Guild under fire over One Nation donations


A state Guild Councillor says it’s “unfair and spurious” to link the Pharmacy Guild’s 2018 engagement with One Nation to recent revelations about the right-wing party

Last week, news broke that the Pharmacy Guild’s Queensland branch had made two $7,500 donations to One Nation’s Queensland division, in June and July 2018.

At the time, a Guild spokesperson told the AJP that these donations were in fact payment to attend One Nation events, highlighting that the AEC does not distinguish between such payments and “straight-out donations”.

Over the weekend The Guardian’s Melissa Davey picked up the story, asking pharmacists on Twitter to “share their thoughts” about how they feel about the donations.

This thread, as well as numerous others including those begun by the Pharmacy Guild itself on unrelated matters, attracted significant criticism of the Guild’s donations to the party, from pharmacists, other health professionals and the wider public.

PPA said that its members “demanded” that the Guild make no more donations to One Nation.

A number of Australians unaffiliated with pharmacy called for boycotts of Guild member stores, while others expressed concern and an intent to ask their pharmacists whether they knew about the donations.

https://twitter.com/elyasgarad/status/1114342377861177344

And the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia said that pharmacists around the country were facing backlash, whether they were affiliated with the Guild or not.

Several pharmacists also either expressed concern, or stated that they did not support One Nation’s policies.

https://twitter.com/DanGuidone/status/1114361341194592257

Others said that after the Guild had clarified to the media that the donations were for events, their concerns were allayed.

Caroline Diamantis, vice president of the Guild’s NSW Branch, wrote on Facebook that attendance at such events does not denote endorsements of any policies of the host party.

“The Pharmacy Guild attends paid political events and functions across the political spectrum, with all such payments to attend events reported and declared to electoral regulators, and published by them,” she wrote.

“At the time, a Queensland Parliamentary Committee was conducting an inquiry into the need for a Pharmacy Council in Queensland, and whether pharmacists should be able to provide services to their full scope of practice.

“This was a matter on which the Guild engaged with all sides of politics represented in the Queensland Parliament, on behalf of our members and strictly on the pharmacy issues being considered.”

She wrote that this engagement with One Nation “obviously occurred well before the recent revelations about One Nation and the National Rifle Association in the USA, and the Al Jazeera documentary”.

“It is unfair and spurious to link our engagement with One Nation on pharmacy issues in 2018 with subsequent events and revelations in the media.

“The Pharmacy Guild is an employer organisation which speaks for its members on pharmacy issues. We do not express political views beyond those related to pharmacy and we certainly do not speak for our members in relation to their democratic right to assess political Parties and candidates and vote for whomever they support.”

She later told the AJP that it was almost “comical” that the public were calling the Guild racist or anti-vaccination.

“We have fought and lobbied really hard to get immunisation [by accredited pharmacists] up and running, including in NSW in the last 12 months,” she said. “We’re now able to do MMR and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis in NSW and that is thanks to the hard work of the Guild.

“And the majority of the NSW branch, and across every state has a large proportion of second and first generation migrants.”

Ms Diamantis said that the Guild attends such events as an information-gathering exercise, “to understand how this political party will share its thoughts, or how it will lean towards the larger parties; it’s gathering information and taking home information, and using it for the greater good of what the members have entrusted us to do”.

“It’s engaging with other people in a networking environment that might one day assist us in our lobbying.

“There’s something I learned a long time ago, and it is to know your enemy – it’s not to run away from them. I’m not going to say we attend everything that One Nation put on, but in that particular case there was a lot of heat going on in Queensland with the Pharmacy Council investigation.

“You seek to understand, whether it’s about the good or the bad stuff coming out of a party – you can’t bury your head in the sand.”

Ms Diamantis said that a number of commentators had queried the expenditure of $7,500 on a single event.

“Often to go to a function, we’re required to buy a table – so a ticket might be worth $700. It sounds like a lot, but it is a donation – nobody’s hiding from that, you certainly don’t eat $700 worth of food.

“It’s a donation that allows you to network.”

Typically such a function would be attended by some Guild officials, some “other passionate pharmacists” and some students suggested by NAPSA, who can use such events to learn about the lobbying process.

She also told the AJP that speaking personally rather than as a representative of the Guild, she has “no support” for One Nation or its policies; the Guild does not express political opinions beyond those related to pharmacy, she said.

Meanwhile, the Guild has continued to advertise community pharmacy to politicians, this time by taking out the back page of the Sunday Herald Sun.

