The Anti-Vitamin Bill is a term given to The Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill introduced to the New Zealand Parliament in 2005 by the then Health Minister, Annette King. This legislation, if passed, would have ratified the Joint Agency Treaty signed in 2003 by Minister King and Trish Worth, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Aging in Australia.
Health Freedom Says No To Aussie Rules
The Treaty is an agreement to bring into being a trans-Tasman agency called ANZTPA (Australian New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency). The main purpose of the Bill was to have given effect to the Treaty and to hand over the jurisdiction and control of the pharmaceutical, medical devices and natural products industries in New Zealand from our Parliament to an off shore corporate entity set up under Australian Corporate Law.
Health Freedom NZ does not support the formation of a trans-Tasman agency called ANZTPA because it hands over our national sovereignty and sovereign rights to an offshore corporation that has no real accountability to the constituents and consumers of New Zealand. We advocate a local legislative framework instead, one which is sensible and designed for the low risk profile of natural products.
When Minister King signed the Joint Agency Treaty, without New Zealanders’ knowledge or the consent of her own Select Committee, she paved the way for foreign multinational drug companies to expand into New Zealand markets affecting their competition being the Natural Health industry. This was occurring under the veneer of protecting the interests of public health. The primary interests being protected are those of foreign multi-national corporations. Big profits of foreign multi national companies should not come before the protection of consumer health and health freedom choices.
Our Main Objections to the Anti-Vitamin Bill:
- ANZTPA would be a Corporation set up under Australian law, according to the words in the Joint Agency Treaty, with a Managing Director that has no real accountability to the New Zealand parliament, constituents or consumers. This is an unacceptable loss of New Zealand's national sovereignty over our health care choices.
- The ANZTPA Corporation would not have to honour obligations of this Government under the Treaty of Waitangi further eroding sovereignty of Tangata Whenua and placing the commercial aspect of Rongoa Maori at risk.
- The regulatory model of ANZTPA is "Napoleonic", meaning anything not explicitly permitted is forbidden or guilty until proven innocent. This is a departure in law from the current practice in New Zealand which is Common Law, meaning we hold that anything not explicitly forbidden is permitted. Our current system is the best framework for innovation, healthy competition, consumer health freedom and health choices.
- The Napoleonic system of regulation currently being used by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia is flagrantly in favour of drug companies and discriminates against natural products. Despite thousands of reports of alarming side effects and tens of thousands of deaths from Merck & Co's drug Vioxx, the TGA allowed the drug to remain on the market implicitly implying it was safe. Yet their actions in the Pan Pharmaceutical debacle caused the collapse of one of the worlds largest manufacturers of natural products by recalling all their supplements under a 'class one recall'. This means 'imminent danger or death' from a product and occurred without one report of a death or adverse side effect from Pans natural products, and the TGA failing to test any of the products. ANZTPA would be comprised primarily of TGA officials, and given their history of decision making it is not in the best interest of consumer safety or health choice.
- All matters of regulation will be delegated to this unelected and unaccountable Managing Director who will have statutory powers of delegated legislation presently exercised by our Minister of Health, as well as powers to enforce and police regulations. In fact, he or she will have unprecedented police powers of search and seizure. This means that inspectors or police from the off-shore entity will have the power to issue warrants and prosecute people and organisations here in New Zealand, and close down our businesses with no recourse to our parliament. That the health regulations of our entire country be in the hands of just one bureaucrat who holds no real accountability is completely unacceptable.
- Had the Joint Agency Treaty been ratified it could not be overturned by future parliaments of either New Zealand or Australia. So if it didn't work, or we don't like the takeover of our health regulations, we have no way out. It is forever binding. Furthermore, if another country wants to join the Agency there is no provision for New Zealand to be consulted, and entirely unacceptable situation.
Other Objections to the Anti-Vitamin Bill
Our specific objects to this piece of legislation are:
Reason One: The Bill acknowledged that all the details of how the agency would operate would have been set out in Rules and Orders to be adopted AFTER the legislation has been passed!
These Rules and Orders would determine key matters such as what ingredients are to be permitted in dietary supplements, compliance costs, licensing provisions an so on. A consultation document on the Managing Directors Orders would be released well AFTER public submissions on the Bill would closed!
Simply put, none of the detail of how the agency would operate is contained in the Bill. Since New Zealand would be adopting the Napoleonic system of the TGA and dropping our Common Law system, we expect the agency would operate in the same draconian manner as the present TGA.
Our MP’s would have been voting to set up a new system and agency they know very little about. Who in their right mind would enter a partnership without knowing the rules and orders.
Reason Two: There was never any risk analysis of the costs and benefits of this excessive regulatory and compliance regime, or even a proper Regulatory Impact Statement. The Labour led Government failed to make a case for the necessity for such heavy handed regulations of the natural health industry. Who died? And how many in comparison to legally prescribed drugs? Pharmaceutical drugs kill people three times the number of road accidents. This legislation, and the new agency, does not address bringing that toll down.
