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Greens Shouldn’t Waste Time With Greed Merchants

Greens Shouldn’t Waste Time With Immoral Greed Merchants


By Cameron Walker

Despite a well intentioned and highly publicized meeting, big business still finds the Green Party scary. By the way the media has portrayed this it seems like we are all supposed to be worried that the ‘anti-business Greens’ may well form part of the next government.

On the contrary I would be more worried if big business and their lobbyists weren’t afraid of the Green agenda.

Policies which place the best interests of the business leaders and lobbyists present at the meeting, such as Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung and Business Roundtable Executive Director Roger Kerr, don’t necessarily co-incide with the best interests of the majority of New Zealand’s people or indeed the nation’s economy.

New Zealand’s telecommunications network was built up by the taxpayer, a form of economic collectivism the likes of Roger Kerr would no doubt oppose today. In 1990, as part of New Zealand’s neo-liberal reforms, Telecom was sold off for the small sum of $4.25 billion to two American multinational corporations Bell Atlantic and Ameritech. Considering the fact that every year since 1990 Telecom has posted profits well into the hundreds of millions of dollars makes the privatisation seem like an act of corporate welfare.

Thousands of technical staff were layed off, to be replaced with contractors on worse pay and conditions. Meanwhile the ranks of management, many with no specific knowledge of telecommunications, and their pay packets ballooned. Theresa Gattung receives a pay packet of 2.9 million a year. Yet just three years ago many Telecom technical staff, found out that if they wanted to keep their jobs they would have to apply to work for a contracting firm and lose their sick leave and redundacy payments that they’d built up over many years. Telecom claimed it needed to do this to remain viable.

According to Statistics NZ only 22 percent of Telecom shareholders are New Zealanders. This means the majority of Telecom’s profits go to wealthy overseas shareholders rather than being re-invested in the New Zealand economy or in the telecommunications network.

When they act like this its not suprising that these so called ‘business leaders’ would oppose Green proposals to limit foreign control of the economy, strengthen workers rights and to increase the minimum wage.

Roger Kerr, and his organisation the Business Roundtable, have spent much time, effort and resources over the past two decades, supporting basically every government policy that has increased big business profits, at the expense of workers and the poor. He is also noted for opposing policies which help the majority of people, such as four weeks annual leave.

In the 1980’s the Business Roundtable viewed Pinochet’s Chile as a suitable economic model for New Zealand to follow.

In 1988 after TV One’s current affairs programme, Frontline, exposed that the workers employed by a New Zealand forestry company in Chile were axing trees, while wearing open toed sandals and living in rat infested huts, then Roundtable Chairman Ron Trotter, argued that New Zealand needed ‘Chilean style’ labour laws.

A few years later the Roundtable got their wish when the Employment Contracts Act was passed, leading to less bargaining power for unions and worse wages. Its not suprising that one commentator dubbed New Zealand’s free market reforms ‘Pinochet without the gun’.

Despite the well documented evidence that New Zealand’s neo-liberal reforms greatly increased poverty and inequality Kerr says we need to go back to the days of ‘Pinochet without the gun’.

The Greens shouldn’t waste time trying to reassure the Roger Kerrs and Theresa Gattungs of our nation. To do so appears to be appeasement. If the party is to keep its principled policies then it should expect oppostion from such unscrupulous people and organisations.

ENDS

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