Members of the Australian Medical Association are outraged over the capping at $2000 per annum of self-education expenses announced as part of Wednesday night’s Federal Budget, with other bodies, like the Business Events Council of Australia, predicting a softening in the meetings market because of it.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, voiced concerns in a statement on the AMA website in late April, saying the AMA strong opposes the $2000 cap. Comments by members followed with one member saying: “It is not possible to go to either a local or international meeting for $2000 per year”.

Another said: “Being a junior doctor, I know this will most certainly stop me attending conferences/workshops that I would otherwise attend. My education will suffer and so will my patients…”

Yet another said: “As a specialist plastic surgeon I am about to attend a four-day meeting in Melbourne for which the registration fees alone were $700 without taking into account travel and accommodation. Also nobody in government seems to have considered the impact on hotels and conference venues in general for whom large medical conferences represent a significant part of their turnover.”

Business Events Council of Australia executive manager, Inge Garofani, said the decision was frustrating because on the one hand the government has set a business events target to achieve delegate expenditure of $16 billion by 2020 and on the other were risking our ability to achieve this target by capping the tax deductible level on expenses.

“Continued education is delivered through business events and provides an opportunity for professionals to improve their skills and knowledge enabling them to better provide for clients,” she said.

This is particularly the case in the medical profession with Dr Hambleton saying on the AMA website that it is a requirement of doctors to continually update their knowledge through continuing professional development.

“We all know that the costs of education and training required to comply with these regimes are substantial and generally well above $2000 a year,” he said.

BECA’s Ms Garofani said other professionals such as lawyers and accountants relied on work-related self-education to ensure they stayed at the forefront of their profession.

“Continued education is delivered through business events and provides an opportunity for professionals to improve their skills and knowledge enabling them to better provide for clients.”

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