Category Archives: News Headlines

AFTINET Trans Pacific Partnership Forum – Video

Public Forum 18th November, NSW Parliament House, Sydney, speakers were

Dr Patricia Ranald, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, on Overview of the TPP and foreign investor rights to sue governments
Jon Edwards, Doctors without Borders (MSF)on medicines,
Professor Kimberlee Weatherall on copyright,
Tom Skladzien AMWU economist, on labour rights, temporary labour.

View the video here, external link Forum Video

Professor Weatherall’s comments, “An insufficient policy framework for the 21st century” are relevant to health, she notes that the TPP will make law reform harder.

A three year extension on patents for monopoly higher prices on biologic medicines before cheaper versions become available.

The Trans Pacific Partnership will provide additional monopoly rights for the costly biologic medicines used to treat cancer and other serious diseases.

Up to three extra years of monopoly for Australians and significantly more in some other countries.

External link AFTINET: Higher Prices for Medicines. Stronger Monopolies…

Trans Pacific Partnership – only 0.05% GDP increase after ten years BUT costs and risks are many and long term

Estimated National Benefit

The Australia Institute stated in November 2015:

“…Modelling commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) …. estimates these agreements will:

  •   Increase GDP by 0.05 per cent in 2035, or an additional $780 million per year in today’s dollars.
  •   Increase employment in 2035 by just 5,434 jobs.
  •   Increase the value of Australia’s trade by about three per cent ie Increase imports by 2.5 per cent, Increase exports by 0.5 per cent.

Other modelling finds slightly more, possibly 0.5% extra GDP after ten years or total 0.7% in 2030:
Sydney Morning Herald Economics Editor Ross Gittens concluded from various modelling, that after ten years, GDP will be 0.5% higher. New York’s Quartz news outlet quotes modelling to say Australia’s GDP increase will be 0.3% after ten years (US will be 0.2%). The World Bank finds total 0.7% more in 2030 (US total 0.4% more) (SMH Jan 2016).

These figures are consistent with various economists saying that the US and Australia have very open economies, hence little benefit.

The Peterson’s Institute in the US said “we dont calculate any increase in the number of people at work (in the US). But about one-half of 1 per cent of the US workforce will move from import-competing jobs (typically in manufacturing) to exporting jobs (typically in services)…”

Costs and Risks

The biggest risks are that

  • there is no end date on a trade agreement, just negotiated amendments and journalists have pointed out how little negotiating power Australia holds when negotiating with the US.
  • the agreement includes ISDS provisions

Details will emerge as the thousands of pages (originally written by multinationals) are analysed.

Inclusion of ISDS provisions are a major risk. Eminent economist Joseph Stigliz makes this point:
“if these provisions were in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered, rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens.”

External link Trans-Pacific Partnership: we’re selling economic sovereignty for little return


Doctors Without Borders – Trans Pacific Partnership: a bad deal for medecine

“We need to keep prices low so our patients—and millions of others still waiting for treatment in the developing world—can get the medicines they need.

But right now the U.S. government is advocating for trade terms with eleven other Pacific Rim nations that could restrict access to generic medicines, making life-saving treatments unaffordable to millions.”

External link Help Us Fix the TPP provides more explanation, Video, Tweet your support, write to President Obama, Share on Facebook.

“Australia has a broader responsibility in these negotiations than simply improving Australia’s trade figures. Like it or not, The Australian Government’s success or otherwise in rejecting the aggressive demands of the brand name pharmaceutical lobby will affect the future health outcomes of millions of vulnerable people across the region. For the sake our patients and those like them we urge Australia to stand strong,” said Médecins Sans Frontières  Australia spokesperson Jon Edwards 25th Sept 2015.

Government cuts to Health Flexible Funds total $793 million, Chronic Disease Prevention is cut

It was revealed in the latest round of Senate Estimates that a total of over $793M is to be cut from the Health Flexible Funds over the next four financial years. …….

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and heart failure, cancer, chronic kidney disease, lung disease and type-2 diabetes, are responsible for 90 per cent of all deaths and 85 per cent of total disease in Australia. These diseases are largely driven by four modifiable risk factors; physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Cutting funding to initiatives under the Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund makes no sense from a policy nor an economic perspective – estimated direct health-care costs for chronic disease are upwards of $27 billion and for obesity $58.2 billion per annum.

Among the other 13 Flexible Funds apparently to be affected are those supporting the provision of essential services in rural, regional and remote Australia; working to Close the Gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians; managing vital responses to communicable diseases; and delivering substance use treatment services around the country.

Full text, external link National Obesity Prevention Network first victim in cuts to Health Flexible Funds – Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

From an earlier press release:

“Public Health Association of Australia deputy chief executive Melanie Walker said it was incongruous that the Government could find $20 million in the budget for an ice awareness campaign yet treatment services to help people dealing with addiction faced an uncertain future.”

More detail, external link Public Health Association. A coalition of 17 calling on the Australian government…..

March and Public Forum

Save Medicare Sydney:

  • Campaigned and marched in Sydney to Save Medicare and celebrate their win against the GP co payment version B.
  • Held a forum in the afternoon, Keep Medicare Universal, Public and Fair.

The Forum speakers were:

Jean Parker – Save Medicare Sydney
Dr Ben Spies-Butcher – Senior Lecturer in Economy and Society at Macquarie University
Annette Aldrick – NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association

March flyer text

Media Release – Our great win

We’ve had a great win against the GP co-payment today, with Minister Sussan Ley declaring the government has scrapped it’s latest “Plan B” co-payment plan. But not only is the Medicare rebate freeze still in place, it’s clear the government is cooking up a PLAN C attack on Medicare!

Click to read or download our media release People power wins victory in battle against co-payment, but war for Medicare far from over

Can We Sustain Health Spending?

A lengthy article by the Medical Journal of Australia casts very serious doubts on government claims, extracts follow:

… the unsustainability thesis is remarkably weak.

…The anomalous concern with the costs and not the benefits of an expanding health sector implies comparative lack of concern or confidence in the benefits despite evidence that better health is one of the diminishingly few ways in which we can improve the quality of life of the population.

….the country with the oldest population – Japan – spends little more than the OECD average on health. This illustrates a common error: the belief that …ageing necessarily drives health expenditures. Historically, this has not been true, as health expenditures have been driven by technology and the increasingly generous provision of health services as GDP rises.

……public health expenditures by all governments in Australia are the tenth lowest of the 33 countries in the OECD database and the lowest among wealthy countries in the group.

….Bulk-billing … The principle effect of its elimination will be a redistribution of income from this group (low income) to the healthier, wealthier members of the community.

…Copayments will, additionally, divert patients from lower-cost general practitioner care to higher-cost outpatient care. Those who defer needed treatment are likely to eventually need more expensive specialist care

Perversely, in the longer run, eliminating bulk-billing is likely to increase GP fees and expenditures by reducing competitive pressures.

…the low level of GP incomes — the lowest relative to average wages listed by the OECD after Estonia and Hungary. However, a more equitable remedy would be to increase, not decrease, the rebate.

external link MJA Can we sustain health spending