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senate vote 2018-10-15#5

Edited by mackay

on 2019-02-01 13:39:03


  • Bills — Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018, Customs Tariff Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018; Second Reading
  • Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018 and another - Second Reading - Labor amendment


  • <p class="speaker">Peter Whish-Wilson</p>
  • <p>In the last few minutes left of my speech, I'd like to summarise for the chamber that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, an agreement that has taken nearly 13 years to get to this parliament, has come to symbolise just about everything that is wrong with a globalised, neoliberal, trickle-down approach to our economies, to our societies and to our communities. It was triggered by the GFC and the collapse of the multilateral Doha rounds. It was initiated by big corporations, nearly 300 of them, who pushed politicians in different countries around the world, many of them in political parties that they donate to, to start a new round of negotiations to create a megadeal that essentially gives them whatever they want. Remember that these companies operate in different countries all around the world. Civil society and parliaments didn't have access to these secret meetings. They were all deemed commercial-in-confidence. Finally, we got thousands of pages of documents on deals on trade, services and investments right across just about every facet of our society&#8212;from digital rights through to education, health care and the environment. What we have before us today is a set of rules and regulations synchronised amongst 11 countries written by big corporations.</p>
  • <p>This is exactly the wrong direction for this parliament and this planet to be going in. This TPP will drive privatisation. It will continue to ratchet up the effects of smaller government on our lives, giving more power, not less, directly to big business, especially the toxic Trojan horse clauses&#8212;the investor-state dispute settlement clauses&#8212;that give corporations special new rights to sue sovereign governments for the decisions we make. This is the wrong path for us to be going down. We have an opportunity here today to say no to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, to say yes to free trade and to say yes to a new treaty-making process that actually gives parliaments and all stakeholders&#8212;unions, workers, environment groups and social equity groups&#8212;a say in any deals if they're going to be signed and ratified by a parliament. It is absolutely critical that, after 13 years, we say no to this push to revitalise globalisation&#8212; <i>(Time expired)</i></p>
  • The majority voted against a motion moved by Labor Senator [Kim Carr](, which means it failed. It would have amended the usual [second reading motion](, which is that the majority agree with the main idea of the bill (or, in parliamentary jargon, that they agree to read the bills a second time).
  • ### Motion text
  • > *At the end of the motion, add:*
  • > *", but the Senate:*
  • > *(a) acknowledges that this preferential trade agreement cannot be amended by these bills, only accepted or rejected;*
  • > *(b) is of the opinion that:*
  • >> *(i) the way Australia negotiates trade agreements of this type needs to change,*
  • >> *(ii) the role of Parliament in trade negotiations should be strengthened by increased oversight of trade negotiations by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, including providing the committee with:*
  • >>> *(A) the government's statement of objectives for negotiation for consideration and feedback, and*
  • >>> *(B) regular briefings at the conclusions of each round of negotiations; and*
  • > *(3) calls on the Australian government to:*
  • >> *(i) seek to remove Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms and reinstate labour-market testing for contractual service suppliers in existing trade agreements,*
  • >> *(ii) ensure that future governments are prevented, by legislation, from including ISDS mechanisms or waiving labour-market testing in future trade agreements,*
  • >> *(iii) establish an accredited trade advisers program to allow industry, unions and civil society groups to provide real-time feedback on draft trade agreements during negotiations,*
  • >> *(iv) subject all new trade agreements to an independent national interest assessment to examine economic, strategic and social impacts before they are signed,*
  • >> *(v) enforce mandatory skills testing in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and all future trade agreements, and*
  • >> *(vi) fix the problems in the existing skills testing regime by ensuring that the skills of foreign workers are tested by qualified professionals and required to meet current Australian standards and not by immigration officials."*
  • <p class="speaker">Rex Patrick</p>
  • <p>Centre Alliance are a supporter of fair trade. I need to state that up-front. However, we do not support the agreement in its current form. It contains some cancers that must be cut out of it. As such, we won't be supporting the enabling legislation unless one of the amendments that I have circulated is passed.</p>
  • <p>There are a number of downsides to this agreement. Two are of particular concern. My colleague, Senator Griff, will raise some other aspects of the agreement that need to be thought about as well in his speech a little bit later. The first one I'd like to talk about is ISDS. As we heard, Senator Carr stood up in the chamber and made some very good points about the ISDS clause and why we should remove that from this agreement. In fact, Senator Hanson-Young also stood up and laid out some cases whereby countries have been subjected to litigation for changing public policy. So I won't repeat that. I also note that Senator Carr pointed out that the Productivity Commission, a pretty rigorous and thoughtful body, has also indicated that it finds ISDS a little bit disturbing. I note that the Europeans are walking away from it. Senator Hanson-Young, once again, pointed that out in her speech. I might point out that the United States, in NAFTA, have now walked away from ISDS. Whilst we're walking towards this particular set of provisions, most are walking away.</p>
  • <p>We, of course, had our own experience with ISDS when Philip Morris, having failed to overturn legislation in relation to plain tobacco packaging in our highest court, simply went to Hong Kong and initiated an action against the Australian government. I supported the Australian government in their defending of the matter but, nonetheless, that particular ISDS litigation cost the Australian taxpayer $39 million. The government wasn't up-front in providing me with those details. Former Senator Xenophon and I fought for a couple of years to get access to how much had been spent, such was the government's embarrassment. It went all the way to the AAT, and finally the government realised they were going to lose the exemption case and the number was revealed&#8212;$39 million.</p>
