Victorian state election 2022

The Victorian State election will be held on 26 November 2022. The ADAVB is advocating on a range of measures that are important to improve the oral health for all Victorians.

The Victorian public dental system is in a state of decay, with average waiting times increasing to 26.7 months in June 2022, continuing the trend that has been going on since 2015 when the waiting time was only 11.8 months. Since 2018 the number of dentists working in the Victorian public dental sector has decreased by 19%, pointing to the problems with recruitment and retention tied back to employment conditions. Although the pandemic has had an impact, this data points to a longer-term issue that must be addressed.

Key election issues

Victorian dentists, and particularly paediatric and special needs specialists, are having increasing difficulty in accessing general anaesthetic services for their patients. This has been a long standing issue as the funding to hospitals for dental procedures is significantly less than for other procedures. This has been exacerbated recently with some private hospitals and day facilities ceasing or restricting access for dental cases, and private hospitals entering arrangements with the Victorian government to provide care to public patients which have effectively frozen out dental providers.

Victorian public sector dentists are paid on average 22% less than their counterparts interstate, but with larger gaps for new graduate dentists – 28% less than South Australia, 30% less than Queensland and 33% less than Tasmania. A dentist working in the Victorian public dental system would have to work for four years to get the same starting salary as a new graduate in NSW, five years to get the same starting salary as a new graduate in Queensland, South Australia or Western Australia and six years to get the same starting salary as a new graduate in Tasmania.

There is an urgent requirement for the Victorian government to address the remuneration for public sector dentists with an aim to achieve parity with other states.

  • Australia only allocates 0.23 per cent of research funding to oral health research
  • Dental expenditure represents around 4.7 per cent of total health expenditure
  • The allocation of dental research funding is disproportionate to the burden of oral health disease
  • Increasing dental research funding has the potential to improve oral health and well-being

During 2019–20, an estimated $6.7 billion was spent on health and medical research, with the Australian Government contributing $5.3 billion. Yet in 2018 only $3.3 million was invested by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on research into orofacial diseases.

The amount of NHMRC funding (0.23 per cent) allocated to oral health research is disproportionate to the cost and burden of oral diseases. Australia spent $202 billion on health goods and services in 2019–20, with $9.5 billion spent on dental services (4.7 per cent of total health expenditure). The estimated avoidable costs of poor oral health to Australia exceeds $818 million per year, with the majority of dental disease preventable.

In the USA the National Institute of Health provided $485 million to fund oral health research through the National Institute of Dental/Craniofacial Research in 2021 representing 1.1 per cent of total research Funding

A greater investment in dental research has the potential to improve oral health, well-being and quality of life, and significantly reduce health expenditure.

Health expenditure is currently primarily allocated to the treatment of established illness and
disease. The National Preventive Health Strategy 2020-2030 recommends that at least 5% of health budgets should be allocated to measures focused on primary prevention by 2030. It is essential that the funding is focused to primary prevention measures that reduce risk factors for chronic disease.

This should include the expansion of water fluoridation in Victoria to communities of greater than 1000 residents. Currently around 90% of Victorians have access to fluoridated drinking water, but there are many people living in regional and rural areas that are being denied the benefits of water fluoridation. 

What are the major parties promising?

$17 million to expand the Smile Squad free dental van to low fee independent and Catholic schools from 2026. 

Additional $200 million over 4 years to increase the base funding for public dental care.

Vouchers of $500 to remove up to 32,000 people from the waiting list.

Invest an additional $5 billion into the healthcare system including:

  • Making public dental care available to more people.
  • Higher wages for all public health workers, by lifting the public sector wage cap.
Ban advertising of junk food, alcohol and gambling on all state-owned billboards, buses, trams and stations.

What can you do?

You can help to make a difference. Send an email or Tweet your candidates in the lead-up to the Victorian election and tell them that it’s time to prioritise oral health.

Tell them that access to dental care is important to you. Ask them to ensure that dental care is funded adequately so that people do not miss out on necessary dental treatment. Encourage your friends to get involved in the campaign.Use the map below to find your state electorate and you can see how long the waiting times to access public dental care currently are. Click on the electorate, and then click on the ‘Email’ or 'Tweet' link for an auto-generated email. Add any personal information that you think is important about oral health and the election. 

Note: the email will BCC a copy to so we can track the success of the campaign. If you do not want your email to be copied to us, simply delete the BCC email address. Some candidates do not have email addresses or Twitter handles.

Authorised by M Hopcraft, Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch
Level 3, 10 Yarra Street, South Yarra VIC 3141