Gosh! I’ve got an Election!

Oh how I love Democracy. What is it about Election Day that makes everything feel better? From the first cup of coffee in the morning to the final single malt scotch enjoyed as the TV coverage winds down in the early hours of the next day, everything has a better flavour. The sky looks bluer, even though it isn’t and everyone out and about has a keen and purposeful look in their eye.

To the polling booth then…..

Personally, I don’t rush to be there early. The exercising of one’s right to vote is better savored slowly like a good scotch. So I take my time over it and finally present myself at the desk around lunchtime. Get my ballot papers and find the funny little cardboard booth that feels just right. The nasty orange marker pens are something of a letdown I always find. They lack a certain gravitas. But then I spend my customary few moments in quiet remembrance of that brave Chinese lad who stood before the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Would he have cared what he got to vote with? He’d probably have been happy with a bit of charcoal or a wax crayon just as long as it got him that which so many of us take for granted. Thank you fellow, whoever you were. I won’t forget you and I hope nobody else ever does either.

On with the voting. I already know where my ticks are going and have done so for a long time. ‘Undecided Voter’ is just another word for Slack Brained Cretin in my book. I then wonder if I’ll inscribe my ticks with a sharp flourish or do them slowly and with care. Always a tricky one. I compromise this time and do the party vote one way and the candidate the other. Then of course comes the feeling of wanting MORE! Deposit the ballots in the appropriate boxes and it’s all over. If it wasn’t for the long delayed batch of home brew that I put on to mash earlier and have to get home to, I’d be here for another hour or so, getting in the way and passing the time of day with other voters.

When all is said and done, it hasn’t been a bad election campaign. A couple of months ago I felt it might all be a bit of a let down, what with National looking so strong in the polls and Labour stuck in that morbid first term of opposition. But then came the resurgence of ‘The Thing From Tauranga That Would Not Die’ and the PM foolishly soiling himself in public. Suddenly the whole race came to life and a jolly good thing too in my view.

So lets study ‘The Form’ as the sporting fraternity would have it. Starting with….Oh let me see now…..

ACT. Oh dear oh dear. Not since the demise of the Alliance has a party gone into meltdown so totally. Now I’ll say it right here and now, I voted for ACT in ’99, ’02, ’05 and ’08 and felt fine doing it. Over the years this has led to many of my mushy liberal friends wailing things like; “But…But I thought you were a NICE person!” As if I’d suddenly declared a fondness for puppy strangling or running down elderly people with my car. Sorry folks, but the fact is I simply don’t trust leftist politics. And I have nothing but contempt for Conservatives either. Too many starchy bores, repellent rednecks, loud-mouthed rugger buggers and creepy God Botherers in National for me to ever feel simpatico with that lot. It’s like finding out you have to spend the evening with a room full of used car salesmen and the bar is SHUT. So ACT always seemed like the party for me. Or at least it was until poor old Rodney Hide, (Bless his little bald head) went and got hoist with his own petard. Suddenly it was Don Brash and John Banks, just the kind of people I was trying to avoid, politically speaking. It would be rude of me to state that in my opinion Brash is a dotard and Banks is a crook. So I won’t.
But you know….

Now Labour on the other hand is a party for whom I have a lot of respect. I’m not saying I would ever VOTE for them, in fact I think my hand would snap off at the wrist if I ever tried, but there have been times, like ’99, ’02 and ’05 when I was relieved to see them back in power. Helen Clarke gave the country good value for money by and large and her concession speech three years ago must surely rank as one of the most impressive and dignified performances I’ve ever witnessed. Her rise to power and wealth at the UN is well deserved. But, as that nice Texan lady with the guitar observed once, “The secret of a long life is knowing when it’s time to go”. By 2008, Helen Clarke must have known that another term would be a guarantee of rapidly diminishing returns. Labour left the country in better shape than they found it and made hay while the economic sun shone. But with a worldwide slump parked outside the door and sounding its horn, Labour went out with their standing undiminished and Clarke herself pulled off the rare trick of avoiding the traditional shame, failure and disgrace that usually ends a political career.

