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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25983

Senator NETTLE (1:34 PM) —I move Australian Greens' amendment (2) on sheet 4366 revised:

(2) Page 4 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

6Free trade agreement subordinate to public welfare objectives

For the purposes of the agreement:

(a) regulatory actions which are designed for the purpose of, and applied to achieve, legitimate public welfare objectives, including the protection of:

(i) public health;

(ii) public safety;

(iii) the environment;

do not constitute indirect expropriations for the purposes of the agreement; and

(b) no compensation is payable as a consequence of any expropriation or nationalisation arising under Article 11.7(1) of the agreement unless compensation would be payable under an Australian law other than this Act to an Australian person or company.

This amendment is about protection of public health, public safety and the environment. It ensures that the Australian government now and Australian governments in the future can make decisions to protect Australia's public welfare, public health, public safety or environment and cannot be threatened with paying compensation as a result of this trade agreement. If an existing Australian law ensures that compensation needs to be paid, that is fine because it is an Australian law. But this amendment says that governments making decisions for public health, public welfare, public safety or our environment cannot be fined as a result of this trade agreement. These are the sorts of objectives that need to be put into trade agreements to ensure that governments—not just here in Australia and in the United States—can make decisions on the basis of public health, public welfare, the environment and public safety. The Australian Greens support trade agreements whereby sovereign governments have the capacity to make decisions on the basis of public health, public welfare and environmental standards.

Indeed, on an international level, the Greens here and Greens parties in over 80 different countries are arguing, working and campaigning to ensure that trade agreements involving all countries occur—not bilateral sorts of trade agreements like this one between Australia and the United States but agreements that involve all countries and that have environmental, human health, labour and human rights standards enshrined across the board which respect international standards. These are the sorts of trade agreements we should be ensuring occur. Otherwise, we will end up with trade agreements—like the one we are debating right now between Australia and the United States—which do not have those public health, environmental, labour or human rights standards central to them. Any of those fundamental standards can be overridden by the interests of the trade agreement. For example, if the Australian government wanted to bring in a carbon tax—an example which Senator Brown gave last night—and to use the funds from a carbon tax to protect our natural environment, that could go to the disputes mechanism and we could have to pay compensation for bringing in a carbon tax. This amendment ensures that, when we are making decisions for these public interest initiatives, we do not face the prospect of paying compensation as a result of the disputes tribunal set up in this agreement.