Saudi Arabia and the free trade deal

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, January 6th, 2016 - 112 comments
Categories: david shearer, greens, International, labour, national, Syria - Tags:

Saudi Arabia’s recent behedding of 47 dissidents including a prominent Shiite Cleric has attracted world wide attention.  The behaviour makes a mockery of the appointment of Saudi Arabia to chair an important United Nations Council involved in human rights oversight.  And questions have been asked about the possibility of a secret deal which saw the United Kingdom support Saudi Arabia in consideration of the support being reciprocated.

The Guardian has provided this background article about Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.  The article includes this passage:

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution by Saudi Arabia has sparked condemnation across the Middle East, rose to international prominence during the pro-democracy protests that erupted in the country’s eastern provinces in 2011.

Nimr’s staunch and vocal support of the movement in regions where the Shia have a majority but have frequently complained of marginalisation, saw the 56-year-old cited as the driving force behind the protests while affording him hero status among Saudi’s Shia youth.

To the Sunni kingdom’s ruling elite, however, Nimr had become a high-profile thorn in its side. Inspired by the Arab spring, Saudi Arabia’s mass anti-government protests of 2011 included public speeches by Nimr that urged an end to the Al Saud monarchy and pushed for equality for the state’s Shia community.

According to his supporters, the cleric was careful to avoid calling for violence and eschewed all but peaceful opposition to the government. On one occasion, he urged protesters to resist police bullets using only “the roar of the word”. As his role in the protests became more prominent, he warned the Saudi authorities that if they refused to “stop bloodshed”, the government’s repressive tendencies risked it being overthrown.

The Government’s response has been predictably underwhelming:

Duty minister Chris Finlayson said New Zealand is a long-standing opponent of the death penalty, and executions are always wrong in all cases and any circumstances.

But the government appears to have rejected the Green Party’s calls to have a free trade deal with Saudi Arabia put on hold.

Finlayson insists the government regularly raises human rights issues during diplomatic talks.

At the least the Greens are showing some moral fortitude on the issue:

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has renewed calls for [New Zealand Saudi Arabia free trade] talks to be suspended.

“The executions are appalling and just another example of Saudi Arabia’s terrible record on human rights. The Greens have been calling for a long time for New Zealand to suspend negotiations on the free trade agreement with Saudi Arabia because we don’t think we should be giving preferential treatment to a country that has this kind of record.”

But Labour’s or at least Davis Shearer’s response has shall we say been disappointing:

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer did not agree with the Greens on the issue.

“Trading links enables us [to] get a foot in the door to talk about human rights issues that we would not otherwise be able to do if we didn’t have those links. I don’t believe it’s necessarily in our interests to take this stance in banning trading talks with either country.”

Promoting free trade so that our ability to discuss human rights violations with trading partners is frankly silly.  And there should be a moral dimension to trade relationships.  If a foreign nation is involved in widespread human rights violations then all forms of pressure, including the suspension of trade agreement negotiations, should be available to try and effect change.

112 comments on “Saudi Arabia and the free trade deal”

  1. frances cohen 1

    Our trade reps were practically embarking on the plane to Russia when Crimea, by popular vote reunited with Russia.Immediately , the talks were terminated, citing Russia’s breach of international law. In fact, we were obediently taking our orders from the US embassy.
    Same thing here, human rights issues will always be trumped by US/UK foreign policy interests.We have to be in the right club.
    Its absurd for Shearer to think that we can influence Saudi Arabis through free trade deals. Out point would be more publicly and forcefully made by boycott, as it was for Apartheid.
    Apart from their human rights abuses, the Saud’s support and export of wahabbism should be ample reason for withdrawing from trade talks.

    • Chris 1.1

      Perhaps Shearer thinks we can use the TPPA to influence US states’ use of the death penalty, too? Labour is full of total fucking idiots. We’ll never have a proper opposition until the whole fucking lot of them fuck right off.

      • Don't worry. Be happy 1.1.1

        Shearer is certainly “disappointing” on this issue….when has he ever been anything else?

  2. Ad 2

    Pretty hard to see what the Saudis have to offer us that New Zealand doesn’t already get on the open market. So hard to see the rationale for the trade deal push.

    Hard to imagine Shearer taking this line under either a Clark, Lange, or Kirk government. (Back in the day we (insert any ideal)….)

    There’s plenty of countries who execute people we have FTA’s with, including China. Don’t start me on slippery slope arguments here. But as MS says, the rationale from Shearer is just weak.

  3. Macro 3

    I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard David Shearer on the radio this morning. Really and truly – what a wet response! Has NZ Labour lost all its principles?
    This is not a matter of whether or not there is a trade deal to be signed (and if it is it will be a very bad one). This is a matter of taking a stand on human rights.
    Both NZ First, and the Greens get it. Why oh why can’t Labour?

