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AFTINET media release:
EU GATS full requests show water and post are privatisation targets

26 February 2019 -- A leaked secret European Union document about the current WTO Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations shows that the right of Australian governments to regulate and provide essential services is under threat , says Dr Patricia Ranald, of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Dr Ranald also convenes AFTINET, a network of 62 community organisations concerned about the impact of trade negotiations on public policy. "The EU document demands that Australia abolish the powers of the Foreign Investment Review Board to review foreign takeovers of Australian firms on the basis of national interest considerations," Dr Ranald explained.

Dr Ranald said the document also demands that

  • Australia treat water services purely as traded goods, opening them to private investment. This would threaten most state government policies of public ownership and price regulation of water services to ensure they remain accessible and affordable to all Australians.
  • treat public postal services purely as traded goods and open them to private investment. This would mean an end to the 50c stamp to send a letter anywhere in Australia, which makes postal services affordable to rural communities
  • remove the limits on foreign ownership of shares in Telstra

"Australia is the driest continent, and we cannot take the risk of leaving the provision of water to market forces. Privatisation of public postal services would not only mean higher prices, but post offices would disappear from country towns which have already been deserted by the banks," said Dr Ranald.

Dr Ranald explained: "These negotiations are held behind closed doors. The Australian government has not made public the full detail of these requests in the discussion document it released in January. It is due to respond to the requests by the end of March but it has not agreed to make its responses public. The danger is that access to essential services will be traded off in the hope of gains in agriculture or other areas which are also being negotiated in the WTO."

"We call upon the government to postpone the March deadline and make public its responses to these requests and to those it has received from other governments, so they can be publicly debated. Policy on essential public services should be publicly debated and decided democratically by governments, not secretly signed away in trade agreements" she added.

The documents are available at www.polarisinstitute.org.


Dr Patricia Ranald
Principal Policy Officer
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Level 1, 46-48 York St
Sydney NSW 2000
ph 61 2 9299 7833
fax 61 2 9299 7855
email pranald@piac.asn.au

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