Monday, 1 February 2016

Andrew Little's Labour: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

A Big Gesture: Having begun the week clumsily in relation to the TPPA and Mr Goff, Andrew Little was anxious to close it with a State of the Nation speech that, for once, contained more substance than style. Taking a leaf out of US Senator Bernie Sander’s policy book, Labour now promises 3 years of free post-school education. For Phil Goff, the Rogernome who first proposed user-pays tertiary education, Mr Little’s speech could be interpreted as an ideological slap in the face.
 
THERE HAS BEEN PRAISE from a veteran of the “Rogernomics” Labour caucus for Andrew Little’s handling of Phil Goff. Recalling the David Lange-led caucus’s 1988 expulsion of Jim Anderton – for upholding Labour policy! – Jenny Kirk (Labour MP for Birkenhead, 1987-1990) has applauded Mr Little for “making progress on pulling [his own] caucus together – in a difficult environment.”
 
But Ms Kirk’s approbation, while characteristically generous, is misplaced. Not only has Phil Goff’s “dispensation” to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) not pulled Labour’s ranks together (quite the reverse!) it has also been seized upon by Labour’s opponents to discredit the party’s anti-TPPA stance.
 
The TPPA endorsements of former Labour leaders: from Mike Moore and Helen Clark, to Phil Goff and David Shearer; have been a Godsend for the agreement’s supporters. “What can be so wrong with the TPPA”, they demand, “when four out of the last six Labour leaders support it?”
 
It’s a fair question, but one which Labour – for fear of re-opening the old wounds of the 1980s and 90s – is loath to answer. At some point, however (and it may have arrived) the Labour Party is going to have to confront the ghosts of its Rogernomics past and lay them, finally, to rest.
 
There is simply no upside to being utterly defenceless before your history. Labour may be ready to reclaim its progressive heritage – as its position on the TPPA makes clear. But, unfortunately, as Mr Goff’s “dispensation” makes clear, it’s still not ready to repudiate 25 years of neoliberalism.
 
Labour members and supporters have been in the ears of Labour MPs for decades, urging them to cast adrift the barge-load of rotting ideological garbage that the party has been towing behind it since the 1980s. They also suggested the enforced retirement of every MP who refuses to acknowledge the stench. All to no avail. The Bible says: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” Unfortunately, far too many of Labour’s dogs never left!
 
Had Labour’s caucus followed the lead of its own Draft Party Platform in 2013, and condemned unequivocally the toxic legacy of Rogernomics (inequality, poverty, community decay) then, today, Mr Little would have no difficulty answering his critics’ questions about former Labour leaders’ pro-TPPA views.
 
“Mike Moore, Phil Goff and David Shearer are all convinced Rogernomes,” he’d say, “so of course they’re unable to recognise the threat posed to New Zealand’s national sovereignty by the TPPA.” And Helen? “Well, sadly, Helen drank just enough of the neoliberal Kool-Aid over her nearly 30 years in Parliament to render her incapable of telling the difference between a genuine free trade agreement (like her own China-NZ FTA) and yet another, US-sponsored, corporate power grab.”
 
Jenny Kirk would likely argue that the cable which attaches Labour to its stinking barge is old and strong, and not susceptible to being severed by a single, heroic, blow from Mr Little’s reforming sword. Labour members and supporters should, therefore, exercise patience while he works his way through its many twisted strands with a much more practical hacksaw.
 
Certainly, it must be acknowledged that there are many in Labour’s camp who were pleasantly surprised that Mr Little and his colleagues were, at least, willing to cut the TPPA adrift. Clearly, his recent summer sojourn in the United States and the United Kingdom brought him into contact with members of the Democratic Party for whom (as US trade critic, Lori Wallach, has been telling audiences up and down the country this past week) opposition to the TPPA is a “no brainer”, and who couldn’t understand the NZ Labour Party’s reticence on the issue.
 
While in the US, Mr Little also witnessed the surging campaign of the “democratic-socialist” Senator for Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Young Americans, in particular, “Feel the Bern” on account of his promise to restore free tertiary education in America’s publicly owned universities.
 
