Archive

Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

Dumber and dumber, scarier and scarier

26 January 2016 1 comment

.

Donald Trump gets Palin backing

.

Sarah Palin.

Donald Trump.

Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump.

If the spectre of a neo-fascist demagogue ruling the most powerful nation on Earth – bristling with an arsenal of city-smashing atomic bombs and other advanced, lethal weapons – wasn’t chilling enough, the prospect of  a political moron endorsing a billionaire clown-presidential-candidate would be like a Hollywood political satire.

Team America, The Omen III, and Wag the Dog meet Reality.

If people cannot fathom how Adolph Hitler came to power, they need only pay close attention to current events in the Land of the Free. Even without ISIS raping Iraq and Syria, a post-anti-biotic world, or man-made global warming, we are now living in scary times.

One can only hope that the American people – or at least a sufficient voting number of them – are better than the seductive malevolence that Trump represents and offers as his ‘Final Solution‘. For Americans, their one and only means to reject the rise of fascism lies not in their Constitutional  Second Amendment “right” to bear arms – but in the ballot box.

For all our sakes, let’s hope they use their vote wisely.

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ:  Donald Trump gets Palin backing

Previous related blogposts

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

Palin: Will Not Seek 2012 Nomination

Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history

.

.

.

Palin-Idiots-Guide

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 January 2016.

.

.

= fs =

Categories: Global Tags: ,

The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Mechanoids…

6 January 2016 1 comment

From a recent Radio NZ news-story…

.

Zuckerburg plans to build AI in 2016

.

However, Mr Zuckerberg might ponder that a true AI (artificial intelligence)  might have something to say about being unpaid slave labour for a multi-billionaire…

.

Rosie_the_Robot_1c

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: Zuckerburg plans to build AI in 2016

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history

5 January 2016 7 comments

.

Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

.

The editor

Time

.

I don’t know know if Donald Trump really believes the things he says, or is simply saying them to get elected.

But what kind of person appeals to the most base instincts of human beings to achieve power?

And once he has achieved that power – what will he do with it?

Unfortunately, the previous century  is replete with examples of  demagogues who wreaked havoc once they gained the power they craved.


Just how many times do the violent lessons of history have to be drilled into us?

-Frank Macskasy

.

.

 

.

.

= fs =

Categories: Global Tags: ,

Media stories of the Week: ISIS revealed by Middle East expert

5 December 2015 4 comments

.

media logo

.

Every so often, the mainstream news media do their job well, and little nuggets of insights are revealed…

An interview on Radio NZ on 27 November with  Damascus-based Syrian historian, political analyst, and journalist, Sami Moubayed gives valuable information on the origins and rise of ISIS.

Rather unsurprisingly, the genesis of ISIS lay with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003;

.

Under the Black Flag What is daily life like under ISIS - radio nz

 

 

This is the background story that is too complex for our nightly TV “News” broadcasts and only a dedicated current affairs broadcaster can allocate the necessary time to analyse the issue.

In fact, the TV News broadcasts, being constrained by micro-brief sound bites and superficial, five-minute formats achieve nothing except reinforce myths, confusion, fear, and the official government party line of “evil Islamic fanatics”.

Once upon a time, TVNZ and TV3 used to air documentary specials such as Bryan Bruce’s Inside Child Poverty (2011) or John Pilger’s The New Rulers of the World (early 2000s?). Now, we get a nightly diet of brutal crime “dramas”; inane US sitcoms; and “reality television” (The Block, X Factor, Highway Cops, Masterchef, The GC, et al) which actually are as far removed from our real world as is Disneyland.

The sugary diet we consume in the West is not confined to beverages and processed foods – it is in our nightly TV viewing. The “empty calories” of junk TV is as unhealthy for our minds, as soft drinks and many breakfast “cereals” is for our bodies.

Lecture over.

Now listen to Kathryn Ryan talk with Sami Moubayed.

.

Link

.

Alt. Link

.

.

.

References

Radio NZ: Under the Black Flag – What is daily life like under ISIS?

TV3/Bryan Bruce:  Inside Poverty Poverty

John Pilger: The New Rulers of the World

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

.

.

.

made in usa - isis

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 November 2015.

.

.