    • National is one side of a coin. And Labour is the other.

      Labour is too scared to take back its principles in case it loses a part of the political spectrum that they do not realize is not actually theirs. National, likewise has moved towards the centre to appeal to moderate New Zealanders, but is a right wing wolf in sheeps clothing.

      I wonder someday’s what would happen if New Zealand First over took Labour as the mainstream centre-left party.

      • red-blooded 3.1.1

        And what do you believe NZ First’s core philosophy to be? I tend to see them as an amorphous blob, congealed around Winston Peters and his over-inflated ego. That doesn’t make them “centre”.

        • Robert Glennie 3.1.1.1

          Putting New Zealand and New Zealanders first.

          It is the first of the 15 Fundamental Principles that the party is supposed to abide by. And it is the only party in Parliament that actively tries to put New Zealand and New Zealanders first.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Both NZ First, and the Greens get it. Why oh why can’t Labour?

      Because Labour is still under the delusion that trade is everything.

  4. savenz 4

    Crucifixion no barrier to trade in NZ!

    Human rights breaches and democracy breaches and funding ISIS from Saudi, no barrier to trade either!
    (or any other neoliberal country, if the US says friend then turn a blind eye, if US says foe, invade or sanction). What happened to an independent foreign policy??

    If Shearer goes with he same ideology – shouldn’t the same have been said for the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, even Palestine – maybe inviting them all to a free trade agreement first and then talking about human rights… Just shows that the politicians know free trade agreements are weapons of control, not about trade at all.

    Most politicians are such hypocrites and the MSM just urges them on in their stupidity!!

    • National and A.C.T. think we are the 53rd State of the U.S.

      Australia is 52nd and Britain is 51st.

      This is why I support New Zealand First. Because I get the impression Labour is National-lite.

      • red-blooded 4.1.1

        Hey, let’s remember that NZ First is based around WP, who was originally a National MP (a member of the cabinet). Sure, he went rogue, but he’s basically a conservative guy. Look at all the anti-immigrant dog-whistling he’s done in his time. And when he was “kingmaker” after the first MMP election, he choose Bolger as king. He’s always vowed that he’d never be in government with the Greens (that’s why they were never included in a coalition under Clark).

        If you want National-lite, you don’t need to look very hard at NZ First to see the blue shining through.

        • Robert Glennie 4.1.1.1

          Labour and National both support free trade deals that do not really benefit New Zealand. Have done for sometime. Thats why Labour cannot bring – and probably will not bring – itself to say NO T.P.P.A.

          And for a supposedly left-wing party, Helen Clarks Labour was surprisingly pro-American in terms of support for its wars.

          • red-blooded 4.1.1.1.1

            Don’t let’s reinvent history here, Robert. Clark was pretty damn resolute on that issue, despite significant pressure from the US and from the opposition here in NZ. She didn’t send fighting forces to Afghanistan, and only got involved in Iraq after it was sanctioned by the UN.

      • Tricledrown 4.1.2

        Winston Peters was all over Condeleza Rice like a rash.

  5. Karen 5

    So that idiot Shearer thinks we can influence Saudi Arabia’s human rights through trade deals. So how has that been working out so far? If anything Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been getting worse.

    Gordon Campbell has a good post on this.
    http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2016/01/06/gordon-campbell-on-our-feeble-response-to-atrocities-in-sa/

    The Green Party have got it right (yet again).

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      NZ are of course Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer! They will tremble at the knees when we simply hint that maybe we might stop buying some oil off them, one day.

    • David H 5.2

      That’s why they have got my vote from labour last election and this one too. Talk about a face palm when hearing Shearer supporting trade deals. what a Fool, you can’t talk to these Megalomaniacs. They are in power and will do what ever they want to stay there.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1

        And then once there will do anything that they want no matter how many people are against it. Time to end this elected dictatorship.

        • AmaKiwi 5.2.1.1

          And replace it with a Labour elected dictatorship?

          • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1.1.1

            I’m talking about changing the political system and not just the psychopaths in government at the moment.

        • yabby 5.2.1.2

          So, a third term democratically elected Govt under a MMP system is a dictatorship.

          What is your preferred method of governance then DTB?

          • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1.2.1

            A Participatory Democracy where the people decide on the policies and have a direct say in international agreements. Basically:

            Governance of the people, by the people, for the people.

            Which Representative Democracy clearly isn’t.

  6. adam 6

    David Shearer proves once again the labour party is the party of liberalism. So how is raising human rights issues going there David, any luck? Or just more b.s word games from you and your flock of professional politician’s.

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    Many is the (often innocent) individual who has been sacrificed for reasons that the state has decided are more important than their life.

