Wow. Day one and already David Cunliffe is in sprint mode. He has rightfully calculated that he has maybe a short honeymoon period and he may as well take advantage of it. He has started to use the language of battle to describe the contest between Labour and National.
The party was on a “war-footing” with its election campaign starting from “day one”.
“We are taking the fight to the Key government,” he said. “They are on notice that their easy days are over.”
Cunliffe will meet each MP over the next week and reshuffle his frontbench team next week
While he didn’t expect those who didn’t vote for him to quit, he did expect their loyalty, he said.
“There is a new train leaving the station and I want everybody on it,” he said. “There will be one set of rules for all. It will be a meritocracy, we will do the very best we can for the whole party and for New Zealanders.
He has very deftly positioned free trade as a political issue. He has said that the draft Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement should be put in the public domain so that a proper debate on whether NZ should endorse it can occur. According to TV3:
In his first full press conference, Mr Cunliffe challenged the Government to “have the courage of its convictions” and put the negotiating draft into the public domain so it can make up its own mind.
But Prime Minister John Key says that won’t happen.
Free trade is one of those difficult debates for the Labour Party. I can recall having some embarassment where at a recent Labour Regional Conference I argued publicly that the TPPA should be supported only with a number of conditions. A group of Princes Streeters argued that we should just oppose it and I must admit that my heart said that this was right.
The following is the text of the resolution passed at the November 2012 conference. My reading of the resolution is that it is pretty well impossible for the TPPA to be passed if all of the conditions have to be met. This may be the intent.
THAT in light of the Labour Party’s strong commitment to both the benefits of international trade and New Zealand’s national sovereignty, and recognising the far-reaching implications for domestic policy of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, in which trade is only a small part, Labour will support signing such an agreement only if it:
a) Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports to the US market;
b) Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures such as tobacco control;
c) Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;
d) Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;
e) Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialisation of government organisations;
f) Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices;
g) Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;
h) Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;
i) Has general exceptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand’s economic and financial stability;
j) Had been negotiated with full public consultation including regular public releases of drafts of the text of the agreement, and ratification being conditional on a full social, environmental and economic impact assessment including public submissions.
Cunliffe’s insistence on public disclosure of the draft is perfectly in accordance with party policy and elegantly places the issue of the TPPA in the public domain. Even if you are an ardent free trader, why should the text of the treaty not be available?
And Key’s suggestion that a broad outline is enough frankly does not cut it. If we are allowed to look at the general principles why can’t we look at the detail? Proper consultation requires full disclosure of what is being proposed.
Meanwhile all eyes will be on Question time in Parliament this afternoon although I would suggest that a cautious approach is best. Key is great at the jack the lad stuff but not so good on the detail.