Elder care in New Zealand - the relevant dichotomy

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor released Caring Counts, a hard hitting report on elder care in New Zealand, yesterday.  An elegant summation of the situation created where the interest of business trump the interest of the community.

Makes the 1% vs. the 99% 
dichotomy quite relevant ah 

Human Rights Commission Web

Download the Report

Some of the coverage 

Living Wage Campaign

Helen Kelly speaks at the launch of the 

Living Wage Campaign 

Visit the Campaign webpage

The Enviro Disaster You Know Nothing About:

The Eco-Devastating Quest for "Frac Sand" in Rural America

Midwestern rural communities are being devastated by energy companies searching for a form of sand to use in their destructive fracking operations elsewhere in rural America.

Read the article at AlterNet

Calls to drop the "Investor-State" provisions in the TPPA

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Ted Thomas is one of more than 60 New Zealand jurists to sign an open letter to the negotiators of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks calling for them to drop "investor-state" provisions which allow companies to sue governments directly over alleged breaches.

Radio NZ National ~> Nine to Noon Interview

Global Crises, Regional Solutions

In this video, activists from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe argue that regional integration is the only viable response to the current economic, climate, food and energy crises.

Interactive transcript available (only from youtube site)! Click on the icon to be able to read the transcript while watching.

Introduction (animation) 0:00'
1 - Why are the regions relevant in a context of global crises? 1:37'
* No country can face the crises on its own 1:52'
* Regional Integration: Breaking the dependence from global markets 4:44'
* Alternative Regional integration: towards a different development model 6:48'
* People-Centred regional integration: much more than economic cooperation 12:08'
2 -- What issues are best dealt with at regional level? 16:24'
3 --Reclaiming the regions: the role of social actors. 21:04'
Credits 25:22'

Global Corporations Undermining Democracy Worldwide


In a world where governments are increasingly subservient to global finance capital, multinationals are gaining ground in the fight against state regulations that aim to protect the environment, public health or social policies.

According to the most recent data released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the number of lawsuits brought against governments by companies evoking clauses in bilateral investment treaties (BITs) was 450 at the end of 2011.

These are only the known cases; most are kept secret.

In the many instances in which these lawsuits have been successful, governments have been made to pay fines amounting to tens, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars or euros.

The highly controversial BITs – which establish the conditions for investment by companies of one country in another state – have handed multinational corporations an arsenal of clauses with which to fight state regulations against harmful investment.

In 2011, Argentina held the record of known cases (51), followed by Venezuela (25), Ecuador (23) and Mexico. Most of the claims against Argentina are related to the 2011 financial crisis and many to the privatisation of water. In total, Buenos Aires has been fined more than one billion dollars by multinational corporations.

Last year, Ecuador was forced to pay fines of 78 million dollars to the United States’ oil company Chevron, which claims that the country’s efforts to protect the Amazon from pollution have negatively affected business.

This year, Argentina may face a new case, after the government moved to regain state control over the country’s biggest oil firm, which had been owned by the private Spanish oil company Repsol for many years.

According to UNCTAD, the year 2011 saw 40 percent of cases decided in favour of states and 30 percent in favour of investors, while the remaining 30 percent resulted in settlements.

Ironically, BITs allow companies to sue governments but not vice versa.

In December 2011, for instance, the Stockholm-based Vattenfall threatened to sue Germany for the federal government’s decision, in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe, to phase out nuclear energy by 2022.

The Swedish nuclear company was poised to rake in compensation amounting to more than a billion euros. Evoking the Energy Charter Treaty – a multilateral agreement that protects investment in the energy sector – Vattenfall first tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the federal government to accommodate its requests.

The deadline for peaceful dispute settlement expired last March and now Vattenfall could sue the government at any time.
"governments are increasingly subservient to global finance capital"

"Germany has around 130 BITs that could potentially severely restrain its environmental policy," Nathalie Bernasconi, of the Geneva-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), told IPS.

"Foreign investors may challenge, in an international arbitration process, any change in law and policy to protect the environment and public health, to promote social or cultural goals, or to grapple with financial or economic crises. However, it is impossible to predict the outcome with any precision because each will depend in large part on the composition of the arbitral tribunal deciding the case, which consists of three highly-paid individuals, typically specialised in commercial rather than public law."

It is the second time that Vattenfall has attacked Germany on environmental charges. In 2009, it challenged the standards set out in an environmental permit required for the operation of its coal-fired power plant situated on the river Elbe, which runs through Hamburg.

