Question time: Cheaper Medicines

Question time: Cheaper Medicines Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (14:05) My question is to the Minister for Health: What actions has the Albanese Labor government taken to make medicines cheaper for Australians while supporting a strong community pharmacy sector? What obstacles have been overcome to ensure that Australians with ongoing health conditions have access to cheaper medicines?


Mr BUTLER (Hindmarsh—Minister for Health and Aged Care and Deputy Leader of the House) (14:06): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the Member for Gilmore for her question, because like everyone on this side of the house, she has no higher priority than helping her community on the South Coast with the cost of living, helping her community earn more through strong wages growth, and helping them keep more of what they earn through tax cuts that this government delivered to every single taxpayer on July 1st. Mr. Speaker, she also promised her community cheaper medicines. Mister Speaker, we've delivered on that promise as well. We cut the maximum yearly medicines bills for pensioners and concession cardholders, meaning around 2 million Australians right now are paying up to 25% less for their medicines every year. Last year, we delivered the biggest cut to the price of medicines in the 75-year history of the PBS, meaning the general patients are paying around $20 million less for their medicines every single month, and around 200 common medicines, Mr. Speaker, are now available for 60 days supply at the cost of a single script, saving patients time and saving them even more money. Now, of course, the opposition voted against those cheaper medicines measures, and they said the sky would fall in if we proceeded with them. But instead, Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to report the number of applications to open a new pharmacy has been 50% higher since we announced that measure than the same period before, and I am delighted about that, Mr. Speaker, because our government wants cheaper medicines and a strong community pharmacy sector, a pharmacy sector in strong financial health delivering even more services to Australian patients. And that's why I'm also delighted that 3,000 pharmacies so far have signed up to become providers of the National Immunisation Programme since we allowed them to do that since January one. And Mister Speaker, that's why I'm also delighted that we signed a heads of agreement with the Pharmacy Guild last week for a new community pharmacy agreement to start in July delivering cheaper medicines, better patient outcomes, and a strong community pharmacy sector underpinned by an investment for this government of up to an additional $3 billion, which we are able to do, taken the strong budget management of this government and this treasurer, now Mister Speaker. This was a robust negotiation, no doubt about that, and there's nothing wrong with that. We know that those opposite would have given in at the first hint of pressure; they would have wilted like a daffodil in a stiff summer breeze and left patients high and dry, paying more for their medicines, just like they did over that long decade. Well, that's not our approach, Mr. Speaker. We were determined to get an outcome that was good for community pharmacy but also good for patients, and that is what we did last week.