Lateline hammers TPP trade sell-out

By Leith van Onselen

Last night, ABC’s Lateline dedicated an entire program to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the US-led trade deal being negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Australia.

The first segment showed how interests within the US political system – particularly the Democratic Party and unions – are opposed to the TPP, which threatens to scuttle the deal:

ELIZABETH WARREN, DEMOCRAT SENATOR (Dec. 2014): For big corporations, trade agreement time must feel like Christmas morning. Well think about it, they get special gifts that could never pass through Congress out in public.

PROTESTOR (Jan. 27): No TPP! No TPP! Democracy, not secrecy!

PROTESTOR II: It is an agreement that will dramatically restrict trade and exchange in a way that will crush generic production of pharmaceuticals and raise medical costs to the point that the world’s point will not be able to access life-saving medicines and people are likely to die…

MICHAEL VINCENT: Driven by anger at the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, hundreds of union leaders have converged on Capitol Hill.

UNION LEADER: We travelled here together to ask one question: how dumb do you think we are?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Alongside union leaders, Democrat after Democrat took turns to denounce the President’s trade pact and stop any attempt to fast track it through Congress…

Union leaders have been going to the offices of every Democrat congressman and woman to deliver a blunt message: unions not only fill your election coffers, they provide the foot soldiers for your campaigns, now you need to help us, even if it means confronting the President…

DAVID NATHER, POLITICO: Well there’s certainly a stronger battle than the President has ever had with Democrats from his own party…

ROSA DELAURO: There are a lot of unanswered questions that we would have before anyone could begin to think about doing – providing a Trade Promotion Authority or fast track.

MICHAEL VINCENT: You’re quite prepared to keep this fight up then?

ROSA DELAURO: Oh, my gosh, yes, oh, yes, oh yes.

The second segment then highlighted the harm the TPP could do to Australia:

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: In Australia, no-one outside the Government has seen the text of what’s being negotiated for the TPP…

GED KEARNEY, ACTU: There are community groups, there are church groups, there are a very wide range of people who have very serious concerns about the TPP.

TOM IGGULDEN [Reporter]: Those concerns escalated with the most recent WikiLeaks revelation of the confidential text of a controversial chapter of the draft deal. It includes what’s called an investor-state dispute resolution clause, giving multinational corporations a way to get compensation for government decisions that affect their bottom lines.

KYLA TIENHAARA, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNI.: We can see that Australia is still holding out on not agreeing to have ISDS apply to Australia, but there’s a little – now there’s a little footnote there that basically shows that the Government is willing to negotiate on that point…

TOM IGGULDEN: The revelation confirmed the worst-held fears of those who oppose the deal. Investor clauses, it’s argued, give the biggest companies on the planet the power to trump governments’ ability to pass law and courts’ ability to enforce them.

GED KEARNEY: We are against trading away our sovereign rights, we are against trading away our health and our access to medicines, we’re against trading away environmental safeguards, our public services and absolutely 100 per cent we are against trading away Australian jobs.

TOM IGGULDEN: Last year the country’s top judge gave a speech about the potential impact of investor clauses, saying, “My concern is with the judicial system and its authority and finality of its decisions …”. In Chief Justice French’s words, investor clauses raise, “… potentially serious questions about the interaction of such an award with the domestic judicial system which may be called upon to enforce it”…

Investor clauses been increasingly common in free trade deals signed around the world over the last decade and so too have the number of legal cases against governments. About 550 are currently active by one estimate.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s suing the Canadian Government for half a billion dollars over its drug patent rules.

Resources company Lone Pine is suing the Quebec Government for banning fracking in an environmentally-sensitive river valley.

Australia’s being sued too by cigarette maker Philip Morris, which is using an investor clause in old free trade agreement with Hong Kong to sue Canberra for damages over the Gillard Government’s plain-packaging legislation…

The final segment held a debate between trade agreement booster, Alan Oxley, who sees no potential downsides in the deal, and Greens senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, who is very concerned by the potential impacts of the TPP on pharmaceuticals and the government’s ability to regulate in the national interest:

EMMA ALBERICI: So why is there so much secrecy surrounding this deal, Alan Oxley?

