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Friday, 26 May 1989
Page: 2840

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Aged Care. Can the Minister inform us why negotiations with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia on a new remuneration package for pharmacists have broken down? Is he aware that many pharmacists are complaining that Guild leaders are simply looking after their own interests at the expense of their members' interests? For example, a Guild member has claimed that the New South Wales President of the Guild, who has strongly opposed the Government's offer, earns a total of $140,000 from various part-time positions with the guild, plus a luxury car, plus overseas trips, plus a unit in downtown Sydney, as well as his income from a large and profitable pharmacy.

Senator COOK —I have heard some of those rumours, but I am not in a position to confirm the rumours that Guild leaders are paid these sums. It is interesting that some Guild members see this as relevant to the recent decision by the Guild Executive to reject the Government's offer. Nor, I would suggest, would it be proper for me to disclose the precise nature of the pharmacy owned by the New South Wales Guild President, or even ask the Department to render such details. I am at a loss, however, to understand why the Guild Executive rejected the Government's offer at the last moment. It may be that, having misrepresented the Government's proposal to its members and whipped them into a frenzy, the Executive finds it now cannot accept the offer even though some Executive members privately admit that it would be in their members' best interests.

I understand that the Minister for Housing and Aged Care, Mr Peter Staples, on 17 May wrote to all pharmaceutical benefits scheme pharmacists in Australia setting out the details of the negotiations between the Government and the Guild, including the details of the Government's offer. This highlighted the fact that the overwhelming majority of small and medium sized pharmacies would be better off under the proposed package, which would include a $50,000 voluntary amalgamation payment.