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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27024

Mr BEAZLEY (Leader of the Opposition) (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, do you recall telling Neil Mitchell yesterday morning that the people you are forcing off cholesterol lowering medication are `lazy about their own health habits' and that they have a `somewhat more indulgent lifestyle'? Prime Minister, what qualifies you to say that the 65,000 people in this category— most of whom are older Australians—are lazy and self-indulgent?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —As usual, I will check precisely what I said to Neil Mitchell. I will find out precisely whether the construction put on it by the Leader of the Opposition is correct. Having said that, my view, the view of the government and the view of many people in the medical profession is that people who could be threatened or challenged by heart disease would do well to observe more strict dietary habits and would do well to engage in more exercise.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —I do not think that there is any doubt about that.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Jagajaga! The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —The point ought to be made that, contrary to what is being said by some critics of the government, these drugs are not being taken off the PBS list at all. All that is happening is that doctors are being enjoined to ensure that the prescription of drugs is preceded by a little bit of advice about diet and exercise.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Jagajaga!

Mr HOWARD —I think it is a thoroughly sound approach to encourage people to engage in better dietary habits and a little bit of exercise, as well as treating them with drugs. I think most Australians would agree with what I have said.