Abbot’s earlier accounts of his role in Australia’s trade deals with China, Korea and Japan, signed during his two-year tenure as prime minister, suggest he would have little in sympathy for the government’s stated intentions to uphold UK standards on food, the environment and workers’ rights.In a column for the Spectator Australia in March 2017, Abbott said he had made three contributions as prime minister to bring the deals to fruition: setting a deadline, keeping the summit focused and working to “make sure we are not sidelined. by peripheral issues such as labor and environmental standards ”. He added: “Our vision was to understand that free trade agreements are too important to be left to officials.”
During the Brexit campaign and since becoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that workers’ rights and environmental standards will be upheld once Britain leaves the single market and customs union.
However, the government has repeatedly avoided attempts to secure these rights through legislation. He deleted a section of the draft EU withdrawal bill that referred to workers’ rights, saying they would be covered by a new jobs law. A bill was introduced last year, but has not yet reached second reading.
He also avoided attempts to include a “non-regression” clause to prevent the government from weakening environmental standards.
Rules on the use of antibiotics in UK farm animals have already been weakened after hundreds of restricted drugs were excluded from the regulations due to take effect in January. The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said a new list will be released in 2021.
Next month, the House of Lords is expected to vote on amendments to the Farm Bill, which seek to enshrine in law the Conservatives’ clear commitment not to lower environmental or food standards as part of their strategy. post-Brexit trade deal.
Green groups fear the news of Abbott’s appointment is part of a model. Shaun Spiers, chair of the Greener UK coalition, said: “Tony Abbott would be a perfect choice to advise the government on how to undermine the environment, animal welfare and food standards. But if the government is serious about compromising these standards in trade negotiations, naming it is weird.
David Lawrence of the Trade Justice Movement said: “Hiring Tony Abbott to one of the main posts in UK trade policy is a confusing choice.
“The government claims it wants Britain to be a world leader in tackling the environmental crisis, but to get there our trade policy – and our trade appointments – must be radically overhauled.”
Australian and UK politicians have reacted in disbelief to reports of the appointment, which has not been confirmed, although Truss said Abbott had done a “great job” on the trade in the past. Critics say Abbott had little to do with Australia’s trade deals.
He is skeptical of the climate crisis and in 2014, as Prime Minister, he attempted to remove 74,000 hectares of World Heritage protected forest in Tasmania. His party ousted him as leader after two years and he lost his parliamentary seat in Sydney in 2019 to an independent candidate who had campaigned for the environment.