The Perfect Backdrop: Why didn't John Key's government secure a distant, easily defended venue - like the exclusive Millbrook Resort pictured here - for the signing ceremony of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement? The choice of Sky City Casino, in the heart of Auckland City, is seen by many as a deliberate provocation to the TPPA's opponents.
IT WAS BARELY SIX MONTHS since the airliners had crashed into the Twin Towers. In strict secrecy, the intelligence chiefs of the five major English-speaking countries had flown into Queenstown for a series of discreet discussions on the global terrorist threat. From the airport they were driven to Millbrook Resort, a five-star accommodation and leisure complex located about 15 kilometres from the town. The chiefs came with their own close protection personnel who operated alongside New Zealand’s Diplomatic Protection police officers. In case Osama Bin Laden’s reach had extended even as far as Queenstown, a special hostage rescue team was kept in readiness throughout.
The “Five Eyes” intelligence colloquium of March 2002 would have passed entirely unnoticed had a sharp-eyed individual not recognised Robert F. Mueller, the newly appointed Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, stepping off an unmarked Gulfstream 5 aircraft at Queenstown Airport. (As the French saboteurs of the Rainbow Warrior discovered back in 1985, we Kiwis don’t miss much!)
The question that is exercising many New Zealanders minds, 14 years later, is why our Government has decided against staging the signing ceremony of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) at a venue like the Millbrook Resort. Hundreds of miles from the country’s main population centres, and easily defended, it would have provided a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop to what the Government clearly considers the most important trade treaty New Zealand has ever helped to negotiate. A remarkable agreement, signed in the shadow of the Remarkables. What could be better than that!
Or more enjoyable for the trade representatives from the twelve countries – including the United States and Japan – who are party to the TPPA? It was, after all, the Millbrook Resort which played host to President Bill Clinton when he visited New Zealand in 1999. The President was as fulsome in his praise of its hospitality as his senior spooks were, no doubt, appreciative of its discretion three years later. Why, then, has Mr Key rejected the option that promised his esteemed guests an enjoyable and trouble-free signing ceremony? Why has he decided that the ceremony will, instead, be held at the Sky City Casino in Auckland?
The cynics among us have hailed the choice of a casino as the ideal venue for the signing ceremony. If you’re intent on making a wager as large and potentially catastrophic as the TPPA – where better than a gambling den! Also, as possibly the best domestic example of what can happen when transnational corporations and politicians adopt a common view of the future, the Sky City Casino (and Conference Centre!) has revealed the shape of things to come in the TPPA’s corporate-friendly Pacific.
But, for those of us who expect our Government to keep the peace and maintain law and order, the choice of Sky City as the signing ceremony venue has raised a number of very disturbing questions.
The casino is situated in the heart of downtown Auckland – the city that, just a few months ago, turned out between 10,000 and 15,000 anti-TPPA protesters. Feeling against the agreement is still running high, and the Prime Minister’s decision to effectively rub his opponent’s noses in the Government’s victory has done nothing to calm the situation. Many Aucklanders are now openly speculating that Mr Key would not be too upset if the inevitable mass protests against the signing of the TPPA turned into a riot.
Police confirmation that “public order training” – riot control – has been underway for some time in anticipation of increased “civic unrest” arising out of the signing decision has been received by opponents of the TPPA as ultimate proof of the Government’s bad faith.
Their mistrust is understandable given the Government’s initial flat-out denial that it was hosting the TPPA signing in New Zealand on 4 February. There is also considerable bad feeling about the proximity of the signing ceremony to Waitangi Day. Fear of the loss of national sovereignty is the prime motivator of opposition to the TPPA. To organise the signing of the agreement, in a casino, just 48 hours before the day that celebrates the birth of the nation, must surely rank as one of this Prime Minister’s most provocative acts.
It is also alarmingly at odds with the style of political leadership he has demonstrated to date. Mr Key, like the prime minister with whom he is most frequently compared, Sir Keith Holyoake, is considered a consensus-seeker – not a polariser and provocateur. For that we must turn to Sir Robert Muldoon – the last National Party leader to court riot and disorder for narrow electoral advantage.
