Aussie govt to oppose palm oil labelling Bill

MELBOURNE: The Australian Government will oppose a Liberal-National Party coalition-supported anti-trade Private Member's Bill on compulsory palm oil labelling as it would breach Australia's obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson told Parliament on Tuesday, the Bill, sponsored by independent Senator Nick Xenophon and the Australian Greens, was likely to pass the House of Representatives with the support of the coalition.

Emerson said the Bill passed the Senate following the personal intervention of coalition leader Tony Abbott, who is widely tipped to be Australia's next prime minister.

"Coalition members of the relevant Senate inquiry joined with Labor senators in recommending against the Bill, but their position was reversed following Abbott's personal intervention," he said.

He said all of Abbott's instincts were interventionist and protectionist. "This latest anti-trade move by the coalition comes hard on the heels of the Shadow Agriculture Minister's Bill seeking to overturn a WTO ruling that New Zealand apples be allowed into Australia subject to scientifically-based quarantine conditions," he said.

Emerson said the government refused to deal with the coalition on the apples Bill and would not negotiate with Abbott, who is also Opposition leader, on the palm oil Bill.

"Abbott wants to load up food processing companies with a A$150 million (RM468 million) cost burden and risk a trade war with Malaysia and Indonesia," he said. He said Abbott's personal support for yet another anti-trade, anti-business Bill showed how reckless he was on economic and trade policy.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia had warned they would take action against Australia at the WTO if the Bill were passed. -- Bernama

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