If a Shorten Labor government were to be elected it would seek early 7CPA negotiations, shadow Health Minister Catherine King tells APP delegates
Ms King told the audience on Friday that Labor would seek for these negotiations to be “more inclusive”.
She also expressed disappointment with the recent decision on penalty rates, and highlighted the need to manage the codeine upscheduling well.
Labor is already looking to the next election, Ms King said, so it is important for stakeholders such as the Guild need to engage with the Party now – which the Guild is doing.
“There’s something different about this term, and it is having a profound impact on the way in which Labor approaches policy for the duration of this Parliament,” she said: the Government has a tenuous minority in the Lower House and does not have control of the Senate.
Labor has started policy development much earlier as a result, including health policy development.
A Labor government would honour the 6CPA, Ms King says.
“We think this commitment is important to give you certainty that no matter when the election falls in this Parliamentary term, we will see out that agreement.
“We would also lead early and inclusive negotiations towards the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement.
“I do have a view that negotiations towards the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement should be more inclusive.
“Ultimately, while CPAs are between the Commonwealth and community pharmacy, they increasingly affect other parties and are therefore contingent upon other agreements.
“I think we need to examine a better process for that going forward.”
She says the current Government needs to use this year to decide on the process for negotiating the 7CPA.
“CPAs are too important for uncertainty or backsliding,” Ms King told delegates, pointing out that disputes and delays over 6CPA agreement components, such as risk share and professional programs, need to be addressed.
“It is vital that that funding directly to community trial programs and professional pharmacy services in the Sixth Agreement is mobilised as soon as possible, to ensure that patients get the benefit of it.
“We call on the Government to live up to its word.”
While Labor is interested to see the results of the King Review, the eventual report will be just one factor for Labor in negotiating the 7CPA.
Ms King also noted that while she doesn’t disagree with the TGA’s decision on upscheduling codeine-containing OTC preparations, “I am total agreement with the Guild that it is critical that Australians who use these medicines safely continue to have timely and affordable access to pain relief.
A clear transition for patients is important when the upscheduling comes into effect, and help for those who have experienced addition to the products, so that nobody is “caught out or left in the dark”.
Ms King also took aim at the Fair Work Commission’s decision to slash penalty rates for employee pharmacists and pharmacy assistants.
“I take your point that 44% of your pharmacies do not open on Sundays, and I have heard your argument that penalty rates play a part in that.
“But I would like to think that we can maintain access to medicines and pharmacies without penalising staff.
“I think it’s fair to say that the issue of penalty rates is one we are likely to reach consensus on.
“While pharmacy owners will have one reaction, pharmacy assistants and other staff on awards will feel the pinch from the loss in their pay packet.”