Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Breathless And Irrelevant: Tim Groser Dismisses the TPPA’s Opponents

Scold Mode: “We need adults to do this, not breathless children to run off at the mouth when the deal is not actually finished.” Trade Minister, Tim Groser, makes clear his disdain for the TPPA's opponents.
 
TIM GROSER is not known for saying silly things. In fact, he is one of that fast-dwindling number of public figures who still possesses sufficient faith in his own intellect to insist upon writing his own speeches. It was, therefore, rather shocking to hear him dismiss the organised opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as “irrelevant”.
 
As a former Marxist, Mr Groser should be under no illusions about the power of radical ideas to shape the discourse of whole epochs of human history. The Pope may have dismissed Martin Luther’s 1517 protests as “irrelevant” – but that did not make them so. Indeed, the “protestant” church is named after them. Nor is it wise to confuse the strength of a protest with the number of people making it. It was Rosa Parks, alone, who refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery Bus back in 1955, but her protest against the injustices of the Jim Crow South touched off an explosion of change.
 
Without Professor Jane Kelsey’s patient amassing of evidence critical of the TPPA, the current upwelling of concern about its likely consequences for New Zealand and New Zealanders would have been much smaller, and considerably less well-informed. As one of the very few Kiwi academics to take seriously the universities’ statutory duty to act as the “critic and conscience” of society, Professor Kelsey has acted as a virtual one-person think-tank, testing the claims of the free-trade crusaders – often to destruction.
 
With Mr Groser arriving home empty-handed from Hawaii, and the next round of TPPA negotiations several weeks away (at least!) how exciting it would be if, in the interim, the Trade Minister and Professor Kelsey could be prevailed upon to participate in a public debate on the pros and cons of persisting with the TPPA. Outside of election campaigns, it’s been many years since a major public debate of this sort has been attempted. If our free-to-air television networks cannot be persuaded to screen the event pro bono, it could, at the very least, be live-streamed on the Internet.
 
A metropolitan town hall packed to the rafters, with tens-of-thousands more following the action on television or the Internet, would, of course, instantly render the opposition to the TPPA extremely relevant. For this reason, alone, Mr Groser and his boss, the Prime Minister, would likely be loath to participate. Merely by appearing on the same stage as Professor Kelsey, the Trade Minister would be acknowledging her as his equal. Given Mr Groser’s recent statement that: “We need adults to do this, not breathless children to run off at the mouth when the deal is not actually finished.” Such an acknowledgement seems … unlikely.
 
Which is a very sad reflection on the state of political affairs in New Zealand. Our leaders celebrate this country’s democratic credentials at every opportunity. Indeed, our historical predilection for “punching above our weight” on foreign policy issues was put forward as one of the best reasons for seating New Zealand at the UN Security Council table. The truth, however, is that it’s been quite a while since we Kiwis did any such thing. For most of the last 30 years, top-down has, rather forcefully, replaced bottom-up.
 
Demanding a major public debate on whether or not to persist with the TPPA would, therefore, be a fine first step towards re-learning the knack of making politicians dance only to the tunes composed by “We, the People” – the voters who elected them. After 30 years of distributing those high-pitched corporate song-sheets, the politicians have, surely, had their turn?
 
Not according to Mr Groser. The Trade Minister is adamant that the negotiation of trade agreements is a matter for the people who know what they are doing – not the people per se.
 
It’s a view deeply entrenched in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) whose senior officials are absolutely convinced that the ministry’s remit can only be delivered by the sort of elite specialists they have, decade after decade, made it their business to recruit and retain. Mr Groser was, himself, one of their brightest stars. Imagine the celebrations when John Key awarded him the Trade portfolio. Finally, MFAT’s long-term plan for luring the United States into a state-of-the-art, New Zealand-designed, free trade agreement, had a champion worthy of its ambition.
 
Breathless Children: 1 WTO's Millennium Round: 0 - The Battle For Seattle, 1999.
 
And he’ll be damned if he’s going to let the likes of Jane Kelsey and her “breathless children” muck it up. But surely, Mr Groser, you haven’t forgotten the events of 1999 in Seattle, when tens-of-thousands of “breathless children”, braved the riot squads’ rubber bullets and pepper spray to derail the World Trade Organisation’s (still uncompleted) Millennium Round? This world contains more than politicians, diplomats and business-people. Failure to acknowledge the all-too-relevant concerns of ordinary Kiwis will only end in the irrelevancy of Mr Groser.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 4 August 2015.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

A Government representative carrying out the mandate giving to him by an elected Government of the people, vs an Ivory Tower self serving academic shill ranting to protect (her funding from) 'the people'. Me thinks I know where the irrelevance sits.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's been a long time since politicians regularly gathered in front of a crowd – other than those carefully chosen PLUs – to debate anything. Be nice though.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, he is one of that fast-dwindling number of public figures who still possesses sufficient faith in his own intellect to insist upon writing his own speeches."

