It’s up to you – don’t underestimate the importance of your vote, writes Keri Molloy.
Credit: Bob Moran
Australia starts COVID-19 vaccine injury class action cases this week.
The class action arises upon the basis that the government did not establish that the vaccines were indeed safe or effective for use and that it acted negligently.
In Australia some recognition is given, however, to the vaccine injured. The Australian Government has implemented a claims scheme to enable eligible claimants who have received a TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccine to obtain compensation for recognised moderate to severe vaccine-related adverse events.
They say they have done this ‘to provide a simple, streamlined process to compensate eligible people, without the need for complex legal proceedings.’
Aotearoa/New Zealand, like Australia, followed World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations during the pandemic.
Now the WHO wants to expand its powers and give it a range of control activities, relating to:
- Defining the next pandemic
- Determining lockdowns
- Conducting surveillance
- Determining treatments
- Requiring vaccine mandates
- Controlling intellectual property and information
Given its ‘safe and effective’ recommendation and its intense drive to lock down, mask and vaccinate the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued refusal to acknowledge the severity of mRNA vaccine injuries, there’s diminishing appetite for more dictates from the WHO.
But back in Switzerland, the WHO has put out a ‘Call to Action’.
Its priorities are:
- Amendments to the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR)
- A pandemic treaty, that it now calls an ‘accord’.
And new WHO initiatives:
- “The Big Catch-up” – to vaccinate millions of children for various diseases.
- A new initiative which it calls PRET (Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats), which includes the development of ‘a global implementation roadmap’.
- A new Health Emergency Preparedness response and Resilience (HEPR).
“The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have shown that countries need to be operationally ready to respond to infectious disease threats, with tailored preparedness plans in hand and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors such as agriculture.”
In New Zealand, the power to enter into or withdraw from such a treaty sits with the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Questions about our part in the WHO campaign, put to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, sat in his in-tray for six weeks. This week they were finally addressed by the Ministry of Health, delivered by media advisor Sanjana George.
The response was long-winded but takeaway key points are:
- There will be no referendum to gauge public opinion about our involvement with the World Health Organisation.
- Any decision to become party to a new treaty will be decided by the government
- This decision will be subject to New Zealand’s treaty-making processes, including Cabinet approval, parliamentary treaty examination, and the passing of legislation, if required.
- International treaties are not directly enforceable, in and of themselves, within New Zealand. If new legislation is needed, the government will wait for Parliament to pass any legislation before ratifying the treaty.
- The government’s practice is to ensure that domestic law is compatible with a treaty’s obligations before New Zealand becomes bound by it.
So it all comes down to our politicians. That’s why your vote is so crucial.
Talk to election candidates about the World Health Organisation and its ambitions.
If you have concerns about handing over power to this Switzerland based, unelected global health organisation, make sure you know what’s going on, submit your view and make your vote count.
Questions put to Chris Hipkins on March 10 are in bold, answers are in italics, as received from Ministry of Health media advisor Sanjana George
Is Aotearoa/NZ committed to the proposed pandemic treaty and the proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005)?
Strengthening the global health architecture for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR) is key to ensuring the world does not face a crisis of the same magnitude as COVID-19 again. It is also one of New Zealand’s foremost global health priorities.
Negotiating a new instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR) and amending the International Health Regulations (2005) to ensure they are fit for purpose are key processes to achieving this goal, and New Zealand has been actively engaging in both negotiations since their early 2022 and early 2023 respectively.
Negotiations towards the pandemic instrument are taking place in an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) of WHO Member States, while amendments to the IHR are being negotiated in the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (WGIHR), also comprising WHO Member States.
Will NZ citizens be given a voice prior to the country becoming a signatory to the treaty and/or government endorsement?
As we move forward in the negotiation process, we’re interested in what New Zealanders want to see in a new international pandemic prevention, preparedness and response instrument. New Zealanders’ views will help inform New Zealand’s overall contribution as we participate in negotiations.
While the exact form of the instrument is yet to be determined, if Member States agree to proceed with a legally binding instrument (for example, a treaty) standard New Zealand treaty-making processes, including Cabinet approval and parliamentary treaty examination, will be required before New Zealand could become party to the treaty.
Unlike New Zealand lawmaking, where elected representatives vote on laws, the WHO lawmaking process involves mostly unelected diplomats voting on the treaty. What is the process relating to NZ’s commitment to the treaty and health regulations? Is legislation required?
