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B2004/109 - Windsor votes yes, says no to FTA

The Nationals' Senate Leader, Ron Boswell, said today that Independent MP, Tony Windsor had failed to register a vote in opposition to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States of America (US FTA) when enabling legislation passed the House of Representatives.

Senator Boswell said that, because of their failure to register a vote against the FTA, Mr Windsor and his Independent colleagues would be recorded officially as having voted for the FTA legislation, even though they maintain that they are against it.

"Last Friday's edition of the Northern Daily Leader quoted Tony Windsor as saying that his position on the FTA is 'not relevant' to the issue. This is now beyond doubt, because he has shown that his vote on this or any issue as an Independent in the House of Representatives can't influence the outcome."

"It wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever, but if he was serious about opposing the FTA, Mr Windsor could have called a division and voted against it. He failed to do so, took the easy way out, and perfectly illustrated the irrelevance of Independents in the House of Representatives."

"Mr Windsor's siding with the Democrats and the Greens to declare that he is against the FTA raises questions about his support for New England's rural industries, and confirms that he shares interests with self-serving, radical minority groups who have unsuccessfully opposed the obvious benefits of this agreement."

"Through the FTA, the lamb industry, with its multi-million dollar farming and processing businesses in the New England, will have all tariffs removed immediately, providing savings and further opportunities in this market already worth $400 million for Australia."

"The local dairy industry, centred on Tamworth, will be able to access its share of $55 million worth of extra dairy export quota in the first year, growing over the period of the agreement by around 5 per cent per year and greatly improving access for Australian milk products, including our butter, cream, ice cream and cheese," Senator Boswell said.

"For New England's beef industry, 4.4 cents per kilogram in-quota tariff will be wiped off immediately and quotas will be increased by 20,000 tonnes in year 3, worth $60 million in export value, rising in increments to 70,000 tonnes in year 18, worth $245 million on current prices."

"Over the 18 year period of this FTA, US out-of-quota tariffs on beef will be progressively abolished, leaving effectively no tariff restrictions and no quota."

"The week before last, Mr Windsor made comments which, in my opinion, suggested he might change his position after the Senate Inquiry process ended."

"Mr Windsor said - “I've always argued that when a parliament sets up a Senate Committee to report on something that you should at least wait until that report comes through before a decision is made and it looks as though the Labor Party are now going to support the Free Trade Agreement.” - but today he stuck with his decision to back the Greens and One Nation and declare opposition to the FTA, although he didn't bother to vote against it."

"In opposing the US FTA, Tony Windsor has abandoned New England’s rural industries and in failing to declare a change in his position, or register his vote against the FTA today, he has taken the easy way out."

ENDS

Media Contact - Paul Leven 07 3001 8150