Labour, like many other Kiwi institutions, seems unaware of just how far its definition of the possible now lags behind the rest of the world’s. It’s as though, having embraced change with reckless fervour in the 1980s, Labour just switched off its critical faculties, smugly assuming that its policies remained at the cutting-edge – even though that “edge” had long since re-located itself.
 
Perhaps Mr Little’s American reality-check explains why, having begun the week clumsily in relation to the TPPA and Mr Goff, he was anxious to close it with a State of the Nation speech that, for once, contained more substance than style. Taking a leaf out of Senator Sander’s policy book, Labour now promises 3 years of free post-school education.
 
For Phil Goff, the Rogernome who first proposed user-pays tertiary education, Mr Little’s speech could be interpreted as an ideological slap in the face.
 
Keep wielding that hacksaw, Andrew. Progress is being made.
 
This essay was originally published by Fairfax Media on Monday, 1 February 2016.

17 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Free tertiary education? Cue the blimps crapping on about how we can't afford it. Funny, it's done in such widely divergent countries as Germany and Brazil. Seems like a no-brainer to me, though as someone said it still catering to the middle-class. Putting a bit more money into primary and secondary education wouldn't go amiss IMO.

peterlepaysan said...

Goff's departure to auckland mayoralty will be no loss to labour. It will be a gain for national who will not have to deal with that irritating Brown person. Goff will certainly be more amenable to the national "wheeling and dealing" ethos as epitomised by JK.

Little is making it easy for Goff to leave.

Shearer has no power base outside caucus and no exit route.

Anonymous said...

A well written piece:
You may say progress is being made, well what about the madness of 'maybe, yes and no' on the TPPA ?.
I would say that the man is a ventriloquist's dummy, a man that can sat yes and no within hours and a man with unsafe hands.
Your article fails to note the disquiet that much of the business and working community of New Zealand feel about the man and his Party.
I would say the man is a dolt and despite the bribe and desperation of free tertiary, the polls will prove or disprove the polemic.

peter petterson said...

Chances are the TPP won't make it in the US. It takes a couple of years for it to go through. So it may not be worth the paper its written on. There should be more leftwing policies going through the Labour caucus in the next year. Suggest you support them, or there could be suggestions for you to follow the TPP.

Anonymous said...

Chris stop referring to Labour as progressive.
That is a misnomer as their trade policy is regressive , based on lies and incredible misunderstanding.
You will have read Jacobis analysis of Littles Tppa arguments and he shows Little to be a liar.
I say liar hopefully , because the thought of a potential leader of this country being so misinformed , is scary.

Chris Trotter said...

I'll do no such thing, Anonymous@9:17.

Jacobi's letter re: Little's stance on the TPPA is remarkable only for the number of points he is forced to concede to its opponents.

No lying is exposed - merely the extraordinary extent of Jacobi's unwarranted optimism about the agreement.

If you had been listening to RNZ's "Morning Report" this morning you would have heard a correspondent from the Financial Times confirming everything Lori Wallach and Jane Kelsey were telling large audiences in their speaking tour of the country last week.

Proponents of the TPPA, like yourself, are having to resort to ever more extreme accusations against the TPPA's opponents because, as the document is subjected to finer and finer expert scrutiny, the claims made on its behalf are exposed as little more than naïve and unsupported assertion.

Present your own, peer-reviewed, analysis, Anonymous, and then, perhaps, people may take you seriously.

Anonymous said...

To be frank, as someone a few years ago presented myself as a serious option as advisor to the last few Labour leaders - met and spoke with front benchers etc, the General Sec etc to no avail; I do wonder who are the ham-fisted gormless knuckle heads advising Little et al

I just see absurd mistake after absurd mistake after absurd mistake after absurd mistake to the point that in 2017 Labour will stand for nothing and lose again.

Anonymous said...

What are Lori Wallach's credentials to be speaking on this? Looking at another blog, their opinion is that she doesn't have a high profile in the US

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@10:08

Lori Wallach has promoted the public interest regarding globalization and international commercial agreements in every forum: Congress and foreign parliaments, the courts, government agencies, the media, and the streets.

