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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26119


Senator RIDGEWAY (12:07 PM) —I would like to ask the government—either minister—a number of questions about the notion of a review and accountability back to the parliament. I think the minister mentioned that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties conducted a review of the free trade agreement and made several recommendations. I want to find out from the government what action it has taken, or is intending to take, with respect to the JSCOT recommendations on the FTA. I think some of the recommendations are good and I want to know what progress has been made on their implementation. In particular, Senator Ian Macdonald, who has just left, mentioned the Productivity Commission and I want to clarify that the government supports a review of the operation of the free trade agreement by the Productivity Commission every five years.

How will the government implement the JSCOT recommendation that consultations with the state and territory governments should be improved in future negotiations? I think the consultation has been a disastrous mess in relation to the negotiation of the free trade agreement. Senator Macdonald also mentioned issues in relation to promoting increased market access for sugar and I wonder what measures the government is taking to make sure there is increased market access. What action is the government taking to improve the recognition of qualifications and the movement of business people? That was also raised with the Senate Select Committee on the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States of America as well as with JSCOT. That is a most important question. The government has not given any indication of the review process and of what other actions are being taken to deal with these particular issues.