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Health and housing measures announced ahead of budget, and NDIS costs in first ministers’ sights


The May 9 budget includes a $2.2 billion series of measures to ease pressures in primary health care and hospitals, as well as initiatives aimed at the rental market crisis.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the measures after Friday’s national cabinet meeting. The measures were designed to rein in the rising costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which, if left unchecked, could approach $100 billion in a decade.

Among the health initiatives, which the prime minister said were practical and would “make a difference”, doctors will be incentivized to keep practices open longer.

Health workers including pharmacists, nurses and paramedics will be supported to work at their “top level” to reduce the burden on GPs, and the nursing staff will be increased.

A “MyMedicare” (voluntary) patient ID will be introduced to support “comprehensive care” for patients registered with their local primary care physician through new blended payment models. This would cover patients who regularly appear in hospital emergency departments, for example with mental health problems, alcohol and drug problems or other conditions.

The health package includes flexible funding for multidisciplinary team-based models to improve the quality of care, as well as funding for digital healthcare.

The expenditures are higher than expected estimates and are a combination of new money and money with a new priority. Prime ministers agreed to a special national cabinet meeting on health care reform in the second half of the year.

Leaders approved an interim report of a review of regulations for foreign health workers. This recommends measures to boost the health workforce and ensure Australia is competitive in attracting health workers internationally. Albanese said bureaucracy slowed submissions.

The initiatives come as many people are acutely struggling to get a GP appointment within a reasonable time, high bills are difficult to access and hospitals are overburdened, especially in their emergency departments. The recent report from the government’s Strengthening Medicare task force outlined a range of reform measures.

Under a meeting-agreed timeline for addressing NDIS costs, there will be a target for the scheme’s annual cost growth of no more than 8% by 1 July 2026, “with further moderation in growth as the scheme matures “.

“Governments share the goal of achieving long-term sustainability for the scheme and have elevated this goal to the national cabinet,” the post-national cabinet statement said.

“We know that the trajectory of NDIS spending is just not sustainable going forward,” Albanese said.

The scheme minister, Bill Shorten, has already announced areas of reform to reduce costs.

The housing and rent crisis was an important topic for the national cabinet meeting and it was agreed that housing ministers will develop a proposal to strengthen the rights of tenants across the country. This will be brought back to a later national cabinet meeting. Albanese said absolute uniformity was not sought because different states would have different conditions.

Planning ministers must develop a proposal for “reforms to increase housing supply and affordability”.

The government also offers incentives to increase supply by

  • increase the depreciation rate from 2.5% to 4% per annum for eligible new construction projects with construction commencing after May 9

  • lowering the withholding tax rate for qualifying fund payments from managed investment funds to foreign residents on income from newly built homes for rent after July 1 next year from 30% to 15%.

The government will also support an additional $2 billion for more social and affordable housing by raising the liability ceiling of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation from $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion from July 1.

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