Political parties need to be careful when choosing their social media shill. US President-elect Donald Trump likes to tweet for himself, which is a good thing, as it exposes his childish and vindictive personality to the world. It also show the world just how dumb he really is. And that’s scary.
The Australian Democrats have someone fronting Twitter for them, who displays Trump-like stupidity. A recent Twitter exchange will illustrate this.
This displays some ignorance of the TPP 1 timeline. But that’s OK. I tweeted back with some simple corrections. But the Democrat twitter-bozo (henceforth “AD”) kept digging the hole deeper.
Every single piece of this is wrong. Let’s examine this piece by piece. Why bother? If it was just another twitter-bozo, it would not be worth the time. But this is a special twitter-bozo. It represents a political party that has always struggled to be taken seriously. We are seeing a good example of why it should not be taken seriously. Also, it’s worth having some of this timeline summarised, as it’s not always clear to commentators.
AD at first thought that the TPP was signed on 6th October 2015. That’s close, but not correct. Then, AD states that it was signed on 6th October 2016, a year later. The TPP was actually signed on 4th February 2016 in New Zealand. Let’s look at some evidence to this effect from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers’ Statement:
February 4, 2016
We, the Ministers representing Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam, are pleased to announce that we have today signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
What did happen on 6th October 2015? According to the Australian Government, that’s the day on which agreement was reached. Nothing was signed.
These negotiations successfully concluded on 6 October 2015
What happened on 30th November 2016, the date on which AD thinks that the TPP was tabled in Parliament? That’s actually the day on which a report was tabled.
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) report of its inquiry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was tabled in Parliament on 30 November 2016. The JSCOT report included a number of recommendations, including that Australia take binding treaty action to ratify the TPP.
The JSCOT report is badly misinformed, and riddled with errors and non-sequiturs. It is however a rubber-stamp, which allows the Government to pretend that signing the TPP is in the public interest. 2 Another enquiry, in the Senate, has yet to conclude.
AD states that until the TPP, foreign investors could not prosecute the Australian Government. Really? One particularly high profile issue recently has been that of plain packaging for tobacco products. When legislation to enact such packaging was enacted in 2011 Philip Morris (a foreign investor) sought compensation for alleged expropriation of certain assets (intellectual property) and took action on two fronts.
One was an ISDS3 dispute under the provisions of the Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The other was an action in the High Court, where they joined with other tobacco companies. To put it simply, so that AD can understand, they sued the Government of Australia. As it happens, they lost, but that’s not the point here.
The TPP does provide certain rights for Investors, viz. the right to initiate an arbitration dispute against the country in which they have invested. Many of Australia’s trade agreements (although not that with the United States) already include such provisions. Philip Morris, as mentioned above, was the first Investor to launch such a dispute, which it lost gloriously, the action being thrown out as an ‘abuse of process’. The right to sue the Government however has always been in existence.
Now, Australian Democrats, if you want to be taken seriously perhaps you should stop the work-experience kid from looking after your Twitter feed, and give it to someone responsible, who will check the facts before tweeting.
- Trans-Pacific Partnership, a so-called ‘trade’ agreement between 12 countries that include the US and Australia.
- The TPP is now dead in the water, but that hasn’t stopped Japan and New Zealand from passing their legislation to ratify it, thus locking themselves in to onerous restrictions such as those for Intellectual Property.
- Investor-State Dispute Settlement, a form of arbitration often enunciated in trade agreements.