Abbott critical of Labor's e-health splurge

Summary:Opposition leader Tony Abbott responded last night to the Federal Budget, acknowledging the need for an electronic health record in Australia, but dismissing Labor's e-health plans as a waste of money.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott responded last night to the Federal Budget, acknowledging the need for an electronic health record in Australia, but dismissing Labor's e-health plans as a waste of money.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
(Credit:Tony Abbott)

In his response to the government's budget Abbott stated, "Of course, there should be an electronic health record"; however, he criticised Labor's e-health funding, which accounted for almost $470 million in Labor's budget.

He said electronic health plans had already cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" with little results, stating "no more should be spent until it's certain that we're not throwing good money after bad".

Other members of the opposition have also been critical of Labor's e-health plans, with Senator Sue Boyce stating last month that the scheme had "a snowball's chance in hell".

The e-health funding has received mixed reviews from analysts and industry. While CSC, which sells e-health services, was positive about the allocation, Ovum analyst Steve Hodgkinson suggested the money was not the right amount.

"$466.7 million seems either too little or too much, depending on the scope of the initiative — too little to actually create a national e-health records system that is efficiently integrated into the hundreds of systems already operating within the sector," he said. "And too much to be prudently spent in such a short time frame [two years] — given the complexity of the situation, the legendary slow pace of government procurement and the government's track record of implementing complex operational projects 'in a hurry'."

Abbott also responded to Labor's broadband plans, calling the National Broadband Network a "$43 billion white elephant" and suggesting the government's plans would create a "new nationalised telecommunications monopoly".

Targeting Labor's proposed separation of Telstra, Abbott honed in on Telstra shareholders to defend the telco, stating "Telstra shareholders should not have their assets subject to coerced acquisition".

Abbott has long opposed Labor's National Broadband Network, labelling the plans as "worse than [Gough] Whitlam" in his maiden speech as opposition leader last December.

What the opposition leader didn't discuss, however, were the details of the coalition's own plans. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey is set to speak at the National Press Club next Wednesday on the matter, but isn't expected to give too much away until election time gets close. "The final costing and funding details of coalition policy will be released nearer the election," Abbott said.

Topics: Health, Broadband, Government, Government : AU, IT Employment, IT Priorities, NBN

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