Policy presentations made by the major political parties at our August Annual Professional Conference marked just the beginning of a debate that needs to happen ahead of the March state election.
If you haven’t already seen it, our ANMF (SA Branch) position statement here sets out a number of election issues affecting the health system and health outcomes in our communities. It seeks assurances and commitments from the major parties on policy responses in areas as diverse as hospital and Emergency Department services, primary healthcare, professional practice matters and industrial relations. It extends to areas such as housing and the environment – which we know are some of the social determinants of health.
However, developing a position statement and ensuring that politicians respond to and act on it are quite different things!
At our Annual Delegates Conference, held the day after the Professional Conference, representatives of workplaces in all sectors and regions considered if and how ANMF (SA Branch) should campaign on these issues ahead of the 17 March election.
Almost inevitably, whenever we have taken strong positions on particular policy issues we have been accused of favouritism or bias. The alternative, however, is that we take no strong positions at all, which we resolutely believe would be to the detriment of members and the communities we serve.
Our delegates determined that we must mount a strong campaign to inform members and the community about the relative position of the parties in their responses to our position paper and in other announcements and commitments they make that are relevant to our interests. This will include analysing and comparing the positions of each party (rather than simply reproducing them) and documenting these on a party ‘scorecard’.
It may also mean that we produce these scorecards for each electorate, where there are candidates who provide further commitments and detailed responses to our position statement and who have demonstrated active support for our professions and our policies.
It may also, depending on the positions finally announced as party policies, see us directly campaign for the best outcomes on health policy in some marginal seats—a strategy adopted by our Victorian and Queensland counterparts in their recent state elections.
There may be more challenging decisions ahead. There will certainly be more discussions and debates ahead. Indeed, that is the purpose of creating an informed political process.
However, I am confident that, provided we campaign on the basis of our declared policies and position statement rather than on a blind or blinkered party political basis, we will determine the appropriate way forward together.
I look forward to your active involvement in our discussions around the campaign as it evolves and, most importantly, in making the campaign effective in securing good policy commitments from all players during the pre-election period that is now well and truly underway.
Adj Assoc Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM