Key not backing away from public protest

Some are making a lot of booing and objects being thrown at John Key and claim it’s a sign of massive public displeasure at Key and the government.

It’s impossible to gauge how the general voting public see events over the last two weeks, beginning with the large turnout for the TPPA protest in Auckland, followed closely by the Waitangi debacle and Key’s appearance at the Auckland nines, and then with the Big Gay Out baying at Key in the weekend.

A Herald headline claims TPP protests put damper on long Key honeymoonbut is it?

Key says he expects protests to continue but it won’t put him off public appearances.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he expected to encounter protesters against the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the rest of the year.

But he would not be changing his public appearances to minimise the encounters.

“… I’m not going to back away from it or engaging with other New Zealanders because you get a small group of very noisy protesters.”

It could be that the protests are helping dent Key’s popularity, although the opposite may also happen in reaction against over the top actions of a few.

The Herald compares preferred Prime Minister polls between Key and Helen Clark but they are crucially looking at different times in their terms.

  • Helen Clark after 6 years – ‘nearly 60%’
  • Clark prior to losing in 2008 – 41.6%
  • Key after seven years (December 2015) – 65.2%

That was before this month’s protests and attacks. The next poll on both party support and leader support will give us a bit of an idea about whether the protests are effective or counter-productive.

But if Key keeps appearing in public and fronting up in spite of protests it could be an indication that his own polling isn’t causing him any concern.

Labour, protest, trade

Labour mostly kept a distance from the TPPA protests in Auckland yesterday. They have also tried to keep a distance between anti-TPPA and anti-trade. But not everyone in Labour is on the same page.

Andrew Little and Labour dabbled with the TPPA signing and protests but from a distance. They tried to portray their anti-TPPA stance as a principled stand on sovereignty in the same league as New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance:

On this day in 1985 the then Labour Government stood up for the rights of New Zealanders. It refused entry to the USS Buchanan after the US Government would neither confirm nor deny the warship had nuclear capability. Fast forward 31 years and today the Labour Opposition is again standing up for New Zealand sovereignty which the TPPA undermines.

LabourTPPAAgainst

I’m not sure they are onto a winner with this approach, it’s just one of many mixed and muddled messages on the TPPA and is unlikely to get much traction with the TPPA protest movement, nor those who see trade agreements as a necessity.

Little also put out a media release: TPP signing highlights divisions in NZ

The stage-managed signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement at a casino in Auckland today highlights the divisions National’s handling of the deal has caused in New Zealand, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“The Government’s whole management of the agreement has been botched, from the total secrecy to ramming it down people’s throats.

“This has caused a deep divide, and inviting international leaders to sign it just two days before Waitangi – our national day – has added salt to that wound.

“Labour is a pro-free trade party but the TPP goes further than other agreements in undermining our democracy. We shouldn’t need a permission slip from foreign corporations to pass our own laws. That’s why Labour cannot support the agreement in its current form.

“Other countries such as Australia and Malaysia are able to ban foreigners from buying their homes. New Zealand cannot under this deal. That’s just not right.

“Open and transparent debate is crucial to a healthy democracy but the TPP process and John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed has damaged that.

“Today’s protests are a public sign of the deep discomfort many New Zealanders feel about what is happening in this country. The Government must now seek ways to heal that wound,” Andrew Little says.

This is odd from Little, in particular “John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed”. The TPPA was only signed yesterday, about the same time this statement seems to have been posted, so dissing Key’s post-signing handling is unjustified.

Litle also did a live chat about the TPPA on Stuff.

If Labour opposes the TPPA why wasn’t the Labour Party more involved with the anti-TPPA protest today?

We’re opposed to the TPPA in its current form because compromises to New Zealand’s sovereignty are not justified by the meagre economic gains. A number of Labour people are involved in today’s protests, including MPs who’ve spoken at rallies around the country.

But Labour involvement with the protest was low profile, especially with Labour’s front bench MPs.

Grant Robertson was at the Wellington protest but wasn’t prominent in Stuff’s: Protesters in Wellington join calls against TPPA signing

Opposition politicians and union members were among those in attendance, with several sharing their concerns about the deal.

Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson said the TPPA was not a normal trade agreement and required New Zealand to sacrifice too much.

“This is an agreement [where] New Zealand is having to give away the right to make laws and policies in our interests, and that is wrong and we cannot accept that.”

Robertson said the issue was “far from over”, and Kiwis opposed to the deal needed to continue their protests.

“This is not over: as New Zealanders, we have to stand together [and] stand up for our rights to make laws in our own interests.”

Standard Labour talking points on the TPPA. Nothing from Robertson about it on his Facebook page.

Jacinda Ardern seems to have kept her distance from the Auckland protest, and obviously Phil Goff and David Shearer would not be seen supporting the protest.

Meka Whaitiri was there, interesting for Labour’s Associate Primary Industries Spokesperson to be against a trade agreement that will benefit primary industries.