What I do find sad however is that her party then went and lumbered the capable and intelligent Phil Goff with the thankless task of party leader for the first term on the opposition benches. This is always going to end in tears. Just ask Bill English, he knows what that feels like and where it all leads.
Any party fresh out of office after a good run is going to spend a bit of time dealing with internal stresses and fractures as it rebuilds itself for next time. In less stable countries it may well be possible to unseat a new government after a single term but here in sane, sensible New Zealand it would take some serious weirdness on the part of any party to be fated to just a single term. This, I feel, is something for which we should be very, very grateful, no matter how much we may want our party of choice back in.
So labour might have been better handing that thankless job to a safe, but ultimately disposable, pair of hands like Michael Cullen. He was quitting anyway so why not have him sit out the first three years before handing the refreshed and detoxed party back to Goff for a better run at it in ’14? That way he could have worn the generous splatterings of manure that the Shane Jones and Chris Carter debacles threw about and no harm done.

Still, the generally dignified and intelligent campaign that Labour has run this time around stands in stark contrast to the ill tempered outpourings of their so called ‘Supporters’. I have had to give up on Facebook over the last few weeks as the incessant stream of trashy bile and vitriol issuing from disgruntled Labour and Green types is making me queasy. Can it be that the ugliness that we’ve seen in America from the so called tea party is becoming the default setting for people whose particular political preferences are not being adequately catered to just at the moment? I really hope not. But there it all is…Equating your opponent with Hitler? Check. Describing them in hateful terms? Check. Wailing that the incumbent is ‘Destroying the country and all it stands for’? Check. Behaving like spoiled and stupid redneck BABIES just because the party you happen to like just doesn’t have any traction right now? Check. It’s got so bad I’m waiting for some idiot to start raving about John Key’s bloody BIRTH CERTIFICATE next.
Sit down, Grow up, Shut up.

So how are National doing? Apart from astoundingly well by all appearances? Actually, they are doing horribly. Cast your mind back to the appalling spectacle of our new Prime Minister arriving at his victory rally flanked by huge goons and delivering a speech that had me for one convinced that he’d spent the last hour or so face down over a glass topped coffee table building up his self esteem with certain proscribed stimulants?

It was not a pretty sight. (I should point out that I am not saying that our new PM really did indulge in class A drugs on election night, merely that he looked and behaved as if he had done so, which in this day and age is just as bad).

So began the dangerous Cult of Personality which, let’s face it, will be Mr Key’s undoing in the long run. When a leader becomes bigger than the party he leads then the elections become increasingly presidential and the leadership style itself gets harder and harder to control. Public appearances become increasingly embarrassing and the rest of the cabinet begin to look less like a hard working team and more like the entourage of some fatuous Hollywood A-Lister.

Still, it seems that enough voters in this country are actually watching the extensive foreign coverage that the age of the internet affords us and have decided that while John Key has an unctuousness about him that may be slightly unsettling, the bleak economic woes of the world are such that the National Party are probably the best option for New Zealand at present. Oh yes, and here comes the moaning chorus, “Moan moan, whinge whinge, asset sales, moan moan, environmental stuff, bitch bitch, not FAIR, moan moan….”
Well sorry, but that’s just what a workable majority of people seem to feel right now so don’t blame me.

Suddenly, from my left, (Indeed from most people’s Left) comes an aroma of incense and herbal tea. Can it be the newly energised Green Party? Indeed it can. If any party really deserves to look a bit pleased with themselves this time around it’s the Greens. Their polling has been impressive, though how much of their new support will revert to Labour next time remains to be seen. Right now they look set to gain large chunks of the new parliament and I wish them well with it.
But would I vote for them?
Not really. You see beneath all those carefully cultivated bland smiles and caring cuddly personas I can’t help but detect a whiff of something a tad more sulphurous. The thing is guys, I remember you from the Student Union thirty years back. Not you exactly of course, but your general type. You had ‘Atomic energy, No Thanks’ badges and horrible woolly hats. You smelled of patchouli and took the writings of Marx seriously. You gave off a beastly aura of smug, sanctimonious self righteousness, rode stupid bicycles and you never, ever shut up whining at parties when decent folk were trying to get drunk.
I didn’t trust you back then and I still don’t now. One on one you are delightful people of course but get you in a group and I just can’t help but find you toxic. I well remember back in 2002 when Whathisname with the silly hair came over for an electoral meeting at the Surfdale Hall. What a thick fug of self congratulation and mutual back patting was there! Then I stood up and asked a question that wasn’t in the script. Nandor himself fielded the question with ease but the venom from the rest of the room would, in any other circumstances, have been a bit scary. Luckily of course you were a bunch of old hippies so I was able to leave unscathed.

