Jane Kelsey

The Green Party Must End the Era of Neoliberalism and Campaign for an Interventionist State

The Green Party Must End the Era of Neoliberalism and Campaign for an Interventionist State

The following is a speech presented by Elliot Crossan to the 2018 Green Party Summer Policy Conference.  Sources and recommended readings are below.


Kia ora koutou, and thank you to the policy committee for allowing me this chance to speak.  I am going to argue today that the ability of democratically elected governments to actively intervene in the economy in the interests of people and the planet is perhaps the single most important factor which will determine our ability to honour the Green Party’s founding principles.

I want to start by placing this discussion within the historical context.  Between the 1930s and the 1980s, Aotearoa had an economic system which provided a much higher level of equality and dignity to working class people than does what exists today.  The economic pillars of this social democratic consensus were:

  • well funded public services and a robust welfare system paid for by high taxes on the rich; and
  • an interventionist state, with policy targeting full employment as a priority, and with significant sectors of the economy under public ownership or heavy regulation.

This social democratic consensus had its flaws, and existed in a time before the significant advancement of women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights and Māori rights, but it was nonetheless a system which facilitated a far more just distribution of resources than we see in 2018.

Roger Douglas, New Zealand’s Finance Minister in the Fourth Labour Government from 1984-1988, transformed the economy of this country from a welfare state to a free market model at alarming speed, and with no democratic mandate to do so.  Image credit: Te Ara.

This system was deliberately and successfully dismantled from 1984 to 1993 by right-wing free market ideologues.  I’m sure many of you know what Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson did, but to briefly reiterate, their agenda included:

  • large cuts to public services and welfare along with the introduction of GST, allowing for huge tax cuts for the rich; and
  • an end to the policy of full employment, along with fire sale privatisation and rampant deregulation of industry, commerce and trade, reducing the size and role of government and leading to the dominance of finance, insurance and real estate in the economy, as well as, crucially, to massive environmental destruction, such as the rapid expansion of dairy farming.

We are all acutely familiar with the results of the political project which we know by many names: Rogernomics, trickle-down economics, or most accurately, neoliberalism.  We know the big picture effects: a dramatic rise in poverty and inequality, with low wages, the worst housing crisis in the OECD, high personal debt, and environmental destruction all occurring alongside the accumulation of fabulous wealth by the owners of corporations, land, and financial institutions.  We know it on a more personal level, in our own lives and in the lives of people we care about.  This was what Metiria’s story was about — cuts to welfare directly caused the poverty she and her daughter suffered in the 90s.  This shocking inequality crisis is a direct result of the neoliberal economic system we have been living under since 1984, which the Fourth Labour Government and the Fourth National Government never had a mandate to implement — it is a system which should have immediately been overturned.

Metiria Turei confessed to the fact that she committed benefit fraud in the 1990s in order to feed her daughter.  She was forced to do so because of the welfare cuts which were a vital piece of the neoliberal project.  Image credit: Newshub.

But the neoliberal project did not end after National were voted out of power in 1999 and Helen Clark entered the Beehive.  Jane Kelsey outlines in her 2002 essay The Third Way: A Road To Nowhere that what followed the 1999 change of government was a more deeply embedded form of neoliberalism.  Rather than being toppled as voters wanted, the rule of the free market became the new common sense — whether people liked it or not.  Clark’s government was an administration which knocked off the very sharpest edges of neoliberalism, but was nonetheless utterly committed to the economic fundamentals put in place by the free market radicals.  It was an exercise in careful management, not meaningful reform.  Most privatisations were not reversed, net government spending was not increased, full employment was not reintroduced, and both labour law reform and tax increases on the rich were extremely limited.  As a result, the bottom 10% of New Zealanders got poorer under Clark, while house prices doubled, and the rich continued to get richer.  Emissions continued to rise and fresh water quality continued to fall.

When National replaced Labour in 2008, they continued not the legacy of Roger and Ruth, but the legacy of the Clark Government: careful management of the system, albeit with minor alterations in favour of capital rather than labour.  The overall structure of neoliberalism continued unperturbed.

The Budget Responsibility Rules, the fiscal policy we along with Labour contested the 2017 election on, were a commitment to the same exercise in management rather than genuine reform which the Clark government embodied.  BRR committed the Greens and Labour to keeping core crown spending to an average of 30% of GDP over a three year cycle, roughly 1% of GDP more than National intended to spend, while running surpluses, and reducing debt to 20% of GDP.  This is while international interest rates are the lowest they have been in decades and while New Zealand has a public debt level so low that it is the envy of the developed world — and far more importantly, it is while so many of our people are struggling to make ends meet, and while our environment is facing utter devastation from climate change and other forms of pollution.