  8. Grey Area 8

    I had the strangest experience this morning. I heard Winston Peters being interviewed on RNZ about this issue and I was impressed. As for Shearer – very disappointing from Labour once again.

  9. Dialey 9

    This is precisely why Labour is bleeding to death – no principles, no standing for what is right. For once I have to say I agree with a John Key statement: “Get some balls!” Shearer had the opportunity to show that Labour does actually offer something different from National, but I guess he just wants to be part of the big boys’ club.

  10. David Shearer….

    Just glad he wasn’t still Leader of the Opposition when Labour got the thrash in 2014, because National would have got the majority and their reliance on A.C.T. and United Future would just be for show. He was missing in action in Parliament and everything he said was like firing an ordinary rifle at a tank – the bullets just bounced off.

  11. If Shearer believes that the execution by beheading or crucifixion of innocent (and guilty) people should be no barrier to trade he should put his money where his mouth is.

    Perhaps crucifying himself to show everyone how harmless and insignificant such actions really are?
    To lead by example!

    Or alternatively, he could switch on his brain before advocating that we be complicit in such behaviour.

  12. Sacha 13

    Do we know where Labour stands on saudi sheep bribes?

  13. Wayne 14

    If we had a policy of no free trade deals with nations well known for their use of the death penalty we would not have a free trade deal with China. Which at least for the Greens would be a consistent position. But that history clearly explains Shearer’s position.

    And if commenters don’t like Labour’s position (most of whom opposed TPPA) then the Greens are your natural home.

    I would note that common elements for both Saudi Arabia and China is that neither of them are democracies, they both extensively use the death penalty and both routinely imprison dissidents, even those who simply advocate democracy.

    Nevertheless I support free trade deals with both countries. Countries have to get worse than either of them before calling off negotiations. In the case of Russia they had invaded Crimea and have clearly been directly supporting the civil war in eastern Ukraine.

    I suspect if Russia’a actions were solely confined to Crimea and did not also include eastern Ukraine, the negotiations with Russia would have been resumed by the EU and New Zealand.

    • Naturesong 14.1

      If not trading with Russia is due to its actions in an illegal invasion of Crimea and trying to destabilise Ukraine, why do we still trade with the United States who have a far worse record in both illegal invasions of sovereign countries as well as working to destabilise a slew of countries around the world?

      Why not just tell the truth?
      That we support these policies and the reason we don’t trade with Russia is because the US doesn’t want us to.

      Or be consistent, and pass laws here to kill people convicted of heinous crimes (or just speaking out against the govt) by crucifixion or beheading?

    • Ad 14.2

      I made that point about the death penalty above.

      My question for this government is: why is an NZ-SA FTA in our economic interests?

      Everything we could buy, we can buy on the open market.
      Same for them.

      Good to see you’re not disagreeing with the point of the post, which is:
      free trade deal does not equal better diplomatic capacity to discuss human rights issues

    • marty mars 14.3

      the moral low ground explained – “I would note that common elements for both Saudi Arabia and China is that neither of them are democracies, they both extensively use the death penalty and both routinely imprison dissidents, even those who simply advocate democracy.

      Nevertheless I support free trade deals with both countries.”

    • AmaKiwi 14.4

      “I would note that common elements for both Saudi Arabia and China is that neither of them are democracies.”

      Neither is New Zealand, so Shearer’s stance is logical.

    • mikesh 14.5

      Russia did not invade Crimea.

  14. Wainwright 15

    What a surprise, David Shearer’s still a muppet with no guts who just wants to sit at the big boys table.

  15. Matthew Hooton 16

    The Greens are grandstanding and taking advantage of the silly season. There are no talks to suspend. The NZ-GCC FTA negotiations were completed in 2009. See https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements-concluded-but-not-in-force

    • mickysavage 16.1

      If that is the case then why is the Government setting up a sheep farm in the Saudi desert and paying a Saudi businessman millions of dollars?

      • Matthew Hooton 16.1.1

        To try to bribe him to stop opposing the signing of the completed deal.

        • Sacha 16.1.1.1

          So you’re saying they should be talking about suspending signing rather than suspending talks?

          • Matthew Hooton 16.1.1.1.1

            I’m not making a substantial point; just a PR one: that they’ve done the PR equivalent of calling on you and me to rule ourselves out from All Black selection. It’s a legitimate symbolic call, of course. and the media can be relied upon to report it as deeply meaningful. Plus maybe a sensible diplomatic move: there’s no cost to NZ in suspending talks that aren’t happening.