Such cynicism was, perhaps, forgivable in a political leader staring down the barrel of imminent defeat, but John Key’s love affair with the electorate continues unabated.
Nothing good can come from this decision, Prime Minister.
Please, go to Millbrook.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 26 January 2016.
You hit the nail on the head the other day. Only those who don't vote for National are against the TPPA. The rest are happy enough as they already trust Key and the opposition to it (from a marketing perspective) is a mish-mash of messages, some of which were proved to be false when the text was released. Therefore Key wants protestors for maximum media coverage to reinforce support among his supporters.
Tovarish Chris, of course John Key is courting aggressive protest, he announced just a week ago that will seek a fourth term, the timing and the statement were planned as part of the TPPA signing process.
Read and listen to your last Bowalley Road post, that is the only answer!!!!.
Cannot make it to-night but will be there on the 4th.
I still don't get what the anti TTPA protesters are all about.
As far as I can see the agreement reduces tariffs on a large number of NZ Exports to many of our main trading partners.
The main nemesis appears to be the Dispute Resolution Procedure - this is nothing new they have been included in most/all of NZ free trade agreements over the last 15 years or so.
The sky hasn't fallen in. We have had governments of both right and left who have implemented their policies and I haven't seen any examples of 'corporations' dragging our government to court as a result.
I actually suspect a lot of the heat comes from ongoing frustration at the ineptness of left wing politicians who have wandered in the wilderness so long now the 12 tribes of the left are growing restless with frustration.
For John Key it is a win win. He gets kudos from Middle NZ for enhancing NZ export prospects if the signing goes ahead without drama.
If a riot breaks out then this will further isolate the left from Middle NZ and Key will again receive further support as Middle NZ detest unlawfulness.
The one move the left could make which would deflate Key'd balloon would be for Little to announce that after careful consideration of the TPPA agreement Labour will support it.
This would show Little (and Labour) as acting with statesmanship in the interest of NZ inc. Might be the game changer they have hunted for for 7 years.
Not going to happen - the knives would be turned from Key to Little in a blink of an eye.
I suspect Labour know that the TPPA isn't the boogie monster they have been scaring the public about but they can't be seen to support it as their rabid base are frothing at the mouth about this. So they sit on the fence. And we all know about fence sitters - they tend to be despised and suffer in the polls.
The aspect of TPPA that most worries me is the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 years. It will impede access to a lot of classic recordings of music that have been reissued and remastered from recordings older than 50 years. Naxos is the most prominent label in this field, amongst many European labels. It is mostly material that the old dinosaur record labels have lost interest in, but is still of great cultural value.
My next worry is that the proposed US/EU trade deal will also adopt the copyright extension. What a price we pay for Pax Americana.
I just hope that the TPPA is scuppered by the US parliamentary forces.
Polls show 25% of the population support the TPPA, 25% oppose it and 50% have no opinion or idea on it. Almost certainly those who oppose it hail from the hard left of the spectrum - all the usual suspects - Minto, Haager, Harre, Kelsey and Trotter. The usual leftists stirrers the right thinking majority correctly do not trust.
The question which is never answered and will of course never be answered by this rabble of mountebanks is why would a government sign us up to a disaster of the proportions of which they say the TPPA is and whats more why would Helen Clarke and the most senior members of the Labour party argue the deal is safe and beneficial for the country - in fact they describe us as mad not to sign up.
It might just be that the TPPA is in fact good news for us (I certainly think it is), it might not be some cunning plan by cynical neoliberal oligarchs or theyre puppets John Key and Helen Clarke to rob us blind - maybe the opponents, this rag tag of economically illiterate mountebanks and paranoiacs are just banging the pot like they always do - let them march, better still encourage them to riot so middle NZ sees them for the hariy unwashed freakshow which they are - bring it on Trotter.
I went to the Town-hall meeting last night, it reminded of the 'Moment of truth' meeting but without the giggling German.
The first hour was the most boring hour of speech and nonsense that was mine and other concerned citizens had to sit through.
