Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in trade agreements restrict Australia's sovereignty and ability to fairly regulate and legislate in the public interest,
(ii) ISDS clauses in trade agreements empower multi-national corporations to sue Governments for decisions which impede company profits,
(iii) approximately 52 per cent of ISDS claims were partly or fully successful in the multi-national corporations' favour, and 60 per cent of the cases decided on merits were won by investors,
(iv) ISDS clauses are a drain on the taxpayer and government resources,
(v) in 2009, Swedish energy company Vattenfall brought a successful ISDS claim against the German Government, for imposing quality controls for waste waters released from their power plant which supposedly made their investment project "unviable", and
(vi) in 2015, United States company Bilcon, brought a successful ISDS claim against the Canadian Government, for not allowing it to build a quarry and marine terminal in an ecologically sensitive coastal area in eastern Canada; and
(b) calls on the Government to ban Investor-State Dispute Settlement for all trade agreements.
Australia has investor-state dispute settlement provisions in seven free trade agreements and 21 investment agreements. We have had ISDS agreements for almost 30 years. ISDS mechanisms provide valuable protections for Australian investors in markets that do not have the same legal standards as our own. ISDS mechanisms do not restrict Australia's sovereignty or ability to fairly regulate and legislate in the public interest. ISDS mechanisms do not prevent the government from changing policies and do not freeze existing policy settings. The government is opposed to signing agreements which include provisions that would restrict our capacity to govern and/or regulate in the public interest.
Investor-state dispute settlement clauses give multinational corporations the opportunity to dress up as cowboys and take the law into their own hands. I do not need to lecture this chamber as to the importance of democracy in the vital checks and balances that parliament provides. These clauses give these cowboys a recipe book on how to sue the government if it creates legislation in the public interest that might cause a drop in their profit margins. This gives them a way to get around the checks and balances that form the foundations of our democracy and it undermines our sovereignty.
We do not have to imagine the impact that these ISDS clauses may have, as Germany has been recently sued for 1.4 billion euros due to an ISDS claim and one multinational is seeking $300 million in damages in Canada. What would a suit like that do to Australia's budget deficit?
Question agreed to.