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Remembering Tomorrow

Last Updated on 21 March 2014

 

Rise-and-rise-of-zombie-politics BarryFitzpatrick Econews Dec2013Discussing his memoir Remembering Tomorrow, veteran political activist Michael Albert talks about the stages in public awareness that gave rise to the 60s anti-establishment movements. These included growing realisation that corporations were often crooks and environmental plunderers, governments were not always honourable, politicians told lies, many women suffered physical and sexual abuse, lawyers did not always represent justice, and birds were disappearing.

Sound wearily familiar?

But for people living through the Pollyanna world of the 50s and 60s this was shocking. Environmental movements, along with feminist, black power and anti-war campaigns, quickly sprouted in response. There was growing conviction that things had to change - or be changed.

In the 21st century this is broken. Mass ecocide, corporate corruption, political impropriety and sexual abuse routinely fill-out the 24 hour news cycle.  Contrasting the present with the past, Michael Albert believes the average citizen’s propensity now for coping with these daily horrors can be neatly summed up in the statement “I don’t want to hear this because I can’t do anything about it”.

 Which, as a self-defence strategy, is tantamount to adopting a state of corpse-like torpor. 

 But it is voter torpor that has provided fertile ground for backward looking conservatives and development interests wanting to exploit a politically numb and easily spooked public. Following Tony Abbott’s margin-of-one-vote arrival as leader of the Liberal party, and with the willing support of a small army of shock-jocks and lobotomised journalists, conservative spinners and strategists in Australia began the earnest task of eating the brains of their target audiences, cheered on of course by industry interests.  The objective was to create a receptive Australia where it would remain possible in the 21st century (as economist John Quiggan puts it in his book Zombie Economics) for dead ideas to continue to ‘walk among us’ – at least until all the coal gets pulled out of the ground.  

And certainly, when it comes to zombies -  defined variously as ‘animated corpses raised by magical means’ or ‘one who looks or behaves like an automaton’ - who better than zombie puppet-master Abbott to raise the dead and breathe some sort of life back into the decaying political ideas of the extreme right?    

So what is the game plan employed by government and industry to keep the undead in a state of unthinking about environmental threats such as climate change and coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef?

Read more...
 

ENVIRONMENTAL DISPUTES and TPPA

Last Updated on 21 March 2014

There have been some 450 ENVIRONMENTAL DISPUTES arising out of previous free trade agreements which include ISDS provisions similar to those proposed for the TPPA:
By the end of 2011, corporations like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill had launched 450 investor-state cases against 89 governments, including the US, to fightcommon-sense environmental laws and regulations. Among these cases were challenges to bans on toxic chemicals, fracking, timber,mining regulations, programs that incentivised green jobs and renewable energy programs.

Recently Peru has been required to pay Renco the largest ever damages award of USD$ 4.2 billion for banning products that had contaminated the La Oroya, Peru environment and had poisoned 95% of children there. An incredible outcome protecting the polluter!!
The US Lone Star Mining company is currently using ISDS provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement to sue the Canadian Quebec provincial government because it has suspended coal seam gas fracking pending a study of its environmental impact.
Ethyl vs Canadian Government 1998-99: US company Ethyl successfully challenged a Canadian ban on gasoline additive MMT which the Canadian government claimed was harmful to human health and the environment. The Canadian government agreed to withdraw the ban and pay Ethyl $13 million
On August 25, 2008, Dow AgroSciences LLC, a U.S. corporation, served a Notice of Intent to Submit a Claim to Arbitration under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, for losses allegedly caused by a Quebec ban on the sale and certain uses of lawn pesticides containing the active ingredient 2,4-D. The tribunal issued a consent award as the parties to the dispute reached a settlement
In the United States and Canada the reality is that federal governments are often willing to "lose" these cases in order to discipline provincial, state or municipal governments that have adopted progressive social and environmental policies.

The proposed TPP foreign investor privileges would provide foreign firms greater 'rights' than those afforded to domestic firms. This includes a 'right' to not have expectations frustrated by a change in government policy
In the US, the powerful corporate lobby position on the Australian Labor Government's position is, quote: 'American companies should be able to side-step the Australian legal system in the event of certain legal disputes'
Under ISDS rules, even when governments win, they often must pay for the tribunals' costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case.
The TPP would expand the scope of policies that could be attacked. For example, in health, the office of the United States trade Representative has also proposed patenting surgical procedures - a move that would force Congress to change IP law and one that could force surgeons to obtain permission from patent-holders before performing surgery!
Australia is already experiencing the effects of ISDS provisions with Phillip Morris, having failed in Australia's High Court, now attacking Australia's cigarette labelling policy off-shore using a 1994 'Investment Agreement' with Hong Kong that contained ISDS provisions. This could cost Australia hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

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