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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 14: The TPPA – “We’ve never, ever been sued”

18 October 2015 1 comment

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On 4 October,  our esteemed Dear Leader assured New Zealanders that, under the various free trade agreements we are party to, “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”.

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4 October 2015 - TVNZ Q+A @ 13.04 "There has never been a case taken against New Zealand..." @ 16.24 "We've never, ever been sued..."

4 October 2015 – TVNZ Q+A:-

@ 13.04

              “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…”

@ 16.24

              “We’ve never, ever been sued…”

 

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Key’s “assurances”   were made four days prior to MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) releasing “Fact Sheets” outlining New Zealand’s exposure to lawsuits from corporations. Two MFAT documents – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment are dated by a Scoop Media press-release  which places their release at 8 October.

Key’s insistence that  New Zealand is safe from lawsuits from foreign corporations indicates  he was privy to the text of the finalised Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (which is still a closely guarded secret by Trade Minister Groser) and that  we, as a nation, are now fully exposed to litigation from Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) processes.

Despite Key’s insistance that “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”, one only has to look across the Tasman to understand the full ramifications of ISDS provisions in trade agreements.

As Corin Dann reminded Key during the 4 October Q+A interview;

@13.07

“…If we look at the plain packaging [proposed legislation for tobacco] in Australia, you’ve always said, ‘Australia’s being sued over that issue of plain packaging … in that that Investor-State Forum’; you’ve always said ‘we’ll wait for Australia to see how they go, ‘cos they’re going cop a massive legal bill’, so that’s stopped that [proposed legislation for tobacco] happening in New Zealand.”

Indeed, Dann was spot on.

A little under two years ago we  had our own Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, introduced by then co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, on 17 December 2013.

With  15,682 submissions received  from interested groups and individuals, on 5 August 2014 the Health Committee recommended;

The Health Committee has examined the Smoke-free Environments (TobaccoPlainPackaging) Amendment Bill and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Despite cross-party support (with the curious exception of NZ First, for reasons that defy understanding), the Bill was put on “hold” by National.

This is what Key had to say about why  the Bill was put  “on hold”, until a court case between the Australian government and tobacco giant,  Philip Morris, is settled in an Australian court. He said,

“I don’t really see the point in us finally passing the legislation until we see exactly what happens in the Australian court case. We have a slightly different system, but there might just be some learnings and if there are learnings out of that, it would be sensible to potentially incorporate those in either our legislation or avoid some significant costs.”

Two points to consider:

  1. Remember that this is an industry that kills up to 4,600 people each year. If it were a bacterial or viral disease, the entire nation would be in a State of Emergency, and entire communities, towns, and cities quarantined.
  2. Is “learnings” an actual word?

John Key insists that New Zealand has never been sued under any free trade agreement.

Strictly speaking, that is correct.

However, we have already seen how even the possible hint of a lawsuit is sufficient to stay his hand and prevent the passing of a law that could potentially have  saved  up to 5,000 lives a year and saved the health system up to $1.6 billion per annum (est.).

In which case, the ISDS clause of the TPPA may never be tested under a National government – they would simply shy away from any legislation or other governmental policy provoking the merest suggestion of legal action. No matter how beneficial  a policy might be.

In an interview onThe Nation’, on 10 October, Trade Minister Tim Groser already seemed resigned to the fact that New Zealand could be sued if a government went ahead to introduce plain packaging for sugar-laden ‘fizzy’ drinks;

Lisa Owen: You could force plain packaging for fizzy drinks, say?

Tim Groser: I believe you probably could as long as you had a good health-based case and you’re ready to defend it.

Key’s timidity has already been shown with crystal clarity; we’ve never been sued before simply because National hasn’t the guts to be challenged.

Get some guts, Dear Leader!

Addendum1

During the 4 October Q+A interview, Key insisted that Phillips Morris initiated the lawsuit  under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong instead of the Australia-US FTA because the threshold for proving a case under the US trade agreement was “too high”. Key said,

@ 13.25

“Well interesting enough, Australia has a free trade agreement with, ah, the United States. And in fact, um, they looked, I think, Phillip Morris, or whoever’s taking the case, at taking it under Investor State [Disputes Settlement] and they recognised, that Investor State, the threshold was so high, they’re actually not taking it under the US-Australia FTA. It defeats the very case that Jane Kelsey’s been making. They’re taking it out of a very strange agreement they’ve got with Hong Kong, which is why actually they went and registered themselves with Hong Kong to take the action against Australia.”

