Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

3:30 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

This is the implementing legislation that will come before this place; it's currently scheduled for some time in October. This is the implementing legislation for the TPP arrangement—a deal between 11 countries, including Australia, to continue the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade arrangements, despite the fact that President Trump withdrew the US from this and renegotiated.

We know that the terrible, worst parts of these arrangements fall squarely at the feet of this government because they did such a bad deal when going in and negotiating on behalf of Australian workers. We know that Australian workers are going to miss out on jobs under this arrangement because six countries out of the 11 in the TPP are allowed to bring as many workers into Australia as they want without even having to check whether Australians are here, fit and ready to take these jobs themselves. The exemption of labour market testing has put a huge chill through many members of the opposition, the Labor Party and, of course, the Australian union movement—as it should, because this is a terrible precedent for Australia to be signing up to.

My question to the minister today was in relation to the hollow promises of Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition. He says that Labor will simply try and fix the worst parts of the TPP, whether it's the exemptions for labour marketing testing or, indeed, the insidious ISDS clauses which allow foreign multinational corporations to sue the Australian federal government or state and local governments. It's a bad precedent that we would sign up to a trade arrangement that allows multinational companies to come in and sue our government for acting in the best interests of the Australian people.

My questions went to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition thinks that when he is Prime Minister he will be able to fix this dodgy deal. That is simply naive. We know that trade deals are not conducted in this manner. Once it is signed, once it is implemented, once it's through this place, the only way you change it is by withdrawing from the trade arrangement itself. So here we have the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, pretending that he can somehow just win the election, come on in and make some red marks on a piece of paper to tinker around the edges, and everything will be okay. It just doesn't work like that. Australia will have to withdraw from the TPP and start again. If that is what the Leader of the Opposition wants to do, he should be up-front with the Australian people that that is the position of the Labor Party—that they're going to this election saying they're withdrawing from the TPP. If that is indeed the position of the Labor Party, why on earth would you vote for it in a couple of weeks time, right here in this place? It just reeks of sheer hypocrisy and trickery.

We know that members on the opposition side are very, very concerned. They don't even trust that the Leader of the Opposition is going to follow through with this. We've heard from Senator Cameron, from Senator McAllister and from Senator Gallacher that they just don't believe this can happen. They don't believe that the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, is being honest about the changes that can be done. We know this because they've had their arguments in their own caucus room, and they are right: these changes cannot happen after the fact. So if members on the Leader of the Opposition's own team don't believe him, why on earth should the Australian people?

Question agreed to.