TPP forum [Melb] – 5Feb’14

Intro_TPP forum [Melb] – 5Feb’14

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'Feudalism then & now'
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The Australian Govt is currently negotiating a ‘trade’ deal with 11 other countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but this is no ordinary agreement.

The US wants to include a clause where corporations from these countries would be able to sue our government in an overseas tribunal, if our domestic laws or regulations interfere with their expected profits. This tribunal is known as an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

The tobacco company Phillip Morris is currently suing our govt for damages over our plain packaging laws, using an existing agreement with Hong Kong that contains ISDS provisions. Australia has also just signed a deal containing ISDS with South Korea.

If the TPP is signed it would leave our Govt powerless to implement its own laws, if challenged & beaten in an ISDS tribunal. Each challenge could cost us billions. Even contesting decisions would cost taxpayers millions.

Health policy (such as providing generics, the capping of pharmaceutical prices, etc), environmental policy (such as protection from fracking for coal seam gas), workers rights, the ability to prioritize domestic over foreign owned goods & services, an unrestricted internet, robust investigative journalism, and more … would all be under threat.

There’s no sunset clause on this trojan horse deal. Once signed we lose our constitutional sovereignty, permanently, to transnational corporate feudalism

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Intro_TPP forum [Melb] – 18.6mins

1 – Intro_TPP forum [Melb]

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Deb Gleeson – 26.6mins

2 – Deb Gleeson … talking about the TPP in relation to our health systems.

Dr Deborah Gleeson is the convener of the Political Economy of Health Special Interest Group of the Public Health Association of Australia, a spokesperson for PHAA on the TPP, and Lecturer in Public Health at La Trobe University.

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Dr Richard Dennis – 28.2mins

3 – Dr Richard Dennis … speaking about the Australian mining sector and CSG in relation to the TPP.

Executive Director of The Australia Institute

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Dr Angela Daly – 19.6mins

4 – Dr Angela Daly … speaking about the TPP in relation to Copyright & the IP implications.

2013 auDA Australian Internet Ambassador, Electronic Frontiers Australia former board member, United Nations Internet Governance Forum Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression coordinator

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Bob Fels – 17.1mins

5 – Bob Fels … will talk about GMO’s in relation to the TPP.

Bob Phelps is the executive director of Gene Ethics which is a non-profit educational network of citizens and kindred groups. We want the precautionary principle, scientific evidence and the law rigorously applied to all proposed uses of genetic manipulation (GM) technologies and their products.

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Outro_TPP forum [Melb] – 4.3mins

6 – Outro_TPP forum

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From the TPP Australia’s website:

“Dear Friends,

Last night (5/2/2014) I attended a public meeting re TPP with a few friends — one lovely friend is a lecturer in constitutional law, so that was helpful. The lecturers, who were of highest academic integrity revealed ‘leaked’ TPP agreement details with devastating consequences for our laws, economy, health and environment.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).

The consequence of implementation, in a nutshell: Constitutional sovereignty — bye bye.

The ISDS (Industry State Dispute Settlement) is integral to it: if an ‘investor’ from a foreign state co-signatory to the agreement wants to ‘invest’ in some development in our country and our government says it wants to do a study to be sure it is safe, the foreign investor can immediately sue our gov. for loss of profits from day one of that decision. This is happening in Canada right now over Fracking. And another ‘laughable’ example in the campaign cycles at the moment: Bayer has sued the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees. And, Phillip Morris is suing Australia over cigarette ‘plain packaging’ via an outrageous loophole in the last Free Trade agreement.

And, the term used for ‘discouraging’ massively expensive publicly funded gov. initiated legal efforts to defend our constitutional rights: It’s the ‘Chilling Effect’ — discouraging government from saying NO to unhealthy or simply unwanted foreign demands.

TPP Australia is setting up online forums with academic experts in this field, including last night’s excellent speakers: http://www.tppaustralia.org

Pres. Obama is striving to get the agreements Fast Tracked through Congress, whereby they agree without analysis. In other words he is heavily angling for congressional agreement to allow him to pass it without congressional or public scrutiny. The US ‘politics’ at the moment is that an election is coming up and the congressional candidates are under pressure from the ‘lobbyists’ to FAST TRACK this before it becomes an election ISSUE!

