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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 109


Senator NETTLE (8:06 PM) —Firstly, I have a series of questions for the minister that relate to the Australian Greens' first lot of amendments on sheet 4467. The first questions I have relate to the letters exchanged and released on Friday. The last sentence under point 6 `Pharmaceutical patent notification' in the letter from Minister Vaile to Bob Zoellick reads:

We assure you that, through the operation of these arrangements now and in the future, the advance notification required by section 26B(1)(b) of the—


Senator Ian Campbell —Mr Chairman, on a point of order: this bill does not in any place deal with pharmaceutical patent notifications.


The CHAIRMAN —There is no point of order at this stage. An amendment is not before the chair; you are just being asked general questions, Minister, as I understand it. The bill's title includes the words `and for related purposes'. The connection is the US free trade agreement. I will listen closely to the line of questioning for you.


Senator NETTLE —As I said at the outset, the first series of questions that I have—I have a number of questions—relates to the exchange of letters that were only laid on the table on Friday. They also relate to the issues that will be raised in the Australian Greens amendment on sheet 4467. The last sentence of point 6 in the first letter from Minister Vaile to Bob Zoellick stated:

We assure you that, through the operation of these arrangements now and in the future, the advance notification required by section 26B(1)(b) of the Therapeutic Goods Act will be given prior to entry into the marketplace to allow patent holders sufficient opportunities to apply to a court for injunctive relief to prevent the entry into the marketplace of potentially infringing products.

Could the minister explain what the phrase `sufficient opportunities' in point 6 of that letter means? How does the minister define the sufficient opportunities that are outlined here? This is what we are working from. We had a bill. Now we have an exchange of letters. In order to understand it, we need to be clear of the intention in the exchange of letters, because that is now the direction that is provided. So perhaps the minister could firstly explain `sufficient opportunities'.