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Speech: The horrifying TPP

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 15 Oct 2018

I rise to speak on the Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018 and the related bill, and associate myself with the comments made by my Greens colleagues. How is it that, time and time again, we come to this place and see bill after bill that the people of Australia never asked for and do not want? The sway that vested interests have on this government is truly horrifying; and I am even more horrified that this piece of legislation comes here with bipartisan support.

The TPP-11 will jeopardise our environment and it will erode the rights of Australian workers. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is all about putting corporations above people. That's the entire point of this legislation. It is devised in the boardrooms of corporations which have an insatiable appetite for profit at any cost. This is a trade agreement that gives corporations the power to sue governments for raising wages, for protecting the environment and for reducing the cost of life-saving medicine. Does this sound like a fair trade deal to you? Is this free trade? Of course it's not. And what is so bone chilling about this is how it has come about—the complete lack of transparency. This is a deal that has been stitched up behind closed doors in the boardrooms of big corporations. What about the people? Don't they have a right to know what you're signing them up to? We're told to just shut up and accept that governments and oppositions and their mates know what is best for everyone. Well, we are truly fed up with this game of mates. This is a trade deal written by big business for big business.

Unions, in particular, have come out strongly against this deal, and good on them. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has said:

The TPP puts globalisation before Australian workers and threatens the fundamentals of our democracy. By destroying thousands of Australian jobs and driving down wages we believe the TPP will lead to higher levels of inequality.

They go on to say:

The TPP is a toxic combination of globalization and more power to multinationals ahead of democracy for Australian workers. Australia must turn away from trade that puts profit before people.

And they conclude:

Trade agreements should not undermine the ability of Governments to regulate in the public interest, particularly in regard to essential services like health, education, social services, water and energy.

Public Services International, which represents public sector workers around the world, note in their submission to the inquiry into the TPP-11:

… it prioritises the interests of private corporations over those of communities. The TPP-11 is not democratic; the negotiations were held in secret to the exclusion of communities and their elected civil society representatives (such as unions), hampers government regulation, and will allow corporations to sue democratically elected governments. The TPP-11, through these negative impacts, will hamper development and will hamper the regions capacity to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. … … … Despite repeated claims that the TPP-11 does not affect public services it is clear that the intent of the TPP-11 … is to expand market access and liberalise trade in services, the key policy ingredients required to advance privatisation.

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union national secretary Paul Bastian, said the TPP would be a 'disaster for Australian workers'. He said:

It beggars belief that the Labor caucus would sign off on ratifying the TPP given it's against the party's own policy.

I am particularly concerned about investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. The ISDS allows foreign companies and investors to sue the Australian government for changes in the law that damage their investment, not in our courts or under our law or even in their courts or under their law but in unaccountable international tribunals. This is an obscene inclusion. This isn't the first ISDS we have signed up to, but it is potentially the biggest one we're about to sign on to.

Pat Ranald, a research associate of the University of Sydney, has highlighted some examples of current ISDS examples. For example:

Swiss Pharmaceutical company Novartis is suing the Colombian government over the plans to reduce prices on a patented treatment for leukaemia. The US firm Bilcon won its claim against the Canadian government for US$101 million after a provincial government refused to approve a quarry in an ecologically sensitive area. The French company Veolia is claiming compensation from the Egyptian government for a rise in the minimum wage. Even if a government wins a case, defending it can take years and cost millions. The US tobacco firm Philip Morris shifted some assets to Hong Kong and used ISDS in an Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement to claim billions in compensation for Australia's plain packaging law. It took more than four years and reportedly cost A$50 million in legal fees for the tribunal to decide that Philip Morris was not a Hong Kong company.

This is a terrifying future.

I must say I don't expect any better from the Liberal and National parties. They are so morally bankrupt that for them everything has a price tag if they think that it can make a buck for their mates in big business. But I am so very deeply disappointed in the Labor Party today, the party that talks a big game about being a friend of the worker except, it seems, when its corporate mates come knocking on the door. Labor and Bill Shorten talk big but, when it comes down to a choice between workers and their deep-pocketed corporate mates, we know who they will choose. We know who will win every single time. We can stop this terrible trade deal today. It can be dead in the water today if the Labor Party develops a spine to do the right thing. I do recognise that there are members of the Labor Party who are deeply opposed to this and have been lobbying hard for the party not to end up here, but here we are with the bill before us about to become law. The time is here and the time is now. Once you let this genie out of the bottle, it ain't going back in.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten's idea that you can sign off on the full agreement today and then put blind faith in your ability to renegotiate and remove ISDS clauses as well as introduce labour market testing is pretty ridiculous. That's not how it works, and, if that is how you think negotiations happen, then God help us all. If you want to change the TPP, now is the time to do it. The Greens oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it is a dud deal. It is a rotten deal. Time and time again, we get sold out by the big parties with empty promises that rarely, if ever, come to fruition. 'Trust us,' they say. Every time, we are promised all the jobs and the wealth in the world, and, inevitably, the big end of town gets the benefits and the people bear the costs. We know we are being sold a lemon by this government.

Anis Chowdhury, former director of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, notes that most TPP partner countries already have trade agreements with one another. Thus, additional trade from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will be modest. Even the World Bank admits that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia's economy by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030 and at a real cost. The Tufts University report shows that Australia is likely to lose some 39,000 jobs in energy products, primary commodities, manufacturing and services industries. We could stop this today. We could say, 'No ISDS.' We could say no to putting the rights of corporations above people. All we need is the Labor Party to stop their reckless devotion to neoliberalism. You will very likely be the next government in this place, but, if you pass this legislation today, you will prove to millions of Australians who don't want the TPP forced down their throats that you are not listening, that you don't care and that you will always put your big business mates first. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a fraud. It is all about benefiting big multinational corporations and the wealthy one per cent. Thousands of jobs will be destroyed only to benefit the big end of town, yet we are told that we must support it for the greater good. What a sick joke! It is a sellout of Australian workers, it is a sellout of our precious environment and it is a sellout of our public services. I stand with trade unions, I stand with the community, and I stand with activists against this toxic deal. The real question is: why isn't the Labor Party? I'm deeply appalled that the Labor Party is joining with the Liberals when they know what this bill will do. The Australian people are sick of the two big parties selling them out time and time again in secret deals like this. Once the Liberals and Labor have signed and sealed this deal, it will be incredibly difficult to get out of. We know that big business will want more and more and more. If you can't stand up to them today, how will you do it tomorrow? Let's act to save our universal health care, our environment, our climate and our workers' rights. Let's stop this today.

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