Hard News by Russell Brown


No Bills

When Tony Ryall and Sue Kedgley have finished gloating about the shelving of the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill perhaps they might care to think about how they will now approach the issues the bill set out to address.

Kedgley, at least, genuinely opposed the bill on its content. Ryall's wish appears solely to have been to inflict a defeat on the government. The bill, after all, is based on work done by the last National government. (It's also somewhat disarming to see National spurning cooperation with the federal government of Australia.)

And then there's Gordon Copeland. According to Annette King on Morning Report today, Copeland proposed a change that would have addressed what seems to be the major problem with the legislation: the regulatory burden on small manufacturers of natural products who only wanted to sell locally. A two-tier system would have allowed your friendly Coromandel hippy to carry on making her lavender oil in much the same way as before, without the need to meet trans-Tasman standards.

But Copeland, as part of his mission of pretending to be a National MP, went and asked National for permission to vote in favour of an amended bill, and had it denied. Denied, that is, by a party of which he is not a member and which appears to have offered little indication that it really welcomes him. What a dick.

And this isn't trivial. Dr Pippa Mackay explained on Morning Report what this means for the approval of all new medicines: longer delays as Medsafe, which had been anticipating the joint trans-Tasman regulator, struggles to keep up, higher costs, and fewer new medicines approved.

So, via hysteria on the one hand (and yes I do think that's a fair description of some of Kedgley's rhetoric) and naked political calculation on the other, New Zealanders will suffer.

Meanwhile, the Maori Party didn't get its bill either (well, actually it was Tariana Turia's private member's bill, but it was very much one for the party). Apparently, John Key ruled out National's support for the bill repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act way back in January, but someone unaccountably forgot to tell the Maori Party.

The agreement was always a bit of a nonsense anyway: National and the Maori Party disliked the act for perpendicularly opposite reasons, and it was only Tariana Turia's revenge crush on National that gave it legs.

National supporters will be relieved because, well, it was going to be a bit weird. And Labour will be relieved not only because it needed this issue back in the news like a hole in the head - but also because it's now back in the game and may well back itself to provide a better deal, should post-election bargaining with the Maori Party become necessary late next year. Audrey Young wrote on Saturday that Labour will use the bill's failure to bash the Maori Party and highlight its shortcomings. That may well be. But I wouldn't be surprised if there was also some outreach going on in the corners.

PS: SJD's lovely Songs from a Dictaphone is now out, and Public Address readers can order it from Real Groovy, which will slip a free bag of Karajoz No.1 blend coffee in the package. Because we're all like that.

PPS: I've just added to the podcast our interview with James Griffin about the third season of Outrageous Fortune, which begins tonight. Swipe some of the boss's bandwidth and have a listen ...

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