A spokesperson for the Guild told the AJP that this was “just part of our advocacy as we approach the federal election, reminding all sides of politics of the importance of community pharmacy and the PBS”.

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18 Comments

  1. Alexander Wong
    09/04/2019

    Initially quite concerned about what I had read but full credits to the Guild and especially to Ms Diamantis for being transparent about the whole situation. Personally I’m satisfied with those responses.

  2. Mark White
    09/04/2019

    Unbelievable, talk about picking and choosing. My concerns are not “allayed”. I have written to the Guild about this matter in a letter that has been posted publicly on the same twitter account. Is there no chance that ANYONE can report on this matter accurately?

    I don’t have time to argue about this on the internet today, I have work to do. You will find my letter pinned to my twitter account for all to see at https://twitter.com/White_Ox

    Thank you.

  3. FakeMoralOutrage
    09/04/2019

    Whoever it is who thought that any association with One Nation would be good for the PGA really should take a good, long look at themselves and perhaps an independent news website as well. If One Nation started off with an ideological basis of looking after Australia and Australians first, it has been lost in the mess of dog-whistle politics and xenophobic tribalism. Any remaining credibility would have since evaporated after their flirtation with a politically powerful gun ownership lobby and they are teetering on the brink of political irrelevance, having lost their roadmap several miles ago.

    Like them or loathe them, the PGA is still a representative organisation with its roots in healthcare and the fundamental basis of healthcare is being nice to each other and to offer assistance and tolerance irrespective of the political climate. Any dialogue between these two should have been terminated at the first meeting or phone call as One Nation’s current, dysfunctional agenda does not align in any way whatsoever with the principles of properly delivered humanity. They may have started off with noble intentions but somehow ended up digging their own political graves and the best we can do is to just stand clear.

    Just remember that when a bullet pierces the skin, shattering internal organs and resulting in incalculable waves of pain signals to the body, we will all die the same agonising death no matter our race, religion, sexuality, political opinion or view of vaccination.

    To think that an organisation representing healthcare would even consider contact with a party with such a reckless and seemingly random agenda is simply unfathomable. Free speech is still alive and well, but one is not obliged to go with whatever is being said.

    The PGA has been the source of much disappointment lately and this just adds to their catalogue of moments of unbecoming conduct. Perhaps they too are approaching the point of no longer being taken seriously ?

    • Alexander Wong
      09/04/2019

      Fair points but I don’t think it’s so simple. Separation of economic and social policy is always a difficult balancing act. It has been made clear above that it was for “information-gathering” and not for any endorsement of political policy. The Guild has kept an apolitical position however the general consensus and reaction of representatives does not portray any acceptance of One Nation’s policies.

      What the Guild could do in the future is to be more transparent with their dealings so any uproars such as this could be prevented.

      Let’s look at this through another example; should Australia stop all ties with China due to their human rights atrocities?

      • John Smith
        10/04/2019

        The #PGA has never been and will never be transparent, because they are always trying to influence policies, which is something that is done in the closed rooms. It is disgusting dragging the Pharmacists’ reputation down hell. They are free to do, donate, or endorse whatever, but PGA must make a clear statement that they only speak on behalf and represent owners ONLY. Leave the pharmacists and profession alone, enough damage

        • Ex-Pharmacist
          10/04/2019

          As far as the federal government is concerned, the Guild does represent ALL pharmacists. Why? The Fed. Govt. only interaction* with pharmacists is thru the PBS, with payments made to section 90 pharmacy owners for services rendered.
          * Pharmacy Guild members also regularly pay visits to politicians on all sides of the fence, both in Canberra & in local electorate offices, to ‘advocate’ for the ‘profession’. I will leave to you to speculate on what issues they ‘advocate’ about. Safe to say it isn’t about low employee pharmacist wages! The Guild also make regular large donations to both the Liberal & Labor parties. https://ajp.com.au/news/guild-boosts-parties-coffers/

          The Guild is the union of section 90 pharmacy owners, so they naturally represent the interests of the community pharmacy sector, especially around CPA agreements. Note how CPA’s are cleverly designed to last 5 years i.e. always after the next federal election. Penny dropped yet?

          Hospital pharmacists, represented by the SHPA, work for local state and territory governments, not the federal government, so are essentially invisible to the Fed.

