Photo by Lock the Gate Alliance.
Recently, Lone Pine Resources, a Coal Seam Gas exploration company, incorporated in the US state of Delaware began legal proceedings to sue the Quebec Government for losses they incurred because of that Canadian Province’s moratorium on fracking. The moratorium was introduced because of concerns that the fracking process would contaminate aquifers, above-ground water and food and hence be a threat to public health.
This court action was made possible by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which allows foreign companies from the participating nations to sue governments for damages if they adopt laws or policies that could ‘harm’ their investment, even if the laws or policies are in the public interest. The proposal, called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement,’ or ISDS, essentially gives foreign corporations power to sue participating governments over laws affecting essential areas of public interest at local, state and national level.
By 2012, Governments within the NAFTA zone had paid over $700 million in compensation to companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemicals and Monsanto, because this international agreement over-rode the sovereign laws of the State in-question.
At the moment, The Federal Government is negotiating a massive free trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries including The US, Japan, Canada, several south east Asian countries and several South American nations. This Pact called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will incorporate the exact same provisions as the NAFTA agreement described above. It covers trade in all areas of goods and services including food and pharmaceuticals, financial services, intellectual property rights, copyrighting, IT, labour laws and mining.
This means that CSG explorer, Ignite Energy, (10 % owned by Exxon Mobil), which has extensive CSG exploration leases over much of Gippsland could potentially sue the Victorian Government for losses they incurred because of the fracking moratorium, which has been in place for two years now.
It seems incredible that the Abbott Government should be so eager to sign up for this loss of sovereignty and make it virtually impossible for our various levels of Australian Governments to pass laws that will protect citizens’ health, water and food from contamination from industries such as CSG. Particularly so, in the light of the less than spectacular results from previous Free Trade Agreements.
The ISDS provisions were rejected by the Gillard Government, but Mr Robb and the rest of the Abbott Government are forging ahead in secret. No public consultation. Even the nation’s senators will not be allowed access till after the agreement is signed. If the ISDS proposals are approved, then it will reduce the ability of Australian governments at all levels to pass laws in the best interests of us, the citizens.
A few years ago, those with Tea Party sentiments were decrying the fact that the United Nations was starting to override our sovereign interests. If the TPP is signed off, then it will be corporate America which is determining our laws. These companies are nothing like the UN which was set up for benevolent purposes.
Our best hope is that the Napthine Government pressures the Abbott Government to act in the best interests of Australian citizens. Not the best interests of the multinationals.
Dan Caffrey Greens candidate for Morwell