Showing posts with label globalisation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label globalisation. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

People power prescription to cure the trans-Pacific free trade 'disease'

Bugs Bunny - alias a well-known local unionist - at the Rogers ... Photo: Nigel Moffiet/PMC

MURRAY HORTON, organiser and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA), treated Auckland to a double billing this week – well, actually a threesome if you count little Waiheke Island as well. His Christchurch-based movement has been campaigning to "expose and oppose" all aspects of foreign control of New Zealand for four decades. An impressive track record. And quality research that backs up the movement’s advocacy – leaving most news media floundering in its wake – is available on the websites and publication Foreign Control Watchdog, which is at

Horton’s first star billing for Auckland’s advocacy faithful was at the annual Roger Awards – the Oscars of the global transnational notorieties and their murky impact on the New Zealand economy and justice. Chief culprits for 2010:

1. The Hobbit affair trioWarner Brothers (received by none other than Bugs Bunny and the third time a media corporation has won the “worst transnational” prize), with the John Key government collecting the Accomplice Award for “caving in” to the movie moguls and film director Sir Peter Jackson taking out a special Quisling Award for being the New Zealander who “did the most to facilitate foreign control” in the country.
2. British-owned BUPA "couldn't care less" retirement home company
3. Imperial Tobacco – for its “despicable” and “deceitful” third-party PR campaigns.

The film studio threatened to make The Hobbit in another country after Kiwi contract workers began collective agreement discussions and the corporation forced a controversial deal that kept the $670 million production in New Zealand. The government agreed to give the film studio an additional $20 million tax break and change the law so there would be no possibility that contract workers could go to court and claim employee rights.

According to the judges panel, headed by Banks Peninsula writer and researcher Dr Christine Dan and including a trade unionist, an associate professor and another senior academic and former Green Party MP Sue Bradford: Warner Brothers "significantly outscored all the other finalists in interference in New Zealand politics and governance. No other corporation has been given such a red carpet treatment when it came to interfere in the way we do things here ..."

The report went on to cite one of the judges saying “an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander, and deliberately set out to do that”.

The following night, Horton was again in action - this time kicking off his “NZ NOT for sale” campaign with a seminar speech at AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre. After a devastating critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and NZ’s shameful role in it, he prescribed a dose of"people power" as the remedy for the secret free trade deal “disease”:

Important as it is to lobby politicians and generally engage with that whole parliamentary process, that is a top down and essentially passive approach, asking our elected representatives to actually represent us. You don’t need me to spell out the whole history of betrayal, sellouts, compromises, and flat out lying that has involved in the past. So it’s not enough to trust politicians to do it for us, or even rely on a change of government to make it all good. We have to do it for ourselves, we need some People Power in New Zealand.

We’ve seen it in spectacular action in the Arab world this year but they are very different societies. Within our country we have seen the most magnificent grassroots mobilisation and community action in response to the seemingly never ending earthquakes crisis in Christchurch. There we witnessed ordinary New Zealanders – students, farmers, women, workers, the unemployed, brown, white – take charge of things in their own streets, neighbourhoods, suburbs and city, rather than helplessly waiting for somebody else to do something about it. Just to single out one group – I speak as a student activist from decades ago, and one who was cynical about the calibre of “today’s young people”.

I stand in awe of the Student Volunteer Army which mobilised somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 students to get stuck into the most basic of tasks, namely digging the city out from under the ocean of silt, and muck and shit that engulfed it. Now, what I’m talking about is an emergency response to a life and death catastrophe, and not what is commonly perceived to be a “political” issue. But there is nothing more political than spontaneously organising people at the grassroots level to take control of their own communities. New Zealanders care very deeply about their communities and our country, despite the best efforts of the ideologues to turn us into a dog eat dog society. That people power is a truly formidable force ....

