TPPA – Is It Time For A Citizens Initiated Referendum?

There have been record turnouts in all the main centres to hear Prof Jane Kelsey and Lori Wallach from Public Citizens Global Trade Watch speak about the reasons not to sign the TPPA.

People have taken to the streets in the thousands for the past two years or more to tell the government they don’t want New Zealand to agree to the TPPA. Online petitions have collects tens of thousands of signatures in a very short of time. The Green Party and New Zealand First don’t want a bar of the TPPA. Now the Labour Party has capitulated. Surely the time has come to flex our democratic muscles?

The National government will not walk away from the TPPA. And the National government won’t voluntarily ask the people, or even our elected representatives in parliament, if they want this agreement. The National government wants the TPPA and that is that.

But New Zealand is a democracy. We can demand our say. We can petition the government to hold a referendum. If we get the signatures of at least 10% of enrolled voters within 12 months of launching the petition the government must hold a citizens initiated referendum. And they have 12 months to do this. So a referendum would almost certainly coincide with the 2017 general election. This means the incoming government will definitely know whether or not they have a mandate be part of the TPP agreement.

It won’t be an easy task. However, it will guarantee that the TPPA stays on the political agenda up until the next election, by which time we will know whether the key countries such as Japan and the United States have decided to ratify the TPPA. If they don’t, it is deal off anyway.

No person or government can make us be part of the TPPA if we don’t want to. But we have to make ourselves abundantly clear and use the full range of democratic tools available to us to do that over the next 18 months. Are we ready yet?