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Submission to Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and its review of the TPP

April 27, 2016
The TPP is a threat to our sovereign nation, it opens our borders to corporations to overule the laws of our lands. The profit is theirs. The social, environmental, economic and sovereign cost is every Australian citizen’s. I submit this as a citizen and as a woman, as a mother and as a participant and contributor to community and society. I call for a plebiscite on the TPP. It is a more significant issue than the impact of gay marriage. As the government has said, it is the most significant trade deal ever. 

10 March 2016

Attn:  Committee Secretary and all Australian Citizens

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

PO Box 6021, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Committee Secretary

Regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement tabled with the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Parliament on 9 February.

I appeal to your capacity as a representative, not simply for “government” but for citizens of Australia and to put their long-term interests first regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – specifically the ISDS provisions and all elements that put interests of BIG pharmaceutical corporations, BIG media corporations, BIG mining conglomerates ahead of citizen interest of privacy, water protection, minimum LIVING wage protection and unaffordable health costs. I REJECT it for ignoring climate change and for being without any frames to promote gender equity or to ensure that the gap between rich and poor does not increase.

There are many thousands of pages in it, legalese designed for legal challenges and the likes. My rejection is on the principles that it fails. The principle that Australia’s people are citizens first, not payees to corporate profits. The principle that national sovereignty and national laws come ahead of international corporate profit motives and that a trade deal should not include ISDS provisions. The principle that as a sovereign and democratic nation we should not be signing deals that effectively open our borders to corporate dominance from the outside.

It is interesting in Australia that the mantra of “protecting our borders” is the key slogan in the narrative against refugees. Yet this trade deal opens our borders for foreign corporate interest that is far more invasive and threatening to our way of life.

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) along with thousands of others who have attended rallies, signed petitions, written letters to MPs with concerns about its impact on health, media, environment, wages, workers’ rights and Australia’s laws.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren has said[1]: “Giving foreign corporations special right to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.”

As ex-President of Ireland Mary Robinson says, “Human rights and gender equality should inform good climate policy.”(2016)[2] How does the TPP support gender equality, human rights and equity for those less advantaged citizens? What safeguards are there to stop it increasing the disadvantage gap between rich and poor?

Why do I quote Elizabeth Warren and Mary Robinson, powerful women role models? Because there have been very very few women’s voices involved in the process for the TPP in Australia. The representatives on the deal from the 12 countries are mostly men.

On principle I REJECT the TPP:

Firstly: It is not about trans-pacific partnerships all but big (US) corporations invading other countries through a trade agreement, crossing borders and given the power to implement their corporate, profit motive at the expense of the nation’s sovereignty and citizen interest.

Secondly: Why are ISDS provisions included? Including ISDS provisions is like lining up guns and tanks at the borders of the invaded country. It is hard power, meant to intimidate, meant to force the rights of Big Corporates to get what they want at the expense of citizen interest.

  • South Africa, Ecuador, Venezuela have all recently terminated investment agreements, for good reason.

Some examples of how the ISDS laws used – and there are many others:

  • When Mexico put a restriction on high fructose corn syrup three different US corporates sued the Mexican government using investor-state provisions. Mexico lost. The bill $169 million dollars.
  • US mining company Lone Pine used the North America Trade Agreement with Canada to sue the Quebec government $250m when it revoked the rights to frack under the St Lawrence River.  Lone Pine claims Quebec moratorium on fracking was “arbitrary” and “capricious”.
  • US Pharma giant Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million from Canada, because Canada dared to reject some of its patents noting, quite correctly, that the drugs didn’t appear to be any improvement over existing drugs.
  • To challenge Australia’s decision that will prevent smoking and health associated illnesses Tobacco Company Phillip Morris shifted its Head Office to Hong Kong where it could use ISDS provisions to sue the Australian government over plain packaging laws.

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) because it IGNORES climate change, and any protections for water from corporate priviatisation or legal rights that eschew mining’s entitlement. Water is the most precious resource. Around the world more and more civilian campaigns are fighting to protect it from privatisation, corporate gain (such as building dams), diversion (through dams), reduction in quality and quantity and shortage. Access to water is vital and a citizen right but increasingly under threat through damage to environment driven by short-term economic profit.

Environmental campaigners campaign to protect for the long term. We achiee wins – like the water trigger being added to the federal EPBC Act that requires use and impact on water  be taken into account in the approvals for big mining projects. In Coal Seam Gas environmental campaigning for protection of land and water, biodiversity and community health succeeded in erasing exploration licences, improving regulations, stopping coal seam gas projects on flood plains, and in Sydney Drinking Water Catchments. If the TPP includes ISDS provisions, international mining will be able to sue if new laws put water protection ahead of a corporation’s mining interest and profit imperative.

Thirdly: The TPP creates a cascade of power that could drown our laws, our sovereignty, our citizen rights. The balance of power will shift to overseas mining investors, Big Pharma, Big media as government decision-making dictated by foreign interests

Other submissions will have identified how the TPP will allow overseas corporates, Big Media, Big Pharma, Big Sugar, Big Agriculture will challenge Australian rights, hard fought for rights like the minimum wage and workers protections, by a thousand cuts. But my submission speaks to the economic, social and environmental protection of water. What will happen to the rights of Australian citizens to campaign for protection and achieve wins, if our state governments think they will be sued for listening to their own citizens.

There are many questions about the agreement that are still unanswered:

  • Does the TPP increase equity and equality in Australia? How?
  • How will it avoid the creation of impenetrable monopolies?
  • How will it ensure Australian laws to protect water are protected?
  • How does it prevent overseas corporates suing when Australian moratoriums are introduced such as on genetically modified organisms and coal seam gas extraction
  • How does it prevent overseas mining companies new environment laws and legislation designed to address climate change
  • Will it stop the introduction of county or region of origin food labelling?
  • Will it stop the introduction of progressive health policy and preventative measures – such as plain package cigarettes, banning high fructose corn syrup
  • Will it prevent patents on medicines and limit access to cheaper generic versions
  • How will it affect government subsidies for cancer treating medicines?
  • Will it threaten the minimum wage and other Australian worker protection?
  • What rights will it give to overseas mining companies to challenge the laws of Australia?
  • Will companies like Lone Pine be able to sue any Australian state government for laws that restrict or place a moratorium on fracking, law changes it Lone Pine described as “arbitrary” and “capricious” in the case of Quebec government?

Australia primary identity is NOT AN INVESTOR STATE but with this most significant “trade” deal that’s what it becomes. Australia is a sovereign nation with people and democratic processes, and principles of equity and fairness and the right for a citizen voice to be heard.  Our people vote to elect governments to represent them in their daily lives, create a fairer society. The TPP makes people simply profit numbers for corporates.

Australia’s laws should not be determined in a framework where governments can be sued for these decisions in secret international courts (where the only winner is the legal profession). Our laws should not be influenced by the profit prerogative of overseas corporations.

I urge you to reject the TPP and recommend it be taken to the people of Australia as an election issue or in a plebiscite (its impact will be far greater than marriage equality)

Yours sincerely

Isabel McIntosh

Alexandria, NSW 2015

[1]Washington Post, 27 January 2015 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kill-the-dispute-settlement-language-in-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/02/25/ec7705a2-bd1e-11e4-b274-e5209a3bc9a9_story.html

[2] International Women’s Day, 2016 http://theelders.org/article/gender-equality-and-climate-change-vital-link-success-beyond-paris

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