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ALP Attacks Government For Selling Out Australian Farmers In FTA

The Labor Opposition has attacked the Free Trade Agreement with the United States as a sell-out of Australian farmers, particularly those in the sugar, dairy and beef industries.

The agreement was announced today.

The ALP has also criticised the proposed changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and patent laws.

  • Listen to Latham and Conroy comment on the FTA (9m)

Text of media statement by Senator Stephen Conroy, the ALP Shadow Minister for Trade.

Government Fails To Gain Free Trade in Agriculture

ConroyThe Howard Government has failed to gain free trade in agriculture for Australian farmers in the US FTA.

This is a very disappointing outcome. No free trade in sugar, no free trade in dairy and very long phase-ins for freer trade in beef.

Prime Minister Howard said on 19 January “Unless we can get substantial progress in the agriculture area, it’s really not worth signing (the agreement)”.

The Government lost its nerve.

John Howard has sold out Australia’s farmers.

The Government has agreed to a number of changes to Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and to Australia’s patent laws that could impact on the introduction of generic drugs in Australia. This is a win for US drug companies.

Labor will assess the impact of these changes on the price of drugs and the impact on Australia’s taxpayers.

The US claims the FTA provides unprecedented provisions in the area of broadcasting and audiovisual services. Labor will assess the impact of these provisions on Australia’s local content laws to protect Australian culture.

Labor is concerned that the Government has cut a fast deal not a good deal for Australia.

Labor will refer the FTA to a Senate Select Committee to review the FTA in its totality to ensure it is in Australia’s national interest.

If the FTA does not meet Labor’s national interest criteria, Labor will not support it or its legislative passage through Parliament.

Text of media statement by Gavin O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Agriculture And Fisheries.

Australian Farmers Sold Short On US FTA

O'ConnorJohn Howard has sold out Australian Farmers in his haste to sign off on a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Instead of putting Australian farmers’ interests first, Mr Howard has once again caved in to the wishes of a US President facing a difficult time with his own farm constituency in an election year.

Mr. Howard has been saying for months that he would not do a deal with the United States unless he could get substantial progress on agriculture.

The Prime Minister said on 19 January:

“Unless we can get substantial progress in the agriculture area, it’s really [the agreement] is not worth signing.”

But he has done exactly that.

There is nothing in this agreement for cane farmers, there is very little for beef producers and there is no free trade for the dairy industry.

The Australian sugar industry is in crisis with falling world prices, a high dollar and now rising interest rates.

Australian beef producers will get nothing out of this deal for three years.

They then get an additional 20,000 tonnes in year three.

And only an additional 5,000 tonnes ever two years after that.

Any benefit at all for beef farmers is a generation away.

What this means is that any real gains for Australian farmers will only come through the multilateral trade liberalisation through the WTO.

Australian primary producers have been sold short by a Prime Minister more concerned with helping out his mate the US President than getting a good deal for our farmers.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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