TVNZ’s Q+A on Sunday 24 April featured an interview with Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett. Her responses were further evidence that National was increasingly unable (or unwilling) to cope with the growing threat of climate change.
Posing a series of surprisingly incisive questions and follow-ups, the ever-youthful-looking Jack Tame held Minister Bennett to account in a way that few other interviewers have done;
Up untill now, Jack Tame’s presence in the US focused mainly on the theatrics of the Hollywood entertainment industry or the equally-theatric Presidential primaries. They were for the most part light, breezy stories – even with the increasingly bizarre and somewhat menacing nature of the rise and rise of
Lex Luthor Donald Trump, as the potential Republican candidate.
However, on this occassion, Tame’s Q+A interview was a masterful deconstruction of Minister Bennett’s waffle, revealing how woefully unprepared for Tame’s skillful probing she really was.
As the thirteen minute segment progressed, it rapidly became apparent that, aside from platitudes and rhetoric, Bennett had no real answers or any actual, meaningful commitment to addressing New Zealand’s increasing emissions of greenhouse-gas pollution of our atmosphere. It was as it she were still Social Welfare Minister, patiently explaining how National would be “helping” solo-mums with contraception, all the while sounding like an overly-concerned, benevolent, tough-loving nana.
In fact, not since 2 May 2015 – when Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was interviewed and demolished by seasoned interviewer, Lisa Owen, on TV3’s The Nation – has a government minister had their ineptitude so publicly paraded for the entire country to witness (if they so decided to tune in on a Sunday morning, at 9am.
Unfortunately, we should not be surprised that National is luke-warm on the looming crisis of climate change. Despite making very clear promises, National has broken one of it’s prime committments to the Emissions Trading Scheme – to eventually include agriculture.
The time-line to this act of duplicity clearly illustrates National’s early promises and then reneging;
13 May 2007
In a speech by then Opposition-leader, John Key;
“In particular I’m going to speak about the biggest environmental challenge of our time: global climate change.
The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively to confront this challenge.
The scientific consensus is clear: human-induced climate change is real and it’s threatening the planet. There are some armchair sceptics out there, but I’m not one of them…
… National is committed to growing our economy. Confronting climate change will be a vital part of the policy mix for fuelling that growth…
… In the decades ahead, peoples’ perceptions around climate change will affect the brand image of New Zealand and its exports. New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah…
… National will have policies that reflect the fact that living on a diet of carbon will be increasingly bad – bad for the world and bad for our economy. We will have policy that encourages ‘climate friendly’ choices like windmills, hydro power and tree planting, and reduces the desire for ‘climate unfriendly’ behaviours, like burning coal…
… National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target.“
8 April 2010
Prime Minister John Key rejects demands to amend the Emissions Trading Scheme before it takes effect on the energy and transport sectors in July despite calls from business groups, farmers, and ACT.
Key tells reporters at the launch of the Global Research Alliance’s inaugural meeting on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions,
“I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”
6 June 2010
Climate Change Minister Nick Smith announces that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme in 2015 will depend on technological advances and what other countries do.
9 November 2011
Environment Minister Nick Smith announces,
“… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet.“
2 July 2012
Then-Climate Change Minister, Tim Groser, announces four amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme;
- Keeping the ‘one-for-two’ obligation in place until after this year. This means participants in the scheme will continue to surrender units for half the carbon they emit;
- Maintaining the $25 ‘fixed-price option’ until at least 2015, which caps the price firms will face if carbon prices begin to rise internationally;
- Introducing off-setting for pre-1990 forest land owners, and allocating the full second tranche of compensation where off-setting is not taken; and
- Leaving agricultural emissions out of the ETS until at least 2015.
20 August 2012
National introduces “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012”, which will remove agricultural emissions indefinitely, and will,
“remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.
National’s repudiation of it’s 2007 committment to include agriculture was complete. Despite a clear promise by our esteemed Dear Leader, agriculture was permanently omitted from the ETS.
As I pointed out in October 2012;
During National’s four years in office, they have broken several promises and the weakening of the ETS is simply one more on the list. It also further highlights John Key’s ability to say one thing – whilst knowing full well that he has no intention of fulfilling committments, or will do completely the opposite.
An editorial in the Dominion Post, on 20 April, was no less scathing in it’s condemnation of National’s inertia;
The Government’s climate change policy has been a failure and will have to be rebuilt. There needs to be a fundamental change in the Emissions Trading Scheme, the subject this week of a damning report by the Gareth Morgan Foundation. But other changes are also needed.
