Our Living World Constitution:
Charter for Economic Rights—Articles 6-9

Posted on 07 May 2019

2013 Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Article 6.

All companies will be wholly and completely responsible for for the damage their production methods cause the environment. They will also be wholly and completely responsible for the recycling and disposal of all waste they create from products to marketing materials.

Article 7.

All international trade will be moderated by considerations to do with human and environmental rights, ensuring our interactions with other countries is always fair and ethical. Australia will not offer in trade nor accept in trade goods and services that are created under conditions that induce hardship for those growing, manufacturing, or selling them, nor items that cause considerable distress to living beings and/or damage to the environment. We will seek to minimise international financial entanglement.

Article 8.

The economy is central to our ability to collectively survive and will also be democratic. Therefore, economic decisions to do with the management and distribution of goods and services will be made electorally available to the public at the Federal, State, and Local levels.

Article 9.

All services necessary to human life in our current world will have socialised versions which are more than adequate to meet people’s needs. These services will include:

  • education: from creche to tertiary and continuing studies
  • access to knowledge
  • medical
  • dental
  • development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals
  • scientific research
  • professional mental and emotional help
  • community animation and social work
  • public media
  • communications infrastructure
  • transport infrastructure
  • housing infrastructure
  • energy infrastructure
  • water and public sanitation infrastructure
  • banking and financial instruments
  • farming
  • fire fighting
  • natural wealth extraction

Explication

Article 6.

Companies have long made it the responsibility of individuals to recycle, and rely on the government to clean up their mess when they poison rivers, destroy forest lands, and more.

We frequently have no idea what the real cost is of the items we buy. The price of standard food products is kept artificially low via government subsidies, most especially in the cleaning up of farm effluents that make it into our rivers, or choose to simply ignore the damage and allow our waterways to become toxic.

When companies are made responsible for the waste they create and the damage they do, they start changing their behaviour in significant ways that are of benefit to the whole community. Germany has for some time been functioning under this sort of legislation with positive results.

Article 7.

Becoming self sufficient as a nation certainly has environmental value, because it reduces our carbon foot print. However, our planet’s diverse blessings are not evenly distributed throughout the globe.

Trade has always been an important part of our survival: not just through goods themselves, but also through the goodwill and friendship trade can generate. This is only possible when we are thoughtful trade partners, respected for our integrity. However, we cannot expect that sort of respect if we bully and plunder the wealth of militarily weaker states.

The current global crises we are facing calls us all to be better citizens of the world. We must learn how to get along with our neighbours, so that we can face our shared existential threats together.

Businesses have been trading out of personal self-interest and not the best interest of their countries or planet. They have been able to disguise the perpetuation of slavery and peonage, and all the cruel treatment attached to those practises. This will end.

Article 8.

At this point in time most extra-governmental power is non-democratic power. Power without secure oversight is dangerous to a country’s well-being and most especially its citizens. This is why we have separation of church and state, and military and state. This is why we divide our legislative bodies up, so that they can provide balance to one another. This is why we need separation of business and state.

However, for a government to take over greater economic power we must then institute greater civil checks and balances for this aspect of Federal care taking. If we are going to be rationing goods, we must ensure this is done in a way that different people’s needs in different areas are appropriately met while ensuring our collective well-being.

We seek equity rather than simple equality.

If you were to give the same amount of money to two people, but one of them had to use their money to pay for pharmaceuticals just to survive, the results may be that one could live in a comfortable house and the other experiences poverty. That is simple equality. Equity would ensure they both have access to adequate housing, food, water, etc. It would then ensure that anything extra that is needed to make enjoying those necessities possible is available. No more trading health for shelter or vice versa.

The above is when equality is interpretted to mean equal physical shares. Equity can be interpretted to mean everyone is given the shares they need to experience relatively equal well-being. Therefore, those who are very young, very old, infirm in some way, or have any other special needs may receive more physical help, but the outcome is that they are assisted such that they have greater access to enjoying their lives as close as possible to the same degree as most other people.

