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Issue #1676      March 11, 2015

Editorial

A corporate dictatorship

Public awareness of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is steadily growing. This is despite the whole process being steeped in secrecy, with the government authorising the final text before any of it becomes public. It is then to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee which, in any case, cannot change the text.

To exclude elected representatives from closed negotiations that give privileged access only to corporate insiders undermines democratic processes.

Agreements signed without proper scrutiny will lead to government decision-making being bound to the interests of transnational corporations. The TPP is not about “free trade” but about giving corporations power over national governments’ laws and regulations. It has been written in secret by transnationals for their interests.

For example, we will no longer be able to refuse products that don’t adhere to Australia’s environmental regulations. Under the TPP a tribunal comprised of lawyers from the corporate giants will be set up to rule on such matters. Sovereignty will be undermined and elected governments and national laws and regulations bypassed.

Claims by Trade Minister Andrew Robb that “the TPP will not be kept secret”, that “once it is agreed by participants it will be made public and also subjected to parliamentary scrutiny prior to any final ratification” are weasel words.

There is also the insidious legal wordplay of “corporate personhood”, granting corporations the status of “persons”. This translates into such claims that citizens knowing what is in their food, and making choices based on that information, is taking away the “free speech” of the corporate “person”.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses in treaties such as the TPP are in fact clauses of corporate personhood through which corporations want to have the right to sue governments that act in the public good.

As activist Vandana Shiva puts it: “The rise of corporate personhood is the death of democracy, the death of sovereignty, the death of human rights, the end of freedom. We cannot allow this fiction to become the basis of governance.”

Opportunism and hypocrisy

Stop the boats. Stop the executions. Liberal and Labor holding candlelight vigils for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran at Parliament House, calling for mercy from the Indonesian government: these are the same political forces who have overseen the incarceration of innocent men, women and children, who are seeking asylum, in inhumane conditions in offshore prison camps.

Where was the mercy then?

Where was it when they incarcerated pregnant women? Where when they were traumatising the world’s most defenceless people, children? It is decades now that this exercise in violating international laws for political gain has continued, in at least one case a murder, from John Howard’s vicious little regime through to complicit, opportunistic Rudd-Gillard governments.

Now Abbott’s crew of privateers are cynically exploiting the impending deaths for drug trafficking of Chan and Sukumaran in Indonesia for their own political ends, to try and lift their stocks in the polls.

All hands have been called to the fore in this nauseating exercise, led appropriately by Phillip Ruddock, former Howard government Immigration Minister, who imposed the first raft of refugee bashing legislation, and who intoned “We must stop state-sponsored killing”.

Just as Abbott announced another 300 Australian troops were being sent to Iraq.

The entire PR exercise bordered openly on farce when Abbott offered Indonesia a prisoner exchange, a process that takes place between two countries at war with each other, followed by the ludicrous and (to Indonesia) insulting claim that they were beholden to Australia because of Australia’s aid after the Indonesian tsunami in 2004.

Of course, the death penalty is abhorrent and morally unacceptable. But it should be recalled that it was Australian law until a relatively short time ago when Ronald Ryan became the last person to be executed in this country, hanged in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne on February 2, 1967, a state-sponsored killing authorised by Liberal Premier Henry Bolte. He was later awarded a knighthood for services rendered.

Next article – Arrested Nauru refugees held

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