MAI Implications On Australian Health Care – 6 April 1998

The Australian Doctors’ Fund has today called for Australians to be informed of any impact on their health care that will arise should Australia become a signatory to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

Advocates of the MAI are anxious to point out that the agreement would simply allow foreign investors to be treated in the same way as domestic investors, ie a level playing field which encourages foreign investment for the benefit of all.

However, critics of the MAI are ignoring these reassurances.

In Canada Professor Marjorie Cohen in her Ottowa (26 November 1997) presentation to the House of Commons Subcommittee discusses the consequences for the public sector and for Medicare (Canadian): “When governments are required to provide the same kinds offunding to both local non-profit health care providers and huge for-profit medical care firms, the ability to continue public health care will be impossibly expensive.”

Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate, said “of immediate concern was the way in which the MAI could assist American Managed Health Care organisations, (who are finding it tougher to continue their practises in the United States in the fact of electoral and legislative backlash) to set up US style Managed Care in Australian private and public hospitals. In time much of our public hospital system could be in the hands of overseas owners, if the current moves towards privatisation and collocation continue without legislative protection”.

“The corporate ownership of Medicare subsidised health services such as radiology and pathology by private corporations is growing. Should these services, (which attract rebates approaching $2 billion annually) be sold to foreign interests then Medicare dollars will be flowing to the corporate boardrooms of overseas multinationals for distribution to shareholders”, Mr Milgate said.

The Australian Doctors’ Fund has also been told that the MAI proposals include plans to allow for legal redress by foreign investors to be conducted under an international legal provisions and not via the legal system of the country imposing the restrictions.

The Australian Doctors’ Fund supports calls by the MAI Community Awareness Campaign and others for a full open public debate on the implications of the MAI Treaty before Australia becomes a signatory.