Committee releases major report on reforming the process for new medicines and health technology

A NEW parliamentary report, The New Frontier: Delivering better health for all Australians is recommending significant reforms to the health care system to ensure Australians have better and faster access to the wave of new medicines and technologies.

The chair of the committee, Trent Zimmerman MP said, "We are witnessing what will be a revolution in the treatment of many conditions, as our understanding of genomics and the development of precision medicine develops. In so many other areas we are also seeing progress in drugs and technology, which has been reflected in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

"These innovations reflect the new frontier of medicine, which is giving hope to many for better treatments and technologies for conditions ranging from cancers to rare diseases. At its forefront, is the development of personalised or precision medicine, which is being delivered as our understanding of fields – like genomics – grows."

 

Australia has one of the world’s best systems for assessing new treatments and ensuring they are delivered in an affordable way to patients. However, the system can be improved and we need to ensure it is ready to meet the challenges of many new innovations that will not neatly fit current health technology assessment processes.

"Throughout its 15-month inquiry, the committee received over 200 submissions and held 13 days of public hearings in several capital cities. The committee was moved by the testimony of patients and their families and inspired by the work of our researchers and medical scientists. The committee was impressed by the professionalism of those working in the medicines and technology sectors and appreciative of the obvious dedication, co-operation and knowledge of those within the health department who assisted our deliberations in public and private hearings and through their submissions.

"I believe that all the committee’s recommendations will make a real difference to the lives of Australian patients as well as industry and the R&D sector, including the clinical trials sector," Mr Zimmerman said.

 

Deputy chair of the committee, Dr Mike Freelander MP, made the following comments in relation to the Inquiry:

"We are at an inflection point in healthcare in Australia at the present time, because of the rapidly increasing treatments becoming available for conditions previously considered untreatable.

"This is particularly so in my own field of paediatrics.

"How Australians get access to these treatments in an equitable manner has been the main focus of our Inquiry.

"I have learnt a lot during the course of the Inquiry, and have been humbled by the experience.

"I am particularly grateful to the chair, Trent Zimmerman, and to the incredibly hardworking secretariat, without whose efforts the Inquiry would not have been possible.

"I am very grateful for the manner in which our Inquiry has been approached by staff at the Health Department, particularly Prof John Skerritt and his staff at the TGA, the PBAC and MSAC, who at all times gave their support and never refused to give us time for meetings.

"I reiterate my support and thanks for all those who presented to us.

"I’ve enjoyed the Inquiry and the bigger picture is to now get whoever is in government to act on our recommendations."

The bipartisan report makes 31 recommendations to reform Australia’s system for the regulation and reimbursement with the hope that patients will receive faster access to the latest medicines and technologies.

The chair planned to table this report in the House of Representatives between 10am and 11am on Thursday November 25, 2021.

The full text of the report will be available on the committee’s website after tabling.

 

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Australia's intelligence agencies navigate challenging operating environment

AUSTRALIA'S intelligence agencies are operating at their best, despite challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, a deteriorating strategic environment and rapidly evolving threats, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has found.

Today the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee tabled its report of the reviews No.18 and No.19 of the administration and expenditure of Australian intelligence agencies for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years, fulfilling one of its key statutory oversight responsibilities, and bringing to a close a review of shifting intelligence agency priorities and capability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Committee found that the Office of National Intelligence, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the Defence Intelligence Organisation are managing their administration and expenditure appropriately.

Committee Chair Senator James Paterson noted that the National Intelligence Community (NIC) continues to mature and develop after its formalisation in 2018 and the Committee is continuing to analyse the evolution of the enterprise and how shared capability and outcomes can be achieved within the parameters of the law and the six agencies’ appropriated funds.

"Australia’s intelligence agencies are operating in a rapidly deteriorating security environment. With foreign interference, cyber intrusion and espionage at levels not seen even throughout the Cold War. Australians can be encouraged to know that our intelligence agencies have risen to the challenge and are operating at their best," Senator Patterson said.

