Untying pharmacy’s Gordian Knot

April 1896: Parliament remains a ‘wayward maiden’ for pharmacist’s seeking to set aside intercolonial legislative differences 

As Australian was in the process of moving towards it eventual Federation a mere five year later, the future nation’s pharmacists were facing many legislative hurdles to their efforts to standardise their position.

The April 1896 edition of AJP fell in the middle of AGM season, and in may colonies there was discontent over the lack of success in forcing out rogue operators falling through the cracks in various jurisdiction’s Poison Acts.

Joseph George, president of the Victorian-based Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia was critical of the legislative state of play in the other colonies.

“Year follows year, and yet the question of intercolonial reciprocity would appear to be as remote of settlement as ever. Those colonies which have secured legislation have in every instance diverged from the lines of the Victorian Act, and the mother colony of New South Wales is still in the unfortunate position of having no Act at all,” he said in his address to the Society’s annual general meeting.

“In every case the standard, whether as to length of apprenticeship or curriculum, has been varied, so that if New South Wales had her proposed Bill, the difficulties in arriving at a common understanding would scarcely be lessened.

How the material differences in the respective Acts can be reconciled so that the interchange of
certificates may be arranged is the Gordian Knot which so long has puzzled us, and, I fear, no early solution can be hoped for,” Mr George said.

“We will not blame our brethren of the sister colonies for not having followed the conference resolutions in their legislation. Though we may have a notion that a nearer approach might have been obtained, we may be ignorant of the difficulties that had to be contended with,” he said.

“As we all know, Parliament is a wayward maiden when pharmacists come to woo, and the promoters of the most perfect Bill could not hope to get all they asked for, even if their law-makers were in their most amiable mood”.

Victoria had at that time a number of ongoing investigations and prosecutions relating to infringements of the Poisons Act by non-pharmacist providers.

“A communication was addressed to the Chief Secretary by a chemist residing in a remote country district, urging that prosecutions under the Poisons Act should be undertaken in his district. The Chief Secretary had referred the letter to the Chief Commissioner of Police, asking his views as to the police prosecuting for offences under the Poisons Act in remote towns of the colony, and the Chief Commissioner of Police replied, stating that he had no objection to the police prosecuting for offences under the Poisons Act, under instructions from the Pharmacy Board, when such offences are
committed in any of the remote towns of the colony; and the police prosecutions in such cases are approved by the Chief Secretary”.

Meanwhile, the AJP was rather contemptuous in its dismissal of the attempt by Western Australia “the last of the Australasian Colonies to obtain pharmaceutical legislation” to establish a College of Pharmacy—
“rather premature for a colony who will have no students for some years to come,” the editorial stated.

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