ACTU Congress slams TPP

May 27, 2015: ACTU Congress Resolution on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) 

The ACTU calls on the Australian Government to release the TPP text for parliamentary debate and public scrutiny or withdraw Australia from the secret TPP negotiations.

One of the foundation stones of any healthy democracy is the right to participate in the democratic process and to be clearly informed about the choices our Government intends to make on our behalf. We cannot, in good faith, stand by and allow these negotiations to proceed in secret, with 600 US corporations assisting in drafting the TPP text  that potentially has far reaching impact on peoples’ lives and the environment, while our elected representatives and key community stakeholders are locked out of the process.

The lack of transparency of the TPP negotiations has in fact led to our elected representatives and the public only knowing details of a few selected chapters because of leaks to the publishing organization WikiLeaks and other public interest media sites.

The most recent leak of the Investment Chapter confirms some of our worst fears about the corporate influence over the agreement. The chapter includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions which enable foreign investors to sue governments for damages resulting from domestic legislation which they claim will harm their investment. ISDS will enable foreign corporations to avoid our legal system, hold unreasonable sway over our legislative process and effectively hold our public policy formation to ransom through the empowerment of multinational corporations to sue our governments.

Current ISDS cases show that it can potentially impact our fundamental human rights and national sovereignty, and threaten our access to affordable medicines, regulations on environmental protections, food safety standards, workers’ rights, jobs, culture and Indigenous rights.

Other chapters within the TPP pose a significant threat to universal healthcare through decreased access to affordable medicines, changes to the way in which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme operates and, at a primary healthcare level, through restrictions on food labelling.  In this way the TPP is a further attack on universal healthcare within the region and within Australia.

As representatives of union members and the broader community, we call on the Australian Government to act in a transparent and democratic way and in the best interests of the people rather than corporations. We believe we need trade policy that engages and works with unions and community groups to uphold human rights, workers’ rights and protects the environment. Australia needs a democratic and transparent process for negotiating and signing trade agreements. Trade Agreements need to be released for public and parliamentary debate before they are signed and that Parliament should vote on the whole text of the agreement, not just the implementing legislation.