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  • Digital Rights, News - Written by on Thursday, December 5, 2013 14:08 - 27 Comments

    Senate to force TPP publication

    Minolta DSC

    news The Greens and Labor teamed up in the Senate yesterday to successfully move a motion which would force the Coalition Government to table the text of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement before Australia signs the treaty.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend what many see restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. A number of major countries are currently negotiating the agreement, including the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.

    Leaked draft texts of the agreement have previously shown that the intellectual property chapter would have extensive ramifications for users’ freedom of speech rights, right to privacy and due process, and could hinder innovation. The process of the TPP negotiations has been shrouded in secrecy and the full text of drafts of the proposed agreement has never been publicly released.

    In mid-November, Australian political parties and digital rights lobby groups erupted in outrage after a Wikileaks leak of the intellectual property rights chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership revealed Australians could be slugged with new draconian measures if caught infringing copyright online.

    Yesterday in the Senate, the Australian Greens successfully moved a motion (with the support of Labor) that will bring greater transparency on the TPP. “Today’s result is an important step forward in compelling Tony Abbott to end the secrecy and hidden agendas that have defined his Government to date,” said Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Australian Greens spokesperson for trade.

    “Our order for production of documents will make the final text of the TPPA publically available before being signed off by Cabinet, so the entire Australian community can scrutinise this trade deal to ensure it’s more than just ‘free’ but is ‘fair’ for our nation. What is important about this achievement is that it will take the politics out of the TPPA process and end the secrecy around Australia’s biggest ever trade negotiations.”

    “It was recently revealed in Senate Estimates, despite previous assurances to the contrary, that the Abbott Government is considering signing on to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. These provisions and others within the agreement pose a real a threat to Australia’s public interest laws that protect our environment and rural industries, and underpin public health.”

    “These revelations on the Abbott Government’s openness to ISDS provisions followed a leak of a single chapter of the agreement – one small piece of the TPPA puzzle – that showed the kind of damage that could be done by a secret deal. Tony Abbott should respect the will of the Senate and end the TPPA trade deal secrecy so a broad range of stakeholders can have their say on our nation’s future,” Whish-Wilson concluded.

    CHOICE action
    The news comes as consumer advocacy group CHOICE today ran an advertisement in The Australian newspaper informing Australians about the secretive trade deal.

    The consumer group raised the money for the advertisement from among the more than 11,000 ordinary Australians who signed a CHOICE petition calling on the government to release the draft text of the trade agreement.  

    “Given the government’s reluctance to reveal whether consumers’ interests are on the table,CHOICE is stepping in to inform Australians about the talks that are dominated by US commercial interests,” said CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland in a statement issued today. “CHOICE is concerned that the final agreement will be signed off with no scrutiny from the Australian public and media. The only groups which have been given official access to the text are the negotiators, governments and the industry lobbyists of American corporations.” 

    “Under the US Government’s Trade Representative scheme, hundreds of so-called ‘cleared advisors’, mostly industry groups and companies, have had been able to access the negotiations. Meanwhile, everyone else has been locked-out – including Australian consumers. We are calling on the government to bring Australian consumers to the negotiating table – especially with so much at stake,” Kirkland concluded.

    Image credit: Tundrastruck, Creative Commons

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    1. Brendan
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink |


      Good to see this pretty darn important deal is going to (potentially) see the light of day.

      • Ben
        Posted 05/12/2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink |

        TOO MANY SECRETS. Had to.

        I’m shocked that Labor took this position and I wonder if you can trust them not to push this if/when they’re next elected. I have my doubts.

    2. Echelen
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink |

      Thank god.

      That said, probably won’t stop the government from signing onto whatever crazy garbage is in it.

    3. Nobby6
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink |

      yeah pity Labor didnt think so when they were in power, hush hush after being told to keep its secret by head office in washington, absolute hypocrites they are.

      • Daniel
        Posted 06/12/2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink |

        Except, the last known reports was that Labor canned it, Coalition Party restarted it.

        So yet, you put the blame on Labor, go figure :P

    4. Paul Warren
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink |

      And then the government will ignore the senate, just like they have with the NBN review…

    5. Brendan
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink |

      Blah blah, hypocrites! Scoundrels!

      Same could be said the other way round. Which shouldn’t detract from the point. Transparency is a weak point of the current government. Indeed it wasn’t that great under the last lot.

      Opposition exists to do more than just say ‘No’. It exists to ensure incumbents, of any persuasion, are kept honest (as much as that is possible) and that robust debate occurs. I’m pleased to see an opposition that does more, than simply say “no”.

      So, back to the point. Which is that this piece of legislation is full of sharp edges, most of which aren’t great for the public. That there is now pressure being applied to shine a light on this – is a good thing.