            • Sacha 16.1.1.1.1.1

              Hey at least they haven’t called for an inquiry. 🙂

            • Sacha 16.1.1.1.1.2

              “calling on you and me to rule ourselves out from All Black selection”

              could have been a contender

            • Once was Tim 16.1.1.1.1.3

              “I’m not making a substantial point; just a PR one;”
              Which is what you do best, and pretty much all you think matters.
              Still, I guess it’s what pays your mortgage.
              Is there anywhere i can “Like” you, or better still “Like you a lot” – just for the sake of propping up your career. It’d have to be a really simple click of a mouse btw (that’s “by the way”).
              I mean…. far be it from me to think of you as a superficial Formica fake wood veneer salesman with a vast knowledge of spin, with ideological intent and the pretense of an ability for critical thought .
              Oh Mathew – life could be so much simpler for you, and your ilk.
              But keep it up – please do.
              Class of 87
              Harder they Rise

              …….. all of that, and all the complications you keep pumping.

              Please just refrain from NinetoNoon pig squealing and hissy fits if you can possibly manage it.

  16. Stuart Munro 17

    Personally I think we should trade with regimes we don’t necessarily endorse – but the call for consistency is well made. Russia now is no worse, and probably much better in spite of Putin’s numerous crimes than it was under soviet administration.

    Death penalties are common especially in poorer countries – it is the legitimacy of the process that makes them more or less objectionable – though just as Britain eventually outgrew the spectacle of public hangings, Islamic states might do well to recognise that execution voyeurism is not actually a public good.

  17. Anne 18

    Supporters of the Aparthied regime in South Africa – ie, the Muldoon National government – used to talk about “building bridges” with Sth Africa and influencing them that way. This, despite the fact it hadn’t worked over the previous 25 years. Then 1981 came along and everything started to change. Sth. Africa found itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world and hey presto… the metaphorical wall came tumbling down. If it can happen in other parts of the world it can happen in Saudi Arabia.

    • Incognito 18.1

      Agreed Anne, anything can happen and, in time, will happen. However, the one SA is no at all like the other SA. The ME is meta-stable, at best, and if the current regime is to fall (on its sword) then all bets are off what might happen in the larger region – it won’t be ‘nice’, it won’t be pleasant for the people that live in the region (!!), and it will take a very long time to get some kind of stability again. Asking, or demanding rather, that SA ceases decapitating criminals convicted under their (!) laws is not as simple as one would like to think. Be careful what you ask for.

      • Sacha 18.1.1

        “Asking, or demanding rather, that SA ceases decapitating criminals convicted under their (!) laws is not as simple as one would like to think.”

        Outwageous.

      • Anne 18.1.2

        Asking, or demanding rather, that SA ceases decapitating criminals convicted under their (!) laws is not as simple as one would like to think. Be careful what you ask for.

        That is, more or less, along the same lines as my comment. But I take your point Incognito. Saudi Arabia is altogether a different scenario to Apartheid Sth. Africa and will require a different set of responses. Trying to talk with them and demanding they change their laws won’t work just as it didn’t in Sth. Africa. They have to be hit in the pocket – or some other ultra sensitive area – and that will be no mean feat.

        • Stuart Munro 18.1.2.1

          KSA are notoriously difficult to deal with – partly culturally, and partly for pragmatic reasons.

          Of their recent actions I expect the bombing of Yemen was less defensible and caused more suffering than the executions.

          The Justice spokesman stated that the Shia cleric (Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr) was executed for sedition and advocating violence. The construction we put on that rather depends on what actions he took or statements he made, but the international Shia community say that he merely condemned the regime. If he had a cellar full of bomb making materials it would be a different story.

          NZ cannot really hit Saudi in the pocket – and our chances of persuading them in the ordinary way have receded with the embarrassingly craven and corrupt way our government has chosen to pursue the phantom trade deal.

          It’s relatively difficult for NZ to make a principled stand on such issues while McCully is publicly fellating Hamood Al Khalaf.

    • Once was Tim 18.2

      David Shearer anyone???
      Maori Party anyone????
      Better to be in the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in eh?
      Fuck principles, its a lot more comfortable (and is usually comes with the benefit of AMEX Gold ….. Platinum even!)

      We can sit around the campfire, or in the tent ENGAGING and spreading sympathetic niceties (even if delivered by Blackwater or similar), whilst young teenagers eat monkeys and snakes walking across entire countries in a war zone to reach refugee camps.
      Then when we do, one of us will be sent to NuZull, and another to Italy – but we can always communicate on Skype eh?
      Nah!!!! Let’s engage in talk shall we? At least it’ll make a few people feel good – and afterall …. that can’t be a bad thing can it?

