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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.

  • Listen to Bartlett (10m)

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. [Read more…]

Minor Parties Oppose US Free Trade Agreement

The Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens have each expressed opposition to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

The proposed agreement has been the subject of discussion between the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the US President, George W. Bush, over the weekend.

Bush has said he wants to reach agreement on a FTA this year and send it to Congress for approval next year. International treaties have to be approved by the United States Senate. No such constitutional requirement exists in Australia. An executive government decision here is sufficient for Australia to become a signatory to a free trade agreement. [Read more…]

The Ten Motions That Sank Stott Despoja

According the website, these are the 10 motions that were passed by the Australian Democrats party-room.

The motions were opposed by the leader of the party, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, who resigned the leadership shortly afterwards. [Read more…]

Stott Despoja Defeats Lees To Take Democrats Leadership; Youngest Ever Party Leader In Australia

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja has been elected as the new leader of the Australian Democrats.

DemocratsThe 31-year-old Senator becomes the youngest person ever to lead a major political grouping in Australia.

Stott Despoja defeated Senator Meg Lees who has led the party since 1997, after the former leader, Cheryl Kernot, defected to the Labor Party.

Senator Aden Ridgeway has been elected as the new deputy leader.

In a ballot of Australian Democrats’ members, Stott Despoja polled a majority of the vote. The Australian Democrats is unique because it allows ordinary party members to elect the parliamentary leadership. Approximately 3000 members of the party were eligible to vote. It is believed that about 2500 members cast a vote.

Senator Stott Despoja becomes the seventh person to lead the Australian Democrats since its formation in 1977. She is the fourth leader from South Australia. [Read more…]

A Week Is A Long Time In Politics

The past week has been one of the more interesting in recent Australian political history, demonstrating a number of key elements of the power structures in Canberra.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Tuesday February 27

A party-room meeting sees government backbenchers criticise the government.

A dozen government backbenchers have dinner at The Lodge, urging the Prime Minister to do something about petrol prices. This comes after criticism was aired at a party-room meeting earlier in the month. [Read more…]

Preamble Referendum: Howard-Ridgeway Urge A YES Vote

Prime Minister John Howard and Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway have held a joint press conference urging Australians to vote yes to the preamble in Saturday’s referendum.

Transcript of joint press conference held by Prime Minister John Howard and Senator Aden Ridgeway.


Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Ridgeway and I have decided to call this joint press conference to make a joint appeal to the Australian people to vote yes to the preamble on Saturday. And the fact that the two of us have come together at this news conference symbolises the value of the preamble as a uniting element in constitutional debate in Australia.

Because Senator Ridgeway is a self-declared yes voter on the republic and I am a self-declared no voter on the republic. But on the issue of the preamble both of us together are asking the Australian people to vote yes because we see the preamble as a way as we go into the next century of expressing what unites us rather than continuing a debate about what doesn’t unite us. [Read more…]

Republic Referendum Campaign In Final Days

The referendum on the Republic is now in its final days.

The referendum on the preamble has been all but forgotten in the debate over the republic, but Prime Minister Howard and Democrat Senator Aden Ridgeway today held a joint press conference to campaign for a “Yes” vote on the premable.