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Posts Tagged ‘Trans Pacific Partnership’

National MP Mark Mitchell and his breath-taking display of arrogance

18 April 2016 5 comments

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In a recent Radio NZ “Morning Report”  interview, National MP, Mark Mitchell, revealed the government’s true objective with the so-called “TPPA Roadshow” and Parliamentary Select Committee hearings. Behaviour by other Select Committee members has also drawn harsh criticism by some members of the public who attended the sessions.

The Roadshow and Select Committee hearings are being held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and  Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee (respectively)  to seek public submissions on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, aka, the TPPA;

More than 330 people have asked to give their views on the controversial trade treaty to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Committee in person.

The committee will hold hearings in Christchurch on 31 March and 1 April, and in Auckland the following week, before returning to Wellington, where it has already heard some submissions.

Committee chair Mark Mitchell said there would be more than enough time for the hearings.

“I’ve made sure that we allow plenty of time, so that’s going to allow us enough time to be able to hear everyone that wants to make an oral submission to the committee.”

Mitchell,  the Chairperson  of the Select Committee, was defending the shortened reporting time of the Select Committee back to Parliament. As Mei Heron reported for Radio NZ;

MPs have been given just five days to consider hundreds of submissions on the controversial TPP trade deal after the timeframe was drastically cut from four weeks.

The select committee was originally give a month to write its report and present it back to Parliament.

Opposition MPs were furious at the sudden change and they called it an attack on democracy.

The trade deal has already been roundly criticised by its opponents for being too secretive and lacking consultation.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee had been hearing submissions on the TPP from hundreds of people across the country and that will continue until the end of the month.

But opposition members on the committee say they were told yesterday the government wanted to cut down the time they had to analyse the submissions, so the legislation could get through by the end of the year.

Predictably, Opposition members of the Select Committee expressed dismay and anger at National’s unilateral change of the Committee’s timetable, with  Green MP, Kennedy Graham, roundly condemning the move;

“It’s just a slap of indifference and dismissal of some very sincere, very capable and hard-working New Zealand people. It shows it up for what it is – which is essentially a ‘roadshow’ with a predetermined end.”

Graham’s assertion that the public submission process  “ is essentially a ‘roadshow’ with a predetermined end”, is confirmed after  a startling admission by the Committee’s chairperson, Mark Mitchell. On “Morning Report” on 8 April, Mitchell vented his obvious frustration with the New Zealand public;

@ 3.45

“I think, I think some people are very set in their views. And to be honest with you my feeling is that it doesn’t matter what evidence we provide or how we try to balance the information that could allay those fears, they’re already set in their minds. They’ve decided what position they going to take and it’s going to be very hard to probably move them of that position. But there’s other people that are just genuinely worried about it because there has been some misinformation put into the public debate. And often when they get the full story, and of course the Minister’s done a very comprehensive, um, series, at which he’s continuing to do public meetings throughout the country. I think he’s in excess of about 30 or 35 now. Is that people actually just wanted to have some proper information around the TPP.”

(alt. link)

Mitchell complained that  “it doesn’t matter what evidence we provide or how we try to balance the information that could allay those fears, they’re already set in their minds” and “they’ve decided what position they going to take and it’s going to be very hard to probably move them of that position”.

For perhaps the first time in the history of the Westminster Parliamentary process,  a member of Parliament has suggested that the Select Committee process is no longer a forum where the public offer submissions for their elected representatives to listen and consider. Instead, Mitchell’s comments indicate that Select Committees are now viewed as useful tools for  dissemination of  “proper information around the TPP” for the public and businesses.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website page appears to echo Mitchell’s views on the purpose  of MFAT’s travelling “Road Shows”;

The Government will run a number of events on key TPP outcomes. These will be aimed at ensuring businesses are able to prepare to take advantage of new opportunities presented by TPP’s entry into force, and to provide information of interest to the wider public and other stakeholders. These events follow the extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations.

[…]

The Government is running TPP roadshows on the outcomes of TPP for New Zealand. Members of the public are welcome. The roadshows will also help businesses prepare to take advantage of new opportunities presented by TPP’s entry into force

However, the agendas  of both the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee’s submission process and  MFAT’s  “Road Shows” is not shared with the Parliamentary Office of the Clerk;

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is now calling for public submissions on the TPPA and the four related intellectual property treaties. Each treaty has a national interest analysis which sets out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand of becoming a party to it.

You have until Friday 11 March 2016 to share your views about these documents with the parliamentary select committee by making a submission.

The committee will consider the written submissions it receives and they will be posted on the Parliament website when released by the committee.

The committee is also expecting to hear from submitters who wish to speak to their submission. Committee staff will contact those submitters to organise a time for them to speak to the committee. Hearings may take place outside of Wellington depending on the number of submitters from each region.

Mark Mitchell seems not to have received the emailed memo from the House Clerk.

The “Road Shows” have also drawn criticism from the way they have been carefully orchestrated. From a Radio NZ story;

Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte said the event was more of a show and tell, in which Trade Minister Todd McClay and the senior negotiator described what they were doing.

“It was very much pro the agreement,” Mr Easte said.

“Even though half the questioners were clearly sceptical or anti, there wasn’t really an opportunity for a discussion or a debate.”

A member of the public complained that the “Road Show” was being held at a time guaranteed to minimise public attendance;

One placard holder, a teacher, has slipped away from school and down the road to make that point: “Let’s consult widely with the public. How about on a Monday morning when everyone is at work? Yeah right!”

Blogger, ‘SkepticNZ’, related his experience at the Dunedin Roadshow event;

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Now attending a Roadshow is not as simple as popping along.  In fact in order to attend you have to first register via the MFAT website.
 
The good people at MFAT no doubt in the interest of open debate and inclusion have the following requirement upon interested citizens to gain entry.
 

Please note:

You will need to bring photo ID (e.g. passport or drivers licence) in order to collect your name badge when you attend the roadshow. You may not be permitted entry to the roadshow unless you present photo ID.Entry to the roadshow on the day is entirely at the discretion of the event organizers. Disruptive, threatening or offensive behavior will not be tolerated and may result in you being required to leave the venue.

You must comply with the instructions and directions of the event organizers. You may be required to leave the roadshow if you do not do so.

Right, have you got that? before you can enter Mr McClay’s ‘open debate, informed discussion’ you first have to agree to doing what you are told.
 
Being a curious and dutiful citizen I prepared my identification, completed my registration, and printed off my MFAT confirmation including individual Bar Code, and off I went to the show.
 
On arriving at the Venue in Harrop street, I was greeted by some very friendly people keen to hear my views about the TPPA, and happy to give me information sheets.  But enough about the protesters, onto the front door.
 
The front door itself was guarded by a heavy police presence supported by private security contractors from Amourguard.  A young man from Armourguard asked for my photo ID and then told me I wasn’t on the list and asked me to stand to one side while they check if I could enter.  Which under a watchful Police eye I did.  
 
I didn’t have long to wait before another slightly older young man from Armourguard came to speak to me and ask if I had my registration form, which of course I did.  After a moment of reading my licence, checking my registration , and checking my licence again I was allowed in the door.
 
Hallelujah I haven’t had so much scrutiny to enter a door ever in my life.  Not even as an under age drinker in  the last century, nor  at Passport control at Heathrow, have I ever faced such close observation and suspicion.  Crikey there must be something really really important inside.
 
Inside the door was more police, and more security, and a desk to register to attend the day.  I must say the folks from Orbit (Event Staff) were genuinely friendly and helpful.  In a very short time I was given my ID Card and lanyard and direct to the stair well.  Apparently the Lift was out of order.  This was when yet another Security Officer asked to search my bag.  Being a good citizen I handed my bag over.  Apparently my pen and paper and Banana for morning tea did not constitute dangerous items and I was allow to begin my long climb up the stairs.
 
The climb itself was uneventful except for the presence of Security Personnel on every landing carefully watching our every move to ensure we went were we where supposed to.
 
Upon reaching the top floor I was greeted by even more security staff and a lobby to wait in.  The lobby  contained some MFAT TPPA Fact Sheets and that is about it.
 
After about 10 minutes of standing and being watched we were all allowed to enter the conference room itself.
 
I must admit by now my expectations where very high. After all why have a small army of security guards if there wasn’t something spectacular inside?

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SkepticNZ’s experience is worth reading in it’s entirety.

Another member of the public, Tim O’Shea, who was presenting a submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee on 8 April in Auckland, became upset when he realised that “thirty minutes in, and two National MP’s are missing“;

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David Bennet - TPPA select committee hearing

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Acknowledgement: Image courtesy of Tim O’Shea

Tim also complained thatof the three who are here, [National MP] David Bennett… spent more time looking at his smart phone than he has spent listening to oral submissions.” [See image above]

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tim oshea - facebook - select committee comment and photo

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Tim has lodged a formal complaint with the Foreign Affairs Defence Trade Committee chairperson;

“On Thursday I observed that the hearing was well attended by those on the Select Committee, and that all submitters (whether pro or anti the TPPA) were dealt with in a predominantly fair and courteous way. All attending members showed respect for those submitters by making a clear effort to listen to, and look at, the various submitters. The day was a long and busy one – i.e. there were many submissions, and very few unplanned interludes and gaps between the submissions.

On Friday, several submitters expressed their dissatisfaction and disappointment at how few government committee members were in attendance compared to the previous day. I counted just three (including the chairman), compared to five who attended on the Thursday.

That in itself, however, was of less concern to me than the rude, discourteous and totally disrespectful behaviour shown by one of the attending committee members, namely National MP David Barnett.

Despite the fact that the hearing didn’t start until the relatively leisurely time of 10:00am, Mr Barnett clearly felt, as the attached photo that I took at 10:22 shows, that looking at his cell phone was far more important than listening to, or looking at, the first THREE submitters !

It wasn’t until part the way through the third submission that Mr Barnett eventually put his phone down.”

When Tim asked David Barnett “to put his cell phone down for ten minutes to show some courtesy and respect“;

“The chairman, Mark Mitchell told me that I should not address committee members directly in that way, and that the members had other important work to do during the hearing – I responded that I also had work to do, and that the least he could do is listen to me and show some respect.”

Tim added;

“As I continued to the end of my submission, David Barnett showed complete and utter contempt by looking at his cell phone for the whole time that I presented, showing no interest at all, and not even looking up at me. Chairman Mark Mitchell said nothing about it whatsoever.’

The complainant claims that Committee Chairperson, Mark Mitchell then criticised Tim for his “bad behaviour”. According to Tim O’Shea;

“Mr Mitchell then told me that he didn’t like the fact that I stood up to do my submission.”

In an obviously increasingly tense atmosphere, another Select Committee member, Labour’s David Shearer, was allegedly over-heard referring to Tim as an  “arrogant twat”  to fellow-committee member,  Green MP Kennedy Graham.

David Shearer is a known supporter of the TPPA. In January this year, he was censured by Labour-leader Andrew Little for breaking ranks with Labour over the TPPA.

The complaint is on-going.

Whatever purpose the “Road Show” has, it clearly has upset members of the public. According to comments made by Mark Mitchell, and repeated on an MFAT website, Green MP, Kennedy Graham was correct when he condemned the exercise as;

“…essentially a roadshow with a predetermined end.”

Certain MPs  seem to hold the attitude that they are not so much highly-paid civil-servants, elected to represent us  in Parliament – but instead “members [who] had other important work to do”. These MPs forget that they hold office at our pleasure.

The clear perception is that public participation is not welcome at the “TPPA Roadshow” or Select Committee.