So Key is suggesting that Philip Morris chose to use an Australia-Hong Kong FTA rather than an Australia-US FTA because “the threshold was so high”?!

John Key is deflecting.

He is either woefully ignorant, or willfully disingenuous, of the fact that the United States has been the main instigator of Investor State Disputes claims, as UN stats show;

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UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Most frequent home States (total as of end 2014)

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Even if tobacco company Philip Morris chose to employ a Hong Kong-Australia FTA to sue the Australian government, the fact seems immaterial at best.

As UN data shows, US-based investors are not at all reticent in using ISDS provisions to launch lawsuits against sovereign governments.

We have just entered into a trade agreement with the most litigious nation on Earth.

Addendum2

According to UNCTAD report Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS;

By the end of 2014, the overall number of concluded cases reached 356 out of 608 claims;

Of  these, approximately;

  • 37%  (132 cases) were decided in favour of the State (all claims dismissed either on jurisdictional grounds or on the merits),

  • 25% (87 cases) ended in favour of the investor (monetary compensation awarded).

  • 28% of cases (101) were settled

  • 8% of claims were discontinued for reasons other than settlement (or for unknown reasons).

  • 2%  (seven cases), a treaty breach was found but no monetary compensation was awarded to the investor.

The number of cases (608) has ‘exploded’ since 1987;

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UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Known ISDS cases, annual and cumulative (1987–2014)

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The same UNCTAD report reveals who is being sued by corporations;

In 2014, 60 per cent of all cases were brought against developing and transition economies, and the remaining 40 per cent against developed  countries.

In total, 32 countries faced new claims last year. The most frequent respondent in 2014 was Spain (five cases), followed by Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, India, Romania, Ukraine and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (two cases each). Three countries – Italy, Mozambique and Sudan – faced their first (known) ISDS claims in history.

Addendum3

The Economist reported;

Multinationals have exploited woolly definitions of expropriation to claim compensation for changes in government policy that happen to have harmed their business. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, for instance, the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry. Soon after, Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, demanded compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion), under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments.

This claim is still in arbitration. And it is just one of a growing number of such cases. In 2012 a record 59 were started; last year 56 were. The highest award so far is some $2.3 billion to Occidental, an oil company, against the government of Ecuador, over its (apparently lawful) termination of an oil-concession contract.

The Huffington Post reported;

Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging the country’s environmental laws, according to a new study.

[…]

About 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors.

The government has lost some of these environmental challenges and has been forced to overturn legislation protecting the environment.

In 1997, the Ethyl Corporation, a U.S. chemical company, used chapter 11 to challenge a Canadian ban on the import of MMT, a gasoline additive that is a suspected neurotoxin and which automakers have said interferes with cars’ diagnostic systems. The company won damages of $15 million and the government was forced to remove the policy.

A year later, U.S.-based S.D. Myers challenged Canada’s temporary ban on the export of toxic PCP waste, which was applied equally to all companies. Canada argued it was obliged to dispose of the waste within its own borders under another international treaty. However, the tribunal ruled the ban was discriminatory and violated NAFTA’s standards for fair treatment.

The Age reported;

Egypt raised its minimum wage at the beginning of last year [2014]. It wasn’t much by Australian standards, just $74 a month, but for a state employee on 700 Egyptian pounds a month ($102), a rise to 1200 pounds is not to be derided.

A French multinational with operations in Egypt, however, did not like this minimum-wage effrontery. A couple of months later, Veolia, the global services juggernaut, bobbed along and sued Egypt for the grievous disadvantage it had suffered thanks to the industrial relations changes.

Veolia’s claim relies on ISDS provisions in a trade treaty between Egypt and France.

Addendum4

The Philip Morris lawsuit is expected to cost Australian taxpayers $50 million to defend, and proceedings will be held in Singapore, before a secret tribunal.

Addendum5

Two MFAT “fact sheets” – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment – offer a government view of the TPP Agreement. The actual text of the TPPA will not be released for several weeks, giving National Ministers a monopolistic opportunity to push the government position, unchallenged.

