Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist February 2015 Contents Australian Pharmacist February 2015 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Those readers lucky enough to have had a long summer break in January
may have missed the fact that Australia has a new Health Minister –
Sussan Ley, the member for Farrer in rural NSW.
Ms Ley was previously the Assistant
Minister for Education. While new to
Health she has a strong in interest in rural
and regional Australia. In her maiden
speech to Parliament in 2002 she said:
‘I want to promote rural and regional
Australia as a place to live, work and
raise a family, recognising its value to the
identity and wellbeing of our nation.’
The reaction to her appointment
was certainly positive with health
organisations falling over themselves to
welcome her to the portfolio.
Gordon Gregory, CEO of the National
Rural Health Alliance said: ‘Ms Ley will
bring to Cabinet a knowledgeable
and sympathetic understanding of
rural affairs – particularly where health
services are concerned.’
This is a bonus for the Government
given that last month a poll of GPs
conducted by Australian Doctor showed
46% of respondents voted the previous
Health Minister, Peter Dutton, as the
worst health minister in living memory.
Minister Ley now has the unenviable
task of picking up the pieces of the
2014–15 Health budget.
Her baptism of fire last month came with
the outraged screams from GPs over a
reduction of $20.10 per consultation in
the Medicare payment for consultations
lasting six to 10 minutes, and claims
that the end of bulk billing is nigh.
To her credit she acted quickly to scrap
the reduction and announced a wide
ranging consultation ‘to come up with
sensible options to deliver appropriate
Her job has not been made easier by
calls from within government ranks for
the GST to be extended to healthcare,
education and financial advice. This gave
Shadow Health Minister Catherine King
plenty of ammunition to use against the
Abbott Government when travelling
around Queensland, demanding the
Minister rule out extending the GST
to health. While it may only have had
nuisance value, it was not the sort of
distraction the Newman Government
needed during last month’s Queensland
So how does the change of minister
affect pharmacy? Time will tell.
Minister Ley has to tackle a steep
learning curve in a short time to get
across not just pharmacy but the whole
health portfolio (and sport). There is a
lot of territory to cover.
While not widely known outside of
Canberra the Department of Health
under its new Secretary, Martin Bowles
(previously in Immigration), has just
undergone a major shake-up of
senior management with many senior
bureaucrats being replaced. This will not
make the Minister’s task of getting up to
speed any easier.
The obvious priority for pharmacy is the
next community pharmacy agreement.
The Fifth Community Pharmacy
Agreement (5CPA) sets 31 March
2015 as the date the sixth agreement
negotiations should be completed.
However, there is some wriggle room
as 5CPA says that negotiators should
‘use their best endeavours’ to complete
negotiations by 31 March. The pharmacy
negotiators will, no doubt, have their
fingers crossed hoping they don’t have
to start from scratch with a new group of
And then there is the Therapeutic
Goods Administration’s (TGA) Expert
Review of Medicines and Medical
Devices Regulation. Submissions closed
on 5 January. It is due to provide
recommendations on the regulatory
frameworks for prescription and
over-the-counter medicines and
medical devices by 31 March with a
review of the regulatory framework for
complementary medicines to will be
undertaken between April and June.
Both of these will impact on the shape
of pharmacy in the next five years.
We should remember too, in the
background Treasurer Joe Hockey, who
has been very quiet of late, is hard at
work preparing the 2015–16 Federal
Budget while still trying to salvage the
final 25% of the 2014–15 Budget. It is no
coincidence that the calls to extend the
GST to health have been growing louder.
In the present economic climate the
temptation for Mr Hockey to listen must
A steep learning
BY ANDREW DANIELS
» CANBERRA COMMENTARY
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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