Knowledge

Alex Sims

Information Commons/Social Media/Data

The Internet was seen as one of these ways of decentralisation and democratisation. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. It’s almost been the reverse. Apple, Google and Facebook are far more powerful than the former institutions they were meant to break down. … But with open source and now blockchain, what people want to do is to hopefully change that. … It’s a whole new paradigm. We are on the cusp of radical change. Part of this is “what do we want”? We can actually force change. It’s not a matter of letting other people to do it for us. People are already making a new world, but we need to make that new world how we want it and not let others dictate.

Alex’s talk starts at 7mins 30 sec.

View The Transcript arrow

I work in the monolithic business school over there. My background is law. Law is useless – people say we need more law, but people breach the law and it’s not enforced. That’s why I moved on to blockchain because we can stop people breaking the law in the first place.

One of my former areas of law research and teaching is copyright law. It just doesn’t work. Copyright is justified on the basis that it provides incentives for people to create. But in fact some of the best things that have been created recently are all open source. Similarly with patents. The economist Fritz Machlup was commissioned in the 1950s to write a report for the US Senate and said if we knew then what we know now about patents we never would have granted them in the first place. In fact, the first patents in England were specially designed so people could go over to Europe and steal all the inventions and bring them back. It has nothing to do with innovation. Intellectual property actually stifles creativity because you can’t do what you want to do. Then there’s the imbalance of power with people alleging you breached property rights when you haven’t.

The Internet was seen as one of these ways of decentralisation and democratisation. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. It’s almost been the reverse. Apple, Google and Facebook are far more powerful than the former institutions they were meant to break down. The likes of Sears and Roebuck, the American ones, are actually quite limited by comparison. The new corporations operating all around the world employ a fraction of the people they used to. But with open source and now blockchain, what people want to do is to hopefully change that. There was a talk before about corporations being these alien beings. People want to decentralise corporations. At the moment for example you have Uber the company, and you have these surfs, they aren’t even employees, who are making the money and Uber is running off with it.

If we could have a decentralised autonomous organisation, basically a computer programme linking people up (which is effectively what Uber is), so that everyone can be an owner. It changes the distinction between capital and labour so it’s a whole new paradigm. But the most interesting thing relating to law is how you set the governance systems up. And if you don’t set them up you will end up with almost worse than we had before.

People think that the current structure is what the future will look like. That’s not going to happen. We are undergoing incredible changes. I was at an event the other day and someone from Soul Machine, which are basically avatars that talk to people, and is already being used. She said that she get tingles down her spine when she realises what’s going to happen. I get the same with blockchain. We have no idea. We are on the cusp of radical change. Part of this is “what do we want”? We can actually force change. It’s not a matter of letting other people to do it for us. People are already making a new world, but we need to make that new world how we want it and not let others dictate.

Sandra: Current free trade models don’t work when it comes to knowledge. Is there something in particular we need to be looking for that is particularly broken, as that might help us find solutions around the way that we are currently seeing knowledge sharing, generation and what’s coming up, rather than what’s already been?

Alex: Maybe I’m naïve and over-optimistic, but this is one of the things that blockchain can actually solve. At the moment we’ve got the so-called right to privacy, but other people have your information. When you sign up to something you have to give all your information over. With blockchain, you hold your information and you grant other people access to it. It fundamentally shifts the balance, so it’s no longer their information, it’s your information. And if you don’t like it – for example, if you have the equivalent of Facebook on blockchain, if people don’t like it they can what we call ‘fork’ the blockchain and create a whole new one with different rules, with all the same information. So it fundamentally changes everything. Sometimes I think my brain hurts – but your brain should hurt because it’s totally different.

The other thing is that yes, we are talking about trade with goods coming in and out. Well 3-D printers, how many years away is that? A lot of the current stuff you won’t actually need because of the ability to 3-D print. And the so-called sharing economy hasn’t really been sharing because it’s been other people making money, like Uber and Airbnb. But we will be able to use resources a lot better. With 3D printers you’ll be able to break it down and recycle. I’m not sure when it is and maybe it’s this utopia, but things are different. The old rules, the physical rules, they don’t matter any more. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift.

