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Alliance Party blasts bureaucrats media blackout

Alliance Party blasts bureaucrats media blackout on free trade roadshow

Alliance Party media release Tuesday 10 June 2008

The Alliance Party has blasted a media shutdown by a Government-run free trade roadshow.

Alliance Party national spokesperson Victor Billot says media were turned away from a Dunedin seminar run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise yesterday.

The Otago Daily Times raised concerns with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Officials after being told that allowing media into workshops would inhibit speakers from "full and frank discussion."

Mr Billot says the free trade seminars were paid for by New Zealanders, but media were told they could not directly report or photograph proceedings on the first day, and were then barred completely from reporting workshop discussions on the second day.

Mr Billot says this is a disgrace and shows how there was an anti- democratic agenda in free trade deals.

He says free trade agreements have been jacked up behind closed doors, and now New Zealand media were being excluded from publicly-funded seminars on the basis that they might report something that the Government and its corporate allies might not like in the public domain.

"This is a publicly funded forum to discuss free trade. What gives the right for unelected, unaccountable state servants to shut off the public from being told what free trade has got in store for them?"

Mr Billot says that it was obvious manufacturing jobs were going to evaporate under free trade agreements, and such sensitive issues had been placed off the agenda.

"The workers who are being laid off at Fisher and Paykel when their jobs got moved to Mexico have a right to know what is going on with free trade deals, since their taxes are paying for these cosy chats with the select few. Why aren't workers being invited to these seminars?"

"This is exactly what the Alliance has been saying all along. The restrictions on democracy and free speech in our free trading partners will spread back towards us. Information is being restricted and controlled, and the public will be kept in the dark and fed public relations spin."

Mr Billot says free trade has nothing to do with democracy.

"It's essentially a system where privately owned corporations own and control the world's economy and give orders to elected Governments."

He says that free trade is about far more than just trading with other countries.

"Of course New Zealand will always trade with other nations - but free trade means far more than simply buying and selling. Free trade is about who owns the New Zealand economy, what decisions our people and their elected Government can make, and the democratic rights and economic security of workers."

ENDS

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