Federal Council communiqué

This will be my last column as Chair of AMA Federal Council, having decided not to re-nominate for the role after having had the privilege of serving as Chair since 2014.

Federal Council is a unique and wonderful forum that brings together so many different parts of medicine in our efforts to advance the interests of the profession and fight for the needs of our patients. In my experience, Federal Council has proven to be a cohesive group, working to these common goals and striving to achieve decisions by consensus.

Meeting just one week after the election result, the most recent Federal Council focused on what this result meant for the health system and the AMA’s ongoing advocacy efforts. The AMA featured strongly in the media throughout the election period and released a very balanced assessment of the health policies of the major parties in the last week of the campaign.

Fortunately, the AMA is well positioned to deal with the returned Government and the list of issues for discussion is extensive. Primary care reform, private health insurance, prevention, mental health, aged care, hospital funding are all issues that will need to be prosecuted. It was certainly good to see the Health Minister give a commitment at AMA National Conference to working with the AMA in developing a national preventive health strategy as well as a ten-year plan for primary health care reform.

Now that the election is over, one of the first tasks that the Health Minister will have to deal with is the MBS Review, with Federal Council extraordinarily disappointed at comments attributed to the Chair of the MBS Review in the medical media. The AMA supported the concept of the MBS Review on the basis that it would be focused on modernising the Medicare schedule and the reported suggestion that the Review was, in part, inspired by allegations of rorting have tarnished its processes and recommendations.

The breadth of Federal Council papers never fails to impress me. Aside from reports from multiple groups, our papers provide a snapshot of the significant amount of work that the AMA deals with daily. Prevention, Indigenous health, Medicare, public hospitals, medical workforce, general practice, out of pocket costs, task substitution, mental health, portability of leave entitlements and doctors’ health are just some of the issues headlined in updates provided by the Secretariat.

Importantly, Federal Council is also changing. It has recognised the need for it to better reflect the diversity of the profession. While there has been longstanding representation from States/Territories, craft groups and specific areas like doctors in training and public hospital doctors, in more recent times the membership of Federal Council has expanded to cover Indigenous doctors and our rural members.

This evolution is continuing, with this meeting of Federal Council deciding to adopt specific gender targets. We agreed to a target of 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men, 20 per cent flexible for all AMA Councils and Committees, with the aim being for women to hold 50 per cent of Federal AMA representative positions overall by 2021. When I first joined the Federal Council many years ago, I was one of very few female faces around the table and it is great to see the AMA take this step forward.

While I am not re-nominating for the role of Chair, I will remain on Council for the remainder of my term as the representative of the pathology craft group. I look forward to being able to have more freedom to raise issues of concern to my specialty and wish the new Chair, once elected, all the very best for what is an exciting and very important role in the AMA’s policy making process.