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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4223

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (16:04): At the request of Senator Milne and pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Milne moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of the Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion no. 313.

This is about transparency. This is about parliament and parliamentarians making a very clear statement on an issue that is not only important to many Australians; it has gained international attention. While I understand Labor have a longstanding policy of not discussing these issues, it is my belief that the people out there want to see transparency. They want to see their leaders standing up in a place like this, in parliament, making very clear statements relating to very serious issues. This motion does that today.

I put similar concerns to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at estimates recently relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations and what has been happening in Brunei. While I got acknowledgement from the DFAT officials that they knew this was an issue in the US, it had not crossed their brief at all and they would not comment at all about what was happening in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement trade negotiations.

This is a secret trade deal that is being negotiated behind closed doors by negotiators. We do not know whose interests they are representing and we have no detail. I cannot help but say to the Labor Party that I am disappointed that you have not supported this motion today. I have had a very productive nine months working with Labor to try and expose details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, including via an order for the production of documents from the Senate in both a Green-driven motion and a Labor-driven motion for the Korean free trade deal. We are trying to get information, at least a draft transcript, on what is in these negotiations and what is being traded in our name. It is the Greens' firm belief that trade is good. Trade opens up opportunities, but it needs to be fair trade. We need to use trade as a vehicle to incorporate issues that are important to us—important social, ethical and environmental issues.

I would like to read a letter that was written to the honourable John Kerry in the US House of Representatives from over 100 congressmen in the US.

We write to express our concern over the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s recently adopted penal code, which threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition of the United States participating with them in any further Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

…   …   …

Brunei's adoption of the revised penal code legalizes violence against its citizens, constituting torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

The most important issue there was:

As Members of Congress, we believe that protecting fundamental human rights is a cornerstone of American values and must always be a priority in our relations, both diplomatic and economic, with foreign countries.

That is exactly what we wrote in our motion, which should have been supported by the chamber here today. It was a very clear statement from US congress men and women that America has a leadership role to play in these negotiations in social, ethical and environmental issues.

Our government is very happy to go overseas to Korea, China and Japan—or, as we will see tomorrow, to have the Prime Minister of Japan come to Australia—and get a lot of headlines around trade deals. But these are not just trade deals; these are bilateral negotiations focusing on bilateral relations. That is not just trade; that is a whole range of factors that bring our countries closer together. With the Japanese Prime Minister's visit tomorrow, I certainly hope that the government will raise Japan's seeming insistence on going back to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales next summer. This is an issue that concerns most Australians and is something we should be raising with the Japanese at the highest level.

The secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is no different. We need to use these trade deals as an opportunity to change the way we approach the relationships with our neighbours. We need to come together and incorporate such factors. We need to make sure that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is well aware of the parliament's position on obvious human rights abuses in Brunei for the next time I, Senator Wong or any other senator asks it a question on this matter and takes these factors into consideration in our trade negotiations. We will show leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to make sure that Brunei gets the very clear message that this is not acceptable to us and we will not be doing business with people who violate the human rights of their citizens.