New Zealand, the Mouse that Squeaks

John Key and his National Government believe that New Zealand's survival is based on complying to the wishes of major powers and corporates. When asked to jump it willingly asks, "How high?"

We were once the proud little Pacific nation that stood strong on the world stage on moral and human rights issues. Prime Ministers of the past wanted their legacy to be good housing for all New Zealanders (Michael Savage), our foreign policy to reflect our national ideals, including standing strong against apartheid regimes (Norman Kirk) and making a stand against the nuclear threat (David Lange). John Key wants his legacy to be a flag that contains a silver fern rather than something really meaningful like ending child poverty or perhaps making an honourable stand on climate change.

Our current Government has been willing to give up our state assets, our farms and productive industries to foreign owners. It has enthusiastically changed our immigration and employment laws and provided subsidies for a very profitable United States movie company while ignoring the struggling Auckland film industry. It is clear where this Government stands and it is not with its people.

We currently have three major situations where we expect our Government to stand strong on our behalf and in each case it is seriously letting us down.

Our special relationship with Australia has become a joke. Despite the fact we fought side by side as ANZACs in two world wars, are close neighbours and share similar histories, it appears this means little to the current Australian Government.  The Closer Economic Relations agreement is supposed to involve ongoing discussion and harmonisation of our trade and social arrangements. It is clear that while we are giving Australian goods and citizens a good deal in New Zealand our Ministers have not been able to gain similar benefits for us in Australia. Australian supermarkets are rejecting New Zealand made products (even if there are no local equivalents) and it took 90 years to get our apples accepted.

After two years of living in New Zealand, Australians can access all social services (including unemployment benefit and healthcare) and in five years can apply for New Zealand citizenship. Even though more Australians are now moving here, Australia refuses to provide social services to us even though the taxes being paid by Kiwis working there are supporting them. The discrimination against New Zealanders was highlighted when Norfolk Island became under Australian governance, all New Zealanders living on the island immediately became ineligible to social services, no matter how long they had lived there.

Australia have taken a further step to disregard our history and the CER by recent legislation that allows them to deport any New Zealander who has been imprisoned for a year or more over the past 10 years. There are now almost 200 Kiwis in various detention centres, like Christmas Island, waiting to be deported. Many have no family left in New Zealand or memory of having lived there. Junior Togatuki committed suicide after learning about his deportation and separation from the rest of his family.

The Government's attempts at getting better treatment for New Zealanders in Australia has achieved little. Amy Adams recently announced that Australia was now willing to share the criminal histories of those being deported as if we should be impressed with this gain.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a hugely complex agreement containing at least 30,000 documents. 12 nations (5 more declaring an interest) and 60 corporates and their lawyers have been involved in negotiations for many years. Helen Clark's declared support for the TPPA is probably because she was involved in the early stages of a Pacific trade agreement thirteen years before.

Despite the complexity, secrecy and highly corporate nature of the TPP (only Fonterra is deemed a large enough New Zealand corporate to be involved in the negotiations), Tim Groser has arrogantly expressed the view that he and his small team are well equipped for the task of delivering a good result for us all. He has claimed that those opposing the agreement are being led by hardcore protestors despite the fact that Prof Jane Kelsey and New Zealand's medical profession are amongst those expressing serious concerns. It appears as though the agreement will be signed if there are some benefits for our dairy industry and Groser is prepared to make some sacrifices to achieve this. Already John Key has intimated that prescription charges will increase and the Government is relaxed about being party to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. The potential loss to our sovereignty to corporate interests is a very real one.

Groser claims he is talking tough but the evidence so far suggests that he is afraid of any scrutiny of his negotiations and that just being in the TPP is viewed as being more important than the wellbeing of most New Zealanders. Prof Jane Kelsey believes that Groser is likely to accept the "death sentence clause" in exchange for expanded dairy markets. It is unlikely that the gains from trade will cover the resulting health costs.

Climate change is the third area where this Government refuses to stand strong. It has gutted the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), withdrew from Kyoto, subsidised carbon credits for our largest polluters, increased emissions by 13% since 2008 and is taking one of the weakest targets to Paris at the end of the year. Our target has been criticised internationally and Key claims he wants New Zealand to follow others on this issue and not take a lead.

Not only have we spied on our Pacific neighbours at the behest of the NSA but our Government has ignored the pleas of Pacific Islands to do our part to stop rising sea levels. The immigration Minister for New Zealand dismissed calls for more to be done to support islanders whose homes were becoming increasingly uninhabitable as "colonialist, white person's guilt". It is clear that the Government will not stand up for the most vulnerable in our own country let alone those in small neighbouring ones.

When Metiria Turei asked the Prime Minister whether New Zealand will take a leadership role on specific human rights and environmental issues while it heads the UN Security Council, Key said no to all. New Zealand is no longer the small country that regularly roared on the global stage with moral conviction, we have become a toothless little pacific rodent that squeaks pitifully and spends its time searching for economic crumbs.


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