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TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

6 December 2012 9 comments

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TPPA - Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

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The debate of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is hotting up.

Recent pieces in the NZ Herald by Professor Jane Kelsey and right wing columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, gave opposing views on  the current secret negotiations.

As usual, Professor’s Kelsey’s column was a reasoned, critical analysis of the potential consequences of  a TPPA on our society, and economy. Kelsey deals in facts and her writing did not disappoint. (See: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan)

By contrast, O’Sullivan’s pro-TPPA piece was a bizarre rant and whinge as to why Auckland University was not promoting pro-TPPA arguments. As if it was compulsory for Universities to promote and advance right-wing, “free” market ideology and agendas?   (See: Anti-trade camp running debate)

Another piece in the Herald, by lawyer Daniel Kalderimis, assured us that  disputes between investors and states were  real, but could be addressed.

No one would sanely deny that there aren’t risks.  But the key question is are those risks a deal breaker or can they be mitigated? I think they can be mitigated.”

See: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Kaldermis is a trade lawyer who makes his living  from “mitigating”  international investor-nation disputes.

(The vultures are circling already…)

Another somewhat equally ludicrous pro-TPPA piece came from Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the NZ US Council and the NZ International Business Forum, on 18 Ocober,

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Stephen Jacobi - TPP - more trade, less conspiracy

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Jacobi’s statements demand a critical de-construction…

A recent survey of 1018 New Zealanders found that over 60.5 per cent believed New Zealand needed to do more to connect with global markets. While 85.7 per cent could not name the deal under negotiation with the United States and other Asia Pacific economies, when prompted 51.6 per cent said they had heard of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). 56.3 per cent said they supported TPP and only 13.4 per cent said they opposed it. 30.4 per cent said they had no view or didn’t care. “

It’s hardly surprising that the issue of the TPPA does not rate more highly in New Zealander’s consciousness.

With few exceptions, our media has been woefully lacking in promoting informative debate on complex issues faces this country.

Fairfax media has been gutted, as sub-editors and other reporting staff numbers have been seriously cut back.

Even television current affairs programmes ( The Nation, Q+A, and Think Tank) are relegated to early morning time slots on the weekends.

The only in-depth, serious  coverage on radio is by Radio New Zealand.

This blogger recently had an opportunity to listen to what passes for “News” on ‘The Rock‘ – a Wellington radio station. It’s two-minute long hourly “news” programme consisted predominantly of crime stories. Items of a political nature or social issues are rarely, if ever,  canvassed.

Talkback radio? Idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

No wonder that the most critical trade agreement in our history is about to be passed, and “30.4% said they had no view or didn’t care“.

If New Zealanders realised that our medicines might increase by 50%, 75%, 100%, or X% – then perhaps more New Zealanders might care.

I know! Let’s put it into terms that even the most dimmest low-information voter can compehend,

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TPP could quash film funds

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Amokura Kawharu said her conclusions were based on the leaked text of the investment chapter.

“If that is the final form for the TPP then there will be an extensive provision in there prohibiting what are called ‘performance requirements’.”

It prohibited incentives for supporting local industry.

See: IBID

So there we have it; no government subsidies = no movies = we can kiss bye-bye to our little hairy-footed mates if the TPPA goes through.

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The Hobbit Banned

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That should grab our collective attention by our short’n’curlies.

Returning to Mr Jacobi’s written piece in the Herald,

The Government will need to decide what best meets New Zealand’s interests in this area but it is more likely to do so in the context of domestic policy processes rather than a trade negotiation.”

That is either highly disingenuous – or Mr Jacobi has an almost quasi-religious faith in our government.  Which is strange, as neo-libs generally have very little faith in the State and are constantly railing that private enterprise “does it better” than governments.

At any rate, the last 30 years of de-regulation, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost to overseas nations with cheaper labour costs, prove the lie to that claim. If governments’ policies were truly determined by “ what best meets New Zealand’s interests …in the context of domestic policy “, neo-liberal de-regulation would never have been implemented on such a wide-ranging, destructive scale in this country.

Successive governments since 1984 have been hand-cuffed to de-regulated marketplace and fiscal policies.

That’s also why this process needs to take place behind closed doors, at least until consensus is forged.

This is not the same as secrecy – it’s no secret TPP talks are taking place in Auckland in December.

Wha-???

A process taking place behind closed doors is not the same as secrecy?!?!

Since when was the definition of secrecy re-written without anyone’s knowledge?

