Opinion – Tim Campion
I am a Systems Analyst by trade. I have been working on designing systems and fixing broken ones for over 20 years. I have worked across many industries in both the public and the private sectors and have worked on all manner of systems and technologies. …
Why TPPA and 3 horses could rob our children of a truly prosperous future.
I am a Systems Analyst by trade. I have been working on designing systems and fixing broken ones for over 20 years. I have worked across many industries in both the public and the private sectors and have worked on all manner of systems and technologies. In that 20 years I have learned that Systems Analysis can be applied to any system in much the same way that a plumber, an electrician or a builder can work on any building. A few years back I discovered that Systems Analysis can even be applied to the biggest system of all, the one we all live under and work within every single day of our lives.
Why am I telling you this? I have some very real concerns about the TPPA and the TISA (yes there’s another one that our government wants to sign us up for in secret as well). Despite what Tim Gosier and John Key are telling the media, I don’t consider myself misinformed. In fact a large part of what I do is analyze large amounts of information to find the important parts. I am as informed as I can be given the circumstances. Perhaps it is the old saying that a little information can be a dangerous thing. I guess time will tell if that is the case with TPPA. Perhaps it is all just a storm in a tea cup but from where I sit as a Systems Analyst with 20 years experience what I have read makes me very uncomfortable. In fact it concerns me a great deal and as such until I can be proven wrong I’d like you to consider the following.
Today we live in a world where information sharing is open, free and readily available. Copywriting of software under the TPPA and TISA leads us down a path that over time does away with that altogether. It attempts to re-commodify the ability to use information from this point forward that had already been made free and readily available in many cases to everyone via the internet and other forms of software such as smartphone apps.
It’s important because the three most important sets of software for society have been built.
The Internet or ‘Information hub’ to provide freedom of information.
The ‘Product Hub’ (websites such as Trade me. Amazon and Ebay) to enable people to be able order a product from anywhere at any time.
And now the ‘Service Hub’. Which in time will enable people to order a service from anywhere at any time. There are service hubs popping up everywhere We know them better through names such as Air BNB, Lyft, Taxi Apps and even dating apps like Tinder. There are many more examples out there too.
The gains in efficiency that come with Service Hub technology when combined with other developments in the IT industry such as cloud based computing and open APIs are arguably as significant as the invention of the telephone or the internet. These technologies allow people to connect automatically with other people, businesses and organizations faster and easier than ever before. The best part is that you, me and everyone else will be able to access that network through just one or two applications on a smartphone.
With technology such as service hubs, product hubs and connectivity through APIs, we are far closer to having a largely automated system from which you can order any product or service, than what many people realize. It is possible that this only 10 to 15 years away, at our current rate of technological advancement. Maybe even less.
We would have reached the technological capability that enables us to finally have the system set up to work for us, rather than the other way around. In fact given the technological capability we have developed as a society today and with the increasing levels of automation just around the corner, continuing with the system the way that it is today is the equivalent to inventing the automobile but having to push it everywhere you want to go. It is logic and common sense to use technology to deliver better outcomes for everyone in society.
Reaching this point could enable us to decouple the remaining work from wages which could result in a far greater amount of freedom for every individual, more so than at any other time previously in our history. It would put us on a road to a future where we could work far less and what’s more we would no longer have to work simply in order to survive. Imagine only needing to work 3 days per week with four day weekends. It would give us back the time that an increasing number of people feel they just don’t have enough of anymore and much of our independence. We would have more Time to spend with those closest to us, our friends, our families and time to spend doing those activities that we are truly passionate about. In fact rather than working all the time, we would be actually living life.
But with the copywriting of software provisions in the TPPA and TISA we are signing away our ability and our children’s ability to be able to do this. Not now, nor at any time in the future.
Service hub technology is automating call center and receptionist roles right now and this will increase in pace as more and more switch to connecting with services using Apps. With driverless car technology just around the corner, up to 45% of current jobs will cease to exist. All of this has an adverse effect on our economy at a time when all economies around the world after the GFC are fragile. When all this takes hold there will be a flow on effect to other businesses in our economy as a large portion of spending is removed. It puts downward pressure on wages as more people compete for the remaining jobs and it puts increased pressure on social services for those who cannot find work as we move into period in New Zealand where there could very well be significantly less jobs available than there are people needing them, despite their willingness to work. This is also coming at a time where farmers are struggling with the lowest dairy payout in years. Many will be running at a loss and this won’t help our economy as they too tighten spending.
