Critical shortages in medicine - why?

28 March, 2023

It's not often I agree with the member for Spence—I've listened to his speeches!—but I couldn't agree more in regard to the car industry in this country, especially in relation to GM,. They had been here since 1949. They didn't want to leave. We sent them packing. I can't go into the great difficulties that caused because it will take the whole five minutes, but I actually believe that we will manufacture cars in this country again, either out of necessity or out of our own ingenuity. I have a great belief in Australians. We still have the capability to build cars. We still have the capability to design cars. We still have the ingenuity and the determination to make different products that we can export around the world. We need to become a country that does that.

We heard about hydrogen from the previous speaker. My problem today is that I'm in the moment, and in the moment, as the members of this parliament know, one of the major inhibitors to what we're doing as a country is our supply-chain issues. There cannot be a better example of supply-chain issues than around shortages of antibiotics, for instance, in this country. In Australia there are shortages of antibiotics. There are shortages of amoxicillin. There are shortages of warfarin, which a lot of people rely on to control their blood pressure. There are shortages of the ingredients of antibiotics that your pharmacist would use to mix you the drug themselves. Some pharmacists still have the ability to do that. They'll mix you the drug themselves so you can be protected. If they can't get hold of it from their supplier, they will make it for you. It may take a little bit longer, but at least you can be serviced.

We cannot afford, in this country, the issues supply-chain problems cause. It's been said: 'It's manufacturing. It's unexpected increase in demand.' No, the demand has been pretty consistent all the way through, unless the nation's getting sicker and sicker by the day. I didn't believe that to be the case, perhaps until now, where we are being confronted with hospital ramping right across the country. All of our hospitals are filled, and no-one's asking any questions. Why is this happening? Why do we have shortages of all these antibiotics? Why do we have shortages of warfarin? Surely it can't be that somebody's holding something back. There's no reason to; they want to sell their product.

Now we're talking about things like paracetamol—that you should stock up on paracetamol because the government is going to start to ration paracetamol. A lot of people rely on paracetamol to get through the day, for whatever reason for their health and wellbeing. I know that each government that I've seen come in—and I've seen a lot of governments come and go—has had a different view on the area of manufacturing and how they will go about it. I see this program as, really, the government renaming an old government program that was of great benefit to my electorate in supporting new innovations, supporting jobs and supporting the growth of industries, especially West Gippsland sawmillers, who became West Gippsland trusses and then West Gippsland manufacturers.

For all of those issues, whenever government has come in and offered support, that has grown business and has made a difference. I believe the government is determined in this area to make a difference. However, we need to address these critical shortages now, before it becomes a crisis, because, with the way we're going with the shortages of pharmaceuticals, this could become a crisis overnight, right across Australia. That's a crisis we can't afford. We can't afford it for our belts, for our older people especially and for our most vulnerable and their children. It's up to us. The buck stops with us—remember that. We're the last port of call. The buck stops here in the federal parliament. It's got nowhere else to go, only here. So these shortages have to be addressed and addressed now.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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