Changing the flag has been a much discussed topic in the Hawkes Bay Today lately, and so it should be. Whatever the design our flag is a symbol of our nationhood, and nationhood goes right to the heart of how we perceive ourselves. One can only assume that it must be very important to know which symbol best represents us because the government is prepared to spend $26,000,000 finding this out.
However the nationhood which our flag represents is under threat. Currently we enjoy certain freedoms as a nation, such as an ability to pass laws which which benefit New Zealanders and are enforceable in New Zealand. Why would we want to give up the freedom to have total control over what we do within our borders, a freedom which was cost us so much blood to protect in WWI & WWII?
But giving up this freedom is exactly what is being proposed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPPA is being touted as the mother of all free trade agreements. But it is not really a trade agreement – only five of twenty nine chapters are about what most people recognise as trade negotiations. If it was just a trade agreement, fewer people would be worried. But this is mainly about domestic laws. It is more about restricting the powers of signatory governments to regulate multi-national corporates.
So the TPPA is not really a trade agreement but more like a charter of rights for multi-national corporates. To my mind this is wrong on so many levels. For example, since when have oil companies been genuinely concerned about the environment or the communities they operate in? Yet if our government were to say ‘no oil & gas exploration above our aquifers’ then under the investor state dispute provisions proposed in the TPPA, oil & gas companies could sue our government (or in reality New Zealand tax payers) for damages. This sort of thing has already happened in Canada and South America so there is nothing to stop it happening here.
A similar thing is happening in Australia with American tobacco companies suing the Australian Government over their legislation for plain packaging. Frankly if we wanted to do plain packaging here in New Zealand why shouldn’t we be allowed to? Why should multi-national corporates be able to dictate what our laws should be?
There are many other concerns to be had about the TPPA but one of the more pressing is around Pharmac. As Consumer magazine recently pointed out “While the government says it won’t make changes to Pharmac, changes to the way the pharmaceutical patents work haven’t been ruled out. The main concern of Fair Deal is that the overseas industry groups are pushing for specific rules about pharmaceuticals that would lead to higher prices being paid by public agencies (such as Pharmac) for medicines.” Do we really want to pay more for our medicines?
One comment on Gordon Campbell’s recent blog post on TPPA (Gordon Campbell on the last rites for the TPP 1/10/14) stated “it becomes apparent that it was only really ever going to benefit us when it was first proposed, ie with the initial four countries (Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore). We all had different industries and products that we could trade among each other. With the 14-headed monster and the US in particular involved, it became a corporate bullying platform.” I tend to agree with this statement given that it is the influence of multi-national corporates that has turned the TPPA from being a trade agreement, to a corporate rights agreement. It therefore no longer benefits New Zealand as it could have done.
I have to wonder, if it is worth spending $26,000,000 finding our our views on the flag, then why nothing is going to be spent on finding out our views about the TPPA before it is signed? NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser, continues to plough ahead with negotiations regardless and that’s why it is important for the citizens of New Zealand to demonstrate that our nationhood means more than the look of our flag. Even though I don’t agree with them all, I relish the fact that our parliament has the freedom to create it’s own laws which have to be abided to by everyone within our borders. I don’t want some faceless multi-national corporate dictating what our laws should look like. That’s why I’m speaking at the rally hosted by It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA, which is being held on the Napier City Council Steps, 231 Hastings St, Napier, Saturday 8th Nov at 1pm. You are welcome to join me.