Human activity is increasingly influencing the earth’s climate and ecosystems, leading to efforts to quantify planetary boundaries within which humanity can safely live. .... The implications for conventional approaches to economic growth, such as that espoused by the G20, are profound. For example, a recent analysis by and for actuaries finds that a defined benefit pension scheme could become insolvent within 35 years, solely as a result of resource constraints limiting growth (as modelled). Carbon budget analysis finds that up to 80% of the fossil fuel reserves owned by the top 100 listed coal, and top 100 listed oil and gas companies cannot be burned without exceeding safe atmospheric CO2 limits. ..
Staying within planetary boundaries is a direct challenge to G20 governments as well as an economic challenge to growth.
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Similarly, FoE in Australia will participate in G20 protest in Brisbane in 2014. For us priorities will include the recognition of climate refugees and more funding for action on climate change prevention and mitigation, increased investment in renewable technology, the dismantling of the economic system that prevents real progress towards a clean, green economy. We are opposed to the Australian government committing to any free trade agreements where trade and the needs of corporations will be prioritised over environmental justice.
The influence of the corporate lobby and the lack of social justice concern within the current government can be felt keenly in Australia with the rise in approvals for environmentally and social destructive industrial projects that provide little benefit to local populations, but lasting environmental damage and the infringement of basic human rights to many social groups. This is not a new thing, but is more blatant under the Coalition government. The Abbott government brings its own brand of economic and religious ideology to the business of environmental exploitation and the erosion of human rights:
- Approval of dredging of the iconic GBR to benefit the coal export industry via the Abbot Point port (December 2013). Breeding site for hump-back whales, nesting site for turtles, Sea floor will be dredged to deepen water for ships;
- Expanding the uranium mining industry. Activists in WA allege that 40 new U mines are planned for Western Australia alone;
- Expanding the CSG industry, by approving the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island and with Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane opposing the NSW CSG “no go zones” legislation;
- Removing legislation which declared parts of the Murray-Darling Basin as critically endangered;
- Allowing employment practices in the mining industry to undermine social justice on housing, where the poor are excluded from the rental market in rural areas because of demand driven inflated prices. In the past mining companies provided housing for staff, and the government could levy them to do so;
- Discrediting the gains made by the indigenous movement and women’s movement by allowing the Prime Minster (who’s politics on race and gender have been found questionable by many) to install himself as minister for those portfolios, effectively stemming real progress there;
- Demonization and punishment of refugees fleeing violence by compounding their suffering in offshore detention and insisting all public servants refer to them as ‘illegals’;
- Overriding state legislation by a high court challenge to LBGT marriage laws;
- The Gonski triple backflip on equity in education funding;
- The list goes on…
In concert with the neoliberal agenda that embraces the G20 and corporate hegemony are local moves to suppress dissent to it. Queensland has been at the forefront of introducing laws to target dissent:
- The Vicious Lawless Associates Disestablishment Act (2013) that prohibits the public gathering of three or more people alleged to be in a group the government declares a risk. This is being tested on bikies, however this not specific in the legislation and it can be used on unions, striking workers and environmental or other protestors. The legislation is also intended to be use retrospectively;
- Party laws, under the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 that will make it a punishable offence to hold a gathering of more than 12 people where someone nearby (it maybe an attendee of a function, or even someone refused entry) causes a “an uncontrolled event”. Fines up to $12,000 and jail terms apply. See Caxton Street Legal Services info sheet here: http://www.qails.org.au/_dbase_upl/Party%20powers%20factsheet.pdf
- The G20 (Safety and Security) Act (2013) which disallows having banners more than 2m in length, and prohibits the carrying of many items besides the obvious weapons: eggs, reptiles, and other items;
- This new legislation is in addition to the QLD police’s Move On powers that enable them to move anyone at an time for any reason and arrest them if they do not comply;
- Boycott reforms in the Competition and Consumer Act that outlaw secondary boycotts. For instance when we ask you not to buy timber from Gunns Ltd because of their real and proven destructive forestry practices. (Read more in Nov Issue of our national magazine Chain Reaction)http://www.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/Chain%20Reaction%20%23119%20Nov%202013%204MB.pdf)
- Mandatory prison sentences and $10,000 fines for environmental protestors who disrupt the access to and profitability of corporations, advocated by Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman. Unions also recognise the capacity of such legislation to be used against workers taking industrial action against exploitative and unfair work practices;
- Member for Mermaid Beach, QLD, Ray Stevens suggestion that the state should to force people with tattoos to register them, as part of the reading of the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation (Unexplained Wealth and Serious Drug Offender Confiscation Order) Amendment Bill 2013;
What are the issues for Australia with the G20?
