General Practitioners   of Australia

connecting GPs across this vast land
Early Federation - 1901 to 1950



The 1900s

Prime Minister Minister of Health Political party
1/1/01 to 24/9/03 Rt Hon Edmund Barton, KC MP none Protectionist
24/9/03 to 27/4/04 Hon Alfred Deakin, MP none Protectionist
27/4/04 to 17/8/04 Hon Chris Watson, MP none Australian Labour Party
17/8/04 to 5/7/05 Rt Hon George Reid, KC MP none Free Trade
5/7/05 to 13/11/08 Hon Alfred Deakin, MP none* Protectionist
13/11/08 to 2/1/09 Hon Andrew Fisher, MP none* Labour
2/1/09 to 29/4/10 Hon Alfred Deakin, MP none* Protectionist
  * Quarantine was under the Minister of Trade and Customs

1901 - Caudal anaesthesia is independently described by Drs Jean-Anthanase Sicard and Fernand Cathelin in France.
1905 - Alfred Einhorn (1857-1917, a German chemist develops procaine ("Novocain"). 1906 - The MSV and the branch of the BMA merged to become the Victorian branch of the BMA.
1908 - Legislation is passed to enable the Commonwealth government to provide care for those who cannot afford it.
1908 - 13th November, Frank Tudor (Labor) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 2nd June 1909
1908 - 2nd June, Robert Best (Commonwealth Liberal) became s responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 29th April 1910
1908 - Dr August Bier uses intravenous medication for limb anaesthesia (Bier block).

The 1910s

Prime Minister Minister of Health Political party
2/1/09 to 29/4/10 Hon Alfred Deakin, MP none* Protectionist
29/4/10 to 24/6/13 Hon Andrew Fisher, MP none* Labour
24/6/13 to 17/9/14 Hon Joseph Cook, MP none* Commonwealth Liberal
17/9/14 to 27/10/15 Hon Andrew Fisher, MP none* Australian Labour Party
27/10/15 to 9/2/23 Rt Hon Billy Hughes, KC MP none* National Labour/National
  * Quarantine was under the Minister of Trade and Customs

1910 - 29th April, Frank Tudor (Labor) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 24th June 1913
1913 - 24th June, Littleton Groom (Commonwealth Liberal) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 17th September 1914.
1914 - 17th September, Frank Tudor (Labor) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on27th October 1915, restarted with the new government and ended on 14th September 1916
1916 - 14th September, Billy Hughes (Labor) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 14th November 1916  1916 - 14th November, William Archibald (National Labor) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 17th February 1917
1917 - 17th February, Jens Jensen (Nationalist) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 13th December 1918
1918 - 13th December, William Watt (Nationalist) became responsible for health under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs. His term ended on 17th January 1919
1919 - 17th January, Walter Massey-Greene, (Nationalist) became responsible for health initially under the title of Minister for Trade and Customs andlater under the title of Minister for Health. His term ended on 5th February 1923
1919 - The Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was established in 1919 for Australian servicemen and women who had served in the Boer War and World War I.

Surgery at the Children's Hospital, 1914


Picture courtesy of and © State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW 2016


The 1920s

Prime Minister Minister of Health Political party
27/10/15 to 9/2/23 Rt Hon Billy Hughes, KC MP Hon Walter Massy-Greene from 10/2/21* National
9/2/23 to 22/10/29 Rt Hon Stanley Bruce, MP Hon Austin Chapman, MP (to 26/5/24)
Hon Littleton Groom, KC MP (29/5/24 to 13/6/24)
Hon Herbert Pratten, MP (13/6/24 to 16/1/25)
Hon Sir Neville Howse, VC, KCMG, MP (16/1/25)
Nationalist/Country
22/10/29 to 6/1/32 Rt Hon James Scullin, MP Hon Frank Anstey to 3/3/31 Labour
  * Quarantine was under the Minister of Trade and Customs until 10/3/21

The state governments are providing treatment to the poor for free through their hospitals. These hospitals are staffed by honorary medical officers, ie doctors who work for free for those who could not afford their fees. These doctors have private rooms and charged the more wealthy for their services. This meant that essentially the system worked because those who could afford treatment indirectly paid for those who could not. Such honorary positions carried some prestige and were generally well sought after.

