Transnationals &  Money News -- 3

SELLOUT TO OVERSEAS BUYERS: Are the minor parties right or wrong? -- AND A PLUG FOR M.A.I. PERTH, W. Australia: Although overseas people own more than a quarter of Perth office land area, and over 30% of the buildings, a newspaper writer reports that xenophobic anxiety about selling large portions of Australia to foreigners is rooted deep in Australians' collective psyche.  There was a pie chart of the breakdown with the article in The West Australian.  This anxiety was tied in to racism, but was possibly tied to an ancient drive to defend one's territory, according to Associate Professor Kevin Durkin from the University of Western Australia's psychology department.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Lyndon Rowe was quoted as saying the choice was foreign investment or lower investment, and Colliers Jardine research analyst David Cresp agreed.  "Mr Cresp says that in the Property Council of Australia's list of Perth CBD [Central Business District] office stock, Australian-controlled companies own 74 per cent by area and 67 per cent by number of buildings."  Mr Rowe criticised Australia's minor political parties for wanting to cut back on foreign investment and ownership.  And the end of the article had two paragraphs supporting the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). -- Dan Minchin,  "Foreign buyers: facts defy fiction," The West Australian, August 12 1998, p 45.  COMMENT: Defending one's territory is mixed in with nasty words in this article, and the heading contradicts the facts revealed -- 25% of a city in overseas hands is a serious danger to revenue and security.

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COMMENT: The accepted wisdom of the elites is distilled in this article.  According to this article's interviewees, people who object to overseas ownership are possibly racist, and/or acting from urges to defend territory, and/or don't understand the need for investment.  One wonders if the minor parties actually realise that the foreign ownership of the dearest land in Perth has actually passed the 25% mark? Why did the State Government, defying a referendum of the citizens of Perth, break up the Perth City Council into four councils, thus getting rid of the surrounding suburbs which included many thousands of ordinary citizens, and making the central council itself subject to more than 25% of overseas voting power?  And one could wonder how much these companies actually contribute to Federal and State taxes.  See other Webpages on this Website for possible answers to that question.

"FREE MARKET" GOVERNMENT'S GIFT TO COMPANY of $2.7m for unnecessary abattoir: Fletcher International Exports, a company based in New South Wales, Australia, is to receive a grant of $2.7 million from the Western Australian Government for an abattoir at Narrikup, near Albany on the south coast. The region already has an ample supply of meatworks. The WA Government will also lend $2.5 m INTEREST-FREE. (Dear, oh dear! And the public has been told that a politician who said that a people's bank ought to lend money at 2% interest had a "puerile" policy. The honest taxpayers will actually stand the loss on this cosy arrangement!)  A Labor Party spokesman Mr Kim Chance said that it was untenable to help one business while placing others at a disadvantage.  He said that the government had caused chaos and lack of competition [oh, blessed word!] by closing the Robb Jetty [government-owned] abattoir in 1993.  Competing company Metro Meats International's managing director Sandy Murdoch was quoted as saying that the government's aid package might come at the expense of smaller abattoirs which might be forced to close, and he said the government had acted unfairly by distorting the market.  The abattoir is already in low-level production.  [The SOURCE of this article has been accidentally omitted.]
COMMENT: "The market" was being distorted!  And small abattoirs would be forced to close!  The WA Government is supposedly a conservative-type help-the-battler Liberal-National Coalition, and preaches the "free market" and the "level playing field" at various times. And the opposition party, Labor, while in office both in WA and federally, spent quite a lot of taxpayers' funds assisting huge corporations.  One wonders how Western Australia and the world managed from 1993 to l998 without the Robb Jetty abattoir and the competition!!!  Did anyone go without meat because of this lack?  Read this Webpage and search the WWW to learn how Big Business arranges for politicians' co-operation.

