Will the Government walk away from the TPP?

By Leith van Onselen

Amid reports earlier in the week that US President, Barack Obama, is refusing to slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits, Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has vowed today that the Government won’t sign any deal unless it includes significant cuts to agricultural protection:

“If there’s nothing in it for us then we don’t need to sign it,” the minister told ABC radio on Friday.

Previously, the Nationals, along with Liberal Senate agricultural committee member, Bill Heffernan, raised concerns about the impacts of the TPP on bio security, suggesting there is some disquiet within the Coalition.

Meanwhile, Trans-Tasman health experts have sounded new warnings about potential adverse impacts on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) arising from the TPP, following the release of the annexe on “transparency and procedural fairness for pharmaceutical products and medical devices” by Wikileaks:

Deborah Gleeson, a lecturer at the school of psychology and public health at La Trobe University, said the inclusion of an annexe on health “serves no useful public interest purpose”…

“It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems…

Jane Kelsey of the faculty of law of the University of Auckland described the annexe as one of the most controversial parts of the TPP in her analysis. She said the US pharmaceutical industry was using the trade agreement to target New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency (Pharmac), equivalent to the PBS…

“This leaked text shows the TPP will severely erode Pharmac’s ability to continue to deliver affordable medicines and medical devices as it has for the past two decades.

“That will mean fewer medicines are subsidised, or people will pay more as co-payments or more of the health budget will go to pay for medicines instead of other activities or the health budget will have to expand beyond the cap.

“Whatever the outcome, the big global pharmaceutical companies will win”…

AMA president Brian Owler said while doctors were very concerned at the possible effects on Australia’s healthcare systems, they were constantly dismissed by the trade minister Andrew Robb.

“When we have raised concerns about the effects on health, the only response is ‘we are not going to undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’,” said Owler.

“We are worried about the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism and there are issues in terms of patents that would affect pharmaceutical prices.

“The problem is our concerns have been dismissed by the trade minister but we do not know what is in the text.”

Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, has previously stated that he won’t sign any deal that extends patents or would compromise Australia’s health system.

Let’s Robb keeps his word. Because the way the TPP negotiations are panning out, it looks as if the US would gain significant intellectual property and copyright protections for its pharmaceutical, technology and television/film entertainment sectors, without reciprocal arrangements for Australian farmers.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Why is it with these deals is that the little guys always are the losers? I have no idea why Australia is so entrenched in free market pushes when all it does is destroy our country by making the bigger nations richer.

    • WHAT??? This deal is to free markets what Gobbels was to Truth….what was it “a lie said often enough becomes the truth” and so it is with the TPP, say often enough that it’s a Free Trade deal and the opponents will take the bait and look stupid as they attempt to argue against the proven benefits of free markets.
      TPP is about imposing the will of transnational corporations on the Pacific nations, it’s the legal frame work by which they effectively impose extra judicial tax (yes tax). There is no better way to describe the loss of sovereignty embodied in the TPP agreement than to simply recognize it as an international taxation agreement. But don’t believe me, read Paul Krugman’s analysis…heck he doesn’t even think it’s good for the US

    • invest-magicMEMBER

      This has nothing to do with a free market! Ever seen a free trade agreement. It’s full of cronyism.
      A free market does not need a 1000 page document. It’s you buy my stuff without friction (barriers, subsidies, quotas, duties, etc) and we’ll do the same. That’s it.

  2. Ronin8317MEMBER

    Mr prediction : Barnaby Joyce will be told to shut up by his handler, and Andrew Robb will sign it and secure his after politics job in a US pharmaceutical company.

    After it is signed, Australia will start importing bananas from Philippines. Australia’s bananas plantation will then be exposed to diseases and wiped out within 10 years, and overseas buyers from China/Saudi Arabia/India will buy up the agricultural land very cheaply. All part of the plan..

    • Bananas from overseas ? – – bring it on -it should have happened years ago. It would have forced the Queensland Banana growers to market a better banana instead of the crap on offer now ( Cavendish). The Q Banana’s we get here in WA taste like wood & spot up within days. The Bananas grown up North in Carnarvon are a different breed & 100% better taste but subject to floods & much smaller supply. IF you have never tried another “type” of Banana then you don’t know what you’re really missing.

