David Risstrom - Greens Melbourne City Councillor 1999-2004
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ACHIEVEMENTS: I have written and moved a successful motion to democratise international negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

TARGET DATE: December 2002 PROGRESS: Achieved.

DESCRIPTION: I wrote and moved the following motion to democratise international negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in services (GATS). The motion was adopted on 15 October 2002 at the Melbourne City Council Finance, Corporate Services and Governance Committee.


1. That Council:
1.1. Believes public policy regarding the regulation, funding and provision of essential services should be made democratically by governments at the national, state and local level;
1.2. Calls on the Federal Government to fully consult with state and local government
about the implications of the GATS negotiations for local government services and regulation;
1.3. Calls on the Federal Government to make public the specific requests it made to other governments in the GATS negotiations which were due on 30 June 2002;
1.4. Calls on the Federal Government to make public its specific responses to requests from other governments which are due on 30 March 2003;
1.5. Calls on the Federal Government to support the clear exclusion of public services from the GATS, including local government community services and water services;
1.6. Calls on the Federal Government to oppose any proposals which would open up the funding of such public services to privatisation;
1.7. Calls on the Federal Government to oppose any proposals which would reduce the right of local government to regulate services, including the application of a "least trade restrictive" test to regulation;
1.8. Writes to the Minister for Trade concerning the above; and
1.9. Submits the above motions for adoption by the Victorian Local Government Association at its Annual Conference with an additional motion that they be submitted for adoption by the Australian Local Government Association at its Annual Conference.



2. The current negotiations on the GATS being conducted by the Australian Government and other governments in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) could have serious repercussions for Australian local government.

3. GATS rules are binding on all levels of government but there has been little if any consultation with local government about the negotiations and their implications.

4. A recent study by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (found at www.policyalternatives.ca) identified areas of local government services and regulation that could be affected by the GATS negotiations. The services identified included:
4.1. Water and sewerage services;
4.2. Waste management;
4.3. Road building;
4.4. Land use planning; and
4.5. Library services.

5. Changes to GATS rules on regulation of services could mean that local councils could face complaints about their regulation through the WTO complaints system. Governments can complain about the laws or regulations of other governments to a panel of trade law experts. The winner can ask that laws or regulations be changed and can ban or tax the exports of the loser.

6. Governments are being asked to increase the range of services included in the GATS agreement. Requests in the negotiations from the European Union, for example, include water services, which in rural areas are often local government services. There are also proposals in the negotiations to change GATS rules to reduce the right of governments to regulate by declaring that some regulation of services should be "least trade restrictive." There are also proposals to define funding of government services in GATS rules as "subsidies" to which transnational corporations should have access, resulting in privatisation.



Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

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