MERGERS SET A CRACKING PACE -- $23,500,000,000 IN SIX MONTHS: By Clive Mathieson, in The Australian, August 24 1998: "Corporate Australia is heading towards a record year for company takeovers, with $23.5 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions handled in the first six months." American-based companies are handling a large share of the advisory work. Companies and figures quoted are: Goldman Sachs $7.05 bn worth of deals (mainly from the $5.3 billion sale of BTR Plc's worldwide packaging division); Salomon Smith Barney ($5.9 bn); Morgan Stanley ($5.49 bn); JP Morgan ($2.78 bn); Deutsche Bank $2.59 bn.
The takeover companies ranked by number of deals are: ABN AMRO 22 ($1.949bn), KPMG 22 ($0.0468bn), Macquarie 12 ($2.062bn), Salomon Smith Barney 11 ($5.898bn), Warburg Dillon Read 10 ($2.268bn). [The names behind a few of these firms have been actively consolidating economic power since at least last century.]
Almost half of all takeover activity from January to June 1998 involved foreign predators, with US companies buying $6.5 bn worth of corporate Australia, Dutch buying $1.6 bn, and South Africa buying $1 bn. Australia was now the fourth most active country in terms of merger and acquisition activity behind the US, the UK and Canada. In 1997 the top company on Australian mergers was Credit Suisse First Boston, $12.3 billion, including the Telstra float and four Victorian energy privatisations.
Even the ADVICE on the foreign march of takeovers is more and more falling into the hands of giant American investment banks, according to corporate adviser Securities Data. Read the original "Mergers set a cracking pace" By Clive Mathieson, The Australian, August 24 1998, p 33, or a summary at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/finance/4124882.htm   Copyright ©  News Limited 1998

ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE SCANDAL -- AGAIN: The collection of election campaign funds from the top end of town and from the predatory segment of multinationals (see headings about Dictatorship above) has been exposed in the news media, so we suggest that Australians (facing an unnecessary federal election in 1998) and others ask themselves if this is happening in their own countries.
"Campaign Finance Reform
"The current campaign finance system is a scandal. Moneyed interests control the legislative agenda of the Congress because they control the purse strings of the campaigns. Only the rich, or the friends of the rich, can afford to run for office. Incumbents accumulate massive war chests to scare off potential challengers merely be holding out their hands at fund-raisers attended by representatives of special interests. The public is outraged by this system and frustrated with Congress's failure to change it.
"Parties and candidates spent more than $2 billion on the 1996 elections, the most ever. Outside groups spent hundreds of millions more on independent expenditures and so-called issue advocacy. Tales of fundraising scandals and abuses were daily occurrences during the last few months of the campaign, and investigations and recriminations will likely occupy the Congress for months to come. And for what? The end result of this spending orgy was an election in which less than half of the eligible electorate turned out to vote, and 95% of incumbent members of the House (and all but one Senator) who sought reelection were successful." See more in Public Citizen's Webpage at: http://www.citizen.org/congress/reform/refhome.html

ELECTORAL FUNDS (4) -- VICIOUS CIRCLE OF POLITICIANS BEHOLDEN TO COMPANIES: "It's a vicious circle: To challenge corporate power, citizen groups have to use democratic institutions, which are too often beholden to corporate interests. That's why for [Jim] Price, making corporations accountable has to start with overhauling our current campaign-finance system. In the short run, corporate-accountability campaigns give citizen groups a new tool.  In the long run, how sharp and effective that tool is will depend on our success in addressing the bigger issue of corporate influence on public policy." Sierra Club members in the U.S.A. have been attending company meetings to protest at poisoning a river in the U.S.A. and other abuses around the world. Read the article "Making Corporations Accountable" in a July/August 1998 Webpage at: http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/199806/corp.html

MULTINATIONAL STILL WANTS ACTIVISTS TO PAY £40,000: TWO penniless campaigners, who were ordered to pay McDonald's £60,000 libel damages two years ago after losing what became the longest trial in English legal history, won a partial victory in the Appeal Court yesterday. [31 March 1999, United Kingdom]
Three appeal judges dismissed the majority of grounds on which David Morris, 44, a former postman, and Helen Steel, 33, a bar worker, had sought to challenge the judgment of Mr Justice Bell after a 314-day trial that they had libelled the fast food chain.  But Lord Justice Pill, who was sitting with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Keene, upheld some of the grounds of their appeal and reduced the damages that the couple must pay to McDonald's from £60,000 to £40,000.
After a trial spread over two and a half years in which the couple defended themselves and which has been estimated to have cost McDonald's £10 million, Mr Justice Bell ruled that the company had been libelled by most of the allegations in a London Greenpeace campaign leaflet entitled: What's Wrong With McDonald's?  But he also ruled that the pamphlet had been justified in claiming that the fast food chain exploited children in its advertising, was cruel to some of the animals used in its products and that its restaurants paid low wages to British workers.
In their 309-page judgment, handed down yesterday, the three appeal judges said it was fair comment for the appellants to say McDonald's workers worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions".  They also said the allegation that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat, etc, with the very real risk of heart disease" was justified.  But they agreed with the judge that many of the charges in the leaflet had not been shown to be justified.
-- "McDonald's pair win partial victory," by Terence Shaw, legal correspondent, in the Telegraph (UK), electronic edition, issue 1406, Thursday 1 April 1999, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
[To access the page containing the article, one must submit to free registration, and then use the Website's search engine.]

