a newsletter for the kumara vine
|Issue No 6/00 - 15th June 2000 (Matariki Issue)||ISSN 0114-2097|
"...you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?" - Kahlil Gibran
All news tips welcome. Email email@example.com
"Te Putatara" is a webzine by Te Aute Publications, P.O.Box 408, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Edited by Ross Nepia Himona. "Te Putatara" is published on the World Wide Web at: http://maorinews.com/putatara . At that URL all the back issues of "Te Putatara" have been indexed and are searchable. Copyright: Ross Nepia Himona. Feel free to print, copy and re-transmit but please acknowledge source.
Ki te whaiao, ki te ao-marama,
let the trumpet sound,
To signal your emergence
Into the dawn light,
The broad light of day.
The arrival of the Maori New Year
is signalled by the dawn rising this
month of Matariki / Pleiades
(also known as Subaru)
Te Whare Miere
Electronic Activism, a case study and manual
What a Closer Economic Partnership means for Maori
what's new in the website
you can have your say too
Been busy this last month, as most of you will know, covering the Fiji crisis through my daily news service Te Karere Ipurangi. Consequently this issue of Te Putatara will, I think, be a bit shorter than the last few rather lengthy ones.
The main theme will be an analysis of the potential of the Internet and World Wide Web to further the cause of Maori political aims, by magnifying the reach of political activists, individually and collectively. These are the lessons I've learned over the last few weeks, taking up the cause of Indigenous Fijians, and getting stuck into our own government for its totally inept handling of the foreign affairs of the nation. While interviewing me on his radio interview show my whanaunga Syd Jackson admitted that he was not really Internet literate, and I think that might be so for most activists, even those who do have an email connection. I think that it's time to become proficient in using this information and communications technology for electronic activism.
For about 18 hours after the coup in the Solomon Islands, when the telephones were down, and before the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) got their own website functioning, Te Karere Ipurangi was the only international media outlet receiving news from the Solomons. This was achieved by a tinpot one-man band operation, ahead of all the international media and their vast resources, simply by establishing an indigenous to indigenous email link with the newsroom at SIBC.
Another theme I've been pushing over the last few months is the need for Maori to look outwards to the other countries of the region, and to become much more aware of what's happening in the region. In an article at Te Karere Ipurangi I've declared that Foreign Affairs is a Maori Affairs issue. I really believe that, and I'll write a bit more about that.
Professor Jane Kelsey has also kindly allowed me to reprint one of her articles on "What a closer economic relationship means for Maori". The whole issue of the re-colonisation of the world by the white nations, using international organisations such as the IMF, WTO and many others, is a matter of extreme importance to us, for it threatens the very survival of all indigenous peoples and their cultures, including Maori.
But first, a few bits 'n' pieces from Wellington.
te whare miere,
house of honeyed deceit
parliament, parliament, what a sadsack ol' outfit you are
The Real Minister of Maori Affair
This month "Big Hat No Cattle" Dover Samuels admitted that Helen Clark is the real Minister of Maori Affair. Now this is something all the politically aware readers of Te Putatara have known since the day the Ministerial posts were announced, ne ra. Engari, the old kaumatua of the Government has finally admitted that he's just the tekoteko. And he's proudly announced that he supports this arrangement. Go Dover.
Maori MPs still Muzzled
During the Fiji crisis I sent every email to all the Maori MPs, who for the most part did not utter a peep in the media. Dover Samuels and Sandra Lee, the two ministers inside Cabinet, spoke out with what was obviously the Cabinet line. All cabinet ministers are bound by the rule of collective cabinet responsibility, and they are forbidden from making any personal observsations that might be at odds with the mob in the cabinet.
The Labour and Alliance Parties also have very oppressive rules about speaking out publicly against party policy, so you haven't heard any of those Maori MPs speaking out on Fiji either, except for a fairly innocuous remark by John Tamihere. And except for a few private little communications I've received from some of them to tautoko my own campaign. Otherwise they've been muzzled.
It is inconceivable that those Maori MPs could support the culturally offensive outbursts of Helen Clark and Phil Goff in the early days of the crisis, and their assumption that it was their role to dictate what should happen in Fiji. But the rules kept them quiet. Hopefully, some of them might have taken a role in moderating the rhetoric of Clark and Goff.