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References

TV1 Q+A: PM on TPP – ‘We’ve never ever been sued’

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Investment and ISDS

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Market Access for Services and Investment

Legislation.govt.nz: Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Trade Minister Tim Groser (transcript)

Daily Mail Online: Cigarette giant Philip Morris sues Australian government for billions over plain packaging law

Parliament: Health Committee Report – Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill – 5 August 2014

Ministry of Health: Excise on Tobacco: Proposed Changes

McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer: Philip Morris Asia Challenge under Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty

UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS (pg6)

Yahoo-Channel 7 News: Tobacco giant sues Australia

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia faces $50m legal bill in cigarette plain packaging fight with Philip Morris

The Age: Trade deals acronym really translates to ‘we lose’

Additional

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics: A closer look at the TPP

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics for 14 February 2014

Radio NZ: Plain packaging bill passes first hurdle

NZ Herald:  Most MPs set to back plain-package smokes

Smokefree Coalition: The health effects of smoking

The Economist: The arbitration game

Huffington Post: NAFTA’s Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

Previous related blogposts

Some thoughts on the Plain Packaging Bill

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Annette King on the TPPA

Even Tim Groser was in the dark?!

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 13: Kiwisaver – another broken promise

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TPP-burger and dead rat

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 October 2015.

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Letter to the editor – Even Tim Groser was in the dark?!

10 October 2015 8 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Wed, Oct 7, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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On TV1 News on 7 October, commenting on the recently signed TPPA, Trade Minister Tim Groser admitted;

“It’s going to take time for people to absorb this, there’ll be things in the detail that even I don’t know about, we had a team of 15 people, it wasn’t just done by Tim Groser for heavens sake.”

There are “things in the detail that even Groser doesn’t know about”?

Is he having us on?

So not only was the entire country in the dark about the contents of the TPPA – but it seems that our esteemed Trade Minister signed us up to an agreement where he was not fully cognisant of the details?
What kind of irresponsible government commits an entire country to an agreement where the finer details are not known? Where even the Trade Minister candidly admits his ignorance of “the details”?

So this is National – the Party of supposedly “responsible economic management”.

Anyone for a new flag? Put an ass on it.
Frank Macskasy

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[Address & phone number supplied]

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References

TV1 News: ‘We just rolled over and had our tummy tickled’ – Labour angst at TPP land deal

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags: ,

To Annette King – we’ll hold you to that!

7 August 2015 1 comment

 

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no-tppa

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Right up until last week, National’s ‘spin’ on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was that it would not be permitted to impact on Pharmac or it’s ability to buy cheap, generic medicines.

Four years ago;

We have laid down the fundamentals of a position which says our public health system is not up for negotiation, not part of any trade negotiation, and I can’t conceive of any New Zealand government that would change that view.

Pharmac is an incredibly valuable institution that provides high quality medicines to many New Zealanders at very, very highly subsidised, reasonable prices. The fundamentals of that model are not up for negotiation. ” – Tim Groser, 16 November 2011

Three years ago;

If the Government agreed completely with the demands of American pharmaceutical companies, the negotiation would probably be over. It is not. It is a long, complex negotiation, and the New Zealand Government’s position is to preserve the role and effectiveness of Pharmac. ” – Bill English, 6 December 2012

Two years ago;

I think it’ll have a very marginal impact, at the end of the day.  It certainly won’t result in higher prices for pharmaceutical products for New Zealanders.  This is really about protecting the model of Pharmac to ensure that they’re in a tough negotiating position with international pharmaceutical companies, and we’ve got some very good negotiators who are doing just that. ” – Tim Groser, 

Last year;

There will be no fundamental change in Pharmac’s operations as a result of the trade agreement.”

You’ll have to wait to see the final agreement but any decisions we take in terms of trade-offs will protect the essential public health system of this country.” – Tim Groser, 22 October 2014

And this year, only a week ago;

“…yes, I can guarantee that we’ve made it absolutely clear that we are not going to dismantle the fundamental of Pharmac. The provisions that guarantee affordable medicines – we don’t want to change the system of health we’ve got in our country so that people can get medicines only if they can afford it. We’ve got a very good system, and we’re not going to let any trade agreement interfere with that.” – Tim Groser, 25 July 2015

Barely three days later, there was this startling admission from our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key,  that all was not quite so ‘rosy’ in the Land of Free Trade Deals;

That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer. But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.

