Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014 Second reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:28): Anyone who is seriously following this debate, and who heard Senator Canavan a little while ago, would appreciate that nothing the Greens have said—nothing that Senator Milne or Senator Ludlam have said—stands up to a factual assessment. A lot of people who I know follow Senator Ludlam's technical savvy in these areas; you know, he gets on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, with all the buzzwords—

Senator Ludlam: I am on it now!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: He is on it right now! But can I just say to you people, please carefully look at anything Senator Ludlam or Senator Milne will tell you, because history shows most everything of what they say is not supported by fact; and it is, in fact, simply lies. It is easy to pick the buzzwords. It is easy to pick the prejudices—these big US corporate giants—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Ludlam on a point of order.

Senator Ludlam: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Macdonald, you have been here for decades, if not hundreds of years. You know very well that it is unparliamentary to accuse other senators in this place or the other of lying. So I ask you to withdraw that and then carry on with your strange rant.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): I will let that one go. It was part of a wide-ranging debate, but I would urge caution, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: 'Strange rant'—that is okay. This is the thing with the Greens political party, hypocrisy knows no bounds. Here is a party talking about 'surrendering Australia's sovereignty'. Which party would have the one-world government, to have Australia sign up and be bound by every single international treaty brought on by anyone around the globe?

You only have to look at the facts of these issues to realise that most everything you hear from people like Senator Ludlam and Senator Milne simply are not supported by truth and accuracy. Sure, pick all the prejudices: fracking, big end of town, nuclear—and the US corporate predators. Never mind any other corporate predators. US corporate predators are the real ones.

Senator Cameron made a very measured address. He clearly indicated the facts. It is obvious that no-one from the Greens political party has read the agreements that have been entered into so far. Senator Canavan quite rightly assisted those Greens members who were interested in truth and accuracy—and I am not sure there are many—on what section 18(1) of the Korean free trade agreement said. He read it out. I could repeat it, but I will not take the time of the Senate.

Australian governments, not just this government but previous governments as well, have entered into a number of interstate dispute-settlement arrangements over a number of years. In free trade and bilateral agreements we already have interstate dispute-settlement provisions in Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements. These include countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Chile, 10 ASEAN countries and New Zealand. We also have agreements with Argentina, China and the Czech Republic. I have not got to the 'big predator' US government yet that the Greens like to talk about. I am sure that is here.

We have entered into these sorts of agreements with all these countries: Argentina, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uruguay and Vietnam, just to name some of them.

I will try to put a little truth and accuracy into this debate. I will indicate to the Senate the types of obligations covered by ISDS. One of them is that foreigners and locals should be given a similar treatment. How bad is that? It applies to Australians. Do we have different rules for people from other countries? Talk about xenophobia in the Greens political party! It seems to know no bounds. These agreements say that foreigners from one country should be given similar treatment to foreigners from another country—so the Chinese and their trade agreements with Australia will be treated the same as the Americans; they will be treated the same as the Hungarians; they will be treated the same as the South Africans. What sort of a problem does anyone see in that? These agreements also limit the circumstances under which expropriation can take place, and they require provision of adequate compensation. Under the Australian Constitution, if the Australian government expropriates property for good reason, it is required to pay compensation. But the Greens do not think the same should apply to other countries who have property rights in Australia which are expropriated by the federal government. It is okay to pay Australians compensation, because the government is required to under our constitution, but forget the foreigners! We will just take their property and we will not allow for any compensation. These obligations also provide for non-discriminatory treatment and for compensation in the case of armed conflict or civil strife, in any country which Australia has these arrangements with.

