Upcoming Health Policy Forum at the Old Parliament House - Revisiting Whitlam's vision for health: Economics, data and efficiency


A unique Health Policy Forum will be held on 6 October, 2017 at the Old Parliament House, Canberra to look at ways economics and data can be used to improve health policy decision making in Australia.

The forum re-examines a landmark speech by the former Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam who was the first politician to use the term “health economics” in Parliament. His speech provides penetrating critique of health policy decision making at that time:

"One of the problems in discussing health policy in Australia is the lack of reliable official information…. In large part, it stems from the Government's laisser-faire attitude to health policy in this country. The Government sees its role as largely a passive one - of subsidising a hotch-potch of private medicine, voluntary insurance, private and public hospitals, State and local interests. The Minister is content to authorise the payment of bills which others present, with occasional intervention when abuses become too blatant. Its research is limited very largely to the narrow medical field with little recognition of the importance of economic research and planning of health services."

To overcome these problems he argues the case for:

  • Greater use of economics to inform health policy decision making;
  • Improving the collection of health and health care data;
  • Increasing health system efficiency by promoting competition.

He saw each of these elements as critical to the sustainability of a universal government funded health care system.

On the 50th anniversary of his speech, a diverse group of economists and those interested in public policy will come together in a unique health policy forum. Speakers will reflect on Whitlam’s speech and to use it as a lens to examine the contemporary health policies across Australia. Following Whitlam’s steps, the aim will be to identify innovative ways of using better economics and data to improve current health policy decision making across Australia, including ways to modernise Medicare.

Speakers include:

Mr Terry Barnes, Cormorant Policy Advice

Prof Tony Blakely, Centre for Health Policy, The University of Melbourne & University of Otago

Prof Philip Clarke, Centre for Health Policy, The University Melbourne

Dr Bronwyn Croxson, Chief Economist Ministry of Health, New Zealand

Prof Adam Elshaug, Co-Director, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney

Dr Catherine Keating, Head of Health Economics & Outcomes, Medibank Private

Prof Stephen King, Productivity Commission

Dr Andrew Leigh, MHR Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Federal Member for Fenner

Prof Anthony Scott, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University Melbourne

Professor Rosalie Viney, Director of the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at the University of Technology Sydney

Cost: $275 (Early bird price up until 18 July) and $350 after early bird. There is a discounted rate for current members of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA), Australian Heath Economic Society (AHES), Health Services Research Association of Australia & New Zealand (HSRAANZ), or the Whitlam Institute.

For more information and registration link, please visit the event webpage.

If you have any questions please email health-economics@unimelb.edu.au.