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Committee Scrutiny of Singapore FTA a shocker

14 September 2000

Select Committee Scrutiny of Singapore FTA a shocker

The Green Party says it shocked by today's decision by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to give the public only nine days to make submissions on the Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

"The Select Committee has turned the Treaty scrutiny process into a farce and has made a mockery of Government commitments that the public would have the opportunity to comment on the Treaty," said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald.

"Apparently the Cabinet has made a decision that it will guarantee to wait a maximum of 15 sitting days before it ratifies any treaty it has referred to parliament. Previously this was a minimum commitment.

"The Select Committee is meant to be the master of its own destiny. But the Labour and National members on the committee stitched up a deal which will in effect make it impossible for anyone to prepare a comprehensive submission giving the Treaty the scrutiny it warrants," said Mr Donald.

"The tight timetable is particularly inept as the Treaty will be reported back to parliament on 19 October, the last day before a two week recess. In other words, it will lie on the table for 19 days before parliament can debate it. I can't for the life of me understand why the Committee didn't allow the public and interested organisations those 19 days to prepare their submissions," he said.

"The free trade parties - National and Labour - want to avoid thorough examination of the Singapore Free Trade Agreement. This isn't surprising given the inflated, unsubstantiated claims of nirvana in the National Interest Assessment which accompanies the Treaty document.

"The National Party should be particularly embarrassed by their complicity in fast tracking the Select Committee process after their grandstanding over the Treaty of Waitangi clause in the agreement," he said.

"The Minister of Trade Negotiations also has a lot to answer for. When asked whether the Treaty would be circulated widely, in the same way that legislation is, to enable the public to comment on the Treaty he said it had been tabled in parliament and could be downloaded from the web.

"That's an insult to all those people who don't have access to the internet and who rely on their local library to participate in the democratic process," said Mr Donald.

Rod Donald MP 025 507183

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