Politicians play patriotism card
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.