TPP threatens integrity of Australian Education

2 February 2016

Australian education unions are calling on the Government not to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) amid concerns the covert trade agreement will seriously diminish the integrity of Australia’s education system.

Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) National President Jeannie Rea, and Independent Education Union (IEU) Federal Secretary Chris Watt, have jointly written to Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb, urging immediate legislative reforms to Australia’s treaty-making system, to ensure accountability and transparency.

Representing more than 250,000 teachers, academics and professional staff working in schools, colleges, universities, early childhood and vocational settings, the three unions have deep concerns the TPP will fundamentally limit the capacity of Australian governments to protect and preserve the quality of education in Australia.

The TPP is due to be signed in Auckland on Thursday February 4, amid a growing chorus of calls from education unions within Australia and abroad, for the event to be called off.

NTEU National President Jeannie Rea said the unions are particularly worried about provisions which would allow corporations to sue Australia when laws created for a public purpose interfere with their property rights and profitability.

“These provisions will seriously limit the ability of Australian federal, state and local governments to legislate and regulate across the education sector, without fear of paying compensation to foreign business interests,” said Rea.

“As Australia’s national education unions, we are concerned about the absence of a comprehensive ‘carve-out’ in the TPP in relation to education, which means the sector will be exposed to greater privatisation and commercialisation, and fee-free, high-quality public education will be threatened.”

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said to protect the public interest, it is necessary for Australian governments to be able to legislate without fear of paying compensation to foreign corporations.

“The Australian Government does not have the mandate to sign and commit existing and future generations of Australians to these kinds of binding legal obligations,” said Haythorpe.

“Becoming a signatory to the most controversial and comprehensive regional agreement that has been negotiated in the Asia-Pacific region without a plebiscite or an election illustrates the Australian Government’s contempt for democratic accountability.”

IEU Federal Secretary Chris Watt said the unions were insisting on the immediate introduction of legislative reforms to Australia’s treaty-making system that bring accountability and transparency to Australia’s international trade agreement process.

“There is no room to simply trust existing or future Australian governments on trade matters because it is clear that merely through the stroke of a pen, politicians can transform and diminish the integrity of our education system,” said Watt.

Media queries:


Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531

Andrew MacDonald, NTEU Media Officer: 0421 825 896


Ben Ruse, AEU Media Adviser: 0437 971 291


Christine Cooper, IEU Assistant Federal Secretary: 0419 787 324