The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, discussed the threat to Australia, and Tasmania in particular, from the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in a number of impending trade agreements.
“Including ISDS provisions in these trade agreements would open up Australia, and Tasmania in particular, to damaging lawsuits from foreign companies,” Mr Wilkie said.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and bilateral Free Trade Agreements with China and Japan are close to being finalised and I understand the Abbott Government is planning to allow ISDS provisions, as it did with the recent Korean Free Trade Agreement.
“This would allow foreign companies to sue Australian governments if they take any action which damages the company’s business, for example the current Philip Morris case against plain packaging legislation.
“Tasmania is particularly vulnerable due to its high quarantine standards. Strict rules that prevent foreign companies from entering the market, for example fish importers, can be interpreted as discriminatory and a breach of our trade obligations.
“Tasmania’s GMO-free status is another important example of something that could be challenged by foreign companies exploiting the ISDS provisions.
“Regardless of whether any lawsuit against Australia is successful, the process takes Australian resources and time to defend, not to mention possible trade sanctions.
“At very least new trade agreements need to include exemptions for important areas such as health, food safety and environmental legislation.
“I call on the Abbott Government to show some sense in current trade negotiations by not signing on to ISDS provisions that would threaten Australia, particularly Tasmania, with harmful legal action.
“And I call on the Tasmanian Government to do what it can to pressure the Abbott Government to that end.”