The State and Territory Health Ministers have failed to reach agreement with the Federal Minister for Health, Senator Kay Patterson, over health funding. The dispute follows this week's announcement by the Howard government of changes to Medicare.
This is the text of a media release by the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie.
Premiers Must Fight PM's Un-Australian Health System
Premier Peter Beattie is calling on state Premiers to fight for the rights of all Australians to have a properly-funded health service instead of the un-Australian system Prime Minister Howard is determined to introduce.
"Doctors' organisations are saying that the Federal Government is introducing a two-tiered system of care and that pensioners and low-income earners will not benefit," said Mr Beattie.
"A two-tier system means some Australians will be placed above other Australians when it comes to being treated by doctors.
"That is unAustralian but it is what the Australian Medical Association, Divisions of General Practice, College of General Practitioners and the Rural Doctors' Association say is happening.
"The dictionary definition of 'tiers' relates to some being higher than others. That is why the Prime Minister must be stopped.
"Not only is it two-tiered but it is grossly underfunded.
"Prime Minister Howard has admitted he plans to give states $1 billion less for public hospitals as part of the new Australian Health Care Agreement which is due to run from 2003 to 2008.
"We must take on Prime Minister Howard directly on this crucial issue at COAG (the Council of Australian Governments) because his Health Minister is obviously acting on his instructions not to budge on the appallingly inadequate funding offer the Federal Government is making to the states.
"Queensland Health Minister Wendy Edmond has rung me from the Health Ministers' Council to say that Federal Health Minister Kay Patterson will not negotiate.
"Ms Edmond says the only way forward is for the Premiers to take up the fight.
"If we give in, Queensland families will pay more to go to their GP and our hospitals will get less.
"People in all states are being dudded.
"The attitude of the Federal Government can be seen from the fact that the Federal Minister had not been to one of these meetings since November last year. And when she turned up today it was just to say: No."