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Thursday, 30 October 2003
Page: 17348

Senator BROWN (3:32 PM) —by leave—The information that is being sought here by Senator Nettle on the free trade agreement is simply because it is going on behind closed doors and out of the public domain. This free trade agreement is going to affect all Australians. It is not satisfactory for the government to say, `We are keeping certain documents secret because they are part of that negotiation.' We maintain that there should be a much more transparent and public process and that what is on the table—for example, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the ability of US corporations to insist that genetically modified organisms come on to Australian farmlands and so on—be on the table. We have had a recent debate about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. After weeks of being assured it was not on the table, we now find it is. So I do not—and nor would Senator Nettle—have faith in the fact that these documents are being withheld for the reasons that are being given by the government. I am sure that Senator Nettle will be back at the next sitting to try again to get the government to release those documents. I believe that the Senate, if its backing were sought by Senator Nettle, would want to see a better release of documents than we have had from the minister today.