Bennett concedes, however, that the ETS was “not perfect”, and is now being reviewed. In fact the ETS has been a fiasco. What’s more, it continues to cast its dirty shadow.
The Government has banned the purchase of foreign credits, but it could still use the bad credits to meet its climate change targets up to 2020.
It must not do so. Instead, it needs to revamp the whole scheme, starting by ending the subsidies it gives to polluters such as the oil industry. The “one for two” scheme introduced in 2009 allows businesses to pay only half the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions.
It also needs to reverse its decision to keep agriculture, which produces half the country’s emissions, out of the ETS. National argues that making farming pay for its pollution would be unfair because there is no workable way yet of reducing animal emissions and our export industry should not be penalised.
Farmers, however, are not exempt from the country’s global environmental duties, and will also respond to economic signals – even if this is a pledge to bring agriculture into the scheme within, say, five years
Jack Tame’s superb interview on 24 April merely confirms pathetic National’s track record on this issue and it now appears that Minister Bennett will simply follow in the footsteps of her do-nothing-predecessors, Ministers Smith, Groser, et al.
Bennett certainly has no intention of adopting any of the bold, radical – but much-needed – policies as advocated by Professor Jim Skea, co-chairperson of the IPCC Working Group III, and interviewed by Radio NZ’s Kathryn Ryan on 27 April;
Listen to the two interviews and judge for yourself which person is seriously committed to combating climate change – and which person is a politician who has plenty of empty platitudes to offer, but little else.
In her previous role as Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett had much to say about welfare-fraud.
Her empty words on addressing climate change is a fraud on a much grander, and ultimately vastly more destructive, scale.
Postscript1: Memo to TVNZ
Jame Tame’s interview with Minister Bennett reveals a young man with considerable journalistic skills. He should be given every opportunity to make full use of his under-utilised talents.
TVNZ (and TV3) should maximise the talents of their journalistic and production staff by shifting Q+A and The Nation to prime time viewing slots during the early evening.
Why hide excellence early on weekend mornings, where it is not easily appreciated and valued by the general public?
Postscript2: Memo to Paula Bennett
Ms Bennett, your performance on 24 April was a dismal failure. You are either unwilling to seriously confront the challenges of climate change or, apparently, you are in way over your head on this issue.
Either way, you should resign your Climate Change portfolio. This job is too important to be left to your glib inanities.
TVNZ: Q+A – Climate Change Paris Agreement signed
NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar
Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’
Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target
NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas
Beehive.co.nz: Government announces ETS amendments
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 April 2016.
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Top image: NASA
Bottom image: NASA
1. The Promise
What John Key said to the National Blue-Green Forum, on 6 September 2008, one month before the up-coming election that year;
“What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand. We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other. And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.
In the years ahead it will be increasingly important that New Zealand marries its economic and environmental policies. Global climate change awareness, resource shortages, and increasing intolerance of environmental degradation will give environmental policy renewed relevance on the world stage…
… And, in seeking the balance between environmental and economic goals, National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans. They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future.”
Significantly, Key added;
“National will also ensure New Zealand works on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations and we will work to achieve further global alliances that build on the goals agreed to at Kyoto.”
Pre-election, Key had unequivocally committed National to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and honouring New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.
2. Agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme – Timeline of a Broken Promise
On May 2008, John Key stated,
“National supports the principle of the ETS and is following the select committee process closely. National has had reservations about the timing of new taxes on motorists and households when there has been no personal tax relief for so long.”
On 8 April 2010, Key confirmed that the ETS would be preserved unchanged,
“I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”
By 6 June 2010, the then-Climate Minister, Nick Smith announced that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme in 2015 would depend on technological advances and what other countries do.
And on 9 November 2011, Nick Smith announced,
“ … It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet. The lack of any practical and real technologies to reduce agricultural emissions means it would only impose a cost or tax on our most important export industry. It would also have New Zealand too far ahead of our trading partners on climate change mitigation measures. National will review the position in 2014 and only include agriculture if new technologies are available and more progress is made internationally on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
By 3 July 2012, Key began to publicly vacillate,
“John Key says the Government will wait for other countries to follow suit before introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme…”
And on 20 August 2012, National introduced the “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012″, which would remove agricultural emmissions indefinitely, and;
“…remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.