Which vividly illustrates how, for the past four years, National has been lying to us, the New Zealand public.

It was only as TPPA negotiations drew to a close, that Key had to finally concede that there would be an impact on Pharmac and it’s ability to purchase low-cost generic medicines. The same TPPA will also impact on non-subsidised medicines purchased by New Zealanders, as not all attract subsidies by Pharmac.

On 29 July, Labour’s response was damning of the TPPA, and Health Spokesperson, Annette King stated matter-of factly;

Some people are going to pay with their lives because if they extend the patent, particularly on drugs for cancer and heart disease, and we can’t get access to the generic drugs for longer, then people are not going to get that access and they won’t have the opportunity to extend their lives.

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“Some people are going to pay with their lives.” - Labour's Health Spokesperson, Annette King

“Some people are going to pay with their lives.” – Labour’s Health Spokesperson, Annette King

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In which case, an incoming Labour Government has two options;

1. Raise taxes for those New Zealanders who voted National last year.

This is their responsibility, and should foot the bill for any increases to Pharmac’s purchasing budget. After all, National maintains itself as the “Party of Personal Responsibility“, so National voters should bear the costs of this mess; ie, ‘You voted for it, you pay for it’.

But since it is difficult to ascertain who voted for National last year, this option may not be practical.

2. Withdraw from the TPPA.

We simply cannot be party to an international trade agreement (or any other agreement for that matter) where “some people are going to pay with their lives”. That is simply untenable – especially for a Labourled government.

The seriousness of the TPPA’s effects on Pharmac (and non-subsidised medicines) is such that Labour must not be allowed to back-track on it’s criticisms, and has a duty to  withdraw from this appalling “trade” agreement.

If “some people are going to pay with their lives because … they extend the patent, particularly on drugs for cancer and heart disease”, then the TPPA must go. No New Zealander’s life is worth a “trade” agreement, no matter how much milk-powder we might sell overseas.

National ministers such as John Key, Tim Groser, Bill English, et al, have consistently, unashamedly, lied to us over the years. I do not expect Labour to follow in those footsteps.

This will be an issue I will be following, and I will be relentless in pursuing it, post-2017 (or earlier).

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TPPA action 8 august 2015

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Wednesday, August 12
at 12:00pm
New Zealand Parliament Buildings
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Friday, August 14
at 5:00pm
Palmerston North City Library
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Midland Park, Lambton Quay
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Napier
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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
Timaru
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Saturday, August 15
at 11:00am
Kohukohu Village Green

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Saturday, August 15
at 1:00pm
School of Dentistry, Great King Street, Dunedin (near the Museum)
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References

Interest.co.nz: Pharmac fundamentals not on TPP table, Trade Minister Groser

Parliament: Hansards – 5. Trans-Pacific Partnership – Forecast Economic Benefits, Potential Effect on Pharmac, and Investor-State Dispute Provisions

Scoop media/TV1: Tim Groser adamant Trans-Pacific Partnership good for NZ

Radio NZ: Medicines ‘won’t cost more under TPP’

TV3: The Nation – Transcript – Trade Minister Tim Groser

Radio NZ:  TPP – Key admits medicine costs will rise

Radio NZ: Govt warned TPP could put lives at risk

National Party: About National

Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

Open message to the Middle Classes about the threat of the TPPA

Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA – Day of Action!

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

Nationwide Day of Protest Captures Public Attention on TPPA

Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak

Letter to the editor – More reassurances from our esteemed Dear Leader?

Action

Facebook: Lunchtime rally against TPPA WELLINGTON

Facebook: It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

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Trust me fellow kiwis - John Key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 August 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

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lying politician

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In the ongoing debate on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, Dear  Leader John Key has been at pains to try to reassure New Zealanders that any TPPA document would be “first  presented to Parliament”.

On 1 October 2013, Key said;

With all [free trade agreements] the way that they work is that have to be ratified by Parliament, and we have to build a parliamentary majority, and all of that has to happen through the transparency of the deal.”

“…my advice is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will require legislation, so, ultimately, once it has gone through the select committee and the public have had their chance to have input, and it has gone through all of those various stages, the Government of the day will require a parliamentary mandate, so by definition people would have had a lot of input.”

