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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31525

Mr BALDWIN (2:39 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Would the minister inform the House of organised opposition to the United States free trade agreement? Would the minister also inform the House how the government's trade policy initiatives stand to create thousands of Australian jobs?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for Paterson, my next-door neighbour, for the question and I recognise his support for all government initiatives that are put in place to generate more jobs for more Australians—particularly in his part of New South Wales, which he represents very well in generating jobs.

Mr Bevis —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This matter is not only on the Notice Paper; the debate was in fact adjourned to enable question time to take place. The question is out of order.

The SPEAKER —It is quite reasonable for the member for Brisbane to raise a point of order on the matter of anticipation. I understand that. Consistent with the action taken by previous occupiers of the chair, the question is not out of order, but I need to monitor the answer to ensure that the answer does not anticipate substantial parts of the debate. That is the position taken by previous occupiers of the chair. I will listen closely to the minister's reply.

Mr VAILE —The question went to the government's trade policy initiatives that stand to create thousands of jobs.

The SPEAKER —The question also went, I must say, to the question of organised opposition, which clearly was not necessarily part of the debate.

Mr VAILE —The overriding objective of our trade policy is to create opportunities for Australian exporters and to generate many thousands of jobs for future Australians. Of course that is the objective and I would expect that it would be the objective of any government in this country to expand the economy and see it grow to generate—

Mr Bevis —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: not only is it anticipating debate but also it is repeating parts of the debate that we have already had. The very points being made by the minister now have in fact been in the debate. It is clearly anticipating debate.

The SPEAKER —I have already responded to the member for Brisbane's perfectly reasonable point of order by indicating the obligations on the chair. I have in fact taken the liberty of pointing out to the minister that the first part of the question had little if anything to do with the legislation currently before the House and I have called the minister. I am listening closely to his response.

Mr Bevis —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: my point of order is that the comments now being made by the minister are in fact the very words that are being used in the debate. By any comprehension of the standing orders, it is anticipating debate.

The SPEAKER —Let me reassure the member for Brisbane that this is a matter which obviously I anticipated may occur because of the legislation before the House and the interest in the free trade agreement. For that reason I consulted the Clerk prior to question time and I am listening closely to the minister's reply, having previously checked House of Representatives Practice myself. The minister has the call. The minister will focus on trade opportunities for Australia.

Mr VAILE —As I was saying, the clear objective of the government's trade policy is to generate new export opportunities, economic growth and therefore jobs growth in Australia—to generate new jobs in the Australian economy. The member for Paterson also asked about any opposition to this policy objective. Of course, in recent weeks, we have seen that. In our efforts to promote trade and to promote new jobs, we have seen opposition from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's Doug Cameron. I note that the member who raised the point of order does not necessarily belong to that particular union, but this month we are again seeing the militant action of the AMWU, which is pressing the members of the opposition and the Senate on the issue of job losses. We have seen the AMWU waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of their members' money on an advertising campaign against the government's policy. Can you imagine an advertising campaign against the creation of 30,000 jobs?

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Ballarat!

Mr VAILE —I say again that this advertising campaign is clearly targeting stopping the creation of 30,000 new jobs in the Australian economy. Is that the role of a trade union, I ask you? Again yesterday, Doug Cameron was in the Parliament House confines lobbying against this deal. This particular union has been nailed before, not by the government but by former leaders of the Labor Party, for the form that they have. We all remember that, in 1986—

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When debate is not to be anticipated, the normal interpretation of that is a fairly strict adherence to a description of process in relation to the acts, an informing of the House of what might happen to the act when it is passed, but this is manifestly a debate around the act itself. All of these matters are being raised in the debate as we handle it here currently and they ought to be out of order.

The SPEAKER —I have been monitoring closely the remarks made by the minister and he is in order.

Mr VAILE —As I was saying, this particular organisation has form. That was identified in 1986 by the former Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Paul Keating, when he accused the AMWU of having the scalps of a hundred thousand metalworkers hanging from its belt. This year, the Labor Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, indicated his view by likening Doug Cameron's ideas on trade policy to those of North Korea. What the government is trying to do is to generate jobs from the new export and training opportunities across the world. Organisations like the AMWU are out to stop the generation of jobs because those jobs might end up with members in other unions and not theirs. This parliament should make up its own mind and not be bullied by the unions of Australia—

Mr VAILE —the AMWU, the AWU or the ACTU. None of them.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr VAILE —Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —Remove the man from the gallery. The member for Batman is warned!

Mr VAILE —In conclusion, the point remains that the government's trade policy objectives, both bilateral and multilateral, are about generating opportunities for Australia's exporters and jobs for Australians in the future—not stopping them.