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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8323


Mr HART (Bass) (10:30): With the greatest respect to my friend the member for Hinkler, he's mischaracterised this side of politics' commitment to free trade. I'd like to reassure the House that Labor in government and from where we sit at present support the broad principles of free trade because we've seen, over generations, the effect of free trade in growing the economy. But there's one very, very important differentiation between this side of politics and the other side: we recognise that it's vitally important to ensure that we properly consult, that we have comprehensive economic modelling and that we take every step to ensure that those who are adversely affected by free trade agreements are appropriately compensated. There you have the difference between our side of politics and the government.

This government is prepared to enter into free trade agreements on the basis that, whatever deal is struck, the economic benefits of that arrangement will be simply assumed. I had the pleasure to serve on the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties when it examined this particular treaty action and I was, in part, the author of the additional comments which were published as part of the report of that committee. There is no underestimating the Labor Party's commitment to the beneficial effects of free trade. We have every confidence in the fact that free trade will create additional employment, but we need to enter into free trade agreements with clear eyes and we need to enter into these free trade agreements on the basis that the effects of the agreements are properly modelled and that there is suitable transparency during the course of the negotiation of the free trade agreements.

There are aspects of this particular treaty which give rise to concern—in particular, the inclusion of so-called ISDS provisions within the TPP-11 treaty. The inclusion of ISDS within this particular treaty goes against the general flow of opinion internationally with respect to the inclusion of ISDS within treaties. Indeed, the United States has recently indicated that it will not accept ISDS within treaties that it seeks to negotiate. That's not to say that you should adopt the protectionist view that the present President of the United States adopts with respect to free trade. What we want on this side of politics is fair trade and, in particular, we want to ensure that the effect of negotiation and implementation of a treaty which affects trade should not produce costs within the economy, including the loss of jobs.

There are significant concerns about the abolition of labour market testing within this treaty in so far as it affects the migration or temporary migration of workers across boundaries. It's vitally important in my view—and it's the view of my colleagues on the Labor side of politics—that we need to ensure that two things occur with respect to our labour market. Firstly, there needs to be adequate labour market testing to ensure that we're not removing Australian workers from the equation when we look at jobs that are created by free trade agreements. Secondly, we need to pay particular attention towards skills testing. There are particular areas, for example in the area of construction such as electrical contracting, which require the maintenance of standards at the highest level.

The Australian consumer must expect that, for the people who are performing complex tasks particularly with respect to electrical contracting and similar trades, we are not introducing people to the Australian market who do not have adequate skills. I can say from experience, particularly with respect to the maritime industry, that there are people within the Australian market that have their jobs exported by the importation of unskilled or lowly skilled people to the Australian market. This is something that should be taken into account when we adopt treaties.