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Archive for May, 2013

Not so sensible justice

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internet_lynch_mobs_Cleverbot_said_Im_correct-s391x337-96144-535

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By now we should all be aware of the influence and power of the internet. It has allowed the world into our homes, workplaces, and lives, in an intimate way.

It can facilitate relationships; be a powerful tool for popular causes; assist the democratic process; and it can be a vital tool for rapid acquisition of information – a boon for bloggers like me.  On occassion it has allowed us to “meld” into a single, focused ‘mind’, to exert a  coherent action to affect the physical world.

It also has it’s much darker side. The internet can reflect the most base of human emotions; hatred, anger, paranoia, fanaticism, xenophobia,  a thirst for revenge, and other irrationalities.

Those who maintain that the internet is somehow less “real” than the physical world underestimate it’s influence in our lives.

I foresee the growth of a potential great evil, which will place incredible  pressures on our judicial system and perhaps even undermine it.

We have already witnessed individuals using the net to circumvent name suppression, or to foment mass-hysteria targetting  prominent individuals.

Soon after David Bain was found not guilty on five counts of murder in June 2009, at least one website sprang up vociferously maintaining his guilt, and several on-line fora were filled with strident commentary expressing all manner of irrational accusations.

It has been suggested that the concerted force of this stridency had a degree of  influence on Judith Collins throwing out Justice Binnie’s report and recommendations for compensation.

There was  the case of  far right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, who in September 2010, wilfully broke name suppression of convicted New Zealanders, and in the process  identified the victim of a sex-abuse case. He justified his actions as being some kind of (mis-guided) campaign against name suppression. (See:  Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty)

And recently there was the chap who published the names and images of those alleged to have attacked  cricketer,  Jesse Ryder.

Jordan Mason felt he could take it upon himself to “name and shame” the two men charged with assaulting Jesse Ryder – even though the pair have not yet been tried or convicted. (see: Jesse Ryder attack: Accused felt he had to ‘name and shame’ men)

Garth McVicar’s latest proposal is another step further along the road toward a dystopian near-future. One where  Cyber Mob ‘Justice’ holds undue influence on our judicial system,

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Trust to launch website to 'name and shame' judges

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ: Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges

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Garth McVicar’s populist vigilantee organisation, the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is planning a website that has one core function; to be an instrument of punitive reaction against judges who do not measure up to the Trust’s vision of retributive  ‘justice’.

This “Naming & Shaming” has one agenda only – to encourage and foment an influence on our judiciary that is separate from the law, and puts power into the hands of a small clique (McVicar and his cronies). It would exploit the lowest common denominator in our society – ignorance, fear, hatred, and a hunger for violent revenge – and exploit Mob Mentality to achieve it’s ends.

Who amongst us is  not disgusted by the vileness of  certain criminals and their horrific misdeeds. Our primal urge is to exact a fitting revenge – usually involving copious amounts of pain, and a much-shortened life-span. It’s an urge that lurks in the deepest recesses of our reptilian brains.

As a consequence of the socialising aspects of civilisation, we’ve left those urges (mostly) behind us. Though it can be useful when  governments plan  resource-wars against other nations.

The ‘net – as we also know – allows that veneer of civilisation to be stripped away and our primal instincts for punitive  revenge to surface and expressed in emotive terms. The cloak of anonymity can embolden the meekest.

Have a look at the political messageboard forum on TradeMe, and you’ll understand what I mean.

McVicar’s group understand the power of the ‘net to further their agenda for a more punitive society – and they are going hard out to achieve it.

On this issue, I stand with Justice Minister Judith Collins and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson;  who oppose this  ill-disguised step toward mob-”justice”.

Little wonder that the  New Zealand Bar Association condemned this lunatic idea,

We join with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General in condemning this proposal. The Bar Association regards the step as being ill-considered, totally unnecessary and likely to give rise to illegality as contempt of court.

What is being proposed amounts to little more than on-line talk back radio – likely to attract debate and comment of similar quality but with the added disadvantage (or advantage, depending upon one’s perspective) of being permanently available and accessible in the blogosphere.

Judges have an extremely difficult job. They are constantly required to make hard decisions under the mounting pressure of increasing case loads, exacerbated by diminishing resources. Their decisions are rightly the subject of appeal processes which are open and transparent. The daily work of a Judge in court is done publicly and is scrutinised by the news media. If the conduct of a judge is questioned, that conduct can be the subject of complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal

The author of this statement, Stephen Mills QC, added – and I emphasise the point,

In our society the freedom to criticise is a valued and protected right, but as with most rights there is concomitant responsibility. The responsibility here is that criticism of the judicial arm of our democracy must be responsible, accurate and measured. These characteristics are frequently absent on talk back radio and they are unlikely to be a feature of the invited public comment on this website, given its stated objective.

Making critical comments via email to a website affords the critic a degree of anonymity that is likely to encourage a lack of responsibility in what is said. This is likely to improperly and unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Understandably, the Bar Association has labelled McVicar’s dangerous idea as “irresponsible”  – because that it precisely what it is. The gradual  under-mining of the judiciary would become the inevitable  reality. Ultimately, no one could possibly benefit from this.

It is worthwhile to consider that there are sufficient numbers of disturbed individuals who could take the existence  of  such a website as a license for vigilanteeism. Even those with less nefarious intentions, acting with collective thought and “righteous”  belief, could place pressure on individual judges who would have little means to resist.

Remember the fuss made over the proposed  “Wellywood” sign on Wellington’s hills? This was the online response,

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wellywood

Source: Google

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Which lead to physical-world protest action,

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Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

Acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

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Now extrapolate into others areas of human activity.

Law enforcement and members of the judiciary are vulnerable.  As happened recently in the United States (though no evidence yet exists of  internet-vigilanteeism being a factor),

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Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

Acknowledgement: BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

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On 18 April, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed “Sensible Sentencing Trust” spokesperson, Garth McVicar. He told Kathryn,

“… So ultimately the way it’ll work is some of  the judges that are brought to our attention, and we do our due diligence and think, you know,  by our research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, they will be named on that  site, as will some of the previous history and some of the decisions they’ve made that we believe earn them the right to be on the site.”

Acknowledgement: Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched

In other words – we have the potential for a witch-hunt for judges who, by McVicar’s “research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, [and] they will be named on that  site “.

Some obvious questions are,

  • Who decides the criteria of  McVicar’s stated “due diligence“?
  • Who will be tasked with bringing “judges… to our attention“?
  • Who decides what constitutes “consistently getting it wrong”?
  • Who decides what aspects of “previous history”  will “ earn them the right to be on the site“?
  • What right of appeal or response will judges be given? The right of appeal is the most basic of rights for a person accused of a “mis-deed”?
  • How will the information be presented?
  • How will judges be identified?
  • Who will be accountable if information is incorrect, or presented out of context?

This Web Vigilanteeism is an unpredented and dangerous road that McVicar and his mates are taking.

Later that same day, on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel-programme,  to a question from the Host as to how such a website could be moderated, Garth McVicar was at pains to reassure listeners,

“… I’m not sure if many of your listeners know Ruth Money but she’s no fool. And some of the people that are behind her and putting this together are no fools. So it will be well monitored. It won’t become a rant, for,  you know,  a rave site for people to rave on like some of the other sites I believe are. I don’t bother even  looking into them. This is going to maintain the credibility of the organisation… “

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1)

Sorry – no. That’s not reassuring at all.  McVicar cannot control the end-use of any information that his group publishes on the web. Ruth Money (a SST administrator/spokesperson) may be “no fool” – but who knows about the state of mind of people rreading it?

And if a judge comes to harm – can the SST be held to account?

After all, they are demanding that judges be held to account.

Earlier in this piece, I wrote of the “growth of a potential great evil”.

My fear is that taken to it’s end-conclusion, ‘net-based “Justice” could begin to influence the judicial process more and more.  The day when citizens go on-line to ‘vote’ on the Guilt or Innocence of a person charged with a crime is a far-fetched fantasy.

I would like to keep it that way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2013.

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References

Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign (24 May 2011)

BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks (1 April 2013)

Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched (18 April 2013, audio)

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1) (18 April 2013, audio)

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Al Nisbet’s next little ‘gem’…

Al Nisbet, cartoonist and panderer to  racist rednecks, presents us with these little ‘gems’…

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290513 The Marlborough Express Al Nisbet cartoon

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And this…

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Al Nisbet's racist cartoon (2)

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Well, I guess if we, as a nation, are so fucking pathetic that we can’t address child poverty without a sizeable portion of the population begrudging a bowl of weetbix and milk for the children of the poorest families in the country (because, as we all know, every child has a choice which family they were born into) – well, we might as well poke fun at them.

Nice one, Al.

I’m looking forward to your next cartoon about religion and kids. You know the one. Where a priest is raping a child and you’re making a really witty and “satirical” comment about it.

Ho ho ho…

Funny as, dude.

And screw all those leftie whingers eh? They should just LIGHTEN THE FUCK UP, eh?

Hah! Who sez you can’t laugh about child poverty.

Also looking forward to your next cartoon about solo-mums. Maybe depicting them as lazy crack-whores milking the State?

I’m sure Paula Bennett will get the joke.

Now… what can we draw about cartoonists and their families?

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Categories: Various Tags: , ,

National’s disdain for taking responsibility

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Continued from: National’s disdain for our credulity

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Groucho Marx  politicics

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When things go horribly wrong – whether by accident or negligence – we expect mishaps to be investigated. If a mishap is due to the latter – someone stuffed up –  we demand that those responsible be held to account.

This is what it looks like when people are held to account for their actions,

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Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

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Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

Acknowledgement: Waikato Times – Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

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Capital + Merchant's directors face judge

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Capital + Merchant’s directors face judge

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This is what it looks like when no one – especially when in a position of authority – is held to account,

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No blame for Pike River tragedy

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – No blame for Pike River tragedy

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Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

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It simply beggers belief and defies understanding that a Minister of the Crown – Simon Bridges, to be specific – could utter words like this,

At the time of Pike River there’s been serous systemic failures in the old Department of Labour, and as a health and safety regulator they were clearly dysfunctional and ineffectual.

But the problems were truly systematic and no one person was to blame.

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax Media – Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister

So  how on Earth has Bill Birch –  when he was Minister for Labour in the 1990s and was  the architect of de-regulation of the mining sector – gotten off so lightly in the media?

For Birch to say,

It raises the question of why weren’t they addressed if they were obvious deficiencies in the legislation – I don’t believe they were. I think systemic failure is more about people not putting the systems in place.

– is a travesty of everything that decent New Zealanders believe in.

Basically, what this “gentlemen” is saying is that because we, as a country, were lucky enough to get away with no disaster in our mines up until the day that Pike River Mine exploded in a flash of explosive methane – that his “reforms” cannot in any way be blamed?!?!

How in gods’ name does that make any sense whatsoever?!

Why on Earth has the media  not jumped all over this?!

The record of Birch’s “reforms” is readily available for those with the eyes to see, and the inclination to use those eyes.

As I wrote in an earlier blogpost on 29 October last year,

The gutting of the mines inspectorate and permitting self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act”, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,

“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’[5], in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved

42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”

See: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.

Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their part in this tragedy.

They should have been.

Of all the political Parties in Parliament, National holds itself up as the torch-bearer for “personal  responsibility”. Their website is littered with references to being the Party of  “personal responsibility (see: National’s Vision For New Zealand).

Where is the responsibility being shown here?

How can 29 people have been killed in a disaster that should never have been allowed to occur – and no one is responsible?

When ordinary people commit acts that endanger the lives of others, or even lead to death(s), the State is quick to hold the (alleged) perpetrators to account.

When acts of endangerments  are committed, leading to death(s), and the State is involved – it appears that  no one person was to blame”.

It’s a “systemic” thing.

Well, to hell with that.

I hold the following to account for the deaths of 29 men at Pike River Mine,

  • Bill Birch
  • Jim Bolger
  • the management of Pike River Mine
  • and the CEOs of the Labour Department from 1992 to 19 November 2010

Every one of these people should be prosecuted for varying degrees of malfeasance leading to manslaughter.

Or else, maybe, we should all just break the law whenever we feel like it,  and not be prosecuted?

We can say it’s  a “systemic” thing.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

References

Dominion Post: No blame for Pike River tragedy (11 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Lack of consquences over Pike disaster ‘unsatisfactory’ (13 April 2013)

 

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It’s a cat’s life…

It’s not just those cute and/or crazy cat memes on Facebook – Real Life took a weird turn when a sample cat-food satchet turned up in our letter box (with accompanying “menu”-stle advertising brochure).

At first I didn’t take much notice of it and casually chucked it into the pantry with the cat food cans. Next day when I took it out to give to our four-legged, non-rent-paying boarders, the label caught my eye;

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Tuna, surimi, whitebait ?!?!

Who gives their cats whitebait ?!?!

Holy smoke – I don’t eat whitebait! Not when the price-per-kilo is fast approaching that of gold bullion!

Maybe the front label was referring to mock-whitebait. Like surimi is mock-crab?

So I checked the Ingredients list as the back. Yep – there it is; whitebait.

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So, the only thing left – open it up.

With the contents emptied into a bowl,  a visual inspection showed what definitely looks like… whitebait.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA.

What next – crayfish?