What other definitions has Ms Jacobi re-written, on the sly?

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So let’s not forget; for TPPA supporters, something taking place behind closed doors is not the same as secrecy.

”  At that time any public stakeholders who register their interest will be able to meet with negotiators as they have done in every other negotiating round. “

Meaning what, precisely? Will that allow journalists; members of Parliament; and other interested parties the right to full disclosure of information regarding  the TPPA?

If not, then Mr Jacobi’s comments are meaningless drivel.

” Those on all sides of the TPP debate will do so and they should, to ensure negotiators are aware of their concerns. New Zealand negotiators are extremely open to this and meet regularly with those for and against TPP.

Ok, now Jacobi is of into La La Land, on a Jet Star flight of fancy…

I wonder who, precisely,  New Zealand negotiators are meeting regularly, who are “against the TPP“?

Once their job is complete the fruits of their labours will need to be presented to Parliament for ratification and all New Zealanders can participate in the select committee process.  That’s how we make treaties and change laws in this country.  “

Yes, Mr Jacobi, that is precisely “ how we make treaties and change laws in this country” – on Planet Key.

Unfortunately, things are not quite so rosy and wonderfully democractic in New Zealand, Planet Earth.

For example; public submissions on the issue of partial privatisation of our state assets numbered 1,400. Less than 1% were in favour of privatisation.

National has ignored the remaining 99% of submitters and is proceeding with asset sales. (See:  Asset sales protest gears up)

Where is the “participation in the select committee process” that Mr Jacobi speaks of?

The bigger picture behind all this is why New Zealand needs to participate in trade negotiations at all. The answer can be found in the difficult economic environment in which we find ourselves today. All around the world governments and citizens are asking what can be done to boost economic growth, create jobs and meet the expanding social needs of our communities.”

Mr Jacobi is being hopelessly naive if he believes that free trade agreements “create jobs”.

Well, they do, actually. They take jobs from countries such as New Zealand – and create them in low-wage countries such as India, Pakistan, Fiji, China, etc.

In fact, the United States seems to have not done very well out of a previous free trade agrement called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),

NAFTA’s opponents attribute much of the displacement caused in the US labor market to the United States’ growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. According to the Economic Policy Institute, rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,900 U.S. jobs by 2010.  Critics see the argument of the proponents of NAFTA as being one-sided because they only take into consideration export-oriented job impact instead of looking at the trade balance, also known as net exports. They argue that increases in imports ultimately displaced the production of goods that would have been made domestically by workers within the United States.

The export-oriented argument is also critiqued because of the discrepancy between domestically produced exports and exports produced in foreign countries. For example, many US exports are simply being shipped to Mexican maquiladores where they are assembled, and then shipped back to the U.S. as final products.  These are not products destined for consumption by Mexicans, yet they made up 61% of exports in 2002. However, only domestically produced exports are the ones that support U.S. labor. Therefore, the measure of net impact of trade should be calculated using only domestically produced exports as an indicator of job creation.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico under NAFTA, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.  Certain states with heavy emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these job losses. For example, in Ohio, Trade Adjustment Assistance and NAFTA-TAA identified 14,653 jobs directly lost due to NAFTA-related reasons like relocation of U.S. firms to Mexico. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center attributed 150,000 job losses in the state to the rising U.S. trade deficit. Since 1993, 38,325 of those job losses are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. Although many of these workers laid off due to NAFTA were reallocated to other sectors, the majority of workers were relocated to the service industry, where average wages are 4/5 to that of the manufacturing sector.

See: NAFTA’s effect on United States employment

An increase in domestic manufacturing output and a proportionally greater domestic investment in manufacturing does not necessarily mean an increase in domestic manufacturing jobs; this increase may simply reflect greater automation and higher productivity. Although the U.S. total civilian employment may have grown by almost 15 million in between 1993 and 2001, manufacturing jobs only increased by 476,000 in the same time period.  Furthermore from 1994 to 2007, net manufacturing employment has declined by 3,654,000, and during this period several other free trade agreements have been concluded or expanded

See: North American Free Trade Agreement

And our free trade agreement with China is resulting in similar loss of jobs,

An announcement today 430 jobs are set to go at Fisher & Paykel Appliances’ Dunedin factory, virtually spells the end of the line for whiteware production in New Zealand.

F&P is following the lead of New Zealand garment manufacturer Icebreaker which does design and research in New Zealand but manufactures in low-cost China.

