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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6013

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (14:22): My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister confirm that the Labor Party objected to ISDS and labour market testing provisions in their additional comments to the JSCOT TPP report and, if so, why they have backflipped?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:22): I thank Senator Griff for the question. I do note, however, that Senator Griff is asking me to reflect upon a position taken by the opposition. It's for the opposition to speak of their position. However, I do note certain statements made by the opposition today that I welcome as constructive statements, in terms of what would be a continuance of long-held practice across matters of foreign policy and trade policy, where the parties of government seek to work in a constructive manner together. That does stand in some stark contrast to those on the crossbenches, at times, who seek to play politics with matters of national interest.

Senator Griff's question was in relation to the TPP-11. This is a trade agreement that is going to substantially expand access for Australian goods suppliers, Australian services suppliers and Australian investors to a wideranging marketplace. There are some 11 countries with a combined GDP of more than $13.8 trillion and close to 500 million consumers across the TPP countries. What we're going to see is enhanced market access for Australian exporters. I heard Senator Macdonald reference sugar producers, beef producers, grains producers, wine producers and a range of goods industries, as well as those in the services sector that have broadly welcomed the TPP. They have welcomed the opportunities it will provide for increased generation of income for Australians, and, as a result of that increased generation of income, increased job opportunities for Australians in the future too.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Griff, a supplementary question?

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (14:24): As noted in Labor's additional comments, the TPP waives labour market testing for contractual service suppliers for six signatory countries. This will mean jobs in Australia will be able to be filled by workers from Canada, Peru, Brunei, Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam without being first offered to Australians. Has the Labor Party explained to you, minister, why they now think this is a good thing?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: There is commentary around the table. The last part of that question I do consider to be in order because it was asking the minister about something that had been said to him. I remind senators of the standing orders around what question time is for.

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:25): For the opposition to speak for the opposition, I note that there is a statement by Mr Clare, the shadow trade minister, and I'm sure that Senator Griff could avail himself of that statement made by Mr Clare. Senator Griff asks about labour market testing provisions. I would simply note, for the benefit of the Senate and for Senator Griff, that the types of provisions contained in the TPP-11 are not dissimilar to the types of provisions contained in a number of other agreements that Australia has negotiated. It's important to remember those provisions are part of an integrated package of ensuring that Australian producers—our farmers and our businesses—receive improved access to export markets. In doing so, billions of dollars of benefits are expected to accrue to Australia, and from those billions of dollars of benefits we can expect and should expect to see job benefits for hard working Australians too.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Griff, a final supplementary question?

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (14:26): Labor's additional comments also stated that Labor members of the committee remain concerned with respect to the potential for a successful ISDS campaign to expose a future government, perhaps even a Labor government, to a substantial claim for compensation for passing legislation in the public interest. Given it has today been reported that Labor is supporting the TPP, did the coalition do a deal to alleviate Labor's concerns?

Senator Cameron: What a sellout you are!

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron: You're a sellout!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, take a breath after I call you to order.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right and left.

Senator Colbeck: He should withdraw!

Senator Wong: He's being a loyal person and you're having a go at him. You should just shut up.

The PRESIDENT: Senators Wong and Colbeck, order.

Senator Wong: It's just between me and Senator Cormann.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Just chatter back to the President, as you normally do.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, order!

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Wong! I don't want to raise my voice.

Senator Farrell: Think about it!

The PRESIDENT: That was not helpful, Senator Farrell, albeit slightly amusing.

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:28): I know much is said about ISDS provisions. I think it is important for people to understand that they do provide protections to Australian investors operating overseas. They safeguard the operation for those Australian investors. ISDS provisions have long been a feature of investment agreements that Australia has negotiated with many other countries over a long period of time and, in fact, in 30 years of use, there has only ever been one claim made against Australia in relation to utilising ISDS—

Senator Kim Carr: For tobacco! You want tobacco.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Senator Carr is right. It is in relation to tobacco and that claim was thrown out. That claim was rejected and found to not be within jurisdiction—

Senator Patrick: Mr President, on a point of order. The question was: did you do a deal with the Labor Party on the TPP?

Senator Wong: What about the deal you did with Mathias? You come in here and talk about deals!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong! Senator Macdonald, on a point of order?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, Senator Wong continually ignores your rulings. Are there special rules just for Senator Wong that only apply to her and not to the rest of us? She continually ignores your rulings and you should bring her to order.

The PRESIDENT: I think you heard me do so at the time.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, while I'm ruling! I was actually doing that at the time, prior to you raising the point of order. I remind all senators to at least remain silent while I am speaking.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong!

Senator Williams interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, I'm capable of—

Senator Sterle interjecting

The PRESIDENT: You're not drafted here, Senator Sterle. You're free to leave. On the point of order, Senator Patrick, I cannot instruct the minister how to answer the question. He was being directly relevant to part of the question asked.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: As I was saying, only one claim has ever been made and that was indeed thrown out and found to be without jurisdiction. More broadly I would note that such provisions do provide very clear safeguards so that Australian governments can continue to legislate in relation to our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, environmental standards and other public interest matters.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'm not going to call Senator Gallacher until there is silence in the chamber.