They're muzzled on a whole range of other issues as well, except for the occasional public pushing at the barriers by Tariana Turia and Willie Jackson.
Wiilie seems to have won his public standoff with Trevor Mallard over the electronic spectrum auction, but not everyone is happy with the result, especially not the people who raised the issue in the first place.
Maori Affairs & Foreign Affairs
I've written elsewhere about this, and I'll provide a link at the end of this issue. There's no doubt in my mind that our Maori MPs need to take a much closer and active interest in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.
During my 20 year career in the military I had a lot of contact with people from South East Asia, Melanesians and Polynesians, in both military and military/diplomatic roles. I learnt to speak Bahasa Indonesia and Malay. Whilst those people were invariably polite and courteous to my Pakeha colleagues, privately they always confided that they would much rather deal with Maori. They often said that they couldn't understand why there were not many more Maori in the foreign service, and thought New Zealand's interests in the region would be much better served by Maori diplomats.
Two Maori high commissioners who were extremely well thought of in their host countries were the late Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Bennett in Malaysia in the 1960s, and the late Major General Brian Poananga in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. In fact, in the case of Brian Poananga, the Prime Minister of PNG had specifically asked for a Maori high commissioner. Sir Charles was awarded one of Malaysia's highest awards, a rare distinction which the New Zealand Government forbade him from accepting. He accepted it anyway.
The foreign service remains though, a bastion of white supremacy, with very few Maori in its higher echelons. Tia Barrett, the present High Commissioner in Suva, is the exception.
The reaction of this government to the crisis in Fiji was an example of gross cultural offensiveness, and urgently needs to be moderated by Maori understandings of the peoples of this region. Foreign Affairs is far too important to be left to culturally ignorant Pakeha politicians any longer.
Hypocrisy & Foreign Affairs
Ranting about Fiji, they go on about the evils of having "racial" rights built into a constitution. They conveniently overlook the Malaysian constitution which does exactly that. Hypocrisy.
They go on about the righteousness of "democracy", granting official recognition to China which is not democratic, and failing to recognise Taiwan, which is democratic. Hypocrisy.
An Embassy in Brazil
Foreign Affairs minister, Phil Goff, has announced that late next year New Zealand will open a new embassy in Brazil, "as a key component of the Government's Latin America strategy to develop closer trading and political links."
Conveniently overlooking Brazil's contemporary record in failing to protect the human and indigenous rights of its numerous indigenous peoples. Cattle ranchers continue to clear and burn huge tracts of primary forest owned by indigenous peoples, to steal their lands and waters. They are killing the indigenous people by removing their livelihoods and their lives. The killing is not just indirect through enforced relocation, poverty and rapidly increasing suicide. It is direct. There are many recorded instances of shootups, where they go hunting indigenous people as though they were animals. Reminders of an evil and darker age in Australia, and almost everywhere else the colonisers ever went, including the Spanish in South America.
Meanwhile, although this is all illegal, The Brazilian government and provincial governments just turn a blind eye. After all, the indigenous people are holding back progress, economic development and trade.
Goff made an enormous fuss about human rights in Fiji. So what about Brazil Phil? Hypocrisy.
Parekura & Trevor
Heard a whisper on the kumara vine that Parekura Horomia (Associate Minister of Education) and Trevor Mallard (Minister of Education) have been having a few little misunderstandings about the direction of Maori education, and who knows best. Be interesting to keep tabs on.
Seems they might be at odds over the Matauranga Maori Hui Taumata this coming October. Like who owns the hui, and what it will be doing.
Community Employment Group (CEG)
Well, e hoa ma, as predicted months ago, Parekura has had his way and the CEG operation is on its way back to the Labour Department from poor old WINZ. You'll remember that after that poor Mrs Christine Rankin of WINZ took over CEG, she sort of sidelined and marginalised its boss, Parekura Horomia. Then he resigned from the public service and came back as a minister. Well bowled Mr Horomia! How's that ump? You're *#&%^$# out Mrs Rankin !!
You didn't know you were a spin bowler, did you Brother?
