Labour nails TPPA colours to the mast just in time



Labour’s unequivocal opposition to the TPPA will please the rank-and-file of the party whose desire for autonomy and authenticity was so clearly evident at its conference last year.

Leading the charge at the Conference were the combined forces of Young Labour branches from around the country who made it clear that their agenda, terrifying though it was for some, had groundswell from within the Party.

But first some background. Many of us who’d battled in the List selection or in ‘take-one-for-the-team’ electorates, there had been a lot of frustration with sticking to the “Vote Positive” script we were required to follow. What was Labour’s stand on deep sea oil drilling? Never mind that, let’s sing  Kum Ba Yah for Warm Dry Homes really loudly. All together now….On election day, it was clear that few wanted to hold hands and sing along.

Labour’s policy on deep sea oil drilling, as just one example, requiring complete safety before they’d support it was interpreted by many as lacking authenticity. Behind the scenes it was said that such drilling could never be proven to be safe, so, effectively, the answer was that Labour opposed it. The equivocating vagueness no doubt reflected a desire to tread carefully given the clear competing interests of, say, miners and drillers and those who think we’ve got enough our planet’s blue eyes brown. But there comes a point where treading carefully becomes insincere pussyfooting; a most unattractive look.

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Looking at the electorally battered attendees a year later at the Conference in Palmerston North there were notable absences, but the faithful returned, some minus an eye, some with a limp, some with their tails up and others desperately looking for a reason to go on. Or perhaps just go.

There was less hype with this conference. The new leader mixed easily with his charges in sharp contrast to the sycophantic selfie-seeking swarms that buzzed around the previous papa bear. It seemed the earthy goodness had returned and from it flourished a speech which one observer said represented the very best and worst of the party.

“We built state houses and we banned nuclear ships,” she said from the podium, her clenched fists raised in front of her. Bosoms swelled with pride as they remembered the best and, then, the worst, as they were reminded that the speaker had effectively lost her seat in Parliament during the list selection process.

And yet, despite the hurt that many felt about this, the grace and humour with which the speech was delivered reminded all that this was a tough game and that the show must go on.

One did not have to look far to see signs of vigorous new growth within the party. Earlier in the day sector meeting had been well covered by well-organised younger party members. Despite opposition from the more conservative, by the end of the day, they had remits which had to go to the conference floor.

They’d already been in trouble after getting a controversial remit for transgender health care through at regional level. Now it was going to the floor at the National Conference which would vote on whether it went forward to the policy committee.

Not content with that, they pushed through similar remits to decriminalise cannabis, decriminalise abortion and to partially decriminalise all drugs adopt a Portuguese-style model of drug harm reduction.

Indeed some were very concerned about these bold remits. It would be better to get into power, get a Law Commission report and then blame it when the new law was made. The youngsters were unconvinced. They wanted to nail their authentic colours unmistakably to their mast.

They saw straight answers on straight issues as having more political benefit than the evident obfuscation their seniors think they’re so slick at.

The youngsters needed to pull their silly little heads in and get real said one. Another noted that these issues were important because the young people said so. That was reason enough, given that these folk would, she hoped, be there to look after the aged. What do we want our bums wiped with, she asked, three-ply or sandpaper?

Meanwhile, some were concerned about how the conference or the press would handle the remits if they were voted in or, worse, voted down. A portable defibrillator on standby wasn’t needed,  but some seemed short of breath.

One said to the other, “Yes, I know. We’re in imminent danger of appearing like a dynamic, progressive party where the voices of young people are heard. Imagine if we had a policy to decriminalise pot. All those dirty hippies who decamped to the Greens might come back and stink up our tent with their dreadlocks and goatswool socks. No, we couldn’t have that.”

They needn’t have worried. With the controversial remits wrapped up in a euphemistic “catch all” remit going to up, the words decriminalise were never uttered on the conference floor and the catch all remit was voted up. It went off for consideration at the policy committee which some have likened to something like a cross between the Tardis and the Bermuda Triangle.

With 140 policies advanced at  the last election, there’s no doubt that it’s able to produce more than its outside dimensions would seem to indicate. And while rumours about it being the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffer are said to have no foundation, there’s no doubt that a lot of things have gone there and never been seen again.

There will no doubt be attempts to dilute or slow the significant social agenda pushed by the young, but the reality is there is a tide against prohibition within the party based not just on pragmatism but body autonomy.

The evident goodwill at the conference showed as delegates raced through the adoption of various remits. Although time was allowed for people to speak for and against them, a growing chorus began calling “aye” the moment a remit was read out. Undeterred, some speakers still queued to speak on no-brainer remits and met again with a chorus of “ayes” wrapped around the clear cry of “Jesus, just take me now.”

And then in a flash it was over, early, and there was left to do was drink to the success of the conference and the secure knowledge for many that their kids wouldn’t be shipping them off to an old folks home on the South side of Enderby Island. And for those who wondered if they would ever get anywhere within Labour the knowing looks among them indicated they now knew the Party was going somewhere with them.

This feeling was evident at Young Labour’s summer school in the Waitakeres last weekend. They’re still flushed with pride at not only getting these remits through, but gaining unanimous support when it went to the floor at the Conference.

Astonishingly the press hasn’t picked up on these bold policy initiatives. When just one of these controversial remits made it through at regional level (transgender healthcare), it must have been a slow time for news for it reverberated around the media for weeks. When it was adopted at national level, there wasn’t a peep.