While the Greens political party think that this is not appropriate, a company from one country that invests in a different country should be able to freely deal with profits they make as a result of their investment. Otherwise they would not be making the investment. Most countries around the world are seeking investment in their own countries—to help their countries—but are expecting that those who invest will make profits, and will be able to take those profits home as they intended. In fact, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee yesterday had a very interesting roundtable meeting with all of the ambassadors from the Arab countries in the world. It was a great get-together, talking about two-way trade between our countries. I asked all the ambassadors to quickly run through and indicate which of their commodities or services they would like to sell more of to Australia. Some of the ambassadors responded as you would expect—more clothing, more chemicals, more olive oil—but a lot of them said, 'we want Australia to invest in our countries, and to bring Australian expertise into our countries. We know that is good for Australia; they will make profits and help employ some Australians, but we also want that because it will help our countries to develop.' And yet the Greens, by not allowing these ISDS provisions, would seek to make it difficult for Australians to take action against these countries if these countries introduced laws that expropriated Australian investments in their country without compensation. That is what this is all about.

To anyone who is following this debate: do not take anything the Greens say as accurate, but please look into it and please look at history. You will find that almost everything the Greens political party will stir you up about turns out to be absolutely incorrect, but time does not permit me to go through all of those issues.

It is hypocrisy—sheer hypocrisy—for the Greens political party to say that we are surrendering Australia's sovereignty to international corporate giants, when everything the Greens do in this parliament is all about international treaties, and about how Australia should subject itself to the dictates of all of these international bodies; the United Nations and other bodies. They do not want Australia to have a view on uranium, or climate change. They do not want Australians who, by majority, have a different view to some of the members of the international community views on climate change. They want Australia just to accept, willy-nilly, the views of these international bodies without allowing the Australian people to have their say.

The Australian people clearly share my view on the irrational accusations of the Greens about climate change. We all accept the climate is changing. I often say that once upon a time the world was covered in ice and snow, and clearly over the aeons that has changed. Once upon a time the centre of Australia was a rainforest. Clearly that has changed. Clearly climate changes. But there is no accepted evidence at the moment that man's emissions of carbon have been responsible for it. There is no evidence that there has been global warming for 20 years. In fact, the actual scientific evidence suggests otherwise. But the Greens would have Australia's sovereignty—

Senator Siewert interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is true. I am sorry. I can give you 50 scientists who say that.

Senator Siewert: What scientists?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: See, because they are not—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, please address your comments through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you for that unbiased ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am being attacked by members of the Greens political party. You do not pull them up.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, take your seat. Take your seat, Senator Macdonald. All I asked you was to address your comments through the chair, which you know is accepted protocol.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: If you look at the record, you will find that all of my comments are through the chair, and even my response to interjections was through the chair. Please, Mr Acting Deputy President, do your job.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, all I asked you was that you address your comments through the chair, which you know is accepted protocol. You were pointing and yelling at Senator Siewert. You can point and yell at me, but please address your comments through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I would never point or yell at the chair.

Senator Singh: I am on my feet, Mr Acting Deputy President.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Sorry, Senator Macdonald. Please take your seat. Senator Singh.

Senator Singh: I was on my feet before you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I was on my feet.

Senator Singh: No, I was on my feet before you.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, please take your seat. Senator Singh.

Senator Singh: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order, Senator Macdonald is reflecting on the chair, and I ask you to rule accordingly.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: As I was just saying, Senator Macdonald, please just address your comments through the chair. You understand the protocols. Let us continue the debate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Acting Deputy President, I do not need your protection against the interjections of the likes of Senator Siewert, but if you are making those rulings please be consistent. I will continue on the line that Senator Siewert does not like. Because they are not scientists that she and her group of funny people think are good scientists, they are all to be ignored. You only listen to those who repeat your mantra, Senator Siewert. There are credible scientists around the world—