Capitalism is a system on life support. As a result of the overall cost of living having risen over the years when compared with real wages. When people can’t access basic needs no matter what the reason it’s an indication that our system mightn’t be doing as well as we think it is. This is essentially the problem we have right now, and unfortunately it will only get worse with increasing automation as people have less to spend in our economy.
There are signs of Capitalism failing in many places in our economy. You only need to look at every instance where someone struggles to obtain basic needs such as food, housing, electricity and heating. The reason that it is more difficult to detect under Capitalism is that we can have these failures happening to many families but at the same time Capitalism and the market still have instances in which they work. It is important to note though that to illustrate Capitalism functioning you only need a single transaction involving a single willing buyer and a single willing seller both of whom agree on the price of a good or service. To give an example to illustrate this point consider that the Rolls Royce Company can manufacture a Rolls Royce and an oil baron from the United Arab Emirates can buy that vehicle. There was a willing buyer and a willing seller who agreed on price. Most of us could never afford one but in many ways all that is needed to be able to illustrate the market and Capitalism working.
Take a simple kebab shop. It can exist and have enough customers buying kebabs to remain in business and be profitable at the very same time as 500,000 people in the very same country can’t afford to buy one. That is the problem with Capitalism. Both it and ‘the Market’ can still ‘appear’ to work, while a growing number of people can no longer afford basic needs. Capitalism and the market fails every single one of those people and the number of people it fails is on the increase. At what point do we start to recognize this? For many it won’t be until it starts to affect them directly.
For Capitalism to continue it must create new markets and that means creating new things for us to pay for. Or alternatively getting us to pay for things that we already get for free right now. This is why the big corporations are allowed access to the TPPA and TISA but you and I and everyone else, is not.
Trojan Horse Number 1: Copyrighting software
Copyrighting of software and then charging for it or stopping others from being able to develop it removes a fundamental right that you and especially your children already have today in society. Essentially it is an attempt to re-commodify information after the internet had made much of this free to anyone with access to a computer.
The emergence of 3D printers give us the ability to write a piece of software for any item that can then be built using a 3D printer. That item can then be reproduced as many times as you want or need to, for minimal cost.
Introducing the ability to copyright software under the TPPA and TISA takes away our ability to do this, along with the freedom that this could have given each and every one of us at an individual level, at a societal level. It would be gone forever.
Trojan horse number 2
We could be taken to the off shore tribunal made up of 3 private lawyers, This is not under the jurisdiction of New Zealand Law. Not bound by any form of precedent and where an award for future loss of earnings could be made against all New Zealand tax payers.
If the award was large enough; New Zealand and New Zealanders, could end up in the same position as Greece or worse. New Zealand and New Zealanders could be forced into a position of austerity that could span decades. Where you, and possibly your children, would be subjected to Austerity measures such as high taxes and seemingly endless cuts to social services that would decimate our health and education systems. We could be forced to sell off any remaining assets including our most precious natural resources and would be able to do little more than stand by and watch it happen. If we refused we could be threatened with economic sanctions or even worse. In the worst case scenario NZ could be bankrupted.
We could if our sovereignty is not protected end up ceding that sovereignty to USA Inc and essentially be no different to a State within the US, governed by the US political system and US laws. Basically, what we know as New Zealand would be controlled by those who run USA Inc: The US Government or more accurately the Corporations their politicians are clearly beholden to. We would have lost our ability to self-determine our future as a country and as a nation of Kiwis.
Many Kiwis would have been turned into low wage economic slaves in our very own country for the rest of our foreseeable future.
