Nov 7/97: Discussion on MAI & Maori sovereignty


1ZB, Holmes/Breakfast
November 7, 1997

1ZB is an Auckland AM radio station. Paul Holmes is also a presenter for a widely watched Television New Zealand, TV1 channel infotainment show, billed as a 'serious' news show.

Paul Holmes: Maori groups and others but particularly the Maori groups are upset at the Government's plans to embrace the Multilateral Agreement on Investment - known as the M.A.I. The international agreement is due to be signed next May. It originated from OECD ministers* - you know the ministers from various countries who are members of the OECD and basically, what it requires is the governments to treat all investors the same whether they are local or from overseas. Well, this has concerned the Alliance which believes the M.A.I. will lead to wholesale privatization and foreign ownership of New Zealand assets and Maori groups are upset as well that it will displace the Treaty of Waitangi.

Now, I'm going to be talking to Foreign Affairs Minister, Don McKinnon shortly, but Maori lawyer Moana Jackson is on the line - good morning.

Moana Jackson: Kia ora Paul.

P.H.: In what way, for God's sake will it displace the Treaty of Waitangi?

M.J.: Well, there are a number of issues that Maori people have concerns about in relation to the agreement, Paul. One is the general constitutional issue about the way in which the agreement has been negotiated to date - in secrecy with no real consultation with Maori in terms of the Treaty but equally important perhaps for other New Zealanders - no oversight by Parliament. And , indeed, it is pleasing for us to see that groups like the Law Commission are raising that particular issue as are a number of members of Parliament.

P.H.: Okay, so that's one objection but what about the worries about the Treaty?

M.J.: The particular issue in regards of the Treaty is that we have a concern that if further assets are opened up for foreign investment, it may inhibit the right of Maori to make claims under the Treaty - it may endanger assets which have already been returned, such as fishing quotas and although the Government has offered to make a Reservation, in a sense protecting Treaty issues, these Reservations under the agreement are subject to what is called a 'Rollback'- in which Reservations after a certain time have to be removed or 'rolled back'. So, in effect, there is no protection within the agreement as it stands at the moment for Treaty rights and potential claims under the Treaty (of Waitangi).

P.H.: I suppose,though, that no one can buy anything unless it's for sale, so...

M.J.: Well, the Government still seems committed to a process, first of all, of further privatization which would remove assets from the possibility of Maori claim, but secondly, the evidence in the history of recent events has shown that when the country is opened up for investment by foreign interests, there is little interest or indeed real effort to protect Maori interests and therefore the particular relationship between Maori and the Crown in the Treaty context.

P.H.: I suppose there are positive aspects too though - there's a chance for New Zealand to gain, there's a chance for Maori companies, for the emerging Maori economy, Moana, to grow as well - I mean, it increases the ease with which we can invest overseas in the OECD countries...

M.J.: Paul, that assumes that it is in fact the best way in which Maori can pursue their economic development and many Maori people would debate that...

P.H.: Well, I'm not interested in whether it's New Right ideology, the fact is, there are groups like the Ngai Tahu and the Tainui who have access now to considerable funds for investment and they, under this kind of a treaty could do very well in investing overseas, wouldn't they?

M.J.: Yes, they may, but the disadvantages which are inherent in the agreement would actually outweigh the potential because there are provisions actually restricting the amount of investment, the form of investment - there are limitations, for example, on the possibility of joint ventures and so on...

P.H.: Alright, Moana, thank you, stay there if you like and listen to Don McKinnon. Don McKinnon is the Foreign Minister - he's with me. Good morning.

Don McKinnon: Good Morning Paul.

P.H.: So, two main Maori concerns there. First of all, the lack of oversight by Parliament, really, the apparent secrecy - certainly not much apparent visibility about the working through of this treaty, Minister - what comment have you?

D.M.: Well, these are a couple of areas that are undergoing change at the same time. First of all, treaties by their very nature always begin with people talking to each other in a room and saying -'what can we achieve out of this now' - we have been assisting this particular treaty to come out into the open and we have succeeded in doing that and hence what has been talked about in Geneva is now really open for people to look at and talk about. The other thing is ...we have about...I would sign about 45 treaties a year on behalf of the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand people and, by and large, most of them are very straight forward.

We are, on the other hand, going through discussions on a mechanism to bring Parliament more appropriately into the process - so this particular treaty - it's more open than most - and certainly Parliament will be having a good look at it. So it's not unusual what is happening now."

P.H.: Alright now - it is a treaty of course which is causing some concern not only here but it's being debated hotly in some other countries as wall, isn't it? I mean, what is its significance?

D.M.: Well you see, Paul, it is very much a reflection of the contemporary world, and the contemporary world is very economically interdependent - countries are no longer isolated by high walls around them - high tariff barriers. There is a much greater movement of goods and people and investment..

P.H.: But this increases the liberalisation greatly in OECD countries, doesn't it?

D.M.: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, and you know, New Zealand benefits by that immensely, because we want to be able to sell goods and services to other countries and as a result of the Uruguay Round of discussions, that was made possible - included in that was further discussions committed to be able to have a flow of investment across countries at the same time. We have benefitted immensely, as everyone knows, by the purchase of telecommunications by two American companies which is now sort of coming back to New Zealand, but there's no question about the benefits that will accrue to New Zealanders.

P.H.: What about Moana Jackson's concerns, though, about the Treaty of Waitangi - the issues...

D.M.: Well, that's where we are talking about the Reservations...

P.H.: It's a complex one, isn't it?

D.M.: I take issue with Moana about the Reservations ultimately disappear(ing) - you're never going to get a treaty which satisfies every country in the world, so every country then comes along and says..'well, I will go along with the essence of the treaty but we have reservations in these areas - Now, those reservations can stay there forever, but if you start tampering with them, you are expected to loosen them, not tighten them and we are clearly putting in a reservation in relation to (Waitangi) Treaty issues.

P.H.: No, but he was saying that things could be sold which could be subject to treaty claim later on - which could even be currently subject to treaty claim.

D.M.: Well, as you know, there are something like 450 plus claims under the (Waitangi) Treaty, anyway, that are sitting within the Tribunal at the present time and the feeling is that this just about exhausts all claims that have ever existed, they have yet to be dealt with, but in most cases, if they relate to a parcel of land, if they relate to something that is obviously tangible - there's little the Government can do if the Government has ownership of those in way of disposing of them.

P.H.: Don McKinnon, I thank you very much for your time and Moana Jackson, I thank you very much for yours.

* One of the groups most agressively pushing the M.A.I. through the OECD is the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). (See: MAI-DAY, The Corporate Rule Treaty, by Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute, Ottawa, Canada.

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