Monday, 14 April 2008
We are living in interesting times. The debate on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China is one that will either swing to the right or the left. Inside the Labour Party opposition to the FTA is being cast as a racist stance. When the Maori Party opposed the FTA Phil Goff made a statement on TV 3 news that the Maori Party were "prejudiced". Immediately TV3 news went straight into a story about anti-Chinese racism. This harsh and unfair criticism of the Maori Party's principled opposition to the FTA was in sharp contrast to both Labour and National's response to New Zealand First’s belated opposition, which was based on racism and opportunist scapegoating. Instead Labour and National's response to NZ First was conciliatory and even supportive, both parties said they wanted to keep him on as Foreign Minister. In fact Peter's stance has helped them in spreading their fiction that all opposition to the FTA is based on xenophobia. Goff went as far as saying that Peters’ opposition was bullshit – which is true. According to Fran O'Sullivan he did everything to clear the path for the FTA, including calling on people not to be harsh on China over Tibet. And also manipulating the NZ First caucus to postpone their meeting to decide and announce their opposition until after the deal had been signed. The danger of NZ First pandering to anti-Chinese racism, and so gaining kudos for the right, is a real and present danger. Particularly as we predict the costs for working people of this deal will be negative and possibly extremely so. For a racist right wing anti-union xenophobic party to be the beneficiary of Labour's betrayal of working people would be a tragic side-effect of the FTA. As Chinese and Kiwi workers would be pitted against each other. While big business here and in China laughs all the way to the bank. We should be explaining and arguing that the FTA is final proof that the Labour Party has gone from being the advocate of working people to being the advocate of big business. It’s the corporate elites who’ve been calling for the FTA and who will be its beneficiaries. We must make the argument that the FTA will harm both New Zealand and Chinese workers. And that rather than getting workers to compete against each other we should be putting our hand out to our Chinese brothers and sisters to frustrate the practical implementation of this deal. I’m promoting a call inside the union movement to demand that the Chinese indentured work gangs due to be brought here are paid no less than us and receive all the other work rights that we enjoy.