CITIZENS’ VOICE,

No. 8, November 2000, continued
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GM Royal Commission in NZ

INTERNATIONAL biotechnology companies are poised to use the report of a New Zealand Royal Commission on genetic modification to further their financial aims worldwide and stifle voices raising legitimate concerns around the world.

Individuals have until December 1 to make a submission.   Submissions from outside New Zealand are effective if they refer to the  clean, green image of New Zealand produce.  The address for submissions (preferably email but accepted as hard copy) is:

Kay Hewitt, Executive Officer
Royal Commission on Genetic Modification
PO Box 3554
Wellington, New Zealand. 

The fax number is +64 4 495 9153 and the email address is  info@gmcommission.govt.nz

A submission can be as short as one sentence. The easiest way to email is to visit http://www.greenpeace.org.nz  to send off a submission straight from there. According to the Natural Law party, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) is quietly authorising more and more GE foods as safe for human consumption.


Dormant but deadly

ANIMAL experiments have revealed a silent carrier role for a deadly prion disease in mice which may point to dire consequences for humans.  Prion diseases include CJD, the human consequence of BSE in British beef.

Jennifer Cooke, the author of Cannibals, Cows & the CJD Catastrophe, which won last year's Eureka Science Book Prize, has written in the Sydney Morning Herald that lent credence to theories that mad cow disease could be carried silently by apparently healthy cows and other animals, leading to an epidemic of vCJD, a dangerous CJD variant.

The organism survives procedures for sterilising surgical instruments, which are now seen as a possible source of spread of the disease. BSE and its human consequence, CJD, are products of "smaller government" with relaxed regulation of cattle feeding.

Until 1996 the British Government assured the world that British beef was perfectly safe to eat (a familiar refrain!) and now it is asserting that the silent BSE strain is totally under control.
The article can be read at http://www.smh.com.au/news/0009/09/text/review5.html or obtained from Citizens' Voice.


Have your say!

Bid to curb corporate cowboys overseas

A PARLIAMENTARY committee has opened a public inquiry into a Bill directed to obliging Australian corporations operating overseas to become better corporate citizens, and is calling for submissions.

The Corporate Code of Conduct Bill 2000, introduced by Australian Democrat Senator Vicki Bourne, was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Statutory Committee on Corporations and Securities on October 5, and the committee will report back on March 31.

The Bill sets out to impose environmental, employment, health and safety and human rights standards on the conduct of Australian corporations or related corporations which employ more than 100 persons in a foreign country.

The text is available at http://www.aph.gov.au/legis.htm - select "Current Bills (by Title)", then "Corporate Code of Conduct Bill 2000", then "Text of the Bill", or ask Citizens' Voice for a copy by Rich Text Format attachment or plain text, or a hard copy can be obtained by telephoning (02) 6277 3581.

The measures will undoubtedly be opposed, and submissions will show that Australians consider the principles important.  Information about making submissions is obtainable via the inquiry's website at
http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/corp_sec_ctte/corp_code.htm or
through the above telephone number to the Secretary, Parliamentary Joint Statutory Committee on Corporations and Securities, E-mail:
corporations.joint@aph.gov.au , Fax  (02) 6277 5809.


Privileged tax-dodging continues

IT'S not only in Australia that corporations get out of paying their fair share of tax (or, in some cases, any tax at all).

Not that they break the law.  They don't need to.  They make the law.  Laws they make through pliant politicians include building in avoidance loopholes, lowering corporate tax rates and throwing the tax burden on to middle and low income groups.

In the USA, a study by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy
( http://www.ctj.org/itep/corp00pr.htm ) has shown a resurgence in tax avoidance by large corporations.

"With significant help from Congress, corporations appear to be finding ways around the tax reforms adopted in 1986," said Robert S. McIntyre, a principal author of both the new study and previous corporate tax studies in the 1980s.

Bank grab

In Australia, the National Tax and Accountants' Association is calling on the Prime Minister to increase the tax rate for the major banks which, said association president Ray Regan, have amassed huge profits while paying only 30% in tax while most Australians paid a marginal 43% and 19 million Australians were finding it harder and harder under the GST regime.  (Source, ABC News).

Readers will recall that the sudden rush to a GST followed a demand from IMF head honcho Michel Camdessus that we fall into line -- and enough politicians obediently did so.  If challenged on that, quote
http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/1998/050598.htm


A glimmer of light?

A MAJOR purpose of the National Competition Council is to forbid government (right down to local government)  to deliver services to the community when the private sector can make money by taking the services over and running them down (also see GATS pp. 3-4).

On November 3 the Council of Australian Governments (State Premiers and the Prime Minister), agreed to require the National Competition Council to make public its reasons for recommending "reforms", and will give COAG greater powers to decide whether proposed changes will benefit the community.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said this meant governments would no longer be forced to follow the National Competition Council's decisions. [Promotion of competition doesn't extend to preventing corporate mergers and takeovers]


Letter to the Editor

DUMP PARTY HACKS AT THE POLLS

I hope that out of this coming seminar will come some positive initiatives to bring about change.

We have all, at different times, seen our efforts all come to nothing. Many efforts have been made to get some kind of unity amongst minor groups. All have come to nothing.

The main reason is that often these organisations, rather than being the means to bring about change, have in fact become ego platforms for little people eager to use them to enhance their standing and thereby their careers.

As each day/month/year goes by, those in power positions stitch things up, by changing voting procedures etc, so that the option open to the people to remove them diminishes by the day.

We cannot expect to change them, nor can we expect to be able to get a non-major-party Government in the immediate future.

Put sitting members last!