Te Puni Kokiri's Budget
See in the budget that TPK got an extra $12 million over four years (i.e. $3m per year), to improve monitoring of the performance of other agencies. It's not really an increase though, because that's what the funding was for Tau Henare's Maori commissions that have been disbanded. From Tau to Peter to Paul to Ngatata to Dover to Helen. Hey presto, that's where that $12 mill came from.
Heard on the kumara vine that TPK actually asked for quite a few millions (more than $20m I heard) to set up this mobile network of mobile people with automobiles and mobile phones. Maybe laptop computers too. Something like the old hui-hopping Community workers of the late and not much lamented Department of Maori Affair, only a techno-hui-hopping version. Ka aroha.
Closing the Gaps & the Budget
There's $114m over four years for capacity building in Maori and Pacific Island communities, and specifically for Maori there's $20.8m for Maori job creation, $27.5m for TPK to implement community ideas, $20m for smoking cessation, $40m for Maori health provider development, $55m for Maori education, $10m to reduce Maori offending, and $50m for anything they haven't thought of already.
When you look closely at it, and divide it by 4, it's actually less than they spent per annum on special business development and training programmes for Maori in the late 1980s. And that didn't close many gaps either, in the long run.
Will it close the gaps? Or start to close them?
Doubt it. In earlier issues I've stated why I think they're looking at the wrong gaps. Also, if you treat the symptoms of a disease instead of the causes, you don't really get better, you just feel better for a while.
Take education. Firstly, the Ministry of Education knows that one of the biggest causes of under-performance by schools for their pupils, is under-performing principals. Outstanding principals have outstanding schools. Lousy principals have lousy schools. Very few of them are trained as principals. And the Ministry knows that if they spent a maximum of $10m training say 5000 principals and potential principals to do their jobs properly, then schools' performance for both Maori and non-Maori pupils would dramatically improve. They know that already.
Again in Education, many Maori educators know that the philosophy behind curriculum, educational practice and teaching, benchmarking, measurement and assessment, is inherently anti-Maori. The Ministry has been told this for decades. There is no money in this budget to address that fundamental cause of educational under-achievement.
Want a cheap way to eradicate those gaps? Get serious about the causes. And then move on to the real gaps, which are the gaps between institutional performance, and achievable performance for all Tangata Aotearoa, Maori and non-Maori. They just don't want to acknowledge that the institutions are also grossly under-performing for Pakeha, even though Pakeha do better than Maori.
Well, spend just $250m over 10 years educating Pakeha people in institutions (schools, hospitals, politicians, parliament, government agencies, etc) about their own racism, and the inbuilt racism of their institutions. Spend another $250m over 10 years researching and looking closely at the attitudes, philosophies, theories and practices in all those institutions, that have an inbuilt anti-Maori bias, and that are culturally inappropriate for Maori. Then modify or replace them so that they are user friendly for both Maori and non-Maori.
It would be a whole lot cheaper, and infinitely more effective than these "closing the gaps" panaceas and palliatives.
New Legislation for Te Puni Kokiri
Heard on the kumara vine that there's a new Bill coming into the House soon, giving TPK extra powers to spy on everyone. Keep your eyes and ears open.
a case study & manual
by Ross Nepia Himona
Throughout the crisis in Fiji, as most of you will know, I have been using the tools of the Internet and World Wide Web to develop my own knowledge about how these information and communications tools can be used to promote causes, run campaigns, and generally indulge in what is known as electronic activism.
The use of the technology by activists is being developed by many groups around the world. Most notably it was used to support the Zapatistas of Mexico, and is now being used to loosely coordinate the worldwide anti-globalisation movement.
I think it will become a very important aspect in the conduct of politics in the future. For instance in the last Victoria State elections in Australia, a single website and email campaign is thought to be responsible for tipping the balance against Jeff Kennett, the former Premier. At the moment all political parties in Aotearoa New Zealand have their websites and newsletters, but perhaps only Simon Upton at UptonOnline is making really effective use of the medium, coupled with Scoop News which re-publishes his articles, to promote a personal view of events, and himself of course.
E-activism will be used increasingly by lobby groups to influence the course of events.
I was interviewed on radio by my whanaunga Syd Jackson a couple of weeks ago about my Support Fiji campaign, and he let it slip that he was not really literate in the technology. I made a smart remark about moving on from Nga Tamatoa, but that got me thinking about how it might be used to more effectively promote Maori causes and concerns, and decided me to chronicle as a case study what I had been developing.
