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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3910 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

most popular pseudoephedrine tablets, which can be bought at any pharmacy for less than $10, can be converted by a skilled chemist in a clandestine laboratory into amphetamines worth more than $2,000 on the streets.

In New South Wales the Drug Enforcement Agency has uncovered several large illegal laboratories. In one house 11,000 packets of legally purchased tablets were discovered. New South Wales has also experienced large thefts of raw pseudoephedrine powder from security storage on the Sydney docks. Rural areas have been targeted. Carloads of so-called shoppers systematically visit every pharmacy in a town, attempting to buy pseudoephedrine products.

Victorian community pharmacies have been the target of ram raids, burglary and armed hold-ups to obtain such products. A Queensland crime syndicate systematically visited every pharmacy in Tasmania recently buying pseudoephedrine products. Members of this syndicate, fortunately, were arrested on their return to Brisbane. Queensland police report discoveries of a number of suitcase laboratories set up for a few days in motels and hotels.

The ACT has not been immune. Early this month the AFP raided 19 homes and seized 200 grams of illicit amphetamines worth $385,000 on the illegal market.

The government has decided to mount a campaign to combat the growing incidence of this unfortunate trend. Working with the AFP, the ACT Pharmacy Board and peak pharmacy organisations, the government will highlight the problem to pharmacists, advising them to keep shelf stocks to a minimum and reminding them that they should exercise professional judgment in the supply of these products. Pharmacists are not obliged to sell these products on demand. They may sell only if they are satisfied the supply is consistent with the safety of the consumer.

We are advising pharmacists that they generally restrict sales to one packet at a time and advise the AFP's chemical diversion desk of any suspicious sales or requests. Posters reminding the pharmacy staff of these measures and the public of the newly restricted nature of pseudoephedrine sales will be distributed to all ACT pharmacies in an effort to combat this unfortunate trend.

Hospital waiting lists

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is for the Health Minister. Minister, the combined waiting list for elective surgery for Canberra and Calvary hospitals has now broken through the 4,000 barrier and was sitting at 4,057 at the end of October this year. I note that the ALP 2001 election platform said that "waiting lists are unacceptably long" at a time when they were around 3,560. I know that the government has spent millions of dollars extra on health. I know that Ted Rayment solved the nurses dispute with little or no direction or involvement from you. I know that two multi-leaf collimators have been bought and installed and are now operational, and I acknowledge that earlier this year both hospitals increased their throughput. I would like to know what plans the government has for tomorrow through to the end of this financial year to bring down waiting lists.

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