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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 30

Mr TAYLOR (Hume) (11:40): I rise in support of this excellent motion and for an enhanced regulatory framework for medicines and medical devices in Australia. The reality of our health system is that we have costs rising at somewhere close to 10 per cent a year. We have demands for health outcomes that are continually rising with an ageing population, and particularly with increasing incidence of chronic disease. We could fund this by continually increasing taxes every year forevermore, but Australians will never thank us for that. We know that to deliver a better health system, to deliver a health system that is affordable, that does not have costs rising at eight or nine per cent every year, year after year, we need breakthroughs. We need breakthroughs in medical technology; we need breakthroughs in how we deliver health; and we need breakthroughs in the way we fund health.

Medical technology is absolutely at the centre of that. It is constantly evolving at an extraordinary pace. For Australia and Australians a modern regulatory framework is absolutely essential to ensure that we have access to the latest treatments in a timely manner. So in October last year the Minister for Health and the Assistant Minister for Health announced that the government would undertake a review in this area with a discussion paper that is to be released in March this year.

That review is looking at how we can encourage competition and innovation in the medicine and medical device sector, which operate in a very complex and costly regulatory environment. Because it is costly, we know that through streamlining that administration, through streamlining that regulation, we cannot only bring new technologies to market faster but we can reduce the costs for taxpayers of Australia. The review is also looking at how we can take away unnecessary duplicative and ineffective regulation.

The review ties in with Australia's industry, innovation and competitiveness agenda. Specifically, where we can trust international standards and risk assessments, we should. Not only are we taking out duplication within Australia; we are looking to make sure we do not have duplication across the world. That is exactly the kind of innovative thinking that will ensure that this government delivers better government services, like health, for less.

As a first step in pursuing this agenda, the TGA is enabling Australian manufacturers to register routine medical devices using conforming approvals from European bodies—that is, we are streamlining global, not just Australian, regulation. It is important to understand that the pharmaceutical industry in Australia is a major high-tech industry. We have exports of $3.9 billion, which is a big industry in its own right. Growing fast, it employs 15½ thousand people and spends over $400 million in product manufacturing research and development. This is an absolutely extraordinary Australian success story.

In 2012-13, the industry received $7.1 billion from the government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the PBS. It has been responsible for some extraordinary and incredibly important medical breakthroughs and developments, with worldwide recognition—for example, CSL's swine flu agenda, the Gardasil vaccine for human papillomavirus; therapeutics for the prevention of transplant rejection and the treatment of multiple indications in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; and the flu drug Relenza.

The review and its aims also tie in with this government's commitment to reducing red tape. We have prioritised streamlining overregulated sectors in our economy with two red tape repeal days, and that has already reduced annual red tape costs by over $2 billion.

The review works towards two complementary objectives for this industry: creating the best environment for innovation and job growth and encouraging more R&D and manufacturing of therapeutic goods within Australia; and at the same time, secondly, it maintains important protections for the community from substandard, unsafe and ineffective therapeutic goods.

We must ensure that our health system remains sustainable for many years to come and we must ensure that our great industries that rely on Australian smarts are successful. Sustainability of our health sector for many decades to come is absolutely central to this government's agenda, which the Labor Party ignores in its thinking about the future.