We’re confronting the most powerful institutions in this country and in the world, but we’ve beaten them before and we’ll beat them again. They’re the ones who have to hide inside a fortress of secrecy and lies. We have nothing to hide and the truth is on our side. We are many and they are few.

Kia kaha manawanui!

Pictured: Sir Peter Jackson and a Hobbit; Murray Horton at the PMC. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anzac stranglehold on the 'free' Forum

By Dr Roman Grynberg

"Is the Pacific Islands Forum a place where free nations can exchange their views openly which is what the founding fathers wanted when they broke away from SPC? Freedom, as the Americans quite rightly remind us, is not free. The increasing power and domination of the islands by Australia and New Zealand is the real price the islands nations pay for Australia and New Zealand financial support."

IN THE early 1970s recently independent Pacific island leaders balked at their enforced silence in what was then the South Pacific Commission where they were unable to discuss French nuclear testing because of the opposition of the French government.

They decided as a group to create a new forum where independent nations would be free to talk. At the time Pacific island leaders were divided over whether the new 'Forum' should include Australia and New Zealand or not.

Ostensibly because of the huge resources these two countries could bring to the table they were grudgingly included.

Initially the Forum and its secretariat, then called the South Pacific Economic Community (SPEC), was there to provide technical assistance to the islands, hand out small bits of cash for training and workshops and to service the annual meetings of leaders.

However, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) quickly grew to become the region's paramount political organisation where all major issues of the day are discussed.

It has replaced the Secretariat of the Pacific Community which now performs an essentially technical role. The two organisations co-exist but the highly contentious political issues are largely handled at the Forum.

By the late 1990s the Forum, under pressure from Australia and New Zealand, began to evolve as a policy making body rather than a technical body assisting the islands.

Regrettably the change in the function of the Forum was never accompanied by an increase in its capacity to set the policy.

At the beginning of the current decade this role as a policy making body became even more important when the 'ethnic tensions' occurred in the Solomon Islands.

'Regional cover'
The very important and beneficial Australian lead intervention to save the Solomon Islands from the possibility of civil war and total collapse meant Australia needed what is called 'regional cover' from the Forum for the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

This sort of intervention could not be done bilaterally and needed the support of other island states through the Forum.

But whereas RAMSI started as a truly positive intervention to save the Solomon Islands it has evolved into creeping control of economic policy by the young Australian 'babycrats' as they have dubbed in Honiara.

Some of the commercial policies they have advocated and implemented will directly benefit Australia.

The wags in Honiara now say the RAMSI mission will continue for many years and will only ever come to an end once the last overpaid 'babycrat' in Honiara pays his last mortgage installment in Australia.

If the Forum is a policy body then who establishes the policy? These decisions over policy are made by ministers on advice from officials.

Ministers then seek endorsement from leaders.

But where does the actual policy come from? The answer is very simple. In theory it is the technical people at the Forum secretariat who prepare the papers and the advice.

In reality, however, there is simply no capacity within the Forum secretariat to establish independent policy on most economic issues.

Aid 'thank you'
The policy either comes directly or indirectly from Canberra and Wellington or through its 'multilateral cover', that is the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

If you look at almost every study undertaken in the region by the international financial institutions you will find a thank you on page 2 or 3 for the funding provided by AusAID or NZAID.

These organisations have Australian and New Zealand staff seconded to them and Canberra vigorously and jealously controls their trust accounts.

Only very occasionally do any of these institutions dare give advice that Canberra and Wellington explicitly disapprove of. This did occur recently with the World Bank's courageous and successful push to get Australia and New Zealand to open up their horticultural labour markets to Pacific island temporary workers.

Who sets the Forum agenda? In the Forum as in all international bodies, a draft agenda for every meeting is sent out to all members and they must all agree.

In reality in most cases only Australia and New Zealand have the capacity to review these documents and make substantive comments and hence they very largely set the Forum's agenda.

Not one Pacific island country, even PNG, the largest, has one dedicated official whose sole job it is to work only on Pacific island affairs.