Russel Norman stood up in parliament and asked that if this is the reason for the secrecy, why is it that we as New Zealanders, in whose name this so called trade deal is being done, cannot be shown the information that has already been given to the other parties at the negotiation table as this would in no way shape or form undermine New Zealand’s negotiating position. How could it? It is information which has already been disclosed to the other sides. Russel Norman is right. The only logical explanation is that there are things in this agreement that the powers that be do not want us knowing about. At least not until the deal is signed and it is too late. This is something that we should be gravely concerned about.
One of the most loved US presidents JFK gave a speech that began with the following:
“The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.”
Consider this in light of the level of secrecy that exists around TPPA and TISA.
What’s more this is at a time when basic needs are being priced further and further out more and more peoples reach. A perfect example of this is that John Key has already come out and stated that cost of medicine will rise. Medicine, something that access to, should arguably be a basic human right and for what? To add to the trillion dollar profits already being made in the Pharmaceutical industry? It is certainly not for our benefit.
The third trojan horse.
We used to have a very large public sector. It was bloated inefficient and costly to run. It arguably didn’t deliver the outcomes we wanted in society as well as we wanted them too. But this was before technology and the levels of automation available today.
As a nation we were told that private enterprise in the form of Corporations could deliver these services better and at lower cost. We were told that the profit motive and competition would drive efficiency and through that efficiency would come lower prices. We were told this when our electricity industry was deregulated and now our power prices are higher than ever.
Now however, there is a great deal more automation through things like IT software development that gives us greater efficiency than ever before and a highly efficient and automated public sector can deliver the same outcomes using technology that the private sector do now but without the need for profit. This comes at a time where basic needs have been privatized and are being priced out of the reach of more and more families in society. There are provisions in the TPP and TPIS agreement that explicitly stop Governments from being able to do this should we as a nation choose to now or at any future time should we decide that we need or want to. This essentially hands our rights as citizens to determine what is best for us and our future to corporations.
This is full blown Corporatism. Capitalism left unchecked will always gravitate towards Corporatism. Under such a system, social and environmental outcomes will always come a distant second to profit and these so called trade agreements are designed to do nothing more than further enrich corporations that in many cases already have profits in the billions of dollars annually. What’s worse they seek to do so at the expense of our economic future and our sovereignty.
There is no real sovereignty under Corporatism. There is just ownership. There is just who owns what and whom when all is said and done. This is something I don’t think enough kiwis realize. This concept was really brought home to me recently. I work in Wellington. I happened to be on my way to work walking past the Wellington City Council Building. I looked at the sign on the building. I, like most people, expected it to say ‘Wellington City Council’. It doesn’t. It says ‘Wellington City Council Inc’. Under Capitalism everything is a corporation.
Even the Peterson Institute for international Economic’s figures that the Government have relied upon to support the TPPA deal have been called into question by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand. The Sustainability Councils review concluded that only about one 25% of the projected gains are backed up by a credible economic methodology and that it ignores many of the fiscal and regulatory downsides to the point that they doubt there is any economic benefit to New Zealand from the TPPA. What’s more there analysis is consistent with the Australian Productivity Commissions criticisms on the Australia, US trade agreement signed back in 2010. So why are the government so desperate to get this deal signed?
If we want a trade deal with these Nations that’s fine then let’s put together a genuine free trade agreement that is fair and equitable as free trade should be and is designed to be. But let’s not attempt take away peoples sovereign rights by stealth in those agreements. Our government when it came to the secrecy around spying and 5 eyes network rolled out the nothing to hide nothing to fear. I think the same thinking should be applied here. I think many others agree.
As a society and as a once proud nation we stand at a fork in the road. Down one path lies a largely automated society and one of abundance, from time, through to resources, through access to goods and services.
Down the other lies increased corporate profits for those at the very top, low wages for everyone else and a struggling economy desperately trying to come to grips with increasing levels of automation and job losses, while many of the avenues and tools to deal with these problems would have been legislated away under the TPPA and TISA agreements.
Signing the TPPA and TISA whilst we are already facing some serious upcoming challenges economically, would not be an act for the benefit of New Zealanders. In fact we should be looking to keep all of our options open and not enter into any agreement that diminishes any of them.
This is why I think that in light of what we do know, we need to walk away from the TPPA and the TISA unless these provisions are removed for the sake of our future and more importantly the future of our children.