Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, June 15, 2004
READING IS JUST FOR KIDS, not for political leaders.

MARK LATHAM: The advice going through to the Senate Committee looking at the trade agreement with the United States indicates that Australia would have to pay $700-million in royalties as a product of the trade agreement. These are royalties that come out of our pharmaceutical schemes, $700-million extra costs to pharmaceuticals in Australia is a big amount. There's only two ways in which it can be paid – that's by taxpayers or by consumers.

So this is a major concern about the nature of the trade agreement and the Labor Party will establish the senate inquiry to give all Australians a say about the FTA and this is the first concerning piece of information to come before the committee. $700-million extra costs in pharmaceuticals for Australians, either as consumers or taxpayers, is unacceptable and we'll have to await the Senate Committee's examination of this material and its final report, but it's certainly a black mark against the nature of this trade agreement and a major concern for the future.

REPORTER: But you're not prepared to call the deal a dud?

MARK LATHAM: Well, no, we've said all along that we would have a full examination of it, the pluses, the minuses and look at the net impact on Australia's national interest. What we say today is this is the biggest concern, the most worrying information to come before the committee, $700-million extra costs for pharmaceuticals for Australia is not a good thing.

ELEANOR HALL: Labor leader Mark Latham speaking today about the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

So Stephen, is there substance to that claim that this could add $700-million to the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?

STEPHEN LONG: Well, no. Mark Latham clearly hasn't actually read the report and he's been poorly briefed on its contents. What it actually finds is that it could add, in current dollar terms, eventually $700-million to the cost of royalty payments overall on all the copyright that Australians pay to people who hold copyrights and patents