For over three years Senator Peter Whish-Wilson and the Greens repeatedly called for the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) to be made public and warned against the dangers of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
The Greens will continue to oppose the TPP and similar deals that are negotiated in secret, empower corporations to sue governments, or that threaten Australia's labour, health or environmental laws. The last chance for us to stop the TPP is to block this deal in the Senate. The Labor Senators have already passed enabling legislation for the China FTA, which included ISDS. The question remains, will the Labor leadership help block TPP?
Now the TPP text has been released it will go through limited government scrutiny and come to parliament as a 'take it or leave it' option. Parliament can either vote for the enabling legislation or it can vote against it. We can't change the text but we can say no to the deal. If Labor and the cross-bench join the Greens and block this deal in the Senate then there will be enough support for Parliament to stop the TPP.
Here's a timeline of Greens actions against the TPP, including Senate motions, Inquiries, petitions, questions of Ministers in Question Time, questions of Ministers and officials in Senate Estimates, and media statements.
06 October 2015 | Australia agrees to the TPP Senator Whish-Wilson speaks to Australian media including ABC radio about the TPP and notes that, "Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb have done what John Howard and Mark Vaile refused to do: Via the TPP they have granted US corporations the right to sue the Australian government over making laws in the public interest." Read the full media release.
11 September 2015 | The Guardian Australia publishes Senator Whish-Wilson's article titled "Australia's treaty-making process is broken. The China free trade deal is a case in point" The article points out that by the time free trade agreements such as ChAFTA and the TPP reach parliament, they have already been agreed to. Senator Whish-Wilson argues that democracy demands more than a 'take it or leave it' approach. Read the full article.
25 June 2015 | Senate Inquiry finds that Trade Agreement negotiation process is broken The Greens' inquiry into the Commonwealth's treaty-making process reveals that 'trade deals' aren't what they used to be. It's no longer simply about tariffs and quotas, or trading commodity exports for manufacturing imports. These modern agreements are about standardising global laws to help out big business. It is a deregulation agenda driven by multinational corporations under the guise of trade liberalisation.
11 June 2015| A leaked draft indicates that the TPP posed a threat to Australian sovereignty In response Senator Peter Whish-Wilson warned the Abbott Government of the dangers of handing over control of Australia's health system to multinational corporations. "Australians benefit from access to medicines at a reasonable price but leaked text from the secret TPP negotiations suggests that Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme could be undermined by the agreement," he said in a statement to the media.
28 May 2015 | Greens welcome Australian Council of Trade Unions' (ACTU) intervention in the TPP debate Senator Whish-Wilson welcomed the motion unanimously passed by the ACTU at their National Congress which called on the Australian Government to release the TPP text or to withdraw Australia from negotiations. Senator Whish-Wilson also addressed ACTU members at a TPP breakfast event.
25 May 2015 | The Australian media reports that Trade Minister Andrew Robb is offering MPs private briefings and viewings of the TPP text Under pressure from the government's own Senators and Members, Trade Minister Andrew Robb offered MPs private briefings and viewings of the TPP, however these viewings were subject to confidentiality orders. In response, Greens Senator Whish-Wilson said, "I have asked questions of Ministers in Question Time, and questions of Ministers and officials in Estimates; the Senate has passed motions calling on the Government to table the text of the TPP well before it is signed; and no one has provided any relevant information at all. No one from the government or any agency has contacted me with an offer to receive a private briefing or to see the draft text. So as you can imagine I was somewhat astonished to read in the press that I have been offered these opportunities."
"It would be fruitless if I could gain access to the text but could not share it with stakeholders and the community. The point of transparency is for the public and expert groups to provide feedback to the government on the impacts of these deals. I will not be taking-up the supposed offer to view the text as that would be feeding into the unnecessary secrecy that surrounds the deal. The government should be releasing information to the public, not just a select few," he concluded.
04 May 2015 | Submissions to Senate Inquiry indicate treaty-making process broken The overwhelming weight of submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the Commonwealth's treaty-making process indicates that the process by which Australia makes trade deals is broken. Business groups, civil society, unions, academics and consumer groups all call for the government to increase the transparency and depth of public consultations while trade deals are being negotiated.
10 April 2015 | Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan breaks ranks on Australian government's handling of the TPP negotiations Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan takes Andrew Robb to task over the secrecy surrounding the TPP, and the consequences of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses. Senator Heffernan calls for the TPP text to be released so that the public can provide input on what the consequences of this deal might be.
