|Stop the MAI Public Protest Meetings, Western Australia. REPORTS for MASS MEDIA, and future action plans. Governments of rich nations have negotiated in secret for years to for a proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) to give unprecedented unbalanced power to huge companies/corporations. Stop MAI (WA) Coalition.|
1998 October 14, Wednesday: PARIS, Oct 14 (Reuters) - France will not participate in the next round of talks on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) within the OECD, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said on Wednesday. ... Copyright © 1998 Reuters Limited.
1998 October 17, Saturday, 10am-2pm: Stop-MAI stall, Corner Murray St and Forrest Pl, Perth city. 1998 October 17, Saturday: World Protest Against Poverty Day.
1998 October 29, Thursday, 5.30pm for 6pm, Lower Hall, 10 Broome St, South Perth, Planning Meeting: more delegates and individuals urgently required because other pro-monopolist treaties, agreements, and protocols are going through the Federal Cabinet without public participation and/or Parliamentary debate.
1998 November 10, Tuesday: Federal Parliament with newly-elected House of Representatives Members to open.
For future meetings, contact Brian Jenkins firstname.lastname@example.org (08) 9246 3882, or Dion Giles email@example.com (08) W. 9360 221, H. 9335 7646
UNITED STATES ALL-DAY CALL DAY OCTOBER 7 1998: United States people are asked to telephone
the U.S. negotiators on October 7, requesing them withdraw from the negotiations. Ring -- Madeline Albright
(State Department) 202-736-4247; Charlene Barshefsky (United States Trade Representative) 202-395-6890;
John Podesta (White House) 202-456-1414. See more about USA and Australian nationwide plans near the foot of
and see how Australia's federal constitution could be used by the people and the States through the High Court at:
The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
TUESDAY, 8 September 1998, 7.30 pm
Ocean Clipper Inn, 20 / 230 Patterson St., ROCKINGHAM
Learn more and have your say
on this threat to democracy
A public meeting at Rockingham yesterday [Tuesday Sep 8 1998] was told of a series of actions which will firmly lock Australia's civil society into world-wide rejection of any more freedom for multinational corporations to sidestep labour and environmental standards and avoid taxation.
The meeting was attended by representatives of trade unions, non-government organisations, the Greens, Australian Democrats and One Nation. It was shunned by both major parties, both of which are known to be committed to the MAI.
During the federal election campaign, all parliamentarians will be asked to declare their personal views on the MAI, irrespective of official party stance. Approaches will also be made to high-profile personages and groups to endorse petitions calling on the OECD to change direction.
Australian Stop MAI campaigners are proposing the adoption by the United Nations of a Citizens' Public Trust Treaty to redress "the consequences of half a century of unprincipled economic growth".
Note: A copy of the Citizens' Public Trust Treaty can be faxed on request
The speaker, WA Trades and Labour Council secretary Tony Cooke, was one of a panel of four who
addressed the audience of 200 at the Leederville meeting, held by Stop MAI, a national coalition seeking
to prevent Australia's participation.
TAX PAYMENT OPTIONAL
SPEED UP IMPOVERISHMENT
NO MORE MUM-DAD SHARES
OPEN UP TREATY POWERS
CAPITAL COMING WITHOUT MAI
BIG BUSINESS 'WELFARE'
100 PROFITS OF $300m NOT TAXED
MEDIA HELP INFORMATION
A REPORT OF THE RESOLUTIONS of the June 30 1998 meeting is also at:
Other speakers were barrister and open-government campaigner Bevan Lawrence, journalist and radio current affairs presenter Liam Bartlett and former WA senator Jean Jenkins.
A unanimous resolution of the 200 people at the Leederville (Perth, WA) meeting called on State and Federal parliamentarians to:
Jean Jenkins, spokesperson for the Stop MAI (WA) Coalition, long-time advocate of "people power," and a former WA senator, said that the people pushing for the MAI were the owners of the multinational corporations which controlled and made the profits from 90 percent of total world investment.
This agreement was designed to protect and advance their interests, and any advantage to anyone else would be purely accidental.
