Free market suits the US
Those looking for reasons not to be cheerful could turn to the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering of representatives from the US and South Pacific countries, held last week in Bali.
A focal point was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement pushed by the US that suspiciously gets little to no mainstream media attention.
While small and medium-sized businesses are spruiked as potential winners if international trade were expanded, critics have pointed out a much different agenda. Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach, told www.democracynow.org, ‘The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establish new powers for corporations.’
And many agree; a swag of lawyers and academics have signed an open letter to negotiators of the TPP trade talks.
As reported on www.nzherald.co.nz in May, the letter claims that before 1999, only 69 dispute cases between countries and corporations had been launched. ‘Today,’ the letter reads, ‘there are 370-plus such cases underway, an increase of 436 per cent.’ They say most cases relate to ‘challenges to governments’ natural resource and environmental policies, not to traditional expropriations.’
And Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton concurred, saying last week it would potentially make it impossible for our government ‘to place environmental and public health restrictions on some of the highest-impact developments in Australia, including coal and coal seam gas mining.’
It’s easy to paint the newly Toned Abbs government as pursuing a ‘pants-down-to-corporations’ foreign policy, but given the secrecy of our government and the US, how are we to know? For what little our federal government is prepared to say on this, see www.dfat.gov.au/fta/tpp.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
Dear Mr Terry O’Brien
I understand you represent one of the most powerful lobby groups in Australia which influence our so-called elected leaders.
Firstly, congratulations on becoming the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief back in February.
This is an important job where many positive changes could occur.
For instance, are you lobbying to curb the duopoly of our food supply? Currently Coles and Woolworths control 70 to 80 per cent of the nation’s food supply, 1 and farmers say this duopoly is eroding their viability to produce 2. Surely more competition will ensure better outcomes to farmers and consumers?
Anyway, the reason I write to you is not that, but the three paragraphs on your website www.afgc.org.au rejecting the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).
I put it to you that it’s lazy and disingenuous to say ‘numerous reports confirm that a mandatory scheme such as CDS generates environmental outcomes at a very high cost relative to other options.’ Where is the proof? These ‘numerous reports’ need to be referenced. And with the senate inquiry into this topic, your lobby group’s figures have been found to be rubbery 3.
Do you dispute this? If you would like to be taken seriously regarding the financial benefits of not recycling, then let’s hear it.
It’s just an idea to think about while you burp up those expensive long lunches with our so-called elected leaders.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
1 Fact checked by theconversation.com.
2 Crunch time for supermarket food suppliers – ABC Drum online.
The carbon tax myth examined
One bright note of this election, perhaps the only, was the development of fact checking organisations, one of which is run by theconversation.com.
The site examines the interesting question: ‘will scrapping the carbon price lower electricity prices?’ According to author Dylan McConnell from Melbourne University’s Energy Institute, removing the carbon tax would result in a reduction in electric- ity prices of ‘around five per cent, with an upper boundary of about 10 per cent.’ But he points to an example from Victoria
in recent years, where transmission costs went up 27 per cent, distribution by 11 per cent and retail costs by 17 per cent.
‘These components are independent of the carbon price, and account for the majority of hikes in retail electricity prices.
‘It’s worth remembering too that even without the carbon price, electricity prices are predicted to rise. Climate Change Authority research suggests that without the carbon price, the rise would with be slightly smaller, with retail electricity prices just six per cent lower.’
Additionally, ABC TV’s Australian Story recently ran a great yarn entitled ‘Corridors Of Power’ which exposed ‘gold plating’ by the NSW government owned electricity transmission company, TransGrid. Gold plating is building unnecessary projects and in this case, 330,000 volt electric power lines were earmarked for the Manning Valley in NSW as part of a large-scale state expansion.
In response to the plans, Manning Valley farmer Bruce Rob- ertson helped create the Manning Alliance and sparked a senate inquiry which backed his claims of gold plating. People power overcame corporate interests and the project was abandoned.
‘[Gold plating] was the single largest cause of the electricity price rises that consumers had experienced in Australia,’ says Robertson.
What other half truths are being presented as fact?
Hopefully in coming years, fact checking organisations will develop further and investigative journalism will continue to prevent truth being the first casualty of politics.
Below is a reply from TransGrid PR regarding the editorial on September 3, 2013.
You claim it's 'investment' whereas Mr Robertson says it's 'gold plating'. The implication that all investment should be welcomed without scrutiny is of course your right to promote as a corporation.
And while the rest of this letter goes to say what good things TransGrid is doing, my understanding is that most of those things have only come about from the senate inquiry the residents of Manning Valley pushed for. Unless I missed something, you have not refuted the claims from Mr Robertson.
Perhaps instead the letter should say, 'With thanks to the Manning Valley Alliance and the senate inquiry, TransGrid reviewed its TOR, stakeholder and consumer engagement and has sought to become more transparent in the future.'