But first, some pointers about how to use it. There is a collection of Activism links at the end of this issue as well.
Any activism campaign needs to have clearly delineated vision, goals and strategies.
An electronic campaign will most likely be conducted in concert with a traditional campaign involving such classic techniques as protest, demonstration, sit-in, occupation, educational activity, letter writing, and media campaigns. However as the techniques for electronic campaigning develop, there will probably be more and more campaigns that are mainly electronic.
Regardless, strategy for electronic campaigns needs to cover the use of websites, email, media and newsgroups. These will be discussed below. There are other techniques being developed around electronic civil disobedience, and internet hacktivism. These will not be discussed in this article, but links to other sites are provided at the end of this issue.
The strategy of my Support Fiji campaign was quite simple, built around a statement of intent:
"Since the very beginning of this crisis in Fiji, I and many others have been appalled, from an indigenous Pacific cultural perspective, by the intemperate outbursts of politicians and media in Australia and New Zealand. I have been concerned as well, that the voices of indigenous Fijians are not being heard around the world. I have attempted, with others, to present an alternative indigenous perspective at this website.
"In presenting this perspective we have received many messages of support and thanks from around the world. We have also received much support and thanks from Indigenous Fijian people who have not had access to media resources to allow their own voices to be heard, in the face of the torrent of abuse, mockery and ridicule they have been subjected to.
"This site does not claim to represent Indigenous Fijians, but serves to provide an Indigenous Maori perspective on the crisis in Fiji, to publish sympathetic commentary from friends of Fiji, and to allow indigenous Fijians to speak out for themselves."
The strategy included an extensive email campaign aimed at decision makers in Aotearoa and around the world, but focused mainly on the Pacific and the Commonwealth.
World Wide Web
There are many Maori now actively building websites, including only a few devoted to activism and general political issues. The main site in this regard is Tino Rangatiratanga.
As with any website, the keys to success and great websites are:
A clear purpose for the website, closely aligned to the strategy of your organisation or campaign, with a clearly identified audience or audiences.
In my opinion great technology is simple and appropriate technology. Use bells and whistles only when necessary to achieve the strategy, strive for simplicity, and remember that download time is all-important. Too many graphics makes download time too long, and visitors don't hang around.
Great design is simple design; uncluttered, easy to navigate, and easy to read. Use plenty of blank spaces around text to give the eyes some relief. Avoid black or other dark backgrounds, and remember that black on white is still the easiest to read.
CONTENT IS KING. Great content, interesting, entertaining, informative, regularly updated, is far and away the most important ingredient for success on the Web.
Activist websites are also enhanced by providing easy to use tools to enable people to become personally involved in the cause or campaign. This might be information for their own websites and newsletters, software to make organisation easier, ready to send email messages, media releases and letters to politicians and others, and how-to guides. An essential tool is educational content.
The Fiji Coup Supplement to Te Karere Ipurangi, started from scratch as a simple editorial page, the Sunday after the Speight coup, and over the next days and weeks developed into a campaign website. Most effort went into the content of the website, content being king, but presentation is important, and given the time available I tried to make it pleasing on the eye, and kept it as simple as I could. It needed to be simple to manage as well. It might be possible to develop a template for a campaign website that can be applied to any campaign, with modification.
The success of a website is measured by the number of new visitors to the site, the number of repeat and regular visitors to the site, the feedback you get from your visitors, and the degree of interaction you have with your visitors. Interactivity is gained by using guestbooks, discussion boards, forums, feedback pages, electronic newsletters, subscription lists, and the use of email tools.
Building the website is the least costly and time-consuming part of the exercise. The time and money goes into maintaining websites, keeping them current, adding new information and features, and building and maintaining active contact with the website's constituency.
A website must be actively marketed to attract new visitors, and to keep old visitors coming back. Right across the Web there are millions of websites that are no more than static unchanging electronic pamphlets and brochures - read once and never return. No amount of marketing will make them successful, for they don't cross the threshhold of greatness in websites.
