AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS - D.O.G.S.
PRESS RELEASE 56#.
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STOP THE GATS
WHAT IS IT ?
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement preventing regulation of foreign services. It has effects on services similar to the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment. In particular, it prevents:
Limiting foreign ownership of services
imposing performance requirements pro-free trade WTO panels deem more onerous for foreign service-providers than Australian providers; e.g. qualifications or experience specific to Australia which enhance quality
Subsidising Australian service providers ( and this may include funding public services like education!)
The Australian government signed the first GATS Agreement in 1994 (without our knowledge)! That is a given and cannot be retracted. Our government can only further liberalise - i.e. globalise- our economy! As a service, our public education system is in grave danger of being subordinated into this process.
The next round of GATS agreements are due to be signed by our Government on March 31, 2003.
Services account for about 80% of the Australian economy
The Australian government has requested that the following be covered:
Accountancy, architecture, business services, computing, construction, distribution and storage, EDUCATION, engineering, environmental services, finance, law, mining-related services, sporting services, telecommunications and transport (air, maritime, freight, pipeline)
The United States of America requests the following be covered: Audio-visual services (actors and educational audio visual producers please note!) computing, distribution, EDUCATION, energy, environmental services, express delivery (Australia Post note)! finance, law and telecommunications. the USA threatens to exempt areas of its economy from GATS to pressure others to make commitments.
GATS requires those who sign to engage in further negotiations and concessions. So, since 1994 Australia has been on this slippery slide created by powerful transnationals based in America and Europe.
Whether a sector must be opened to foreign competition is subject to interpretation by WTO dispute-resolution bodies which almost never make decisions against those arguing for free trade.
The requests by government mentioned above were finalised on 30th June 2002. Responses to requests are required by 31 March 2003.
Mr Vale, the Federal Minister responsible is being very coy about information available for the public. He has released very summary summaries, claiming that certain details are "commercially confidential". The Democrats are trying to obtain further information. But the Labour Party (Surprise ! Surprise!) appear to be running dead on the issue.)
Australian citizens should demand more detail. When the details fell off the back of a truck in Europe, there was an uproar, many protests, and considerably changed negotiations resulted.
Public services are only excluded if they are not subject to competition. But look at the list of Australia's "privatised" public services? Australia's problem lies as much with our neo-liberal politicians as with the GATS. With the record of WTO dispute-resolution panels, there is little chance of these services being exempt from foreign competition.
Implications for tertiary, vocational and secondary education are enormous. The tertiary sector has already been opened up to public subsidisation of private controlled institutions such as the Notre Dame and Australian Catholic Universities. The McDonalds, Jones and other transnational corporations making profits through tertiary education provision can demand entry and public subsidisation in Australia in the interests of free trade if the GATS go ahead.
DOGS believe that in the next round, vocational education, adult education, and possibly secondary education are up for negotiation. Supporters of public education should be vigilant. Environmentalists should also be informing themselves about planned negotiations for water, sewerage and Forestry services!.
For further information - and action, DOGS refers readers to
PHONE (03) 9 662 9688
FAX (03) 9 639 4514
P.O. BOX 2288 FITZROY 3065
or Senator Cherry (Queensland)
Senator Bob Brown ( Tasmania)
If you have a message for supporters of public education:
Ray Nilsen on
(03) 9326 9277 or Fax: (03) 9326 9180
P.O. BOX 4869
Melbourne Victoria Australia 3001
Or complete our feedback form.
|Last modified:Monday, 25 April 2005|