The farce surrounding the TPPA continues.

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Appendix1

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee Role MP Name Party, Electorate
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Chairperson Mitchell, Mark National Party, Rodney
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Deputy-Chairperson Reti, Shane National Party, Whangarei
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Bennett, David National Party, Hamilton East
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Graham, Kennedy Green Party, List
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Muller, Todd National Party, Bay of Plenty
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Ross, Jami-Lee National Party, Botany
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Shearer, David Labour Party, Mt Albert
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Tabuteau , Fletcher NZ First, List
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Tisch, Lindsay National Party, Waikato
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Woods, Megan Labour Party, Wigram

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Appendix2

Trade Minister Todd McClay appears to be labouring under an illusion when said;

“But you’ve got to remember it’s been over seven years or more of negotiation, so not all of that consultation or engagement will be remembered.”

MFAT repeated the fantasy;

These events follow the extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations.

One of the most trenchant criticisms of the TPPA is that there was no public consultation carried out during the negotiations. It was all done in secret.

In fact, Professor Jane Kelsey won a court case on this very issue.

So one has to wonder how Todd McClay and MFAT can make the startling assertions that there was “extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations“.

Too soon to be re-writing recent history, yes?

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Appendix3

National MP, Mark Mitchell, is closely connected with far-right activist,Simon Lusk, who runs (ran?) a private, self-styled “candidates school” for potential National Party candidates. Amongst those National MPs linked to Lusk are Taupo MP Louise Upston, Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga, Napier MP Chris Tremain, disgraced former list MP, Aaron Gilmore, and Minister Judith Collins. (Lusk, in turn, is associated with “Whaleoil’s” Cameron Slater; “Kiwiblog’s” David Farrar; and “Taxpayer Union’s” Jordan Williams.)

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Acknowledgement

To Tim O’Shea, for kind permission to  use his material (images, quotes, etc) and for proof-reading my story to ensure accuracy.

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References

Radio NZ: Over 330 ask to have say on TPP

Parliament: Select committee begins examination of TPPA

Radio NZ: New TPP timeframe an ‘attack on democracy’

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Select committee chair defends shortened TPP timeframe (audio) (alt.link)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade: Trans-Pacific Partnership – Events

Scoop Media: Select committee begins examination of TPPA

Radio NZ: TPP meeting one-sided, local politician says

The Spinoff: Tea, pee and pecuniary gains – Amid the clowns at the trade deal roadshow

SkepticNZ: Inside the #TPPA Roadshow Experience

Facebook: Tim O’shea – Submission

Facebook: Tim O’Shea – Facebook Post

Fairfax media: David Shearer faces ‘consequences’ for not toeing Labour line on TPPA – Little

NZ Herald: David Shearer to be censured over breaking Labour line on TPP

Parliament: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee Members

Radio NZ: TPP requests – Groser acted unlawfully

NZ Herald: National Party had high-level concerns over member’s influence

Fairfax media: Seriously happy to upset the status quo

Bryce Edwards: Invite to Selection Training Weekend

Other bloggers

Bowalley Road: Protecting The TPP

No Right Turn: Government propaganda on the TPPA

The Daily Blog: Josie Butler – Why I attacked the TPPA roadshow

The Standard: TPPA review time slashed

Wheeler’s Corner: TPPA’s Road-show SEAN PLUNKET tongue flaps

Previous related blogposts

Power Struggle in the National Party?!

David Farrar – Challenging Slater for Sultan of Sleaze?

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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

Nats, Lies, and Videotape

The secret of National’s success – revealed

So who’s a “conspiracy theorist” now?!

National’s Ohariu candidate admits contact by Simon Lusk

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Bamboozlement

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 April 2016.

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Citizens present petition at Governor General’s gate

6 February 2016 6 comments

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we the corporations

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NZ, Wellington, 30 January – Several hundred people met at  Wellington’s  Waitangi Park, to vent their opposition at the impending signing and ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA);

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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On Cable Street footpath, a citizen waved a flag of sovereignty to draw attention to the protest;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Protest organiser, Greg Rzesniowiecki, discussing  the march-route and other details with Police. There was good co-operation between organisers and police – and this time there was no noticeable carrying or display  of offensive weapons such as tasers by constables;

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Mick McCrohon - TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (39)

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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“Fats”, giving a mihi to assembled citizens in the park square;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (6)

 

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Greg Rzesniowiecki, addressing citizens, and explaining that the march would make it’s way peacefully to the Governor General’s residence where the petition would be presented. He said that what was being done today would make history; for the first time, citizens would be making a direct appeal to the Governor General on behalf of the entire country;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Co-organiser, Ariana, addressing citizens. She advised the crowd that this would be a peaceful protest and that Marshals would be assisting marchers throughout. She said that John Key was desperate to portray anti-TPPA protestors as a “lawless rent-a-crowd” and that “we should not give him that opportunity“;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Making your beliefs known through body-art ;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Citizens, expressing their views, opposing the TPPA;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Members of the New Zealand Health and Climate Council adding their opposition to the TPPA;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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In October 2014, the OraTaiao The New Zealand Climate and Health Council warned;

“Negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) threaten New Zealand’s ability to protect our climate and health. The Council’s ongoing concerns are voiced in an article in NZ Doctor online today, together with 9 other health professional groups representing doctors, nurses, midwives, medical students, academics and health promoters.

The biggest threat is the ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) provisions. This mechanism allows overseas companies, including fossil fuel companies, to sue our Government if local law changes to bring down greenhouse gas emissions might affect their value or profits.

This is happening overseas already, for example, in Germany where measures to reduce the damaging effects of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired power plant have been subject to an investment dispute.

‘Climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature death, with worse to come’ says Dr Alex Macmillan of OraTaiao The NZ Climate and Health Council.

‘Climate change is a health threat for all New Zealanders, with Māori, Pacific people, children, the elderly, and low income groups likely to be the hardest hit’.

‘For a just transition to a low emissions economy, we need to put people’s health first – not the profits of overseas companies. New Zealand needs to remain a free democracy to protect our climate, our health, our country and our future’.

Irrespective of  mealy-mouthed “assurances from our Esteemed Dear Leader, New Zealand remains vulnerable to law-suits from corporations  complaining of “loss of profits”.

Despite John Key repeating  the mantra that New Zealand has never been sued,  our own Parliament put off legislation enabling plain-packaging for tobacco products until an ISDS lawsuit brought by Phillip Morris against the Australian government had been resolved.

On 17 December 2013, John Key declared;

“It will almost certainly be introduced, have its first reading, then go off to the select committee.

But it’s very, very unlikely it will be passed. In fact, in my view it shouldn’t be passed until we’ve actually had a ruling out of Australia.

We think it’s prudent to wait till we see a ruling out of Australia. If there’s a successful legal challenge out of Australia, that would guide us how legislation might be drafted in New Zealand.”

So we don’t need to be sued under ISDS provisions. The mere threat of legal action is sufficient to stay the hand of the National government from passing health related legislation.

As usual, Key’s parroted reasurances that “we have never been sued” are hollow.  Last year, the National Government was sued (or, faced a High Court “judicial review” to satisfy right-wing pedants/National apologists) by Shanghai Pengxin. The legal action followed  a Ministerial decision to overturn an  OIO decision to permit the Chinese corporation ftom purchasing a14,000 hectare sheep and cattle station at Lochinver Station;

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shanghai-pengxin-going-to-high-court-over-lochinver-decision-tppa-investor-state-dispute-settlent

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As I wrote last year subsequent to the media report;

The only difference between scenarios envisaged under the TPPA and the Lochinver Station-Shanghai Pengxin-OIO case is that the latter is being tested under the jurisdiction of a New Zealand Court of law instead of an extra-judicial, and often-secret,  corporate tribunal overseas.

This is cold comfort.

We now have a situation in our own country where, if we determine not to sell to an overseas investor, that decision can be over-turned. Our laws now allow foreign interests to be on an equal footing with New Zealand citizens.

You no longer have to be a tax-paying citizen (born or naturalised) to hold certain rights.

The people assembled, ready to  march to the Governor-General’s residence;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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The driver of this vehicle slowed and aggressively yelled out pro-TPPA comments. He was largely ignored, and drove off before Police could catch up to him;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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No doubt being a proactive supporter of the TPPA, he will have the initiative to organise a counter pro-TPPA street march. Perhaps someone (his mum?) may even turn up to it.

Meanwhile, the marchers received more encouragement from other members of the public. Some joined in, swelling numbers, and others – like this woman – were content to clap and cheer us on;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (24)

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The head of the march, with TV1 reporter and cameraman filming their coverage for that evening’s news broadcast;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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This couple and their child joined the protest march as it made it’s way along Kent Terrace, heading toward the Basin Reserve;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Labour MP, Louisa Wall (brown dress, wearing carved-bone pendant) participated in the march;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Her fellow Labour MP, Phil Goff, could learn a lesson of self-discipline and loyalty to Party members from Ms Wall.

Above the marchers, people in apartments  waved and cheered;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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As marchers arrived at the Governor-General’s residence;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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… they found the gates closed and firmly padlocked;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Which raised the question – had the Governor-General been detained in his home, under house arrest?

Meanwhile, the National regime and our esteemed Dear Leader have at last found a useful purpose to what was once an annoyingly independent news-media – as part of the State security-apparatus. Note how the nation’s journalists lined up in front of the Governor-General’s gates, to form a “protective cordon”;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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The marchers assembled, which had by this time doubled in size to around 500 to 600;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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“Fats” and another citizen, holding aloft an anti-TPPA placard, where on-coming traffic around the Basin Reserve could clearly view the sign. Judging by the non-stop tooting of car-horns, public sentiment against the TPPA is widespread and palpable;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Amanda Vickers, from It’s Our Future,  addressed the marchers and explained the process by which the petition – bearing approximately 4,300 signatures – would be presented.

On the  It’s Our Future, website, she said;

“We are requesting the Governor General to command John Key – to put the question of TPP to a binding referendum prior to signing.”

We are asking him to refuse to assent to any enabling legislation unless the people vote in favour. No one can force the Governor General to sign legislation. If he doesn’t sign it doesn’t become law.

Amanda says, “The Governor General in agreeing with our request, provides a unique opportunity to defuse the polarisation around TPP, allowing for open public discussion about the TPP implications, in the period before a referendum was held.”

The petition to the Governor-General requests;

We, the UNDERSIGNED citizens and residents of Aotearoa New Zealand, PETITION Your Excellency:
1. to COMMAND the Government to put the question of proceeding with, or withdrawal from TPPA to a BINDING REFERENDUM; and
2. to PROHIBIT the Government from signing any final agreement, or taking any binding treaty action UNLESS the People vote in favour; and
3. to REFUSE Assent to any enabling legislation UNLESS the People vote in favour.

Ms Vickers told marchers  that professional bodies had spoken out against the TPPA and that there was widespread condemnation of many of it’s provisions. She said there could be no mandate for  an agreement that had been negotiated in secrecy, and that we were only now learning how much of our sovereignty would be ceded, especially to offshore, secret tribunals under the ISDS provisions.

Ms Vickers said that a hundred jurists and judges  had written to the National government, voicing their concerns at ISDS secret tribunals and their total lack of accountability. They had not received a reply from the government.

This was a huge loss of sovereignty and called the provisions of the TPPA, extreme.

