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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1911


Senator REID —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Community Services and Health. I refer the Minister to the announcement in the April economic statement of a reduction of $31m this year, $96m next year and $156m the following year in outlays under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Is he aware that pharmacists have already suffered a reduction in income in the vicinity of 14 per cent since January 1988 as a direct result of changes already made to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and these latest changes will result in a further 5 per cent reduction in pharmacists' incomes? When the rest of the community can at least look forward to a wage increase later this year, why has the Government singled our pharmacists as one section of the community which will not only not get an increase in income, but also will suffer a real drop in income and the additional disadvantage of having their incomes frozen until the end of 1990 as a result of the Government's refusal to index the dispensing fee?


Senator COOK —I am aware that the Government reformed the pharmaceutical benefits scheme previously and in the April economic statement announced that it would continue with that reform. That reform is structured in a way in which the benefits to consumers of pharmaceuticals are protected. That point is often lost in the political debate from the Opposition ranks.

I notice that the honourable senator says that pharmacists have suffered a 14 per cent reduction in income. I am not sure what the authority for that assertion is, but along with the other allegations in the honourable senator's question I will refer that to the Minister for Community Services and Health and give her an answer in due course.