The Lock the Gate alliance against coal-seam gas (CSG) says the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could allow foreign investors to sue Australian governments for damages if government regulation is seen to ‘harm’ their investment, such as in the CSG industry.
Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton said the agreement could potentially allow foreign investors to sue the NSW government for the regulations it is introducing today to exclude CSG from areas within two kilometres of residential areas and in industry clusters.
Mr Hutton said federal trade minister, Andrew Robb, was due to meet today with other countries’ ministers at the APEC meeting in Bali to discuss the TPPA.
Lock the Gate is calling on the Abbott government to reject the inclusion of such Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions in the TPPA and all other trade agreements.
‘Tony Abbott talks a lot about sovereignty, but if he signs up for the TPPA with these additional provisions, he will be undermining our sovereignty in the worst possible way, and putting Australian communities at risk,’ Mr Hutton said.
‘It would potentially make it impossible for state and federal governments to place environmental and public health restrictions on some of the highest-impact developments in Australia, including coal and coal seam gas mining.
‘An example of this is the US-based Lone Pine energy company using such clauses in the North American Free Trade Agreement to sue the Canadian Quebec provincial government for $250 million, because it responded to community concerns and reviewed the environmental impact of shale gas mining.
‘Such an agreement is already being used to undermine Australian democratic legislation and the decisions made by the Australian High Court.
‘The Philip Morris tobacco company is trying to use an obscure 1993 Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement to sue Australia for millions of dollars in an international tribunal over the tobacco plain packaging legislation.
‘If the Abbott government signs on to the TPPA, it will potentially cost Australia hundreds of millions of dollars,’ Mr Hutton said.
A further TPPA Leaders’ meeting on October 7 is expected to announce progress in the negotiations.