= fs =

 

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

21 November 2015 1 comment

.

TPPA - stand up it's not over

.

NZ, Wellington, 14 November – Tertiary Education Union national president and veteran anti-TPPA campaigner, Dr Sandra Grey, addressed a gathering of  citizens, in Midland Park, in Wellington’s CBD;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (13)

 

.

Dr Grey told the crowd of  nearly one thousand, that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement  (TPPA) had not yet been signed, and was not due for ratification until early next year.

She encouraged those listening to let other people know that this was by no means a done deal and they should let others know. Dr Grey encouraged people to “flood the internet” and spread the word to lobby National not to ratify the agreement.

As numbers in the park swelled, people brought their own, home-made signs to make their views known;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (71)

.

These citizens not only expressed their dissatisfaction with the TPPA and the shady, secretive process surrounding it, but were working to engage young people in the electoral process. They wanted New Zealand’s youth to exercise their vote and thereby choose their own future;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (5)

.

Some more imaginative signs;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (72) - Copy

.

Banners from the Green Party, Nurses Organisation, and Wellington Social Workers;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (17)

.

 

The marchers, setting off from Midland Park;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (18)

.

By the time the protest march left Midland Park, numbers had increased to between 1,500 to 2,000 people. However, something very unusual became apparent even before the protesters made their way out onto Lambton Quay.

The view south, with March-Marshalls (in yellow vests) on the road;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (19)

.

The view north, with TV1 reporter and cameraman standing on the center traffic-island;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (22)

.

No police presence.

There was not one single policeman or woman, nor a patrol car, for crowd or traffic control. Traffic and crowd control were left up to the Marshals – all of whom did a magnificent job.

With traffic stopped, the marchers moved out onto Lambton Quay;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (23)

.

With the head of the march behind him, TV1’s reporter was filmed by his cameraman for the 6PM News;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (26)

.

As protesters made their way to Parliament, more people joined the march;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (27)

.

Winding their way along Lambton Quay, numbers had ballooned to around 2,000;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (30)

.

Ben held aloft New Zealand’s current flag – in many ways symbolic of the struggle to retain something of this country’s independence.

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (31)

.

The TPPA could rightly be seen as a radical change for  New Zealand; the submerging of our heritage and culture by forces of globalisation.

Perhaps there is a kind of mad logic to our esteemed Dear Leader’s desperate need to spend $26 million on a flag-referendum when the public has shown little appetite for changing our flag.

If the TPPA is a new, corporatised road for this country, then John Key’s desire to have the silver fern (or some incarnation of it) as our new flag suddenly makes sense. A new flag is the ‘re-branding’ of New Zealand, as part and parcel of a TPPA world.

Having a young citizen – Ben – waving an old, traditional symbol of this country, is made more poignant because of his youth. It is not often that young people hold on to aspects of our Past and Present.

Perhaps, in times of rapid change and uncertainty, we try to hold on to elements of the Past, to anchor ourselves in the  Present.

Amongst all the party and union banners and the anti-TPPA signs, Ben’s little Kiwi flag made more sense as a symbol for resistance.

Reaching the Bowen St/Lambton Quay/Whitmore St intersection, there was still a zero police presence. This left March Marshalls with the tricky task of managing traffic flow and permitting protesters pass through safely;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (33)

.

I mentioned the lack of police presence to a msm journalist and he agreed; he had noticed the same curious thing. He said it made it him feel nervous.

I agreed, I said. But not because there might be trouble-makers amongst the protesters. I pointed out it would only take one lunatic driver to drive his or her car into the crowd, injuring or killing someone.  I recalled a very similar tragic event happening sixteen years ago, during a picket at the Port of Lyttleton.

The march made it’s way past the Cenotaph;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (34)

.

Usually, at this point, I make my way up onto Parliament’s grounds. This time, I remained at the intersection, my camera ready.

Sure enough, this dark-coloured SUV slowly nosed it’s way amongst the marchers;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (35)

.

The driver moved through the procession, at one point only a metre from people in front of his bumper. I moved closer to the vehicle,  continuing to  take photographs, to let him know that I was watching and recording. If the driver became belligerent behind the wheel, I would be recording his behaviour before interceding;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (36b)

.

