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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 26051

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (6:39 PM) —I think Senator Brown conceded that the agreement does not include an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. I think he almost said that he was pleased with that particular aspect of the agreement. As he said, the agreement does provide, under article 11.16, for consultation between the parties—that is, between the states—in relation to an investor-state dispute. But, as I said this morning, for there to be a process to flow from that consultation, it would require the agreement of both parties—that is, both states. If both states agree that there is a way forward to settle a dispute then I do not see what is wrong with that.

One can be sure that Australia, as one of the state parties, will ensure that the weight that Senator Brown referred to in terms of one economy being much larger than the other will not allow an unfair or unjust approach. That is the assurance that we have been able to give, and the provisions in the agreement enable us to give that assurance. On that basis, I cannot see the concern that Senator Brown is seeking to overcome. If it would require the agreement of Australia, I do not see his concern. The agreement of Australia would ensure that there is not an imbalance, and I understood that an imbalance is Senator Brown's concern. On that basis, I am not persuaded that we need to further constrain this provision. It might even be argued that restraint is actually inconsistent with the terms of the provision. Leaving that aside, on the merits I do not see that a case has been made out that justifies a further restraint.