It’s interesting sometimes to look at policies and environmental developments in Australia or New Zealand – countries on the far side of the planet that, with their colonial pasts, vast wilderness areas and abundant natural resources, are similar in many ways to Canada.
A “scandal” that recently made headlines in the Northern Territory concerned allegations that representatives of Coca-Cola pressured the government there to quash a proposed deposit-refund scheme for used beverage containers, or else the company would oppose the government and fund the opposition.
It’s difficult from this part of the world to understand the intricacies of Australia’s local politics, but overall the story does feel like looking into a distant mirror.
I offer readers a news story from the local media that captures the flavour of events, and (just before it) a short commentary from the blogosphere.
COCA COLA CAUGHT OUT IN ‘CASH FOR NO-RECYCLING’ SCANDAL
Wednesday, 23 February 2011 13:54
Environmentalists have called for an independent investigation into allegations that senior Coca Cola executives threatened to fund the opposition Country Liberal Party (CLP) 2012 election campaign if the NT Government proceeded with their ‘cash for containers’ legislation.
“If correct, this is a very serious scandal of ‘buying votes’ undermining democracy and brings the anti-CD campaign by Coca Cola and its allies Fosters and Lion Nathan into the gutter. Their front group for the NT campaign, ‘Responsible Recycling’ has used radio and newspaper ads, push polling and misleading information to try and defeat the NT ‘cash for containers’ deposit refund scheme”, said Jeff Angel, Convenor of the Boomerang Alliance.
“Buying a political party is beyond the pale. To get to the bottom of these allegations there must be an independent inquiry with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath.”
“We are now urging Fosters and Lion Nathan to publicly distance themselves from Coke and the anti-CD campaign – their reputations can only continue to suffer. They should get on board in designing the most efficient container deposit system in the NT.”
CAN NEW LAWS OR ELSE, SAID SOFT DRINK GIANT: GOVT
DAVID WOOD February 23rd, 2011
THE Territory government has said a multi national soft drink company threatened to help the Opposition crush the container deposit legislation if Labor did not do it themselves.
Yesterday the Government confirmed that at a meeting last year between Coca Cola Amatil and a senior minister, the company “indicated that unless the NT Government abandoned cash for container legislation, they would be approaching the CLP to discuss how they might help them oppose the bill”.
The NT News believes the company met with Deputy Chief Minister Delia Lawrie and its representatives told her they would help fund the CLP campaign for the August 2012 election because of their distaste for the scheme.
CCA spokeswoman Sally Loane said senior company executives and local managers met with both the government and the CLP late last year but “no CCA representative made any promise or offer to fund either the CLP or the ALP in the forthcoming election campaign”.
In NT Parliament yesterday Opposition Manager of Government Business John Elferink ridiculed the situation, saying the government was spreading lies about Coca Cola funding their election campaign.
“The Henderson Government Minister making these outrageous and false allegations should have the courage to come forward and be identified,” he said.
“This is just another disgraceful Labor Party smear campaign.”
The container deposit legislation is being debated in Parliament and is expected to be voted on tomorrow .
The government has the numbers to pass it with the support of Independent Gerry Wood.
Chief Minister Paul Henderson said the CLP needed to state its position on the legislation having said it had supported such a scheme.
“But now the race is on to raise $1.5 million to take the CLP leadership,” he said.
“Will they be more interested in Cash for Country Liberals than Cash for Containers?”
CLP environment spokesman, Peter Chandler, who visited New Zealand recently to look at an alternative scheme, said he he did not know of any meeting between Coca Cola and the CLP.
The CLP has not announced its position on the legislation, although it says it supports a container recycling scheme, just not this one.
“CLP is very supportive of a a CDS but the model proposed by government is a model we have not seen, it is like being asked to buy a new car without being able to lift the bonnet and check out the engine,” Mr Chandler said.