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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 346


Senator COULTER (11.48 a.m.) —Of the two arguments which the minister just brought forward the Democrats would find common ground with the opposition on the first one. It is something to which the opposition has drawn attention, we have certainly drawn attention to it in the past, and I drew attention to it in the earlier parts of the debate on this bill. Here we have an intergovernmental agreement, and a bill which comes from that, and we are being told by the minister that we cannot change one full stop and one comma.

  In other words, the democratic process of the committee is being bypassed because of the requirement to fulfil agreements which have been entered into quite outside the democratic process. I find that quite objectionable, and I certainly find common ground with the opposition with respect to that aspect of what the minister said. Too often—and increasingly—we are finding this not only with respect to intergovernmental agreements within Australia but also international agreements. I will be very interested to see what the opposition does when we deal with some half a dozen or so amendments to Australian legislation which come out of the intergovernmental agreement known as the GATT agreement and whether it takes the same position of objection.

  In relation to the second point which the minister has made, we strongly support the minister's position and we will oppose this amendment. It significantly weakens the legislation. We believe that the intention is to make this legislation as weak as possible and we see no benefit whatsoever in allowing this opposition amendment to pass—not only from the point of view of the environment but also from the point of view of the need for industry.

  Recently, we went through the process in relation to uniform standards for the labelling of agricultural and veterinary chemicals which, until fairly recently, was a state matter. Industry itself was wanting uniformity. It is crazy to have these variations. It is not in the interests of either the environment or industry. It is far better to have the greatest degree of uniformity as is achievable. The wording of the opposition amendment clearly provides an enormous loophole through which any state could jump and jeopardise the establishment of any of these standards or processes. Therefore, the Democrats will not be supporting the opposition's amendment.