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Hodgson's Medical Council veto a blow to democracy

25 July 2006

Hodgson's Medical Council veto a blow to democracy

Health Minister Pete Hodgson should immediately re-think his rejection of the results of a Medical Council election, accept that the rejected nominee was among the highest polling doctor candidates, and re-instate him to the Council forthwith, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"The results of a democratic election process should never be lightly set aside. By this arbitrary exercise of power, Pete Hodgson has unintentionally undermined the Council's authority, and the governance of medical practice in this country.

"The Medical Council should be free from political interference, and while the Minister has the power to appoint its membership, that power should be used sparingly," Ms Kedgley says.

"There is always a balancing need to respect the vote of confidence shown by the profession in the people it chooses to serve as its elected representatives. If the Minister picks and chooses among the successful candidates, this can only foster the perception that these are political appointees - which runs the risk of a consequent erosion of confidence in their ability to be strong and independent advocates for the profession, and for the community as a whole.

"For this reason, the Green Party solidly supports the efforts of the several medical organisations - the Council of Medical Colleges, the Medical Association, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists and the Resident Doctors Association - that have spoken out against the Minister's veto of one of the doctors' elected representatives.

"Unless there is good reason, the residual power of the Minister to appoint the membership should not be exercised. In this case, Pete Hodgson has offered no compelling reason why the doctors' democratic choice should not be respected," Ms Kedgley says.

"The Minister should recognise that an error has been made here. He should be willing to listen to what the doctors have plainly said about who they want serving on the Council, and act accordingly. On this occasion, there is more to gained from a re-think than would be lost."


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