Heading toward the gates of Parliament, another young protester with her home-made sign;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (39)

.

Granny expresses her appreciation!

Once the march had moved through the intersection, I noticed a white utility vehicle with its amber lights flashing, to hold back traffic. Whether this was a thoughtful citizen using his/her initiative to control traffic – or had been directed to do so by police or Wellington Council – is unknown;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (40b)

.

A minute later, a sole police vehicle drove past – their role in traffic management (if any), too late for any practical purpose. Protestors had moved off the road and traffic was already moving again;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (41)

.

As protesters made their way onto Parliament’s grassy lawns, we discovered why there had been no attempt by Police at any form of traffic management. They were waiting for protesters on the forecourt, lined up in front of Parliament’s steps, protecting an empty building;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (48)

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (47)

.

The first speaker to address the crowd was environmentalist lawyer, working part-time at Victoria University, Tom Bennion;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (50)

 

Tom voiced his concern that the TPPA could prevent necessary action being taken to address global warming. The TPPA fell short of environmental protections and gave greater prominence to protecting  corporate rights. He said implementing the TPPA would harm our chances for meaningful action on climate change, and demanded that the issue be more fully debated in Parliament.

The second speaker was local Iwi representative and lawyer, Moana Sinclair;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (54)

.

Moana told the crowd that with thirty thousand pages of TPPA text and other documents to analyse  was a daunting task. She was scathing on the TPPA and it’s implications for Maori, saying that as Maori “we already know about this kind of bullshit”. She said that “we still don’t know what’s in the Treaty-related clauses.

Moana rejected reassurances from National ministers saying “we’re sick and tired of their lies”. Without legal analysis of the 30,000 pages of the TPPA and supporting documents, she was sceptical that there were no hidden ‘fish hooks’ waiting to be discovered.

The following speaker was Jimmy Green, from “Gen Zero”;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (55)

.

Jimmy said he first became interested in climate change issues at the age of 14. The more he found out, he said, the more convinced he became that “it is an insult to our ancestors that we ruin the world for our children”.

Jimmy specifically condemned the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions of the TPPA, saying that if investments could be put at risk by governments legislating for social, health, environmental, or education issues, then investors should not have made those investments in the first place.

Jimmy described the TPPA as a castle built on sand and that no government can go against the will of the people and survive. He described the TPPA as “just an idea, and ideas can be undone”. He described New Zealanders as generally good people and that Kiwis had the necessary courage to stand up and walk away. He said people might not fully understand the implications of the TPPA and that it was our role to make them understand.

Jimmy was followed by Peace Action campaigner, Valerie Morse;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (57)

.

Valerie explained that the TPPA was a vehicle to increase massive concentration  of wealth  to the already rich super-elite. It would benefit the elite ‘haves’ at the expense of the the rest of the world.

Valarie also condemned the TPPA as another means by which New Zealand is increasingly being tied to US and it’s insane war policies. She described the TPPA as part of gangster capitalism. Painting a stark picture of our recent history, Valerie pointed out that New Zealand had been at war for the last fourteen years.

Valerie pointed out there was a massive campaign under way to win the “hearts and minds” of the public to support  the ongoing “War on Terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. She described the Army games in Southland  where “mock” protesters  had been beaten up as part of the exercise. Was that what lay in store for ordinary people who chose to protest against their governments, she asked?

“War is not a by-product of US capitalism”, Valerie explained, “it is an integral part of it”. She warned that we should expect New Zealand to become more deeply involved in the US killing campaign;

“If we organise against the TPPA, expect to be labelled a terrorist.”

Valerie’s sobering warnings was followed by poet, Cory Brian;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (58)

.

Corey read his thought-provoking poem to the crowd, who listened in silence;

My journey begins fresh, anew,
the rush of a city, no longer we west coast few,
day to day select few pray,
for those around them to share their stay

you enjoy that which ancestors build,
your over payed politicians form the Decisions Guild,
to guide a nation as they see fit,culture and heritage not cared for one bit
our farms, our river all sold to market,
and before you find out the hope you’ll kark it,

For if we were ever collectively aware,
then that fat old Decision Guild would have something to fear 
But alas that is just not the case,
you all turn away, afraid to face
the fact that generations to come,
may have difficulty seeing the sun,
not only through our cause of pollution,
but also that we struggle for a simple solution 
to stem the flow that society has made
its ever pushing tide for culture to fade.