There is no economic rationale for BRR whatsoever — on the contrary, this was a political choice.  Andrew Little declared at the launch of the policy that Labour and the Greens if elected would be “a smart government, not necessarily a big government.”  This was not sound economics — it was neoliberal ideology.  It was stating that Labour and, to our shame, the Greens were campaigning to blunt the blade of neoliberalism, but not to fight back against it whatsoever — BRR could not have been a more blatant refusal to champion a new economic order in the interests of the majority of New Zealanders.  BRR was political cowardice and an utter neglect of the kaupapa the Green Party exists to fight for.

The lack of commitment in our election priorities to reversing privatisation was worrying.  Privatisation is one of the main reasons why our economy is a dictatorship of profit and greed, while inequality and environmental destruction are produced as toxic byproducts of wealth accumulation.  Any progressive party which refuses to commit to renationalisation is, implicitly if not necessarily rhetorically, agreeing with the neoliberal dogma that market is best.  All this dogma does is entrench an economic system rigged in the interests of profiteers at the expense of everybody else.

Privatisation was one of the main forces which drove the dramatic rise in inequality in the 1980s and 1990s.  Image credit: Closer Together.

So what is an alternative policy, one which breaks with the era of small government and resultant obscene inequality and environmental destruction?  The Green Party needs to commit to rebuilding a state which intervenes directly into the economy to redistribute wealth — not just to end poverty, but to dramatically improve the living standards of the working class as a whole; a statwhich invests in urgently resolving the colossal environmental crises we face, such as climate change and the impending extinction of much of Aotearoa’s biodiversity.  This means a policy of fiscal expansion; rather than arbitrarily capping our ability to spend public money, as BRR did, we must declare that we start from the principle of wanting to ensure higher living standards and a healthier environment for the majority of the population, that we will spend as much money as we require to do so, and that we will tax the rich to pay for it.  Austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.

We must end the era of privatisation and commit to reintroducing public ownership.  Universal basic services is a model which has been proposed by inequality experts in the UK, which would entail the public ownership of housing, healthcare, education, transport, energy, water and communications, all of which would be provided free at the point of use, at a high standard, to everybody.  Rather than redistributing money after market forces have taken place, as the welfare system currently does and as a proposal such as universal basic income would, universal basic services means rejecting the dogma that market is best and reducing the cost of living for everybody by ending private control and the profit motive in areas of the economy most crucial to society.  Universal basic services would ensure a new era of equality and stability for Aotearoa.

A UK Labour Party poster from 1945 called for “public ownership, not private monopoly!”  NZ Labour has abandoned its commitment to nationalisation and is a neoliberal party to the core — the Green Party must now advocate for public ownership instead.

Direct public ownership in energy, transport, housing and water means government would be able to intervene to create better environmental outcomes, far more so than does the system based on short-term private profit taking precedence over the people, the planet, and the future.  As British economist Paul Mason argues in his 2015 book Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future: “[t]he real absurdists are not the climate-change deniers, but the politicians and economists who believe that the existing market mechanisms can stop climate change, that the market must set the limits of climate action and that the market can be structured to deliver the biggest re-engineering project humanity has ever tried.”  Mason is absolutely correct; a Green future must be forcefully and urgently constructed by an interventionist state.

Fiscal expansion and public ownership are absolutely key to realising our Charter principles of Social Responsibility and Ecological Wisdom, and also, I would argue, to creating power structures based on Appropriate Decision-making.  It is a complicated subject however, as many in the Green Party rightly have an uneasy relationship with the idea of a centralised and top-heavy state.  My view is essentially that under capitalism, democratically accountable governments are far preferable to corporate control for protecting people from the greed of the wealthy, and for empowering people and giving them agency in their lives.  In her maiden speech in parliament, Metiria quoted a conversation between Noam Chomsky and a group of Brazilian activists which perfectly sums up my view on this complex relationship between anti-authoritarianism and the state: “We know we’re in a cage.  We know we’re trapped.  We’re going to expand the floor, meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow.  And we intend to destroy the cage.  But not by attacking the cage when we’re vulnerable, so they’ll murder us.  You have to protect the cage when it’s under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power.  And you have to expand the floor of the cage.  These are all preliminaries to dismantling it.”

