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Shadow Minister is concerned about US free trade agreement; Minister says ALP is confused.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Tuesday 27 July 2004

Shadow Minister is concerned about US free trade agreement; Minister says ALP is confused

 

TONY EASTLEY: A Labor frontbencher has come out against the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement saying it contains too many risks for Australian culture. 

 

Labor's arts and information technology spokeswoman, Kate Lundy, says the agreement limits Australia's power to determine local content in free to air television and new media. 

 

Senator Lundy's statements are a sign of problems ahead for Labor, as Hamish Fitzsimmons reports. 

 

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Labor is still weighing up its position on the FTA. 

 

On the 12th of August, a Senate committee is set to hand down a report on the pros and cons of the agreement for Australia. Labor leader Mark Latham says he'll wait until that report before making Labor's position on the agreement public. 

 

But there is opposition within the party, from unions like the Manufacturing Workers Union and even from senior frontbenchers.  

 

Labor's spokeswoman for the arts, Senator Kate Lundy, believes the Free Trade Agreement leaves Australian culture in a perilous position. 

 

KATE LUNDY: There's no doubt that the Free Trade Agreement proposes many great risks for Australian culture, for local content. It removes the ability of an Australian federal government to legislate in the area of local content, and I certainly don't accept the Government's assurances that Australia will be able to negotiate its way and console its way through legislative changes in the future.  

 

So, it's a grave concern and I don't believe that Australian culture will be well served under the Free Trade Agreement. 

 

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: So you're opposing it? 

 

KATE LUNDY: Look, personally I am and obviously we've got a big debate to have in the Labor Party, but I don't believe in either of my portfolios of the arts or information technology that the credentials exist within the FTA. 

 

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Many people assume that Labor is going to sign the deal anyway. Would a protracted fight amongst senior frontbenchers such as yourself just damage the party? 

 

KATE LUNDY: Well, not at all. I think what our leader has said is we'll wait and see all the evidence. I'm certainly within I think, my capacity as Shadow Minister for the Arts and Information Technology to express a view and to be a part of that ongoing discussion and debate. Mark Latham is exactly right when he says when we see that Senate report, the Labor Party will be in a position to discuss that and make their decision. 

 

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The federal government says Labor is a party divided.  

 

The Federal Minister for the Arts, Senator Rod Kemp, says local content is protected under the FTA. Senator Kemp says Labor is confused over the agreement. 

 

ROD KEMP: It's time that the Labor Party made up its mind and it's time that we could provide some certainty in this area. And they're trying to give mixed messages to different audiences. To business audiences, I believe they're trying to give a message that they're supportive and some of their key spokesmen are saying that. Privately, at functions like this, they're giving a different message. This is a party in confusion over a major issue of public policy. The Labor Party and Mr Latham have now got to make a decision where they stand. 

 

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Until the Senate report is published in August, senior Opposition figures are very aware the Federal Government is going to keep the heat on Labor over its reluctance to commit to the FTA. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Hamish Fitzsimmons reporting.