Saturday, 30 January 2016

Oh Lucky Man! Phil Goff's "Dispensation" Is As Ill-Considered As It Is Ill-Deserved.

You Bet He's Smiling! Phil Goff has somehow managed to convince Andrew Little that it's okay to have a senior Caucus member telling the world that the Labour Party's policy on the TPPA is wrong, and that the National Government's stance is correct. As they say: "With friends like these ..." And it's not even as if Phil has a proud history of approving dispensations for others - just ask Jim Anderton! For some reason, when it comes to Caucus collective responsibility, no exemptions are ever made for the Left.
 
PHIL GOFF IS A LUCKY MAN. Had Andrew Little extended to him the same measure of tolerance that he extended to Jim Anderton, 28 years ago, he’d no longer be a member of Labour’s caucus.
 
Goff was among those Rogernomes who, on 4 August 1988, passed the following resolution:
 
“This Caucus declares that the following understanding governs the relationship of Caucus members with each other: Members shall vote in Parliament in accordance with decisions of the Caucus. Where a member deliberately abstains from voting, or votes against a Government measure in the House which has been passed by Caucus, such action automatically removes the member from membership of the Caucus unless express permission to take that action has been given by Caucus.”
 
Referred to at the time as the “loaded gun” resolution, it was intended to block any member (but most particularly, Anderton) from either voting against, or abstaining from voting for, legislation setting in motion the privatisation of state assets. Anderton’s colleagues were well aware that the Labour Party’s official stance was one of opposition to privatisation, and that, strictly speaking they were all bound – as Labour MPs – to uphold Labour Party policy. They simply didn’t care.
 
By December of 1988, the circumstances anticipated in the Loaded Gun Resolution had come to pass. A bill enabling the government to partially privatise the BNZ was on the floor of the House. In spite of the Labour Party’s New Zealand Council informing the Caucus that privatisation would directly contravene the party’s 1987 manifesto, and contradict the expressed will of the Labour Party Conference, the David Lange-led Labour Government pressed ahead with the legislation.
 
On Saturday, 10 December 1988, Jim Anderton told a hushed House of Representatives:
 
“I cannot give my support to this enabling legislation. If we are not going to sell the Bank of New Zealand, we do not need this legislation. If we are going to sell it, then I am opposed to it and must show my opposition here, at this time, because there will be no other parliamentary opportunity to protest at or prevent the Government having the power to sell the Bank. As I said at the Committee Stages, I will not vote with the Opposition National Party. Their anxiety to sell the Bank of New Zealand and other state assets is well known. I will, therefore, record my opposition by formally abstaining when the vote is taken on this Third Reading.”
 
On Tuesday, 13 December 1988, the Senior Government Whip, Margaret Austin, wrote to Anderton informing him that he would receive no further Caucus communications and was stripped of his membership of Caucus committees. The Whip had been withdrawn; Jim Anderton was out of the Labour Caucus.
 
Not for Anderton the dispensation granted to Goff by his Caucus colleagues. Regardless of the fact that he was attempting, in good conscience, to uphold Labour Party policy (as required of him, and all of his colleagues, by the Labour Party constitution) permission for Anderton to abstain on the enabling legislation was denied.
 
Twenty-eight years later, the same Phil Goff who had voted to expel anyone who defied the will of Caucus has not only been extended the privilege of abstaining from voting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s enabling legislation, but also of actually crossing the floor of the House of Representatives and voting in favour of it.
 
The relevant Labour Party media release of 28 January 2016 sates: “Opposition Leader Andrew Little has given dispensation to MP Phil Goff to take his own position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement due to his historic involvement in negotiating its predecessor, the P4.” According to Little:  “Phil has had a longstanding involvement and public commitment to this agreement which differs with the Labour Caucus’ decision that it cannot support the deal in its current form due to its compromise of New Zealand’s sovereignty.”
 
But the 2005 P4 free-trade initiative, which the Helen Clark-led Labour Government had set in motion, and which Goff played a key role in negotiating, is in no way comparable to the TPPA. The P4 was a modest and mutually beneficial free trade agreement involving New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile. The TPPA, in sharp contrast, is a freedom charter for US transnational corporations. Granting Goff a dispensation on the grounds that he had a hand in negotiating P4 is, therefore, a political non-sequitur.
 
Moreover, in dissenting from his Caucus colleagues’ view that support for the TPPA compromises New Zealand’s sovereignty, Goff is actually asserting that what Labour is presenting to the electorate as the truth is, in fact, a lie. Which means that Little has given Goff a dispensation to declare that up is down, black is white, and the TPPA is a good thing. And why would a party leader anxious to enhance his own, and his party’s, credibility do that!
 
