"Cutting the Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP) was clearly a short-sighted, penny-pinching measure -which will ultimately cost us because of poorer public health outcomes in the longer term," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.
Evidence to Senate Estimates late yesterday indicated that cutting PHERP was purely a cost-saving measure that did not reflect the performance of the program or any review of research and education needs.
"There was no consultation or review of the program that led to the cut. In fact we understand that the as yet unreleased 2008 NHMRC Review of Public Health Funding in Australia praised the impact of the program and called for its extension."
"This report was submitted in October last year but still has yet to be released."
"Claims by the Department of Health and Ageing that other programs and areas would pick up the graduate support role played by PHERP are totally unconvincing," she said.
"Public health is area in which we can create long-term savings through investing in educating health practitioners and researchers."
"I am also concerned that the initial answers I was given in Estimates sought to imply that program funding would continue until 2011, whereas the Budget papers clearly stated that funding would not continue beyond the 2009-10 financial year," said Senator Siewert.
"Subsequent questioning to the Departmental officers clarified that their previous response was not entirely correct."
"PHERP has played an important role in ensuring Australia's health students are properly trained to tackle critical threats to public health and safety."
"The Rudd Government's rhetoric has been all about preventative measures, and yet here we see an important part of our preventative health system being cut, against all the best advice available."
"The Greens are calling on Health Minister Nicola Roxon to reverse this short-sighted decision and release the 2008 NHMRC Review," she concluded.
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