The Transpacific Partnership (TPP), a Template for World Corporate Rule.
Note this article was originally posted as “Will Tony Abbot Use the ISDS to Sell Our Souls to the DEVIL?” Its been updated to reflect the changes in teh government.
Des Pensable (c) 2015.
Australia is richly endowed with massive deposits of coal and coal seam gas but the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that to avoid dangerous Global Warming exceeding 2 C, Australia must keep 90% of it in the ground.
Imagine that you are a minister in a Global Warming denier Australian Government that is desperate to sell as much of this coal and gas before there is a binding target to reduce world carbon emissions.
Now imagine that you could sign a treaty with other like-minded foreign denier governments that would prevent any future Australian government from stopping or reducing the sale of coal or gas without suffering severe financial penalties. This treaty would also have the effect of slowing or stopping international agreements to mitigate global carbon emissions.
You could then happily sell as much fossil fuel as foreign countries were prepared to buy arguing that it is to the economic benefit of Australia, but ignoring any risks that the climate scientists might warn about and leaving future generation to deal with any consequences that you imposed upon them.
Effectively you would be making a deal with the devil- Trading fame and fortune for a few of the more wealthy members of society, catering to foreign investors and ignoring the consequences to the future lives of all the rest of the Australians. Would you do it?
It might seem a bit hypothetical but the Abbot government will soon be in a position to sign the secret Transpacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty that contains a special section called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision. This is a mechanism that allows a multinational company to sue a country like Australia in an external tribunal composed of commercial lawyers if the government makes any laws or changes to its laws in a way that might reduce the projected profit of the multinational company.
Now imagine a fossil fuel company like Santos which has licenses to mine coal seam gas in NSW and Queensland that is currently being blocked from producing gas by environmental activists who are concerned about the effects of the mining operations on the local agricultural land, water, air and people.
If the Abbot government were to sign the TPP with the ISDS provision then Santos could sue any state government for loss of revenue that it could have made had it not been impeded by the activists.
The state governments will have their hands tied. If they choose to use heavy handed tactics to stop the activists they are likely to cause increased civil unrest and face the possibility of being voted out of government as well as being sued for loss of company profit.
If they choose to change the laws to increase environmental protection demanded by the people they can be sued for loss of profit.
Even if they choose to cancel the company’s license to mine for coal seam gas they can be sued for loss of profit. The same situation will apply for any foreign companies with coal mining licenses.
Effectively by allowing the ISDS clause ALL future state and commonwealth government in Australia will have their hands tied. Australia will lose its sovereign right to make its own laws about how companies operate in Australia. It will LOSE its sovereign right to make environmental laws that protect our country and the health of its citizens- you and me. It will weaken our democracy.
If you doubt that this will happen, then consider the case in Canada where the state of Quebec was worried about the health effects of coal seam gas on its citizens so it imposed a moratorium on CSG mining in 2011. Using an ISDS clause in the NAFTA agreement between Canada and the USA, a US company is suing Quebec for $250 million in lost profits because of the moratorium. If fact, the Canadian government are being sued by several companies for trying to introduce environmental regulations.
Australia is already being sued under the provisions of an ISDS agreement signed between Australia and Hong Kong. When Australia decided to introduce plain paper cigarette packaging to help reduce health damage caused by smoking the Phillip Morris Company challenged it in the High Court of Australia arguing that they will lose sales and profit. The High Court found in favour of the Commonwealth government stating that the government had the sovereign right to make laws protecting the health of its people.
So the company is now suing the government through an ISDS agreement. If successful it will FORCE our government to change its laws and pay a penalty for trying to protect the health of Australians. Every time we are being successfully sued by a foreign multinational company YOU and I will have to pay the bill through increased taxes.
There are already hundreds of these type of ISDS cases where multinational companies are suing countries for loss of profit. A large proportion of them are held in secret with neither the details of the case or the decisions of the tribunals being announced and there is NO APPEAL mechanism. The rulings of the secret tribunals are final and cannot be challenged.
The possibility of being sued is already stopping countries from making laws to protect the health of their own citizens. The UK and several other countries were going to introduce plain paper packages like in Australia but have suspended the laws pending the outcome of the Phillip Morris challenge to Australia.
WikiLeaks released draft text of the TPP Environment Chapter in early 2014, prompted WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange to state, “Today’s WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetener in the TPP is just media sugar water. The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism.”
Imagine now if the fossil fuel companies decide to use ISDS provisions in the TPP or its sister agreement the TTIP. They could make all counties involved pay for their loss of profits resulting from them having to leave their fossil fuels in the ground. It’s been estimated that the fossil fuel companies will lose at least $10 trillion if they have to leave 80% in the ground.
The world will NOT be able to afford to pay the bill and would have to let Global Warming run its course. The likely outcome will be a 6C rise in Global temperature by 2100, mass extinction of many species of animals and plants together with the probable demise of our civilisation.
The TPP and its ISDS provisions are an EXREMELY BAD IDEA for any country to agree to. The Australian Productivity Commission examined the TPP and came to the conclusion that there were NO benefits for Australians signing the TPP. The Howard Government refused to include the ISDS provisions in the US – Australia free trade agreement as there were no benefits for Australians.
The Canadians have been attacked 35 times for billions using ISDS clauses in their NAFTA agreement with the USA over mining pollution problems. What does it take to have common sense?
So is the Abbot government likely to sign the TPP with the ISDS provisions? Unfortunately the answer is likely to be YES. The course of action is quite clear we need to convince the Abbot government one way or another, NOT to sign the TPP without thorough public scrutiny and not at all with the ISDS provision.
The AFTINET and GETUP consumer organisation are running campaigns to get the government to reveal the contents of the TPP agreement BEFORE it is signed so Australians can see what they will be committed to. The multinationals drafting the TPP want Australia to sign BEFORE showing it to the people. That’s not democratic nor in our national interests.
GET INVOLVED – It’s your future and the future your children and grandchildren which WILL be adversely affected by the TPP. The time to act is NOW before it is too late.
You might also like to read TPP Part 1 Control of World Intellectual Property (IP)
Watch the GETUP video- ‘The TPP: The dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of.”
Watch this video in ISDS clause US-Europe TTIP agreement