The Support Fiji site was linked to my Te Karere Ipurangi Maori news website and internet portal, which already has a reasonable new visitor count, and a base of regular clients. This provided part of the base upon which the Fiji site was marketed.
Most web-builders are aware of the need to have their websites registered and continually re-registered with the search engines, but few realise that designing and coding a website that is optimised for search engines is an art in itself. Activist sites need to ensure that search engine friendliness is built in from the start. These are simple skills, quickly learned, that most people never know about.
Building relationships with other organisations and their websites is an important part of the campaign, in order to get as many links as possible to the campaign website. Throughout the Fiji crisis, by far the largest number of visitors to my Fiji Coup site came from the Yahoo News site dedicated to coverage of Fiji. Measured by visitor count, Yahoo is one of the most visited sites on the whole Web, and a top ten Yahoo listing is hard to get, and highly prized. I was able at an early stage to show Yahoo that my site was the only site presenting an alternative perspective, and they featured it prominently in their links section. Unlike nearly all Australian and New Zealand websites and media outlets, Yahoo was interested in balance, and alternative viewpoints.
Nearly all my articles were also published by the independent NZ news company, Scoop News, on their web and email news service. This gave the campaign a wider reach into the non-Maori community in Aotearoa New Zealand, and also brought in more website visitors from the links that Scoop provided to my site. Scoop also serves New Zealanders living overseas.
Most webmasters do not realise however that the effectiveness of websites, whether they are business sites or activist sites, depends mostly on the use of email to support and promote the site.
For instance, all of the commentary, releases and articles I published at my Fiji Coup Supplement website were also mailed out to an extensive list. This served to take the message to a much wider readership, and brought in many more visitors than simple search engine marketing would.
In e-activism, as in e-commerce, email is the most potent campaign or marketing tool, and must be used to extend the reach and effect of the website. I often think that in fact it is the other way around, and that the website only complements the email campaign.
This can be as simple as putting a link to the website in the signature of every email, allowing email recipients to simply click to get taken to the site. The more emails you send, the more visitors.
Beyond that however, most busy people are more inclined to read an interesting email than to bother to interrupt the flow of their work to go to a website (although you still have a lot of people who do go to the website).
The most important email list of them all is the opt-in subscription list, where people have already opted to receive and read your email. This list is built from the visitors to the campaign website, and can take years of hard work to build. The Te Putatara email list that I operate was therefore the initial basis of the Support Fiji campaign. However the Tino Rangatiratanga email list is an important Maori activism list, where subscribers have opted to receive activism email. These two lists provided a known initial and almost guaranteed readership of about 600 people, mostly Maori.
In the Support Fiji email campaign the full text of all articles was sent to:
Maori Email lists (800 people)
Tino Rangatiratanga (the most active list)
Te Hiringa i Te Mahara
Indigenous and other Email lists (1,200)
Indigenous Peoples Literature
Worlds Indigenous Peoples
Personal Lists (2,000)
Lists I maintain totalling about 2000 people and organisations, mainly Maori.
As the campaign progressed a list of Indigenous Fijians and friends of Indigenous Fijians was built from emails of thanks and support that grew quite rapidly.
New Zealand Parliament & Government
All Maori MPs
Selected cabinet ministers
NZ High Commissions in Pacific, SE Asian & Commonwealth countries
Permanent NZ representative to the UN
Foreign embassies and high commissions in Wellington
Foreign embassies and high commissions in Suva
Heads of state and prime ministers of Pacific, SE Asian & Commonwealth countries.
International & Regional Organisations
South Pacific Forum
South Pacific Commission
National & International Media
The only outlet in New Zealand that carried releases was Scoop News, but overseas outlets including Yahoo, Pacific Islands Report, the Guardian and a few others did carry articles and provide important links.
Forwarding into Other Lists (8,000)
You will have no idea where else the email is being forwarded but feedback will give you some idea. In the Fiji campaign I found out from feedback that my emails were being forwarded to at least another 8,000 recipients worldwide. Individuals maintain personal lists from just a few friends and family to thousands of contacts, and people also forward interesting emails into other formal subscription email lists they belong to.
There are many more I could have added to the list, but as I was building these lists in the middle of the campaign it took time and research to find the email addresses. The idea is to build the lists before you need them.