  • <p>We need to understand that the ISDS provisions allow corporations to sue governments should they be affected by a change in public policy. In effect, it transfers what we typically know as sovereign risk from the corporation to the taxpayer, and that's totally unacceptable. It's interesting that Australian companies can't use those provisions here in Australia. So, in some sense, it even discriminates against corporations that may wish to invest here. They have no recourse other than through our court systems.</p>
  • <p>The second problem area with the current arrangements is labour market testing. It's been waived. We will have a situation where foreign companies bring in workers and they won't have to test the local market to see if there's an Australian here who can do the job. They can simply bring those workers in and there's not much we can do about it. Countries which we could find workers coming from are Canada, Peru, Brunei, Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam. It's an assault on Australian workers.</p>
  • <p>In terms of benefits&#8212;I don't want to be completely negative here; there are some benefits; always look to the benefits&#8212;in this case, the best case is a modest gain, if anything at all. The gain over the next 12 years will be 0.5 per cent of GDP. That's according to the Johns Hopkins University. We must remember that the Productivity Commission looked at some of these estimates in the past and found them to be somewhat exaggerated. They actually don't live up to what was claimed initially. We've been able to measure that empirically.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p>Spin has been indicated to me by Senator Whish-Wilson. Of course, as has been mentioned by a number of speakers, there has been no independent modelling commissioned by the Australian government focusing on the national advantages and disadvantages for Australia in particular. We're relying on international analysis. Like Senator Carr, I too would like to know where Senator Birmingham got his numbers from when he made his statements to the media yesterday.</p>
  • <p>I was almost going to stand up and simply repeat Senator Carr's speech, because he clearly articulated the problems with the ISDS provisions and labour market testing being waived, but, unfortunately, his speech came to a different ending from mine. The Labor Party still intend to support this. They're crying wolf on these provisions. They're saying, 'They're bad; we don't want them in there,' but, given the opportunity to get rid of them, they're simply not. Their plan is to change things when they get into government. Firstly, I think that's arrogant. Maybe they won't get into government after the next election. Their modus operandi now is to let everything go through and wait until they get into government. I suspect we'll see that, hopefully, with every other piece of legislation. Is that how it works, I wonder? Once again, there is no guarantee that they will gain government, and, if that is the case, they've definitely sold people out.</p>
  • <p>I acknowledge that a private member's bill was introduced into this chamber today by Senator Carr, but the reality is&#8212;and we all know this&#8212;this private member's bill will sit in the Senate; it will be parked here. It's not like the amendments that I'll move in the committee stage, which are attached to a government bill and which have to go back to the House of Representatives to be voted on there. This is a private member's bill that will simply sit in this chamber.</p>
  • <p>In that sense the Labor Party are committing a fraud on their union comrades. They're committing a fraud on their constituent base. I will read what Sally McManus, the President of the ACTU, said. She is 'disappointed by the ALP's decision to vote for the TPP enabling legislation'. Allen Hicks, the ETU National Secretary said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">It beggars belief that the Labor caucus would sign off on ratifying the TPP given it's against the party's own policy. The TPP-11 is a disaster for Australian workers.</p>
  • <p>I will repeat that, 'The TPP-11 is a disaster for Australian workers.'</p>
  • <p>Even if you wanted the TPP to pass today, because you really wanted it to come into effect, the funny thing is you simply haven't used your negotiating position here. You've got the numbers with Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the Greens and the Centre Alliance voting against the enabling legislation. You sit in the box seat. You could have a conversation with the government and you could work to get to a better situation. Have you done that? No. You've simply come into the chamber, moved a private member's bill and said a few things, but you're not acting on it.</p>
  • <p>I will be moving a commencement amendment and, if that is successful, the treaty won't come into force. In fact, the effect of the amendment will be that it won't come into force until such time as the ISDS has been removed and labour market testing has been restored. It wouldn't require another vote of the parliament. Simply, once those are removed, those two cancers, the agreement could come into effect.</p>
  • <p>In the event that that fails I'm moving a sunset provision. This would allow the treaty to come into effect right now, as soon as the parliament sign off on the enabling legislation. The Australian government would be able to notify all of the countries involved in the TPP and it could come into force, but then the enabling legislation would sunset at the end of next year. That's absolutely consistent with what the Labor Party want to do. The Labor Party want to allow this through. They've stated that they then wish to negotiate the ISDS provisions out and the labour market testing back in. So I'll be very interested to see if Labor support that, because that's what they've said outside this chamber that they intend to do. They intend to allow this agreement to come into force and then negotiate these bad provisions out. The nice thing about the sunset clause is that it provides an insurance in the event that Labor don't get into government after the next election. The sunset clause will sit there and it will provide an insurance that will allow for the Labor Party national policy platform to be implemented.</p>
  • <p>In closing, what needs to happen here is Bill Shorten to stand up and show the courage of his conviction. We have an opportunity to draw a line in the sand. We have an opportunity to send a signal to DFAT and those who are involved in these negotiations that Australia will not accept ISDS provisions anymore and that we do require labour market testing. Time and time again these agreements are negotiated, the enabling legislation comes before the parliament, and time and time again the Labor Party complains about the provisions and nothing happens. This time around, you have the numbers. This time around, with the Greens, with Pauline Hanson's One Nation and with Centre Alliance, if you vote against the TPP as it stands, it will not come into effect. There are some very sensible, measured, reasonable amendments that Centre Alliance has put forward. There are some other amendments that have also been circulated today. It's an opportunity, and it really is going to be a situation where we will see what Labor really stands for.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>