Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 October 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; In Committee

11:36 am

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I want to reflect on the comments that were made previously by Senator Hanson, who raised a very good point. In these trade debates, if you like to call them debates—in the spin around promoting free trade deals, which has happened since Mr Tony Abbot was elected in 2013 and we've seen an avalanche of bilateral trade deals; bilateral trade deals being trade deals between two countries—it is fascinating how the government will line up. They come in here at question time and quote their numbers—and Senator Carr has just done it in his statement to the chamber—about all the benefits that our exporters are going to receive when foreign countries allow increased access to their markets. But never in the debate do we talk about the costs of free trade deals. There are costs. Every economist acknowledges it. Those costs need to be weighed up in the debate, in the matter of public interest, against the benefits. That's how we assess whether a trade deal, or a trade investment deal like the TPP, is in our national interest.

It's fundamentally dishonest that we never talk about the impacts of these deals on our local producers, on our local manufacturers and on our local farmers. I can tell you that campaigns such as 'buy Australian', 'buy Australian beef' and 'buy Australian seafood' have triggered state-to-state dispute settlements in previous trade deals like NAFTA, where US beef and Canadian beef—pardon the pun—had a major beef over a 'buy local' campaign. These trade deals make it extremely difficult for us to support local businesses or for governments to subsidise or provide assistance to local businesses and local industries. That's why we saw the loss of tens of thousands of Australian car workers. It has mainly been a slow decline, but it has been very rapid in the last five years as this Liberal government has signed an avalanche of free trade deals—mostly to get a headline and a press opportunity. I haven't seen any evidence that these deals have benefited our local exporters, but I can tell you that I hear all the time about how difficult it is for local farmers, producers and manufacturers to compete with cheap foreign products. That is what Senator Hanson asked. What access are we giving away and selling down the river? Who are we selling down the river?

You may remember that the Korean free trade deal was called by the media, very cynically, 'the cars for cows deal'. In other words, we sold out our car industry to get increased access for our beef farmers. Let's just look at that example. If that's true, and I believe it was the case, who makes that decision? Who is the high, almighty arbiter of the fact that we are going to kill the car industry, its intellectual property and the decades of communities and workers who have grown up in those communities, as well as the ability to make our own cars and all the other ramifications that go with that? Who makes the decision that we sell out an entire industry and that we will trade that off against increased access for our beef farmers?

When you deal with bilateral deals, any economist will tell you that any simple input-output model, or any other economic model, can't accurately predict the benefits of those deals. That's because you end up stealing trade off other countries who you don't have bilateral deals with. I'm not going to give everyone in here a lecture on economics, but that's why, in theory, multilateral deals—like the deals we saw through the WTO, which fell apart after the Doha rounds—are the only kinds of deals that do bring net economic benefits. These bilateral deals and these multilateral deals don't. It is a really important point when we're about to vote very soon on this massive sellout of Australian interests—and for what? We need to consider the costs. They need to be properly quantified. No-one wants to talk about it in the public debate. It's absolutely our role here in the Senate to bring balance to this debate and to raise these issues with you, Assistant Minister.

I had a couple of quick questions for you in relation to the environmental chapter. It was welcome when the environment chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was negotiated. The environment chapter is chapter 20. There's a section in there that relates to the protection of cetaceans. I just wanted to ask you, given the importance of protecting cetaceans under Australian law, what ability we will have in the use of the TPP—presuming it's going to be ratified by this parliament very soon—and how that chapter will enable us to stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, considering Japan has been the leader of this TPP-11 that we have before us here today. When the US pulled out, it was the Japanese Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abe, who reignited and reinvigorated the push for the TPP-11.

We saw, just a week or two ago, that the Japanese government was threatening to pull out of the International Whaling Commission, a rules based order around whaling that Australia showed leadership in over 35 years ago by banning commercial whaling. How will we be able to use this environment chapter in the TPP to hold the Japanese government to account if they go down to our Southern Ocean and start slaughtering whales on an industrial, commercial scale? That is what their stated intention is. I'd like to know how we can actually use this chapter to stop that from happening.


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