Friendly Societies and Lodges

    A gap existed between those who qualified for free treatment and those who could afford to pay the doctor's and the hospital's fees. Local groups banded together to form lodges or "friendly societies". Members contributed fees on a regular basis and the society or lodge paid for their medical treatment and/or funeral benefits when required. Variabilities in expenses from year to year made could threaten the viability of such insurance schemes. A way to offset this was to pass the risk "downstream", ie to the doctor. The societies had a fixed income and a known number of members. The sensible thing was to covert the costs into a fixed amount as much as possible. This was done by offering the doctors a fixed amount per year per patient to provide treatment (at no cost to the patient). There were advantages to the doctor for this capitation scheme. He had a steady income and this was particularly important for a young doctor first setting up. Also it meant that the doctor would receive some income for treating patients who previously had been unable to pay at all. Disadvantages included the failure of such schemes to renegotiate the docor's payments each year, resulting in increasing disenchantment. Doctors in any area became locked into these schemes because any doctor opting out would find his patients would leave and go to other doctors still in the scheme .

1923 - 9th February, Austin Chapman (Nationalist) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 26th May 1924
1924 - 26th May, Littleton Groom (Nationalist) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 13th June 1924
1924 - 13th June 1924, Herbert Pratten (Nationalist) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 16th January 1925
1925 - 16th January, Sir Neville Howes (Nationalist) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 22nd October 1929
1926 - A royal commission recommended a national insurance scheme to provide health insurance, maternity benefits, sickness benefits and superannuation. It was to be partly funded by employer contributions. The legislation failed to make it through parliament.
1926 - Dr Mark Lidwell from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, developed the first defibrillator
1926 - The Medical Benevolent Association of New South Wales is formed, funded by the Medical Benevolent Fund of New South Wales.
1929 - 22nd October 1929, Frank Anstey (Labor) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 3rd March 1931

1928 - The Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service began in Cloncurry, Queensland (later renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service) due to the work of a Presbyterian minister, Reverend John Flynn. Initial visits to remote areas were accomplished via a fabric covered bi-plane, the Victory.

Photo: Patient from Camooweal, Queensland, being unloaded from one of the early Royal Flying Doctor Service flights in Brisbane, ca. 1930.

Picture courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia
The Traeger pedal wireless Later consultations were achieved using pedal powered radios in the outback stations to communicate with the bases (telehealth!).

Photo: "A women is using a Traeger pedal wireless while three children look on. The wireless has been set up outside their house. The invention of the pedal wireless in 1926 by Alfred Traeger brought a significant change to life in remote places. This change was more far reaching than providing help in emergency medical situations - it also helped reduce the isolation and loneliness by enabling people who lived hundreds of kilometres apart". Courtesy of the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland


The 1930s

Prime Minister Minister of Health Political party
22/10/29 to 6/1/32 Rt Hon James Scullin, MP Hon Frank Anstey to 3/3/31 Labour
6/1/32 to 7/4/39 Rt Hon Joseph Lyons, MP Hon Charles Marr, MP (6/1/32 to 12/10/34)
Rt Hon Billy Hughes, KC MP (12/10/34 to 9/11/34)
Rt Hon Joseph Lyons, MP
Rt Hon Billy Hughes, KC MP
Rt Hon Sir Earle Page, GCMG MP (29/11/37 to 7/11/38)
Senator Hon Hattil Foll (7/11/38 to 7/4/39)
United Australia
7/4/39 to 26/4/39 Rt Hon Sir Earle Page, GCMG MP Senator Hon Hattil Foll United Australia/Country
26/4/39 to 28/8/41 Rt Hon Robert Menzies, KC MP Hon Sir Frederick Stewart United Austrlia

Sulpha drugs became available
1931 - 3rd March, John McNeill (Labor) became Minister for Health. His term ended on 6th January 1932
1932 - 6th January, Charles Marr (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 12th October 1934.
1934 - 12th October, Billy Hughes (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 6th November 1935.
1934 - The Victorian Section of the Australian Aerial Medical Services (later the RFDS) started.
1934 - The first use of thiopental as an induction agent in anaesthesia was by Ralph Waters, an American anaesthetist 1935 - 6th November, Sir Earle Page (Country) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 7th November 1938
1936 - The Central Operations of the Australian Aerial Medical Services (later the RFDS) is formed providing, in 1937, services to South Australia and the Northern Territory.
1936 - The NSW Section of the Australian Aerial Medical Services (later the RFDS)was formed
1936 - Edward Both developed the world's first portable ECG in South Australia
1936 - The Western Australian Section of the Australian Aerial Medical Services (later the RFDS)was formed
1937 - The Eastern Goldfields Section of the Australian Aerial Medical Services (later the RFDS) was officially established
1937 - Edward Both developed the Both Poratble Cabinet Respirator. This was a lighter, cheaper, more portable version of the "iron lung" used for polio.
1938 - 7th November, Harry Foll (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 26th April, 1939
1938 - 26th April, Sir Frederick Stewart (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 14th March, 1940


