Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Protesting - Is it still allowed in New Zealand? Are we still a democracy? Are the media the Spanish Inquisition?

You are probably now very familiar with the dildo throwing incident at Waitangi on Friday 5 February 2016, where a female protester, Josie Butler, threw what we now know was actually a squeaky dildo shaped toy at Minister Steven Joyce's face.  To his credit, Joyce took it on the chin and joked afterwards that someone needed to alert John Oliver from the comedy media show Last Week Tonight so the incident could go to ground faster.

Josie Butler was arrested, but no charges have been laid.  She stated that the NZ Police were professional and did their job appropriately.  Steven Joyce doesn't want to delve into it further, but John Key stated on TVNZ's Breakfast yesterday, "I don't buy the argument that she's some hard-working nurse that we should feel sorry for - I'm sorry."

And here in lies the kicker.  Yes, Josie Butler is a nurse.  A nurse who following the Christchurch earthquakes five years ago received an award from then mayor, Bob Parker, for outstanding service.  Butler has held grave concerns about the TPPA for several years, after being alerted through her union, NZNO (Nurse's Organisation) about the implications to Pharmac, medicines and our health system. 

Butler is not the only person in the health system to share these concerns.  The concerns go right to the top of our medical hierarchy with high ranking medical specialists signing a document expressing their concerns about how the TPPA will impact Pharmac and our health system.

So Butler did not stand still.  She was part of a team in Christchurch that raised awareness of the TPPA, lobbied the city council and protested the TPPA at each opportunity.  This year she took the time out to travel to Waitangi as this offered another opportunity to protest.

Her protesting colleagues did not know what she had planned.  They are divided over the course of action she took.  Some have remonstrated her.  Ms Butler apparently has apologised for any offense caused and has been invited back to Waitangi for 2017.

But the media do not like to let a story go.  And this is what got my juices running hot this morning:

Exactly Helen!!!  You can read the latest version of this article here.  But this sentence stood out for me:

Canterbury District Health Board general manager of people and capability Michael Frampton said the DHB would not comment on whether Butler faced any disciplinary measures.

Was this protester protesting while she was at work? Was she wearing any clothing that showed her workplace? Did she do anything to promote her workplace apart from stating that she was a nurse who opposed the TPPA on grounds of how it will affect our health system (in the first place)?
Apart from the fact that she threw a squeaky toy shaped like a dildo at a Minister of the Crown, how was her protest against the TPPA any different than the tens of thousands of others who, like me, marched down Queen St last Thursday.

Does the media intend contacting every employer or educational institution these people work for/belong to find out what disciplinary action (if any) they will be taking against people exercising their democratic right to protest?

Over the last few years we have seen a number of people hounded out of their jobs, some for people doing something totally appalling in their job (think Paul Henry's removal from Breakfast after his comments on the then Governor General's birthplace) to those who did something outside their workplace that had nothing to do with their job (think Tony Veitch and his appalling domestic assault on his then partner). 

The media and the growing impact social media has a huge part to play in this, but when is enough enough?  When should media leave the job a person has out of it?  How much should our employers have a say over what we do, who we associate with, where we go and what we say when we are not at work?

And I say this with knowledge of how much an employer can interfere with our individual freedoms.  Currently, teachers are able to voice their opinion and protest against government on education policy and other matters.... but not for much longer.  The new version of the Teachers' Council, the Education Council aka EDUCANZ, wants to implement a Code of Conduct to replace the current Code of Ethics we operate under. 

The Code of Conduct, much like the one other state sector employees are subject to, does not allow a teacher to voice their opinion and protest.  Already this applies to our special education colleague who are directly employed by the MOE and therefore come under the state sector Code of Conduct.  They have not been able to voice the systematic gutting of special education services over the last seven years and how many children are now missing out on basic assistance to access education.

So as a teacher, will I, in future still be able to participate in a protest as I did last week against the TPPA by walking down Queen Street?  Will I still be able to be an active unionist who vehemently opposes GERM in education?  Will I still be able to be the educated professional that I am who opposes GERM based on how I know children learn and best practise teaching?  Will I still be able to publish this blog?

