Tommy Wilson: Loose lips sink protests

Kingi Taurua gave Prime Minister John Key the excuse he needed to back out of a marae visit. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Kingi Taurua gave Prime Minister John Key the excuse he needed to back out of a marae visit. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Have I read the 6000 pages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP)?


Will I read it?

Probably not, but I am quickly catching up on the stage it is being played out on.

On the losing side of the ledger are Ngapuhi who, under poor leadership, threw away a platform for not just their voice but for the voices of all the iwi up and down the land of the long protesting crowd against TPP.

In my view, Kingi Taurua fell into a hinaki (trap) and no sooner had the trade ministers signed off - the Prime Minister then said "ka kite" to Kingi and the sting of the potential protest up at Waitangi had gone.

All the Prime Minister needed was for Kingi to keep up his korero and the opportunity to do a no show opened up wider than a Warriors back line at the Nines, and he took it big time.

If I were an adviser for the Prime Minister, or a talkback host , or TV producer, the name Kingi Taurua would be at the top of my list when it came to keeping your boss safe, your ratings high and the land of the wrong white crowd happier than a life member of the Don Brash and Donald Trump supporters' club.

From the first time Kingi loudly and proudly said "the Government will not be welcome at Waitangi if a proposal to sign the TPP goes ahead on the week of the nation's celebrations next month" it was game on and if ever there was a master stroke it has to be how John Key "crouched and held" in his announcement of his no show at Waitangi.

His timing was perfect and well planned. If he had announced the no show before the signing, the passive protest on the streets of Auckland could have got a whole lot uglier as it would have had he shown up at Te Tii Marae last Friday.

But to pull the pin almost immediately after the 12 trade ministers had put their pens away and the protesters had parked up their banners and billboards - ready for the long hikoi up to Te Tai Tokerau was, in my mind, a master stroke and someone will be getting more than headlines for calling this play.

All that was needed was an excuse for a no show and Kingi walked straight into it, taking the voices of all the other iwi and a potential 5000 protesters with him.

Many New Zealanders don't know much about TPP, or the Treaty, other than they want them both to disappear and go away.

But they won't and nor will the counterpunches from either side of the TPP fence where many sit in the middle, or on top of, and wonder what the hell is it all about?

It would be easy to laugh off the antics of South Island nurse Josie Butler, who proved the pen-is always mightier than the sword with her koha of a flying phallus for Minister Joyce.

The rest of the world laughed loudly, but quietly and quickly the kaupapa of concern was turned into a sideshow.

Turns out Josie Butler's target was for the Prime Minister, but because he did a no show there wasn't going to be a no throw and stand-in Steven had to take one for the team.

Once again the voice of the main protest group had their hot hangi stones of protest doused by someone flying solo, just as the iwi of Ngapuhi lost a golden opportunity to engage with the PM at Waitangi alongside every other iwi of Aotearoa.

It is clear that that the TPP battle lines have been drawn and this raruraru (contentious issue) is not going away.

Round one was a win for the PM and when the second round comes around as early as next week, when the TPPA text and a national interest assessment are tabled in Parliament, there will be a lot more being played out on the streets, inside the marae and within the backrooms of prime-time television and talkback, and "key" advisers to the Prime Minster.

In the meantime, we can listen and learn from the likes of Professor Jayne Kelsey and respected singer and lawyer, Moana Maniapoto, who have taken the time to read and understand what the 6000 pages of the TPP agreement are all about.


Tommy Wilson is a best-selling author and local writer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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