Monday, 17 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
I seek the opportunity to make a contribution on the Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018 and, in doing so, indicate that Labor supports the passage of these bills. In the first instance we support the amendment moved by the shadow minister for trade. We've heard on many occasions in this place the importance of trade to this country. At the end of the day we are a trading nation, hence we are supportive of this Trans-Pacific Partnership. We on this side of the House were supportive of the last iteration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We saw benefits at that stage. Whilst the benefits may appear limited in the initial instance, we were attracted by the fact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership had a series of attached side agreements about matters of human rights, labour rights and the preservation of the environment. We thought it very instructive to have these things in trade agreements, hence we were supportive in the first instance.
We're pleased on this occasion that this iteration of the TPP embodies many of those aspects that were formerly in the initial Trans-Pacific Partnership. We think it is right that there be obligations in respect of not only trade but also how labour is treated, how the collectivism of negotiations is respected and how the environment is treated by each of our trading partners. There should be greater scope for the enforceability of these particular requirements, because at this stage only signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership have any enforcement ability in relation to those matters, and presumably much of that will get down to diplomatic consideration before any effort is taken.
We're also concerned about the investor-state provisions. Labor's concern about that is not just in relation to the TPP. The minister at the table, Mr Andrews, will recall that these matters were raised about the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. As a matter of fact we've looked at the issue of investor-state provisions as a central theme in every free trade agreement we've had. We are not entirely comfortable with these things and would seek appropriate recourse if Labor forms the next government in this country. We have a concern that we are opening up our court systems for the enforceability of actions by foreign institutions against not only Australian companies but also the Australian government and all governments of Australia, state as well as local, simply because they're signatory countries to this Trans-Pacific Partnership—although I note that the only country to which investor-state provisions will be extended beyond those that already have them is Canada, which is probably of lesser concern to us, given the formation of their laws, being a common law country, is much the same as ours.
We collectively in this House focus on trade because we know that trade is the ability for us to create jobs in this country. There will be certain challenges in that. The transitional arrangements must be such that we limit the number of impediments to existing industries and their workers. But the simple fact is that if we are going to be a trading nation we must be able to do so on the basis of our strengths, and the strength that we have in this country is our people. That's where we excel. We need to ensure that we properly resource not only our industries but also the training of our people, including through our tertiary institutions, in many instances TAFE, to ensure that our people are on a very competitive footing so that we can trade profitably with other countries within our sphere of influence. This is something that we on our side of politics have been very clear about, including in the funding of schools, the funding of universities and in particular the funding of TAFE colleges. By the way, we think TAFE is the backbone for enhancing our ability to trade more effectively throughout the region.
I will leave my comments there at this stage. As I said, we support the amendments made by the shadow minister for trade. We think that they are sound. If these amendments are accepted they would make the TPP a better trading instrument than is currently proposed in this bill. However, I do say that it is in our interest that we facilitate free trade within our region. We will be the ultimate beneficiary of that, provided that we invest appropriately and particularly where we invest in our people.