9th April, 2014
In its submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, which is charged with investigating the proposed ‘Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014, AFSA issues a challenge to our country’s politicians: whose interests do you really represent?
The current Federal government is considering the inclusion of an ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) clause in the corporate-friendly Transpacific Partnership, which participating nations hope to conclude this year. Such a clause is a direct threat to our democracy and sovereignty, as it entitles multinational corporations to sue governments for damages if they take social and environmental measures to benefit their own people and countries, but which might impact on corporate profits.
Here is an excerpt from our submission:
“Since the global embrace of liberalised trade in agriculture and food products, the global community has seen a rapid increase in morbidity and mortality associated with dietary-related ill-health. The pursuit of ‘growth at all costs’ comes with a high price, and Australians – and people everywhere – are paying it through decreased quality of life, higher levels of waste and pollution, and a severely degraded environment and destabilised climate. On the other side of the equation, global levels of hunger and malnutrition remain stubbornly high, and there is next to no prospect of meeting even the cautious Millennium Development Goals agreed to 15 years ago.
The reason? Because the global food system is structured primarily to meet the profit needs of transnational corporations, not the food needs of people. Until this basic reality is acknowledged and addressed, all our major challenges – hunger, obesity, poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss – will get worse, not better.
For politicians, it is fundamentally a challenge of your commitment to democratic principles. Who do you represent and whose interests do you serve? To whom are you accountable? What kind of legacy, what kind of country – and what kind of world – do you want to leave your children and grandchildren?
In particular, we want to know whether, in the case of any of the ‘free trade’ agreements to which Australia is a signatory, there has been a comprehensive, independent and scientifically rigorous cost-benefit analysis? How do these free trade agreements relate to and impact on our binding international treaty obligations, in respect of the promotion and observance of basic human rights, as well as our binding commitments to tackle climate change effectively?
We remind you that Australia has signed and ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This binding Covenant contains, amongst many other fundamental rights, the right to adequate food. We urge you to study closely the work of the world’s foremost expert on the Right to Food, UN Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter, and in particular his final report where he concludes, in the most unequivocal terms, that our current food system is a failure in terms of feeding all people well, caring for the environment and ensuring sustainable and equitable long-term development for farmers and rural and regional communities:
Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems – final diagnosis from UN right to food expert
http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20140310_finalreport_en.pdf, para 4.
 See Swinburn, B., and Egger, G., 2010, “Planet Obesity: How We’re Eating Ourselves and the Planet to Death”, http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Obesity-Eating-Ourselves-Death/dp/1742373623
 See http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/from-farm-to-fork-%E2%80%93-healthy-people-depend-on-healthy-food-systems-1132198-Oct2013/.
To read the full submission, click here: AFSA ISDS Submission 9.4.14