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04 Jul 2016

The tight Federal election result was “compelling evidence” that voters want a strong Medicare and health system that supports general practice and public hospitals, AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said.

As the outcome of the election remains in the balance two days after voting day, Dr Gannon said the clear message from the poll was that health policy was a vote changer.

“The exit polls confirmed what the AMA had been hearing from its members in the lead-up to the election: people want confidence that they can see their doctor or get to a hospital when they or their loved ones need health advice or care,” Dr Gannon said.

The Turnbull-led Coalition is facing the very real prospect of minority government, having to negotiate deals with independent and minority party MPs if it is to return to office.

The latest tally from the Australian Electoral Commission gives the Coalition 67 seats, Labor 71 seats, two to the Nick Xenophon Team, one each to the Greens and Katter’s Australian Party and two independents. The Commission reports that six seats remain too close to call.

Health issues figured prominently in the campaign. The AMA campaigned strongly on lifting the Medicare rebate freeze, funding public hospitals, and reversing cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging bulk billing incentives – all issues seized on by Labor and the Greens in their own campaigns.

The Coalition also found itself on the back foot over accusations by Labor – discredited by Dr Gannon – that it had a secret plan to privatise Medicare.

During the campaign, the AMA President rubbished Labor’s attempts to portray the possible outsourcing of the Medicare payments system as amounting to its privatisation, but said the Coalition’s refusal to change key policies allowed the Opposition to spread such misinformation.

He said that, rather than scare campaigns, voters were swayed by the genuine concerns expressed by their family doctors.

“We believe that people who voted because of health policy were influenced by credible information from trusted doctors and other health professionals who campaigned against the Medicare freeze,” Dr Gannon said. “Grassroots doctors across the country shared their concerns with their patients. Local family doctors had genuine fears about the livelihoods of their practices.”

It is expected to be days, or maybe even weeks, before the final result of the election is known, but Dr Gannon said the AMA stood ready to work cooperatively with whoever formed Government.

Either way, he said, health needed to be at the centre of the national policy agenda.

“The election result is compelling evidence that people want a strong Medicare and a health system that promotes quality primary care, supports general practice, and properly funds public hospitals,” Dr Gannon said.

Adrian Rollins

Published: 04 Jul 2016