      /sarc as if u didn’t know

  18. Once was Tim 19

    David Shearer of course believes in
    ……… dialogue (talking is always good – even if it takes decades).
    ……… not hurting other people’s ‘feelings’ (it’s counter-productive). It’s always better to call a committee designed camel a horse
    ……… using private armies if necessary to produce ” a positive outcome ” (going forward)
    ……… when pissing in the wind (preventing one’s self from being covered by the practice of using ‘incremental little squirts’
    ……… feigning a collective interest and a disdain for those ‘hard right/centre right’ agendas by preaching compassionate values and concern for fellow man (whilst strumming on a guitar and singing a toon or two – right up until the time it might involve a severe personal c o s t $ ( I should not judge however – over half the baby boomer generation I grew up with – now that they’ve amassed house/home/yearly trip/etc/etc/etc/2 kuds and a mortgage paid – or very-nearly paid off NOW ekshully think the same. In reality, theyre often ten times worse than their bogoted, small minded parents – who actually had an excuse).
    NEW ….. oops …. “Neo”-Labour.

    I think they’re – (HE) is becoming a little bit desperate.
    “I worked in a war zone dontcha know ….. I know what I’m talking about ergo I have credibility”

    Message to David – PLEASE JUST FUCK OFF or start your own party – you’d have a few colleagues that you could persuade to join you if you serenade them nicely enough – you could even get H1 and H2 to endorse

    • Hami Shearlie 19.1

      Always loathed the vibes I got from the man (Shearer) myself – there was something that just didn’t ring true about him, that living on past laurels thing – everyone said he was a “good guy” – but no-one actually knew much about him – his true colours are out there now – he was on big money working for the UN for far too long – he likes hanging with the wealthy and the Nats – Hey Dave, when you stop your incessant guitar strumming, why don’t you and Stuart Nash toddle off and join Planet Key ? You’ll love it there! Oh, and take Josie “I love Leighton Smith” Pagani with you!

  19. Bill 20

    Maybe Shearer should promote the idea of getting in on dodgy oil sales from ‘The Daesh’, coz…y’know…foot under the table and all that.

    I realise I’m possibly pushing the boat out, but I kind of wonder if…

    Shearer in the 80s? Trade with apartheid S.A? All good?
    Shearer in the 70s? Trade with Pol Pot and the khmer rouge? All good?
    Shearer in the 30s? Trade with Horihito’s Japan? All good?
    Shearer in the 01s. Trade with Chavez’s Venezuela? Hmm…maybe do a sweet deal with Israel instead.

    • Naturesong 20.1

      We could also look at ourselves.

      – New Zealand trade with Indonesia since ages ago …

      • Incognito 20.1.1

        I like this comment! A few other commenters have similarly hinted but it got lost in the ‘noise’.

        Have a look at free trade map of all the FTAs in force, concluded but not in force, and under negotiation.

        I can count quite a few countries (incl. China, USA, Singapore and Indonesia) on these maps that permit the death penalty.

        Of course, if we (I mean our politicians, of course) grow some balls, show some guts, and act oh-so ‘principled’ then we would give all these countries the finger, a bit of political & diplomatic ’road rage’.

        IMO, this is not being principled but just being rigid & dogmatic and simply saying that we’re right and they’re wrong (and we’re always right, aren’t we?). No dialogue or conversation necessary! Problem solved. And if they don’t budge we have other means to ‘convince’ them …

        Now where have I read this before? Was it in Diplomacy 101. No, it might have been in an obscure History Book or something …

        • Naturesong 20.1.1.1

          Of course we would have much greater autonomy to object to human rights abuses if we hadn’t eviscerated our domestic industries in the name of “comparative advantage”*.

          * Our comparative advantage is not that we’re only good at producing primary products, but because we are good at producing primary products, we can easily and cheaply manufacture most of the things we import.

          • Incognito 20.1.1.1.1

            I would turn the argument around and argue that because we have a common interest with the other party we have to deal with each other, like it or not. If we had no interest at stake we would lose negotiating power on economic as well as moral-political issues. I think this is, more or less, what DS was saying, but worded differently, of course*.

            Put differently, if it means nothing to us, economically-politically speaking, and we could walk away any moment, and the other party would obviously know this, we would have much less sway.

            If, in this case, the other party would be desperate enough to give in to our moral-human rights demands I think we have put ourselves on a very slippery slope …

            *NZLP and its MPs should really improve their PR, for want of a better word. The messaging, the framing, the communication is a shambles. It is so bad that very good stuff gets ripped to pieces by the MSM, the National Spin Machine, the RWNJs and people of/on the left, out of frustration with this, start ripping into past and current leaders and MPs, which in turn feeds the MSM, T & C, etc., and the vicious circle is closed. You get the picture.

  20. savenz 21

    Yep, we know the Nats would sell their mother for a $, but seriously do Labour ever want to be elected with their pro crucifixion and pro moral bankruptcy TPP trade deals?

