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Transcript of media statement: Thursday 1 May 2003: Parliament House, Canberra: Pan Pharmaceuticals recall and Medicare ads.



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Alan Griffin MP

Member for Bruce Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection and Consumer Health

Statement - Parliament House, Canberra Thursday1 May 2003

E & OE - Proof only

Subjects: Pan Pharmaceuticals Recall and Medicare ads

Today I’d like to highlight a ridiculous example of how this Government sets priorities with respect to providing the Australian people with important information about their health.

Last Tuesday, the Government commenced two major advertising campaigns in the health portfolio area. Firstly, as part of the Pan Pharmaceutical recall, ads were placed to provide the public with essential information about what products were being withdrawn. On the same day, ads were placed advertising the Howard Government’s Medicare package which puts another nail in Medicare’s coffin and will lead to higher costs for Australian families.

It would appear that the Government had a clear view about what information was more important. The Government was committed to only publishing Pan Pharmaceutical ads in at least one major metropolitan newspaper in each State and Territory.

But the Medicare package ads got a much wider run. As well as all of the major metropolitan papers, the Medicare ad was placed in the Cairns Post, the Townsville Bulletin, the Geelong Advertiser, the Newcastle Herald and the Launceston Examiner. We have also received reports that a range of other smaller regional papers also contained the Medicare ad. But none of these papers, or for that matter any other rural or regional paper, were considered important enough to have the Pan Pharmaceutical ad.

My colleague, Catherine King, the member for Ballarat, was concerned that regional Australia was not receiving the same level of information as metropolitan areas and wrote to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Trish Worth, urgently requesting that the Government commit to providing this information to regional Australia. Cathy’s office received a very prompt but unsatisfactory response from the Parliamentary Secretary’s office. One of her staff was told that there was no justification for that amount of funds to be spent and that regional media would get a media release that they could run if they chose to.

So, if you are in regional Australia you had to rely on the civic mindedness of your local paper if you wanted to find out what products not to use. But that’s OK, because at least you would know about the Medicare package which will destroy bulk billing for Australian families.

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Different areas of the Health Department are responsible for the two issues, and there is some evidence that one or two additional papers may have been provided with today’s supplementary advertisement. Still it is absolutely ridiculous that providing information about a government policy that hasn’t been drafted into legislation is

viewed as more important than providing people with information regarding products that are being withdrawn from the public for public health concerns. This says a lot about the priorities of this government when it comes to health. They’ll spend more advertising a policy than protecting the public.

The Minister needs to get on top of her Department and set some priorities that have more to do with public health and safety than Liberal Party policy and spin.

Contact Alan Griffin MP 02 6277-4374 or 0419 353 476

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