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Energy, health top Premier’s national cabinet agenda

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“Substantial reform” to Commonwealth health policy and addressing the “market failure” in the national energy system are at the top of Premier Peter Malinauskas’ agenda today as he prepares for his first meeting of national cabinet.

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The South Australian Premier, who has been a vocal critic of what he has described as a national energy “embarrassment” this week, met with federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen yesterday ahead of today’s first meeting of national cabinet chaired by new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

It comes after the Australian Energy Market Operator said on Thursday there had been “significant improvements” in generator supply and the threat of power shortfalls on the east coast had been averted, following the agency’s unprecedented move earlier in the week to suspend the national electricity market.

While the energy crisis has dominated national discussions, Albanese is also facing calls from his state and territory counterparts to reinstate the Commonwealth’s 50/50 share of health funding.

Health funding was evenly split between the states and federal government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd but his successor, Tony Abbott, cut the federal share to 40 per cent. Malcolm Turnbull increased the contribution to 45 per cent.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is calling for the federal government to reinstate a greater funding share, while Malinauskas is asking for “serious reform”.

“If we’re going to address that challenge to see a better outcome for the patient and the taxpayer, the Commonwealth has got a very substantial role to play and that’s the conversation that needs to start as a nation,” Malinauskas told ABC Afternoon Briefing on Thursday.

Malinauskas, whose government is receiving a 50/50 split from the Commonwealth to fund the $400 million Flinders Medical Centre upgrade, emphasised that the call for national health reform is “not just about the money”.

“It’s about what considered policy effort can be undertaken to reduce the demand on the hospital system,” he said, arguing that the Commonwealth primary health care sector and state-run hospital system are currently “working against” each other.

Asked whether the federal government should consider raising the Medicare levy, Malinauskas said: “I’m not going to start telling a brand new Labor Government what they should be doing in respect to tax policy.”

“They’ve made it pretty clear that they don’t have an appetite for tax increases,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve got to be considering substantial reform to the system.

“I don’t see much of a conversation happening nationally about this, and I think that’s urgent.”

Albanese has talked down the prospect of a new health funding deal, telling reporters on Thursday there was “nothing new” about the state-level request.

“And there is nothing new in my response,” he said.

Albanese said the meeting would occur in the context of being left with $1 trillion in debt by the Morrison government.

“We are not in a position to do everything we would like to do immediately.”

However, the prime minister said Labor was committed to urgent care clinics and more support for primary health care.

Meanwhile, Malinauskas has also called for “far more transparency” in the national gas market and says the federal government should “aggressively” explore options to strengthen the domestic gas reservation mechanism.

“I support the view that generators are gaming the system,” he said.

“From the advice and the evidence that we’ve been party to, that is occurring, and that is contributing to the market failure.

“All interventions and all pieces of analysis need to be conducted to review how this got to this point, but clearly this policy malaise on energy for the better part of a decade in this country has got us into this position, and there ain’t going to be a quick fix to get us out.”

– With AAP

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