Mrs Jenkins asked whether the MAI was capable of solving three serious problems faced by Australians:
Federal Minister for Resources, Senator Warwick Parer, made millions of dollars from mining company shares but had not seen such peanuts worth registering as pecuniary interests.
Fifteen years of creeping economic rationalisation had already answered the question, Mrs Jenkins said.
The MAI would mean more of the same, at a faster rate, without opportunity to correct mistakes through legislation.
Clearly, under the MAI, multinationals would force the privatisation and reduced subsidisation of more essential services, take over more of our primary and secondary industries, move more operations offshore, sack more workers and make it impossible for our governments to stop or reverse such changes.
Under the MAI, subsidised hospitals and schools would be classed as discriminatory unless the same subsidies were also paid to the hospitals and schools established by foreign investors.
All private universities would have to receive the same government assistance as the public ones – or they could sue the Federal Government for equivalent compensation.
"When we seek to hold governments accountable, they will shrug and say that they cannot make laws which contravene the MAI, or which cause any loss of profit to investors other than Australian investors," Mrs Jenkins said.
"There is a strong possibility that Australia could join with other countries in demanding important changes to the treaty before signing it.
"Because of the weak Government we have in Australia, and because of our very vulnerable trading position in our region, I believe we should go for a full withdrawal from it, and don't believe this would cause loss of investment," Mrs Jenkins said.
Tony Cooke, the Secretary of the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council, began by expounding the central provisions of the MAI, for the benefit of many members of the public who were hearing about the proposal for the first time.
He explained the mechanisms of "standstill" and "roll-back" in their relationship to a mythical level playing field – which he said was itself very much open to question.
Mr Cooke recalled that the OECD was part of the Western world's response to the Cold War – evolving as a club of 29 members acting as an umpire and blowing the whistle in line with rules they had drawn up.
The rules were not necessarily appropriate to contemporary civil society, in which the community has a right to special precautionary arrangements, and to the accountability of Parliament for important national commitments.
The possible consequences of social fragmentation and disempowerment were necessarily part of the debate on the MAI, together with the pros and cons of globalisation in terms of economic and cultural influences.
Mr Cooke demonstrated the enormous market-opening potential of the MAI, pointing to the six or seven per cent of India's population which was capable of "middle-class" consumption.
Ability to free this up for unfettered foreign competition would create a new market exceeding the total population of the United Kingdom, Mr Cooke said.
He referred to a recent correspondence he had with State Energy Minister Colin Barnett over the latter's undertaking to ensure that purchase of shares in a privatisation of the electricity utility Western Power would be limited to Western Australian "mums and dads."
The minister was obliged to agree that there could be no such assurance under the MAI.
With reference to the dispute resolution mechanism proposed for the MAI, Mr Cooke declared that, in all his experience of dealing with tribunals and courts, he had never heard of any tribunal with powers as great as that which would be determining the compensation to be paid by national government to multinational plaintiffs.
In concluding, Mr Cooke cautioned against too archaic a view of national sovereignty – one of the important issues called forth in the MAI debate – and suggested that some of the views being canvassed had the intention of returning us to the insular pre-1956 era, which was unacceptable.
Bevan Lawrence, a practising barrister and prominent campaigner in past issues including the Australia Card and the business improprieties of the 'WA Inc' State Government era, addressed the broad issue of the Commonwealth's treaties power.
He established that there was no legal requirement for the MAI or any other treaty to be approved by or referred to the Parliament.
The treaties power, inherited from the Westminster system, had been ultimately derived from the 'royal prerogative' of kings – and that same power now resided with the Australian Prime Minister, he said.
The present Liberal Government had instituted a policy of at least 15 days' parliamentary consultation through a new Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, and consultation with the States through a Treaties Council, but these processes had no powers and were little more than "window dressing."
Similarly, the requirement for a national interest analysis to be tabled was of little value in the probable event that it would be prepared by the very people who were promoting the treaty.
