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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 1953

Senator YOUNG (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Health. With the proposed intrusion of supermarkets into the field of certain pharmaceutical lines previously regarded as specialised chemists' lines, can he say what steps can be taken to protect pharmacies, particularly the small ones, against the unwarranted intrusion of big chain stores which could have a serious effect upon the livelihood of chemists who render such a valuable service to the community?

Senator GREENWOOD - It must be appreciated that the nature of pharmacies has changed over the years and that in addition to the traditional work of the apothecary there has now been added the work of the retailer who dispenses stock proprietary lines. I think that in regard to stock proprietary lines the events which are currently occurring in the range of pharmaceuticals may well be found to have their origin in the resale price maintenance legislation which this Government introduced and the Parliament passed last year. One might also recall that the pharmaceutical industry did not proceed before, I think, the Trade Practices Tribunal seeking an exemption from the provisions of resale price maintenance. Following that event - I cannot say as a result of it - there has certainly been a lot of movement in this area. If the result of competition is to ensure that the prices at which stock proprietary lines are made available to the community are reduced, I am sure that that is something which the Government welcomes. I would hope that people conscious of the need to keep prices down would also welcome it. I have read articles which indicate that chemists themselves have a very competitive spirit and that a great number of them have formed a co-operative under which they will be able to combat what they might regard as the competition of the supermarkets. All I say is that if competition is the result of what is happening, and that results in lower prices, it is to be commended.

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