|UPDATE: 'WTO - SHRINK or SINK' is
theme of worldwide organisational sign-on for 2000
The stunning success of civil society's campaign against the WTO at Seattle was heralded by a worldwide sign-on manifesto, endorsed by 1500 groups in 100 countries. Now, a new double dose is being prepared. Go to full story.
new fair-trade front holds Sydney forum
Public distaste for greed-based economic rationalism has a powerful new voice since the Australia-wide coalition AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network) held a public debriefing on the Seattle fiasco. Speakers included representatives of the trade union and environment movements--and even the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Go to full story.
On 25 March, StopMAI voted to join AFTINET.
Members receive fortnightly news bulletins and opportunity to join special
email discussions. Individuals can also join for $10 p.a. ($5 unwaged). Enquiries
GLOBAL AGENDA STALLED
THE Seattle Ministerial meeting which was intended to launch a new (Millennium) round of trade negotiations has broken up in disarray, but the global corporations are determined to press ahead with their agenda.
And as we go to press the venue for the next meeting, in 2001, is shaping up to be Qatar, a tiny desert police state where the embarrassing international public protest can be more easily quelled. Qatar has now made a formal offer of a venue.
Other news just to hand is that negotiations on a General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) have been fast-tracked and will begin late this month, so time is pressing again. GATS is, in part, intended to bring about the phased dismantling of publicly funded national and State health and education systems.
So time is pressing again. Negotiations on agriculture as well as services will start in February/March, and meanwhile the EU Council will meet informally in Portugal, in March, to decide on the Council strategy. In addition to these subjects, contentious issues such as labour and environment will remain on the agenda. So will market access and biotechnology.
In a setback to plans for global corporate domination, the rebellion against imposition of genetically modified food has gained such momentum as to impel Monsanto to sell its GM food branch as it ducks for cover. See other pages for further reports on this and on other wins and other setbacks for safe, sustainable democratic life in Australia and around the world.
NEW DOCUMENT SERVICE: Many of the source documents for this issue can be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Editor. For future issues there will instead be a compilation of documents which can be purchased to defray costs. (More).
The Rural Action Movement (RAM) is an organisation of Western Australian farmers. This its 10-point policy:1. Reinstate sovereign credit as per the original charter of the Commonwealth Bank of 1912 so that the Government can issue the necessary low cost credit for production, housing and where necessary debt-free credit for public works.2. Totally re-regulate the private banking sector so that the issue of credit is controlled by the Government for the benefit of all Australians.
GST versus the people
80% pay more so that 20% can pay less
NOW that Australia's Goods and Services Tax (GST) is just around the corner, it is as well to reflect on its effects and on the reasons why it was foisted on the Australian people.
It has long been demanded by international corporate business that Australia fall in line with other OECD countries (with the notable exception of the USA) by moving away from direct taxation to a regressive indirect tax system which in particular eases tax burdens on foreign investors. IMF managing director at the time, Michel Camdessus (photo below), was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald during the run-up to the 1998 election as stressing the importance of imposing a GST in Australia.
Coalition and Australian Democrat senators who ensured the passage of the GST have consistently refused to disclose the effect of the package on the distribution of the total tax burden among the income deciles in Australia and between Australian taxpayers and foreign investors.
Some of the reason for this coyness recently became apparent when Ray Regan from the National Tax and Accountants' Association stated that 80% of Australians would be worse off some disastrously -- and 20% at the top income levels would be better off.
And of course those who don't live here but make money here don't pay GST at all.
The Australian Democrat support for the GST is complex. Under that party's rules, the members make policy, and the members have never voted to impose a GST. Efforts are in hand to secure a party vote to reject the package and oblige parliamentarians to work for its repeal.
Many other individuals and community groups are initiating or increasing opposition to this regressive tax package. Just before we went to press a letter arrived from the Rural Action Movement (see below) opposing the GST and seeking support for an anti-GST petition launched in Queensland. A copy of the petition is included with this issue of Citizens' Voice. The deadline is the end of the month.
Meanwhile, wheels continue to fall off the package, with new anomalies and injustices being disclosed almost daily.
The IMF's Michel Camdessus spoke at UNCTAD X on 13 February and
became the latest recipient of a cream pie from Pâtissiers Sans Frontières (PSF).
Come July 2000, cream pies and everything else will attract 10% GST
A Citizen's Guide
to the World Trade Organisation
--Everything you need to know to fight for
A working group set up by a large list of community sponsors has produced this highly informative source booklet setting out the way trade liberalisation impacts on the people.
Written in the lead-up to the Seattle meeting, it is packed with facts relevant to globalisation. Items include:
- What the WTO is and how it works
- WTO threats to democracy, health and the environment
- Important existing agreements: TRIPS, SPS, GATS, agriculture agreement.
- New plans: MAI, global free logging agreement, competition policy, government procurement rules.
- Large list of web sites.
It's well-presented in a form that slips easily into a standard envelope.
A single booklet is $US3.50 including postage, from Apex Press, Suite 3C, 777 UN Plaza, New York NY 10017, USA.
Available on the Web at http://www.citizen.org/pctrade/gattwto/Reports%20&%20Publications/wto-book.pdf
or from list at http://www.citizen.org/pctrade/publications/gtwpubs.htm
AUTHOR INVITES YOU TO COLLABORATE
A BOOK being written in Perth will break new ground in providing a comprehensive picture of where Australia is going in a world in which economic globalisation is being pursued relentlessly by those few who profit from it.
The author, David Keane, seeks in the book, Civil Representation in Australian Government, to disseminate creative ideas for a new impulse for democracy in Australia.
A small selection of the many chapter and section headings give an idea of the thrust and scope of David's work:
Sovereignty in the Global Age; Imbalances in Australian Representative Democracy, Massive Tax Evasion by Multinationals, A Legal Examination of the Recent GST Legislation, Research on GST as Now Legislated, Is Australia Overtaxed? Australia's Escalating Debt, Where the Present Commonwealth and State Economic Relationship Will Break Down.
This is not the customary approach to writing, in which the writer puts together a text, runs it past editors and colleagues, and then finally publishes it and puts it on the market.
Instead, David has developed a general structure of what he is trying to achieve, and is calling for criticism and input from as many people as possible who may have something useful to contribute. That includes many of the eventual readers of the book, and in particular includes the readers of Citizens' Voice.
The basic purpose of the book is not academic or commercial, but to disseminate ideas which David considers are important, and to this end he will be putting his own funds into printing and distributing it free to as many key people as possible. Also, John Massam of the Stop-MAI Coalition will be placing it on the Internet.
To find out more about this project, contact David at:
Postal: PO Box 582, Gosnells 6110, W.A.
Phone (08) 9398 3347
DFAT blocked rescue for doomed Timorese
Thousands of East Timorese had to die because of vigorous opposition by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to a US offer to send in the marines in time to save them from the Indonesians and the quisling militias. The trade lobby considered that Australian-Indonesian relations were too important to jeopardise merely to save people from murder.
See http://www.iinet.net.au/~jenks/dfattim.html, or send for transcripts by mail.
Artwork: Eric Drooker
MONSANTO TAKES COVER
CONSUMER and shareholder pressure has pushed US biotech giant Monsanto into selling its dodgy agricultural chemical business as part of a merger with Pharmacia & Upjohn, the drugs company.
This did not, however, appease a worried share market, and share values in both companies dropped 10% after the merger.
Roger Cowe has reported in the Guardian (UK) that shareholder groups are demanding that GM products be put on hold until thorough testing shows them to be safe for people, animals and the environment. They have initially targeted 24 companies operating throughout the food chain, including household names such as Coca-Cola, Heinz, the US Safeway chain and McDonald's, as well as Monsanto.
The campaign is being co-ordinated by the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), an umbrella body for 275 religious and other groups which claims to control $100bn of shares in US companies.
Leaked Canadian report vindicates
Tasmanian salmon import ban
With Tasmania locked in a dispute with the Commonwealth over its ban on Canadian salmon imports, a leaked Canadian report, obtained by Ottawa Citizen, admits that escaped Canadian farm fish have damaged the country's ocean salmon stocks.
U.S. federal fish agencies have already warned that interbreeding between wild and domestic fish is weakening the gene pool of salmon in the Gulf of Maine.
A 24-year quarantine ban on import of salmonid products ended last year after WTO intervention, as Australian Governments have agreed to subordinate Australia to the WTO.
Tasmania is defying the Commonwealth Government and WTO and maintaining quarantine an action that could lead to a High Court battle because Australian States are sovereign and predate the Commonwealth, and Tasmania has not signed any treaties with the WTO. Alternatively, Australia could decide to support Tasmania's precautionary action and lodge an appeal with the WTO Disputes Panel.
(Brian Jenkins has collected information on this issue which can be found at http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/salmon.html and http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/salmon4.html)
CHOICE holding online conference
For those with Internet access, the Australian Consumers' Association is running an email conference from February 16 to 18.
The theme is "Genetically Modified Food - Is It Your Choice Yet?"
You can register free at http://www.choice.com.au
Online speakers include:
- Alan Lacey, Sainsbury's Supermarket, UK.
- Dr Michael Hansen, Consumers' Union, US.
- Rosemary Stanton, Nutritionist, Australia.
Participants will be able to ask questions and share their views with others. It is intended that the conference will lead to action in defence of food choice and safety.
A FRANKENSTEIN HORROR STORY
HERE are some myths about Frankenfoods which almost everyone believes (including the editor of Citizen's Voice, until reading a recent feature article in the Sun-Herald's "Sunday" magazine).1. "Genetic manipulation can't hurt you unless you consume GM protein. Oils are esters which are simple molecules, sugars and amino-acids are similarly simple molecules, and it doesn't matter how they are produced."2. "GM foods may bring someone out in a rash or maybe more seriously affect one user in millions but are not likely to do grave harm to a large number of people."
3. "In Australia, only a few foods on the supermarket shelves are from Dr Frankenstein's labs."
Wrong, wrong and wrong again -- witness the alarming feature in the November 14 edition of Australia's Sun Herald Weekend magazine.
For example:1. L-tryptophan is a simple amino-acid molecule (a 3-indole-substituted 2-aminopropanoic acid, for those who are into that sort of thing) which is prepared commercially by a bacterially catalysed fermentation process. If genetically modified bugs replace the natural bacteria, the L-tryptophan produced is exactly the same. But it contains a side-product present as a contaminant in 0.1% concentration which is a very long way from benign.
2. The side-product in L-tryptophan produced in this way killed at least 37 people and permanently maimed an indefinite number of others. You don't have to be allergic. Whoever you are, if you ingest the stuff you'll suffer serious damage. Fortunately, production has ceased -- but what's the next horror waiting to roll out of Dr Frankenstein's trans-national corporate labs?
3. Most, repeat most, of the foods on Australian supermarket shelves contain genetically modified ingredients.
Citizens' Voice can send you the astounding full story on request, as Word 6 or 97 or Rich Text Format attachment, as plain email text, or by mail as hard copy. For hard copy, send a stamped addressed envelope to the Editor (click for details).
There IS an established social code for trade
Contributed by GRAHAM BAKER
The WTO and its lackeys in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) would have us all believe that there is no established code for responsibility in international trade. They are wrong.
Social Accountability Standard 8000 is an international standard designed for corporations to set in place auditable management systems to demonstrate that the corporation complies with the major international labour, human rights, and children's rights conventions. Those with access to the Internet can read a copy at http://www.cepaa.org/sa8000.htm
This standard, combined with ISO 14000 which provides a model for auditable environmental management systems, should be used as a minimum standards for international trade. Australia has already been involved in the establishment of both of these standards.
One must wonder why one part of DFAT doesn't know what other parts of DFAT have agreed to.
SECRET POLICE GET HACKING POWERS
RECENT legislation, passed with the usual voting co-operation seen between Government and Opposition in attacks on the rights of the people, has given the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation the authority to hack into computers and even alter what's in them.
The other parties voted against the legislation.
The extent of this intrusion is described in an Internet posting which quotes writer Andrew Taggart, reporting from Sydney.
(A transcript can be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Editor of Citizens' Voice or by requesting an electronic version by email).
Under the new law, the Attorney General can authorise legal hacking into private computer systems, as well as copying or altering data.
A world "first"!
"I don't think there's any example anywhere else in the world that's comparable.", said Chris Connolly, director of Australia's Financial Services Consumer Policy Centre and national coordinator of the Campaign for Fair Privacy Laws.
Catherine Fitzpatrick, spokeswoman for Attorney General Daryl Williams, said ASIO could alter computers only as was necessary to conceal their spying.
Greg Taylor, vice chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia, said government hackers could potentially lift encryption keys from individual computers.