      NZ has been importing Bananas from Venezuela for years & what a different fruit from the Q Australian variety. They look good -taste good and keep good for over a week. Not only that but they are much cheaper to buy even after coming all that way.

      I’m not a fan of most imported fruit /food but bring on some competition re Bananas ASAP.

      • SupernovaMEMBER

        AURules: “thy look good-taste good and keep good for over a week”…..really, must be GMmmmmd to become free of the Philippines banana-fungus then?

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        Fruits are normally transported green, and only ripened with chemicals when it’s ready to be sold. So long it will keep depends on the store selling it rather than the origin.

        As to NZ allowing banana import. Last I check, NZ doesn’t have any commercial banana plantation because it’s too cold there.

  3. They will do what their American masters tell them to do!!! It doesn’t matter if this isn’t in OUR national interests! Doesn’t matter if it’s Labour or Lib, they are WEAK WILLED TREASONOUS SQUIBS WHO WILL BEND OVER AND GET ON THEIR KNEES WHEN TOLD TO DO SO!!!!

  4. Australia needs to walk away from it.
    The only reason its being considered is so that politician can put it on his resume and his legacy… not knowing its a “bad” legacy.

    • BubbleyMEMBER

      Oppenheimer regreted the Manhatten project for the remainder of his life.

      Is the TPP our atomic bomb?

  5. I don’t believe for a minute that Robb and Co is going to walk away from this. they would rather sign and then lie to the public about the great deal they have done, than walk away from it.
    The only thing that matters anymore is perception of what you have done.
    Its pathetic on both sides of politics.

    • Andrew Robb’s post-parliamentary career probably depends on this being signed, so it’ll be signed.

      • BubbleyMEMBER

        Aaahhh, now that makes sense.

        I’ve been looking a reason, any reason, why a pollie would sign this piece of crap and I think you’ve nailed it.

  6. It is naïve in the extreme to hope that Robb, a hardened conservative capital incentivising free-market ideologue, will act in the best interests of maintaining a health system he would privately regard as socialism. His undertaking on this is meaningless, utterly meaningless. Look to Robb’s leader for a guide on when it is permissible to not be fully frank and honest with the electorate. Our best hope is indeed that Obama won’t budge on tariffs and the Nats stand up for themselves within the Coalition. Otherwise, we’re all going to be bending over for a long time, with Robb and Abbott and the whole grubby lot of them smirking from a great distance.

    • invest-magicMEMBER

      I think you’re confusing corporatism with capitalism!
      Robb & Co do not represent the free market. They would not know what a free market looks like even if slapped them!

  7. And just when you thought the govt was finished shafting you.

    “Responding to rightsholder complaints that the bar had been set too high, alongside a belief that the thresholds for proving infringement had been narrowly established elsewhere in the Bill, the Committee advised an amendment from “is to take the following matters into account” to the watered down “may take the following matters into account”.”

    So basically they made it easier for them to get a court to order blocks on sites.
    Classic example of vested rent seekers holding consumers to ransom.

    and then this


    ““Without clear legal precedent, there is ambiguity under the Copyright Act about what constitutes infringement in relation to the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to gain access to geo-blocked products and services. If this ambiguity is not cleared up, this amendment may have the unintended consequence of blocking these services and in turn harm competition and consumer choice.””

    ““While this ambiguity exists there is a risk that rights holders will attempt to use this injunctive power to block VPN websites and limit consumer access to paid content overseas,” the group writes.”

    “And the threat is real. As reported last week, New Zealand based media companies report that they are on the verge of suing local ISPs who provide VPN services designed to unlock overseas content. Avoiding the same thing Down Under is a priority for ACCAN.”

    This is your government at work. Defending the interests of the multinational corporation bottom feeders that line their political pockets.

    • Josh MoorreesMEMBER

      hard to see how they could work it in practice. You really should be running a VPN nowadays regardless for torrents and if you already have one set up there isn’t anything they can do. So VPN providers (overseas ones) just need to mirror their .exe somewhere and have another page somewhere to sign up (assuming you’re not using a free one). If all else fails just run through ToR or some such to sign up. once you’re running VPN there is no way for them to know you are, best they can do is block access to the VPN webpage but there are a lot of VPNs out there and more popping up everyday not to say anything of mirror sites. Would be a pretty major undertaking which based on my perception of the governments IT abilities would probably be incredibly poorly policed (ie they couldn’t keep up with the wave of new VPN site IP addresses created everyday).