I believe that there is an epic failure in our society today when our democratic right to protest or to point out that a policy is fundamentally flawed will endanger our ability to work, that it gives an employer a right to dictate your private actions and thoughts.  Even more so, it is an epic failure that the media thinks they have the right to push into a workplace and demand to know what action an employer will take when everyone knows that that is a violation of the Employment Act to make such actions common knowledge.

So media, in my opinion, you have failed the standard.

How about you end your Spanish Inquisition on Josie Butler and actually do your job - get some answers out of John Key, Todd McClay, Steven Joyce and Bill English about the truth of TPPA.  While you're at it, ask Hekia Parata to be up front and truthful on how the TPPA will effect education and get Dr Jonathan Coleman to stop pussy footing around on how the TPPA will actually affect Pharmac.  Because our government has sold NZ down the road, and the media have failed the standard on doing their job of finding the truth on the TPPA.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The TPPA - why I oppose it.

Tomorrow the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) will be signed in Auckland by the twelve participartory countries, maybe at Sky City... or maybe that's just a diversionary distination to waylay the protester, and I am pretty bloody pissed off about it.


Well first of all it has not even been through our parliament for debate, as the full and final text really only became available once the last parliamentary year finished.  Before that it was all leaks and conjectures about what the TPPA contained.  But those leaks and conjectures were a worry... and not too far from the truth as it turns out.

A couple of nights ago, I asked on a page operated by NZEI if there was an organised group attending the march in Auckland tomorrow.  I wanted to be with like minded friends to participate. 

One of the responses was this:   Is there a depth of understanding about the TPPA ??? What about advantages?

And I responded with this:

Tariff reductions are a great advantage. Opening up new markets is a great advantage. 
But this is why I don't support the TPPA:

  • It was negotiated in secret. Unlike previous FTAs, there was no bipartisan consultation with other political parties, no consultation with Tangata Whenua and little consultation with our own business leaders and academics. 
  • The Treaty of Waitangi is not mentioned in it. This is a defining piece of NZ law. There is precedence for it to be included. It was part of the FTA Phil Goff negotiated with China.
  • Unlike Australia or Singapore or a few other nations, we have no rights to invoke protections as to who can come in and buy land and houses from overseas. Even implementing something as simple as requiring a foreigner to build a new home rather than buy an existing house would not be allowed. 
  • The increased lengths of patents on biomedications and the like will blow our health budget out of the water and continue delays and denials of access to the best treatments for people suffering from health conditions. 
  • Copyright law changes will makes books more expensive - not great for public libraries and schools and the like.
  • The fact that when our government wants to change a law, they will have to allow foreign nationals and corporates to make submissions. Stop and think about how that will likely have a negative effect on environmental or employment law for example. If you think I'm not realistic, did you know the company that runs Auckland's trains, Veolia, has sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage? Now think about how Peter Jackson and Warner Bros has already influenced employment law for actors and film workers in NZ.
  • Tim Groser promised us a gold plated deal and that he wouldn't bow down to continued tariffs and restrictions on our dairy trade. Then he made us eat dead rats over that, and American and Canadian dairy farmers breathed a Collective sigh of relief when Groser rolled over. The benefits to the dairy industry are minimal, as they are over all. Tufts University predicts without the TPPA NZ would have a 46% increase in GPD by 2030; with it the increase would be 47% - consequently, business wise, the TPPA is negligible. 
  • And this is the complete deal breaker for me: the impact on our quality public education system in NZ. Let's say a company from the US arrives called XYZ Ed. They can demand that the NZ government give them money to set up a charter school in NZ. Despite the fact that where they set it up doesn't need a new school. With our tax payer dollars. And we all know NZ charter schools aren't subjected to the scrutiny that state schools are. And why? Because the TPPA allows it. Singapore's negotiators didn't agree to that one and had it written out of their part of the agreement. 
Which then begs the question: what bloody use was Tim Groser as a negotiator? 
The fish hooks are too many!
And finally let me put it this way, if I offered you a chicken sandwich made with fresh bread and fresh cooked chicken with a lovely chutney but laced with rat poison, would you take it and eat it? Because that's what the TPPA effectively is.
Another contributor also added this in support:
When our government signed up to the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975 we accepted three fundamental principles of the Treaty: Partnership, Protection and Participation. (The Act doesn't actually say that but that it is how it is interpreted and implemented in the public service.) 

