The ‘John, call me, Barack’ game

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Time and again the Gov­ern­ment has wrig­gled, bluffed and huffed over any sug­ges­tions of real prob­lems for us in su­per-se­cret trade talks in­volv­ing the United States.

Very wor­ried New Zealan­ders be­lieve it should have been our gov­ern­ment brief­ing us, not Wik­iLeaks.

Crit­ics like this col­umn have been ac­cused of stir­ring up trou­ble where none ex­ists. The US has pat­ted us on the head with prom­ises and giftwrapped good­ies like al­low­ing our tiny frigates to play war games with their mon­ster fleet – even let us park in Pearl Har­bour naval wharfs where we have been black­listed since our nu­clear ships ban.

And in re­turn, De­fence Min­is­ter Jonathan Cole­man handed his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Chuck Hagel, the ul­ti­mate gift – an All Black jer­sey. Since then you-knowwhat has hit the fan.

The Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is a trade deal un­der long ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween 12 coun­tries: New Zealand, US, Sin­ga­pore, Chile, Brunei, Aus­tralia, Viet­nam, Peru, Malaysia, Canada, Mex­ico and Ja­pan.

Ma­jor US cor­po­rates have lob­bied the White House to force us to al­ter our trade sys­tems so that the good mates of the Obama power base will be the win­ners.

The fin­ger­prints of Hol­ly­wood and the big drug car­tels are all over the leaked 95-page draft which spells out ma­jor New Zealand dis­putes with the US in some of the agree­ment’s most con­tentious is­sues, like copy­right, patent and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal rules. In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to Hol­ly­wood and US phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, biotech­nol­ogy and en­ter­tain­ment cor­po­ra­tions who clearly have a strong in­flu­ence over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s trade pol­icy.

New Zealand is one coun­try lead­ing the charge in the bat­tle be­tween the US phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal lobby and coun­tries like us who want to go on, for in­stance, get­ting cheaper but ef­fec­tive generic medicines through Phar­mac.

There are also mut­ter­ings over agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals.

Amer­i­can pres­sure wants in­ter­net ser­vice providers to en­force copy­right on be­half of for­eign cor­po­ra­tions, in­clud­ing clos­ing down their cus­tomers’ ac­counts, over­seas roy­alty pay­ments on all books, mu­sic and films for 20 years longer than at present, re­strict­ing cheaper par­al­lel im­port­ing, im­pos­ing penal­ties for break­ing ‘‘dig­i­tal locks’’ such as re­gional zones on law­ful DVDs, al­low­ing plants and an­i­mals to be patented and al­low­ing ‘‘di­ag­nos­tic, ther­a­peu­tic and sur­gi­cal meth­ods for the treat­ment of hu­mans or an­i­mals’’ to be patented.

An ear­lier Wik­iLeaks re­lease of US em­bassy ca­bles showed for­mer New Zealand chief TPP ne­go­tia­tor Mark Sin­clair pri­vately telling vis­it­ing US State Depart­ment deputy as­sis­tant Frankie Reed in Fe­bru­ary 2010 that there were ‘‘a num­ber of ar­eas sen­si­tive to New Zealand’’ in the TPP talks and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals were ‘‘bound to be a con­tentious is­sue’’. Three years on, there still are. When the US bud­get cri­sis forced Mr Obama to can­cel an ear­lier trip to chair a meet­ing of 12 TPP coun­tries in Bali, John Key took his place. And later got a ‘‘John, call me, Barack’’ phone call. The White House even is­sued a state­ment ‘‘to thank John Key for suc­cess­fully chair­ing the meet­ing . . . and to dis­cuss the pro­duc­tive out­comes’’.

‘‘The two lead­ers wel­comed the agree­ment among lead­ers that the 12 mem­ber na­tions will work to­ward the am­bi­tious goal of con­clud­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions this year and they com­mit­ted to in­ten­si­fy­ing ef­forts to reach that goal.’’

Asked later what their re­la­tion­ship was like, John Key was full of it, like an only child who has just dis­cov­ered a new best friend with real grown-up things to talk about:

‘‘It’s re­ally warm. We know each other pretty well. We’ve been to lots of things to­gether over the course of the last five years. He seems very re­laxed and com­fort­able. It’s not stuffy. It’s con­ver­sa­tional and ca­sual.’’ But not too cosy, we hope, John. In the mail­bag: Heather John­son: ‘‘Thank you Pat Booth for draw­ing at­ten­tion to the sig­nif­i­cant in­equal­i­ties that many Maori face in the col­umn ‘Eye-open­ing day in the life of Tama’. I think that the is­sues that Tama has to deal with on a daily ba­sis stem from two main sources.