She said that the TPPA should be put to a binding referendum and in the meantime, any legislation to enable the Agreement should be rejected by the Governor General. Ms Vickers further added that this event was still only the beginning, saying;

“We are not prepared to surrender our sovereignty and self-determination.”

Ms Vickers then explained to the assembled people that when the Governor General’s representative, Gregory Baughen, arrived at the gates to receive the petition, that everyone should stand and see the hand-over through in silence. She said this would honour the process and give it solemnity.

She also gave a warning that if any agent provocateur’s  tried to incite violence or disruption, that protest organiser’s would not tolerate it. She said “we had enough of that during the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, and we don’t want to see it again“. She asked people to film anyone who attempted to disrupt proceedings.

The Governor General’s representative, Gregory Baughen, arrived, and in near-silence (to the background noise of passing traffic) he received  the petition in a flag-draped box;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (40)

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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The hand-over was carried out with quiet dignity. As he walked back, up the driveway, the people assembled spontaneously began to sing (see TV1 video at 1:48) the New Zealand anthem, first in Maori, then in English;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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This was dignified respect which John Key has yet to earn.

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Postscript:

Seen at an anti-TPPA protest march in Wellington  on 15 August 2015;

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tppa-15-aug-2015

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Because some matters are apparently  “too important” to be left to We, The People to vote on.

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References

Evening Report: Kelsey accuses PM Key of ‘orchestrated move’ to make TPPA debate a security issue

Fairfax media: TPP protesters were ‘misinformed’, says John Key

OraTaiao The New Zealand Climate and Health Council: Health professionals say TPPA risks climate and health protection

NZ Business Review: PM to TPP critics – ‘We’ve never been sued

Fairfax media: Key – Let Australia go first

Fairfax media: Shanghai Pengxin going to High Court over Lochinver decision

Radio NZ: Little gives Goff green light to cross floor on TPP

TVNZ News: Wellington protesters ask Governor General to block TPPA

Additional

Otago Daily Times: Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’

NZ Herald: TPP – Hundreds gather outside Governor-General’s residence

Labour: Andrew Little On the TPPA

Citizens’ Action

No Mandate: Download and Sign the Petition

It’s Our Future: Take Action Against the TPPA

Previous related blogposts

Al Capone lives again?

Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al

Another of John Key’s lies – sorry – “Dynamic Situations”

Key’s TPPA Falsehoods – “We’ve never, ever been sued” ***up-date ***

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.
» Mick McCrohon asserts his rights over images attributed to him.

 

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Medicine-Whether-You-Want-It-Or-Not-1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2016.

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Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

21 August 2015 3 comments

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wellington-tppa-walk-away-15-august

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NZ, Wellington, 15  August – Anti-TPPA protesters, many of them young people in their teens and early 20s, faced off against police armed with tasers on the steps of Parliament.

Believed to be the first time that armed police have deployed tasers in a non-violent, non-threatening situation, at least five police officers were visibly carrying the potentially lethal devices on their belts;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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At least five  weapons were clearly visible, with other policemen and woman wearing bulky jackets that may or may not have concealed more of the devices.

Though there was some minor jostling between one protester and a Parliamentary security guard, there was no violence or any other physical contact between police and members of the public.

The confrontation began when a lone protester made her way to the top of the Parliamentary steps, and seated herself, adopting a meditating position. For a short time, three police attempted to persuade her to move, though no force was used.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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She was followed by others, who also jumped or skirted around the security fence separating the grassy area from the paved Parliamentary forecourt.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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As their numbers swelled to approximately a hundred, extra police arrived quickly and with Parliamentary Security, formed a cordon across the steps leading up to Parliament.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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March organisors and Marshalls attempted to quell the situation by asking people to move back from the steps, without much success.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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Eventually,  jostling and shouting gave way to a calmer atmosphere as March organisors encouraged a constant stream of speakers to address the crowd. The tiny volatile minority, numbering perhaps half a dozen, joined others seated on the steps. One activist played his guitar and sang songs, though at one point he declined a request for “anything by Dave Dobbin“.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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After about a hour, the crowd on the Parliamentary forecourt dispersed of their own volition. Police numbers also reduced, with officers leaving the scene.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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There was no apparent reason for tasers to be deployed on this occasion. The sight of these weapons incited many in the crowd to angry outbursts toward the police.

More than one person was overheard asking what possible use  four or five tasers would have been against a crowd numbering in the hundreds.

One person, who requested anonymity,  said to this blogger;

“Whoever authorised these guns to be brought out needs their head read. It’s a grim day when cops feel the need to show these things when they’re faced with ordinary New Zealanders engaged in lawful protest. It’s like something out of ‘Sleeping Dogs’.  Really, is this where we’ve ended up, armed cops facing off against women and kids? God help us.”

On this occasion, a tense situation was prevented from escalation not by show of force, but by the wit of organisors who distracted the ‘hot heads’ and encouraged dialogue and engagement.

The best strategy in this stand-off was patience.

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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

Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

Support groups

Facebook: Oil Free Wellington

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

Website:  It’s Our Future

Facebook: Aotearoa is Not for Sale

Action Stations: A Secret Trade Deal So Terrifying That Parliament Isn’t Even Allowed To Know What It Says

Facebook: TPPA Action Group – Wellington

OraTaiao New Zealand Climate and Health Council

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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TPPA-cartoon-trans pacific partnership

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 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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They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

9 April 2014 7 comments

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

 

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The New Zealand government is negotiating an international agreement that could have a huge effect on the lives of ordinary kiwis. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and it involves eleven Asian and Pacific-rim countries, including the United States. If it goes ahead, we risk damage to our innovative economy, our pristine environment, our health, and the ability to shape our own future.

Because the negotiations are being conducted in secret, what we know about the TPPA comes from leaked documents and detective work. We live in a democracy, which means we have the right to know what is done in our name and to have a say. “ –  It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

Wellington, NZ, 29 March 2014 – Over three hundred people in Wellington took to the streets on a fine Saturday afternoon, to protest at secret TPPA negotiations and the threats to our national sovereignty.

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (94).

The marchers took off…

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (166).

Some symbolism here?

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (164).

An eagle-eyed reader will notice… no police presence!

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (167).

At first, marchers  stuck to the footpaths to keep out of the way of traffic. But as on-lookers joined in, numbers swelled, and they took to the road;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (168).

Along the “Golden Mile” – Lambton Quay – the march of citizens made an impressive sight;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (105).

As the marchers reached the Cenotaph, a lone police vehicle appeared, to control traffic;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (106).

The protestors moved past the Cenotaph, toward Parliament’s gates;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (169).

In Parliament’s grounds, protestors made their way up the driveway;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (170) - Copy.

Standing before the People’s Parliament – behind steel barricades and a contingent of private security guards (off camera) –  Claire Bleakley, from the  GE Free Network.  Steel barriers. (Steel barriers. Obviously, National are terrified that 300+ anti-TPPA protesters might storm Parliament and seize control of the entire country.)

Claire gave a short, but ‘punchy’ speech on the link between the TPPA and genetically modified organisms entering our country through unfettered “trade”;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (125).

“…One of the biggest things that’s happening America is the advent of genetically modified crops. Which are coming into our country. With the TPPA we will will be trading away our right to know what we are eating…

… We have to protect our seeds. We have to protect our sovereignty. And we have to protect our food.”

Meanwhile, in a sign of some irony, anti-TPPA protesters  stood beneath the fluttering flags of other nations – several of which are participants in TPPA negotiations;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (117).

Green Party MP, Gareth Huges, (clockwise, from top left) being interviewed by a TV1 camera crew; Green Party supporters; Gareth and a young potential future Green voter; and Gareth addressing the gathering.

.anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (171) - Copy.

Chris McKenzie, from the Maori Party, voiced his opposition to the TPPA, saying it would harm Maori interests;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (144).

A couple of people in the crowd took exception to Chris’ comments and, after being handed a bullhorn, began to chant,

“Cross the floor!

Cross the floor!!”

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (146).

When Chris responded that he would pay no heed to “a couple of haters”, others in the crowd immediately took up the chant,

“Cross the floor!

Cross the floor!!”

 

Chris and his fellow Maori Party activists responded with a stirring haka, but the damage had been done – they had likely lost the support of most of the protesters. They are, after all, members of the Maori Party, which supports the National-led government with Supply and Confidence votes in the House. So what did they expect?

Kudos to them, at least, for having the balls to participate in the protest. That is courage of a magnitude several times greater than any Maori Party MPs – who could not be bothered to front.

Next up – Tim Jones, from the anti-coal-mining group, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, aka,  “Keep the Coal in the Hole”;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (133).

” We’re working to stop new and expanded coal mining because mining and burning coal is the single biggest threat to the world’s climate. This government is very keen to mine and burn coal, along with all the other mining, drilling, and fracking it wants to do.

We need a government that cares about climate change and we need a government that’s willing to take action on it. We also need a government that is actually able to take action on it. As you’ve heard, if the TPPA is passed, foreign corporations will be able to sue any New Zealand government that brings in tougher rules on the environment [and]  that brings in tougher rules against greenhouse gas emissions.

That means even a government that wants to act on climate change, and that certainly isn’t the current government, might have it’s hands tied.

Do you want overseas companies to have the last word on Aotearoa’s environment and climate change policies?

… So let’s stop the TPPA, and let’s get rid of this government, and it’s mining company mates, and let’s start taking real action on climate change.”

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (173).

Perhaps one of the longest banners ever at a protest rally, this one measured well over 20 metres, and the message read,

“TPPA: Taking Aotearoa’s sovereignty away! TPPA: No mandate. Stop gambling with our future! People B4 profits. Stop foreign corporate takeover! TPPA = selling out NZ. Signing the TPPA is treachery!!!”

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (172)

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NZEI members leaving the  International Summit on the Teaching Profession, holding their “Living Wage” placards;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (154).

When Iwi leaders condemned the protest, Mana’s Hone Harawira was none-to-happy at what he called  “iwi leaders becom[ing] so servile and sycophantic” to the National government.

Hone spoke from the heart and said some things that – for a politician – was quite extraordinary! In all my years listening to politicians speak, I have never heard any say the things he did;

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anti TPPA march_30 march 2014_wellington (148).

“Whatever happens, whatever happens, don’t kid yourself that because you’re all standing that side of the fence, you’re all friends with each other. Know this, if you’re not fighting for the sovereignty of this nation, then you’re on the wrong bloody side, that side, or this side, of the fence.

If the TPPA is aimed at taking away the sovereignty outlined in the Treaty of the Waitangi and replacing it with an economic sovereignty owned by people from far, far, away, and unless we do something to stop it, all of us, those on that side of the fence and those on this of the fence that you can trust, then we ain’t going to change it. Be up for struggle, and be up for a fight.

And know that unless we stand strong on this, these bastards are going to win.

There’s no reason why anybody in this country should accept our sovereignty being negotiated [away] in secret, in Singapore, in New York, and in London. There is no reason, why anybody in this country should accept that this country, and this country’s own government, cannot legislate in the interests of New Zealand citizens only to have those decisions overturned by big tobacco in the World [Bank] Court. There is no reason why anybody here should accept that big drug companies can overthrow the right of PHARMAC to let all citizens in this country to get low cost medicines.

And there no reason to accept the reason why […background noise…] Maori and alternative medicines should be pushed out and made illegal simply to keep international drug lords in big fat profits.

So, I don’t really care about this being a Mana thing or a Green thing or a Labour thing or an anybody thing. Because this thing here is about all us standing together. Come the election 2014,  look only… to the parties that are absolutely dedicated to changing the government we have now. Look only to those parties that are absolutely dedicated to changing this government we’ve got now, and put your vote in any one of them.

