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Aug. 4 — More than a month after Australia's federal election, final Senate results make it clear that a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact will be ratified only if the government secures the backing of the major opposition party.
The Australian Electoral Commission Aug. 4 finally confirmed the Senate results of the July 2 federal election, and the results have strengthened the hand of those opposed to free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The government led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will have 30 Senate seats, which is down three on the previous Parliament and nine short of the votes it needs to pass legislation. The Labor opposition will hold 26 seats, up one on its representation in the last Parliament. And the Greens Party, which is highly critical of the TPP, has lost one seat and will have nine in the new Parliament.
The remaining 11 seats will be held by various independents and micro-parties, including One Nation, which held no seats in the former Parliament and has won four on an anti-immigration, anti-free trade and anti-globalization platform.
The new Senate composition dashes any hopes the government might have held that it could secure parliamentary support for the TPP by relying on independents and micro-parties.
Instead, its only option will be to rely on Labor, which has previously expressed reservations about the treaty, but is generally supportive of free trade and hasn't ruled out ultimately backing the TPP.
The new parliament will convene on Aug. 30.
Labor's trade spokesman, Jason Clare, declined to comment directly on what criteria the party would use to develop its final position the treaty. Instead, he said a parliamentary committee made up of members from both houses had yet to complete its inquiry into it.
“The review of the TPP by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) was not concluded at the time Mr. Turnbull caused the dissolution of the Parliament,” Clare told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 4 by e-mail. “The TPP will be examined by JSCOT in the next Parliament—that's how our treaty system works,” he said.
It is also common for the Senate to launch its own separate inquiry with different terms of reference, and that is highly likely to occur with regard to the TPP.
The findings of any committee inquiry into the TPP won't be binding on the Parliament.
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