Dunedin Protests the TPPA

The TPPA may be signed this week but opposition to the free trade agreeement is riding higher than ever.

In Dunedin on Friday night, TPPA opponent Prof Jane Kelsey spoke to a capacity crowd of 350 or so people in Burns Hall. The battle was far from over, she said. The signing of the treaty was merely the start of a much sharper and more difficult process for the National Government. Not only does the government now have to pass laws to strip away the protections from the environment, labour law and public health, it also has to win an election and finally ratify the agreement. What’s more, the TPPA is still a dead duck if it is rejected in the USA or Japan.

Now that more of the detail of the TPPA has been released, the pathetic, paltry and meagre “benefits” of the agreement are more clear. They amount to 0.9% of GDP in 15 years, or $2.7 billion. These “gains” are worth less than nothing against the costs that will be carried by woking people in loss of employment rights, healthcare and environmental damage. Big companies will win a windfall and labour will carry the cost.

Kelsey praised people for turning out for a political talk on a Friday night – it’s an unusual thing nowadays – and said per capita, Dunedin had the biggest turnout of any of her talks. Most of the audience were older people – Dunedin has strong traditions of social democracy, even if there is a disconnect between the newspaper and Facebook generation.

On Saturday, about 300 people turned out for a rally in the city centre. Labour MPs Clare Curran and David Clark, and Green leader Metiria Turei were the keynote speakers. Clare Curran, who is on the right wing of the Labour Party and has never been comfortable speaking at demos, thanked the protesters for holding the line, for continually opposing the TPPA. Activists such as Jen Olsen and Liana Kelly have been crucial in organising the demos in Dunedin and it is a credit to them, and to all the people who have come out again and again, that the Labour Party has been dragged, however reluctantly, to the left.

We collected $170 for the meat workers locked out by Talleys Affco in Wairoa, which highlighted the way deregulation hits workers and the way any boss – New Zealand (like Talleys) or foreign – operates.

Far from being a done deal, the TPPA could yet cause massive ructions in the Labour Party and open the eyes of a new generation to the predatory nature of international capitalism.