Pate de foie gras?

Caviar?

Would the pussy cats like to see the wine menu, perhaps?

Whitebait… I think we’ll stick to cans of  ‘Chef’ or ‘Whiskas’.  I definitely prefer the natural order of things where cats pester us for our food, and not the other way around.

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Categories: On A Lighter Note Tags:

National’s disdain for our credulity

Continued from: National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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"There have been covert attempts to acquire New Zealand science and technology for programmes relating to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems''

“There have been covert attempts to acquire New Zealand science and technology for programmes relating to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald: PM’s hacking claims a distraction – Labour

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When Dear Leader’s comments regarding “weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems” hit our  TV screens, our entire household’s immediate reaction was to burst out into derisive laughter.

Surely, there is no f*****g way that this idiot could get away with justifying increasing the GCSB’s power’s to spy on us by claiming that foreign spies were engaged in acts of espionage to “acquire New Zealand science and technology for programmes relating to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems”?!?!

Aside from the fact that we are a Nuclear Free Nation – enshrined in law – what other “weapons of mass destruction” is he referring to; chemical weapons? Bacteriological weapons? Super-Duper Hyper-Atomic Disintergrating Death Rays?!?!

No wonder  the news-readers on TV1 and TV3 had barely concealed facial expressions  that indicated, “Yeah, we don’t believe this bullshit either – but we’re paid to read you this crap, so go make a cuppa coffee or sandwich or feed the cat or something constructive, ‘cos there’s five more minutes of this masterbatory fantasy…”

If New Zealanders buy into this bovine faecal matter, then we are a nation that is truly thicker than I thought possible. Mind you, it seems that at least eight people outside of the National Nuthouse Brigade who are willing to go along with this outrageous exercise in bullshitry,

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NZ First offers support for spy law changes

Acknowledgement:  Radio NZ – NZ First offers support for spy law changes (16 April 2013)

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Unbelievable.

Also surprising is that ACT has gone along with this exercise in the growth of State surveillance power.

Isn’t ACT supposedly the Party that advocates smaller government and less intrusion in our lives?

Having the the vast array of electronic gadgetry that the GCSB posesses, with a budget of over $100 million a year (see: Judge who watches the watchers), giving the Bureau even more power to surveil us and intrude into our lives seems a pretty funny way for a supposedly neo-liberal Party to be pushing for smaller government?!

But I guess that kind of inconsistancy is what keeps ACT under 2%, and right-wingers as a source of jokes for comedians.

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https://i1.wp.com/static.stuff.co.nz/1365553304/568/8531568.jpg

Waihopai Spy Base – soon to be reading your emails; listening in on your phone conversations; and looking out for anything “subversive” in your household – like being a Greenpeace or Forest & Bird member.

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It seems extraordinary that Dear Leader wants to extend the GCSB’s powers, when they are already unable to comply with their current legal obligations.

The Bureau wasn’t even able to supply Key’s “go-fer” girl, Rebecca Kitteridge, with documents she demanded as part of her so-called  ‘investigation’,

But in the report, Ms Kitteridge states that there were “many basic documents that I have been unable to find, and that others at the GCSB have struggled to find for me”.

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But what she says is that she couldn’t find some files, and nor could GCSB staff. Mr Key however says it is wrong to assume files were deliberately withheld.

“What she’s saying is they struggled at times to access information – that will indicate there will be areas of where it was filed incorrectly, or it wasn’t kept on file, or it wasn’t kept at all,” says Mr Key.

“She has access to all of the information that is there. If it’s not there, then obviously she cannot access it. There may be reasons for that – others may want to present a different view, but she’s the person who’s been charged with the responsibility to go in there, has had Crown Law and the full support of the new director behind her.”

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key rejects GSCB cover-up

Key’s gobbledegook explanation doesn’t ring true. He may get away with talking to primary school kids like that, but for the rest of us – he’s talking crap.

And this bit is hilarious,

Mr Key says he appointed Mr Fletcher to improve the day-to-day running of the GCSB to prevent mishaps like this from happening, saying the agency needs “significant bulking up in the management”.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Key wants  “significant bulking up in the management”?!

But… but… but… hasn’t National doesn’t spend the last four years cutting the State sector? National has slashed thousands of “back room” and “management” jobs from everywhere from Housing NZ to DoC to the military… but now Key wants to “significant bulking up in the management”?!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; these monkeys in the National “government” haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

Does Key really expect us to buy this horse manure,

Mr Key also rejects claims the Government is planning to change the law to give the GCSB the right to assist police and the Security Intelligence Service in spying on New Zealanders. He says the changes are just a “clarification” of the current law, and the GCSB’s powers “in a lot of ways don’t change”.

Acknowledgement: IBID

He is being a disengenuous dolt when he expects us to swallow the line that the GCSB’s powers “in a lot of ways don’t change”.

Of course they change, you grinning fool. That’s what this is all about.

Key uses the excuse that by not extending the GCSB’s powers that somehow that would leave us open to all kinds of threats; terrorism, cyber attacks, alien invasion…

“As prime minister I am simply not willing to do that. To do nothing would be an easy course of action politically, but it would be an irresponsible one.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media – Sweeping GCSB changes announced

Funnily enough, New Zealand has survived quite nicely without givcing the GCSB powers to spy on us. We already have the Police and SIS with more legal powers of surveillance than most Kiwis realise.

It’s getting rather crowded with the number of State agencies allowed to peek into our private lives.

Key insists that part of the deal with NZ First is that in return for supporting the Bureau’s extension of their powers, that there will be more  “safeguards” and “oversight” of the spy agency,

“I think GCSB should be able to provide agency support for NZ SIS under the right conditions, and with the right oversight.”

Acknowledgement: NZ City – PM denies inconsistency over GCSB woes

Funny…

Up until now, the GCSB has supposedly had plenty of over-sight.

The Prime Minister is responsible for the GCSB. It one of his portfolio’s,

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John Key minister in charge of the GCSB - government communications security bureau

Acknowledgement: Parliament – Current MPs, John Key

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So… How’s that been working out so far?

Continued at: National’s disdain for taking responsibility

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.

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References

NZ Herald: PM’s hacking claims a distraction – Labour (16 April 2013)

Dominion Post: Key sexing up intelligence, says Shearer (16 April 2013)

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National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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Continued from: National’s disdain for the law

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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Protestors vs The Power of The State…

In the late 1970s, one of the very first protest activities I became involved in was highlighting the imprisonment of Soviet dissidents in the now-defunct USSR. (This was of intense interest to me because of my Eastern European heritage.)

The Soviet Union had approximately ten thousand political prisoners locked up in “Corrective Labour Colonies”, “psychiatric” institutions, and various prisons. (Most of which were located in the Moldavian region and not the archetypal Siberian labour camp that Westerners thought characterised the Soviet political penal system.)

Two of the charges commonly laid against Soviet dissidents were “anti Soviet agitation and propaganda” and “slandering the Soviet system.” Either charge could land a hapless political activist in prison for five, seven, ten, or more years.

The heavy sentences were handed down not just to isolate dissidents from their colleagues and the public – but to serve as a dire warning to anyone else who might ‘buck the system’.

That could never happen here in New Zealand, right?

Right?

Wrong.

It is happening here, and now, in our own country.

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,  in April 2010, it was  little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast.

East Coasters – and the rest of the country – have  had a clear warning of the potential danger of an environmental catastrophe that might strike the region. One that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

Public disquiet and anger was such that by November 2011,  Key was prepared to be secretive about his meetings and discussions with oil companies,

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Acknowledgement: TV3 -Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

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In normal circumstances it would seem unusual that a Prime Minister would keep such a top-level meeting secret. One would think that it should be quite a coup to have  a visiting CEO of such a large corporation visiting New Zealand. Especially where there is Big Money to be made.

Remember Key’s recent big trips to Hollywood? South America? China?

Recently, on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 3 April, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do”.

He said, in part,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Bridges even admitted that vested interests were involved in the law-change,

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

Acknowledgement: IBID

The hypocrisy and self-serving nature of the proposal to criminalise protest action was best exemplified when Bridges assured viewers that he “passionately” supported people’s right to protest,

JESSICA Don’t you think a lot of New Zealanders would agree, though, that people have a right to protest? Even if I’m not out there with a placard, you still support people’s right to be able to do it.

SIMON Absolutely, and I think, you know, that goes to the heart of being a democracy. I believe that passionately. My point is there are a huge variety of ways which New Zealanders can protest about anything. I would never want to stop that, but what they can’t do is dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business.

Acknowledgement: IBID

And yet, when Bridges talks about the right to protest, he is adamant that “what they can’t do is dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business”.

I would submit to the Minister that  proposed legislative changes are directed at the wrong party. It is oil companies that should be prevented from undertaking activicties that would  “dangerously, recklessly interfere with other people’s rights to go about their business” should another blowout send millions of barrels of oil washing across our East Coast.

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MV Rena and Deepwater Horizon oil slicks

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Unfortunately I cannot submit anything to the Minister. No one can. (Except oil companies.)

It  is a startling fact: the proposed law change to criminalise sea-borne protests will not go before a Parliamentary Select Committee. It will be passed through Parliament as a Supplementary Order Paper, meaning that it will avoid Select Committee scrutiny or a Public consultation process.

This blogger cannot emphasise how repugnant this proposed law-change is – nor how much it brings to mind the abuse of State power, as happened in the Soviet/Eastern Europe bloc.

This is how National wants to rule; by decree from the Executive.

Replace “Cabinet”  with “Politburo”, and you begin to get an understanding of what I’m describing  here.

It does away with the Parliamentary process; it avoids scrutiny by a Select Committee; and it eliminates any opportunity for the public to be involved by making submissions.

This is bad law-making.

This is anti-democratic.

This is naked authoritarianism.

This has the hallmarks of a government that distrusts and fears it’s own people and views public inclusion with disdain.

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has all the hallmarks of a quasi-fascist state.

This is a desperate, shabby thing that Simon Bridges and his Party are doing.

It is so wrong that I am in disbelief that it is happening.

Continued at: National’s disdain for taking responsibility
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Addendum – Update

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Legislation cracking down on mining protests passes third reading

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Legislation cracking down on mining protests passes third reading

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In just under two weeks, National has rammed this legislative amendment through the House, with the assistance of two grubby MPs who should not even be in Parliament.

Nek Step: National passes legislation banning all protest activity in public places. Key reassures New Zealanders that protest activity will still be legal in the privacy of peoples’ own homes. (Though for assemblies of three or more people, a Police-SIS-ODESC-GSCB  permit will be required.)

Law abiding New Zealanders will having nothing to fear, Dear Leader Key reasurres us, as long as those New Zealanders do nothing.

Continued at: National’s disdain for our credulity

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

Corporate Welfare under National

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

On the smell of an oily rag

References

NZ Herald: Protester law avoids public submissions and Bill of Rights vetting  (3 April 2013)

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: The Conspirators

The Daily Blog: The Guts and the Authority: Curbing the Powers of the GCSB

The Daily Blog: Worse Than We Thought: Rebecca Kitteridge and the New “Community” of Spooks

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National’s disdain for the law

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Prime Minister John Key on the phone to GCSB boss - and mate - Ian Fletcher

Prime Minister John Key on the phone to GCSB boss – and mate – Ian Fletcher

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 ’Fixing’ the Law when it’s ‘broken’…

As some folk are aware, I have a somewhat “colourful” past. As a young bloke I got carried away with stupid activities; bad driving habits (I saw the speed limit as a ‘recommendation’); heavy boozing; partying; and got on the wrong side of the law. One singular act of stupidity caught up with me over three decades later.

It was only in my mid-twenties and onwards that I started to grow up and – with the help of a few folk – managed to turn my wayward craziness into more productive activities. (Curiously, at the same time I found my political views  moving from centre-right to centre-left… Correlation? Dunno.)

Something I eventually  learned was that the law was there for a reason and the Universe did not revolve around my selfish desires. The law would not change for me – I had to make that change within myself.

Imagine my surprise then, that I have now discovered that the law can be changed for those committing illegal acts,

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Law change will mean GCSB can spy on Kiwis

Acknowledgement: Newstalk ZB:  Law change will mean GCSB can spy on Kiwis

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So let’s see if I have this right…

  • The GCSB acted illegally by spying on 88 New Zealanders/permanent residents,
  • John Key accepts that they acted outside the law
  • Instead of holding the Bureau accountable, the law will be changed to accomodate their illegality – in effect rewarding them, as Green co-leader, Russell Norman said?

My oh my… So that’s how the system works for those in power? They don’t have to be held accountable – the law can be  amended to sweep their wrong-doing under the carpet!?

I don’t know what the  1,058,638 voters who voted for National think of this. Especially when one of National’s main policy platforms during the 2011 election was the usual “tough on crime”  rhetoric,

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National Party staying strong on crime

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Not so “strong on crime” after all, I guess. Not when it involves a government agency for which  Dear Leader Key himself holds direct responsibility.

I know that New Zealanders have a fetishistic respect for Authority, but isn’t this going several steps too far?

Do we really want the entire GCSB apparatus (paid from our taxes) spying on us?

Do we really want to be taking a step closer to Big Brother watching our every move?