01 Apr 2015 | Senator Whish-Wilson moves a motion calling for a comprehensive cost-benefit inquiry into the impact of the TPP Senator Whish-Wilson called on the Australian government to request that the Productivity Commission undertake a comprehensive socio-economic cost-benefit inquiry into the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on Australia and moved a motion calling on the Australian Government to reiterate the order of the Senate of 11 December 2013 which required that the Minister representing the Minister for Trade table the full text of the Agreement at least 14 days before signing. The motion also noted that the Malaysian Government was undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to inform its cabinet and parliamentary decision-making processes prior to signing any deal. They also stated that Malaysia would not sign the Agreement unless the cost-benefit analysis proved that it was in Malaysia's interest to do so. The Australian Senate passed the motion.
26 March 2015 | The Investment Chapter of the TPP is leaked and it indicates the deal will include the controversial and dangerous ISDS clause In response Senator Peter Whish-Wilson warned the Australian government not to enter into any trade deal that gives special rights to corporations to sue a government for making decisions in the public interest. He stated, "The Senate recently heard evidence that ISDS clauses are now proving dangerous, with hundreds of cases proliferating around the world in recent years. The Greens have moved legislation in federal parliament to have them banned from trade deals. Labor and the cross-bench must indicate now, before it is too late, that they won't ratify a deal that includes ISDS."
03 March 2015 | UNSW releases an analysis of the impact of the TPP on medicine costs The Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation at the University of NSW releases an analysis on the impact of the TPP on medicine prices. In response, Senator Whish-Wilson said, "Here we have an expert analysis of the leaked chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that says the TPP will make medicine prices go up."
26 February 2015 | Senator Whish-Wilson reveals during Senate Estimates that the Government doesn't expect that the TPP will grow Australia's economy Senator Whish-Wilson asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade during Senate Estimates if they had worked with Treasury to model the impact on the economy of their trade deal. He also asked whether it was expected that the TPP would grow the economy. The answer to both questions was no.
25 Febuary 2015 | Under questioning by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson Treasury officials reveal that they have done no modelling on the economic benefits of the TPP Senator Peter Whish-Wilson questions Treasury officials about the so-called economic benefits of the Abbott Government's trade deals. Senator Whish-Wilson said, "The incoming Government brief prepared by Treasury in 2010 said that the potential benefits of the Free Trade Agreements currently under negotiation have been oversold and the negatives largely ignored.
There are only two reasons that Treasury would not model these deals to include in their economic forecasts. Either Treasury does not think that these trade deals will have any significant economic impact or the government doesn't want any public scrutiny of their trade deal claims."
19 February 2015 | Senator Peter Whish-Wilson warns the Abbott Government that their radical free trade agenda risks impacting on day-to-day domestic policy issues Current and future trade agreements are weakening our sovereign ability to set stringent food safety, food labelling and quarantine standards. Senator Whish-Wilson said in a media statement, "Abbott's trade deals have restricted our ability to tighten country-of-origin and health labelling on food, limited our ability to raise quarantine standards, and given the right for multinational companies to sue the Australian Government if we tighten quarantine laws and that affects the companies' profits. There is division in the government in how to address the frozen berry contamination crisis. Barnaby Joyce, The Greens and the Australian public want tighter import standards and better country-of-origin labelling. But Richard Colbeck and Tony Abbott don't want them."
10 February 2015 | Senator Peter Whish-Wilson backs doctors' call for transparency in TPP agreement The Greens welcomed the call by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for greater transparency around the health and pharmaceutical aspects of the TPP.
05 February 2015 | Trade Minister Andrew Robb uses the TPP deal to distract from government woes Trade Minister Andrew Robb tells the ABC the TPP deal could occur within weeks, at least a month earlier than the US Trade Representative Michael Froman said was even possible. Senator Peter Whish-Wilson commented on this, saying, "This shows how desperate Australia's Trade Minister is to land another trade deal, regardless of how bad it is for Australians, in an attempt to find a distraction from the internal Liberal Party turmoil."
16 December 2014 | MYEFO reveals billion dollar costs from Government's trade agenda The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) highlighted a $1.59 billion hole that the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) deal has created over the forward estimates. Senator Whish-Wilson said, "This government loves to talk up their trade deals, but they are silent on the multi-billion dollar impact these decisions have had on the Federal budget. This is on top of the $900 million budget impact of the Korean trade deal, and the Government continues to be silent on the effect of the China deal."
