Friday, 16 October 2015

With Friends Like These.

Abject Surrender: Rather than simply reiterate his party's agreed position on the TPPA, Andrew Little told Radio NZ's Morning Report that the agreement was something Labour “is not in a position to oppose”. New Zealand, he said was “now committed” to the TPP. It simply “doesn’t matter what we say and do” because “we’ve got what we’ve got”. As these defeatist phrases dribbled off Little’s tired tongue, you could almost hear the four-letter expostulations of Labour’s base as it turned and walked away.
 
WHEN ANDREW LITTLE met with Tim Groser on Monday evening he was not alone. Joining him for the Trade Minister’s two-hour briefing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership were Phil Goff, Annette King, Grant Robertson and David Shearer.
 
This is not the team a leader of the NZ Labour Party would have taken with him if he was planning to strongly oppose the TPP. Quite the reverse, in fact. Not only would  the Labour Left have no difficulty in identifying the caucus members sitting down with Little and Groser as leading representatives of the Labour Right, they’d also finger them as former stalwarts of the infamous ABC (Anybody But Cunliffe) group within Labour’s parliamentary caucus.
 
Viewed from the outside, then, Little’s entourage looks a great deal more like a pack of right-wing minders than a troop of left-wing comrades. And, if his interview on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report of Tuesday, 13 October, is anything to go by, those two hours with Groser and his officials left him worn-out and dispirited. Would this have been his demeanour if his colleagues had pitched in aggressively and often to challenge and refute the Trade Minister’s assertions? No. Most likely his hang-dog performance was born of the suspicion that he was the only person in that briefing-room who didn’t regard the TPP as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
 
Nor was it simply a demoralised Opposition leader who responded to Suzie Fergusson’s questioning on Morning Report, Little had also been appallingly advised.
 
He could have simply reiterated Labour’s current policy of opposing a TPP agreement that failed to meet the party’s five “non-negotiable” conditions. These are:
 
1) Pharmac must be protected;
2) Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest;
3) New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreign buyers;
4) The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld;
5) Meaningful gains are made for farmers in tariff reductions and market access.
 
But, rather than leave it at that, Little spoke of the TPP as something Labour “is not in a position to oppose”. New Zealand, he said was “now committed” to the TPP. It simply “doesn’t matter what we say and do” because “we’ve got what we’ve got”. As these defeatist phrases dribbled off Little’s tired tongue, you could almost hear the four-letter expostulations of Labour’s base as it turned and walked away.
 
And then he made things worse.
 
Labour’s options vis-à-vis the TPP are clear. It can, either, return to, and reaffirm, Labour’s former bipartisan approach to free trade issues, and offer its full parliamentary support for the Government’s enabling legislation; or, upon being satisfied that one or more of its non-negotiable conditions has not been met, it can declare the party’s opposition to the TPP, announce its intention to vote against its enabling legislation, and then withdraw from the agreement as soon as legally possible.
 
Both options are clear and principled – all Labour has to do is make a choice. But that, apparently, is much too simple and straightforward a solution. Instead, Little told Morning Report that the Labour Party, not being in a position to oppose the TPP, would accept it as a fait accompli, but, upon becoming the Government, it would “flout” – yes, that was the term he accepted – all those provisions of the agreement with which it disagreed.
 
Quite what the rest of the world will make of a country that first signs agreements, and then flouts them, is anybody’s guess. Personally speaking, I do not believe the rest of the world would make very much of us. Such a course would, I am certain, rapidly result in New Zealand’s international reputation as a fair-dealing and principled nation being torn to shreds.
 
The Leader of the Opposition must surely have access to better advice – and advisors - than this? Surely, somewhere in the Labour caucus, or the wider party, there still exists a modicum of political intelligence, moral fortitude and simple common sense?
 
