19 June 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (17:16): Tonight, I rise to speak on this matter of private business tonight. This issue has led to a huge uplift of correspondence into my electorate office and communication with pharmacies right across my electorate. There are a few issues with the way this was done. There was a lack of consultation included in the first place, and that has led to the situation we are now in. Even the Office of Impact Analysis has stressed that the report was lacking a reasonable level of consultation.
I heard during question time in the House that this particular policy was formulated some years ago and it’s just been sitting there. There’s a reason it’s just been sitting there, and that is because it’s just not good for regional pharmacies.
I’ve been contacted by some of my larger pharmacists—for instance, out at Broken Hill—and some of my smaller ones. I’ll give you a good example: the pharmacy at Walgett. Walgett has a 45 per cent Indigenous population, and that’s part of the irony of this debate we’re having in this House at the moment. On one hand, we’re hearing wonderful speeches about the government and other people’s great care for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, but, on the other hand, they’re implementing policies that are impacting on those very communities and the people that provide those services. Walgett is a long way from the next town. A lot of the Indigenous population of Walgett do rely on the Walgett Pharmacy for the services they provide—blister packs to aged care, to people who are having services delivered at home—and the potential closure of a business such as that would be devastating.
The other pharmacy I’ve spoken about is Gilgandra Pharmacy. Emma Robinson, the pharmacist there, has done an incredible job in building that business so that they are providing a broad range of services. Indeed, I had my flu shot there last year—my flu shot or one of the COVID ones, I can’t quite remember—but they are doing great work in that section. Emma is supporting some trainees so that we’ve got new pharmacists coming through. Emma employs several other pharmacists. She was telling me that it’s going to be really difficult for her to maintain that level of service in the town of Gilgandra. We heard from the other side that the AMA are supportive of these changes. It’s fine for the AMA. The taxpayers are paying for the changes to bulk-billing and other things like that, and fair enough. With these changes, it’s expected the pharmacists will pay. There’s been some detail in here about the work that the pharmacists are doing with addiction programs and some of the services they provide to community around methadone and other things. I’m being told by my local pharmacist that that is going to really impact on what they do.
I heard from members on the other side how profitable pharmacy is. But in some of my communities they’re the primary provider of medical services. Even if they’re not the only one, quite often they’re the most constant provider, because in an era where we have fly-in fly-out locum doctors, and where every time a patient might go to a doctor at the clinic down the road there’s a different face, the pharmacist generally is the constant. I’ve had pharmacists say to me that patients will come in with a script, and, while they might not have confidence in or a complete understanding of what the GP has told them, they go to the local pharmacist to get advice about their medication and the things they take.
This program is ill-conceived in its time, and I will agree with the member for Bean that there is still time for consultation to actually salvage something from this rushed announcement and make sure that those pharmacies can continue to provide the services right across Australia and particularly in regional Australia.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Archer):
The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.