Thursday 13 August 2015

“TPPA, Or Not TPPA?” – Table Talk No. 5 At The Ika Seafood Bar & Grill.

Star Of The Show: Professor Jane Kelsey takes her role as an academic and public intellectual seriously. For her, the universities’ statutory obligation to be the “critic and conscience” of New Zealand society is keenly felt and courageously expressed. For much of her adult life she has criss-crossed the globe, from one set of trade negotiations to the next, making contacts, developing information networks, and struggling ceaselessly to bring the dark and dirty secrets of global capitalism - like the TPPA - kicking and screaming into the sunlight of public scrutiny.
CONGRATULATIONS ARE DUE to the organisers of last night’s (11/8/15) “Table Talk” at Laila Harré’s Ika Seafood Bar & Grill. The fifth such event, “TPPA or Not TPPA?”, was emceed by the irrepressible Wallace Chapman, and featured a panel which, for the first time, was evenly split between protagonists and antagonists.
And, it was a wee ripper!
In support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership were Dr Wayne Mapp (former Cabinet Minister under John Key and currently a member of the Law Commission) and Michael Barnett (CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce). Opposing the TPPA were Professor Jane Kelsey (Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and author of the just published deconstruction of neoliberalism in New Zealand, The Fire Economy) and Dr Joshua Freeman (Clinical Microbiologist at Auckland City Hospital and an honorary academic at the University of Auckland School of Molecular Medicine and Pathology).
The huge benefit of having Wayne and Michael debating with Jane and Josh was that the audience (which, let’s be fair here, was overwhelmingly anti-TPPA) got the chance to compare and contrast, weigh and evaluate, the arguments of both sides of the issue. This is not always possible in those panel discussions where every participant pretty much agrees with every other. These might make people feel better (having one’s preconceptions confirmed is always gratifying) but it does not test them. To do that a genuine debate is required.
There’s no disputing that, over the course of an hour or so of lively discussion, the arguments, both for and against the TPPA, were tested. Equally indisputable, in my opinion, was the identity of the winners. Neither Wayne nor Michael were even close to being a match for Jane and Josh. Indeed, beyond a meagre collection of conventional “free trade” tropes, the TPPA protagonists had virtually nothing to offer.
In this they were, ironically, the victims of their own side’s obsession with secrecy. Operating almost exclusively on the tiny amount of information the Key Government has seen fit to release to the public, and utterly reliant on the solemn undertakings and promises enunciated by Messrs Key and Groser, Wayne and Michael could do little but point to the “success” of the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement and raise fears about what would happen to “poor little New Zealand” if it allowed itself to be “locked out” of an agreement as important as the TPPA.
Jane and Josh demolished these stock “free trade” arguments without breaking a sweat. Though I wouldn’t have said so before the debate, by the time it was over, it was painfully clear that the protagonists were out of their depth. As a clinical microbiologist, and the TPP spokesman for Ora Taiao, the New Zealand Climate and Health Council, Josh was absolutely on top of the likely consequences for Pharmac, and by extension, the future health of New Zealanders, should the transnational pharmaceutical corporations succeed in having the life of their patents extended. On more than one occasion during the hour, the facts and figures at Josh’s fingertips left Wayne and Michael floundering helplessly in their own ignorance.
But it was Professor Jane Kelsey who truly stole the show. Astonished by her encyclopaedic knowledge of just about every item of leaked information concerning the TPPA (as well as the details of all the other FTAs New Zealand has signed) Wallace could not restrain himself from demanding to know “How do you manage to read all this stuff?!” It was an entirely forgivable outburst.
The answer, of course, is that Jane takes her role as an academic and public intellectual seriously. For her, the universities’ statutory obligation to be the “critic and conscience” of New Zealand society is keenly felt and courageously expressed. For much of her adult life she has criss-crossed the globe, from one set of trade negotiations to the next, making contacts, developing information networks, and struggling ceaselessly to bring the dark and dirty secrets of global capitalism kicking and screaming into the sunlight of public scrutiny. It is easy for the Right to dismiss her arguments when she isn’t there to defend them, but put her on the same stage as people like Wayne and Michael, or pit her against Mike Hosking, live, on Seven Sharp, and her critics’ arguments are swept away like so much summer gossamer.
By the end of the hour, it was clear to everyone that the TPPA – like War in the old 60s poster – “is harmful to flowers, children and other living things”, and that only a truly mendacious government would commit its citizens to what is, in effect, an empowering charter for transnational capital.
In conclusion, the answer to the question: “TPPA, or Not TPPA?” is “Not TPPA!”
Be sure to join the Anti-TPPA protest march in your town on Saturday, 15 August.
This review was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 12 August 2015.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

If that really is Wayne Mapp that regularly comments in these pages, I'm not surprised Jane Kelsey wiped the floor with him. She has a formidable intellect, he has somewhat less than that judging by his posts.

Anonymous said...

Having just read your article, then having a beer and a few vodkas I have come to the conclusion that nothing has changed in the last 40 years of my life, the losers like Jane Kelsey have the best arguments but the winners, who may be the losers on the night, are on the right side of reality and wisdom for the future.

mick said...

Anyone who is not a millionaire will lose if Key signs the TPPA ...the secrecy isn't an accident .
No democracy can survive an Executive that has no interest in the thoughts of "the people" .

pat said...

now that is a debate I would have liked to have seen....dont suppose anyone recorded it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this summary of the evening. I was sorry that I couldn't make it.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Guerilla Surgeon.

I can reveal to you, and to any other doubters, that the Wayne Mapp who comments on Bowalley Road is, indeed, the REAL Wayne Mapp.

