Guild’s political influence again under media microscope


detective with magnifying glass

‘The Pharmacy Guild of Australia knows what it wants, and it knows how to get it,’ says Crikey’s investigative reporting unit

The Pharmacy Guild often finds itself being discussed in mainstream media regarding its political power and influence.

The Guild enjoys access to politicians from the prime minister down “through a time-honoured mix of donations and schmoozing,” write journalists Kishor Napier-Raman and David Hardaker from Crikey’s Inq unit in the latest piece.

Their exposé, published on Wednesday, follows shortly after the ABC’s article “Why the Pharmacy Guild is the most powerful lobby group you’ve never heard of”, which was published mid last year.

A similarly titled article was published by Fairfax media in 2015.

Crikey Inq zeroes in on Guild events in particular, pointing to the organisation’s annual parliamentary dinner which was headlined by Health Minister Greg Hunt in the lead-up to the 7CPA negotiations.

It also describes a “virtual photographic diary” of Guild contacts associating with various members of Australian politics, includes all Liberal prime ministers since 2013.

This includes Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Guild’s Christmas drinks last year and at a Guild breakfast event; a selfie of the Guild’s Queensland president Trent Twomey with Malcolm Turnbull;  Tony Abbott attending a Twomey-organised event in 2014 along with Nationals Senator Matt Canavan; and meetings between Guild officeholders and a “bevy” of senior ministers including Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The article also highlights Mr Twomey as a “rising star” and “powerful political player in his own state and nationally”.

“Twomey’s branch proved its mettle in 2018 when the state held a parliamentary inquiry into pharmacy ownership restrictions,” write the reporters.

“Despite numerous submissions calling for a loosening of location rules, the committee took the Guild’s position and advocated no change.”

Queensland is also rolling out a state-wide trial for pharmacists to provide low-risk emergency and repeat prescriptions for the contraceptive pill and antibiotics for urinary tract infections, despite drawing significant controversy and outcry from doctors.

The article points out that federally, the Guild poured thousands into Australian Labor Party coffers last year, anticipating a Labor victory.

AJP wrote this month that the Guild donated $773,791 across the political spectrum, with $590,811 of this being donated to various branches of the ALP.

The remaining $182,980 was shared by the Coalition parties (Liberal Party, National Party and Liberal National Party of Queensland).

However Crikey says that despite this, “their appointments, and years of lobbying puts them in prime position to work well with the Morrison government”.

“Twomey, a potential Liberal rising star, is leading their negotiation for the seventh CPA. The Guild knows what it wants, and it knows how to get it,” it concludes.

The Guild declined to comment on the article.

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