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Archive for June, 2013

Good luck to Phillipstown School!

It was almost exactly a month ago that the Ministry of Education – at the behest of this shabby,  poor-excuse-for-a-government, announced the closure and “merger” of several schools in Christchurch;

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Tears, shock as Chch school mergers announced - TV3 - 29 May 2013

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Tears, shock as Chch school mergers announced

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Phillipstown School was one of three schools chosen to “merge” with others – in effect another closure.

However, tonight (30 June),  Phillipstown School will be following in the footsteps of Salisbury School (see previous blogpost:  Why Salisbury School was right to be wary of this government) in refusing to take this threat to their existence lying down.  In a press release today, Phillipstown School made it’s position crystal clear,

The Board of Phillipstown School will be filing judicial review proceedings in the Christchurch High Court on Monday.  The School is seeking a declaration that the Minister of Education’s decision to close Phillipstown school and merge it with Woolston school from the beginning of 2014 is illegal and in breach of the Education Act 1989.

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Phillipstown School launches Judicial Review

As Board of Trustees Chairperson, Wayne West, said on Scoop Media,

The Minister’s decision appears to be based on mistakes of fact. The statutory consultation required with the School and with the parents of students was also illegal because the officials refused to give us the information needed to respond to claims about the costs of remediating the earthquake damage at the school, and other property related issues. The Minister cited both of these as key reasons for her decision.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

As this blogger has pointed out previously, it seems to be the height of callousness and indifference to the stress and suffering of Christchurch people over the past two years.  With two major earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks; damaged infra-structure; disrupted services; closed or struggling businesses; and the heart of the city all but destroyed – National Ministers seem content to  add human-imposed misery upon Cantabrians.

This is the worst possible time to be “rationalising” any public service in that city.

I believe that National will suffer badly in the next election if they persevere with their appallingly-concocted plans.

This blogger supports schools in Christchurch; the staff; the parents, and children, to help preserve their already stressed communities. They deserve support and assistance – not further under-mining of public services.

I hope their request for a Judicial Review is successful.

And I hope that National MPs in the Canterbury electorates receive the full opprobrium of  voters,  at the next election,  for their shameful conduct. Perhaps it is time for Cantabrians to send a “seismic political shock” to this government?

Good luck, Phillipstown School!

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Previous related blogposts

Four schools to close in Aranui, Christchurch

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Julie Fairey and Keith Locke

– Citizen A –

– 27 June 2013 –

– Julie Fairey & Keith Locke –

This week on Citizen A host Martyn Bradbury, Julie Fairey & Keith Locke debate the following issues:

Issue 1: Poll Dive for David Shearer. Does this latest Herald Digi-Poll scare Labour’s caucus into reconsidering Shearer as leader?

Issue 2: Would a NZ First backed GCSB bill be the worst outcome for New Zealand?

Issue 3: And what did Auckland mayor Len Brown give away to get the support of this National-led Government?

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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The wealthy pontificating to the poor…

30 June 2013 4 comments

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed. - Herman Melville, 1819-1891

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And with that comment in mind, our household watched, and cringed, and boiled with anger, as we watched The Vote on TV3 last Wednesday (19 June).

First of all was the  question that TV3 deemed we should consider and reply to;

Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree? Yes. No.”

What a loaded question!

Why not, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s low incomes?

Or, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s successive governments enacting neo-liberal policies?

Or – and I personally love this one –  “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s the middle classes who have grown  comfortable with their lot and have given up on the notion of an egalitarian society?

The problem with the alternative questions is that they involve complex ideas;  recent history; and looking at choices that Middle Class voters have made since 1989. In short, those questions involve thinking.

As the question stood on the night; “The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting” – there was no real thinking involved. It was all about how people  felt on trigger words such as  social welfare; solo-mums; parental responsibility; etc.

Once those trigger words began to percolate through the minds of aspirationist middle class and angry working-class viewers, the results were wholly predictable; 63% voted ‘Yes’. (And the 36% who voted ‘No’ correlates roughly with the percentage of voters who supported Labour and the Greens at the 2011 general election  – 38.54%).