I also propose we examine closely two reports to better honour Appropriate Decision-making in this policy.  One is the recently released report to the UK Labour Party on Alternative Models of Ownership, which goes into detail on how to ensure that the state is more participatory and democratically accountable than ever in its processes even while fiscal expansion and public ownership are taking place, with workers in and users of public services having a say in how they are run rather than succumbing to big state bureaucracy.  The other of course is the Matike Mai Report, which is essential for understanding how we might design a state which functions according to Te Tiriti and does not violate the tino rangatiratanga of Tangata Whenua in its actions.

The questions before us come down to the very core of debates within the Green Party at the moment: are we going to be a party which exists to manage the status quo, or are we to be the political force which calls time on inequality, environmental catastrophe, and unaccountable private power, and argues for government intervention in the interests of the many, not the few?  I think I know which of these options the inspired activists who founded the Values Party 46 years ago had in mind.  I know which option resonates with myself and my peers as we yearn for a future in which ourselves and the generations who come after us can once again live with dignity, safe in the knowledge that across society nobody must suffer for the sake of wealth accumulation.



Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist. At time of writing, he was a member of the Green Party and the GreenLeft Network.

7 March, 2018


Recommended Reading

  • Barrlott, C., Brown, M., Cumbers, A., Hope, C., Huckfield, L., Jump, R. C., McInroy, N., Shaw, L., & Anonymous. (2018).  Alternative Models of Ownership (Rep.).  London, UK.: Labour Party.
  • Chomsky, N. (1997, April).  Expanding the Floor of the Cage [Interview by D. Barsamian].  Z Magazine.
  • Harvey, D. (2005).  A Brief History of Neoliberalism.  New York, USA.: Oxford University Press.
  • Jackson, M., & Mutu, M. (Eds.). (2016).  He Whakaaro Here Whakaumu Mo Aotearoa: The Report of Matike Mai Aotearoa (Rep.).  Matike Mai Aotearoa – The Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation.
  • Kelsey, J. (2002).  At the Crossroads: Three Essays.  Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams Books.
  • Klein, N. (2017).  No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.  London, UK.: Allen Lane.
  • Malva, S. (2017, December).  Land, Housing and Capitalism: The Social Consequences of Free Markets in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.academia.edu/35718593/Land_Housing_and_Capitalism_The_Social_Consequences_of_Free_Markets_in_Aotearoa_New_Zealand
  • Mason, P. (2015).  Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future.  London, UK.: Allen Lane.
  • Mazzucato, M. (2011).  The Entrepreneurial State.  London, UK.: Demos.
  • Percy, A., Portes, J., & Reed, H. (2017).  Social prosperity for the future: A proposal for Universal Basic Services (Rep.).  London, UK.: Institute for Global Prosperity.
  • Rashbrooke, M. (2017, September 22).  A Tenuous Grasp on Inequality.  Retrieved March 2, 2018, from http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/election-2017/339982/a-tenuous-grasp-on-inequality


Sources

Barrlott, C., Brown, M., Cumbers, A., Hope, C., Huckfield, L., Jump, R. C., McInroy, N., Shaw, L., & Anonymous. (2018).  Alternative Models of Ownership (Rep.).  London, UK.: Labour Party.

Chomsky, N. (1997, April).  Expanding the Floor of the Cage [Interview by D. Barsamian].  Z Magazine.

Duncanson, M., McGee, M., Morris, S., Oben, G., Simpson, J., & Wicken, A. (2017).  Child Poverty Monitor Technical Report (Rep.).  Dunedin, NZ.: New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, University of Otago.

Jackson, M., & Mutu, M. (Eds.). (2016).  He Whakaaro Here Whakaumu Mo Aotearoa: The Report of Matike Mai Aotearoa (Rep.).  Matike Mai Aotearoa – The Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation.

Kelsey, J. (1995).  The New Zealand Experiment: A World Model for Structural Adjustment?  Auckland, N.Z.: Bridget Williams Books.

Kelsey, J. (2002).  At the Crossroads: Three Essays.  Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams Books.

Kelsey, J. (2015).  The FIRE Economy.  Wellington, NZ.: Bridget Williams Books.

