Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist September 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist September 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
This month I had hoped to write about anything but the Federal Budget
but four months down the track it still dominates national politics.
The only respite from Budget talk in the
media has been the unfolding misery
in the Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza. Hardly an
Sadly in the midst of all this darkness
one gleam of light has been all but lost
in the gruesome headlines. It deserves
to be mentioned here.
On 8 August the National Health and
Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
released the first steps in the
government’s $200 million Boosting
Dementia Research budget measure.
NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick
Anderson said the, ‘$200 million is a
significant boost for into dementia
research, and it reflects the enormity of
the challenge ahead’.
The initiative includes the opening
of a Dementia Research Team Grants
scheme to support research into the
causes of dementia, improved methods
of prevention, new treatment options
and improved patient care. The scheme
is modelled on NHMRC’s Centres of
Research Excellence and is expected to
fund five teams for up to $6.5 million
each over five years. It is just one part of
Meanwhile back on the hill, the 2014
Federal Budget is slowly grinding its
way through Parliament. In spite of
some fairly humiliating gaffs by Senators
Abetz and Brandis the Government
has clawed back some public support
in the polls. However, a nagging worry
(for the Government that is) is that
the claw-back is because people are
relieved many budget measures have
been, or are expected to be, rejected by
According to the Treasurer Joe
Hockey most of the Budget is through
Parliament. Speaking on ABC radio
(Monday 11 August) he said: ‘We are
now dealing with the major policy issues
that make the Budget sustainable over
the medium and long-term.’
A day later Health Minister Peter Dutton
called for expressions of interest from
the private sector to provide claims
and payment services for Medicare and
the PBS. This set off yet another round
The Public Health Association of
Australia (PHAA) expressed ‘serious
concerns about the government’s
attacks on Medicare’.
PHAA President Professor Heather
Yeatman said: ‘First it was the
$7 co-payment for health services...and
now there is an attempt to move part of
the Medicare system into private hands.
This really is the thin end of the wedge.
If the government is allowed to get away
with a $7 co-payment, it is only a matter
of time when it becomes $10, $15,
$20 and then – who knows?’
And we’re back to that pesky
$7 co-payment – the one former Liberal
treasurer Peter Costello has said the
government should ‘cut its losses’ on
At the time of writing the Mr Hockey was
sticking to his guns – but time will tell.
When pushed by the ABC interviewer
about the co-payment’s chances of
getting though his response was
‘don’t count your chickens before they
hatch’. He also said that ‘our door is very
much open’ appearing to indicate the
Government was willing to negotiate.
One group the Government has been
talking to is the Australian Medical
Association which put an alternative
proposal. Health Minister Peter Dutton
said the Government was seriously
looking at it.
Parliament resumed on 26 August for
two weeks so the co-payment issue may
have already been resolved one way or
the other. One can only hope!
The Opposition was showing no sign of
softening its stance on the co-payment.
Speaking at the University of Western
Sydney, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
said: ‘You can’t make a bad idea good
with a bit of lipstick. The GP tax is just a
bad idea and no amount of tinkering is
going to make a bad idea a good idea’.
Mr Hockey and Mr Dutton’s problem is
that the Australian public tends to agree
with the Opposition.
A gleam of
light in a dark
» CANBERRA COMMENTARY
BY ANDREW DANIELS
Andrew Daniels is Managing Editor of Australian
Pharmacist. Opinions expressed in this column are
not necessarily those of the Pharmaceutical Society,
its Board or staff.
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