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As I write this column, the result of the 2013 federal election is known, with the Coalition winning the majority of seats in the Lower House and able to form a government in its own right under Tony Abbott, a former federal health minister in the then Howard Government.

Many of you might recall that it was the personal support of Tony Abbott that provided the required push for optometrists in Australia to be able to prescribe PBS medicines.

The incoming health minister has not yet been announced but our relationship with the former Shadow Minister Peter Dutton is strong.

The association looks forward to presenting a modest number of action items for the incoming government to address in its first term of government.

These include:

  • MBS indexation
  • Support for well-reasoned evidence-based increases in optometry’s scope of practice
  • PBS rights aligned to the National Medicines list passed by all health ministers through the OBA
  • Removal of the cap proposed to be imposed on self-education expenses
  • Additional backing for the provision of workforce support to optometrists working in rural and regional Australia in addition to the VOS and limited scholarships and infrastructure grants currently available.

These discussions are vital to support the future of every practising optometrist in Australia and will set important parameters which will guide the development of your career in optometry for years to come.

The association takes this responsibility seriously and appreciates your continuing support through the renewal of your membership which continues to allow the association to represent over 90 per cent of the profession. 

The results of the Senate election are still to be determined but it is clear there will be a number of new senators elected, incorporating party platforms which have not been represented in the past.

It remains to be seen how this new Senate treats major legislation proposed by the new Coalition government.

Our interest is particularly drawn to the commitment by the Coalition to reverse when possible the means testing imposed on the private health insurance rebate, and a more detailed response on the capping of self-education expenses by the Coalition and the new Senate’s likely position on such legislation.

The delay in the indexation of Medicare rebates does not require legislation to be implemented, we understand.

What is certain is that optometrists form an essential part of Australia’s primary health care sector and the value of optometry in local electorates is well known as a result of many members’ efforts over the past six months in relation to the fee cap campaign.

Once the final result of the House of Representatives and Senate are known, the association will be approaching the new Lower House members and independent senators to inform them about eye health care in Australia and the role of optometrists in meeting these primary eye health needs.

October 10 is World Sight Day. There are some great opportunities for all optometrists in Australia to show their support for World Sight Day—just log onto www.givingsight.org  to see how you can participate.

The international theme for World Sight Day 2013 is ‘Universal eye health’, with the call to action ‘Get your eyes tested’.

This is a great opportunity for you to showcase the importance of regular preventative eye health care, as well as raise money and awareness for those less fortunate to be able to access eye health care through the efforts of Optometry Giving Sight.

If October does not work for you, there are other ways you can support OGS’s important work. Please contact me or the Australian manager of OGS Ron Baroni at ron.baroni@givingsight.org to discuss the opportunities.

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