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Tag Archives: Canada

Election 2019 in Canada: A Change Agenda Protected by Minority Government?

By Denis Bright

Canadians voted to continue a reformist agenda with a minority Liberal Government that can still draw upon future negotiated support from both the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) and the New Democratic Party (NPD). The Liberal vote held up well in Ontario and Eastern Atlantic provinces outside Quebec itself.

The urban population centres of Ontario delivered almost half of Liberal Party members (79) in the House of Commons where the Conservatives had a net gain of just three seats. Adjacent Quebec still delivered another 35 electoral districts to the Liberals despite a net gain of 22 seats by BQ. The Atlantic Provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick continued their strong mandate for Liberal members.

The net loss of 29 electoral districts across Canada deprived the Liberals of their majority in the House of Commons from the landslide results of 2015. The Conservatives ended ahead of the overall national vote (34.4 per cent) compared with 33.1 per cent for the Liberals.

The Liberal Party’s primary vote was down by 6.4 per cent with a net loss of 29 seats. The more detailed break-down of voting patterns is readily available from the web sites of Canada Votes (CBC) and The Star (Toronto):

Justin Trudeau’s popular appeal was tarnished throughout 2019 by several administrative irregularities. The first was from the SNC-Lavalin Affair in February 2019 (BBC News 28 February 2019):

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied wrongdoing after he tried to shield one of the country’s biggest firms from a corruption trial.

Mr Trudeau said any lobbying by him or his inner circle for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was done to protect jobs.

In explosive testimony, ex-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she faced “sustained” pressure to abandon prosecution of the Quebec-based firm.

Another outrage for environmentalists was the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline (France 24 20 October 2019):

The Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, which links Alberta to British Columbia, from the American energy giant Kinder Morgan for Can$4.5 billion ($2.7 billion, 2.4 billion euros).

The goal was to speed up the export of oil from Alberta to new foreign markets. In exchange, the Canadian government promised to invest the profits in green technology.

Many Canadian environmentalists viewed Trudeau’s move as a betrayal. For activists, Trudeau, who was a symbol of hope when he took office in 2015, is no longer a change agent but the man who didn’t do enough for the environment.

Faced with the demands of delivering military commitments to NATO, urban infrastructure and the services demands by large urban populations in the Great Lakes Lowlands, Canada is rarely able to deliver a balanced budget as a percentage of GDP. Only the energy rich and grain producing prairie provinces warmed to the campaign from Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer for an end to Canada’s version of a carbon tax in a more pro-business society.

Canada’s Tolerance of Budget Deficits as a Percentage of GDP

Canada’s government debt to GDP level is running at about twice the Australian level. Higher Canadian levels of government intervention in service delivery have kept the unemployment rate in the 5.4-5.8 range over the past twelve months. Voters east of the prairie provinces did not want to risk a return to the economic austerity of the previous conservative governments in the post-GFC era.

The conventional and highly polarising campaign in Canada largely by-passed the problems associated with a shortage of private sector capital investment.

Canada’s pension funds at national and provincial levels have been a success story.

Having survived into a second term Justin Trudeau can look to support from BQ and NPD for such alternative investment agendas in a middle-sized social market economy with almost half the economic output of France or Britain.

The strains of delivering economic growth and employment show up in middle-sized economies like Canada and Australia in quarterly economic indicators during 2019 without a more diversified financial sector. Trading Economics offers the quarterly GDP percentages for 2019 in context:

Canada

Australia

From the minority government mix just delivered in Canada, there is a slight possibility that policy initiatives might address these investment shortfalls without drifting further towards the more corporatised society that would be welcomed by US Republicans south of the 49th parallel where tariffs of 25 per cent were imposed on Canadian steel exports to the US and 10 per cent on aluminium ingots by the Trump Administration in 2018 in protest against Canada’s more interventionist economic model.

Tough negotiations in defence of Canadian jobs of these tariff issues in heavy industrial areas of Southern Ontario minimised the appeal of Andrew Scheer’s appeals to blue-collar voters to vote against a continuation of the carbon tax.

