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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26442

Senator HARRIS (11:52 PM) —I move amendment (4) on sheet 4367:

(4) Page 3 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

7 Protection of the environment

(1) Under this Act or its regulations, any action or measure necessary, including by way of increasing customs tariffs, may be taken to protect the environment from the adverse impact of imported products or produce.

This amendment has been extensively spoken to regarding the US Free Trade Agreement Implementation Bill 2004, but there are also impacts in relation to the environment in the US Free Trade Agreement Implementation (Customs Tariff) Bill 2004.

Regarding the thrust of this amendment, we only have to look at the recent instance of the outbreak that occurred in Central Queensland in relation to our citrus fruit. That outbreak came as the result of imports of plant material into this country, and we saw the amazing devastation that this one instance perpetrated. I think all of the issues in relation to the environment and the dangers that we are exposing our environment to through this legislation have been well covered in the chamber. It is obvious that the position of both the government and the opposition is to vote down all amendments by One Nation, irrespective of their validity and their benefit to the environment or the Australian people.

What we are actually seeing, as I have said earlier, is not converging politics but converged politics. We are at the point where, on major issues, there is no opposition in this parliament. We have two parties whose philosophies are so similar, particularly in relation to issues like free trade agreements and GATS. All we have to do is see who was in government when the negotiations for GATS took place. It was the Labor Party. When the Liberal Party took government, what did they do? They implemented the policies that the Labor Party had commenced the negotiations on. And so we go on and on. We have converged politics in Australia. What Australia needs is a strong, viable opposition in our parliaments, and that is gradually occurring. It is not going to happen overnight; it is going to take some years for that to develop, but develop it will because the people of Australia view with great concern the decisions that are being taken in this chamber by the Labor Party and the Liberal and National parties.

Protecting the environment should be one of the greatest issues that we as senators fulfil in this chamber. We are placing the environment substantially at risk in relation to the situation that is transpiring. If we look at agriculture, all we have to do is look at the possible impacts on agriculture in Australia. If we look further, we can see that there is the ability, I believe, in this document for the Australian government to actually implement temporary relief. I will come back to the footwear, apparel and leather industries.

One Nation recommends improved safeguard measures to deliver temporary relief to injured import sensitive Australian industries and to improve safeguard provisions to provide relief against import surges. These provisions must be allowed: only a specific quantity of a select product is to enter into Australia at zero duty rates, and higher tariffs should automatically be triggered when imports reach a specific level or volume. One Nation recommends that Australia must have the ability to restrict imports for temporary periods if, after investigation carried out by competent authorities, it is established that imports are taking place in such increased quantities—either absolutely or in relation to domestic product—as to cause serious injury to the domestic industry and producers of like or directly competitive products. Those issues must remain—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Chapman)—Senator Harris, I advise you that we need to report progress before midnight.

Senator HARRIS —That is your call, Mr Temporary Chairman; that is your duty.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —It is in the standing orders.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 11.59 p.m. until 9.00 a.m. on Friday 13 August.

Friday, 13 August 2004


The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Paul Calvert) took the chair at 9.00 a.m. and read prayers.