Tuesday, 26 November 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; In Committee
I just want to say a few things about this. Obviously the bills, which enact agreement made between the Australian government to Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong, all include an investor state dispute settlement, once again, which means foreign investors will be ineligible for compensation under the agreements if the Australian government tries to regulate them. They can sue if they don't get what they want—no surprises here. That's why I oppose the bills. As usual, the major parties are handing over more power to the big corporations. As usual, they're taking power away from the Australian workers.
I have to say it's pretty ironic that I'm one of the ones standing up for workers here today, when the unions have been at me for months. It's strange, isn't it, that they're happy to blast my office, take up calls and take time away from those who are vulnerable and who actually need services from my office, and yet here we go. I don't see any billboards and I don't see any pages running in newspapers about what the Labor Party is doing to them. Honestly, where's that ad campaign? It suits the CFMMEU and the ETU, but when it has to go on at their own and taking their political donations—I'm telling you, it just blows me away. I don't even know how you're supposed to take these two unions seriously anymore.
So I'm calling Labor out for walking away from the workers they're supposed to represent, because obviously the CFMMEU and the ETU won't do the job. Labor used to be the party of the worker. These days they're the party of foreign investors. They're the party of rolling over for the government. I've come to expect the government to wave this sort of stuff through, but for it to come from Labor? I tell you what—it's a pathetic day for Australia today. Do they even know what they stand for anymore or who they actually stand for? That's the question.
I can tell you who I stand for. I stand for the workers in Tasmania whose jobs have disappeared overseas. I stand for the people who are languishing on Centrelink because the industry in their town has shut down. I stand for the Tassie farmers who are watching the land around them get bought up by Chinese developers. I stand for the people who are horrified that their government is handing control to foreign investors who can sue if they don't like policy change. Who does that? Who does that to their own country? Who does that?
Labor, you should be standing up here with me. You should be standing against the coalition. It isn't good enough for them to say, 'We have an agreement with the government.' The government has agreed to what exactly? All I can see are vague commitments to nice ideas. Where's the concrete action? How are we going to protect the people who will feel the impact of these free trade agreements? There are no protections. What, more reviews when the deal has already been done? That's not going to help people in towns who are struggling now. It's not good enough to note the importance of ensuring there are public interest checks on the ability of foreign investors to sue our government. The fact is, these provisions shouldn't exist at all. It just isn't right. No-one should be willing to let multinational corporations hold our government hostage. I believe that you're going to regret this action in years to come, I can tell you. And I'll be one of the ones standing up here saying: 'Ha, ha! What do you know? The crossbench told you so. What do you know?'
Labor, you should actually see that, and frankly I'm surprised that you don't. I don't know why you would do these deals, and I don't know why the unions keep giving you political donations. If you're not doing the job to help their workers, then why do they bother? They're going at crossbenchers like me, Centre Alliance and One Nation over an integrity bill, yet they don't have the guts to stand up to you people and say, 'Hey, you're taking thousands of jobs off us.' This is what's going on here, and I'm supposed to take the CFMMEU and the ETU seriously? You've got to be kidding me today. They're just as shameful. They're not standing up for their workers; they're out there standing up for their thugs, and, quite frankly, I think Australia's had a gutful of it.