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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1567

Senator COOK —Mr President, I wish to supplement an answer I gave to a question from Senator Knowles on 11 April concerning the mailing of information on changes to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. On 6 April Senator Knowles asked me to provide the Senate with details of how much the Department of Community Services and Health spent on a plastic capsule and its contents giving advice to doctors on changes in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I took Senator Knowles's question on notice at the time and responded to it on 11 April 1989. Based on information provided to me, which the Department of Community Services and Health obtained from the contractors, Grey Advertising, on the previous day, I stated that the unit cost was $1.73.

At the Senate Estimates hearing on 13 April Senator Walters asked a similar question and the Department provided the answer that the unit cost was $2.15. I immediately made inquiries of the Department to clarify the issue, and made a full statement to the Estimates Committee that evening. In that statement I told the Committee that Greys had advised the Department on 12 April that the information provided on 10 April had omitted the cost of labelling at $2,000, and that the cost of printing the contents, which was not included in the earlier advice, was $11,000. This brought the unit cost to $2.15. I added that the Department still had not received a final detailed invoice from Grey Advertising. Following the discussions in the Senate Estimates Committee I asked the Department to seek from Grey a final breakdown of the final cost of this exercise with the necessary supporting invoices. This has been received, and I table the documents which have been provided to me by the Department. In summary, the table shows that the cost of the exercise was $75,904 and the unit cost is now $2.36. It is now clear that the difficulty which the Department has obviously had in providing completely accurate information on the actual costs stems from its not having obtained a final cost reconciliation first. I have made clear to the Department my dissatisfaction with this failure to provide the information, and ordered that steps be taken to ensure that it will not happen again.