Senator Siewert interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You laugh, but then I laugh at your ridiculous comments, and so I accept that. But, Mr Acting Deputy President, perhaps you could help me—I address this through the chair—by stopping the consistent interjections I get from the Greens political party.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, I will ask Senator Siewert to cease the interjections and remind everyone in the chamber that interjections are disorderly.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Senator Siewert: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order, I do accept your ruling; however, Senator Macdonald was speaking across the chamber directly to me, so I responded. I apologise to the chamber, but, if you could ask him therefore not to address his comments directly to me across the chamber, that means I will not interject and respond.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Siewert. I will remind Senator Macdonald: please address your comments through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: The Australian government has done an absolutely fantastic job in relation to trade. It is a bit like debt, you know: people talk about trade, and they think, 'Trade's something governments do; it doesn't really impact upon us.' It is a bit like that with debt: 'Debt's just something the government will fix up; it doesn't really affect us.' Of course, what we really need is for Australians to understand that debt—and the $7 billion of debt that the Labor Party ran up—does in fact impact upon them very, very seriously. As with people's own household budget, when you borrow from a lender, some day you have to pay it back. And until you pay it back, you have to pay interest on it. But people say, 'That's the government.' Well, sorry, but the government does not have any money. The government only uses the money of taxpayers. So, it is the taxpayers who will have to pay off Labor's debt, which will approach $700 billion. And it is the taxpayers who will have to pay the $30 million a day that we are paying in interest on the Labor Party's debt—the Labor Party supported by the Greens political party. Imagine how many schools, imagine how many hospitals we could build every day with the amount we are now paying to foreign lenders on the debt run up by the Labor-Greens government.

And it is the same with trade. People think, 'Oh, trade—that's something governments do; that's good, but it doesn't really impact upon us.' Sorry: trade is very important to Australia. We are a country that is blessed with natural resources. We are blessed with fine educational institutions. We are blessed with a very energetic and innovative population. But we need to trade to be able to use those assets we have, and that means more jobs for Australians. And these free trade agreements that Andrew Robb has brilliantly concluded, in a very short period of time, mean jobs and wealth for all Australians.

I know Senator Milne is talking about how the corporate giants are ripping off all the poor people in the world. I would just remind Senator Milne that she is part of the one per cent of the world population earning a very, very high income. Yet that never seems to worry Senator Milne. It is okay for her to blame the US corporate giants and the wealthy people everywhere around the world, but I would just remind people that Senator Milne is one of those who is in the one per cent of highest-income earners in the world. And we never seem to get that recognition when we hear Senator Milne viciously attacking corporate investors into our country and indeed other countries.

Trade is important. The free trade agreements have considerably assisted Australians in their lifestyle, in their way of living and, more importantly, in their ability to be fully employed. Those free trade agreements and other trade agreements we have made with people in many instances do have these investor-state dispute settlement arrangements. They have been in place for ages. The Labor Party has entered into agreements where those conditions do apply. They apply for a reason, and that is that they are fair and they treat people equally. It does mean to say that if Australian companies invest somewhere else then those other countries will not confiscate Australian assets without the sort of compensation they would apply to their own nationals.

The Greens political party would have you believe that this means that corporations from around the world—not just America, although they are the only ones you hear about from the Greens—can dictate to Australia how Australia should legislate internally. The agreements we enter into do actually provide that matters relating to health and the environment—and Senator Canavan went into this in some detail—are not impacted by these investor-state dispute settlement arrangements. So, Australia is free to provide whatever it believes is the right legislation in relation to many issues that are clearly set out in these agreements. What they do say, though, is that if the Australian government, for all the right reasons, does confiscate property then the people whose property is confiscated, no matter which country they come from, will be treated the same way as Australian companies and Australian individuals. That is, if, for the right reasons, the government of the day confiscates property, people will be properly compensated for that confiscation. Now, what is wrong with that? I ask the Greens political party: what is wrong with that? Countries that invest in Australia and whose property is confiscated would be treated the same as Australians.

Unfortunately time has escaped me. I was going to raise the stupidity of the ban by the Labor Party and the Greens political on live cattle exports to Indonesia. That is a very good case in point, and, unfortunately, as I said, time is not going to allow me to elaborate on that. But Indonesian companies who had invested in Australia on the basis of a trade arrangement in live cattle that had been in place for decades and whose property was made worthless by a stupid decision of an Australian government should have been in some way compensated for that. But unfortunately time is not going to allow me to continue in that vein—perhaps some other time—but I would urge the Senate to reject this bill. (Time expired)

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