Australia and New Zealand have scores of officials and desk officers in Canberra and Wellington with experts on each Forum island country.

Pacific island officials work on so many areas they have to be a 'jack of all trades' but because they are so busy they rarely even have time to read the meeting papers prior to an international meeting.

As a result they are almost invariably outgunned by their Australian and New Zealand counterparts at any meeting.

So if the Forum's policy and the agenda are by and large set in Canberra and Wellington why do Pacific island officials, ministers and leaders continue to accept it?

The answer to this is fairly complex. The first reason is that some of the advice provided by Australia and New Zealand is basically sound.

Whether it is democracy and the rule of law or the liberalisation of telecommunication and air transport few Pacific islanders would doubt that the advice provided by Canberra and Wellington either directly or through their regional or international surrogates has done anything other than benefit the people of the region.

However, there are many glaring examples in the past of policy advice which Canberra and Wellington would not be so proud of.

But this is not the point really. I have witnessed Pacific island officials and ministers sit there and agree to policy they know is not in their country's interest.

You will often hear outsiders ask why they remain silent? The usual response is a cultural explanation. Many Pacific island cultures, though by no means all, have no tradition of engaging in the sort of direct confrontation needed to achieve their foreign policy objectives.

I don't like this explanation because it portrays Pacific islanders as victims and I have seen another type of more subtle calculus occurring.

Many Pacific islanders remain silent for what are often good self interested reasons.

Courageous questions
It takes a courageous official to question Canberra and Wellington when Australia and New Zealand provide two-thirds of the income of the Forum Secretariat and a very large part of their national aid budget. Careers of officials can be terminated. Prime Ministers will receive letters of complaint about recalcitrant ministers and pressure can be brought to remove governments where they are too strident. All this is part of the normal use of power to retain effective control of countries in Australia and New Zealand's lake.

But in the final analysis what buys the silence of the islands in Forum meetings stems from the 'original sin' of the Forum leaders who included the aid donors as members and created a Forum where the poor and vulnerable are better off remaining silent.

There is an ancient proverb that goes, more or less 'He who eats the food of others shall grow weak in the mouth and he who takes the goods of others shall grow weak in the arms'.

This I believe explains much of the silence that is observed at forum meetings.

Whenever a Pacific island leader or minister sits there and accepts policy that is not in their national interests they know that speaking up too loudly may risk the aid flows to their country.

There is, however, even a dirtier secret about the Forum that all ministers and leaders know.

They can sit there at Forum meetings and nod silently to a policy which they have no intention of implementing when they go home and there is no-one to force them to do so.

So what happens are an endless cycle of meetings with quiescent ministers who agree silently to things because they know it will cost them too much to object publicly or they have no intention of implementing when they get home.

Implementation of decisions has simply never been a great priority for the Forum.

So if the purpose of creating the Forum 35 years ago was to have a place where free and independent countries could speak freely then the silence of island ministers means that the Forum is really no longer fit for its purpose - because of the disproportionate power and wealth of Australia and New Zealand.

'Original sin'
There are some Pacific islanders who dream of reversing the 'original sin' of the forum's founding fathers.

The Forum Secretariat with its six figures incomes, manicured lawns and its cycle of largely fruitless meetings (which provide very profitable daily subsistence allowances) will not change and Pacific islanders are never likely to throw Australia and New Zealand out of the Forum. International organisation do not change - they simply become irrelevant or less relevant, witness the UN over 60 years.

More to the point, Pacific islanders irrespective of how they feel about the Forum still need a place to talk to their neighbours Australia and New Zealand.

But is the Forum a place where free nations can exchange their views openly which is what the founding fathers wanted when they broke away from SPC? Freedom, as the Americans quite rightly remind us, is not free. The increasing power and domination of the islands by Australia and New Zealand is the real price the islands nations pay for Australia and New Zealand financial support.

