Minister for Health and Aged Care – doorstop in Canberra – 10 August 2023

Read the transcript of Minister Butler's doorstop in Canberra.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE, MARK BUTLER: Morning, everyone. The choice for the Senate today is really clear: to back the powerful pharmacy lobby that's been blocking cheaper medicines for five years – when the medicines experts first recommended 60-day prescriptions for the price of a 30-day script – or to deliver cheaper medicines for 6 million Australians. And this won't just be a really important hip pocket measure for those 6 million Australians at a time of a global cost of living crisis. But it will also be good for the health system, because we know that it will free up millions of GP consults that are desperately needed out there. Instead of GPs being occupied with delivering routine repeat scripts, they'll be able to provide that health care that is so desperately needed right now in the community. And this is why every patient group supports the measure that we've taken in the Budget. Every doctors’ group supports it. It's time now for the Senate to make a choice about whether it supports it.
 
JOURNALIST: How are your negotiations going with the Senate crossbench, are you confident that you can actually deliver on cheaper medicines today?
 
BUTLER: We're committed to delivering on this promise that we made at the last election to make medicines cheaper for millions of Australians. We've delivered three waves of cheaper medicines policy, including the biggest cut to the price of medicines in the 75-year history of the PBS on January 1, and we're committed to delivering this additional measure. I've had great conversations with the crossbench. They're obviously really focused on the interests of patients and doctors to make sure that we can get better health care. They also, obviously, are very focused on making sure that the pharmacy sector remains strong and vibrant - as am I – which is why we're reinvesting every single dollar the Commonwealth will save from this measure.
 
JOURNALIST: Will you take responsibility – if this gets through, and then pharmacists do cut jobs or reduced services - will you take responsibility as Health Minister, if that was the outcome of this policy?
 
BUTLER: We’re really confident that the pharmacy sector will remain strong and vibrant after this measure. And we know we've had these campaigns before from the powerful pharmacy lobby, they ran exactly the same campaign against the former government, when they made a relatively minor change to medicines pricing, probably five or six years ago when Sussan Ley was the Health Minister. They then said hundreds of pharmacies would close and there'd be widespread job losses. What happened instead was the measure went through and hundreds of new pharmacies opened. We're seeing the same thing again, right now. In the three months since I announced the measure, we've had twice as many applications for new pharmacies, as we had last year or the year before. So I'm very confident there's a vibrant future for community pharmacy, not just doing its traditional work of dispensing medicines, but delivering more services to Australian patients. So, for example, among the investments that we're making, is one to expand the ability of pharmacists to deliver vaccines under the National Immunisation Program. That's something they did terrifically well through the COVID pandemic and it's something I know that customers want them to do with other vaccines as well. Thanks.

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