Little, A., MP, & Shaw, J., MP. (2017, March 24).  Budget Responsibility Rules.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/smarter-economy/budget-responsibility-rules

Malva, S. (2017, December).  Land, Housing and Capitalism: The Social Consequences of Free Markets in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.academia.edu/35718593/Land_Housing_and_Capitalism_The_Social_Consequences_of_Free_Markets_in_Aotearoa_New_Zealand

Mason, P. (2015).  Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future.  London, UK.: Allen Lane.

McCammon, B. (2016, June 28).  10% richest Kiwis own 60% of NZs wealth.  Retrieved September 30, 2017, from http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/307458/10-percent-richest-kiwis-own-60-percent-of-nzs-wealth

Minto, J. (2008, May 05).  Labour’s policies continue to keep NZ children in poverty.  Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://johnminto.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/labours-policies-continue-to-keep-nz-children-in-poverty/

Pasquali, V. (2015, October 31).  Percentage of Public Debt in GDP Around the World.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.gfmag.com/global-data/economicdata/public-debt-percentage-gdp?page=2

Percy, A., Portes, J., & Reed, H. (2017).  Social prosperity for the future: A proposal for Universal Basic Services (Rep.).  London, UK.: Institute for Global Prosperity.

Rosenberg, B. (2017, August 28).  Economist Bill Rosenberg details how low and middle-income wages have been hollowed out as higher earners experienced greater growth while those below them had to work more hours each week.  Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://www.interest.co.nz/news/89552/economist-bill-rosenberg-details-how-low-and-middle-income-wages-have-been-hollowed-out

Rashbrooke, M. (2017, September 22).  A Tenuous Grasp on Inequality.  Retrieved March 2, 2018, from http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/election-2017/339982/a-tenuous-grasp-on-inequality

Turei, M., MP. (2002, September 03).  Maiden Speech of Metiria Turei.  Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://home.greens.org.nz/speeches/maiden-speech-metiria-turei

Turei, M. (2017, July 15).  Mending the Safety Net – Metiria Turei’s speech to the Green Party 2017 AGM.  Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.greens.org.nz/news/speech/mending-safety-net-%E2%80%93-metiria-turei%E2%80%99s-speech-green-party-2017-agm

Wright, T. (2017, February 27).  Special report: how polluted are New Zealand’s rivers?  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/02/special-report-how-polluted-are-new-zealand-s-rivers.html

Author unknown. (2017, January 11).  Global Housing Watch.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.imf.org/external/research/housing/index.htm

Author unknown. (2017, March 09).  Global house prices.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/03/daily-chart-6?fsrc=scn%2Ftw%2Fte%2Fbl%2Fed%2F

Author unknown. (2018).  Interest rates – Long-term interest rates – OECD Data.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://data.oecd.org/interest/long-term-interest-rates.htm

Author unknown. (n.d.).  Greenhouse gas emissions.  Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-progress-indicators/home/environmental/greenhouse-gas-emissions.aspx

Author unknown (n.d.).  New Zealand Households Debt To Income  1991-2018.  Retrieved January 01, 2018, from https://tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/households-debt-to-income

Posted by Elliot Crossan in Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments
It’s Time For the Greens To Play Hardball on TPPA

It’s Time For the Greens To Play Hardball on TPPA

4 February 2016 was the day I learnt what the power of ordinary people felt like.  I marched with 30,000 others in the streets of Auckland against the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and I could feel the raw anger of a mass movement, whose years of resistance towards the National government and towards the signing away of Aotearoa’s democracy was coming to a furious head.  The mood was different to the two previous demonstrations I had attended — this time the atmosphere was alive with a pure, tangible defiance; an electrical energy.  We felt like we would do whatever we needed to do in order to show the powerful that they could not get away with what they were trying to impose on us.  The city felt alive with possibility: that maybe, just maybe, a mass of people coming together to articulate our views could actually have an effect on the democratic system so many have a deep distrust for.

It cannot be understated just how crucial it is to any progressive vision of Aotearoa that we stop TPPA.  The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms were the main catalyst for concern around which the opposition movement mobilised.  ISDS clauses would allow corporations to sue governments and overturn laws which harm their profits.  This would jeopardize urgently needed reforms to combat social inequality, to honour our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or to protect our environment — as a report from Executive Director of the Sustainability Council Simon Terry highlights, “over 85% of the money paid out to date by governments under free trade and investment deals with the US have involved claims over resources and the environment.”  Any attempt to reverse the privatisations of the last 33 years, or even to regulate the market, would be threatened.  Worse still, ISDS cases would’ve been decided in unaccountable international tribunals instead of in national courts.  This means that TPPA would further embed the ideology which places profit over people and planet into international law.

