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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1734

Mr Beazley (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

What attitude is taken by the Government to the statement on page 8 of the report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for 1970-71, that for some years the Commission has foreshadowed that the restrictions and limitations placed upon its activities would in time make it impossible to secure sufficient revenue to cover the cost of its operations, particularly those functions undertaken in the national interest and that that situation has now been reached.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act provides for the Laboratories to produce and sell biological products of a kind used for therapeutic purposes and to undertake research in connection therewith. The laboratories produce and sell on the open market, a wide range of pharmaceutical products both for human and veterinary use, and the range of these products has been expanded from time to time as circumstances warrant.

The Commission's difficulty in the face of rising costs and increased competition with consequent reduced profit margins is appreciated. The Government is, therefore, giving consideration to the desirability and practicability of further extending the Laboratories' activities into the associated field of non-biological products. In this connection, there are many aspects which call for detailed examination and consideration.

Provision exists under the present legislation for Commonwealth financial assistance to be extended to the Commission to carry out its functions. Foi example, where the Commission undertakes research in accordance with a determination by the Minister, and the Commission satisfies the Minister that the operations (including the undertaking of the research) of the Commission have been carried out at a loss in a financial year, the Commission is entitled to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth, to the extent of the loss or the cost of undertaking the research, which ever is the lesser. Reimbursement has been extended to the Commission in connection with such expenditure incurred in 1966-67 ($331,000) and 1971-72 ($479,000) and provision of $647,000 is included in the Departmental estimates for 1972-73 for this purpose.

In addition, provision also exists for the Commonwealth to make funds available to the Commission for other purposes. Since its inception in November 1961, additional capital of some $5m has been made available to the Commission by the Commonwealth to facilitate capital replacement, modernisation and expansion programmes at the Laboratories. The Departmental estimates for 1972-73 include provision for the grant of additional capital of some $2.1m to the Commission to meet planned capital expenditure in 1972-73.

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