Why do I suddenly have the urge to paraphrase John Lennon?

‘You have spin doctored smiles when you speak on TV,
And you try to show caring and credibility,
But you’re still hard left zealots as far as I can see…..’

Oh don’t mind me girls and boys. I’m just a nasty old Libertarian at heart and you are welcome to bale me up at the Ostend market and tell me how flat wrong I am on pretty much everything. I won’t mind.

Anyway, time is marching on and the TV coverage of the event is going to start soon so I’d better get this wrapped up and posted before the huge caffeine buzz I have going wears off and I decide to moderate some of my more vexatious observations. I’ve just heard that some poor mad bloke has blown his car up in Wellington. Good going that chap. Now let the local bobbies take you back to their place and find you a nice long flight of stairs to fall down…..

I could blither all day about the other parties but I’ll just content myself by saying I hope Peter Dunn finally gets a good kicking at the polling booths and that I firmly believe that if Honi Harawera and I were ever to sit down together over a few cleansing ales we’d get on like a house on fire.

Let me conclude for now by saying that ultimately I love THE GAME better than I love the individual players and that if politics in this country gives me hours of delirious pleasure then I have proportional representation to thank for it. MMP is quite simply the best thing to have happened in New Zealand and if you were so lost to common sense as to have voted to remove it then you are a fool, and an ass and a prating coxcomb a you don’t deserve a vote.

Now, sit back, pour yourselves a tall glass of something tasty and let the coverage begin.

The Auckland Waste Management and Minimisation Plan – a step too near.

The new Auckland Draft Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP).  A thing we can all be proud of. Congratulations Len and the team.  There are provisions there to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill by 30% by 2018,  There will be a closer relationship between the amount of waste you produce and how much you have to pay; and an organic collection will take food and green waste out of the landfill for composting or digesting.

The council are asking us for our thoughts on this matter, they have even produced this sweet consultation document printed on nice wholemeal paper, that asks us some questions.  Its almost as if we have a choice, or a chance to influence the process.

You can read the documents and download submission forms here: http://tinyurl.com/awmmp and you can also pick up a summary at the Waiheke Resources Trust office in Oneroa.

The headlines are:

  • Disposer pays for household refuse, but not recyclables, or organic waste.
  • Everyone gets wheelie bins which count how often they are used (exceptions for Gulf Islands – Waiheke gets both bins and bags)
  • Recyclables are still co-mingled – broken glass and paper together.
  • A weekly organic collection (green and food waste)
  • and some changes to the inorganic collection.

The Zero Waste website http://www.zerowaste.co.nz/whats-nz-doing/get-involved-auckland-councils-proposed-waste/
Will give you a good run down of the proposals and what is good and bad about each of them.

Please read that link as I am not going to use this blog to go over what is wrong with wheelie bins and co-mingling again. I want to look at just how non-aspirational this plan actually is.

Sadly although the plan is a step forward from the current state for most suburbs It is really flawed, its just not that obvious at first because they get to ask the questions of you – instead of the other way around. Its basically a big con – and to see that all you have to do is follow the money.

The headline aspiration is Zero Waste, That sounds brilliant, who could be against producing no waste?  But wait, what do they actually mean by zero waste – not much it seems, they mean that they want to reduce the proportion of household waste collected that goes to landfill by 30% by 2018.  So leaving aside for the moment the fact that household waste is only 17% of the total amount of stuff thrown away.  All we are talking about is burying a bit less and recycling a bit more.
As far as I can tell – if the council achieves all its aims it still won’t achieve the level of quality recycling found on Waiheke when we had CleanStream.

Still every bit counts doesn’t it? The less that goes to landfill the more that gets recycled – and recycling is good yes?

Well no.

Lets step back a moment and get the bigger picture.  What really matters is the total amount of energy used and the total amount of pollution produced in the whole process.  And perhaps the total amount of money spent in the process – who pays and who profits.

Lets take this plastic water bottle.
The plastic is made from polyethelene – a petrochemical – i.e Oil.  To make it required energy – i.e more oil, to ship it to the factory from china – oil, to truck it to the supermarket – oil and to get it home – more oil.  That’s a lot of oil to get something that falls on my roof and then comes straight out of my tap.  So when I buy it I pay, I pay an amount that represents the whole oil fuelled economy up to the supermarket – plus a few cents extra for the water inside.

