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11 Apr 2019

BY DR BEVERLEY ROWBOTHAM AO, CHAIR, AMA FEDERAL COUNCIL

There is nothing like an impending federal election to capture the attention of your AMA Federal Council, which met recently in Canberra.

Elections are always an opportune time in the political cycle to mount a final push for commitments on key health policies, building on the groundwork that is laid over the several months preceding through many meetings with politicians, bureaucrats, and our constant efforts in raising the media profile of issues that matter to members and our patients.

It is no coincidence that, in the days leading up to Federal Council, the AMA President met with the Prime Minister to prosecute the case for improved health funding. This followed a number of productive meetings with the Leader of the Opposition.

Your AMA had already signalled its policy intent when it released its 2019/20 Federal Budget submission in January this year and, at the time of writing, was ready to hit the campaign trail running as soon the election was called. Federal Council settled on a very strong election policy platform that covers a broad range of areas including public hospitals, general practice, rural health, mental health, private health insurance, Medicare, aged care, public health and medical workforce.

Our election policy platform has had strong grassroots input, having been developed over time through the AMA’s various Councils and Committees before being presented to Federal Council for finalisation. It is a document that will provide all major parties with a real vision for our health care system.

Although much of our March meeting was devoted to discussing the 2019 election policy and strategy, there was a great deal of other work to review from our Councils and Committees with the approval of seven Position Statements and five policy resolutions.

From supporting pill testing trials and calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised, to encouraging generalism and better workforce planning – the broad range of policy outcomes reflected the many different areas of work the AMA undertakes every day as well as the tremendous diversity of our membership. While some members tell me we tackle too many issues, it is this breadth of work the builds our credibility with the community and our level of influence on the Hill.

I am also pleased to say that Federal Council has decided to tackle the issue of gender equity within the AMA. While some of our Councils and Committees have strong female representation, we still have a significant way to go. In supporting the introduction of gender targets for AMA Councils and Committees, Federal Council sent a strong signal that the AMA is very serious about this important issue.

The AMA’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee now has the task of finalising recommendations to Federal Council about what the target(s) should be and how we can achieve them. No doubt these recommendations will take into account the outcomes of the AMA Gender Equity Summit that was held on March 23.

By the time you read this article, the Federal Budget will have been delivered and an election will have been called. Your Federal Council has developed the policies to help keep health front and centre in the election contest and make a long-term difference to the health of the community.


Published: 11 Apr 2019