Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Questions to the Speaker
Mr Speaker, my question to you refers to the resolution of the House adopted on 27 August, 1997, relating to the right of persons who have been referred to in the House, where that person has had their reputation adversely impacted. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, that resolution allows for those persons who have been attacked in parliament to have their right of reply recorded in the parliamentary record, in certain circumstances.
By way of context, earlier today the Minister of Health, using parliamentary privilege and speaking on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Bill 2020, launched an attack on the campaign to have the migraine drug Emgality listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and accused that campaign of being an 'astroturf' campaign—his words. 'Astroturfing' refers to the practice of vested interests funding and organising community campaigns through front groups. It's a very serious allegation to make, both against the pharmaceutical company involved, Eli Lilly, and against the campaign being run by Migraine Australia. Mr Speaker, I refer you to the public statement made by Migraine Australia in response to the minister's attack, which reads in part that Migraine Australia categorically rejects:
… any assertion that we are a front for Eli Lilly, or any of the other companies that make medications for migraine. … This company has never taken money from anyone.
My question to you, Mr Speaker, is that given the resolution refers to 'persons' being able to write to you to seek a right of reply, whether you would accept a submission as Speaker from Migraine Australia or Eli Lilly, both of whom are legal persons but not individuals, or any one of the 400,000 Australians who suffer from chronic migraine, many of whom have participated in the community campaign to have Emgality listed on the PBS?
Obviously, as the shadow minister for health and member for McMahon has pointed out, the resolution does refer to persons, and I am in the hands of the resolution of the House. But what I'll do, obviously, is not detain the House now. I'll study the resolution carefully and I'll report back to the House. It won't be today.
That's given that I made no reference to any group or any individual.
An honourable member interjecting—
Eli Lilly, absolutely! And I do believe that the company has not behaved ethically—that the company, which is a $137 billion company, is seeking to avoid and overturn the decisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
But in relation to the group which was mentioned: there has been no reference to any group or to any individual. And, for clarity, let me make this clear: there is no reference, there has been no reference and nor do I believe that that group has done anything wrong. There you go.