Sandra: Give one solution each where we can make sure we are sharing knowledge and data on our terms and we are thinking outside the current paradigm, and making sure we don’t lose our power and sovereignty.

Alex: Practical things. Don’t advertise on Facebook, the NZ government departments spend large amounts advertising on Google and Facebook, don’t use Facebook or Google, and learn about blockchain

Question: What is blockchain?

Alex – The quickest thing to do is to Google Alex Sims blockchain, because on my profile page there is stuff specially for people like you who want to learn more. It’s like a parallel universe and once you see it you will say, “oh my god I never knew it existed, this is just insane”.

Question: What would it take to make personal data and blockchains a reputable way to respond to respond to service providers’ demands for data.

Alex: It’s not the technology per se, it is about attitudes. You can have the best technology but no one adopts it. There is a current saying that data is the most valuable thing in the world so people don’t want to give it up. What can happen is, say I have all my information hashed to my phone, and if I’m a young person, who at present to buy alcohol has to give my driver’s license or passport to validate my age; the person selling alcohol can just “ask” my phone whether I am over 18 or not and get an answer. The retailers have to trust that system and want to use it.

Question: If you give people access to block chain can they pass it on?

Alex: If it is badly designed. What you can do is grant access to just one person. That’s why we need a digital identity. It can be a scary thing in the blockchain world because you can identify people if you really want. But you don’t need that digital identity for all transactions. You can just grant access for a short period of time so, even if they gave it to someone else, no one could access it. You can do whatever you want and that’s a great thing.

Question: Around blockchain and control of information. From the union side, it was our labour that we brought together in order to exercise some power. Now we talk about our data as the thing we have that is valuable. How do we realise the collective power of the ownership of that data? What are the possibilities? Does the model of unionism have some relevance for that? What’s the possibilities for the blockchain in terms of that collective power in Aotearoa and globally.

Alex: We don’t own our data at the moment. All we have a right to here is to access it so long as that doesn’t conflict with anything else. You’ve got no right to it at all. With a blockchain, if you want to create your own system then you’ll own the data. It’s weaning off systems like Uber and creating some collective space. Some people are already doing it.

Question: In this brave new world where the Internet has provided everything and is shifting so rapidly, are trade agreements relevant at all? Are we just wasting our time talking about it? Are we going to be living in a different world?

Alex: It may or may not be. There’s a transition period. In the meantime, a lot of damage can be done. You can’t just say it will happen. People thought the Internet would be a lot different from what it has been. The book Brave New World is quite scary. I don’t think we really want that.

Carrie Stoddart

Matauranga

Knowledge for me should not be seen as a commodity, in the matauranga sense anyhow.

We should be talking about it as something that’s shared. And that’s how I like to think about trade, that it’s something that’s shared. It’s about sharing. It’s not about anything else aside from building friendships, sharing, and building relationships. That goes back to the reciprocity element that was raised earlier on. … New trade has to be mana-enhancing. It can’t be just about extracting as much as we can and go back into that commercial negotiation framework where nobody tells anyone anything. … If we can start having some of those kinds of conversations, the government can start taking accountability for the findings in Wai 262, and we do start having that protection for indigenous intellectual and cultural property, Maori indigenous property, for plants and things. We might be able to incorporate the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into it, and look how we strengthen the Treaty clause like the Waitangi Tribunal said, something that’s agreeable to both Maori and the Crown. … If we are really serious about an inclusive and progressive trade agenda then we have to be willing to accept that we need radical changes, not just talking on the margins.

Carrie’s talk starts at 4 mins 30 secs into the video.

