Our patron

Professor John Deeble AO

Professor John Deeble, distinguished scholar, health economist and health policy leader, who died on 5 October 2018. Together with Doctor Dick Scotton, Professor Deeble co-authored the original proposals for universal health insurance in Australia, which we now know today as Medicare.

John had been troubled seeing people refuse cancer treatment because they could not afford it.

The call to champion universal healthcare is not new, and as the Australian health system strains under new challenges, maintaining John’s legacy will be more critical than ever before to ensuring all Australians, including our most vulnerable populations have access to the care they deserve.

Professor John Deeble AO was a life member of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research was named in his honour.

40 years of Medicare (1984 – 2024)​

The origins of Medicare trace back to the collaboration between John Deeble and Dick Scotton, whose shared background, interests, and temperament positioned them as thought leaders and co-architects of Australia’s initial universal healthcare system, Medibank.

Medibank emerged from a crucial meeting in June 1967, involving John Deeble, Dick Scotton, and Gough Whitlam, the leader of the Labor party and future Prime Minister. This meeting set in motion a challenging two-and-a-half-year journey of meticulous planning and navigating political obstacles. On July 1, 1975, the Whitlam government successfully established Australia’s first universal health insurance scheme, Medibank.

The advent of the Fraser Liberal government in December 1975 hindered the full realisation of Medibank’s benefits, deeming it unsustainable. To address this, the government established the Medibank Review Committee in January 1967, collaborating with Professor Deeble.

The Committee reformed Medibank into its second iteration – Medibank Mark II, allowing consumers to opt out of levy and choose private health insurance. Subsequently, the Fraser administration, in consultation with Deeble and Scotton, also introduced the government-owned insurer—Medibank Private.

In response to mounting dissatisfaction, the Fraser government dissolved the original Medibank in late 1981, leaving Medibank Private in its wake. Despite this setback, Professor Deeble’s ongoing collaboration and support with the Caucus Committee played a pivotal role in eventually establishing the third iteration of the Australian universal healthcare scheme.

On February 1, 1984, the Hawke government reinstated the original Medibank model, with few modifications- renaming Medibank as ‘Medicare’ and replacing the Cost Sharing Agreement of the 1970s with compensation grants to States.

(Pictured) Professor John Deeble AO (1931- 2018) and the Hon Gough Whitlam AC QC (1916-2014)

Login to your account