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07 Dec 2017


As I launched the latest AMA Indigenous Health Report Card with Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt recently – in a week when the AMA was featuring prominently in the media due to our advocacy on asylum seeker health, euthanasia, and other issues – I had cause to reflect on the breadth and depth of AMA policy and lobbying.

I am now entering the final six months of my two-year term as national President. It is quite remarkable the number and variety of issues that I have been called to comment on – to lead on – as the head of one of Australia’s highest-profile and most respected professional associations and lobby groups.

It is a rewarding and satisfying role that has been filled admirably by my predecessors as President, and no doubt by those who will follow me.

There is no other organisation in the health and medico-political sectors that can cover social and health topics from hospital funding to vaccination to IVF to primary care to same sex marriage to the wellbeing of asylum seekers in our care on Manus Island.

Governments look to us for policy guidance, the media seeks us out for opinion, and the public expects us to provide commentary, common sense, evidence, comfort, and reassurance.

AMA leadership in policy and advocacy carries much risk and responsibility. We must often walk a fine line. It is not in our interests to over-reach on any issue. Much of our work takes place in private, behind the scenes. We do what is necessary to get the best result for the people we represent. Our goal is always about substance - getting results from careful, skilful, and quiet diplomacy and negotiation. It is not about making a noise.

AMA advocacy covers many areas, but there are important boundaries. There needs to be a clear health component for the AMA to speak out. And all public commentary must be based on established AMA policy, which is developed with intellectual rigour and careful consideration of the evidence – reflecting the needs of our members, our profession, and our patients.

Our evidence-based policies and positions do not always satisfy everyone. That is not possible.

In recent times, we have witnessed lively discussions within our membership – and the broader community – about the major political and social issues of marriage equality, asylum seeker health, and euthanasia.

It is refreshing that the internal and external debates around AMA policy have been largely respectful and honest. These issues all have human health at their core, and we have advocated accordingly – with evidence and policy built on extensive consultation.

Not everyone has agreed with us or supported us. But we have put forward our case, and acknowledged the views of others.

This style of AMA advocacy extends to all our work.

We have been strongly engaged in the ongoing Government reviews of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), private health insurance (PHI), and after-hours primary care.

We are in the middle of the negotiations around public hospital funding, mandatory reporting, the Health Care Homes, the MyHealth Record, and medical indemnity.

The AMA remains a proud advocate on Indigenous Health with our Report Card and Taskforce, and key role in Closing the Gap.

We are at the forefront of influencing reforms in mental health, rural health, preventive health, women’s health, child health, global health, medical training and workforce, aged care, and palliative care.

Almost daily, the AMA is asked to comment on matters of the day. These include tobacco and e-cigarettes, methamphetamine abuse, obesity, nutrition, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, concussion in sport, exercise, climate change and health, air quality, tick-borne diseases, cosmetic surgery, medical tourism, the upscheduling of codeine, task substitution, and bullying and harassment in the medical profession. And the list goes on.

The AMA’s policy book is thick, but it is full of facts. It is full of evidence.

Our advocacy is broad, bold, and ongoing. And it matters.

I wake up every day so proud that I am a doctor. I am very proud to be your President. The past 18 months have been exciting, and sometimes daunting. I look forward to continued achievement and success over the next six months. There is still so much to be done to keep our health system delivering for the Australian people.

I promise to continue to work tirelessly on behalf of you and your patients. You might catch me with the phone off temporarily at the Test matches in Perth and Melbourne.

On behalf of the Federal AMA, I wish you all a safe, happy and healthy Christmas and a relaxing summer holiday period. I hope that you get some rest. You deserve it.


Published: 07 Dec 2017