What’s more, the irrelevance of the P4 argument makes Little’s treatment of David Shearer’s dissidence utterly inconsistent and unfair. If Goff is entitled to deny the truth of Labour’s position, then why isn’t Shearer also being granted a pass from the reality-based community? Or, for that matter, any other Caucus member not yet convinced that the TPPA represents a dangerous corporate assault on what’s left of New Zealand’s democracy and independence.
 
What Little and his colleagues all need to find – and quickly – is a measure of the clarity and courage demonstrated by Jim Anderton on 10 December 1988. If the TPPA is a bad thing, then allowing a Labour MP to vote in favour of it cannot be ethically, or politically, justified. It follows, therefore, that those Labour parliamentarians who do not believe the TPPA is a bad thing; and who are unwilling to abide by the contrary judgement of their colleagues; have only one morally consistent course of action to take. They must resign, forthwith, from both the Labour Caucus and the Labour Party.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 29 January 2016.

28 comments:

Andrew Nichols said...

Total farce. Time for a Corbyn to exorcise the Nat lite from the NZLP including its leader.

Anonymous said...

Well done Chris a very good article and id deserves wider coverage.

In a unionised workplace if two of the workers breached a company rule and the boss let one off but punishes the other any self respecting union would say to the boss, 'no way' if you have let one off then you let the other off. If the boss said 'no' I only want to punish one, then if the union to that matter to arbitration the punished worker would be let off their punishment.

There is case law galore on this sort of unevenness.

Little knows this, but because him and the caucus gang are frightened to take on Goff they have unfairly dealt to Shearer. Shearer did not cause the problem, Little did by calling a 'bob each-way' on the TPPA

The Labour party has become a dogs breakfast under Little, he is not fit to be the leader of such a party, he will pull Labour to oblivion.

I am very angry about this situation.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Not a great fan of Jim Anderton. He was a control freak who managed to split what that was left of the left. But he's done a couple of things that I admired, and his stand on that was one of them. The other one was in reply to some idiot conservative who said something like "I worked hard to become rich." To which he replied, "My cleaning lady works hard." :)

Alma said...

Andrew Nichols is right - a total farce. Sadly, there is no Corbyn, and if the Tory-lites were all removed there'd hardly be a caucus member left. The Labour Party is dead.

J Bloggs said...

Andrew Little has gone about this the dumbest way possible and has totally blown any credibility he had left. Who is running the Labour Party these days? Because it certainly doesn't look like he is

Anonymous said...

You say: In spite of the Labour Party’s New Zealand Council informing the Caucus that privatisation would directly contravene the party’s 1987 manifesto, and contradict the expressed will of the Labour Party Conference, the David Lange-led Labour Government pressed ahead with the legislation.

So why weren't the buggers sacked? How did they get away with it!!!!

Anonymous said...

You say: In spite of the Labour Party’s New Zealand Council informing the Caucus that privatisation would directly contravene the party’s 1987 manifesto, and contradict the expressed will of the Labour Party Conference, the David Lange-led Labour Government pressed ahead with the legislation.

So why weren't the buggers sacked? How did they get away with it!!!!

Alan said...

From the Labour Party Constitution such as it remains, after its breathtaking betrayal by the duplicitous Rogergnomes 30 years ago; probably the biggest act of political treachery in our history...

'Any person accepting nomination as a Party candidate shall sign a pledge...

I will faithfully observe the Constitution and policy of the Party....

I will vote on all questions in accordance with the decisions of the Caucus...'

If Goff was a participant in the treacheries of the '80s, should we be surprised now?

Jack Scrivano said...

Personally, I don’t know enough to know if the TPPA is good or bad. But when Helen Clark, Mike Moore, Phil Goff, and David Shearer are in favour – and Andrew Little himself sat on the fence for some time – I’m inclined to think that Mr Little is now acting under instruction from his trade union bosses. His position will please a vocal few; but I think it will alienate most of middle New Zealand. I suggest that the best he can hope for is that there will be no fighting in the streets next week.

Jenny Kirk said...

You are describing a totally different situation within the Labour caucus, Chris Trotter - and you darn well know that. Give Little a bit of lee-way please. He's handled this situation in an okay manner as far as I can tell.
In the Anderton case the whole caucus (well, almost the whole caucus - a few of us excepted) was gungho on rogernomics, sale of BNZ, etc etc.
In the Goff case, Goff has had a longtime involvement with the TPPA, he no longer holds a spokesperson role in the Labour caucus, and he's leaving soon to become Mayor of Auckland - so really, he's a bit irrelevant at the moment.
Shearer is different - he never had a longtime role in going with TPPA and he's currently spokesperson on Foreign Affairs for the Labour caucus - he should have known he needed to toe the "party line" or - if he can't do that - to move on out. Just like Anderton did.

jenny kirk said...

