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Vaile - foot in mouth disease.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

SENATOR PETER COOK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE

 

Date 12 July 1999

 

VAILE - FOOT IN MOUTH DISEASE

 

Trade Minister-in-waiting, Mark Vaile, needs to make a clear statement of where he stands on tra de policy.

 

So far he has committed a trifecta of gaffes even before his hands touch the levers.

 

Mr Vaile has undermined his Prime Minister on the eve of talks with President Clinton by dragging the Australia-US defence relationship into the lamb debate.

 

He has criticised his predecessor Tim Fischer on the AM Program today by saying “I just think that Australia, because of our good trade record has got to take a much stronger stance and a more assertive stance in these discussions”.

 

And he has reinforced concern that he is a closet protectionist by calling for a tariff pause before Australia moves further on free trade.

 

Senator Cook said that gaffe number one undermined Australia’s credibility in the White House and our multi-million dollar lamb trade. Gaffe number two belittled the positives from the Fischer era. But worst of all, gaffe number three actually cut the ground from under our feet right across the trade agenda including APEC and the WTO.

 

Mr Vaile’s task is to open markets for Australian exports - it is not to pander to the Hansonite sentiment in the bush.

 

The great bipartisan policy in Australian politics has been the commitment of both the major parties to free trade. It has given us the leverage to prevail in trade negotiations and it is the foundation upon which the current strength of the Australian economy is based. Other nations will pounce on us if we ask them to step up to trade liberalisation while we are stepping down or opting out.

 

It will not go unnoticed in the White House when Mr Howard urges free trade on the Americans - that’s why Mr Vaile’s comments have already sparked a damage control exercise in Washington.

 

If Mark Vaile really wants to be Trade minister he should stop making policy announcements on the run, take his foot out of his mouth and realise what he says at home will be flung back at him abroad to Australia’s detriment.

 

Trade genuinely, is one area where “loose lips sink ships” - in this case ships carrying Australia’s export to the world.

 

For comment: Senator Peter Cook (08) 9325 6022 or Colin Campbell 0419 634 919

 

 

cm  1999-07-13  11:02