APS mounts a massive offensive against RAPS

The APS has mounted a massive offensive via emails and articles in InPsych and APS Matters – with RAPS firmly in their sights – to promote the governance changes. So far Lyn Littlefield, Anthony Cichello and now Amanda Gordon  – all clinical psychologists and instrumental in the original Medicare drive – are leading the push. (No doubt soon they may even call in Paul Martin.)

RAPS is actually flattered by what amounts to acknowledgement by the APS of the strength of our arguments and the response from members.

Typically, however, it’s a one-sided argument. The APS doesn’t even attempt to provide a balanced view. According to our leaders, there’s no downside to the governance changes at all. There’s no discussion about the impact on members’ rights to elect their representatives. No response to concerns about massive increased costs as a result of the new system.

These Constitutional changes demand a full costs/benefits analysis to be presented to the entire membership and conducted by an independent external panel (certainly not from a board-selected Governance Review Committee (GRC), with an over-representation of clinical members). How this GRC was selected is not transparent at all.

Many members also feel there has been zero accountability or transparency as to why three new clinical psychologists (including a clinical neuro) were appointed to the Board a few months ago. Several  members have requested the minutes to this meeting, which have been refused on the grounds of corporate confidentiality. Yet no explanation for these clinical appointments has been offered.

The lack of detailed information about the implementation of the Constitutional changes is good enough reason to vote NO on June 6th. Read how to vote here.

Surprisingly ‘other’ college leaders have publicly supported the proposed governance changes. Despite the long unfulfilled ‘promise’ that colleges will be supported in acquiring the higher Medicare rebate, and absolutely zero evidence of any intention to act on it, hope apparently reigns eternal.

In the absence of any published agenda, many feel that they have been hoodwinked. They find it hard to believe that voting YES for the constitutional changes will be for their betterment. Despite their significant membership and expertise, they will be reduced to one single representative on the Board.

In the UK recently a Counselling Psychologist was voted to the Presidency. This is result that is unlikely to happen in our Society, once the APS Board has locked-down its special-committee voting system even further, under the Constitutional reform.

The continued demise of ‘other’ Colleges does not seem to disturb them when they recommend their members to vote FOR the changes. But then, many of the Chairs are now ‘converted clinicals’ , i.e. they have both clinical and non-clinical memberships. And if the lack of Masters’ courses continues, soon there will not be any ‘other’ colleges to bother about.

The wider APS members know little about what’s going on. The Generalists are the ones who should be outraged. Their DGPP representatives seem to have accepted their underdog status – or as one member described them as “the Untouchables of the society” – without protest.

It’s clear that the government will not increase additional Medicare rebates. But think how much they could save on a single rebate and keep us all in Medicare?

So here’s a question: Would the Clinical College consider sacrificing their higher rebate for the greater good of psychology and the entire register of practitioners?



7 thoughts on “APS mounts a massive offensive against RAPS

  1. I have never received so many emails from the APS as I have whilst they push these governance changes! I find the emails are almost propaganda. I was pushed to respond when I received a second email from the (suddenly very active) Vic DGPP urging me to vote in support of the changes:

    Dear Andrew,

    I didn’t receive an email from you on 22/5 – the only emails I have ever received from you have been urging me to vote on the proposed APS Governance changes. In fact I have had more emails from the APS urging the same than I’ve had in nearly 20 years of membership, and these emails I have found to be tone deaf in the extreme.

    The issue is not that members opposing the changes do not like change, which I find a condescending interpretation of member motivations, but that the so called changes do not address the concerns of APS non-clinical members. These concerns have been bubbling away among non-clinical psychologists for some time – stimulated by the two tier Medicare system and the increasing public perception (including medical practitioners) that clinical psychologists are somehow more competent, and superior to other psychologists. Indeed, I was personally told by a clinical psychologist (back in around 2010) that “life will not get any easier for generalist psychologists”. I was also advised, by a potential supervisor while investigating endorsement from the Educational and Developmental College, that it would be a waste of my time and money as that endorsement would provide no professional or financial benefit.

    From what I have seen the APS have only provided lip service and token efforts to address these concerns, while the power of the clinical college increases. Members are understandably concerned that the proposed Governance changes will not address this and in fact the new board will continue to be dominated by clinical members. All members are asking for is a fair, democratic society where all member groups are represented – not domination by one faction.