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark doesn’t seem to have associated with any protests.

Phil Twyford was at the Auckland protest as this photo with Whaitiri on his Facebook page shows.

TPPATwyfordWhaitiri

Note the US branded jacket with a Labour logo
– with a ‘Corporate Traitor’ sign in the background (hat tip Iceberg)

As Spokesperson for Auckland Issues and Associate Spokesperson for Transport (Auckland and Ports) Twyford could be out of step with Auckland business and export interests there.

Sue Moroney showed her and Labour’s presence via Facebook:

TPPAMoroney

Duncan Garner spotted David Cunliffe:

Cunliffe also posted on his Facebook page with some loyal party lines:

Today, I joined thousands of Kiwis in protest against provisions in the TPPA that would undermine our sovereignty. Great to see people from all walks of life engaged and expressing their views peacefully and thoughtfully.

The New Zealand Labour Party has always stood for free trade and always will – just not at the expense of our sovereignty.

TPPACunliffe

Miriam Bookman Hi David,

I am very disappointed in seeing Labour supporters marching alongside an anti semitic banner, and that you think it appropriate to re-post this image. This is not the Labour I wish to support.

It may be hard to choose your neighbours in a protest march but choice of publicity photos can be an issue.

‪#‎TPPANoWay‬ March down Queen Street Auckland .

Taranaki would presumably cover New Plymouth where Andrew Little has stood twice for Parliament (unsuccessfully, he’s a List MP).

Taranaki-King Country Labour flew a flag for their party:

TPPATaranakiTrade1

The sign in the background appears to be welcoming, but it’s the opposite, as Taranaki-King Country Labour show in another shot.

TPPATaranakiTrade2

That may not be a problem, the Trade Ministers of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, USA or Vietnam may never need to deal with Taranaki-King Country Labour.

 

Police v activists, chilling versus no problem

Two Dunedin anti-TPPA activists have responded differently to police discussing with them their plans for campaigning against the TPPA.

This follows news that police have had additional anti-riot training and growing talk online about riots and violent protest.

Police are in a common position for them of damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Some have claimed their approach of activists amounts to anti-free speech intimidation, but it isn’t uncommon for the police to try to pre-empt possible trouble by talking to people.

Nationally most attention was given to Dunedin activist Scout Barbour-Evans. NZ Herald reports:

Visits to activists ‘worrying’ trend

A national police campaign to door-knock TPP activists is part of a larger trend of “chilling” opposition to the Government and the right to protest, a civil liberties lawyer says.

Police have been visiting “known activists” opposed to New Zealand’s involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement ahead of protests planned in several cities tomorrow.

Lawyer Michael Bott said the tactic appeared to be part of “an increasing trend on the part of the police”.

“They seem to be doing it proactively on behalf of the Government and its projects.

Or proactively in reaction to threats. of targeting political events.

“It’s worrying that New Zealand citizens who are concerned about the agreement suddenly find themselves the target of police.

“It has a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the right to protest.”

Not necessarily. There has been no claim they are trying to stop expression of protest. It depends on how it’s done by the police. And how it’s played by activists.

Scout Barbour-Evans, a Dunedin activist who goes by the gender-neutral pronoun “they”, said an officer knocked on their door about 10am yesterday.

The officer wanted to know what the plans were for the anti-TPP protest in Dunedin, Scout said.

Scout compared the situation to the Springbok tour, saying the increased surveillance felt akin to 1981, particularly following the presence of armed police at Prime Minister John Key’s State of the Nation speech on Wednesday.

By the look of Barbour-Evans they won’t have been born in 1981 so she can’t have felt what that was like. A number of people (it seems like it could be a planned strategy) have been trying to liken TPPA protests with the Springbok tour.

The ODT headlined Police visiting activists labelled ‘a disgrace’.

Police calling and doorknocking activists about their plans to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is “an absolute disgrace”, Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins says.

“If the police are going door to door intimidating known TPP opponents, in case they might be thinking of expressing their disagreement publicly, then that’s an absolute disgrace,” Cr Hawkins said.

“The TPP has never been primarily about trade, it’s about protecting the interests of big business from the meddlesome interference of democracy.”

Hawkins is closely associated with the Green party. Green leader Metiria Turei calls it Implicit police threat appalling:

“It carries with it an implicit threat and New Zealanders have the right to speak out and have their voices heard. Being an activist isn’t a crime, being an activist is being passionate about something and last time I checked that wasn’t illegal.”

So no actual threat, just one that the Greens view as ‘implicit’.

But less prominently the ODT also reports:

TPP Action Dunedin organiser Jen Olsen said she had spoken to police this week about what was planned for this weekend.

“We’ve got not problem about the police and are happy to tell them what we’re doing, because we have no plans to do anything illegal.”

So no claim there that the police intimidated or tried to stop expression or protest.

If there are violent protests or riots as some activists have promoted over the next week the police are likely to be condemned for doing too much, and condemned for not doing enough.