Monday, 21 October 2019
Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail
I will take even less time than the member for Mayo. It would be wrong of me to not take this opportunity to point out that the whole issue of ISDS is particularly relevant to my home state of Tasmania. We're obviously a small state with a small economy—a state government with a small budget and small financial resources—but we are one of the six states of the Commonwealth, and we should have equal standing with the other states. But in this regard, when it comes to investor-state disputes, we are particularly disadvantaged. What would happen if a large foreign company was to try and sue the Tasmanian government for its GM-free status. There is every chance that that foreign company would have the resources of, or more resources than, the Tasmanian state government. What would happen if a foreign company wanted to sue the Tasmanian government because of its extra-tough quarantine requirements on its aquaculture? Chances are that that foreign company would have every advantage over the Tasmanian government; it could, in fact, have more financial resources than the Tasmanian government.
What I am saying is that the ability for an Australian government to defend itself is even more pronounced when it comes to my home state of Tasmania, because it would be so much easier for enormously wealthy foreign companies, armed to the eyeballs with a legion of lawyers, to take us on. It would obviously put the Tasmanian government at a significant disadvantage if those companies were to take us on. So, if only for Tasmania, and things like our GM-free status and our extra tough quarantine safeguards, this amendment from the member for Melbourne must be embraced.
I don't see why a federal government can't, for once in its life, instead of being hostile to improvements from the crossbench, think, 'You characters on the crossbench have a good idea there; we'll take that on board and we'll actually support that amendment.' That would be in the public interest nationally—for all of the states that are represented here on the crossbench; that is, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. It would be in all of our interests—it would be in the public interest—if the federal government would swallow their pride and say, 'Good idea; we'll take that on board and we'll support the excellent amendment moved by the member for Melbourne.'