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Process Undemocratic

The coalition should honour its public commitment and submit the Singapore free trade agreement to a vote in parliament, said ACT Leader, Hon Richard Prebble.

“To collude with National and refuse a Parliamentary vote is undemocratic.

“Both Helen Clark and Jenny Shipley now realise that a majority of MPs will vote aginst the agreement given a free vote. This is despite the fact most MPs support free trade.

“The inclusion of Article 74, that provides ‘more favourable treatment for Maori", has tipped the balance of Parliament towards opposing the agreement.

“Labour and National are also collaborating to turn the select committee hearings into a meaningless exercise. Not only is the time for the hearings too short, but the committee will not be allowed to make any amendments.

“ACT’s legal advisors say that the Government's decision to call the agreement a ‘partnership’ is a mistake. Labour made the name change in an unsuccessful attempt to win Alliance and Green support. Partnership has a legal meaning that the Government does not intend. The wording should be changed.

“In legal terms a partnership implies a capacity to speak on behalf of the other party, and an ability to legally bind. Partners become individually liable for joint debts. No one can tell us what it means in a free trade agreement.

“The Singaporean government could be liable for half the costs of meeting the litigational gravy train Article 74 will create.

“ACT supports free trade but does not believe it gives the Government licence to enact racist legislation or rubber stamp trade agreements. By not allowing any changes or a vote the coalition will bring Parliament into disrepute,” said Hon Richard Prebble.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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