Claiming that the regulations – aimed at limiting the increase in water temperatures caused by the plant’s operations – were too strict, the company brought the case to an arbitral tribunal at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

In order to settle, Germany agreed to change the conditions under which the permit was delivered and the case was dropped.

"A legal analysis by a German law firm commissioned by Greenpeace confirms that the environmental standards in the permit were diluted in a way that was probably not required under German law. It is a typical case where a government... (has) abandon legislation or standards it originally planned to adopt out of fear of being sued or condemned in an international procedure," Bernasconi commented.

Another emblematic example of the power corporations wield over governments is the case brought by Philip Morris International against Uruguay and Australia under BITs the countries had signed with Switzerland and Hong Kong respectively.

The U.S. tobacco giant is using these treaties to challenge new legislation concerning the health warnings and advertising on cigarette packages - even though the regulations are in compliance with and encouraged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control.

According to Veijo Heiskanen, a specialist in international arbitration at Lalive law firm in Geneva, "From the 1960s to the 1970, states had a direct role in economies. With the privatisation (wave) of the 1990s, this direct role was replaced by regulation."

This led to questions about whether the implementation of these regulations was adversely affecting investors, particularly foreign ones, which is often the case.

While investor protection was initially necessary to regulate government measures like nationalisation, the trend now seems to be leaning heavily on corporations challenging these regulations.

For example, in the late 1990s, Mexico was fined 16.7 million dollars for forbidding the U.S.-based company Metalclad from dumping toxic waste in the Guadalcazar County in the northern part of the north-central state of San Luis Potosí.

"The real question is whether (BITs) regulations are appropriate and states should seek (sound) legal advice to make sure that they are in compliance with international standards," stressed Heiskanen. "These disputes are politically sensitive because there are (millions of dollars) at stake."

Prior to paying fines to Chevron last year, Ecuador was sentenced to the payment of 700 million dollars back in 2010. That same year the Swiss cement supplier Holcim obtained 650 million dollars from Venezuela, when the country nationalised cement production.

All experts are agreed that legislation and regulations need to find a better equilibrium so that they cannot be exploited by states or investors.

"Investment protection treaties must be modernised to strike a better balance between investors’ and states rights," Bernasconi concluded. "The old model doesn’t work anymore."
Philip Morris International: 'using these treaties to challenge  health warnings and advertising on cigarette packages'
States and citizens alike have become extremely mistrustful of the dispute settlement process. "The commercial arbitration model on which investment arbitration is built is just not adequate for resolving sensitive issues of public policy," she added.

"A lack of transparency, unpredictability and conflicts of interest have simply become unacceptable. This discontent has led countries like Australia to disfavor investor-state dispute settlement entirely and others to terminate their investment treaties.

"Watching these developments, countries like Brazil, which never ratified any of its investment treaties, must count themselves lucky," she added.

By Isolda Agazzi Inter Press Service via Countercurrent 

Dunne deaf to cries of asset sales protesters

Protest cries rang out across Johnsonville this morning as anti-asset sales groups marched through the streets.

People’s Power Ohariu, which was formed to oppose MP Peter Dunne’s vote in favour of the sales, joined forces with the hikoi that has been marching throughout the North Island.

The hikoi is protesting against a range of issues, including deep sea oil drilling and the selling of Crafar farms.

The protesters, holding placards proclaiming ‘Aotearoa is not for sale’, met in the car park of Johnsonville Mall.

They marched down the main road, before ending up outside Peter Dunne’s office.

The focus on the Ohariu MP is the result of his parliamentary vote in favour of the sales, which protesters claimed he did not have the mandate to do.

If Mr Dunne were to change his vote, the sales could not go ahead.

The protesters who delivered impassioned speeches outside Mr Dunne’s office made their feelings towards his actions clear.

“If you really love this land, if you really care about people in this land, then I appeal to your intelligence and your conscience. I think you should really say no,” said Frances Kuo of People’s Power Ohariu, to shouts of agreement from other protesters.

However, Mr Dunne has repeatedly refused to discuss the sales with those opposing them.

In an email to Richard Goldsbrough, the Ohariu Citizens Select Committee spokesperson, Mr Dunne made it clear that it was unnecessary to discuss the matter in person.

“As our respective positions on this issue are well-known, and not going to change, I see little value or point in a meeting, and therefore decline your request,” the email reads.

The protesters plan to meet again for a march from Te Papa to Parliament at 12pm today.

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