|Protesting against the TPP in 2015.|
That noise you can hear is the sound of Labour Party supporters shuffling away from criticising this government - even for something as terrible as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
WHEN ASKED HOW he handled disagreements with his players, former Leeds United and Nottingham Forest manager Bran Clough famously replied “We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right.”
It seems that the new Government has adopted the Clough principle when it comes to dealing with the overwhelming opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement v2.0, otherwise known as Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Responding to an open letter from Our Future NZ and Action Station calling for full public consultation on the deal, Trade Minister David Parker agreed that the government could indeed chat about it a bit but it was still 'unlikely' not to sign the agreement. Translating Parker's weasel words, that means the government will chain our future to this terrible 'corporate charter'.
The response of both Our Future NZ and Action Station has been ambivalent. On the one hand they have ran an effective crowd-funded campaign against the CPTPP, but the open letter presented to the government merely calls for public consultation before the deal is signed. What happened to the staunch opposition to the deal? Were the goalposts suddenly moved when I briefly left the room?
Both Action Station and Our Future NZ need to remind themselves that tens of thousands of New Zealanders didn't march in 2015 demanding just to 'have a say' on the TPP before it was signed but that the deal be completely rejected. Some of the people matching in the streets were Labour MP's and Labour Party members.
Neither Action Station and Our Future NZ took the opportunity to back Jane Kelsey's argument that the proposed agreement be independently scrutinised: "the robust analysis that Labour called for in opposition, independent of MFAT and consultants like the NZIER who basically rubber stamped the previous shonky modelling."
Nor did they take the opportunity to point out that this agreement is straight out of the neoliberal playbook, despite the fact that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely reported, both here and overseas, expressing the view that neoliberalism has been 'a failure'.
The problem is this. While Our Future NZ and Action Station are ostensibly independent groups, they are also sympathetic to this centrist government. Action Station, for example, ran a consistent election campaign supporting Labour - I often received emails inviting me to help fund it.
It recently published an article headlined: "Nine reasons to be stoked about this new government."
It is this obvious affinity and loyalty to a government that has made some vaguely progressive noises which is leading to criticisms being muted or not being made at all. It is leading to excuses being made for a government when excuses shouldn't be made. It is leading to this government not being held accountable in the same way the National-led government was. And it is leading to a smug complacency that can only be dangerous in the long run
And it is leading to a dramatic watering down of opposition to the CPTPP. Yes, it is to the Green's credit that they continue to oppose the agreement - but we are still a million light years way from the militant opposition that we saw in 2015.