Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been accused of making a "calamitous captain's call" for deciding to throw his support behind a plan to set up another Australian medical school.
Medical groups are furious the federal government will help fund the new Curtin University medical school in Perth, saying it is part of a cynical bid to shore up softening Coalition support in Western Australia.
The Australian Medical Association says Mr Abbott made another "captain's call" to support the plan, possibly overruling Health Minister Sussan Ley.
"It's a calamitous captain's call by Captain Chaos. That's the only way to describe it because it's going to cause chaos with the medical training of students," medical association President Brian Owler said.
The Australian Medical Association believes the country already has too many medical schools pumping out graduates who cannot find internships or specialist training places. Australia has gone from 10 to 18 medical schools in the past decade.
Professor Owler believes the decision was made to give Mr Abbott something to announce to help the Coalition's falling stocks in WA.
"I don't know that there's any other way to interpret it," he said. "Politics has taken precedence over good policy."
Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said Dr Owler was a respected medical professional and that Mr Hockey, who has a "glass jaw", should apologise to the AMA chief.
"If Dr Owler, as head of the AMA doesn't agree with the government, he has a job to do and he is entitled to do it," he said.
James Lawler, president of the Australian Medical Students' Association, says his organisation sought Ms Ley's views on the proposal about a month ago.
"She told us that she didn't believe we needed a new medical school and there wouldn't be funding for that in the budget. But all of a sudden Tony Abbott's flying to WA to announce it," he said.