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AustraliaWilkinson Review 2002

  • Review of the impact of Part IV of the Trade Practices Act 1974 on the recruitment and
    retention of medical practitioners in rural and regional Australia

About this Review

Review found compliance with TPA did not hinder recruitment and retention of medical practitioners in rural and regional Australia, but that there was uncertainty amongst that profession about the application of the TPA to them.

 

Media release

On 10 November 2002 then Prime Minister John Howard issued the following press release in conjunction with the release of the Review report.


Today I am releasing the Review of the Impact of Part IV of the Trade Practices Act 1974 on the recruitment and retention of medical practitioners in rural and regional Australia.

I announced this review in August 2001 in response to concerns raised by the Australian Medical Association and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia that this Act may be reducing the capacity of rural and regional communities to recruit and retain medical practitioners.

The review committee, chaired by Mr Warwick Wilkinson AM, conducted a thorough examination of concerns of doctors and other interested parties throughout Australia. Its report provides a balanced assessment of the issues and sensible measures that will contribute to greater certainty for medical practitioners in rural and regional areas.

Importantly, the review found that the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the Act) has minimal actual implications for the practice of medicine in rural and regional Australia and does not need to be amended in order to address the issues considered.

The report notes that the ‘perception that the Act does have significant implications has, however, gained currency in the medical community’ and that this perception could be a disincentive for doctors to enter or stay in rural practice. This is a matter of some concern for the government.

To address these issues and perceptions, the report has made a number of recommendations to:

  • improve understanding and awareness of the Act among doctors and other health service providers;
  • vary some Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) processes;
  • develop better communication between the ACCC and the medical profession; and
  • have the ACCC investigate issues relating to some specific concerns raised by medical practitioners, particularly in relation to contracting with local hospitals and health authorities.

The government welcomes the recommendations made by the review committee and supports the majority of them, as shown in the attached government response.

In particular, the government supports further action by the ACCC to ensure that it is widely understood that genuine rosters, which aim to ensure the availability of services, do not (and have never been found to) breach the Act.

This has long been a source of uncertainty and confusion for doctors, and more can be done to advise them on related matters to ensure that they provide the best possible service to their communities without worrying about whether they are in breach of the Trade Practices Act.

The government also supports the establishment of a Health Services Advisory Panel made up of representatives of the ACCC, the medical profession (including rural medical practitioners) and the community. The Panel will help doctors better to understand requirements under the Act and the ACCC to better understand the circumstances faced by doctors as health service providers. It will help to improve communications between the regulator and the profession.

There will be further consultation before the arrangements for this Panel are finalised.
The ACCC will be asked to take immediate action to implement the government’s response, and to report to the Treasurer by the end of 2003 on the progress of implementation. The government will also undertake a review of the operation of arrangements adopted as a result of the report, to be completed by the end of 2005.

A small number of recommendations will require further consideration in the wider context of the current inquiry into the competition provisions of the Act and their administration, being chaired by Sir Daryl Dawson AC KBE CB. This review will provide a further opportunity to consider issues raised by doctors that are relevant to its terms of reference.

I call on all parties to work cooperatively in a spirit of goodwill to ensure that better understanding of and compliance with the Trade Practices Act result from the Wilkinson report.

I also thank the Review Committee – Mr Warwick Wilkinson AM, Ms Diana Gibbs and Dr John Aloizos – and all who contributed to its work.

10 November 2002

Source: PM Transcripts archive: https://pmtranscripts.pmc.gov.au/release/transcript-12772