Canada’s change agenda was saved on 21 October 2019 even at the expense of continued majority government.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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Brand Trudeau Wins a Second Term

“Brand Trudeau is: ‘Welcome to the new politics, just like the old politics.’” (Shachi Kurl, Angus Reid Institute, The Guardian, Aug 22, 2019).

Few politicians come across more as products of hashtag committee management than Justin Trudeau. His image has been doctored, massaged and spruced, and even then, the Instagram-Twitter committee did not quite see those corrupt influences that are bound to tarnish someone who believes in endless, indestructible parliamentary majorities. The image can do much, but not that much.

After being elected in October, 2015, Trudeaumania became something of a syndrome, helped along by a persistent dedication to being in the permanent social media cycle. The photo-op became a staple, as is a certain shallowness that lends itself to it. In picking Canada’s first gender-balanced federal cabinet, he was mindful of the optical moment. Change was coming, and his revolution would be tweeted.

In a fast spinning, whirling age of disseminated images, lacking substance helps and acts as a powerful propulsion. The Internet, observed Eric Andrew-Gee in 2016, “has given still photos a pride of place in our media culture that they haven’t enjoyed since the rise of television. Mr Trudeau has used that power, and that technology, to the hilt. He is the first prime minister of the Instagram age.”

In July 2016, it was noted that Trudeau “has had about one official photo-op for every weekday he has been in the business of governing.” Marie-Danielle Smith of the National Post considered him “the most visible Canadian leader since his father, Pierre” having “participated in at least 168 public events since swearing in his cabinet last November.”

Trudeau the Brand has been in business for some time. It came to the fore in the now famed charity boxing match in March 2012 against Patrick “Brass Knuckles” Brazeau, a second-degree black belt in karate and former navy reservist. The Liberal MP for Papineau seemingly did not stand a chance. Nor did the Liberal Party, having been wiped by the Conservatives. Trudeau, after absorbing the initial barrage of punches, won.

In a film on the encounter by Eric Ruel and Guylaine Maroist, Trudeau suggested that “the power of symbols in today’s world” should never be underestimated. The Liberals were weak in parliament. “We’ve never had so few MPs. The Conservatives have all the money and the support. So… wouldn’t it be fun to see Justin Trudeau win? A triumph over the all-powerful Conservatives?”

In 2017, Trudeau would tell Rolling Stone that the choice of opponent in the boxing bout was entirely conscious, giving the impression that the whole affair, from start to finish, had been an exercise of eager manipulation. “I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled across the scrappy, tough-guy senator from an Indigenous community…I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.” Very British New Labour; very Old Third Way.

The Canadian elections have returned Trudeau to Ottawa, but with a reduced vote. The sheen has come off, and the coat seems somewhat tattered. Trudeau was found by Canada’s ethics watchdog to have violated conflict of interest laws in pressuring his attorney general to avoid a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for bribes made to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011. As the ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, found, Trudeau “contravened section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act”, being the only public official “able to exert influence over the attorney-general in her decision whether to intervene in a matter relating to a criminal prosecution”.

Then came the other side of branding and e-marketing political candidates. What goes around in image terms will come around. If you pontificate about the evils of toxic masculinity, be wary of what skeletal remains the historical cupboard is stocked with. And so it transpired that a younger Trudeau was prone to don “blackface” and “brownface” pose, less in terms of toxicity than being intoxicated by moment and situation (Those few mishaps included singing Harry Belafonte’s Day-O at a high school revue, and sporting an Afro wig, blackface and body paint in the company of fellow white water rafters.) A public apology followed: “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognise it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.”

As it wore on, the nodding suggestion of Trudeau’s time in office was a return to what had been dubbed in Canadian political circles the Laurentian Consensus, the elite self-absorbed view of those in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and cities along the St. Lawrence River. As John Ibbitson of The Globe and Mail described it in 2011, “On all the great issues of the day, this Laurentian elite debated among themselves, reached a consensus and implemented that consensus. In short, they governed the country.”

Nor could Trudeau claim to be vastly different from his 2015 conservative opponent, Stephen Harper, certainly on the subjects of Canada-US ties, free trade and the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau might have excited millennials on the subject of legalising cannabis, or opening doors to Syrian refugees, but he caused suitable irritation, even fury, over breaking a campaign promise to end “first-past-the-post” federal voting. The Afghan Canadian Liberal MP, Maryam Monsef, was saddled with the task of gradually strangling electoral reform in the crib.

