NSW Labor government would axe cancer drug fees: Foley


Originally published: The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2015.

By Kirsty Needham

A NSW Labor government would ease the financial burden on cancer patients by dropping chemotherapy fees introduced by the Liberals, Opposition leader Luke Foley will pledge on Sunday.

Launching NSW Labor's election campaign in Campbelltown on Sunday, Mr Foley will focus on the core policy planks of health and education, while continuing the attack on electricity privatisation.

"A cancer diagnosis is hard enough without having to think about the cost of treatment. But in NSW, patients are paying a fee for essential chemotherapy drugs at a time when they can least afford it," said Mr Foley.

Half of public cancer outpatients in NSW have household incomes below $30,000. 

Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord said the chemotherapy co-payment was introduced by the O'Farrell government in 2012, costing some patients $180 for initial treatment, and even more if different drugs are used as treatment changes. The Victorian government has already dropped the co-payment.

The Labor policy, costing $6.2 million, will ensure cancer patients in public hospitals, and private patients in rural areas, aren't charged a co-payment for chemotherapy drugs.

"Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for potentially life-saving medicine and the other necessities of life," Mr Foley said.

Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten will speak ahead of Mr Foley at the campaign launch, linking Tony Abbott to the NSW campaign. 

Highlighting $30 billion in state and federal government cuts to health and education, Mr Shorten will argue Mr Baird and Mr Abbott are friends and have the same agenda and NSW needs "someone who will stand up to Abbott".

Anticipating the attack, the NSW Liberals on Saturday were tweeting images of Mr Baird with the line: "My job is first and foremost to stand up for NSW".

The Labor launch, under the slogan "A new approach for NSW", is designed to instill hope in the party faithful that Labor is in with a shot, despite the Baird government's 43 to 36 primary vote lead in the latest Newspoll.

Queensland Labor's stunning victory in January showed NSW Labor isnot out of the contest, despite holding only 23 of 93 lower house seats, insiders say. It is more likely Labor will pick up between 10 and 20 seats.

Labor's "new approach" was one of common sense, fairness and needs based funding for new schools, Mr Foley is expected to say.

He will argue that Labor would not  blackmail the community into privatising the electricity network, and would  deliver schools and hospitals without the sale.

Campbelltown is held by the Liberals on a 6.8 per cent margin. The seat, previously Labor for three decades, will be targeted heavily by Labor, as the party seeks to regain its western Sydney heartland. 

A community preselection was held to choose Labor candidate Greg Warren.

Originally published as: NSW Labor government would axe cancer drug fees: Foley