Australia's budget plans greater spending on women's health

Business | 9 May 2021 1:51 pm

Australia plans to increase spending on mental health support for new mothers and on screening for breast and cervical cancer as part of a A$354 million (US$278 million) women's health package to be unveiled in the upcoming budget, Reuters reports.

The conservative government would also spend more on pre-pregnancy genetic screening and treatment of eating disorders and endometriosis, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday, ahead of the annual Budget on May 11.

The planned expenditure comes with a Federal election due within a year and polls showing Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval ratings have fallen amid anger over allegations of sexual abuse, discrimination against women and misconduct in parliament.

"This gives real help for Australia to save lives and protect lives and also to be a world leader," Hunt told reporters in Melbourne, referring to the main spending item in the women's health package, A$100 million for improvements to cervical and breast cancer screening programs.

Australia expects to eradicate breast and cervical cancer by 2035 due to screening and vaccination, but a total of about 3,500 women died every year from both illnesses, Hunt added.

The government would spend A$47.4 million on mental health helplines, screening and data collection, saying that perinatal anxiety and depression was "natural, it is biological, it comes with all of the great joys of being a new or expectant mum."

Australia is expected to report a record budget deficit for the current financial year but the deficit is expected to be billions of dollars lower than first feared thanks to a rapid rebound from the virus-induced recession.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp that the Budget would factor in a return to international travel in 2022, rather than the assumption in the previous year's budget of borders opening in 2021.

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