And honestly, I don’t really care if you’re not going to vote for Mana, but vote only for those who will change the government. Don’t vote for those, don’t vote for those, who’ve got a dollar over here and a dollar over here.

This Agreement is not a win-win deal. Any party that signals their willingness to go with this government, or may go this way , or that way, is not a friend of what we’re trying to achieve on this stage…

… There are no deals on our sovereignty.”

It was  startling to hear Hone Harawira utter those words – made all the more amazing because it is not the usual thing one expects from politicians. I cannot recall a single politician ever, anywhere, calling on people to vote on an issue first, and not for themselves or their Party!

Finally, to remind ourselves,

” There are no deals on our sovereignty.”

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References

NZEI: Living Wage for Learning events to call for a fair go

TV3: Iwi leaders slam NZEI protests

Scoop media: No prestige In Trying To Hide Poverty

Additional

NewstalkZB: Thousands march against TPPA

Support groups

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

Facebook: Aotearoa is Not for Sale

Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Copyright

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Acknowledgement

This blogger wishes to thank Mana Party organisor, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati, for kindly lending me her camera. Mine finally gave up the mechanical ghost and I would not have been able to complete this blogpost without her timely assistance. I am deeply appreciative of her kindness and trust.

– Frank Macskasy

 

 

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vote mana labnour green

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 April 2014.

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Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA – Day of Action!

25 February 2014 7 comments

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TPPA

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Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA

Saturday, March 29, 2014

1:00pm

(For venues, see below)

The New Zealand government is negotiating an international agreement that could have a huge effect on the lives of ordinary kiwis. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and it involves eleven Asian and Pacific-rim countries, including the United States. If it goes ahead, we risk damage to our innovative economy, our pristine environment, our health, and the ability to shape our own future.

Because the negotiations are being conducted in secret, what we know about the TPPA comes from leaked documents and detective work. We live in a democracy, which means we have the right to know what is done in our name and to have a say.

Come down, voice your concerns and together we can show the government that this is not acceptable.

Here’s a short video explaining the TPPA:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwqMp1ykbW8

Confirmed speakers:

If there isn’t an event in your city yet and you want to help organise, please let us know

Events list around the country:

Auckland: https://www.facebook.com/events/454683364631627/

Wellington: https://www.facebook.com/events/228635500656767/

Christchurch: https://www.facebook.com/events/605044852899708/

Dunedin: https://www.facebook.com/events/221229231399538/

– Update –

“At a press conference yesterday, Malaysia’s Minister for International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said: ‘The draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will be released to enable detailed scrutiny and public debate before any final agreement is signed.’ That would be unprecedented for Malaysia.”

Read More:  NZ should follow Malaysia lead in releasing TPPA text

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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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The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

6 April 2013 8 comments

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spy vs politician

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The current mess surrounding the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) Director should serve as a clear warning to any future Labour-Green government: Don’t Do It.

To be precise; don’t do what Key (and his ministerial cronies) has done. Circumventing the State Services Commission to “facilitate” appointments – even if done for decent motives – is simply;

(A) Not a good look

(B) Not worth the hassle when the media, bloggers, and Opposition get hold of it

(C) A slippery-slope toward cronyism and inevitable corruption.

The appointment of John Key’s Electorate Chairperson,  Stephen McElrea (who is also the National Party’s Regional Deputy Chair, National Party Northern Region) to the Board of NZ On Air raised numerous charges of cronyism and an agenda of political interference in public funding for television programming. (See:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air; See: PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link )

Concerns over political appointees to highly sensitive positions, vulnerable to political interference, was quickly borne out when McElrea began to flex his “political muscles” even before being appointed to  NZ on Air’s Board,

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National man eyes NZ On Air chair

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – National man eyes NZ On Air chair

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Key’s background in deal-making; cutting corners to achieve set goals; and getting results fatally blinds him to the realities that politics and government is a whole different kettle of fish to ‘high finance’. (Which would be a good thing, considering the almighty crash of  ‘high finance’ four years ago.)

The State Services Commission was set up precisely to keep politician’s greasy hands of appointments.  At the beginning of out nascent civil service, ministerial cronyism was rampant,

The departments that grew up over the next few decades operated under the direct control of their Ministers, in arrangements that were practical in pioneering times.  Ministers approved appointments, determined pay and conditions, and oversaw administration and financial management, with varying degrees of diligence.

[…]

Understandably, Ministers were inclined to see that the people appointed were sympathetic to their own political outlook and priorities – and inevitably, in a small population, these were sometimes friends or acquaintances.  The Public Service was run on somewhat ad hoc ‘frontier’ lines, and seems not to have been much different from its parent institution, the British civil service.  In their report on the British civil service Sir Stafford North and Sir Charles Trevelyan described a bureaucracy that was, in the 1850s, rife with patronage, fragmented and inefficient.

Acknowledgement: State Services Commission –  Origins of the Public Service and Office of State Services Commissioner

Accordingly, after 1912, reforms were enacted to clean up this unholy mess,

The Hunt Commission in due course recommended, as ‘the most important matter of all’, establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet, to have ‘absolute and undisputed power’ in ‘all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – … appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – ‘  It suggested the Board’s first duties should include blocking all ‘back doors’ of entrance to the Public Service, and arranging for all promotions be made from within the Service.

The outcome was the Public Service Act 1912 – based on Herdman’s Bill already before the house – which set up a non-political and unified career Public Service; non-political through powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal being entrusted to an independent body – the Public Service Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is abundantly clear that John Key doesn’t ‘get’ any of this, when he said,

I didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Labour have done very similar things.”

Again, blaming Labour.

Is everything he says or does predicated on what the previous government did?

Does Key not have standards of his own? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)

Because Key’s memory lapses cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. Especially when, on 3 April he openly contradicted himself as to who-phoned-who, as Andrea Vance reported,

…he appears to be confused about who first suggested Fletcher for the job.

Asked why he didn’t tell the full story last week, Key said: “I’d forgotten that at that particular time.”

In Porirua this afternoon, Key was grilled about the sequence of events that saw Fletcher appointed as director of the GCSB in September 2011.

At first Key said: “Iain Rennie, state services commissioner recommended him to me… I rang [Fletcher] and said ‘look, you know, you might be interested.”

Asked again who first brought up Fletcher’s name, Key replied: “Iain Rennie put it to me.”

Later on, he was asked again who first mentioned Fletcher. “I would have mentioned it to him, I’m sure.”

When pressed to clarify if he first suggested the name to Rennie, he said: “I’m sure I probably would have.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss

Key lied. He was caught out lying.

On 4 April, Scoop Media wrote about the rationale behind Ian Fletcher’s appointment as GCSB director. Fletcher had no prior military of Intelligence experience. But he did have an extensive  background in intellectual property, commerce and “free” trade (see: The CV of a Spy Boss ) .

Fletcher’s appointment was announced  in September 2011, and was due to take up his new job in early 2012.

At the same time, police were planning their raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion, scheduled to take place  on January 20 2012.

Scoop wrote,

Suppose Dotcom’s arrest and extradition was the clincher in the deal that secured Warner Bros’ agreement to produce The Hobbit in New Zealand. But any link to John Key, who led the negotiations with Warner Bros, would tend to confirm Dotcom’s claim, supported by the strong connection between Hollywood and US vice-president Joe Biden, of political persecution. So the prime minister had to be protected by having total deniability, leading to the completely implausible claim of not knowing about the most prominent resident in his own electorate until the day before the raid.

Acknowledgement: Kim Dotcom Part Two

Conspiracy fantasy?

Remember that Key has had several top level meetings with Warner Bros executives,

October 2010

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No decision yet in Hobbit talks - Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – No decision yet in Hobbit talks – Key

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July 2011

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PM's 'special' movie studio meeting

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

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October 2012

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Key - Dotcom won't be discussed during Hollywood visit

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key: Dotcom won’t be discussed during Hollywood visit

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Four days later,
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Dotcom raised at PM's Hollywood dinner

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And those are only the meetings which we, The Masses, are aware of.

It’s interesting to note Chris Dodd, the CEO of  the Motion Picture Assiciation of America (MPAA) referred to the Trans Pacific Partnership Aggreement (TPPA) in the 5 October NZ Herald article above.

The TPPA has more to do with intellectual property rights than with “free” trade. (See: “Global Research –  The “Trans-Pacific Partnership”: Obama’s Secret Trade Deal; See: MFAT -Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations – Intellectual Property Stakeholder Update)

It’s also worthwhile noting that Ian Fletcher’s appointment coincided to the month with the raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion.

  • Raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion:  20 January 2012.

And both men were involved in intellectual property rights – though from different angles,

  • Kim Dotcom – the man who Hollywood executives wanted brought down because of alleged copyright violations on his ‘megaupload’ website. (see: The MPAA on Dotcom)
  • Ian Fletcher – the man who had worked in the UK to protect oroporate interests in intellectual property rights. (see below)

When Ian Fletcher’s appointment was announced on 8 September 2011, Key himself proudly boasted of the new Director’s  career,

Announcing the appointment Prime Minister John Key said he has ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters.”

Acknowledgement: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed

Fletcher’s ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters” seemed to matter for John Key for some reason?

Kim Dotcom was very high on the list of issues relating to “international economic and trade matters“; namely intellectual property rights.  Indeed, in March 2007, Fletcher was appointed as Chief Executive of the UK Office of Intellectual Property.

On 20 March 2007, Ian Fletcher said,

“I am delighted to be joining the Patent Office. It already plays a vital role in the UK’s economic prosperity, its scientific excellence and its innovation system. As the Office moves on to tackle to challenges set out in Andrew Gowers’ review, the Office’s role will become even more central to the UK’s response to the challenges of globalisation.”

Acknowledgement: Intellectual Property Office – New Chief Executive for the Patent Office

(Hat-tip; Karol, on The Standard)

It has been widely commented that Ian Fletcher has no background in the military, nor Intelligence – yet was considered the one candidate who was eminently suitable for the role of Director of the GCSB.  Perhaps now we are starting to understand why Ian Fletcher’s appointment seemingly related to,

  • the Crown’s case against Kim Dotcom
  • Illegal downloads/Intellectual Property rights
  • MPAA concerns
  • Hollywood big business
  • Trans Pacific Partnership

And as Key himself admitted, the issue of Kim Dotcom had been raised by Hollywood executive. Just what does our Prime Minister have to discuss with said executives? Who knows – it’s all done in secret, behind closed doors. We’re just expected to pay our taxes and shut up.

Conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories remain the subjects of idle parlour chit-chat and somewhat kooky websites… well, until charges are laid. Then a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy case in a Court of Law.

This affair should serve as a warning for the next in-coming Labour-Green government. National’s administration is a text-book case of how not to do things.

Every minister in the next Labour-Green government should be appointed a “minder” to ensure that they do things By The Book, and not to cut one single corner. Or at the very least, periodically re-read press reports and blogposts detailing every f**k-up by National over the last four years.

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. And even if the whole story behind the Fletcher-Dotcom-GCSB-TPPA thing has not been fully revealed – I think we’ve had a glimpse into the murky shadows of political perfidity to smell something rotten.

The issue has not only further dented Key’s credibility, but is starting to wear down his public persona of  good natured, ‘blokeyness’,

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John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

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Abusing the media? Not a good look for Dear Leader. It appears that the stress of the job is getting to him. And he can’t handle it very well.

