Key Health Issues for the 2019 Federal Election

11 Apr 2019

Health policy will be a vital factor in the outcome of the 2019 Federal Election. It influences votes at every election. It must.

The AMA represents all Australian doctors, not just our members, and we advocate for the best health system and the best health outcomes for all Australians.

Doctors witness the best and worst of government health policy every minute of every day across the country.

We witness it in public hospitals, private hospitals, in general practice, in private non-GP specialist practice, in aged care facilities, mental health, in people’s homes, in emergency situations, in medical research, in academia. In all settings.
We witness it in the CBDs of our major cities, in the inner and outer suburbs, in the large regional centres, in towns and villages, in rural and regional outposts, in the outback, and in remote Indigenous communities. In all locations.

We witness it at all stages of life – from pregnancy to childbirth to infancy to teens to adult years and to aged care.

Doctors are uniquely placed to comment on health policy. We have the daily lived experience to know what works and what doesn’t work. Our patients tell us what is good and bad about their patient journey. 

Doctors are very good health policy advisers. The AMA collects this knowledge from the grassroots of health service delivery, and we pass this knowledge on to all governments.

Some listen. Some don’t. Some win elections. Some don’t. And health policy is usually at the core of the outcome – either way.

Our Key Health Issues for the 2019 Federal Election document sets out what the AMA and the medical profession believe needs to be done to keep the Australian health system up there as one of the best in the world.

And it is one of the best in the world, if not the best. But it will take hard work, good policy, and significant well-targeted funding to keep it working efficiently to meet growing community demand.

The health system has many parts, and they are all linked. Governments cannot concentrate on a few, and neglect the others. Otherwise, patients will be the ultimate losers.

The priorities remain the pillars of the health system –primary care led by general practice, public hospitals, and the private health system, which includes private hospitals and private health insurance – with the strong underpinning of Medicare.

But other sectors are gaining in prominence and need, most notably aged care and mental health. The AMA will highlight these areas ahead of the election.

We have seen some early policy announcements in the Budget and the Budget Reply. The Government announced a very welcome and much-needed significant investment in primary care, with the focus rightly on general practice. The Opposition responded with a considerable Medicare Cancer Plan, which will ease the financial pressure on cancer patients and their families.

These are both worthy contributions to the health policy contest we need to see in this election campaign, but there is so much more to do across the health system.

Indigenous health still requires significant new funding. It also needs better coordination between levels of government to ensure programs and services and health professionals are targeted to achieve the best results. This will require partnership and input from community-controlled health organisations and other local experts.

Mental health is another priority. Demand for services is growing, and better coordination is needed right across the system. GPs must have a key role.

The AMA remains committed to providing quality health services for asylum seekers and refugees, and will continue to advocate strongly on their behalf.

We also strongly believe that climate change affects human health. We want to see Government policies that recognise the science and act to reduce the impact of climate change on populations around the world.

The AMA wants the next Government to renew its commitment to prevention. As a nation, we need to do more to educate people to adjust their lifestyles to improve their health. We need to address the obesity crisis, we need to get people more active, and we need to get people to be more responsible about killer habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug abuse. This will require nationally-coordinated education and information programs, and cooperation and coordination across all levels of government.

Primary health care, especially general practice, must be at the top of the list of the health policy agendas of the major parties at this election.

General practice touches all parts of the health system. It is the glue that holds everything together. It is the lifeblood that keeps people moving and healthy through the system.

GPs help people navigate their way to the right care for them at the right time. GPs are with their patients throughout life. They need to be supported in this vital role.

General practice is the most cost-effective sector of the health system. General practice keeps patients away from more expensive hospital care. General practice stays with patients as they enter aged care. GPs are trusted. General practice delivers.

The Government has recognised this with its Budget announcements on primary care. The Opposition must at least match this commitment.

The AMA will urge the major parties to adopt the policies and recommendations of this document. For our patients. For our communities.

And we will judge them accordingly.

Health is the best investment that any government can make.


Dr Tony Bartone

AMA Federal President

April 2019