And if National Party supporters are comfortable reading this – before you shrug your shoulders dismissively, just consider for a moment  that the same increased powers of State surveillance will  also be wielded by the next Labour-led government.  How does that grab ya?

Break the law?

No problemo.

We’ll just change it.

John Key has stated,

I think GCSB should be able to provide agencies support for NZSIS, under the right conditions and with the right oversight.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Really?!?! Like… “the right oversight” that the  Prime Minister had over the GCSB since 2008? Is that the kind of  “right oversight” that he’s referring to?

Now why is it, I wonder, that his reassurances that the  “GCSB should be able to provide agencies support for NZSIS, under the right conditions and with the right oversight” – does not fill me with much confidence?

In fact, why is it that nothing Key sez or does gives me any confidence whatsoever?

Because I’ll share this with the reader for free; if Key couldn’t provide the  ” right oversight ” for the GCSB at it is now – why should we trust it with further enhancing their powers?!?!

The reality appears that National’s plan to legitamise the Bureau’s spying on New Zealanders shows a disdain for the law that, up till now, has only been evident in despotic regimes such as Zimbabwe. This is a dangerous road for any goverment to take.

When an arm of the State breaks the law, the correct response is not to pass laws which legitamises that law-breaking.

It frightens the hell out of me that, in the year 2013AD, this is where New Zealand has arrived. And isn’t it scary when bloggers have to point this out to all and sundry?!

All the previous assurances in the last forty years, from successive governments, that the power of the State will be firmly controlled and monitored – has ultimately proved to be futile. And now the minister for revenue and hairstyling, Peter Dunne, wants to extend information sharing between the IRD and other government agencies, promising us,

Client privacy and confidentiality is paramount in this process.

Acknowledgement: Law Society – IRD and MSD information sharing to be expanded

By the way. Whoever writes these Press Releases should changed the wording,

“Protecting people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality are critical,” Ms Collins says.”

Acknowledgement: The Beehive – Tax info-sharing may help fight crime

So if John Key gets his way, and the GCSB is allowed to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, what’s next? (Because in a few year’s time, the government will want more power for XYZ reasons. Governments are never content with the powers they are given.)

What will follow next? A  “special police force” attached to a more powerful SIS/GCSB entity?

Laws to detain dissidents who might oppose corporate investors or protest at visiting ‘dignitaries’ from other countries where human rights is an arcane, alien concept?

Or even laws which threaten to impose hefty fines and/or jail terms for those who dare protest corporate power?

Like this…

 

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Addendum

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NZ First offers support for spy law changes

Acknowledgement:  Radio NZ – NZ First offers support for spy law changes (16 April 2013)

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Trust NZ First to prop up National’s anti-democratic laws. Wouldn’t it be  exquisite irony if the GCSB and SIS have both spied on Winston Peters and recorded some of his shenanigans…

Continued at: National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do.

The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

References

Beehive:  Tax info-sharing may help fight crime (9 April 2013)

Radio NZ: Govt proposes IRD share info with police (9 April 2013)

Newstalk ZB:  Law change will mean GCSB can spy on Kiwis (10 April 2013)

NZ Herald: GCSB needs more oversight – Key (10 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  John Armstrong: GCSB trickery and deception revealed (11 April 2013)

NZ Herald:  PM out to turn tables on rivals over GCSB (13 April 2013)

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: The Conspirators

The Daily Blog: The Guts and the Authority: Curbing the Powers of the GCSB

The Daily Blog: Worse Than We Thought: Rebecca Kitteridge and the New “Community” of Spooks

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Key’s broken promise on raising wages

 

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/john-key-says-id-like-to-raise-wages-but-i-cant.png

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Once again, the Prime Minister has shown that he says one thing – whilst doing completely the opposite. The implementation of Youth Rates next month will be another in a series of his broken promises.

I think most readers of this blog (and other sources of  political information) will recall certain statements made by Dear Leader over the last four to five  years,

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: National policy – SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere.

To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.” – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: National policy – Speech: Environment Policy Launch

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

See: Speech: Key – business breakfast

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

See: National policy – Boosting Science and Innovation

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key,  8 February 2011

See: Statement to Parliament 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

See: Parliament – Speech from the Throne

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

See: Key wants a high-wage NZ

Key has repeated the same pledge every year since 2008.

On 1 May this year, National will be implementing a cut to the wages paid to young New Zealanders. The new youth rates will be  euphemistically known as the “Starting-out wage”.

The cut to wages of young workers will be as follows,

  1. 16 and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  2. 18 and 19-year-olds who have been paid a benefit for six months or longer, and who have not completed six months of continuous work with any employer since starting on benefit
  3. 16-to-19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Starting-out wage available from 1 May

On 21 March Labour Minister, Simon Bridges, said,

“…The starting-out wage will provide an incentive for employers to help give young people a foot in the door and start building their skills and experience…

[…]

The starting-out wage will help set young people up for a lifetime of meaningful employment.”

Acknowledgement: Parliament – Hansards – 3. Youth Employment—Starting-out Wage

So will  a reduction in wages for young people, 16 to 19, help create more jobs? Or will it simply increase “job churn”, displacing older worker for younger, cheaper labour?

A previous “job creation” initiative from National was an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A – the 90 Day Trial Employment Period.

The 90 Day Trial Employment Period was implemented on April 2009, for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson enthusiastically predicted that the change to legislation would create more jobs,

“ The 90-day trial period will provide confidence for employers engaging new staff and allow struggling job-seekers to get their foot in the door, rather than languish on a benefit…

[…]

… The 90-day trial will provide real opportunities for people at the margins of the labour market.”

Two years later, by April 2011, National extended the 90 Day Trial Employment Period to cover  all businesses.  Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson stated,

The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families,” says Ms Wilkinson.

There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff.

[…]

The evaluation showed that 40 percent of employers who had hired someone on a trial period said it was unlikely they would have taken on new employees without it.

Acknowledgement: Government statement – 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

So. How did the 90 Day Trial Employment Period work out? Did it create more jobs? The stats reveal the results with unambiguous, damning, clarity,

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Source

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As the chart above clearly shows, the answer is clearly no.  After the initial introduction of the 90 Day Trial Employment Period in April 2009, unemployment continued to rise. The same occurred after April 2011.

There is no reason to believe that implementation of Youth Rates will yield any different results.

The evidence suggests that tinkering with labour laws does not – and cannot –  create jobs. High unemployment is caused by other factors; entrenched problems in our economy; the high value of the dollar; a flood of cheap consumer goods; foreign workers being brought in to fill vacancies; poor wages; lack of planning between business-labour-government; and an ad hoc approach to on-going training for young people.

Instead of treating on-going education and training in young people as an investment – successive governments have erected barriers such as training and education fees. The situation that New Zealand finds itself in is sheer lunacy. We have thousands of unemployed New Zealanders – and yet government does little to facilitate them into training or higher education.

Why, for example, are unemployed paid a benefit to do nothing – and yet are forbidden to take up further education or trades-training?

To a half-way sensible person, this is madness.

And speaking of madness… National must know that cutting wages for young workers will not help create new jobs.  It may displace older workers in some areas, but otherwise it may act as further de-moralisation and discouragement for young people who are already facing tough times and an uncertain future.

What this does show is that National has no real job creation policies. For National, their sole reliance is on the “marketplace” to deliver new jobs. Sadly, they are mistaken – their market-based faith is half the problem.

Having faith that rain will come on a given day will not make it so.

Sensibly, the fast food industry has already come to the same conclusion that unions and others on the Left have instinctively understood for ages,

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Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates

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The Nats appear to be so wedded to their screwy market-based faith-politics that the failure of the “marketplace”  eludes them.

It’s a shame that National hasn’t caught up with the bleedin’ obvious.  Or… have they? It appears that some people are doing very well from the “marketplace”.

At our expense…

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Increase for SOE bosses 'obscene'

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Increase for SOE bosses ‘obscene’

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Addendum

Here’s a clever idea – all those people who vote National should have a wage/salary freeze during the term of that government.  After all, as some National supporters keep insisting, raising the minimum wage “harms the economy”. (I assume the same holds for all  wages and salaries?)

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– “Hey, Krystal, let’s freeze our wages, to set an example for everyone else, and for the good of the economy!”
– “Oh, Toby! What an absolutely spiffing idea! Dear Leader WILL be pleased!”

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The rest of us, who vote for Labour, Greens, Mana, et al, can have our wages/salaries linked to Australia’s pay rates.

Now I ask you – what could possibly be fairer than that?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages: Preface

1. The “Hobbit Law”

2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

4. Rest Home Workers

5. The Minimum Wage

6. Youth Rates

7. Part 6A – stripped away

8. An End to Collective Agreements

9. Conclusion

10. A New Government’s Response

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Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

 

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

 

 

 

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On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,

 

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Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

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In plain english, Bridges was referring to  activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.

 

To refresh the reader’s memory;

 

Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader  John Key was meeting in secret talks,

 

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Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

 

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(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)

 

Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

 

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Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

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Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of  2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against  Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig  blew apart.

 

During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see:  Charge laid after oil protest).

 

With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,

 

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Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

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Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)

 

No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,

 

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

 

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Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,

 

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.

Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.

 

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters

 

Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people.  This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.

 

However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead  are proposing to  amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),

 

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

 

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Jessica Mutch  challenged Bridges on this,

 

JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.

SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.

 

And then a glimpse of truth came out,

 

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?

 

At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,

 

JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?

SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.

JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…

 

For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.

 

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.

 

This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011,  warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,

 

“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”

 

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down

 

If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

 

Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.

 

I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.

 

Red Squad anyone?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2013.

 

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Previous related blogposts

 

Corporate Welfare under National

 

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

 

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

 

On the smell of an oily rag

 

Additional reading

 

Meet Anadarko, The Oil Company Struggling To Get Off The Hook For The Gulf Spill

 

Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Brazilian oil explorer Petrobras faces refinery pollution charges

 

Nats plan greater gas and oil exploitation

 

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

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A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB…

 
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from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Wed, May 22, 2013 at 12:36 PM
subject:     Letters to the editor
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The Editor
DOMINION POST
 
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The Prime Minister and his appointee, Ian Fletcher, keep insisting that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is “unclear” and “vague”.

How much clearer does a law have to be when section 14 of the Act states,

“Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.”

And Part 3, section 13, states clearly,

“The purpose of this Part is,—            (a) subject to the restrictions imposed by this Part, to enable the Bureau to obtain foreign intelligence; and             (b) to authorise the interception of communications (whether under section 16 or under an interception warrant or a computer access authorisation) only if the purpose of the interception is to obtain foreign intelligence.”

It doesn’t get any clearer that that.

So, really, what is Key up to?

Why extend the powers of the GCSB when the law is already fairly clear on the issue?
And if Paul Neazor’s report supposedly clears the government – why will Key not release it publicly? What is he hiding?

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-Frank Macskasy

(address and phone number supplied)

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The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

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GCSB logo

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The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, has released his report and three problems arise immediatly.

1.

According to a TV3 report,

“While the Government has been cleared of privacy breaches, the report found the law is “unclear” and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, has recommended improving the Act and the “precision” of their paperwork.”

Acknowledgment: TV3 – GCSB cleared of wrongdoing in NZ cases

That comment above was not from Mr Neazor’s report. It was a paraphrase by GCSB Director Ian Fletcher.
The actual report has not been released – National refuses point-blank to make it public.

The TV3 report continued with this,

“There are two recommendations from the Inspector-General, which are for more precise legislation and some improvement in the precision of the GCSB’s paperwork, the latter relating to the recommendations in the GCSB Compliance Review,” says the GCSB Director Ian Fletcher.

Mr Neazor found that there are particular “uncertainties” surrounding meta-data.

“An example of metadata is the information on a telephone bill such as the time and duration of a phone call, but not the content of the conversation or identification of the people using the phone,” Mr Fletcher said.

Acknowledgment: IBID

The NZ Herald reported,

“Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor has cleared the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) of illegal spying on New Zealanders.”

The Herald story goes on,

“The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it”, GCSB Director, Ian Fletcher said in a statement.

Mr Fletcher says the Inspector-General found that all of the cases were based on serious issues including potential weapons of mass destruction development, people smuggling, foreign espionage in New Zealand and drug smuggling.

Acknowledgment: IBID

From the Dominion Post,

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) “arguably” did not break the law in the cases of 88 Kiwis, the spy agencies watchdog says.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor investigated after an internal review found the foreign spy agency may have have unlawfully spied on New Zealanders.

After the report, the Government moved to change the law to make it legal for the bureau to conduct surveillance on Kiwis on behalf of the police, the Defence Force and the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS).

The bureau has not released Neazor’s findings, instead issuing a statement.

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – GCSB ‘arguably’ didn’t break law – Neazor

The Dompost report continued with this comment,

“The Inspector-General is of the view that there were arguably no breaches and the law is unclear,” the bureau said.

And this,

Neazor had decided “there had arguably been no breach, noting once again that the law is unclear”.

Acknowledgment: IBID

And TVNZ gave us this,

The Government’s spy agency, the GCSB, has been cleared of illegal surveillance in cases involving 88 New Zealanders.

[…]

“The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it,” GCSB Director Ian Fletcher said in a statement.

“There are two recommendations from the Inspector-General, which are for more precise legislation and some improvement in the precision of the GCSB’s paperwork, the latter relating to the recommendations in the GCSB Compliance Review.”