Described as "Ralph Nader with a sense of humour" in a Wall Street Journal profile and dubbed "the Trade Debate's Guerrilla Warrior" in a National Journal profile, for 20 years Wallach has played a prominent role in the United States and internationally in the roiling debate over the terms of globalization.

With a lawyer's expertise in the terms and outcomes of trade agreements, she has testified on NAFTA, WTO, and other globalization issues before 30 U.S. congressional committees, been a trade commentator on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, Fox, CNBC, C-SPAN, Bloomberg, PBS, NPR and numerous foreign outlets, and been published and quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Financial Times, and more.

As a relentless campaigner, Wallach has played an important role in creating public debate and supporting public activism about the implications of different models of globalization on jobs, livelihoods, and wages; the environment; public health and safety; and democratically accountable governance.

Her most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority (2013). She also wrote Whose Trade Organization? A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO (2004) and has contributed to numerous anthologies.

Wallach's work in "translating" arcane trade legalese – indeed, entire trade agreements – into relevant, accessible prose and connecting people's lived experiences with pacts' legal requirements, has helped empower more diverse participation in trade and globalization discussions.

In 1993, Wallach was a founder of the Citizens Trade Campaign, a U.S. national coalition of consumer, labour, environmental, family farm, religious, and civil rights groups representing over 11 million Americans, and serves on its board. Wallach, a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School, previously worked on Capitol Hill, on electoral campaigns, and in television news.

Care to give us your credentials, Anonymous?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Elizabeth Warren doesn't like the ISDS. That's pretty much good enough for me, there's a politician who actually knows stuff. Pity we don't have a great many like her.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually this is interesting if you go to the link.

"If you read the 2015 report, you'll quickly see that many of the complaints are about laws designed to promote environment, labor, and anti-monopolistic practices – and relate only vaguely to the larger issue of trade and tariffs. The complaints seem more focused around opposing regulations that restrict the rights of multi-national corporations and their investors."
Assuming the link will appear. If not I will post it.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Can't be bothered waiting. Got stuff to do.
https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2015%20NTE%20Combined.pdf
so here it is.

Andrew Nichols said...

Anonymous hides as someone too farid to put their name to a point of view. Pseudonyms and anon should be banned.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris for your background to Lori Wallach. Just to state - I have no credentials - how cutting! (probably like a vast majority of the population and your posters), but it was a fair question to ask regarding someone otherwise unknown to most of us commentating on what is an important matter. Phil Quin notes she has 1,447 Twitter followers and yet she is involved with a group (you state) that represents 11,000,000 - hardly computes. Phil Quin may be wrong, of course. I note that from a search, Lori Wallach founded Global Trade Action herself, so sometimes such a self-started organisation only serves as a "legitimatised" front to push one's own barrow. Not detracting from her though.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er... Would you care to prove that you're Andrew Nichols Andrew? You could be Donald Trump for all we know.

Anonymous said...

As the R'nomes were further right that Ghengis...are you saying Chris we have in GOFF an ACT acolyte standing for mayor?..Yeah, Yipee NOT!

Anonymous said...

Chris, You are too kind to Helen Clark. You say that Andrew Little would say “Mike Moore, Phil Goff and David Shearer are all convinced Rogernomes”, as if Helen Clark wasn't. I recall an article in "The Press" by Oliver Riddell in which he said that there were only two cabinet ministers who voted against the flat tax proposal in cabinet: David Lange and Michael Cullen. This suggests that Helen Clark voted for it. Didn't she claim to be a socialist? If she was a socialist why would she vote for a flat tax? If, as I understand, cabinet papers are released after 30 years then next year can't we find out whether she did vote for a flat tax?
I suggest that it was predictable that she would support the TPPA because to oppose it wouldn't help her chances of getting the Secretary General's job at the UN. In my opinion she was doing what she always did - look after herself. I think she wasn't a socialist but rather a Clarkist.