Trudeau also revealed, in his government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline for some $3.4 billion from Kinder Morgan, that he was more than willing to back fossil-fuel infrastructure while proclaiming green credentials. As Martin Lukacs noted with devastating precision, despite Trudeau signing the Paris Climate Accords in 2016, “the gap between Canada’s official carbon reduction targets and its spiralling emissions has grown wider.”

The record, then, is not only patchy, but abysmal for this particular cardboard progressive. Oil companies have been guaranteed continuing subsidies, organised labour has been confronted with attempts to outlaw strike action, notably in the postal sector, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been assured arms sales even as Trudeau celebrates Womankind.

Fighting an Instagram prime minister might have required some marrow, but the Conservatives’ Andrew Scheer was not going to provide it. He did win more votes than the Liberals and dominated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but this merely served to eliminate Trudeau’s majority and highlight a chronic sense of Western alienation. Nor did Jagmeet Singh’s NDP, whose caucus was reduced by half, roar with any success. The Bloc Québécois buzzed, the Greens were a preserving stutter and the People’s Party barely registered.

Scheer decided to play the card of ordinariness, and stayed, for the most part, ordinary. When supporters chanted the old Donald Trump expression of locking up the opponent – in this case, Trudeau – he doused the flames, favouring the chant of “Vote him out.” A judicial inquiry would be preferable. The politics of blandness.

Canadian political strategists were even noting a certain similarity between Scheer’s views and those of the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, whose tactics he is said to have embraced. But Canadians were left with the spectre of considerable vacuity. As Jonathan Kay argued this month in Foreign Policy, the big issues had been settled if not avoided altogether, leaving the ground on hashtag wars to be fought with mind-numbing emptiness.

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First Class Travel and the Danger of Extremism . . .

This morning Paul Sheehan quoted Canadian author, Mark Steyn who was over in Europe to see what immigration had done. Canada, of course, has been ruined by immigration – just ask the indigenous population!

However, we’re not talking about Canada here, we’re more interested in a how a Canadian perceives Europe. Apparently early on in his visit there was an a rather nasty incident. Sheehan quoted Steyn:

“I was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the peace and quiet of Scandinavian First Class. But, just as I took my seat and settled in, a gaggle of ‘refugees’ swarmed in, young bearded men and a smaller number of covered women, the lads shooing away those first-class ticket holders not as nimble in securing their seats…

“They seemed to take it for granted that asylum in Europe should come with complimentary first-class travel … The conductor gave a shrug, the great universal shorthand for there’s-nothing-I-can do.”

Refugees taking it for granted that they should travel first class is outrageous enough, but that first class travellers should have to put with men with beards “swarming” in. Although how Steyn managed to determine that they were refugees and not hipsters, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the “covered women’, because, after all, this was Scandinavian first class travel and it’s my understanding that everyone’s naked there most of the time, but that could be because I reduce everything to stereotypes.

Of course, the same mental powers of clairvoyance that enabled the writer to tell that they were asylum seekers and to determine exactly what the conductor meant by his shrug, enabled him to see that they both clearly knew that travel comes in classes and that they had an economy class ticket but were choosing to travel first class, out some sense of entitlement. Now, a socialist might suggest that those in first class also had a sense of entitlement but, as we know in Australia, the age of entitlement is over so that socialist would be wrong.

Of course, Paul Sheehan goes on to tell us about how this influx of refugees is causing a lurch to the right and how anti-immigration parties are gaining ground in many European countries. He talks about Germany’s decision causing problems with social cohesion because as he says:

“Too late. More than 500 arson attacks have occurred in Germany this year targeting housing designated for refugees.”

Now, I could go on to quote a lot more of Paul Sheehan’s article but the basic thrust of it seems to be an attempt to make Tony’s “Jesus didn’t know what he was taking about it and I was just so awesome that I stopped the boats speech” seem reasonable. I think you’ve probably got the gist. It takes the view that if people are starting to believe something then it must be true, which makes an interesting contrast to views on climate change where people are just being gullible and going along with a majority.

