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Religious urge Free Trade water exclusion

The Social Action Office (SAO) of Queensland religious congregations has called on negotiators and Federal Cabinet to exclude water from the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the USA.

As negotiations got underway in Washington yesterday, the Office appealed to Trade Minister Mark Vaille, a Catholic, to uphold Catholic social teaching for the "common good".

Water Circle Project Officer for SAO and the Australian Political Ministry Network (PolMin) Victoria Kearney for the Social Action Office, said failure to specify a water exclusion would threaten the future health and survival of the Murray Darling Basin in particular.

Suggesting that increased privatisation and commercialisation of water has serious social access and equity issues, she said Australian Governments at all levels must maintain their ability to manage its scarce water resources.

"Without the explicit exclusion it may jeopardise the success of the National Water Initiative and its honourable intentions," she said.

Water includes any rivers, lakes, and groundwater, as well as water collection, purification and distribution services, together with infrastructure, waste water, irrigation water, and more.

Ms Kearney said: "We cannot expose Australian water regulators, water users and service providers to the financial uncertainty that the FTA may expose them, given uncontrolled corporate influence following the signing of the Agreement."

PolMin has included with its media release a sample letter and email addresses to assist with lobbying efforts.

National Water Plan at risk if water is not excluded from AUSFTA (Social Action Office 1/12/03)
Water needs to be excluded from Free Trade Agreement (PolMin 1/12/03)

Social Action Office | US Free Trade Agreement - regarding WATER
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
Bishop says free trade threatens sovereignty and democracy (CathNews 25/11/03)
Catholic lobbyist says water reform 'beyond politics' (CathNews 11/8/03)

2 Dec 2003