Key’s “blokeyness” morphes into bratty petulance when he further dictates the terms under which he will talk to the media and in Parliament,

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PM John Key

‘What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I’ll be doing that to the journalists as well.
‘Cos if you want perfection of everything I have done, two, three, four, five years ago, I will get you all that information for you, but I’ll get you the whole lot and give it to you.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – John Key changes tack over questioning

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This is “seige mentality” stuff.

Key’s teflon coating wore away over a year ago. With no defensive cloak, the media recognise a government and it’s leader who are in dire trouble and  on the defensive.

As Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury wrote on “The Daily Blog”,

“John Key’s extraordinary appointment of his school-hood chum to be the new Director of our spy network could well be his ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

And as Bryce Edwards noted in the NZ Herald on 4 April,

“As a barometer of the political media, John Armstrong is always useful, and it appears that he too ‘smells blood’.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Political round-up: John Key’s precarious credibility

There are more headlines to come out of Key and National. It’s only a matter of time.

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Related blogposts

Crony Watch!

References

Fairfax Media: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed (8 Sept 2011)

The Listener: Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timeline (20 March 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Illegal Surveillance And Response: Timeline (28 March 2013)

Fairfax Media:  Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss (3 April 2013)

Radio NZ: State Services boss ‘surprised’ at PM’s phone call (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM paints himself into another corner  (4 April 2013)

NBR: Honesty bigger issue than cronyism (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  PM has no regrets about calling Fletcher (5 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: John Key changes tack over questioning (5 April 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Part Two (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radiolive: Former GCSB boss intrigued by Ian Fletcher appointment – Audio  (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Ian Fletcher appointment a ‘totally ethical process’ (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’ (6 April 2013)

Other blogs

The Standard: The CV of a spy-boss

The Standard: Fletcher GCSB Change manager – and QLD

The Daily Blog: John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

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Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

17 February 2013 7 comments

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SOEs

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Continued from:

 

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part tahi)

 

NZ, Wellington, 13 February 2013 – The first speaker was Peter Love; Te Atiawa, and Board Member of the Wellington Tenths Trust,

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Peter Love spoke of having to buy a bottle of water from the dairy – and yet Maori were castigated for trying to assert their own water rights. Holding up a plastic bottle of water, he said it’s not about “Maori owning the water”,

We have to make sure you don’t have to go into a dairy to buy this!

He spoke of countries such as China sending their workers into Pacific Island nations to build infra-structure and buildings for the locals, but for a price.  Peter Love spoke of powerful interests  seeking valuable resources  such as the fish in Cook Islands territorial waters.

He said asset sales would be a magnet for overseas investors,

They’re after our assets!”

Which is why“, he said, “we’re all here this evening challenging the government.”

Peter Love finished with a humorous touch,

My wife said, ‘hullo – don’t get arrested Peter...”

He encouraged the crowd,

“…Don’t forget, keep it up. Sign the petition against it. And we may have to call you again to go to Parliament.”

The next speaker was Peter Love’s mokopuna (grandchild), Kaira Ranginui-Love, of Te Atiawa, who spoke directly to the many young people in the crowd,

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Ms Ranginui-Love spoke with deep passion about her feelings for this country, and how others wanted a piece of our paradise,

I love Aotearoa! I don’t know about you but I absolutely love this country. I believe Aotearoa is Heaven on Earth…

… For many of you, Aotearoa has been a home for you and your families since the time of the settlers, and for others.”
 
“… But regardless of how we all got here and what we’re all doing here, I think we can all agree  what connects us is our love for Aotearoa.”

“We are very lucky to live here. We have the oceans, the rivers, the forests, the lands,  and all that dwell therein. So we must look after our country, and be the caretakers, for now and for the future generations to come. We need to be wary that we don’t allow our country to be exploited by those in a position of power. The National government, the National Party, they have an immoral agenda based on monetary gain only…”

“…Is this government listening to our views?”

“I think this govermnment blatantly  ignores it’s people and what they want. What we all want. No thought has gone into the rippling effect that this will have on our futures.”

“…We’ll have no say, and we’ll  have no rights. This referendum will help to stop the government from making a terrible mistake. Remember, everybody wants a slice of our country, our paradise. So it is time to stand up. It is time to fight for this generation and the generations to come….”

“…The time to act is now, before it’s too late.”

Next, the Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown – a veteran campaigner against the privatisation of Wellington’s former “Capital Power” company in the 1990s – spoke of her thoughts on selling strategic assets that belong to the people,

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Mayor Wade-Brown welcomed people to the rally and acknowledged the hard work by organisors to set up the rally,

Let’s give the organisors a big round of applause!”

This week there’ve been a number of really important issues raised that resonate with all of us; leadership; jobs; a fair go; and a clean environment; public ownership of strategic assets. Those aren’t alternatives to each other, they go hand in hand.”

The Mayor spoke of Deborah Littman visiting Wellington and talking to Council (see: Mayor pushes to give hundreds a pay increase ) about how a living wage has in helped  many aspects of society in Vancouver and London, by raising incomes,

Low pay doesn’t help the local economy; low pay doesn’t educational failure, and low pay doesn’t help poor health. So the living wage is an idea to inspire us, it’s a journey, not an overnight transformation… … a living wage is good for the local economy.”

Mr Wade Brown referred to a Greenpeace economic report which outlined ambitious ideas for new jobs, new prosperity, and a clean economy. She outlined Greenpeace’s ideas for how huge wealth could be created for New Zealand by building an economy based on 100% renewable energy,  energy efficiency, and sustainable transport.

The mayor went on to describe one of her earliest actions soon after being elected to the City Council in 1994,

I voted in one of the earliest political decisions when I was elected on Council against the sale of Capital Power. And now the energy retail and lines businesses have been split up and sold and sold again  and it’s really impossible to assess what they would  be worth now.

But it could’ve been a huge help to the capital city as a basis for a smart grid, for electricity demand management, and for more manageble bills for people on low incomes. So I understand your concerns about selling of power generation companies.

More successfully, Wellington City Council voted against the sale of our Airport shares. Although one third does not give us control. But it does keep us in the loop and it gives us a considerable dividend that keeps your rates down.

And in the ’90s there were really truly mutterings –  I saw Cr Stephanie Cook here earlier and she’ll back this up – there were muttering about selling of our council social housing. It never did get to a vote, thank goodness... “

Social housing for vulnerable tenants was a social partnership, she said.

Mayor Wade-Brown then described Wellington’s water supply and categorically stated,

The basic public infrastructure should remain in public ownership and the charging policies and the conservation policies should be set democratically.”

She took a good natured ‘dig’ at Peter Love with the remark,

And I would like to add that you don’t need to buy in bottles because there are free water fountains along the waterfront.

Ms Wade-Brown told the audience that Council, in partnership with local Iwi, was bringing back alienated land to return to the Town Belt.

The Mayor added,

So local government faces the same financial pressures as households do, as you do,  as business does, and as central government does. But we’re not going to face those pressures by selling of our strategic assets. We won’t sell social housing, we won’t sell water infrastructure, we won’t sell the reserves that make this capital city so special.”

The mayor implored people to sign the petition – but not ten times,

It doesn’t help to sign it ten times, ok guys? If you’ve signed it, you’ve signed it…
… And tonight people are tweeting, blogging, using Youtube, and everything else to have your say. And that’s my main message; stand up and have your say, in the capital city!

Kia kaha.”

Next up – perhaps the country’s sanest, most common-sense economist – Ganesh Nana, rose to tell it from an economist’s  perspective.

Perhaps surprisingly, he wasn’t tied up and thrown into the harbour. Economists in the last thirty years have had a bad rep – perhaps only second to certain policians.

But Ganesh Nana is a rare breed of economist. He sees through the neo-liberal fantasy world of ideology and tells us that the dogma of the New Right simply does not work as ‘the label on the can’ promised,

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Ganesh Nana started by saying,

I’m an economist, ok, so I promise not to say anything about ‘The Phoenix’ or anything about cats…”

That elicited a laugh from the crowd and then he launched straight into the issue of asset sales and started by asking,

You might ask why would you at all be interested in hearing from an economist, and I ask the same thing; “why is anybody  interested in hearing from an economist given whate total mess we’ve made of the economy to date, but never mind… You guys should really be asking for an apology from the economists given the mess we’ve made...”

“… But I will apologise on my own behalf for not not actually shouting out a lot louder evertime we’ve made a wrong turn. So today here I am shouting out just a bit louder for making a wrong turn yet again.”

The audience warmed quickly to Ganesh Nana’s self-deprecating comments and clapped at his remarks. Only a lone heckler, yelling out comments he must’ve thought were very hilariously witty (mistakenly),  stood apart from the crowd.

Ganesh Nana continued,

From a business perspective; a business person’s perspective;  this is a very, very, very,  simple problem facing us, or a simple question; why would you sell an asset?

I ask you that question and from my own academic perspective or background, when faced with that question  I go to a dictionary and look up the definition of an asset.

It’s really quite simple… … you’ll find some words around something that is valuable and of use. And then I started to think as a business person or as an ordinary person why would I get rid of something that is valuable and of  use?”

He then asked,

“…These assets that the Crown have, [that] the government on our behalf, [as] taxpayers, are holding. Do they continue to be valuable and useful?

And if so why are we getting rid of them?”

… From a business perspective the only reason I’d get of an asset is if it suddenly became a liability.

That is, it required a lot of upkeep and it wasn’t paying it’s way, so it wasn’t really an asset. And then, yes,  you get rid of it fast.

But is anybody seriously trying to tell me that those electricity generation stations, and all the infra-structure around it,  is something that we, as a nation, ‘ain’t gonna’ need for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years?

Because if the answer to that is ‘yes’, then let’s get rid of it, because we don’t need it. But if we do need them, we need to hold onto them. It’s really quite that simple.”

Ganesh Nana was also adamant that not all economists follow the neo-liberal, monetarist line,

“…People who think that businesses or economists totally agree with getting rid of assets or following the market path, and there are lots of other reasons we could go into which are far too technical to go into tonight, about following the market and about how government shouldn’t be involved in assets; and shouldn’t be involved in the economy – those are smokescreens.

There are quite surprisingly some economists, myself included, who don’t follow that [ideology], and actually go back to the textbook… If it’s an asset, and it’s going to earn something over the future, you hold onto it for dear life. Because that’s what your future relies on!”

Ganesh Nana’s speech was well-received by the crowd. One could sense  that it was a relief for many who were listening,  that not all economists were wide-eyed free-marketeers demanding the dismantling of the State.

Ganesh Nana was followed by Geoff Bertram, Senior Economics lecturer at  Wellington’s Victoria University, and one who had been closely studying the energy sector. Mr Bertram understands the mechanisms by which our energy companies are valued and re-valued – and his simple explanations quickly reveal these valuations as clever, malevolent, rorts.

The same rorts used to drive up power prices on an almost annual basis,

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Now, the government’s aiming to sell off nearly half of some state-owned companies worth about ten billion [dollars], so it’s hoping to get a bit about under half… perhaps $4.5 billion from the sales from anybody prepared to buy the shares that they’re going to issue.

I’m going to talk tonight really about the motivation  that might lie behind those sales, and I personally think it boils down to two things.

The first is the desire of  the Treasury to get the money and run before certain things become very apparent about the way that electricity prices have been set over the last two decades.

