Aug 3, 2004

AM – Albanese warns against US Free Trade Agreement

AM – Albanese warns against US free trade agreement

Tuesday 3 August 2004

ELEANOR HALL: Left-wing factional leader and Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese, says that Australia should not sign up to the Free Trade Agreement unless the public can be assured that it’s in Australia’s national interest.

Mr Albanese will be putting his argument forcefully at this morning’s shadow ministry meeting. And he spoke to Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath on his way into Parliament this morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well I think we need to have a good look at the Senate committee report. The Senate committee report says that as long as the worst fears of the many representations that the committee have aren’t realised, then the FTA would be in Australia’s best interests.

But it then goes on to say that a ‘trust me’ approach is inadequate when it comes to defending that. When you look at the recommendations – there’s 43 of them – one says it should be supported, the other 42 outline very good reasons why we should be opposing this agreement.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: So you’ll be arguing strongly to Mark Latham this morning that Labor should vote against the FTA?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well, certainly a ‘trust me’ approach isn’t good enough, that’s what the Senate committee says. And in areas of the PBS and prices of medicine, in areas of manufacturing jobs and in the issue of cultural issues, the Australian presence in new media and in other cultural forms, certainly I don’t think the safe guards have been there, and we shouldn’t be voting for the FTA unless and until, the Australian people can get assurances that it’s in Australia’s national interest.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: So the left is united in its position for the Caucus meeting today, but you will lose the vote, won’t you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well, we’ll put forward our arguments. Can I say this, is that if all the people who’ve made representations to me – and I haven’t had any supporting the agreement…

CATHERINE MCGRATH: How much have you had since the decision yesterday?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   It’s been considerable not just yesterday, but over a long period of time.

This is an issue in which many people have looked and examined the arguments, have campaigned, have thought it through, because they know that this is a critical issue.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Do you think it’s going to cost votes for Labor?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well I think it’s a matter of we’ll wait and see what today’s decision is.

This isn’t about votes; it’s about doing what’s right and what’s in Australia’s national interest.

ELEANOR HALL: Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese, speaking to Catherine McGrath.