Leading legal expert and TPPA critic Jane Kelsey, highlights in a recent article for the Spinoff a chapter of the agreement which has not had enough attention: the chapter on electronic commerce, which she says is “basically, a set of rules that will cement the oligopoly of Big Tech for the indefinite future, allowing them to hold data offshore subject to the privacy and security laws of the country hosting the server, or not to disclose source codes, preventing effective scrutiny of anti-competitive or discriminatory practices.”  She goes on to outline how “other rules say offshore service providers don’t need to have a presence inside the country, thus undermining tax, consumer protection and labour laws, and governments can’t require locally established firms to use local content or services.”  This is further evidence of how the agreement is not about trade — it is about enshrining corporate control decades into the future.

Labour, New Zealand First and Green politicians turned up to our marches against the TPPA, and made political capital from voicing their concurrence with the demands of our movement.  Then-frontbencher Jacinda Ardern said of TPPA that “it is unlike any free trade agreement we’ve been party to before”, and that “it wasn’t just state to state, it was corporate to state.”  The Labour Party’s minority submission in the Select Committee concluded with the statement “the TPPA will have ramifications for generations of New Zealanders.  For their sake, we should not so lightly enter into an agreement which may exacerbate long-term challenges for our economy, workforce, and society.”  Winston Peters went so far as to write a piece for the Dominion Post entitled “With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, New Zealand is signing a blank cheque”, and opining that “being a beacon of free and fair trade is what New Zealand once claimed it stood for.  That clearly is not something that current TPPA proponents in New Zealand can argue now.  When it comes to the naivety shower some New Zealanders seem to want all the water.”  Meanwhile, Barry Coates, who was one of the leaders of the campaign against the TPPA, briefly served as a Green MP, and was highly placed on the party’s list going into the election; the Greens were sounding alarm bells about TPPA as far back as 2010, and of the three parties in government, have the most consistent record of opposition.

Yet how swiftly have the tables turned.  Now that they are in power, both Labour and New Zealand First have decided to support what campaign group It’s Our Future are calling “the Zombie TPPA”, the revived agreement minus the United States.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker are desperately insisting that their sudden shift of stance is “not a u-turn”, while Winston Peters is claiming that “the deal is not the deal inherited, it’s different … with substantial changes with the types that the Canadians were holding out on as well, that we both have seen changes that mean we can support this deal”.  Only the Greens remain against it, with new MP and trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman maintaining staunch opposition and outlining how the Greens believe that disagreement and protest within government, including on the TPPA, are essential to the Green vision.

Has the TPPA, now it has been rebranded as the “Comprehensive and Progressive TPP”, changed in nature?  Jane Kelsey believes it has not, saying that “at present, the deal that they have now said has been substantially improved has 22 of over 1,000 provisions suspended — not removed — and those will be reactivated if the US decides to reengage with the deal.  So it’s the same old deal, it’s just got a bit of tinsel on it.”  Green co-leader James Shaw has asserted that “As long as the ISDS mechanisms remain in place, the TPP-11 undermines New Zealand’s ability to stand up for the protection and enhancement of our environment and our national sovereignty.

Here lie two essential questions.  Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power?  Political commentators from leftist Giovanni Tiso to right-wing attack blogger Cameron Slater are asking the same question.  If, as I believe, the answer was the latter — what do we do to stop this corporate stitch-up of an agreement once and for all, now that Labour and New Zealand First have betrayed us?

If the deal goes to a vote in the House, then National, ACT, Labour and New Zealand First will vote for it, with only the Greens opposed.  It will pass 112 votes to 8.  But the opposition to TPPA must not melt away quietly, resigned to defeat.  It may be that we cannot stop the deal now, but there is no question that we have to try with all our might to bring it down.

We must heed the essential lesson which all those who have gone before us in wanting to change the world in favour of ordinary people have learnt — that, to use the words of slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “power concedes nothing without demand.  It never has, and it never will.”  If we want to stop corporate elites and their allies in government from getting away with imposing this deal onto us, we have to be prepared to organise and to disrupt — we cannot rely on the goodwill of politicians to change the world for us.  We should not have needed Jacinda and Winston to remind us of this!

