Australian government refuses to sign non-aggression treaty with ASEAN

(Updated 1:14 AM, 29 November 2004)

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that he will not sign a non-aggression pact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ahead of group’s tenth summit in Vientiane, Laos next week.

Howard’s actions is in line with his policy of using pre-emptive strikes in fighting terrorism. However, support for the treaty is seen a sign of good will and a prerequisite for further bilateral agreements with Australia.

The pact called the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia which was first signed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore on 24 February 1976 in Bali, Indonesia. It is one of the 10 member nation grouping’s founding documents. The treaty binds a country against the use of aggressive force and non-interference with ASEAN member states. Japan, China, India and Pakistan are some of the nations that has signed the agreement with the Southeast Asian nations.

New Zealand, represented by Prime Minister Helen Clark will also join the summit along with Mr. Howard and ASEAN leaders including the Philippines’ President Gloria Arroyo.

The start of the negotiations for a free trade agreement between ASEAN, New Zealand and Australia is the expected outcome of the summit.

What does this mean?

Australia may have a hard time negotiating for a free trade deal with Southeast Asia. It also challenges PM Howard to modify or abandon his pre-emptive strike policy.

If Australia wants to push for economic and peaceful ties with it’s northern and north western neighbours Canberra must respect their sovereignty. Problems are solved better with consensus.

How about speaking out?

Signing the TAC will forbid a foreign government in commenting against domestic policies. Is it wrong for a nation to speak out against wrong doings in another country? What if speaking out will put pressure to governments to stop it’s abuses against its own people. For example, the human rights abuses by the junta in Myanmar is nothing new but ASEAN members who are TAC signatories are unable to comment or act against the abuses. Also if nations signed a TAC with South Africa it would not have pressured the racist pro-apartheid government to yield to the demands of the international community.

Unfortunately not all ASEAN countries enjoy a “high standard of democracy” like in Canada, New Zealand and Western Europe. (I must say that the Philippines enjoy and good standard of democracy and human rights.) Human rights abuses are prevalent (eg. Myanmar). Signing the TAC will tie hands and silence voices. This I believe is the weakness of the ASEAN TAC

Sources

ABC Online: ASEAN treaty push sparks war of words

INQ7.net: Australia irks Asian countries for rejecting peace pact

NBR NZ: NZ invited to first Asean summit since 1977

XTRA MSN: NZ Considers ASEAN Free Trade Deal

NZ Herald: Clark steering clear of Asean-Australia treaty row

ASEAN Secretariat: Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia Indonesia, 24 February 1976

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ASEAN

Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Human Rights

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Electrocuted by electric bills

Our current electricity retailer since moving to this new house is Contact Energy Limited. This company also sells us natural gas for cooking and heating the lounge. Currently the company charges NZD 0.7275 (PHP 29.19) per day and NZD 0.1482 (PHP 5.93) per kilo watt hour for electricity. For gas the tariff is NZD 0.9170 (PHP 36.68) per day and NZD 0.0746 (PHP 2.98) per kilo watt hour.

Since checking options for electricity retailers provided by the Consumers’ Institute of New Zealand I have discovered that I could save a lot of money if I switch. The savings may amount up to NZD 209 (PHP 8,360) every year.

The logical action after this discovery is to switch. Contact Energy has one less customer in the next few weeks.

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NZ Herald: Contact profit up 22 per cent

NZ Herald: Pain easing for electricity users

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Electricity in New Zealand

Filipino Families need at least USD 275 per month to survive

The cost of living in the Philippines is getting more expensive for the common Filipino family although most foreign visitors and Filipinos earning from overseas may find living in the islands cheap.

The average daily wage in Metro Manila is only PHP 280 or USD 4.98 yet studies by think tanks such as the Ibon Foundation say that a family needs at least PHP 500 or USD 8.89 per day. The reason for this is no surprise. A kilo of diced pork is priced at PHP 167 already, how about the cost of rent and utilities?

Most families near and below the poverty line have to compromise their children’s nutrition dramatically just to “make ends meet.” A lot of impoverished families eat only instant noodles or rice with just salt or sugar sometimes if they get “lucky” rice with canned sardines.

Socialist groups in the Philippine House of Representatives such as the Bayan Muna Party have been pushing for a nationwide PHP 125 daily wage increase in an effort to alleviate the condition of people.

However, I doubt if a wage increase will benefit the economy as a whole. You see, if you are a businessman and is asked to raise your wages of employees in order to fund this rise in cost you can either cut staff or raise prices. Both options can either cause other problems such as unemployment and high inflation. I believe that there are companies in the Philippines that can pay for higher wages without having an effect on their profits but how about the small and medium sized firms all over the Philippines?

The only solution I seen in the mean time is to keep the prices of basic goods as low as possible. Access to low priced basic goods must be guaranteed to all those in dire need. The government must do its job in helping to generate economic activity in the country. Economic activity will most likely lead to more investment, stable prices and more employment. When there are more investments, economic activity, stable prices and less unemployment it could lead to higher wages and people escaping poverty.

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Despite Gov’t Figures, the Poor Are Now Worst Off

By Danilo Araña Arao

Abortions in New Zealand

Abortions Year ended December 2003

o There were 18,510 abortions performed in New Zealand in 2003, compared with 17,380 in 2002.

o The general abortion rate increased in 2003, from 20.0 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years in 2002 to 21.0 per 1,000.

o Women aged 20–24 years had the highest abortion rate (41.3 abortions per 1,000 women) in 2003.

o The median age of women having an abortion was 24.7 years in 2003.

Source: Statistics New Zealand