The recent primary care policy debate in Australia has centred on access to primary medical (general practice) services. In Australia, access is heavily influenced by Commonwealth Government patient rebates that provide incentives for general practitioners not to charge copayments to patients (bulk billing). A steady decline in key access indicators (bulk billing) has led the Howard Government to introduce a set of changes that move Medicare from a universal scheme, to one increasingly targeted at providing services to more disadvantaged Australians. In doing so, another scene in the story of the contest between universal health care and selective provision in Australia has been written. This paper explores the immediate antecedents and consequences of the changes and sets them in the broader context of policy development for primary care in Australia.