His faith is misplaced. His intellect may tell him the TPPA is right and that alone may indicate how wrong he is. His intellect may tell him what others think is not worth listening to. That also is wrong.

If he does indeed have intellect worthy of faith, the amounts of arrogance which go with it have it well submerged so a blinding pig-headed personal agenda diminishes it to the point of irrelevance.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that Tim Groser was a former Marxist. I do not believe that the Government should give Jane Kelsey or people with similar viewpoints a pause in their quest for a successful TPPA. The Jane Kelseys of NZ have every right to stand for or apply for a position of influence in NZ Government structures, to get into the tent so to speak. Jane Kelsey also has the legal right to protest her displeasure. Jane Kelsey his exercising all of her rights as a NZ citizen. Rosa Parkes did not enjoy any of Jane Kelseys comforts.

rob campbell said...

Chris
I have known Tim Groser since school days. We have not and do not always concur on political or other subjects.
I feel very confident that Tim has never been a Marxist.
Rob Campbell

pat said...

Mr Groser's intellect didnt prevent him from getting involved neck deep in the Saudi sheep deal I note

blondewithaniq said...

As one of the literally of late 'breathless' adults, who considered Mr Groser's comment the epitomy of arrogance.
Congratulations finally someone with the balls to write it but are you prepared to say it on a platform with far greater coverage than your blog. Radiolive? 1ZB? and listened to by far more who are neither Left or Right pro or anti trade ideologues (this hasnt been a trade deal since 2010. You know that too.
Key confirmed it on tv the other day but have been inreasingly genuinely concerned its' 'direction' for almost as many years as Jane.

Given the dags flying over the current fiasco with Murty's Saudi sheep 'incentivisation scheme and Key's own abysmal sell out record with Warner Bros Rio Tinto and a plethora of others no doubt, we have a right to be worried!
When these people ignore the advice of Treasury Ombudsmen etc dismiss professionals more qualified than they are ,and potentially perhaps abuse even the GCSB to futher their post political revolving door career what is one meant to think?
Let alone trust?
When are Cheryl's findings due out btw?
Too little too late? That what some are hoping for?
Lately Groser reminds me one of the many examples of Napoleonic shortman syndrome that prevailed in the UK from Harold on.
That ended well aye.
Organise the debate through Boag for next week.
Timmy can afford the time off.

We tax-payers shell out enough as it is.'
Wouldnt begrudge this one or his bartab the night before.
Going to share this!

'Demanding a major public debate on whether or not to persist with the TPPA would, therefore, be a fine first step towards re-learning the knack of making politicians dance only to the tunes composed by “We, the People” – the voters who elected them. After 30 years of distributing those high-pitched corporate song-sheets, the politicians have, surely, had their turn!'

Even as a grandmother am willing to risk tasers to see this Toxic Pacific Pivot agenda fold.
Hope there are many more who will too because last time I saw such a bunch of pathologically protected liars (in my opinion) endorsed by so many in the 4th estate..
They were backing Heath, Thatcher, but arguably worst of all then Blair.
Look forward to hearing you 'live!'
Jax

Chris Trotter said...

To: Rob Campbell.

I must bow to your better acquaintance with the man, Rob.

My assumption regarding Tim Groser's youthful ideological leanings was born out of a conversation I had with him at Matthew Hooton's infamous "Day After the 2011 Election Party".

For a non-Marxist, he certainly quoted Marx like a pro. I figured he must be another one of the "Socialists at 20" - like Nevil Gibson and Stephen Franks, or, for that matter, Rob Campbell!

Victor said...

Not another ex Marxist turned Neo-lib! What's with these constant iconoclasts?

Most of my Marxist student contemporaries in the UK are now Tories, whilst my fellow Keynesian Social Democrats are still Keynesian Social Democrats.

It's incredible how the pattern keeps repeating itself.

Anonymous said...

Rob Campbell,was the loss of demo-cracy in 1984 worth the gains in economic efficiency? Or was it mostly just a delightful pay-off of the top 10% ruling class?

Grant said...

"For a non-Marxist, he certainly quoted Marx like a pro. I figured he must be another one of the "Socialists at 20" - like Nevil Gibson and Stephen Franks, or, for that matter, Rob Campbell!"

LOL!!

Julie Machen said...

100% Concur with Jax! Where is Cheryl??

mick said...

A word that seems to cover the Key regime is hubris and Groser certainly has it in full measure .

I don't know about Tim Groser having been a Marxist but he surely is a hedonist . From his ex-wife's comments on him smoking marijuana while on duty in Jakarta to his taxpayer funded consumption of 5 bottles of Wild Grouse whisky in just one week ,Tim certainly is a committed hedonist.