See: Fisher & Paykel move ‘damages iconic brand

How many jobs were “created” in Dunedin’s Hillside railway yards, when contracts to build locomotives were awarded to Chinese manufacturers? See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

How many jobs were “created” by Rakon Industries, as they shifted their production to China? See: Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

How many jobs did Dynamic Controls “create” when they shifted manufacturing to China in 2007? See: Jobs to go in closure of Dynamic Controls wing

And the list goes on… 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost, since 2008.   ( See: National’s Hands-Off Approach Failing New Zealand)  Many of those jobs have been ‘exported’ to China, since the FTA was signed between that nation and New Zealand on 7 April 2008 and came into effect on 1 October of the same year. (See: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement )

So is Mr Jacobi lying or woefully ignorant of the facts? Let the reader decide.

Next, from Mr Jacobi,

A conservative estimate is that TPP could add $2.1 billion to the New Zealand economy by 2025 or just under 1 per cent of GDP.”

Really?

Who gets that $2.1 billion, Mr Jacobi? Is it workers? Local businesses here in New Zealand? Or corporate shareholders somewhere else?

And how many more unemployed, Mr Jacobi?

Who pays for thousands more unemployed? The taxpayer no doubt.

Meanwhile, that $2.1 billion heads of to Never Never Land

But the strangest, most laughable comment from Mr Jacobi comes when he admonishes TPPA critics with,

Rather than giving in to doomsday scenarios we should listen to New Zealanders who instinctively know that trade works and this country’s economic livelihood is to be found in global markets.”

Yeah, we can’t have “doomsday scenarios”, eh, Mr Jacobi. Like the muppet who made this moronic comment,

No one wants to see prices go up or the internet collapse.”

See: Stephen Jacobi: TPP – more trade, less conspiracy

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Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey (29 Nov 2012)

Gordon Campbell and a Canadian analysis of the TPP (3 Dec 2012)

Gordon Campbell on Tim Groser’s ‘political projectile vomiting’ about the TPPA (4 Dec 2012)

 

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Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 3 comments

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It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

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So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

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Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

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Military ‘spin-doctoring’ – the media catch-up

11 September 2011 4 comments

On 2 August, the issue of the NZDF spending large sums of tax-payers money was raised by Andrea Vance in the “Dominion Post”. I wrote on this issue the following day; “It’s a Man’s World, I guess“.

It seems somewhat odd then, that Neil Reid, has written on this very same issue, in the Sunday Star Times, stating, “Documents obtained by the Sunday Star-Times show the department – covering Army, Air Force and Navy – spent more than $2.7 million in the past financial year on public relations and communications.

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This story has at least three componants to it;

1. PR spend.

Last time I looked, the job of the military was to carry out such actions as determined by the Government-of-the-Day. The military is tasked with certain missions, to achieve certain objectives, as laid down by the Minister of Defence, and the Government. In effect, the politicians tell the soldier boys (and girls) to go to “Spot X” and do what soldiers do best; point guns at other people.

As such, it boggles the mind as to what on Earth the NZDF would need to spend $20 million tax-dollars of Public Relations on?!?!

Spending $20 million on tanks, guns, ammunition, radios, tents, medical equipment, planes, trucks – I think we get that. Military gear doesn’t come cheap – not since we moved away  from clubs and pointy-sticks.

But spending that kind of money on PR? That just makes no sense whatsoever.

Unless…

Unless the NZDF were doing something overseas that the Government(s)-of-the-Day were not being totally candid with us, the New Zealand public?

PR is basically ‘spin’ – putting the best possible image of an unpleasant situation. Another word that might be appropriate is propaganda. Authoritarian regimes (such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Maoist China, et al) are exceedingly good at propaganda. But Western Democracies have also developed ways and means to use PR/spin/Propaganda to make the public believe something that may not be strictly-speaking, true. (Telling lies, in other words.)

Which leads us to the Big Question: what requires a big enough lie to be told that warrants $16 million dollars of tax-payers’ money to be spent on Public Relations from Saatchi & Saatchi, plus another $4.2 million in media advertising?

Personnel recruitment?

That is difficult to believe when, currently, this government is laying off around 400 military personnel and removing  another 600 out of uniform, to re-employ them more cheaply as civilians.

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There seems to be an obvious and serious “disconnect” from what the NZDF is telling the public, and where the money is being spent, and what for.

$20 million of tax-payers money is not “small change”. Where is it going, and why?

