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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 29

Senator RYAN (2:35 PM) —My question is to Senator Carr, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Given the Prime Minister’s repudiation of what he describes as ‘neoliberalism’, of which a key tenet is that free trade benefits all, does the Rudd government now repudiate free trade as a policy objective?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The government’s position in terms of its trade policy has not changed. This is despite the fact that, to quote the Prime Minister:

The world is now caught in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. This crisis has been created by an ideology of unrestrained greed, turbocharged by unregulated financial markets and obscene remuneration packages that maximised risk with no regard whatsoever for the impact of their behaviour on ordinary investors, ordinary shareholders, superannuation policyholders, small business and their employees. This has been extreme capitalism writ large.

I can only concur with the Prime Minister’s views on this matter.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Conroy, we are waiting for order before recommencing question time.

Senator CARR —As my colleague Senator Conroy pointed out, there have been conservative governments in the United States nationalising banks and deeply involving themselves in the operations of the market—which of course, in these circumstances, has demonstrated the failure of neoliberalism—which has produced the result whereby the world is now caught in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Minister for Trade is ensuring, with the considerable vigour of which he is capable, that we pursue the Doha Round. (Time expired)

Senator RYAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of the minister’s primary answer and the apparent confusion within the government over what constitutes neoliberalism—which, I note, the former Labor Prime Minister tried to claim credit for last night—what discussions has the government had with the new US administration regarding the requirements of their stimulus package: the anti-free-trade requirement that all steel for infrastructure projects built under this package be sourced from within the United States?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —It is a matter of public knowledge that the Prime Minister has had detailed conversations with a range of world leaders, including those in the United States. Equally, it is public knowledge that Minister Crean has pursued these issues in Switzerland. It is also public knowledge now that the United States is reconsidering its position with regard to the issue of steel purchases. We as a government are pursuing, with all the vigour we can muster, progress on the Doha Round, which we say is critical to our response to the global financial crisis. As a direct result of the activities of Minister Crean, there is clear evidence of a growing momentum towards concluding the Doha Round. In the opinion of the Minister for Trade, Doha is now more important than ever— (Time expired)

Senator RYAN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the minister, by endorsing free trade, now apparently repudiates that aspect of the Prime Minister’s attack on neoliberalism, will the minister repudiate or support the Australian Workers Union’s call for similar local content rules for Australian government funded infrastructure projects?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The senator clearly has great difficulty when he is relying upon pre-prepared questions without listening to the answers that have been given in the chamber. This government has made very clear its attitude to what has caused the economic crisis that the world is now engulfed in. It is the neoliberalist policies which those opposite have championed that have led to a situation where we now face the worst crisis since the Great Depression. This crisis was created by an ideology of unrestrained greed, which was championed by those opposite and is of course maintained by them even today. They have obviously learnt nothing and have forgotten nothing in terms of their experiences. We now have a situation where they are seeking to defend a failed ideology that has created untold misery and suffering around the world. (Time expired)