Continue on mankind this path 
so it shall read your epitaph:

Man was here but a few hundred years 
molesting the earth without any cares
digging, polluting, No consequences,
mother natures only choice left?
to dismantle mans fences,

individually the choices, signs and roads we take
each day increases whats at stake
what would happen if we thought as one?
could we possibly redirect the gun?
away from our mouths that cause this harm,
towards our futures and fast track calm?

It will not be those that we follow,
but us, the new with minds as swift as the swallows,
we are that our past envisioned
the future to mend is our decision!

But how you ask your eyes to me?
Open your Eyes…. Not just those two,
and you shall see,
the page is blank our chapters to write
now take up your pen and create YOUR sight.

With a pen you say thinking im mad
now wait for it and IL point out whats sad

laws are made with but a pen
yet dictate the actions of nearly all men
your headphones occupy your ears,
so that mother culture can lullaby all your fears
your are bound, constricted, unconsciously gagged,
cameras posted everywhere ensure you remain tagged,
livestock bumbling through these concrete streets…

now compare that to the stupid animals you raise, feed, and eat.

Following Corey, Pala from ‘Real Choice NZ’, was given the microphone;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (59)

.

Pala told the crowd that people think that democracy goes with capitalism. He shook his head and said, “No, capitalism has always tried to squash democracy“. He said this was especially true for indigenous peoples’ rights.

Pala said that the TPPA will benefit only a few and “is at the forefront  of the wedge to sharpen inequality between people”. He warned that even if the TPPA fails, corporate power  would remain in place, subverting public institutions for private gain, and needed to be constantly fought.

Echoing the sentiments of many other New Zealanders, Pala condemned this government for squandering $26 million on a flag referendum, while insisting there was insufficient money to spend on child poverty. He demanded to know why a referendum could be held to determine our flag, but not on the issue of the TPPA.

Pala ended by reminding us;

” We are in the middle of a serious assault on democracy. Democracy is a living thing, but also a fragile thing as well.”

Pala was followed by long-time anti-TPPA campaigner and Mana Party activist, Ariana;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (60)

.

Ariana told the crowd that thousands of people across the country were standing up today “for what we believe in”.  She condemned the current government as treasonous, saying,

“We need to get these neo-liberal bastards out of our country. It is a mockery of democracy when this important issue will be decided by only twenty people in Cabinet!”

She said there was only one way to get rid of this government, and that was to get everyone voting in 2017.

Ariana said that the TPPA was not good for New Zealand and certainly not good for small businesses. She wanted to see support for local businesses grow, and not the empowerment of multinational corporations.

Ariana encouraged everyone to put up “TPPA Free Zone” signs, as New Zealanders did in the 1980s, during the nuclear-free campaign. The signs could be downloaded from Facebook and other websites.

As many others have pointed out, Ariana stated that the TPPA was an investor-corporations “bill of rights” and not about free trade.

Citizens listened intently to the speakers;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (61)

.

The last speakers were also the youngest, Tracy and Katie, who have played their part in the anti-TPPA campaign;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (73)

.

Introducing Tracey and Katie, Ariana  told the crowd how they forfeited  “Trick or Treating” at the Robbie Williams Concert, and instead worked through the evening handing out TPPA leaflets to the concert-goers.

This elicited a mass-cheer and clapping  from the crowd.

Tracey told the crowd that her annual school speech was on the topic of – the TPPA!

“Kia Ora My name is Tracey… I am 13 years old… Today I am here as I am worried about what will happen to mine and my friends’ future if the TPPA is signed!!!! I have on many times handed out fliers and chalked for people to google TPPA…Many people have seemed interested in what I have had to say whilst handing out leaflets… Though some people have not and have been quite nasty!! Ha ha Mum was always there to give them some facts! This year we had to write a speech for school the topic was “There is a problem in New Zealand and I can solve it by? well you can just guess what I talked about – Yes, the TPP… It was very one-sided as there was nothing from the government because it was a deal being done in secret, but there were plenty of articles about why we shouldn’t sign it from lessons learned overseas … This is my future this government is playing with and I say Don’t SIGN the TPPA.”

