Internet Party slams Five Eyes as Kiwi privacy debate rages on…

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Five Eyes intelligence sharing and the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act have put New Zealand’s sovereignty and independence at risk and must be immediately reviewed, says the Internet Party.

In its draft Independence policy released last week, the Internet Party claims New Zealand’s sovereignty was being steadily eroded by shady backroom deals with foreign powers, impacting the ability of New Zealand to make its own decisions without undue influence.

“Over the past few years, there have been a number of challenges to our independence – the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Five Eyes intelligence sharing and the Foreign Tax Account Compliance Act (FATCA),” says Internet Party Leader Laila Harré.

“We will take steps to prevent the erosion of New Zealand’s independence. We have the right to make our own decisions without kowtowing to foreign countries.

“The influence of the United States Government, in particular, over New Zealand is truly alarming, and it’s all happening behind closed doors.”

Ms Harré says the Internet Party would shift the power to ratify international treaties such as the TPPA away from the executive and to Parliament, repeal laws giving the Government and its Five Eyes partners unprecedented spying powers and examine the possibility of taking the US to an international dispute or judicial forum such as the World Trade Organisation to put an end to the influence of FATCA on New Zealand law.

Through the Taxation (Annual Rates, Employee Allowances, and Remedial Matters) Bill, expected to come into force next month, the US FATCA law will compel New Zealand banks and other financial institutions to audit, gather and report information on all accounts that at any time during the year have a value of $50,000 or more held by US persons.

“It is an unacceptable, unilateral imposition of US law on New Zealand and New Zealanders,” adds Ms Harré.

“While FATCA is a US law covering ‘US persons’, it’s misleading in that it includes New Zealand citizens and residents, for example dual US/New Zealand citizens, New Zealand spouses of US citizens and those born in New Zealand to a US citizen.

“It will also require those not covered by the law to prove that they are not within its ambit.

“Compliance costs alone are astronomical. According to the New Zealand Bankers’ Association, FATCA will cost New Zealand banks $100 million to comply and the cost of compliance worldwide has been estimated at US$10-US$20 for every single dollar the Internal Revenue Service retrieves. In effect, we’ll be paying to be America’s tax collection agency.”

Harré claims FATCA was typical of the way New Zealand’s independence was being undermined.

“It overrides our Privacy and Human Rights acts, with the New Zealand Government co-opted by the US Government to do its bidding,” she adds.

“We will take the matter as far as the World Trade Organisation if necessary.”

The TPPA was yet another example of the current Government doing deals with overseas corporates and governments without public oversight.

“We’re being told that the TPPA will be good for New Zealand but the Government refuses to specifically say what’s being discussed or even who is involved.

“Why the secrecy? Because, ultimately, there won’t be any benefit. New Zealanders will lose out. Free trade is a good thing but not if we’re trading off our investment, competition, health, copyright and labour laws to foreign governments and big corporates.”

Two examples that threaten New Zealand’s independence to make its own future decisions are Investor-State Dispute Settlement and the subversion of “regulatory coherence”.

“Under ISDS, foreign investors could claim that new laws and regulations introduced by the New Zealand government have breached their special rights, enabling them to sue for millions in damages in secretive offshore tribunals,” said Ms Harré.

“Regulatory coherence, meant to achieve greater domestic co-ordination of regulations and increase transparency, has been subverted by narrow corporate interests while neutering competing national priorities and democratic political institutions.”

The Internet Party will bring TPPA negotiations out into the open.

“Cabinet will not be able to use its executive power to ratify the TPPA without extensive and open public debate. Ratification will be made by Parliament based on a thorough understanding of all the pros and cons,” she adds.

“If the costs of the TPPA outweigh the benefits for New Zealand, or compromise our independence in any way, we will not support it.”

The Internet Party’s draft Independence policy is now online for review and discussion on the policy forum. The work-in-progress policy document is available here.

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