Wednesday, 11 September 2019
National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2019; Second Reading
It's a great privilege to be able to get up and speak on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2019 before the House, because this bill speaks to the very clear success of the Morrison government. What this bill, even in its modesty, seeks to do is to make sure that no matter who you are, no matter where you live and no matter the challenges you face, you'll be guaranteed a supply of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in the community where you live, and with accessibility and affordability. That's at the heart of what this bill tries to achieve.
It's only a modest cost, at about $2.8 million a year, but it enables and makes sure that supplied medicines on the PBS, particularly to people in rural and regional communities, get the dividends of this government's strong economic management. We know full well that we have situations where pharmacies go into administration and that there are then challenges and problems that are faced directly by local communities in their capacity to access medicines because of the challenges faced by an individual pharmacist. What this parliament here today is saying is that regardless of who you are and where you live, you will not be left in doubt. You will not be left in the lurch. We understand that across this great continent, no matter who you are, you have a basic expectation about receiving basic medical care, whether it's from your doctor, whether it's in your hospital or whether it's emergency care, and also of course that you will have access to life-saving medicines.
This bill is particularly important because more and more Australians are living with chronic conditions, the consequence of an ageing population, and the need for additional support and assistance. That's what this bill seeks to achieve. It is relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things in terms of administration, but will have a real impact in terms of people's lives. The changes will bring applications by pharmacists in line with the Australian Government Charging Framework. The changes will help to ensure access to PBS medicines can continue uninterrupted where a pharmacy is affected by bankruptcy or external administration, and of course as I've outlined already. Where does this happen? It is particularly where there is only a single pharmacy within a community and therefore they need assistance.
And this is against the backdrop of the entire Morrison government's health agenda and its economic agenda as well, because one of the things that those people on the opposition benches don't understand is that, if you can't afford to pay for medicines, you can't afford to deliver them to the Australian people. With more conditions receiving live-changing or life-improving or life-saving medicinal support, the government faces an ever-looming and greater challenge around financing the cost of the nation's health bill. It's only when you have a clear-eyed, controlled management of our nation's finances that you will be in a position to support this type of legislation and ensure the guaranteed supply of medicines to consumers at the end of the supply chain. This is why it's a fulfilment of the Morrison government's agenda for Australians—to make sure that nobody is left behind. Through the PBS, patients can access medicines that, in some cases, would cost tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for a maximum of only $6.50 per script for concession card holders and a maximum of $40.30 for non-concessional patients. Patients will then, of course, receive free or reduced costs for scripts once they reach their safety net. And this is against a backdrop of the nearly 186 million different scripts that are signed across the country, providing access to important health and medical care.
We're averaging, as a consequence of this government's strong economic management, 31 new or amended listings per month, or approximately one per day. Compare that with the legacy of the last Labor government. We don't draw this distinction for trite political purposes or partisan purposes. We draw this distinction because, when Labor stopped listing new medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme because their irresponsible economic management meant Australia couldn't afford to list them, that had real human impacts on real people's lives. I can't think of anything worse than when a country has been so mismanaged, as it was previously under Labor governments, that you turn around to those that are sick, those that are suffering and those that are confronting life challenges and, of course, their own mortality and say, 'We stuffed up; therefore you can't get care.' That's the eternal shame that will always hang over those who sit on the opposition benches. They get up and carp and complain because whatever we do is never enough—like when we deliver tax cuts. Even though they went to the last election promising $387 million of new taxes, apparently ours aren't cutting fast enough. It's the same with their health agenda. They constantly talk about how they want more spending but they can never map out a plan about how they're going to pay for it. And, when they've been in government—don't just judge what they say; judge what they have done and will do—they have fallen short and left Australians who are already in difficult times and sometimes in their darkest hour in the lurch. It's about time they stood up and took responsibility for their actions and their conduct, and it's about time the Australian people held them to account for their empty promises and empty hope, as they did at the last election.
This bill sits at the heart of exactly what this government is about. It's a government that's prudent and responsible, because then we're able to deliver the human dividend of making sure that, no matter who you are, no matter where you live and no matter your condition, this government and this parliament is in the best position to help, aid, assist and back you so that, when you're facing tough times, you're not doing it alone and so that you're certainly not being told by those in the Labor Party, 'Sorry, we can't help you because we can't help ourselves.' That's why this bill matters. That's why it's important to enjoy the support of the parliament despite the virtue-signalling amendments that have been put forward by our Labor opposition. Rather than talking about the fundamentals of what they would do to make sure they guarantee PBS access for millions of Australians, their consistent agenda, no matter what piece of legislation comes into this parliament, has been to drive distraction. We won't let them get away with it, because Australians can't afford to let us do so.