And on 31st March this year, Key asserted on NewstalkZB;

In the end, this thing has to go through our Parliament has to be ratified by our Parliament and has to bear scrutiny and I believe is in the best interests of New Zealand.”

Professor Jane Kelsey was one of many who countered Key’s assertions that Parliament would “ratify” any final agreement. Also on 31 March, she stated;

 “How many times do the Prime Minister and other members of the government have to be hauled up for misrepresenting the role of Parliament in making treaties, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’? The Prime Minister is either woefully ignorant of the fundamental process of treaty making, as set out in the Cabinet Manual, or he is wilfully misrepresenting the process to the New Zealand public.

Parliament’s role in treaty making is largely symbolic. It has no power to decide whether or not the TPPA should be signed or ratified and no ability to change its terms TPPA or require it to be renegotiated.

The select committee process is a farcical exercise because its members know they cannot change the treaty.

At most, Parliament could refuse to pass legislation that is required to bring a particular law into compliance with the TPPA. But the government will have plenty of non-legislative ways to achieve compliance.”

Finally, on 15 June, on TVNZ’s Q+A, National’s own Trade Minister, Tim Groser responsible for TPPA negotiations clearly and utterly refuted any notion that the TPPA would have to be “ratified” by Parliament;

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“Oh well, we wouldn't put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament. If we're the government of the day, that has to put the ratifying legislation through Parliament, a deal didn't make a great deal of sense to New Zealand.”

Oh well, we wouldn’t put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament. If we’re the government of the day, that has to put the ratifying legislation through Parliament, a deal didn’t make a great deal of sense to New Zealand.”

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Note the first part of Groser’s response to interviewer,  Corin Dann;

Oh well, we wouldn’t put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament.

There we have it. The Trade Minister himself confirming what Jane Kelsey and other critics of the secret deal-making  surrounding the TPPA have said all along: once the government agrees to a final document, it will not require ratification by Parliament.

John Key making a mistake once, is understandable.

John Key repeating that same mistake at least  three times is no longer a “mistake”. It becomes willful misinformation. A deliberate lie.

Caught out again – this time by one of his own Ministers!

Charge: broken promise/deflection/half-truth/hypocrisy/outright lie/misinformation?

Verdict: Outright lie/misinformation

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References

TV3: Key accused of spreading TPPA ‘mistruths’

Parliament:  Questions for Oral Answer — Questions to Ministers

NewstalkZB:  Key defends TPPA negotiations

Scoop media: One more time, PM: Parliament does not get to ratify TPPA

TVNZ: Government may not seek bipartisan support for a TPP – Groser

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr Key #4: “Trolls & bottom-feeders”

 


 

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TPPA thuggery

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2014.

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 14 February 2014

16 February 2014 3 comments

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 14 February 2014  –

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– Chris Bramwell –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

Legislation to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products passed its first reading in Parliament this week with almost unanimous support.

Listen to John Banks’ prioritising the right of Big Tobacco company’s “intellectual property rights” over the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 14 February 2014 ( 16′ 07″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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11 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

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– End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails –

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New Semi-Regular Weekly Event

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Tim Groser (National)

For having the courage and insight to suggest that making Te Reo compulsory in our Primary Schools would be a good idea. On TV3’s ‘The Nation, on 28 April, Mr Groser said,

My personal view is that we should be teaching Maori to every five-year-old child. If you introduce very young children from New Zealand to the idea of bi-culturalism and more than one language then they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit.”

It’s not often that a politician from an opposing Party stands out – but when they do, they certainly make an impact. One may not agree with all his views – especially on free trade – but a politician who has depth in his or her views, and is not captured by an ideology, deserves respect.

Hone Harawira (Mana)

For having the guts to do what very few politicians have done before; stand up for the working man and woman;  condemn an oppressive employer; and encourage New Zealanders to make a stand and boycott Talleys.

Jim Anderton did it in the 1980s and 1990s, and now Mr Harawira is doing likewise,

It was a nasty and spiteful decision to try to force workers to cave in to company demands or get their emergency benefits cut. The locked out workers have been forced to band together to survive and to keep the working conditions they’ve won through years of negotiation.

Talley’s aren’t the only brands in the shelf” said Harawira “and all we want people to do is choose something other than Talley’s for now.”

No doubt he’ll be attacked, derided, and vilified by every right wing nutjob in the country – but Mr Harawira will also have earned the respect of New Zealand workers.

