A Labor government would set up a centre for disease control to strengthen Australia's preparedness for future pandemics, party leader Anthony Albanese says.
Albanese said lives and the economy depended on Australia getting its response to future pandemics right.
"Ask any Australian and they'll tell you our response to the coronavirus pandemic was too slow, too reactive and too uncoordinated," he said.
"We can't be left playing catch-up again. We can't afford another Ruby Princess, or another tragic disaster in aged care."
The centre for disease control (CDC) would house surveillance experts and systems to monitor current and emerging threats and work with state and territory governments and service providers to improve preparedness in the health and aged care sectors.
It would also manage the National Medical Stockpile and run regular preparedness drills.
Establishing a CDC has support from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian Medical Association and Public Health Association of Australia.
The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association also backed the move and said it hoped the government will make funds available for a CDC in tonight’s Budget.
Chief executive Alison Verhoeven said: “The call for this has been long-standing, with a 2013 recommendation to the Government by the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing overlooked in favour of the development of a National Communicable Disease Framework.
“Inconsistent messaging and conflicting expert advice across jurisdictions was partly addressed ‘on the run’ by the establishment of the National Cabinet, with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee reporting directly to it.
“However, this has resulted in a reduction in public transparency about disease control decision-making processes.
“A Centre for Disease Control requires a level of independence from political decision-making, with accountability and transparency identified in the enabling legislation.”
Labor argued Australia was the only Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country without such a centre.
As in other countries, Australia’s CDC would play a role in preventing health threats posed by chronic and infectious diseases.
Labor's health spokesperson Chris Bowen said 90 per cent of Australian deaths were associated with chronic illness, with 38 per cent of the disease burden preventable.
“Health experts have been calling for an Australian CDC for more than three decades.
"It’s time to get on with it.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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