Page 2837 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 5 August 2008
However, we must not allow such a practice to derogate from our responsibility as parliamentary members to scrutinise legislation in the ACT. It is not a practice that we universally embrace. We see many other areas of government policy where ministerial councils agree to introduce a uniform approach on legislation, but that is one quite different step from automatically having changes to the commonwealth imposed as laws on the territory under our own legislative powers. If we are to incorporate commonwealth law into ACT law, then it is incumbent on us to ensure that we remain abreast of any change in the commonwealth laws that therefore become changes to territory law.
As I have mentioned already, I have spoken to the Pharmacy Guild regarding this bill and they have put their views to me on the consolidation and on the specific provisions of the act. They have expressed their view that regulations 5.2 and 5.3 of the Health Professional Regulations should be enshrined as legislative provisions in the Health Act. Whilst the minister’s office has assured me that the protections that the Pharmacy Guild are seeking already exist, there is sense, I believe, in the argument that it is important to enshrine these protections as legislation rather than regulations.
I am aware of the American model where pharmacies are located in supermarkets. I know from experience—and I have lived in the United States—that the standard of care that one can expect when entering a Wal-Mart or a Walgreens or similar is not even remotely close to being on the same playing field as what we receive here from local community pharmacists.
I note from discussions with the Pharmacy Guild that the Liberal Party has been dealing with them regarding this issue and I hear, and was aware, that Mrs Burke is planning to introduce an exposure draft which I suspect I will be keen to support. I look forward to seeing that and having further discussions with her on the matter. But I will certainly—and I want to make it very clear—be supporting future legislation that protects the community pharmacy if it is introduced.
I have, throughout my career, even before being in this place, long expressed my concern about and actively opposed the massive consolidation of power enjoyed by the major supermarket chains. We have seen it in grocery activities. We have seen it in the liquor industry. We have now seen it in the fuel industry and, if they get their hands on control over pharmacies and distribution of prescription drugs, heaven help the people of Australian who are already reeling from the concentration of supermarket power. We are seeing it in the horrendous prices in supermarkets and the growth in costs to the ordinary families in this territory.
We keep hearing these pious utterings from the hill. I think there is another report coming out today. Trust me, nothing will improve. We have seen no progress on petrol. We will see no progress on groceries and, if we do not protect our community pharmacies, they will come under the crunch of supermarket chains, and the people of Canberra, indeed the people of Australia, will become captive of those supermarket chains who will tell them, “You will pay what we want and you will live with it.”
It is vital that members across this chamber support the community pharmacies because they are providing a level of competition, a level of community concern, in