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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25978


Senator BROWN (1:09 PM) —Senator Hill has spent an hour trying to get around the truth that is at the kernel of this matter; that is, US authorities will be appointed to the technical advisory groups—the Australian-US committee on sanitary and phytosanitary matters as well as the Australian-US technical working group on animal and plant health measures. These will comprise not only scientists but trade representatives—that is, representatives of US multinational corporations. That cuts straight to the matter. These will be looking, and I quote Senator Hill, `to ensure the technical measures are the least trade restrictive options'.

When you are looking at quarantine there is no least or more about it. Either you are protecting the country from the potential of invasive species and organisms or you are not. The minister says, `We're going to look at the ones that are best for trade.' They are not the ones that are the best for quarantine. What right do trade representatives have to invade the right of scientists with quarantine expertise and people with technical know-how and experience in this field and to know what is best for Australia? The trade representatives from the United States are looking at the trade advantage that they can get by knocking off quarantine measures here. The minister tries to fool us into believing that this simply means there is going to be a little bit of talk in a backroom. No, there is enormous political leverage here. That is why the measures are there. You do not get people being appointed to committees like this unless there is an advantage for the new party, the new kid on the block—in this case US trade interests. The measures are put there to prevent Australia from having the rigour in defending itself from invasive species that it has had in the past.

The example with NAFTA of the repeated pressure on measures just like this to break down quarantine laws and protective laws is writ large. How is a future Australian government going to be able to withstand the pressure of trade representatives, who know the ins and outs of the quarantine decision-making process of our sovereign nation? They will be up against farmers, who are not a party to what is going on, and who are trying to protect their crops, their orchards and their stock. The competing entity, the United States, which is keeping the barriers up on sugar and for a long time to come—forever, if it wants to manipulate the wording of this agreement—on beef and other prime exports that should have free entry to the United States under a free trade agreement, will break it down because the entity that wants to compete with the Australian agricultural industries is now in the house. It is at the coalface of the decision-making component of quarantine laws in this country. That is what is wrong with this agreement.

`Don't worry about it,' says the minister and Prime Minister Howard. If we are not going to worry about it, what are these trade representatives doing on these quarantine advisory panels, for goodness sake? Whom does the minister think he is fooling here? This is a trade agreement which has been written under pressure from the US corporate sector against the interests of Australia's 100 per cent ability to determine for itself its quarantine protection. It is a Trojan Horse. The minister knows that; the government knows that. Labor knows that but it accepts this; Labor thinks that this is fine too. Has Senator Conroy got something to say about this? How does Labor justify these trade representatives coming into these important groups looking at quarantine? It is obvious what is going on here. It cannot be accepted. It is not accepted by the Greens. We are going to have to live with this for decades to come. Prime Minister Howard will have moved on, but this Trojan Horse will remain, against the interests of this country.