View The Transcript arrow

[He mihi] I wanted to start with my whakapapa here and to mihi to George because of what he said about everything starting with whakapapa. For me, whakapapa and matauranga Maori are inseparable. Knowing things comes with responsibility and that comes with your whakapapa – it’s your responsibility to your ancestors, to your whanau, to your hapu, to current generations and also future generations. Just a little about why I am so passionate about matauranga.

It’s a process as much as a practice, so it’s ways of being and engaging in the world. We use it to examine, analyse, understand the world. It helps us to understand different purposes and meanings, and ways of engaging with the world that we can transmit from one person to another, from generation to generation. It provides insight into different perspectives about knowledge and knowing. I don’t like to talk about just knowledge. Knowledge and knowing go together and are important for understanding the past, responding to current needs and preparing future generations. So we need to know what we know, what we don’t know and always be aware of what we know that we don’t know.

Knowledge for me should not be seen as a commodity, in the matauranga sense anyhow.

We should be talking about it as something that’s shared. And that’s how I like to think about trade, that it’s something that’s shared. It’s about sharing. It’s not about anything else aside from building friendships, sharing, and building relationships. That goes back to the reciprocity element that was raised earlier on.

With knowledge, and particularly cultural knowledge we have to ask a lot of questions we don’t have the answers to just yet. That’s why it’s really cool to have this conversation. What are we willing to share, how are we willing to share it, are there things that can’t be shared, and how do we retain and exercise ownership of those things that we want in the public domain but we don’t want other people to own or decide how they are to be interpreted.

Sandra: Current free trade models don’t work when it comes to knowledge. Is there something in particular we need to be looking for that is particularly broken, as that might help us find solutions around the way that we are currently seeing knowledge sharing, generation and what’s coming up, rather than what’s already been?

Carrie: There’s a whole lot broken in our trade system. I want to build on that sharing economy stuff. All our young people who are coming through, if we can get them to shift their thinking, that’s where we are going to start seeing what the benefits of a sharing economy is.

For me, one of the things I have been thinking about – what is the purpose of trade and why do we do it? For me it’s for an enduring peace. Trade is a mechanism for that, provided the tikanga is right. There’s a practice which is unchanging – it’s importing and exporting goods, exchanging ideas, all that stuff – but the value system on which it’s built needs to change. What we’re hearing at moment from MFAT to NZTE is we’re moving from this ‘value-based’ economy. When I first heard that kind of comment I thought that sounds kind of cool, because I misinterpreted what they meant by ‘value’. They didn’t mean values, they meant we’re going to make all these premium products, send them off to the middle class, and we’re not going to change how the profits are redistributed back to our communities.

That’s the thing I would like to see, to look at markets differently, as markets freed from ideologies, freed from false histories, freed for shaping a sharing economy, and freed for future generations. What does that look like? It’s growth agnostic, drawing on Kate Raworth’s donut economics that is quite compelling. It has this socially just foundation and this ecological ceiling, and within it we are doing things that are regenerative, and redistributing profits. Profits for me aren’t bad; I’m critical of how they are obtained and how they are distributed. If they are obtained in an ethical way, we need to be engaged in commercial activities. Especially if I look at our Maori communities. If we are going to lift our standard of living, there’s nothing inherently wrong with commercial activity. That’s what’s going to free us from the state and ultimately we want to be able to act on our own accord and exercise our own sovereignty.

For me peace over profits is something we have to start doing. And that’s about reciprocity. You have to be building those really strong relationships with our trading partners and start looking at them as friends, rather than entities we have to transact with to get this particular benefit. Once you reach that we can start looking at new paths. So when we are dealing with our matauranga, that’s when we can start having that mutual understanding and creating respect around things that are taonga and things that are tapu, and people will start listening and we can start understanding what we can share and we can’t share.

New trade has to be mana-enhancing. It can’t be just about extracting as much as we can and go back into that commercial negotiation framework where nobody tells anyone anything. You are going to have a much better agreement if everyone’s on the same page about the mutual benefits you are all going to get. I’ve been thinking recently about what’s enabling to getting there. We can talk about it at a conceptual and ideological level, but what are we going to put down as a solution.

