Butler and Trotter versus TPP

Christ Trotter has based his latest column on the word of anti-TPP activist Josie Butler –  Protecting the TPP

The heavily guarded Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) travelling roadshow came to Christchurch last week.

The word “heavily” is used advisedly. According to the reportage of Josie Butler (who staged a peaceful protest at the event and was escorted from the auditorium)…

Apparently Butler hid a dildo down her pants to get past bag searches.

…the roadshow was not only protected by upwards of 30 police officers, but also by 40 members of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Those numbers surprise me. I saw two or three police officers outside the Dunedin venue (and the same number of protesters, and no one that looked like they were from the New Zealand Defence Force.

Butler’s reportage further alleges that the roadshow had at least one other protector – its government-appointed chairman, broadcaster Sean Plunket.

If Butler’s description of the proceedings is accurate…

That would surprise me.

…then it is fair to say that Plunket has opted for an alarmingly heavy-handed approach to chairing these gatherings. Participants are restricted to asking questions of the presenters and will be interrupted aggressively if they so much as attempt to contextualise their queries. Hecklers are summarily ejected.

There was no sign of this at all in Dunedin. Plunket was polite and gentle with questioners. The only times he interrupted ‘questions’ was to ask for an actual question rather than a long statement (which are the bane of public meetings).

Plunket told me that in Christchurch most of those attending were well behaved and participated reasonably, and there was a small number of very vocal protesters.

What was presented to New Zealanders as an opportunity to participate in a free and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the TPP, is being experienced by those attendees not already convinced of the agreement’s benefits as little more than a crude propaganda exercise.

That’s a crude assessment based on the word of one fairly extreme protester.

Even worse, these meetings are alleged to have been conducted in a fashion that treats dissent as a hostile and potentially criminal act.

Disrupting events can be seen as hostile. Throwing objects at people is seen as  a potentially criminal act by many people. Outside the Christchurch event Butler squirted a liquid at people. That’s not just dissent, that’s aggressive attack.

The case in favour of the TPP needs to be made in full acknowledgement of its inherently adversarial nature. After all, the roadshow is the first official occasion for the public’s direct participation in the TPP debate. Critics of the deal should, therefore, be encouraged by the chair to make their case, and the government’s spokespeople required to answer their criticisms as well as their questions.

I saw exactly that in Dunedin.

Certainly, Butler’s description of the Christchurch roadshow makes a strong prima facie case for concern. In her report of the event she states that: “I went to the first security check point which was at the front driveway to the [Rydges] hotel. The guards asked for my ID, and whilst I was getting it out I noticed one of the guys had an army badge pinned to his lapel, I asked him if he was military and he confirmed that all security present today were army personnel.”

I didn’t see anything like that in Dunedin, but unlike Christchurch we don’t have a military camp handy.

Constitutionally-speaking, this claim is particularly alarming. The only circumstances in which it is justifiable for the Civil Power to call upon the assistance of the Military Power are those in which there is a demonstrable threat to life and property. Historically, the involvement of the military has been confined to helping out during natural disasters and, extremely rarely, to the quelling of widespread public disorder – like that following the 1932 Queen Street Riot. Nothing even remotely resembling such circumstances were present last Friday in Christchurch.

I don’t know whether the military has been only confined to helping in natural disasters before or not. They don’t appear to have caused any problems in Christchurch.

Frankly, it would be a whole lot better for New Zealand if Butler’s record of the Christchurch TPP roadshow turns out to be inaccurate.

I think some of it probably was inaccurate, or at least quite slanted.

That Plunket was, in fact, the soul of politeness and a stalwart facilitator of free speech and open debate.

He was in Dunedin.

And that whoever Butler spoke to about his military lapel badge turns out to have been pulling her leg about the composition of the security detail. Because, if her version of events is proved correct, then New Zealand is in a world of trouble.

I don’t know if this is the big deal that Trotter is trying to make of it or not.

And according to this TVNZ report Plunket sounds polite in dealing with Butler:

Dildo throwing nurse returns with sex toy at Christchurch TPP event

Nurse Josie Butler used a remarkably similar dildo at the Government’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) roadshow in Christchurch yesterday, which was filmed on camera.

Speaking at the event at the Rydges Hotel she attempted to hold a presentation ceremony for chief TPP negotiator David Walker.

“David Walker, I am here today on behalf of the vast majority of New Zealanders to present you with the New Zealand Dick of the Year Award,” she said.

However, a security guard removes the microphone from Ms Butler, while moderator Sean Plunket can be heard saying “no, you’re not, Josie”.

“Okay, thank you, Josie. That is great,” he said, as Mrs Butler is led away by security staff.