He goes on using the sort of logic that suggests that Reclaim Australia is the result of the Liberals being too left-wing before concluding with:

“This encapsulates a growing view in Europe from which you may recoil, as it contrasts starkly with the liberal belief that the West has a moral obligation to help the wretched.

I doubt the liberal view will prevail. The dots are starting to connect. They point to a gathering storm, building on millions of small indignities and disappointments which, over time, will add up to something large.”

Yep, once you fail to see the irony in a Canadian complaining about foreigners disturbing his “Scandinavian first class travel”, then it’s a small step to argue that refugees are causing problems with social cohesion because people are attacking them.

But then consistency has always been in short supply when it comes to politics.

 

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War games

Photo: www.news.com.au

Photo: www.news.com.au

From the very beginning, Tony Abbott has been even worse on the world stage than we could have possibly imagined.

Everyone is our bestest friend ever.

Stick to the economy saying how bad the previous government was but avoid discussing any action with anyone other than the Murdoch press.

Small talk is excruciating. Body language is just wrong.

Trying so hard to take a stand then quickly changing as he looks over at what the other guy is doing, unless it’s about climate change, in which case we can’t see you.

And my personal favourite, though it was hard to choose what with climbing mountains and scaring French children, only agreeing to talk about climate change if it’s called “energy efficiency” instead.

But as he barrels around the world having his photo taken with his “best friends”, what is Tony actually doing, other than scoping out new casino sites for James Packer, since he doesn’t bother taking any expert advisers with him?

In the latest news, it appears we are going to become arms dealers for Stephen Harper.

Reading an ABC article I came across this line

“Canada wants Australia to help it engage in security issues in Asia.”

In trying to find out more about this I came across this article from 2011.

“Finally the government released its latest deeply-flawed report on Canada’s military exports between 2007 and 2009.

According to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) — a government-funded lobby group representing 860 member companies — Canada now exports $5 Billion to $7.5 Billion in military and so-called “security” products per year.

Despite massive loopholes in the government’s report, their data does reveal that almost all of Canada’s military exports went straight into the arsenals of about 40 belligerent nations fighting in the Iraq and/or Afghan wars, which have killed over 1.5 million people.

Few know that in 2009, Canada was virtually tied in a three-way race for sixth place among the world’s top arms exporters, right behind the U.S., Russia, Germany, the UK and China.

Nowadays, with $4 billion a year in military products streaming stateside, Canada is America’s top military supplier, and their hardware is deeply embedded in U.S. weapons fighting on three important war fronts: North Africa (Libya), the Middle East (Iraq and Israel) and Central Asia (Afghanistan). Such U.S.-led invasions, occupations, proxy wars and regime changes have long enforced unjust structures of economic control over resources in the Third World. Canadian complicity in manufacturing, exporting and deploying the instruments of war, has helped maintain their high-rank among the world’s most prosperous nations.”

Perhaps we are going to pay Canadian security firms to house refugees on an island in the Arctic Ocean. Who knows?

Reporting about Tony’s trip to China in April, the Australian said:

“Earlier, the Prime Minister declared Australia’s “trust in China” as he outlined plans for greater defence links including joint military exercises, days after tightening alliances with Japan and South Korea.

Countering the “strategic pessimism” about security in Asia, Mr Abbott assured 1800 government and business officials in Shanghai that the rise of China could bring prosperity for all, including an Australian economy that already receives $60 billion in annual Chinese ­investment.

But in an apparent warning on China’s territorial claims, Mr Abbott said it would be “unthinkable” to put everything at risk by failing to settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

Abbott declared at the East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting last year that Japan was Australia’s “best friend in Asia”. Abe’s cabinet has already increased defence spending and eased restrictions on arms exports. An expert review panel is expected to recommend that Japan can exercise its right to participate in collective self-defence with its allies.

While this constitutional change is generally assumed to be referring to the US – Japan’s key ally – it could also involve Australia. Since 2002, Australia, Japan and the US have occasionally held the Trilateral Security Dialogue meetings between their defence and foreign ministers. The ADF and the JSDF could therefore conceivably conduct combined combat operations with the US in future.

