Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie has queried the Pharmacy Guild’s influence over politicians and likened it to the alcohol industry or the NRA

In an opinion piece in Pro Bono Australia, Mr Crosbie writes in support of charities which attempt to influence public policy.

“If charities want to retain the ability to engage in advocacy, they will have to push back against those who believe participation in the public contest of ideas should be restricted to the rich and powerful,” he writes.

Mr Crosbie suggests that some members of Government believe charities which engage in advocacy do not deserve community support or concessions from Government.

“My experience is that political advocacy in Australia is dominated by those with the money and power to get what they want from politicians,” he says.

“Charities rarely breathe the rarefied air of sumptuous dinners, expensive wines and late night personal chats with our political leaders.

“It is no accident that when the alcohol industry or the Pharmacy Guild or the Minerals Council of Australia or Clubs Australia ask for something, politicians take notice.

“Like the NRA in the US, these groups advocate self-serving policies.

“They have never had to establish they provide a public benefit, yet all their expenditure on lobbying – estimated at over $1 billion each year in Australia – is written off as a tax-free investment.”

It’s the second time Mr Crosbie has criticised the Pharmacy Guild of late.

During a Senate Inquiry into political influence last month, he cited the case of the codeine upschedule.

“I suppose the most powerful lobby group, according to one survey in Canberra, is the Pharmacy Guild of Australia,” he told the Inquiry.

“This government gives the Pharmacy Guild, as the previous government and the government before that did, at least $4 billion a year.

“At present, I understand there’s a dispute about the up-scheduling of codeine. There has been a rapid increase in the number of deaths associated with codeine.

“Every college and consumer health forum—groups like Painaustralia—is supporting the up-scheduling. It will mean that pharmacists make less money.

“So the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in its fighting fund, is wining and dining health ministers around the country, pushing to get an exception that would allow its members to effectively prescribe codeine over the counter.

“It’s a brave politician who would take on the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.”

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said the mention of the Guild in the Pro Bono piece seemed “a quite irrelevant reference”.

It is certainly the first time on record that the Pharmacy Guild has been likened to the US National Rifle Association!

I fear the author might be over-thinking it.”