Victorian Premier Dan Andrews was left stumped when asked about the $810 million Labor budget shortfall in health funding for the state compared to the previous Morrison budget in March last year.
Andrews has long been an outspoken critic of the federal government for a lack of funding to his state, attacking the previous Liberal government last year in a post-budget interview.
"As is the Liberal way, they are cutting that health funding and making the job of repairing our health system and caring for Victorians, and indeed Australians, all the more difficult," Andrews said after the 2022 Liberal budget was handed down.
But during a press conference today, 3AW state politics reporter Stephanie Waclawik questioned Andrews about the federal Labor cut, and whether it meant Victoria was no longer a priority.
The premier seemed unsure, stating that there might be some reasoning related to COVID, but he would need to look into it further. Andrews went on to mention that "no budget is perfect" and highlighted the significant boost to Medicare.
In a separate interview, 3AW host Neil Mitchell spoke to Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers about the health funding cut with Chalmers disputing the shortfall for as a reallocation of budget funds.
He justified the move by pointing out that some elements of the health budget are demand-driven and that the government was investing significantly in Medicare, especially in tripling the bulk billing incentive.
When pressed further on the $810 million cut, Chalmers mentioned that budget changes are sometimes due to reprioritisation and the evolving situation with COVID.
He argued that the federal budget reflects a "huge investment in Medicare" and health more broadly.
Regarding Victoria's infrastructure spending, Chalmers stated that the state would receive $3 billion in 2023-24, increasing to $3.6 billion by 2026-27.
However, Mitchell noted that this was still a reduction compared to the previous government's plans. Chalmers argued that the $120 billion pipeline over ten years for infrastructure was safe and that the government was working with state governments to ensure maximum value for money.
Despite these reassurances from the federal treasurer, the question remains as to why the Andrews government was seemingly unaware of the funding cut and its implications for Victoria.
The funding shortfall has raised concerns about the impact on Victoria's health system, which is already struggling with hospital waiting lists and full emergency departments.
As the situation develops, Victorians will be looking to their leaders for answers and assurances that their needs are being prioritised.