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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7159


Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Industry and Innovation and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (21:08): I recognise that there has been a question put seriously in some detail. I am not sure that I can address all of the detail at this point in time but, perhaps for the benefit of some others in the room, I will provide a little bit of context before I go to some of the response.

ANSTO, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, that the member for Bennelong has been referring to, produces 85 per cent, I am advised, of the nuclear medicines that one in two Australians are likely to need in their lifetime. PETNET Solutions, as I understand, is a wholly owned ANSTO subsidiary which produces a radiopharmaceutical, fluorodeoxyglucose, or FDG. I am advised that FDG is used in positron emissions tomography, or PET scanning, and that, of course, has produced very significant advances in the diagnosis of cancer and other medical conditions and, in fact, is the fastest growing diagnostic-imaging technique globally, and is very important. I am aware that the Australian Government Competitive Neutrality Complaints Office recently issued a report on PETNET in which it investigated four complaints that the member for Bennelong has been alluding to. My advice is that in three cases it found no breach of the competitive neutrality framework. Specifically, the complaints office found that ANSTO's process for selecting a commercial partner to re-enter the radiopharmaceuticals market is not a breach of competitive neutrality. Secondly, ANSTO's approach to apportioning and charging centrally provided services does satisfy the requirements of a competitive neutrality policy. Thirdly, the complaints office found that ANSTO's pricing of individual services in particular market segments in itself is not a breach of competitive neutrality policy.

There was one finding by the complaints office that PETNET's rate of return was lower than ANSTO had anticipated. As a result, the complaints office has recommended that PETNET's business model should be adjusted so that it achieves a commercial rate of return that reflects the amount ANSTO has invested in PETNET. The report does not specify how that should be done. The point needs to be made that ANSTO is not under a formal obligation to respond to that report, but as the government is advised is currently considering its position. This is a responsibility of Senator Evans, my colleague in the portfolio. I am aware he has asked the department to keep him informed on how ANSTO will go about implementing that important recommendation and responding to the latter finding I referred to.

ANSTO remains committed to working with the Australian medical community to ensure Australians have access to the best nuclear medicines available. The government wants to ensure that that is the case. My colleague Senator Evans will continue to follow this issue. If there is more specific detail that may assist the member for Bennelong, I am sure Senator Evans would facilitate a more detailed response.