Senator Hanson Young
Senator Hanson Young

I believed it was important for this chamber to debate the issue of the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and despite the fact that Donald Trump, the President-Elect in the United States, has effectively signed the death warrant for the TPP, we now know that our own Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, wishes to continue to forge ahead without acceptance of the deal by the United States. This is just a ridiculous proposition.

The TPP is, of course, an arrangement that has been struck over a number of years—lots of negotiation, but all done behind closed doors and in secret. The Australian people and indeed the citizens of many of the other countries involved in the TPP were not privy to the details of this arrangement until long after it had been signed by the previous heads of state. But of course there were a number of key voices within the room at the negotiating table, and they were some of the CEOs and heads of some of the world’s biggest corporations—right there at the table negotiating for their own interests, not the interests of the citizens of the countries that are signatories.

Our own Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, only last week, when he was in Peru, effectively begged the United States and indeed some of the other countries to not give up on this agreement, not give up on this dodgy trade deal and instead continue to forge ahead. Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, just cannot let it go. He is flogging a dead horse. He seems to be unaware of the growing opposition to this dodgy trade deal, despite the fact that it has cost an election, at least for the Democrats, in the United States. Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign did slightly change the Democrats position in relation to the TPP, we know that this happened really only after a massive outcry from the American people and indeed a surge in support for the proposition put forward by Donald Trump to scrap the TPP if he was elected as President. Well, now he has been elected. This trade deal was dodgy from the start, and it is time it was dumped. There has been a clear rejection of the TPP as a way of doing these types of trade deals. They were negotiated behind closed doors. They were negotiated for big business, by big business, with the help of nation states, and they locked out the very voices of the citizens whom governments are meant to represent.

We need to take stock of this failure of an agreement such as the TPP, take stock and realise that there are fundamental reasons that the public and the community have so resoundingly rejected the deal across the region. Here in Australia, there is growing opposition. In the US, of course, and in many other countries who are signatories to the TPP, people do not like it, they want it junked. They want their governments and their heads of state to start thinking about the interests of the people and not just those of the corporations who are out to make big bucks out of those deals. From the ashes of the TPP, other trade deals will rise. We know that this agreement is dead in the water. It cannot go ahead without the US signing it, despite what the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, says. The clauses and the underpinning of the TPP mean that unless the United States ratifies it, the whole thing falls over. So why on earth we have a Prime Minister and trade minister in this country continuing to beg, and to flog a dead horse in this regard, is beyond me. It is almost embarrassing, to be honest. We know that the Prime Minister tried pick up the phone to have a hearing with Donald Trump, to beg him to change his mind on the TPP—but no, our Prime Minister did not get that hearing, and he looked just a little bit foolish in attempting to do so.

We know that new trade deals will be and have already started to be discussed, and that they will start to be negotiated out of the ashes of the TPP. We must take this opportunity to learn from the mistakes in what has happened under the previous negotiations. The investor-state dispute settlement—ISDS—clauses, which would allow big business to have incredible power over the rights of citizens and governments, are just atrocious. Those types of clauses must be outlawed in this country in relation to ongoing and future trade arrangements. This debate is not just happening here in Australia, and not just happening in the United States, but it is happening right across Europe as well, as citizens and smart governments are recognising that it is just not worth trading away their rights—under these trade arrangements—to represent their people and to pass laws in the interests of the community.

Giving massive corporations the power to sue governments if they change laws; if they introduce new environmental regulations, or, heavens above, if we actually ended up getting what we desperately need in order to reduce emissions in this country, a moratorium on coal exports! Under the TPP—under a trade deal that includes ISDS clauses—that type of moratorium would most likely be found to be illegal, opening up the Australian government to being sued by some of the world’s biggest mining corporations. The TPP itself was only going to lead to a very small increase in GDP growth. It was not about maximising goods and services exports out of Australia; in fact, Australia’s trade deficit to date is larger than it has been a long, long time. It is close to $36 billion—that is Australia’s current trade deficit. That means we are exporting and making less money out of our exports than we are paying for things coming into our country. The trade deals that have been done by this government, and by previous governments over the last five or six years, have done nothing to close that trade deficit. In fact, it has continued to widen; to get bigger and bigger. We hear the government talking all the time about the budget deficit and about what a crisis we are in in relation to that—yet we never hear them talk about the massive trade deficit that is getting worse, day by day, because of the dodgy trade deals this government continues to enter Australia into.

As these new trade arrangements are negotiated, there is another issue we must make sure of—along with outlawing and stopping ISDS clauses which give corporations more power than the people in a country like Australia. That issue is cracking down on big multinational companies to prevent them from having a monopoly on things like pharmaceutical drugs. Not many people know that under the TPP, big pharmaceutical companies in the US were going to get a boon from having a massive monopoly for years on life-saving cancer drugs. New drugs to combat cancer were going to be more expensive for Australians—for the Australian government under the PBS, and for Australians trying to access those new drugs. Those prices were going to go through the roof under the TPP. Big pharmaceutical companies wanted the TPP but, I tell you what, cancer patients did not. There were going to be poor labour rights and poor labour rights protections under the TPP. We need to make sure that, if we are going to enter into trade deals—which of course we need to do, because we need to be exporting things to the rest of the world—let us make sure we lift standards, not lower them; let us ensure that we lift workers’ rights and protections, not push them down to the lowest common denominator. There are a number of things that we need to take from the ashes of the TPP and implement in any deals going forward. (Thank Goodness time expired, I couldn’t bear to read anymore)


Chamber Senate Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Speaker :Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah