Western Australian
CITIZENS’
VOICE

AGAINST GLOBAL
CORPORATE CONTROL

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Newsletter of the STOP-MAI
Campaign Coalition (WA)

No. 5, May 2000

about Citizens' Voice

140  Top ^ ^  < < Issue #4  CONTENTS 1-50  101-on  Translate  Links  Events  Books  HOME  Issue #6 > >  Foot v v  142
ORGANISATIONS - Sign on to: 'WTO - SHRINK or SINK'
COMING EVENT:
Fremantle Evening Forum, June 7

Wed June 7: StopMAI Forum on Globalisation, 6.30 pm at the Fremantle Club, 15 Bannister Street. Guest speakers and open discussion. (Admission, $5)

MELBOURNE MEETING TO PLAN
FURTHER GRABS FOR POWER

ON September 11-13, owners and executives of the world's biggest transnational corporations will be represented at a meeting at Melbourne's Crown Casino to plan further acquisition of power and wealth.

The occasion is the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The theme is to be "Asia/Pacific in the 21st Century: Leveraging the new drivers of growth".

The Summit is jointly sponsored by the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Davos Connection (the Australian arm of the World Economic Forum).

The World Economic Forum is an organisation made up of the richest global companies in the world. Every February in the Swiss mountain resort town of Davos, over a thousand of the worlds most acquisitive CEO's  [Chief Executive Officers] meet along with a restricted list of politicians, academics and influential media who are invited along.

Like the World Trade Organisation, the World Economic Forum is a means of promoting global policies aimed at weakening labour, removing environmental protection and the transfer of power from democratically elected governments to international corporate business.

At Seattle last year and Davos in February this year, coalitions of trade unions, environmentalists and human rights and democracy activists protested against this programme of acquisition of power and wealth.

Melbourne, Perth Actions

Similar protest will greet the Melbourne meeting in September, with demonstrations at the site and supporting actions in locations all around the world.

Stop-MAI (WA) is actively planning a presence in Melbourne and suitable simultaneous action in Perth, in co-ordination with other WA organisations resisting the ongoing corporate takeover of Australia.

A national web site has been set up at http://www.s11.org/

PETITION FOCUSES ON AUSTRALIA-WTO LINKS

A petition prepared by AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network) for presentation to the Senate by August 31 calls for negotiations through the World Trade Organisation for further trade liberalisation to be halted pending a public inquiry into Australia's relationship with the WTO.

You can help by printing and circulating copies, as well as signing yourself.

DOWNLOAD the 1-page petition in RTF format (7kB).

CITIZENS PUT LAST

THESE two items involving WA citizens relate to the effect of giving the green light for putting profit above the rights and interests of the individual.

The first is a letter from John Massam, a Stop-MAI(WA) activist, to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, on a practice known as "data mining" in which data on individuals are compiled and collated, without their permission, for commercial gain.

The second is a letter from David Banner, of Coolbellup, to this newsletter describing dubious charging practices that flourish as a result of creeping privatisation of telephone services, accompanied by weakening of regulatory supervision.

DATA MINING

From John Massam to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:

Once again, as in much legislation, we see that the rich and powerful are to be affirmed in their power, while the weaker are left to fend for themselves.

I consider that data mining is a gross invasion of everyone's privacy.

In an ideal world, if a company wanted to compile a database containing private information pertaining to anyone, it must seek written informed consent.

This is called 'opting in'. Currently, a person can only 'opt out,' which means the person would have to contact hundreds of organisations and go through a lot of hassle to try and get off their databases.

If should be illegal for information given for one purpose (filling out forms, using credit card, etc) to be used for another purpose without my informed written consent, except after legal approval of a judge, or in cases to stop fraud in banking, export subsidies, pensions, and the like, or to stop organised crime and illegal dealing in weapons, immigrants, or drugs.

I wish to have tough enforceable legislation to protect the interests of citizens, not self regulation or 'light touch' legislation that panders to corporate interests. -- John Massam

"Cheap local phone calls" ploy

From David Banner to Citizens' Voice:

Now that our telecommunications have been privatised and opened up to competition, I wonder how many people, like me, are finding that the private phone service deteriorating by the day.

Having recently moved to a service supplier who is offering less expensive local calls, I am now finding that about one in four of my dialups are ending in a dead connection. Also I am being randomly disconnected. Which of course necessitates me making an extra number of calls per day, which I suspect more than absorbs the money I was supposed to save on my phone bill.

Is it a case whereby customers are becoming the bone in the dogfight between the many service providers, with a plethora of dirty tricks being used to discredit each other.? Or are we seeing the phenomena whereby phone service providers are offering very low cost structures to gain clients, then augmenting there profit margins by deliberately forcing their customers to make extra calls?