These placatory arrangements had resulted from the Liberals' vocal indignation, when in Opposition, over an abrupt announcement by the former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating that he had concluded a bilateral military treaty with Indonesian President Soeharto which, he openly acknowledged, had been done in secret because Parliament and the people might oppose it.
Mr Lawrence declared his preference for "people power" in the sense of Swiss-style direct democracy and volunteered his opinion that Australia had a long way to go before we could become a viable democracy.
This was illustrated by the fact that executive government need pay no heed to the recommendations of parliamentary committees.
Further, the import of treaties did not require complementary legislation to become part of the Common Law.
Since power over foreign affairs had been ceded by the States to the Commonwealth at federation, the Commonwealth had been able to use this power to override Acts of State and Territory parliaments on a number of occasions, he said.
For instance, the Northern Territory's law enabling euthanasia had been outlawed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and in 1983 Tasmania's legislation for the damming of the Franklin River had been similarly nullified.
Mr Lawrence made the point that, though he was personally supportive of the campaign against damming the Franklin, he strongly believed that it was legally inappropriate for a State Act to be overthrown in that way.
The treaty-making process should be opened up to full public scrutiny and made accountable.
In his opinion, this should involve the approval of both federal Houses and probably also of the States' Houses (or, at the least, of a majority of State Houses).
Turning to the matter of the MAI, he was critical of the situation that the onus of proving the Agreement's unsuitability had fallen on the treaty's opponents.
"It should be the other way round -- let the proponents prove that the MAI will be beneficial to us," he said.
It was very apparent that Australia was attractive to foreign capital in the absence of an MAI, and that the inflow would not dry up because we decline to sign the MAI.
Moreover, changes to rules had a tendency to generate confusion and conflict. Wisdom should dictate that the rules should not be changed unless and until they absolutely had to be changed.
Mr Lawrence referred to the pronouncement of High Court Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs (1994) that treaties wee capable of expanding Commonwealth power to the extent that no area of legislation was excluded.
This fact had been demonstrated in controversial interchanges of legislation and judgment between the Parliament and Court in recent years.
The solution was to make treaties subject to parliamentary control. It was ironic that Senator Rod Kemp, who was responsible for carriage of the MAI, himself wrote in a 1994 paper that Australia's Constitution was being compromised by these processes.
It was indisputable that a measure of sovereignty was always surrendered in these agreements, Mr Lawrence said.
Liam Bartlett, television and radio journalist, Constitutional Convention independent delegate, and author of the most penetrating MAI criticism published in a Perth newspaper (the Sunday Times), opened his address with some observations on a journalistic level, noting that the MAI's supporters were uncomfortable when questioned for justification on a number of points, including:
Rather, they made enormous efforts to gain unfair advantages and, if possible, eliminate all competition before they feel it was reasonable to proceed with an operation.
They did not like to dwell on these points, because there was overwhelming evidence of their irresponsibility, often bordering on the criminal.
Was BHP anxious to give the people of the Ok Tedi region a level playing field? Was Union Carbide a beneficial contributor to the community of Bhopal [India]?
The track record of the multinationals gave them no right to ask for relaxed rules of investment, entry rights or that mythical level playing field, he said.
They already had massive advantages. Unlike the majority of Australian businesses, they made use of tax havens on a gigantic scale and they had sophisticated machinery for moving capital around the world.
Mr Bartlett cited a recent comparative analysis establishing that the economic interdependence of nations and relative financial integration had been diminished in the period of the World Wars but had now returned to the same level as had applied in 1913.
Questioner: Can one of the panel explain the concept of "roll-back?"
Tony Cooke: The MAI will require the Government to "standstill" or not progress further any laws or regulations which cause inconvenience or loss of profit to a foreign investor.
Laws which are already in place, or existing provisions for which the Government has succeeded in registering "exceptions" to the MAI , must be rolled back (repealed or withdrawn) within an expected number of years. The objective is that all exceptions will in time be eliminated .
By allowing such exceptions, the MAI encourages the Government to make the agreement saleable by lying. The exceptions they tell us about must be rolled back.
Questioner: In the Sunday Times article in April, Liam Bartlett stated some staggering statistics about the top 100 multinationals (each earning over $A300 million a year) paying no tax.. I ask Liam what is the source of those figures?