So maybe I refill it a couple of times, before throwing it away, and lets say I put it in my recycle bin.  A truck comes and picks it up (oil), ships it to south Auckland (oil)  where it is sorted by machines (more oil) and then away to another plant (probably in China – a whole ton of oil) where it can be melted down and made into another plastic bottle (oil) or is perhaps just burnt to run the plant (Carbon emissions).   Then off it goes back around the loop.  That’s if the plastic gets made into another bottle,  More likely each trip around the loop the plastic is down-cycled, turned into something lower grade – like black bin bags, or fuel for incinerators.  Eventually after delivering just a few drinks of water that plastic bottle has to end up somewhere – floating in the ocean, buried in landfill – maybe in someone else’s country, or burnt up, releasing its carbon into the atmosphere along with all the carbon from all the processes and trips encountered during its lifetime.

Lets hammer that point home.  Everything that leaves your hand and hits that bin represents energy expended in its creation, and energy to expend in its disposal – one way or another that object is going to end up as some form of pollution.

Who gets to pay for all this – you and I do – after all we are the only ones in the loop shelling out any money.  And our children will too – because there will be a whole lot of hidden environmental costs that they will have to clean up too.

All recycling takes energy – its better than not recycling only because in theory it costs less energy to re-use hydrocarbons, steel, aluminium etc than to extract it out of the ground in the first place.  And because dumping stuff in holes in the ground pollutes water supplies and uses up valuable holes in the ground.

Really you need to think about not creating the waste in the first place.   Remember the mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? – its that way around for a reason.
Clearly I can replace that plastic water bottle with an aluminium flask that I could probably use for the rest of my life. Or I could just drink my water in a ceramic cup out of the tap.

The WMMP is constructed to only let you think about waste minimisation at the disposal stage. Clearly a serious plan would think about waste minimisation at the creation stage.

Another example – organic waste.
Who hasn’t had a meal, stuffed the left overs in the fridge and forgotten about them until too late, Who hasn’t had yogurts go out of date, or bananas go rotten.  We all have occasions where food gets thrown away.  Even enviro greenies growing their own garden veges have clippings, leaves, cores, skins etc that can’t be eaten.
If this stuff ends up in your everyday refuse bag – and then goes to the landfill it will biodegrade wonderfully – producing in the process quite a lot of methane gas and associated yucky gloop.  Now while there are some landfills that catch that gas and use it for electricity – ( I helped build one once). For the most part it just seeps out – the gas into the atmosphere, the gloop into the water.   Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so along with those cow farts your rotten banana skin is doing its little bit for climate change. (although most of that took place in getting it to you in the first place).

So it is great that in the plan the council will provide you with a small bin you can use for your food and green waste, and will collect it weekly so it doesn’t get too smelly.  After that they will drive it all somewhere (oil again) and, compost it, then drive it to a garden shop (oil)  where you can buy it back again.  They might not even compost it – instead using it as fuel for a small energy plant – great eh, slightly less oil gets used and the carbon ends up in the atmosphere anyway.

Or you could just put it in a compost bin in your garden – save all that oil and get your own compost.   Or if you don’t have space or quite enough waste to keep a compost heap going you could use Bokashi – basically a pickle barrel that does a similar job.

So again the solution offered is to collect, and dispose, out of site out of mind,  Instead of teaching people how to create less organic waste in the first place, and how to manage it themselves.

Researchers have found that if you can’t see how much waste you are producing then it is easier for you to produce more.  Or put the other way around – when people are asked to weigh the amount of food waste they produce they then start to produce less, sometimes a lot less.

You see – This is not really about waste minimisation at all – its about money,  who gets to make some money out of the whole system and how can they maximise their profit. That lovely consultancy document is actually someones business plan.

Making all the bins alike, using bins rather than bags, using complex RFID counters, co-mingling, routing all recycling through a central processing plant.  These are all steps that allow a company to start to build a monopoly business in waste management.   They all make it harder for competition to enter the market.

That monopoly gets paid for the amount of waste that it processes, It gets paid to collect stuff, paid to move stuff, paid to sort stuff and then gets to sell the stuff as well.  The only person who is paying in this loop is you the householder. either directly or through the amount the taxes and rates pays on your behalf.

