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Thursday, 17 February 2000
Page: 13845

Dr NELSON (11:20 AM) —The Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill 1999 is necessary as a consequence of the changes that are happening not only in the Australian economy but also internationally as we move from an agrarian labour intensive economy to a knowledge based one. For a $1.5 million industry in therapeutic devices in Australia, it is necessary to facilitate trade relations between Australia and the EFTA member countries. There has been considerable pressure applied to the government, quite rightly, to implement this agreement, and any further delays, I think, would attract criticism from the industry sector and the public. In that context, some of the remarks that I just heard were actually quite inappropriate.

As has been consistent with everything the government has been trying to do, not only in this area but in numerous others, it is going to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape for the industry and give better access to consumers for new and safe medical devices. These products, of course, include a range of things: heart valves, prosthetics, drug delivery machines, bandages and dressings.

Aligning regulatory requirements will avoid unnecessary red tape, improve access to overseas markets and give, I think, quite extraordinary opportunities for Australia to maximise benefits from existing and future international agreements on medical devices. As I said in my introductory remarks, this industry is worth $1½ billion which, in terms of the global market, represents about one per cent.

Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the global market, and we in Australia have to ensure that we remain an active, relevant and influential player, as the Parliamentary Secretary Senator Tambling has said. This legislation gives effect to the agreement made by the government in September last year to adopt internationally accepted classification and essential requirements from the European Union. It enables us as a nation to continue to play a leading role, as one of the big five countries, to pursue the internally harmonised model. Importantly, it also maintains the TGA's role in improving products for supply in Australia, and to assess medical devices to European standards and the memorandum of understanding with the European community. It is a measure that obviously should be commended to the parliament and should be supported strongly by not only the industry but both sides of the House, and as such I commend it to you.