Wednesday, 11 February 2015
At the request of Senator Wong, I move:
(a) the Senate—
(i) notes the Abbott Government's failure to keep Parliament and the public informed of the nature and progress of its trade negotiations,
(ii) expresses concern that the Abbott Government's lack of transparency diminishes industry and community engagement and undermines support for trade liberalisation,
(iii) draws to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Investment the order of the Senate of 11 December 2013 requiring bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements to be tabled at least 14 days before signing, and
(iv) requires the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Investment to make a statement in the Senate on the status of negotiations on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership no later than 4 pm on Thursday, 12 February 2015;
(b) at the conclusion of the statement a senator may move to take note of the statement; or
(c) if no statement has been made by the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Investment by 4 pm on Thursday, 12 February 2015, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) may immediately move a further motion relating to the Minister's failure to comply.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations are at an advanced stage and only the most difficult issues remain. Australia is working hard to conclude negotiations as soon as possible; however, we will not sacrifice a comprehensive, ambitious TPP outcome in order to obtain a quick deal.
TPP countries, including Canada, Mexico and Japan, accounted for a third of Australia's total trade in 2012-13.
The 12 TPP parties have agreed to keep the negotiating documents, including the text, confidential. Pre-emptive and unilateral release of such confidential information would damage Australia's standing as a negotiating partner. Australia will be in a position to publicly release the text when all parties agree to do so, not before.
The Senate can be assured that, once the text of trade agreements is ratified between parties but before it is ratified by the Australian government, it will be made public and it will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny through the well-established review processes through the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
I note the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided over 700 public consultations on the TPP negotiations and is open to receive further submissions. (Time expired)
Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
Leave is granted for one minute.
We do not necessarily support the wording of this motion, but we do support the intent to actually get debate in this chamber and some transparency around what is the biggest trade deal in this country's history, totally negotiated in secret, behind closed doors, and pushed by special interests in both the US and other countries around this region. It is totally unacceptable to Australians in this country that a trade agreement that will change the laws in this country, that will impact on significant matters of public interest, is being negotiated behind closed doors by DFAT officials where only one or two senior ministers on this government's front bench know the details of this deal. This is a huge issue around the world. It is in the US, as it is in Europe. The European Parliament has recently voted to give the text to the public before it is signed. This will be signed by cabinet. Parliament will not be able to change it. You vote for or against it. It is simply unacceptable and the Australian public are starting to make their voice heard. (Time expired)