ALAN OXLEY: The secrecy issue’s been way overblown. All trade agreements are negotiated in this way…

EMMA ALBERICI: Peter Whish-Wilson, does the secrecy raise any suspicions for you?

PETER WHISH WILSON: Absolutely and it’s the most common question I get, Emma, when people ask me about this trade deal: why is it secret? The logical conclusion you draw is that there’s something to hide here. In terms of this is the way trade deals have always been negotiated, the Senate now has an inquiry into the treaty process because these deals aren’t democratic. They’re dangerous and they need to be changed.

EMMA ALBERICI: Alan Oxley, who benefits from the deal?

ALAN OXLEY: The people whose markets are going to be opened…


PETER WHISH WILSON: Yeah, I think Alan raises probably the most important issue for me and that is: a lot of people don’t understand why this is even called a trade deal. It’s actually got very little to do with trade. This is all about changing laws and regulations and rules in different countries, synchronising the laws between countries to suit large US multinationals and other countries. There’s significant areas of public interest that are now going to be impacted by these so-called “new generation” trade deals. You gave a very good rundown earlier tonight around digital rights, around intellectual property, around environmental laws, around labour laws. There’s so many things that we could look at and pick out examples of where our sovereignty and our flexibility to govern this nation, both as parliamentarians and as an executive, are going to be limited by the scope of these deals. There is no evidence at all that any trade deal that we have negotiated in the past has delivered on the so-called benefits. They are overhyped, they are full of spin. The Government signs these deals and uses them as an opportunity to get a photo shoot. We can go back and look at, for example, the US free trade agreement, which you mentioned earlier. What’s that delivered for this country? There’s no evidence. We seem to have this ideological push to get these deals signed, but now, because they impact our laws of this country, they are dangerous…

And it’s – the first thing we need to do is actually make the text available. I’m fascinated that the US Congress have actually been able to see this and no-one in Australia, no elected parliamentarian has got to see any detail. The first thing we need to do is release that so that we can actually give it the scrutiny that it deserves…

EMMA ALBERICI: But on the issue of the investor state dispute settlement clause, isn’t there a very real risk that countries are going to lose that ability to properly regulate multinationals, that the biggest companies in the world will be able, through the TPP, to circumvent the powers of democratically-elected governments?

ALAN OXLEY: No, I don’t think so. I think this has also been severely misrepresented…

EMMA ALBERICI: Peter Whish-Wilson.

PETER WHISH WILSON: Emma, I think Alan’s probably been out of the game for a while and he probably should have done his homework before coming on national TV tonight. The Senate itself, which included the Labor Party, the Greens and all the crossbenchers, passed a motion for an order of production of documents demanding that the Federal Government, the Trade Minister Andrew Robb, actually release the details of the TPP text before it is signed. So, this was compelled by the Australian Senate. This is not just the Greens talking here. Secondly, on the issue of ISDS: we had a very comprehensive Senate inquiry looking at this. I put up a bill, the Greens put up a bill to ban ISDS. We don’t want to see them in trade deals. Like I said before, they’re not necessary, they add nothing at all. There’s no evidence to show they bring increased investment flows between countries. They’re dangerous, they’re risky. The Productivity Commission has raised this, a number of expert commentators have raised this. And the evidence we received right across the board from hundreds of experts, most of them legal experts from around the world, told us to scrap these and to get rid of them…

Well done ABC for shining a bright light on this dangerous and secretive agreement.


  1. Welp, they did it to Latin America, now they can do it to their fiefdoms across the Pacific. The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must!