That doesn’t sound like “an alarmingly heavy-handed approach”.

And Butler doesn’t act on behalf of “the vast majority of New Zealanders” who I suspect will see her as an embarrassing nuisance.

But Trotter is prepared to take her at her word and base a major scandal on it.

Has anyone else voiced any concerns about the Christchurch Roadshow? I can’t find any.

 

TPP Roadshow report

I went to the TPPA Roadshow in Dunedin this morning.

There were a few placards and signs in the Octagon but very few people.

Outside the venue entrance there were three polite protesters handing out leaflets, a couple of cops and a guy or two on the door checking photo ID.

I had pre-registered so inside was allowed in when I showed my registration paper.

There were a hundred or so seats, maybe about two thirds were used with quite a few MFAT people present amongst us.

After an introduction from facilitator Shaun Plunket it opened with a speech from Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith, which was a general promotion of the TPPA and why we need to be in on it.

When  MFAT’s chief negotiator David Walker got up to speak some music started playing. I thought someone has forgotten to turn the sound off on their phone and it was ringing, but then Plunket asked for a woman to be removed. She got up, said it was a circus, and then was escorted out without incident.

Walker gave an overview of outcomes and key areas of interest to New Zealand, interesting enough but nothing much new.

He said the Roadshows were a part of the democratic consultative process. While it’s a done deal whether or not New Zealand ratifies – we will – the nature of some of the enabling legislation will be up for negotiation as to how it fits in with our obligations.

Then there was a Q&A session, with a number of questions asked and answered. Most questions were querying or opposing the TPPA but asked reasonably, apart from the occasional speech being made (as is normal at things like this).

Then we had a break for morning tea, plenty of fancy biscuits but only hot drinks as far as I could see so I went thirsty.

There were a number of MFAT staff circulating and willing to talk, so I had discussions with a couple of them including New Zealand’s current Consul based in Los Angeles.

I also talked with a Trade and Investment Promotion Co-ordinator who works for Japan’s External Trade Organisation who said he had attended all of the road shows.

It was good to have easy access to people to chat with.

Back in the session there were two case studies involving local companies who do business internationally, Silver Fern Farms and Scott Technologies. Both explained a bit about how they do business overseas and how lowered or eliminated tariffs will help them be more competitive and compete better in a variety of markets.

The man from Silver Fern explained how they used export beef to Japan. The tariff is  currently 38.5% which was a hurdle, but when Australia negotiated a trade deal with Japan and had their tariff reduced Silver fern can’t compete there any more.He said that the TPPA would put us on an equal footing with Australia so they could compete again.

The CFO from Scott Technology (who manufacture and export robotic manufacturing plant) said they had just missed a multi-million bid in the US by $100k, much less then half of the current tariff which effectively made them too expensive. So obviously he sees benefits in the TPPA removing this tariff.

These case studies effectively showed how the TPPA isn’t all about big US corporations riding roughshod over New Zealand, it gives New Zealand’s companies a better chance around the Pacific including in the US.

In fact both Silver Fern and Scott do business with US corporations and could do more if the TPPA is ratified.

Then New Zealand’s LA Consul General Leon Grice spoke about trade opportunities in the US.

The morning concluded with about an hour of Q&A with the panel (comprising the previous speakers).

There was a good range of mostly intelligent questions. Walker in particular was practised at answering them and generally gave reasonable explanations but they won’t have always satisfied the questioner.

ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) came up a few times with assurances given that it shouldn’t cause New Zealand any problems.

If most of the twelve member countries don’t ratify the TPPA it can still go ahead as long as both USA and Japan ratify.

Some questioners complimented the panel and the opportunity to speak. One was a beekeeper who had just toured Asia looking for business opportunities and thought the TPPA would benefit him.

One question in particular was of interest to me – if New Zealand passes legislation to meet our obligations under the TPP Agreement and the agreement isn’t ratified are we then stuck with changes we didn’t have to make?

Walker explained that any TPPA related legislation will have clauses stipulating they will only become effective if and when the TPPA comes into force.

Afterwards I asked Plunket how he thought it went – he said it was an excellent session (his third after Auckland and Christchurch) and he learnt new things from the Q&A.

I asked him about protest levels and he said as well as the brief circus interlude in Dunedin, a small number of vocal protesters in Christchurch and the handful of clowns in Auckland most of those attending participated well and questions were generally worthwhile.

There’s an afternoon session with workshops but that’s geared more towards businesses wanting to look at opportunities and procedures so I decided to call it a half day.

Outside the protesters had gone. I talked to one of the police and he said it had been very quiet.

