The Guardian August 4, 2004


Readers are invited to submit letters to The Guardian.
Letters may be e-mailed to guardian@cpa.org.au.
Letters of 300-400 words are preferred.


Letters to the Editor:

Who owns the sod?

The article "Who Owns the Sod?" (Guardian 14-07-04) 
shows clearly that it is very difficult, but not impossible, to 
find out who owned and owns land in Britain.

It would be useful to do the same research in relation to 
Australia.

That should not be difficult. Maybe someone has already done it?

In a footnote to Capital, Marx referred to pioneer work 
done on the subject in Britain: Our Old Nobility by 
"Noblesse Oblige"  who turned out to be one of those 
conscientious members of the protestant lower clergy such as 
feature in the novels of Trollope  also in TV versions.

And a rather unsavory business it was; theft and brute force are 
recorded. Riches garnered in the countryside could provide a 
basis for moving into trade and manufacture and becoming "legit", 
just as the Russian mafia-capitalists of the '90s are trying to 
become the "legit" capitalists of this decade, with mixed 
fortunes.

Conservative economists such as Malthus (a parson to the 
employees of the drug-pushing East India Company) and Nassau 
Senior advised their young charges that they "should never 
enquire into the origins" of capital. As well they might.

S Cooper
Annandale, NSW

Trading with the PBS
Tim Wilson, of the APEC Study Centre whose chair is all the 
way with the FTA afficionado Alan Oxley, accuses left-wing 
doctors of ignoring positive effects of the Australia-US free 
trade agreement on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 
(Australian, letters, 28-07-04)

There are several points he fails to mention. This is the first 
international trade agreement in which a nation's pharmaceutical 
scheme is specifically included.

Any changes or policy decisions to the PBS have in the past been 
determined under Australian guidelines with the welfare of the 
people at heart.

Now if the FTA with the US is ratified, the PBS will be in a 
trade agreement with the nation with the most inefficient and 
inequitable pharmaceutical system of wealthy nations. This is 
where 40 per cent of people can't afford access to medicines and 
many have to go to Canada or Mexico to get them.

The principles in the FTA are vastly different from those of the 
PBS. The emphasis is on rewarding innovation with no mention of 
universal access to medicines. These are the principles under 
which any dispute would be determined.

If the US is not happy with the way things are going  that the 
independent review process is not keeping to the obligations of 
the agreement  the dispute may end up before a trade settlement 
panel of three international trade experts. The panel can order 
that a law be changed or compensation paid.

The panel's ruling is binding.

Wilson also ignores the affects on the PBS of changes to patent 
regulations within the agreement. This has been estimated to be 
of considerable cost to the PBS and state public hospitals.

The US believes this is the first step in opening up the PBS. 
Another condition of the FTA is the setting up of a Medicines 
Working Group with the US to discuss policy and progress of the 
agreement.

What does Australia have to gain from the US in these policy 
areas? Surely, Australians should be able to determine how to 
improve transparency and the workings of the PBS without the 
influence of a trade agreement with the US.

Tracy Schrader
Doctors Reform Society
Annerley, Qld

The terrible price
I am deeply indebted to The Guardian (14-07-04) for the 
article The Terrible Price and to Tom Gill for translating 
it from French to English and express thanks to the author.

It affirms the opinions I have had on the matter  that it was 
the loss of the most experienced, dedicated members of the 
Communist Party of the Soviet Union that led to it being 
weakened. There may have been millions more joining the party but 
they lacked in experience and knowledge, and had nobody from whom 
to learn.

And among those millions there would have been innumerable 
opportunists and self-servers whose only interest was for 
themselves.

Open slaughter for the pro capitalists with a gift of the gab  
and Gorbachev certainly fit that  note his payoff with a 
position on the lucrative speaking circuit in America.

This article should supply answers to Bob Saltis in his letter in 
the same edition.

There is one point in his letter with which I would take issue  
the pessimism over the value of the struggle because of human 
weakness. Bob! Bob! That's what the struggle is all about. You 
are never going to create the perfect human being. But because 
you lose a skirmish or even a battle does not mean you have lost 
the war.

Fight on!

B Appleton
Woy Woy, NSW
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