The AMA has congratulated the Liberal-Nationals Coalition on its election victory and remains committed to working with the Government to strengthen Australia’s health system.
The Coalition defied the odds and unexpectedly won a third term in office at the federal election on May 18.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself described the win as a miracle.
“I have always believed in miracles… and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said during his victory speech on election night.
“How good is Australia and how good are Australians?”
Mr Morrison and the Coalition beat Bill Shorten’s Labor Party in the face of opinion polls strongly suggesting the Government would fall.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has congratulated Mr Morrison and his re-elected Government, saying the AMA stands ready to continue working cooperatively to bolster the health system to meet the needs of the nation’s growing and ageing population.
“There is a lot of unfinished business in the Coalition’s health reform agenda to be completed. We cannot stand still,” Dr Bartone said.
“The policy priorities highlighted in the AMA’s Key Health Issues document for the election remain our policy priorities.
“We look forward to working closely with the Government on its health agenda for the next three years.”
Dr Bartone also urged the Prime Minister to retain Greg Hunt as Health Minister and Ken Wyatt as Indigenous Health Minister.
“They are fully across their complex portfolios and the AMA has strong links with their offices and departments.
“There is plenty to do. There are clear consultative processes in place to ensure we can get straight back to the business of investing in the health of all Australians,” Dr Bartone said.
Dr Bartone also acknowledged the health platform put forward by Mr Shorten and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King at the election.
He described it as “significantly bold” and offered commiserations to them on the election outcome.
“Bill Shorten was consultative and constructive in our dealings with the Opposition, and the AMA wishes him well following his decision to stand down as Labor leader.”
In his concession speech on election night, Mr Shorten said he would resign as Labor leader, while urging the party and its followers to “carry on the fight”.
“Labor’s next victory will belong to our next leader and I’m confident that victory will come at the next election,” he said.
“This has been a tough campaign, toxic at times, but now that the contest is over all of us have a responsibility to respect the result – respect the wishes of the Australian people and to bring our nation together.”
The AMA was ever-present during the election campaign, keeping all parties aware of the importance of health policy to the outcome.
During the campaign, the AMA released its Public Hospitals Report Card, its Rural Health Issues Survey and its overview of election campaign health policy announcements, which rated policy announcements against the AMA’s Key Health Issues document.
“There were some very welcome policy announcements from the Coalition, Labor, and the Greens, but there were also some glaring omissions or significant underfunding in some key areas, most notably aged care, mental health, rural health, and prevention,” Dr Bartone said in releasing the AMA’s overview.
On specific issues throughout the campaign, the AMA’s voice was heard consistently on health policy. Dr Bartone made numerous, well-targeted comments during the election.
On private health insurance: “The major parties must commit to ensuring the long-term value of private health insurance and the sustainability of the private health sector in Australia should they be elected to form the next Government.
“Just as we need to ensure our public hospitals are funded and supported appropriately, so too must our governments ensure that the private health sector remains strong to help meet growing community needs for high-quality affordable health care where and when it is needed.”
On rural health: “People in rural, regional, and remote Australia face many obstacles when they require access to the full range of quality medical and health services. There are shortages of doctors and other health professionals.
“It is harder to access specialist services such as maternity and mental health.
“And country people often have to travel to capital cities and large regional centres for vital services such as major surgery or cancer care. We need to see tailored and targeted policies to address these inequities. Rural Australians deserve nothing less.”
On mental health: “The AMA acknowledges that the Coalition and Labor have made funding commitments and investments, but the reality is that there is still no leadership in funding evidence-based policies across Australia that help people access the services and supports they need.”
On Indigenous health: Indigenous Health policy announcements by Labor are a good start to a much-needed, strongly-funded, long-term strategy to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to enjoy the same level of good health that is experienced by other Australians. A key part of achieving this goal is to provide culturally responsive services for Indigenous people, where and when they need them.”
On hospital funding: “The AMA is calling on all the major parties to make a meaningful election promise to commit to significant new long-term funding for Australia’s public hospitals.
“The ability of the hospitals to cope with ever-increasing patient demand continues to decline, and it is a trend that will only accelerate unless something is done.”
On cancer care: “It is a sad reality that every Australian is touched by the scourge of cancer, directly or indirectly, through their own experience or that of a family member, neighbour, colleague, workmate, or loved one.
“Easing the financial burden of many cancer patients and families will help them focus on the primary challenge of treatment and recovery.”
The AMA also came out strongly against election candidates who were spreading anti-vaccination messages.
Dr Bartone said Australians should not vote for anti-vax candidates.
“The science is in and the evidence is clear – vaccination saves lives and improves public health around the world,” Dr Bartone said.
“Spreading false and dangerous misinformation can and does cost lives. Voters should steer clear of candidates who are peddling dangerous lies about the health benefits of vaccination and other measures that protect the health of families and communities.”
The AMA also produced a GP campaign kit to highlight the importance of GP-led primary health care as a priority health issue for the current election.
It supplied the kit to its GP members, with resources to help them lobby their local election candidates at the grassroots level.
The AMA put primary health care at the top of its election policy wish list, and it called on the major parties to roll out further significant funding promises for general practice and Australia’s hardworking GPs.