‘‘First, the so-called bi­cul­tural part­ner­ship be­tween Maori and the state is not suf­fi­cient. The fact that some Maori still feel un­com­fort­able in set­tings such as med­i­cal clin­ics re­flects the so­cial, cul­tural, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal marginal­i­sa­tion of tan­gata whenua in New Zealand.

‘‘A real bi­cul­tural re­la­tion­ship should be about ap­pre­ci­at­ing and prac­tis­ing both cul­tures. In­stead we live in a coun­try where Maori cul­ture and world views are not seen as valu­able. For ex­am­ple, un­like English, te reo Maori is not even a com­pul­sory sub­ject in schools. I feel we can learn things from both cul­tures and ben­e­fit greatly by cre­at­ing a new frame­work that val­ues both Pakeha and Maori cul­ture, and at the same time, re­spect­ing other cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

‘‘Se­condly, and per­haps more ur­gent, is the is­sue of Maori class in­equal­ity. Maori are sig­nif­i­cantly over-rep­re­sented in the op­pressed ‘work­ing class’, along with many other eth­nic mi­nori­ties. The ne­olib­eral poli­cies from the 1980s, or ‘Roger­nomics’, the ‘Mother of all Bud­gets’ in the 90s and the cur­rent wel­fare re­forms and freemar­ket eco­nomic poli­cies from the Na­tional Gov­ern­ment, con­tinue to dev­as­tate the lives of work­ing class peo­ple around the coun­try.

‘‘We only need to look at the is­sue of child poverty (Child Poverty Group wants to do more re­search into this), but the Gov­ern­ment is re­fus­ing to fund it! Or the ris­ing in­come in­equal­ity, or the pres­sure that char­i­ties are fac­ing to pro­vide for fam­i­lies in need – to re­alise that some­thing’s not right.

‘‘The poor are ma­jorly dis­ad­van­taged in this coun­try by a gov­ern­ment pol­icy pro­gramme that favours the rich and that blames poor peo­ple for their ‘bad choices’. So many Maori there­fore face sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tages that make it dif­fi­cult to feel ‘com­fort­able’ in so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing low so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, cul­tural dis­crim­i­na­tion and marginal­i­sa­tion, as well as stig­ma­ti­sa­tion for re­ceiv­ing a ben­e­fit. It is tough go­ing out there. I don’t know what the so­lu­tion is, but I do know that it is time for change.’’

From Roy Reid, na­tional pres­i­dent of Grey Power: ‘‘On Armistice Day we re­mem­bered those brave New Zealan­ders who fought to pre­serve and pro­tect our free­dom. Sadly, in New Zealand to­day such long-held free­doms are be­ing eroded.

‘‘We have preda­tors tar­get­ing the vul­ner­a­ble, our young and our elderly.

‘‘Home in­va­sions are ab­hor­rent and are mak­ing the elderly feel vir­tual pris­on­ers in their own homes. Such acts of cow­ardice clearly demon­strate that ethics and val­ues do not ex­ist in cer­tain mem­bers of our so­ci­ety.

‘‘Nor­mal peo­ple would think that th­ese lowlifes would have a sense of re­morse or guilt if they looked at them­selves in a mir­ror. Their own par­ents and grand­par­ents, along with all elderly, are vic­tims, con­cerned about their home se­cu­rity and fright­ened by such bru­tal­ity.

‘‘The Gov­ern­ment must up­hold the safety of its coun­try’s res­i­dents and we must pay par­tic­u­lar heed to those in vul­ner­a­ble groups. Sen­tenc­ing should act as a de­ter­rent and should re­flect the sever­ity of prey­ing on the weak.

‘‘Grey Power pol­icy is a manda­tory three-year prison sen­tence with no right of pa­role. Judg­ments should be quick and ef­fi­cient so that at­tack­ers don’t sit on re­mand for 12 months with all the spe­cial ben­e­fits at­tached to that.

‘‘Grey Power ap­plauds the quick think­ing ac­tions of neigh­bours to safely fol­low and lead the po­lice to the man who left the premises where one of the at­tacks oc­curred. Just as it takes a vil­lage to raise a child we too should ap­ply that to car­ing for our elderly neigh­bours.’’

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