Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist June 2013 Contents Australian Pharmacist June 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 19
Is anyone listening?
By Mark Thornton
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.
Legendary Press Gallery reporter Michelle Grattan probably summed up the 2013
Budget best, observing not that it was a bad one, in fact it was pretty good, but
according to most people on both sides of politics, voters aren't listening anymore.
So the Budget turned out to be just another
staging point in the election campaign,
Grattan said, full of complicated tactical
play with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
in his Budget reply also matching step with
the government by deciding to deliver the
Budget's multi-billion dollar raft of savings
which now have, in effect, bipartisan
agreement, whatever unpleasant things he
and his sloganeer--in-chief Joe Hockey have
said about them previously.
Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access
Economics sort of agreed with
Grattan, saying the Budget was pretty
'There are genuinely good savings
measures here, stuff that should have been
done years ago, and that's very welcome,'
he said. He gave it 7.5 out of 10 while most
other pundits only gave 6 out of 10.
Richardson acknowledged Treasurer Wayne
Swan's argument that Australia's economic
fundamentals remain strong, despite
difficult global conditions and the sustained
high dollar. It meant the Government
was able to stick with its flagship Gonski,
NDIS, public dental health and National
Broadband Network projects.
Mr Swan was truthfully able to say the
economy is 'now 13% larger than it was
when the Government came to office,
with around 950,000 jobs created over
this period. In contrast, around half of all
advanced economies have not regained
lost output from the GFC and millions
of jobs have been lost in the rest of the
Meanwhile, health continues to consume
the biggest portion of budget expenditure,
and the spending will continue to grow
despite Mr Swan finding significant savings
-- more than $1.7 billion in the forward
estimates. It's worth noting though that
the Grattan Institute says government is
spending almost $42 billion more this year
in real terms on health than a decade ago.
Our own PSA was supportive of the budget,
observing that: 'the Government has taken
strong moves to help improve the economy
while tempering the impact of the budget
on the important role health plays in the
Acting PSA President, Dr Claire O'Reilly,
said the PSA understood that in the current
economic climate some initiatives proposed
by the Society had not been implemented.
'The health sector has undergone some cuts
but overall the impact has been reduced
as much as possible by spreading the cuts
across a broad spectrum of programs across
the country,' Dr O'Reilly said.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
receives an additional $687 million for
new and amended listings over five years.
However a sting in the tail remains through
the ongoing impact of price disclosure
which by August 2013 will have reduced
the price of more than 130 medicines'.
Medicines Australia thought the budget
was reasonable too, with Chief Executive
Dr Brendan Shaw observing: 'This Federal
Budget shows the value of a collaborative,
negotiated approach to managing the
PBS. PBS spending growth is currently at
historically low levels, so it's clear that the
MoU and previous reforms are working, and
it's clear that the PBS is sustainable'.
We should note here, however, that
according to a recent report by the
independent think tank Committee for
Economic Development of Australia, the
way we set prices for generic drugs on the
PBS is inefficient, with Australians paying
some of the highest prices in the world
for generic medications because of poor
Also, the Consumer Health Forum found
less to sing about in the budget than other
lobby groups, noting patients with cancer
or needing new medicines will benefit,
but consumers generally now face heavier
costs that are '...fuelling the emergence
of a two-tiered health system -- one for
those who can afford to pay and one for
those who cannot. Unfortunately, there is a
growing number of Australians, particularly
the aged and the chronically ill, who are
struggling to afford necessary medical
treatment,' said CHF Chief Executive Officer
Canberra Commentary has saved Ms
Bennett's comments till last because they
are the most telling, and damaging, of all.
In this great land, which is still the land
of opportunity, if we really are creating
a two-tier health system for haves and
have-nots, then we should be worried --
especially if, as Ms Grattan suggests, the
voters aren't listening any more.
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