"HANDOUT" OF BILLIONS -- GOVERNMENT LETTING TELEVISION CHANNELS OFF: The Liberal-National Australian Federal Government is letting the four commercial Television companies off paying billions of dollars in fees that could have been obtained by auctioning the airwaves for the government-induced costly changeover of free-to-air channels to digital transmission. The federal Treasury Department was upset by this, and the federal Department of Finance and Administration took issue with the anti-competitive (Oh, blessed word!) flavour of the so-called handout. "Even Mr Howard's own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet lined up firmly against giving the free-to-air networks the digital advantage. ... The [federal] Department of Industry, Science and Commerce thought the Government had failed to come to grips with the situation and was closing the door on future options. ... The Office of Asset Sales was upset that a valuable public resource was being given away -- not sold.  The Office of Regulation Review said in the leaked reports that complex and important new technology that could have far-reaching impacts on Australia's communications system and society was inadequately dealt with. ... Telecommunications companies, pay-TV operators, newspapers, Internet service providers, information industry bodies and consumer groups all lined up against the [Alston] plan."  COMMENT: So, competition and the level playing field, so beloved by some leading directors and politicians, is essential in some matters, but not for this matter!  Read the article by David Utting in The West Australian, May 14 1998, p 15.

PUBLIC TV MORE CORPORATE, LESS PUBLIC THAN EVER -- NEW STUDY: A new study of news and public affairs programming on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television stations in the U.S.A. has found that the voice of business is much louder than all others -- a troubling finding for a broadcast system established to "provide a voice for groups that may otherwise be unheard."  A report from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) states that four years after Congressional leaders failed to "zero out" public TV, the study suggests that the cost of survival has been increasing commercialism, a persistent elite bias and the marginalization of many of the groups in society that the system was intended to serve.

  The independent academic study, "The Cost of Survival: Political Discourse and the 'New PBS,'" was conducted by Prof. William Hoynes of Vassar College.  "The Cost of Survival . . ." updates Hoynes' 1992 study, also released by FAIR (Aug. '93), which found that public TV relied on a narrow spectrum of sources and experts.  This bias has become even more pronounced in recent years. -- FAIR  (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), http://www.fair.org/ 130 W. 25th Street ,  New York, NY 10001, U.S.A., News Release.  Contacts: Steve Rendall: SRendall@fair.org  Janine Jackson: JJackson@fair.org  or fair@fair.org  June 28, 1999 William Hoynes, Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Butler to join Council on Foreign Relations in U.S.: Former chief U.N. arms inspector in Iraq, Mr Butler, is joining the CFR -- The West Australian, July 1 1999, p 24.

MASS MEDIA RULE CHANGE, another step in the direction of Global Corporate Tyranny?  In a major relaxation of broadcast ownership rules, the United States Federal Communications Commission has announced it will allow networks to own two TV stations in the same city.  Previously, the FCC limited a network or other company to one television station per city.  Under the new regulations announced  on August 5, a company can own two television stations in the same city, so long as the city has at least seven other separately-owned stations. -- FAIR  (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), http://www.fair.org/ 130 W. 25th Street ,  New York, NY 10001, U.S.A., fair@fair.org  August 9, 1999