    Grow a brain Labour and get some morals on route! People have now noticed the ‘trickle down’ from trade deals have not worked, due to the type of deals that promote the lowest common denominator at the greatest complexity to the most wealthy, going back to a 19th century, non resident banana republic era.

    Back to international debate on Saudi…

    “Monstrous and irreversible injustice”: Human rights groups, experts condemn repression by Saudi Arabia”

    http://www.salon.com/2016/01/05/monstrous_and_irreversible_injustice_human_rights_groups_experts_condemn_repression_by_saudi_arabia/

  21. savenz 22

    Yep trade deals also don’t seem to be working in the US. for the average American ….

    “Last year, the National Employment Law Project used Bureau of Labor statistics to analyze just what kinds of jobs had been created in the “recovery” following the Great Recession. What they found was what every American looking for work already knows: The jobs that have been created are mainly in the lowest-paying sector of the economy.

    In the NELP’s report “The Low Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years Into the Recovery,” researchers found that there were now 2.3 million more of the lowest-paying jobs, 700,000 fewer middle-income positions and more than a half million fewer higher-paying jobs.

    And while Yellen and her colleagues, with their Inspector Clouseau magnifying glass, are unable to find inflation, there is plenty of evidence of deflation of the wages Americans are earning. NELP found this past Labor Day that wages in the 800 lowest-paying occupations they surveyed had actually declined by 5.7 percent from 2009 to 2014. Mid-level wage-paying positions saw a 2.6 decline in the real median wage while the best-paying jobs saw a 3 percent slide.

    We are settling into a new feudalism where income disparity and wealth inequality are actually accelerating, and hardwired into the economy. ”

    http://www.salon.com/2016/01/03/the_middle_class_is_just_this_screwed_janet_yellen_declares_victory_while_workers_drown/

    • Draco T Bastard 22.1

      We are settling into a new feudalism where income disparity and wealth inequality are actually accelerating, and hardwired into the economy.

      QFT

      Back near the beginning of the century I worked on ADSL help desks. After bonuses I was getting close to $50k/year. These days the same job pays $35k and there’s no bonuses.

  22. Doogs 23

    Stop it already!

    I take it that all you people dealing out sand shoe crushers to David Shearer are Labour supporters when it suits you. I suppose that you, too, have had serious overseas experience in difficult countries and war zones.

    Give the man credit for intelligence, experience and understanding. A lot more, I think, than some who comment here. It’s an old analogy, and doesn’t quite fit this situation, but it is always better to have someone inside the tent pissing out that the other way round.

    I like the reasoned comments of Wayne and Matthew Hooton. However, I cannot go along with Anne’s reasoning. The basic premise is entirely different. South Africa was (is) a modern world country and understands how current world political pressures work. Saudi Arabia has basically not left the 10th century, despite its having a veneer of commerce in order to interface for its own advantage with the modern world.

    David Shearer knows how these kind of countries work. Give him credit for at least trying to keep them in the tent.

    • savenz 23.1

      @Doogs – you should be a Nat party or Nat Lite party strategist with your talents!

      We lure the Saudi’s out of their tents with a sheep bribe to try to get them to introduce human rights…

    • Ad 23.2

      Which tent is that?

    • Draco T Bastard 23.3

      Give the man credit for intelligence, experience and understanding.

      Why? He hasn’t shown any.

      I like the reasoned comments of Wayne and Matthew Hooton.

      Of course you do – they both lack anything resembling principles.

    • Grant 23.4

      “I take it that all you people dealing out sand shoe crushers to David Shearer are Labour supporters when it suits you.”

      Why do you make this assumption?

    • Incognito 23.5

      Bravo! A fine comment indeed, but I don’t expect you to get applauded by anybody else, sadly.

  23. savenz 24

    Like many Kiwis most Americans have zero savings and can’t afford to fix their cars…
    In spite of all these ‘amazing’ trade deals that promise so much…. Luckily we can feel good about ourselves because they have not introduced the death penalty yet in NZ.

    “The incredible shrinking middle class: Half the country is either living in poverty or damn near close to it
    New reports indicate two thirds of Americans can no longer afford to fix their cars. Our Congress should be ashamed”

    http://www.salon.com/2015/12/23/american_exceptionalism_has_never_rung_hollower_half_the_country_is_either_living_in_poverty_or_damn_near_close_to_it_partner/

  24. i'm right 25

    LOVE the infighting between labour ‘Right and Left’ on here, gorgeous and delicious to watch and read 🙂 then looking at The Daily Blog and basically seeing that they crave a Corbyn, and anything else will not do….keep up the infighting for 2016 as Goff was the ‘game changer’ then is was Cunliffe and now Little, it’s soooo exciting wondering who is next ‘Game Changer’!!

