TPP and the coalition of pragmatic change

The new Government has claimed to be a coalition of change, and there will be some significant changes. However the optimism of left wing activists may be tempered somewhat by the levels of pragmatism required in government.

The first mayor example looks like being the Trans Pacific Partnership, forced by a timetable already in place.

Fran O’Sullivan: Eyes of world on our Coalition of Change

The Ardern Administration is displaying considerable pragmatism in its first days in power.

Workarounds have already become the favoured mechanism as Cabinet Ministers marry their wish to deliver on election promises with the realities of running a government.

Ardern is a quick study.

…she was schooled by her predecessor the arch-pragmatist Helen Clark.

Hence, she sucked it up when Turnbull denied her request for New Zealand to settle 150 refugees from Manus Island here.

The more interesting diplomatic gambit was the agreement reached by the two Prime Ministers to use a mutual exchange of letters to guarantee the mechanism for settling investor disputes between companies and governments, instead of the mechanism laid down in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Like the earlier mechanism for achieving a ban on foreigners buying residential houses in New Zealand there is considerable diplomatic and legal craft involved.

Trade Minister David Parker and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will be outlining these subtle policy shifts when they meet their counterparts in Vietnam ahead of the Prime Minister’s own visit for the Apec Leaders Meeting.

If all goes to plan and the TPP-11 is agreed by the relevant Apec leaders it will be a triumph for Ardern and Parker. They will be able to argue that National did not try hard enough to protect New Zealand’s domestic interests in the TPP negotiations.

Labour had already positioned themselves to push for some protections but also to go with the TPP.

Bloomberg: New Zealand’s PM Sees Benefits for Her Country in the TPP Trade Deal

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her nation would benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, indicating she won’t let concerns over dispute resolution clauses scupper the trade deal.

“There are clear benefits for our exporters in this agreement,” Ardern said in an interview in her office in Wellington Tuesday, two days before she travels to the APEC leaders meeting in Vietnam where the Pacific-rim trade pact will be discussed. “New Zealand does not have the access to, for instance, the Japanese market that the Australians do. This would bring benefits to our beef industry, our wine industry, our kiwifruit industry.”

Ardern, whose Labour Party took power last month, has already moved to ban foreign buyers of existing residential property, removing one of the key stumbling blocks to her government signing up to the TPP. She still has concerns about the pact’s investor state dispute settlement clauses, which would allow foreign corporations to sue member states in disputes.

However, Ardern indicated New Zealand may not pursue those concerns at the expense of reaching agreement.

“Our objective has been to raise the issue, to pursue it as far as we’re able,” she said.

Some political gains but also allowing major trade gains to go ahead would be a win-win for Ardern and Labour.

Pragmatism to the forefront and ‘change’ in the background won’t please everyone. Anti-TPP activists will be disappointed, but no one voted for them.

A philosophy and a political ideology which will take us into the 21st century

Tony Veitch posted “I want to pose a problem for a Sunday to commentators on the Standard.”

We need a philosophy and a political ideology which will take us into the 21st century and hopefully cope with the enormous problems facing mankind.

George Monboit hinted in a lecture that some sort of idea was being formulated and will be broadcast next year. Until that happens – some thoughts:

Neoliberalism is discredited and dead.

Socialism may be able to take its place, but we cannot have infinite growth in a finite world.

So any ideology will have to aim at equality without growth, economic justice without any skewering of the rewards. Such a philosophy must allow for human initiative and endeavour without the financial payment.

Such a philosophy must motivate people to make the potentially enormous sacrifices which will be required if we are to combat climate change; must eliminate greed at a motivating force, yet encourage entrepreneurship!

I can’t get my head round all the parameters of such a philosophy, except to be convinced that we are in desperate need of something political to believe in!

Your thoughts?

My thoughts are that we don’t need a philosophy or a political ideology to govern in the 21st century. There has been a big change away from being driven by ideology, and instead to address each issue pragmatically in the context of the current situation and needs.

Some political discussion, for example at The Standard or Kiwiblog, is driven by “how does this fit with my ideology and therefore what should my position be on it”.

But it’s far more sensible to simply use the approach “what’s the best way to deal with this”.

And that’s what has been happening to a large extent this century in New Zealand, first under Helen Clark’s leadership and now under John Key.

We have moved from governing by ideology to governing pragmatically.

There are a few remnant political dinosaurs who yearn for a set of rules by which they must think and act but that’s an extinct way of governing, in New Zealand at least.

Pragmatism versus ideology

In Political Week Stuff looks at the trend towards political pragmatism and away from ideology.

This was prompted by a week of political liaisons that bridge supposed ideologies.

Winston Peters and Don Brash had a get together:

When it comes to political odd couples they don’t get much more unlikely than Don Brash and Winston Peters. So any passers-by witnessing them sharing lunch at Wellington’s Old Bailey on Thursday would have done a double take.

Peters used to harbour a special sort of loathing for Brash, whose dry stewardship of the Reserve Bank epitomised everything that was wrong about monetary policy in Peters’ eyes.

As someone who was regularly lampooned by Peters’, meanwhile, Brash was understandably distrustful of his NZ First opponent and appalled by his Muldoonist-style economic policies.

Also during the week Michael Cullen offered a fix for NZ Post with a proposed part sale of Kiwibank to the Super and ACC investment funds.

And John Key offered his and the Government’s support for Helen Clark’s bid for UN Secretary General.

