The Law Foundation has an established track record of supporting projects that shed light on controversial issues.
Over the years, we have backed many projects that give new, sometimes challenging perspectives on topical subjects. I listed four current projects of this nature in my first column this year; on surrogacy law, ACC appeals, New Zealand’s war on Islamic State, and bringing a feminist perspective to legal judgements.
Another good example was last year’s report on New Zealand’s human rights record by AUT Professor Judy McGregor and a team of expert researchers. It found that our international image as a human rights leader was not matched by our record of implementing and promoting our human rights obligations at home.
In supporting these projects, the Foundation is very clear about its role: we are emphatically not an advocacy organisation. We want to inform opinion and debate by supporting high-quality new thinking, but the views expressed by the researchers are not the views of the Foundation.
We recently funded work on another current, highly charged issue – the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). This has been a high profile issue this year, dominating media headlines and political debate – yet when the deal was being signed in Auckland, I found it interesting that within the ranks of those protesting there was a wide range of concerns. These covered those who had limited knowledge but were concerned because of the lack of publicly available information, concerns at the secrecy, concerns from those who had tried to do their investigations and had real concerns, and those who freely acknowledged that they knew little, if anything, about the issues involved, but had a gut instinct it might not be good for them because of the lack of information available.
To me, this underlines the importance of supporting work that helps inform and demystify complex issues like the TPPA for ordinary people who would otherwise struggle to understand it.
For that reason, we supported a series of expert analyses on aspects of the TPPA. The work was co-ordinated by Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey and Barry Coates, former executive director of Oxfam New Zealand. Professor Kelsey has brought together a series of expert, peer-reviewed analyses that take an objective rather than an advocacy approach to some key issues raised by the agreement.
The papers cover TPPA provisions, their implications for policy and impacts on New Zealand society. They provide source material for researchers, MPs, professional bodies, NGOs, trade unions, journalists, activists and opinion formers to inform debate. This series of papers is not a comprehensive formal impact assessment of the TPPA, although Professor Kelsey believes that a full study should be carried out on the agreement and its implications.
The analyses currently comprise six papers:
- Treaty making, parliamentary democracy, regulatory sovereignty and the rule of law – TPPA timeline, text, New Zealand treaty making process, US congressional process, status, regulatory sovereignty, enforcement (author, Professor Kelsey);
- The economics of the TPPA – Modelling the benefits of the TPPA, key issues for agriculture and trade rules, implications for value chains, economic implications of regulatory restraints, flawed model for the 21st century agreement (authors, Barry Coates and Professor Tim Hazledine, Auckland University; Rod Oram, journalist; and Dr Geoff Bertram, Victoria University);
- Investment – Coverage, sovereign right to regulate, specific policy issues, investor-state dispute settlement (author, Amokura Kawharu, Auckland University);
- Environment and climate change – Governance, environmental objectives, UN environmental treaties, endangered species, fishing, enforcement, investor-state dispute settlement, climate change, genetically modified food (author, Simon Terry, Sustainability Council);
- Māori rights, Treaty of Waitangi and the TPP – Tino rangatiratanga and active protection, traditional knowledge, biodiversity, environment, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Waitangi Tribunal claim, Treaty of Waitangi exception, economic gains and costs to Māori, post-agreement process (authors, Dr Carwyn Jones, Victoria University; and Associate Professor Claire Charters, Andrew Erueti and Professor Kelsey, Auckland University); and
- Implications of TPPA for local government – local democracy, economic development, procurement, public-private partnerships, water, Crown-controlled organisations, Treaty of Waitangi, sustainability, investor-state dispute settlement (authors, Tony Holman, former Auckland City Councillor; Richard Northey, former MP and former lecturer in political studies and Professor Kelsey, Auckland University).
All these papers can be viewed at https://tpplegal.wordpress.com/nzlf-expert-paper-series. A further five papers will be added soon, covering: finance – financial regulation, cross-border flows, capital controls, taxation, etc; IPRs, copyright, the internet and data flows; health – medicines, Pharmac, tobacco exception etc; labour rights – performance requirements, investor-state dispute settlements etc; and public services – public-private partnerships, local government, SOEs etc.
The Foundation also contributed to Professor Kelsey’s travel last year to various locations where the deal was being negotiated, to assist her work on the detailed provisions of the agreement.
For more information on these and other projects, visit www.lawfoundation.org.nz.
Lynda Hagen is the Executive Director of the New Zealand Law Foundation.