Labor must answer serious questions about a lack of transparency, as well as maladministration, relating to the $15 billion Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement they signed and managed in Government.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley said she was deeply concerned by the findings of the Australian National Audit Office report about the five-year pharmacy agreement – signed on 3 May 2010 by the then-Labor Health Minister.

Ms Ley said she would consider the report closely as part of upcoming negotiations for the Sixth Pharmacy Agreement and would continue consulting a range of stakeholders, including consumers.

However, Ms Ley said ANAO reports only tended to look at Department administration and there were clear information gaps and problems that Labor, as the Government at the time, needed to explain.

“These serious allegations seem to be just another example of Labor’s culture of secret handshakes, winks and nods and general incompetence in Government,” Ms Ley said.

“However, they cannot be allowed to wash their hands of this or hand-ball it all to the Department.

“Labor had ultimate responsibility for the creation, implementation and administration of this $15 billion pharmacy agreement. The findings of this report don’t relate to one or two minor issues – they go to the core of the agreement and its management.

“Therefore, Labor was either complicit or incompetent in their oversight of these alleged failures in proper process and ministerial accountability and they must answer these serious questions.

“And we’re not just talking Health Ministers – such as the current Deputy Opposition Leader – what about the then Treasurer and Finance Ministers, both of whom are still in the Parliament

“The report’s findings further support the Abbott Government’s decision to consult with all members of the pharmacy supply chain – including consumers – before the next agreement is finalised.

“That’s because I want to hear from a range of voices about the best ways patients can continue to access medicines when and where they need them at a price both they and taxpayers can afford.”

Ms Ley said that while she would consider the report closely, Labor could avoid the need to rush into any form of inquiry by putting forward a full and detailed account of its handling of the agreement and how they allowed these alleged serious issues and irregularities to occur.