And the second reason I think is to close off policy options that might remain open to future governments if the assets remain in full public ownership. Because while the assets are in full public ownership, it is possible to change the way they are managed and change the way that  electricity is supplied…”

Geoff Bertram then made an explosive accusation against the government which, if true, revealed a shocking reason why National is so hell-bent on privatisation of certain state assets,

“… It’s my view that probably the  most important political consequence of the part-privatisation of SOEs is to place private investors in those enterprises  and thereby immunise them against possible future policy that might reduce their value.

And since  I think an important part of an improved government policy would indeed reduce their value, I am opposed to the asset sales…

…The companies have a very high valuation. The reason why they have a very high valuation  is that they have successfully participated in a long-running rort to extract cash from residential electricity consumers by the inexorable driving up of prices of electricity.

That rort, has been possible, because government policy has allowed and has indeed supported the emergeance of a cartel of five, large, vertically-integrated, generator-retailers – three of whom are SOEs  – which have been able to operate without any effective regulation, at the expense of  consumers who were too vulnerable to protect their interests against price hikes.

And if you looked at the tracks of electricity prices over the last 20, 30 years you will have noticed that large industry has protected itself very successfully; commercial electricity buyers have done fine; residential who are the dis-organised, unrepresented, undefended, captive group of customers have seen their prices go up in real terms 100% since 1986.

And the main consequence of the electricity reforms has indeed been that doubling of the cost of electricity to ordinary  households. 

That’s a major cause of energy poverty; it’s been an important part in the growing  inequality of income and wealth in this country; and it’s something that a socially responsible government would,  in my view,  be taking serious action to reverse.”

The audience broke into heavy applause as the implications of Geoff Bertram’s comments sank in.

It is simply extraordinary that none of the media present at the rally that day has reported Geoff Bertram’s amazing – and disturbing – analysis of the energy sector and electricity pricing in New Zealand. Is what he’s saying boring?! Too complicated?! Risking opening a can of worms?!

This should be a prime-time story on TV3’s “Campbell Live” and Radio New Zealand.

Geoff Bertram continued,

“Just to put that doubling of the residential price in context. New Zealand’s pretty much on it’s own in the OECD and if you look at  the figures for other countries around the OECD, from 1986 to the present, the price of electricity to residential consumers  in OECD Europe, in Australia, and in the United Kingdom, is still the same as it was in 1986. In the United States, Japan, and France, prices are down 25% , compared to where they were in 1986, in real terms.  In South Korea they’re down 50%, compared to where they were in 1986.

New Zealand is the only only OECD country that has gone out there and driven up electricity prices 50%. We’re also pretty much the only country that doesn’t have a regulator in place, and where government doesn’t have any particular social policy relating to the pricing of essential services to the public.”

Geoff Bertram then explained what he called “the re-valuation game”, as it applied to electricity pricing in New Zealand,

And here’s how it works.

You take a bunch of assets with a given value, and you look at the existing price, to consumers of the product, and you say “well look, we can get the price up”; so you project  that higher price; you capitalise that; and then if you can get the price up the asset will be worth more; so then you re-value the asset; and then you go and use the higher value of the asset to justify raising the prices, and then you repeat.

And this is the circular process which has been going on in New Zealand now, in electricity, for more than a decade. It is completely legal under New Zealand law.

It is not illegal to profiteer or  to gauge captive customers in this country. [In] very few countries is that true.

And it’s consistant with New Zealand’s generally accepted accounting practice which basically tells you that there’s a rotteness at the core of accounting practices in this country.”

Geoff Betram further described how the ECNZ had sold power stations to the newly formed Mighty River Power, in 1999, at a considerable mark-up. In effect  government sold these power stations to itself and in the process pocketed a huge profit. To pay for those power stations, prices were raised, forcing captive residential consumers to pay more and more for their electricity. He added that we have been,

“…living under a government which for two decades has  become effectively  a corporate predator, in this sector, where once it used to be a social provider.

The applause that followed that statement was louder than before. People were ‘getting’ what Geoff Bertram was telling them. He continued,

Here’s the problem. Electricity was once an essential service provided to households at the lowest price, consistent with covering the industry’s costs. 

Since 1986 the sector has been corporatised and part-privatised, and it’s pricing has been driven by the quest for profit by giant companies that have the market power to gouge their consumers.

As the owner of three of those companies, the New Zealand government has therefore become a predator. And now the Treasury wants to cash in on that rort by selling out half the government’s stake.

What that means in terms of the options for the future for government to turn around and come back from the predator model and return to a social service approach  for energy supply, is being closed off.”

Geoff Bertram suggested that every household in New Zealand could be allocated 300kwh [kilowatt hours] of free power every month, and pay market rates for anything over and over used. He added,

But if you want to deal with energy poverty and get kids out of hospitals with asthma and other respiratory diseases and so on, one of the really good  things that you can do is get cheap energy into New Zealand households and that would be sustainable on the basis of the current government owned assets.

About 300 kwh free. [But if] you sell Mighty River and what’s feasible comes down to 200 [kwh]. You sell Genesis and what’s feasible comes down to 100 [kwh]. You sell Meridian and it’s gone…

What I’m saying is the contract  that supplies the Rio Tinto smelter down at Bluff, the old Comalco contract, is the contract New  Zealand households should have had from the start.

And it still could be done.”

Imagine, every household in the country, receiving a dividend of 300 kwh, each month. The positive benefits for low-income families, in damp, drafty houses, would be incalculable. Coupled with providing free meals in schools for children, it would be a major blow against child poverty in New Zealand.

But not if National get’s it’s way.

A new Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana coalition government must listen to people like Geoff Bertram, Ganesh Nana, et al, if we are to progress forward.

After Geoff Bertram, the crowd was entertained by Maarama Te Kira and Lucky Ngatuere,

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Following on from the entertainment, Jane Kelsey, Law Professor from Auckland University, addressed the Rally. Professor Kelsey is also one of the country’s acknowledged experts on globalisation, and a staunch critic of the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement), which is being negotiated in secrecy and condemned worldwide.

Professor Kelsey has also been the target of some fairly vindictive statements from the NZ Herald (see: Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey).

Professor Kelsey started by welcoming old friends to the rally,

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“…It was great to see lots of familiar faces from battles of the past, but it was also great to see so many young people here, because these battles are your battles for the future…

… I congratulate not only the organisor here, but  those who have been running the campaign  in Wellington gainst the asset sales, because it’s been a real inspiration across the country, and I know it’s being watched by people outside the country as well.

Some of those who are here will remember those battles we had in the mid 1980s when we were told that state-owned enterprises were simply a way of creating more efficient ways of keeping assets in  our hands. And we said at the time that it was a lie. And we knew it was a lie and they knew it was a lie. And we proved it was a lie and then they sold them off and then we had to buy them back.

Because as we predicted would happen, when you have private owners, especially private foreign owners, who have no stakes in our future, they will strip the assets. And thats what Bell-Atlantic and Ameritech did with Telecom and that’s what Wisconson Railways  did with the railways, and that’s what the [foreign ]banks that still own our banks, did with the Post Office Savings Bank and the BNZ and the Rural Bank, and so on, and we’ve been there and done that and we know what it means.”

At this point, Professor Kelsey held up a metre-square white board with heavy black lettering on it; ‘SAY NO’. It was a take on Winston Peter’s ‘NO’ sign from the Owen Glenn Donations affair in 2008. (see: Peters denies latest Owen Glenn allegations)  The placard provoked laughter from the crowd who obviously recalled the significance of it.

” They also know that the problem [for the neo-liberals] was that we were able to reverse some of those failed privatisations, and other things that failed. Like when they tried to privatise ACC. Like when they tried to de-regulate the electricity market. … So what they have is a new strategy designed to lock-in and make potentially irreversible the kinds of policies that they want to see rule in the interests of their cronies for the indefinite future.
These particularly  toxic legal products are known as Free Trade and Investment Agreements but they have nothing to do with trade, they’re actually investment protection agreements that make it almost almost impossible for us to be able to do the kinds of reversals of failed privatisations we’ve done in the past. We have a number of those agreements already.

And they are potentially causing some problems.
Some of you will have followed what’s happening with the tobacco companies, and their threats to sue over the introduction of plain-packaging tobacco. What we have now now is a particularly virulent strand of this this toxic disease. It’s known as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or the TPPA. We have other ways of describing the TPPA – Taking People’s Power Away. Toxic Profiteers Plundering Aotearoa.
What it’s designed to do, in particular in relation to investment, is to say ‘You have to open your doors without restrictions to the rights of foreign investors to be able to buy any of the assets within Aotearoa’.
Now, we already have an open door,  and they’ve already signed away the ability to reverse some of that.

But now they want to raise the thresholds even further, so that our ability to vet foreign owners is effectively taken out of our hands. But worse than that, once the foreign investors own the assets, these agreements give special guarantees to those foreign companies. They give guarantees that we will  not alter our future laws and policies in ways that significantly affect the value or the profitability of their investments.
So once we have – or they have – given away our assets, our ability to do anything to recover them is not only constrained by the kinds of threats that we’ve seen in the past and concerns about ‘crisis’ and ‘investor confidence’ and all of that other bullshit – we have threats from foreign investors under an agreement like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, that they will sue our government not only for the loss of the value of their assets but the for the loss of future profits from those assets.
…It will not be a case that will be brought in our domestic Court. It is a case that will be brought in a secret, off-shore tribunal, where there will be three Arbitrators who would sit on the Hearing who last week were acting for an investor, and this week are acting as a judge in the cases brought before them by an investor. There is no system of  precedent, there is no openess so we can see the documents, or even sit in on the Hearings. There may not even be a publication of their judgement at the end of it!
These kinds of secret offshore tribunals are  so discredited now that many  governments are saying  they won’t agree to deals that allow foreign investors to have those powers.  And the Australians have said in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that they won’t agree to foreign investors having those powers.

Our government – when John Key was first asked about this – said, “Oh, well if the Australians don’t think it’s a good thing, it sounds a little bit off-beam to me, so I suppose we’d go where Australia goes”.

Then his officials officials briefed him and said, “Well, actually Prime Miniter, no, we’re going to agree  to foreign investors having these powers”.
So this Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is currently being negotiated. They want to try to close off the negotiations in October this year. The negotiations are all taking place in secret. We don’t get to see the final agreement until it’s signed off by the eleven countries negotiating it, which includes the US where the big foreign investors are based.
So, effectively the government is negotiating a Bill of Rights for foreign investors not only to enter and buy up this country, but to be able to threaten us in the future if we try to take back control of what is ours.”

Professor Kelsey invited the crowd to join in the campaign to oppose the TPPA, and pointed out information that was freely available on nearby tables. She warned the crowd,

“Join us in the campaign against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, because so many of the things that we care about – We will not be able to effectively regulate in the future; we will not be be able to take back control of our future; if this agreement is passed. Parliament doesn’t get  an effective say on it. This is an agreement negotiated by the  Cabinet, it can be ratified by the Cabinet; and we have no say until it is a done deal.
We know that the Prime Minister is very good at secret done deals. We know that the Prime Minister is happy to do deals on behalf of his cronies. We know that the Prime Minister is prepared to sell out democracy, sovereignty, and tino rangatiratanga. And if we’re going to take back control of our futures then this agreement is a priority to stop this year, along with the asset sales.”

Professor Keley thanked the audience, who in turn cheered and clapped for her.

Meanwhile, Shane and Ariana (?) held aloft the anti-TPPA banner,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Next up, Bishop Justin Duckworth – the Anglican Bishop of Wellington. He had some very personal but salient anecdotes to share with us,

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aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Bishop Duckworth greeted the crowd and started with this story from his own family,

” I was sitting out before and listening to the speakers, who were awesome, and I was suddenly talking to a new friend, I met a new friend, and he was telling me he was a father like I was a father, and we were discussing our children, and I suddenly remember a story that happened between my wife and my teenage boy. Classic conversation went down about domestic chores. And my beautiful wife, Jenny was saying to my boy, “it’s your turn to do the dishes”.

