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Monday, 9 August 2004
Page: 25961

Senator BROWN (9:47 PM) —There is no excuse in that. The Labor Party is putting itself forward as the alternative government within just a month or two, and this agreement will be implemented under its vote in that period. Therefore, if Labor were elected, it would come in with all the opportunities that the government has had. The requirement for a review of the environmental effects is not coming from the floor of the chamber—which has been sidelined by this process—but from the free trade agreement itself. I ask Senator Conroy to consider this again overnight. It is there in the free trade agreement that there be a review of the environmental effects of this agreement for the first meeting of the joint committee. I would ask Labor to look at that and see whether it cannot do better than saying, `If the government is not going to do it, we won't either.' That is not good enough.

We think that, on a wide range of issues, Labor has made a huge mistake in backing the free trade agreement and we will be talking about those as this debate unfolds. But here we are with the environment, first cab off the rank. If neither of the big parties can stick to the agreement—if they fall at the first hurdle of the environment—what faith will the Australian public have in the blandishments of the government and the opposition that `notwithstanding this agreement, we will look after the environment'? They cannot even bring themselves to say: `Yes, there's an environmental effects statement. The US is doing its environmental effects statement on the impact of this agreement in the US, but we're not going to do one here and the public is going to be sidelined. It doesn't matter to us.' That is bad enough from the government but, when you hear it from the opposition, it is very saddening indeed. It is left to the crossbench to argue on this environmental value and its rightful place in being defended, because Australians think so highly of the environment. They do not want it ceded to some other faceless authority somewhere else on the planet; they want it kept under the power of this parliament. Both parties are failing in that measure.

Progress reported.