House debates

Thursday, 13 September 2018


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

12:51 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seem to have hit a sensitive spot with the member for Kennedy. The truth is that a future Labor government will ban the negative parts of this Trans-Pacific Partnership and what we saw in the China free trade agreement. A future Labor government will prohibit any trade agreement from containing waivers of labour market testing, waivers of mandatory skills testing and inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement clauses. That's a very important improvement. I welcome the shadow trade minister's initiative.

The shadow trade minister also indicated that a future Labor government will implement other reforms that will improve the trade debate in this country. He will legislate, if he's lucky enough to be elected, to establish a system of accredited trade advisers from industry unions and civil society groups which will provide real-time feedback on draft trade agreement text during negotiations. It's true that we have the most opaque trade negotiations of any advanced nation. Look at the system in the US. There are regular briefings of congress during the negotiations, accredited trade advisers and a panel that is briefed about trade negotiations and provides feedback on trade negotiations as they progress, and that doesn't undermine their negotiating position; it informs their negotiating position and improves the outcome for those nations.

A future Labor government will also legislate to require an independent national interest assessment to be conducted on every new trade agreement before it's signed to examine the economic, strategic and social impact of any new trade agreement. And, if we're privileged enough to be elected, a future Labor government will also strengthen the role of parliament in trade negotiations by increasing the participation of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties by providing JSCOT with a statement of objectives for negotiation for consideration and feedback and providing JSCOT with a briefing at the end of each round of negotiations. Again, these are important reforms that will improve trade policy in this nation.

In conclusion, I remain very concerned about aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—aspects that go to the sovereignty of this nation and aspects that go to whether we can provide secure, well-paying jobs for all Australians. I am relieved that a future Labor government will fix those issues in both this trade agreement and all other agreements. That's really important. I want to finish by contemplating again the impact of attempts by people to move cheap amendments that don't do anything. Those amendments can't apply to a trade agreement that's negotiated between 11 countries. The hard decision here was about whether to support a trade agreement—whether to support it and try to fix it or vote it down. That was a very hard debate held within the Labor Party room and it was witnessed here today in the chamber. But I'm confident that a future Labor government will pursue a progressive trade policy that will improve the results for Australia from these trade agreements, protect fundamental worker rights and maintain the sovereignty of this parliament and future parliaments, and that's incredibly important. You can be pro trade liberalisation without agreeing to every trade agreement. That's why I'm so heartened by the shadow minister's commitments around future legislative reforms in this area.


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