In all of this, where is the taxpayer funded watchdog, Austel? Have they also been privatised, and are now investigating, or not investigating, according to commercial considerations?

I would really like to know. -- David Banner

 

Quotable quote (from a contribution to the "Neither" email network):

Solon wrote to the Athenians upon the sad occasion of the ascension of Pisistratus the Tyrant to power.

" If you have suffered sadly through your own wickedness, lay not the blame for this upon the gods. For it is you yourselves who gave allegiance to your foes and made them great; this is why you bear the brand of slavery.

"Every one of you treads in the footsteps of the fox, yet in the mass you have little sense. You look to the speech and fair words of a flatterer, paying no regard to any practical results"

DFAT demanded GST

From information in an email posting to activists by Brian Jenkins, of Stop-MAI(WA)

THE White Paper 'In the National Interest', prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1997, shows how international corporate demands are channelled to the Australian Government, helps explain the surprise reintroduction of the "never-ever" GST in 1998, and raises a question about the equally surprising (to some) ditching of party policy by five Australian Democrat Senators to join the Coalition in pushing it through parliament.

The White paper can be found on the Web at http://www.dfat.gov.au/ini/wp.html .

The following is especially relevant:

"186. Taxation policy, for example, directly and indirectly affects exporters, Australia's attractiveness as an investment destination, Australians investing or working offshore, and competitiveness. As international economic integration and competition for investment intensify, taxation issues may become more relevant to the choices companies make. The way in which taxes add to the cost of producing and exporting, and the complexity and compliance costs of taxation are part of the competitiveness equation. In formulating its tax policies, the Government will continue to take account of the challenge of international tax competition." (http://www.dfat.gov.au/ini/ch5.html).

Public consultation?

It remains to be seen whether the same vigour will be applied to the identified importance of public consultation:

"197. If Australia is to have sustainable foreign and trade policies, they must have the support of the Australian people. Foreign and trade policy needs to be explained in terms which are relevant to the lives of individual Australians. There needs to be a wider understanding in the community about how international developments affect Australia, and about the complexities of managing Australia's external relations in ways which advance Australia's security and economic well-being. Discussion of foreign and trade policy should not be left exclusively to the experts and the professionals. It affects the lives of all Australians and it deserves greater attention in schools, universities and within the community more generally."


US Congress group seeks withdrawal from WTO

From an article by Associated Press economics writer MARTIN CRUTSINGER

A group of six conservative House members is introducing legislation demanding that the United States quit the World Trade Organisation.

The effort, being led by Representative Ron Paul, Republican-Texas, guarantees a vote within 90 days on withdrawing from the WTO.

That means the Clinton administration will be forced to defend US membership in the WTO at the same time it is seeking votes to grant China permanent normal trade relations with the United States as part of China's WTO membership bid.

Mr Paul said the United States had handed over to an international tribunal its ability to make tax law.

[ http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000303/pl/wto_pullout_1.html ]

War declared on WTO over salmon imports

THE stand-off between the Commonwealth Government and Tasmania continues, with the Tasmanians determined to protect their salmon stocks from infection by diseased imported Canadian salmon and the Commonwealth Government determined to keep to free trade agreements made with WTO behind the people's backs.

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) has called for a ban on handling Canadian products, the National Angler's Lobby (NAL) has secured solid support from Australian food outlets for a campaign against the imports, and The Council of Canadians, an independent, non-partisan citizens' interest group, has expressed firm support for the Australian anglers' campaign.

In response to Canadian threats of trade sanctions to the value of $45 million , the AWU has called for rolling bans on the handling of Canadian products nationally to the same value. The union has almost 1,000 members in the aquaculture industry in Tasmania.

Meanwhile the NAL has launched an action plan which will be distributed to clubs and interest groups, as well as the general public at fishing and boating shows. It comprises seven ways to help keep imported fish diseases out:

1 Look for and shop at angler endorsed supermarkets, hotel chains, and restaurants and other retailers who have supported the anglers call for maintaining a disease free aquatic environment.

2 Urge your supermarket manager not to sell uncooked imported salmon and trout products.

3 Advise your friends not to buy uncooked salmon and trout products, and tell them why.

4 Explain to your children that diseases destroy and that catching disease free wild fish from clean waters is under threat.

5 Discuss this threat with your fishing mates and at no stage use imported salmon or trout as burley or bait, or allow any part to be discarded into our waterways.

6 Instruct your fishing club to take it up with Canberra and continue to lobby your local Member to maintain a disease free status for Australia.

7 Use your heart and your head to keep our waters clean and free from the dangers of imported fish diseases.

The National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia (NARGA) has joined with the major supermarket chains in agreeing to sell only Australian salmon and trout products.

[The Editor of Citizens' Voice has noticed Canadian (Safcol) and Mexican (Paramount) tinned salmon on the shelves of Stammers, since its recent takeover by the Action food chain].

WTO panels have twice ruled against Australia on this issue – it remains to be decided whether the Government can be compelled to defy the WTO rulings on behalf of the Australian people, who have never been asked or agreed to subject themselves to dictation by WTO.

Scare over freak GM salmon

GENETICALLY modified salmon now ready for sale in US supermarkets grow at 10 times the natural rate and could grow to 4m in length and weigh 100 kg.

Guardian environmental correspondent Paul Brown reports that the developer, A/F Protein of Massachusetts, claims the monster fish are sterile and could not breed in the wild.

However, David King, editor of GenEthics News, said it was well documented that farmed salmon did escape and the scientific data showed that not all GM fish were sterile.

Wild salmon at risk

"It is not 100% certain you could stop them breeding with wild salmon", he said.

"The research shows that this company has managed to grow fish 40 times faster than wild ones but they developed deformities, so they have had to slow the growth rate down to produce fish that appear normal.

"In the wild, size is important. The biggest fish is top fish, so goodness knows what would happen to the wild population if these bred," David King said.  

TERMINATOR SEEDS ARE BACK!

MONSANTO's pledge to abandon work on the terminator gene turns out to have been a feint.

The company has since merged with other companies and terminator work is proceeding at a fast pace.

This technology has been widely condemned as the most morally offensive application of agricultural biotechnology, since over 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds.

"We've continued right on with work on the Technology Protection System [Terminator]", declared Harry Collins, of Delta & Pine Land Seed Co.

"We never really slowed down. We're on target, moving ahead to commercialise it. We never really backed off."

In 1999 Monsanto and AstraZeneca publicly vowed not to commercialise terminator seeds.

But a report by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) concludes that corporate commitments to disavow terminator are virtually meaningless in the light of the pace of corporate takeovers.

Australia?

Among the national governments that have announced their intention to block Terminator technology in their countries are Panama, India, Ghana and Uganda.

The Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, recently declared his opposition to Terminator.

Entitled "Suicide Seeds on the Fast Track", the new RAFI communique is available on RAFI's website which is at http://www.rafi.org.

Monsanto whistles in the dark

A Monsanto spokesman has told Reuters that sales of biotech seeds have been brisk. ``We see the market for biotech seeds this year to be consistent with last year, and up in many cases,'' he said.

But Reuters conducted a straw poll among American farmers and found they planned sharp reductions in spring plantings of genetically modified crops. The survey indicated a decline of 24 percent for sowings of Bt corn, 22 percent for RoundUp Ready corn, and 15 percent in RoundUp Ready soybeans.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said grain buyers were paying a premium of 8 to 10 cents a bushel for non-genetically modified corn grown in Illinois.

The American Corn Growers' Association attributed the turn away from GM crops to uncertainty over the market as buyer resistance escalates.

Had their chips?

Scott Kilman of the Wall Street Journal reports that GM potatoes are also in trouble, with McDonalds are quietly telling their french-fry suppliers to stop using potatoes from Monsanto.

Initially, US farmers embraced the new potatoes, which generate their own insecticide, with planting increasing from 10,000 to 50,000 acres between 1996 and 1999, but under pressure from food companies worried about market trends they are expected to revert to natural potatoes this year.

ADDRESS OF RURAL ACTION MOVEMENT

In our issue No. 4 we gave an old address for the Rural Action Movement (RAM). Our apologies: the corrected contact details are as follows:

PO Box 288 MOSMAN PARK WA 6912

Phone: 08) 9286 2753, Fax: (08) 9286 2713

E-mail: ramwa@primus.com.au, Homepage: www.ramwa.com

NSW ACADEMIC LAMBASTS WTO

The following paper by Dr Sharon Beder, an associate professor of science, technology and society at the University of Wollongong, so starkly illustrates the baleful effects of WTO membership that we are reproducing it here in full.

WHEN the World Trade Organisation (WTO) met in Seattle recently, talks had to be postponed because of massive protests. A major concern of the protesters was the extent to which free trade is being given priority over other social equity and environmental concerns.

The WTO is perceived by opponents as an organisation that facilitates the dominance of corporate interests over democratically decided national interests. And with good reason. WTO rules on free trade can override national laws and regulations aimed at fostering social and environmental protection.

Attempts by national governments to ban environmentally damaging or unhealthy products have been successfully challenged under WTO rules. The European Union (EU) attempted to prevent t US meat being imported into Europe which contained hormones fed to the animals to increase their growth rate. However, the WTO ruled that the EU should lift the ban. When it refused the US gained WTO permission to impose sanctions including 100% import duties on selected imports into the US.

