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Trade deals tie Government's hands on berry contamination scare

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 19 Feb 2015

The Greens’ spokesperson for Trade, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, says the Abbott Government’s radical free trade agenda risks impacting on day-to-day domestic policy issues including our ability to respond such crises as the frozen berry contamination scare of this week.

Senator Whish-Wilson said “Current and future trade agreements are weakening our sovereign ability to set stringent food safety, food labelling and quarantine standards.

“Abbott’s trade deals have restricted our ability to tighten country-of-origin and health labelling on food, limited our ability to raise quarantine standards, and given the right for multinational companies to sue the Australian Government if we tighten quarantine laws and that affects the companies’ profits.

“There is division in the government in how to address the frozen berry contamination crisis. Barnaby Joyce, The Greens and the Australian public want tighter import standards and better country-of-origin labelling. But Richard Colbeck and Tony Abbott don’t want them.

“Is the reason that the Prime Minister and Richard Colbeck don’t want tighter restrictions because it goes against their trade deals?

“It seems that, ultimately, the Government’s position will be decided by Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

“What position on quarantine and country-of-origin is Minister Robb taking in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations? What have we signed up to in the China Free Trade deal?

“Tony Abbott said today that ‘It is the duty of businesses not to poison their customers’.

“I say to Tony Abbott ‘It is the duty of your Government, Mr Abbott, to stop companies poisoning Australians”.

“We have to make sure that our trade policy doesn’t limit the ability of Government to protect the public.

“Tony Abbott visited Tasmania today to talk up irrigation spending. What Tony Abbott really should have done is levelled the playing field for Australian producers against substandard imports and boosted the protection of the public from dangerous products,” he concluded.

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