Alarm bells clang over Robb PBS sellout

ScreenHunter_730 Dec. 13 12.51

By Leith van Onselen

Following on from my earlier warnings that the Federal Government was contemplating selling Australia out to the Americans by accepting a US-style regional regulatory framework under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the proposed regional trade deal between Pacific Rim countries – Deborah Gleeson, Lecture in Public Health at LaTrobe University, has provided the below worrying update on negotiations, which suggests the Coalition is engaging in a deal that could significantly undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), in turn putting at Australia’s world-class health system at risk.

From the Conversation:

Just before leaving for Singapore on December 6 for the latest Trans Pacific Partnership meeting, I wrote about some of the major concerns surrounding the secretive agreement. This is an update on developments over the four days of ministerial negotiations.

…[Most] worrying were suggestions that the group negotiating the highly sensitive intellectual property chapter included only one of the countries advocating for a fairer proposal on medicines (it is not known which of these countries was involved).

A draft of the intellectual property chapter leaked to Wikileaks in November showed the United States has continued to push for expanded and extended patent protection and exclusive rights over clinical trial data, among other provisions, that could delay access to affordable medicines.

Several countries have put forward a fairer counter-proposal. While Australia was reportedly involved in the early development of this counter-proposal, its current position is unclear.

The Australian government has maintained that it will not accept anything in the agreement that would undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the health system.

But on the third day of talks, a leaked memo prepared as an update after the last set of talks in November revealed Australia’s support for the fairer medicines counter-proposal for the intellectual property chapter of the agreement was waning.

The memo also showed Australia had collaborated with the United States and Japan to revise the “healthcare transparency annex”, the part of the agreement that will affect the PBS.

On the final day of talks, an article in Washington Trade Daily cast further doubt on the Australian government’s claims about protecting the nation’s health and medicines policies.

It reported that:

“Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, dropped their objections to the high-standard disciplines in intellectual property and came on board by agreeing to the modified text. Effectively, there is consensus on the intellectual property dossier except for one developing country, WTD was told.”

“High-standard disciplines” refers to the extremely high level of intellectual property protection proposed by the United States.

While he was in Singapore, Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb’s office also made it very clear that he was prepared to agree to an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) in the treaty, in exchange for access to other markets.

Such clauses allow foreign state investors to bypass domestic legal systems and have their case heard by trade experts…

On the same day as the memo was leaked, the Australian government blocked an order by the Senate to reveal the Trans Pacific Partnership text before it’s signed.

And 44 prominent academics and public health experts wrote to the health minister to express their concerns and to urge the government to honour the Senate order.

Today, the Senate has passed a motion noting the letter and reiterating its call for the release of the text.

I hope the delay in concluding the negotiations at a time when there’s rising concern among the Australian public will mean there is time to persuade the government to take a stance that’s conducive to a healthy agreement, a healthy country and a healthy region.

I also hope the Senate is successful in its efforts to make the text of the agreement available for public scrutiny before our government commits to its terms.

That the Coalition is willing to sell Australia out in such a secretive manner is highly disturbing. Whose interest are they working for? The Americans or the Australian public?

Do the Coalition really want Australia’s world-class health system to move in the direction of the US, which spends twice as much on health as a percentage of GDP, but has some of the worst health outcomes in the world?

As a bare minimum, the text of the TPP must be released for public and parliamentary scrutiny before they are signed, or we risk losing our sovereign rights.

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  1. This is turning out to be a very weak government. Very disappointing.

    “exclusive rights to clinical trial data”

    Well that’s about the worst thing you can do to ensure a safe and transparent drugs and supplements industry.

    • I consider the most disturbing element is the ability to bypass a countries laws and go to trade experts is a way of big tobacco and Energy to tie up Govments in court for decades much like the whaling commission.

      That term a “Conga line of suckholes” keeps running round in my head.

  2. The concern here in NZ is that the TPP will be ushered through over the Christmas break, when no one is looking. Like you, we have been denied the process of open scrutiny, even in Parliament, before the agreement is ratified. ( questions were asked on The Floor of the acting Minister, Steven Joyce, yesterday, and I am not sure even he understood what his answers were meant to mean! ) Apparently we are allowed to debate the fait accompli in Parliament afterwards. What for, I am not sure!

    “Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Trade) : It is important to note, firstly, that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is still under negotiation at this time. Should the negotiations be successful, the Government would release the text after New Zealand’s initial signature of the proposed agreement, which requires approval by Cabinet. The Government will not be releasing the text before that point because the negotiations will not be formally concluded until the member countries have, in fact, signed the text. Once that negotiation phase is complete, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as with all trade agreements, will then go through the full parliamentary treaty examination process where, of course, the text will be available”
    Julie Anne Genter: “Given that the Government will not be releasing the text before signing us up to the deal, will he release the national interest analysis, which spells out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand of this agreement, before Cabinet approves it; if not, why not?”
    Hon STEVEN JOYCE:” I think the member misunderstands the process that these things go through. She suggested that Cabinet will ratify the agreement; Cabinet will not. In fact, Parliament ratifies the agreement. Of course, the national interest analysis is laid in front of Parliament, and Parliament debates a treaty such as this before it is ratified.”