Clean Air Act barred

In another case, the US had to change its Clean Air Act because the WTO ruled that cleaning up its air pollution by requiring cleaner petrol discriminated against imports of oil from countries like Venezuela. France's attempts to ban asbestos have been challenged by Canada. Danish attempts to ban lead compounds have been challenged by the US, as have attempts by the EU to ban lead, mercury and cadmium in electronic devices.

Countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines limit log exports to control the rate of logging and thereby protect their local forests and industry. Such bans have been opposed by Japan as being contrary to free trade rules. Bans on products which contain heavy metals such as batteries, and bans on throw-away packaging could also be challenged. Bans on aluminium cans or the imposition of deposit systems affect foreign producers, and are therefore considered to be trade-distorting and unnecessary since packaging can otherwise be dealt with through a waste disposal system.

Hazardous wastes

Countries may also wish to ban imports of hazardous materials and wastes. However, the WTO only allows this if local production or disposal of the same material is also banned. Belgium has been taken before the European Court of Justice because it banned some hazardous waste imports. This means that if Australia builds a facility for disposing of radioactive wastes, it might not be able to limit imports of these types of wastes from other countries for disposal.

The WTO also prohibits the restriction of imports on the basis of production processes and methods used in producing a product. A US law to protect sea turtles has been overturned by the WTO on these grounds as a result of opposition from the shrimp industry. US legislation prohibited the import of shrimp caught using methods that did not exclude turtles from being drowned in shrimp nets. In 1998 the WI'O ruled against this legislation and the US is currently dismantling this legislation so as to comply.

Slave, child labour

Similarly import restrictions to prevent other production methods, including the use of slave or child labour, could also be challenged. This has implications for environmental legislation too, since production methods are an important target for environmental policy. For example regulations that restrict imports of forest products to those that have been sustainably produced would be contrary to WTO rules.

Even labelling products such as sustainably harvested wood would be against WTO rules because it discriminates between products on the basis of how they were produced. The US government has argued that an EU law requiring genetically modified food to be labelled breaches WTO rules because there is no difference in the end product from normally produced food.

The WTO was set up in 1995 but despite its power, its legal standing and its ability to impose sanctions on nations it is not democratically accountable to voters in any country. It meets in secret, there is no appeal outside the organisation and there is no participation by environmental, consumer or health groups. Such groups are unable to submit documents for consideration or even observe proceedings. All they are able to do to have their voices heard is to protest outside, as occurred in Seattle.

Dr Beder's email address is sharon_beder@uow.edu.au

¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾

Short items (more details supplied on request)

Brazil told to cut back welfare

"Brazil already spends a significant amount of money on social programs,'' IMF representative Lorenzo Perez said told the Brazilians, "'This money has to be used more effectively."

The IMF later retracted the statement in the face of outrage from all sections of the populace.

Did World Bank fund quislings?

Jakarta - The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, has said that, if necessary, he will investigate fresh allegations that millions of dollars of World Bank funds were diverted by the former Indonesian government to finance militia gangs in East Timor.

Coke scion says no GM

William C. Wardlaw III, grandson of one of the first investors in Coke stock, has co-sponsored a shareholder resolution asking the company to stop using GM foods while questions remain.

GST doublespeak

Section 165-55 GST Tax Act, Australia 1999:

"For the purposes of making a declaration under this subdivision, the Commissioner may treat a particular event that actually happened as not having happened, and treat a particular event that did not actually happen as having happened and, if appropriate ... treat an event that actually happened as having happened at a time different from the time it actually happened."

[Just thought you might want to know]

Australian canola warning

The South Australian Genetic Food Information Network (affiliated with the GeneEthics Network) has warned buyers in other countries to beware of Australian-grown canola products because of the risk of contamination with wind-borne GM canola.


People against global
corporate control

StopMAI (WA) Coalition

Stop-MAI flies the flag on May Day

A large banner bearing the words "People against global corporate control" was borne by the Stop-MAI (WA) contingent at the 2000 May Day parade at Fremantle on May 7.

Our stall attracted considerable interest including an interview with the Curtin University student newspaper Grok. Visitors from trade unions and a variety of regional campaign organisations frequently expressed their recognition of the connection between global corporate greed and the social and environmental problems arising from privatisation and other avenues by which governments are opting out of their responsibilities.

A leaflet prepared for the occasion was distributed widely and was well-received by the many marchers and onlookers.

DOWNLOAD the 2-page leaflet in RTF format


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Just World Campaign, 46 Cobine Way, Greenwood, (a Perth suburb), WA, 6024, Australia. Tel.: +61 ( 0 ) 8  9343 9532, Mobile 0408 054 319 john.massam@multiline.com.au