Submission on TransTasman Therapeutic Discussion Paper
Firstly, this is the most negative, punitive and draconian piece of proposed legislation concerning business that I have ever read.
Secondly, there is only two months to respond to a complex document that is 175 pages long and many people have had less time than this whereas the Government has had close on 3 years to draw up this document.
The ironic thing here is that we have the Labour Government, the architect of this document, cruising the country talking about building and encouraging small, regional businesses with lots of innovation. They would like to see entrepreneurs spring up, along with value added products but at the same time they are pushing forward a proposed piece of legislation which, if made law, will undermine all the above.
A letter from the Hon. Annette King, Minister of Heath dated 28 June 2002 entitled "Regulation of Dietary Supplements" states (1st Para) "Some concern has been expressed about the proposal for a trans-Tasman agency to regulate therapeutic products and I want to clarify certain matters".
Some concern is an understatement. If the Minister and her bureaucrats lived in the real world and had started their own business from scratch to exporting overseas only to find that a proposed piece of legislation, if made law, would remove them from the market landscape they would have a better understanding about the so called ‘some concern’ statement.
The second paragraph of Ms King’s letter states "Firstly, I would like to assure you that I firmly believe that New Zealand consumers purchasing dietary supplements have a right to expect they will be safe and of high quality. I also believe that consumers should have the widest possible choice of safe and effective products and should receive sufficient truthful information about the products they purchase to enable them to choose wisely and use products safely. I trust that, as a dietary supple consumer, you would also support these aims".
This is a very good statement. We would all support those aims. It must be up to the consumer and market to decide good and reliable products. The products need to create their own credibility and long-term success, not men in little grey suits selling license numbers to those companies and multi-nationals with the deepest pockets.
While talking about safe products and truthful information concerning this statement an article in the Weekend Herald dated July 20 entitled "Home Remedies, better than cough medicines" is attached. Most, if not all, cough medicines are licensed and come under the T.G.A. regime yet none are considered to have any beneficial effect on coughs. Where does this leave the Minister’s statement concerning truthful information and safe products?
60% of pharmaceutical products now on pharmacy shelves have not been tested. While each ingredient may have been tested and licensed a product with more than 3 ingredients becomes nearly impossible to test for all the different variable outcomes. The fact is that many hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and die every year, worldwide, directly from using pharmaceutical products that have been licensed. The number in Australia and New Zealand is estimated to be around 1,000 deaths.
It would be interesting to see what statistics the Minister has concerning this matter. Is the pharmaceutical industry obligated to release such data to the Government?
Here is a Government that has loosened the laws on one of the most used and abused legal drugs in society. Not only does this drug kill more people than tobacco and destroy lives and families the social upheaval and damage it does to society can only be guessed at. The Government and private agencies spend millions of dollars every year trying to pick up the pieces directly associated with this drug. Unlike the tobacco industry, packaging and labeling on this drug does not have to warn the consumer that not only is it addictive but it can be fatal, especially to unborn babies. The drug is of course alcohol. The NZ wine industry belongs to this drug scene. They are self-regulating with minimal manufacturing and labelling compliances. Yes, it is a major export earner and it will get bigger. The Government gleans hundreds of millions of dollars in excise tax every year, $2 per litre produced. Does this make a difference?
The Government and Ministry need to be challenged. Where is the hard factual evidence to show that there is a problem in this country and worldwide from the use of natural therapeutic products? Are these products hospitalizing or killing people by the 100’s or 1,000’s? Are they causing a problem in our society?
If the Government and Ministry do not have such evidence then they should back off and let the industry regulate itself or let the status quo reign.
It sounds like the Minister does not want the truth to get out to the consumer. What the long-term effect will be for those people wanting to buy natural products if this proposal goes ahead and becomes law is that they will lose the right to choose for themselves. The Government will choose for them. What we are allowed to buy will be expensive to cover the T.G.A. and any other regulatory costs imposed. Small business and manufacturers producing and selling natural products will not be able to exist in such an environment. The multi-nationals and businesses with mass will rule the market landscape.
The Minister has the gall to talk about misinformation circulating about but she is happy to push her wheelbarrow full of it. While she states that there is a thriving complementary medicines market in Australia since the establishment of the T.G.A. regime with over 17,000 products containing 2,200 different ingredients the Minister has conveniently forgotten to mention that since the regime was established in 1991 a minimum of 300 businesses have gone, big and small. Only 3 of the 6 states have adopted the regime and in those that have there is a flagrant disregard to the law anyway.
The Minister also talks about equal say and no loss of sovereignty as stated in the proposed document. "A majority of the board members would be Australian citizens or residents". Five board members, 3 Australian, 2 New Zealanders, one does not have to be a mathematician to know who holds the power.
One might suggest that all Ministers and members of the Crown are given a mandatory daily dose of dietary supplements. Not only could it keep them more honest but more importantly they would always remember why they were elected to office in the first place, to serve the people and businesses in New Zealand. To make them prosper and grow, not to appease offshore multi-national interest or international obligations that have been drawn up behind closed doors, without the knowledge of the ordinary citizens and what the long-term ramifications could be for those citizens and businesses in the future.
My business falls into all the categories mentioned at the beginning of this submission, an innovative entrepreneur, creating value added products with small exports, mainly to the UK and Western Europe. It also falls under the compliances mentioned in the proposed document.
Who am I and what do I do? Good question. My name is Sven Stellin and my family and I own a property on Great Barrier Island comprising around 500 hectares. It is a peninsular situated down the southern end of Port FitzRoy harbour. The property was farmed for over 100 years but today this is no longer a viable business. I am now involved in the extraction of kanuka and manuka essential oils that are the raw ingredients which produce high value, low volume exportable products.
The essential oil industry in this country is in its embryonic stage. We are where the wine industry was around 30 years ago if you can remember and wine is now a major export earner.
Although businesses like my own may be just beginning and have no historic involvement in the oil industry in this country, these businesses are at the vanguard to a potentially enormous export led industry. This could be the raw oils or value added products based on these oils and other NZ native ingredients, similar to the Australian Tea Tree Oil industry. The really interesting things is that Western European, mainly Germans and Scandinavians, know more about our oils than the people serving behind the local pharmacy counter, let alone the average person in the street.
Any proposed legislation concerning this industry needs to discuss ways of fostering it not legislating against it which the proposed document is doing. Thoughts on this matter would be many and varied. One thing the Government needs to do is to set up an agency whose sole purpose would be to evaluate our entire native flora. This information would cover a whole range of protocols, potential medical and therapeutic properties and uses, Toxicology, Ecotoxicology etc.
A number of things would come out of this;
1. New Zealand would protect its intellectual rights concerning its native flora and the chemical components that make them up. At the moment New Zealand could easily lose these rights to multi-national offshore corporations.
2. This information would be freely available to the New Zealand industry to build major product lines, at the same time saving those businesses involved in the industry large amounts of money and time, not having to go through the process themselves.
3. With this information being available it would really open the door for exports of our native plant products.
Concerning registration and compliances, these need to be dealt with further down the track when the industry starts talking about self-regulation.
While the Government’s duty is to run and improve the social necessities of our country they need money to do this. Businesses like mine create this money. The Government’s responsibility to me is not to cut me off at the legs but to create a box for me to stand on so I can proclaim my products to the world.
I wish to make a statement in support of my submission in Auckland. Please advise when and where this would take place.