Acknowledgment: GCSB cleared of illegal spying, though law ‘unclear’

The TVNZ report further stated,

Neazor said the interpretation of this kind of information in the GCSB Act is one of the unclear areas that needs defining.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Every comment on Neazor’s report emanates from the GCSB itself.

At no point was there any commentary from Neazor himself, and nor is his report publicly available. The Dominion Post’s statement that “the Inspector-General is of the view…” is not supported by any facts or evidence that I can see.

Effectively, Neazor has been gagged.

Only John Key and GCSB Director Ian Fletcher are issuing statements – a politician and a spy boss hired by the same politician.

The truly frightening thing? The media is not reporting on this curious anomaly.

National will be passing a law increasing the powers of the GCSB, to permit it to spy on New Zealanders. Until now, the law has been crytal clear on this issue; the GCSB is not permitted to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents.

2.

Another curious aspect to this problem? The constant, repeated meme  that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is somehow ‘vague’ and ‘unclear’.

I present to the reader the relevant parts of the GCSB  Act. Judge for yourself how clear or unclear the law is yourself;

Section 14 of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 states,

Restrictions imposed on interceptions

14 Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Furthermore, the Act states in at least two parts, precisely who the GCSB may collect data on;

Part 2
7. Objective of Bureau
  • (1) The objective of the Bureau is to contribute to the national security of New Zealand by providing—

    • (a) foreign intelligence that the Government of New Zealand requires to protect and advance—
      • (i) the security or defence of New Zealand; or
      • (ii) the international relations of the Government of New Zealand; or
      • (iii) New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being; and
    • (b) foreign intelligence to meet international obligations and commitments of the Government of New Zealand; and
    • (c) advice, assistance, and protection to departments of State and other instruments of the Executive Government of New Zealand in order to—
      • (i) protect and enhance the security of their communications, information systems, and computer systems; or
      • (ii) protect their environments from electronic or other forms of technical surveillance by foreign organisations or foreign persons.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a)(iii), the interests of New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being are relevant only to the extent that they are affected by the actions or intentions of foreign organisations or foreign persons.

Part 3
13. Purpose of Part
  • The purpose of this Part is,—

    • (a) subject to the restrictions imposed by this Part, to enable the Bureau to obtain foreign intelligence; and
    • (b) to authorise the interception of communications (whether under section 16 or under an interception warrant or a computer access authorisation) only if the purpose of the interception is to obtain foreign intelligence.

Three questions arise,

1. Is the Act really as ‘unclear’ and ‘vague’ as Ian Fletcher, John Key, and (supposedly) Paul Neazor claim?

2. Has the media checked the relevant legislation?

3. Is there a concerted, surreptitious  effort to depict the GCSB Act as “deficient”, so as to increase it’s surveillance powers?

I leave the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.

But one thing is abundantly clear; we are not being given the full truth on this issue, and the facts surrounding the law regarding the GCSB, are being fudged.

3.

John Key refuses to release Neazor’s report to the public.

Why?

If the report fully vindicates Key and National, then he would be climbing over dead bodies to get it to the media and public attention.

His decision to keep the report secret implies that it contains details which are critical of National and/or Key’s management of this entire affair.

Let’s not forget a recent report from the Auditor General on Key’s dealings with  Skycity. Key claimed that the Auditor General’s report  “cleared him”;

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Key insists government vindicated

Acknowledgment: MSN News -Key insists government vindicated

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The Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith, though, was quick to challenge Key’s assertion that he had been “vindicated”,

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PM contradicted on SkyCity 'vindication'

Acknowledgment: TV3 – PM contradicted on SkyCity ‘vindication’

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The Prime Minister long ago lost the trust of many New Zealanders. His willingness to bend the truth – and on occassion tell outright lies – means we cannot take anything he says at face value.

If Neazor’s report vindicates National, then Key should have no reason to with-hold it from the public.

The fact that he is keeping it secret suggests that the report contains findings which are  damning of Key, his government, and god knows who else.

There can be no other conclusion.

As for the mainstream media, their lack of deeper probing on this issue is an indictment on the state of investigative journalism (or lack thereof) in the country.

Even something as basic as informing New Zealanders of the content of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 has been lacking. Without this most basic of information, the media is derelict in it’s duty to inform us.

We expect politicians to be lying pricks.

We expect better from our news rooms.

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Previous Related blogpost

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do.

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Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

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Maria and the children of the poor - "Metropolis" (1927)

Maria and the children of the poor – “Metropolis” (1927)

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There is a problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in schools…

First, to re-cap, there was no announcement made in the Budget on 16 May regarding meals in schools,

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Key tight-lipped on food in schools

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be  weeks away,

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food in schools

Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme

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Interestingly, whilst National is luke-warm on the idea of feeding hungry children in our schools, they have little  hesitation in throwing our tax-dollars at private, profit-making businesses such as Charter Schools. What next – state subsidies for farmers to produce fatty sheep meat and a butter mountain?

National – the self-professed champion of the free market – throwing taxpayer’s money at private enterprises?

Regarding food in schools, Bill English had this to say about the subject on Maori TV’s Native Affairs last night (20 May),

Mihingarangi Forbes prefaced the interview by reminding viewers of a statement made by John Key with he was leader of the Opposition in 2007,

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: ” [John Key]… from the Opposition benches, promised, a Food In Schools programme.  Back then he said he wouldn’t wait because “kiwi kids deserved better (see: National launches its Food in Schools programme). So earlier today I asked Bill English why, after six years, thousands of  kids still wait.”

BILL ENGLISH:   “[…] but I think we should keep it in perspective. In the budget there was a wide ranges of measures that are going to have a positive  impact on the complicated problem of children and families who suffer from  persistant  disadvantage.”

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: “Can I ask, do you personally support, believe that central government should be providing food for children?”

BILL ENGLISH:   “I think we have to deal with the reality that children turn up to school unable to eat, we believe that it’s parent’s respons-,  unable to learn.We believe it’s parent’s responsibility to feed their children. And I think we would find that where children are turning up hungry, there’s probably any number of other issues in the life of that family that are difficult and need resolving. But we need these kids to learn, we can’t punish them for the circumstances that  they’re born into or living in and so that’s why we support feeding them so they can learn.”

When asked when National would implement a plan,  Mihingarangi reminded English that Key had stated that it  was just a “couple of sleeps away”, he responded,

BILL ENGLISH:  “Well, look, I think you should just wait for the announcements in a couple of weeks.”

Acknowledgment: Maori TV – Native Affairs (20 May 2013)

So what is  the  problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in school that I referred to above?

Firstly the Nats appear to having some kind of internal crisis on this issue – leading to Bill English   delaying any announcement for two weeks after the Budget was released.  (Some have suggested that there is a ‘power struggle’ going on behind the scenes in Cabinet? It has been suggested that an announcement was going to be made on Budget Day – but was pulled at the last minute.)

But the real problem of any food-in-schools programme?

National has not budgetted for it.

The Mana Party “Feed the Kids” Bill is estimated to cost $100 million to implement (see: Mana Party – Fact Sheet). Any plan from National – unless it is half-hearted and watered down – will also require considerable resourcing.

Where is National’s Budget allocation for implementing any meaningful food in schools programme?

There does not appear to be any.

As National continues to dither and delay on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”), there is a feeling of  growing dread within me that National ministers are going to deliver the biggest cop-out to the country since… whenever.

No food, no money, no solutions.

Message to John Key & Bill English

Prove me wrong.

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Leaving the Rich untouched

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References

Mana Party: A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget:  Increasing Poverty, Not Reducing Poverty

Scoop: National launches its Food in Schools programme ()

Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)

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Corporate Welfare under National

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begging-corporations

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In case there are still one or two New Zealanders remaining who haven’t yet cottoned on to one very simple truism about National in office, let me spell it out; they are rank hypocites of the highest order.

And in case you, the reader, happen to be a true-blue National supporter, let me explain why.

In the last four years, National has been beavering away,

  • slashing budgets
  • sacking nearly 3,000 state sector workers
  • closing schools
  • attempting to close special-needs services such as Nelson’s Salisbury school
  • cutting state services such as DoC, Housing NZ, Police, etc
  • freezing wages for state sector workers (whilst politician’s salaries continue to rise)
  • cutting back on funding to various community services (eg; Rape Crisis ands Women’s Refuge)
  • and all manner of other cuts to  state services – mostly done quietly and with minimum public/media attention.

In return, the Nats successfuly bribed us with our own money, giving us tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010. (Tax cuts which, later, were revealed not to be as affordable as what Dear Leader Key and Little Leader English made out – see:  Key: $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts, see: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting)

One such denial of funding for public services is an on-going dispute between PHARMAC and the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD) which is struggling  desperately to obtain funding for rare disorders such as Pompe’s Disease,

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Mum not prepared to wait and die

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NZORD and it’s members have been lobbying National for the last four years to gain funding for much-needed medication. They are in a dire situation – this is a matter of life or death for them.

This blogger has blogged previously about their plight,

Previous related blogposts

This blogger has also  written directly  to the Prime Minister and to Health Minister, Tony Ryall.

One response from Minister Ryall is presented here, for the reader’s attention,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012-b

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So there we have it, folks. If you’re a New Zealander dying from a rare disease, and PHARMAC won’t fund life-saving medication – don’t expect an assistance from this rotten government. Their response will be, and I quote,

While I share your concern [snort!!!]  for people with Pompe disease, as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.”

So “in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments“?!

But funding is available for;

$1 Rugby – $200 million to subsidise the Rugby World Cup (see:  Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m)

$2 Movies – $67 million paid to Warner Bros to keep “The Hobbit” in New Zealand (see:  The Hobbit: should we have paid?) and $300 million in subsidies for “The Lord of the Rings” (see:  Hobbit ‘better deal than Lord of the Rings’ – Key)

$3 Consultants – After sacking almost 3,000 state sector workers (see:  555 jobs gone from public sector) – and with more to come at DoC – National seems unphased at clocking up a mind-boggling $1 billion paid to “consultants”.  (see:  Govt depts clock up $1bn in consultant fees)

And on top of that, we are now faced with the prospect of a trans-national corporate – Rio Tinto – with their hands firmly around Meridian Energy’s neck, attempting to extract a greater subsidy from the SOE powerco. The story began in August last year,

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Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision

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We know why. Despite implausible assertions to the contrary by National Ministers, Genesis Energy, and Rio Tinto executives – the partial sale of SOE powercos (Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power) have made them vulnerable to the demands of Big Businesses.

Rio Tinto  knows that the share price of each SOE will be predicated on marketplace demand for shares.

They know that if there is less demand for electricity, then the price of power may (note: may) drop; those SOE’s profits will drop; and the price of shares will drop.

That leaves shareholders out of pocket and National with egg on it’s face. And a whole bunch of  Very Pissed Off Voters/Shareholders.

Think: Warner Bros. Think: corporate blackmail to shift ‘The Hobbit’ overseas. Think: National not wanting to risk the wrath of Peter Jackson and a thoroughly manipulated Public Opinion. Think: National looking at the 2011 election. Think: panic amongst National ministers and back-room Party strategists.

National capitulated.

This is precisely what is happening with Rio Tinto, Meridian, and National.

In the space of six and a half hours yesterday (28 March 2013),  events came to a dramatic head. The following happened in one day:

9.15am:

Via a Press Release from Merdian Energy;

Thursday, 28 March 2013, 9:15 am
Press Release: Meridian Energy

New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s electricity contract

For immediate release: Thursday, 28 March 2013

Meridian was approached by Pacific Aluminium, a business unit of global mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd, the majority shareholder of New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd (NZAS), in July 2012, to discuss potential changes to its existing electricity contract.

Since talks began, various options have been discussed and Meridian has offered a number of changes and concessions to the existing contract.

Chief Executive of Meridian Energy, Mark Binns, says that Meridian has advised Pacific Aluminium of its ‘bottom line’ position.

“Despite significant effort by both parties there remains a major gap between us on a number of issues, such that we believe that it is unlikely a new agreement can be reached with Pacific Aluminium,” says Mr Binns.

In the event no agreement can be reached, Meridian will seek to engage with Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd, the shareholders of NZAS, who will ultimately decide on the future of the smelter.

Meridian signed a new contract with NZAS in 2007, after three years of negotiations. This current contract commenced on 1 January 2013 and remains unaltered and binding on the parties.” – Source

To which Rio Tinto replied,

10.15am:

In a NZ Herald story,

CEO  of Pacific Aluminium (the New Zealand subsidiary of Rio Tinto), Sandeep Biswas responded with,

“We believe a commercial agreement that is in the best interests of NZAS, Meridian, the New Zealand Government, and the people of Southland can be reached. We look forward to continuing productive negotiations with a view to achieving a positive outcome for all parties.” – Source

De-coding: “This ain’t over till the Fat Chick sings, and she’s nowhere to be seen. You guys better start hearing what we’re saying or this is going to turn to sh*t real fast; we’ll close our operations at Bluff; 3,200 people employed by us directly or  indirectly will be told ‘Don’t Come Monday’;  your Southland economy will collapse like a Cyprus bank, and National can kiss goodbye to it’s re-election in 2014. Ya got that, sunshine?”