Exactly how Trade Minister Groser responded to Little’s post-briefing performance we can only guess. But if he said: “Crikey! I didn’t expect it to be that easy. The PM will be over the moon!” We could hardly blame him. But then, the Labour Left would probably add: “Don’t get too cocky, Tim. You had help.”
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 October 2015.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I cannot disagree with a single word that has been stated. Little is not only no leader of the left, is not even a very effective leader of the right. A disappointment.

Armchair Critic said...

It just doesn't stop, does it? "A decade of deficits" helped Labour out of power and a decade of disarray has kept them out. Nothing looks like changing; what does it take to get a coherent opposition who can get rid of the mediocre bunch who currently call themselves the government?

Wayne Mapp said...

Chris,

Well, I now have an unequivocal answer to my question from yesterday. You think that Labour should be campaigning, along with the Greens and NZ First, to withdraw from TPP. I am not sure that NZF would actually go along with that, given the respect they normally have for international agreements once entered into. As I said, it is one thing to oppose entry, but quite another to withdraw from TPP.

I would also question the political viability of such a commitment. While it might appeal to the Hard Left (which I believe is an appropriate term for those who advocate such a strategy), it would not necessarily appeal to middle New Zealand. Helen Clark's pronouncement will have been quite influential for this group, and presumably also for many long-term Labour voters. It will also have certainly checked Andrew Little in his potential enthusiasm for a policy of withdrawing from TPP. There is no doubt that Helen would have understood the impact of her statement. She clearly has a different view to you. She obviously considers a withdrawal strategy might well condemn Labour to a certain loss in 2017. Much better to fight the 2017 election on the things that will actually matter to voters in 2017.

Although the Nats, at least from a short term political perspective, might like to see Labour campaign to pull out of TPP, they would actually prefer a bi-partisan consensus on an issue like TPP. I appreciate that you acknowledge that point.

Anonymous said...

A very true and forceful comment, why don't the MSM wright with such clarity and honesty ?. Andrew little should apologise to NZ and the Labour Party for his failed deception. He has become a laughing stock.

Jayson said...

The promise to "flout" rules that don't suit us is just rediculous.
However, with regards to accepting the TPPA, how could Little have done anything else?
The reality is that the TPPA is much watered down compared to what either side suggested it would be.
There is no "Gold Rush" as suggested by the right and no "Poison Pill" as suggested by the left.
Combine this with the fact that Labour initiated the negotiations for the TPPA and that Helen Clark has strongly endorsed it, and what could Little have done?

If he had continued to decry the TPPA, he would just have looked like a lunatic.
Unfortunately for him, he turned around and introduced the concept of "flouting" the TPPA, which makes him seem like a complete and utter lunatic.

The reality is probably a lot more innocuous and I suggest it is political naievite that makes him do such stupid thi9ngs. Either way, Labour now need a new leader.

greywarbler said...

A politicians life is awful hard. What to think, to do, is all governed by that irrational beast the voter, and the pragmatic dominant fellow pollies. Here is the dilemma of image over substance as faced by PM Sir James Hacker of Yes Minister.

Sir James' media advisor asked him if he'd be wearing his glasses on a coming important television appearance. His opinion was 'With them on you look authoritative and commanding. With them off, you look honest and open. Which do you want?'

Sir James hoped for both, authoritative and honest, but he said 'It's one or the other, really.' So Sir James ponders what 'if I put them on and take them off while I talk?' His advisor says 'That just looks indecisive.' Sir James frets that that would be 'a travesty of the truth. I weighed up the pros and cons, unable to decide.'

On referring to facts and especially cost figures the advisor was enthusiastic. ..'practically no one takes them in, and those who do don't believe them. But it makes people think you've got the facts at your fingertips. Don't forget, people don't know you're reading them
off the teleprompter.'

Obviously Little needs better advisors. And.. better advisors, and more anti-TPP-takeover support from Cabinet and Caucus. And....more dedicated pollie colleagues who want the best outcomes for the country.....And supporters against the TPP who can see the long-term legal costs, limiting effect on present and extending business and entrepreneurship and a withering statsis on much of the country's enterprise, energy and potential.

