Vote for more nurses – August 2010

This election we are putting the case for more experienced nurses front and centre before the voting public.

In this month’s issue of The Lamp we examine the track records of Labor and the Coalition on workplace rights, health, aged care and superannuation as we prepare to vote in the Federal election.

Such a comparison needs context.

The Coalition was in office during the longest economic boom in Australian history.
The Federal Labor Government successfully steered the Australian economy through the most serious global financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

On workplace rights the track record of the Coalition is diabolical. WorkChoices was an aggressive, full frontal attack on the rights of Australian workers that had been won over a long period of time.
Since Labor was elected in 2007 nurses’ rights at work have been largely restored.

Tony Abbott has stated that WorkChoices is ‘dead, buried and cremated’ and that he would not touch Labor’s workplace laws during a first term. There is enough ambiguity in the Coalition’s public utterances to invite a lot of scepticism about this.

I know nurses and midwives are sceptical about any politician, and so you should be. I look hard at their beliefs, philosophy and track record before I make judgements and I am sure you will too.
In the area of health the Coalition’s track record is not good. On their watch the Commonwealth’s percentage of health funding dropped to around 40%. This is the root cause of many of the problems we have in the public health system.

The Coalition’s performance on health workforce planning was abysmal. It is true that in the final years of the Howard Government there was some attempt to increase the number of nurse training places but it was totally inadequate to make up for the shortages that had arisen from their inaction during the previous decade. Tony Abbott was the Minister for Health at the end of the Coalition’s period in office and he left Australia with a critical shortage of nurses.

The Coalition admits as much. Shadow Minister of Health Peter Dutton is on record as saying: ‘We made mistakes … in areas like workforce planning and hospital management’ (AGPN conference 2008).

The Rudd now Gillard Government has done some big things to turn this around. There has been a large injection of extra money into health. There have been some very good initiatives to boost the numbers and skill levels of nurses. The Federal Government has taken responsibility for the majority of funding.

These are all important things but much still needs to be done. No matter who wins this election we will continue to campaign for more funding and more nurses for both the public health system and the aged care sector.

During this election campaign we are running TV ads that stress the need for more nurses. Within days of our ads running on air Julia Gillard had announced the funding of 2,000 extra Emergency Department nurses over the next decade.

There are many factors that influence an individual’s vote. I hope you give a strong consideration to how the election will impact on you as a nurse or midwife, your profession and our health and aged care systems.

Safe Patient Care – staffing and skill mix campaign under way
Judith Kiejda and I will be visiting many workplaces to validate the ratios claim in coming weeks. We hope many public sector nurses will come along to give feedback.