Opponents: New Zealand government sneaks bill into House to avoid public backlash

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Thursday, December 7, 2006

The New Zealand Government has tabled the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill, despite unprecedented political opposition.

In 2003 the Hon Annette King signed a Treaty with Australia agreeing to hand control of the natural health products sector over to an Australian regulatory body, however she needs to pass enabling legislation in New Zealand. "This will be a world-class joint scheme designed to regulate the safety, quality, effectiveness and promotion of therapeutic products in both New Zealand and Australia. That includes the regulation of complementary and alternative medicines, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products and tissues and cellular therapies," Ms King said.

Twice the Bill has been thrown out by select committees, but the Government is determined to ram it through Parliament, according to the New Zealand Health Trust.

"Late tonight the Bill was finally tabled, with no announcement from the Minister," said Amy Adams, spokesperson for the Trust, "Clearly the Minister is keen to sneak it into Parliament under cover of the silly season, in the hope that she can keep it under the public's radar."

"I welcome the support of a majority of the House who want to see the Bill go to Select Committee where New Zealanders can have their say," Ms King said.

The NZ Health Trust conducted research earlier this year which showed 62% of New Zealanders used natural health products. "This Bill represents a massive and irreparable change to the way we make rules for New Zealand dietary supplements," Mrs Adams said.

"Under the proposed regime, well over a million New Zealand consumers would find the choice of products adversely affected, and experience cost increases. So you can see why the Government is trying to sneak this into the House without any fuss - they don't want the public to know."

All the political parties except Labour have pledged their opposition the proposal, despite some intense lobbying by Australian and New Zealand officials.

"It is a very serious thing to hand sovereignty over your country over to another nation," Mrs Adams said. "And all the other political parties see the sense in making sure the sector is regulated from New Zealand - not as a minor state of Australia."

Ms King said: "The Bill... ensures that New Zealand will have an equal say in the setting up and running of the new Authority and joint scheme." The new authority will be like a crown-owned entity and will have to provide an anuual report and a statement of intent to parliament each year.

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