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Thursday, 15 May 2003
Page: 14766


Mr MURPHY (9:40 AM) —On 28 April 2003, Pan Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the manufacturers and suppliers of approximately 70 per cent of the complementary medicines in Australia, had their manufacturing licence suspended for six months. The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, made that decision due to serious quality and safety breaches in the manufacture of therapeutic goods and ordered an urgent recall initially of over 200 products and now, at last count, of over 1,500 products manufactured and supplied in Australia by Pan. While everyone was busy checking the newspapers, checking the vitamins in their pantries and rushing to the shops demanding a refund, I believe not enough thought was given—nor immediate help offered—to health food store owners, who had to cope with the harsh fallout from the recall. A number of small business owners in my electorate of Lowe were left to cope with the tidal wave of customer complaints without warning and without adequate advice from wholesalers and government.

A week into the crisis, I was contacted by Mrs Josie Civitarese from Five Dock. Mrs Civitarese owns the Healthland Nutrition Centre, a health food shop in Leichhardt Marketown, and is a victim of this failure. Through no fault of her own, Mrs Civitarese—the sole owner of her store for 20 years—along with many other health food small business owners and employees, was left to cope with abusive demands from customers while being forced to remove almost two-thirds of her stock from the shelves. While no-one doubts the need to remove any potentially dangerous items from the shelves as soon as possible, it is outrageous that Mrs Civitarese and other retailers had little or no warning of the recall and little or no information about their rights and responsibilities or the rights of the angry customers they would have to deal with. Shop owners should not have been left to compete with every member of the public for information about the biggest recall of health products in Australian history.

While I support the measures in the Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002, which were debated in the House yesterday and are designed to clarify the definition of a therapeutic good and to create new offences for advertisers breaching the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, a number of serious issues arising from the Pan recall have not been satisfactorily addressed. Under the Howard government, we have seen problems in the operation of the regulatory system with respect to Pan grow over a long period of time. It raises serious questions about the nature of the regulation of the industry. In this area and in so many other areas under the Howard government, we have seen a movement towards increased self-regulation and self-assessment. The government does not understand that real people end up paying too high a price for this regulatory indolence. This is not good enough, and the cheap political attack on the Premier of New South Wales by the Minister for Small Business and Tourism typified the Howard government's inadequate response. Mrs Civitarese and all my constituents who have suffered during this crisis through no fault of their own deserve a lot better.