    I can only interpret the deluge of emails as panic from the APS that the Governance changes will not get up. However, I question why a democratic, member based organisation is reacting in this way. If they are worried too many members are going to vote against the changes shouldn’t they wonder why members are not happy and address this? As so called scientists shouldn’t they investigate the issues rather than dismissing concerns as fear of change?

  2. The re-gigging of Board membership to increase Clinical representation was one of the things that decided me that our professional body is deeply flawed. Reducing the voice of the majority of the membership? How can that be massaged into something democratic.

    If only we could see the minutes (the official record) of that meeting of the Board. Our Board. Of our Society. But it is in ‘corporate confidence’. Oh, that’s OK then. The ‘people’ don’t need to know what their rulers are thinking and planning, do they?

    1. Is this Australia or North Korea??
      I’m sounding like a broken record but the APS does not represent all psychologists in Australia as some of us elected to not be members. And I will not be a member while the APS continues down this “elitist” path!

      1. I formed the view some time ago that there is a faction within psychology of those who didn’t make medical school and are essentially wannabe Dr’s.
        Having not made medicaL school they have addressed this feeling of inferiority by obtaining doctorates, pathologising psychological conditions and fantasizing their role.
        But wannabe’s cannot elevate themselves by squashing those beneath them.
        We call that bullying.

  3. I’m ever-more disturbed (if that’s even possible) by “official” statements in support of the vote, from the various sub-committees.

    In terms of “membership consultation” I’d like to add that I attended the “APS roadshow” on these changes in December last year.

    The event was shockingly attended – maybe 30-40 in total. Even the Board representatives seemed dissapointed. Given the ramifications, we can assume there is a significant majority of members imbued with a “learned helplessness” about their opinion and the future of this profession.

    I publicly voiced questions to the representatives on the changes allegedly offering increased diversity and participation, by creating designated positions from specific groups of the membership and then an internally elected inner circle. I argued that his could create new biases, further distancing the membership. My question was dismissed, as was my allied concern around the continued asphyxiation of non-Clinical Colleges and professional diversity therein. I challenged the proposed constitution for potentially shunting the applied mental health practitioners even further toward a two-tiered, elitist first and impoverished second class system (i.e. with the imminent death of the various Colleges we will be left with two options: join a new General Practice College else the Clinical College). This question was also rapidly dismissed.

    There was however one message conveyed with utmost clarity. Using PowerPoint it was convincingly argued that there are economic and political lines of evidence on the future direction of Medicare. Lyn used financial breakdowns to demonstrate the exponentially ballooning costs of the Medicare psychology rebate items. She also made it very clear the Government would be more likely to progressively redirect and reduce psychology items, rather than impact in any way General Practitioner’s similarly billing for psychological sessions. For these points I found the evening invaluable. Lyn stated that we will struggle to keep the current level of government funding for psychology rebates, let along increase access to these funds. Devious Government strategies redirecting these Federal funds to the PHNs look probable and palpable. So with only one possible Board position per College after these changes, how on earth are non-Clinical Colleges going to achieve equity with the Clinical group’s higher rate? It is not going to happen. It’s a fur-fee. It was evidently never supported in the past and will be completely shut-down after these changes.

    With these points in mind, there can be only one approach to Medicare rebates: campaign for one single Medicare rebate item for the entire register of practitioners. We will also then be marginally better positioned to advocate for unfreezing the rate, so practitioners can improve their chances of paying office rent for bulk billing clients (as well as reduce the temptation for those ubiquitous private practice and even NGO centres to churn through newly registered psychologists at sweatshop rates).

    The two-tiered system is directly and indirectly wiping out non-Clinical College training pathways. This is not inevitable. The maintenance if not vibrancy of applied mental health psychology around world underlines diverse alternatives are possible. The Australian profession needs a clear path toward recovery and regrowth, not an acceleration of what has been allowed to calcify and atrophy.

    I close by imploring members to read the governance proposals and decide for themselves, whether these are genuinely productive changes or troubling additional layers, quite possibly designed to distance the Board even further from being directly accountable to the voting membership.

    In the absence of any transparency on the “expert specialist consultant advice” over the last 18 months – particularly the glaring lack of cost/benefit analysis on these or alternative constitutional changes – members need to think very carefully before obediently (or learned helplessly) obeying the various committees, falling in line without due explanation.

Leave a Reply