Bill's Speeches









It’s a great pleasure to have a few minutes tonight to welcome you to parliament house, and to thank you for the contribution you make to our national life.

Pharmacy is a venerable profession, indeed an ancient one.

Indeed, many of the clay tablets excavated by archaeologists in Mesopotamia over the years are prescriptions.

In ancient hierarchical Japan, the Emperor’s Pharmacist was assigned a higher rank than the Emperor’s two physicians (don’t tell the AMA).

And in one for public policy, in 9th Century Baghdad, pharmacies were state-regulated.

And it’s a pharmacist who plays a pivotal role in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, providing Romeo with the potion that drives the star-crossed misunderstanding.

‘Oh, Apothecary, he says, ‘Your drugs work quick.’

There you have it, a bit of 17th Century product placement.

Today, for so many Australians, their local pharmacy is lot more than just a shop in the high street.

Pharmacies are community centres.

Familiar, friendly faces offering trusted advice and peace of mind.

The first port of call for so many Australians in need of assistance.

Ensuring people who need more than an over-the-counter product, seek the help they need.

Beyond those urgent enquiries, pharmacists also have a unique view of a customer’s continuing health, particularly for people with chronic conditions, as they re-fill and manage their medication.

Right now, I don’t think our system does enough to draw on your expertise, your knowledge and your relationships with the Australians you help every day.

And from the conversations that Catherine King and I have had with many of you, I know many of you feel the same.

I’m pleased the Pharmacy Guild has signalled an intention to step up and be more involved in a health system that is more co-ordinated and co-operative.

And of course, an effective, patient-controlled e-health record is essential to this.

As technology continues to improve, consolidated records will mean that when a patient presents at an emergency room, instead of wasting time making them list off medicines they are currently taking, or running the risk of incorrect information the hospital staff will have immediate access to their medication history.

And when an Australian visits their pharmacy, they will be able to call-up their history and current prescriptions, allowing for better-informed care.

Improvements in technology are also allowing pharmacists to ensure greater patient safety, for example through the real-time recording system for codeine sales that your Guild has pledged to implement as recently as last week.

I think our politics work best when we find common ground, when we operate in the centre of political debate – when we are governed from the middle.

When we have a contest for the best policies on what matters to the lives of Australians:

  • Jobs

  • Education

  • Climate Change

  • A fair tax system (not a GST increase)

  • And of course, universal healthcare and affordable medicine through a strong PBS.

Your voices will be particularly important  in helping us found the common ground, the sensible course forward for our health system as we grapple with the defining health challenges of the next ten and fifteen years.

  • Ensuring Australians growing older have quality of life in their final quarter

  • Reducing the rate of chronic and complex disease

  • And addressing new issues caused by a changing climate

I have nothing but respect and admiration for the work our community pharmacists, GPs, our nurses and allied health professionals do, caring for Australians who are unwell.

But none of us here tonight could say that Australians are as healthy as they should be.

None of us could say that spending just two cents in every dollar of health funding on prevention is the right way to go.

You all know how important prevention is.

This is why Labor has decided to increase our efforts in the fight against smoking - a leading cause of chronic and complex diseases and a massive drain on our health budget.

The policy we announced today is particularly designed to prevent young people from taking up smoking.

We’re aiming to deter the next-generation of smokers from even starting.

Both my parents smoked a great deal, both my parents had tobacco-related diseases – neither of my parents lived to the age I believe they should have.

And if you ask any parent who smokes, whether they want their children to take up smoking – they’ll tell you no.

This is all part of a bigger discussion about the future of Australia’s health system, a system meeting the challenges of 2030 and beyond.

I will always be interested in your views and open to your ideas as to how we work together to build that future.

And I look forward to our conversations in the months and years ahead.