The current situation in the Labour caucus is totally different from when Anderton was given the push - and you know it, Chris. So give Little a bit of lee-way please. He's making progress on pulling that caucus together - in a difficult environment.
Anderton was opposed to the sale of BNZ (and other matters) but the caucus he was in was all gungho for rogernomics (except for a few others as well). And he wasn't given any dispensation to differ on the matter.
Goff has been longtime involved with the TPPA, he's standing for the Auckland mayoralty, he no longer has a spokesperson role in the Labour caucus - he's sort-of irrelevant , really. And Little gave him dispensation to have a different viewpoint.
Shearer is a different matter - he's spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, he has not had personal involvement with the beginnings of the TPPA, he wasn't given any dispensation, and
he should have known he needed to abide by the majority caucus decisions. Its usual for Labour MPs who are speaking out against the majority caucus decision to be chastised in some way ...... I know, been there, done that ! as did Anderton, and he knew what he was doing ... he'd already made arrangements to start up another political party.

pat said...

I dont imagine Andrew Little is a stupid man......despite current evidence.

Patricia said...

The Labour Party is National lite and the extra they are offering is an additional slice of stale bread. A sop. I How they expect to get any votes I do not know. I certainly won't be voting for them again until they start being true to their roots. A good start would be if the Party apologised for Rogernomics. And pigs will fly. The question now is whether I will vote and if I do, whether I just lodge a spoiled one. Labour, with the introduction of Rogernomics started the destruction of this once progressive country, knew full well that any future National Government would take that economic policy further. Every Government since then, National and Labour, have continued that destruction. Both Parties concentrate on the almighty dollar and to hell with the people.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
@ G S of course Jim Anderton was a control freak, he had to be. He had just revived the labour party from near extinction with around 10 000 members to an election winning force with about 10 x that membership, only to see it stolen by a secretive group around Douglas and Prebble and put to a purpose diametrically opposed to his philosophy and that of all the people who's support he had drawn. A programme no one had voted for run by a person no one had voted for. He wasn't about to let that happen to him again.
Though that was the most spectacular highjack of a popular political movement in N Z history it wasn't the first and it wasn't the last. Its the hazard of all political parties that when they begin to draw a surge of support they also draw carpet baggers with their own agenda who "white ant" the movement. The first example of this I watched was Bruce Betham's social credit ; drawn into a turnaround on the Clide Dam empowering bill and sinking out of sight never to be seen again; and with it unfortunately the call for monetary reform so badly needed in the world now.
Next there was the takeover of NZ First by the 'tight five' which has survived only by Peter's tenacity and again by being a control freak. The Greens have also had their problems in this regard and they might be beset by their worst case right now.The leader of a movement drawing popular support has to maintain tight control, and this stifles the advance of other charismatic figures in the movement whether truly supportive of the movement or treacherous , and this makes progress beyond minor party status extremely difficult.
This is why I think a jury ballot system would be as good as we could get as it would eliminate parties; they could be outlawed but they would only go underground.However it's hard to see any of this ever coming about.
And to Nat supporters, TPPA supporters and followers of John Key please take two steps back and look at who he is and what he is, and how he has made his fortune, and who else he was making a fortune for. Do you really think he's given all that up to come back and look after us? get real ! I'm sorry but you'r following a Judus Goat.
The TPPA is purported to serve N Z better than other signatories because we only lose 5000 jobs, U S loses 65000 or so. But that doesn't matter because we make $2.7 b/ an more and US over 300b more/an.Presumably all the other 10 make more too, all from each other? Are there any mathematicians out there? Someone's going to be very busy with Quantitative Easing.
The truth of it is that jobs will be moved to countries with poorer wages and labour protection laws and the profits from this cheeper labour, and downward pressure on wages effected by the job losses in the wealthier members ,will flow to the international contemporaries of John Key.
The basic idea of why international trade is supposed to benefit all nations participating is that countries have different natural and other advantages, such as climate ,topography ,minerals,population size and skill sets ,technological expertise fish stocks land fertility etc. The intended effect of the TPPA will be to capture those advantages more completely than they have already been captured , into the hands of the tiny, mega wealthy international minority; and to secure the structure in place against a voting public waking up to what has been done to them and voting in a government that might try to fix it. Just my opinion.
Cheers David J S

Anonymous said...

