Issues and Options

January 27, 2017

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

A number of national and international developments have the potential to cause us some problems and hard work over the next few months and we need to be united and focused on what we do and how we do it.

These developments include the election of Donald trump to the presidency of the United States, the election of Bill English as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the resurfacing of the New Zealand Constitution conversation, among others.

As was predicted in the long lead up to the election of Donald Trump the United States has now officially withdrawn from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Arrangement. (TPPA). While some in Grey Power might be elated at that news, as we were strongly opposed to what little we knew of the international trade treaty, it has not gone away.

Our concerns were the potential loss of access to affordable medications which would probably have impacted on older people more than most others. There were also issues of the loss of New Zealand’s right to make our own laws without pressure from international corporations seeking easy access to the New Zealand market place.

New Prime Minister Bill English has signaled that New Zealand and the remaining signatories to TPPA could proceed with a revised treaty. If that is the case then we need to insist that the big multinational corporations should be sidelined and that the process should include a more open dialogue with the New Zealand public.

Bill English has also indicated at least a review of national superannuation but, so far, few details of his intentions have been released. This issue alone has the potential to bring a major impact on our members and, while our new Prime Minister should be given every opportunity to find his way into the job, we can’t afford to relax and are seeking an early discussion with him.

In the last few weeks the proposed New Zealand Constitution has re-surfaced with all manner of wild and unfounded claims being made about the intentions of Government and some political activists. The reality is that all the essential components of a New Zealand constitution already exist in several laws. Some of them, such as the Freedom of Information Act (1982), Bill of Rights Act (1990) are relatively well known but other elements can be difficult to find and identify. Pulling them all together into a single, all encompassing, entrenched and supreme document is both logical and long overdue. Such a constitution would provide certainty for, and prudent constraint on, governments and give confidence and protection for all New Zealanders provided that the constitution could not be amended or repealed without the overwhelming will and mandate of the nation via a binding referendum specifically and solely for that purpose. The fact that some politicians have already said a written, entrenched constitution would be a hindrance to government, suggests it is probably a good idea. Under a New Zealand Constitution the Government we would have greater protection from political meddling or secret negotiations like TPPA than we have now.

In the lead up to this years general election we can expect pressure from all manner of political groups for Grey Power to support their particular ideas on these issues. We have already had a few last year but there will no doubt be more in the months ahead. It is absolutely essential for us to form our own opinions and policies, not support those of other groups. We may come up with similar ideas but they must be ours, decided by our membership alone. To achieve that it is important for all associations to not allow other groups to foist their ideas on them or make submissions to Government on these matters without letting the Federation office know first. That way we can coordinate our efforts and strength rather than be fragmented, contradictory and easy to ignore.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

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