It took them four years to do it, but with some cunning public manipulation (and outright lies) – National achieved it’s real agenda,
- Watering down the ETS until it was toothless,
- Keeping agriculture (the worst emitter of greenhouse gases in NZ) out of the ETS
- Abandoning the Kyoto protocol
It was National’s worst broken promise (one of many), and it successfully slipped under the public and media radar.
3. Gagging the Watchmen
Part of National’s strategy to cope with embarrassing data on unpalatable problems – is to eliminate the data. This is Standard Operating Procedure for this government, and has been used to prevent data collected on Child Poverty and foreign investors buying up farms and houses.
By eliminating (or not collecting) data, it becomes difficult for the media and public to assess problems and determine how effective the government is in dealing with them.
The public, media, Opposition parties, and other critics become reliant on hear-say, anecdotal evidence, and evidence obtained through back-door methods. The recent release of a list of non-resident/citizen Chinese investors in our already over-heated property-market is perhaps the best example of this pressing problem.
National also employed the same tactic by no longer requiring five-yearly State of the Environment Reports from the Ministry of the Environment;
National’s minister explained;
Environment Minister Amy Adams said the ministry is continually tracing environmental performance using 22 core indicators and the change is to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand.
Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright was not impressed, and said as much;
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright said that is not good enough, because the data is not compiled, analysed, or compared.
Ms Wright is correct. This was National’s clumsy move to silence critics and hide evidence of our on-going environmental degradation. (See Addendum1 below)
Because really, if Minister Adams wanted “to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand” – there is absolutely no sound reason why that could not be done and still have five yearly State of the Environment Reports produced.
The only possible reason for State of the Environment Reports being scrapped by National is that they were fearful of the information that would become public.
4. National abandons Kyoto Protocols
At the same time that National was quietly abandoning it’s pre-election committment to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, our esteemed dear Leader, John Key, was announcing that New Zealand would not commit to the second state of the Kyoto protocols;
Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.
The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.
The treaty aims to curb international greenhouse gas emissions through binding national commitments but some countries have questioned its effectiveness.
New Zealand would be joining other countries in going following the “convention track”, Mr Key said on TVNZ’s Breakfast show today.
“Next year New Zealand will name a binding commitment to climate change – it will actually have a physical rate that we’re going to hit – but instead of being what’s called a second commitment period that is likely to run from 2012 to 2020, we’ll be able to set our own rules around that,” Mr Key said.
As Fairfax’s Vernon Small reported at the time;
The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel “United Nation Convention Framework”.
Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.
That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.
“This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies,” Groser said.
In other words, our government has put us into a ‘club’ with the world’s major polluters.
Key wants to “set our own rules around” climate change. It is fairly apparent what those rules are; doing as little as possible.
5. Shifting Goalposts
Even less known by the msm (mainstream media) and public is how National has moved targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1991. For the the past 24 years, successive National governments have quietly and with little scrutiny, changed targets for reducing emissions.
- First Target
In September 1993, the Bolger-led National Government signed up to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) . Four months after the UNFCCC came into effect, in July 1994, National announced a number of very specific climate change committments, as the State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 report outlined;
◊ a target of reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000,
◊ a target of slowing growth of gross emissions by 20%,
◊ increased carbon storage in plantation forests
◊ energy sector reforms
◊ an energy efficiency strategy and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA),
◊ renewable energy sources
◊ use of the Resource Management Act; and,
◊ voluntary agreements with industry.
(Source for precise bullet-points – Wikipedia)
Even the initial target – reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000 – was the bare minimum, being set at net levels, rather than gross.
National stipulated that if emissions were not stabilised at 1990 levels, by 2000, a (low-level) carbon charge would be introduced in December 1997.
- Second Target
By July 1996, plans were under way to water down those targets set only three years earlier. Then Environment Minister, Simon Upton “committed” his government to;
…take precautionary actions to help stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reduce risk from global climate change, and to meet New Zealand’s commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including:
• To return net emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than their 1990 levels by the year 2000 (but aim for a reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2000 if this is cost-effective and will not harm our trade) and to maintain them at this level thereafter; and
• To reduce net emissions of other greenhouse gases, particularly methane, by the year 2000 where possible and maintain them at those levels thereafter.
“Cost effective“, “not harm our trade“, and “where possible” – the weasel words of a government determined not to be bound by any committment.
One could imagine the reaction if those terms were included in marriage vows or other social or legal contract.
- Third Target
Two years later, on 22 May 1998, National ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. This time, National “committed” New Zealand to a target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008-2012 period to five times the 1990 volume.
Worse still, New Zealand could either reduce emissions or obtain carbon credits from the international market or from domestic carbon sinks, to meet those “targets”.
