Bishop Charles Drennan questions TPPA

When was the last time you protested? For me it was university days. That’s shall we say quite a while ago! But recently I have felt a stirring within me to bring my faith into the public forum in a visible way.

There is a growing brittleness in our world. Russia’s bullying of Ukraine, atrocities in the Middle East, intolerances almost everywhere.

Our own country isn’t free of tensions. The gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand is the greatest since records have been kept. This isn’t by chance. Government economic policy and the collapse of a sense of governance (in reference to higher principles like the common good or equality of opportunity etc) favour the already wealthy becoming even more wealthy.

When I was at Uni the counter to this was the ‘trickle down theory’. Excess wealth was supposed to trickle down to the low paid. Yeah, right. As Pope Francis has put it: “this theory expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and meanwhile the excluded are still waiting” (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).

And now the government’s new housing policy sees a reduction in government housing and an increase in rent subsidies, which go where? Into the pockets of landlords.

Ideological policies rather than principled policies are placing more and more pressure on the least well off in our country. A further recent example is the approval and introduction of demeaning zero-hour contracts.
What I wish to draw our attention to today is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). A large range of commentators and leaders are warning us against this agreement.

What I find most distasteful is that it is being negotiated in secret. This undermines democracy and heightens the concern that the agreement places the interests and power of the largest multinational companies above the interests of individuals, ordinary families, authentic national interests, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Citizens have a right and duty to protect our egalitarian principles, our kiwi culture, and our expectations of fairness in health, educational and business spheres. Absolute freedom to market anything, anyhow, is not in our interests and most certainly is not a “right” that can trump the democratic duty of a government to regulate and govern a national economy broadly in accord with the wishes of a nation’s citizens.

I shall be joining the protest on Saturday 7th March calling for the Government to be transparent about the full implications of what it is committing New Zealand to. You may wish to join me.

Hastings: 1pm, Civic Square; New Plymouth: 1pm, Puke Ariki Landing; Palmerston North: 1pm The Square (opp library); Whanganui: 11am, Stainless Steel Sphere, Boadwalk.

Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North