GM Royal Commission in N Zealand
BSE/CJD: Dormant but deadly
Corporate Code of Conduct Bill: Inquiry
Privileged tax dodging continues
Setback for National Competition Council
Letter: Dump party hacks at the polls
Letter: Divide and rule or unite to survive
Fire sales of public assets
Politicians say lobbyists shake them down
Bill Gates confronts reality
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N25 Convention: RE-ASSERTING DEMOCRACY
"We must consider disabling the transnational corporations ... that constitute the core of the global economic system." - Prof. Walden Bello
PERTH'S N25 Convention on Saturday, November 25 (and a similar one in Melbourne on November 11) would be attended by citizens who, for the most part, want to halt and undo the rampage of corporate globalism and the policies of so-called "economic rationalism", Media Liaison Officer Brian Jenkins said in a press statement in the runup to the Convention.
The Convention would be an intensive discussion and would not be restricted to activists such as those who took part in the recent spectacular mass demonstrations in Seattle, Davos, Washington, Melbourne and Prague.
As against the media-portrayed violence initiated by police at those demonstrations, the N25 Convention will highlight a more subtle and pervasive violence being wrought daily by banks and other multinational corporations against the welfare of Australians, with the aid of national and international trade bureaucracies.
"We are grateful to Professor Walden Bello, Fellow of the Transnational Institute and Professor of Public Administration and Sociology at the University of the Philippines, for a definitive statement of the problem presented at public lectures in Melbourne in September, an internet copy of which is available at http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/Bello_S11.html, Brian Jenkins said.
(An email copy of Professor Bello's important analytical address can be sent on request to Brian.)
(Perth) Brian Jenkins ph 08 9528 1864; fax 08 9529 1321; email: email@example.com
(Melbourne) Jane Zed ph 03 96397688; fax 03 9659 3570; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOLIDARITY OVERSEAS VISITS with APHEDA
APHEDA Study Tours are part of APHEDA -- Union Aid Abroad's global education programme -- and provide a unique opportunity for trade unionists, APHEDA members and supporters to experience countries, cultures and development projects hosted by APHEDA project partners. APHEDA has taken more than 100 unionists on 16 study tours over the last 7 years to South-East Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. Go to full details
GATS: A monster in the making
This item is compiled by the Editor on the basis of a range of (quoted) sources.
THE proposed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is shaping up to be an even greater threat to democracy than the MAI (whose principles it embodies)
A new book by senior Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives researcher Scott Sinclair is one of an increasing number of warnings about the GATS negotiations which are proceeding behind closed doors.
The book, "GATS: HOW THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION'S 'SERVICES' NEGOTIATIONS THREATEN DEMOCRACY" describes how the GATS' ultimate purpose is to commercialise every service sector in every WTO member country including essential public services such as education, water and health care. A summary can be downloaded from www.policyalternatives.ca
Where to find GATS: Full draft is at
and a summary can be found at
There is still time for Australia to say NO to GATS. A bulletin issued by AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network) after discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) indicates that public health, education and social services are still excluded from the trade in services agreement, although private provision in health and education was included in the last round in 1994. The government says its policy is that these public services should remain excluded from the agreement.
However there is a danger that the government would offer to include the public Australian tertiary education sector in the GATS agreement, possibly as part of a trade-off for agriculture provisions it is seeking. Also, the Government is seeking encroachment of WTO authority into financial services, which means it could be made to remove the current figleaf of protection from anti-competitive bank mergers and takeovers.
Support for local industry under threat
Another danger relates to the right of State and local government to support local industry in purchasing policies like that published last month by the WA Government which favours WA tenderers and sets performance criteria.
According to AFTINET's information, the Commonwealth bureaucrats are moving towards giving WTO the right to forbid this.
There are already precedents for interference in the right of elected governments to use their purchasing power in the interests of their communities. New Zealand has a deal in place with Singapore to make these measures illegal in both countries. On October 25 Sean Healy of Green Left Weekly wrote on the basis of an examination of Australia and New Zealand's recent (temporarily) failed bid to enter a free trade zone with ASEAN. Sean wrote:
"The Singapore-NZ agreement . . .would render illegal any attempt by either government to base its procurement policy on anything other than competitive standards or to specify that any good or service must have more than 50% local content. . .Its anti-expropriation measures could prevent governments from passing regulations which significantly reduce the value of an investment. Similar anti-expropriation stipulations in the North American Free Trade Agreement have led to damages being awarded against governments for closing down environmentally damaging enterprises."
