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Thursday, 25 March 1999
Page: 4494


Mrs GASH (10:50 AM) —I wish to speak today to the Therapeutic Goods Legislation Amendment Bill 1999 . In my electorate of Gilmore, especially in the Kiama region, there are a number of alternative practitioners and general practitioners who suggest to patients the use of complementary medicines. Of course complementary medicines are an important part of Australia's health system. Complementary medicines are used by over 60 per cent of the Australian population and are used for a wide variety of purposes. Today complementary medicines are widely available from health foods stores, pharmacies and practitioners, of which there are many in my electorate. This legislation recognises both the widespread use and the demand by Australians for access to complementary medicines.

The complementary medicines industry has been frustrated for a long time with the amount of red tape and hoops that manufacturers and suppliers have been put through. This bill is the first step in getting rid of some of those problems. One good example of improving the system is by streamlining the application process. The Complementary Medicines Evaluation Committee is now going to be recognised in legislation and this will give the committee the status it deserves as an expert advisory committee. This committee will comprise some of the best and brightest practitioners and scientists in Australia who understand all about complementary medicines. This committee will also ensure that the health of the consumers will be maintained and that people who take complementary medicines can continue to have confidence in the products that they buy.

Another problem that the complementary medicine industry had was with its advertising controls. The reform package which is before us today includes a review of the advertising code. This will certainly assist the people in my electorate who have been demanding for some time that they are recognised for the advertising that they do. Whilst they may not be asking for PBS usage at this stage, that is one of the areas that they would like us to look at and I believe that this is one step forward in gaining that recognition for the alternative medicine practitioners.

Industry, government and consumers are all working together to try to get this balance right. This bill acknowledges the importance of complementary medicines in the health care of Australians. This bill has, in the main, been driven by the complementary medicines industry and, in particular, the people of my electorate of Gilmore.