Next Saturday we go to the polls to have our say on who should represent us in Canberra for the next three years. Your vote will also determine who forms government.
But what your vote won't do is tell current leaders, MPs and aspiring pollies to stop playing politics with life and death issues.
Earlier in the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to cut the cost of all medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme by $10, reducing the maximum cost of prescription drugs to $32.50. The government said the move would provide relief to 19 million people.
Labor criticised the timing in an election, yet it then announced it would cut the cost by $12.50. Why play politics with people's health? If the price of prescription drugs can be lowered, why can't it be done now? Why does it take an election for such a policy? Aren't politicians elected to represent Australians' best interests?
Examples exist in state politics too. The recent Victorian budget included $36 million to establish an alcohol and drug residential rehabilitation centre in Mildura.
Warrnambool and the south-west has been campaigning for years, like Mildura, for such a centre to be setup. Western Regional Alcohol and other Drug centre, which has provided services in the region for more than 35 years but not residential rehab, has a track record as a leading specialist with consortiums in the field.
The proposed Lookout centre at Dennington has widespread support including the Great South Coast Group of councils, philanthropic trusts, community leaders and Indigenous health groups.
The need has been identified in Infrastructure Victoria's blueprint, which guides the state government. Yet, not for the first time, the government overlooked The Lookout.
Mildura clearly has a need for such a facility. But Mildura's state seat is held by an independent. Is the government going to look more favourably on a seat held by an independent or its opposition, the Liberals?
The state government in the past five or so years has funded and/or opened drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation facilities in Corio, Wangaratta, Ballarat, Traralgon and now Mildura. A facility was jointly funded by the state and federal governments in Bairnsdale. Even after these investments Victoria is second last in terms of beds per 10,000 people in other states.
That only leaves Warrnambool and the south-west. It's a bit like cancer facilities. The south-west was without a cancer care centre and only after a persistent campaign led by now-Warrnambool mayor Vicki Jellie was the battle won. But again, why is the health and mental health of patients a pawn in a political game?
The state's decision to bypass the The Lookout for funding means vulnerable people who want to turn around their lives will remain on long waiting lists for support. If they're lucky enough to get to the top of the lists, they will receive help a long way from their families and broader support networks.
For some, the absence of a centre close to home will deter them from seeking help. That then makes these political decisions matters of life and death.
We can only hope that next week's federal election and November's state election become circuit-breakers and governments/MPs get on with improving outcomes for voters, especially our most vulnerable, irrespective of party politics.
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