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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2226 ..

MR QUINLAN (8.04): The opposition will be supporting this motion. The speech of the Chief Minister was worthy of note in this place for the capacity of the Chief Minister to get up with such a bundle of detail on this subject. It is something of a commentary on where some of our administrative resources might be going. It was refreshing to hear from the Chief Minister that the federal government can do no wrong in this regard. I will rest easier tonight.

GATS is generally regarded as a matter for national governments as it regulates international trade. However, it seems that some of the World Trade Organisation trade panels are holding that GATS applies to the provision of services as well, which could have repercussions for state and territory governments in, for instance, the areas of education and health. GATS does have an exclusory clause that appears broadly to protect public service systems. However, the exclusion clause for services provided in the exercise of government authority is being interpreted narrowly, so that many government services are not being excluded as intended.

If these services are being excluded, there will be no problem, at least no problem for us. If they are not being excluded, there will be implications for state and territory governments which wish to regulate these areas to deliver particular outcomes. The thrust of GATS is against regulation and in favour of a free market. I think that that illusion of a perfect market is being challenged these days.

It is conceivable that the World Trade Organisation will be able to extend its influence to what have been until now entirely internally domestic matters. This is a matter of concern for government round the world and we should join in the debate, rather than just letting it happen to us, so it is reasonable for Ms Tucker to seek information from the government and to inform the debate. Therefore, we will support the motion. We had a little bit of concern when we looked at paragraph (3) of the motion, which is quite prescriptive, but, since it placed obligations on the current government to refer the matter to the Assembly by August next, we are quite okay with that provision. We support the motion.

MR BERRY (8.07): Mr Speaker, Labor recognises the importance of international trade for the improvement of living standards. I have long been associated with the fair trade argument and I think that the motion that has been put by Ms Tucker will assist us and the community to understand better those issues which give rise to the concern which is being expressed louder and louder in the community. The more the community comes to grips with these issues and the better the understanding that it has, the more likely we are to be able to change some of the unfair practices which have developed with globalisation. We all recognise that globalisation is here to stay. As I said earlier, international trade can improve living standards, but it is not right to say that everybody round the world is concerned about improving living standards. Many people round the world are still prepared to exploit poor labour standards, poor environmental conditions and child labour.

MR SPEAKER: Excuse me, Mr Berry, but I do think that the mover of the motion should be present while you are addressing this matter.

MR BERRY: I am sure that she is listening; she always does.

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