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Cablegate: Labour Government Abandons Trans-Tasman Drug Bill

VZCZCXRO6815
PP RUEHNZ RUEHPT
DE RUEHWL #0526 2000733
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190733Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4484
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 4887
RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND PRIORITY 1401
RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE PRIORITY 0090
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH PRIORITY 0011
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY PRIORITY 0546
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 0164
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS WELLINGTON 000526

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EB, INR, PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ, PASS TO USTR,
USPTO, COMMERCE FOR ITA, STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, AND
EAP/ANP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON ECPS ETRD KIPR PREL NZ AS
SUBJECT: LABOUR GOVERNMENT ABANDONS TRANS-TASMAN DRUG BILL

REF: WELLINGTON 489

1). (SBU) SUMMARY: The New Zealand Government has shelved the
highly controversial Therapeutics Products and Medicines
Bill, ending the prospect of a joint New Zealand - Australia
agency to regulate prescription and over-the-counter
medicines and medical devices. After lengthy contentious
political debate, the Government could not secure enough
votes in Parliament to ensure the bill's passage into law.
The opposition National Party used Labour's failure to
ramp-up the political rhetoric against the government. This
almost certainly means the issue is dead until after the 2008
election. End Summary

NZ Abandons Trans-Tasman Drug Agency
------------------------------------

2). (SBU) After a prolonged political battle, on July 16
State Services Minister Annette King admitted defeat and put
the highly contentious Therapeutics Products and Medicines
Bill "on hold." As Post reported (see reftel) three quarters
of the 895 industry submissions to the NZ Parliamentary
select committee were opposed to the bill claiming the new
regulations were overly onerous and would impose
unnecessarily prohibitive compliance costs especially for
low-risk therapeutic products. The bill would have created a
bi-national authority replacing the current NZ Medsafe agency
overseeing the safety, quality, and effectiveness of
medicines, complementary medicine (over-the-counter
medicines), medical devices, and blood products in both
countries.

Failure to secure enough political support prove fatal
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (SBU) The Government's announcement was all about vote
counting. The razor thin majority that passed the bill in the
first reading was lost with a change in party affiliation of
two MPs. The Opposition National Party did not let the
opportunity pass without derisive comments about a
"Government in its dying days" as its Health Spokesman, Tony
Ryall crowed. (Note. Although the next general election is
not scheduled until late 2008, National has already built up
a substantial lead over the ruling Labour Party in the polls.
End Note.) After putting the bill on the shelf, King declared
that it would be revisited "when sufficient parliamentary
support is available." However, this almost certainly means
the issue is dead until after the 2008 election. If the new
government concludes that a common regulatory body is
necessary to improve the safety of drugs and medical devices
or (more likely) to advance a closer economic relationship
with Australia, then it will face twin challenges: finding
the political will and votes here to revisit a long-buried
political failure; and persuading Canberra to agree to the
effort.
KEEGAN

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