However what we can do is get every reform group we can to make a concerted effort to run a campaign to put EVERY sitting member last on the ballot paper. This would not result in a non-ALP, or Coalition Government, but what it would do is to replace most of the party hacks with young Turks, who never dreamed that they could ever get into parliament.

Ok, yes it could be argued that the party machines could still direct policy, but I wonder for how long? Once these young-blood "nobodys" get hyped up on the adrenalin of having power, they will be very reluctant to let it go. This in itself would cause a crisis and a weakening of power within major-party ranks. Also the new bloods would be more ready to make deals with public opinion and minority groups to retain their positions, even against their own party cliques.

Any problems created would only be short-term, especially when it was revealed (as it would be) how we have all been conned by our ruling clique for many decades.

Our options are running out and unless we take radical steps to change things it will be too late. We have to stop just being satisfied with "fuzzy-feelings" and start making real efforts for change.

PS: It would make a super bumper sticker campaign.


Divide and Rule or Unite to Survive
-- by Laurie Phillips, Merredin, WA (from a paper sent by this wheatbelt businessman who will be at the N25 convention. Mr Phillips, is a director of a Merredin-based manufacturer of agricultural machinery, employing 35 people.

OVER the last two decades the Western World has experienced a dramatic change in political performance that has resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle classes to the rich and powerful overclass.

Educated professional people are promoting a "free market" style of economy that pretends to promote efficient commerce and equal opportunity for trading and profit sharing.

Under this umbrella of deceit large multinational companies and unbelievably rich and powerful private international banks have been able to create an environment of debt based slavery for middle and working class people of the western world.

Governments have succumbed to the powerful forces of big business, big banks and monopoly style media that promote greed and the profit of the overclass.

How did we get to this!! Do we, the workers of this world ever think that we may have contributed to our own downfall?  Are we guilty by neglect? How  many of us put any effort at all into questioning this system, questioning our politicians, searching for the facts, the truth, the bottom line? Are we happy to glance at the daily paper, watch some telly and get on with doing what we like best and hope that "the system" caters for all our needs -- and looks after us -- pigs might fly. All of us that are awake are now well and truly convinced that we are being screwed -- are we to do nothing and slip a bit further down the ladder? If we do, then we deserve all we get -- fair enough?

Perhaps there IS something we can do.

Go to Laurie's FULL PAPER


Sale of the 21st Century*

FEW Australians have heard of OASITO -- the Office of Asset Sales and Information Technology Outsourcing,  responsible for the fire sale of Australia's publicly owned assets.

Over the past three years, billions of dollars worth of public assets have been sold to offshore consortia. Just about everything that isn't nailed down is being privatised or outsourced.

OASITO was officially established in 1997.. As an 'executive' agency of the Finance and Administration portfolio , it receives extensive support from private sector advisors, consultants and  project managers and reports directly to Minister John Fahey.

Instead of owning the assets and paying no rent, the Government now leases the assets back from the buyers for a staggering $1 billion a year -- and will continue to do so long after the money from the sales has been spent.

The latest assets up for grabs are three Defence offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra -- rents on these will then be a charge on our Defence budget.

IT outsourcing failure

OASITO's other job -- information technology outsourcing -- means that the maintenance and control of vital computer equipment,  networks, and databases is contracted out to private operators.

A performance audit of the first four IT outsourcing contracts, conducted last year and released in September 2000 by the Commonwealth Auditor General, reported dissatisfaction with the performance of the outsourced functions and stated that estimates of savings from IT outsourcing were exaggerated and that the programme is three times over budget and will be completed at least two and a half years late.

*This item is taken from the Fourth Quarter 2000 issue of Oznews, organ of Austand which seeks out and collates information about the effects of globalisarion and the actions of government to accommodate it.  For information about Austand and Oznews, contact Austand Inc, PO Box 173, Noosa Heads Qld 4567, Ph/fax (07) 5447 2943, web page http://www.austand.auz.net , email admin@austand.auz.net .

Citizens' Voice has some spare copies of the previous issue of Oznews and
will post one to anyone who sends a self-addressed A4 envelope with 90c
postage stamp attached.  See here for address.
-------------------------------

The people lose, either way!

WHEN corporations and political parties make sponsorship deals, which one is the villain?

The politicians, say corporate CEOs. This report is from the New Zealand
on-line news monitor "Scoop", at  http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0010/S00124.htm

Three hundred of America's top executives from major companies have spoken out in a CBS news-poll over US politicians shaking them down for big campaign bucks. In some quarters it's being described as a well-oiled protection racket.

Almost half of the $1.6 billion in campaign contributions towards the Presidential elections came from big corporations and some of them aren't happy about being squeezed.

Charles Kolb, who heads a business group filled with corporate heavies says, " Many of our people have used the word shakedown. That's how they feel when they get the calls demanding these big dollars."

The CBS poll reveals that 54 per cent of corporate executives believe the reason big business gives to politicians is to, "avoid adverse legislative consequences", or to "buy access to influence legislation".


LATE ITEM: 

Bill Gates rethink astounds corporate world

IN a startling proclamation, Microsoft Magnate Bill Gates has announced that computers can do little to solve the planet's gravest social ills.  'The world's poorest two billion people desperately need healthcare, not laptops,' he said.

Having visited Africa and other Third World countries his priorities had now shifted, he said.  Grants from the $21bn Bill and Melinda Gates foundation would now focus on Third World health care and vaccine distribution.  Mr Gates said he doubted that computers -- or global capitalism -- could solve the most immediate catastrophes facing the world's poorest people.

The declaration has sent shock waves through America's high-tech business community.

The full story is in The Guardian, UK, at
http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,393015,00.html


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