And why aren’t the media delving more deeply into this issue, instead of two, very brief, superficial newspaper stories?

Perhaps the following provides us with a possible answer…

2. “Media product vetting”

The Sunday Star Times article, by Neil Reid, states that,

“…Locke also provided the Star-Times with a contract TVNZ signed before sending a journalist to join the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, which states the role of defence officials included “media product vetting”.

It follows claims by Hager that the Defence Force had been selective in what it had allowed to be reported in New Zealand on the role of the joint-services team in Afghanistan…”

Commander Phil Bradshaw’s response that the NZDF is vetting images of  “LAVs [light armoured vehicles] [and]  the Humvees” beggars belief.

Is Cmdr Bradshaw seriously telling us that “media product vetting” (ie; censorship) relates to pictures of light armoured vehicles and humvees?!?! In which case, someone needs to advise Cmdr Bradshaw that there as been a serious security breach: a “Google” search using the parameters “NZ Defence Force lav” yielded 79,400 results for images alone.

Let’s hope Al Qaida has no access to “Google”, or we’re stuffed.

No, folks, there is more to the NZDF’s “media product vetting” (censorship) than  pics of a few dusty Army vehicles.

Nicky Hager has pointed the way on this issue, and the media – to it’s eternal shame – has not followed up on this story.

3. Media Complicity?

Not only is there a question mark hanging over how $20 million was spent – but it seems that the mainstream media (MSM) have been decidely blase about asking any serious questions. To date, we’ve seen two newspaper articles by Neil Reid and Andrea Vance – but precious little else in the MSM.

As well as Nicky Hager’s investigative book,  “Other People’s Wars“, Jon Stephenson wrote an article for “Metro” magazine on Afghan prisoners’ treatment after being captured by New Zealand’s SAS. This excellent piece of investigative journalism  resulted in…

“…Prime Minister John Key’s extraordinary ad hominem attack on independent  journalist Jon Stephenson, of ‘Metro’ magazine.

Recently, Stephenson wrote an article in Metro alleging that New Zealand was not meeting its Geneva Convention obligations in its handling of prisoners captured in the course of SAS operations in Afghanistan. You might think that as the only NZ journalist who has regularly been reporting from Afghanistan, Stephenson speaks with some authority.” Source

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“Stephenson speaks with some authority”, writes Gordon Campbell.

But not according to the Prime Minister, who dismissed Stephenson’s article with  almost sneering derision.

In contrast, two senior journalists, Vernon Small and Guyon Espiner, both stated that they were aware of a CIA “presence” at the Kiwi base in Bamiyan.

“In fact, I, and other reporters before me, were introduced to US intelligence and communications staff at Bamiyan and at other Kiwi forward bases and ate and chatted with them. The stars and stripes flies alongside the New Zealand flag at Bamiyan to advertise the US contingent…”  – Vernon Small,  Source

Neither felt it necessary to report this fact to the New Zealand public? In fact, both Small and Espiner remained silent until Nicky Hager’s book blew the whistle on the real situation.

For journalists to withhold information that reveals a truth about our government and/or military,  shows how far the media has sunk in the last twentyfive years. It raises questions not just about competancy and professionalism, but how far the MSM has become a “cog” in the Establishment.

Perhaps the most obscene thing about this matter is that our beloved Prime Minister, the ever-smiling; happily waving  John Key; saw fit to dismiss both Nickey Hager and Jon Stephenson’s investigations into the war in Afghanistan  with  single, derisory, comments,

“Nothing surprises me when it comes to Nicky Hager. So whether they’re true or not is a completely different issue, but he makes a lot of spurious claims and never generally backs it up.” Source

“I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.” Source

Two pieces of investigative journalism; well-researched; impeccably documented; and both able to withstand critical scrutiny – dismissed by the Prime Minister without any serious  explanation whatsoever.

Compare the response of the MSM and public to that of a certain stranded penguin and to the proposed “Wellywood” sign in the capital city, and one begins to suspect that, collectively, our priorities are definitely arse-about-face. Perhaps if the SAS had handed “Happy Feet” over to the American CIA, for “extraordinary rendition” to some misbegotten Third World state, for “interrogation”, we might have had an uproar from the good folk of New Zealand?

Well, thankfully “Happy Feet” is safe and sound somewhere in the Southern Ocean.

It’s a shame that  the same cannot be said of  our media in this country.

Read also:

Public Address: Other People’s Wars

Little kept from media eyes at base

NZ Politics Daily – 2 September

PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

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