AUSTRALIAN FLAGS                                



An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural 

On-Line Publication

(Cairns... Far North Queensland)


Thank you for visiting my on-line office.

I appreciate your interest in the issues that effect not only Queenslanders, but all Australians.

Please let me hear from you about your views on the issues that matter to your Family, your Community and your State.


Selwyn Johnston



One person, with the support of the community, can make a difference





It is only a few months now since Mark Vaile, Australia’s Minister for Trade and his American counterpart Bob Zollick settled on the terms of the Australia-America Free Trade Agreement. The agreement as concluded was heavily in favour of the Americans exporters of both goods and services and so much so that members of the American Congress expressed some embarrassment over the final document. 

At the same time Australia’s primary producers were astounded to see that their industries had been excluded from any benefit from the agreement for a minimum period of some 20 years, but none more so than the sugar producers who were simply excluded altogether. 

The agreement covered a number of nominated fields apart from primary industry such as Intellectual Property, Finance and Pharmaceuticals to name a few. Each of these sector’s provisions, on a close reading left all the advantages where they were, mainly with the Americans who self evidently have a bigger total market and carry a lot more clout on the international scene. 

During this time the Labor Party under the then leadership of Mark Latham was surprisingly low key on the whole issue. In fact when the time came to ratify the whole of the agreement between Vaile and Zollick by way of legislation the only serious objection that they raised related to the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [PBS].  

According to Labor, and they were almost certainly right, the agreement as drafted allowed the American pharmaceutical industry to commence proceedings either legal or otherwise that would have the effect of extending the life of their drug patents. This would inevitably increase costs of drugs for the PBS by excluding generic drugs thus making health care in Australia more expensive and a greater cost on the budget. 

Why the Labor Party elected to concentrate on this sole point of the PBS matter can only be the subject of speculation. But apparently the deal at the time was that if the ALP got its PBS amendment through then the ALP would support the legislation in both houses thus marginalising any minor party objections or potential to defeat.  

And that’s exactly what happened, the Labor amendment to the pharmaceutical requirements was passed and Labor supported the legislation in the Senate thus ensuring its passage. 

At that stage it was all over, a done deal so to speak, but after the following Federal election at which Labor was soundly defeated in the House of Representatives and the Coalition gained an absolute majority in the Senate it would appear that the American Pharmaceutical interests commenced to have the Labor sponsored amendment to the Free Trade Agreement removed. In other words the American drug industry sought to be granted much more licentious trade terms, those that they originally hoped for. 

It has taken at best only six months for Mark Vaile and the Coalition to capitulate to the American Pharmaceutical interests as we now hear that it is proposed to amend the legislation to delete the Labor amendment. No explanation given by Mark Vaile can adequately explain his actions in this regard as he has freely admitted that the proposed amendments are of no consequence or even “unnecessary” and the question immediately arises, “Why then is he doing it?” 

And that’s a good question to which Mr. Vaile may one day give a plausible answer. 

Clearly it is simply just another case of the Government selling the interests of the electorate down the drain for the betterment of foreign transnationals financial and business interests. 

But the electorate would do well to be warned what the real sting in the tail of the Australia-America Free Trade Agreement really is. While Intellectual Property, Primary Industries, and Pharmaceutical Benefit Schemes are all important the real beneficial part of the ‘Agreement’ to American interests will come about through the continued sale of Australian taxpayer-owned assets to overseas interests, particularly American. This process has been going on for years and it is deliberately given little publicity in the mainstream media. 

Our real crunch will come when the obvious utilities such as water and power are gone, and private off shore companies runs health, education and even law enforcement. At that stage we will really have to work out why we vote but by that time voting will be fully optional. This is all part of a process that will see taxes reduced, but corporate profits rise and while we have some little say in our level of taxation we will have absolutely no say regarding corporate profits. At the end of the day the price we pay for say water or power or pharmaceuticals or health care will be completely out of our hands and also the governments. 

So what our Mr. Vaile and his political allies [on both sides of the House] have achieved to date is yet another turn of the wheel in the process of our financial disenfranchisement and political impotency, a matter over which he must be rightly proud! 

What we have to do is to ascertain whether the Pharmaceutical Benefits fiasco is simply a distraction from the main game or if it is the main game itself. Its certainly there for us to see but by the time we all understand it, and ultimately take some action it will almost certainly be too late.

Monday 30 January 2006




Home  *  Contact  *  INDEX  *  Current Issues  *  Priority Issues  *  Reference Index  *  Selwyn's Profile  *  Your Comments

Click here to send an E-mail to the Editor
(NOTE: Please add to your address book to avoid 'SPAM' notices)




To subscribe to the 'NEWS RELEASE' E-mail network.. simply click 'Subscribe'
(NOTE: Please ADD to your address book to avoid 'SPAM' notices)

Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870