For me it’s around indigenous to indigenous trade enablers. It’s something NZ is leading on in a way, because we do have chapter 19 in the ANZTEC agreement and that allows for Maori to have a direct relationship with the indigenous peoples in Taiwan. That’s a really cool starting point. It’s a bit soft. It doesn’t allow for as much sovereignty as we would like. But it’s a good starting point. I was recently at the World Indigenous Business Forum, where Dr Jim Collard was talking around indigenous trading in North America. They’ve tried to introduce an indigenous chapter into the NAFTA, but it was kicked to the curb.

If we can start having some of those kinds of conversations, the government can start taking accountability for the findings in Wai 262, and we do start having that protection for indigenous intellectual and cultural property, Maori indigenous property, for plants and things. We might be able to incorporate the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into it, and look how we strengthen the Treaty clause like the Waitangi Tribunal said, something that’s agreeable to both Maori and the Crown. So there needs to be more work done around that space.

I also think the government also has an opportunity to also look at the WTO and go, hang on a minute, there is this enabling clause under the Marrakesh Agreement but it only looks at developing countries. We invisibilise entire indigenous nations in the WTO because we don’t have anything specific to them. I’ve been thinking around how do you move that developing countries’ korero to developing economies, and then it may be possible to give special exemptions for indigenous economies. At present they are wrapped up in the national economy. Yet we know they are developing in status, we have had colonisation that we had to come through, so we aren’t at the same starting point.

So there’s lots of work that can be done around advocacy and influencing some of the international rules that NZ can take a lead in. If we are really serious about an inclusive and progressive trade agenda then we have to be willing to accept that we need radical changes, not just talking on the margins.

Sandra: Give one solution each where we can make sure we are sharing knowledge and data on our terms and we are thinking outside the current paradigm, and making sure we don’t lose our power and sovereignty.

Carrie: Maori share knowledge as part of who we are, so we are already sharing knowledge. What I think we need is not for the state to validate it – we don’t need the state to tell us if our knowledge is valid or not – we need our communities we engage with to actually listen to us. Whatever the sector is, listen to us because our matauranga is valid already and we are trying to give you an insight into where Western knowledge is going wrong. So we can look at something like climate change and say, hey policultural farming, we’ve got these methods on how you can have carbon sequestering arrangements that we don’t need pesticides and insecticides for. So listen to us, we actually do have some answers to some of those big questions.

Audience comment: Our education system has perpetuated what we already have and has not validated or acknowledged matauranga Maori. So when we talk about partnership we can’t even sort that out ourselves between two Treaty partners. We are talking about relationships that are, well, functional – you need something from us, we need something from you. It’s not genuine. So we are still perpetuating the Western knowledge systems and structures. They are socially constructed, so how do we socially deconstruct them so we are working with different systems and structures that promote genuine power sharing?

Audience comment: I just want to invoke nga kite o te wananga, the three baskets of knowledge. Tane ascended to the highest heaven and was given by Io Matua Kore, and brought those baskets back to earth for people. The particular thing I see about that it’s all there in the baskets and it was given to us by the atua. All we are asked to do is to take it out of the baskets. It’s all right there. That’s a very different starting point from the commodification of knowledge that we have nowadays.

Melanie Webber

Education

Education is a human right. It’s not a service. It shouldn’t be monetised. Education is a human right and a public good. That’s what we need to stick to because that’s very hard to argue against. … The problem with these trade agreements is, because they protect the rights of these corporations above the human right to a free public education. Once you have allowed these businesses into education in your country it is very hard to get them out. You are going to have to pay to get them out. … I’m also thinking about that global education market and the idea that education is worth $6 to $8 trillion and we are trying to make profit out of it. It’s the $4.5 billion that international students bring into NZ. … What should we do? Ban all for-profit companies from education.

Melanie’s talk starts at 2mins 30 secs into the video.

