MP accused of misleading public

By Staff Reporter

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How the Chronicle reported the rally on Monday.
How the Chronicle reported the rally on Monday.

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows has been accused of "misleading" people at an anti Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement rally on Saturday by suggesting Parliament would have the final say on the controversial trade deal.

His political rival Hamish McDouall, Labour candidate for the seat that Mr Borrows currently holds for National, said the MP "gave the impression Parliament gets the final say on the TPPA deal".

"I yelled out 'No, that's not how it works' because of the impression he was creating," said Mr McDouall, Wanganui's deputy mayor who was also a speaker at the rally at Majestic Square.

But yesterday Mr Borrows was sticking to his guns. "I'm quite happy with the explanation I gave," he said.

The TPPA is being negotiated in secret with 11 other Asia-Pacific region countries by a Cabinet committee on behalf of New Zealand.

Cabinet will agree the terms, sign the agreement and ratify it. It will then be down to Parliament to enact any legislation needed to bring the terms into effect and make them New Zealand law.

Mr McDouall said Labour wanted the text of the agreement released.

"We are not against free trade but we want the text made public," he said.

"There is a lot of disquiet about New Zealand losing sovereignty around intellectual property rights and Pharmac, the national drug-buying agency. "If we knew what we were debating, there could be a lot of public clamour."

Rally organiser Raewyn Roberts told the Chronicle she understood Mr Borrows to say the agreement would be put in front of Parliament before being signed.

But yesterday Mr Borrows said: "This is the way we've always done free trade agreements. The proposal is agreed between parties and then goes to Parliament to be passed into law.

"If you don't pass it into law, you are not part of the agreement - it won't exist unless Parliament votes for it."

However, Mr McDouall commented: "It is endorsed by Cabinet and that locks in New Zealand's position - we can't change it.

"Cabinet is the top of the tree. I feel they are a Cabinet of corporatists who will accept and ratify it and not expose themselves to democratic scrutiny before signing."

One of his concerns over the TPPA was that foreign corporations could sue a government if it took action which reduced their profits.

He said "an incredible cross-section of people" were opposed to the secrecy over the deal and it was "an election issue, for sure".

Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey has raised problems with the TPPA.

"First, much of this will not require legislation - it could be done by regulation, administrative decision, policy directives, or simply locks in a problematic status quo," she said.

"Second, the amendments are likely to be in an omnibus bill that would go to the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee and be subject to the truncated timeframe."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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