Press Release – Council of Trade Unions

Parliament has refused to hear public submissions on an international agreement the Government has signed that locks in future rules for government purchasing, says CTU Secretary, Sam Huggard. This should have been the one and only opportunity …Public submissions refused on Government Procurement deal

“Parliament has refused to hear public submissions on an international agreement the Government has signed that locks in future rules for government purchasing,” says CTU Secretary, Sam Huggard. “This should have been the one and only opportunity the public has to comment on the deal after the details of it were made public. Instead, the Government majority on Parliament’s Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade Select Committee has vetoed hearing public submissions despite a request from the CTU.”

“The Committee has produced a superficial one-page report based entirely on what officials told them. This is a travesty and shows how bad New Zealand’s treaty approval process is.”

Huggard says that when the CTU asked, the Committee said the CTU could only make an oral submission at three days notice. But the CTU fundamentally believes that the agreement is important enough for public submissions to be called. In a letter to the CTU, the Deputy Chair says the Committee had refused the request.

“This sets a terrible precedent for future international agreements which increasingly impede our sovereignty and our ability to improve social and economic conditions for working people. When critics of the proposed TPPA say ‘show us the text you are working on so we know what it’s all about’, the Government says ‘you’ll have time to comment after it is all completed and signed’. Having a say after a deal is signed is no say at all.”

“But the process is so bad that for some deals like this, the public doesn’t get even that opportunity. The process is a mockery of democracy in any case, because it leaves virtually all the power to sign with Cabinet – only changes in legislation go to Parliament for approval, and for this one none is needed. Lack of public submissions makes it even worse.”

“We understand that MFAT officials assured the Committee that they had consulted during the negotiations, including with the CTU. But the talks with officials were almost pointless because they were unable or refused to tell us what was going on and what New Zealand was committing itself to. Nor did they answer all our questions about the implications of the deal.”

“If the CTU had been able to make a submission we would have highlighted the fact that it prevents preference being given to local suppliers for economic development purposes. We would have told the Committee that it hampers the government’s ability to use its purchasing to raise health and safety and employment conditions above the legal minimum (such as paying a Living Wage) and require responsible contracting. It prevents future governments from boycotting supplies from other countries where gross human rights abuses are occurring, as happened with racist apartheid South Africa. We would ask: will it allow the 11 District Health Boards that are bound by it to choose between suppliers on the basis of whether they are not for profit or whether they also deal in tobacco or unhealthy high-sugar foods. And we would ask why the deal bans KiwiRail from favouring local suppliers for its future rolling stock purchases.”

“This is a bad agreement and the public has been locked out from having even a token say in it,” Huggard says.

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