The TPPA hardly embodies these: no Maori have been partners in the negotiation; there are severe concerns that our assets and sovereignty will not be protected; and there has been no participation in what has been an entirely secret set of dealing and wheeling. smile emoticon

If we value the Treaty of Waitangi, we need to value it every day of the year. It seems to me that John Key has ignored it 364 days of the year and then wants to be valued and honoured on the one day that is Waitangi Day. 

Sorry - that doesn't wash with me.
So tomorrow I intend to march with thousands of other New Zealanders because I simply do not believe that this deal is in the best interests of New Zealand and its people long term in its current format.
Like Andrew Little said last week, I support Free Trade but I do not support our sovereignty being pulled from under us and I believe that the best deal for New Zealand is not in the TPPA.
I like the fact that Labour waited for the full text to be available before making a declaration on its TPPA stand.  It is what Andrew Little said they would do - read the text and talk to experts and get advice and then make a decision about how it met Labour's stated five bottom lines it released in mid 2015..
I respect that the Greens and New Zealand First made the decision long before seeing the text.  Fletcher Tabuteau, an economics lecturer in his former life, was able to clearly show how the numbers just do not stack up greatly for New Zealand under the TPPA during the Auckland Town Hall meeting last week.  Metiria Turei was able to show the impacts on sovereignty, workers, the environment and many other things Kiwis value.
Marama Fox from the Maori Party also demonstrated how the TPPA will impact on the Treaty of Waitangi and how that breaches the needs of Maori and continues to make Maori victims of colonisation.  Of course, Maori will not be the only indigenous people of the countries participating to be affected, but Maori are unique due to the recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand law in 1975.
Lori Wallach pointed out at the Town Hall meeting that the TPPA in its current form would not make it through Congress in the US.  Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans support it.  The Republicans view clauses in it to be even weaker than what George W Bush managed to negotiate in his FTAs when it comes to the environment.  In fact, here is a tweet published by Elizabeth Warren's Official twitter account today.  Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts and an academic of commercial and bankruptcy law, formerly of Harvard University.

And when you look at this tweet in the context of those before an after, it speaks volumes about the position that Congress is taking.

There have been protests in Malaysia in regards to losing control of their economy, the impacts on small and medium sized business and the costs of medicine under the TPPA in Malaysia. Other countries in South America have also had protests against the TPPA and the Pacific Island countries, who relied on New Zealand to protect and promote their interests, are not happy with the outcome.  The lead negotiator from Japan has had to resign his positions after corruption and bribery allegations have been made against him.
And in response to detractors of Dr Jane Kelsey, New Zealand's foremost knowledgeable academic on the TPPA and Auckland University professor, it is her job as an academic to investigate such deals and put them under the microscope, to put them up for rigorous debate.  She knows New Zealand law by the back of her hand.  And Dr Kelsey is not alone, as many of her fellow academics have contributed to the analysis of what the TPPA would mean to New Zealand.
Even Tufts University in Massachusetts USA has cast shade on some of the claims to emerge from the TPPA.  Their analysis proves that the propaganda being put about by our National led government is folly and fantasy.  Click here for one such analysis.
In my view, Tim Groser failed to meet the standard as a negotiator and a protector of New Zealand's best interests.  John Key has failed to meet the standard of being the Prime Minister of New Zealand by failing to protect the best interests of the New Zealand people, its businesses and economy.

If you are wanting to find out more for yourself to help you form your own view, here are some links to some vital information: