Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3039..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
an agreed period of 21/2 years, placing our teachers as the best paid in the country. This is something the government is very proud of.
MR SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.
MS TUCKER: My question is for Mr Stanhope as Chief Minister and minister representing the Acting Minister for Health. Mr Stanhope, I notice that, in your letter to the Prime Minister regarding the regulation of pharmacies, you have raised the question of the lack of certainty around how competition policy payments will apply and whether penalties will apply. I also notice that, in this letter, you say that in the ACT it is proposed that friendly societies will be able to operate up to six pharmacy outlets each, so you are saying that is the proposal here in the ACT. You also say that you understand that the Prime Minister arrived at an arrangement with Premier Carr that will see a different approach in that state being acceptable to you.
In light of the fact that you have said that you propose to have friendly societies in the ACT-although you also say that there is a lack of certainty around how competition penalties apply-can I ask you to make a commitment to this Assembly that the expressions of interest that you are asking for right now for the study into pharmacy services in the ACT will be broadened, in consultation with stakeholders, to look at the question of friendly societies before we make a decision about what we are saying to the Prime Minister? Would you also then write to the Prime Minister, letting him know that this work is occurring and asking that he not impose a penalty until the ACT community has had an opportunity to make its mind known to you concerning the question of friendly societies?
MR STANHOPE: Of course, there is a range of issues in relation to the operation of pharmacies in the ACT, and one of them is the fact that friendly societies currently do not operate or own pharmacies in the ACT. My colleague, Simon Corbell, the Minister for Health, has already introduced the Pharmacy Amendment Bill into the ACT Assembly. That was done, at one level, in response to our concerns about the operation of national competition policies.
In relation to the operation of pharmacies, members of the Assembly would be aware that, in the last year, the ACT incurred a penalty in relation to national competition payments from the Commonwealth. We incurred that penalty as a result of progress not yet made essentially in relation to the taxi and hire car industry and in relation to the deregulation of pharmacies. So the ACT, at this stage, is incurring a significant penalty. I think that $1.5 million was the penalty that we incurred in this last year as a result of a level of progress acceptable to the Commonwealth in relation to competition reform in the taxi and hire car industry, and as a result of what the Commonwealth perceived as a lack of progress in relation to pharmacy.
The ACT government has sought to address those concerns. It has sought to ensure that we do not continue to be penalised by the Commonwealth in payments to the ACT as a result of what the Commonwealth perceives to be a lack of progress. There is an issue of concern for the ACT and, indeed, all other jurisdictions in relation to what we see as a specific arrangement, an off-the-edge concession made by the Commonwealth to New