Australian Greens

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at
Fri Sep 20 18:51:36 MDT 2002

Following is an extract from the first speech of recently elected Greens
Senator Kerry Nettle to the Australian Parliament.

Steve Painter

Kerry Nettle's speech:

The ecological vandalism that is inherent in our current land clearing
patterns is part of a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly familiar to
all of us. It is part of the economic fundamentalism that has blighted much
of Australian society and rages now at a global level through the
destructive policies of the World Trade Organisation, the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Again, it is the tireless work of community activists who are attempting to
halt this ever increasing drive towards the corporate free-for-all that has
misleadingly been dubbed globalisation. This process is, in fact, not
globalisation but centralisation - the centralisation of power into the
hands of a small group of corporate elites. There is nothing inherently
global about this transfer of economic and cultural power.

A diverse multitude of people have taken to the streets to raise their
voices against this corporate takeover, and they look on as vitally
important decisions are taken out of the hands of representative,
democratically elected parliaments and placed into the hands of
unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats and CEOs of transnational corporations.

Many people are outraged about this loss of democratic control over
decisions that affect their lives. This is an issue about which parliament
should be ecstatic. People are actually jumping up and down about the
importance of parliament and yet our legislatures are complicit in the
silencing of the electors voice.

The rise of corporate globalisation is the greatest threat to our current
democratic systems, and the increasing role of corporations in our
governments and our democratic institutions amounts to nothing less than a
creeping coup detat.

At the moment on the horizon sits the General Agreement on Trade in
Services. The neo-liberal ideologues have repackaged and expanded the
Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was defeated by community
pressure in 1998. The new brand name is General Agreement on Trade in
Services. It is back on the international trade negotiating table, to which
you and I are not invited.

The Greens are a part of that same international community movement that
defeated the MAI in 1998 and we are back preparing to defeat those same
ideas as they appear in the General Agreement on Trade in Services. GATS is
a treaty which seeks to bind national governments to deregulating and
privatising their public services.

Public ownership has historically proven to be the only way to ensure that
essential services are provided to all citizens in an equitable way. This is
done by providing the service on the basis of social need rather than trying
to pursue private profits. The Greens recognise that the seemingly endless
pursuit of privatisation is a form of social theft on a grand scale, with
the transferring of wealth from the citizen to the already rich.

Decisions that are made on trade issues have a very real effect on people's
everyday lives. Yet this government continues to shroud these decisions in
secrecy. The Australian government is going to the next round of
negotiations at the World Trade Organisation behind an absolute veil of
secrecy. It will not allow this parliament or the Australian people to know
which of our public services it intends to trade away. Final decisions that
affect our basic services will be made in the cabinet room or perhaps in the
corporate boxes - but not in this parliament.

We already know that the government intends to sacrifice Telstra at enormous
cost to the bush. And from leaked EU documents we know that it is under
pressure to trade away Australia Post and our water services. But we do not
know at the moment whether health and education are also at the top of the
government's hit list. We know that this government favours private
education and private health over the provision of these public services,
but does this government intend to make public funding of schools and
hospitals effectively illegal by labelling it as an unfair subsidy under WTO
trade rules?

GATS is designed also to remove the rights of nation states to set
environmental, labour, local content or human rights standards. This will
lead us to a situation where it becomes impossible for Australia not to
accept an international nuclear waste dump.

Australia has the opportunity to take a progressive role, to show some
leadership and some courage as a responsible global citizen not only on
trade issues but also in relation to international conflicts. Right now,
more than at any time in our recent history, it is vitally important that we
speak out in the name of peace and that we articulate a message of true
global justice that is based on equity and not on power.

It is nearly a year since we were all horrified by the attacks on Washington
and New York. The time immediately after September 11 could have been, and
still can be, an opportunity to reflect calmly and rationally on the reasons
behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre. We need an international
effort that recognises the growing inequities between the haves and the
have-nots of this world and then seeks to redress these imbalances. Instead,
we have seen an arrogant unilateralism from the United States through their
so-called war on terrorism and the response of the Australian government has
been sycophantic. In trying to out-swagger the cowboys in Washington, we
have only succeeded in making ourselves look foolish at a time when we could
have and should have been a calming voice in our allies' ear.

A war on Iraq cannot be justified. The hypocrisies and the inconsistencies
of such an aggressive policy are obvious for all to see. We do not live in
George Bush's comic book world of goodies and baddies. Trading with
oppressive regimes is commonplace, and more weapons of mass destruction are
developed and held illegally in Western countries than in any axis of evil.
A war would also be blatantly naive in a political sense. It would be
tantamount to throwing a Molotov cocktail into the Middle East peace

On a practical level, armed intervention simply will not achieve its stated
aim of establishing democracy, and it is even more unlikely to achieve its
strategic aim of ensuring total US dominance in the region. It is certainly
not going to win any peace, love and freedom for the people of the US or the
people of Iraq.

A war on Iraq would be illegal under international law; it would also be
blatantly inhumane. The Greens will continue to fight any extension of this
so-called war on terrorism. We recognise that we need a program for peace,
not a rush to war. The first step in this program for peace is for John
Howard, Alexander Downer and George Bush to step back from their
warmongering rhetoric. There is a place for weapons inspections in all
countries that develop weapons of mass destruction, but there will be no
lasting solution in Iraq or similar countries until we restore their dignity
and their autonomy so that their people can pursue democracy and prosperity
like any other nation.

The Iraqi people must be given back not only the right but also the capacity
to decide their own rulers, without intervention from the United States, who
firstly armed and supported Saddam Hussein and who are now only interested
in controlling oil supplies, not in achieving democracy in Iraq. We need an
international effort to rebuild Iraqi society and infrastructure, which was
deliberately destroyed to undermine the civilian population. Sanctions that
have caused immeasurable suffering must be lifted. Peaceful solutions will
always seem more complex than a simple attack, but it is only through
peaceful solutions that we can achieve long-term success.

Of course, these solutions do not apply only to Iraq. It is our
responsibility to address the appalling inequalities wherever they occur
around the world, and the way to do so is through support for local
communities and their organisations so that they can determine their visions
of democracy for their country.

I had the honour recently of meeting a 24-year-old Afghan woman by the name
of Tahmina. Tahmina and her organisation travel around the world speaking
about the need to liberate the women of Afghanistan. They have the solutions
to the problems that affect their everyday lives. They suggest a range of
measures, including ending the international financing of fundamentalist
schools on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I have not met the Tahminas of Iraq, but these are the voices that we should
be listening to in the current debate - the local voices that have the
solutions to the problems in their community.

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