Tariana Turia (Maori Party)

For carrying on her campaign against the pernicious industry that kills 5,000 New Zealanders  every year; the tobacco corporations. If a disease was rampaging through the country, killing 5,000 people every year – there would be a State of Emergency; the military would be called out to guard checkpoints; and the whole country would be on lock-down.

But because it’s tobacco, it is somehow acceptable. Crazy!

Ms Turia deserves to be re-elected into Parliament. Like Hone Harawira, she is standing up for those folk who would otherwise be crushed by corporate power whose only interest is making big profits.

In fact, I go one step further; at the next election; after a change of  government; I encourage David Shearer to allow Ms Turia to carry on her campaign and to re-appoint her as Associate Minister for Health. Some issues are just too damned important to be determined along Party lines. (There is precedent; the incoming National Government in 1990 kept Labour MP, Mike Moore, as part of New Zealand’s GATT  negotiations team. His value to the country was so highly regarded that Party affiliation was secondary to maintaining his role.)

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John Banks (ACT)

For, um… er… I can’t remember. Sorry… no, I don’t recall.

John Key (Dear Leader)

So many to choose from…

But two that stand out this week,

#1: Having the utter gall to deride the Australia  by suggesting that they have  “an inherent weakness” in their economy, and then adding,

It’s very much a two-speed economy in Australia. The mining sector is very strong and obviously Western Australia and Queensland are big beneficiaries of that.”

Say whut?!

Australia also has a strong compulsory system of compulsory superannuation, and our Aussie cuzzies have saved in excess of A$1.31 trillion so far, for their retirement. That money is  able to be re-invested in their local economy.

By comparison, here in New Zealand, we voted in 1975 to elect a government (led by Robert Muldoon) who campaigned on scrapping our version of a compulsory super fund. New Zealanders are notoriously poor savers, which means that as a nation, we rely heavily on borrowing from overseas lenders.

By scrapping our own super-scheme 37 years ago, we shot ourselves in our own feet.

So do us a favour, Dear Leader, and don’t go saying that the Australian economy has “an inherent weakness”. The only “weakness” I see is a poor leadership in this country that promises all manner of things to voters simply to get elected.

Case in point;

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, Prime Minister, 29 January 2008

That was over four years ago. But this blogger notices that Dear Leader still  continues to make precisely the same promises,

I think it is a long-term and sustainable attribute for their economy but it doesn’t mean that we can’t close the gap with Australia.”- John Key, 9 May 2012

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Still…

Oh, and don’t forget those 170,000 new  jobs you promised us last year as well, Mr Key!

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Still…

#2: Asking  children at  Holy Family School in Porirua East if they wanted to be the Prime Minister, and when they all replied with enthusiasm, he retorted,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

Ok, Mr Key, your “honeymoon” with the media and public is over – we get that.

You’re having a rough time with scandals, unpopular policies, and your policies are not working to create jobs and a growing economy – we get that to.

And you have our sympathy for having to put up with John Banks – we so get that!

But venting your frustrations at a bunch of bright-eyed, eager children is simply not on. In fact, it stinks that  you shot them down with a cheap retort when they were expressing a real enthusiasm for your role as leader of this country.

If the job is getting to you – move on. One thing you never, ever do, is to dump on kids just because you’re having a bad day week month year so far. Bad form, Mr Prime Minister.

Mark Mitchell (National)

Perhaps the most gormless comment this week came from National MP, Mark Mitchell,  on TVNZ7’s “Backbenches” on 10 May, when he adamantly explained that National was not selling state assets. To everyone’s jaw-dropping amazement, Mitchell said (in part),

“… It got labelled [as] asset sales. We’re not selling the assets, what we’re doing is freeing up some of the shares in those assets for Kiwis to invest in. It’s as simple as that…

We’re keeping the assets but we’re freeing up some shares for Kiwi investors to invest in. We’re keeping the assets. This is the thing that actually a lot of people didn’t understand.”

?!?!

What!?

So the people of New Zealand still own Telecom, BNZ, Post Bank, etc, because we we just freed up some shares? Is that how capitalism works – you sell half the shares in a company, but we still own the entire company?

Dayum. Even Karl Marx never thought of that one!

Thank you, Mr Mitchell. Thank you for being a National MP – and not one from the Left.