It's like the Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch where the script is being rewritten momentarily and inflating in importance from further thought. The only way to control this of course, is not to have further thought.

peter petterson said...

Andrew Little must know something the rest of us don't know,surely?

John said...

So the group meeting with Tim Grosser that you call " a pack of right-wing minders" includes a current Labour leader, a former Labour leader, another former Labour leader, a deputy Labour leader, and an aspiring Labour leader. Hmmm.

The problem for those opposing the TPPA is that after building it up as a giant conspiracy, the agreement looks very likely to be as hugely beneficial for NZ, as the China FTA was.

Of course exactly the same conspiracies and doomsday predictions were given by the same people about the China FTA - you'd think they'd learn from history.

The wind was taken out of the sails a little bit with the opposition to the China FTA, as it was Labour negotiated it (including employing the help of Grosser?).

Similarly this time, the bubble of (Labour) opposition to the TPPA was well and truly popped by Helen Clark, when she said it would be an unthinkable disaster for NZ if it was left out of the agreement.

Chris Trotter said...

I'm sorry, Wayne, but ever since I witnessed your own and Michael Barnett's performance against Professor Jane Kelsey and Dr Joshua Freemen at the Ika Seafood Bar & Grill on 11/8/15, your credibility on matters relating to the TPPA has been zero.

I went to that debate with an open mind (as you may know I was a strong supporter of the NZ-China FTA) but after listening to your intellectually vacuous arguments, and seeing them knocked right out of the park by Jane and Josh, I came away a convinced opponent of the TPPA.

I'm afraid all you are doing with these latest comments on the subject is reinforcing my view that you are a man of utterly conventional opinions, without the slightest interest in any evidence that might threaten those opinions.

In other words, the very model of just about every past, and present, National Party Cabinet Minister.

Grant said...

@ Chris; "(Wayne)I'm afraid all you are doing with these latest comments on the subject is reinforcing my view that you are a man of utterly conventional opinions, without the slightest interest in any evidence that might threaten those opinions.

In other words, the very model of just about every past, and present, National Party Cabinet Minister."

You took the words right out of my mouth Chris, and improved on them slightly. However you might have added that Wayne is also determined never to engage in an intellectually honest manner on any topic where he knows that reason and facts will seriously challenge his argument. Instead he turns to the politicians (and lawyers) playbook of sophistry, rhetoric, ad-homs and pretending he didn't understand the point in order to avoid having to construct an honestly reasoned reply. The contemptible tactics of a seasoned hard-right shill. (One good insult surely deserves another?)

John said...

Professor Jane Kelsey blew her own credibility out the window when she stated on National Radio that there wasn't one thing - not a solitary thing - in the TPPA, that would be of the slightest benefit to New Zealand.

And just to confirm how extremist and absurd her statement really was, she made it immediately after complaining that she didn't know what was in the TPPA agreement.

jh said...

You wanna know what I think of the TPPA Chris Trotter?: Nothing? I couldn't defend it or not defend it. But one thing I know is that you have a school of thought that thinks we should flood all the locks: let them buy the land; let them make the shoes; let the wages equalise and let them build 7 stories next to my 1/4 acre. They will float on the surface like turds.
.....

Property Guru Dolf De Roos popped up on Seven Sharp last night: "when you get rich from property investment , you can help your self but you can also help other people". In Hoskin's world this is the path to social justice, which is o.k if you believe in free speech, but where do you counter with "asset inflation isn't wealth creation; it simply makes a hole that has to be filled"? They control the infrastructure (and the progressives control their bit of infrastructure - RNZ etc).

Chris Trotter said...

Citation please, John. It's very easy to obtain these audio clips from RNZ. Give us the verbatim quotation.

Jane's knowledge of what is and isn't in the TPPA, BTW, is not only based on the numerous Wikileaks releases, but also on the limited evidence already released by the Government (e.g. the "fact" sheets released by MFAT).

