SPEECH - Cheaper Medicines

  • Speech

Federation Chamber
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Australians are doing it tough. After nine years of neglect from the former government, the cost of living is soaring, and many Australians are cutting back on essentials in order to make ends meet. As the member for Newcastle, I know that Novocastrians are feeling the pinch.

An ABC article this morning highlighted the story of a Newcastle local, Teresa Hetherington. I know Teresa well. She's a hard worker and immensely dedicated to the clients she sees in her job as a home carer. But Teresa says that the days at the end of her pay cycle are 'hair-raising'. She is reliant on her car to travel from client to client, and fuelling up has become so expensive that she often has to choose between putting $20 worth of petrol in the car and eating. Teresa loves her job and has more than two decades of experience in the home-care sector. But, in order to cope with rising costs, she's had to take a second job in a local clothes store. She says she 'simply can't function' without an additional source of income. These are incredibly tough times, and, unfortunately, Teresa's story is not unique.

For other families, the high cost of living means choosing between filling prescriptions for potentially life-saving medicines and providing for their families. The co-payment for general patients has doubled since 2000, and, according to ABS figures, more than 900,000 Australians delayed or did not get a script filled in 2019-20, due to cost. To provide optimum health care to all Australians, we've got to turn this around. As the member for Newcastle, I am determined to deliver better outcomes for our community's future and for every household.

The Albanese Labor government is putting in place a number of measures to help ease that pressure on household budgets. One way we have done this is by reducing the maximum amount that Australians pay for their Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or the PBS, as it's most commonly known, is a significant component of the Commonwealth's investment in our health system, with the government allocating $13.8 billion in the 2020-21 financial year to make medicines more affordable. The Labor government's changes, which came into effect on 1 January, mean that Australians are now paying up to 30 per cent less for their prescriptions. Our reduction to that co-payment means that the maximum Australians will pay for PBS medicines now is $30, down from $42.50. With this reduction of $12.50, 3.6 million Australians with current prescriptions over $30 will immediately save on medical scripts. People filling one script a month could save around $150 a year, while those filling two scripts a month could save around $300. In Newcastle, these changes will benefit 92,519 Novocastrians in filling almost 250,000 scripts each year. It's an estimated saving to Novocastrians of $3.5 million, and that is not to be sneezed at.

This is indeed the first time in its 75-year history that the maximum cost of general scripts under the PBS has fallen. I am so proud to be part of an Albanese Labor government that is taking direct action to help ease pressure on family budgets. We do not want to see patients having to choose between the health care they need and providing for their families. This change is just one way that we're helping to ease the burden on Australian families, particularly those with chronic illnesses. All Australians should have access to universal, prompt, and world-class medical care. That's Labor's mission, and it's our vision for Australia.

Debate adjourned.

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