Australia PM vows no cuts to universal healthcare if re-elected

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Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison gestures as he makes a statement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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SYDNEY, April 18 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied on Monday that his government would make cuts to Australia's universal healthcare scheme if he is re-elected next month, after the opposition Labor Party raised doubts over its future.

Ahead of the May 21 poll, Labor sees its protection of Australia’s cherished universal healthcare scheme as a key differentiator between it and the governing Liberal National coalition, which bills itself as superior on economic management and border protection.

Labor seized on Medicare as a key issue after Morrison said on Sunday that he would appoint Anne Ruston as health minister if he is returned to office. Ruston several years ago described Medicare as unsustainable.

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“This is a health minister, now designate if they're successful in the election, who we know will undermine Medicare, who has said that the current model is not sustainable,” Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese told reporters in Brisbane.

Campaigning in Perth to announce investment in two new navy patrol boats, Morrison insisted that there would be no cuts to Medicare if his government were re-elected.

“She (Anne Ruston) said yesterday there would not be any cuts and I would repeat that today,” he told reporters.

Morrison turned attention to asylum seeker policy, saying the new patrol boats would play an "ongoing and important role" in Australia 's border protection capabilities, while also criticising Labor for its past approach on the issue.

"When Labor abolished temporary protection visas in 2008, the armada of people smugglers' boats came to Australia and that was the launching point, and I note that people smugglers are very aware of my resolve," Morrison said.

The comments come after Albanese, earlier in the campaign, was forced to clarify Labor's stance on border protection after mistakenly saying that it aligned with that of government.

Meanwhile, a new election poll released on Monday showed a turnaround in support for Morrison, with the Liberal leader now ahead of Albanese as preferred prime minister.

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Reporting by Samuel McKeith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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