  25. RedBaronCV 26

    If they have been living in the same tent since the 10th century then it’s pretty clear that dialogues don’t work.
    Anyway I think DS is being a little naive.
    Nact have to keep pressing for the agreement to be signed regardless of what Saudi Arabia does otherwise the sheep farm looks more like a bribe than it already does.
    As usual more interested in CYA for themselves than anything the Saudi’s do.

  26. Michael 27

    What would it cost us if we stopped trading with Saudi Arabia and all the other nasty regimes we depend on for our daily crust? We could then make an informed decision and feel good about ourselves as we run out of whatever it is we crave from our trading partners (it can’t be food, as we export the stuff. Warehouse bling?).

    • Naturesong 27.1

      We have the knowledge and the primary products.

      We could rebuild the industries that used to produce the majority of our domestic products before we decided to destroy them in favour of exporting raw logs and milk powder.
      There’s a load of jobs right there.

    • Incognito 27.2

      No, it’s much more than feeling good about ourselves; we would feel morally infinitely superior! We’d be on cloud nine.

  27. Heads up Greens
    You can’t have economic growth and human rights.
    The system is just not set up for it.
    So best shut the f up, caus all the Kiwi Savers want/need economic growth.

    • Sacha 28.1

      Can’t have a habitable planet and unsustainable ‘growth’.

      • weka 28.1.1

        Can’t have a policy of zero growth or steady state economy and be in government in NZ (not yet anyway). Although if you read the GP policy documents it’s there in less obvious ways.

    • Stuart Munro 28.2

      Economic growth is not a priority for this government – or it would have a CGT, and abhor anticompetitive crony deals.

      Since Bill English will never deliver growth we’d better have clean rivers and a healthy environment.

      • John Shears 28.2.1

        @ Stuart.
        The use of Bill English and Clean rivers and a healthy environment
        in the same sentence is really cute. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

    • Naturesong 28.3

      A business model or economic system that requires human rights abuses in order to sustain it should be dismantled.

  28. i'm right 29

    Ohh Robert Atack, according to your posts we should all be dead by now, the oceans and weather should have consumed us all…but wait, are you not you the man that had ‘peak oil’ and it was the end of civilization as we know it? ahhh Robert, the lowest oil prices since 2009-2010 and let me guess, it’s all coming to an end THIS year, as all your years of doom and gloom have been *cough cough* actually better than your predictions, I smile at your posts, and shake my head lol, OK 2016 IS THE END I guess?, then 2017…2020, 2050, 2150?

    • GregJ 29.1

      Quite a lot of people were wrong (at least in the short-medium term) of the implications for peak oil – including most of the governments in the Middle East. Most focused on potential higher prices but not production, supply and other geopolitical factors.

      However it still has a cost – as an example most of the GCC countries predicated economic growth, infrastructure spending and economic subsidies to their populations (a mechanism used, in part, to put a lid on dissent) for the next 15 years on an oil price of US$110/barrel (minimum price level). As you can imagine the ones that are not flush with cash reserves (everyone except Saudi & Qatar) are now starting to suffer – subsidies are coming off (first on expats but eventually the locals are going to have to pay), a GCC wide sales tax is being seriously proposed, various other taxes are starting to be formulated and the real bogeyman, personal income tax, is now being mentioned (very sotto voce so far but it’s out there warming up in the wings).

      Don’t be fooled – peak oil may not, at the moment, be having the type of impact people imagined, but it is having an impact.

  29. greywarshark 30

    David Shearer must be right – he has been with the UN which is where people with good morals work and who think ethically and soundly. They are looking out for the ordinary people around the world and working to make it a better place. Or do they really just stamp out bush fires – if they can get the funds to fight the fires or provide the boots?

    • Incognito 30.1

      ”They are looking out for the ordinary people around the world and working to make it a better place”

      You don’t have to work for the UN to do your bit to make the World a better place and one of the best places & times to start is in the morning when looking in the mirror.

      • greywarshark 30.1.1

        Incognito
        Perhaps the UN secretariat, financial providers and employees should do just that every morning and run through their achievements for five long minutes. (Look in the mirror, I’m talking about. Also I was looking at the expectations and propaganda we have had about the UN since its inception, so your comment is off centre.

  30. Doogs 31

    The politics of attack are alive and well.

    For some, a reasoned argument is not an option. I respect a thoughtful rebuttal. A slam dunk works for no one.

    I am and always have been a Labour supporter – through thick and thin. I’m also a perspective person who likes the global view, and I’ve been called a fence-sitter because of it.

