Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Federation Chamber, Private Members Business


Mr KEOGH (Burt) (11:36): The Labor Party and the labour movement have a proud record of reform that has boosted trade and investment, created new jobs and increased the incomes of Australians. This proud history goes back to the days of Whitlam, Hawke and Keating. We've done this because we know that, as a trading nation, Australia's economic success is underpinned by our ability to sell our goods and services overseas. Key to this is making sure we make the most of the continuing rise of Asia. Two in every three dollars we make from trade comes from Asia, and this is likely to increase in the years ahead. We need to grab with both hands the opportunities our Asian neighbours put forward to us.

When we were last in government Labor entered Australia into negotiations on the original Trans-Pacific Partnership. As we know, Donald Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement earlier this year, effectively killing it. Its replacement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is much smaller, and many of the more contentious sections of the original TPP as we knew it have been suspended.

Labor believes that all trade agreements should be the subject of independent economic modelling. However, the coalition has refused to do this. Fortunately, the Victorian Labor government has commissioned independent economic modelling of the CPTPP. This independent economic modelling indicates that this agreement will deliver modest economic benefits in the short term and has the potential for more economic gains in the longer term. The independent economic analysis concludes that, while the agreement does not benefit all sectors equally, critically, no sector or business would be worse off as a result. There are also potential strategic benefits to this agreement, as building stronger trade ties between the countries in our region helps to make us all more secure.

However, there are things in this agreement that Labor has concerns with, in particular the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions and the waiver of labour market testing for contractual service suppliers. The community doesn't support these clauses either. Yet these same clauses have been included in other trade agreements signed by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. Labor has made it clear that if we win the next election we will not sign trade agreements that include ISDS clauses and we will not waive labour market testing for contractual service suppliers. In addition, a Shorten Labor government, if elected, will remove these provisions from existing trade agreements including this one. The new New Zealand Labour government has shown how this can be done, negotiating bilateral agreements with four countries to remove the application of ISDS clauses in the CPTPP that was agreed by the previous conservative New Zealand government. The same approach can be used to reverse the waiver of labour market testing for contractual service suppliers. We do not support the inclusion of ISDS, as it has given foreign corporations rights in Australia that even Australian companies do not have.

We also believe that before a carpenter, an electrician or a plumber is brought in from overseas, employers should be required to ensure that there are no Australians who can do the job. This is why a Shorten Labor government, if elected, will establish an Australian skills authority, an independent labour market testing body to determine genuine skills needs and restrict temporary work visas so that they are available only when a genuine skills gap cannot be met by local workers. This authority will work in consultation with industry, unions, higher education and TAFE sectors as well as state and local governments to project Australia's future skill shortages and train Australian workers for those jobs. Fortunately, the agreement does include the eight core ILO conventions. This is a step in the right direction, although there is still more work to be done there.

Labor is also committed to improving the way that trade agreements are negotiated. Under a Shorten Labor government, if elected, the role of the parliament will be strengthened by briefing the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties at the conclusion of each round of negotiations and providing it with the government's statement of objectives for negotiation for consideration and feedback. We will also legislate to establish a system of accredited trade advisors from industry, unions and civil society groups who will provide real-time feedback on draft trade agreements during negotiations. Public updates on each round of these negotiations will also be provided and draft texts released, where feasible, in the interests of transparency.

Labor will legislate to require an independent national interest assessment to be conducted on every new trade agreement before it is signed in order to examine the economic, strategic and social impacts of any new trade agreement that may be implemented. But we don't have to wait for a new government to see these policies implemented. A private member's bill is now before the parliament. If passed, it would implement some of these policies so we can work towards a fair boost to trade and investment in Australia now.