Hollow Victory in plain paper tobacco packaging challenge that used ISDS

In 2011 Phillip Morris challenged Australia’s plain paper tobacco packaging using ISDS provisions in a Hong Kong trade treaty.

Australia has won, it seems, because they successfully argued that Phillip Morris was “treaty shopping”

However, the dismissal of the case on procedural grounds means that we will never get a ruling on the substance of Philip Morris’ claims. …..

What this means is that any country that is contemplating plain packaging – France has just joined the list of countries pursuing the policy – still has cause for concern. This is especially the case because tobacco companies don’t show any sign of giving up their legal campaign.

In this regard, poor countries are in the worst position because they can’t afford even a preliminary defence in an ISDS case….

(The Australian taxpayer avoidede further costs but also lost because the case, even though it was in the initial phase, has already cost the government $50 million.)

$472 Million Cut from Aged Care

“Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered a blow to the aged care sector and demonstrated the government does not recognise the growing needs of caring for our ageing population,” said Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF). Federal Secretary Lee Thomas.

“The aged care sector provides around-the-clock nursing to the frail aged and many with complex and chronic conditions require 24/7 care.”

The ANMF is concerned about nurses conditions but the real threat is to the health of the aged. If the savings cant be found by hiring less skilled and lower cost staff the elderly will pay with reduced services and health.  Relatives will have to make up the shortfall out of their own pockets.

External link MYEFO Rips $472 million from aged care….


Australian Medical Association – Government shifts more health costs onto families

Professor Owler said the axing of the bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services will increase the health cost burden for Australian families, with the poorest and the sickest being hit the hardest.

These measures are simply resurrecting a part of the Government’s original ill-fated co-payment proposal from the 2014 Budget,” Professor Owler said.

It is yet another co-payment by stealth.

Cutting Medicare patient rebates for important pathology and imaging services is another example of putting the Budget bottom line ahead of good health policy.

These services are critical to early diagnosis and management of health conditions to allow people to remain productive in their jobs for the good of the economy.

The AMA strongly opposes these measures, and we will be encouraging the Senate to disallow them.


The Government is repeatedly cutting away at the Health budget despite there being no evidence of a health funding crisis.

Full press release, external link AMA Press Release

Sonic Healthcare, a global pathology and radiology giant, said that it has no intention of absorbing the cuts and will charge payments and reduce services in rural and regional areas to protect its business (SMH 17/12/2015). Other major health services suppliers have also indicated they will introduce a co payment.

Additional comment Cuts to Pathology and Diagnostic Imaging

Leading arbitration lawyer says there are critical loopholes in the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s investment chapter that leave Australia wide open

Extracts follow, read the full article at external link TPP’s clauses that let Australia be sued are weapons of legal destruction, says lawyer

George Kahale III is chairman of the world’s leading legal arbitration firm – Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.

“If the trade minister is saying, ‘We’re not at risk for regulating environmental matters’, then the trade minister is wrong.” 9.15 provides protections for ….environmental, health or other regulatory objectives….but the protection is negated by five words in the middle

re Most Favoured Nation clause – Essentially, … is tantamount to a classic wipeout move. It would enable foreign corporations from TPP states to make a claim against Australia based on the ISDS provisions in any other trade deal Australia has signed, no matter which country it was signed with…..foreign investors can cherrypick another treaty Australia has signed

ISDS claims are not heard in a standing court staffed by independent judges. Instead, claims can proceed in ad hoc courtrooms – a hotel room, for example – by three arbitrators hand-picked by the parties. Unlike a traditional court of law, these arbitrators are not obliged to refer to precedent and, since their decisions are not open to appeal, they are free to rule according to their personal opinion.

US Labor Advisory Committee recommends discard or reject the Trans Pacific Partnership

The US Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy includes representatives of every major labor union and labor coalition in America.

Its report commences:
Dear Mr. President:
The LAC strongly opposes the TPP, negotiated between the United States (U.S.), Australia, …… We believe that the Agreement fails to advance the economic interests of the U.S. and does not fulfill all of the negotiating objectives identified by Congress in the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.
The threat to future economic gains here in the U.S. and the standard of living of our people will be put in jeopardy by the Agreement.
These threats will grow over time based on the potential for open ended expansion of the TPP to countries ranging from Indonesia to China.
The LAC believes the agreement should not be submitted to Congress or, if it is, it should be quickly rejected. The interests of U.S. manufacturers, businesses, workers and consumers would be severely undermined by the entry into force of the TPP.

Full text, external link, WARNING 124 pages of pdf LAC Report
For a more readable interpretation, Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers, external link Burn the TPP.

Government policy, not consumer behaviour, is driving rising Medicare costs

For the full article, external link to Grattan Institute, by Stephen Duckett

Extract follows:

…2014 budget……..growth numbers were presented as part of the government’s then mantra of a “debt and deficit disaster”, and massaged to create maximum shock and awe. The minister’s numbers did not adjust either for population growth or inflation.

…. a more legitimate set of growth numbers would still show Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) payments growing at an annual rate of 2.3% in real per-head terms, faster than growth in government expenditure overall (1.8%).

But this still leaves open the question of whether consumer behaviour is driving rising costs or whether there may be other causes.

A report released last week by the Parliamentary Budget Office shows that government policy has driven a significant proportion of the growth in MBS costs. In fact, of the A$325 real increase in MBS spending per head since 1993-94, all but A$74 has been the result of explicit government decisions.

TPP will fuel the climate crisis (hence increase health problems)

The Sierra Club Reports:

Beyond making no effort to combat climate disruption, the TPP would actually fuel the climate crisis. If approved, the pact would increase greenhouse gas emissions and undermine efforts to transition to clean energy. The TPP’s biggest threats to our climate are as follows:


Ben Norton writes in Salon:

Overall, the global deal will “allow TPP countries to violate critical environmental commitments to boost trade or investment,” the Sierra Club report notes.

“Government officials charged with promoting the TPP .. claiming …that the pact’s environment chapter would ‘preserve the environment,’” the environmental organization writes. “However, the chapter includes no provision that would protect climate and environmental policies from the myriad threats posed by other parts of the TPP.”

The US Sierra Club claims “the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters.”