Such a company’s fundamental incentive therefore is to have as much stuff going around that loop as possible.  That’s why the bins are so big – It hides just how much stuff you are throwing away.  It makes it possible for you to feel good about recycling while making them a fat profit, and increasing the GDP of the country.  Now really I’ve no problem with someone making a profit for performing a good service – My issue is when what makes good business sense to them – makes bad sense to the environment.

At the end of the day – everything that you throw away represents energy expended and at some point in the future – water pollution and greenhouse gases.  So unless the plan gives a strong incentive for EVERYONE involved to reduce the TOTAL amount of waste in circulation we are actually going to get the opposite effect.  Yes there might be a reduction in landfill – but there will be an increase in energy used and pollution generated.

Any guess what – when oil doubles or triples in price – this business model is going to go bust anyway. That whole lot of driving stuff around just won’t make sense.

A real plan would move from householder pays to producer pays  – where the companies that put all this stuff together in the first place – the excess packaging, the unnecessary bags, bottles, cans, uneaten, inedible food etc.

A real plan would reward me more – for using less stuff.  For buying a big bag of beans and learning to cook instead of canned baked beans.  For learning how to not have to throw food away.  For learning how to do my own compost and grow my own tomatoes.

A real plan would allow local communities to create local solutions, rewarded for overall gains in sustainability, energy and pollution reduction.  It would encourage local boards to establish by-laws restricting disposable bottles, or requiring deposit returnable bottles.

So Auckland Planners – I’m giving you a C+ for a first effort. Now go back and work out what it would take to get an A.

The Candidate’s and the TPPA

Its election time, a time when you can expect to hear more often from your local MP ( or wannabe MPs) than usual. A good time then to find out what they think about various important policy issues. Of course its traditional that Candidates will say pretty much anything to get elected – so its important to record those answers for future reference.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the candidates meeting on the island last weekend. And from what I hear it was so busy that it would have been hard to get a word in anyway. So perhaps its best that I send my questions in by email and allow for a more thoughtful and considered answer. Of course I am hoping that I will have more success with my local candidates than Radio NZ had with the National Party.

Here is the question I sent them it is about the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), if this new free trade deal is new to you you can find out more at http://tppwatch.org/what-is-tppa/

The GATT and NAFTA trade deals were disastrous for workers in the countries involved, with job losses, environmental degradation, human exploitation and debt growth.  The only beneficiaries have been a few multinational companies.

The TPPA restricts our ability to set laws that govern the behaviour of corporations,  It allows their business interests to be set over our public interest. Their profits over our health and environment.

  • What is your party’s policy on such trade deals?
  • What is your personal opinion?
  • If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?
  • Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?
  • And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?

Here is the reply from Labour’s Jacinda Ardern:

Dear Andrew

Thanks for sending through your questions that you were intending to ask at the candidates forum. It’s a shame that you were unable to make the meeting, but I’m more than happy to answer your queries regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

In terms of our party’s policy, the Labour Party supports moving forward with the TPPA, however, having said that, we do not support signing it at all costs.

An example of an issue that we are concerned may be put in jeopardy by the TPPA is the future of Pharmac. I believe that the negotiations thus far have the potential to jeopardise New Zealand’s ability to purchase pharmaceuticals at a good price and we are concerned that multinational pharmaceutical corporations may exert extraordinary pressure on the government to change Pharmac in its current form. Binding pharmaceutical prices is a move that would only be advantageous for multinational corporations, not for New Zealanders . For us, it’s about making sure that New Zealand doesn’t have its sovereignty negotiated away in a trade agreement.

We’re also committed to making any such negotiations transparent and accountable to all New Zealanders. In April of 2011, we supported a petition asking for a Foreign Affairs Select Committee hearing into the potential implications for New Zealand of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. The petition, which was signed by significant groups such as the Council of Trade Unions, Oxfam and the Public Health Association, amongst others, asked that the relevant Select Committee convened a hearing into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and sought to provide a greater openness and transparency around the negotiating process and content.

Ultimately, Labour is of the belief that Trade agreements must work for Kiwis and for kiwi interests. We support greater transparency around trade talks and, in government, we would ensure that the views of those who had real interests in the impact of such talks had their voices heard.

