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Katter votes yes, says no to FTA.



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B2004/110 - Katter votes yes, says no to FTA

The Nationals' Senate Leader, Ron Boswell, said today that Independent MP, Bob Katter had failed to register a vote in opposition to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States of America (US FTA) when enabling legislation passed the House of Representatives.

Senator Boswell said that, because of their failure to register a vote against the FTA, Mr Katter and his Independent colleagues would be recorded officially as having voted for the FTA legislation, even though they maintain that they are against it.

"After telling the Labor Party that they were 'gutless' for supporting the FTA, Bob Katter didn't even bother to register his vote against the Bill and technically voted for it," Senator Boswell said.

"It wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever, but if he was serious about opposing the FTA, Katter could have called a division and voted against it. He failed to do so, took the easy way out, and perfectly illustrated the irrelevance of Independents in the House of Representatives."

"Katter's siding with the Democrats and Greens to declare that he is against the FTA raises valid questions about his support for Kennedy's rural industries, and confirms that he shares

interests with self-serving, radical minority groups who have unsuccessfully opposed the obvious benefits of this agreement."

"As part of the agreement, the local dairy industry, centred on The Tablelands, will be able to access its share of $55 million worth of extra dairy export quota in the first year, growing over the period of the agreement by around 5 per cent per year and greatly improving access for Australian milk products, including our butter, cream, ice cream and cheese," Senator Boswell said.

"For Kennedy's large beef industry, 4.4 cents per kilogram in-quota tariff will be wiped off immediately and quotas will be increased by 20,000 tonnes in year 3, worth $60 million in export value, rising in increments to 70,000 tonnes in year 18, worth $245 million based on

current prices."

"Over the 18 year period of this FTA, US out-of-quota tariffs on beef will be progressively abolished, leaving effectively no tariff restrictions and no quota."

"The fishing industry, which has been doing it tough lately, recognise the benefits of this deal, because they will immediately see the elimination of 48 separate tariffs, ranging up to 35 per cent. That is estimated to be an extra $20 million to $30 million in exports in the first year."

"Over 99 per cent of horticultural fresh produce exports valued currently at $71.1 million will

become tariff free immediately."

"Avocados, for example, will receive two seasonal quotas from year 2 of 1,500 tonnes from February to mid-September and a further duty-free 2,500 tonnes between mid-September and the end of January. The outside quota will be eliminated over 18 years."

"In opposing the US FTA, Bob Katter has abandoned Kennedy’s rural industries and in declaring his opposition to the agreement, but failing to register his vote against the FTA today, he has taken the easy way out."

ENDS

Media Contact - Paul Leven 07 3001 8150