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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25974

Senator NETTLE (12:48 PM) —I would just like to point the minister to some other comments. It is interesting to hear the government's view that this will not impact on Australia's quarantine laws. That is not a view shared by the US farmers that have lobbied so hard to ensure that these new committees are set up outside our scientific processes with the capacity to have `facilitating trade' as one of their terms of reference. The American Farm Bureau Federation in a document that they wrote, `The Implications of an Australian Free Trade Agreement on US Agriculture', said:

It is critical to note that this increase in exports—

that is, an increase in the US agricultural exports—

depends as much or more on the progress in follow-up sanitary and phytosanitary talks on items such as Australia's quarantine and food safety regulations than on changes to Australia's low or zero tariffs.

So we have got the US farmers saying here that what happens in these follow-up talks that occur as result of the committees that the government is setting up is as important or more important for them in getting their produce into the Australian marketplace.

Here is a comment from two Australian academics, Professor Linda Weiss from the University of Sydney and Dr Elizabeth Thurbon from the University of New South Wales, in their responses to questions on notice from the Senate select committee on the US-Australia free trade agreement. The section that they write about these quarantine laws concludes with this statement:

Agreeing to provide a political forum outside the auspice of the World Trade Organisation in which to discuss Australia's quarantine issues cannot be justified on national interest grounds.

The Greens completely support and understand that statement. What is being set up here is a political forum in which people are appointed by the executive of the Howard government or the Bush administration to discuss quarantine issues and to facilitate trade between the two countries. What comments does the minister have in response to those from the US farmers that the talks that occur will be as important, if not more important, for US farmers in getting their produce into the Australian marketplace and impacting on our quarantine laws?