      • Thats the hope. That the sites and VPN providers stay ahead of the blockers.
        And given that the legislation requires the holders to pay for the blockage and court costs one might hope that it all adds up to a huge amount of money for them.

      • Josh MoorreesMEMBER

        especially if they need to get a court order for each new site. but then again maybe they can rig up some dodgy situation like those private parking operators using the discovery process to speculatively invoice people.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        It would be implemented by blocking VPN traffic to any provider that wasn’t on an “approved” list.


        The won’t care what you’re VPNing to, only that you’re VPNing.

    • Isn’t it amazing that all we can do is “hope” our government does not sell us out.
      There is nothing we can do to actually stop them.

      • BubbleyMEMBER

        It shows a strong level of distrust and waryness that the public has to “hope” that our leaders dont sell us out.

  8. tsport100MEMBER

    Australia is already willing to pass TPP related laws before the agreement has even been signed…. (see: website blocking bill) A signature to the full TPP agreement isn’t really necessary if the sell-outs are already bending over!!

    • But the next government may undo the damage. When TPP is signed, the next government is prevented from undoing the damage.

  9. This is interesting reading – –
    IF you want to have some input instead of just commenting here why not send an email to those involved in the process. Take the time -I have. The more traffic the better.
    [email protected] – This Gutsy lady is trying to stop the TPP
    [email protected] – this a$$hole will likely try to pass it.
    [email protected] (Barnaby Joyce) ditto above !

    • Not strictly true – Howard was quite happy to go against the US to strengthen the PBS against their wishes at the time, allowing a whole range of generic drugs to be used, and expanded the range of drugs underneath the scheme dramatically. What really annoyed he US is that Howard made the negotiations central. In any case – if there is no net benefit, I doubt this TPP will be signed. Well, the Nationals won’t at least – in either case Labour would be more than willing probably cross the floor… but it would be political suicide for the Liberals though!

      • the US trade agreement Howard signed is already costing PBS more money than before. MB has covered this topic previously.

      • Not true… its costing more because Howard massively expanded what was included on the PBS. Moreover, its (PBS) growth has no where matched what drug prices have done in the US – if you want to use that for a benchmark.

        You are better going back to reports at the time to see the intricacies! There is too much selective historical revisionism, with too much political bent on this website sometimes. You are better off doing your own research – if you interested. If not, stick with what you have got.

  10. They’ll sign it and then argue it doesn’t compromise health/PBS etc. We’re a dumb country.

  11. For once I agree with Barnaby! I hope he causes them all kind of trouble blocking the US sell-out. And I live in the US, have an American child, and am seeking a green card for me, the wife, and the other kids.

    I want to see Oz as a healthy country with bargaining power. The TPP doesn’t fit.

    • It may help to remember that the TPP wasn’t written by the US government to benifit the USA. It was written by multinational companies to benefit themselves. It’s worse for Australia but its still bad for the USA. So you are supporting both countries by opposing this mess.

      • BubbleyMEMBER

        Why are is any country evening considering it?

        It appears to be nothing more than a power grab by vested interests into the worlds sovereign wealth and governance.

        “Sign here. I win and you get nothing at great expense”

        Surely even a legacy seeking politician can see this is not something they want their name attached to?

      • They’re considering it because the interests of a powerful few have always run roughshod over the interests of the many. There is virtually no coverage of this in the US media. People don’t understand it.

        Big pharma and US agricultural concerns don’t equal the public. The consumer is punished by sugar subsidies.

  12. My guess is that Abbott and Robb are signing up for off document military cooperation rather than tangible agreements. There is nothing actually in the document for AU but Tony has other reasons to want to suck up to the USA. Unless they really are just selling us out for the big money after they leave politics.


    And with a whopping 302 votes again, House democrats just stunned the democrat president by ending the “fast-track” of the TPP and forcing it back to the drawing room table. ”

    Abbott would have signed.