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Friday, 3 December 1976

Dr CASS (Maribyrnong) - I would just like to make an observation on something that I think has come up in the course of the debate since I spoke. I am not quarrelling or picking a fight with anyone. One of the problems that was discussed by all honourable members who spoke in the debate related to the fact that Ministers in the past could make decisions at whim and that despite negotiations and so on, they could ignore the advice that they received. It was possible, and it happened, that Ministers in the past- I am not picking out any particular Minister, I am just making a general comment- have ignored advice and made decisions that were often unfair to the pharmacists. I simply want to point out that clause 6 of the Bill, which seeks to introduce new sub-section 98C, gives the Minister power to determine:

The manner in which the Commonwealth price of all or any pharmaceutical benefits is to be ascertained for the purpose of payments to approved medical practitioners in respect of the supply of pharmaceutical benefits.

Proposed new paragraph (b) relates to approved pharmaceutical chemists. In other words the Act will still contain the potential for Ministers to behave in an irrational fashion. I am not suggesting that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) will do so. I do not believe he will. I think his behaviour has shown that he believes that one should take notice of advice given. Merely setting up this Joint Committee confirms that point. I just wanted to highlight the fact that the potential power to abuse the advice still remains. For all that, we still support the legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.

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