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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26440


Senator HARRIS (11:37 PM) —I move One Nation amendment (2) on sheet 4367 revised:

(2) Page 3 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

5 Free trade agreement subordinate to national interest

No action by way of customs tariff reductions may be taken under this Act or its regulations that has an adverse impact on rural and regional economies and the viability of family farming.

The purpose of this second amendment is to raise the issue of the national interest. The one thing that this trade agreement sets out to do is undermine the ability of the Australian government to protect our national interest. One Nation's amendment (2) states:

No action by way of customs tariff reductions may be taken under this Act or its regulations that has an adverse impact on rural and regional economies and the viability of family farming.

We have only to look at chapter 3 in the free trade agreement to find that under this agreement all US agricultural imports into Australia, many of which are grown on corporate farms that are heavily subsidised by the US, will gain immediate duty-free access. In the US in the early 1960s and 1970s, predominantly family farms were producing the majority of the primary produce in America. They were encouraged to expand to get greater economies of scale, so families bought up farms around them. Subsequently, as a result of low commodity prices, which I believe were to a large degree manipulated by the futures market, we saw the natural rise and fall in prices following the natural market responses to supply and demand. So if it was a good year we saw an increase in the prices of commodities such as grains; if it was a year when there was an overabundance of supply, we would see those prices drop. What the futures market has the ability to do is take out those natural fluctuations in the market. So from the 1960s through to the early 1980s we saw a gradual reduction in family farms in America. We saw the gradual encroachment of corporate farms. In America today we see subsidies for their primary producers to the extent of something like $US386 billion over 10 years—that is $US3,860 million per annum. Of that, 80 per cent currently goes to corporate producers.

What concerns One Nation is that we are seeing the same thing happen in Australia: we are seeing the gradual erosion of our family farms. They are gradually being taken over by larger corporations. Why is this happening? It is happening because of several things. Yes, the drought conditions are part of it, but the larger part is again the control of the commodities in the futures market, which is taking away the ability of the producer to get the advantage of the normal fluctuations in the market. So the purpose of this amendment is very clearly to protect and to allow the government to ensure that no adverse action will be taken by the government in relation to our rural and regional economies, particularly the viability of family farming.

Question negatived.