Australian Health Ministers' Conference - Joint Communique

Australian Health Ministers met for the first time since the federal election at the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference held in Hobart on 7 December 2007.

Page last updated: 07 December 2007

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7 December 2007

Australian Health Ministers met for the first time since the Federal Election today at the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference (AHMC) in Hobart.

Describing it as an historic meeting, Council Chair Queensland Minister Stephen Robertson MP welcomed new Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon MP to her first meeting and congratulated her for prioritising a meeting with State and Territory Health Ministers so soon after the federal election.

This sent a strong, positive message that the Rudd Government, and Ms Roxon in particular, wants to start work with the States and Territories as soon as possible to implement policies and programs that will improve health care in Australia.

All Ministers agreed on the need for urgent reform of the Australian health system to improve services and ease much of the pressure on the system, particularly public hospitals.

The meeting was the first step towards ending the blame game that has characterised the relationship between the Federal Minister and the State and Territory Ministers, and particularly Health Ministers meetings for the past decade.

As a clear sign of the Ministers’ determination to get on with the job of improving health outcomes around the country, elective surgery was highlighted as the first area to be tackled by the Conference.

The Ministers agreed to take practical steps within a tight timeframe to increase capacity in the system and further reduce waiting lists around the country conditional on performance benchmarks related to elective surgery to be set down by the Commonwealth being met.

Later this month, State and Territory Ministers will outline to the Commonwealth priority projects for utilising additional Commonwealth funding for elective surgery in their jurisdictions.

The Commonwealth Minister will also write to all State and Territory Ministers outlining options for improving accountability in public hospitals.

Ministers also agreed that renegotiating the Australian Health Care Agreement (AHCA), which expires on 30 June 2008, was a top priority.

After the previous Federal Minister’s decision not to commence formal discussions, leaving a shortened period for negotiations, the Ministers kick-started the AHCA negotiations at the meeting, with senior officials instructed to continue negotiations in the December-January period.

AHMC will endeavour to agree on a new five-year AHCA starting from 1 July 2008.

Ministers agreed that the meeting would begin a new era of cooperation and collaboration between the Commonwealth and States and Territories in reforming and improving health systems in all jurisdictions.

It was also agreed that AHMC should be better utilised as a formal vehicle for reform in the coming years involving more meaningful debate and discussion about a wide range of issues and challenges facing the system.

To ensure continuing action and momentum, Ministers agreed to meet again on 31 January, 2008 in Melbourne.

Media contact: Joshua Cooney, Minister Robertson’s office 0409 069 056;
Sean Kelly, Minister Roxon’s office 0417 108 362

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