That you have accepted the Government's pro-TPPA spin, without evidence (or, at least none you're prepared to cite) merely places you in Wayne Mapp's very conventional camp of right-wing, evidence averse, yay-sayers.

Anonymous said...

Your point about the team that Little took with him to meet with Groser was spot on, Why wasn't there more Labour MPs ?, there was plenty of them in Wellington that day !!.He is of course playing ducks and drakes with his MPs and that is a dangerous and futile game to play when you are a leader of a political party. Recklessness is not a desirable leadership skill. I enjoyed your article and have read it several times, I hope it gets wider coverage. Finally, your last paragraph was priceless to the situation of Labours leadership treachery. Well done.

John said...

Sorry - I don't have time to hunt through more than 100 RNZ clips lasting several hours to find an exact Jane Kelsey quote.

And if you're talking about wikileaks, are you talking about the same ones that Professor Kelsey claimed were proof that the TPP would destroy Pharmac?

The dilemma for those who were so vehemently opposed to the TPP is that they have a couple of choices. They can keep the blinkers on and continue their delusional belief that it's all a big evil conspiracy that will bring doomsday to New Zealand.

Or they have to admit they were caught up in a cult-like belief, and things they so strongly believed were true, were not.

Effectively it's a choice to continue being deluded, or admit to being utterly fooled.

And if you can't bring yourself to believe that Professor Kelsey is an extremist extraordinaire, I challenge you to find a more extreme (and more wrong) prediction on the China FTA than hers.

Her doomsday predictions absolutely rubbished the idea that their could possibly be 30% increase in exports to China. In the meantime, we've had $8b of export growth (a growth rate increase of over 800%) - something that would have taken 80 years at old rate (when it took a decade to grow just $1b pre FTA, even though it was the boom years before the GFC).

Chris - you are known for your historical bent. Do you not think we can learn something from history, that Professor Kelsey predicts doomsday with every new trade deal, and with every new deal, her predictions have proved extremist and further from reality than any other predictions.

What do they say about not learning from repeating the same mistake over and over?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I can't remember who it was, but some minister or other lost their credibility when they claimed that all these treaties were negotiated in secret, and Kelsey came up with at least half a dozen off the top of her head that hadn't been. Personally I think she's got more brains than the whole cabinet put together.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Suddenly occurred to me – didn't Wayne lose a certain amount of credibility when he claimed Afghanistan was stable? :-) Still waiting for an answer on that one Wayne. No doubt like the rest of the right wing who deigned to dabble in this cesspool, you'll just ignore the question. Haven't seen much of Brendan lately either. Developed a certain theological shyness have we?

Anonymous said...

The word "flouting" is probably more innocuous than it really sounds. The agreement doesn't actually stop a government from passing regulations, but merely leaves it at risk of being sued by some overseas corporation. Running the risk of being sued is not the same thing as "flouting".

However, Andrew should probably have chosen a better expression.

Nick R said...

Chris - what exactly is the harm that the TPP is going to do to NZ? Why will we be better off if we reject it? And how many voters do you think would flock to support Labour if it accepted your advice and opposed the TPP?

I see no evidence at all of a popular groundswell of opposition to the TPP. Prof Kelsey hates it, but she seems to hate every international trade agreement as a matter or principle, so that really signifies nothing at all.

For what it's worth, I don't know the answer to the first two questions. But I am pretty sure that Labour will lose support if it opposes the TPP. Every vote it finds on the hard left will lose it two in the centre.

KJT said...

Kia ora.

Still waiting for the cost/benefit analysis from Wayne for the China FTA ??

Or don't they even fucking know?

Even the TPPA's supporters agree it is not as "good for us" as the China FTA. And we didn't have to give away the right of any future Government's to legislate against corporate interests, without billion dollar liabilities, for it.

KjT said...

Kia ora.

Still waiting for the cost/benefit analysis from Wayne for the China FTA ??

Or don't they even fucking know?