For the larger Melanesian states which constitute 85% of the Pacific island population there is the realisation that if they want independent and unbiased advice then they have to form their own secretariat.

Hence with Chinese and possibly EU funding the Melanesians are creating a Melanesian Spearhead Group secretariat in Vanuatu.

The Melanesians want the freedom to get independent advice but they want the Chinese and the Europeans to pay.

This will also probably not work in the longer term but at least for the moment Chinese and EU interests in the region are profoundly different from that of Australia and New Zealand and will give the Melanesian states much greater policy space.

Things will only change with the circumstances. In the last generation it was France which silenced the islands. The present culture of silence in the Forum stems from the nature of the relationship with Australia and New Zealand. It is perverse and will never lead to a healthy relationship. There may yet come a generation of Pacific island leaders who have a genuine vision and intestinal fortitude to lead their countries and the region. I do not see it yet but I wish the Pacific islands, the region that has been my home for 25 years the very best in raising them.

Dr Roman Grynberg was - until last week - Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. This article was originally published in The Fiji Times under the title "Who owns the Forum?" and reproduced on Café Pacific with the author's permission.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Moala reflects on 'Black Thursday' in new book

IRONICALLY, just as a trial of six people accused of sedition at the time of the 2006 "Black Thursday" riot in Tonga is running its course, one of the Pacific's most respected newspaper publishers, Kalafi Moala, has a new book being launched next week addressing the topic. In Search of the Friendly Islands is a sequel to his Island Kingdom Strikes Back and it explores many of the major cultural, philosophical, political and social dilemmas facing the kingdom today.

Only one chapter actually deals with that fateful day that shook his nation to the core on 16 November 2006 - just days before Fiji's fourth coup - and left eight people dead and a trail of destruction through the heart of the capital of Nuku'alofa. But Moala seeks to dissect what went wrong for the kingdom and what are the lessons for the future.

Jailed unconstitutionally in 1996 for alleged contempt of Parliament - and then set free - the turning point of his campaign for democracy and social justice came eight years later in October 2004 when he won a court case overturning a government ban on his newspaper Taimi 'o Tonga.

This book reflects on his long crusade. The message is inspirational and positive but is also tempered by the warning that while Tonga is becoming much "friendlier", the campaign for "system reform" alone is not enough for real change to come.
The solutions to Tonga's problems are going to involve more than just a system reform. As is evident in many of our island neighbours, reforming into a democracy does not solve problems of poverty, crime, and social injustice. There’s much more to be done than just a change to the system.

There is more to Tonga than just government, economics, and media; more cultural depth and breadth, more history and complexity. What do our past and our present reveal to us about our culture and social structure – and us as a people?

Are there things in our culture that can offer us guidance for our future? Can there be solutions embedded in our social structure that we can dig out and apply to problems that perplex our modern minds? What can journalism’s mission to enlighten offer us as answers in this regard? With 19 years of trying to provide piecemeal snippets on a weekly basis in
Taimi ‘o Tonga, and decades of life as a Tongan, both in Tonga and overseas, I have stories – and some insights – which may add to our collective wisdom as a people.

It is often said that you can only discover what is really best in a culture when you also make provision to look at what may be its worst aspects. This notion is what has characterised my search for the Friendly Islands.
Writing as a Tongan and as a journalist, Moala examines recent events in Tonga and the future in the context of his own experiences and insights. A fascinating and insightful read. Many lessons too for the rest of the Pacific.

Picture of Kalafi Moala at the PIMA 2008 conference in Auckland. Photo by Alan Koon.