Along in the Octagon there was a wee bit more activity but not much. Perhaps they had already done their speeches, but they would have been preaching to the few converted who showed up.

Overall it was worth going. It only skimmed over bits of the TPPA and related issues, but there is plenty of material online to

Slater responds to pay for silence accusation

In a panel discussion on RadioLive today Michelle Boag explained how on a certain blog you could pay $300 per promotional post and you could also pay not to be posted about.

Here is the transcript of that segment: Boag on paying not to be mentioned on a blog

Transcript of the follow-up interview, Shaun Plunket with Cameron Slater:

Shaun Plunket: During the course of the Friday panel this morning Michele Boag made the very clear suggestion that one blog site…Michelle Boag suggested that there is a well known blog site which you can pay through an intermediary to never be mentioned on…

That’s not how Boag put it.

…as well as being paid to be mentioned on or perhaps have nasty things said about your commercial or political opponents. You can actually pay this blog site not to be mentioned by the blog site.

And the blog site she confirmed that she was talking about was Whale Oil Beef Hooked and that is run, well The Boss he’s described as. Whale Oil Be Hooked is Cam Slater, and i thought rather than muck around and seek affidavits we’d just talk to Cam Slater direct and try and sort this out.

Look, what do you say. Essentially the information we have is that people pay you or can pay you via Carrick Graham to not appear on your website, on your blog. Is that true?

Slater: Well Michelle Boag is just a bitter old bag really…

Plunket: No No that wasn’t my question. Didn’t ask your opinion on Michelle Boag.

Slater: The answer is categorically no.

That’s no, I don’t receive any money from anybody to not be mentioned on the site. That’s just a, she’s got no evidence to support that, and if I was a sooky pants who was prone to conniptions and rushing off to lawyers then she’d be in trouble.

I’m not. She just wants to have a slag at me and that’s fine, she can be like that, she can purse her lips and ah roll her eyes and show her nasty side to herself all she likes. It says more about her than it does about me.

Plunket: Ok. And does Carrick Graham in any way work for you as a marketer or you know an intermediary?

Slater: I don’t discuss anything to do with how I operate um ah, my business or what I do…

Plunket: So Carrick Graham is part of your business.

Slater: Carrick Graham’s a mate of mine. We’ve known each other for many many years, it goes back to when he was even before he was dating my sister so you know we’ve got a long association, we’re bloody good mates, and ah and that’s essentially the basis of it.

Answer avoided.

But it’s a little bit sanctimonious of all these media organisations to point their fingers at me when they’re running native advertising, charging PR companies for putting product placement and all those sorts of things. You know I don’t really care what anyone says…

Plunket: Ok but you are saying today, absolutely categorically that you cannot pay, well you can obviously pay to be mentioned on your website right, you do admit you do that right?

Slater: Well just like every other media organisation in the country.

Excluding most if not all other blogs. And some other media organisations might argue that they don’t do paid political promotions presented as blog posts/articles like Slater does.

Plunket: Right. Ok, but you don’t disclose it always, they’re paying you. But you say that you do not like run a protection racket whereas I will not be nasty to you on Whale Oil if you pay me some money every month?

There’s a bit of wiggle room there.

Slater: That that, you know, that would be if I like I said if I was a person who was a sooky pants and ran off to lawyers that would be a highly defamatory comment. But I’m not like that. These are the slings and arrows…

Pluinket: So that’s a no. I just want to check, so that’s a no.

Slater:  Absolutely it’s a no. You can’t pay me to shut up.

Plunket: Alright Cam, I will I accept that you have answered the call, you picked up the phone, you’ve answered the one question I wanted to put to you and you’ve answered it in the negative. And I would hate to besmirch your reputation further by paying this any more attention, this scurrilous accusation.

Slater: Well you know Michelle will hurl these things out there. That’s her business. She just looks like she’s incredibly focussed and still living in the battles of the nineties.

An odd close to a not very probing interview. In response to an oddly vague accusation from Michele Boag.

Boag Audio: Are Kiwi bloggers taking payment to stay silent?

Follow-up audio: Cameron Slater denies Michelle Boag’s claim he takes payment for silence

Boag on paying not to be mentioned on a blog

In a panel discussion on RadioLive today Michelle Boag explained how on a certain blog you could pay $300 per promotional post and you could also pay not to be posted about. She wouldn’t name the blog but Shaun Plunket made it clear it was Whale Oil (Cameron Slater).

Slater later denied paying for silence.

“I don’t receive any money from anybody to not be mentioned on the site,” Slater told Sean Plunket.

This is a transcript of the Boag segment:

Boag: Some particular bloggers I know who charge people not to mention them.

Plunket: Oh really?