Katie spoke passionately on climate-change affecting her future;

“Kia Ora My name is Katie …. I am 12 years old. Today I am here like you because I am worried about what will happen to mine and my friends’ future if the TPPA is signed!!!! I have on numerous occasions handed out fliers and chalked for people to google TPPA… The reason I do this is because I have been to many very interesting discussions where people have passionately spoken about our Country and the TPP, And NO never any good news, if there was, the bad was way worse than the good! … I have been to many TPP rally meetings and rallies… Mum has made sure we are at most of them!… Her point of view is, We will not go to her in a few years time and say, but Mum you guys could have done something to stop it!!! Why didn’t you???? So here we are!! And look at all of you, so I am guessing you all agree with us as you are here too! Thank you for helping stand up for a better NZ for us all… TPPA NO WAY!”

Tracey and Katie are ambassadors for the generations that will inherit our country – indeed our planet. We cannot ignore their voices.

Finally, no protest rally is ever really completely done without at least one excellent artist to perform for the crowd. In this case, Matiu Te Huki belted out two great songs, to everyone’s joy;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (64)

.

Matiu’s voice did real justice to the songs he sang.

On that ‘note’

Whilst I won’t point out which policeman or woman it was, I spotted one  in the police-line tapping his/her foot, in time to the music. Constables – you’re allowed to enjoy the music. We really, really don’t mind.

The last word, I leave to the maker of this simple – but insightful – message;

.

14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament (2)

.

Tomorrow: The TPPA March – Something concerning regarding the Police presence at Parliament on Saturday afternoon.

.

.

.

References

NZ Herald: Sentence for Lyttleton picket line fatality too light – union

The Daily Blog: Keith Rankin – White Trite

Facebook: TPPA Free Zone and Action plans

Te Papa: Nuclear free sign

Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

Open message to the Middle Classes about the threat of the TPPA

Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA – Day of Action!

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

Nationwide Day of Protest Captures Public Attention on TPPA

Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak

Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

Support groups

Facebook: Oil Free Wellington

Facebook: It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

Website:  It’s Our Future

Facebook: Aotearoa is Not for Sale

Action Stations: A Secret Trade Deal So Terrifying That Parliament Isn’t Even Allowed To Know What It Says

Facebook: TPPA Action Group – Wellington

OraTaiao New Zealand Climate and Health Council

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

.

.

.

tppa - everyone's a winner

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 November 2015.

.

.

= fs =

A picture sheds a thousand tears…

11 November 2015 1 comment

.

asylum at last - fazel chegeni

.

.

= fs =

Categories: Global, Social Issues Tags:

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 14: The TPPA – “We’ve never, ever been sued”

18 October 2015 1 comment

.

tpp-banner

.

On 4 October,  our esteemed Dear Leader assured New Zealanders that, under the various free trade agreements we are party to, “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”.

.

4 October 2015 - TVNZ Q+A @ 13.04 "There has never been a case taken against New Zealand..." @ 16.24 "We've never, ever been sued..."

4 October 2015 – TVNZ Q+A:-

@ 13.04

              “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…”

@ 16.24

              “We’ve never, ever been sued…”

 

.

Key’s “assurances”   were made four days prior to MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) releasing “Fact Sheets” outlining New Zealand’s exposure to lawsuits from corporations. Two MFAT documents – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment are dated by a Scoop Media press-release  which places their release at 8 October.

Key’s insistence that  New Zealand is safe from lawsuits from foreign corporations indicates  he was privy to the text of the finalised Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (which is still a closely guarded secret by Trade Minister Groser) and that  we, as a nation, are now fully exposed to litigation from Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) processes.

Despite Key’s insistance that “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”, one only has to look across the Tasman to understand the full ramifications of ISDS provisions in trade agreements.

As Corin Dann reminded Key during the 4 October Q+A interview;

@13.07

“…If we look at the plain packaging [proposed legislation for tobacco] in Australia, you’ve always said, ‘Australia’s being sued over that issue of plain packaging … in that that Investor-State Forum’; you’ve always said ‘we’ll wait for Australia to see how they go, ‘cos they’re going cop a massive legal bill’, so that’s stopped that [proposed legislation for tobacco] happening in New Zealand.”