There is a BIG movement internationally – in nearly every country involved, for a start, because the ‘agreement’ is not transparent – not available for public viewing and commentary. People have a right to know and the right to have a say.

AND, here in Australia, Trade Minister Andrew Robb rejected a Senate request for public scrutiny, so ONLY our cabinet will see it, and after they sign it, there will be no further changes to it.

The consequence will be the undoing of hundreds of years of constitutional protections.
One lecturer, speaking about the Australian mining sector and CSG in relation to the TPP, revealed that a recent AU poll showed that when people were asked specific questions re details of the agreement, 85% did not agree with the TPP.

In other words, they were NOT asked, “Do you agree with the idea of Free Trade?” because this agreement is not about ‘free trade’ it is actually about trade restrictions. I don’t know what they were asked but it was indicated that they might have been asked, for example, whether they agree that foreign industries can be given the power to undermine and override our constitution.

ALL public action groups would be wise to come together on this issue because it is fundamental to all of our concerns, and the vast majority of the public is in agreement. That in itself would be rewarding!”

Maireid Sullivan, Arts practitioner [ Arts Action: GlobalArtsCollective.org ]

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“The rights and responsibilities being secretly given away in the TPPA belong to us, the people, not the politicians or the officials doing these irrevocable deals without our knowledge or consent. Just five of the twenty six chapters in the Take People’s Power Away (TPPA) deal concern trade at all. The rest will deliver much weaker regulation and a lot more control to “foreign corporate entities, over most aspects of our community life – health and pharmaceuticals, education, welfare, the food supply, agriculture, gambling, alcohol advertising, telecommunications, news media, etc – as well as business activities. Much of the claimed ‘trade’ is really internal transfers between the branches of transnational corporations, to minimise their tax liability and to maximise profits. The negotiators have no positive agenda for how we, the people, may benefit if these secret deals are done so the TPPA will permanently damage our national well-being. That is unacceptable.”

Iain Harrison, Artist

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“It seems abbott is determined to ignore any requests for transparency and any protest(s) against any part(s) of the TPPA. He’s already signed with S.Korea apparently which i believe is a clear indication that tony abbott is not a representative of Australian sovereignty and it’s people but a mere puppet for corporate greed.”

Steve Potenziani, Retail Manager

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And another perspective …

“There are legitimate questions any country must ask itself about the sort of place it wants to be, and the political arena is the proper place for that discussion to take place. But a few months into the existence of the Abbott Government and it is becoming coming clear that we are being taken in a direction that the government itself has never fully articulated. It is reasonable to suggest that certain elites see the election of the Abbott Government as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to kill dead the idea that a government of the people can be a force for good in the lives of the majority of its citizens. Their plan to “end the age of entitlement” is nothing more than an attempt to gut the middle class and destroy those programs and institutions that underpin the idea of Australia as an egalitarian nation.

Anyone who has paid any attention to US politics in the period of the Obama Presidency will know that his signature policy has been the introduction of a more equitable healthcare system.

They will also know that political opposition to this plan has been fierce, and that the right-wing media and the Republican Party itself has spared no effort in their attempts to get rid of it. In fact, the GOP has tried FORTY-SIX TIMES to repeal the legislation in Congress.

Why this obsessive hatred of a policy prescription that every other developed country takes for granted and sees as a cornerstone of a civilised nation?

Partly it is ideological — there really are people on the Right who believe that government has no place helping its citizens afford health care. Go figure.

But that’s not all there is to it. The opposition is also driven by fear, and their big fear is that Obamacare will work.

You see, when you’re entire political and philosophical pitch is that government is inherently evil, that it is unmanageable, inefficient and wasteful, the last thing you need is any evidence that big, redistributive government programs work.

So Obamacare must be destroyed.

In Australia, the same forces are at work, though universal healthcare is less of an immediate target.