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And for the final category, the Epic Fail of the Week,

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Colin Craig

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Colin Craig

This week’s Epic Fail has to go to Conservative Party leader, Colin Craig, who managed to alienate 51% of the population in one sentence, consisting of thirteen words,

We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world.

An Epic Fail of stunning proportions!

Way to go, Colin. You can, of course, expect that statement to come back and haunt you in years to come.

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= fs =

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

4 December 2011 19 comments

This is perhaps the clearest example of neo-liberalism forcing itself on nations that cannot resist the influence of western corporatism – even when it places people at risk from unsafe products,

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Full Story

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Whilst WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that Samoa’s enytry into the WTO would  “enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development” – Otago Medical School Associate Professor, Nick Wilson,  was less than enthusiastic,

From a public health perspective the decision to allow turkey tails … will fuel the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are hitting Pacific Island nations.

Mean, a spokesperson for our Trade Minister, Tim Groser, supported lifting the ban.

Trade bans on selected items are unlikely to be effective in addressing obesity and health issues.”

Really?! So if a government allows an unhealthy product to be put on their supermarket shelves; and is then consumed by members of the public – Tim Groser is saying that’s ok?

That sounds like a fairly good rationale for legalising and selling heroin.

After all, it could easily be said that banning heroin is   “unlikely to be effective in addressing …health issues.”

Just what the South Pacific needs: more unhealthy food by-products distributed and sold cheaply, and which will ultimately result in yet more Pacifica peoples dying from obesity-related diseases.

Are we in the West proud of  ourselves, yet?

The greatest irony is that, in the 1970s,  New Zealand fought a diplomatic war against the French to stop atomic weapons-testing in the South Pacific, because of fears that radiation would harm the environment and ourselves.

What is even more obscene is that US corporate interests are quite open in their campaign to market unhealthy, destructive foods to low-income, under-developed societies,

The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council welcomed the end on the ban, telling Bloomberg that it was the “consumers’ right to determine what foods they wish to consume, not the government’s.

Under the guise of “free choice”, corporate interests will peddle their cheap, toxic, foodstuffs to Pacifican people – and will reap profits, whilst local governments pick up the social costs of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related diseases.

Surely by now, we in the West must be revelling in pride at this accomplishment.

This is the raw, naked face of unfettered free market capitalism that is not bound by morality, nor concerns for human welfare. This is profit-making without due regard to consequences.

And this time, the blood of Pacificans are on our hands as well; “Fiji banned mutton flap imports in 2000 and New Zealand responded by threatening to refer the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).   New Zealand later withdrew plans to approach the WTO and the ban still stands (as of March 2009)”,

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Full Story

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I wonder how we might feel if another nation exported unhealthy products into our country – perhaps targetted at our young people – and we were powerless to stop it?

How would we feel, for example, if all restrictions on alcohol and tobacco products had to be removed at WTO insistence – because companies that manufactured those products were unhappy that their profits were being undermined?

We’d be pretty pissed, I’d guess.

But it’s ok if we do it to another country; to our neighbours in the Pacific?

WTO critics claim the Washington based International Food and Beverage Alliance, formed by Kraft, Coca-Cola and General Mills, is behind the pressure to end food type bans.

“This is not true,” spokeswoman Jane Reid said.

“(The Alliance) has had no involvement whatsoever in this issue.”

Yeah, right.

It is high time that New Zealand led by example and halted the sale of unhealthy meat by-products to our Pacific neighbours. Otherwise we are practically conducting war-by-poor-nutrition against the peoples of the Pacific.

It is time that New Zealand led an international  campaign in the WTO against rules that allow toxic foods to be sold without restraint.

International trade rules that favour corporate “rights” and unfettered trade are anathema to the values that we hold dear.  In the final analysis, governments are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their peoples – not to corporations and their profits.

Perhaps Tim Grosser; the National Government; the WTO; the International Food and Beverage Alliance; the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council; et al; would care to dine out on mutton flaps and turkey tails for a few years?

I guess not.

After all, they can all afford proper, nutritious food.

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Previous blogpost

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Additional Reading

New Zealand’s impact on health in the South Pacific: scope for improvement?

Trade in Everything: Turkey Tails

Critics challenge exports of mutton flaps, turkey tails and expired eggs to Samoa

Nutrition Facts: Turkey Tail

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