Ms. Julia Gillard might have ousted Mr. Kevin Rudd in a bloodless coup to become Australia's 27th Prime Minister and the first woman to hold the job. But there are several challenges facing her, particularly on the environmental and health fronts.
She has to grapple with the emission trading scheme in order to bring down carbon dioxide emissions - Mr. Rudd's failure to pilot the scheme through the parliament proved his undoing in a way.
AdvertisementMs. Jillard might to have to do some tightrope walking in order not to antagonize the industry lobby. Still she will have to deal with the issue sometime soon. Elections are only a few months away.
The Commonwealth Fund survey ranked Australia joint last with the US in how easily citizens can get timely healthcare.
The country performs poorly for safety and equity. It ranked third out of seven overall, and came top in just one measure -- the ability of its citizens to lead long, healthy and productive lives.
Also the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has said that the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to jump by 10 per cent this year.
The Institute's report found that Australians are living longer and the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease are down, but it says the mental health of young people continues to be a concern.
The death rate attributed to cancer is improving, but the report has forecast a rise in new diagnoses this year.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare director Dr Penny Allbon says health costs are growing.
"The Medicare data shows that benefits for people going to GPs increased in 2008-09 well above the population increase - almost a 6 per cent increase," she said.
"Hospital admissions rose by 37 per cent in the decade to 2007-08 and they're still increasing."
The report finds the life expectancy of Australians at birth is among the highest in the world - almost 84 years for women and 79 years for men.
"The death rate [for cardiovascular disease] has dropped by 76 per cent since it peaked in the late 1960s and interestingly less than a quarter of the deaths are among people aged under 75 years," Dr Albion said.
"So that means it's gradually becoming an older person's disease."
The report also finds Australia's level of smoking continues to fall.
It is among the lowest in the OECD, with only one in six adults smoking daily. That has produced a commensurate drop in diseases associated with the habit.
The Labour Government seems to believe its $650 million investment in regional cancer centres this year should help address the cancer problem, but the Cancer Council says even more needs to be done.
The government also points out that more is being done in the area of youth mental health.
"Expanding the number of Headspace services, for example, across the country so that 20,000 more young people can get support.
"There's always going to be a lot more for us to do and the report released today actually provides us with a lot of information to be able to map out those future decisions," Health Minister Nicola Roxon in the Rudd government said.
The Government's most senior independent mental health adviser, John Mendoza, quit his post at the weekend, citing frustration over what he says is the Government's lack of vision and commitment to the mentally ill.
Australian of the Year and Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Patrick McGorry, says the expansion of services Ms Roxon points to is only about a tenth of what is required.
"If the investment were of the order of $100 million for Headspace per annum and $100 million to begin to assemble a backup system for Headspace, so that's a total of about $200 million to $250 million a year we think all up," Professor McGorry said.
"Now that's not a huge amount of money, but it does contrast with the roughly about $26 million per year that is currently being allocated in the last budget."
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