Paul Harman said...

it would be good if you would examine the urgency interim ruling of Waitangi Tribunal in regards TPPA [go to WT website search inquiry WAI 2253, where Janes two affidavits were stacked up against MFAT / CrownLaw , essentially that Tribunal Bench ruled urgency not granted now, but will be revisited before November, again like the NZMC 1987 SOE NZCA case maori using WT process have called into public domain the machinations of the rogernomic/labour initiated freef'rall ( meaning for the rich) and now simply replayed out by the likes of Mike Moore / Tim Grosser cabalists

Wayne Mapp said...

As you well know Tim is clearly not going to debate with Jane Kelsey. To begin she is not elected, she essentially represents herself, albeit that many on the Left support her position.

In any event she opposes all trade deals, so there is simply no point in Tim debating with her. She and her audience are not persuadable in any event, as most of the comments here demonstrate. It would be the equivalent of a National Party politician debating the merits of the 90 bay bill with the CTU.

As a Minister I am pretty sure I would not have engaged in a debate with Jane. Of course it is quite different for me as a private citizen. So I will be at IKA next Tuesday.

Grant said...

"I don't know about Tim Groser having been a Marxist but he surely is a hedonist . From his ex-wife's comments on him smoking marijuana while on duty in Jakarta to his taxpayer funded consumption of 5 bottles of Wild Grouse whisky in just one week ,Tim certainly is a committed hedonist."

Not bad for someone who converted to Islam..

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Wayne, you constantly accuse us of not being persuadable. Well, if I had any information about the TPP I would probably know or at least have some idea about what might change my mind about it. As it is I know nothing, apart from what's been leaked. Assuming you knew more than I do then, what would change your mind? Not holding my breath again, (it's an awkward question for people like you I know) but do your best.
You see I can't stress enough, this is the problem, I often ask this question of true believers – but then I normally know what would change my mind because I know something about the topic and the evidence. But however awkwardly I've had to put it perhaps you could endeavour to answer :-).

G said...

“We need adults to do this, not breathless children to run off at the mouth when the deal is not actually finished.” I find this comment from Tim Groser one of the most revelling statements about the man and his view of the world. In a single sentence he reveals; his disdain for any opinion different from his own, his willingness to throw labels at people he wont even acknowledge via any open discourse, and lastly his crass stupidity as he suggests that the time for raising concerns and offering criticism should only occur after the horse has bolted...surely a bit late to bring the TPPA beast back to pasture.

kaya said...

Idiotic and irrelevant statements from you Mr Groser? Key? Slater? The last poll on the subject by that renowned leftist Paul Henry had 95% opposition to this dog. Now that isn't a mandate, even in the rarified air that Mr Groser operates in. Methinks you have spent too long at the mini bar.

kaya said...

Jane Kelsey already has a position of influence much to the dismay of you, Groser and others of the right too used to running roughshod over the general population. Those days are gone, get used to it.

Wazawaza said...

Thank god for Jane Kelsey. We have to get out more. The apathy that keeps us on the couch will be our undoing. With he who sits sits also his fortune. If you neglect duty to research, understand and participate in the running of your DEMOCRACY, then unfortunately you deserve what you get. We need to protest.
Jane Kelsey has taken action as have others, but we need many more people to develop an understanding of what is approaching in the form of the badly named Free Trade agreement that American Business interests are pushing our way.
Tim Grosser has barely had to wave away the slightest annoying insect of protest so far, and he hasn't handled it well. More pressure on this man please. What about his pot smoking in the Indonesian Embassy, where there is smoke there is fire.

mick said...

there is a week of action around the country ...find out details here (link) and get involved .

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TPPActionGroup/

pat said...

...so third term arrogance extends beyond the sitting members it would appear.

Nigel Church said...

Thank you Jane Kelsey.. without you the resistance to the TPPA would be stuttering .. and Mr Grosser and his Leader Key are arrogant and this will be their downfall.. if they sign this "trade agreement" without full consultation with the NZ public then I believe that they are traitors to our nation and should be CHARGED as such and removed from office immediately.

Pat O'Dea said...

While we watch the TPPA become as relevant as the defunct MAI that proceeded it, Tim Groser puts on a bravura performance that this dead duck still has some life in it.

P.S. This so reminds me of the Monty Python 'Dead Parrot' sketch. The only difference being, it is hard to tell which role Tim Groser is playiing


Is Tim Groser the Norwegian Blue?

Or is he the dodgy shopkeeper trying to put one over us?

Or, is he playing the role of the aggrieved customer complaining about receiving a dodgy bill of goods?

It is hard to tell which role Tim Groser is playiing.

It is really, really hard to tell.

