Senate debates

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

12:18 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I want to follow along from the contribution made by Senator Lambie and draw some real clarity for anybody following this debate at home—because we can all see those little broadcast lights on, letting us know that the Australian public are watching what we are doing. You may well hear from the Labor Party that these—

Senator Lambie interjecting—

Apparently they are in here, Senator Lambie. I struggle to see them sometimes, but they are apparently here. You may well hear sentiments like: 'These deals are done between the executives of both countries. There's nothing the Senate can do.' I want to really clearly point out for the community the vagaries and the falsehoods around that position. Yes, deals are done between executives, and we in the Greens have extraordinary issues with the way in which trade deals are negotiated in this country. If we were in America—if we were in Trump's America—we would at least, as a legislative body, have the opportunity to scrutinise these deals line by line so that we knew exactly what we were signing our communities up to. Senator Lambie would have the opportunity to scrutinise these trade deals in relation to, for instance, their impact on Tasmania. We would be able to go through it together and understand exactly what the implications of these deals were. Well, not so in Australia, and that urgently needs to change.

However, the Senate does have the authority—the ability, the granted power—to make the implementation of these trade deals, as is outlined in these bills, contingent upon certain modifications to them. That is what these amendments seek to do. They seek to say that if you want to enact these relevant sections of these trade deals—if you want to bring them into force, if you want to make them workable—then first you've got to go back and say: well, actually, do you know what? Corporations are not going to be able to have a back door through which they are able to sue the Australian government when it acts in the public interest. And yes indeed we will deny that same ability to Australian corporations operating in Hong Kong—or in Peru, or in Indonesia—because we as a Senate have no desire to see Australian corporate entities become global environmental humanitarian or labour market vandals. That's not who we are. That's not what we want from Australian business when it operates overseas.

So, let's be very clear. We have the power to ask the government to make that change and to make the implementing legislation and its coming into force contingent upon those changes. I want to make that very clear for everybody who is following along at home. That is a choice that the Australian Labor Party—which it seems is rapidly morphing into 'Her Majesty's constructive consultation feedback group'—could actually take this afternoon. They're making an active decision not to stick by the unions that have supported them, not to stick by the nature of the policy platform that they put to the Australian people, but in fact to buckle before they even had an argument. I read through in detail the so-called concessions the Labor Party feel they've won from the government—brave red lions that they are!—and it's basically a wish list of nonsense. Half of the list that I had prepared, next to the analysis page of the document that came back from the Parliamentary Library, says 'does not have an effect on the relevant deal'. They've basically taken window dressing, because they don't want to have a fight about it, because they're too busy navel gazing—too busy wondering existentially what their point is, about what role they have to play. I'm honestly unclear as to why you folks want to end the year stabbing the union movement in the back and buckling to the corporate agenda of this government. These guys—this is their MO. This is why they got into politics, or got put into politics: to be the shells of large corporate Australia and to do that process. That's what the LNP is for.

I've been accused, probably accurately, of lecturing the Labor Party in the past, and I would like to confirm this afternoon that I am indeed lecturing you—and you're not very well in my class so far! There's going to have to be some improvement if you're going to pass at the end of the term, folks, because this is not good enough. It is really—softly, quietly, firmly—not good enough. That is why your supporters are so disappointed with you this afternoon. It's why they're so much in pain over these decisions. I shouldn't have to remind you that people give their lives to political organisations. They give their heart and soul. Many do that because they feel that the Labor Party is the party of working people. Well, not this afternoon, and that is a real shame. But you could still take this opportunity, right here, right now, to vote for this amendment and to at least make sure that we don't open up a back door through which corporate Australia can sue the Australian government when they feel that a regulation threatens the public interest. It's not a high bar to jump over, folks, and I really urge you to back this amendment.

The CHAIR: The question is that amendment (1) on sheet 8823, as moved by Senator Steele-John, be agreed to.


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