      • PeterA
        Posted 05/12/2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink |

        Agreed, I don’t for the slightest second think labor would or were going to do the same if they were in power.
        But I don’t mind that they can play populist policy on this front. They aren’t saying no, they are saying: so what is it exactly you are signing on Australians behalf.

    6. Geoff Crompton
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink |

      I’m assuming a senate motion like this also needs to be passed by the lower house to take affect. Does anyone know if this is the case? I would be very surprised if such a motion was to pass the lower house currently.

      • TrevorX
        Posted 05/12/2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink |

        No, you’re thinking of legislation (which must pass the lower house first) – a key purpose of the Senate is that it acts as a check and balance against the House of Rep’s, so they do indeed have the power to compel the government to produce documents.

        • Ben
          Posted 05/12/2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink |


          Yes, that’s correct. If the government fails to follow the order then the senate may impose penalties. Best to just follow the orders, especially when you have people voting for your party.

    7. Disgruntled Loner
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink |

      Who wants to bet that there was a condition of being allowed into the negotiations that they can not publish before signing? So they can´t obey the Senate because that would mean breaking an agreement Labor got us into.

      • TrevorX
        Posted 05/12/2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink |

        They can’t NOT obey the Senate. Unless they wish to risk being sacked as a Government just three months in. The Government cannot make binding agreements with foreign governments or entities that contravene Australian law. Period, full stop. If they break conditions of the TPPA They are merely in breach of agreed negotiating terms. If they breach Australian law they could be charged with criminal offences and lose their Office.

        • Disgruntled Loner
          Posted 05/12/2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink |

          It sounds like you know more than I do on Law, but charged by who? Brandis?

          And, didn´t Conroy, plus several AGs, just plain ignore Senate demands when they were in power?

    8. Bpat
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink |

      I finally have the slightest bit of confidence in politics. I expect it to get extinguished before Christmas again but for now the slight ray of sunshine warms my skeptical heart.

    9. Josh
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink |

      The hardcore left has been onto this one for ages.

      The ISDS clause is the really scary bit – as I understand it, a state can be sued by a corporation if a community within it interferes with their profiteering. That would mean a whole lot more pressure not to boycott, not to protest.

      I.e – Don’t want fracking in your back-yard? Then eat shit or we will make your government pay.

      I could stand corrected here – I remember reading that Labor in fact took note of this clause, and, before the election, made the call that they would not sign the TTP

      So Abbott “Open for business” would want to because why?

    10. Guest
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink |

      “Australians could be slugged with new draconian measures if caught infringing copyright online”

      You know what they say about avoiding speeding fines…

      • Daniel
        Posted 06/12/2013 at 2:28 am | Permalink |

        This is vastly different to speeding fines, and petty little nonsense of use of analogy won’t escape you.

        Also, this goverment, has just signed a agreement with South Korea, where it could sue current and future governments on Safety, Environment and other issues (aka Legislation that it doesn’t like) thus giving free reign to sue the Goverment of the day.

        This along with the agreements of the countries via things like TPP, is eroding the the rights of normal every day joe and Jane’s.

        So perhaps put that all mighty sock away, and put it in your mouth, or stand up for your bloody rights as a tax payer and civilian.

        Labor dropped the TPP agreement, because it was against the Australian interests, the Coalition Party, who are really the Tea Party (since people like Mark Textor) have infested into the liberal party.

    11. Matthew
      Posted 06/12/2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink |

      Australians hardly know about the deal while in Japan, there are mass protests in opposition to it.
      I do not trust anything involving the US and foreign policy. You can be sure that the country to most benefit out of it is the instigator

    12. Guest
      Posted 06/12/2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink |

      labor in govt: we wont tell you whats in this
      labor in opposition: if the govt doesn’t tell you whats in this you cant trust them

      typical hypocrites

      • dJOS
        Posted 06/12/2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink |

        Labor also said they wouldn’t sign/ratify it!

    13. dJOS
      Posted 06/12/2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink |

      Sooo, anyone still in doubt as to whether or not we now have a Fascist government?


      • Guest
        Posted 06/12/2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink |

        I am. sortius isn’t exactly an unbiased source of (crap) information

      • Matthew
        Posted 06/12/2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink |

        Give me a break, that article takes some very thin statements and reaches completely the wrong conclusion.
        The Australia government is not at all fascist, you have to look higher to the country which australian politicians look up to to find the root reason for a number of his “13” points.

      • dJOS
        Posted 07/12/2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink |

        Wow, you really can troll a troll! :-D

    14. Disgruntled Loner
      Posted 09/12/2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink |

      ¨THE government has refused the Senate access to the secret text of the trade deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed.¨


      • Ray Herring
        Posted 09/12/2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink |

        Noticed that. As i understand it, the government has now officially left themselves open for criminal charges, being kicked out of government, etc…

        Hope the decision they made was worth it.

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