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ALP rejects PC on public dental, housing

AAP logoAAP 22/09/2016 Rashida Yosufzai

Federal Labor has been angered by a new report floating options for the privatisation of social housing and public dental services, warning it could lead to higher prices and fewer services.

A new Productivity Commission report canvasses greater competition in a range of human services including health and community services.

The commission suggests there's room for improvement in the management of social housing services, highlighting concerns such as long waiting lists, poorly maintained properties and a lack of information to judge providers' performance.

A majority of properties were run by government entities but there was a large number of providers, including some profit-making, which could do the job, it said.

Giving people greater choice could also give them more options for a roof over their heads.

On hospitals, the commission said it would welcome evidence on whether governments could use routine renegotiations with providers to consider alternatives to public healthcare.

That's because most public hospitals didn't have a formal selection process and providers rarely changed, it said.

The commission added while allowing private operators to run public hospitals was rare - because of a series of failed attempts in previous years - this wouldn't be much of a problem today because of better checks and balances.

And greater user choice over public hospitals could help disadvantaged people.

States and territories could consider replacing senior management in government operated hospitals who don't perform well.

"This would not require switching to a non-government provider," it said.

On public dental services, the commission said they could be made more contestable if bids were allowed from private operators.

"More competition and choice could involve using delivery mechanisms that allow users to choose between competing private dental practices."

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who said the opposition would fully study the report, said Australians had seen such moves before.

"Here we go again," he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

"Why is it that the government uses code words in this report that the public get less service and pay more money."

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