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Friday, 06 November 2015 12:29

TPPA: Last chance for Labor to gain some cred Featured


The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement may have been signed by the 12 countries involved but that doesn't mean it is a done deal.

The parliaments of all 12 countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam — still have to ratify the deal in its entirety; there is no question of picking and choosing.

And that means there is still a role for the Labor Party to play. The big question is whether Labor wants to protect the interests of the people or not.

The extent to which the voices of the people of Australia — and of those in the other 11 countries — have been ignored in the process of getting this treaty done appears to indicate that we have no democratic system worth the name.

In short, the political elite have given priority to big corporations, with numerous sections of the treaty being written by corporate lawyers from big multinationals. This is nothing new, by the way.

There have been plenty of voices raised in protest in Australia, but the mainstream media has shown a reluctance to publicise TPPA-related issues until the end-game neared. (iTWire has been writing about the dangers posed by the deal for at least the last four years.) This is not surprising considering that News Corporation, which will benefit from the deal, owns nearly three-quarters of the newspapers in the land.

Labor can now provide some balance by standing up for the people – if, indeed, it is a viable opposition party and considers that it would be a credible government.

The question is, will Bill Shorten have the backbone to stand up to a deal that is being pushed very hard by the Americans? We have seen him bend over and assent to the metadata retention laws, we have seen him prostrate himself before the Coalition when it came to any number of draconian so-called security laws.

If the Australian parliament failed to pass the necessary legislation to make the TPPA binding, what would happen? Not much, the country would simply be excluded. That's all.

It would not affect the country's ability to negotiate bilateral trade deals with other countries, rather than being a tool of the US and joining a deal merely to serve American interests.

Labor has a habit of joining with the Government to pass legislation — metadata retention is a good example — and expressing reservations after the deed is done. It always wants to hedge its bets, having a little each way.

The TPPA is, in the main, a deal guaranteed to ensure US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region by blocking out China. That is why countries like India, South Africa, Russia and Brazil have not been invited to join. There is no reason why Australia should continue to prostrate itself before Uncle Sam.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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