Tonga: In Search of the Friendly Islands, by Kalafi Moala; published by the Pasifika Foundation Hawai'i (ISBN 978-0-9823511-0-9) and in NZ by AUT University's Pacific Media Centre (ISBN 978-1-877314-75-9). NZ price: $34.95.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Death of our civil rights

Anybody who saw the UK film Death of a President in the Auckland International Film Festival this week wouldn't have been surprised by the harrowing consequences of the so-called "war on terror" on civil rights and our fundamental freedoms as we lurch closer to the totalitarian systems we are supposedly being defended against. Gabriel Range's restrospective docudrama (based on the fictitious assassination of George W. Bush in Chicago in October 2007) is a brilliant - and controversial - portayal of the abyss we have been plunged into. Our fundamental concept of innocent until proven guilty is suspended when it comes to Muslim suspects. In that context and in the light of the Kafkaesque detention of Mohamed Haneef in Oz, note this ABC news item yesterday - and now Dr Haneef, as reported in the NZ Herald, has been freed with no case to answer! And the Oz authorities get away with the outrageous arrest without so much as an apology:
ListMail: ABC News
Saturday July 21, 2007
(For more news visit ABC News Online at

*Haneef predicament 'every Muslim's fear'*
A Muslim civil rights advocate says the handling of the case of the
Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef has confirmed the Muslim community's
worst fears.
Haneef is facing charges of recklessly providing support to a terrorist
organisation involved in the recent UK attempted car bombings.
In Brisbane last Saturday, the court was told that Haneef's SIM card
was found in the car that was driven into Glasgow airport.
But the ABC has been told by sources in the UK and Australia that the
SIM card was first seized by police eight hours later, when his cousin
Sabeel Ahmed was arrested in Liverpool.
Dr Waleed Kadous from the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy
Network says the fears felt by Muslims date back to the introduction of
the counter-terrorism legislation last year.
Dr Kadous says the Haneef case has left many thinking "there but for
the grace of God go I".
"[It was] every Muslim's fear that this could happen to him," he said.
"They can imagine being in the same situation as Haneef was in, that
they left a SIM card with a relative before leaving country and then
something happens a year later.
"They can imagine borrowing money from someone and paying the loan
back, these are not unusual things."

Greg Ansley in the NZ Herald wrote about the red faces over the collapse of "evidence" against Haneef.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fighting for our media

Campaign running at OurMedia:
"New Zealand's media faces a crisis. Newsrooms are being cut, journalists' wages and conditions are under attack and commercial pressures are seeing news quality sacrificed to improve corporate profits. This isn't good enough - a well resourced news media is vital to the functioning of good communities and a healthy democracy. Without quality journalism, good technical support and decent media resourcing New Zealanders will not get quality and reliable news and that means the crucial decisions we make in our lives as citizens risk being uninformed decisions. Help stop the decline of our media and our democracy by joining our campaign to take our media back."
Registration has opened for the Journalism Matters Summit (August 11-12) - run by journos for journos. Programme under comments.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Singapore declarations - and the risks

One of the highlights for me at the AMIC conference in Singapore last month - where I gave a paper offering a critique of international media aid in the Pacific and was reelected as the NZ country rep - was a visit to Nanyang Technological University (pictured), which has one of the best communication studies and journalism programmes in Asia (Wee Kim Wee).
A United Nations "Model Curricula for Journalism Education for Developing Countries and Emerging Democracies" booklet was launched at AMIC and various syndicates of the parallel World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) had their own crack at producing "models" . Guy Berger at Rhodes University in SA posted a good rundown on discussion on his Conversant blog. But on the JEAnet, John Herbert noted a warning:

"I hope this WJEC thing doesn't over take the domestic JEA agenda and meetings thing that Singapore told me was that the universality of journalism and journalism education is a bit of a pipe dream, and extremely dangerous, and could easily lead to the imposition by the strongest on the rest, colluding with globalism and journalistic imperialism at the expense of localised journalism and journalism education fit for local purpose rather than adhering to some kind of universal ( inevitably Western) approach....we need to keep focused on the internal Australia problems, which are very important ones to solve at the moment, particularly the RQF matter which needs the biggest guns in the university journalism schools to be involved, the professors and senior highly thought of journalism educators need to be at the spearhead of this discussion...."

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