Hopefully this response has answered your queries. If you’re interested in learning more about Labour’s policy in regards to Trade, you can read more about it at http://www.ownourfuture.co.nz/trade.

Kind regards,

Jacinda Ardern

Here is the reply from The Green’s Denise Roche, Mainly passing on a policy statement from Russel Norman:

Hi Andrew and Millie – this responds to your question about the TPPA I think. I guess I’d add that the Greens are the only party that has consistently challenged the government on this issue because we recognise that a secret agreement of this nature is a threat to our country’s sovereignty. Labour were suspiciously silent about it this term because they started the negotiations in their last term. I do hope you’ll be getting answers from both Nats and Labour on this issue.

Denise Roche
Auckland Central Electorate Green Party Candidate

Key must come clean about TPP before election

John Key needs to be absolutely clear with the New Zealand public before the election about what is being traded off in the interest of signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

The deadline for the end of negotiations by the end of next year was announced by President Obama at the APEC meeting in Honolulu this morning New Zealand time.

“John Key needs to release the position papers so that in the lead up to the election New Zealanders know what he is giving away in the name of a trade deal,” Dr Norman said.

“It is ridiculous the Governments we are negotiating with have been given these documents, but the people of New Zealand are being kept in the dark.

“It is worrying that Key is promising the sale of our state assets while at the same time giving big rights to foreign companies operating here in New Zealand.”

Dr Norman said the US proposals would open up Government decision making to litigation from United States attorneys in World Bank Courts behind closed doors.

“Signing an agreement in secret that would weaken New Zealand’s sovereignty is not in our long term interests,” said Dr Norman.

“This is no ordinary trade deal. It is less about getting market access for our products and more about giving new rights to foreign companies that will undermine good Kiwi initiatives like Pharmac.

“We will be seeking to ensure the transparency of these negotiations,” Dr Norman said.

And here is the reply from Nikki Kaye of the National Party …

”  “

Thats right – nothing, nada, not a sausage.  Too busy to reply, or doesn’t know the answer.  Just another example of say nothing, get elected and then you can do as you please because you have a mandate.  – more about that issue at: http://andrew.avowkind.net/nikki-kaye-and-the-no-reply-zone

However we can let this recent press release from the PM stand in for Nikki in this instance:

PM welcomes significant Pacific trade deal progress

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed today’s announcement of the broad outlines for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, and hailed it as an important step towards gaining greater access for New Zealand exporters.

The agreement was announced at a meeting of the nine countries in the TPP hosted by US President Barack Obama on the fringes of the APEC summit on Honolulu.

“This is a significant step in the TPP negotiation process,” says Mr Key.  “Having all nine countries, including New Zealand, agreeing on the broad outlines for an agreement is very important.

“We have always pushed for lower trade barriers.  It is good for our exporters, good for economic growth, and good for New Zealand.

“Today’s announcement signals that there is a strong political commitment from each country to conclude this free trade agreement.

“I look forward to the detailed negotiations to come making substantial progress towards the final goal of a high-quality, comprehensive trade agreement.”

So its clear that they are for it – at least in the general mom and apple pie sense.  Of course the issue lies in the details.

This is my position. There is nothing wrong with the basic principle that countries should be free to sell and exchange goods freely.  In fact trade has been an important basis of civilization and prosperity throughout history. Countries that trade extensively with each other rarely go to war against each other.
That said, what matters is the detail of any specific deal or agreement. It seems to me that when there is a great asymmetry in power and influence between parties to a contract that contract rarely turns out to be fair.  Imagine a school bully offering to buy a smaller child’s trainers for a dollar.  Imagine some protection heavies offering to sell a shopkeeper insurance against accidental fires.  Imagine the world superpower of the US offering to let us sell them our cheese in return for them selling us their GMO corn and soy.
The historical experiences of Mexico, Canada, Australia and many other countries show that ordinary people, farmers and workers end up worse off after such deals than before. We notice that such details have to be negotiated outside of the normal processes of our parliamentary democracy because those involved know that we would never accept them if the facts were laid out clearly.
Let’s be clear – the US might let us import a bit more cheese in the the country – but they will by no means reduce the subsidies on their own producers. So the big deal is that we get to play on a sloping pitch – in a world of rising oil prices.
Free trade agreements target not just barriers to entry and  tariffs (of which we have some of the lowest in the world) but the process of self determination itself.  Our ability to decide how we want to purchase drugs through Pharmac, Our ability to decide to ban cigarettes, Our ability to restrict foreign ownership of NZ corporations or assets. Our ability to decide the labeling of GMO products and so on.
If Messrs Key and English think that this deal is genuinely good for New Zealand, I look forward to it being published in its entirety and put to the vote of the people in a referendum.  If its that good a deal they should have no trouble getting my support.
It seems that Denise and Jacinda are aware of these issues and that’s a good thing. It also seems that it doesn’t really matter what Nikki thinks about the subject – as she will toe the party line come what may anyway.
If you disagree – feel free to comment below.
Addendum  24th Nov.  Nikki Kaye’s reply arrives.