The reason touted by Government for this excessive increase in bureaucracy and cost is Closer Economic Relationships (CER) to benefit New Zealand businesses and consumers by eliminating regulatory impediments to trade with Australia. The reality is that ‘harmonising’ to the Australian system would increase compliance costs and regulatory impediments for New Zealand businesses. These will be passed onto consumers as higher costs or weight heavily on New Zealand businesses, leading to a one market dominated by Australian made products. There is no benefit to either consumers or businesses.
Reason Three: The Bill contradicted the Labour led Government's Policy intent. The Minister for Small Business at the time the Bill was introduced, Lianne Dalziel, said in a speech in Parliament: “reducing compliance costs (for small business) is an objective which is an important part of the government’s wider business law reform programme and economic transformation agenda.” This trans-Tasman agency would have dramatically increased compliance costs and we would have lost our cottage industry in much the same way the Australian cottage industry all but disappeared after the inception of the TGA. This has lead to a few companies dominating the industry and fewer consumer choices.
Reason Four: Within five years of the agency coming into being many herbal products presently available in New Zealand would become illegal because of our absorption into the Australian Napoleonic Law. Most Chinese herbs and Ayuvedic medicines, which have been used safely for centuries, are likely to become illegal because they contain ingredients or dosages that are not on a ‘permitted’ list. Even products that have been approved by the American FDA will be effectively banned or not available here as manufacturing companies would have to go through another lengthy, costly and unnecessary bureaucratic regulatory process to import them - again this favours Australian companies already in compliance with the TGA's Napoleonic system.
Reason Five: It's a one way ticket for an Australia corporate takeover. Even the Australian government reports (ASMI) agreed indicating ANZTPA was essentially one way traffic that benefits the much larger Australian businesses that are better able to handle the costs.
Reason Six: This move represents a major departure from our current system of regulation. If repealed further Governments of New Zealand cannot overturn this move. For these two reasons Health Freedom believe the decision should be made by the New Zealand people at referendum.
Reason Seven: Competition is already steadily decreasing as Australian businesses are buying up New Zealand businesses. We will not get new businesses starting at all as the financial barriers to entry into the industry will be too great (probably in excess of 2 million dollars for a basic range). It is estimated that smaller New Zealand health supplement manufacturers will lose approx 60% of their product ranges due to staggeringly high costs of compliance. The new compliance costs would not increase safety of the products since no one has died from taking supplements. Instead bureaucrats pockets would be heavily lined.
Anti-Vitamin Bill Gets Cross Party Opposition
National: Health Spokesman Tony Ryall said: “Every day New Zealanders are taking supplements. Every day they are trying to protect and improve their health. We want New Zealanders to know that the regime is low cost, not restrictive, and that their choices will be protected. But this legislation does the complete opposite.”
Green Party: MP Sue Kedgley echoed those comments, saying: “It’s a sinister piece of legislation that would involve the New Zealand Parliament handing over its authority to an off-shore agency, set up under Australian law, headquartered in Australia and staffed mainly by Australians.”
ACT NZ: Leader Rodney Hide went on to say that “The legislation would ban half the supplements I take to stay healthy. It's nuts.”
Why Did Labour Push This Bill?
Good question. On the surface the main reason appears to be CER with Australia. The Prime Minister herself said that if New Zealand does not give the green light to the agency, it would “adversely affect the overall agenda of deepening economic cooperation and integration between Australia and New Zealand.”
Columnist Colin James said as much in a recent New Zealand Herald column: “Canberra has made it clear there is far more at stake than the agency alone, he reported in a recent column. “What is at stake is goodwill. ..rejecting the agency would discourage Australia from committing the bureaucratic time to similar future joint agencies. More important, the hard word in Canberra is that it would potentially make it harder to get traction on other elements of the single economic market.
Annette King, the Minister responsible for the Bill, wrote recently that the new agency, which will be ‘the first example of a true Trans-Tasman authority,’ will set a precedent for increased trans-Tasman co-operation that explicitly acknowledges joint co-operation of two independent nations.”
New Zealand MP’s had been lobbied intensively on the Bill, including by the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Minister of Health, who slipped into Wellington unannounced for a week in 2006 to lobby various MP’s.
The Australians played hard-ball during the passage of the legislation threatening to halt all further moves for greater economic integration unless New Zealand agrees to the joint agency. They also said we had to accept the legislation in its entirety or not at all. Does that sound like the foundation for an equal partnership of mutual respect of independent nations Minister King would have us believe?
The New Zealand people said no and stopped the passage of the Bill in its tracks. The Labour led Government did not take the "Anti-Vitamin" Bill to it's second reading as it failed to get the numbers to support it.