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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26305

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (11:47 AM) —I have listened to this debate. In fact I have spent many hours listening to it and many hours in a Senate committee where we went through all these issues like the PBS very thoroughly. I want to say that no-one appreciates the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme more than I do as a way of giving relatively cheap medicines and equalising the ability for the less well-heeled to have the same medicines as the well-heeled. There is a bipartisan view of that across both sides of the chamber. No-one with any political brains, with any sense, would interfere with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It is the Holy Grail of Australian politics.

That is why I went to extraordinary lengths with Mr Deady to have him explain that there was going to be absolutely no chance that there could ever be any influence exerted from America, from any drug company in America or from anywhere else on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. If anyone wants to go back and examine Hansard they will find his explanations to committee. So I have no fear of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme being influenced by any people other than ourselves. There is a committee set up that makes the decisions, and that particular committee will be unable to be influenced by any other process. That is why I am confident that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is quarantined. It cannot be interfered with and will not be interfered with; and anyone that does interfere with it, woe betide them. Any political party that makes a decision allowing that to happen will not be welcomed by the Australian public. That is why I have no fears about this. I listened to the evidence and I am quite capable of understanding the explanations that were given to the committee—the committee that you were on, Senator Ridgeway—and so I am confident in that area.

This has been a fascinating debate for those who are students of politics. It is where the Left meets the Right. I have always said that politics is a circle, and if you go around the Left will meet the Right. You have got an amalgam of the League of Rights and every other lunatic fringe group, and Senator Harris, agreeing wholeheartedly with the Left of the parliament. It is quite extraordinary. You have got the two extremes—the ultimate extreme to the Right, which is totally unacceptable to Australians, and the ultimate Left—coming together in unanimous agreement. It makes a very interesting study.

We have the opportunity to access an open market of 300 million people. When I was a salesman and I had my own manufacturer's agency business, the difference between what I sold in Queensland and what was sold in New South Wales was always extraordinary, because New South Wales had a much bigger population. But now we are getting access to a market of 300 million people, and that must increase jobs. The prospect of another 30,000 jobs should excite everyone in this parliament. We should be saying to people that 30,000 jobs are coming onto the market assisted by this free trade agreement.

But what do we have? We have all the obstructions by the Labor Party. They knew they would vote for this, but they were looking for a fig leaf to cover themselves with so they came up with a couple of spurious amendments. We will accept the amendments in the interests of providing another 30,000 jobs and access to 300 million people.

A friend of mine, a woodcarver by trade, is into astronomy. He made himself a little dome so that he could study the stars. He put it in an American magazine and he has been inundated with orders from people in America who are interested in astronomy. He produced a good product, a better product than anywhere else in the world, and he has developed his own business providing America with astronomy domes. That is just one tiny little, minute, aspect of the free trade agreement that I know of that I can personally point to. This friend of mine was a woodcarver—it is a bit like being an arrowsmith: there is not a large demand for arrows or woodcarving—but he had the ability to work with his hands and he developed a market that has taken off in America. As a matter of fact, he was promoted somewhat in the Australian Weekend Magazine about eight or nine months ago. He cannot meet the demand; he cannot get enough workers where he is, in a small country town. That is just a tiny little aspect of it—one person developing a market in America that employs three or four people on the north coast of Queensland. We will now get access to that market of 300 million people, and I am sure there are going to be many more small businesses developed when they can ascertain what is required in America.

Our dollar is always going to be under the American dollar. On my side of politics—the National Party—we always like to see a particularly low dollar because it assists the farmers. Even if it is not terribly low, it is always going to be lower than the American dollar, and that gives us special entry into the American market. We in the National Party have been criticised for not standing up for farmers on this free trade agreement, but it would be an absolute betrayal of every farmer in Australia if we did not enthusiastically endorse this free trade agreement. Yes, the sugar industry did miss out. But let me say this about the sugar industry: they issued a press release and said, `We are not dogs in the manger; if the sugar isn't in it, we're not going to veto it, because it is better for all the other agricultural industries.'

Senator Carr —`Just pay us half a billion': it is openly public bribing!

Senator BOSWELL —Why do you hate the sugar industry on that side of politics? Why are you always against the farmers? We assisted the sugar industry. I was one of the people who actually went in there and asked the Prime Minister. I encouraged him to go out and meet the sugar industry, which he did, and he was very well accepted there. So do not come in here, Senator Carr, and say that the National Party have walked away. We stuck with the sugar industry.

The fishing industry, for one, think they have won the lottery. They get a 35 per cent removal of tariffs. The free trade agreement is worth $4,500 to every dairy farmer in Australia because it gives access for cheese and milk powders and many by-products that have not been able to access the market. The cattle industry immediately lose a 4.4c a kilogram tariff, and in two years time they pick up another $15 million. Bear in mind that they have only once been able to meet the quota and they will not be able to meet the American quota this year. In 10 and 15 years time that goes up to around $260 million. Why would I come in here and rubbish the free trade agreement? It is the greatest thing since sliced bread for the farming community, and I would brutally betray them if I walked away from it.

There is a big scream that we will lose the single desk, but we have not lost the single desk and we are not going to lose the single desk because our negotiators negotiated that the single desk stays. It stays on sugar, it stays on wheat, it stays on rice and it stays on barley. We have had a win-win on this.

Senator Carr —So what's your view on drugs? That's what this amendment is about.

Senator BOSWELL —You ask me my view on drugs. My view is: this amendment is not necessary. It is a fig leaf for the Labor Party. That is all it is. It is not necessary.

Senator Brandis —Senator Carr just doesn't like the fact that he was rolled by Senator Conroy.

Senator BOSWELL —What this debate is all about is the Left being absolutely rolled. They were not only rolled on marriage; they got rolled on the free trade agreement. They stand in here and say they are standing up for their constituents. They have been comprehensively rolled every time. I do not know how you can go back and face your Lefties in Melbourne, Senator Carr, because you must say: `We are pretty useless but just give us another go; we'll try, we'll do something. We don't kick too many goals for you but we keep the Right honest; we don't let 'em go too far. We have been comprehensively rolled on all social issues and all economic issues.'

Senator Carr —Not known as the doormats for nothing!

Senator BOSWELL —`Yes, we're the doormats for the Right. They walk all over the top of us, but we won't let the Right go too far on this one. We'll pull 'em back into line next time.' This is a great day for Australia. It is a great day for rural Australia and a great day for small business. I am very glad that we have been able to negotiate this opening to the biggest market in the world. I am excited about it. I think it is going to produce huge amounts of revenue for small business. I gave you the illustration of my friend up in Queensland who has one tiny slice of a very minute market, employing three or four people when he can get them—because it is pretty hard to get anyone; we have full employment in Australia for most people who want to work. This is where the Left meets the Right. The Left of the Labor Party meets the extreme Right of Australian politics—the League of Rights, the LaRoucheans and the whole lot who band together under One Nation—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BOSWELL —No, the National Party do not go down there. They are all happily singing from the one hymn sheet—the League of Rights, the Democrats, the Greens and the Left all together, all one big happy family. Hooray for the Liberal and National parties for producing this tremendous economic advantage! I congratulate the Prime Minister and my colleague Mr Vaile for producing such a great result for rural Australia and for Australia generally.