As it stands both the conception and implementation of the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill are bypassing essential Parliamentary scrutiny, meaning key changes to the law are approved solely by Government.

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These proposals are indicative of a wider post Brexit-trend of using secondary legislation to implement major treaties, undermining the role of Parliament and handing more power to the executive.

We are particularly concerned about the following proposals:

  • A regulation-making power contained in Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill that will enable significant amendments to be made to existing legislation without Parliamentary scrutiny, undermining Parliamentary sovereignty and transferring more power to the executive.
  • The restricted ability of Parliament to scrutinise international agreements and lay trade treaties prior to their implementation.

Our briefing, endorsed by the Trade Justice Movement, urges Parliamentarians to:

  • Ensure that the powers exercisable under Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill are constrained by an objective test of necessity, and/or are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure;
  • Question the speed at which the Government has sought to complete the ratification process at the expense of effective scrutiny;
  • Question why the Government has undermined the effective parliamentary scrutiny of a major trade agreement, particularly when the implementing legislation gives so little opportunity to scrutinise the substance of the treaty; and
  • Question whether the broad and unspecified powers to alter public procurement rules in the Trade Bill adequately reflect the value of transparency.

There is significant public interest in ensuring that international agreements and their implementing legislation are sufficiently scrutinised, that parliamentary time is being used effectively, and that changes to the law, particularly procurement and trade are made in a transparent and open manner.

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Read more on why the accelerating use of secondary legislation undermines procedural fairness and government accountability in ‘Plus ca change’ by Alexandra Sinclair and Professor Joe Tomlinson:

‘Plus ca change’