All the indications from the recent Singapore meeting on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) are that Australian society is about to undergo a momentous shift in its governance arrangements. The recent Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) gives a pointer.
It includes an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. This provides rights of foreign investors (additional to those of local businesses) to challenge our legislation where it impedes their profits overseas before panels of trade arbitrators. Our government claimed it had ''ensured the inclusion of appropriate carve-outs and safeguards in important areas such as public welfare, health and the environment.''
The Australian government has no mandate to introduce such a significant change in our sovereignty and governance. Though the present author and others raised the issue of such greater rights of foreign investors over local businesses during the preceding electoral campaign it was never the subject of major policy debate or positioning.
The insertion of such foreign investor rights into our governance system is a momentous event in the history of our democracy. According to the central document in our social contract, fundamental alterations in Australia's governance arrangements require not just legislation but a referendum. Thus, a majority of Australian citizens in a majority of states were needed to support the creation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the citizenship of Aboriginal Australians.
Yet, as a result of the TPPA, this country risks displacing the authority of citizens who live and support families, friends, local communities and ecosystems in this land, in favour of a system privileging artificial people called corporations.
The multinational corporations to which the KAFTA and the TPPA will be ceding rights to challenge our democratic laws are regarded by the law as ''people''. They can sue in courts to protect their rights. But they lack conscience, empathy, the capacity to develop virtues though consistent application of generally applicable principle, that constitute the richness of our character. Corporations can never marry or have children. They seek to fulfil a monomanical basic craving - to maximise shareholder profit.
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