Category: global poverty

Parliament rises on a good note, thanks to some meddling kids

The above video provides a good introduction to the slavery conditions of workers on foreign charter vessels fishing in NZ waters, as well as the Christchurch Anglican church’s involvement in it. While the Government took a while to act on the problem, rising awareness and public pressure led to them introducing a bill in 2012 to ensure all boats fishing in NZ waters re-flag and become subject to NZ labour/wage laws and health and safety protection.

All parties across the political spectrum supported the bill. But two years later, it was still going through the Parliamentary process and hadn’t had its third reading. A few days before Parliament was set to rise for the election, the bill’s sponsor, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, thought it was too late, and would have to wait months until after the election. This article’s original title (still visible in the browser title, and when shared on Facebook) was “Anti slave fishing bill fails.”

The Christchurch Anglican Social Justice Unit – whom former Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson had called “a bunch of do-gooders getting in the way” – heard about this, and started a social media campaign asking people to phone Guy, John Key and Gerry Brownlee (the Leader of the House, who controls Parliament’s agenda), urging them to schedule the third reading for before Parliament rose today. I put in my call to Brownlee, my local MP.

And, well, they did it! The bill was put onto the agenda and passed under urgency (a rare good use of urgency powers) at 1pm today as Parliament’s last act before the election. It will take effect in 2016.

So, well done to the Government for eventually getting their act together (pun intended), well done to the “do-gooders getting in the way” at Anglican Social Justice, and well done to the many other groups who have lobbied and raised awareness on this, including the Indonesian Society, the Maritime Union, reporters (you’re not all bad, Fairfax), and even – eventually – the fisheries companies themselves. This is great news.

PS: Let’s hope the meddling kids get similar cross-party support for their current petition. I’m not holding my breath.

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The best argument against capitalism

Nasty-Boycott-badge-Nasty-Nestle

Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, are the epitome of what John Key, Steven Joyce etc. think the world needs more of – competitiveness, innovation, profit maximisation.

To this end, Nestlé have been tireless advocates for water being treated as a commodity, not a human right. Not coincidentally, they’re one of the biggest sellers of bottled water in the world (along with Coke and Pepsi).

These companies are notorious for dodgy arrangements with local authorities to pollute local water sources and/or monopolise public water, so people can’t get safe water for free, they have to buy their own water back in bottles.

This is great for profitability but horrible for people. Access to clean, safe water is one of the main reasons infant mortality and life expectancy in the West have improved so dramatically over the last few hundred years. Nestlé are only interested in providing clean water for the rest of the world if it’s in one of their bottles, with the appropriate market value.

Let’s not forget the sinister combination of dirty water with aggressive marketing of infant formula in place of breast-feeding: Mothers who want the best for their kids aren’t educated enough to know the Nestlé marketing people aren’t the best source of that knowledge. So they buy formula they can’t afford, mix it with dirty water, and 1.5 million babies die needlessly every year (I’m guessing these figures don’t appear in Nestlé’s annual reports).

This is why I think Nestlé are the best argument against free-market capitalism. The theory is that when people have needs, someone will realise they can make a profit off meeting needs, so they’ll meet people’s needs and make their profit… win-win. The reality is companies like Nestlé have discovered you can make more profit selling a temporary solution (bottled water, infant formula) than a sustainable permanent solution (free public water, breast-feeding). And it’s even more profitable to create a ‘need’ you can sell a temporary solution to (a.k.a. ‘marketing’). Basically, psychopathy is more profitable than philanthropy.

This is just one way capitalism under-develops the world.

SumOfUs are running an online petition against Nestlé destroying Pakistan’s natural resources and stealing their water. The petition text, describing what they’re doing to Pakistan, is shocking, yet well-referenced and unsurprising for this company. Please read and sign. SumOfUs have had some wins before – but so have Nestlé.