‘The committee was particularly pleased at how agencies continued to achieve their mission despite the disruption caused by the pandemic and public health restrictions which impact their workforce," he said.

 

The committee has made a number of recommendations to investigate options for shared services to support staff complaints and resolution mechanisms, as well as psychological support. The latter was a focus of the committee’s review and recognises the importance of supporting the dedicated men and women who ensure our nation’s intelligence capabilities are delivered.

The committee also recommended that the Archives Act 1983 be amended to ensure that agencies could address ongoing matters, as well as ensuring that a review of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic were captured and shared across the NIC.

Further information on the inquiry and a copy of the report can be obtained from the Inquiry website.

"The committee has also launched the next Administration and Expenditure Review (No.20) and looks forward to receiving information from the agencies regarding their ongoing operational priorities and safeguards to ensure that their critical functions are being delivered in the most effective and efficient way,” Senator Paterson said.

 

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Focus for future Defence resilience - report tabled

THE MOST RECENT report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade was presented in Parliament House today in Canberra.

The committee has conducted a review of the Department of Defence Annual Report 2019-20 and made recommendations in a range of areas.

The inquiry initially focused on four main aspects of the annual report: space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; cyber warfare; Defence estate in the north and north-west; and Defence workforce.

Through the conduct of the inquiry, Defence science and technology and strategic fuel security became additional focus areas.

Committee Chair, Senator David Fawcett, explained that the report and its recommendations reflected the fact that the committee sees potential for Australia to take an increasingly ‘asymmetric’ approach to national security in coming decades, not only within the Defence organisation but from a broader whole-of-nation perspective.

This extends beyond strictly military capabilities to shared civil-military space capabilities, joint civil-military cyber capabilities and innovative approaches to future fuel and energy security measures.

"The global geostrategic environment is changing at a rate and on a scale much greater than was anticipated towards the end of the last decade. Military modernisation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in ‘grey-zone’ capabilities and tactics, has added a layer of complexity to Australia’s strategic challenges which must be met in an equally high-paced and agile manner if we are to maintain a credible defensive deterrent," Senator Fawcett said.

Further details about the about the inquiry can also be obtained from the committee’s website.

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Supply Nation talks engagement in Northern Australia

THE Northern Australia Committee has resumed its Inquiry into the Opportunities and Challenges of the Engagement of Traditional Owners in the Economic Development of Northern Australia with the aim to complete a report before the end of parliament.

On Friday November 26, the committee will hear from representatives of Supply Nation. This opportunity will allow the committee to understand the organisation's perspectives on key opportunities and challenges that impact engagement of Traditional Owners, and to inquire about the specific role Supply Nation has in this area. 

Committee Chair Warren Entsch said, "It is important to hear from key bodies that work in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic development as they are the ones that can give critical insights into key problems and opportunities.

"It will be important to important to understand how effective Supply Nation has been in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander development because it is importantly to understand the effect of such organisations to the progress of Indigenous economic development."

 

program for the public hearing is available on the committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Friday, 26 November 2021
Time: 10am to 10:45am AEDT
Location: by teleconference

 

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House Committee to hear from aquaculture groups in the southern region

AQUACULTURE industry groups from Tasmania and South Australia and an environmental peak body will appear before the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee this week as part of its current inquiry into Australia’s aquaculture sector.

The committee will hear evidence from key industry groups representing operators in southern regions, including the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association and Australian Abalone Growers Association, as well as conservation group Environment Tasmania. ​

"We are aware that aquaculture operators in the southern regions of Australia face unique opportunities and barriers to their growth when compared to their counterparts in the north, and are working under different regulatory frameworks," Committee Chair, Rick Wilson MP said. "We look forward to understanding the needs of these operators.

"The committee is also mindful that there are concerns about aquaculture’s impact on the environment, in Tasmania in particular, and is seeking to understand what can be done to improve consumer confidence in this important sector."

For further information, please visit the inquiry website.

Public hearing details

Date: Friday 26 November 2021
Time: 12:15pm to 2:30pm AEDT

A live audio stream of the hearing will be accessible at: www.aph.gov.au/live.

 

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