    Being a nit-picker on blogs does nothing for the cause. Tell our people in power what we want. Stand behind them. Be a force for change. DS may not be absolutely right, but nor might the Greens. The only thing I know for certain is the Natzis are wrong nearly all of the time.

    Have you thought about how many of our NZ enterprises, employing good and faithful NZers would go to the wall if we cut the Saudis out of trade? Maybe David is taking a long view here. I doubt very much if he approves of pre-mediaeval rites and practises. It is always possible to (strongly) encourage businesses to seek other markets and slowly wind down the undesirable trade. Then we are not the losers.

    There are ways and means. There always have been.

    • Wainwright 31.1

      Nit-picking presumes that Shearer’s statement is only a minor problem. It isn’t./ It’s the core of the rot which has been eating away at the Labour Party since 2008.

    • Incognito 31.2

      Agreed, and again well-said. I also doubt that DS would put business interests before human rights but that’s the false dichotomy that seems to be spreading here like a virus – DS never said anything remotely similar, but that’s what he seems to be accused of (among other things).

      It is little wonder then that National’s spin doctors will pounce on this and use it to the advantage of their pay-masters. The irony is almost too strong for words.

    • Draco T Bastard 31.3

      Have you thought about how many of our NZ enterprises, employing good and faithful NZers would go to the wall if we cut the Saudis out of trade?

      If the price to keep those jobs is our ethical principles then the cost is too high.

      • Doogs 31.3.1

        Read the rest of my comment in conjunction with the snippet you have chosen to highlight.

        Methinks you are just too too ethical. High-sounding phrases don’t work when there are other factors involved.

        This is another of my issues – we don’t teach, in schools, the seriously important skill of expanded thinking and metacognition. To be aware of one’s own thought processes in relation to self and others, and to broaden thinking to encompass all aspects of a problem. There is extant far too much tunnel vision and emotive misappropriation of ideas and issues, especially where politics are concerned.

        Now people are going to call me a precious wanker.

        Look, if you are going to comment on something you really do need to have grappled with the idea from a number of perspectives. It’s the only way to approach serious issues which deserve to be treated with caution.

        Charging through something like a Cat D8 while preciously cradling your prejudices is at least counter-productive.

        • Draco T Bastard 31.3.1.1

          Now people are going to call me a precious wanker.

          No, you just seem to be making excuses for selling out our principles.

          Will we lose jobs if we stop importing fro Saudi Arabia? Probably not as we’d be able to get the required oil from elsewhere and we should be on a path that has us stop using oil as fuel in 5 to 10 years which would create jobs.

          There really isn’t any issues that can’t be addressed if we stop trading with Saudi Arabia simply because we don’t buy a hell of a lot from there.

        • Grant 31.3.1.2

          Doogs, you’d be the perfect person to design a recruitment poster for the modern Labour party.

          “Are you a ‘Fencesitter’? Join the party of realpolitik which reflects your values*. We will teach you how to expand your thinking with Metacognition ®. Do you want to change the world?** If not, join us in incrementally improving the status quo over many generations.

          * If you don’t like these values we have others..
          ** Idealists need not apply. There are other parties which would suit you better.

          • greywarshark 31.3.1.2.1

            Grat
            Good sarc.

            • Grant 31.3.1.2.1.1

              Cheers Grey. I was thinking of the choices my politically active daughter was faced with as she became politically aware. She is now 23 yrs old. Throughout her senior years at school she looked at the political landscape in this country and the issues she thought were most pressing and she by-passed the Labour Party with barely a sideways glance on her way to joining Gen Zero which has led on to also becoming an active member of the Green Party. I can’t disagree with her choices or the reasons she made them. She is an intelligent, well educated, compassionate and idealistic but practical young woman of whom I’m extremely proud. The Labour Party would be very lucky to have her as a member. They never will.

              • greywarshark

                Congrats – I don’t know if I have succeeded in raising my children’s consciousness to that level. But they think which is important!

    • John Shears 31.4

      +1 Doogs

  31. One Two 32

    Shearer supports private mercenaries , so naturally the HR violations by SA will appeal to him. I suspect his position is genuine

    The USA was comfortable that SA provided almost every 911 hijacker, as well as alleged funding of that event, yet maintained BAU relations.

  32. Vaughan little 33

    well I was about to take issue with your mangling of shearer’s name before seeing what he’d said about free trade being a foot in the door etc, which was vastly more mangly. door to door salesman logic doesn’t quite rise to the occasion, welshman.

  33. The Chairman 34

    Shearer’s position comes as no surprise.

    Labour took a similar stance on the FTA with China.

    However, it’s interesting to note, China’s human rights record has deteriorated since. Therefore, the position seems flawed.

  34. Tricledrown 35

    Helen Clark’s appointment to the position of UN secretary general.
    Is why Labour has gone soft on human rights

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