11.15am:

That got the attention of National’s ministers Real Quick,

The Government has opened discussions with Tiwai Point aluminium smelter’s ultimate owners Rio Tinto in a bid to broker a deal after talks between the smelter and Meridian Energy reportedly broke down.

[…]

“With this in mind, the Government has been in contact with Pacific Aluminium’s international parent company Rio Tinto this week to discuss helping to bridge the gap in their positions over the short to medium term, if this could be of assistance in concluding an agreement.

“In the meantime, we understand Meridian’s existing contract with Pacific Aluminium remains in place at least until 1 January 2016 with significant financial and other obligations beyond that.” – Source

Barely two hours had passed since Meridian had lobbed a live grenade into National’s state asset sale programme, and it’s fair to say that the Ninth Floor of the Beehive was in a state of panic. It was ‘battle stations’. Red Alert. National ministers were, shall we say, slightly flustered,

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/headless-chickens.jpg

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12.00pm:

By noon, the markets were reacting. Though share-market analysts were attempting to down-play the so-called  ‘Phoney War’ between Meridian and Rio Tinto, Devon Funds Management analyst, Phillip Anderson, remarked that,

“…the announcement had hit Contact’s share price – the company was down 3 per cent in early trading but is now down only 1.2 per cent.” Source

If Contact’s (a fully privatised ex-SOE) share price had dropped 3% on the strength of these media stories, it is little wonder that share-market analysts were down-playing the brinkmanship being played out by Meridian and Rio Tinto. If the share-market was spooked enough, Contact’s share price would plummet, as would that of Mighty River Power – estimated to be in the $2.36 and $2.75 price-range. (see:  Mighty River share tips $2.36 to $2.75).

In which case, National would be floating shares worth only a fraction of what ministers were seeking. In effect, if Rio Tinto closed down operations, Key could kiss goodbye to the partial sale of energy SOEs. They would be worthless to investors.

3.43pm:

By 3.43pm, and six and a half hours since Meridian’s press release, National had negotiated some kind secret deal with Rio Tinto.  We don’t know the terms of the deal because though it is our money, National ministers don’t think we have a right to the information,

The Government is negotiating a new taxpayer-funded subsidy with Tiwai Point aluminium smelter’s owners and has all but acknowledged its assets sales programme is being used by them to get a better deal on power prices.

State Owned Enterprises Minster Tony Ryall this morning said the Government has opened discussions with the smelter’s ultimate owners global mining giant Rio Tinto in a bid to broker a deal over a variation to the existing electricity contract.

[…]

“With this in mind, the Government has been in contact with Pacific Aluminium’s international parent company Rio Tinto this week to discuss helping to bridge the gap in their positions over the short to medium term, if this could be of assistance in concluding an agreement.”

Mr Ryall indicated the Government had offered Rio Tinto “a modest amount of money to try and help bridge that gap in the short to medium term but there’s still a very big gap in the long term… We’re not interested in subsidising this business in the long term”. – Source

Ryall added,

“…they’re pretty tough negotiators and I’m sure they look at what else is happening in the economy when they make their various decisions…

…”they certainly haven’t got the Government over a barrel.”

Three questions stand out from Ryall’s statement,

  1. If  State subsidies for electricity supply to Rio Tinto’s smelter are “short to medium term” – then what will happen when (if?) those subsidies are lifted? Will shareholders “take a bath” as share prices collapse in value?
  2. Does Ryall think we are fools when he states that Rio Tinto did not have the government “over a barrel” ?! Is that how National views the public – as morons?
  3. How much is the “a modest amount of money” that Ryall is referring to?

Perhaps the most asinine comment from Ryall was this, as reported by TVNZ,

“The electricity market is capable of dealing with all the issues relating to the smelter,” said Ryall.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ News – Talks break down over Tiwai smelter contract

Really?! In what way is “the electricity market … capable of dealing with all the issues relating to the smelter” when the government has to step in with what could be millions of dollars worth of subsidies? Is that how “the market” works?!

This blogger has two further questions to put to Minister Ryall. Both of which have been emailed to him,

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Date: Thu, 29 March 2013, 6.43pm
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Your correspondence to Hon Tony Ryall
To:  Tony Ryall  <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora,  Mr Ryall,

I am in receipt  of your emailed letter to me, dated 5 December 2012, regarding the non-funding of certain medications for sufferers of Pompe Disease. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to respond to this issue in a thorough and timely way. Several of your other ministerial colleagues seem to lack that simple etiquette.

I note that, as Minister of SOEs, you have been in direct negotiations with Rio Rinto, and have offered the company subsidised electricity for the  “short to medium term”.

This will no doubt cost the taxpayer several millions (hundreds of millions?) of dollars.

If  National is able to provide such largesse to a multi-national corporation, please advise me as to the following;

1. Why is the same subsidy for cheaper electricity not offered to ALL New Zealanders? Or even those on low-fixed incomes? Why provide a multi-million dollar subsidy just to a billion-dollar corporation when New Zealanders could do with a similar cut in their power bills?

2. In your letter to me, dated 5 December 2012, you point out that,

“While I share your concern  for people with Pompe disease, as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.”

If National has millions of dollars available to subsidise multi-national corporations, them obviously your statement on 5 December 2012 that “in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments” – is simply not credible.

It is obvious that your government can find money when it wants to. This applies to Rugby World Cup funding, consultants, movie-making subsidies, etc.

As such, I hope you are able to find the necessary funding for medication for people suffering rare disorders.

You are, after all, Minister for Health as well as Minister for State Owned Enterprises.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

PS: Please note that this issue will be canvassed further on the blogsite, The Daily Blog.

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Minister of Health. Minister for SOEs. Minister for corporate welfare.

Which ‘hat’ will Tony Ryall be wearing today?

And will he find the necessary funding to save the lives of sick New Zealanders?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2013.

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References

NZ Herald: Rio Tinto seeks power deal revision (10 Aug 2012)

Scoop.co.nz:  New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s electricity contract Press Release (9.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Smelter counters Meridian – power deal still possible (10.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Govt steps in to sort out stalled Tiwai power deal (11.15am, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Tiwai stoush may affect Mighty River price  (12.00pm, 28 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Govt offser Tiwai subsidy (3.43pm, 28 March 2013)

Related references

NZ Herald:  Mighty River share tips $2.36 to $2.75 (20 March 2013)

Related to previous blogposts

Pharmac: The politics of playing god (16 June 2011)

$500,000 a year to keep toddler alive (5 Feb 2013)

Rare disease sufferers want pricey treatments (1 March 2013)

Rare disease takes awful toll on boy (1 March 2013)

Call for an Orphan drugs access policy to overcome Pharmac’s systems failure (28 Feb 2013)

Bill English – do you remember Colin Morrison? (4 Feb 2013)

Related Opinion

NZ Herald – Fran O’Sullivan – Govt intervention doesn’t cut mustard (30 March 2013)

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Budget 2013: petrol taxes

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National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.” – So saith Dear Leader at a 2008 press conference. (see: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges)

Sure enough, in April 2009 and October 2010, National cut taxes.

As Key said in 2009,

“…The tax cuts we have delivered today will inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the coming year, thereby helping to stimulate the economy during this recession. More important, over the longer term these tax cuts will reward hard work and help to encourage people to invest in their own skills, in order to earn and keep more money.”

Source: NZ Parliament -Tax Cuts—Implementation

Bill English and Peter Dunne issued a joint statement in 2010, which said, in part,

“Lower personal tax rates reward effort and give people an increased incentive to up-skill, develop new products and services, and get ahead under their own steam. This has strong benefits for the economy…

[…]

… A person on the average annual wage of about $50,000 will get a weekly income tax cut of about $29 a week. Even after the increase in GST is taken into account they are more than $15 a week better off if they are paying an average rent or mortgage.”

Source: Beehive.govt.nz – Fact sheet – Personal tax cuts

Except… it was jiggery-pokery, and with a sleight-of-hand trick, National recouped much of the tax cuts by raising taxes elsewhere.

2010

– GST was raised from 12.5% to 15% – despite Key promising in 2008 that it would not be increased. (see: Key denies ‘flip flop’ over GST increase)

– tax increases for property investors (see: BUDGET RELEASE: Property tax changes increase fairness)

2011

– Cuts to Working for Families and increase in Kiwisaver payments (see: Budget 2011: Battlers asked to give back)

– Tax exemption removed for employer contributions and halving of  member tax credit (see: Experts stunned by KiwiSaver tax grab)

2012

– Children earning less than $2,340 per year to be taxed. (see: Young workers out of pocket)

– National announces Road User Charges to increase (see: Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

– Student loan repayment rate increased to 12% (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Prescription items increased from $3 to $5 each (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Holiday home tax deductions cut (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Three tax credits dumped (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

2013

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol (see: Govt to hike petrol taxes and road user charges 9 cents over three years)

2014

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol

2015

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol

 

The up-shot?

  1. National pretends to be the Party of low taxes. It is not.
  2. National won an election in 2008 on promises of low taxation. It lied.
  3. National’s tax cuts benefit the top 1% whilst increases in other covert-taxation has less impact on them. This is true.

Moral of this story #1;

When National promises tax cuts, ask yourself,

  • Who pays?
  • What other taxes will be quietly  increased?
  • Who really benefits?

Moral of this story #2;

When Labour, The Greens, and Mana promise a new tax – eg; Capital Gains Tax – at least you know what you’re voting for.

Moral of this story #3;

On a scale of 1 to 10 – one being the most world-wise and street wise person on the planet, and 10 being that you hold shares in the Wellington Harbour Bridge – how gullible are National voters?

Just something to remember next time you’re filling up your car.

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Young workers out of pocket

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Young workers out of pocket

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Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

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budget 2013 - education - tertiary education - student debt

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The problem of student debt – now at over $13 bllion – continues to be a thorn in the side of successive governments. Labour tinkered with it by cancelling interest whilst student were studying; National has taken a ‘stick’ to the problem  by threating to arrest so-called “loan defaulters” if they dare return to New Zealand.

If National’s aim was to force New Zealanders to stay overseas and never return, it’s a fantastically clever plan. No one in their right mind would come back to New Zealand if they faced a risk of arrest.

Even conservative media have jumped into the fray with this anonymously written editorial in today’s (20 May) Dominion Post,

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Dominion Post Editorial Loan defaulters break 'social contract'

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Editorial – Loan defaulters break ‘social contract’

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Part of the unattributed (are editorial writers so frightened of public back-lash?) editorial stated,

“After all, if the people concerned had a low income and found it genuinely hard to repay, they were free to argue the point and try to make a deal with the tax-gatherer. Others could easily repay their loans but simply ignored the Government’s inquiries.

Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest. It’s hard to know what else the Government could do. Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.

Students, after all, do not pay the full cost of their tertiary education. Even with the loans, they are being subsidised by the taxpayer. In return for that aid, however, they must make a contribution themselves.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

This demanded a response to the anonymous author of that piece;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Mon, May 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM
subject:     Letter to the editor

 

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The Editor
DOMINION POST

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In your editorial, “Loan defaulters break ‘social contract”you state, “Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest… Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.” (20 May)

There is no such “social contract”.

The original social contract was for taxpayers to fund education; allow students to graduate without massive debt; get into good careers;  earn good salaries, and then pay it forward for the next generation to gain a free education.

That was the social contract.

And considering the numbers of politicians who got a free education in the 1970s and 1980s (John Key, Steven Joyce, Peter Dunne, Judith Collins, Bill English, Nick Smith, et al), it worked very nicely for them.

How much have they paid paid of their tertiary education?

Not one bean, I’ll wager.

Perhaps Key and English should set an example and make a “contribution” (plus interest for delayed payment) for the free tertiary education that was paid by taxpayers at the time.

It’s called leading by example.

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-Frank Macskasy

(address & phone number supplied)

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Previous Related Blogposts

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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The Right has a new media voice

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Fairfax Media has a  ” new columnist for the Waikato Times” (see:  Bill denies kids what they need). Narelle Hensen’s first piece appeared in the Waikato Times on 18 March, followed five days later by another piece, Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers.  (Note: Ms Hensen has previously written and worked  under her maiden name; Narelle Suisted, for the Auckland publication, “Auckland Now“, and TV3′s “The Nation“.)

Her first column-piece was a thinly-disguised, homophobic lecturing against gays, lesbians, marriage equality, and their fitness (or lack thereof) as parents.

The second was a nasty little smear against the unemployed.

(This blogger is waiting for her next target. Solo-mums? Maori? There are plenty of minorities available.)

What Fairfax hasn’t disclosed is that Ms Hensen also worked as a Communications Officer for the right-wing think-tank, Maxim Institute (see: Wikipedia Maxim Institute). The Maxim Institute is virulently opposed to marriage equality, as outlined in their submission to Parliament  on the Marriage Amendment Bill (see:  Submission to the MarriageMaxim Institute).

It appears that the right-wing in this country have a new voice in the msm (mainstream media).

In her first article,  Bill denies kids what they need, Ms Hensen railed against marriage equality.  She used children as her weapon-of-choice, and started of with this bizarre statement,

“Most of us, no doubt, would agree, and would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad. But that is what the Marriage Amendment Bill will require of some kids in generations to come. That is why I don’t support the bill.”

