The majority decision of the Labor Party caucus last Tuesday to vote its support for the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a tragic day for the ALP and for Australian working people and their families. In a feeble face-saving exercise, Labor has made its support conditional on two amendments to the enabling legislation. The two proposed amendments on existing media content rules and bogus patenting claims by pharmaceutical corporations would have no impact on the agreement itself. Latham stressed that he agreed with the contents of the FTA. It is a huge personal victory for Howard over Latham. It is a huge betrayal. The truth of the FTA was staring the ALP leaders in the face. The Senate Committee was always a charade behind which Latham was hiding — hiding his support for the FTA until he could use the Senate Inquiry findings as a cover for capitulation. This is not to overlook the sell-out by the Liberal-National Party Coalition which once again demonstrated its cynical and cowardly subservience to the political and economic interests of the US Government and corporations by negotiating this unequal agreement. Mark Latham, who earlier in the year said that the ALP would not support the FTA, has now ignominiously capitulated to the pressure exerted by Howard personally and by big business interests which also support the agreement. By handing Howard a big victory the ALP leadership has, almost certainly, undermined the possibility of defeating the Howard Government in the coming elections. It will demoralise many Labor voters who hoped that a Latham leadership would lead to a revitalisation of the Labor Party. This is a definitive decision which will determine many other issues in the future. Having capitulated on this issue the ALP will capitulate on other similarly important issues in the future. By endorsing the FTA the Labor Party has created a situation that will prevent it from implementing those policies that contradict the FTA should an ALP Government be elected. The FTA will override Australian legislation that differs from the terms of the agreement. Australia will become even less independent than it is now. It will be possible for the US to impose enormous economic and political pressure on any and every Australian Government in the future. It will chain future governments and future generations as never before. It is not merely a trade agreement. It is an investment agreement, removing restrictions on the takeover of the Australian economy by US corporations. It will have serious consequences for the environment, on our cultural development, on health and education, on every aspect of life. It is an agreement that nothing short of a revolution is going to unravel. Rather than giving priority to the interests of Australia's working people, the ALP caucus majority has demonstrated that it gives top priority to the American alliance and the interests of the corporations that will benefit from the deal. In their report the Labor Party Senators, having recommended acceptance of the FTA, went on to give no less than 42 other recommendations all of which are arguments why the FTA should be rejected or renegotiated. Such a flawed document should never be signed. Real alternative needed By endorsing the FTA, the Labor Party has put itself on the same economic and political course as that of the Liberal Party. What now is the difference? As its consequences become clear it will bring both Parties into disrepute as never before. In this respect it will further weaken the two-party system and open the door wider to political parties with a real alternative to offer — including the Communist Party of Australia. The Australian media has done its job to keep the Australian people largely in ignorance of the real terms and significance of the FTA and thereby prevented any mass opposition from developing. The working people of a number of countries have already experienced what happens under similar agreements with the US. They have invariably led to massive loss of jobs in manufacturing, increased prices, the loss of sovereignty and independence as the US corporations take over more and more sections of the economy. This is inherent in the remarks of some State Labor Party premiers such as Peter Beattie who sees an increased flow of US capital to take on "development" in Australia. Working for the Yankee dollar will become more and more of a reality and this will not help the Australian economy but will swell the profits of US corporations. The Liberal-National Party leaders claim that the FTA will bring huge benefits to the Australian economy but many other assessments, including those made by US leaders, refute these claims. Howard and others have lied about WMD in Iraq and they are also lying about the benefits of the FTA and the retention of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in particular. As last Monday's Four Corners program revealed, the assault on the PBS is aimed at driving out of the market the manufacturers of much cheaper generic drugs and giving the big and very powerful US pharmaceutical corporations monopoly control. The US Trade Office proudly declared that the FTA deal with Australia would bring the most "significant immediate reduction of industrial tariffs ever achieved in a US free trade agreement". It estimates US exports of manufactured goods to Australia will increase by US$2 billion (A$2.6b) compared with a corresponding increase of only US$1.4 billion for Australia. This will increase Australia's trade deficit with the US (already A$6 billion) and lead to the loss of many thousands of jobs. While the Parliamentary ALP left voted against endorsement of the FTA it remains shackled by the idea that "unity" must prevail so long as there is a "good debate". Sharan Burrow — an ALP member and President of the ACTU — said that the ACTU would abide by the decision providing there had been a "good debate". This is a false theory by which the right dominates and regiments those with left positions, behind whatever the right decides. The voice of the left is silenced and stifled. It renders the left weak and ineffective. In the case of the FTA it means "unity" in support of a monumental betrayal that will have devastating consequences for the working people of Australia. In a statement to The Guardian, Communist Party General Secretary Peter Symon said, "The ALP leaders have capitulated to the Howard Government in a betrayal of monumental proportions. It will have very bad and long-term consequences for the working people of Australia. By this act the ALP has given preference to the interests of US corporations and the US alliance rather than to the interests of the Australian people or the independence of Australia. "The ALP's capitulation shows once again the need to build alternative left and progressive political organisations in Australia that can implement new policies that serve the interests of working people. The Communist Party will play its part in this process which is now more urgent than ever", said Symon. Other voices in opposition were those of the Greens, whose leader Bob Brown said that Labor's capitulation to Prime Minister Howard's FTA will demoralise and offend millions of Australian, including Labor voters. "The Labor Party is allowing itself to be out-manoeuvred politically by Howard rather than standing firm." The Greens have indicated that they will move stronger amendments than the ones proposed by Labor but vote against the FTA regardless of the outcome of the amendments. Australian Democrats spokespersons have also opposed the FTA and will, presumably, vote against its endorsement. Taking full advantage of the capitulation of ALP leaders, Liberal Senator George Brandis said, "I'd like to congratulate Senator Conroy [right-wing Labor] on his significant victory over the left of his own party". Doug Cameron national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, said: "You cannot reconcile the recommendation from the Senate inquiry to accept this agreement and the 42 other recommendations that set about demolishing this agreement. It is an act of political cowardice by the Senate committee and caucus should reject it".