Subjects: PBS Announcements; Drought Envoy Report
NATALIE BARR: Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will see more than half a million Aussie patients get cheaper medicines. The plan, which will come into effect tomorrow, will cut the price of 15 common prescriptions sold under 175 different brands.
DAVID KOCH: Now access to other drugs to treat lung cancer, forms of leukaemia, and nausea associated with chemotherapy will also now be available to patients under the PBS. For their take this morning, we are joined with Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, and Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce – morning Chaps. Joel, with all the cost of living pressure Aussies are facing, this has got to be welcome news.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yeah of course, Kochie. It’s one of the most basic responsibilities of a government to ensure all Australians, despite their income, can access to these lifesaving drugs. So, we welcome it. I’ve got to put a caveat on it of course, Kochie. There are about another 60 drugs which the expert committee has recommended and some of those have been waiting a long time for the government to respond. I think what is happening is the government is making an art form of delaying these decisions after the committee makes its recommendations because even six months delay can produce a big saving to the government’s bottom line. So, don’t crow too loudly this morning; one particular drug has been waiting 1800 days post the PBAC’s recommendation, so I think we can do better still.
BARR: Ok, to make medication more affordable, there’s also a push for patients with chronic conditions to get two months’ supply of some drugs instead of one. Pharmacies would actually lose money so they’re against it; do you care about the pharmacists Barnaby?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: We make sure that this is part of the 2100 new listings that we’ve had since 2013, in excess of $10 billion. Might I just say that the Labor Party, when they were last in government – a long, long, long time ago – they started running out of money so they stopped listing things on the PBS. Now, it’s incredibly important that we get these drugs out to the people who need it. The people with lung cancer, the people with leukaemia, also the pain relief section of it. So many people, over 500,000, who need to get access to cheaper medicines, otherwise they pay the full tote price. And a lot of people can’t afford that and that is the difference for many people between life and death. Incredibly important and we will work with the chemists…
KOCH: But Barnaby
JOYCE: I’m not like Joel, I’ll listen.
KOCH: Nat was saying if you’re on long-term medication – why do you have to go back every month, pay another doctors fee, pay another pharmacy fee, to get prescriptions filled? Why not be able to get two months’ worth instead of just one?
JOYCE: Well part of the duty of care a doctor has is to have oversight as to how you are going, as to make sure if your treatment needs to be advanced – if it needs to be changed, if it needs to be amended – that’s what a doctor has to do, and part of the separation, of course, is chemists control the drugs and doctors control the application, the allocation, and the authorisations for them. That is part of the duty of care, if people want to have a look and review that then I am sure the AMA will be the first ones out of the block to tell us how they believe is the appropriate process for a duty of care. That’s what we have at the moment; that is what we are going to continue to follow.
BARR: Ok, Joel let’s get you on this: the PM’s announced that he is boosting the government’s drought package by $100 million. Do you support that?
FITZGIBBON: Let me just first say that was just rubbish for Barnaby to claim that the former Labor Government stopped listing medicines. No one in their lounge rooms, kitchens or offices this morning believe that is just not true.
Yeah look we always welcome additional drought funding but of course, again, farmers and rural drought-hit communities are feeling deflated today. It was another piecemeal, ad hoc announcement which, indeed, was badly – is badly gone wrong given that Moyne Shire in Southwest Victoria was offered money. They’ve said they did not need it – they’re not in drought – it should go to someone who needs it more. Of course, I’ve got an area in my electorate, the Singleton Shire – Barnaby knows it well – which despite our representation, has been left off the list once again. For a number of towns in Mike Kelly’s electorate of Eden Monaro, which are in the same situation, so they can’t even get this additional towns things right let alone produce a strategic, overarching and effective drought policy. We’ve had six years now of relative inaction and it is time the government did something. They have to stop claiming they’re spending $7 billion on drought – it’s the most audacious lie I’ve seen in my time in Australian politics – it’s just not true. They get there by taking into account the capital value of loans and the Drought Fund, for example, but not one cent of that is going to farmers.
KOCH: Barnaby, you’re Drought Envoy for Drought, appointed by the government, what do you think of this?
JOYCE: I think it is yet another step in the right direction. It goes on top of all the other things, like the $200,000 loan which is interest free for two years, interest only for three, and it goes on top of the changes to the Farm Household Allowance which is going to cost – well part of that package was 13 new shires, $1 million each - $33.42 million for crisis payments delivered via St Vincents De Paul and the Salvation Army – changes to the Household Allowance. So rather than four years full stop, and remember when the Labor Party had it, it was three years – the drought goes on, you can see it behind me right now Kochie. Yesterday, I’m at a drought function, the day before I’m at a drought function, we continue our work on – when Joel is having a crack me about the Drought Envoy, he went to three places: Launceston, Lismore and Rockhampton. And so as Shadow Agriculture Minister, I hope Joel is getting around Australia, getting around the eastern seaboards, maybe he would like to give us he’s itinerary over the last week or so and the drought places he’s been?
KOCH: Alright we don’t want that because we’ve run out of time…
FITZGIBBON: Kochie, you have to let me respond to…
KOCH: Alright Joel, quickly.
FIZGIBBON: That is just completely untrue; I went to a whole list of places in addition to those named by Barnaby Joyce. I didn’t have two additional taxpayer funded staff as the Drought Envoy and it’s just untrue to say that Labor restricted income support to three years…
JOYCE: Name them. Name them Joel…
KOCH: - Ok Gents, we are going to have to leave it there – they’re going to argue it off air – we got to move on.