Feedback from these email activities is important, as it helps to shape the ongoing campaign, and enables articles to be more specifically targeted. For instance, early in the Fiji campaign I learned of a small number of Heads of State and Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries, and a few ambassadors and high commissioners, who were taking a personal interest in the campaign. I therefore knew before I wrote it, that an open letter to the Heads of State of Commonwealth countries would be read by at least a few of them.
Negative feedback is also part of the territory. In my campaign this came almost entirely from passing readers of the website, and very few from email recipients. This was an indication that the email campaign was reasonably well targeted. Some of the negatives were very abusive, and occasionally threatening. It does however allow you to judge what the committed opposition is thinking, and again to shape the campaign specifically to refute or ridicule their standpoint. For the few over-zealous reactionaries who tried to bombard me with invective, the "block sender, delete immediately" facility in my email software took care of them, and probably made them even more angry as I wasn't receiving them or reading them and they weren't getting any reaction.
In any email campaign however, business or activist, one should only count on a maximum of 5% to 10% rate of effective contact and communication from general lists, with much higher levels of effectiveness from the opt-in more finely targeted lists.
Tiger Country - the newsgroups
Newsgroups were set up before the advent of the World Wide Web, and were used in the first place by scientists and academics to share research, and conduct collaborative research. Once the students got hold of them however the number of newsgroups rapidly increased. Today they cover almost every imaginable topic and must now number over 50,000 groups. There are literally millions of people (well, hundreds of thousands) who contribute to or just read the newsgroups.
Late in the campaign I took my courage in both hands and decided to publish in some of the newsgroups, knowing full well that they are full of racists and bigots who descend in a pack on any mention of "Maori" or "indigenous". There are many normal people there as well. Anyone going into these groups with Maori or indigenous comments and opinions needs to be aware that an unrelenting personally abusive pack attack will result. But it can be fun, providing you keep your keyboard cool, when all around you are losing theirs in a feeding frenzy of racism.
You should gamely resist the temptation to deliberately bait the rednecks, but I usually give in to temptation myself.
The upside is that there are many resonable people there as well, and you will reach them with your message. There are some who will actively sympathise and support. There are also many overseas people reading the nz newsgroups. Very few Maori though.
The advantage of the newsgroups is that they are widely read, even by your opponents. They are also monitored by journalists and writers, and by researchers; for instance by party researchers in Parliament.
The newsgroups used in the Fiji campaign were:
New Zealand & Pacific
- soc.culture.pacific-island (mostly pakeha/palangi)
Indigenous (mainly North American)
Indonesia (this was a limited effort as I didn't have much time to translate articles into Bahasa Indonesia, but did manage a few. A truly international campaign however will need to consider multiple languages)
Visits to the campaign website increased noticeably immediately after the newsgroup strategy was launched. In fact visitor numbers doubled in the first three days. A few of them were just looking for ammunition to attack me with, but at least they had to read it first.
Whilst there are many bulletin boards around the Web, they tend to be time consuming. However as part of the follow-up to my own campaign I will be searching out boards that may be useful in the future. In this campaign I used two that I use regularly myself, and which do have informed audiences:
- Maori political issues, and
- Asian Intelligence Resources
Measuring Campaign Effectiveness
In the Fiji campaign, email feedback provided the only measure of its effectiveness, but full scale campaigns would benefit from professional sampling and surveys.
For instance, it would be interesting to know how attitudes in government and Commonwealth countries might have been moderated by the detailed research published in the website, and nowhere else, and how well the educational component of the campaign worked, for instance, for the Maori audience.
Nevertheless I received a large number of supportive emails from Maori, Pakeha, Indigenous Fijians, both in Fiji and other countries, and friends of Fiji around the world. Many people also sent me articles and ideas for articles.
In any future campaigns I would develop a much more comprehensive media plan, and devote more effort to straight media releases targeted at mainstream media, as well as the website and email commentary and research I used this time. In the Fiji campaign I did not really use the media effectively, except for the help from Scoop and Yahoo. Time was a factor.
I would also take time in future to organise an email and letter-writing campaign from as many other people as possible, in order to add the weight of numbers. For instance, an avalanche of emails from around the country to politicians and other decision makers, in support of the main campaign, would significantly increase impact.
