If the Labour-New Zealand First coalition government sign the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement it will make a mockery of Jacinda Ardern's claim that she is determined to tackle climate change "head on".
THERE IS MORE than some concern among Labour supporters that the Labour-New Zealand First coalition shows every sign that it intends to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement this month.
A few days ago I received an email from the Labour-friendly Action Station, inviting me to sign a petition that urges Jacinda Ardern not to sign the TPP Mk2. Last time I looked, there were over 6,000 signatories to the petition.
I doubt that the petition is going to make a scrap of difference though. While this view will annoy some Labour supporters who regard this government as "their government" and therefore can be influenced in a way the National led governments of the past nine years couldn't, Ardern long ago declared her support for the TPP. But that was largely forgotten while Labour supporters swooned about Ardern's 'charisma' and her ability to point an accusing finger at TV3's Tory boy Mark Richardson.
So Ardern will sign New Zealand up for the TPP and it will be largely unchanged. That' something that Professor Jane Kelsey, a longtime campaigner against the TPP, also thinks. She says: "[The government] seems willing to proceed now with the agreement largely unchanged and indeed possibly unchanged at all if they can get through their ban on foreign investment in residential housing under the existing wording,"
Certainly Trade Minister David Parker, another TPP supporter, is already suggesting that the TPP is pretty much a done deal. He told Radio New Zealand that "'We won't be able to change everything we want to change". He's being too modest - they won't change anything.
And Parker has already admitted that the TPP will significantly constrain the Government from making fundamental policy changes. He said that the plan to stop foreigners buying existing houses in New Zealand had to happen now- before the TPP was signed:
"If you don't do it now, you can never do it. Because if TPP is entered into, New Zealand will have lost the policy space to protect the New Zealand housing market for New Zealanders."
For Labour supporters the Labour-NZF's commitment to the TPP undercuts the narrative they been trying to maintain that this is a progressive and left wing government.
it isn't of course. While it might tinker around the edges and remove some of National's more unpalatable policies, don't expect the sweeping and fundamental changes that you would expect from a genuinely left wing government. Wealth redistribution? No. The nationalising of essential services? No. What about an increase in the main welfare benefits? No. Signing corporate-friendly free trade agreements? Yes.
The signing of the TPP will also severely undermine Jacinda Ardern's claim that climate change is her ".. generations nuclear free moment and I'm determined that we will tackle it head on."
The problem for Ardern is that the State Investor Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP will effectively block any serious attempts to tackle climate change "head on". This mechanism allows overseas companies, including fossil fuel companies, to sue the Government if local changes to bring down greenhouse gas emissions might affect their value or profits. This is indeed 'capitalism versus the climate" - as Naomi Klein might say.
However as signing of the TPP meets with the approval of the political establishment and its media allies, there'll be little criticism coming at Ardern from this direction. And with most Labour supporters reluctant to criticise Ardern and her government for just about anything, she is likely to get away with signing this terrible agreement among her own supporters too. Certainly there won't be tens of thousands of people marching in the streets as there were in 2014. And 2015. And 2016.