The best way to ensure equity is protected is for communities to be engaged in economic decision making. We need to know who is having troubles and why. We need people feeling secure that their problems will be heard and resolved. We need people engaged enough such that if someone is caught trying to rob from the biscuit jar for their own enrichment, they will be called out. People need to feel and understand that they are the government–a democratic government does not exist without them. If a people feel that they are largely subject to their government, then it is no longer democratic.

Article 9.

For a long time Australia functioned in a manner similar to the Nordic Model. We had a comprehensive welfare state, much of the country unionised, and free market capitalism. We believed strongly in social safety nets and risk sharing. We were concerned about the “little Aussie battler”.

Around the turn to the previous century we were described in Europe as “the great socialist experiment”. This was because between WW1 and WW2 we set in place widows pensions, help for the poor, help for veterans, free medical assistance, and free education.

Australia and the Nordic countries have had both public and private versions of many industries. This was because we felt that anything necessary for human survival should be readily available to everyone. However, the government in no way kept businesses from setting up their own alternatives. In countries such as Finland government services competing with public services was seen as healthy, because not only were everyone’s needs met, it set the bar on quality.

How much government intervention do you need to ensure adequate safety measures are in place, when people start choosing government services over public ones because they feel more secure? For a company to survive it must then provide goods and services superior to the government.

The argument corporate CEOs make against this system is that “it is wrong for a government to compete against it’s own country’s businesses.” This is the argument that was used to sell off Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank, and Qantas, and the argument for cutting funding for our public television providers.

We need to examine who decided it was “wrong” and why? Did selling our collective assets that belong to all of us, so that they now belong to a few, genuinely create new jobs? Or were jobs cut? Did workers continue to have the rights they had when they worked under the government? Or have their wages stagnated and their rights become eroded? Have their services maintained high quality, or have they slowly slipped below previous standards? Has the money originally invested into these services by the public remained in Australia, or have the new shareholders been transferring funds out of the country to benefit their personal wealth creation, while diminishing funds that could be circulating in the country to everyone’s benefit?

Handing sole control of critical goods and services to corporate interests gives the shareholders the power of life or death over Australian citizens. “Can’t afford what we have to sell? Too bad, you will have to suffer. Not happy with how we are treating you? Too bad, do as we say or you will live on the streets and suffer.” The more these shareholders own, the more power they even have over the government. Case in point is how the mining industry spent over $22 million in advertising in order to stop Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from pushing through a super profits tax. Later they donated millions to Coalition candidates to ensure they had the means to take over government.

According to Peter Hartcher of Sydney Morning Herald February 2011, “Massive advertising attacks by sectional interests have successfully frustrated two major reforms and helped dispatch the past two prime ministers. This week we learnt how cheaply it can be accomplished, with the disclosure that the mining industry spent just $22 million to get its way. Call it direct action. It has been so successful for its sponsors, at such a low price, that we can be sure it will be used to intimidate governments for years.”

This is exactly what is happening concerning the Adani Mining operations. Our major parties are nervous about standing up to a deeply unpopular move to mine parts of Queensland, because corporations have been handed the right to influence elections and buy politicians. Adani’s mines will damage the Great Barrier Reef, they will damage forests, they will endanger species, they will destroy stolen ancestral land, and they will produce a product that will exacerbate Climate Change. Coal resources need to stay in the ground. So long as there are mining companies, they will need to mine resources in order to make a profit. Since mining must be seriously curtailed, this industry in particular must be taken over by the government in order to preserve our future.

We live on this planet together. We rely on one another for our well-being. We cannot allow a few wealthy individuals to cut off everyone else’s means to survival. That is ultimately suicidal. Instead we must show greater commitment to helping one another.


Previous articles in this series:


Responses are closed for this post.

Recent Posts

Tag Cloud

constitution environment human rights united nations

Meta

Katherine Phelps is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

Copyright © Katherine Phelps