These lessons and techniques have been learned and developed from what amounted to a tinpot little one-man-band campaign mounted on impulse, aided and abetted by contributions from a few people in Aotearoa and overseas. Properly organised campaigns, involving a team of people well versed in these techniques, particularly web-writers and electronic networkers, would undoubtedly be a better option.
From feedback received I think it was moderately successful in educating and shaping opinion, and quite successful in demonstrating support for Indigneous Fijians. The feedback from Fiji has been most gratifying.
However, I think the main long-term benefit of this exercise has been in learning, developing and refining the techniques of electronic activism. And in sharing them with you.
How will electronic activism benefit Maori?
This technology and the techniques of e-activism are in their infancy. Already I think you can see just how potent it could be in promoting causes and issues, not just in Aotearoa, but by projecting them into the rest of the world, making them ultra-public. As more and more people get connected, and new software tools are developed, this medium has the potential to magnify and multiply our impact upon the world beyond present comprehension. I truly believe that.
WHAT A "CLOSER ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP" MEANS FOR MAORI
by Professor Jane Kelsey
What is a Closer Economic Partnership?
Until recently it was called a free trade agreement, but the government has changed the name because 'FTAs' are out of favour these days. Essentially it's an agreement to remove restrictions on trade in goods and services, and on investment, between NZ and Singapore.
What stage is it at?
The Singapore and (National) NZ governments agreed last September to begin negotiating a free trade agreement, after it became clear that APEC wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. Since then they have agreed to quite a lot of the text but there are also quite a lot of issues yet agreed. The current deadline is to finish negotiations around the end of June.
Who is pushing this?
The supporters of globalisation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and some other officials, ministers and MPs in the old and new government who support free trade and investment, and some of the business sector. The Prime Minister has spoken out publicly in support. However, the Alliance and Greens are opposed. Some Labour MPs and Ministers are too.
Because the global free market agenda is pretty much at a standstill.
Individual countries have gone cold on reducing their trade and investment barriers without other countries matching them. APEC's goal of free trade and investment regime by 2010 in rich countries and 2020 in poor ones has struck a rock.
The meeting in Seattle late last year failed to agree to a new round of free trade negotiations in the World Trade Organisation.
How is this agreement meant to help?
The plan is to kick start the process again by negotiating a lot of smaller agreements which can lock together to achieve the bigger goal.
Singapore is almost as gung-ho on global free markets as NZ has been. Both governments reckon if they can agree on a model agreement, and extend it gradually to other countries, they can get the free trade process underway again. As NZ's former chief trade negotiator, and now the head of Asia 2000, admitted:
"Stated bluntly, the Singapore/NZ FTA is a Trojan Horse for the real negotiating end-game: a possible new trade bloc encompassing all of South East Asia and Australia and NZ".
What are they aiming for?
The goal is for NZ to remove all restrictions on trade and investment by 2010 (the APEC goal), although it's not clear if Singapore is working to a 2010 or 2020 date to remove its restrictions.
Will this agreement go that far?
It's impossible to say because the negotiations are secret. The government has refused to release the document that went to Cabinet setting out the instructions to negotiators. All that's been released is a general information paper which says it will cover goods, services and investment, with a summary of the cost/benefit analysis the officials have done. That doesn't give nearly enough detail to work out its likely consequences. But it's clear that NZ will be expected to remove the few restrictions which remain in return for Singapore cutting some of theirs.
Why should this be of concern to Maori?
Maori have interests in each of the major areas it covers, eg.Trade: The only tariffs NZ puts on goods imported from Singapore involve textiles and clothing. This is an area where around 30% of workers are Maori. Many are women and sometimes the only wage earners in the family. The factories are often in small towns where this is the major employer. After a big fight the National government agreed to slow down the removal of tariffs on clothing etc. The Labour/Alliance government has now agreed to stop the cuts until 2005. This agreement would remove those tariffs for Singapore. While that is quite a small part of clothing and textile imports, it could make a difference to whether the factories survive. Singapore also has investments in free trade zones with cheap labour and may try to bring in more clothes made in those places.