Did I read that right? She condemns the Marriage Amendment Bill because  a child “would find it difficult to decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad” ?!

Why would marriage equality demand that of children now? And in what way would that be different to divorce as it is presently?

As most of us are perfectly aware, it is the Family Courts that determine access to children – not the concept of marriage equality.  I doubt if Ms Hensen could point to any aspect of the Marriage Amendment Bill that would demand that a child has to “decide which of our parents to give up for another mum or dad”.

She offers another justification to oppose marriage equality,

“That means some kids will be denied the right to either a mother or a father, while their peers, by luck of birth, will be allowed both.”

Really? And what about the thousands of children who already have only one parent? What about the thousands of heterosexual couples who have separated and their children are “denied the right to either a mother or a father”? Or one has died through illness or accident – that’s real bad luck!

And just why is it “luck” to have heterosexual parents as opposed to gay or lesbian parents? The implication being that having gay/lesbian parents is “bad luck”. Perhaps being born to a mixed-race couple is also “bad luck” for a child? Or born to parents, one of whom might have a disability?

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racism cartoon

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Not to mention the bad luck of being born to right wing parents…

If a child is ‘lucky’, it is that they have a stable family, with love, attention, set boundaries, support, respect, nutritious food, warmth, good housing, access to education; healthcare,  etc.  The gender/orientation of parents and caregivers doesn’t really seem to factor as a life-giving necessity.

Indeed, Ms Hensen seemed eager to dismiss love as a trivial matter not worthy of consideration,

Of course, a lot of people argue the Marriage Amendment Bill is about love, and equality. But love or equality for who? These terms sound great, and they capture our emotions, but taking a moment to think about them makes us realise that in practice, they demand compromise from someone – either gay couples who must compromise the right to raise children, or children, who must compromise the right to have both a mum and a dad.”

It is unclear why gay (or straight) couples need to “compromise” – except in Ms Hensen’s mind where, for some reason, having gay or lesbian parents is a lesser option than heterosexual parents. Is  love a transaction that “demands a compromise”? She doesn’t explain what she basis that idea on.

What a strange world that Ms Hensen inhabits.

Except…

Ms Hensen referred to a particular group to justify her prejudices,

That is why the group Homovox started in France. It consists of homosexual couples who disagree with same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. As one contributor says: “The law should seek what is best for a child, and that is to have a mother and a father“.”

It took only a few clicks and poking around on a Search Engine to find out a little more about “Homovox“.

For one thing, it is not a LGBT organisation at all. It’s a front group set up by the Catholic Church, as GAYNZ reported on their website,

When is an LGBT organisation not an LGBT organisation? When it has been established by an antigay French conservative Catholic to make it seem as if there is “French LGBT” opposition to marriage equality. Thus it is with France’s  “Homovox”, allegedly a “French” gay organisation of  “LGBT” marriage equality opponents. However, on his website, Joe. My. God’s commenters uncovered who was actually behind the website, which turned out to be someone from the French Catholic Right. To  be more precise:

[redacted information]

A google search of Maillard Jean-Baptiste turned up this:

http://www.jesusprems.com/

He appears to be an anti-gay French Catholic.

[…]

Doing some more research on these guys–they are all Catholics, some are ex-gay, most are right-wingers, and some can’t be found online.

None of these men–an no women–give their full names, where they work, and the man who claims to be the mayor of a “village” doesn’t actually name his village. 

Source: “Homovox” Exposed

It seems that the Catholic Church in France has copied the tactics of the Unification Church and Scientologists, who also  employ front-organisations as  smoke-screens to the parent-church.

Did Ms Hensen know this? If  she didn’t, she’s not much of a journalist.

If she was aware of the true nature of “Homovox” – and chose not to disclose it – then she has an agenda of her own. And the presentation (or lack) of facts is not part of it.

Ms Hensen is not above claiming  statistics to back up her prejudices,

“Of course, there are those who argue it is better to bring up a child in a loving homosexual relationship than it is for them to be raised in an antagonistic heterosexual relationship. But if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair. And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union, the statistics paint a very clear picture.”

– but tellingly, she refuses to disclose any such statistics for the reader. So much for her comment that “if we are going to make comparisons, they must be fair”.

We are, I guess, expected to take her word that such statistics exist? Perhaps they are held by her former employers at Maxim Institute – an organisation known for it’s  hostility toward gays and lesbians having full equal rights.

The point of that last paragraph, I suggest to the reader, is to undermine any notion that having loving parents who care for children should not  be judged on the basis of  sexual orientation. Note her reference,

“And when you compare a loving, heterosexual marriage with a loving homosexual union…”

What about comparing a dysfunctional heterosexual household with a loving gay/lesbian household? God knows there are plenty of the former. Our newspapers are full of stories where children, infants, babies were mercilessly ill-treated until their fragile bodies could no longer cope with dad’s punches whilst mum looked on, or vice versa.

The parents of Delcelia Witika were good, solid, heterosexuals who engaged in  Maxim Institute-approved,  heterosexual, sex. Then they killed their little girl.

I submit to Ms Hensen, that at such a point in a brutalised child’s life, they are not really  going to give a damn if the wearer of  steel-capped boots kicking their heads to pieces,  is heterosexual or not.

Ms Hensen’s says,

It is often very difficult to decide whose rights win, which is why there are so many court cases, and indeed courts, all about human rights. But when it comes to adults’ rights conflicting with the rights of children, most of us would agree that children should come first.”

Except when good parents are gay or lesbian, right, Ms Hensen?

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Ms Hensens next article on  job seekers, was nothing less than a hate-fest on one of society’s minorities; the unemployed. (See: Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers)

Her entire article was dedicated to a simple premise; that  job seekers in this country are unemployable, with anti-social personalities and severe behavioural flaws consisting of;

“Drunkenness
Absenteeism
Failing drug tests
Physicality when told to leave site
Not turning up for interview
Smoking throughout interview
Chewing gum throughout interview
No CV prepared
CVs full of basic spelling mistakes”

Her column  mercilessly depicted the unemployed as unfit for employment. One of her commentators even questioned their right to be citizens.

She quoted anecdote after anecdote of unemployed people with allegedly poor personal habits and poor work ethics – though she gave few details what the jobs were or any other specifics.

Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern chief executive, Kim Campbell, referred to New Zealand’s  unemployed as  being “the dregs” –  a theme typical  of Ms Hensen’s piece.

Dave Connell, vice-president of the New Zealand Contractors Federation and managing director of Connell Construction, was somewhat more subdued in his criticisms,

“We have dealt with absenteeism, drunkenness, drugs . . . We are persevering for three to six weeks sometimes.”

As a damning propaganda piece, with the purpose of vilifying the unemployed, it was masterfully done.

Other than that, though, one has to ask the question; what the hell was the point of it? What possible purpose did it serve? Because it sure as hell didn’t shed much light on the subject.

I have an idea.

Up till now, the unemployed have been painted as lazy, boozing,  and unwilling to go out and find work.

That myth has been well and truly dispelled with stories of thousands of unemployed queuing for a few jobs. Just recently, on 12 March, ‘Campbell Live’ did a series of stories of hundreds of workers lining up for just seven jobs at an Auckland factory (see: Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs)

Or any of these stories of job seekers outnumbering vacancies,

10 applicants for every one shelf-stocking job

Applicants queue for 20 jobs at new KFC store

2700 applicants for 150 jobs

Demand Strong for New Jobs Up for Grabs in Glenfield

Jobseekers flood a new Hamilton call centre

1200 applicants for 200 supermarket jobs

Ms Hensen could not write a credible story desparaging the unemployed as “lazy”.  In these times of high unemployment, the public no longer accepts that generalisation. In fact, most people probably know someone who has lost their job, or, fresh our of school or University, cannot land a job, and has been turned down application after application.

So, for  Ms Hensen that avenue was closed off.

Instead, in the best tradition of right wingers who blame the victims of  this country’s on-going recessionary fall-out, she attacked and desparaged the quality of job seekers.

Repeating  anecdotal stories, without any supporting  context to offer a deeper understanding, she wrote a piece that painted job seekers as poorly educated; drug addicts; inarticulate – even chewing gum!

As a hatchet job, it  certainly perpetuated negative stereotypes about the unemployed. It also reinforced the unacknowledged class structure that has been developing in this country for the last 30 years; the unemployed are “riff raff, beneath our contempt; and not worthy of being treated as our equals”.

As a “dog whistle” it attracted 321 comments (as at the time of this blogpost being written) – many of which were little more than ill-informed, offensive, stereotyping.

Ms Hensen might care to reflect on the irrational hatred expressed by those who supported her story. Is that the readership she is pandering to?

It also showed of some of Ms Hensen’s sources as less than ideal unemployers, with barely concealed prejudices.

But even if Ms Hensen’s poisonous polemic was 100% accurate, reflecting an unvarnished reality – employers and government have only themselves to blame.

How many times have trade unionists, economists,  and leftwing commentators warned employers and government that if New Zealand continued to drive down wages – as National has been doing with it’s labour law “reforms” – what did they think would happen?

On 1 April, the minimum wage will rise by 25 cents to $13.75 per hour. In Australia the rate is NZ$19.96 an hour, though wages are usually higher than that.

On 1 May, young people 16 to 19 will also have a new youth rate, that will be 80% of the minimum wage. That’s $11 per hour. How will young New Zealanders react to what is effectively a wage-cut?

And employers are whinging their heads off that the best and brightest are buggering off to Aussie?

The reality, though, is more prosaic. People want work. The unemployment benefiit ($204.96/wk/net) is not sufficient to live on. Many looking for work will be University graduates. Others will be poorly educated. But they all want a job.

Perhaps the real purpose of Ms Hensen’s  article – dressed up as a “news story” –  was designed to serve as propaganda in a  prelude to relaxing immigration laws and allow immigrant workers to flood the country? By creating a new urban myth that unemployed New Zealanders are “dregs”, it gives National the excuse to bring in labour from overseas. Cheap labour. Workers who will not kick up a fuss about exploitation; lax safety practices; and abuse.

The abuse of workers on Foreign Charter Vessels fishing within our EEZ waters gives an idea what might be  our future (see previous related blogpost:  A Slave By Any Other Name).

I suspect Ms Hensen is not finished with excoriating minorities in this country. Her poison pen is poised. It’s only a matter of who is next in her sights. And what her agenda is.

What a waste of intellect.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 March 2013.

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References

Linked In: Maxim Institute Media and Communications Officer at Maxim Institute/Narelle Hensen

Bill denies kids what they need (18 March 2013)

Dole queues long but bosses can’t get workers (23 March 2013)

“Homovox” Exposed.

Other blogs

The Jackal: National’s Campaign of Disinformation

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

  1. As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see:  IBID)
  2. According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ –Addressing housing demand).  This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
  3. Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
    In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
  4.  A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

In the past, one of the principle means by which  New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the  destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See:  HNZ –Income-related rent)

For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.

Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still  hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

The principle of  housing is not just to provide a roof  over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.

Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is  where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor)  can  create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.

The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and  forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.

Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,

It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve.  We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.

We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”

Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed

Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.

It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.

It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.

Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.

It will also inevitably  increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.

What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.

And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.

All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?

Remember the stats above?

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

National has never been a Party to promote  socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).

The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.

But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.

It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.

A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.

In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,

The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on  17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see  Budget: Stirring state house voters)

Williams further stated,

Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.

What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.

The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.

On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.

Acknowledgment: IBID

A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be  out of office. And Key is out of a job.

Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat  at the next election.  Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.

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References

Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)

Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)

Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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Budget 2013: Radio NZ and politicians

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RNZ board concerned over budget freeze

Acknowledgment: RNZ board concerned over budget freeze

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At a time when state sector workers have received little or no pay increases, perhaps one of the worst cases of worker exploitation is at Radio New Zealand.

This year, yet again, there was no provision in this Budget to give a pay rise to Radio NZ staff. Not one cent.

In fact, Radio NZ staff have not recieved a pay increase since 2009,

The Government froze funding despite an independent “baseline funding review” from accountancy firm KPMG, which showed Radio NZ was underfunded and understaffed, and underpaid its employees.

The review – commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and which the Herald obtained under the Official Information Act – was initially withheld by the Government.

Published in November 2007, the KPMG review said Radio NZ – which broadcasts Radio NZ National and Radio NZ – needed $7 million to $7.6 million to meet commitments in 2008-2009 and was short of 25 employees. The shortfall would grow to $8.6 million to $9.5 million and 40 staff by 2010-2011.

The Labour Government last year increased Radio NZ’s funding by $2.4 million. But an insider said that money had been taken up by inflation and Radio NZ faced essentially the same problems to sustain services as in 2007.

Acknowledgment: Pay freeze tipped as Radio NZ slashes costs

Interestingly, Statistics NZ states that  salary/wage rates (including overtime) for the public sector rose by 1.6% in the year to the June 2012. (see:  Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): June 2012 quarter) Obviously Radio NZ staff recieved none of that increase and the 1.6% figure is probably made up mostly of executive’s generous increases on their already bloated salaries.

