Labor will pledge $500 million to upgrade and expand emergency facilities at public hospitals. Picture: Liam Kidston
Labor will pledge $500 million to upgrade and expand emergency facilities at public hospitals. Picture: Liam Kidston

Shorten’s $500 million health promise

Bill Shorten today will promise to slash hospital emergency department waiting times as he uses Labor's official election campaign launch to underline the provision of services over tax cuts for big business.

The Labor leader will pledge $500 million to upgrade and expand emergency facilities at public hospitals should he gain government on May 18..

And he will outline proposals to get more taxes out of multinationals, and to pay for extra health services instead of "bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town".

"Chloe and I know what it's like to sit inside the emergency department, holding your child in the middle of the night," he is set to say, referring to his wife.

"Most parents know what that's like, and every parent fears it. There's nothing more nerve-racking, exhausting or dispiriting.

"It's hard to fully appreciate how important emergency departments are until you're in one."

The proposed spending would be part of a "health dividend" Labor is promising, in contrast to the tax cuts being offered by the Coalition.

The official launch in Brisbane also will hear from Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and Senate leader Penny Wong. In part this will be a demonstration to argue the ALP doesn't have a "women's problem" while the Liberals do.

Labor will pledge $500 million to upgrade and expand emergency facilities at public hospitals. Picture: Liam Kidston
Labor will pledge $500 million to upgrade and expand emergency facilities at public hospitals. Picture: Liam Kidston

And the hand-picked audience will include all remaining former Labor prime ministers except the ailing Bob Hawke - Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

The Unstated Labor challenge is for former Liberals leaders Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull to sit together with John Howard when Scott Morrison delivers his official launch.

The election campaign has been underway for three weeks but parties delay an official entry into the contest because once they do they have to pay for travel and other expenses by MPs.

Bill Shorten has been concentrating on health funding since Prime Minister Morrison called the election, and has been telling voters the Liberals would cut services to pay for proposed tax cuts.

"Fewer than two-thirds of urgent patients were seen on time last year," Mr Shorten will say today.

"That means more than a million patients who presented to a public hospital emergency department in need of urgent treatment were left languishing in queues, waiting longer than clinically recommended.

"Last month the Australian Medical Association declared our hospitals are 'chronically Underfunded' and these emergency department delays are compromising the safety and quality of patient care.

"Labor's emergency department waiting time blitz is part our plan for better hospitals, not bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town."

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