View The Transcript arrow

I’m a classroom teacher, just down the road. I come to this from a slightly different perspective from people who deal with this all the time. I deal with education in my classroom and the impact that it has there. When we’re looking at how to resist these things it’s about the ability of us as a collective to speak out against it. That’s where we are really fortunate in NZ with our really strong unions in education. That has enabled us to stand together. When the Employment Relations Act happened we managed to maintain our collective agreement, which means we are able to mobilise and organise teachers against these things, to stand up and have a united voice. That’s been hugely powerful for us in NZ education in resisting a lot of what’s happened. We don’t win every battle but we are able to get out there and speak about it. For example, last year with the bulk funding of education we got together with NZEI and spoke against that. Similarly, for us it’s about standing up and saying this isn’t OK. There’s a teaching technique called the ‘broken record’, when you say something over and over again, and when someone comes back to you, you say it again. And for me it’s to say that education is a public good. Education is a human right. It’s not a service. It shouldn’t be monetised. Education is a human right and a public good. That’s what we need to stick to because that’s very hard to argue against.

I’m also thinking about the ways in which these agreements seek to make it OK for corporations to make profit out of education. So it’s thinking about that global education market and the idea that education is worth $6 to $8 trillion and we are trying to make profit out of it. It’s the $4.5 billion that international students bring into NZ. This is an area that really worries me.

We see increasing numbers of international students in schools. These sorts of agreements seek to protect the rights of us to sell our education. What I don’t see happening always is the question of ‘is this the best thing’ for the students, for the schools they are coming into.  I see students being treated in a way like cattle, something to be sold, something you are competing for in the guise of globalisation and this being a good thing. I don’t think we ask enough what this means for the kids here on the ground. We hear people say it’s a global society and we must bring people across. But really we are bringing them in for purposes of money, to subsidise the underfunding of our education system, and we are treating them as cash cows, and it’s not OK. That’s what’s happening here in NZ, and we are protecting our right to do that.

On an international level I worry about the increased privatisation. In the US for profit universities were 2% in the 1970s and went to 9.1% in 2009. Then that trend goes global. Organisations like Bridge Academy that are low-cost private schools are moving into those markets and taking away the rights of people to develop their own curriculum, to value local knowledge. You have this standardised curriculum coming in that’s about skills and competencies. What these students are actually learning is being measured by these same companies. It’s hugely problematic. For example, Bridge Academy initially started building their own schools, but this broke into the profitability of it. So they went to governments and said we can provide the education that goes on in your buildings, let us do that. It’s very tempting for governments to advocate responsibility to the private market.

The problem with these trade agreements is, because they protect the rights of these corporations above the human right to a free public education, once you have allowed these businesses into education in your country it is very hard to get them out. You are going to have to pay to get them out. This is why we need to be aware of what’s happening, especially in terms of assessment systems, which are increasingly globalised. Making sure that we don’t let them in. Once we have allowed them in, which may seem simpler or easier, it’s very hard to get them out.

Sandra: Give one solution each where we can make sure we are sharing knowledge and data on our terms and we are thinking outside the current paradigm, and making sure we don’t lose our power and sovereignty.

Melanie: Ban all for-profit companies for education. Education is a public good. It is not a service and it shouldn’t be commodified. There was a question about how the Western education system has entrenched the knowledge and power of matauranga Maori and tangata whenua. That’s something we are doing internationally and allowing to happen with these for-profit companies. The Bridge Academy that I mentioned before are so evil. The curriculum is developed in the US, it’s developed by secondary graduates using I-pads and scripted lessons. How do you validate the local knowledge in the countries they are operating in. Uganda has thrown them out. The standardisation of education erodes our ability to critique systems. It damages our competence to deal with really complex global problems. This is what Carrie’s talking about. It is hugely problematic and we simply cannot trust for-profit companies in education.

