People And Parliament Still In The Dark On FTA: Democrats

The Australian Democrats have attacked the lack of detail of the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the United States announced earlier today.

The party’s leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, has lamented the Senate’s lack of power to force changed to the FTA. The Democrats have also called for more parliamentary involvement in the treaty-making process.

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Text of media statement by the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett, and the party’s spokesperson for Trade and Overseas Development, Senator Aden Ridgeway.

US Trade Deal: Australian People and Parliament Still in the Dark

BartlettThe Australian Parliament and the Australian people still have little knowledge of the detail of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, say the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Trade spokesperson, Senator Aden Ridgeway, said that as negotiations have been conducted in secret there is no real idea of the extent of the compromises made in the agreement and the inconsistent messages from each side are cause for concern.

“For example: Where Australia has said quarantine will not be affected; the US has said food inspection procedures will be addressed to benefit some US food exports,” said Senator Ridgeway.

“Regarding the PBS: Australia has said it remains intact; the US says Australia will make a number of improvements. In media and local content: Australia has said our right to ensure local content is retained; the US says they have ‘important and unprecedented provisions to improve market access’ for US film and TV programs.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said this was yet another example of the Prime Minister giving the Australian people ambiguous and misleading messages on important national issues.

“This Government has a record of being weak on the facts,” Senator Bartlett said.

“This Agreement was meant to be the pay-off for doing whatever the US wanted on Iraq and joining the war. The great relationship with US President George Bush was meant to be the reason we were at the table and the New Zealand Government was left out in the cold.

“The detail will eventually be revealed when the agreement comes before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and in any legislation that comes before the Senate.

“However, this process does not give the Senate the right to say no to the agreement – it is already a done deal.”

Senator Ridgeway said the Democrats would re-introduce the Parliamentary Approval of Treaties Bill to ensure the Australian Parliament does have the right to scrutinise any such agreements in the future. Labor and Liberal have previously not supported this Bill, however it was recommended by the recent Senate inquiry into the US FTA.

“Parliamentary involvement in treaty making process is the only way to ensure that the national interest is protected,” concluded Senator Ridgeway.

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