09 November 2014 | Australian Greens National Conference passes motion opposing the TPP and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses The Australian Greens National Conference opposed secret trade deals which undermine fair trade and demanded the immediate release of the secret TPP text.
27 October 2014 | Senator Whish-Wilson calls on the Government to rule out trading away any aspect of the ABC or SBS in the TPP agreement ahead of the Sydney negotiations At the Sydney TPP negotiations, Trade Ministers discussed how state-owned enterprises should be regulated. This included: our public broadcasters ABC and SBS; Tasmanian and Snowy Hydro; and Australia Post. Because these organisations are publically funded and compete globally they will be caught up in the TPP. As a consequence they could be forced to sell off some aspects of their enterprises or change their business models.
28 August 2014 | Greens Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014 does not pass Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence presented and submissions received for the inquiry into the Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014, the Labor and Liberal parties use their greater numbers on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee to recommend that the Bill should not pass.
The inquiry into the bill received 141 submissions and 11,000 letters, which overwhelmingly opposed ISDS and supported the bill. During the inquiry onto the bill, the Committee also heard evidence that Indonesia, India, South Africa, The European Union and ten Latin American countries are reviewing the ISDS clause.
March - August 2014 | Senator Whish-Wilson introduces the Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill This bill if passed by both houses would prevent Australia entering into any trade agreements that include Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. Labor indicated they would not support the bill.
24 July 2014 | Australian Medical Association lashes out at TPP The Greens supported the Australian Medical Association (AMA) when it called for the Australian government to reject provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) that "could undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and compromise the ability of governments to improve public health."* The Greens, like the AMA, expressed long-held concerns about how the secretive TPP negotiations might undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, lenthen the wait for new medicines to be sold as low-cost generic-branded products, and limit Australia's ability to protect its Plain Packaging tobacco laws.
07 July 2014 | Labor and PUP fail to hold Abbott Government accountable on human rights in trade deals The Australian Greens attempted to move a motion calling on the Government to make human rights for women, religious minorities, and LGBTI individuals a condition of trade under the already secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but were blocked by not only the government Senators but also Labor and the Palmer United Party.
09 December 2013 | Abbott Government blocks trade deal transparency showing contempt for Senate and Australian people The Abbott Government's refused to abide by the will of the Senate and publicly release the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text. The Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann wrote to the Senate on behalf of the government and refused to release the text of the TPP. The Greens were successful in moving a motion through the Senate which ordered the production and public release of the secret TPP trade deal. This was a win for every Australian who demanded to know how small businesses, labour rights, internet freedoms, the cost of medicines and the local environment could be affected by the nation's biggest ever trade negotiation; a negotiation that happened in secret under intense pressure from the United States Government, US corporations, and their interests.
04 Dec 2013 | Greens win greater transparency on secret trade deal The Australian Greens successfully moved an Order for Production of Documents (OPD) motion in the Senate that would bring greater transparency to the TPP. The OPD motion would make the final text of the TPP publically available before being signed off by Cabinet, so the entire Australian community could scrutinise the trade deal to ensure it's not only 'free' but also 'fair' for our nation.
30 November 2012 | Reforming the way we undertake future Free Trade Agreements On 30 November 2012, the Australian Greens negotiated with the then Labor Government on a key reform regarding how future free trade agreements would be scrutinised. The government announced its intention to adopt a key recommendation from the Parliamentary Committee that scrutinises trade agreements, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The Greens have long supported and pushed for this recommendation:
'prior to commencing negotiations for a new agreement, the Government table in Parliament a document setting out its priorities and objectives including independent analysis of the anticipated costs and benefits of the agreement. Such analysis should be reflected in the National Interest Analysis accompanying the treaty text.'
The Coalition Government has made it clear that they will not honour this agreement.
Ian Harper and his panel effectively criticised the current approach the Government is taking to negotiating Intellectual Property (IP) provisions in trade deals. Changes to Australia's Intellectual Property laws could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions each year, particularly through rises in the price of medicines.
Harper recommended an independent review should be carried out to investigate the Australian Government processes used to establish negotiating mandates for IP provisions. He also said each new trade agreement should be informed by an independent and transparent analysis of the costs and benefits to Australia of any proposed Intellectual Property provisions. Furthermore he said the analysis should be undertaken and published before negotiations are concluded.