The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'fta'
A new book by three Australian academics predicts that the US Free Trade Agreement will cause widespread damage to Australia's national interests, wiping out local biotechnology industries and the use of open-source software, ensuring that wealth goes right back to head office, transforming Australia's economy into little more than a set of branch offices controlled from overseas, and making it all but impossible to get back what is lost. What's more, the onerous terms of the agreement were largely decided by the Howard government, and not the American negotiators. (Mind you, the fact that Labor decided to "recapture the centre" and let it through with a few Band-Aid laws, rather than risk being cruelly mocked in parliament for going on about boring "intellectual property" issues no dinky-di true-blue Herald-Sun-reading suburban battler would give a brass razoo about, damns them almost equally.
The fight against the US-Australian Free Trade Agreement, and the numerous threats it poses to Australia (from extended and expanded copyright laws (without the balancing effect of US-style fair-use guarantees) to more expensive medicine to rolling back Australia's stringent quarantine laws) is not lost yet. The ALP still haven't decided on whether to support it in the Senate, though the pressure on them to do so (as not to be tarred with the "anti-American" brush before the election) is huge. If you don't want to see the FTA come into force, now is the time to act, before it's too late. Let the ALP know that you oppose it; only with enough pressure from the public will they decide to block it.
Some (potentially) good news on the software-patent front; after the forces of darkness pushed a draconian software patent proposal through the European Parliament, the Dutch government appears to be listening to the mass geek protests against this, and is considering ordering its minister to withdraw his vote, something that has never happened before in EU history. If this does go through, it would force the EU Parliament to reconsider the software patent directive (which was basically rushed through with intensive lobbying by software corporations). Chances are those same lobbyists will have their daggers out for it, so it remains to be seen who prevails.
(There doesn't seem to be any such luck in Australia; the Dems have signed on for the US-Australian FTA (which, among other things, brings in the same software-patent regime that has worked so well in the US), and Labor seem to be running scared from being considered too "anti-American" to win the Silent Majority Of Suburban Battlers' vote (the Bush administration's insinuation that any Australia too hung up on its sovereignty may end up being thrown to the al-Qaeda wolves probably didn't help in this respect) that they'll be treading very carefully over anything that could be considered anti-American, and raising a stink about some obscure copyright issues that Norm and Sheryl of Nunawading couldn't give a toss about is probably too much risk for too little reward.)
With Labor making noises about standing up to the terms of the Free Trade Agreement, now is probably a good time to send this letter to your MP; if enough people do it, it may forestall the worst of the copyright fascism being rammed down our throats. (I sent my letter off this afternoon.)
(Hmmm... there's an implicit assumption in the statement above that Null Device readers live in inner-city Latté-Socialist Elite electorates with Labor MPs. If you live among the Silent Majority Of Suburban Battlers in the Tory electorates, there's still a reason to write your MP; at the very least, it may result in some uncomfortable questions being raised. If you live out in the bush where the Nationals hold court, even better, with the farmers having gotten the rough end of the pineapple and all that.)
With the details of the free-trade deal revealed (the farmers got screwed over, and we're getting US-style copyright extension), Labor is making noises about resisting it in parliament. Not sure what that will amount to; possibly a few minor cosmetic changes (the equivalent of demanding better lubricant for when you get forcibly sodomised). Anyway, now may be an excellent time to mail your MP about why copyright extension is a bad idea; perhaps if enough Labor MPs get such letters, they'll show enough spine.
Well, Australians will soon be driving oversized SUVs on the right-hand side of the road, at least metaphorically speaking; The Howard government signs free-trade agreement with US. The issues of local TV content and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme have been ironed out, at least to the satisfaction of our wise leaders, though Australia's sugar industry has been sacrificed. Oh, and we're also committed to extending our copyright terms, adopting draconian paracopyright/scarcity-preservation laws and remodelling our patent/trademark law on the US model. (I wonder if we'll get US fair use provisions in the deal, or whether having an iPod full of ripped MP3s will remain a crime in Australia.) Though at least the Yanks don't get to force their genetically-modified foods into our markets, as some lefties were alleging they would; it looks like most of the direst predictions have been headed off, if you believe the Government's press release; then again, the full text of the agreement is secret, so maybe not.
The Greens said tariff abolition on manufactured goods would cost thousands of Australian jobs while many farmers would be saddled with US tariffs for a generation or more. Quarantine standards would be downgraded, Americans would be able to circumvent investment rules and American drug companies would get the opportunity to override the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that provides cheap drugs to Australians, the Greens said.
Howard has affected a retroactive tough-negotiator stance, saying that he was on the verge of telling the Americans where to stick their FTA. Meanwhile, Latham has said that Labor may block the FTA in the Senate. Which probably won't happen, leaving the Greens as the voice in the wilderness yet again.
U.S. officials complain about Canada's human rights. That's right, not "human rights abuses" (which are only a bad thing if the other party has oil and isn't willing to share), but human rights. Canada has too many civil liberties to effectively pull its weight in the War On Terrorism. The U.S. has also singled out Canada's plan to decriminalise marijuana, as something that will have Serious Consequences if it goes ahead. Clearly the Canadians have abused their sovereignty, and if they continue to do so, their sovereignty may, by the rules of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, be forfeit.
On a similar theme, Little Johnny's loyalty to Washington has paid off, with Uncle George offering him a "free trade deal" between Australia and the U.S., agribusiness lobbyists permitting. Mind you, one aspect of the treaty will involve harmonisation of "intellectual property" laws, which will be bad for both sides. It's not just the matter of Australia's copyright laws being co-written by Jack Valenti and things which inconvenience Big Copyright becoming crimes in Australia; Americans stand to lose when their politicians decide to amend the DMCA and realise that they can't because international treaties prevent them. Closer to home, one effect of the "free trade" treaty's copyright provisions is likely to be a ban on multi-region DVD players and "mod chips", neatly sidestepping Alan Fels' attacks on DVD region coding.