Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Questions without Notice
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Morrison government's sound budget and economic management is guaranteeing essential health services, like strengthening the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?
Senator Watt interjecting—
I will take that interjection from Senator Watt. One of the benefits of a strong economy, and that is exactly what we're talking about, is the ability to provide for the essential services Australians rely on—our health system in this regard, but in particular the coalition government's record of listing lifesaving and life-changing drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
I now often get to stand up in this chamber and update the Senate on announcements that our health minister makes in relation to the further listing of lifesaving and life-changing drugs. Yet again, today I am very pleased to announce to the Senate that the health minister has recently announced further listings on the PBS, including that more than 2,200 patients with metastatic small-cell lung cancer will now be able to access the drug Keytruda—a very well-known drug—as a first-line treatment in combination with chemotherapy.
As a result of our strong economy, the health minister has now ensured that Australians with lung cancer will have the broadest access in the world to Keytruda. If it was not for this listing, those patients requiring Keytruda would have paid up to $120,000 a year, depending on their specific cancer subtype. In terms of our listings, since coming to office in 2013 the coalition government has invested over $10.7 billion in lifesaving and life-changing medicines on the PBS. That is over 2,200 new or amended listings, and that equates to adding approximately one medicine every day to the PBS since we've been in government.
Again, we on the coalition side of the chamber understand that by keeping our economy strong we are able to invest in essential services, in this case the health services that Australians rely on. As a result of our economic plan, we are able to make record investments in our health system. These include increasing funding for the nation's public hospitals from $13.3 billion in 2012-13 to $22.5 billion in 2019-20, growing by 69 per cent, and our investment will reach $29.1 billion in 2024-25. Again because of the strong economy, we've also been able to make record investments in mental health: over $5.3 billion in 2019-20. Again, if you run a strong economy, these are the dividends that you can give back to Australians.
In relation to the listings that I have referred to over a number of question times, each listing has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and the health minister and the government have accepted those recommendations. This course of action differs wildly from what those on the other side of the chamber did the last time they were in government. They were so fiscally incompetent that they stopped listing life-saving and life-changing drugs on the PBS. This is despite the recommendations from the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee that drugs should be listed. In fact, in 2011, Labor's budget papers themselves state, 'The listing of some medicines will be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit'. Well, those fiscal circumstances now permit the listing of these important medications.