Even the TPPA's supporters agree it is not as "good for us" as the China FTA. And we didn't have to give away the right of any future Government's to legislate against corporate interests, without billion dollar liabilities, for it.

Loz said...

It's estimated that Canada has now spent $65 million defending itself against corporate claims from the "Investor States Disputes Settlement Process". Eight cases are currently active, all from US companies, seeking a total of $6 billion in damages. The process is not judicial. There is no common law or precedence that the panel of adjudicators must follow. The drafts of available text shows that compromises have been made by introducing ambiguity into any protections accorded to nations or wellbeing of people.

The carefully managed portrayal regurgitates platitudes about creating jobs while offering silence over what the text actually contains. Essential Research polled Australians with the question "Do you think foreign companies should or should not be able to sue the Government for losses due to changes in policy?" Across all political parties, a vast majority rejected the concept. Yet, a principle rejected so completely by the public, is being wheeled into the heart of our democracy like a Trojan horse.

Over 60 per cent of the claims against Canada attacked environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors.

The Canadian government successfully sued for
* attempting to ban a suspected neurotoxin for being added to fuel
* honouring an international treaty preventing the export of PCB waste
* requiring oil firms to invest in R&D within areas of Canada
* Being too slow in assessing environmental impact to groundwater to a potential quarry
* placing quotas on timber felling for export
* banning the sale of lawn pesticides containing the active ingredient 2,4-D.

Pending Investor State Cases are over:
* Environmental requirements that prevent shipping large quantities of basalt over a key breeding area for several endangered marine species,
* Safety and security measures for international bridges.
* A green jobs programme for incentivising solar and wind power generators (that provided 20,000 jobs)
* The same green jobs programme for having a moratorium on offshore wind turbines while their impact was studied
* Requiring pharmaceutical corporations to deliver on claims of a drug’s utility in order to maintain the drug’s patent
* A moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing

The same mechanism was used multiple times to successfully to fine the Mexican government over half a billion dollars for trying to limit the addition of High Fructose Corn Syrup to foods.

The TPP accords rights to corporations usually reserved for nations, without transparency or oversight. Absolute power without responsibility is enough to know that no good can possibly come from this agreement.

greywarbler said...

Loz that's a very full and damning comment against TPPA. The Trojan Horse analogy is particularly apt. From now on I think all references by those against the Trans-action should state THTPP.

I think that writing short snappy prose needs to be monitored, as in your statement "The Canadian government successfully sued for" which was followed by a list of actions that went through the infamous ISDS (Investor States Disputes Settlement process - which I fear as much as ISIS!). Reading for meaning, I think you skipped putting 'was' before 'succcessfully'. Otherwise it would mean that the Canadians were successful in suing against their punitive agreement, and I have read that success is very rare.

Bushbaptist said...

This was posted by a fellow Kiwi on another forum;

"Put this up as a post on an anti-TPPA page, but the more I think about it, the more I like it, so it may be worth a closer look at as an option and possibly expanding on it....It's probably worth noting that you'd need at least a third of the population to get behind this in order to pull it off completely.

If the wikileaks material is correct, then signing the TPPA is an act of treason...handing over sovereign rights to a foreign power etc. It also means that the rest of the party could be liable for a charge of "Conspiracy to treason". As such, if a formal complaint is made/charges filed, the police should have the right to procure evidence, i.e. do the search and seizure on behalf of "the crown". If this doesn't work, maybe this would be a good next step...

If the steps are made public, the police will either be shown to be protecting the government against the people or they will do their job. On many levels, the police can't afford to be labelled as the protectors of the government against the people, it would completely undermine their credibility.

Now imagine if, on a particular day, at a set time, people from throughout the country filed into their local police station to file a formal complaint, especially if it was timed for after a protest... The media would have to pick it up and the police would have to act on it to avoid the public backlash, not to mention the immense paper trail. At the same time, politicians in favor of the agreement would fill their pants simultaneously...its a strong message to send them. This could also be expanded through to a global level with very little tweaking.