No ifs, no buts, no maybes: The REAL Wayne Mapp.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thanks Chris for clearing that up. I was pretty sure he was the real Wayne, because he ducks and weaves like a politician when you ask him a really hard question. Incidentally Brendan, I'm still waiting for your theological qualifications for criticising Islam. Loud silence there too I might say.
Couple of other points. Two semi-drunk anonymous. How do you characterise Jane Kelsey as a loser? Respected academic, in fact I regard her as New Zealand's Elizabeth Warren, and as far as I can figure she was stone cold sober on the night :-).
And "reality". I get a little bit sick of the right wing mantra of "reality" this sort of TINA thing. It only seems useful to you when you are using one particular form of argument. Otherwise "reality" is apparently what we make it, i.e. when you're talking to poor people who can't get a leg up.
IMO, reality is that capitalism should be preparing for massive job losses due to robots taking almost all but service jobs, and eventually those too. See – I can talk about reality as well. And I think my definition is in the long term probably more accurate than yours.

jh said...

put her on the same stage as people like Wayne and Michael, or pit her against Mike Hosking, live, on Seven Sharp, and her critics’ arguments are swept away like so much summer gossamer.
a main goal of politics is controlling the message so that key structures in an argument aren't exploded in mass media (that's why W goes around town halls - the media never gave him a fair go).

Where was Jane Kelsey when Sonia Davies expressed the doubts about "this process of population replacement" (quoting Bedford in context)?

jh said...

I wish we knew more of our MP's real thinking before it goes into the PR agency. Then we would know National's open slather property traders and Labour's open border politicians. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion wrong or right. What is wrong is misrepresentation (only appearing in Sunday best).

blondewithaniq said...

Jane has been wiping floor with likes of Mapps,McCulleys,Keys,Guys,Grosers here since way before another phenomenal woman's death in the UK.
Anita Roddick RIP was I consider in same league as Jane and Elizabeth when it comes to advocating for Fair Ethical trade vs Politically Enabled Corrupt Corporate Speculation.

Hope to see your face at march on Saturday Chris.

Wayne Mapp said...

Well, Jane might say she supports free trade. But the reality is that she has never supported any agreement in her entire adult life that actually promotes free trade. She opposes them all. So on that basis, in terms of the real world, she opposes free trade.

However, I can imagine there must be an alternative Green world view which supports free trade, but allows each nation can put up selective trade barriers that would support whatever industry each country wanted to support. And that did not have any patent laws or copyright right laws so that we could all freely access all IP on the basis we should freely share all knowledge. Such is socialist nirvana.

But back to TPP, Jane certainly confidently predicted that there would be no ministerial discussions prior to Christmas based on her "inside"knowledge, which seems largely to be based on discussions with various lower ranked officials on the periphery of the talks. But is she accurate?

From what I hear there will be high level discussions early September.

My view (perhaps not unsurprisingly) of the night was a little different. There is no doubt Jane is much more engaged and researched on this issue than I am. It seems to be the largest part of her professional life, and she goes to the majority of the negotiating sessions. For me it is more of a general commitment to free trade, and TPP is now the single largest negotiation in that regard.

However, the opposition of the audience to TPP was not nearly as relentless as I expected. There seemed to be a significant group in the room who are are actually genuinely weighing the issues up, and who are not instinctively anti-TPP.

And mick, I assume you must think everyone in the agricultural sector are millionaires, from the farm owners, to the share-milkers, to the process workers, the rural contractors, and all the people in the provincial towns. Because that is the range of people who will be the largest group of New Zealanders to benefit from TPP.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this I do hope the TTPA gets washed out to sea where it belongs

Guerilla Surgeon said...

1.The world survived for hundreds if not thousands of years without patent or copyright laws.
2. That bastion of free-trade the USA became rich by ignoring patent laws in the 19th century.
Sauce for the goose? :-)
Incidentally Wayne, still waiting to hear what might change your mind on the matter of the TPP.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

PS – Wayne, if farmers are going to be the major beneficiaries of the TPP, one might hope that they would start paying their workers a bit better, and maybe stop importing workers from the Philippines or various other low-wage economies.

Bushbaptist said...

Gosh Mr. Wayne Mapp do take those rose-coloured Rightwing glasses off and really see the world as it is not some fancy Ayn Rand dystopia.

The TPPA has nothing to do with "FREE TRADE" and everything to do with corporate control. NZ is NOT going to get access to the Yank markets or any of the others either. The Yanx have promised that they would look at access sometime 20 years from now maybe. In return for that we will pay a lot more for our drugs and if we legislate anything that interferes with corporate profits we can be sued in a private "Court" made up with the very people who are running the show. All done in secret too. Nothing democratic about it. Not surprising though as Rightwing Ideologues don't believe in Democracy anyway.

Davo Stevens,

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
@ Mr Mapp
If anyone was seriously seeking free trade there would be no need for agreements. Everyone would just trade freely. So called "free trade "agreements are the exact opposite of what the phrase implies. We should be selling what we can produce competitively to customers who can be relied on , and buying what we can afford from the result.
Cheers David J S

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guerilla Surgeon said...

I notice this morning that Tim Groser is telling everybody that the protesters are a mixture of the deluded and misled, and hard-core protesters. Leaving aside where he gets is evidence from, you'd think that maybe they'd come up with something new? This bullshit goes back years. I remember being told by a national party minister years ago that I was being led by the nose by my union leaders, and I just come from a meeting where the exact opposite was true. The union leaders were urging caution and the rank and file were shouting them down. Let's face it, Groser is the deluded one here.