Liam Bartlett: The earning figures were turnover figures provided by the Australian Tax Office, together with information on tax paid by the named companies. There is no secret about it ; anyone can go to the Tax Office and get those figures.
Questioner: Does the MAI conflict with the Australian Constitution?
Bevan Lawrence: No, I don't see how it can. It is a trade agreement which the Executive Government has power to enter. The consequences may be unpalatable in terms of how we expect the Constitution to protect us, but in pure legal terms, the Government can sign and be acting in accordance with the Constitution.
Questioner: Would there be retaliation if we did not sign the MAI?
Tony Cooke: It is not being sold as something which is bad for us. We are supposed to buy it so that we can go out and rape another country without too much inconvenience.
Big companies desperately need the advantages which these arrangements give them. I'll give you an example concerning our own Homeswest organisation. They prize the triple-A credit rating they have with Standard and Poors. Every year, they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to get Standard and Poors to come out and inspect their operation so that the same people can award them continuance of the triple-A rating! /ends
Contact Speakers: Tony Cooke (08) 9328 7877 firstname.lastname@example.org; Bevan Lawrence (08) 9325 3466; Liam Bartlett (08) 9220 1442; Jean Jenkins (08) 9246 3882 email@example.com. Rodney Vlais (chair) (08) 9424 4200 firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information: Convener Rodney Vlais email@example.com or researcher Dion Giles (08) 9335 7646 firstname.lastname@example.org or publicist Brian Jenkins 9246 3882 email@example.com Mail to: Stop MAI Coalition (WA), PO Box 608, Nedlands, WA, 6909
The coalition's previous protest meeting (report below), at Fremantle on April 21, had packed a hall with 250 people from all parts of the political spectrum.
Addresses by Tony Cooke (WA Trades and Labour Council Secretary) firstname.lastname@example.org , Senator Dee Margetts (Greens -- WA) email@example.com , Dr Rob Lambert (sociologist, UWA) firstname.lastname@example.org , Mal Taylor (Rural Action Movement) and Rodney Vlais (Stop-MAI WA convener) were enthusiastically received.
Most of the audience signed petitions and registered to be kept informed. Chairperson was former WA senator Jean Jenkins.
TAX PAYMENT OPTIONAL
SPEED UP IMPOVERISHMENT
NO MORE MUM-DAD SHARES
OPEN UP TREATY POWERS
CAPITAL COMING WITHOUT MAI
BIG BUSINESS 'WELFARE'
100 PROFITS OF $300m NOT TAXED
MEDIA HELP INFORMATION
A REPORT OF THE RESOLUTIONS of the June 30 1998 meeting is also at: http://dove.mtx.net.au/~hermann/wameet.htm
"We have reached a time when people from every part of the political
spectrum must work together to heal the divisions in society, but we are now
faced with the possible effects of an international treaty which is counter
to restoring social cohesion.
"The MAI establishes control by multinational corporations over our destiny-and the regional interests which underpin our democratic society are not recognised under this agreement, no matter what reservations our Government may negotiate," he said.
Mr Cooke, who had rushed from addressing an even bigger meeting of trade unionists at the Fremantle Town Hall and was clearly exhausted, electrified the audience as he flayed politicians for not heeding the population's needs and wishes.
The meeting, organised by STOP-MAI (WA) was also addressed by WA Greens Senator Dee Margetts , Mr Mal Taylor (President, Rural Action Movement) and Dr Rob Lambert of the University of Western Australia's School of Organisational and Labour Studies. It was chaired by former Democrat senator Jean Jenkins.
STOP-MAI convener, Mr Rodney Vlais , said after the meeting that the issue of MAI was now firmly fixed in the public eye, despite efforts by the Federal Government and powerful vested interests to put the treaty in place with minimal attention.
PHONE CONTACTS: Jean Jenkins 08 9246 3882, Dr Dion Giles 08 9335 7646
Web Site of Stop-MAI Australia: http://www/avid.net.au/stopmai/
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