Statement, Shadow Minister for Trade, Jason Claire.


Labor will permanently fix the way we do trade deals to put Australian workers first and stop future governments from signing up to trade deals that include clauses that allow foreign companies to sue the Australian government.

The Liberals have eroded Australians’ trust in trade by signing trade agreements that:

• Allow companies to bring in foreign workers without first checking if there’s an Australian who can do the job by waiving labour market testing requirements, and

• Include clauses that allow foreign companies to sue the Australian Government (known as ISDS provisions).

This is the sort of thing that makes Australians very angry.

It’s not protectionism to say that before a company brings in an electrician or a carpenter or a mechanic from overseas it should first have to check if there is an Australian who can do the job. It’s just common sense.

A Shorten Labor Government will introduce laws that prohibit governments from signing trade agreements that waive labour market testing or include ISDS provisions.

Trade agreements should not include ISDS clauses or waive labour market testing, nor should they require the privatisation of public services including its health, education or welfare sectors or undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Australia is a trading nation. Our economic growth is underpinned by our ability to sell our goods and services overseas.

If we want more people to support free trade and open markets, we have also got to be more open and honest.

At the moment trade deals are negotiated in secret with not enough input from Parliament, industry, unions and civil society groups or the community.

Labor will change that.

A Shorten Labor Government will build on measures we have already announced to boost the transparency and analysis of trade agreements by:

• strengthening the role of the Parliament by briefing the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties at the end of each round of negotiations and providing it with the Government’s Statement of Objectives for Negotiation for consideration and feedback

• legislating to establish a system of ‘Accredited Trade Advisors’ from industry, unions and civil society groups who would provide real time feedback on draft trade agreement text during negotiations

• providing public updates on each round of negotiations and releasing draft texts during negotiations where this is feasible

• legislating to require an Independent National Interest Assessment to be conducted on every new trade agreement before it is signed to examine the economic, strategic and social impact of any new trade agreement.


Transcript, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Penny Wong is the Labor Shadow Minister. Welcome back to RN Drive.


KARVELAS: The CTTP has been a controversial agreement in many countries including Australia. Why did Labor ultimately decide to support it?

WONG: The Labor Party has taken a position over many years that we do believe that trade yields benefits to the economy, to working people, to jobs, to living standards. We’re a trading nation and we need to sell into other markets. That boosts employment and that boosts our living standards.

Now, this isn’t a perfect deal and Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Trade, has made clear we, in Government, would do what the Labour Government in New Zealand has done which is to work to fix up some of the mistakes the Liberal Party has made in negotiating this agreement.

KARVELAS: Unions are particularly concerned about the labour mobility provisions which they say will allow foreign companies to bring in workers without the need for labour market testing. Do you think those concerns are legitimate?

WONG: Yes they are, and the Government should not have included some of those provisions in the agreement and that’s why we have said that we would do what the Labour Government in New Zealand has done, which is to seek to negotiate changes to the arrangements, as we have done on previous trading agreements, to make sure there are greater protections for workers.

KARVELAS: There are also provisions which would allow foreign companies to sue the Australian Government which have been described as essentially a breach of sovereignty. Is that dangerous?

WONG: We don’t support those provisions and in fact in Government you might recall one of the old forms of this provision was used to take Australia to a tribunal internationally as a result of the Plain Packaging laws – a case which we won – and we would be seeking to negotiate those out. We don’t think the Government should have included them in this agreement.

But overall, the questions is, do we actually think as a trading nation there is benefit, both economically and also strategically, given what is happening in the world and in our region, to having some agreed rules with like-minded countries. Obviously this doesn’t include the United States and China, this agreement, but it does include a great many nations in our region and for that reason, and given our focus on the region, Labor determined to support it.

KARVELAS: The crossbench has refused to support the TPP meaning it couldn’t actually pass without Labor’s support. The unions say you should have used that to negotiate these changes now. Was that an option?

WONG: This is an agreement that was negotiated between many other countries, so it’s not a negotiation that is simply a bilateral negotiation, it’s what we call a plurilateral or multilateral negotiation. Obviously that makes it more difficult for there to be changes immediately. What it will need is a Labor Government that puts in place the sorts of protections the unions are rightly calling for.

KARVELAS: If Labor does win Government, it could be eight months it could be earlier, future trade deals could be subject to labour market testing and additional scrutiny. Take me through what you are actually proposing there?

WONG: Jason has put forward a very progressive policy when it comes to trade. He has built on past transparency measures that we have announced and he has made them even stronger. They include things like making sure we have independent economic modelling of trade agreements, making sure we have much more public outreach and discussion with interested stakeholders about the negotiation of trade agreements like they do in the United States.

He has also made clear that we would not lessen labour market testing, that is making sure there isn’t an Australian to fill the job before we would include those sorts of migration arrangements in trade agreements.


Transcript, Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition.

CASSIDY: On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP, you’ve raised concerns in the past about this, quite substantial concerns, in fact, and now you’re on board. What happened?

SHORTEN: Well, you’d have to say that we’re on board somewhat reluctantly. There are some positives in this arrangement, no doubt. And we think that there are some negatives. What we’ll do is cooperate to see the positives implemented and we’re going to change the negatives if and when we get elected.

For example, one of the problems we see with it is just allowing no labour market testing to happen. What that means is that people can come in from these treaty countries, and even if the employer here hasn’t demonstrated a shortage of labour, people can still come in and take jobs. I think that is a mistake.

CASSIDY: That’s still the case, and you’ve signed up to it.

SHORTEN: We’ll change that when we get into government because I don’t agree with that.

CASSIDY: But can you? That would mean renegotiating the whole thing?

SHORTEN: No. Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, the Labour Prime Minister there, went to a series of countries on provisions which a conservative government had signed up to, and executed letters with those countries and both countries agreed not to go ahead with that. That’s our plan there.

I also have to say that there are other things that we can do to look after the working conditions of Australians. We’re going to put more money back into TAFE. I don’t think that there should be people coming in from overseas taking up skilled labour vacancies for a day longer than it takes to train an Australian. I believe that some of our changes will help to take that away.

But one thing that I do put the Government on notice: there’s a discussion which the electricians have raised with me, that people could come here as electricians and not meet the adequate local safety standards, and I need the Government to clear that up, because we don’t want untrained tradies coming in to Australia and not doing work sufficient to Australian standards.

CASSIDY: I don’t think that the unions are satisfied that you can sort all of this out after the event. The Australian Manufacturing Union has described it as a disaster and a break with Labor policy.

SHORTEN: Yeah, I accept that some of the unions would rather that we handled it in a different way –

CASSIDY: Or not be in it at all – they just want out.

SHORTEN: Well, there are positives in this agreement too, for our farmers, for our steel industry, for our higher education sector.

This is not the agreement that Labor would have done – no way. But what I’m not going to do is just oppose everything, full stop. They’re still the Government. They’ll do what they think, we’ll extract what value is in it. But if we form a government, we’re going to clamp down on this lack of labour market testing, the lack of proper standards. But the way we fix better workplaces with better wages and conditions won’t just be through a trade agreement, it will be through proper wages policy in this country, proper TAFE, proper apprenticeships, proper buy local and prioritising local jobs.


Updated: 17 September 2018