Politi­cians play pa­tri­o­tism card

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Pa­tri­o­tism is a tricky tool for any politi­cian to in­voke, given how of­ten it pro­duces un­ex­pected out­comes.

Prime Min­is­ter John Key’s flurry of in­ter­est in chang­ing the na­tional flag for in­stance, would have re­quired a ref­er­en­dum that would prob­a­bly have re­sulted in the sil­ver fern be­com­ing our new na­tional em­blem.

Yet as an RSA spokesman pointed out, that would also have left New Zealand’s mil­i­tary hard­ware em­bla­zoned with what looks to the rest of the world like a white feather – just in time for the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions of our Gal­lipoli cam­paign, a time in our his­tory when white feath­ers were the global sym­bol of cow­ardice.

Per­haps for­tu­nately, the prospect of a ref­er­en­dum on a new flag at this year’s elec­tion seems to have been qui­etly shelved.

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott has also been play­ing the pa­tri­o­tism card.

Last week, he was ar­gu­ing that the coun­try’s state broad­caster, the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, had an obli­ga­tion to give Aus­tralia ‘‘a home team ad­van­tage’’ when re­port­ing on global events in which Aus­tralia was in­volved – such as for in­stance, when spy­ing on In­done­sia or mis­treat­ing asy­lum seek­ers on the high seas.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Aus­tralian su­per­mar­kets were be­ing urged to adopt a ‘‘Buy Aus­tralia’’ cam­paign that quickly re­sulted in su­per­mar­ket shelves be­ing emp­tied of New Zealand goods, even when no lo­cal equiv­a­lent was avail­able.

At last week’s meet­ing with Ab­bott, Key com­plained about the im­pact of the ‘‘ Buy Aus­tralia’’ cam­paign on New Zealand ex­porters, to no avail.

When pa­tri­o­tism raises its head, con­sis­tency flies out the win­dow. At the very least, the ‘‘Buy Aus­tralia’’ cam­paign vi­o­lates the spirit – and prob­a­bly the let­ter – of our Closer Eco­nomic Re­la­tions trade pact with Aus­tralia, which is sup­posed to treat trans-Tas­man goods as be­long­ing to the same, sin­gle mar­ket.

The al­leged in­abil­ity for trade pacts to favour lo­cals over for­eign­ers is sup­posed to be one of the key el­e­ments of the con­tro­ver­sial Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal be­ing ne­go­ti­ated be­tween sev­eral Pa­cific Rim coun­tries, in­clud­ing New Zealand, and the United States.

If mem­ber coun­tries treat for­eign in­vestors less favourably than lo­cals un­der the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, they will risk be­ing hauled in front of so-called ‘‘in­vestor state’’ dis­pute tri­bunals, and fined for the fi­nan­cial dam­age done to the for­eign in­vestor con­cerned.

Which raises the ques­tion: how can Aus­tralian and New Zealand tax­pay­ers be fac­ing fines un­der the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship for what their politi­cians and cor­po­rates are ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing via the likes of the ‘‘Buy Aus­tralia’’ cam­paign?

Are our lead­ers in favour of such deals, or not?

Th­ese anom­alies are just some of the rea­sons why the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is be­ing viewed with scep­ti­cism in some quar­ters. Ac­cord­ing to Trade Min­is­ter Tim Groser, it is likely to bring New Zealand $5 bil­lion in gains by the year 2025.

Yet last week, Vic­to­ria Univer­sity econ­o­mist Ge­off Ber­tram con­cluded that only a quar­ter of the al­leged gains stand up to se­ri­ous eco­nomic scru­tiny.

Much of the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship ‘‘free trade’’ deal will, in fact, ex­pand the trade re­stric­tive pow­ers and prac­tices of Amer­i­can cor­po­rate in­ter­ests within the en­ter­tain­ment and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­tries. What’s good for or­di­nary pun­ters is very much in the de­tails, and in the eye of the be­holder.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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