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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : May 2008
News aNd review capital hill where’s pharmacy’s 2020 vision? From our Canberra correspondent Like the AMA, PhARMACY WASN’t iNViteD tO the RUDD 2020 iDeAFeSt With the 2020 media eulogies beginning to subside, there’s now a reasonable chance that the very same media might turn its blowtorch to an analysis of the Rudd government Realpolitik, with a cold hard look at what Rudd’s doing about the Budget. 2020 was great camouflage for getting scrutiny away from the Budget. New ideas? Not really. Paradoxically, News Limited chief John Hartigan grabbed the mood of the moment by hanging out the republican flag (as Whitlam did in 1972). No, not news John. The indigenous nations asked for equality (again, promised by Whitlam in 1972). From there, we got ideas ranging from the naively simplistic to genuine lunacy, with the usual assortment of off-the- planet concepts such as abolishing the states (something the ALP was banging on about in the 1920s) and—that old chestnut—reshaping the healthcare delivery model. Wow! Where was pharmacy in this? Where was the Australian Medical Association? AMA president Rosanna Capolingua found out what happens when you endorse Liberal health policy and dump on the ALP before an election. Thus, former Guild national councillor and head of the Australian General Practice Network, Kate Carnell got the 2020 medical gig at AMA expense. Now the press gallery refers to her as Nicola Roxon’s deputy chief of staff. Hopefully 18 she’ll carry pharmacy’s flag too—as pharmacy didn’t get a gig at all. Neither did diabetes. Neither did lots of other priority stakeholders. Whether 2020 will go down as a representative exercise will always be debated. Surprisingly absent—and without even a formal submission— were resident noisemakers like the Australian Consumers’ Association and the Australian Consumers’ Health Forum. But cut to the chase: what about the Budget and how does this government score on managing the process leading up to it—and after it? The procession of crowd pleasing PR opportunities grabbed and milked mercilessly by a PM with his weather eye in the mirror—seems never ending. But the PR photo opportunities and calculatedly casual dispensation of reformist ideas are being increasingly interpreted by a cynical media as an Treasurer. He made it his business to go to the US last month to learn about what a sub-prime crash was. The statement released following his meetings in Washington bodes ill for his tenure in the dollar office. It was short. It said Wayne was now just as gobsmacked as everyone else at the sub-prime crash. One wonders why he needed a first class ticket to the US to find out what everyone else knew for the past five months. The problem Rudd faces—apart from a Treasurer described by his closest colleagues as being frightened of his portfolio—is that the pre-Budget process hasn’t been managed. It’s been camouflaged by a series of proletariat-winning distraction exercises matched in scale by the bread and circuses of ancient Rome. So we look around at where government stakeholders stand. For the past 15 years, these stakeholders were brought into the confidence of the government in a bid to win support ahead of a policy announcement or initiative The bulk of This fuTure relies oN pharmacy iNpuT aNd supporT for The greaTer good indication this government doesn’t know how to get the Budget right. Learning from Howard’s example, Rudd powered up the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to prevent his more accident-prone ministers from dropping clangers ahead of the Budget. Nothing goes without the approval of PM&C and the tick of Rudd’s office. One of the accident-prone chaps is the the australian journal of pharmacy vol.89 may 2008 conducted in the Budget setting. This time, the healthcare sector hasn’t been told a thing—except maybe for Kate Carnell who continues to get up the AMA nose while the doctors’ trade union is studiously ignored. Across the sector, they’re asking what the government is hiding. Score zilch for the commitment to fund $20m for generics promotion announced as part of the PBS Reform process. Score zilch for any attempt to communicate to pharmacy about the implications of foreshadowed Budget cuts on pharmacy incomes. Score nyet for the lack of any idea—with or without the 2020 hype—on how to bring stakeholders together to reform the foundering healthcare framework. So far, the Guild has managed to retain its traditional links with government and has won pharmacy time to contemplate and forge its own future. The bulk of this future relies on pharmacy input and support for the greater good—where the future of pharmacy and the healthcare delivery mechanisms are wedded in a robust service model. So what is pharmacy doing about securing a future while the government is seeking ideas for an integrated healthcare framework in which pharmacy aims to cut a leading role for itself? Despite being hailed as the best-ever attended, only about 650 community pharmacies were represented among delegates at the Guild’s recent APP conference. This was the Guild’s major event to inform the pharmacy sector about its future and, with so many structural and regulatory changes in the offing, less than 15% of pharmacies bothered to turn up. And they have the nerve to whinge about Guild leadership! n The opinion expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the AJP’s management or staff.