Jane Kelsey was a little better but on reflection I felt that all she was saying was that the NZ negotiators were incompetent and she should have been there. Because she was not there meant that there were dead rats to swallow.
The politicians were a little better and Metiria Turei should be noted for stating clearly that the Greens were against TPPA. Kudos to her.
Grant Robertson spoke without saying anything and did NOT say that Labour were against TPPA, it was the bob each way speech and though well delivered, "Smarmy".
I still intend to go to the protest on the 4th but I am deflated.
Why would a government sign is up to it? It's more a question of religion than actual facts. Free trade is good – no matter what the evidence. Because that's what their "Gods" say.
Littles 'bob each-way' politics on the TPPA is starting to fall apart with Goff and Shearer stating they support TPPA.
Now Andrew Little what will your bureaucratic little mind do about this mess?.
I see that in addition to Helen Clarke, Mike Moore and John Key, we also have ex labour leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer supporting the TPP, Goff may even cross the floor so strongly committed is Labours most experienced and trade savvy MP to the virtues of the TPP.
So on one side we have 4 prior labour leaders and the current prime minister, on the other a rag tag bunch of hard left hooligans lead (if anonymous at 27 January 2016 at 12:03 is anything to by) a narcissistic Marxist professor , your looking more and more isolated Trotter, all we need to cap it off is for these hairy brown rice munching crazies to rip off they're tin foil hats start a riot - now that would be the sweetest outcome for right thinking middle NZ - get me the popcorn trotter its game on.
I wonder if those hairy brown rice munching crazies can spell. Probably. Which quite possibly means they have more actual intelligence than you anonymous 9:53. God this place is getting a little bit like American websites where about 30% of the comments are by semi-illiterates, who tend to write in all caps. I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies.
Why do governments sign? The very simple answer is this - for personal gain. Governments are made up of people, politicians to be a little more precise, and many people and many politicians act in their own interests first and foremost. Its an age old habit that will never die. All politicians championing this deal are going to benefit, in some way, from this deal. As will their Europeans counterparts when they sign their version of TPPA - TTIP. And they will all collectively benefit once more when they sign the final piece of this puzzle - TISA into action. TISA being the privatisation of everything that isn't already privatised for those not in the know. Goodbye public hospitals, education, infrastructure,,parks,libraries and so on. An aside, it is interesting that one nation only lies at the heart of all three deals. One nation. But alas, its not like we give a shyt, we as in countless other nations. Right!
So, despite being elected representatives, all too many politicians put their own interests ahead of those they supposedly represent. Again, history is littered with such moments, but we, as in everyone else, we never learn and we never will.
We will get what we deserve, which is sweet stuff all.
GS, What evidence do you have that free trade is not good? I'm also interested to know if you believe that NZ should rescind the CER with Australia and our FTA's with China and Korea? It not why?
God as usual you want a simple answer, and there isn't one. Free trade is good for some – maybe. But for countries like the US, and New Zealand it is less good. The US has seen jobs leave the country, wages go down – not even keeping up with productivity, and environmental standards slip. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
Secondly it's not necessarily about trade, but about big businesses and finance. Small businesses tend to suffer, particularly in farming. Thirdly, the agreements tend to force the privatisation of many government services – to which I am philosophically opposed. Fourthly it's antidemocratic. I don't believe that they should allow the government to be sued for introducing laws which cut their profits, particularly as in Canada, these laws were designed to protect the environment and people. Fifthly it doesn't prevent currency manipulation, and that's a lot of what so-called 'business' is about these days. And lastly, it's not really aimed at increasing living standards or anything like that, it's simply a whole lot of rules to protect investors. Something we've managed to do in the past, while raising living standards as well. Plus investing in infrastructure et cetera et cetera. Lastly, I'm not actually the one making the claim. You people are. And I can't see a lot of evidence for free trade being 'good'. I mean a lot of projections but it seems there's not a lot of agreement about it except within Treasury, and if you trust them I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you. I could probably go on, but it's early and I need some coffee.
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