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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3583

Mr STALEY (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - Is it a fact that in his recent guest editorial in the Pharmacy Guild Journal Contact' the Minister for Social Security claimed that the Labor Government had generously increased dispensing fees for pharmaceutical benefits and made-up prescriptions by 8c, and that this action had been constantly rejected by the previous Government? Are the real facts that the Labor Government simply agreed to continue to act in accordance with agreements made between the Liberal Government and the pharmacists early in 1972? Is it a fact that the Minister has again been caught out using the type of misrepresentation and distorted propaganda which he so constantly complains of in others?

Mr HAYDEN - I am deeply wounded at this personal attack. Nevertheless I commend the honourable member for his reading material; it has improved in recent times. I would not, if I were he, commend the past practices of the last governments in their treatment of the pharmacy profession. I was a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits. The repeated complaint of the pharmacy profession in the course of that inquiry was that on one occasion several years ago when there was an agreed formula between the Government and the profession for updating the rates of payment to the profession, and when that formula gave a substantial and, in the view of the profession and many who support it, a justified increase in those rates of payment, the Government said that it was a rather unusual rate of increase and refused to provide the full amount. It destroyed credibility and confidence between the Government and the profession. They were destroyed by the Government of that period and not by the profession. The fact is that the payments were made without any demur at all by my colleague, the Minister for Health who - I commend him for this - is at last restoring proper, amiable and constructive relations between the pharmacy profession and the Australian Government. Those relations were badly tattered by the treatment that the profession received at the hands of preceding governments.

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