The relevant Kyoto Protocol stated;
New Zealand’s emissions management task
• New Zealand’s initial assigned amount (translating into a corresponding holding of “emission units”) for the commitment period is 365 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is equal to five times the 73 million tonnes that New Zealand emitted in 1990, times 100%, which is New Zealand’s target under Annex B of the Protocol.
• New Zealand is projected to gain, during the commitment period, additional assigned amount (“removal units”) of 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent due to the growth of trees planted on land that has been converted (or reverted) to forest since 1990.
Like a desert mirage, New Zealand’s targets were continually receding under National.
- Fourth Target
December 2014 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, announced New Zealand’s latest emissions reduction target of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020. This pushed the target date from 2008-2012 to 2020.
- Fifth Target
July 2015 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced new emissions target, a 30% reduction on 2005 levels, by 2030.
Not only is the target date pushed further out, from 2020, top 2030 – but the baseline is now 2005 instead of 1990.
Five different targets in twentytwo years – each one more watered down; pushing target dates further and further into the distant future. Which begs two questions;
- What will be the next emissions reduction level and target date? When does it begin to sound patently ridiculous? 2050? 2099? Next century?
- How has no one noticed that National has been surreptitiously shifting the goal-posts?
Massey University climate change expert, Professor Ralph Sims, was not impressed with National’s subterfuge;
Prof Sims said 2005 was the year of New Zealand’s highest emissions and the 2030 target gives New Zealand “10 extra years to produce very little extra reduction.”
By Prof Sims’s calculations, based on gross greenhouse emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand needed to cut emissions by 63,384 kilotonnes under its previous target and by 59,150 KT under the new one.
In essence, he said New Zealand is now doing less than its fair share.
6. The Problem Worsens
Meanwhile, our emissions have continued to worsen, whilst National fiddles;
New Zealand’s net emissions of greenhouse gases climbed 42 per cent between 1990 and 2013.
Gross emissions, which exclude carbon flows relating to forestry and land use change, rose 21 per cent between 1990 (year zero for carbon accounting purposes) and 2013, to be the fifth highest per capita among 40 developed countries.
Two decades of goal setting; and goal-post moving; and the results have been disappointing, if not predictable.
This has been National’s legacy.
University’s Environmental Performance Index has highlighted New Zealand’s falld on international EPI rankings.
In 2008, New Zealand ranked seventh out of 149 nations.
In 2012, our ranking had dropped seven placings to number fourteen.
Last year, we fell a further two spots, to number sixteen.
As John Key stated seven years ago;
“And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record”.
On every indicator and policy, New Zealand is doing poorly in the field of conservation. We are going backwards.
“I think we never wanted to be a world leader in climate change.” – John Key, 12 November 2012
National Party: John Key Speech – Environment Policy Launch
Fairfax media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap
NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas
National Party: Government announces ETS amendments
Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses
Otago Daily Times: Foreign buyers still in market
Radio NZ: State of the Environment report stopped
Dominion Post: Government shuns second Kyoto committment
Wikipedia: Fourth National Government of New Zealand
Ministry for the environment: State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 (ch5)
Beehive.govt.nz: Environment 2010 Strategy
Otago Daily Times: Groser – NZ’s emission impossible
NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar
Yale University: 2008 Environmental Performance Index
Yale University: 2012 Environmental Performance Index
Yale University: 2014 Environmental Performance Index
Green Party: Govt’s emissions reduction target 100% pure spin
No Right Turn: Are fossil fuels really an industry we want to promote?
Open Parachute: Talk of “mini ice age” bunkum
The Daily Blog: Using freezing temperatures to claim global warming is a hoax
The Standard: Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care
The Standard: It’s just too expensive to act on climate change
NASA Goddard Insititute for Space Studies: Global Climate Modeling
Skeptical Science: Global Warming in a Nutshell
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 July 2015.
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NZ, Wellington, 7 March – It had been raining intermittently through the the morning, but as mid-day rolled into 1pm, the skies partially cleared and the sun broke through over a city glistening with rain drops. It was well-timed, as citizens began to assemble in down-town Midland Park. This was to be another expression of public anger against the so-called “Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement”.