Comment: I want to step away from the digital and discuss institutions. I want to draw a comparison with the new early childhood centres that pop up everywhere for profit. One thing that is very important about our institutions is the land. As we see with Unitech, $50 million of land sold off. The schools are seen as great areas of land. What is that land about? It was put there for the wellbeing of the children’s learning and for the future. Some was gifted Maori land. In areas like Auckland, children or students go out and pick up their phones and are tied into this data propaganda because they have nowhere to go and play, whatever age. It’s also seen as a huge profit. I understand other institutions are doing the same as Unitech.

Jane Kelsey

Digital Trade And Development

We’ve got drones and driverless trucks, trading platforms, blockchains and digital currencies, and they are changing every year or two years in a fundamental sense. They are transforming within that system every day. States have no way of regulating. They are doing desperate catch-up. And the whole objective that is now being achieved in the electronic commerce chapters of new free trade agreements, starting with TPPA, is to pre-empt regulation and lock in that control. … That will lock up that digital space and the ability for us to regulate and lock open the commons, or to deal with te Tiriti issues in the future. … There is no conception in government of what the global rule-making process on this will mean for us and no accountability for that. We’ve got to build our own understanding of what is going down and put the reins on negotiation of these rules.

Jane’s talk starts at 11 minutes and 45 seconds into the video.

View The Transcript arrow

My apologies – we had lined up people who were going to talk about media, journalism and culture, but then they were unable to come. I am particularly interested to be on this panel because, rather to my shock, I have spent the last 3 or 4 years working on understanding the digital elements of the international agreements. One of the problems we have is there was never a leak of these texts during the TPPA negotiations. While we had campaigns around the investment issues and medicines issues, democracy, secrecy and sovereignty, and te Tiriti o Waitangi, we never actually got people aware of what is the most dangerous element in recent agreements, the electronic commerce chapters.

I want to talk a bit on this because it is explicitly designed to commodify and exclude people from using their own data and from accessing systems by locking that data up for the oligopolies that Bernard Hickey were referring to yesterday as FANG – Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google – and then to pre-empt the kinds of options Alex is talking about. What we saw in TPPA it sounds like conspiracy because it was a conspiracy: the large digital companies set out their wish list, which they got the US Trade Representative to turn into legal text as the ‘digital 2-dozen principles’. It is explicitly designed to lock in their dominance and control over the digital domain.

We have very little knowledge already of what’s happening in that domain and it’s evolving so quickly. We’ve got drones and driverless trucks, trading platforms, blockchains and digital currencies, and they are changing every year or two years in a fundamental sense. They are transforming within that system every day. States have no way of regulating. They are doing desperate catch-up. And the whole objective that is now being achieved in these agreements is to pre-empt regulation and lock in that control. It has massive consequences for the unseeable future for which we have no crystal ball. Hence when we are talking about knowledge, and for example about Maori sovereignty over data, which is basic in terms of taonga and whakapapa, how do we deal with that? How do we develop alternatives when all that data is locked up by the big players?

Sandra: Current free trade models don’t work when it comes to knowledge. Is there something in particular we need to be looking for that is particularly broken, as that might help us find solutions around the way that we are currently seeing knowledge sharing, generation and what’s coming up, rather than what’s already been?

Jane: One of the things that’s most broken is that we still talk about ‘trade’ and ‘trade agreements’ as if they apply to blocks of butter and slabs of lamb and there is so little understanding of how sweeping these agreements are. I was teaching yesterday when Bernard Hickey was speaking, but he was talking about the Facebook issues and the impacts on media of what’s happening and said that there aren’t actually many trade rules around services or the digital. But there are! That highlights to me the real problem that people don’t actually know what is in these agreements, so they can then challenge the willingness of our government to continue to sign up for them.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations are happening in Auckland this week. The proposed e-commerce text, which was written by and for GAFA – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple – and will benefit Ali Baba, is an example of what we call ‘organ harvesting’. The same chapters from the TPPA are now being moved into agreement after agreement – the RCEP being negotiated here now, the Pacific Alliance negotiations, the UK negotiations, the EU negotiations, and they are trying to push it in the WTO as a plurilateral agreement. That will lock up that digital space and the ability for us to regulate and lock open the commons, or to deal with te Tiriti issues in the future.

