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Even brain surgeons bamboozled by Govt policy process

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AMA President Professor Brian Owler has confessed he is struggling to follow the logic and coherence of a flurry of health policy and tax reform announcements made by the Federal Government ahead of a crucial Council of Australian Government’s meeting.

Professor Owler said it had become “difficult to follow the logic” of Government pronouncements on public hospital funding after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled a shock proposal to hand over some income tax revenue powers to the states just a day before meeting with his State and Territory counterparts.

“I am AMA President and I’m a brain surgeon with a PhD and I’m struggling to keep up with the policy process,” he told ABC News 24. “I mean, we’ve been talking about COAG and tax reform, Federation reform, productivity reviews, multiple reviews in health, and we still don’t seem to have a coherent vision for the path forward.”

In his proposal, Mr Turnbull suggested the states be given power to levy income taxes of their own, while the Commonwealth would reduce its own income tax take, keeping overall income tax receipts the same.

But Professor Owler lambasted the idea, which he said would do nothing to increase funding to hospitals, and would instead exacerbate existing inequalities between the states in the delivery of hospital services.

“If you’re relying on income tax revenue, then that is going to disadvantage the smaller states,” he said. “I mean, it is becoming more and more difficult to follow the logic around funding of public hospitals and the tax policies that are coming from the Government.”

Professor Owler said the Government seemed to be taking an ad hoc approach to major policy challenges.

“We’ve had months to sort this out, yet the policy seems to be leaked out a few days, seemingly made on the run, a few days before a COAG meeting. I don’t think that is the way that policy should be developed, particularly when it’s such an important long-term policy.”

Adrian Rollins