There were a wide variety of signs. Some professionally printed, others hand-made;
Entertainment was provided by the “Brass Razoo” band;
This sign was especially clever;
A panoramic view of the growing crowd;
The Green Party was very much in evidence;
As were unions – for whom “free” trade agreements are never free and come at a cost of lower wages, reduced conditions, job-insecurity, and lost jobs;
The host and one of the organisors of the event was Dr Sandra Grey, National President of the Tertiary Education Union;
One of the first speakers was Green Wellington city councillor, Sarah Free;
Ms Free said she was proud that Wellington City Council had joined with Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Palmerston North, and other local bodies around the country in opposing the secrecy of the TPPA. She said,
“We want trade but not at any cost. Not at any cost. We want to keep those freedoms we have at the moment, to look after our public health, to look after our working conditions in the city, to make sure that people and the environment are looked after. We actually value those freedoms.
We are here because we are nervous. Nervous what that government’s proposing to do with our sovereign rights. Nervous about the power they’re going to give to these faceless corporations.
It’s not a trivial nervousness that we have because these corporations under these investor state dispute clauses, have sued governments. They have sued governments for things like trying to get plain [cigarettes] packaging in Australia. They’ve sued Ecuador for just changing the size; making the size of the health warnings on the cigarette packages a little bit bigger. They’ve sued Peru for trying to shut down the smelter that was causing lead poisoning in it’s communities.
In fact they scared the Peruvian government so much that they actually backed away from shutting down the smelter!”
She said that a mining company had sued the government of Ecuador after the company had been found to be breaking the law.
Ms Free said we had good cause to be scared of the investor state dispute clauses, which the American government had been very keen to implement after it’s North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994. She said that disputes were arbitrated in secret dispute-tribunals and had risen exponentially from 69 cases in 1999, to 370 in 2012.
Ms Free told the crowd, to loud cries of “boooo!”, that law suits were being under-taken by powerful corporations with vast sums of money, against democratically elected governments.
She asked those in the crowd to put their hands up if that made people nervous. A sea of hands shot up into the air.
Ms Free pointed out,
“It’s no coincidence that the power of the corporations has also coincided with the increasing inequality of wealth worldwide. I do not think this is a coincidence.
1% of the world’s population now controls 50% of it’s wealth. 85 individuals are wealthier than 3.5 billion people at the bottom end.
We’re talking about the modern day pharoahs, and their slaves.
We want trade, but not at any cost!
Our free trade agreement with China did include some clauses, and also included protection for our environment, our public health, and our Treaty of Waitangi.”
Ms Free wanted a clear message sent to the government, saying,
“Why should we settle for any less with the TPPA?”
Some more light mockery by clever citizens;
It seems that our Dear Leader is developing something of a reputation for amnesia? Or selective recall?
Ms Grey told the crowd that 600 lobby groups, representing corporations, had looked at the draft TPPA – but the public have not been allowed the same right.
Ms Grey then introduced the next speaker, CTU National Secretary Sam Huggard;
Sam started by referring to the investor state dispute settlement mechanism as one of the nastiest aspects of the proposed agreement;
“It’s a provision which allows… companies and unaccountable offshore tribunals to sue our governments if they have the audacity to make changes which improve the wellbeing or the economic security or improve equality in our country. Why would our government or any government around the world want to sign up to an agreement which allows foreign companies to sue us if we have the audacity to improve our water quality or bring in other other environmental protections? Or if we wanted to improve our health policy settings to improve health and wellbeing? Or improve the economic security of people?”
Sam said that such investor mechanisms were creeping into trade agreements all around the world.
Sam told the crowd that French multi-national corporation, Veola, which managed Auckland’s rail transport network, was currently in the process of suing the Egyptian government. He said that Veola was suing the Egyptian government for increasing the minimum wage, and Veola was complaining that such a move would strip their ability to make profits.
He referred to tobacco giant, Phillip Morris, that was suing the Australian and Uruguan governments for introducing plain packaging for tobacco.
Sam said he wanted nothing to do with an agreement he considered “nasty and dodgy”,
“I don’t want it signed in my name,” he told Wellingtonians, and those listening agreed noisily with his sentiments.
Young people, expressing their views;
And other citizens, expressing their reservations, concerns, and outright opposition to an agreement which is being negotiated in secret, and which very, very few understand the consequences for our country, society, and economy;
Sandra then welcomed Dr Gaye Keating to the microphone;
Dr Keating announced to the crowd that she was part of a new group that had recently been created, ‘Doctors for Healthy Trade‘. She said that the group was a response by doctors around the world, including the President of the World Medical Association, calling for more openness in trade agreements, such as the TPPA, before they were ratified. She said that there was concern amongst the medical profession that international trade agreements were fraught with major health risks, based on past, recent examples.
