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17 Mar 2017


With the start of the parliamentary year and a change in Minister for Health from Sussan Ley to Greg Hunt, it is clear that health policy will remain front and centre in 2017.

Minister Hunt is very outcomes-focused and he and his staff have been working closely with the AMA to address one of the pressing health issues – the ongoing impact of the Medicare freeze.

While the Medicare freeze remains a focus, there are many other areas of health policy activity that are just as important. The work of the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee, which is reviewing aspects of private health insurance and the private health system more widely, will continue through the year. Its first recommendations are likely to go to Minister Hunt mid-year with proposals for simplified private health insurance coverage into gold, silver and bronze categories, as promised by former Minister Ley during the 2016 Federal election.

The AMA launched its 2017 Public Hospital Report Card in February, again highlighting the need for continued investment in the public hospital system. This will come to the forefront at the time for renegotiation of the National Health Reform Agreement.

Pleasingly, Minister Hunt, who is also Minister for Sport, has expressed his personal support for, and interest in, preventive health and mental health – two policy areas in need of attention.

The Labor Party also continues to develop its health policies to take to the next election. Shadow Minister Catherine King convened a summit in early March with participation from numerous health advocacy bodies, including the AMA, to help shape those policies.

An interesting year ahead.

The Federal AMA Secretariat is working on the final details for this year’s National Conference, which will be held in Melbourne from 26-28 May. As a consequence of the changes to the Constitution in 2014, this year is a non-election year with the President and Vice President continuing in their terms until 2018. This allows for a wider range of policy sessions – this year ranging from organ donation and external threats to a healthy Australia, to obesity and doctor health and wellbeing.

With subsequent further changes to the Constitution in 2016, delegates are now drawn from practice groups as well as the State and Territory branches and Federal Council. The practice groups (general practice, public hospital doctors, private specialists, rural doctors, and doctors in training) each have 12 delegates. Where there are vacancies in delegate numbers, I will be making a call out to members in the relevant practice groups for expressions of interest. Federal AMA is keen to provide an opportunity for members to participate in National Conference for the first time where there are vacancies.

In another first, the National Conference will offer a master class on ‘Dealing with Bad News’ to be held the day before official proceedings. The master class will be facilitated by Stewart Dunn, Professor of Psychological Medicine at Sydney Medical School Northern and Director of Pam McLean Centre. It is aimed at improving doctors’ understanding and interpretation of human behaviour and the value of good communication within the health system.

I encourage members to attend National Conference. Details can be viewed at


Published: 17 Mar 2017