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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26393

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (7:34 PM) —We have been debating these issues at length under other amendments and in our general discussion of both the implementation bill and the agreement itself. The issue raised by Senator Allison is: are generics disadvantaged under the implementation provisions? We have said that we sought to ensure that generics would not be disadvantaged. In fact, we are very supportive of the growth of generics. Earlier today I outlined to the chamber the extent of that growth in recent years, the benefits of that growth in keeping prices down and also specific initiatives that the government has taken in recent years to assist the growth of generics. I would argue that that establishes a background of a government that is very committed to this sector. That is not surprising because the PBS system is a government subsidy system and a very expensive one. We have had long and difficult debates on that issue in other circumstances in the Senate in the last few years. It is obvious that it is in the interests of government to maintain a downward pressure on costs.

To that background, we put to the chamber again that we went into this negotiation with a determination to protect the generic sector. We believe we have achieved that. When you look at what is required of that part of the sector, you see that it is not in any way onerous and, I would suggest, not in any way unreasonable. To be required to certify that the applicant does not propose to market therapeutic goods in circumstances that would involve infringement of a patent or to certify that the applicant does not propose to market the therapeutic good before the expiry of a patent is certainly not unreasonable. That the applicant has notified the patentee about its application to include goods in the register does not seem to me to be in any way unreasonable either. It is simply ensuring that the proper information is given and the relevant administrative authority has the information before it in order to process the application.

Senator Allison asks me whether I can assure the chamber. I repeat: the government is confident that these provisions do not in any way prejudice a growth in this part of the sector, that that growth will continue and that those medicines will benefit Australian consumers. Basically, that is what the PBS is all about and it is that system that we designated as a no-go zone from the start of these negotiations.