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Election affirms the importance of health

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Another Federal election decided but with considerable uncertainty about the final result for a week or more after polling. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed victory following the concession of the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. At the time of writing the Health Minister has not been announced, nor the remainder of the Cabinet.

As the polling showed, health policy remained central to the election campaign and figured especially high in States such as Tasmania, where there are deep concerns about the capacity of the State Government to fill any void in Federal funding. The AMA has called for an open conversation about health care with the next Government, and also with the Opposition, the Greens, and the minor parties.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon has used the election period to call on all political parties to consider good health policy for the future, including areas of health policy that had very little mention during the campaign, such as preventive health.

The AMA developed its election strategies before the start of the campaign through debate at Federal Council and engagement with the State AMAs. The document setting out the AMA’s key issues for the election was launched on 11 May and guided the AMA’s advocacy throughout the campaign period. In the week leading up to election day, the AMA published an analysis of the positions adopted by each of the three main parties against the AMA key issues. It was informative reading.

The cycle of the AMA’s internal elections has been completed this month with the election by Federal Council of Dr Beverley Rowbotham as Chair of Council. Dr Iain Dunlop was elected by the Board as Chair of the Board of Australian Medical Association Limited. The composition of the Board is relatively unchanged, other than the inclusion of Dr Gannon and Dr Tony Bartone as the incoming President and Vice President.

Federal Council will have a few new faces at its meeting in August, a welcome opportunity to bring some fresh ideas to the discussions at Council. New members of Council include the recently-elected Presidents of AMAV, Dr Lorraine Baker; AMAWA, Dr Andrew Miller; and AMA NSW, Associate Professor Brad Frankum. Also joining Council are the representatives of private specialist practice, Associate Professor Julian Rait; doctors in training, Dr John Zorbas; the Victorian area, Dr Jill Tomlinson; rural doctors, Dr Sandra Hirowatari; psychiatrists, Dr Steve Kiseley; and pediatricians, Dr Paul Bauert.

Federal Council remains the centre of AMA’s medico-political discussions and debates. With each new President there is an opportunity to refresh the composition of the Councils and Committees of Federal Council, a task that is now complete.

A new Government will bring fresh opportunities for AMA engagement in what is now acknowledged as a central tenet for the Australian population – health policy that ensures a viable and sustainable system, but also ensures that all Australians have appropriate access to affordable care.

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