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Labor split over trade deal

Reporter: Kim Landers

TONY JONES: Tonight Federal Labor remains divided over the US free trade deal, despite key Senators
recommending the Opposition support it.

The Party's Left faction is making a last-ditch attempt to block the deal.

When Parliament resumes tomorrow, they'll vote against it at shadow ministry and Caucus meetings.

But with the majority of the Labor Caucus now likely to back the agreement, minor parties are
accusing the opposition of a cave-in.

From Canberra, Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: In the skies above the north Queensland city of Townsville, and on the streets there
was a warm welcome home for troops returning from overseas duty.

As Mark Latham and John Howard made a rare joint appearance at the parade, Labor senators in
Canberra were also falling into step with the Government, announcing their support for the US free
trade deal, despite misgivings.

Senator Peter Cook broke the news by phone.

SENATOR PETER COOK, COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Despite our misgivings about the quality of the agreement,
we, on balance, believe that it is not that bad that it should be rejected and therefore we're
going to recommend to the Senate that the Australia-US free trade agreement, enabling legislation,
be supported.

KIM LANDERS: Gate-crashing Government senators could barely contain their glee.

The Labor senators claim the deal's not perfect and they've drafted 43 recommendations to protect
the price of subsidised medicines in Australia, the manufacturing sector and the media.

They hope it's enough to convince other Labor MPs to back it.

SENATOR STEPHEN CONROY, OPPOSITION TRADE SPOKESMAN: There'll be a full and robust discussion at the
shadow ministry tomorrow morning and then at the subsequent Caucus.

SENATOR KERRY O'BRIEN, LABOR FRONTBENCHER: Some people may find it hard to accept these
recommendations, but at the end of the day, as Labor Caucus always does, we will get on with the

KIM LANDERS: But tonight, members of Labor's Left faction vowed to fight on.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, LABOR MP: Left shadow ministers will argue against it in the shadow ministry
tomorrow and Left members will argue against it in the Caucus tomorrow.

KIM LANDERS: It's been five months since Australia and the US signed the agreement and the
Government's been relentless in trying to goad Labor into supporting the deal.

With parliament resuming tomorrow in what could be the last session before an election, the Labor
senators acted.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Look, please for the sake of Australia's future, the Labor Party
should unconditionally support the free trade agreement and do it no later than tomorrow.

KIM LANDERS: Today, Mark Latham was giving nothing away.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, now the report's out, we'll have a decision tomorrow, so -

KIM LANDERS: Despite the last-minute resistance to the free trade agreement by Labor's Left
faction, the Opposition is set to support the deal, but the Government's certain to continue to
exploit the division, using it to question Mark Latham's leadership and credibility.

The Democrats and the Greens say Labor has capitulated.

SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT, DEMOCRATS LEADER: The Democrats are very disappointed at what is shaping
up to be a major failure of nerve by Mark Latham.

SENATOR ADEN RIDGEWAY, DEMOCRATS TRADE SPOKESMAN: They ought to allow all their members to cross
the floor if they choose not to support the enabling legislation.

SENATOR BOB BROWN, GREENS: Labor has again decided, in the run to the election, at the timetabling
of the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, to capitulate to his sell-out of Australian interests.

KIM LANDERS: Bob Brown warns that could cost Labor Green preferences.

Kim Landers, Lateline.

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