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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 11380

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (3:05 PM) —Mr President, I seek leave to clarify the record in relation to comments that I made in answer to a question from Senator Nettle in the debate on amendments to the Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003.

Leave granted.

Senator PATTERSON —In my answer to Senator Nettle, I said that I had been advised that the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia had indicated their support for the amendments proposed by the government in a press release. I should point out for the record that the TGA formally advised the CHC, along with all other industry associations at its industry consultative committee meeting on Wednesday 7 May 2003, of the proposed amendments and provided them with details in writing. No concerns were raised by the CHC at that meeting. Furthermore, senior executive members of the CHC, in a delegation led by Mr Marcus Blackmore, met with the National Manager of the TGA that same afternoon when they sought clarification as to whether the amendments encompassed changes to requirements for efficacy. Upon receiving assurances that the amendments did not address efficacy, support for the amendments was indicated. No further contact from the CHC was received by the TGA, my office or my parliamentary secretary's office about the amendments. Mr Marcus Blackmore, a prominent member of the CHC, met with my parliamentary secretary on Wednesday, 14 May 2003 and, while he expressed concerns about the membership of the Expert Committee on Complementary Medicines in the Health System, again no concerns about the government's proposed amendments were raised. Furthermore, there is written advice available from Mr Marcus Blackmore, in a paper dated 7 May 2003, stating:

... Government should regulate for `fit and proper persons' to hold manufacturing licences, as suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary, Trish Worth ...

Further, in a paper dated 9 May 2003, Mr Blackmore expressed support for penalties and recall procedures being reviewed. Subsequently, in a letter to me dated 2 June 2003, Mr Blackmore said that, while the CHC had not put out a press release supporting the amendments:

... we were generally supportive of the government's initiatives.

In clarifying the record, I wish to point out that, while there was not a single CHC press release indicating their support, the CHC was generally supportive of the government's amendments. In the atmosphere at the time of the debate, with people relying on their memories, it was these events that advisers were recalling, which were clearly indicative of the CHC's support of the government's amendments. I think it is important that I clarify the record for the Senate so that any misinterpretation that might have been placed on my statement to the Senate, that I had been advised that the Complementary Healthcare Council had issued a press release, is corrected.