The role of the G20 has been an opportunity for the political leaders and finance ministers of the 20 richest countries (representing 85 percent of the world economy) and invited representatives from the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, and the OECD to get together to maintain trade and the global economic system and to further their agendas. It came about largely because of the failure of previous (WTO Doha Round) attempts to manage the global economy that resulted in the Global Financial Crisis (2007-8). Not only does the G20 Major Economies Summit exclude the rest of the world not party to these negotiations, it represents an opportunity for representatives the more powerful economies, including the US and its close allies, to dictate terms and bully developing economies. Indeed Norway, which declined to join the G20 seesit as a “setback” to truly international and representative bodies like the UN, saying, “We no longer live in the 19th century, a time when the major powers met and redrew the map of the world.” (Norwegian Foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, 2010).
We cannot expect that the views that our national government take to this international meeting will speak for the majority or the environment. The spin emanating from Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop on the G20 agenda to date has been parochial. But how does the federal Coalition’s record so far measure up against the rhetoric of the G20 agenda for Brisbane? We only need to the look at the nebulous collection of buzzwords currently featuring as “agenda items” on the g20.org 2014 website.
(from http://www.g20.org/g20_priorities/g20_agenda_growth_and_resilience_2014 )
- Strong, sustainable and balanced growth: While the strength of coal and iron ore exports have insulated Australia from the GFC, the mining sector’s dominance has undermined other areas of economic activity such as manufacturing and agriculture. Increasingly, coal and CSG have moved into environmentally sensitive areas and populated areas, disrupting people’s lives and health. Growth at any cost seems to be the agenda of Abbott government who have just approved dredging of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef to facilitate coal exports that will destroy a national icon;
- Anti-corruption: questions about politicians’ travel expenditure have haunted the Liberal government in its first few months, while recent spying revelations have exposed the underhanded an corrupt tactics successive Australian governments have used in the past decade to protect the profits of corporations active in our region;
- Energy: Denying the reality of climate change, dismantling any effort to alleviate climate change made by the previous government, the Coalition government is committed to a fossil fuel future, despite the fact that Australia and its neighbours are already affected by extreme weather events
- Trade: One thing the Coalition government has in common with other rich economies is the desire to free trade from rules and regulations. But where does the cutting of ‘red tape’ and ‘green tape’ leave the rights of workers, human rights, and the environment? ;
- Employment: The Queensland LNP government began a campaign of sacking tens of thousands of public servants as soon as it was elected. Similarly, the federal Coalition government sacked thousands of civil servants via the abolition of departments dedicated to human rights and environmental protection like AusAid and the Climate Change Authority in an effort to flush out all the public servants who might contradict policy. While the G20 have an aim of boosting job participation, we have a government that makes it very hard for the young and vulnerable (like single mothers) to get jobs, demoralised as they are by living hand-to-mouth on inadequate emergency welfare. And it has been suggested that the elderly should now work until they are 70;
- Development: The government disbanded AusAID and severely reduced Australian aid to developed nations while at the same time vilifying and punishing refugees fleeing nations experiencing unrest; Also on our doorstep, communities are anxious to see that the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works (Seawalls) Project funding commitments made by the previous government are honoured by the Abbott Government;
- Investment and infrastructure: Are we talking about federal support for public housing and mass transit for the poor? Not likely, as well have a national crisis in housing. Infrastructure investment in Australia is targeted at propping up big business and subsidising fossil fuel industries and and mining;
