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10 Sep 2013

We have a new Coalition Government after a convincing election win on Saturday, but what will this mean for health?

There were a number of consistent themes from various Coalition spokespeople throughout the campaign that may give us a clue – ‘no cuts to health’, ‘less bureaucracy’, and ‘focus on frontline services’.

These themes are borne out in the health policies that the Coalition took to the election. 

There will be a review of Medicare Locals, and the AMA will seek to be actively involved in that review to ensure that GPs have a leadership role in these organisations.

A number of the many new agencies in the health portfolio will be scrapped or merged. 

There will be more GP infrastructure grants to help expand existing general practices. 

We anticipate an end to – or at least a rationalisation of – the expensive and inefficient GP Super Clinics program.

And there are strong signs that the Coalition will adopt a more practical approach to the introduction of the electronic health record.

We were engaged with the Coalition in Opposition.  There was close and regular consultation and our ideas and views were taken on board, as evidenced by the election health policies.  We expect this close relationship to continue in Government.

Both incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott and probable Health Minister Peter Dutton have long expressed strong support for general practice as the cornerstone of primary health care, and we can expect this support to transform into long-term policy over time.

We anticipate leadership at COAG to solve the medical training pipeline problem.

They are also both committed to medical training and medical research.

The AMA backs the Coalition’s less bureaucracy, more frontline services approach.  And that is what patients want, too.

While the Coalition’s health policies are, by their own admission, modest as far as new funding goes, they are practical and affordable, consistent with the AMA’s policy prescription in our Key Health Issues election document.

Tough economic conditions still prevail nationally and internationally, so health investment must be clever and targeted to maximise the impact of every health dollar.

The priority is to protect and support the fundamentals of the health system – the things that work – and ensure that every program and service has a direct patient benefit.

We are fortunate that the new Prime Minister has a strong health pedigree.

Tony Abbott was Health Minister in the Howard Government and has an impressive track record.

He personally oversaw the implementation of measures that fixed the medical indemnity crisis.

He increased the general practice Medicare rebates to 100 per cent of the scheduled fee in response to declining bulk-billing rates, and he routinely called the Howard Government ‘the best friend that Medicare ever had’.

He presided over the introduction of graphic health warnings on cigarette packets, against the wishes of Big Tobacco.

And he also put in place measures to dramatically increase medical student numbers.

He listened to the AMA and the medical profession then, and we are confident he will do the same now and in the future.

Throughout the election campaign, Tony Abbott said that he would “under-promise and over-deliver”.

If that becomes the Coalition slogan for health reform, we will have an exciting few years ahead.


Published: 10 Sep 2013