  3. interested party

    Somewhere in the recent past something changed in the way our elected representatives perceive their station in society. It appears that they wish to rule us, which is a distinct difference to representing us. This needs to be reversed or it brings many bad things our way.

    What was the quote………ah, yes…..What can you do for your country, not what can your country do for you.

    • interested party

      Has anyone got a suggestive picture of obama with a goat cause I reckon with that we can make this all go away!

      Apologies for the image implant, I have just got back from fishing and had a good time.

  4. The Labor has been as secretive and as ready to sell out before the Lib won the election, bit hypocritical from this bunch.

    • Bull shit, dam.

      In 2003, there was (more or less) bipartisan support for the exclusions of ISDS provisions in the the AUSFTA when the Howard government were in power.

      In 2008, during the TPP negotiations, whilst ISDS provisions were initially on the table, the Rudd government backtracked in the public interest and rejected the ISDS provisions with the USA.

      In 2011, on advice from the productivity commission, the Gillard government removed ISDS provisions with developing countries..

      It is only this Coalition government that has been so very very keen to sell us out in secret.


  5. The alarm bells on this should be well and truly ringing, but once again we are being sold out by those that should be representing the interests of the citizens of this country. I work in an area that will be affected by this. Is the cretin who agrees to this capitulation the one who has to face the patients with cancer who will not be able to afford the new medications coming online that can save their life. Are they going to meet the cancer sufferer face to face and say “sorry i decided the interests of foreigner big pharmaceutical companies to make even more profit is more important than you having access to new revolutionary medication at a cost you can afford. So very sorry, Please go away and die quietly and don’t make a mess. Im preparing for my new highly paid job as a lobbyist after i get voted out of office.”

  6. I was warning her three years ago that with the return of Reith, and Robb moving into parliament the coalition would shift to evil.

    This is the reason behind the second amendment.
    You know the most recent demonstration in Egypt, they are the biggest demonstrations in history, some had over 4 million people.

    They aren’t the side uncle Rupert likes so it gets ignored. If 4 million had guns, governments would be listening.

    That’s why you have guns.

  7. ceteris paribusMEMBER

    These Liberals are the lowest of the low. They would scrap Medicare if they could get away with it because ensuring health care to the poor is communism and subsidy to losers.

    There is a highly unpleasant clique of Catholic pollies- Abbott, Hockey, Pyne, Robb, Joyce who seem to delight in taunting the poor, the struggling and unworthy- caught in a 50s time warp and worldview.

    Hey, don’t say I am anti-Catholic. The opposite. I have read with affection Mathew’s Gospel of Jesus throughout and I think the new Pope Francis also “rocks”. Not an ounce of neo-liberalism crap there. The above pollies obviously skipped all their religious education classes in favour of reading “how to suck up billionaires and keep the rabble in the slums”.

    • General Disarray

      They were up in arms about the carbon tax hurting pensioners and now they’re considering blowing a hole in that highly medicated groups budget.

      A cynic might view this as a backdoor attack on the public health system.

    • Spot on ceteris paribus.

      I blame the entire Catholic Church hierarchy since 1515 for the mess we all find ourselves in.

      Never ceases to amaze that 499 years worth of so-called “infallible” “Christ-ian” pontiffs have willfully chosen to ignore the simple, plain instruction of their purported God on the subject of usury:

      30. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

      31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

      32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

      33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

      34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

      35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

      36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

      — St. Luke 6:30-36

      But then again, that’s what happens when your own clergy are corrupt, setting up fake “charities” to lend at usury to the poor, and go on to elect a Medici family bankster as Pope in order to first weaken, then ultimately reverse, some 1,500 years of stringently anti-usury “Divine” law.

  8. Intellectual Property laws are a nonesense at the best of times and why any growing nation ignores the infractions of the intellectual property laws of other nations by its citizens.

    Well known US publishing groups made their names for republishing books quicker than the competition when copies arrived on boats from England.

    intellectual property laws have a single legitimate purpose and that is to provide just enough protection to encourage creation of intellectual goods and that is all.

    The extensions of intellectual property protections we are now seeing are simply attempts to preserve commercial monopolies for as long as possible and rope the state into providing force to protect them.

    Every voter (ALP, LNP, Green or other) should be outraged by what the govt are signing us up for.

    Robb is out if his depth but dangerously, for Australia, does not know it.

    Does anyone seriously believe that any of these agreements will ever protect Australian property interests?

  9. Australia’s own Neo Cons. This would have to be the most idealogical govt. ever.
    It’s genesis lies back in history. The Thatcher/ Reagan/Murdoch wet dream of Market rule or Corporate Government.Australia to be a quarry & a farm. Although the farm part may be optional
    Abbott will do the Corporate’s bidding on Free Trade Agreements .
    As for looking after the community think back to the election mantra of jobs ,jobs ,jobs & think Car industry, Quantas .
    These people are going to rationalise us right out of
    out of our skins.
    What can we do about it? I’ll tell you….. Oh! 12-30 the crickets on , I’ll get back to you…..