So we are forming defence links and having military exercises with China, who are in a dispute with Japan, whose side we have openly defended, even castigating the Chinese Ambassador, whilst brokering arms deals for Harper, presumably to both sides since we are ON both sides, but we are warning them to be peaceful. But what of the US?

Just to make sure that everyone is being peaceful, we are going to send $12 billion into the US economy to keep their armament industry thriving in the hope that ten years down the track they will have worked out how to make those 72 planes fly.

In the meantime we’ll spend $4 billion buying eight highly-sophisticated P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. The US-built aircraft will be delivered in 2017 to replace the Cold War-era P3 Orion aircraft. The Poseidon will come equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles to destroy submarines and warships.

And just to make sure American arms manufacturers have enough of our money, a report in February said seven US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion ($2.7 billion), but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalized.

And why should South Korea be left out. After admonishing Tony about a Gillard decision to cancel a gun order, he appears to have promised the South Koreans that we will buy guns from them too because Lord knows, we need more guns.

The Navy’s two supply ships, HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success need replacing, so the Government is buying two new ships but only two firms, one Spanish, and one South Korean, will get the chance to tender for the job.

I think that Tony is getting a tad too much of his advice from the military who seem to have an endless budget in these days of belt-tightening. The other smarter leaders are taking advantage of Tony’s enthusiasm to make friends, sign free trade agreements, and play with army stuff. That’s not fair guys, picking on the dumb new kid.

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WARNING: Beware of Abbott’s “Free Trade” Trojan horse!

Image courtesy of australiahistory.com

Image courtesy of australiahistory.com

Every so often someone does something so totally unfathomable, something so seemingly devoid of common sense that one is left scratching one’s head asking, “Why would anyone do that? What could they possibly hope to gain?”

While there are, to my mind, large swathes of government policy that fall into that category, few things have left me quite as perplexed as the possible inclusion of the so called ISDR provisions in any future Australian free trade agreements.

For those of you that haven’t been following this, ISDR is an acronym for “Investor State Dispute Resolution”, and in a nut shell what that would mean is that any foreign corporation (operating under an ISDR provision), that finds that our laws interfere with their business has the right to sue our governments for damages. Outrageous, right?

Want to ban GMOs? Well stuff you SA and TAS, here comes Monsanto with it’s bully boy lawyers and war chest bigger than your state budget. Hey NSW, want to legislate environmental protections to stop coal seam gas destroying the water table on your precious farm land? Not unless you’re prepared to pay out hundreds of millions in compensation, you don’t!

Since deregulation and FTAs (free trade agreements) came into play in the 80s successive Australian governments – from both sides of the house – have viewed ISDRs as categorically not in Australia’s best interests, and had the good sense to rule them out point blank.

So why has Tony put ISDRs back on the negotiating table? Especially when the US has already accepted our refusal to include them. Given that we currently have a free trade agreement with the US that appears to be working quite well without them, Abbott’s move to include them in the ongoing TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) negotiations seems like total lunacy. I mean really, it’s basic negotiation 101, you never freely offer up something (that will cost you dearly), that the other party is prepared to forgo.

This has been troubling me for weeks now. Why would Abbott do this? ISDR provisions are such a profound threat to our national sovereignty. For Tony to put them back on the table seems to defy all logic.

By all accounts Abbott is not a stupid man, so what it he up to? What is his end game for such a seemingly unfathomable act?

But then it occurred to me, Abbott is a man with an agenda, a largely corporate agenda. After all, it’s no secret where he sits politically. He has found a comfy chair to the right of Turnbull, Howard, Hewson and Fraser, and firmly planted himself at the ultra right table with his corporate buddies Rinehart, Murdoch et al (and with friends like that there can be no doubt he is headed for a VERY lucrative payday after his stint in the lodge).

Abbott has long been known for his antipathy towards any measures that “interfere” with corporate profits, whether it be a fair level of tax on mining companies, legislated environmental protection or plain packaging for cigarettes (a move he was eventually forced to support after a backbench and voter backlash). We all know there is nothing Abbott isn’t prepared to throw under the bus in the name of corporate profits . . . unless, of course, it is politically costly to him!

