If you were ever in any doubt that multi-national corporations do what they like where and when they like, then you need not look any further at Rio Tinto holding a gun to the head of the NZ government over it’s proposed Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme.
Formed in 1873, based out of London, UK and with an operating profit of over $10B USD, it is the largest coal producing company in the world. They own (79%) the Tiwai Point Aluminium smelter at the bottom of NZ. Tiwai Point consumes 15% of the countries electricity and gets a reduced rate for it’s power. It employs nearly 1000 people directly, and indirectly 3000 people in the region are reliant on this one industry, the 20th largest smelter in the world.
The crux of the matter is that the New Zealand government want’s to introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme, where the producers of green house gasses can trade their carbon for credits with those industries that absorb or have smaller carbon emissions (the forestry industry being the most obvious). This fundamentally is a good thing, with the overall aim to make industry more efficient and less polluting. However, as many form the right will argue that this scheme is flawed in that this creates an uneven playing field globally, as those competing industries overseas operating in countries that haven’t signed up to the Kyoto Protocol aren’t subject to similar carbon and economic conditions.
So at select committee today, Rio Tinto with it’s corporate heavyweight bosses from Overseas, came to NZ to tell the government to stop it’s plans to help clean up the environment or we are outta here. As simple as that, they were direct and blunt. A foreign corporate was in all effect holding a gun to the head of sovereign nations government. Do it our way or we are outta here. There was no talk of concession, there was no sign of let’s meet half way. The pathetic thing is, if they close it, they could possibly move it to China with a radically reduced labour bill and no envirionmental standards to live up to. Funny, in that some of the companies Tiwai point is competing with are of course owned by Rio Tinto.
This is the essence of living in the arms of the multi-national corporate these days. They don’t give fuck all in the way of respect to the environment, they have even less in the way of commitment and loyalty to the local economy – if you can’t play by our rules then we will play elsewhere.
This is huge for the government, with the smelter pumping in over $3b into the NZ economy, but in the same respect, although they are a relatively green smelter (top 5% for limiting emissions), they are not willing to be an active participant in the cleaning up of the environment. Some from the right will argue that they have made progress, but as one of the worlds largest corporate producers of greenhouse gasses, this doesn’t really stand up.
So, play by our rules or we piss off and destroy a region and hurt the economy. They also went further though claiming that they would take much of the skilled work force with them, exacerbating the so called ‘brain drain’. Sure some will go, but there will be some who will not be bought by a company.
This is corporate bullying at it’s worst, it’s environmental blackmail, it’s economic blackmail and it hi-lights the danger of foreign ownership of key economic sectors of the economy. No country should be held to ransom by corporate bullies.
Clean up the environment, or be seen to be looking to do something about it, or provide jobs for a region. I love the fait accompli, very narrow and very corporate. There are of course other options, but they aren’t willing to look at those, they want cheap power, access to our high quality coal and aluminium and they want to be able to produce as much emissions as they see fit.
There is never only the G W Bush “my way or no way” approach to affairs, and to think that there isn’t a solution to this, suggest that this company is living in false economies and exploitation to the extreme – but then that’s the nature of the mineral extraction and energy consumption game.
How dare they come here and treat us and talk to us in this manner, but then if you live by the capitalist sword you will also die by it from time to time.