Paul Budde, a Sydney-based independent telecommunications analyst, asked: "How can they now criticise 16-year-old kids who break into computer systems for fun if the government's doing it, too?"
However, if the secret police get into your computer, and somehow you manage to rumble them despite their authority to turn off any surveillance detection software you have, you can still appeal to those who did the hacking!
Holland is reported as studying a proposed law to let the elite practice commercial, campaigning, and other espionage, and alter the contents of computers without permission (i.e., "hacking"), etc., under the guise of the "national interest" and "defence." Click http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/alter.htm -- added by John Massam, 22 Apr 00, corrected 24 Apr 00.
Hey! That's us!
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) -- http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/ -- states that it is a not-for-profit research and campaign group targeting the threats to democracy, equity, social justice and the environment posed by the economic and political power of corporations and their lobby groups.
Well put! This is also what the STOP-MAI Coalition (WA) is and, like CEO, our members Brian Jenkins (Media Liaison Officer) and John Massam both run comprehensive and informative web sites with many links to the information you want:
http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/ and http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/
Like CEO, we too are non-profit and although we run very cheaply we do need modest funds. Our committee is urgently examining methods of fundraising, and all suggestions will be welcomed.
So what's new?
Francis M. Cornford, in an essay entitled Thucydides Mythistoricus, makes a good case for the blame for the Peloponnesian War 2400 years ago on the merchant class living off sea commerce in the Piraeus, who in their greed, arrogance, hubris, short term outlook, overextended themselves with the Syracuse expedition and brought the whole of the Greek world plus the Persian navy against them. The parallels with today are striking.
The URL is http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Thucydides/Cornford/CTOC.html , or you can obtain a transcript by sending a stamped, addressed envelope to the Editor of Citizens' Voice.
Drug companies condemn millions to die
[This material is taken from articles by GEORGE MONBIOT in The Guardian (UK), ED VULLIAMY in The Observer and MARTINE BULARD in Le Monde Diplomatique. URLs are given below, or transcripts can be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Editor of Citizens' Voice or asking by email for an electronic text version]
SIXTY-FIVE per cent of the world's HIV-positive people are in sub-Saharan Africa, deaths from AIDS are approaching the 20 million level of the Great Plague of the 14th century, and average life expectancy is set to fall from 59 to 40.
Drug companies and the major Western governments responded swiftly to the crisis by warning that African governments had better not look for ways of tackling AIDS that they can afford or there will be sanctions.
The South African Government, faced with a staggering $10,000 cost for drugs for each AIDS patient, had legislated (1) to allow South African businesses to manufacture generic products paying only a royalty to the patent owner and (2) to allow import of drugs from the country where they could be obtained most cheaply.
Despite this being within WTO rules, the drug companies went ape.
They suborned US Vice President Al Gore with millions into his 1000 presidential campaign funds, and Gore told Nelson Mandela bluntly that the US would not tolerate this legislation.
But South Africa stuck to its guns.
Next a group of the world's largest (and most rapacious) drug companies sued Mandela. This law suit remained on hold.
AIDS activists rattle Gore
Then AIDS activists in the USA turned the heat on Gore, who cracked and toned down his war on the South African Government.
Promptly the drug companies switched to Gore's Presidential rival Bill Bradley, pouring millions into Bradley's campaign.
It didn't work. Public pressure in the USA continued to grow and, strengthened by its Nobel Prize, Médecins Sans Frontières now counters the drug companies with its timely Access to Essential Medicines Campaign for worldwide access to life-saving drugs.
Losing the overt support of the US Government, the drug companies dropped the law suit they had initiated against South Africa.
This is a partial victory for South Africa though there were countless avoidable deaths while the drug companies stonewalled.
The exception, currently allowed under WTO rules, is that the African countries can show that there is an emergency. Otherwise profits would have to come first.
But the pharmaceutical lobbies are hoping to use the WTO to get all exceptions to patent rights abolished.
Having it both ways
At the same time, they want greater access, without cost and without constraint, to the plant life of the developing countries, since knowledge of their genomes is one of the keys to future medicines. In other words, they want complete control over the raw materials and ever tighter protection for the discoveries made from those plants, making them inaccessible to the countries they came from.
George Monbiot: http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,71344,00.html
Ed Vulliamy: http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/observer/uk_news/story/0,3879,115672,00.html
Martine Bulard: http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/en/2000/01/12bulard
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