And this is where ISDR clauses could come in handy for him. Just when we are snuggly tucked up in our beds, feeling confident we are in safe fiscal hands, these ISDRs will crawl out from deep within the belly of our shiny new FTAs, paving the way for legions of corporate lawyers to descend on our states and territories with multi million dollar lawsuits against our public purse . . . That is of course unless the government obligingly removes the offending legislations.

Oh, now I get it! And I think it goes something like this, “the government doesn’t WANT to allow oil wells in the middle of the great barrier reef, but if we don’t do it this big bad international corp will sue us all the way to the poor house, which means cutting services, health and education etc . . . better to just amend the laws and let them put the wells in, and then we can all profit from it”.

While I realise that such a hypothetical scenario may sound a bit extreme, under an ISDR it’s not wholly impossible and it’s the only explanation I can think of that actually makes any sense?. Hmmm . . . Am I being too cynical? Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, doesn’t think so. She was quoted in Huffington Post talking on the EU-US FTA negotiations:

The dirty little secret about ISDR’s is that they are not mainly about trade, but rather target for elimination the strongest consumer, health, safety, privacy, environmental and other public interest policies. The investor-state system empowers individual corporations and investors to skirt domestic courts and laws and drag signatory governments to foreign tribunals.

Let’s face it, no government, left or right, would win the support of the people in actively advocating for the wholesale destruction of our environment in the name of corporate profit; but if our governments were faced with paying billions in damages, many of us might just be tempted to change our minds. After all, the government can’t be expected to pay out all those damages and still afford to keep all those expensive social services going, can they? They would be faced with some tough choices!

Maybe I am being a little dramatic, but a quick look at Canada’s experience with the ISDR is a quite sobering and it should be setting off alarm bells loud enough for us to hear all the way from Ottawa.

For example, Canada recently denied a patent application for a drug that failed to meet the conditions for patent under Canadian law, and this led a US pharma company to demand $100 million in compensation. Whether their claim will be upheld in court is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain, even if the Canadian Government prevails defending the case won’t come cheap.

And this is just one of many law suits Canada has had to contend with. Here are some others:

Dow AgroSciences, a U.S. corporation, served a claim for losses allegedly caused by Quebec’s ban on the sale and certain uses of lawn pesticides containing 2,4-D.

Chemtura Corporation, a US pesticide manufacturer, has alleged that through its Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), Canada wrongfully terminated its pesticide business and issued a claim.

Lone Pine Resources is currently suing Canada for over $250 million in response to Quebec’s moratorium on coal seam gas fracking.

The list goes on an on. In 2012 over 500 multi million dollar law suits where lodged globally under ISDR provisions. In fact Ecuador had to pay out $1.77 billion in a single settlement to Occidental Petroleum, as a result of having ISDR clauses in their FTA.

Be very afraid, as this article, Investor-State Dispute Resolution: The Monster Lurking Inside Free Trade Agreements warns.

And where is the media on this issue? Once again, like the faithful old dog they are, they appear to be napping at the feet of their corporate masters. Have none of them even read the Coalition’s Trade Policy? It’s all there in black and white. Quote:“The Coalition will take a pragmatic approach to trade negotiations and will consult widely with industry bodies and associations to ensure that stakeholder priorities are taken into account.This includes remaining open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses as part of Australia’s negotiating position”.

The policy also promises to “fast track the conclusion of free trade agreements with China, South Korea, Japan, India, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Indonesia”, and to “explore the feasibility of free trade agreements with other trading partners including the European Union, Brazil, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Taiwan”.

While it’s possible that ISDS clauses won’t wind up in all of those agreement, they will, as the policy states, form part of Australia’s negotiating position.

So why are the Coalition in such a rush to sign off all these new FTA’s? (Especially the TPP, which could easily usher in the ISDR clauses that are currently excluded in our Australian-US FTA). And why are the Coalition so hell bent on keeping the terms of these negotiations secret?

The Coalition is looking to present this new round FTAs as a shining example of their “getting down to business” and delivering good outcomes for Australia, but we need to seriously ask ourselves, do we really want Tony opening our door to ISDR clauses?

We’ll only get make this mistake once, and we may be stuck with the some very expensive consequences, forever! This is a very dangerous course for Australia to be taking. We need to keep a firm eye on this Trojan horse and slam the door hard in it’s face.

But how?

 

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