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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 31

Ms ROXON (11:01 AM) —Thank you for that clarification. That was my understanding as well, but I thought it was important that we have that on the record. Labor does support the passage of the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Bill 2007 and the amendments that have been passed in the other place. We are disappointed that a number of the issues that were raised during a fairly truncated Senate committee process have not been able to be explored adequately. When such major changes are being made to the PBS—a very important part of the health support that the government gives to the nation—we need to make sure that we get the detail of these changes right. We are pleased, given our concerns about some of the issues that have been raised both on behalf of consumers and on behalf of the generics industry, that a number of the changes that have been accepted during the Senate process will at least allow for a proper and adequate review of whether these measures do have the intended effect.

I think everybody is in furious agreement about the intended effect. Whether or not there might be some extra impact or burden on consumers—we have some fears that it may—will now at least be able to be properly monitored and reported on at the end of a review process. The government has agreed, following the Senate inquiry, to include that provision in this legislation. We welcome that and believe that it will be of benefit to consumers and that it will provide some extra protection and confidence which were not really able to be provided to the broader community during the very quick Senate inquiry process.

We are also pleased that a number of the amendments will ensure that the departmental processes for implementing these reforms will be made more transparent. Other players in the pharmaceuticals industry will understand that, with respect to negotiations which are quite rightly held between the department, Medicines Australia and other pharmaceutical companies, there will be an extra level of scrutiny of those negotiations so that we can maintain the community’s confidence that this scheme is getting the best value for government and also protecting the needs and interests of consumers. I welcome the fact that these amendments have been agreed to, and I commend them to the House.

Question agreed to.