This speech is to indicate the Liberal Party's support for the Pharmacy Practice Bill. This is another in the series of health practitioner bills that arise from the required review due to competition policy, and it is modelled (as they all are) on the Medical Practice Act 2004.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to indicate Liberal Party support for this bill, and I refer those who have a particular interest in it to the very thorough discussion that took place in the House of Assembly (where the minister and shadow minister are located) on 6 March this year. I do not propose to go into as much detail as took place in that chamber then.
This is another in the series of health practitioner bills that arise from the required review due to competition policy, and it is modelled (as they all are) on the Medical Practice Act 2004. There are a number of features which are identical in these pieces of legislation, including the registration of students, alterations to the ownership provisions of pharmacies, changes to the definitions to include the protection of the public, and a range of other measures which I do not propose to go into because it would simply be repeating what has already been said a number of times. There are also a number of features which are unique to this bill, including the fact that there are two definitions in the definition of ‘pharmacy practice’: ‘pharmacy service’, which is non-dispensing of medications, if you like, and which is part of the broad practice of pharmacy; and ‘restricted pharmacy services’, which relates specifically to the dispensing of medications prescribed by a medical practitioner, dentist, veterinary surgeon or other person who may be so authorised.
The Pharmacy Board also has its own continuing professional development (a feature of most professions) and that is recognised in this bill. There are specific restrictions on ownership provisions and, for the benefit of members who were wondering about what I was interjecting in relation to a speech that Sandra Kanck was making regarding the barley bill, it really recognises that pharmacies are unique amongst a lot of businesses. Pharmacies are, perhaps, similar to medical practices because there is a commonwealth fee attached as a central part of the practice, and this is separate to a private fee for service which often takes place with a lot of the other health practitioners.
In this chamber we have recently discussed, or had questions regarding, safety issues in relation to some precursor drugs that can be made into illicit substances and so forth, and the report from the government states: The public interest is best served by restricting the provision of pharmacy services to those operated by pharmacists or corporate pharmacy service providers.
The Liberal Party completely agrees with that statement. It is pleased that the potential loophole, which may have allowed non-pharmacy organisations (such as supermarkets) to be able to enter ownership through, if you like, the back door has been closed. Also, there is the issue specific to pharmacies, that is, the registration of pharmacy depots. Again, that area is unique to the practice of pharmacy. The Pharmacy Guild raised a number of issues last year with the Liberal Party, and I note that a number of those amendments have now been put in place in the bill before us today, including the grandfather clause loophole to which I referred.
A number of other issues were raised, including demutualisation. With respect to ownership provisions (that is in addition to community pharmacy, which is usually a sole practitioner, a number of whom are located in country areas), corporate pharmacies will increase the number of pharmacies they can own and operate from four to six, and National Pharmacies will increase the number that it can own and operate from 31 to 40.We were advised by the stakeholders (and I am grateful to them for taking the time to provide us with some background as well as their opinion) that their greatest concerns relate to supermarkets entering the market.
I understand that the commonwealth government has well and truly ruled that out. The Prime Minister (Hon. John Howard) gave that personal commitment to pharmacies, because a circumstance occurred in Victoria whereby Coles bought an operation by the name of Pharmacy Direct. So, that particular loophole has been closed. By and large the Pharmacy Guild is satisfied with the bill. Before being appointed shadow minister prior to the last election, I was subjected to a fairly strong lobbying exercise by the Pharmacy Guild. Indeed, that organisation produced a paper which I would like to quote, because it has changed its position on this bill significantly.