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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26122

Senator BROWN (12:24 PM) —What an extraordinary response! Let me interpret that. It just means that this process is going to be beyond the reach of people seeking to open it up to public gaze. It is all in the hands of the ayatollah of trade and the people that are appointed at his or her whim on either side of the Pacific. When it comes to people wanting to reach into, for example, the proceedings of this joint committee, they will not be able to under freedom of information. It is not just the fact that any minister will be able to block it because it might have an adverse impact on the economy or there might be some professional infringement involved; there is the commercial-in-confidence issue. No corporation going to argue its case before the secret panel is going to do anything other than claim confidentiality and no corporation would want the case being put forward, insofar as it might affect it, open to public reach. This effectively establishes that the proceedings of the whole range of the committees, not just the joint committee but also committees set up to arbitrate on disputes in all the areas that this free trade agreement reaches into, are going to be beyond the reach of the freedom of information law of this country. The process is going to be beyond the reach of the parliament of this country and beyond the reach of the average citizen of this country. That is what we are dealing with here.

Question negatived.