring the hours of the GP Access After Hours clinics and providing funding certainty into the future, we are taking pressure off emergency departments and making it quicker and easier for patients to get medical attention. The Medicare Urgent Care Clinics at Cessnock and Lake Haven on the northern Central Coast are open after hours, seven days a week, and are for patients who have urgent, non-life-threatening health issues.

Not only are these appointments fully bulk billed, they're taking pressure off doctors at local hospitals.

In addition, we've tripled the bulk-billing incentive, making it easier for families with kids, pensioners and other concession card holders to see a doctor for free, completely bulk-billed. This was the largest investment in the 40-year history of Medicare.

There's more to be done, but Labor is committed to making it easier and cheaper for people in the Hunter to see a doctor.

In 2024, the government will continue to work with states and territories to take pressure off hospitals and strengthen the healthcare workforce, attracting the GPs and nurses we need to deliver on Medicare's promise.

While strengthening Medicare will always be important to Labor, our number one priority this year continues to be taking pressure off Australians. That's why the Prime Minister recently announced tax cuts for every Australian taxpayer. Unfortunately the cost of living and inflation challenge is ongoing due to the conflict in Europe and the Middle East and other global pressures. It's putting significant pressure on all households, but particularly middle Australia.

From July 1, every Australian taxpayer in the Hunter and Central Coast - 428,000 people - will receive a tax cut. And 367,000 of these taxpayers will receive a bigger tax cut than they would have received under the original tax plan developed by Scott Morrison.

Since that proposal was legislated five years ago, there has been a once in a 100-year pandemic, wars and global conflicts, a global inflation spike and higher interest rates, all of which have put people under greater cost-of-living pressure.

To pretend otherwise and proceed with the original plan would be failing Australians when it is crystal clear they need whatever help they can get from the government.

The Department of Treasury has advised Labor's tax cuts will not add to inflationary pressures. They are responsible and will ensure over 11 million people are better off.

It follows the $23 billion targeted cost-of-living relief package we implemented last year that included making medicines cheaper, increasing social security payments, and energy bill relief.

Importantly, this is not the end of cost-of-living relief from the government.

In the lead up to the May budget, the Prime Minister has asked the Treasury and Finance departments to come up with additional proposals to take pressure off Australians that won't add to inflation for consideration.

So while I understand many in our community are under pressure and the cost of living challenge is not over, the government is doing what we can to help.

We have an extensive plan to navigate the current economic challenges and maximise the opportunities of the year ahead.

Throughout 2024, the government will continue our work improving the lives of Australians.

Pat Conroy is the federal Member for Shortland

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