Less than two weeks after the Tasmanian state election Peter Gutwein’s $580 million signature health policy for the Launceston General Hospital development has been exposed as little more than wishful thinking.
Never shy of making big announcements – and failing abysmally to actually deliver – Mr Gutwein and his then Health Minister Sarah Courtney came out swinging early in the election campaign with bold promises on health and hospital infrastructure.
Designed to shoo-in four Liberal candidates in Bass, the ever caretaking Premier promised to “commence in 2021-22 the next stages of the Launceston General Hospital redevelopment masterplan with a $580 million major investment over 10 years to meet future demand”.
One would expect the grand designs to be fully costed and to appear in the Liberal party’s own health budget and forward estimates.
But in stark contrast to the bold headline, the only detail provided in their policy fine print was the following disclaimer: “The Australian Government will be approached to partner in the funding of this significant development of Launceston’s public hospital”.
Yes, shamelessly – but not unexpectedly – the Tasmanian Liberal spin doctors came up with a concocted idea of announcing a ready to go hospital project of more than half a billion dollars, subject to, wait for it, somebody else paying for it. In full.
Not a dollar was allocated in Mr Gutwein’s health costing and not a penny was allocated in Scott Morrison’s Federal Budget this week.
I’ve seen many examples of fanciful and creative accounting over the years, but this was a more brazen example of overpromising and under delivering. Actually, not delivering. At all. Has Mr Morrison even been approached to fund the LGH project? If so – what was the response? If there was no funding commitment given by the Prime Minister, should the Premier have raised it in one of his colourful media releases?
It is a real shame that the Prime Minister never came to Tasmania during the election campaign. I may have asked him about the funding myself.
The Liberal announcement for the LGH always sounded like a typical health policy sham, but to have it exposed on day 12 after the forced yet premature state election must truly be a new record. Not something Mr Gutwein’s new government should be proud of.
- Dr Bastian Seidel is Labor’s shadow Health spokesperson