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One Voice: Upheaval in the Government

While the Joint Committee had been chugging along, tumultuous political events had been taking place, not over health especially, but with serious ramifications for the health system and the medical profession. After the period 1941 to 1943, during which governments came and fell, John Curtin had succeeded Mr Menzies after a general election campaign in which a national health system provided free at point of delivery by salaried doctors was formally and specifically included in Labor’s election policy. Senator James Fraser, who had become Minister for Health, emphasised the point (inflaming the BMA, its members and doctors generally) by going out of his way to confirm that doctors would staff a salaried medical service in the new system.

This, as the MJA said at the time, was tantamount to the Government’s saying that “whether you like it or not, we intend to put our ideas into practice and we are training our own men to work for us”. The Government wanted consultation on its national health policy. The BMA refused. Sir Henry Newland, President of Federal Council, labelled the consultation that the Government had in mind as an “indulgence in professional euthanasia”.

So, for the first time since Federation, national government and the medical profession were at absolute loggerheads, two competing forces facing each other with different primary objectives and interests arising from different value systems.

Casualties were not going to be light.