Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist January 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist January 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 17
A great deal of hot air and many angry
words have been exchanged during the
past few months over dealings between the
Pharmacy Guild and private corporations.
Such was the interest for a while that
the air over Canberra positively sparkled
with energy, attracting the attention of
politicians, as well as the usual throng of
journalists, consumer groups and bloggers.
A quick scan of the media and
blogosphere even now will reveal the
depth of unrest, which quickly resolved
itself into a cry for an inquiry, not into
the Guild's commercial ventures, but
into its role as the negotiator with the
government over the $15 billion Fifth
Community Pharmacy Agreement.
There's nothing like a spirited public
debate over an important enterprise to
dredge up Schadenfreude.
It was the sort of stoush that interested
the Greens in particular. They railed
against what they described as the
injustice of the Pharmacy Guild,
representing 5,000 pharmacy owners,
exclusively negotiating the Fifth
Community Pharmacy Agreement,
Mark Thornton is a Canberra-based journalist and
was a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press
Gallery for many years. Any opinions expressed are
not necessarily those of PSA, its Board or staff.
while consumer health groups and
16,000 working pharmacists from PSA,
the Society of Hospital Pharmacists
of Australia and the Association of
Professional Engineers, Scientists and
Managers Australia, were not invited.
It's not quite like that, of course, but once
the pack is baying it's difficult to hear
anything reasonable above the noise.
So out of the cacophony came the call
from the Greens' spokesman for health
Senator Richard Di Natale, for the
Senate inquiry into the Fifth Community
Pharmacy Agreement to make sure that
the interests of pharmacists, consumers
and taxpayers are being met.
As of the middle of December, when
Canberra commentary spoke to him, he
was still pushing for the inquiry, even
though neither the Opposition nor the
Government were very interested in one.
Then Health Minister, Nicola Roxon,
appeared for a short while to support
the Greens' inquiry call when she was
questioned at the National Press Club
about more participation in the CPA.
'I do think there should be more active
participation and that's why this current
agreement that we're in now, for the
first time, actually has a specified role for
consumers, for the PSA and for many others
to be involved in the implementation of
those programs,' Ms Roxon said.
'That hasn't been the case before and
obviously we can see from the frustrations
that have been bubbling up that people
don't believe that that is yet working
properly and I've made very clear, my
Secretary's here today and she's made clear
to her team, that we want those clauses in
the provision -- in the agreement to work
properly. If they're not working properly
that's what we should be fixing.'
However, she said the current CPA is only
at the sharp end of a five year agreement
and the Government wouldn't change
anything, if at all, until the next one -- and
even that wasn't a consideration. She also
stopped short of supporting an inquiry.
Ms Roxon did say that no agreement is
perfect, adding: 'I think there's a lot of
constructive discussion to be had about
how things could be shaped differently for
So, with no inquiry likely you'd think all
parties would take a deep breath, have a
happy holiday and reconsider events in the
fresh light of a new year.
But Senator Di Natale won't let it go!
'I know governments don't like picking
fights with professionals in white coats; the
Guild is a very powerful organisation, but
this is not just the Greens pushing for an
inquiry into representation on the CPA, it's
a number of professional organisations and
'We have expressed to the Guild that we
are open to negotiation over the terms
of reference (of the CPA). We believe that
would make it more likely the government
would get on board. I think the
government is very aware that some of the
other groups who have backed the inquiry
are prepared to become much more active
in the New Year.'
Perhaps all parties will need to take several
deep breaths because Senator Di Natale
seems intent on whipping up the pack
again when Parliament sits in 2012.
But then why wouldn't he? After all the
Greens do have the balance of power in the
Senate now. Why wouldn't they try to flex
their muscles in a non conservation area to
show they are interested in more than trees
and furry animals?
A peaceful New Year?
By Mark Thornton
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