Yes, various conservative governments have tried to get rid of it. Indeed, the Abbott Government’s recent thought bubble about a “co-payment” for visits to the GP tells us that they haven’t given up. In their perfect world, Medicare would be gone and everyone’s health care left to the whims of “market forces”.

But in terms of prosecuting the case for the sort of Australia they envisage, attacking Medicare is not the main game.

Oddly, that role has been assumed by the ABC.

The barking mad attacks made on the national broadcaster in recent weeks by the IPA, the Murdoch press, and the government itself – from the Prime Minister down – have nothing to do with the way the ABC covered the story of asylum seekers getting their hands burnt. They are about discrediting an organisation whose very existence challenges right-wing assertions about the badness of government.

In other words, if you are going to demonise government, the best way to do that is not to highlight its failures, but to undermine its successes.

Thus: the ABC is an efficient, successful, much-loved, government-financed institution, so it must be destroyed.

These attacks on what works in our society are only going to increase, and Joe Hockey’s call for an end to the “age of entitlements” is meant to provide the frame that will allow that to happen. It is a rhetorical shift designed to cruel the pitch before the game has even started. As I’ve noted elsewhere, once “services are redefined as “entitlements”…the onus shifts from citizens expecting a certain level of state care to having to justify why they deserve anything at all.”

High on the list of institutions the Abbott government is targeting is our unique system of industrial relations. It is a system that reasonably successfully puts some power into the hands of workers, allowing them some control over their pay and conditions, while keeping things flexible enough to allow business to adapt to changing circumstances. In fact, it has delivered flexibility and restrained wages outcomes even during the worst of global financial crisis and even as pressure was put on the system by the resources boom.

As Ross Gittins has noted, “It’s been two decades since we had reason to worry about excessive wage growth. This remains true despite cabinet ministers and some economists saying we have a problem.”

The Howard Government tried to destroy the system with WorkChoices and failed, and the reason it did was because the unions put up such a brilliant defence.

The Abbott Government has learned this lesson well. So instead of trying again with a full-frontal assault on workplace relations in the form of a revamped version of WorkChoices, Mr Abbott and co. are instead attacking the unions themselves.

The mooted Royal Commission is nothing more than the state declaring war on the right of workers to organise in their own interests. It is an attack on unionism itself, and the idea is to discredit the unions (and the Labor Party) to such an extent that they will never again be able to mount the sort of defence that they did against WorkChoices.

Education is also in the government sights, and it is the same principle involved as with the ABC and industrial relations: any government program that works – and thus puts the lie to the right-wing mantra about the dysfunctionality of government programs – must be destroyed.

So Christopher Pyne’s attacks on the Gonski reforms are nothing more than an attempt to undermine a more equitable funding model for education. As Ken Boston, the former director-general of the NSW Department of Education and member of the Gonski review panel has said:

At present, it is mainly the hard-working and talented children of the privileged who have access to the very highest levels of educational achievement. If Gonski is implemented, such access will be available increasingly to the similarly hard-working and talented children of the socially disadvantaged. This is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes: differences in outcomes will inevitably exist between children, but they will no longer be the result of factors such as poverty, religion or sector of schooling.

The Gonski vision of a fair go for all young Australians means that, in due course and over time, a hard-working talented young girl will come to have the same real prospect of winning a place in the university and course of her choice regardless of family circumstances and background…

Is Pyne up for that? …Of course not.

And don’t think it will stop there. Even an apparently sacrosanct program like the aged pension will eventually be targeted. Joe Hockey had a reason for saying that, “as a community we need to redefine the responsibility of government and its citizens to provide for themselves, both during their working lives and into retirement” (emphasis added).

What is that other than a warning that the pension is in their sights?

The Abbott Government is part of an international push by a tiny percentage of the super-wealthy to discredit and destroy the very notion of government as a democratic force in the lives of ordinary people. Their “end of the age of entitlements” rhetoric is at one with the policies of “austerity” being pushed in Europe and the United States.”

Tim Dunlop [ http://www.kingstribune.com/index.php/weekly-email/item/1972-australia-must-be-destroyed ]

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