Fact Sheet: Speech by Todd Rippon, Vice President, Equity New Zealand, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and New Zealand Culture, 29 March 2014

Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou Katoa.
Ko Ngati Kahungunu taku iwi.
Ko Todd Rippon ahau.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of Equity New Zealand- making performer’s lives better.
Today I’m going to give you a performer’s perspective on the current negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Of all sectors in the New Zealand economy, the film and television industry has been one of the most impacted by the whims of trade policy. Performers livelihoods depend on the screen industry more than any other medium.
Many performers live close to the poverty line and simply don’t earn enough to live by performance alone. This makes each film and television opportunity of vital importance. The number and range of opportunities to work in these mediums has been impacted directly by the strictures of trade policy and the relentless drive towards locked-in de-regulation.
Some of you may be aware that New Zealand gave up nearly all of its ability to regulate local content on our televisions in 1994.

 

Under the General Agreement for Terms and Trade, or GATT for short, Jim Bolger’s National government, promised unlimited market access to any foreign broadcast service and their products if they were a signatory to the The World Trade Organization. In other words any moves to introduce regulation for local content including a compulsory television quota, similar to those seen in most if not all western countries, would breach our WTO obligations.

 

Subsequently, when Helen Clark’s government sought to introduce ways to support the production of local content they were completely hamstrung by this agreement and were rendered powerless to turn back the clock.
I should note here that the government did make one reservation relating to Maori broadcasting. And we’re very glad they did, or we wouldn’t have the successful and culturally vital Maori Television Service — which to this day continues to screen the highest proportion of locally produced content compared to all the other broadcasters.
In 2011, New Zealand content accounted for a measly 31% of all programming from 6am to midnight. This compares to a much healthier 60% in Europe and 55% in Australia. New Zealand performers are the living embodiment of our culture. Every time we step in front of the camera, every time we perform, we tell a story articulating our nation’s hopes, dreams and experiences. This ability to speak to one another with our own voice must be maintained into the future.
In New Zealand and around the world, television is the foundation stone of the screen industry. It helps build an infrastructure and skill base that supports the film industry.
Because of the WTO agreement we signed in 1994 our local film industry remains very small and one that is largely based around servicing overseas productions to survive.
As performers we are grateful for the work and opportunities created by offshore productions like Xena, Hercules, The Hobbit, and Avatar. But our film industry has now become completely dependent upon the whims of overseas production executives, the ever-fluctuating exchange rate, and the pool of scripted material that requires the Kaikoura Ranges to double for the Swiss Alps or the Rockies.
This reliance is clearly demonstrated by our Government’s recent courtship of Hollywood – its willingness to alter employment laws to suit foreign studios, its eagerness to change immigration regulations to assist overseas producers, and its readiness to provide one off cash incentives to the studios on request.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the GATT agreement on steroids. A corporate power grab on a scale never before seen in human history. This treaty is so repugnant that if a full text of the negotiations were released to the public tomorrow it would cease to exist by the end of the week because anyone with a brain and a gag reflex would reject it outright and the politicians involved in the negotiations, in our case John Key and his Trade Minister Tim Groser, would be forced to pull out due to overwhelming public pressure and condemnation.
Let’s not forget, this is an election year. As performers we have been stymied and constrained for two decades but this is where we draw the line, for the sake of our future generations our government must ensure that our culture is protected and reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And you must let them know that if they don’t, come Sept. they will pay the price and together we will vote them out.
Nga mihi.

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