Lt Gen Jerry Mateparae, the Defence chief, is probably feeling a little cheesed off right now.

The mainstream media have made it sound like it was the New Zealand Army who cancelled the clothing contract with Levin's Swazi Apparel, a contract worth some $1.9 million.

The small print though says no such thing. The army contract is actually held by the Australian firm Yakka, which subcontracted it to Swazi. They now have subcontracted it out to a cheaper Chinese outfit.

Yakka, of course, make on the deal - and the army had nothing to do with it.

But the moral indignation from the mainstream media has been particularly hypocritical. This is the same media that constantly champions the 'free market' - but surely this is just their much-loved 'free market' in operation?

Ah yes, the mainstream media wants its cake and eat it too.

Television One's Mark Sainsbury was all righteous indignation on Close Up and demanded to know from the Defence Minister Wayne Mapp what he was going to do about protecting the Swazi workers jobs.

Mapp rightly pointed out that he can do stuff all about the contract - it's a commercial matter that he has no authority to interfere with.

Sainsbury, of course, has been yet another cheerleader for the free market - although he's been less strident than his mate Paul Henry.

A few short months ago Sainsbury was uncritically hailing the free trade agreement with China because, apparently, it would be 'good' for New Zealand.

Yet under the terms of CER with Australia and the free trade agreement with China, companies must have equal access to each other's markets - and that includes government contracts.

This is exactly what John Key said when he commented that Kiwi companies should always get a 'full and fair opportunity' to compete for government contracts, but departments were also bound by longstanding procurement policies.

He went on to say that these had to be in keeping with trade agreements which meant preference could not be given to Kiwi firms, and companies bidding for tenders could not be ruled out simply because they were foreign.

So which is it, Mr Sainsbury? Are you a supporter of the 'free market' or are you not? Or have you suddenly become a neo-keynesian?

Jerry Mateparae may also like to consider why he and the army are feeling the media heat, when major corporates like Telecom and the ANZ have been busy exporting to jobs to low wage countries with little or no concern being expressed by the mainstream media.

Certainly I haven't, for example, seen either Mark Sainsbury or John Campbell beating their chests about it.

Indeed one New Zealand company that has shipped over 400 jobs overseas, namely Fisher and Paykel, has been given a sympathetic treatment by the corporate media with some commentators supporting the company getting bailed out by the government.

And, remember, the Swazi workers haven't actually lost their jobs yet.

Jerry Mateparae is attending the job summit tomorrow. Mateparae actually hasn't sacked anyone -which will make him somewhat of an exception at this 'summit'.


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