Just a few of the state sector executives who have recieved  salary increases, as reported last year;

  • Albert Brantley – CEO, Genesis Power – $1.18 million (up 22%)
  • Don Elder – CEO, Solid Energy – $1.4 million (up 11%)
  • John Allen – MFAT –  $620,000-$630,000  (up from $580,000-$590,000, 2011)
  • Doug Heffernan – CEO, Mighty River Power –  $1.8 million (up 34%)
  • Tim Lusk – former CEO, Meridian – $1.22m  (up 42%)

And MPs are not shy at accepting regular pay increases. As the Herald’s Adam Bennett reported last December (2012);

MPs will receive a 1.9 per cent pay increase, the Remuneration Authority confirmed this afternoon.

The salary increases are deemed to have come into effect on July 1 this year meaning MPs will receive back pay for the last six months. That works out to $1400 for backbench MPs and $3895 for the Prime Minister…

[…]

… Since 2009 general salaries and wages had risen by 5.6 per cent while parliamentary salaries excluding the $2000 and $5000 increases to make up for he loss of travel perks, had risen by only 2.9 per cent, the authority said.

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald –  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise

It’s self-evident how politicians view issues surrounding pay increases for themselves and executives, as opposed to staff at state owned enterprises.

What makes the zero pay increase for Radio NZ staff even more problematic – and downright reeking of surreptitious political interference – is that Radio NZ is the only remaining public broadcaster left in this country after the demise of TVNZ7 last year.

Judging by the high number of National ministers who refuse invitations to be interviewed by Radio NZ journalists, it is abundantly clear that right wing politicians fear and loathe the public broadcaster. Aside from a few gutsy journos (eg, Patrick Gower, John Campbell, and Guyon Espiner) on TV3, there are few left in corporate electronic  media willing to risk the ire of this current government.

National ministers simply don’t have the balls (except maybe Judith “Democracy Crusher” Collins) to close down or privatise Radio NZ.

Strangling it with lack of funding and underpaying staff is a safer, sneakier way to achieve that goal.

It’s pretty much like killing a potplant you got as a Christmas present from your Aunt Dotty. You can’t throw it out because Aunty would notice, so you “do the deed” by denying it water.

How else to explain that politicians have been awarded substantial annual salary increases – whilst Radio NZ staff have received nothing?

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Annual Salary Increases: 2009 – 2012

MPs % Increase

Radio NZ % increase

2009 nil

nil

2010 10%

nil

2011 1.5% + $5000 payment to compensate for lost international travel perk

nil

2012

1.9% (backdated 6 months)

nil

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This is not just about the “politics of envy” – this is about the principles of  equity. We simply cannot afford to let a taonga such as Radio NZ wither and die.

Easy Solution?

The easiest solution? Tie ALL salary adjustments of state sector employees, management, executives, as well as the judiciary and elected representatives, to determinations by the Remunerations Authority.

If a salary increase is good enough for members of Parliament, then it’s good enough for everyone else paid by the taxpayer.

As  John Key exhorted in 2009,

“I think it is wholly appropriate that the Government leads by example.”

Acknowledgment: Key urges restraint on MP salary rises

Indeed, Mr Key, indeed.

Now would be a good time to show that you mean what you say.

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References

Save Radio NZ

Beehive: Key urges restraint on MP salary rises (22 Jan 2009)

Radio NZ: RNZ board concerned over budget freeze (16 May 2012)

Statistics NZ: Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): June 2012 quarter

Additional

NZ Herald: Pay freeze tipped as Radio NZ slashes costs (31 Aug 2009)

TV3:  Govt accused of pay rise double standards (26 March 2012)

NZ Herald: CEO Pay Survey: Salaries stall for NZ’s top bosses (8 June 2012)

NZ Herald: Top public sector pay packets revealed (11 Oct 2012)

NZ Herald:  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise (20 Dec 2012)

Previous related blogposts

Why the Remuneration Authority just doesn’t get it

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

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Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

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Emmerson insects meals in schools

See:  UN urges: Eat more insects! (Seriously)

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As the growing crisis of child poverty continues to dominate the country’s attention (and so it damn well should!), National  raised  expectations by dropping  more than a few  hints,

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Poverty, housing key Budget features

Acknowledgment:  Poverty, housing key Budget features

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But National’s 2013 Budget yielded no real  solutions to the growing problem of hungry children in our schools.

With 275,000 children living in poverty, John Key and Bill English could not come up with any initiatives to combat this shameful problem,

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child poverty - hungry children - budget 2013 - bill english - john key

Acknowledgment: Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Key’s response was that  feeding children was an important issue but was also “somewhat the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff“.

I’m sure that hungry kids in schools throughout the country will understand that  this rotten government (aided and abetted by John Banks and Peter Dunne) refuses to offer even a simple bowl of weetbix and milk or toast and butter because – god forbid – it might be an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff“.

Using such logic, we should offer not offer any medical assistance to half the people in our hospitals. Many are suffering from obesity-related diseases; cancers caused by tobacco use; alcohol-abuse related injuries or diseases; etc.

Are we prepared as a nation to bar people from hospital just in case they contributed to their own misfortune?

Before anyone thinks we should, they may want to review their own lifestyle before passing judgement on others.

Meanwhile, our well-paid and well-fed (courtesy of tax-payers) elected leaders were doing very nicely for themselves at post-budget events,

As Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English tucked into post-Budget meals, they kept their mouths closed over the Food in Schools programme.

Providing breakfast and lunch to needy kids was discussed as part of the Government’s plan to tackle child poverty, but the details weren’t included in yesterday’s Budget.

The programme was expected to involve extensive partnership with companies and community groups already involved in providing food to hungry students.

Following a post-Budget breakfast of bacon and a chocolate muffin, English today said an announcement would be made in the next couple of weeks.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Well, I think we can all be relieved about one thing. At least our beloved politicians are eating well.

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John Key - no starving children here

Acknowledgment: Getty Images

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A Conversation with  JONS  (Judgemental & Opinionated National Supporter),

Frank: “We have a real problem in this country with children going to school hungry and without food.”

JONS: “It’s the parent’s responsibility to feed their kids. They need to lay of the booze and baccy!”

Frank: “Only a minority are wasting their money on alcohol and tobacco. For many families, there’s just not enough left over from a minimum wage of $500 a week Especially after $300 in rent or mortgage, $50 for electicity, plus phone, plus medication, plus car costs, etc are all taken out.”

JONS: “So, they shouldn’t have kids then!”

Frank: “Really? So only those on higher incomes should have children?”

JONS: “Yeah. Can’t afford’em, don’t breed’em.”

Frank: “Is that the kind of society you want to live  in? That parents who earn below a certain income shouldn’t have kids?”

“JONS: “Sure.”

Frank: “Ok. So let’s extrapolate from that. Let’s say it takes a household with children about $70,000 a year to live on.

Does that sound about right?”

JONS: “Yeah, sure.”

Frank: “Ok, In the year ended December 2011, there were 61,403 (live) births in New Zealand”

JONS: “Ok…”

Frank: “The number of households with kids in New Zealand earning over $70,000 is 26%.

26% of 61,403 is about 15,965…

So if only families who earn $70 grand or over can have kids, the next question is; who is going to pay for the superannuation for a couple of million baby boomers in retirement? Because 15,965 children growing up into tax-paying adults is not going to be enough  to pay the superannuation bill, is it, JONS?”

JONS: “Ummm…”

That’s right, my dear National supporters. You can put aside your blind prejudice against the poor. The kids that are hungry at school today, are the future taxpayers of tomorrow. They will be the ones paying for our retirement.

So we better take damn good care of them, eh?

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Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

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Brain fades and balls ups

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John Banks - John Key - David Shearer

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On 20 March, Key made this curious remark, regarding Shearer’s stuff-up over his undeclared New York bank account,

“You don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say (you’ve made) a mistake but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – IRD knew of Shearer account, but not Parliament

There are two points of interest regarding that remark,

1. “…but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Not true.

As Vernon Small wrote in the Dominion Post on 21 March,

He was right to front-foot it by doing the rounds of the press gallery to disclose his blunder and face the music. It would have played must worse if he had left it until the next register of pecuniary interests was published.

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax media – Shearer’s bank blunder threatens chances

Yet again this is another prime  example of Key willfully mis-representing facts to suit his own purpose. His ability to “bend the truth” is unparalled by any other Prime Minister, whether Labour or National.

Shearer actually fronted to journalists and made a candid admission of his stuff-up.

When is the last time Key or Banks did the same?

2. You don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say (you’ve made) a mistake…”

Why should Labour (or any other Party) cut any slack” for the National-led government?

Did National “cut any slack” for Labour when Helen Clark was Prime Minister? No, the Nats were relentless in their disparagement of Labour. In fact, they were often quite brutal,

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Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Acknowledgement: Scoop – National launches its Food in Schools programme

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(Note: National never proceeded with it’s “Food in Schools” programme, and the policy was quietly dropped soon after they were elected into power in November 2008. see:  Govt guarded on free school meals)

And this little ‘beauty’ in abusing Labour, in this January 2008 speech by John Key,

” Under Helen Clark and Labour, our country has become a story of lost opportunities. 

Despite inheriting the tail wind of a strong global economy, Helen Clark has failed to use that momentum to make significant improvement in areas of real importance to New Zealanders.  She has squandered your economic inheritance by failing to build stronger foundations for the future. 

Tomorrow, Helen Clark will tell us what she thinks about the state of our nation.  In all likelihood, she’ll remind us how good she thinks we’ve got it, how grateful she thinks we should be to Labour, and why we need her for another three years. 

Well, I’ve got a challenge for the Prime Minister.  Before she asks for another three years, why doesn’t she answer the questions Kiwis are really asking, like:

  • Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
  • Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
  • Why, under Labour, do we only get a tax cut in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
  • Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
  • Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
  • Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
  • Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
  • Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
  • Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Those are the questions on which this election will be fought. 

Helen Clark thinks she can hoodwink Kiwi voters into giving her another three years to answer these questions.  Well, I say she’s had nine years, she’s had her chance and she’s wasted it. The truth is that as time has gone on, Labour has concentrated more and more on its own survival and less and less on the issues that matter to the people who put them there.”

Acknowledgement: National Party – 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

So when Key whinges about the Labour Party not cutting him “any slack”, Key might consider that he gave as well as he got when he was in Opposition.

That is the role of Opposition – to criticise, challenge, and question. The alternative would be a quick trip down the road to join the club of authoritarian regimes.

By the way… how is John Key’s list of criticisms that he levelled against the Labour Government on 29 January 2008,

  • Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
  • Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
  • Why, under Labour, do we only get a tax cut in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
  • Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
  • Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
  • Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
  • Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
  • Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
  • Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Except for interest rates (which is not controlled by governments – which Dear Leader should have known), none of John Key’s  list above has improved in any measurable manner.

He’s probably forgotten it by now.

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Disclosure

This blogger is not a member of the Labour Party, nor has any preference in who leads that Party.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 March 2013.

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton

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– Citizen A –

 – 16 May 2013 –


Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton –

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton discuss the following issues:

  • Budget 2013, what should the Government spend money on?
  • How good is John Key’s poker face when dealing the Sky City Convention Centre deal?
  • Was the Aaron Gilmore fiasco an engineered distraction?

For in-depth analysis of this broadcast, go to The Daily Blog and see  Was Aaron Gilmore an inside political hit job?

Citizen A screens on Face TV, 7.30pm Thursday nights on Sky 89


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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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barbed_wire_fence_by_archaeopteryx_stocks1

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1. Prelude

In my parent’s home nation in Eastern Europe, during the era of the Soviet Bloc, the citizens of Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovalia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Albania were denied the right to travel freely to the West. (Mainly because 90% would not have returned.)

Travel outside of the Eastern bloc was severely curtailed. Those trying to cross borders to the West, without appropriate documentation, if caught, faced lengthy prison sentences.

Such was life under authoritarian regimes that used extreme measures to control their citizens.

In 1989, those regimes fell, and freedom returned to Eastern Europe. People were permitted to travel freely without fear of hindrance or arrest.

2. Welcome to the People’s Republic of New Zealand, Inc.

In 2013, New Zealand’s National government announced plans to adopt similar extreme measures. Powers of hindrance and arrest are to be issued to our Border security. Travel will be curtailed for a few.

During Bill English’s Budget speech today (16 May), the Finance Minister made one of the most extraordinary revelations that I have ever heard from a New Zealand politician;

Introducing the ability to arrest non-compliant borrowers who are about to leave New Zealand

Making it a criminal offence to knowingly default on an overseas-based repayment obligation will allow Inland Revenue to request an arrest warrant to prevent the most non-compliant borrowers from leaving New Zealand. Similar provisions already exist under the Child Support Act. This will be included in a bill later this year.

Acknowledgment:  IRD – Budget 2013 announcements

It is extraordinary because a loan defaulter is not a matter under the Crimes Act. It is what is known as a Civil matter.

If, for example, you, the reader, default on your mortgage, rent, or hire purchase, the Lender does not involve the Police. Instead, they apply to the Courts for a remedy.

The Tenancy Tribunal and Small Claims Court are examples where litigants can take their cases before a Court, and make their claims. Police are not involved. In the Tenancy Tribunal, there aren’t even any lawyers (generally).

For National to intend issuing arrest warrants, for student loan defaulters, takes the matter of a civil contract into the realm of the Crimes Act.

One wonder if  banks, finance companies,  and landlords will eventually apply for similar powers?