Labour supported both the Kiwibank rearrangement (as did Jim Anderton) and Clark’s bid.

And what’s been National’s biggest noise in welfare lately? Raising benefits, something it might have nicked from Labour’s manifesto.

So what happened?

Pragmatism has trumped ideology. It doesn’t polarise the electorate the way ideology does, and it blunts the mood for change. Pragmatism shows politicians are listening. Pursuing ideology at all costs shows they’ve stopped listening.

There are still ideological lines drawn between National and Labour, of course, but they are well scuffed compared to the bright lines drawn by the likes of the Greens and ACT.

ACT’s David Seymour opposed the Kiwibank move, he wants full privatisation, and Greens opposed it because they feared it was a move in the direction of privatisation, but from either side of the political spectrum they can afford to promote ideological positions.

It helps, of course, that Key and Clark seem to have struck up a cordial relationship over the years, maintained by text and a personal visit whenever either of them is in each other’s town. But even if there had been any personal enmity, they would have put that aside for the greater cause in this case.

As for the Brash-Peters love-in, that one may yet have more to play out. As a staunch proponent of RMA reform, Brash will see in Peters a potential friend and ally if he is a means to achieving that end.

But Key may be harder to convincedthat the olive branch extended by Peters over RMA reforms doesn’t come with too high a price tag, namely doing over the Maori Party in Peters’ favour.

Nor will Key be convinced that once Peters’ achieves that aim he won’t use it to hold Key over a barrel.

That’s not about ideology; it’s self preservation.

Self preservation in politics often requires pragmatism. This has become easier with a significant shift in power seeking political focus.

Last century politics was more of a left versus right battle with ideology far more prominent.

Now the big battle is over the centre, where ideologies and pragmatism intermingle more and more.

It’s very hard to see what ideologies either National or Labour see as important, less so what they see as non-negotiable.

Clark’s Labour government won and held the centre vote.

Key’s National government now rules the centre, with Labour wavering between centre and left, wavering between leaders and wavering in the polls.

The ideological fights are confined more to the fringe fanatics in comments at blogs like Whale Oil and Kiwiblog on the right and at The Standard and The Daily Blog on the left.

Of the blog authors David Farrar is still closely involved with National’s ongoing success but due to major failures at the extremes Cameron Slater and Martyn Bradbury are increasingly impotent, and the Standard authors struggle to unite the left and they damage more than enhance Labour’s chances.

Their ideologies have been overtaken by political pragmatism and they seem unable to catch up.

Gareth Morgan on commonsense and the Treaty of Waitangi

Like it or not the Treaty of Waitangi is a very sifgnificant and influential document in modeerrn New Zealand. Gareth Morgan is writing a series of articles on it for NZ Herald.

The first one is today – Gareth Morgan: Treaty justice triumph of commonsense

Much has been achieved since the renaissance of the Treaty of Waitangi began in 1975. That should be celebrated.

The Treaty – as represented by the original versions of 1840 and all the efforts to modernise its meaning since – describes the relationship between Maori, as the indigenous ethnic group, and all other New Zealanders (again taken as a group). It’s a bilateral relationship that is strong, much stronger than it was before 1975.

As we all know, the Treaty of 1840 made undertakings to Maori. These were broken in many ways, with catastrophic effects we as a society are still grappling with today. The significant achievements since the reconciliation and restoration process began in 1975 are:

1. Recognition of the importance of the unique and permanent rights of Maori in New Zealand society.

2. Acknowledgment that colonisation and Pakeha Treaty breaches decimated Maori society with ongoing intergenerational effects still playing out.

3. Establishment of unique rights for Maori over much of the natural estate and over Maori cultural treasures.

4. Granting of negotiated compensation to Maori for breaches.

5. A commitment to protect the unique bicultural character of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Justice and reparations have been a long time coming and, as generous as they might look to non-Maori, they’re just cents in the dollar for what Maori lost in terms of property. But these settlements were reached after a process of good faith negotiation, albeit having required a fair amount of pragmatism and making-it-up-as-we-go.

This is demonstrated by the way our politicians and Maori negotiators have both compromised.

However, the reparations are just the start of the journey to restore Maori pride and self-esteem – there is much more that needs to be done.

Morgan discusses the pragmatism involved in the process and required for it to work.

…the Treaty is a timeless arrangement, to be continually reinterpreted as the relationship between Maori and other New Zealanders evolves.

However despite this fluidity, the Treaty has limits. Even in its modern “elastic” form it cannot be credibly stretched to legitimise all Maori aspirations.

Morgan concludes:

So this leaves us with the most important question of today: “How do we help Maoridom realise the all-important aspirations encompassed in rangatiratanga (used in Article 2, te reo version) in modern day Aotearoa New Zealand?”

I believe rangatiratanga can and must be addressed, but not through convoluted legal arguments over sovereignty, as currently pursued by the Waitangi Tribunal and iwi leaders.

In my view, this path will result in greater division between Maori and other New Zealanders.

To come:
• Limits of the Treaty process
• Better ways to deliver rangatiratanga for Maori
• One country, two peoples – practical policies.

The series will be interesting, and could provoke a bit of discussion.

Somewhere in between throwing out the Treaty and total Maori say over everything that happens in New Zealand we have to find a pragmatic formula.

Both parties to the treaty need to be realistic about what will work best for everyone in New Zealand. It won’t be easy and not everyone will be happy but it’s commonsense.