But the influence of Young Labour is perhaps evident in other and more important ways from an electoral perspective. Taking a clear, unequivocal, authentic stand is admired by those who are attracted to principles. Autonomy and freedom from interference by others are almost universal values within this country. It’s nice to see Labour representing them.


      • Gosman doesn’t bother reading the articles or the comments, he just looks down the list and sees which comments have been voted up, then votes them down.

        Reading is a problem for Gosman ever since his house was broken into and all his books were stolen. He was gutted.

        He hadn’t even finished colouring them in.

  1. Some “highlights” from the TPPA Don’t Sign Tour Wellington meeting:

    • By the Government’s own best-scenario projection – an extra $2.7b by 2030. This is equivalent to a 0.9% pay rise, discounted back to the present day. Without TPPA economy will grow by 47% anyway. Disregards inflation and ignores the financial costs (such as dearer medicine etc). Ignores potential costs of lawsuits, administration, sovereignty, etc.

    • The amount of a single ISDS dispute between Canada and the US is $US15b. The TPPA will enable a further 1600 US corporations (9500 total from all countries) to be able to pursue ISDS cases against NZ for any reason. Many have previously initiated spurious cases, or threatened to, just to discourage Governments from acting outside their financial interests. – Lori Wallach

    • If a country refuses to honour an ISDS case against it, that litigant Corporation will have right to seize Government assets to recoup losses, under the New York Honoring of Agreements Treaty, to which NZ will be subject. – Lori Wallach

    • The text of the TPPA on Feb 4 is not the final draft. There are clauses present that the US and Japan will not have to sign until the text is acceptable in their eyes, and have the right to redraft the text before ratification. – Lori Wallach

    • The six richest countries that make up 85% of the GDP of the 12 signatories are the ONLY ones required to agree for the deal to be ratified. If these 6 can agree, the other countries must accept the terms. (NZ is not one of the 6.) – Jane Kelsey

    • Given that the National (and other) Governments are not stupid, and must know what the academics know, what is their reason for signing such a patently bad deal? After much discussion, entire panel couldn’t provide a sure answer. – All panellists.

    • NZ Government requires Treaty of Waitangi negotiators to prove that they have the mandate of the Maori people before they engage in negotiations with the Crown. No such mandate from the NZ Citizenry is required by the Government with respect to the TPPA. – Carwyn Jones, VUW Senior Law Scholar and ToW negotiator.

    • No financial modelling has been done for a case of the TPPA going ahead but NZ not being party to it. Suspiciaon that this is the worst of the three scenarios (TPPA doesn’t go ahead; TPPA goes ahead WITH NZ; TPPA goes ahead WITHOUT NZ).

  2. Labour still represents loot-and-pollute capitalism with a few more breadcrumbs falling off the table into the mouths of the impoverished masses than under National.

    Window-dressing aside, Labour policy is still predicated on avoiding discussion of ANY of the crucial issues of the times and continuing to make everything that matters worse, and Andrew Little still has zero credibility as a consequence.

    Interestingly, the meltdown of the global economic system is now running parallel with the meltdown of the global environment.

    But anyone with a brain that functions properly knows which is the more important.

    Labour will go down with everything else when global environmental collapse occurs. And all the pieces of evidence, particularly the lowest ice cover ever

    and the highest CO2 concentration ever, coupled with the highest rate of increase ever

    indicate that current political arrangements -party-based reality-avoidance and policies universally predicated on non-compliance with the requirements of sound ecology or sound even economics- have less than 3 years to go before being clearly seen to be at the heart of our collective predicament.

    It could well be that that the Arctic Sea becomes ice-free in 2016 (though that is not a prediction and we will not know for sure for another 200 days).

    In the meantime Labour will continue to promote faster planetary meltdown and enslavement of the masses by money-lenders and corporations; it’s all Labour knows; it’s all Labour has ever known.

    The game is coming to an end, faster than most people realise or can even imagine.

    • Your “truth” appears to be one eyed AFEWKNOWTHETRUTH. Shouldn’t your post be directed at the current Key led National government?



    Those points are dramatic evidence the TPPA is going to kill us all..

  4. “unequivocal” oppositions, really?

    We have Phil Goff and Shearer openly support the TPPA, so again, Labour’s caucus and possibly even some members, are not that united and clear on it at all.

  5. Hi Kelly,

    Do you have any insight on why it took so long for Labour to take a position? Here is a timeline I would’ve thought workable by Labour if they had a small team on standby:

    5 Nov – 1st version of TPPA released by NZ Govt
    6 Nov – 20 Nov: analysis and prepare briefing on the points of most concern
    20 Nov – 4 Dec: briefing considered by Caucus and position agreed
    4 Dec – 11 Dec: prepare communications of this position, media briefings etc.
    14 Dec: Labour’s position announced, communicated clearly to all media. And every Labour person saying the SAME thing EVERY time in every communication.

    Position nailed before Xmas, before Govt. has time to announce the ridiculous signing in NZ. Looks proactive and professional and competent. For icing on the cake, co-ordinate with the Greens.

    Or was there just too much internal disagreement to achieve this timeline? If so then it’s same old.

    • Could not have said it better, left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
      Complete delusion if Labour think that the population believes a word they say – losing credibility along the way
      If Labour had followed this simple timeline they would be all on the same page
      Matt is not doing his job OR he deliberately undermining AL
      What do you think ?

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