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Education expenses discussion paper leaves little room for discussion

05 Jun 2013

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the ‘Reform to deductions for education expenses’ Discussion Paper, which was posted on the Treasury website late last Friday, outlines an inflexible Government position and provides little opportunity for affected professions to supply detailed submissions in support of tax deductions for genuine professional development.

Dr Hambleton said the Discussion Paper appears to be nothing more than a stalling tactic to try to keep the issue quiet until the election in September.

“The AMA and the medical profession will not stay quiet on a matter that affects the quality of medical education and medical practice in this country,” Dr Hambleton said.

“We cannot sit back and watch poor policy undermine the quality of health care available to the Australian population.

“The Government has said that it does not want to punish doctors who undertake legitimate work related self education throughout their careers, but the Discussion Paper does not identify or define legitimate expenditure for specialised medical education.

“The Paper is all about targeting what the Government considers non-legitimate expenditure.

“There is no attempt to acknowledge the high cost and complexity – or the social benefit – of medical education that allows doctors to keep up with the latest technology, surgical techniques, treatments, or medicines.

“The Paper makes it clear that the $2000 cap will apply to tuition fees, registration fees, textbooks and journals, computers, student union fees, accommodation, running expenses, and travel.

“If membership of a professional association includes an educational component, and many do, this cost will also be included in the cap, which makes the reform even worse than originally thought.  It will take no time at all for doctors and other professional to reach the $2000 cap.

“The only possible outcome is that doctors will choose not to pursue as much self education as they do now, if at all, and the ultimate losers will be patients, the Australian health system, and the Australian education sector.

“This ill-informed proposal will reduce the demand for quality education and the supply of high quality education services.  It will downskill the professions and reduce productivity in the economy.  It is just plain bad economic policy to inhibit the ability of people to improve their skills and knowledge.”

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA has received no concrete feedback from the Government that genuine medical education would not be targeted by the reform and, to date, the Coalition has given no indication that it will oppose the reform in the Parliament.

A recent AMA poll of 585 doctors found that fewer than eight per cent of those surveyed spent less that $2000 on self education a year.


5 June 2013

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Kirsty Waterford                  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753


Published: 05 Jun 2013