And he sort of said, “No, I did the dishes last night”.

And then she said, “I vacuumed the floor.”

And then he said, “Well, I watered the garden.”

And then she said, “Well, I dropped you to school.”

And it was escalating. Until my wife finally busted what I thought was the argument to end all arguments. And she said this; “I gave birth to you.”

I thought;  that’s it. Argument stopped. How could you argue with that?

My teenage boy had this comeback, “And your generation destroyed the environment for us.”

Good line, eh?

And it’s true isn’t? It’s true that our generation not only did we destroy the global environment, but  we have also instigated the global recession as well. And I think that the issues that we are talking about today about asset sales; the reason why that this issue in particular hits our public so strongly, and we have such a good turnout to this rally, is that because I think it’s at the core of a whole lot of other issues.

And so, as a man of faith, as a follower of Jesus, I just want to tell you what concerns me. And these are questions I have, I haven’t got the answers, but these are just questions.

Around asset sales I have questions  around the lack of regulation already  in place in the assets that we own…

… I heard Geoff speak, and I also read his articles, the reports about his papers a couple of weeks ago.  I am concerned that that it is simply not fair, and not just …”

“If we were to sell our assets how less a control do we have? If we already have such limited control at the moment on the regulation of them, how much more limited will it be in the future?”

My second question I would have is this. Recognising… that the Kai Tiaki of New Zealand is Tangata Whenua’s Maori people, and the wairua of this country, the spirit of this country is held by that Kai Tiaki, by the Maori people. I would have questions around what happens if we start selling our assets overseas, what does that mean for the Kai Tiaki here?

“… Third question would follow on from the Greenpeace speaker [Bunny McDiarmid – no recording of her speech made; blogger’s stuff-up], and that woud be this; What happens to the environment longer term if we lose responsibility and control of our power companies? What guarantees do we have whether actually our environment and our global climate change issues will actually be positively addressed by our country? I think there are huge issues there if we choose to sell our assets.”

Bishop Duckworth then concluded with this sobering anecdote – something personal, yet with global implications in how we treat each other,

“…Those of you who don’t know, my father was born in Burma – in Myanmar. A few years ago I went back with him; never visited before, me and my brother went back to Burma. Took my dad, visited a whole lot of wider family.

Once we were on a temple tour, as you do on these sort of trips. We were touring around these temples, and me and my brother, having a lot of sibling rivalry, we’d constantly compete to see who could get the best bargain for the little knick-knacks. You know that I mean? Those little things you buy constantly. So me and my brother were constantly competing for who could get the best deal  on knick-knacks.

One night we were just finishing another temple tour and this guy sidled up to me and was selling me hand-painted pictures of Burmese countryside. Now I’ve been around long enought to know what you can normally get these pictures for.

Normally you pick these pictures up for about three US dollars.
But I was militant that night. And I thought I’m going to prove once and for all that I can run the biggest, best bargain in the world. So I drilled that fellow down to get the best  bargain I could. And in the end I managed to get four pictures for five US dollars!

…We were getting a lift home, and I was showing the pictures to my brother and saying, “Look, I’ve got the best bargain ever!”

And the driver of our horse and cart leant over and asked, “Hey, um, what’d you pay for those?”

I said, “I paid five US dollars for the four of them”.

He sez, “Ohhh, it must’ve been a bad day.”

I go, “What do you mean?”

“The man musn’t have been able to sell anything that day, so he had to sell his goods at cost price, at least at cost-price,  just to buy rice for his family.”

And suddenly I realised what was just some crazy game, ideological game, for me, was actually  life and death for other people.

And my big questions I have around this issue is this; is this some crazy ideological issue that we’ve been driven  here, or is it actually about everyday people who are struggling, who need jobs, who need security, who need a future, and who need decent power.

And that’s my question.”

Ariana then troduced Maanu Paul, Chairman of the Maori Council, and  who was currently taking the Government to the Supreme Court over water rights. Maanu Paul had some interesting observations, and made a call to action,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Maanu Paul offered a greeting to the people at the rally, and then began with,

“When I was asked to come and speak, at this,  I asked, “who makes money out of this lot [asset sales] ‘?

And the answer was, we need to raise the consciousness of our nation in respect of our opposition to the sale of assets. The New Zealand Maori Council has had a long history of opposing the sale of our assets, beginning in 1986, when we established Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act, which we said, “nothing in this Act shall be contrary to the Treaty of Waitangi”.

And then we had the lands case in 1987 when we stopped the sale of state owned land. And then we had a negotiation with the Crown over the sale of the biggest man-made forest in the southern hemisphere – the Kaingaroa Forest. And then they sold the spectra. And  we had an argument with the Crown over who owned the spectra. It’s about the same argumwent as who owns the water.

And the government of the day said, ‘Maori did not know anything about the spectra’. And I shot back to them, ‘Neither did they. An Italian  fellow named Marconi knew about it, and the Poms didn’t know anything about it at all’.

The upshot is that they allocated us a portion of the spectra and now we’re a part of Two Degrees.

Finally we come to the sale of the dams and the capacity to generate power. The whakapapa so far tells us that the constant that is present in all this is that the Maori Council has ensured that state owned assets stay in this country.”

There was strong applause at this point, and with a smile, Maanu Paul continued,

“Thank you. Because I’m going to ask you to put your hands in your pockets, because you owe us.”

More good natured laughter, and Maanu Paul’s smile widened, as the audience understood the nature of his remarks. He explained,

“You owe us because if we didn’t take this government to the Tribunal, to the High Court, and the Supreme Court, our assets would’ve been gone, would’ve been sold by now.

That is the reality of what we’re facing. And so the Council is dedicated to ensuring that we leave the world a better place for our mokopunas. We leave the world a better place that wehen we were born to it. And the world we were born to was, as far as I was concerned, I had the right to go and fish in my foreshore in my foreshore and seabed… heh heh heh…

I had the right to swim in my rivers and my lakes and call them my own. I had the right to do what I wanted with my land without having it confiscated.

And all of these tell me right now, that those rights have been eroded. Those rights have been eroded because this government, and previous governments, have failed to properly honour the Treaty of Waitangi.”

At this point, Maanu Paul called for direct action of a sort that up until now had not been considered. His comments have been reported in the media, and this is what he said, verbatim,

“And so my  message today, to us, is quite simply, is that we need to do more than sign a petition. We need to do more than gather in Frank Kitts Park, and what we need to do is to sit outside of Parliament and demand that we maintain the control of our assets.

What I’m suggesting – and I don’t know whether my Council’s going to agree with me about  this – but what I’m suggesting  is that we have a Noho Kainga [sitting] on Parliament grounds!

And we sit there until a fellow called Winston Peters might have put a Bill in Parliament that says ‘we are wishing to maintain ownership of the assets that we paid for in the taxes that’ve been levied upon us in the name of the public good’.

The audience resoponded enthusiastically to this suggestion, and the feeling was strong that many would’ve upped and left for Parliament’s ground at that very moment.

Maanu Paul continued,

“And the reason I’m saying this to you is that simply because there is no protection of your assets paid for by your taxes, which were levied upon you in the first place, in the name of the public good.

And we are the public and we should have a Nono Kainga to protect to protect our public good.”

Maanu Paul then sang a new “public anthem” to the crowd. This blogger can report that  his singing is something to behold – Maanu Paul has an awesome singing voice. Firstly his song was rendered in Maori, and then for the benefit of those who don’t yet know the language (including this blogger), in English,

‘I am the water, the water is me,

Cascading down,

from Ranginui,

Enveloping all,

The environment,

I am the water,

the water is me.’

Ariana asked the crowd,  “Yes, yes, yes! A sit down at Parliament – who’s up for it?

The response was shouted from the crowd loud and in affirmation.

A new people’s action may be in the offing… Stay tuned, folks. This ain’t over – not by a long shot. Or by John Key’s lamentable imagination.

A new chapter is unfolding.

Continued and concluded at:

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part toru)

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Additional

TV3: Asset sales referendum likely (6 Feb 2013)

TV3: Govt under fire over Contact redundancies (14 Feb 2013)

NBR: Supreme Court to ignore govt deadline on water rights decision (15 Feb 2013)

Youtube: Say No to Asset sales in Aotearoa NZ.mov

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Relevant orgs

It’s Our Future

Keep our Assets

Aotearoa is not for Sale

Aotearoa is Not for Sale | Facebook

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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

Full story

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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

Full story

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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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TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

3 December 2012 12 comments

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scaling the heights of  capitalism

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When it comes to misguided, New Zealand does it very well.

If the actions of 50+ businesspeople, professional lobbyists, and an ex-politician are anything to go by, some folk have yet to learn the lessons of the last thirty years of failed orthodox neo-liberal economic dogma.

Fifty people today (3 December)  put their names to an open letter to the Prime Minister, in support of TPPA negotiations. The letter was signed by former prime minister Jim Bolger and fortynine others. (See: Open letter to Prime Minister)

Firstly, this blogger supports the right of freedom of expression for these 50 individuals to write to our Dear Leader.

Just as I have a freedom of expression to tear their letter apart and reveal it to be dangerous, naive BS, with little thought for our future or consequences.

The letter started with,

We, the leaders of major New Zealand companies and leading business organisations, write to underline the importance of international trade and investment for New Zealand and to express our support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations now underway amongst eleven APEC economies.”

Economies“?!

Don’t they mean “countries”? Or “nations”?

The use of “economies” was prevalent  in the 1980s when neo-liberalism took hold around the world. It suggested that, as Margaret Thatcher maintained, there was no such thing as “society”. There was only the Individual; the family; and contractual transactions.

All pure ideological claptrap, of course.

Try taking the concept of society away from  social creature like humans and the result is predictable,

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We are conscious that TPP is a work in progress and that judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work.”

Now this really gets my goat.

How can these 50 intelligent, well-educated, highly experienced and business-savy men and women profess to support a document they have not read and  suggest that  ” judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work”?!

How many contracts have these 50 people supported and signed without first reading the text?!

It beggars belief that businesspeople who run million-dollar (or billion dollar!) enterprises, are endorsing a document, sight unseen?

Because very few people in this country – or any other country – have read the proposed TPP Agreement.  In fact, out of 29 chapters, we are privy to only five – and only because they were leaked.

Our aim in writing is to endorse the effort now underway and to outline our conviction that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region and of ensuring that business can play its full part in the region’s continuing recovery and future economic growth.

I’d still like to know how these 50 Esteemed Gentlemen and Ladies know that “that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region“.

Their faith is almost bordering on the religious. Have angels been whispering in their ears?

We note that the treaty ratification process requires there to be consultation on the negotiated outcome before its adoption by Parliament.”

Which, by then, may be too late. Especially if – as many suspect – Key will sign up up to some horrendous agreement that,

  1. Undermines the viability of Pharmac to buy cheaper, generic drugs,
  2. Results in New Zealand being vulnerable to investor lawsuits should Parliament pass any law that “damages” their profitability (See previous blogpost:  Dispatches from Planet Key)

How can there be democratic oversight by the public and Parliament if a completed Agreement is presented to Parliament as a fait accompli?

This may suit business – but then, businesspeople and National supporters tend not to support democracy as much as the rest of the country might like.

