Thursday, July 28, 2005

Prescription to Party?

I seem to be getting a lot of my stuff from the US at the moment. Maybe that's where all the health stuff is happening, I don't know. I do know that this story is worth reading.

The State Parliament in Oregon passed a law requiring a prescription before drugs containing pseudoephedrine could be dispensed. The background to this kind of law is the huge methamphetimines problem in the States. Don't quote me, but I remember a story a few days ago which said that meth was the biggest crime problem in something like 47 US States. Apparently drug abuse is rife.

I don't imagine we have the same problem, although we do have the same concerns. My local chemist was robbed of all their pseudoephedrine products during the night a little while ago. However, is it really worth the cost of requiring a prescription before you can get your hands on Codral or Claritin? I mean, I don't use Codral very much, but when you are snuffly it is pretty good on a very temporary basis. Now, if I had to go to my GP every time I had a cold or wanted a box of hayfever tablets, what costs does this impose on our healthcare system?

There seems to be a propensity in our society to alter law to restrict access to something, without addressing the social problems underlying the phenomenon. It is another case of a few dicks (or a lot in the case of the US) spoiling it for everyone. The trade off between health care costs and criminal law and social harm costs, in Australia, would probably fall in favour of health. In other words, why impose a huge cost on our healthcare system, in other words, treating the symptom, when we are better off treating the cause. Why are these people taking speed? Yes, some do it to deal and produce, and our criminal law system should nail them. Others do it because they are sadsacks. We are much better off asking why people are sadsacks and treating that, rather than making people go to a GP before they can buy pharmacy medicines.

For that matter, isn't there room for a bit of 'pharmacist discretion'? I mean, these people are pretty clever, they have pretty tough degrees to get through. If someone comes and clears their stack of Codral, that is probably a pointer. Me, coming along once every 12 months and buying a pack of Codral or Claritin, is probably not going to lead to a habit. Surely a pharmacist can say "Wow, Mr. Jones, still got that cold? Still going through 3 boxes of Codral a week? Maybe you should go see a doctor. Sure, have my entire stock before you go!" Does that sound stupid to anybody else?

Gay Marriage in Switzerland

Via Opinio Juris.

It seems Switzerland has allowed for registered partnerships for gay couples. This law falls short of full marriage rights and allows more of what we allow in Victoria, being the same financial obligations and rights, instead of the right to adopt and undergo fertility treatment.

What pleases me is the way many countries (I am thinking of Canada for example) are passing this kind of legislation without too much fuss. As I recall, Victoria had to fight fairly hard for this legislation (see Part 9 of the Property Law Act). It seems that, in the last place in the world to give the vote to women, this legislation was passed with a fairly sizeable majority.

Why do we need the hysteria that goes along with gay marriage in this country? We are far more aligned with the US, which is currently going bananas over this issue, than with Europe and progressive countries such as Canada, which seem more willing to recognise people for who and what they are or want to be.

I think it is sad that in Australia we see this whole issue as such a big deal. It isn't really. We don't need to be chest-thumpers. These rights should be available without too much of a big deal. We are currently moving in the opposite direction.

IRA Disarmament

The New York Times is reporting on the seemingly clear and definite statement that the IRA is to disarm. They have invited both a Protestant and a Catholic cleric to witness the disarmament and seem to have formally ordered an end to a long campaign.

Whether terrorists or freedom fighters I will not debate, but seemingly now just politicians.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Encouraging education

A few months back, John Quiggin had this to say about a study which suggested kids consistently underestimate the qualifications they will need for a particular job.

This is why it is so important to encourage study, whether to the end of year 12, HSC, whatever you call it, or further into tertiary education. Given how few year 10 kids (16 year olds?) know what they want to do in life, why would we encourage them, by way of policy, to stop studying whilst they worked it out?

I know some kids are not suited to study and that is fine. However, for a lot of people, finishing school at year 10 is folly. Whilst I do not necessarily think we should have such a vast range of university courses available either, there is a middle ground for those who wish to end up in trade, without forcing them to endure 3 years of university, or cut off most of their options by failing to complete a secondary qualification.

Surely we should be encouraging people in general to be as widely educated as possible. Nobody should be denied the opportunity to finish year 12. We should probably not force them to either, but there must be a policy mechanism which encourages those on the borderline to complete as much study as possible.

That way, everyone has the widest range of options possible when they leave whatever education in which they participate.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I couldn't resist

And I thought days and nights of Commission meetings were enough to keep everyone in Brussels going...

Evidently not..

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Banana Protector

Via IPKat.

What a ridiculous product. I brought a banana to work today in a lunchbox and it was FINE.

Go Mallesons!!!

If you work for a big law firm, or anybody else for that matter, and want to make smutty remarks about departing office staff, DON'T hit the 'reply all' button, like this Mallesons partner did.

Instead of just having a quiet hehe, albeit in a completely inappropriate fashion, 'James' (his real name apparently) told the entire list of partners they should 'remember to wash' after farewelling the staffmember 'in the usual way'. Oh dear.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rolling hilarity with plenty of padding

I just love this site. Click this link for a great way of getting to and from uni. If you need help with your roller skates, that is...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A step too far?

I know these two BBC reports are not really law related, but I spotted them and felt they deserved comment anyway.

I think total debt cancellation for all African countries is probably too much to ask right now. I understand this is a starting point for political discussion with the G8, along with UN Reform and freeing up trade, but total debt write off is not going to happen.

Debt relief is a great idea where it will create benefit. Simply rewarding all governments alike, whether well governed or outrageously corrupt, is probably not the most sensible way forward.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bindingly Unbinding

I recently was referred to a very interesting website (for some, I guess), which is basically a repository of Congress reports on various issues. It doesn't seem to be an official government site but is a bit like our own Parliamentary Library (which by the way has a new XML feed - wow!).

Now, the reason I bring this up is because a report tootled along this week entitled 'WTO Decisions and their Effect in US Law'. I was not suprised to find this effect rated somewhere between zero and none at all by the report's author.

This is a real bugbear of mine, this relationship between international and national law. I didn't know it existed until today, but when the WTO was established in 1995, the US passed a piece of legislation entitled 'Uruguay Round Agreements Act'. This Act basically says that no WTO Agreement, nor the application of any such Agreement, has any effect at US law where the Agreement or its application conflicts with existing US law. Further, any WTO law only applies until conflicting US law is passed.

This report comes at a convenient time, given the recent WTO decision to find US cotton subsidies illegal. I had a whole lot of links to this dispute but they seem to have gone missing unfortunately. This doesn't matter to the crux of the issue - WTO law is completely impotent regardless of the binding nature of the dispute settlement system. This is completely unjustifiable given the treatment smaller countries get when they flout Appellate Body or Panel rulings. For example, even when small countries attempt to use lawful provisions of WTO Agreements (see my discussion here), the US is the first to jump on them for failing to give effect to these provisions.

How then, can any of us be expected to comply with WTO rulings, given there is an explicit acknowledgement on the part of the US that the law will not apply to them? Why should we not pass similar legislation in Australia, saying that we don't care what the rules say, we will impose whatever tariffs we desire? In my idealistic way, I have always thought and expected the WTO might be different. Yes international law is based on consent, yada yada, but surely there is no point in continuing with a system which is binding, which States must sign up to fully and from which no reservations are allowed and which gives the US a powerful forum for applying political pressure to whomever it is convenient, when the rules do not apply in the same way to the country that most pushed for WTO rules to be binding on all Members.

If this is permitted by other WTO Members, the entire organisation is an utter sham.