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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12605

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (18:28): I join with the other crossbenchers to express some concern about the rush that is occurring within this building today. I will make a suggestion to the minister in a minute and maybe the shadow minister will be interested to hear it as well. This is one of the few occasions in my parliamentary career in which I have seen this sort of activity occur. I saw it when the US free trade agreement was being debated. At that time, there were a whole range of side deals for a whole range of reasons outside the necessary interests of the Australian community. I reflected at that time that there were very real concerns about the way in which that particular deal was put together. I appreciate all the pressures in terms of the diplomacy et cetera and America being a friend—all of those things. But I think that if people were to go back and have a close look at the US free trade agreement and the implications that it has had and will have in certain areas—particularly in terms of pharmaceuticals and other products—as the years unwind, they would see reasons to slow this process down to give people a real look at what is actually going on here.

What has happened in the last 24 hours? I do not want to reiterate what previous speakers have said, but something has happened. The minister and particularly the shadow minister need to explain what has happened. What happened such that the position of the Liberal Party now is different to what it was 24 hours ago? People need to understand that.

I would urge the minister to take my next point on board. I suggest, Minister, that it might be appropriate to adjourn this debate and let some fresh air drift around on this issue so that people can better get their heads around it. The bill can be reintroduced, if required, when parliament resumes in a few weeks time. That would give people in the research industry, such as those at universities, more time. These people are genuinely concerned. I have had any number of emails, some particularly related to agriculture and agricultural research, an area that none of would think would be implicated in terms of relationships with the United States or defence—and during the striking of some of the free trade agreements over time most of us did not think that they would be implicated, either. The concerns that some people may have had were brushed aside, with people saying, 'No, that is not the intent.' But as time has passed it has become quite clear what the intent was.

The community needs to know how intentions have changed in the last 24 hours, and particularly how the positions that the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Greens took in the Senate have changed compared to what is happening now. I suggest to the minister and to the government that it may be in their interests and, more importantly, the interests of this debate that the debate be adjourned until we return in a couple of weeks time for the final week of parliament. I would like the minister to explain—and perhaps the shadow minister can as well—why that cannot happen. Why can't there be an adjournment of this debate until the parliament returns?