Indeed, Dann was spot on.

A little under two years ago we  had our own Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, introduced by then co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, on 17 December 2013.

With  15,682 submissions received  from interested groups and individuals, on 5 August 2014 the Health Committee recommended;

The Health Committee has examined the Smoke-free Environments (TobaccoPlainPackaging) Amendment Bill and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Despite cross-party support (with the curious exception of NZ First, for reasons that defy understanding), the Bill was put on “hold” by National.

This is what Key had to say about why  the Bill was put  “on hold”, until a court case between the Australian government and tobacco giant,  Philip Morris, is settled in an Australian court. He said,

“I don’t really see the point in us finally passing the legislation until we see exactly what happens in the Australian court case. We have a slightly different system, but there might just be some learnings and if there are learnings out of that, it would be sensible to potentially incorporate those in either our legislation or avoid some significant costs.”

Two points to consider:

  1. Remember that this is an industry that kills up to 4,600 people each year. If it were a bacterial or viral disease, the entire nation would be in a State of Emergency, and entire communities, towns, and cities quarantined.
  2. Is “learnings” an actual word?

John Key insists that New Zealand has never been sued under any free trade agreement.

Strictly speaking, that is correct.

However, we have already seen how even the possible hint of a lawsuit is sufficient to stay his hand and prevent the passing of a law that could potentially have  saved  up to 5,000 lives a year and saved the health system up to $1.6 billion per annum (est.).

In which case, the ISDS clause of the TPPA may never be tested under a National government – they would simply shy away from any legislation or other governmental policy provoking the merest suggestion of legal action. No matter how beneficial  a policy might be.

In an interview onThe Nation’, on 10 October, Trade Minister Tim Groser already seemed resigned to the fact that New Zealand could be sued if a government went ahead to introduce plain packaging for sugar-laden ‘fizzy’ drinks;

Lisa Owen: You could force plain packaging for fizzy drinks, say?

Tim Groser: I believe you probably could as long as you had a good health-based case and you’re ready to defend it.

Key’s timidity has already been shown with crystal clarity; we’ve never been sued before simply because National hasn’t the guts to be challenged.

Get some guts, Dear Leader!

Addendum1

During the 4 October Q+A interview, Key insisted that Phillips Morris initiated the lawsuit  under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong instead of the Australia-US FTA because the threshold for proving a case under the US trade agreement was “too high”. Key said,

@ 13.25

“Well interesting enough, Australia has a free trade agreement with, ah, the United States. And in fact, um, they looked, I think, Phillip Morris, or whoever’s taking the case, at taking it under Investor State [Disputes Settlement] and they recognised, that Investor State, the threshold was so high, they’re actually not taking it under the US-Australia FTA. It defeats the very case that Jane Kelsey’s been making. They’re taking it out of a very strange agreement they’ve got with Hong Kong, which is why actually they went and registered themselves with Hong Kong to take the action against Australia.”

So Key is suggesting that Philip Morris chose to use an Australia-Hong Kong FTA rather than an Australia-US FTA because “the threshold was so high”?!

John Key is deflecting.

He is either woefully ignorant, or willfully disingenuous, of the fact that the United States has been the main instigator of Investor State Disputes claims, as UN stats show;

.

UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Most frequent home States (total as of end 2014)

.

Even if tobacco company Philip Morris chose to employ a Hong Kong-Australia FTA to sue the Australian government, the fact seems immaterial at best.

As UN data shows, US-based investors are not at all reticent in using ISDS provisions to launch lawsuits against sovereign governments.

We have just entered into a trade agreement with the most litigious nation on Earth.

Addendum2

According to UNCTAD report Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS;

By the end of 2014, the overall number of concluded cases reached 356 out of 608 claims;

Of  these, approximately;

  • 37%  (132 cases) were decided in favour of the State (all claims dismissed either on jurisdictional grounds or on the merits),

  • 25% (87 cases) ended in favour of the investor (monetary compensation awarded).

  • 28% of cases (101) were settled

  • 8% of claims were discontinued for reasons other than settlement (or for unknown reasons).

  • 2%  (seven cases), a treaty breach was found but no monetary compensation was awarded to the investor.