Dr Keating stated that there were fears, based on leaked draft versions of the TPPA, that plans were afoot to make medicines more expensive, to increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies. She said that this would be a problem not just for wealthy countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the US, but others such as Vietnam, who could not afford medical drugs “pushed up for extra American companies profits”.
Dr Keating raised the issue of safe workplace practices and condemned the TPPA for potentially undermining health and safety laws in New Zealand;
“New Zealand knows about the problems of mines which are not managed for the safety of their workers. It kills people. We also know about things like tobacco, which also, if it’s not managed properly, kills people.
From the leaked documents, it is really clear that the TPPA freezes a country’s ability to protect people. It puts in place in place options to protect profits. It does not put in place protections for people’s health.”
Dr Keating added that climate change was also a major health threat, saying;
“We need to be able to put in place protections, for safety in terms of greenhouse gases and safety for reacting to catastrophic climate change.”
She concluded by saying,
“So both for New Zealand and for the Pacific states whose islands are going to be drowned, and for the countries in places which are being mined, we need to take a responsible stance to protect health in New Zealand but also in other countries, we should not allow other countries to be bribed or bullied into laws that are bad for their health.”
After a brief discussion on the merits of marching to Parliament with impending bad weather approaching, the decision was made by the public to proceed with the march.
Well over a thousand people marched through Wellington, toward Parliament’s grounds. I saw no hecklers or anyone on the footpaths showing any antipathy toward the protestors. I did, however, witness people nodding and clapping;
This citizen posed a very good question to our esteemed Prime Minister;
New Zealanders, for the most part, are not stupid. With all the secrecy surrounding the TPPA, they smell a dead rat – not unlike the stench from old, decaying road-kill at the height of our recent hot summer.
In this shot, you can see how far back the march filled Lambton Quay, as protesting citizens neared the Cenotaph;
Meanwhile, Police presence during the march was minimal, except for traffic control. This lone constable appeared to be doing a good job, bringing traffic to a stop as marchers walked safely through the intersection;
Yet again, someone in Parliament (the Speaker’s Office? Parliamentary Services?) had decided to keep the Main Gates closed and padlocked, forcing hundreds of citizens to squeeze through an open, narrow, side gate;
Because, judging by the crowd-barriers erected in front of Parliament’s steps, I think we can safely assume that someone was expecting the protest;
It took a bit longer, but the marchers – which had swelled in number since departing from Midland Park – assembled in front of Parliament;
Though determined, it was a good-natured crowd and their was no hint of anything anti-social or potentially violent, arising. The revolution would not be held today.
This woman came forward from the crowd and volunteered to use sign-language to communicate with anyone who might be deaf, translating speakers’ speech into Sign;
Sandra introduced the first speaker to address the crowd, Todd Rippon, vice-President of Equity New Zealand (formerly Actor’s Equity);
Todd made an impassioned forceful statement which left listeners in no doubt where he stood on the TPPA;
“Performer’s lives are directly affected by trade agreements. In 1994, the National government signed a World Trade Organisation agreement which effectively made it illegal to have New Zealand content quota on our televisions.
So that basically meant that we gave free reign to broadcaster services internationally, to access to our televisions and screens. So the Labour government years later, led by Helen Clark, tried to support the production of film and television in New Zealand. She found she couldn’t. That government could not do a thing.
It was hamstrung by that stupid agreement. Because it was internationally illegal!”
The crowd reacted with anger, expressing their opposition to what they were hearing from Todd.
Cries of “Shame!” echoed around Parliament’s grounds.
“Now this TPPA, this agreement is like that World Trade Organisation [agreement] on steroids. Only this time it’s not going to affect performers, it’s going affect our education, it’s going to affect our healthcare, it’s going to affect agriculture… it will just go on and on and on!”
Todd was clear in what he wanted;
“I want our kids to be to able to decide their own futures. These trade agreements get locked in for decades. But our kids deserve better. I want our kids to be able to see New Zealand content on their televisions and when they go see films. I think it’s apalling that we allow foreign corporations to decide what we see on our screens! We deserve better than that!”
Todd did not need a microphone and speakers when he forcefully thundered;
“I challenge our government to respect our culture! I challenge them to protect our culture! Signing the TPPA is nothing short of insanity! We must not sign it, Kia kaha!”
The crowd loved it and erupted with exuberant applause and cheering.