  2. Secrecy, the TPP is just an amateur at secrecy,
    How about the AFL, or anybody, tells us what were the drugs the AFL players were injected with.
    Seems to me the whole of Victoria is on some sort of concoction. WW

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      I think everyone is getting a bit carried away here. If folk spent more time watching reality tv, none of this would matter.

  3. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    I just don’t understand why all the Pitchforks for sale at bunnings have dust all over them, like no ones brought one for ages.?

    I mean they should be sold out.!!!………………. I suppose a well fed populace with plenty of circus acts like Footy, iphones, porn, celebrity scandal and reality TV, just don’t give a fuck

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Chainsaws are sold out. They’ve gone to homeowners wanting to knock down those trees to make room for the indoor garden.

    • Because WE Australians are all talk. You won’t find a bigger bunch of “tow the line” people in the world. Of course there’ll be some screaming and yelling, but we’ll get over it and follow along surly, but meekly just the same.

      You won’t see the sort of protest you saw in Hong Kong. Any protest will be over in a few days and we’ll be back watching The Block, Home and Away, MKR, TDTH etc before you know it.

      • “Of course there’ll be some screaming and yelling, but we’ll get over it and follow along surly, but meekly just the same.”

        I believe that’s at least partly because we’ve had good economic times for so long. Let’s see what happens when that changes.

  4. How would this affect divestment orders by FIRB? Could the overseas investor sue the government?

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Trust the ABC to run this red propaganda. Only communists would be against free trade. Free trade helps increase profits massively and in our society that is the number one goal. Seriously, I think we need to reintroduce a bit of McCarthyism and quietly remove the stinkn reds from our nation.

    • True. We need to get a Geremy Clarkson type into the ABC and the BBC to shirt front ALL of their producers and put an end to the commo, pinkp, green, bias rubbish they produce as comment and news. WW

  6. bolstroodMEMBER

    Good to see the ABC AND Green Senator Peter Wish-Wilson shining a light into this dark oriface.
    Grow the Greens,

    I am far more concerned with the ideology of the Neocon/Tea Party/ Religious fanatics / Corporate Facists than the ABC/ Green/ Socialists.

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if Australia becomes a signatory to this, we need to try the politicians responsible for treason, with the traditional punishment awaiting for any who are found guilty.

  8. Something really has to be done about these extreme green watermelons and their wacky ideas.

    • It really is shocking, isn’t it Lorax! Wanting transparency, no CSG, renewable energy. It’s all CRAZY green extremism.

      Ludlam et al are proving to be useful.

  9. Thank god this is starting to get some airtime it deserves.
    Honestly i thought the senate had no idea it was even being negotiated given the total lack of media attention. Now if we could just get some protesters outside federal parliament or better yet if we could get the other stations news to report on this at well. But i guess most people are more content to watch the Block, than concern themselves with the real world.


    “Sometimes I think there’s no hope for the present crop of politicians – on both sides. When voters react badly to their proposals, they tell themselves there was nothing wrong with the policy, it just wasn’t pushed properly.

    What they should do is call in a policy expert capable of explaining the proposal and the need for it in words the public can readily understand. What they actually do is call in the spin doctors to help them “sell” the policy.”

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Spin doctors are way better than experts because experts are usually boring and a little frumpish where as spin doctors are exciting party people!

      • Plus, Steve Keen is an expert, and he sold his house just before Sydney property went gangbusters! He could have made a motza, and be partying with all the sexiest people. Imagine how much people would want to be with a university economist who made it rich in property! He would be a walking orgy machine.

        But no, instead he is sexyless. Like all the so-called ‘experts’, from property to climate change.

  11. BubbleyMEMBER

    Can anyone explain to me why our current politicians are even considering this?

    It is completely illogical that a country would sign over their sovereign rights like this. Especially when it has been pointed out so loudly and clearly that it is an incredibley stupid idea.

    Surely the Phillip Morris case has served as a horrible warning of whats to come.

    Gah! I’m singing to the choir and asking MB to explain the incomprehensible.