Doorstop Mt Martha, Victoria
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doorstop Mt Martha, Victoria.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
4 January 2018
Topics: Turnbull Government’s plan to allow medicinal cannabis exports; Melbourne crime gangs; out-of-pocket expenses
The Australian Government will license the export of medicinal cannabis. The reason why is that this will help both Australian patients and Australian farmers.
We have some of the best farmers in the world. We have the most secure conditions for the production of medicinal cannabis in the world, and we have the world’s best regime.
We’ve already licensed medicinal cannabis as a product for prescription by doctors. Hundreds of patients have benefitted, and many licenses have been issued both for cultivation and manufacture.
What this will do now is secure supplies for Australian patients by boosting the size of the Australian industry.
Our goal is to give our farmers and our manufacturers the opportunity to be the world’s leading country for medicinal cannabis.
We have a world-class reputation for our pharmaceutical sector and our medical research. We have a world-class reputation for our clean and green farm products.
Put them all together and we are brilliantly placed to be a world leader in medical development and medical cannabis.
This is about giving patients the best access to the safest, high-quality supply. Australian patients are guaranteed first access under this export regime. Happy to take any questions.
So is your main aim to increase the export market or boost the domestic market? Can you even do both at the same time?
This is about helping both Australian patients and the export market.
By having an export product and an export market, we provide additional security for potential Australian producers, and in so doing, what that means is that we secure supplies for Australian domestic patients, because under the new regulations, they will have first right of access.
So that’s fundamental, that Australian patients come first, but we can do both. Helping Australian farmers and manufacturers, but securing the future with the highest grade, highest quality medicinal cannabis for Australian patients.
How large is the global medicinal cannabis market at the moment, and what share of it could Australia capture?
I’ll let the analysts discuss today the global market, but it is growing significantly.
In Australia, it’s a new prescribed product and so it’s a matter for the doctors to be informed and to make their own decisions on behalf of the patient, but our goal is very clear, to give Australian farmers and manufacturers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal cannabis.
So we constantly hear from medical experts and academics that it’s too hard at the moment to actually prescribe medicinal cannabis here in Australia. Shouldn’t we be addressing that problem now before concentrating on the exports?
There are now no real government barriers at federal level to the prescription of medicinal cannabis, and I say that because, under federal law, virtually every GP has the capacity to prescribe and have an approval within 48 hours.
Under federal law, we also have a class of what are called authorised prescribers who can immediately issue prescriptions that will be fulfilled. So over 300 Australian patients have been given access.
The real issue now is that many doctors, and I absolutely agree with this and understand this, are cautious about the impacts of a new product.
They want to be fully informed and they want to protect their patients, and we’ve been working with AMA and the College of GPs on exactly that question. But our job is to ensure there is a supply of medicine and we’ve created a national inventory.
Our job is to ensure that there is a long-term future for the Australian product and to allow the doctors to prescribe, but their job is rightly to be the sole decision-maker as to what is the right medicine for each individual patient.
So how do you make GPs more comfortable then? If the onus is purely on them – whether or not they feel comfortable to do so, how do you make them more comfortable to do so?
Well, both the College of General Practitioners and the AMA are working with their members to ensure they’re fully informed, but as with every medicine, whether it is morphine, whether it’s endone, whether it’s other things, only the doctor, only the doctor, should be in charge of their prescribing habits, and we won’t be dictating to doctors what they should prescribe.
We will be setting out the safest regime in the world and ensuring that there is guaranteed, high-quality, continuous supply.
So are you open to the idea of simplifying the prescription process, if that’s what they’re calling for?
Well, we have actually simplified that prescription process. There are some state barriers, and I’ll leave that to individual states to adjust their own laws as they see fit, but at a federal level, we’ve maintained the safety and the standards but ensured that the barriers have been removed.
Now it’s a question for individual doctors as to what they see best, and as I say, over 300 patients have already been given access, but through a regime which, as with any drug that has significant benefits and consequences, has to be at the safest possible level.
On a different (inaudible), I’m sorry. A teenager has been released on bail after assaulting a police officer. Is there a problem with Victorian bail laws?
Look, my views on sentencing and bail in Victoria are well-known. I won’t comment on the individual case, because I don’t have the facts, but as a general proposition, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the Andrews Government has failed on crime in the worst possible way.
They’ve been in denial on the problem. They have continued that denial only this morning through the comments of Mr Dalidakis, and our view is they have to step up, allow the police to do what the police believe is necessary to be engaged in active community policing, and follow the plan that Matthew Guy has set out for tougher bail and tougher sentencing laws.
Minister Dutton yesterday said that people feel too unsafe to go to restaurants because of these gangs. Do you feel that you can’t go to restaurants because of African gangs?
Well, I know that there are many people in many communities who have deep concerns, and as I said on radio yesterday, not somebody we know directly, but very close friends of one of our family’s closest friends were subject to an assault not long ago, only a couple of months ago, from an African gang. So it’s a real and pressing problem with deep community concerns right across Victoria.
Mr Albanese said yesterday the Commonwealth could be doing more, like boosting funding to the AFP and migration. Do you agree?
Well, the primary job, the primary job is for the Premier to focus on protecting the people of Victoria and giving them the confidence that they are being protected.
My view is that the number one plan is the Matthew Guy plan, but we will continue to do everything we possibly can, noting that ultimately the Victorian Government has the power, the legislative authority, the resources and the responsibility to do this, but we’ll do everything we can, and that’s why Peter Dutton is right onto this.
You’ve essentially just promoted Matthew Guy’s policies as State Opposition Leader. Is the Federal Government essentially entering what is a state election campaign, and is that appropriate?
Well, I think, as a Victorian, looking around my electorate, knowing the people here, this is an issue of fundamental concern, and if the State Government isn’t doing their job, it’s very important that we can set out the alternative, and the alternative is the Matthew Guy plan on bail laws, sentencing laws and police resourcing and police authority.
Just quickly on some other issues. The Government’s investigating out-of-pocket medical expenses. Why is this inquiry needed and will you commit to implementing its recommendations?
I’ve tasked the Chief Medical Officer to work with the AMA, the College of Surgeons and other medical groups on greater transparency so as people simply know what they are going to have to pay and what they will get and the quality of that service.
We have, in my view, the best doctors in the world. What we also need is to ensure that patients have full knowledge of everything that they will face.
The short proposition here is we’ve now got the highest bulk-billing rates in Australian history - 85.9 per cent. That means that 85.9 per cent of the time that people go to the doctor, they don’t have to pay a dollar, let alone a cent.
And now we want to ensure that, for the specialist procedures, patients have access, and we will be driving even greater access to better information.
Another topic, would the Government consider increasing the beer tax on over-the-counter schooners, in order to bring it in line with bottle shop prices and cut excessive drinking?
That is not our policy. That’s not a proposal that we are considering and it’s not a proposal I can see us in any way, shape or form endorsing.
Do you see that the current beer tax arrangement is fundamentally inadequate?
Look, I will leave that for the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer. Okay, thank you very much.