Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, August 12, 2004

Prime Minister Howard has decided to accept Labor leader Mark Latham's amendment to the Free Trade Agreement legislation just as Labor proposed it.

Ignoring ABCwatch's earlier advice, Howard has decided against offering his own more benign version of Latham's populist declaration. Instead, he warns that the US may not approve:
the enabling legislation could be construed by the Americans as inconsistent with the free trade agreement.
Considering that Latham is only playing this game because the public is nervous about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Howard is hardly denting Latham's credibility with his threat.

Between them, Latham and Howard have made the FTA an untouchable issue for the Government, and a plus for the Opposition.

By the way, is Latham the first Opposition leader to have worked out how to use the automatic negatives of the Senate's reactionary minorities, the Greens and the Democrats, for the Opposition's benefit? In the past it's been the Greens and the Democrats trading off Labor's automatic opposition to government proposals.