- Tax: While the G20 want to fight tax evasion, The Tax Justice Network's latest financial secrecy index, released every two years, which rates countries based on criteria in relation to their ability to promote financial transparency rates Australia 47 out of 100, meaning it must still make ''major progress'' in offering satisfactory financial transparency. According the Tax Justice Network of Australia, ''The ATO has already identified over 100 Australians involved in suspected tax evasion of tens of millions of dollars through the use of 'shell companies' and 'trusts', largely through secrecy jurisdictions,'' http://www.smh.com.au/business/australia-lagging-on-curbing-tax-evasion-while-hong-kong-and-singapore-are-becoming-more-secretive-20131107-2x49v.html#ixzz2nELr4NNK. The 20 business alliance who represent the corporate wish list at the G20 want to see less “corporate tax, social contribution and personal income tax hikes”, very much in line with the Coalition agenda and an admission that corporations don’t want to be socially responsible if they don’t have to be (B20 ‘White Book’ http://www.b20australia.info/Latest%20Documents/B20_WhiteBook_web.pdf );
- Reforming global institutions: Rather than strengthening global institutions like the United Nations, the Coalition government will undermine global cooperation by involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which effectively sets up a trading bloc where corporations a call the shots. It also undermines the democratic rights of citizens everywhere, with its deals done in secret that will turn laws to protect human rights and the environment into trade barriers;
- Building Global Economic Resilience: The triple bottom line in the global economy is the Earth itself – it’s resources, it’s clean air and water. The federal and state Coalition government s’ pro-mining stances are eroding sustainability nationwide, while threatening food security and water resources by opening up farmland, surface water, and groundwater for CSG and coal exploitation and marine ecosystems to LNG and coal export
While Australian corporations may well benefit from the G20, the majority of people in Australia and elsewhere will not. Only a few token organisations will have a say in what happens, through the Civil Society 20 (C20) forum. The C20 is a social and environmental credibility exercise unlikely to deliver real change. In Australia we see all the hallmarks of neoliberalism in our current government, who on 1 December became the leaders of the G20 negotiations:
- In 2013 we have seen the new federal government begin to dismantle instruments put in place to begin addressing climate change, despite the fact that Australia will be one of the worst affected by extreme weather events. We have become an international pariah as a result of our government unashamed and irrational rejection of climate science. This is a primary issue for FoE at the G20 2014 meeting;
- Coal and CSG – part and parcel of the extreme influence of corporations on government decisions – transnational corporations are getting the green light in the face of the grave environmental risks they pose.
- The Trans Pacific Partnership: this free-trade deal is currently being done in secret with individual countries. The international equivalent of individual contract bargaining in the workplace so beloved of the Liberals, these trade agreements threaten the ability of future governments to enact and enforce laws that protect human rights, social justice and the environment;
- We say NO to the G20 and policies that continue to threaten jobs and peoples livelihoods, and erode workers’ rights and welfare;
- We say NO to the G20 and policies that cause the expulsion and repatriation of migrants in the name of restrictive and draconian migration policies and rules;
- We say NO to the G20 and policies that use women as safety nets in crisis, and are blind to the differential decision-making powers in the household and economy in general;
- We speak out against the free trade agenda and the push of the G20 governments for more ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreements disguised as economic partnerships but are really instruments of economic domination and control by the rich over the poor within and across countries and regions;
- We speak out against the development agenda of the G20 which threatens peoples’ right to food, destroys the environment, and perpetuates unequal access and control over natural resources in support of the profit-driven motives of corporations;
- We say NO to the G20. It does not represent the interests of the peoples of the world and it cannot speak on our behalf.
- We call on the peoples of the world to come together against the G20 and to intensify the struggle for a better and more just and peaceful world.
At the end of the September 2013 round of the G20 in St Petersburg, NGOs released a statement calling for “system change” and declaring the g20 unworkable saying:
“the G20 … is the expression of the corporate capture of our governments, a process that has been deepened in the last forty years”
Even Wayne Swan, former Australian Treasurer has said, the G20 is better at producing “carefully worded communiqués that generate politically favourable headlines” than real outcomes. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/19/revitalising-the-g20-challenge-of-2014-economics
The 2014 G20 Leaders summit will be held on 15 and 16 November in Brisbane, Queensland. We want you to be there with us.