A fair go for Australians in trade Bill 2018: Second Reading




I move that this bill be now read a second time.
Trade creates jobs.
According to the Centre for International Economics (CIE) one in five Australian jobs is linked to trade.
The more we trade the more jobs we create. It also leads to better paid jobs.
That’s why Labor supports trade, because it benefits working people. 

Most of the big reforms in trade have been made by Labor.
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating working with Bill Kelty ripped down the tariff walls and opened up our economy. 
That created more businesses, more exporters and more jobs.  
According to work done by the Centre for International Economics another impact of these reforms is the average Australian family is now about $8,500 a year better off than they would have been if these reforms were never made. 
That doesn’t mean though that trade is popular. It’s not.
Cutting tariffs wasn’t popular. 

Today there are a lot of people that are sceptical about trade and Free Trade Agreements. 
There are a number of reasons for this.
One is what some of these agreements have in them.
Another is that they are often negotiated for years in secret and we don’t find out what’s in them until they are signed.
That’s why the way we design, negotiate and assess trade agreements has to change.
Let me give you an example. 
This government has used trade agreements to repeatedly trade away Labour Market Testing.
Labour Market Testing is the simple task that before you bring in someone from overseas employers should first have to check if there’s an Australian who can do that job.
That’s not protectionism. That’s common sense. It’s also the law of the land.
But in a raft of trade agreements this government has removed this basic requirement.
This undermines the whole purpose of Labour Market Testing.
For it to work properly it should apply to all employers – regardless of the country they are bringing workers in from.
Creating exemptions like this means that employers can avoid this requirement by recruiting workers from certain countries rather than others.
I have made it clear that where this government has waived Labour Market Testing in trade agreements we will seek to restore it. 
In the case of the TPP we will seek to do this using side letters with the relevant countries. We will do the same with Investor State Dispute Settlement or ISDS clauses. 
This bill will stop the Australian Government from putting these sorts of clauses into trade agreements in the future. 
It will prohibit the government from waiving labour market testing in trade agreements.
It will also prohibit the government from signing trade agreements that include ISDS clauses. 
It also prohibits other things that Australians don’t want to see in trade agreements.
To ensure that workers from overseas have the skills they need to do the job they are employed to do it will prohibit the government from signing trade agreements that do not require mandatory skills assessments, both practical and theoretical, being done here in Australia.
The bill also prohibits the government from signing trade agreements that require the privatisation of public services.
It also prohibits the government from signing trade agreements that would undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 
As Minister for Home Affairs I set up the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission.
Dumping is when companies sell their goods at below cost price with the deliberate intention to try and hurt local companies.  
That’s not trade it’s cheating, and it’s why strong anti-dumping laws are so important.
This bill prohibits the government from signing any trade agreements which would undermine our anti-dumping laws.
It also prohibits the government from signing trade agreements that would limit the right of the government to regulate in the interest of public welfare or in relation to safe products – including stopping the importation of unsafe products.
The bill also prohibits the government from signing any trade agreement that places certain restrictions on government procurement. 
High quality trade agreements should also lead to better working conditions and labour standards, not worse.
That’s why this bill also requires the Australian Government to include in all bilateral trade agreements a labour chapter with internationally recognised labour principles.
The Bill also sets out that the Australian Government should seek to include a labour chapter in any regional or multilateral trade agreement that it signs.
Mr Speaker I mentioned earlier that one of the problems with the way trade deals are done at the moment is that they are done in secret.
The Parliament, businesses, unions, other organisations, and the entire Australian public usually have no idea of what is in them, or what is going to be in them, until they’ve been signed.
We also need to fix that.
To do that we need to do a number of things – some of which are set out in this Bill.
First we need to strengthen the role that this Parliament plays in scrutinising trade agreements.
If Labor wins the next election we will therefore expand the role of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
It should be involved in the development of trade agreements from the start to the finish not just examining what is in them once they’re signed. 
Before any trade agreement starts it should be consulted on the government’s Statement of Objectives for Negotiation – and given the chance to provide feedback.
The Committee should also be briefed by DFAT after each round of negotiations on how the negotiations are going and what they are focused on.
This will provide valuable input for the team negotiating the trade agreement and help ensure that when a trade deal is completed it is scrutinised by legislators who are familiar with it.
Business groups, unions and other organisations should also receive similar briefings.
This bill sets up a system of Accredited Trade Advisors based on the model in The United States.
Accredited Trade Advisors would be security cleared and provided access to draft texts after each round of negotiations allowing them to provide real time feedback on what should and shouldn’t be in the final agreement.
We will also provide public updates on each round of negotiations and release draft texts during negotiations where this is feasible.
The way trade agreements are assessed also needs to change.
This bill requires an Independent National Interest Assessment to be conducted on every new trade agreement before it is signed.
This assessment will cover everything from the economic benefits to the strategic impact to the social impact of trade agreements.
At the moment the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides the Parliament with what it calls a National Interest Assessment of signed trade agreements.  
I have said this a number of times.
DFAT is full of exceptional people who do an extraordinary job.
But getting the same team that negotiated the trade agreement to provide a report to the Parliament outlining why it is in the national interest is a bit like marking your own homework.
If the government signs any trade agreements in the next few months it is very unlikely they will come before this parliament for consideration before the next election.
That is because the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is required to consider any trade agreement for a minimum of 20 joint sitting days before it reports and enabling legislation is introduced.
If the current government were to sign a trade agreement between now and the next election that includes clauses that are prohibited in this legislation we wouldn’t support it in the Parliament before the election and if we win the next election we will go back and renegotiate that agreement to take out those clauses before bringing any enabling legislation before the Parliament. 
These reforms have not been developed in a vacuum. They are in response to legitimate concerns the community has about what goes into free trade agreements and the secret way in which they are done at the moment.
I would like to acknowledge the different stakeholders that have worked with me in developing these reforms. They include:

  • Members of the union movement who have worked with me in developing these ideas – including the ACTU
  • The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • The National Farmers’ Federation
  • The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
  • The Export Council of Australia 

They don’t all agree with all of the reforms in this bill but they have all had a hand in some of them.
Labor will be announcing other measures before the end of the year that will also help to protect local jobs and communities from the negative impacts of trade agreements entered into by Liberal Governments, which will also help to ensure temporary visas and temporary visa workers are not exploited and which will ensure Government procurement and projects support local jobs.
Mr Speaker this is an important Bill. If it passes it will fix many of the existing problems with trade agreements and make sure that the ones we sign up to in the future are better and fairer.
I commend it to the House.
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