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World Economic Forum, Nandor Tanczos
20 September 2000
Speech by Green MP Nandor Tanczos in Parliament today
Today I want to talk about the underpaid and the poor, the sufferers of New Zealand and overseas.
I want to talk about children - children who have no time for play, or for school, who spend their young lives working in sweatshops in places like China, Thailand and Indonesia, to make goods for the privileged of the world.
And I want to explain to the House why Sue Bradford and I took part in the demonstrations at the World Economic Forum in Melbourne last week..
The World Economic Forum and the free trade agenda it promotes are obscene, an affront to our humanity. It represents a not-so-new world order run by multinational corporations, that began with the kidnapping of up to 60 million African slaves, which provided the economic base for the colonisation of this planet, and continues in the neo colonisation of the developing world by the heirs to that tainted wealth.
On a local level it means nearly 400 jobs lost last year in East Tamaki, Te Rapa and Te Aroha because the Bendon clothing company shifted its manufacturing to Asia. How many families depend on welfare cheques as a result?
In Bill English's region of Gore and Mataura, Goodman Fielder and Carter Holt, which were once New Zealand companies, have closed an oatmill and paper mill with the loss of 36 jobs and 155 jobs respectively. There are few other prospects for laid off workers in those small towns.
But it is when we look at what the WEF means for the developing world that sadness becomes anger.
According to the International Labour Organisation about 120 million children aged 5 to 14 work throughout the world. Of those 73 million are aged 10 to 14 and 61 percent of these children work in Asia.
Most of these children don't have a choice. They are, in a very real sense, slaves. Many are forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, with no holidays.
I want to read you the words of one of those workers. Her name is Sawai. At age 13 she was forced to work in a clothing factory in Thailand. She says, in an interview published in 1997, "There were six people working in the factory and we all shared one room...with about five machines and the lighting was very poor. I worked from eight in the morning to midnight. This was a privilege. My cousin often stayed up sewing until two in the morning."
Apologists for corporate globalisation say that the solution is to give her exploiters unfettered access to global markets and its profits. I can only shake my head in wonder.
I want to show the house a souvenir of my trip to Melbourne. A Koala bear, made in China. You would find the same label on stuffed kiwi toys in duty free shops here. I don't know whether this is made by child slave labour. It is almost impossible to find out. But I do know that about five million children work in China and that some of them work in toy factories.
But even if we knew, can we stop their import? Corporate globalisation says that any barrier to free trade must be removed. Products of sweatshop labour must be allowed to be sold. Products that destroy the environment must be allowed to be sold. Products made in dangerous conditions must be allowed to be sold. And while the children suffer Mr Creosote gets fatter.
It's not just toys and clothes. According to the Trade Aid organisation there's an estimated 800,000 children working as bonded slave labour in the South Asia hand-knotted carpet industry. Some are as young as five years old.
The Green Party advocates a vastly different system - one which is based around environmental sustainability, respect for all people, human rights and fairness.
We support a system of fair trade over free trade, that does not exploit one country and its people to the benefit of another. We back the adoption of binding international environmental codes for trans-national corporations, the implementation of International Labour Organisation basic standards worldwide, and strengthening of democratic economic and political systems which are not based on the exploitation of working people, local communities, indigenous people or the planet. The WEF is the opposite of that.