Just shows you Jenny..how out of sync with the values of the party caucus have been and some appear to still be...Good on your Chris...highlighting the way that the the Rogernomes bullied the party and didn't care...

Oh and Jenny while you note that Anderton had made arrangements to form another party based on REAL Labour values, a few years later Roger showed his true colours with the right-wing ACT group!!! After he and Prebble etc had ramshakled the party of the workers.... SHAME ON THEM

Anonymous said...

Jenny 20.24, you sound like a one-eyed cross eyed labourite;

You know that Both Goff and Shearer did not follow 'collective responsibility', both should have been lined up. That Little and his controllers in caucus only chose to reprimand Shearer is a wilful and vindictive act against Shearer.

You know that is the truth of the matter.

Shearer could take a legal case against the Labour party because of unfairness against him and him only.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David, I was actually talking about the way he split the alliance – which if he hadn't been a control freak he would have managed to maybe keep together. Which was sad if perhaps inevitable.
Patricia, I know how you feel. I think maybe for the first time in my life I'm not going to vote. The whole system is geared towards the loss of sovereignty by nation states, who as John Berger puts it exist only to "protect the interest of the market's mega- enterprises and above all to control and police the redundant."

Anonymous said...

Good on you Patricia...New Zealand workers are now suffering because of LABOUR!!!! Because of the Rogernomes and what followed...and it seems quite acceptable for this to be the case...Our employment law is crap...What happened to the recommendation from the UN that we fall into line with other territories and have a maximum of a 48 hour week...Nothing because
National despises workers, ACT hates them, the Greens aren't sure, LABOUR once were the workers, BUT hey they sold out years ago...What a complete SHAM...

New Zealand had a chance but that ship sailed long ago...

Anonymous said...

Good comment

Unknown said...

agreed

greywarbler said...

Great summary David Stone. It rings true from what I know and what I think happened, and is happening. Now is the time to splash some cold water on our heated brains and emotions. Before winter makes it very difficult, unpleasantly almost inhumanly cold, perhaps impossible.

manfred said...

That 'neoliberal' Labour party has just released it's policy to give 3 years of free tertiary education. Natlite my arse. The ruling class is scared of the New Zealand Labour Party because it remains a party of progressive ideas.

manfred said...

Labour are wisely keeping Goff and Shearer because, despite their 3rd way politics, they are extremely talented, principled, hard working and high profile MP's. Andrew Little is freeing up Goff so he can appeal to centre and right voters in the Auckland mayoralty race....thus preserving and extending the gains of the Len Brown administration.

Do you Labour-haters on the left have no idea how politics is done in this era? This isn't the 70's anymore.

Murray White said...

The tories know the cost of everything and value of nothing. They are united by their greed. Hence not much dissent over principles. The left is populated by thinking people with different values, hence the constant debate and dissent. The Rogernomes only success appears to be in moving the centre far to right, thus giving the left no access to any meaningfull part to play. Coup complete.

Bushbaptist said...

The TPPA is nothing more than a corporate take-over of sovereign countries, nothing more - nothing less. All we got out of it is a vague promise that we just might get access to the US market for our dairy products sorta -kinda in 20 years time!

Your right David Stone, Key is a Currency Trader (read a gambler with other countries currencies) and a Banker. His mates were the ones that crashed the world economies. He is still a Director on the Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Simply put, he's a Con man.

What's in it for him? Michelle Boag promised him the PM job in 1997 and that is on his CV. He wants to be remembered as the man who changed our flag as well. When he became PM the first thing he did was re-instate the Knighthoods because he wants one. Strangely there is a lot of respect in the US for people with a Brit. Title and Sir John opens doors that he didn't know exists there. He's a US Citizen too.

Anonymous said...

Manfred surely you are not A Real LABOURITE!!

greywarbler said...

So Labour are talking about free education. Baby steps, without adult guidance? C'mon baby you can do it, come to Daddy and Mummy. Have they another policy announcement on how to treat those who already have loans to
repay? They need systems to assist those who have paid and are paying so they can get out of low paying into better paying jobs, so they get something for their money, and start writing off debt with each repayment.
That would attract money from overseas kiwis who might be tempted back.

And they need to stop treating tertiary education as a compost in which businesses grow.It is a resource to draw on, but a viable business seed is needed first. Advice, appraisal and grants for people living here who want to start small businesses and stay in them is needed (but not hucksters force-feeding numbers of them and selling them off quickly before their defects show). We almost need a bond system for someone getting a grant starting a small business, that they have to stay in for five years, and sell it to a NZ resident.

manfred said...

Not quite, but I'm pretty supportive of them. I'm not a member.