According to Mike Seccombe, at the Global Mail, under the Abbott government, Australia will be open not just for business, but open to costly multi-national law-suits:
On the eve of the election, the Coalition released its trade policy, which includes a commitment to “remaining open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses as part of Australia’s negotiating position” in future trade deals.
In saying it was “remaining open” to ISDS clauses, the Coalition was being cunningly understated, as was made clear elsewhere in the document.
Under ISDS, as Seccombe explains earlier in the article, corporations can bring law suits seeking damages form governments which harm their financial interests. This reverses a position taken by the ALP government in 2011 which rejected the use of ISDS in trade agreements because it was of no benefit to Australian business and could seriously compromise national sovereignty. More often than not, as Seccombe clearly lays out, litigation under ISDS is conducted in effective secrecy, so governments can potentially find themselves with large debts to multi-national corporations with the citizenry left completely in the dark about the issue.
Once again, so much for Abbott’s repeated promises to ‘govern for all Australians’, indeed any Australians or even merely govern. If Seccombe is right, this daft Liberal policy will leave Abbott – and his future successors – as little more than a figurehead Prime Minister leading a government rendered largely powerless to legislate for the public good.
Still, looking on the bright side, we could always squeeze another public holiday out of the policy once it’s implemented. The date when the first trade deal with ISDS provisions comes into effect could be commemorated as ‘Pissed Away Our Legal Independence Day’.