Hi Andrew,

 

Thank you for your email, I realise these are late but here are my answers.

 What is your party’s policy on such trade deals?  What is your personal opinion?

 

Here is the link to National’s trade policy.

 

Below is an article that I wrote earlier this year regarding trade in the Asia-Pacific region which reflects my personal views.

 

Boosting trade in the Asia-Pacific region

 

Recently Prime Minister John Key was in the United States for a meeting with President Obama.  This is very significant as it has been many, many years since a NZ Prime Minister has met with a US President and it signals a strengthening of the relationship between our two counties.  One of the key issues they discussed was trade and the importance of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to our region.

 

The TPP, currently being negotiated, will mean the creation of a free trade agreement between New Zealand, Asia and the USA. It will be the first multi-lateral agreement between Asian countries and the US, and New Zealand businesses will be at its heart. There has been a high level of public interest in the TPP and consultation continues with regular updates on the progress of the negotiations provided on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website www.mfat.govt.nz.

 

International trade remains a cornerstone of the Government’s plan to grow our economy. In Auckland we benefit more than many parts of the country through greater trade access and freer trade with growing Asian economies. Over the past three years our Trade Minister Tim Groser has negotiated or signed trade deals which will bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our shores.

 

We know that to increase our exports, we need to be more integrated with, and connected to, the global economy. That’s why we are focused on breaking down barriers to trade.  The Prime Minister has also recently travelled to India to meet with the Indian Prime Minister with the aim of building stronger ties between our two countries. Auckland is a city with a huge Indian expat community, the benefits of strengthening of this relationship are not just economic but are important for the many Indian families that have chosen to make Auckland their home.

 

Trade between NZ and India is already worth more than $1 billion a year and we want to boost that further.  Auckland has a large community of small to medium businesses and they stand to benefit from free trade arrangements which make our economy more competitive for our exporters.

 

The opportunity to expand our cooperation on trade with the TPP and India will help our exporters to succeed and ensure that we can meet the demands of Asia’s growing middle class.  And if we can do this, I believe we’ll continue to see our economy grow and deliver the new, high paying jobs that Aucklanders need and want.

 

 

If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?

 

The practice of this government, as with our predecessors, has been to give the public and stakeholders full opportunities for input on the key policy issues. For instance, with regard to the TPP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) invited initial public submissions in 2008 and has, with other departments, undertaken more targeted consultations since then (a good example being last year’s extensive round of consultations on intellectual policy issues, which shaped the approach we have taken at the negotiating table). These consultations have deliberately included regular conversations with stakeholders who are critical of the negotiation.

In light of the high level of public interest in TPP, MFAT is also looking at options for making more information available, including producing information papers on key issues and a regular column by TPP negotiators. Officials will continue to undertake stakeholder consultation, and in the meantime regular updates on the progress of the negotiations will be provided on the MFAT’s website www.mfat.govt.nz.

 

As with any other trade agreement, the final TPP deal will go through the full Parliamentary treaty examination process before it is ratified by New Zealand.

 

 

Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?

 

New Zealand’s record on the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements shows that it is possible to negotiate deals that maximize net benefit to New Zealand without making unacceptable policy compromises. This means we hold out for a result that offers clear net benefit and that minimizes the impacts on current domestic policy settings.

 

Cabinet must also approve a National Interest Analysis, which sets out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand in becoming or ceasing to be a party to a treaty or trade negotiation.

 

 

And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?

 

We do not have any current plans to commit to a referendum in this area.  The treaty and trade negotiation process does not affect our sovereignty and goes through a full democratic, legislative process before being ratified.

Best wishes,