House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Questions without Notice

Health Care

3:16 pm

Photo of Mary DoyleMary Doyle (Aston, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. What action is the Albanese Labor government taking to ensure that Australians have affordable access to life-changing medicines? Why is the government determined to deliver cheaper medicines, and how is this different from other approaches?

3:17 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the terrific member for Aston for that question, because she knows and is proud of the fact that Australia has one of the best medicine systems in the world, underpinned by the PBS, which is a great Labor legacy that was opposed tooth and nail, just like Medicare, by the Liberal Party when we went to introduce it.

The PBS ensures that Australian patients get access to the best cutting-edge treatments that are developed anywhere in the world at affordable prices. In just two years in government, we've already made more than 200 new or expanded listings on the PBS. This week, for example, we listed a brand-new treatment for an extreme form of lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and sometimes very serious organ damage. Lupus affects around 20,000 people in Australia, 90 per cent of whom are women, and the new treatment, Saphnelo, is the first new treatment for this extreme form of lupus in literally decades. I'm advised it will benefit around 1,400 patients each and every year. And, without the listing, they'd be paying around $19,000 a year.

But we know that, even at PBS prices, too many Australians still have difficulty affording the medicines that their doctors have prescribed for them—around a million every year, according to the ABS. That is why we promised the Australian people that we would make medicines cheaper, and we've spent the last two years being busy delivering on that promise. In just the first three months of government, we slashed the maximum amount that millions of pensioners would pay for their medicines each year by 25 per cent. In the first 12 months, we delivered the biggest cut to the price of medicines in the 75-year history of the PBS, and, in the first 18 months, we finally allowed doctors to prescribe common medicines for chronic conditions for 60-day supply, not just 30-day supply.

In the May budget, just a few weeks ago, we added another measure, which was to freeze the price of PBS medicines for up to five years. That measure alone will save Australian patients as much as half a billion dollars on top of the more than $400 million we have already saved them in just under two years. Cheaper medicines are obviously good for the hip pocket, but they're also good for people's health. It's just good health policy.

But the Leader of the Opposition had a very different approach, which I was asked about. In his first budget as health minister, a horror health budget, he actually tried to make medicines more expensive. He tried to jack up the price of medicines by up to $5 a script. And that is what you get from this guy: you get higher doctors' fees, you get higher medicine prices and you get higher grocery prices through his shambles of a supermarket policy. And of course you'd get a higher power prices through nuclear reactors.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.