Federal Budget 2019: Mixed outcomes for health and the environment

  Last updated April 5, 2019 at 5:05 pm


The Federal Budget promised much for health and medical, but experts have criticised it’s lack of attention on climate change.

Josh Frydenberg Mathias Cormann Federal Budget

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (L) and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have handed down the 2019 Federal Budget. Credit: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

The Federal Budget was released earlier this week, with experts saying while it brings some good news for medical research, it lacks in much-needed environmental investment.

Experts welcomed a $5bn allocation for a ten year Medical Research Future Fund investment plan which, the Government says, will improve patient care and increase access to clinical trials.

Executive Director of the George Institute, Professor Vlado Perkovic, told the AusSMC that he’s pleased to see the Government continuing their commitment to establish a $20bn fund that was promised by 2020-21.

“The ten year plan for the fund will provide long-term stability and allow investments in projects with longer time frames, allowing projects to deliver significant health and economic benefits for the nation,” he said.

Other welcome investments in this year’s Federal Budget according to Public Health Association Australia President, Terry Slevin, include an extension of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, mental health and suicide prevention commitments, a tobacco control campaign, a Take Home Naloxone program and social inclusion programs.

But according to Mr Slevin, Australia as a nation is one of the lowest investors in illness prevention in terms of health spending, and the Budget will do little to prevent what he describes as a “future illness tsunami.”

Big killers ignored

“Two of our biggest killers were conspicuous by their absence in the Budget – obesity and alcohol.”

“Spending on good health care, effective drugs and research is important and essential. But a continual downward spiral in real prevention is a trend we must seriously address.”

Experts have also criticized the Government’s approach to climate change in the 2019 budget, as the Climate Solutions Fund has now been budgeted to extend over 15 years instead of  the originally stated ten.

This decision effectively cuts the annual spend from $200 million to $133 million over the life of the fund, according to the Guardian.

Associate Professor Paul Burke from ANU said the budget balance would have been better if Australia had retained it’s former carbon price, rather than moving to a subsidy-based approach.

“Emissions would be lower, and we would be in a much better position to move forward with emissions reductions over coming years,” he said.

Dr Liz Hanna, of the the Environmental Health Working Group, said this change is “at best misguided. At worst, it smacks of intended negligence.”

“Perhaps the Government needs to fully fund the NDIS to treat its own deafness to climate change? To not respond to the growing chorus from the Australian public, the rural sector, industry, the youth, and the health sector indicates either profound deafness or simply a case of wilful refusal listen to their needs,” she said.

“Australia wants a future that is safe. They want their Government to protect them, their families and their future from the greatest risk – as judged by the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report  – Climate Change!”

You can read more Federal Budget reactions from experts here.


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About the Author

Olivia Henry
Olivia Henry is Media Officer at the Australian Science Media Centre. She spends her days nerding out about the latest research in the hopes that journalists will nerd out too. Olivia has Bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Science and Media (Journalism), and has studied in Japan and Spain. Before joining the AusSMC in 2018, Olivia worked at Fairfax Media, SciWorld, Channel 44 Adelaide and interned at Australia's Science Channel. If you like this super-funky-science-machine, you can catch her talking science on 2CC Canberra or hosting the Night Shift on Radio Adelaide.

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The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise. We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community. The Centre works with journalists to help them cover science as well as identify the science angles in everyday news stories and works with the scientific community to help them interact more effectively with the media and ensure that their voices are heard on issues of national importance.

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