          Health Minister Hunt announced recently the PSA will be given a seat at the table of 7CPA. https://ajp.com.au/news/psa-to-co-sign-the-7cpa/
          Everyone, including the Guild, are scratching their heads on how this work, but clearly this is a push by PSA to allow its members to be directly reimbursed for clinical services rendered e.g. HMR & medical-practice embedded pharmacists. Lets wait and see how the Guild will respond to that. You can be assured the Guild will be in a frenzy ‘advocating’ on this issue and others, with a federal election imminent and 7CPA kicking off in July.

          • John Smith
            10/04/2019

            I see where you are coming from.

            Pharmacists will start to speak up not just politically, but to make the public aware of the disgusting acts done by the GUILD on behalf of owners ONLY.

            Whether this will make any influence, that is not the thing. Public need to understand who is using their tax money irresponsibly. This is the core case.

          • Ex-Pharmacist
            10/04/2019

            To obtain a more complete picture of the operations of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, as observed by someone outside the ‘profession’ of pharmacy, General Practitioner Dr Evan Ackermann write this article in October last year > https://insightplus.mja.com.au/2018/41/pharmacy-guild-influence-time-for-a-public-debate/
            Well worth a read…

          • FakeMoralOutrage
            11/04/2019

            It might be the only time I find myself in agreement with the good doctor.

        • FakeMoralOutrage
          11/04/2019

          See above comment from me.

        • Alexander Wong
          12/04/2019

          Valid point. The Guild is often incorrectly perceived as the peak representative body for pharmacy. I think this misinterpretation may not actually be by accident and I don’t entirely agree that they have been so hell bent on destroying our profession.

          Credit needs to be given when due and the Guild has been instrumental in protecting our profession. The influence they wield within beaurecracy is, in my opinion, something to be proud of and make other bodies like the AMA and RACGP green with envy.

          Times are changing and pharmacy is being squeezed. The 7CPA negotiations will be revealing as to whether the Guild is willing to play ball with PSA. This is the right direction and I surely hope we’re all better as a result on the other side.

      • FakeMoralOutrage
        11/04/2019

        Fair comment on your part too. I suppose its just ”Lobbying 101″ which all sides of politics (or business groups) do and have done to them in order to further their respective agendas.

        That said, what possible benefit can there be for pharmacy as a profession from a conversation with a party that isn’t even a bug on the windshield of the federal government – especially one as misguided and desperate as One Nation. ?

        It also shows how desperate the PGA is to look after its own interests as they’ll gladly talk to anyone and are willing to pay for it too !

        Can’t help but wonder if better remuneration for pharmacists was something that was discussed or was it an “increased pharmacist role” in the operation of pump-action shotguns ?

        • Alexander Wong
          12/04/2019

          Selling guns behind the dispensary… can you imagine that. Sounds like a parody sketch in the making.

          In terms of the benefit of speaking to One Nation, only the Guild can answer. PHON do hold an important sway in QLD politics. Let’s just hope the Guild did have the right intentions as they have stated.

  4. William
    09/04/2019

    Before everyone get their knickers in a knot I suggest they re-read the Guild’s comments early in this article.
    “At the time, a Guild spokesperson told the AJP that these donations were in fact payment to attend One Nation events, highlighting that the AEC does not distinguish between such payments and “straight-out donations”.

    I would think that they were just keeping up with party policies which may or may not affect their industry.
    It would appear to me that pharmacists are too interested in criticising rather than look at potential impacts on their industry.
    Is it any wonder that pharmacy as we know it will be lucky to survive another five years as it is too stupid and intolerant.

    • Alexander Wong
      09/04/2019

      Well it depends on what the reason for attendance is. Is it to wine and dine and have a laugh with an Islamaphobe or was it to genuinely PR (where necessary), intel and strategise for our profession going ahead? I would hope that all attendees had the backbone to denounce or walk away from anything they disagreed with.

      • William
        12/04/2019

        Forget about chiding One Nation. Industry bodies usually attend such political party functions to get information on party policies which could impact on their industry.
        Please remember minor parties could have the balance of power in the Senate so their policies could be very interesting to the trade.
        Unfortunately these days everything is analysed in terms of racism or political correctness.

        • Alexander Wong
          12/04/2019

          I absolutely agree and I have made this known in other comments. I was just explaining how members of the public could be outraged by the affiliations of the Guild and PHON. The Guild has stated the purposes of attendance adequately and I would imagine this should allay the majority of concerns.

    • FakeMoralOutrage
      11/04/2019

      What possible good can one hope to gain from interacting with One Nation ?
      (Longer transcript above..)

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