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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2402

Senator Grimes —On 4 April 1984 (Hansard, page 1187-8) Senator Elstob asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the licensing of health food and herbal medicine manufacturers.

The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

My attention has been drawn to the statement by the Australian Pharmaceutical Society urging the licensing of health food product manufacturers. The National Therapeutic Goods Committee on which all States, Territories and the Commonwealth are represented has given consideration to various aspects of the control of health food products. The licensing of health food manufacturers in Australia is the responsibility of the State health authorities. I have asked the National Therapeutic Goods Committee to look further at the need for licensing such manufacturers.

I would expect that the manufacturers of health and herbal supplements and medicines in Australia would comply with the provisions of the Australian Code of Good Manufacturing Practice for Therapeutic Goods. However, enforcement of the provisions of the Code currently rests with the States. In these circumstances, I have also asked the National Therapeutic Goods Committee to consider quality and safety control testing of these products and report back to the health ministers.


Senator Grimes —On 7 September 1984 (Hansard, pages 671-2) Senator Haines asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning iscador.

The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

Some information obtained from the Swiss manufacturers of iscador has recently been provided to the Department of Health through the Melbourne Therapy Centre ( MTC) for cancer and other patients. The President of this organisation, and two doctors who wish to prescribe iscador, also met with members of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee (ADEC)'s Anticancer Sub-committee on 24 August to discuss the matter.

The manufacturing data which have been provided have been evaluated, and a number of questions have arisen which will be forwarded to the Swiss manufacturer in the near future. A preliminary scan of the clinical data indicates that they are substantially the same as those reviewed in 1982 which, as was indicated in my earlier reply, were found to be inadequate to establish either safety or efficacy of iscador. However the MTC representatives stated during the discussions in August, that more recent information would be supplied in a few months' time.

The ADEC at its most recent meeting on 21 September, deferred making any further recommendation regarding iscador until all the supporting data have been supplied and evaluated.

The honourable senator stated that iscador is available on prescription in New Zealand, in Britain under the National Health Scheme, and in a number of other countries. Clarification of its status in the United Kingdom was recently sought from the United Kingdom health authorities who were asked specifically whether iscador was approved by them for general marketing or clinical trial (for treatment of cancer, arthritis or any other condition); whether there had been any government evaluation of its quality, safety or efficacy; and whether it is available on the National Health Service. The telexed reply from the United Kingdom Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) indicates that a licence was granted for iscador injection in the United Kingdom in 1972 and is still current . Technically if a product is licenced it may be prescribed on the NHS. The CSM is undertaking further investigations and additional information may be forthcoming regarding safety and efficacy of the product.

Advice from the West German health authorities is that iscador was registered in that country under old laws and that it will be reviewed in due course along with other unevaluated drugs.

Information on iscador's status in a number of other countries has been sought but replies are not yet to hand. Approval for distribution of therapeutic substances in Australia is, however, the responsibility of the Australian Director-General of Health, and is based on independent evaluation of supporting data and not on overseas status. Experience has shown that the fact that a product is sold on the market in other countries is no guarantee of either safety or efficacy.


Senator Button —On 12 September 1984 (Hansard, page 884) Senator Reynolds asked me a question without notice relating to parliamentary representation on statutory authorities. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters has provided the following additional information:

The legislation establishing a number of statutory authorities listed below includes provisions requiring parliamentary (as against ministerial) representation:

Advisory Council on Australian Archives (one senator nominated by the Senate; one member nominated by the House of Representatives)

Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations (three members of Parliament nominated by the Prime Minister; two members of Parliament nominated by the Leader of the Opposition; in addition one member from each of the State Parliaments)

Australian Council for Union Training (one member of Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister; one member of Parliament appointed by the Leader of the Opposition)

Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (two senators appointed by the Senate; two members appointed by the House of Representatives)

Council of the Australian National University (two senators nominated by the Senate; two members nominated by the House of Representatives)

Council of the National Library of Australia (one senator nominated by the Senate; one member nominated by the House of Representatives)

Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust (the Minister for Finance; two senators nominated by the Senate; two members nominated by the House of Representatives)

Current Parliamentary membership of these bodies is set out in the Notice Paper .

In addition it has been the practice of successive governments, where they have considered it appropriate, to appoint senators and members to a number of other statutory bodies, although there is no statutory requirement to do so, notably

CSIRO Advisory Council (at present Dr H. R. Edwards, MP, and Mr P. R. Staples, MP, appointed 10 May 1983, until the commencement of the 34th Parliament)

Australian War Memorial (at present Mrs E. E. Darling, MP, appointed 15 September 1983 for a period of three years)

Australian Bicentennial Authority (at present Senator A. W. R. Lewis, appointed 20 February 1983 for a period of three years; Mr D. W. Simmons, MP, appointed 29 May 1983 for a period of three years)

It is, of course, up to the Parliament to determine at the time legislation establishing statutory authorities is being considered which authorities should be required to have parliamentary representation.

Appointees to the boards of statutory authorities should be able to contribute through particular expertise and experience to the management of the authority. The perspective that elected representatives, senators or members, bring to bear is particularly valuable on certain authorities. Other authorities, such as the Public Service Board, clearly do not lend themselves to parliamentary representation.

The question of accountability to Parliament is a separate one. Accountability is generally achieved through the requirement that authorities be answerable to Ministers, who in turn are accountable to the Parliament.


Senator Grimes —On 2 October 1984 (Hansard, page 1014) Senator Macklin asked Senator Walsh, as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, a question without notice. His question concerned the introduction of incentives to assist ailing sugar producers and in particular whether the sugar industry in Queensland and New South Wales could expect any additional support from the Federal Government before the impending Federal election. The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Federal Government is acutely aware of the difficult income situation facing the Australian sugar industry and will provide further assistance to the industry in 1984-85. I am currently negotiating with my Queensland and New South Wales counterparts a package of assistance measures under Part A of the rural adjustment scheme (RAS).

This special assistance will be on top of funds currently available to Queensland and New South Wales in 1984-85 for general use under Part A of the RAS and follows the Commonwealth's $11m contribution ($10m to Queensland, $1m to New South Wales) in 1983-84 for carry-on assistance under Part B of the RAS.

In addition to the above, another $20m will flow through the industry from 1 July 1984 as a result of the increase in the domestic sugar price which I approved as part of the new 5-year domestic sugar agreement.


Senator Gareth Evans —On 23 October 1984 (Hansard, page 2204), Senator Durack asked me a question without notice about the location of a departmental file relating to representations made on behalf of Mr Morgan Ryan in 1982, and followed that with a supplementary question relating to access to that file, to which I undertook to provide a further answer.

The following additional information is provided in answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge asked my Department for access to the Ryan file by letter dated 27 September 1984. In the context of that request, which was referred to me for approval, I asked for the relevant material to be delivered to my office, where it has remained since approximately 4 October. In the event, copies of the relevant material were viewed by counsel assisting the Committee at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Sydney, and the files in my office have not been, to my knowledge, viewed by any officer or member of the Senate Committee. The only other document in my possession which would appear to bear on Senator Durack's question is a detailed chronology of the progress of the Ryan matter through its successive phases, which was prepared at my request in February 1984, from material in departmental files, following the initial delivery to me of the Age tapes transcripts. That document has had a certain limited circulation within the Government as part of the general briefing material prepared by me in the context of the Age tapes matter.