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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26116

Senator HARRIS (11:53 AM) —I rise to support Democrat amendment (5) relating to the review of the operation of the act. I also indicate that on the current running sheet the second and third last items are One Nation's amendments pertaining to the commencement of the act. I indicate that I will not formally move those. I will speak briefly to them now because they fall within the context of Senator Ridgeway's amendments relating to a review. I indicate that I will not move amendments (3) and (4) on sheet 3470 either.

Prior to commencing my comments in relation to the Democrat amendment before the committee at the moment, I want to respond to a couple of comments from Senator Macdonald. He spoke earlier about more progress and more implementation and the benefits for the rural areas. I disagree vehemently with Senator Macdonald in that the progress and the implementation that will arise from this agreement will go to very large corporations and big businesses. Yes, there will be sectors of the Australian economy that will benefit, but they most certainly will not be our small family farmers and small businesses, particularly those in the rural areas.

Senator Macdonald also spoke of a structural adjustment program for fishing as a result of the government's implementation of the green zones. One Nation looks at these things in an interesting way. We have the present Australian government and the present US government agreeing that the US will open their markets to Australia in relation to seafood products. So what happens to our fishermen? The government closes the green zones. Surprise, surprise. At the point when our fishing industry does get access to the US markets, our own government axes one-third of the areas where they can actually fish. Then the government turns around and says, `But we'll fix that up; we'll give you a structural adjustment program.' All I can say is: tell that to a fisherman in north Queensland.

I want to go back to Senator Ridgeway's amendment—a review of the operation of the act. It is very soundly based and definitely required. One Nation concurs with it and supports it word for word, especially the assessment of the economic, social and cultural impacts. As I said earlier, One Nation circulated a commencement and review process. I believe what One Nation was putting forward would have been a step forward for Australia, for the people we represent and for this chamber. One Nation was proposing that, prior to the commencement of this act, each senator in this chamber representing their respective state would form a panel—12 senators per state, seven senators on the panel. The members of that panel would then go around their respective states consulting with the people they have sworn to represent in this chamber. They would, in that review, look at the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts of this agreement. It would be, I believe, for the first time a process where all of the senators for each state parked their political affiliations off to the side and worked as a group to consult with the people they represent. I believe, based on the tone of the debate in the chamber, that that would not in all probability receive a favourable hearing from either the government or the opposition. I would ask both the government and the opposition to consider that and, if they so wish, to comment on the proposal.

The proposal is that each of us within our respective states consults with the people we represent and comes back and reports to this chamber on the concerns—or the support. I am quite happy to say that through the public consultation process there will be support for this agreement but I believe it needs to come through an assessment by each and every one of us as senators. That would show a step forward in democracy in Australia. I believe it would be a process that could be applied to the many and varied functions of this chamber. I look forward to the minister's and the opposition's comments as to the possibility of setting up such a process. I place on record One Nation's support for Democrat amendment (5).