The ‘Heroes’ of all our wars have died in vain, betrayed by today’s government.
We are continuously reminded of the democratic freedoms our ancestors lost their lives for on the battlefields, which is the ability of parliament to legislate on behalf of the people. One hundred years after the Great War New Zealand seems prepared to give up these rights and freedoms despite all the solemn talk of politicians at any event commemorating their ultimate sacrifices.
The betrayal comes in the secret negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. We are made to believe that it is just a trade agreement about access for our agricultural products like dairy and meat. In reality it is about international corporations enriching themselves by the stroke of a pen by extending patent and other intellectual property rights and seizing power over our democratically elected government via so called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) without a single shot been fired.
In an excellent article George Monbiot in the Guardian writing about the parallel Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) highlights the dangers and insanity – if you are not a corporation – of the later. The treaty would allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.
Already, thanks to the insertion of ISDS into much smaller trade treaties, big business is engaged in an orgy of litigation, whose purpose is to strike down any law that might impinge on its anticipated future profits. The tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for trying to discourage people from smoking. The oil firm Occidental was awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon after finding that Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law. The Swedish company Vattenfall is suing the German government for shutting down nuclear power. An Australian firm is suing El Salvador’s government for $300m for refusing permission for a goldmine over concerns it would poison the drinking water.
The same mechanism, under TPP, could be used to prevent NZ governments from defending public health and the natural world against corporate greed.
The corporate lawyers who sit on these panels are beholden only to the companies whose cases they adjudicate, who at other times are their employers.
As one of these people commented:
“When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all … Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”
The TPP negotiations unlike the ones between the US and Europe are conducted in total secrecy. Therefore our government has failed to answer the howlingly obvious question: what’s wrong with the courts? If corporations want to sue governments, they already have a right to do so, through the courts, like anyone else. It’s not as if, with their vast budgets, they are disadvantaged in this arena. Why should they be allowed to use a separate legal system, to which the rest of us have no access? What happened to the principle of equality before the law?
This is a blatant attack on our freedom and democracy not only by international corporations but our own government.
Our heroes are turning in their graves at Gallipoli and the Western Front.
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