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"Open up please, Mrs Jones. Your rent is two weeks in arrears!"

“Open up please, Mrs Jones. Your rent is two weeks in arrears!”

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The worst aspect – indeed, the dumbest aspect – of this new measure is that it appears no one in  National has thought through the consequences of such a harsh,  autocratic policy.

This law – if enacted – will not stop people leaving New Zealand. It will stop people returning to New Zealand.

Because the law involves ex-students with loans  who have moved overseas; who have defaulted on their loan repayments whilst overseas; return to New Zealand (perhaps for a funeral, holiday, or visit family) – and only then are arrested at an airport as they try to board a plane to fly out of the country again.

Under such circumstances; what loan-defaulting New Zealander will bother coming back to this country? Ever?

Well done, National. You have just provided a further reason (if any was really required) for expat Kiwis to remain – expat. In terms of economic policy, this wasn’t an exercise in rationality – it was an exile in perpetuity.

The message that Key and English have sent to every New Zealander, who owes money to the State, is: don’t come home. The police will  be waiting.

So not only have we lost any chance that ex-pat loan defaulters might one day return and pay back their debt – but we’ve lost their expertise and any fortune they might bring back with them.

The sheer lunacy of such an ill-conconceived policy beggars belief.

But then again, maybe not. This was the government that was so cash-strapped last year, that they raided the meagre earnings of paper boys and girls;

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'Paper boy tax' on small earnings stuns Labour

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

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This is a mean, desperate government we have, folks.

Make no mistake, they will do whatever it takes to get back into some form of  surplus by new year’s election. Because if they don’t – they are dog tucker  for sure.

Which is why I’m not holding my breath for Bill English’s “Big Announcement” in two weeks regarding the problem of hungry kids, and initiating a food-in-schools programme. Expect a massive disappointment on this matter.

Meanwhile, our Border Security will no longer be focused on searching for contraband, dangerous goods, or potential weapons being carried onboard airport. They will now be Border Guards tasked with keeping New Zealanders from travelling. Or escaping any other way…

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Our New Border Guards in New Zealand

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One wonders who will  next  be barred from travelling to and from New Zealand?

Consider also,  when we take this insane proposal and place it alongside  other laws, and proposed law-changes,

  •  the so-called Terrorism Suppression Act,
  • the Search and Surveillance Act,
  • the Crown Minerals Amendment Act which suppresses protest at sea and threatens protesters with large fines and terms of imprisonment,
  • the IRD sharing sensitive information with other government departments,
  • illegal spying by the GCSB – with no legal consequences for those in authority,
  • and instead,  extension of the surveillance powers of that same GCSB,

– we can see that our country has taken a path that we hoped, and feared, would never happen to us.

Well, it has happened and it is happening.

We are slowly but surely drifting ever closer to a police state.

3. An Open Letter to Labour, The Greens, Mana, and New Zealand First

As a citizen of this country, it is my deepest, sincerest hope that an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-New Zealand First?)
coalition government will, upon taking office, make an urgent review of the spying powers of our “intelligence community”.

I submit that we have drifted from an open, free society, to one that is highly surveilled; copious data files kept on us;  and where police and  intelligence groups are straying far beyond their lawful mandates.

I also submit the following,

  1. We do not need the so-called “Terrorism Suppression Act” or “Search and Surveillance Act”.  The Police, with their normal powers, are quite adequate to deal with crimes.   They serve no useful purpose and instead give powers to the State which serve only as a prelude to even more Orwellian laws. It is time to take  several, big, steps back. These laws should be repealed forthwith.
  2. The Crown Minerals Amendment Act must be repealed forthwith. It is draconian legislation which serves the interests of corporations and threatens the right of New Zealand citizens to protest activity that is counter to the welfare of our nation and environment. This is a brazen attack of democracy and would be perfectly at home in a Third World dictatorship.
  3. Do not permit the IRD to share information with other government departments. There is no need to create a vast monolithic State apparatus that collects information on us and in the process, invades our privacy.  Allowing the IRD to share information with, say, the Police, will simply serve to drive certain activities further underground.
  4. Any extension of the GCSB’s surveillance powers should be undone and returned to it’s original purpose. (Or even get rid of it altogether. Precisely why are we spying for the Americans anyway?)
  5. We desperately need a more effective, well-resourced, oversight mechanism for the SIS, GCSB, and Police. Our Australian neighbours are more serious in the way they over-see their spy agencies and we need to look to them for guidance. If there is one thing that the current Prime Minister has illustrated with crystal clarity – we can no longer trust one person to hold the responsibility for these agencies. At some time in the future, we could have a worse Prime Minister, with even more incompetant or nefarious intent. We must prepare for that day.

Some might say, “if you have nothing to fear, you won’t mind being watched by the State”. If true, my fellow New Zealanders, we might as well put cameras into every home and workplace in the country. After all, if we have nothing to fear…

I would turn it around and say, “if the State has no cause to believe we are about to rob a bank or sell heroin to schoolkids, then it won’t mind keeping out of our private lives”.

Previous governments (including this current one) have gradually extended the power and surveillance capabilities of the State.

It is time to wind back that Orwellian clock and re-set the values which we used to hold for personal privacy, and allow State intrusion only for real (not imagined) criminal activities.

We don’t need to be monitored. We don’t need files kept on us all.

We are not a nation of 4.4 million criminals.

You don’t need to fear us.

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No more anarchy

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Meridian Power?

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Meridian_Energy_logo

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Our household is with Meridian Energy.

If that’s the next “on the block” to be part-privatised, I’ll be on the phone within sixty seconds to change to Genesis.

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*** UP-DATED! *** NEWSFLASH!!! *** On TV3’s Campbell Live Wednesday night!

On TV3’s Cambell Live, Wednesday (not Tuesday) night;

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Allyson Lock, and six other New Zealanders are suffering from a rare condition called Pompe Disease. It is a condition that is treatable – but which PHARMAC refuses point blank to fund because of “price”.

Allyson is “lucky”. She is receiving treatment from a pharmaceutical company as part of a trial. For this, she has to travel to Australia every two weeks. As I wrote in a previous blogpost,

The travel involved leaving on Wednesday by driving from Masterton to Palmerston North; flying from Palmerston North to Auckland; flying from Auckland to Brisbane; driving next day to a hospital; having treatment; next day flying from Brisbane to Auckland; staying in Auckland overnight; then flying from Auckland to Palmerston North, and then driving from Palmerston North, home to Masterton. In the meantime her husband took time off work to care for their children. (Travel, food, and accomodation costs are met by the drug company.)

This routine takes place every two weeks.

Source: “One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi

There are others with Pompe Disease not so “fortunate”, and PHARMAC’s decision is efftively a death sentence.

This blogger has supported Allyson and her fellow sufferers ( aas well as others with rare diseases). Correspondence with Health Minister, Tony Ryall, yielded this deeply callous response,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012-b

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Not enough money to fund treatment for ill New Zealanders – but plenty to throw at new BMWs?  Rugby World Cup tournaments?  Or subsidise movies? Or other corporate welfare? Or bail-outs for finance companies? Or pay rises for MPs?

Campbell Live has taken an interest in Allyson, and will be featuring a story on her tomorrow night(Wednesday 15 May).

This blogger encourages the reader to tune in to Campbell (tv3, at 7pm, ot TV3-Plus, at 8pm) and share in Allyson’s story.

[This blogpost has been up-dated. The original screening time was tonight, Tuesday, 14 May. The date is now Wednesday 15 May.]

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Previous related blogposts

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

National Party Supporters and their ‘Empathy’ for a woman with a terminal disease

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable”

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Priorities?

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John Key advocates theft by banks?

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too big to fail to big to jail

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Recent events in Cyprus have once again brought the global financial sector into sharp public consciousness. This time, as well as a bailout, there was a serious – and ominous –  demand from the EU that Cyprus make a “one off” levy (or tax) on the savings of Cypriots and others living in that country.

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Hard EU bailout terms anger Cypriot savers

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Hard EU bailout terms anger Cypriot savers

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Deposits up to and over   €100,000 ($158,000) would be levied with a  9.9% tax whilst below that threshold would be  pay a ‘lower’ portion of  6.75%.

Unsurprisingly, the proposed tax resulted in a run on cash withdrawals at ATMS (see:  Cypriots asked to surrender up to 10 percent of bank balances in return for EU bailout); banks closed their doors (see:  Fury as banks closed to avert run); global sharemarkets were affected (see:  Stock Markets Fall Amid Fears Of New Eurozone Crisis);  and the British government was forced to fly in one million euros to pay military personnel (see: One Million Euros Heading To Island For British Military Personnel ).

Pressure on the Cypriot government was such that in the last 48 hours, the Savings Tax was dumped (see:  Rejection of Deposit Tax Scuttles Deal on Bailout for Cyprus). The Cypriot Parliament voted  thirtysix against, with nineteen abstaining. It is noteworthy that not one politician risked his/her life by voting for the proposal.

Europeans. They know how to put pressure on their elected representatives.

Meanwhile, back home, in the Land of the Long White Cloud and several million sheep…

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bank bailouts - bailout - new zealand banks - john ley

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – NZ bank bailout scheme is last resort, says PM

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Key’s statement here is chilling,

“At the end of the day we’re talking about emergency provisions. These banks are heavily regulated, they have significant oversight and lender of last resort facilities at the Reserve Bank.

This is really in the event that a bank got itself in such a terrible mess that it fell over and had to restart again.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

If that is supposed to be reassuring – it is not. In fact, if anything, this is a clear warning to every single New Zealander that if a bank gets into trouble – or if there is even a hint of trouble – to get in quickly and withdraw every cent that a depositor might have.

If a bank gets in trouble, and has a crippling run on deposits, it will be as a direct consequence  to Key’s plan to dip into people’s savings to bail out that institution,

The Reserve Bank’s Open Bank Resolution (OBR) plan, due to come into effect at the end of June, would mean a partial loss on all deposits if a bank failed in New Zealand, in order to fund the bank’s bailout.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media – Reserve Bank scheme news knocks kiwi

Ironically, this is where Libertarians – who consider all taxation as theft – may have a point.

Taxation is one thing. We pay it so we can enjoy the benefits of a modern society and economy. Roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, police, etc, do not materialise out of thin air.

Dipping into people’s savings accounts – which has already been taxed one way or another – is not a tax. It is expropriation.

Expropriatiion – that dreaded word which National and it’s supporters levy against the Left when we talk about re-nationalising State assets. But which evidently is ok if a bank goes bust and has to be bailed out?

If this principal is to be applied across all sectors of society and the economy, then one could imagine that employees and sub-contractors of Mainzeal should have been taxed to bail out that company. Why should a bank be different to a construction company? Is there a difference?

If this expropriation of deposits was ever to happen, do the depositors gain any benefit? Do they gain shares in the Bank as compensation? Or, if not, does that mean that shareholders gain the benefit of other people’s money being used to prop up their investments?

One could imagine  an invalid on a WINZ benefit having his/her meagre savings “taxed” to bail out a bank – to preserve an investor’s shareholding that may be worth millions of dollars. This isn’t justice or common sense, this is nasty, medieval,   “robber Baron” stuff.

The biggest irony here is that, according to the principals of the free market, this is a kind of subsidy to a business – a subsidy enforced by the State, against the will of people who are not even shareholders in a particular bank.

Even marxists would balk at such extreme State power to seize people’s money. They’d simply nationalise the bank and be done with it. Depositors would still have their modest savings left intact and untouched.

Key’s proposal is not just crazy from almost every perspective – it is an insult to our intelligence. Especially when banks are doing very well with their profits,

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bank profits headlines collage

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When profits for New Zealand’s four largest banks are at a staggering   $3.5 billion (for 2011/12) – an increase of 22% – then that must raise serious questions why Dear Leader is even considering making depositors pay for any potential future bailout.

Shouldn’t the banks be looking at a deposit insurance scheme of some sort? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Perhaps, though, an event like this is what might be required to jolt New Zealanders out of their collective complacency. It’s only when the middle classes are hit hard in their wallets, that they stop being passive consumers and start to reassert themselves as active citizens.

Because, my fellow Kiwis, you can bet your last dollar (before the banks seize it) that John Key’s $50 million will be somewhere else – probably safe in some Swiss Bank account.

The people of Cyprus (and Iceland) have shown us the way.

Addendum

Remember the so-called “Light Bulb” and “Shower Heads” affairs, in 2008, where National slammed the then-Labour Government as engaging in  “Nanny State” politics? (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state ) National’s Nick Smith said,

People should be free to use as much water as they like when showering, provided they don’t expect others to pay for their profligacy. User-pays is a far better approach than nanny state.”

So using eco lightbulbs and smaller shower flows, to conserve electricity and water is nasty  “Nanny Statism”.

But going into people’s savings accounts; stealing their money; and handing it over to banks – is all hunky dory? Well, I’m glad that’s settled.

(Cue theme music to ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.)

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 March 2013.

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References

Banking profits up 13.6 percent

ASB Bank cash profit rises 7pc

ANZ profits up 17pc to $1.26b

BNZ first-half profit jumps 36pc

$3.5b profits for big four banks

Westpac profit increases 22pc

Outcry at big banks’ mega-profits

Additional

Reserve Bank scheme news knocks kiwi

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