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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6224

Senator NETTLE (2:31 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, representing the Prime Minister. Given reports in today's media that, as part of the negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Australia that begin with discussions tomorrow with the Prime Minister, the United States is demanding a winding back of rules protecting Australian media content, our quarantine standards and the Foreign Investment Review Board and previous statements targeting price controls underpinning the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, will the government give a commitment that there will be no trade-off on these controls that protect the public interest?

Senator HILL (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —Discussions will be held tomorrow between our trade minister and US Trade Representative Zoellick and they will include the subject of the proposed free trade agreement. No doubt the content of that will therefore logically be included within the discussions. As I have said before in this place, the purpose of this agreement is to benefit Australia by seeking to further open up the world's largest market to our exporters. That brings benefits that flow to all of the community. I hope that the initiative will therefore be supported by all honourable senators. At the same time, we obviously do not wish to sacrifice protections that exist under Australian law such as quarantine and others. This is all part of a trade negotiation, as you would expect, and I think it is better that the detail evolve from the negotiation that we hope will take place.

Senator NETTLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the government give a commitment that its support for a unilateral US war on Iraq will not influence the negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement with the United States?

Senator HILL (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —This negotiation is to bring trade advantages to Australia and will be a negotiation based on that fact. But I do remind the honourable senator that the premise in her question is false.