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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26212


Senator CONROY (7:37 PM) —Mark Latham outlined that Labor would be moving and insisting on two amendments and that we would be introducing a range of other measures, which are outlined in an attachment to the press release. I am happy to go through them and put them on the record for the benefit of the Greens and everyone else. In relation to the PBS, transparency and independence, issues that I know are of deep concern both to you and to many Australians, we have said:

Labor will protect the viability, independence and transparency of the PBS by:

Requiring that, all documentation submitted to the Independent Review Mechanism established to examine unsuccessful drug listing applications on the PBS be published on the internet with 48 hours, subject to commercial in confidence constraints.

The Productivity Commission will be required to monitor and report annually on the impact of the FTA on the PBS, including the impact of the Independent Review Mechanism. If the differential between US and Australian drug prices is narrowing, then a Labor Government will change the Independent Review Mechanism.

If the Independent Review Mechanism is used, each acceptance by PBAC and the Minister for Health of the recommendations of the independent review will be reported to Parliament in a Ministerial Statement.

The Terms of Reference of the Medicines Working Group will include a commitment to the principle of universal access to affordable medicines. The Medicines Working Group will not consider any policy issue that could be seen to undermine the principle of universal access to affordable medicines. The Medicines Working Group will operate with appropriate transparency with regard to agenda items, minutes and recommendations.

Labor will facilitate Australian content by:

Ensuring the FTA provides flexibility to regulate for local content on future media, Labor will legislate to ensure that the FTA definition of `interactive audio and/or video services' includes, but is not limited to, future media already identified ...; and

We list 14 services in attachment B, and they are: broadband web sites; datacasting; digital film distribution; digital film exhibition; digital television subscription; interactive television; electronic program guides; Internet content narrowband; Internet TV and walled gardens; satellite delivery; 3G cellular mobile services; video on demand; e-cinema; and T-commerce/interactive advertising. And they are just the 14 we have identified at this stage. The list is not inflexible; it can be broader than that. Also:

Announcing a policy package to encourage further investment in Australia's film and television industry before the next election.

Labor will ensure that the balance remains in copyright and intellectual property. We do accept the many concerns that the balance may tilt if it is left as is intended at the moment. We intend to do this by:

Requiring the Attorney-General to report annually to Parliament on the impact of changes to the Copyright Act 1968 in relation to universities, libraries and educational and public research institutions, particularly with regard to any increased costs they may bear;

Examining options for broadening the `fair dealing' and copyright usage provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. In doing so, a Labor Government will draw on the recommendations from numerous government initiated reports addressing copyright issues that have not yet been acted upon; and

Ensuring that it is permissible to sell, purchase and use legally manufactured video, DVD and related software items, including components, equipment and hardware, regardless of place of purchase;

Establishing a Senate Select Committee on Intellectual Property to comprehensively investigate and make recommendations for an appropriate IP regime for Australia in light of the significant changes required to Australian IP law by the AUSFTA;

Implementing recommendations 7-9 made by Labor Senators on the Senate Select Committee on the USFTA.

I can keep going if you like, Senator Brown; I do not want to disturb your phone call.



Senator CONROY —Excellent; you have a few friends—phone a friend, is it? On manufacturing, we state:

Labor will boost enterprise, exports, growth and jobs in the Australian manufacturing sector through:

A $25 million Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing;

An Australian Manufacturing Council;

A 10-year National Manufacturing Strategy to revitalise manufacturing;

An Industry and Manufacturing Minister 100% committed to Australian manufacturing industries;

A restructured and revived Industry Department with a renewed focus on manufacturing;

A commitment to make AUSTRADE and the Australian Trade Commission work harder to promote Australian manufacturing in our region, deeper engagement with countries such as China and the world;

New investments in training, especially through TAFE places and apprenticeships, to overcome skills shortages in manufacturing; and

Establishing a Commission of Inquiry to look at the impact of the FTA on Australian manufacturing, particularly on automotive components, and the textile, clothing and footwear industries.

In relation to quarantine, we state:

Labor will deliver an import risk assessment (IRA) process with greater scientific integrity immune from inappropriate trade pressures.

Labor has already announced plans to strengthen Australia's IRA regime by:

Requiring that both qualitative and quantitative science based risk assessment processes are used in developing IRAs; and

Enshrining the Import Risk Analysis Process Handbook in regulations that would require the consent of both Houses of the Parliament before the process could be varied.

So, Senator Brown, we want to make sure the fix is not going to be put in. We share your concerns that the existing system is becoming too politicised. We are very keen to ensure that we enshrine these protections. In relation to agriculture, we state:

Labor will utilise the Annual Ministerial Meeting arrangements established under the FTA to seek an MFN provision from the US on agriculture.

Labor will closely monitor the Government's sugar compensation package to ensure it achieves significant reform in the cane farming and milling sectors.

Labor will ensure that Australia retains control of its blood supply by:

Amending the Therapeutic Goods Act to ensure that any blood plasma fractionation products approved for use in Australia must be manufactured in accordance with Australia's policy of self-sufficiency, using Australian blood, and in accordance with currently established Good Manufacturing Practice, which requires dedicated processing facilities; and

Ensuring transparency around the Plasma Fractionation Agreement currently being negotiated with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory, the review of this agreement that the FTA requires by 2007, and any subsequent tender process for blood plasma products.

Having said that, I know a lot of concern has been expressed in this debate in this chamber about future trade agreements. We have a lot of big ones coming. It is not just the USFTA: we have China; we have Malaysia; we have a couple of countries in the Middle East; and we have the prospect of ASEAN inviting us to be part of an agreement. There is a whole web possible. What we have said consistently, and we enshrined this in the national platform of the Labor Party at the last national conference in January in Sydney—it is there on our ALP national web site. We made significant changes to enhance the transparency of this process because it has been unsatisfactory. There is much common ground between the Greens, the Democrats, One Nation and us on the lack of transparency involved in this process. As I said, it is a pity that you were denied your opportunity on the committee, Senator Brown.


Senator Ridgeway —Do something about it.


Senator CONROY —As you know, we voted for the Greens. Unfortunately, those that are shouting the loudest at the moment in the chamber stabbed you in the back. You were not given the opportunity to participate, Senator Brown. You were not given the opportunity by the Democrats. We also state:

Prior to entering FTA negotiations, a Labor Government will table in both Houses of Parliament a document setting out its priorities and objectives. This will include an assessment of the costs and benefits of any proposals that may be negotiated. The assessment will also consider the economic, regional, social, cultural, regulatory and environmental impacts which are expected to arise. Once the negotiation is completed, a Labor Government will table in Parliament the proposed treaty together with any implementing legislation.

We want to make it clear that we are very conscious of the concerns about the lack of transparency. We are very committed to ensuring that under a Labor government the Australian public will have much more of a say than they have had under this shonky process that we have all had to go through.

Those are the sorts of issues that were contained in the recommendations from the Labor senators in the Senate report. We are prepared to put them on the record and say that we will have this package and we will be running with this at the next election.