Amongst the crowd, another citizen held aloft a placard, with a very simple question for our esteemed Prime Minister;
Sandra next introduced Jean Kahui, from Taranaki Whanau ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, and researcher on the process of fracking;
Jean told the crowd she has been researching the fracking of Aotearoa for the past. She said that her findings into fracking were alarming, and she could not stand by and allow government and Big Oil to pollute our children’s future. She warned that if the TPPA proceeded then so would fracking, warning that “our future will be dismal”.
“The French decided to ban fracking in 2011 and Big Oil did mount a challenge. But the highest court in France upheld the ban, cancelled the permits, and sent the frackers packing. Without a TPPA, we can do that too.”
There was enthusiastic applause when Jean said that.
Jean said that that the State of New York banned fracking on the strength of over 400 scientific studies. The over-riding concern was that the effects of fracking was not yet fully known.
Last week, she said, Tasmania renewed their ban on fracking for another five years. The Tasmanians were concerned at protecting their premium, safe, locally grown produce from potential contamination.
“The list of communities banning this extreme mining technique continue to grow while back here in ‘clean, green New Zealand’, our motto is clearly, “drill baby drill, and frack the hell out of every well”!”
Jean said that with the TPPA, a frack-free New Zealand is achievable.
Jean cut her speech short as dark clouds loomed over-head, and drops of rain began to be felt.
Sandra introduced singer, Matt Pike, who belted out a stunning rendition of the ‘Twisted Sister‘ song “We’re not going to take it anymore” (with a few words altered to make it relevant to the day of protest);
Like the 1960s song, “We shall overcome“, it seems that “We’re not going to take it anymore” has become the protest anthem of the 21st century. The crowd joined in with gusto.
A protester taking a photo of me, photographing her. (I presented her with one of my business cards, giving her my details – some measure of reassurance that I was not SIS, GCSB, or some other National Party stooge.)
Following Matt, Sandra introduced speakers from several political parties. She revealed that National had refused to send a representative to speak on behalf of their party. They “lacked the guts”, she said.
United Future had sent their “apologies” – to which the crowd reacted with derision.
As rain began to fall more heavily, Sandra announced that each speaker would be given a one minute maximum time limit to speak. It was now a “race” to beat the on-coming “weather bomb” that had been predicted for the city.
First up, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati from the Mana Party and long-time opponant of the TPPA addressed the people;
Ariana also spoke with deep passion, expressing her deeply-held beliefs, that we needed elected representatives who looked after our rights and looked after our country, and our future. She said,
“We will keep fighting because we are a movement of the people, for the people. Whether we have representation in Parliament or not!”
Ariana described the TPPA;
“This is a kind of agreement that you cannot give an inch, they will take a mile! Let’s keep this pressure on!”
She encouraged people to join the TPPA Action group, referring to the group’s Facebook page as a contact point.
Ariana spoke briefly, but the crowd loved her passion.
Following Ariana, was NZ First’s Fletcher Tabutean, looking very “corporate” in his suit;
Fletcher said the those who promoted the TPPA were compromising the sovereignty, people, and businesses of this country. He further explained;
“I have submitted on behalf of NZ First a Private Members Bill which will fight foreign corporate control.”
The crowd cheered wildly as he railed against Big Corporates, demanding that they not be permitted the right to sue the New Zealand government, nor take away our sovereignty.
“They shouldn’t even begin to think about it! They don’t belong here.”
Fletcher finished by poking fun at the government;
“John Key’s not listening to you, he’s not listening to you today. But I’ll tell you what… maybe his focus groups will hear you. Maybe his focus groups will go back to his office up there and say, ‘You might have something to worry about, John. There were a lot of people here today’.”
Many of the signs, like this one, were imaginative – very much showing the creativity of New Zealanders;
The next speaker was James Shaw, from the Green Party. Like Ariana, he received a rapturous welcome from the crowd as well;
James launched straight into a rousing attack on the TPPA;
“It’s because of you that we can defeat the TPPA. We can defeat the TPPA, we have done it on things like this before, and we can do it again. When we’ve got the strength of numbers, and you’re demonstrating that despite the weather. All over the country there are thousands of people marching against the TPPA today.”
“This is a Bill of Rights, not for you, not for our country, but for multi-national corporations. It goes against everything that is the sovereignty of this country. It goes against our environment, it means we can’t look after our healthcare, we can’t pass our own laws. We are ceding our sovereignty to foreign corporations.”
James stated that the Green Party would be supporting Fletcher’s bill through Parliament;
“We’re going to be doing everything we can and today we’re calling on the government to release the text. We’ve been calling on them to release the text for the last couple of years, to release the cost-benefit analysis. Because if it is so good, why is it so secret!”
