How our Senate (and not the US Senate) blocked the TPP

Following the breakdown of talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership last week, I did a quick reaction piece for Inside Story, making the point that our much-maligned Senate was the most important source of resistance to the demands for yet more protection for US pharmaceuticals, demands that make a mockery of both the claim that the TPP is a “free trade agreement” and the “diffusion of knowledge” rationale for the patent system.

17 thoughts on “How our Senate (and not the US Senate) blocked the TPP

  1. Yes, the Senate is a very positive attribute to the Australian system.

    I am not clear where the Constitution puts the Senate role as House of Review.

    Some may want this, but is it correct in modern times?

  2. Of course the “review” role of the Senate becomes moot when the ALP/LNP fascist duopoly vote together – as they invariably do on the worst legislation – such as when the ALP gave the LNP its support to get the KAFTA through with ISDS and intellectual property components.

    Of course, the ALP was “opposed” to the ISDS (but voted it through anyway) and only did it for “jobs” (based on an “undertaking” from Abbott that 457s wouldn’t be used willy-nilly) and would really like to negotiate the ISDS out of the agreement when they next get into government. Fools.

  3. Ivor, please provide some proof that the ALP didn’t vote through KAFTA and its ISDS provisions.

    Otherwise, your definition of “noxious vomit” appears to be “telling the truth about the ALP”.

  4. Here’s some of that “noxious vomit” in the form of a press release from Bill Shorten:


    Labor will support legislation implementing the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) to create economic growth and jobs for Australians.

    KAFTA will give Australian exporters increased access to Korea and help maintain Australia’s competitiveness with the United States, the European Union and others in the Korean market.

    It will be especially beneficial for Australia’s agricultural industries. It will also support the food processing, manufacturing, transport and services industries.

    Agricultural sectors which stand to benefit include beef, sugar, dairy, wheat, wine and horticulture – these sectors employ more than 200,000 workers.

    Labor believes the Abbott Government could – and should – have negotiated a better agreement with the Republic of Korea.

    However, the Opposition has carefully analysed the agreement and concluded that, on balance, it is in Australia’s national interest.

    Economic modelling shows KAFTA will:
    •boost Australia’s exports to Korea by $3.5 billion by 2030;
    •boost Australia’s beef exports to Korea by 59 per cent by 2030;
    •boost Australia’s GDP by $650 million by 2030, and;
    •create an additional 1,745 jobs by 2015.

    Accordingly, Labor will vote for Customs Amendment Bills introduced by the Government to implement the tariff cuts and related matters agreed to under KAFTA.

    We remain opposed to the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in trade agreements and urge the Government to reconsider the need for these provisions. In government, Labor would seek to negotiate with Korea for the ISDS provisions to be removed.

    Labor’s also believes the Government should require employers to show that there are skills shortages if they wish to utilise KAFTA’s provisions on movement of people.

    The Government has informed the Parliament that these provisions will not result in a significant increase in the use of section 457 visas – and Labor will hold the Government to this undertaking.

    Labor has concerns about KAFTA’s provisions on intellectual property. The Opposition will determine its position on any changes to the Copyright Act when the details are made public.

    By supporting the Bills which implement KAFTA, Labor will help ensure Australian industry gets early access to reduced tariffs on goods exported to Korea, and new market access for services.

    This demonstrates Labor’s long-standing commitment to an open global trading system and the expansion of Australia’s international trading opportunities – policies which create jobs and economic growth for the future.


    Wonder how those 1,745 jobs by 2015 worked out. And how much they pay.

  5. Speaking of Senator Muir, I liked his maiden speech:

    …. I want to briefly refer back to the definition of democracy and subsequently the definition of representative democracy.
    … I was unsatisfied that our elected representatives were bound by preconceived party positions, which in turn goes against the very definition of representative democracy, as the voices of the people that they were supposed to represent seem to somewhat fall on deaf ears. If every person sitting in this room voted to represent their state, after taking on their constituents’ views, like I believe the Senate was originally designed to achieve in 1901, when Federation was formed, and if all senators voted with their conscience, only then would we see the true representative democracy that Australia could be proud of. And that is why I stood up to be heard.
    …Since I was elected, there has been plenty of commentary on how the voting system is broken and undemocratic, which in my eyes completely misses the point. For my crossbench colleagues and I to be elected, people had to be voting for parties other than the major parties, and they did—a huge 24 per cent in the Senate. In my view, if you want a simple explanation of how this could occur, all the major parties need to do is to take a long, hard look in the mirror. I can tell you now: the system is not broken and does not need to be fixed. The disconnect from the average Australian, the way you treat the voters of Australia by saying one thing but doing another, is, in my view, why voters are looking for alternatives. Then there have been statements thrown around such as: ‘The Senate is dysfunctional and unworkable.’ Yet, when speaking to many around these halls, it seems pretty much business as usual. Perhaps people are getting the Senate and the government confused!

    We need more of this type of representative – much more. In fact we need to get to the point where the duopoly are no longer able to run their ideological cartel and can be defeated on legislation even when they vote together.

  6. @Ivor
    Ivor, Megan is quite right to point out this negative and some times nauseating aspect of that undermines a democratic trend within the senate: the obnoxious clubbing together to avoid srcutiny of policies like FTA’s is a sore-thumb example.

  7. I am liking our new Senate more and more. Despite fears of the election of micro parties, the only annoying ones for me are those that were elected with major party preferences, notably the DLP and Fundies First candidates.

  8. Paul, the address doesn’t work. The message is: Ozblogistan is broken. I could find addresses to individual threads and I tested one of them.

  9. Agile joining of the dots Professor. Normally when this happens in the media the conclusions are a bit suspect because the writer is just defending an ideology. Thanks.

  10. “Data protection” involves hiding the results of medical experiments, which not only makes a mockery of the rationale for patent protection, but actually results in avoidable death and suffering (see Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Pharma” and info in It is profoundly immoral.

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