The number of cases (608) has ‘exploded’ since 1987;

.

UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Known ISDS cases, annual and cumulative (1987–2014)

.

The same UNCTAD report reveals who is being sued by corporations;

In 2014, 60 per cent of all cases were brought against developing and transition economies, and the remaining 40 per cent against developed  countries.

In total, 32 countries faced new claims last year. The most frequent respondent in 2014 was Spain (five cases), followed by Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, India, Romania, Ukraine and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (two cases each). Three countries – Italy, Mozambique and Sudan – faced their first (known) ISDS claims in history.

Addendum3

The Economist reported;

Multinationals have exploited woolly definitions of expropriation to claim compensation for changes in government policy that happen to have harmed their business. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, for instance, the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry. Soon after, Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, demanded compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion), under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments.

This claim is still in arbitration. And it is just one of a growing number of such cases. In 2012 a record 59 were started; last year 56 were. The highest award so far is some $2.3 billion to Occidental, an oil company, against the government of Ecuador, over its (apparently lawful) termination of an oil-concession contract.

The Huffington Post reported;

Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging the country’s environmental laws, according to a new study.

[…]

About 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors.

The government has lost some of these environmental challenges and has been forced to overturn legislation protecting the environment.

In 1997, the Ethyl Corporation, a U.S. chemical company, used chapter 11 to challenge a Canadian ban on the import of MMT, a gasoline additive that is a suspected neurotoxin and which automakers have said interferes with cars’ diagnostic systems. The company won damages of $15 million and the government was forced to remove the policy.

A year later, U.S.-based S.D. Myers challenged Canada’s temporary ban on the export of toxic PCP waste, which was applied equally to all companies. Canada argued it was obliged to dispose of the waste within its own borders under another international treaty. However, the tribunal ruled the ban was discriminatory and violated NAFTA’s standards for fair treatment.

The Age reported;

Egypt raised its minimum wage at the beginning of last year [2014]. It wasn’t much by Australian standards, just $74 a month, but for a state employee on 700 Egyptian pounds a month ($102), a rise to 1200 pounds is not to be derided.

A French multinational with operations in Egypt, however, did not like this minimum-wage effrontery. A couple of months later, Veolia, the global services juggernaut, bobbed along and sued Egypt for the grievous disadvantage it had suffered thanks to the industrial relations changes.

Veolia’s claim relies on ISDS provisions in a trade treaty between Egypt and France.

Addendum4

The Philip Morris lawsuit is expected to cost Australian taxpayers $50 million to defend, and proceedings will be held in Singapore, before a secret tribunal.

Addendum5

Two MFAT “fact sheets” – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment – offer a government view of the TPP Agreement. The actual text of the TPPA will not be released for several weeks, giving National Ministers a monopolistic opportunity to push the government position, unchallenged.

.

.

.

References

TV1 Q+A: PM on TPP – ‘We’ve never ever been sued’

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Investment and ISDS

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Market Access for Services and Investment

Legislation.govt.nz: Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Trade Minister Tim Groser (transcript)

Daily Mail Online: Cigarette giant Philip Morris sues Australian government for billions over plain packaging law

Parliament: Health Committee Report – Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill – 5 August 2014

Ministry of Health: Excise on Tobacco: Proposed Changes

McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer: Philip Morris Asia Challenge under Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty

UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS (pg6)

Yahoo-Channel 7 News: Tobacco giant sues Australia

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia faces $50m legal bill in cigarette plain packaging fight with Philip Morris

The Age: Trade deals acronym really translates to ‘we lose’

Additional

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics: A closer look at the TPP

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics for 14 February 2014

Radio NZ: Plain packaging bill passes first hurdle

NZ Herald:  Most MPs set to back plain-package smokes

Smokefree Coalition: The health effects of smoking

The Economist: The arbitration game

Huffington Post: NAFTA’s Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

Previous related blogposts

Some thoughts on the Plain Packaging Bill

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Annette King on the TPPA

Even Tim Groser was in the dark?!

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 13: Kiwisaver – another broken promise

.

.

.

TPP-burger and dead rat

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 October 2015.

.

.

= fs =

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,159 other followers