He re-iterated that point,
“If it is such a good deal, why won’t they tell us what a good deal it is. The only thing that we know about this, is all of the risk.”
As the rain began to pour more heavily, the last political party representative was Grant Robertson, from the Labour Party;
Grant first paid tribute to the Unions who had organised the protest, giving a “big shout-out” for their efforts.
Without any further mucking around, Grant got straight into giving the Prime Minister ‘a serve’;
“I’ve got two messages, the first of those is to John Key. He’s had a lot to say in the last couple of weeks about people’s courage. Well, my message to John Key is get some guts and be upfront with New Zealand about the TPPA.
This is not a normal trade agreement. This is an agreement that goes behind the border to issues about what rights we have in that building [pointing to Parliament behind him] to make laws. John Key needs to understand that and come to New Zealand with the text and with the government’s negotiating position.
Otherwise he’s not acting in our name and he must be stopped from doing that.”
“The second message I’ve got is this, if this agreement can’t guarantee our right to make laws in our interest; if this agreement can’t guarantee that PHARMAC continues to get cheap medicines for New Zealand; if this agreement can’t guarantee that people who have good ideas here can start businesses and don’t get shut down by the intellectual property law; if this agreement can’t do that, then my message to you from the Labour Party is, ‘No Deal’!”
And lastly, from Karen and her two courageous young daughters, Tracey and Katie. By now, the heavens could no longer hold back, and the weather bomb ‘exploded’ over the city, drenching people as the girls struggled to address the crowd;
“Kia ora tatou, my name’s Tracey and I am 12 years old. Today I am here like you because I worry about what will happen to my and my friend’s future if the TPPA is signed.”
Tracey said she understood that the trade deal was a bad idea for her and her future. She referred to the negotiations being held behind closed doors and doubted if they would be signed in our interests.
“I thought the whole idea of communities was to help one another and to work as a part of a team,” Tracey said in her soft voice, hesitantly.
The crowd cheered and clapped.
“After all,” she continued, “isn’t this what we learn at school?”
Tracey was followed by her sister, Katie;
“Kia ora tatou, my name is Katie. I am 11 years old and like my sister I am very concerned about the TPPA. I have on many occassions handed out flyers and have chalked for people to google TPPA.”
There was loud cheering when Katie said that. She continued, hesitantly;
“Many people have seemed interested in what I have to say while handing out out leaflets. But there were also some people that had no interest or were quite appalled that I would do this. But why wouldn’t you if you knew that this was going to be signed in secrecy by our government?”
Both girls may be young in age, but they certainly knew the issues involved, and were probably more informed than the average New Zealander.
Who is Anonymous?
None of us. All of us.
We are the people, Mr Key. Expect us.
Facebook: TPPA Action Group
Previous related blogposts
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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 March 2015.
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From the Dominion Post, on 3 April, I was struck by the sheer head-in-the-sand attitude of this writer;
FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Letters to the editor DATE: Sat, 03 May 2014 13:25:47 +1200 TO: "Dominion Post" firstname.lastname@example.org
.The Editor Dominion Post . When it comes to a "head in the sand" attitude, Bruce Utting's letter (3 April) giving excuses why New Zealand should do nothing to reduce our greenhouse gases emission, is up there with the worst. Utting said, "the fact is that no matter what we, in this tiny country at the bottom of the world, do, or how much oil, gas or coal we discover or use, it will not make the slightest measurable difference to world climate..." If we had adopted that defeatism in the 1970s, New Zealand would never have led the world in stopping French atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific. If we had adopted that defeatist in the 1980s, New Zealand would not have led the world in it's opposition to sporting contact with the apartheid regime in South Africa. New Zealand may be a small country, but our international reputation is based on "punching above our weight" - not hand-wringing and whining "woe is us, we're too small to effect change". Like the damage caused to the Ozone Layer by human-produced chloroflourocarbons (phased out in 1992), unless we do our part to reduce CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, we will continue to wreak havoc on our environment. -Frank Macskasy [address & phone number supplied]
Wikipedia: Cloroflourocarbons/Ozone Layer
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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I received this email today, from Greenpeace;
I was only too happy to oblige, and added my name to the on-line petition.
I encourage you, reading this, to do likewise. (And pass it on to others!)
Simon Bridges’ incompetance is such that he is too dangerous to remain as a Minister of the Crown.
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen
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