On Tuesday evening, 2 June 2015, at the Griffith Community Hall, the Federal Labor Party hosted a community forum on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Australia’s ongoing negotiations.
Speakers were Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Trade & Investment Jim Chalmers; former Minister for Trade & Competitiveness Craig Emerson; and University of Sydney Research Associate Dr Pat Ranald.
In addition to her role as an academic in the field of trade policy, Dr Ranald is the Coordinator of AFTINET – the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network of community organizations, including church groups, human rights groups, public health, union and environmental organizations – which advocates for fair trade policies based on human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability.
This free event was mediated by the Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, and the Member for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan.
The hall was filled to overflowing with members of the interested public who came out on a very cold night to hear the speakers and put questions to them.
Vintage Reds turned up in considerable numbers, perhaps a dozen of us, and several managed to ask a question after the presentations.
The two politicians were fairly relaxed about the TPP proposal. Both noted that the ALP opposes the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, by which any corporation may sue a signatory government if it feels that a piece of new legislation may affect its profits (e.g. the current Phillip Morris court case, made possible by a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong).
Only Pat Ranald seemed to share the overwhelmingly sceptical attitude towards the TPP, and concern about extreme levels of secrecy, evident among the audience. Craig Emerson blamed the secrecy on the difficulty of moving through negotiations, with versions of text frequently changing, and the negotiators not wanting to have to deal with public reaction at every stage.
Labor should be campaigning to raise the public awareness about those negative aspects of the TPP already known, such as ISDS, imposition of changes to legislation on working conditions, environmental standards, food safety, extension of intellectual property rights, higher prices for pharmaceuticals and restrictions on internet access – not to mentions the erosion of our democracy and our national sovereignty!
Labor politicians MUST engage with the community on the dangers of entering into this secretive TPP so that if the worst happens (almost a certainty under the present Government) the community will be well-informed and empowered to act.
A copy of a speech by Senator Penny Wong, the Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment, was handed out after the meeting.
NB If you are interested in receiving regular updates on the TPP from Pauline Westwood, send a message to her at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Civil Liberties Australia: http://www.cla.asn.au/News/tpp-will-neuter-oz-parliament/