New Zealand businesses tell Key they plan campaign to sell Kiwis on trade deal’s merits once it’s signed so the NZ Herald tells us.
This raises some interesting questions. One is the role of money in politics in general. The other is how one sided and really bad is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal going to be for one side, big business, to call for a big money campaign to force it down our throats.
The role of money – and in this context I am talking about big money not bucket collections – in politics is basically antidemocratic. People who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on political causes are not stupidly wasting it out of the goodness of their hearts. No, they buy results they are otherwise not able to get through democratic means i.e. their vote.
If you google ‘money in politics’ you get ‘about 591,000,000 results’, which make for some depressing reading. Just as an example I pick the first entry, which is from the Economist Nov 7th 2014 about Democracy in America (Big money in politics – Two depressing thoughts). One is the fact that the only seventh costliest Senate race – just for one senate seat – cost more than the entire 2010 general election in Britain. And here is the second depressing thought. Many Americans worry that public faith in democracy is being undermined by vast sums of corrupting money. There is a prevailing suspicion that elected representatives are essentially bought and paid for by wealthy special interests. I would call that rather a fact than a suspicion.
In New Zealand we have so far avoided the worst excesses of big money in politics with our laws around elections. However there are big gaps for the rest of the political cycle with no limits to what big business could spend on the TPP issue.
And we have a terrifying example of how big money in New Zealand was able to (almost) buy the result of the most crucial referendum in our history. In 1992 84.7% of voters opted for a change of the old First-past-the-Post electoral system. A year later in 1993 after only six months of a massive big money anti MMP campaign this result was depressed to 53.9%. If the opponents of the more democratic MMP system would have started their campaign a little bit earlier and had spend a little bit more money they would have bought the result they wanted. This is a prime example how antidemocratic big money campaigns really are. Not only the means – big money spend on an ugly TV misinformation campaign, remember the brown paper bag people – but the aim was antidemocratic. The money men tried to prevent MMP for the first time giving one person one (equal) vote.
Here the parallel to the TPP campaign becomes clear. That agreement will give big corporations the right via so called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to overturn decisions democratically made by our parliament (see my previous blog post “Our War Heroes have died in vain“). Again big business is attacking our democracy, which you might say is always part of big business through lobbying and big money corrupting our politicians.
When you read the NZ business leader quoted as saying he was concerned that the public did not understand the benefits of TPP and he wanted to put the facts on the table “rather than things that appeal to people’s gut instincts but aren’t backed by facts” you don’t know if to laugh or cry. The facts are that the negotiations are conducted in secret with just big business around the table. The secrecy however prevents trade unions, environmental and other civil society groups and all of us ‘ordinary New Zealanders’ from knowing the facts. And now the boss is spending big money to tell us – Yeah Right.
If we needed any more proof of how bad the TPP deal will be for us, if we value safe work places, safe to swim rivers, a clean environment, an affordable first class health system and a democratically elected Parliament, which can pass laws in our interest, we have to look no further. The big business run con-job to force TPP down our throats will be it.Tweet ##NZPOL