Minister for Health won’t back PATS fuel increase despite own recommendation
The Nationals WA are demanding immediate action from the State Government to address the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) fuel subsidy, calling it “the worst in Australia.”
Member for North West Central Merome Beard MLA called on the Minister to increase the current 16 cents per kilometre fuel subsidy to better meet the needs of regional patients and match the standard set by other States and Territories.
“Analysis by The Nationals WA reveals a startling truth – Western Australia lags behind every other State and Territory in PATS fuel subsidies,” Ms Beard said.
“While New South Wales leads with a generous 40 cents per kilometre subsidy, South Australia (32c/km) and Queensland (30c/km) are also outpacing WA, displaying a clear disparity in supporting regional residents’ access to essential healthcare services.”
Ms Beard said the recent State Conference of The Nationals WA backed a motion to enhance PATS, emphasising the need for a scheme that meets the needs of regional residents.
“As we grapple with a cost-of-living crisis, the State Government must utilise every available tool to ensure PATS receives the funding it deserves. Regional residents should not bear the brunt of costs when it comes to healthcare access,” Ms Beard said.
Shadow Minister for Regional Health Hon Martin Aldridge MLC demanded an explanation from the Minister for Health, who has inexplicably turned her back on her own recommendation that the PATS fuel subsidy be regularly reviewed.
“In 2015 the Minister co-authored a report recommending 21 improvements to the PATS scheme, with the top two recommendations relating to improving the fuel subsidy,” Mr Aldridge said.
“Despite being in power for over half-a-decade, the Labor Government has taken no action to improve the fuel subsidy, and the Minister for Health is now distancing herself from her own recommendations.”
As well as recommending an increase to the fuel subsidy to realistically reflect patients’ fuel costs, the PATS review also called for the fuel subsidy to be reviewed annually.
“The fuel subsidy was set at 16 cents per litre back in 2009 and has remained stagnant ever since the Labor Government took office in 2017,” Mr Aldridge said.
“Combined with their refusal to increase the Country Age Pension Fuel Card, which has been stuck at $575 a year since 2017, it’s evident Labor lacks the resolve to address the cost-of-living crisis and skyrocketing petrol prices in regional WA.”
Mr Aldridge highlighted that diesel and petrol prices regularly surpass $2 per litre, particularly in the northern regions of WA.
The Opposition recently launched a petition calling for urgent action on PATS. The petition will run until 2 November 2023. It can be found online at https://bit.ly/44fDirE