Rio Tinto Alcan NZ Wins 2011 Roger Award
Westpac, Sajo Oyang & Oceania All Equal Runners Up
Government Wins Accomplice Award
- Murray Horton
The 2011 Roger Award Judges’ Report accompanies this issue of Watchdog. Full details of the Roger Award, including previous winners and Judges’ Reports, can be read online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/index.html.
The finalists were: Adidas, Newmont Waihi Gold, Oceania, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ Ltd, Sajo Oyang Corporation, Sky City, Telecom and Westpac. There was one finalist for the Accomplice Award – the Government (in its own right and accompanying both Sajo Oyang and Telecom). The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation with 25% or more foreign ownership) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories: economic dominance - monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism; people - unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public; environment - environmental damage, abuse of animals; and political interference - Interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade.
The judges were: Joce Jesson, a Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland, and a community activist; Paul Corliss, from Christchurch, an organiser with the Tertiary Education Union and a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union; Paul Maunder, cultural worker, curator of the Blackball Museum of Working Class History and a founding member of Unite!; Sam Mahon, an artist, author and activist from North Canterbury; and Wayne Hope, Associate Professor, Communications Studies, Auckland University of Technology. The winners were announced at an event in Christchurch on April 20th.
Rio Tinto Alcan NZ Ltd (notorious for decades under its previous name of Comalco) has been a regular finalist and was runner up in both the 2009 and 08 Roger Awards. It is the majority owner of the Bluff smelter operated by New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd. In 2011 it was nominated for lobbying two Governments “over several years to secure excessive allocations of free emissions units under the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme”. The judges agreed, concluding: “It appears therefore, that the New Zealand taxpayer is subsidising a transnational corporate rort of the emissions trading scheme… The significance of this stance cannot be underestimated; a major transnational player within New Zealand materially benefits from its non-compliance with a strategy to reduce global climate change and its ecological effects”. The Judges’ Report concludes that the company has a 50 year history of “suborning, blackmailing and conning successive New Zealand governments into paying massive subsidies on the smelter’s electricity; dodging tax, and running a brilliantly effective PR machine to present a friendly, socially responsible and thoroughly greenwashed face to the media and the public. Its milking of the Emissions Trading Scheme is entirely in character”. The extremely detailed Financial Analysis reveals that the smelter’s claimed benefits to NZ, namely annual export earnings of “around $1 billion” are, in fact, overstated by four fifths.
Of the three equal runners: Westpac (joint winner of the 2005 Roger Award winner, and a finalist in 2009 and 10), was chosen because of “an aggressive profiteering strategy at the expense of bank staff and ordinary borrowers”; Sajo Oyang because its “crew members have been abused, mistreated and otherwise exploited”; and Oceania because of its exploitation of its minimum wage resthome workers. The Government won the Accomplice Award because it “seems to have forgotten that the role of the State is not just to make things better for Big Business, or raise taxes but it is also to make and monitor the regulations and processes in order to create a balance to benefit the overall welfare of the population”.