Boag: Yep.

Plunket: Oh no hang on, let;s hold it right there. Tell us more Michelle.

Boag: No. Cause he’ll just have another go at me, but I know it’s happening.

Plunket: Ah this is Cameron Slater.

Boag: Not making any comment.

Plunket: Ah well, do you pay Cameron Slater not to say nasty things about you Michelle? Does he offer that…

Boag: I don’t. I don’t. In fact even if I did pay him he wouldn’t stop saying nasty things about me, but I know…

Plunket: Do you know people whom Cameron Slater has said if you pay me this money I will not say nasty things about you?

Boag: I know people who pay money through an intermediary to a particular blogger so that he won’t mention their name.

Mike Wiliams: That is sensational stuff Shaun and you’ve got yourself a scoop.

Boag: There’s no more senstational than that intermediary saying to people “oh, if you want to get promoted on this blog it’s three hundred bucks a pop.

Plunket: Are you prepared to name the intermediary to me or make that information…

Boag: Off air I will.

Plunket: Ok Michelle, I would like you to do that after this panel and we will chase that story down. That is tantamount to a kind of formalised blackmail.

Boag: Well it’s not a kind of, it’s just typical tacky behaviour that you’d expect from that particular source.

Plunket: It’s like a protection racket.

Boag: And let’s wait and see what he says about me today. And he should take regard of the fact that there’s a cyber bullying law now.

Plunket: Michelle I’m just going to ask you did you come on the programme with the intention to make this disclosure today?

Boag: Not at all. I’ve known about this for months.

Plunket: Gosh. I wish you’d told me months ago. It would have been good for the ratings.

After a break:

Plunket: Oh yeah, and the Friday morning panel have just thrown a bit of a spanner in the works of the whole day I imagine, or the news cycle. Michelle Boag telling us that there is a blogger that I presume is Cameron Slater who has an itermediary who will go to people and say “Give us some money and we won’t mention you on our blog”.

Boag: No that’s not how it works. What I said was that the intermediary says if you give me, oh, if you wanna be mentioned on the blog or promoted in any way there’s a price on that. And then if you don’t like it you have to pay for them not to do it.

So he mentions people, right, and the you say hey it no longer suits me, I don’t want that going on, right, you pay and he doesn’t do it any more.

That’s still not very clear. Does she mean that you have a contract to be promoted and if you decide to stop part pway through you have to pay the full contract anyway?

Plunket: Whoa, doesn’t do what? Doesn’t mention you by name…

Boag: That’s right.

Plunket: …or attack your opponents.

Boag: No no. Mention you by name.

Plunket: Ok but who would pay to be mentioned by name in a bad way in the first place?

Boag: No not in a bad way. Look you look at the way bloggers operate. They promote certain people, they get involved in certain discussions and they say so and so’s a lousy candidate, so and so’s a good candidate, so and so deserves to be elected…

Plunket: Yeah, well I knew that was going on.

It’s well known that Slater promotes candidates, MPs and lobby interests and he attacks others as a paid for service – and it’s impossible to know in his posts whether he is doing posts for hire or just expressing his opinion.

But I don’t know of any other bloggers who operate like this. As far as I know it’s the way just one blogger operates.

Boag: Well that’s for sale. Right.

Plunket: So you can get coverage that will help you for a price.

Boag: Yes.

Plunket: Ok. So that’s like paying for advertising.

Boag: Yes except it’s not disclosed.

Plunket: But the more important thing is you’re also saying that if nasty things are being written about you you can get them taken off for a price.

Boag: Um I know someone who has paid not to be mentioned.

Plunket: Oh. Ok and what sort of money are we talking Michelle?

Boag: I’ve got no idea. But I know how much you pay to be mentioned.

Plunket: Ok how much do you pay to be mentioned? Three hundred dollars?

Boag: Three hundred bucks a pop. So if there’s six blogs in a day you’ve paid eighteen hundred.

Plunket: I’ve had all sorts of rubbish written about me on the Whale Oil site, I’ve never paid a cent. Is that ’cause he likes me.

Boag: Because he’s saying horrible things probably.

Plunket: Sometimes they’re nice, sometimes they’re horrible,

Boag: Well I’m not saying that’s what all the content is about. What I’m saying is there is clearly examples…

Williams: It’s a lucrative sideline…

Boag: Well it’s probably the only part that’s ah you know being economically efficient.

Williams: Viable.

Audio: Are Kiwi bloggers taking payment to stay silent?

Follow-up audio: Cameron Slater denies Michelle Boag’s claim he takes payment for silence

The transcript of the follow-up interview with Slater will be posted as soon as I get it done.