So what is to be done?  Firstly, we need to educate people on how the “CPTPP” is no different from the deal National tried to sell us.  Jane Kelsey is going on a speaking tour to this purpose this month — you can find your local meeting here.

Secondly, we need to organise to hold demonstrations as big if not bigger than our protests against the original TPPA.  We should not tone down our resistance when so-called progressive parties are in power — we should be angrier!  The National Party exists to serve the interests of the wealthy and privileged; but Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens claim to exist to represent the people.  The fact that Labour and New Zealand First are so readily and easily willing to drop their principles as soon as they enter government should cause us shock and outrage, not passivity.  We need to be as loud and defiant in our resistance to the government’s betrayal as possible.

Thirdly, we need to mobilise forms of protest which show the threat people power can pose to those who seek to govern us.  The unions should strongly consider strike action to demonstrate the high political price any government will pay if it tries to serve the interests of profit over looking after the wellbeing of the people and planet.  We should also consider the option of staging occupations and creating significant inconveniences for the powerful.  We need to frighten Labour and New Zealand First into doing what we want them to do if we actually want them to listen to us.  Politics is not a nice game where everybody is polite — the powerful know this, and we need to learn the same thing if we are serious about stopping them.

I make my fourth argument as someone who has been a member of the Green Party for three years and served in 2017 as the Co-Convenor of the Young Greens.  The Greens only have eight MPs, three of whom are Ministers outside of Cabinet — apart from the areas agreed in our Confidence and Supply agreement, the party has little to no power over government… other than the power to bring the government down in a situation desperately important enough.  And I would argue that TPPA presents such a situation.

Agreeing to an international legal framework which makes irreversible the current economic system, which is an engine constantly driving private profit and carbon emissions up while the people and planet suffer, is a permanent threat to democracy and to progressive values.  The Green Party Charter contains four principles: ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision making, and non-violence, with a preamble to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  The founding document of the Greens simply cannot be implemented within the structures TPPA would entrench.  This poses an existential threat which cannot be ignored to the hopes and dreams that Greens, and progressives in general, have for the future of Aotearoa.

Bringing down the government is a drastic move to make, especially so early in its term.  There are few things which could necessitate such a play being made, but TPPA is, in my view, undeniably one of them.  There is simply no alternative if we are serious about creating a better future.

What would the effect of the Greens withdrawing Confidence and Supply be?  Given it is far too late now for Winston to make a u-turn and support National, and given the Greens would never prop up National, neither National or Labour would have the confidence of the House.  This would mean Ardern would have to choose whether to concede to the Greens, or to call another election.

What would happen in another election?  Polling taken in 2012 through 2016 indicates a broad public opposition to TPPA.  An election held on the basis of the agreement would favour the Greens well, as long as the party could effectively communicate the gravity of the threat posed by the agreement, and hammer home that we are the only party who have never wavered in our stance against it.  Given their u-turn on the trade deal so many of its members and supporters despise, Labour would be at risk of losing its progressive base to the Greens.  This is especially true given how fiercely Labour’s newly won Māori voters are against TPPA.  Even moreso, New Zealand First would be set to implode — Winston is already in big trouble, with his party on 3.8% in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll.  Even before the full extent of the TPPA debate has taken place, New Zealand First are in big trouble.  It would not benefit Jacinda or Winston at all to risk a second election fought over their swift reversal of positions over such a crucial issue.

Perhaps a compromise is in order.  Given the fact that Labour and New Zealand First went into the election opposing TPPA, and given that it permanently removes democratic rights from New Zealanders, the very least that the government should do would be to allow a binding referendum to take place before agreeing to the deal.  If the people of this country vote to back the “Comprehensive and Progressive” TPPA, then fair enough, the government can pass it through parliament.  If not, we should expect Labour and New Zealand First to return to their original position and vote against it.

There could not be anything more destructive to the Greens than to allow a trade deal to pass through parliament which would allow corporations to sue governments.  To chain the hands of future governments to corporate rule and the prioritisation of profit over any of our principles would be a farce that would destroy hope of progressive change in Aotearoa.  If we are, however, prepared to stand up and fight back, it is now or never.

What are we ever going to achieve if we are not prepared to play hardball?  The answer is unequivocal — nothing.



This article was originally published on the website of It’s Our Future NZ, the campaign group opposed to the TPPA.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist. At time of writing, he was a member of the Green Party and the GreenLeft Network.

5 February, 2018

Posted by Elliot Crossan in Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand National Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments