Latham’s proposed USFTA Amendment won’t save the PBS

Bob Phillips, Greens candidate for Shortland, said today:

Mark Latham’s proposed amendment to the US Free Trade Agreement, even if it were accepted by the Government, would still leave the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme open to attacks by US drug companies.

“The review process drawn up by the Howard Government allows US drug companies to question the decisions of the pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. This Committee recommends which drugs should be included on the PBS list, and the prices that the Government should pay for them.

“If a drug manufacturer disagrees with an outcome of the review process it can take its complaint to another body set up under the FTA, where the dispute will be resolved with no consideration of the therapeutic qualities of the drug, or questions of public health. If the government does not accept the decision of this body, which ?can seek the advice of non-governmental persons and groups’, including drug company lobbyists, it can incur massive fines amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

“The best option for Australia is total rejection of the USFTA, not only because it threatens our PBS – regarded as the best in the world – but because our manufacturing industries, our environmental protection laws, our quarantine regulations, and Australian cultural productions are also endangered. Even the much trumpeted access of our rural exports to the US bristles with restrictions, while all Australian barriers to US agricultural exports will be removed.

“This year and in 2003 I have organised two public forums in Newcastle on the USFTA where economists, medical specialists and Professor David Henry, Professor of Pharmacology at Newcastle University, have spoken. They were unanimous in criticising the USFTA and the impact it would have on the PBS.

“The ALP must reject the USFTA and facilitate public debate on its shortcomings. How can they or the government rush to judgment on the Agreement when the Australian people have had no opportunity to examine the recommendations of a Senate Committee that has been taking submissions over several months?

How can they or the government rush to judgment on the Agreement when the Australian people have had no opportunity to examine the recommendations of a Senate Committee that has been taking submissions over several months? “When the Australian people realise how this Agreement endangers our national sovereignty and our future prosperity it will become an election liability for the Howard Government.”

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