November 2, 2012
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on November 1 took the rostrum at the plenary session of the House of Representatives to engage in interpellation on pressing issues affecting people's livelihoods such as diversion of post-disaster recovery funds and 130,000 job cuts in the electronic industry.
Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko could not satisfactorily deal with the points Shii raised, displaying the inability of the ruling Democratic Party to properly govern this country.
Shii later gave the press his impressions of the day's interpellation, saying, "The DPJ-led government looks like it is on the verge of collapse."
In regards to PM Noda saying that the U.S. is paying the maximum possible attention to the safety issues associated with the MV-22 Osprey deployment, Shii criticized, "The remark lacks any sense of consideration for the concerns of Okinawans."
About the "No territorial dispute exists between Japan and China" stance in regard to the Senkaku Islands, Shii said, "Japan is still caught in its own trap. That makes Japan unable to claim to the islands with a coherent argument."
Shii criticized Noda for prioritizing Japan's overall business profits over economic revitalization of 3.11 disaster-affected areas and for showing no intention to end nuclear energy promotion.
The gist of the question-and-answer session between Shii and Noda is as follows:
Post-3.11 disaster recovery funds
While providing generous subsidies to large corporations, the government abandons bailout programs for the disaster-hit region. It is absolutely unforgivable to divert the budget allocated for post-disaster recovery funds to businesses having nothing to do with aid for the disaster victims.
The government gave 235.6 billion yen from recovery funds to Toyota Motor, Canon, Mitsubishi Electric, Kyocera, and Toshiba. In contrast, about 60% of small- and- mid-sized business owners could not receive reconstruction aid.
Shii blamed the three parties (Democratic, Liberal Democratic, and Komei parties) for the diversion of funds as they had sneakily agreed in advance upon inserting a loophole into the budget so that the money can also be used for the overall Japanese economy, irrespective of the pressing need for funding in disaster areas.
He demanded that the government immediately stop diverting the funds and give necessary public assistance to rebuild houses and reestablish jobs in the disaster-affected areas.
Prime Minister Noda, in reply, justified the inappropriate use of recovery funds by insisting that the government provided the subsidy because industrial hollowing-out would obstruct the process of recovery from the disaster.
Mass layoffs by major electronics firms
Shii took up the issues of large-scale restructuring by electronic giants, including Panasonic, which has led to a 130,000-job loss.
NEC interviewed a targeted employee more than 10 times in a short period of time in an attempt to force this person to leave the company, driving him to the brink of suicide.
Pointing out that the practice of forcible early retirement is against the law, Shii demanded that the government investigate the situation and take strict measures to root out the illegal practice.
IBM Japan gives sudden dismissal notices to targeted workers without valid reasons and kicks them out of the company premises, dubbed "lockout dismissals".
Shii condemns such a nefarious way of firing as an abuse of the employer's right of dismissal, demanding that the government issue a warning to the company to stop conducting forcible dismissals and fulfill its corporate social responsibility.
Avoiding commenting on the merciless retirement coercion practices and the ongoing massive firing practices, PM Noda just said, "The government provides awareness building guidelines to companies to maintain employment and help workers to find another job if needed based on related-laws and legal precedents."
Stating, "A big tax hike amid the current deep recession should be out of the question," Shii urged the prime minister to give up the consumption tax hike which the ruling Democratic Party of Japan together with the opposition Liberal Democratic and Komei parties steamrollered through the latest ordinary session of the Diet.
Shii presented data of the National Tax Agency which show that the average annual income of private sector workers in 2011 fell from its peak in 1997 by 580,000 yen or 12%. He criticized the prime minister for having no intention to consider the planned tax hike's negative impact on the Japanese economy where a wage-price deflationary spiral is causing a decrease in consumer spending due to shrunken national income which in turn leads to a further cooling of domestic demand.
Shii pointed out that extreme preferential tax measures for large corporations and the wealthy have minimized income tax burdens on those who earn more than 100 million yen a year and allowed large corporations to shoulder smaller tax burdens than small- and mid-sized corporations.
Explaining the JCP economic proposal, Shii stressed that if the government imposes a fair share of taxes on big businesses and the wealthy and at the same time takes measures to increase the income of the general public, it will be able to overcome the financial crisis and improve welfare services without using revenues from the consumption tax.
Prime Minister Noda promised to discontinue the preferential securities tax system but said that he has no intention to have large corporations pay more in taxes.
Shii criticized the prime minister for still clinging to the policy endorsing nuclear power generation: the government had idled nuclear reactors restarted, the construction work at the Oma nuclear power plant resumed, maintains the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing program, and postponed setting a target of achieving "zero"-nuclear reactors by the 2030s due to opposition from the Japan Business Federation and the U.S. government.
In reply to Shii's request to make a political decision to declare a commitment to a firm departure from nuclear power, the prime minister said that nuclear energy is utilized as a vital source of power.
Calling for swift withdrawal from nuclear power generation, Shii condemned the government for trying to convince the public into accepting reliance on nuclear energy by threating possible power shortages and higher electricity rates.
The prime minister turned his back on the public demand for the swift termination of nuclear power generation.
Shii called for calm diplomatic efforts to achieve a settlement of the territorial issue of the Senkaku Islands, which is increasing tensions between Japan and China.
He pointed out that successive Japanese governments have never presented in their diplomacy any persuasive reasons to establish the legitimacy of Japan's claim of sovereignty over the islands.
"The government should acknowledge that there is a territorial dispute with China and should directly claim the legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over the islands through diplomatic negotiations in a calm and rational manner," said Shii.
He also stressed that in order to assert the legitimacy in a persuasive manner, it is essential for the government to sincerely express remorse over the past war of aggression, urging the Noda Cabinet to recognize the "50-year war" starting from the Sino-Japanese War as a war of aggression.
The JCP chair demanded that the government give up participating in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, stating that an entry into the free-trade pact would deal a devastating blow to Japan's agriculture and sell out the nation's sovereignty over medical care, employment, and food safety to the United States.
He criticized Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko's pledge in his policy speech to "promote the TPP while protecting what should be protected." Stressing that "removal of tariffs without exceptions" and "elimination of non-tariff barriers" are the fundamental principles of the TPP, Shii asked what Noda considers as "items that should be protected."
In response to Shii, the prime minister only stated that he is determined to protect "Japan's medical system, Japanese traditions and culture, and beautiful farm villages."
U.S. rape, Osprey
Expressing concern over Okinawa's growing anger, Shii grilled the prime minister over issues of U.S. bases.
Shii pointed out that MV-22 Ospreys, which the U.S. deployed to the U.S. Futenma base (Ginowan City) in October, are now flying over densely populated areas in defiance of safety rules agreed on by the Japanese and the U.S. governments. However, Noda in response said, "The U.S. forces are following the rules and giving full consideration to safety."
In the wake of the forcible deployment of the Osprey and the current rape case involving U.S. sailors in the prefecture, Okinawan anger against the U.S. forces is increasing, and the prefectural assembly for the first time adopted a resolution that states, "Residents are starting to call for all the U.S. bases to be removed from the prefecture." Shii asked Noda what he thinks of the situation, and the Prime Minister said, "I will take it seriously."
Shii urged that both the Osprey aircraft and the Futenma base be unconditionally removed from the prefecture and said, "The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is the root cause of Japan's subordination to the U.S. The government should abrogate the treaty and conclude a treaty of friendship with the U.S."
Noda replied that the security treaty is needed for Japan to maintain national security, and that Ospreys have importance in defending Japan.