Sean's article is quoted in detail at http://mai.flora.org/forum/22530 .
However, irrespective of the Asian negotiations, a global General Agreement on Trade in Services could pre-empt the Government's reservations about barring support for local industry.
Plotting in Geneva
Writing in Canada's "Financial Post", columnist Murray Dobbin warned about secret negotiations going on at Geneva which are directed to installing a GATS which, like its predecessor MAI, would drastically reduce the democratic powers of the Australian people.
For a start it would sweep aside measures like those in WA, described above, to promote local business and industry.
Dobbin wrote: "WTO negotiators have set themselves no less a goal than to come up with binding rules to limit what all 137 member nations of the WTO -- plus all of their subnational governments -- can do in the area of regulation over services.
"The WTO has said that these new rules will automatically apply to all services without exception. The scope is breathtaking. At stake are issues as diverse as how strict our standards are for hospitals, whether we can protect historic buildings or control the invasion of big box stores, the kind of limits we put on tourist development in sensitive ecological areas."
But secrecy ain't what it used to be.
Dobbin added: "Restricted WTO documents leaked in Europe indicate negotiators are currently working up a list of what will be acceptable as a 'legitimate' government objective for any regulation governing services. That of 'safeguarding the public interest" has already been rejected.
"Canada and others ganged up on the European Commission for suggesting the list of legitimate objectives might include 'protection of the environment' and 'ensuring pluralism and a media system based on free and democratic principles'."
Dobbin's article is quoted in full at http://mai.flora.org/forum/20364 .
[The reference to Walkerton is about a number of e coli infections including several deaths, caused by inadequate water quality.]
Are public consultations real?
Like Canada, Australia has a process of public consultation over relationships with WTO which would include GATS. As in Canada, the real consultations are with corporate business -- the blatant partiality of the Chairman of Australia's Joint Select Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) was shown in Citizens' Voice No. 7
(See http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/CV7.html#thomson ).
However, we have to make do with what we have while insisting on more, and many people have made submissions to the committee. Those which were e-mailed can be read on their web site at http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jsct/wto/subsWTO.htm and are a very interesting read indeed. Stop-MAI (WA) made a substantial submission which gives a very good idea of what is happening in Australia's relations with WTO and what we are doing about it. Look for No. 165.
E-commerce could become in the future the major way everyone does business, including many professional services. Web-based transactions such as for shopping or banking or even reading the latest Stephen King novel are well-established already, and more often than not they are international.
"If the [already-expressed] corporate position on e-commerce is integrated into the GATS, corporations would be able to shift any activity that is carried out on-line to jurisdictions where labour is cheap and submissive or where they find tax and environmental laws more to their liking," writes Sid Shniad, Research Director of Canada's Telecommunications Workers' Union in a major paper published at
The writer demanded that Canada withdraw from GATS negotiations immediately, a call that could well be echoed also in Australia.
REPORT VINDICATES TASMANIA
TASMANIA'S Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment, David Llewellyn, has said in a media statement that the Senate Inquiry into GMOs has vindicated Tasmania's stand for a recognition of State's rights.
The Gene Technology Bill 2000 and two related Bills passed the House of Representatives on August 30. The Senate referred them to a committee of inquiry which has now handed down its report.
The report is available at
Its recommendations include:
- application of the precautionary principle as set out in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999,
- a requirement that applicants for permits to grow GM crops be insured against accidental release, and
- a requirement that the regulator be required to accept the viewpoint of the relevant State or territory on what is necessary to prevent release of GM materials.
Mr Llewellyn said the Tasmanian Government agreed it was imperative to have a strong national regulatory system to control GMOs in agriculture, but it was also vital that the State had determination on the issue.
State right to say No
"The report supports the strengthening of State rights and powers within the proposed national regulatory system," said Mr Llewellyn.
"This is exactly what we have been seeking."
Mr Llewellyn said the report if adopted would provide the capacity to establish GM free zones -- effectively the ability to opt out under the Gene Technology Bill.
Mr Llewellyn called on the Federal Government to adopt the recommendations of the report.
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