Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Ceding Sovereignty

‘Ceding Sovereignty in investment treaties: government of the people by foreign corporations’

A talk given by Professor Thomas Faunce of the ANU College of Law and ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Monday 17 March, at the CES Public Forum.

The following summary provided by Gerard of the Woden SEE-Change Group:

I went to hear Prof Faunce speak on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) last night at the  Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Barton, and very happy I did.  This man is a one man powerhouse for good.  He’s a rare academic – he follows his passions wherever they take him.  The passion to help people led him from being a solicitor to qualifying as a doctor.  Then the passion to fight the rise of these awful international trade treaties and agreements led him to study international law, which he did for a good number of years (study and fight).  But then his growing interest in possible scientific solutions to food, poverty and climate change led him to study science and eventually nanotechnology in particular, which led him to conclude that artificial photosynthesis (AP) might be a solution.  He’s since organised international forums on it, and is working hard to get large charitable foundations to fund the research needed to make it real.

We all know how valuable to life plants’ ability to photosynthesise, and his hope is that if we can do that at the household level, we can bypass the need for food transportation, fossil fuel fired power, etc.  I have no idea how realistic it is, but how many academics are there like this guy?  He also strongly believes in the need for society to find a spiritual reason for being, not the current material one, and thinks religion needs to reinstore the ‘contemplative traditions’ – meditation basically, as a tool to help move us from being so ego-centric, and so make the ‘anthropocenic age’ short while we transition to the ‘sustainocenic age’.  Clearly, he’s not your average academic.

So much so that I was moved to say in the Q&A session to say how different he was but that I had to ask ‘are you for real?’.   At this, Prof Hilary Charlesworth of the ANU College of Law, who introduced Prof Faunce, sprang to her feet and said ‘I know exactly what you mean, but yes I can assure you Thomas is real and is seen by the ANU as real as well.  He is just like that – amazing’.

He does though want us to join in the fight against the Trans Pacific Partnership, especially because the Australian government is joining with the US government to make sure caveats are not included to protect against negative impacts on human health, the environment, pharmaceutical supply etc – ‘carve-outs’ he calls them.  Once the TPP’s in place, if a gov wants to change laws to protect this or that, ‘affected’ corporations can sue for damages to profits – meaning governments just won’t introduce laws in the first place.

For more information:

Short article on AP at: www.smh.com.au/environment/energy-smart/big-idea-suits-big-technology-20110803-1ibh8.html

On Prof Faunce’s views on the TPP: www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/trans-pacific-partnership-agreement-favours-foreign-investors-over-citizens-rights-20140103-309nb.html

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government