He seems to be acting out all three roles!

Pat O'Dea said...

As we witness the winding up of the TPPA, it is worth giving a nod to the Veterans of the MAI Not. And their highly successful campaign that sank the Multilateral Agreement on Investment that preceded and was the model for the TPPA.


http://www.flora.org/flora/archive/mai-not/

It is my contention that the TPPA has been sunk, just as the MAI was by the weight of public opinion against it, and the dedicated group that organised that opinion into a force that could not be ignored. This weight of public opposition became so overwhelming, that governemnt ministers like Tim Groser while he might personally have been keen to do so was not able to sign away our sovereignty, (not without at the least having something to show for it.)

But I agree that the transnationals will not give up their campaign to have the right to overule elected independent governments decisions in secret international tribunals, if they pass laws to limit their profits.

When the dust dies down and a suitable amount of time has passed we may well see another set of acronyms launched on the world stage announcing yet another attempt to by the multinationals to curb that pesky democractic system of government not based on the power of money but the power of the vote.

John Berry said...

Stop the TPP and similar attacks on Democracy by signing and widely spreading this Petition NZDEMOCRACY.com
Our Government, indeed no Government can sign this deal.

It is Antidemocratic for many reasons but secrecy, permanence and undermining the ability of future Governments is just a few of the reasons.

And Democratic Governments have no Legitimate Anti-democratic power.
And if they force it through they do it much like Key pulling pony tails or doing his taxes, as a regular citizen.

So the TPP will be Null and Void! Indeed no Government can't join it as non-Democratic Governments aren't eligible by the TPP rules.

But to disabuse them of the illusion that they might be able to pass it, Please save our Democracy, Like and VIRALLY SHARE this Petition: NZDEMOCRACY.com

BTW, why would it be binding if it is in our interest? If it is in our interest we won't want to leave.
Why are they trying to push it through while currently the projected gain is a ONE PART IN TEN THOUSAND increase in GDP by 2025 by the most optimistic projections by the US Dept of Agriculture, or a 0.01% increase. Look it up.

Sure. Let's bind all future Generations (not inclined to force a possibly bloody revolution) to a deal that is not only so secret only 3 in our Government knows what it says but so secret we won't know for 4 years after we are stuck in it for eternity (essentially). Sounds like the method for boiling a frog, obviously we'd jump out immediately if we knew, or kill the people who signed it, have them on charges for treason, something.

Stop the TPP and similar attacks on Democracy by signing and widely spreading this Petition NZDEMOCRACY.com

Alan said...

I'm intrigued about this comment

"As you well know Tim is clearly not going to debate with Jane Kelsey. To begin she is not elected, she essentially represents herself, albeit that many on the Left support her position."

She happens to represent - along with many other notable specialists in their field - the people who elected that Minister in fact, and they are negotiating (supposedly) on (again, supposedly) our behalf, their employers. Unless I am much mistaken, they draw their position solely from our tax - and so we are most interested to see what this unbelievably great deal is...

Now, apart from leaks, the fact remains: we, the people, their employers, cannot see the positions negotiated.

And yet - it seems corporate entities who we did NOT elect can do this. Why? They were not elected to represent us. They have nothing to do with us.

We all know this is going to undermine Pharmac. This is confirmed. We all know that Dairy is sinking, so out goes the largess promised us by some theoretical bonanza via that disappearing silver bullet to an economy that the present *minority* government - and let me add, government by default only, their so-called mandate is non-existent by numbers - has seen fit to sell off to some very questionable outsiders. Our economy is owned by banks. So who's economy is going to benefit? The local residents, here, residing in NZ, or those who own our economy in real terms, that is, the foreign banks to whom we pay exhorbitant amounts of money to in order to keep it going...?

We see a government which has routinely ignored due process, that the Law Society itself had seen fit to go right to the top, the UN, to take issue with because of their flagrant disregard for such democratic process.

It's laughable. Truly, unreservedly laughable that this sop of a "robust debate" will truly occur, a debate, moreover, on a deal we had no part in, no input, and no stake in.

Again - multiple, faceless people had a stake in it, and yet we will be made to work for this.

So, nothing to hide, nothing to fear: it's such a simple statement to make, but that's the trouble - the test is putting into action such throwaway lines that this government supposedly wishes we the citizens to act on, but which they have for too many things paid less than lip service to.

It's time to come clean on who this is being negotiated for, have a clear, full and frank discussion on it.

If it is so good, it should not be a problem.

But history has taught us one thing if nothing else in such matters: being quiet on such things and offering simple assurances that amount to nothing more than repeating platitudes means there is something up...

It wouldn't be the fact that they're not actually in it for our interests?

Oh surely not. Prove us wrong. Have that open debate.

It's what democracies are supposed to do after all ... isn't it?