"Made in the USA" Garments in Saipan Sweatshops: SAIPAN: FOUR COMPANIES SETTLE. Posted August 10, 1999  The following press statement was released on August 9 by Global Exchange of http://www.globalexchange.org/  (415) 255-7296, juliette@globalexchange.org  In four settlements announced today [Aug 9 1999] , Nordstrom, Cutter & Buck, J. Crew and Gymboree became the first retailers to settle claims in a federal class action lawsuit contesting sweatshop conditions in garment factories on the Pacific Island of Saipan, in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  A related California state court case in San Francisco will also be settled.   The groundbreaking settlement represents the first time a group of U.S. retailers has agreed to create a joint independent monitoring system of its contractors.   The monitoring will insure compliance with U.S. labor laws and international treaties established to protect human rights.-- Campaign for Labor Rights at http://www.summersault.com/~agj/clr/packet.html  Thursday, August 12, 1999.

Overseas ownership rules relaxed, and long-term cheap labour force planning continues: Late in August 1999 it was announced that Australia's laughable overseas ownership "rules" had been relaxed.  Overseas take-overs won't have to be subject to government permission unless they are $50m or more, instead of $5m.  And, the rules about adopting abandoned Chinese babies in the People's Republic (Ha! Ha!) have been changed -- they'll be Aussies as soon as they land!  That's long-term labour planning for you!

U.S. firm gives up old-growth timber use: NEW YORK, NY - The Sierra Club today praised Home Depot's commitment to stop selling wood products from endangered areas by the end of 2002 to give preference to certified wood products. The national environmental organization recognized this policy shift as a vital step in saving the world's last remaining ancient forests such as British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, the Amazon and the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia.   "If Home Depot fully implements this policy, it will set a very high standard for the industry," said Maiya Shaw, Conservation Organizer at the Sierra Club.  Earlier this year, Sierra Club volunteers collected over 20,000 post-cards asking Home Depot CEO, Arthur Blank, to stop buying wood from companies logging in ancient forests and to phase out all wood products that are not independently certified. -- part of a Sierra Club News Release, Friday, August 27, 1999, from: Megan Fowler megan.fowler@sfsierra.sierraclub.org   CE-SCNEWS-RELEASES@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG

McDonald's libel case was England's longest trial: Those interested could search for the firm's name, and for "burger," "fast food," "McLibel," and "McSpotlight."  A webpage on the nutritional status of the McDonald's fast food is at http://www.mcspotlight.org/people/witnesses/nutrition/lobstein_tim.html

New WTO chief wants two opposing results: Guardian, London, Friday September 3, 1999, from Peter Capella in Geneva -- The new director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mike Moore, pledged yesterday to shift the balance of trade toward the needs of poor nations and said members should not be put off by claims that globalisation leads to social and economic instability.  Mr Moore, a former prime minister of New Zealand and a former trade unionist, set out three duties -- to achieve a "balanced" outcome from trade negotiations to benefit the most vulnerable, to advocate the benefits of free trade and to strengthen international trading rules.  "We have to make the case as strongly as we can that the progress at Seattle is based upon raising the living standards of people everywhere, that more open economies tend to deliver better living standards -- and from these better living standards come better health and education systems and a greater level of civil participation", he said.  Appealing to big economies to open their markets to developing countries, and thus bring about a shift in the balance of trade, Mr Moore added: "The world was once polarised by a cold war; it is now becoming polarised between wealth and lack of opportunity."  WTO proposals can only be adopted by a unanimous vote of all 134 member states, and the director general's task in Seattle is to seek a compromise on controversial trade issues including agriculture, services, textiles, health and the environment, social standards and electronic commerce.  Mr Moore, who is a former trade unionist, acknowledged the "legitimate and genuine" concerns regarding the effects of globalisation, but indicated that protests about the impact of international free trade on the environment, health, and employment were at odds with his overall priority.  They smacked of protectionism, he insisted. "Many of those marches are aimed at this: they are aimed at trying to keep the markets of the United States and Europe closed."  The US is pressing the WTO to consider minimum labour standards -- something which is fiercely opposed by developing countries.  Mr Moore said he was prepared to reshape the WTO after Seattle "to look like the world it represents."  He played down, however, attempts to give pressure groups a greater say in the debate. "Non-governmental organisations have a valid role to play ... but this is an organisation of sovereign governments, run by nations."


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