Services include health, education, broadcasting, tourism. Free trade in services means NZ cannot discriminate in favour of its own service suppliers. Singaporeans have to be given as good (if not better) treatment. That could include access to NZ subsidies and might prevent NZ introducing local content quotas for Maori broadcasting or requiring professionals to have training in the Treaty and cultural safety before getting registered in NZInvestment:
For years, foreign investors have been stripping NZ assets, like forestry, and businesses, like Telecom or Tranzrail, for a quick profit. Most of this has been taken out of the country. Lots of Maori people have lost jobs and whole towns have been affected. Very few really new businesses have been created. Foreign investors have no long-term commitment to this country or its people. The rules already allow Singapore almost unrestricted rights to buy up NZ. This agreement is likely to stop the government imposing more restrictive rules, for example imposing a national interest test, including a Treaty of Waitangi assessment for any applications.
Are there any protections for the Treaty?
The government has included a clause that says:
nothing in this Agreement shall preclude the adoption by New Zealand of measures taken to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.
But who decides what the Treaty obligations are?
For example, the government is claiming that subsidies for Maori health or giving Maori preference to buy part of the radio spectrum are not responses to a Treaty obligation, just part of "closing the gaps". That means it would fall outside this protection. If Singapore challenged the government's interpretation, would Maori have a role in the dispute process? And who would decide, an international trade forum, the Waitangi Tribunal or whom?
Has Te Puni Kokiri been involved in this process?
Te Puni Kokiri was briefed by trade officials back in early November 1999. It said it couldn't take a position because it hadn't been given enough time or information - a familiar complaint about "consultation" on international trade agreements. TPK was especially concerned about the possible effect on Maori workers.
What did TPK suggest?
It didn't want to go over the same ground that's been covered in "dialogue" with Maori on the MAI, APEC and WTO. TPK asked for a detailed and carefully researched report on the implications of the Agreement for Maori, which could provide the background to an informed consultation process. This should cover:
- The Treaty of Waitangi exemption clause in the Agreement;
- Loosening the rules on investment;
- Eliminating tariffs, especially the effects on Maori workers and the rules which set down what can be defined as "made in Singapore"
- Removing restrictions on services supplied by Singapore;
- The framework proposed for intellectual property rights; and
What happened to the report?
Apparently the trade officials agreed to do it. But all they've done so far is commission a legal opinion about the Treaty exemption clause, which basically says it's fine and doesn't raise any of the issues mentioned above. Apparently Maori who are "consulted" will be given a modified version of the very general outline given to everyone else.
When and where are the "consultations" supposed to take place, and who gets to go?
Regional offices of TPK are arranging those for some time in June. Around 20 people will be invited to discuss the issues. Other Maori can come if they want to, but there won't be any general hui. This controlled approach was also used for APEC and the WTO, after the MAI was rejected by Maori at the series of hui throughout the country.
What has happened with these consultations in the past?
Maori have consistently voiced their concerns, even in the hand-picked consultations. Major concerns have included:
- Intellectual property rights, and control of indigenous knowledge and bio-diversity;
- Exploitation of the country's resources and people by foreign investors;
- Dominance of big corporations in these deals, with no voice for Maori small businesses;
- The dishonest portrayal of the position of Maori in the country's economy
- Removing restrictions on resources like fisheries and forestry mainly benefits larger countries.
- Maori workers and businesses are no better off, and often worse off.
What happens if the globalisation strategy doesn't work?
What control do Maori have over this process?
None. Parliament doesn't even control the process. These agreements bind the hands of future governments. But they are negotiated in secret and are signed off by the Cabinet. They don't even have to follow the normal process for legislation. The select committee won't get to see this agreement or call for submissions until after negotiations are finished and it's already been signed. Parliament will get to debate it, but it has no right to stop it being finally approved. That makes it vital to stop the process while negotiations are still underway.
How can Maori intervene?
- Get the word around and raise the issue in different forums and hui and on iwi radio. Insist on the right to attend the 'consultations' and challenge the process and content of this agreement. The Maori Affairs select committee can call in the officials and demands answers.
- Press Maori MPs to demand that officials prepare the kind of report TPK asked for.
- Give Labour the message that Maori won't support the current treaty making process or the global free market model.
- Demand a proper process that recognises tino rangatiratanga in the international treaty making process, instead of meaningless consultation on the side.!
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