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Federal Budget a dramatic prelude to AMA National Conference


May is the time of year in the life cycle of the AMA when many different activities come to a peak.

May brings the National Conference and the Annual General Meeting. With National Conference comes the election of the President and Vice President, both of which are contested this year with the end of Dr Steve Hambleton’s three years in office.

Much will be said elsewhere of the enormous contribution made by Dr Hambleton but, as someone reasonably new to the role of Secretary General, I express my great admiration for the load that he carried during a period when the AMA was without a Secretary General, albeit with the support and input of the secretariat. For all that he has done, both in contributing to the running of the organisation and in his wide-ranging engagement on health policy issues, I add my acknowledgement, thanks and best wishes.

The 2014 National Conference, to be held in Canberra, begins next Friday, 23 May.

This week, Canberra is again centre stage as the Treasurer hands down a challenging Federal Budget. Health Minister Peter Dutton has said on many occasions that he wants to start “a new conversation about health”. The shape of that conversation will become clearer tonight, Budget night.

Both Mr Dutton and the Shadow Health Minister Catherine King will address the National Conference, and this will provide an opportunity for delegates to hear more about the Government’s objectives.

The National Conference includes several policy sessions that will inform debate within the medical profession on topics as diverse as the global challenge of non-communicable disease; variation in medical practice; the challenge of caring for those who serve in overseas conflicts; and disaster relief. There will also be a session which deconstructs the Federal Budget as it relates to health.

In addition to the policy sessions, National Conference recognises and awards outstanding contributions in several ways. There is a ceremony to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by members added to the AMA Roll of Fellows. The AMA’s flagship research publication, the Medical Journal of Australia will provide an award recognising excellence in medical research. The recipient of the AMA Indigenous People’s Medical Scholarship will also be announced.

The Annual General Meeting will take place on Friday 23 May, at which voting members of the AMA (not just delegates to National Conference) will have an opportunity to vote on the new Constitution for the AMA. This will bring to conclusion a long campaign to modernise the governance of the AMA and lay the groundwork for a more efficient structure for the future, something I have written about previously in Australian Medicine. Those members who have not yet sent through a proxy form are encouraged to do so. It can be found in the member only section of the AMA website.

For those delegates coming to Canberra for National Conference, I look forward to welcoming you to what will be a great event. May in Canberra is both colourful and cold, so come prepared!