Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25976

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (12:55 PM) —What is the relevance of trade officials? The answer of course is that we are looking at the connection between quarantine protection and trade issues. What we are talking about is where trade in a particular product might be threatened from a quarantine perspective; that is the relevance. The WTO obligation is that the restrictive measure should be the option that is least trade restrictive. But that does not alter the fact that Australia has a right to protect itself from quarantine threat, and that right is not detrimentally affected by this agreement. The fact that experts from both sides will discuss these issues might be useful but those experts cannot require any particular quarantine outcome from Australia. Australia decides that for itself. Contrary to what Senator Nettle said, I am advised that the dispute settlement mechanism under the free trade agreement does not include disputes in relation to quarantine. So in this negotiation the negotiators have not departed from the existing WTO processes.

The farmers may well think they could have access through these bodies to discuss these issues with Australia—and sometimes discussion is a useful thing—but that in itself does not provide any threat to Australia's quarantine regime. They cannot determine an outcome relating to Australia's quarantine regime. The Australian government, hopefully with the support of the Australian parliament, will be the body that makes those decisions. Whilst this government is in office, its decisions will always be to protect Australia from quarantine risk. As I said, that was simply a no-go zone in relation to this negotiation. The protection of that quarantine environment is so important to us that we would not hesitate to sacrifice economic advantage in an effort to ensure protection of our natural assets for the benefit of future generations.