Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4827 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Resolution of the Assembly to report on the establishment of pharmacies in supermarkets-Government response, dated November 2003.
I seek leave to make a statement.
MR CORBELL: At its sitting on Thursday, 23 October this year, the Assembly passed a resolution calling on the government to:
(1) Investigate the pharmacy legislation as it stands and any related commercial legislation and determine whether there are any loopholes which may allow the establishment of pharmacies in supermarkets in the ACT; and
(2) Report back to the Assembly with the results of this investigation by 27 November 2003.
I have tabled the government's report in response to the Assembly's resolution. Mr Speaker, the pharmacy profession in the ACT is regulated under the Pharmacy Act 1931. The Pharmacy Act 1931 provides that only a registered pharmacist may own the business of a pharmacy and prohibits anyone other than a registered pharmacist attempting to carry on the business of a pharmacist.
This does not mean that the building in which the pharmacy business is located cannot be owned by a person other than a registered pharmacist, or that a pharmacist cannot carry on a business within the premises of a larger retail organisation.
It would therefore be possible, Mr Speaker, under our existing legislation, for a supermarket to lease an area within its store to a registered pharmacist who dispensed scheduled medicines. The supermarket would not own the pharmacy and could not be said to be carrying on the business of a pharmacist. In these circumstances the supermarket would not provide a pharmacy service merely by allowing a pharmacist to operate his or her business inside a supermarket store. Mr Speaker, it would, however, be illegal for a supermarket to operate its own pharmacy with an employed registered pharmacist in charge. In this instance, the supermarket, as owner of the pharmacy, would be carrying on the business of a pharmacist.
With respect to other related commercial legislation, I am advised that a supermarket could not rely on the Trade Practices Act 1974 to challenge the ownership restrictions included in the Pharmacy Act 1931. Whilst it could be argued that the provisions of the Pharmacy Act 1931 relating to pharmacy ownership might be construed as contrary to the competition principles agreement between the territory and the Commonwealth, a recent national competition policy review of pharmacy published in February 2000 recognised that, while there are serious restrictions on competition, the current limitations on who may own and operate a pharmacy are seen as a net benefit to the Australian community as a whole.
The review went on to recommend that legislative restrictions on who may own and operate community pharmacies should be retained and that, except for existing exceptions, the ownership and control of community pharmacies should continue to be confined to registered pharmacists.