Written By: - Date published: 12:45 pm, May 14th, 2013 - 28 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, capitalism, democracy under attack, greens, john key, Metiria Turei, overseas investment, same old national, slippery, Steven Joyce, trade - Tags: Parliamentary Sovereignty, TPPA
Since Joyce’s and Key’s announcement yesterday of the dirty SkyCity deal, there have been some well informed responses, indicating just how un-ethical and anti-democratic the deal is. There have also been responses from people with law backgrounds that support the Green’s position that a future government can legislate to remove the proposed dodgy compensation legislation that is part of the deal.
Laila Harré posted on the Daily Blog today, providing clear statistical evidence of the damage that will result from SkyCity’s increase in pokies and gambling tables. She quotes evidence that shows pokies are the most damaging form of gambling addiction, followed by casino table and card gambling. Harré applies this evidence to the Sky City deal, which will entrench the gambling harm for 35 years:
Goldman Sachs estimates the extra gambling opportunities promised under yesterday’s deal will generate an extra $42 million profit for Sky City a year – a 30% increase on last year’s $142 million. …
Sky City’s owners are looking at a 10%+ return on the new investment (the capital costs of the convention centre are set at $402 million under the heads of agreement). My back of the envelope calculation says 2012 profits based on current market capitalization equal 5.4%. No wonder investors boosted the share price by 3.4% yesterday.
Yesterday, law professor Andrew Geddis made the point on the Pundit Blog, that the laws of the market are not the same as those of politics:
However, if you want Parliament to be sovereign enough to (say) turn Christchurch into Gerry Brownlee’s playground, then can you really complain when it starts messing about with deals Governments have made in the past? Furthermore, since when did Parliament acting in breach of individual rights really matter all that much? Finally, if investors want to make money off something as morally controversial as gambling, then don’t they need to accept that there’s an extra degree of risk attached to it; and anyway, isn’t there something faintly ironic about a gambling company complaining about the House of Representatives fixing the odds in its own favour?
Yesterday evening on RNZ’s Checkpoint, constitutional lawyer, Mai Chen said that the legal position is,
that parliament is sovereign, and therefore if you pass a piece of legislation that says that there will be compensation if a future government changes – the promises that have been made to SkyCity – that a future Parliament can change that law back to saying that there will be no compensation.
She goes on to refer to the fact that “statute over rides contract” as part of the “doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty”. Chen says that SkyCity is taking a big risk with this deal.
Chen refers to Jane Kelsey’s statement about the fact that the TPP could result in a potential liability for the government. However, Chen stresses that the TPPA is not signed yet.
Jane Kelsey does warn that the TPPA would make it easier for offshore investors to sue the NZ government over such compensation deals:
Professor Kelsey warned that foreign investors could also sue the government of the day for breaching New Zealand’s international investment obligations, if a new law significantly reduced the profitability of the casino or the value of its shares.
That case would be heard before a private offshore tribunal under an increasingly discredited arbitration system that is costly and notoriously pro-investor.
Worse, the cap on liability would not apply because the claim is for breach of the investor’s rights under the agreement, not under the contract.
This makes it all the more urgent that the shonkey, secretive, pro-corporate, US government led TPPA be continually opposed and exposed.
At the moment, the NZ parliament does have some rights of sovereignty. But, with the SkyCity deal, plus the government support of the TPPA, Key is moving towards enabling the rights of exploitative, anti-democratic international corporates to over-ride NZ sovereignty.
This makes it all the more crucial to oppose both the Sky city deal, plus the TPPA. I’m with Metiria Turei when she says:
Turei said the details released yesterday were worse than she expected and SkyCity were now in a position to decide gambling laws for the next 35 years.
They will legislate to repeal the changes if they come into power in 2014.
“The Skycity deal gives them compensation for any legislation that will affect their profits for the next 35 years so we don’t believe that can be at all justified.”
Turei has also announced that the Greens are launching a petition,
calling on the deal to be rejected and for the Select Committee to call on the Government to release any forecasted social costs.
“We know the Government has got advice about the future costs of the social harms but they’re refusing to release it.
“They won’t allow that information to be made public…we think it should be.”
I’m not sure about the wisdom of opposition via petition. However, relevant information should not be suppressed.