The 1940s

Prime Minister Minister of Health Political party
26/4/39 to 28/8/41 valign="top"Rt Hon Robert Menzies, KC MP Hon Sir Frederick Stewart (26/4/39 to 14/3/40)
Hon Harold Thorby, MP (14/3/40 to 28/10/40)
Hon Sir Frederick Stewart, MP (28/10/40 to 28/8/41)
United Austrlia
28/8/41 to 7/10/41 Rt Hon Arthur Fadden Hon Sir Frederick Stewart, MP United Austrlia/Australian Country
7/10/41 to 6/7/45 Rt Hon John Curtin, MP Hon Jack Holloway, MP (7/10/41 to 21/9/43
Senator Hon James Fraser (21/9/43 to 6/7/45)
Labor
6/7/45 to 13/7/45 Rt Hon Frank Forde, MP Senator Hon James Fraser Labor
13/7/45 to 19/12/49 Rt Hon Ben Chifley, MP Senator Hon James Fraser (13/7/45 to 18//6/46)
Senator Hon Nick McKenna (1/6/46 to 19/12/49)
Labor
19/12/49 to 26/1/66 Rt Hon Robert Menzies, KC MP Rt Hon Sir Earle Page, GCMG CH MP Liberal/Australian Country

    Following graduation a small percentage of doctors would work in the hospital system; the majority would move directly into general practice. Having experienced this type of work and found an area of specific interest, some would choose to re-enter the hospital system to train in a speciality. It meant that almost all doctors had an understanding of, and a respect for, gerneral practice. Most of these doctors ended up travelling overseas for their training (mostly to the UK). Once they had completed their training they would return and seek a hospital appointment, normally working as a junior honorary specialist in a teaching hospital.

    In the post-war years, Australia's population grew at an increased rate. From 1940 to 1949 the Australian population grew from just over 7 million to just over 8 million people. A relatively small population scattered over a vast continent gave little opportunity for a sufficient case load of patients with significant illnesses for the local training of specialiists. From about 1948 there was an accelerated growth, partly due to an increased mmigration rate, so that the next decade saw the population increase to just over 10 million people. More hospitals were built, mostly in the cities, and hospital bed numbers increased. This enabled the establishment of Australian hospital based teaching for the specialities. With an increased number of urban hospitals came an increased need (and opportunities) for specialists. With increasing numbers of specialists in hospitals came the reduction of general practitioners with admitting rights, particularly in the urban areas.

    Dr Joseph Silver Collings, a young Australian doctor, received a scholarship to study general practice in the UK. He visited 55 general practices variously from rural, industrial and urban areas. He sat in on the consultations and home visits and observed the doctors at work. It is likely that he had little idea, at the time he published his findings, of the impact his observations would have on the UK and Australian health systems.
1940 - 14th March, Harold Thorby (Country Party) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 28th October, 1940
1940 - 28th October, Sir Frederick Stewart (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 7th October, 1941
1941 - The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) proposed a national salaried medical service available to all. This was opposed by the AMA. A subgroup of the NSW branch of the British Medical Association was formed: the Sociological Section, in support of such a scheme.
1941 - 7th October, Jack Holloway (United Australia) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 21st September, 1943
1942 - Penicillin became available, revolutionising the treatment of infections.
1942 - Curare is given as a muscle relaxant for the first time in surgery.
1943 - 21st September, James Fraser (Lab) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 18th June, 1946
1944 - Lidocaine is first used as a local anaesthetic in Sweden by Dr Torsten Gordh. 1946 - The federal government (Labor) seeks to nationalise medicine along the lines of the British National Health Service.
1946 - 18th June, Nick McKenna (Labor) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 19th December, 1949
1947 - The Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947 is passed, enabling the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to be set up. This commenced on 1st July, 1948. This provided essential medications (140 drugs) for free to Australian citizens and those covered by the reciprocal health arrangements. It was part of the Chifleys Government's (Labor) plan to establish a British style national health service. Most of Chifley's health care plans were unconstitutional. The PBS, however, survived this examination by the High Court of Australia.
1948 - The Australian branch of the BMA successfully opposes the Chifley government’s National Health Act of 1948 in the High Court.
1948 - The National Health Service (NHS) commencesin Britain.
1949 - Professor John Cade, from Melbourne, publishes Lithium salts in the treatment of psychotic excitement in the MJA. This is one of the first instances of drugs used to successfuly treat mental illnesses. 1946 - 19th December, Sir Earle Page (Country) became the Health Minister. His term ended on 11th January 1956
1949 - Humidicribs come into use.



 
 
Background
Colonial Times
Early Federation
1950 to 1999
2000 Onwards
References