The Age (2004)
Collette urges Latham to reject deal
July 2004Actor Toni Collette has called on Labor leader Mark Latham to prove he has "balls" by rejecting the government's proposed Free Trade Agreement with the US. "I think if Mark Latham said no to the FTA and got in, people would stand up and applaud him for just having the balls to be a visionary and not feel as though he is having to answer to somebody," Collette said in Sydney while promoting her latest film - Connie and Carla. "If he is going to be a leader, he has to show that he can lead - that would be my fantasy." Legislation to implement the FTA has been listed as the first business on the resumption of Senate sittings on August 3.
The government says the FTA will boost the national economy by $6 billion a year, although opponents fear it will push up drug prices, undermine the nation's intellectual property laws and lead to a cut in Australian programs on television. But Labor is under pressure to block the FTA from affiliated unions, the medical profession, the arts community and left-wing MPs. Labor arts spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy today signalled she would oppose the proposed FTA because of its impact on the arts. Senator Lundy said in an interview with the ABC that the FTA would adversely impact on Australian culture.
Collette has been a vocal opponent of the FTA for some time and in November used the Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards as a podium to slam the federal government's proposal. Collecting the best actress award for Japanese Story, Collette said it was a "sad state of affairs" when the government was prepared to give up the local control quota system for television. More generally, Collette today criticised the current Liberal government for dampening the iconic Australian spirit. "I just think ever since the Howard Government has been in power, there's a noose around Australia which is getting tighter and tighter and it just feels so rigid," she said.
"And the quality of Australians that people always talk about and revere is kind of fading away - that kind of laconic and ironic sense of humour and an ease and natural kind of flow of just going with whatever arises is fading."