New Zealand government representatives are participating in negotiations in both the INB and WHR. Any decision to become party to a new treaty will be decided by the government once negotiations are concluded and would be subject to New Zealand’s treaty-making processes, including Cabinet approval, parliamentary treaty examination, and the passing of legislation if required.
Would you and your cabinet consider a referendum to gauge public opinion?
Members of the public are able to make a formal submission and share their views on the negotiations via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade website at any time during the INB process (Have your say: Improving pandemic prevention, preparedness and response with a legal instrument). As noted above, if Member States agree to proceed with a legally binding instrument, standard New Zealand treaty-making processes (including parliamentary treaty examination) will be required before New Zealand can become party. This will provide further opportunities for public input and comment.
The WHO’s momentum is described as a self-perpetuating pandemic industry, with major internal conflicts of interest, funded by the world’s taxpayers. What checks and balances are needed?
New Zealand is a founding WHO Member State and remains actively engaged in WHO governance processes, including the Executive Board and annual World Health Assembly. These governing bodies and their sub-committees set WHO’s work programmes and monitor the organisation’s performance on an ongoing basis.
Under the proposed regulations, will doctors be told what they may prescribe and what they will be prohibited from giving a patient when the WHO declares a public health emergency?
At this stage, there are no plans to change how medicines are managed in New Zealand. All medicines that are prescribed in New Zealand need to first be approved by Medsafe to ensure they meet New Zealand and internationally recognised standards for quality, safety and efficacy.
Will the treaty/accord provisions interfere with our national sovereignty in the case of declaring and managing a health emergency?
Please note that where sovereign decision-making is concerned, governments (including New Zealand) are jointly driving the INB process. It is up to governments to determine what actions will be required to better prevent, prepare and respond to a future pandemic. Any new instrument does not become binding on New Zealand automatically – New Zealand can only ratify after following New Zealand’s treaty making process, including passing any new legislation if required.
Can New Zealand opt out in order to preserve its sovereignty and protect the individual human rights of its citizens?
New Zealand has a proudly independent foreign policy. We make our own decisions about which international agreements to join in line with our national interests. International treaties are not directly enforceable in and of themselves within New Zealand. The government’s practice is to ensure that domestic law is compatible with a treaty’s obligations before New Zealand becomes bound by it. If new legislation is needed, it will wait for Parliament to pass any legislation before ratifying the treaty.
Any future amendments to the IHRs are subject to an “opt out” process, whereby New Zealand retains the option to “opt out” of any amendments.
While the International Health Regulations make up a legally binding agreement, will the WHO gain control over national health policy, and enforcement mechanisms?
The International Health Regulations are binding on 196 countries, including New Zealand as a Member State of the WHO. The principal domestic statute used to give effect to IHR (2005) implementation is the Health Act 1956. However, New Zealand will still determine and implement the direction of its own national health policy.
The WHO relies heavily on private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Do you think there should be limits on private funding to the WHO? (The BIll and Melinda Gates Foundation is already drumming up fear about the next pandemic.)
The WHO gets its funding from two main sources: Member States paying their assessed contributions (countries’ membership dues), and voluntary contributions from Member States and other partners, including other United Nations organisations, intergovernmental organisations, philanthropic foundations, the private sector and other sources.
New Zealand is supportive of sustainable, predictable and flexible funding for the WHO. We believe that sustainable financing is essential to ensuring the WHO is well positioned to fulfill its mandate, plan for and respond to the burden of disease and potential future events such as epidemics and pandemics This approach will also help to address traditionally underfunded areas of its programme of work, and ensure the equitable allocation of the organisation’s resources at the country and regional levels.
“New Zealanders’ views will help inform New Zealand’s overall contribution as we participate in negotiations.” – the Ministry of Health April 26 2023.
You can find more information on New Zealand’s priorities for and engagement in both of these processes at: Strengthening global pandemic prevention, preparedness and response | Ministry of Health NZ
If you wish to make a submission, you can do so via an email submission on the MFAT website here: Have your say: Improving pandemic prevention, preparedness and response with a legal instrument. Though an initial round of public submissions on the process concluded on 11 August 2022, feedback may be submitted at any time during the INB process.
You can access information on the international treaty-making process in New Zealand;
and key documents on New Zealand’s approach to the proposed pandemic instrument; Have your say: Improving pandemic prevention, preparedness and response with a legal instrument | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
This article was first published at Keri Molloy’s Substack and is republished here with her permission. Keri is an artist and concerned citizen of New Zealand with 40 years experience as a journalist.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of The Looking Glass.