This will assist economic growth and job creation in New Zealand.”

Rubbish. It will do no such thing. In fact, if the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is anything to go by, we can expect more jobs to be lost, exported to overseas manufacturers which ‘enjoy’ a cheaper labour force.

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

We are already losing thousand of manufacturing jobs. A TPPA will worsen the situation,  as  local businesses make use of cheaper labour elsewhere. This means more unemployment for us;  further downward pressure of wages; and more of our taxes spent on welfare.

A prime example is our current Free Trade Agreement with China.

Thousands of jobs have been lost in New Zealand as manufacturers such as Fisher & Paykel have relocated their assembly plants to China, where labour is much cheaper.

In April 2008, we lost 430 jobs to China,

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Fisher & Paykel move 'damages iconic brand'

Full story

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All due to our FTA with that country. Now imagine this scenario multiplied ten-fold.

As ABN Amro analyst Dennis Lee said,

They are moving their production to low-cost countries. It’s a world-wide trend. The indication is quite clear. They have to find the place that can provide them with the lowest cost production.”

So the promise of  ” job creation in New Zealand ” is utter garbage.

It will certainly increase profits for shareholders.

But more jobs? Don’t count on it.

Local and worldwide experience – especially in the United States where cities such as Detroit have had their manufacturing hollowed-out – should serve as a clear warning (See:  Police: “Enter Detroit At Your Own Risk”). Free trade agreements are not about jobs; they are about strengthening corporate power and maximising dividend returns to shareholders.

It’s just a shame that the fifty people who put their signatures to the open letter to Dear Leader couldn’t be more honest about it.

The open letter ends with this,

We stand ready to assist negotiators in this effort and to participate with other members of civil society in a dialogue about how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country, its people and the people of the wider region to which we belong.

A good start to ” how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country ” would be to make the negotiations public and reveal the contents of the proposed Agreement.

That would be a jolly good start.

Addendum I

A lawyer, Daniel Kalderimis, assures us that  disputes between investors and states are real, but can 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? He’s a trade lawyer specialising in international investor-nation disputes.

Interestingly, Mr Kalderimis also commented that,

While people pointed to the possibility that Philip Morris could sue New Zealand over tobacco laws, “Philip Morris can already sue New Zealand“.

See: IBID

Yes, that is true. Just as Philip Morris Asia Ltd  sued the Australian government last year.

The one difference that Mr Kalderimis conveniently forgot, in a John Key brain fade moment, is that such corporations can only currently sue within our own jurisdiction, under our own laws.

Under the TPPA, an investor-nation lawsuit will be conducted using  secret, foreign tribunals.

This is what National is negotiating to achieve.

And this is what 50 short-sighted, self-serving, and misguided people are supporting.

Addendum II

The TPPA is perhaps the single most important political policy National is undertaking.

If anything in this blogpost concerns you, I encourage you to do the following,

(1) Write to the Prime Minister and express your concerns. Email him at: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

(2) Share this blogpost with your friends, family, workmate, etc. The more folk who know what is going on, the more chance we have of stopping this dead in it’s tracks.

(3) Write a letter to your local newspaper and demand to know why the TPPA negotiations are being held in secret. What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it? If it’s so good for us – wouldn’t the Prime Minister be the first to tell us?

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nikki kaye - yeah right

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Sources

NZ Herald: Businesses launch PR campaign to fight TPP ‘scare-mongering’

NZ Herald: Open letter to Prime Minister

NZ Herald: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

NZ Herald: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan

Additional

U.S. To Consult Internally On Ag Export Competition; Next TPP Round Set For New Zealand

Groups

Pro TPPA: Trade Works

Anti TPPA: It’s Our Future

Office of US trade Representative: Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

NZUS Council: Kiwi businesses out in support of TPP negotiations

Wikipedia: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement

Wikipedia: North American Free Trade Agreement

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Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

1 December 2012 21 comments

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Citizen A

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Jane Kelsey & Lori Wallach

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29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

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Prologue – Some Context

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, had this to say about Jane Kelsey and the anti-TPPA movement,

Academics who understand liberalisation are not often quoted publicly to provide a contrasting voice.

A university as dominant in New Zealand’s intellectual life as the University of Auckland should surely be ensuring a counter-balance to Kelsey’s activism. Here’s a question for University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon. Why don’t you encourage some of your expert business academics to take an open stance on trade liberalisation instead of allowing debate to simply be dominated by law professor Jane Kelsey and her NGO mates?

Kelsey has joined up with other anti-trade activists such as Lori Wallach, from Public Citizen, and Sanya Reid Smith, from the Third World Network, to host media seminars in Wellington today and tomorrow in Auckland.

The media seminars – no photographs please – are to hear from “International Experts in New Zealand for the 15th round of TPPA Negotiations”.

Others who will front include Burcu Kilic (Global Access to Medicines Programme, Public Citizen) and union leaders.

 A range of other NGO players will take part in various public events next week designed to question the TPP process and shine a light on some potentially negative outcomes.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Kelsey.

I have debated with her over the years and shared an occasional single malt in five star hotels elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of international forums such as Apec. Regular readers of this column know I am in the pro-trade camp (with provisos) and – declaration right upfront here – have actively promoted New Zealand’s engagement in free trade agreement negotiations with nations such as the US and China.

There are plenty of others in this pro-trade camp – businesses, academics, farmers, politicians and foreign affairs officials.

But for some reason academics who are deeply across the major market liberalisation moves in the Asia-Pacific – such as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – are not often quoted publicly to provide a contrasting voice to the anti-trade lobby.

Kelsey – who, according to the latest bunch of publicity, is also now associate dean (research) – talks a good game.

But I’ve yet to read any Kelsey works that support open markets or come up with concrete suggestions about how New Zealand can deal with the impact of trade diversion if it stays out of the negotiations, which will result in deeper economic integration in the Asia-Pacific.

A university as dominant in New Zealand’s intellectual life as the University of Auckland should surely be ensuring a counter-balance to Kelsey’s activism. Particularly if it cherishes its reputation.

The university does employ highly-experienced academics such as Rob Scollay (long-time head of the Apec Study Centre) and Hugh Whittaker, from the Business School, who has studied in some depth the impact of global supply chains on international trade.

But they should merely be the nucleus of a big bunch of academics who are sufficiently versed in New Zealand’s trade agreement platforms and right across our myriad agreements, to be seen as “go-to” commentators on trade issues.

It is a fundamental problem because there are issues relating to the TPP which do need to be debated.

The Prime Minister has said New Zealand won’t sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal unless it includes an agreement to progressively abolish tariffs on agricultural products exported to North America.

Key also told his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday that it would not be a “good look” if New Zealand made concessions that undermined the status of its drug-buying agency, Pharmac. It’s highly unlikely that New Zealand would concede these areas in the first place.

It would make a nonsense of its history of mainly signing up to top-quality, comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements, or regional trade deals, if New Zealand allowed itself to be pushed about on this score.

The negotiations will be tough when it comes to reducing high agricultural tariffs.

Canada’s dairy tariffs are as high as 300 per cent. Canada will argue – yet again and falsely – that Fonterra is a state trading enterprise.

The agricultural upside will be considerable if the TPP goes through and tariffs are removed over lengthy phase-in periods.

But the real issue – which is not adequately debated – is the intellectual property component of the TPP.

New Zealand’s concentration on agricultural liberalisation might be blinding negotiators to the potential impact of adopting the US IP platform. The US – like Singapore before it – wants to set the rules for what is in effect a major economic integration of the Asia-Pacific.

Our companies in the ICT and high-tech manufacturing space have mixed views on what is proposed.

First problem is they don’t know enough of the TPP detail.

Second problem is an emerging sense that not enough intellectual thought has gone into studying the upsides and downsides of the proposed IP framework or into exactly what platform New Zealand should be pushing to enable its own companies to thrive in 21st century trade regimes.

This is important.

Victoria University has done some work in this area.

But I would argue that this is fruitful territory for the University of Auckland.

Key said on Monday that for New Zealand to do a deal, “It has to be a deal on our terms”.

Trouble is, not enough open work has gone into determining what those terms should be for industries other than the agricultural sector.

Let’s face it: Fonterra has not taken advantage of all the concessions New Zealand scored for dairy in the China FTA (such as for infant milk formula).

But the dominant business voices on trade are mainly from agriculture.

It is not too late to ensure NZ’s interests on the IP front are advanced. Stuart McCutcheon take note.

Source: Anti-trade camp running debate

Which puts the following into proper context…

Citizen A – TPPA Special

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Issue 1: Why should NZers be concerned with signing up to the TPPA?

Issue 2: Why would our Government agree to a deal that didn’t benefit NZ interests?

and issue 3: How much is the TPPA a manifestation of the American-Chinese new cold war in the Pacific?

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Acknowledgement

Re-published with kind permission from Tumeke

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Think Tank looks at the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations…

… and why we should be very, very, worried.

This is worthwhile watching, if you haven’t seen it before,

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[Click on image to be transferred to video on TV3 website]

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Additional

A dangerous investment: Australia, New Zealand and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Leaked TPP Investment Text document

Facebook Group:   TPPA Action Group

Facebook Group:   Stop TPP Week of Actions

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Are we being milked? asks Minister…

7 August 2011 3 comments

So the Commerce Commission decided not to hold an inquiry into milk pricing in New Zealand?

But Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, still wants a Parliamentary inquiry to investigate the matter?

Hmmmm…  it’s not because the election is only three months away, and National is fearful that Labour and the Greens will be making this an election issue? Surely, politicians can’t be that cynical and manipulative?

Of course not.

What was I thinking.

Perhaps if I might be so bold, and offer Mr Carter a word of explanation as to milk pricing. The price of milk is determined by the free market. The same free market that National endorses, advocates, and embraces with all it’s manly  ‘love’.  The same free market that National has ordered TVNZ to pursue, by cancelling it’s Public Charter. The same free market it chases with the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

Yes, National is the party of the Free Market. As John Key told our American cuzzies on 22 July,

“At the most basic level, we share a commitment to the democratic, capitalist system.”

So there you have it, folks.  In a nut-sell. Or milk bottle, if you prefer. We are a capitalist system,which means that the price of milk is determined by what you, the public, are willing to pay for it.

Something to consider of 26 November – Election Day.

As for Mr Carter’s call for a  Parliamentary Inquiry – my money is on nothing ever coming off it. Much like National’s much-vaunted Jobs Summit in February, 2009.

Remember that little farce?

Postscript #1;

On TVNZ’s Q + A,  David Carter was interviewed by Guyon Espiner, who asked the Minister if two supermarket chains offered enough competition at the retail end of milk distribution. Carter replied that there was competition and said,

“Well, if people want to buy the expensive brands, they can pay $4.80 up to $5.40. They can buy a cheaper brand at that supermarket for $3.30. They can go round the corner to a dairy, quite often, depending on where they live, and perhaps buy that for $2.90. What I’m saying is there’s a big variation on the retail price of milk.”

‘Scuse me?!?!

Milk is cheaper at corner dairy’s, and on sale for $2.90?!?!

Pray tell, Mr Carter – what colour is the sky on your planet? Because on our world, corner dairy-stores are the more expensive option to buy goods.

National members of parliament – out of touch with reality since 1936.

Full transcript of interview

Postscript #2;

Postscript #3;

*sighs* I didn’t have to be Ken Ring to know this was going to happen (though Ken would’ve been a month wrong in his predictions).  It’s Election Year. This is when politicians play silly buggers up to November 26th…