We need very rapidly to build an understanding of what is happening with that process and to build a diverse constituency. For example consumers – if you’ve got rules that are saying you can’t require data to be held inside a country, or require disclosure of source codes and algorithms that drive the search engines, or if you can’t require an offshore supplier to have a presence in your country, then even if we regulate we can’t access the data and source codes and have any access to those players to hold them to account. So what happens to competition law, and consumer law, and Te Tiriti, and whatever protections we might put in place? And what happens to notions we have of public education that are dependent on those offshore suppliers of commodified library resources or digital online courses like MOOCs, and so on?

We’ve got to build our understanding of what is going down and put the reins on the government negotiating these deals. The discussions I had with MFAT officials on this when I said to them ‘why are you promoting this’ they said because our companies have problems in China. There is no conception of what the global rule-making process on this will mean for us and no accountability for that.

There are three reports for unions that are accessible on their websites – one for international Transport Federation, one for UniGlobal and one for the International Union of Foodworkers – which look at some of these issues and how unions might organise in response to those challenges.

In relation to commodified education, when champions talk about the hundreds of thousands of NZ jobs that are dependent on trade that includes the education sector and tourism sector as a whole. It offensive as both a deception and a commodification. It also shows how deeply embedded the notion of export education has become. There’s not only the disincentives to move from that because it’s become such a systemic part of funding and of NZ’s foreign exchange earnings. But when we are in negotiations internationally, NZ and Australia are the major demanders for other countries to make commitments on ‘trade’ in education services. So we are the ones who are pushing other countries to make these commitments. That in turn makes the government even less willing to retreat from the education market approach. It’s a very pernicious position NZ governments taken for many years and it needs to stop.

Question: How these mechanisms in relation to the likes of Uber and Amazon facilitate tax evasion?

Jane: There is a big international programme underway to deal with Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), which is the more recent version of multinational companies organising themselves internationally to pay tax in the places where there is least tax liability. One of the big problems we’ve got with the new e-commerce chapters is that we are seeing tax havens and data havens in the same place. If we can’t require the data to be held inside our country, if we can’t require the company to have a presence inside the country, and if they can hold the data anywhere in the world that they want, which is also a tax haven, and if they can structure their company to avoid tax, they don’t pay tax. The more we have stuff being done digitally, especially from outside the country, the greater the revenue base of our country is eroded. At the same time, there is an increase in precarious jobs and the loss of business because our small businesses are not going to be able to post their goods on Amazon’s first page. We are going to have more fiscal demands on the state at the same time we have a dwindling tax base. If the rules in these agreements say we cannot access the data and we can’t force them to have a presence in the country, tax experts are predicting we will have really serious problems.

The second part of this question was about charter schools and FTAs. I want to be a bit less optimistic than Carrie in relation to matauranga Maori. One of the arguments we’ve had for a long time – and Ani Mikaere raised this yesterday in relation to Te Wananga o Raukawa – is that calling kaupapa Maori schools “charter schools” buys into the privatised and commodified model, rather than developing a model based on a kaupapa Maori approach to education. That is a dilemma because unless we can think differently about kaupapa Maori education it is difficult to break out from the model we have now and to say that Maori education is different from private for-profit or non-profit education.

Sandra: Give one solution each where we can make sure we are sharing knowledge and data on our terms and we are thinking outside the current paradigm, and making sure we don’t lose our power and sovereignty.

Jane: My suggestion is to join the working group on the digital issues I am hoping will come out from this hui, so we can put pressure on the government to take a position of no new commitments in relation to data and knowledge in any future agreements, similar to the position they have taken on ISDS. And start to work on how we exit from the commitments that they have already made through some ways we might talk about later this afternoon. Thankfully there is only one binding one so far, which is the TPPA-11.

Scroll to Top