The next question is who is a viable alternative to National (the ruling party in NZ). The way I see it, there isn't really anybody.

Winston from NZ First is the most obvious choice, but he has the same issues with transparency that our current PM does.

Labour is a slightly cuddlier version of National.

The Greens have been so transparent they are practically invisible.

The Maori Party haven't really spoken out against the TPPA, which is odd as it would invalidate the Treaty of Waitangi.

ACT and United Future are only there because National let them, so are more or less irrelevant.

Mana and the Internet Party? Maybe, but I think they are still tainted by association with Dotcom.

This would put us in the interesting position of possibly being able to design a new political system. The main issues in the current setup seem to be corruption (which unlike economics, does follow a trickle down system), transparency, and voter participation.

With that in mind, I'd probably go with dissolving Parliment, and handing power back to the Regional Councils (with the exception of the "super-councils" that would be broken up). They would have primary responsibility for Food, Water, Energy, Environment and Waste. Secondary responsibilities would be infrastructure, employment/manufacturing, housing etc (pretty much what they already do.)

Currently the Councils are pretty corrupt as well, so for currency we'd run with the NZ dollar, a local currency (the Bristol Pound is a really good example, although I do demand that Auckland's be called the "Auck Quid") and a digital currency...the digital currency will open up a block-chain that all council business would be made available on (pay-rates, tenders, works, minutes, email, accounts...EVERYTHING). I'd imagine the sound of former civil servants running overseas would be pretty loud at this point.

As you'd still require a modicum of Central Government to function in order to maintain certain infrastructure, I'd set that along the same lines as the old Viking Thing...a conclave of randomly selected council members gets together every couple of month's to discuss any arising matters, which is also live streamed...all decisions have to come back to the general populace for ratification."

Got some very good points there.

JanM said...

The title of your article really belongs to Andrew Little, doesn't it?

greywarbler said...

That is a great comment you found Bush Baptist.

And I like the idea about attacking the TPPA's lack of transparency, discussion and likely implementation, which has not been traversed much. Probably because it is hard to grasp that it attacks the very basis of our democracy, as it is government acting against the people and beyond the powers people have given their government. This action could be achieved, if people are prepared to support those who bravely advance into the wasps' nest. I think a political victims support group is needed even more than one for victims of crime.

And then what after? Thinking people must traverse the whole thing, not just go for one-off victories that leave gaps that the stinging ants can crawl back into and set up yet another rort. The Greens are so transparent that they are invisible. How cutting yet amusing. Don't know if it's true though. I hope not.

(I've referred to insect behaviour a few times, and lately it has occured to me that ours is similar to ants. Could there a primitive connection, perhaps through the amagydala, that could explain why we are unable to limit conflict, our constant wars and our desire for possession of excessive resources to the point of stealing those of others? Why can't restraint, codified civilised behaviour result from our higher intellect, critical thinking, memory and historical warnings when stress arises, to provide clear, incisive, effective and ethics-bound methods in running our civilisation.)

Bushbaptist said...

Thanks Greywarb. I thought so too. Also our eminent poster GS remarked that there is no "Free Market". And he is right there is not. From WW II there was a Social Democracy in NZ but it was still based on the "Free Market", until 1984 (it was a closed economy but still a "Free Market" albeit a local one). The group that was supported was the ordinary Kiwi Battler now it's the wealthy.

John Key fervently believes that because he has a majority of one he can do whatever he pleases. Pick and choose whether he will follow his election promises or not. Stated publically that he would get the bodies out of Pike River then later put it into the too hard basket. He should never have said that he would but that doesn't matter. Forced Solid Energy to buy out Pike River and now that company is in dire straits because they had to borrow a huge amount to buy out Pike River. That with the down-turn on coal prices spelled the end of the company.

Remember the referendum about the asset sales? 75% of the people said no, don't sell but our Johnny said that he had a "Mandate" to do as he pleased. That shows that he is not into Democracy. The man is a psychopath.