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When senator Bridget McKenzie moved to the backbench in the aftermath of the sports rorts controversy, the federal government was no doubt hoping that the furore provoked by self-interested funding decisions had run its course. But reports suggest that funds from another grants program, the Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream — funds intended to support women’s participation in sport across Australia — have been used to build swimming pools in a handful of Coalition-held seats.

The fact that the government was able to use these two programs so easily for political ends raises questions about the extent to which electoral factors are influencing other areas of health funding.

Health spending ranges from targeted, small-scale grants schemes to multi-billion dollar national programs. Over the past two weeks alone, health minister Greg Hunt has made six significant funding announcements, including $22.3 million for “new treatments and breakthrough cures,” $5.5 million for ten new medical research projects, $32 million for partnerships between industry and researchers, an unspecified amount for additions to the list of subsidised pharmaceuticals, and the provision of free glucose monitoring devices for 21,000 people with diabetes (as part of a broader $300 million program). Two weeks earlier the prime minister had announced $76 million in new funding to support the mental health needs of people affected by the bushfires, including grants targeting affected communities.

Read the full article on Inside Story.

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