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The Vote 63 - 37

Source: The Vote

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If we were ever truly a caring, sharing, egalitarian society, it’s hard to see  how.

The very nature of the question invited an emotive, rather than an considered, intelligent, response.  It practically demanded plain old repetitive bigotry rather than insight, and the three panellists, Christine Rankin, Bob McCoskie, and Hannah Tamaki – all social conservatives – were more then happy to oblige.

Platitudes; cliches,  mis-information,  and smug instructions on how to feed a family on $20 a week… all came from the well-fed; well-clothed; expensively groomed; healthy; and high-income earning likes of Tamaki, McCoskrie, and Rankin.

It fed perfectly into every stereotype that New Zealanders have seen and heard since Once Were Warriors blew in our faces on our big screens in 1994.

And right on cue, the prejudiced; the mis-informed; and the plain spiteful came out and vented their bile on The Vote’s Facebook page. I was going to provide a  few examples – but why bother? We’ve seen that kind of bigotted response already.

So how accurate was the voting response? There were claims that people could send in multiple votes from the same ‘platform’ (cellphone number, IP number, Twitter account).  If so, the result would be rendered meaningless. One could imagine 3,000 Destiny Church members texting repeated ‘Yes’ votes with unholy speed.

Ten text messages, on average, from each member would equate to 30,000 “votes”. And with texting fees kindly waived by telcos, people could text to their hearts’ content. Free of charge. Ad nauseum.

(By contrast, our household studiously played the game fairly; we each voted once only, by text.)

However an unattributed statement from TV3’s ‘The Vote‘,  on Bryan Bruce’s Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, stated categorically that “you can only vote once on each platform“.

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The Vote - only voting once

Acknowledgement: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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If that is true (and it is by no means a given), then that raises equally disturbing questions about the nature of our society.

If the 63% “Yes” voters are reflective of New Zealanders then that says something about our much vaunted reputation of being a fair-minded, compassionate, egalitarian society.

Perhaps it was never so. Perhaps only a third of us can lay claim to being fair minded and tolerant – whilst the remainder two thirds simply make use of the generosity of their more liberal fellow-Kiwis?

I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think that is not true.I desperately want to believe it is not true.

Instead, perhaps the real emotion at play by those Two Thirds is not hatred of the poor – but fear of becoming like them. Add to that mix an unwillingness by many to even accept that poverty exists – hence endlessly repetitive  cliches such as “Real poverty only exists in Africa” or “They spend all their money on Sky, pokies, booze, and cigarettes”.

It’s all a defense mechanism, of course. By denying a problem, you don’t have to do anything about it. Nor feel guilty at not doing anything about it.

My belief is that the poor are being blamed not simply because they are poor – but because they have not succeeded under neo-liberalism. They are poor despite the promises neo-liberal “Bright New Future” . The architects and builders of this Neo-liberal Nirvana don’t like being shown that their new paradigm is severely flawed not working as it should.

That is why there is so much anger being directed at the poor. They are the proof that the School of Chicago theory of economics – that the Market  shall provide – is a fraud.

Neo-liberalism’s acolytes, the  politically powerful; the wealthy; the aspirationist Middle Classes; the technocrats – all  stand accused of failure  by the poorest; most powerless; most vulnerable people in our society. The mere presence of the poor and dispossed points an accusatory finger at the neo-liberal establishment and those in society who support it.

And doesn’t that just piss them off?

So come 2014 (if not earlier) let’s piss Neo-liberal’s Acolytes off a little further. It’s time for a center-left wing government to take office. Because after my shame, anger, and frustration wore of, I was filled with even more determination to play my part in changing our society.

We need to re-set our nation’s moral, social, and economic compass.

And watching The Vote was just the determination I (and our household) needed. So thank you Ms Tamaki, Ms Rankin, and Mr McCoskrie – I feel more motivated than ever to make New Zealand a decent society again.

We will not surrender.

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We need to give the homeless and other disenfranchised a voice. Homelessness is not a choice, a decision, a lack of effort.

When I first came to New Zealand there were hardly any homeless people but now there are heaps, so where have we gone wrong?” – Simon Buckingham, Auckland Lawyer and one-time homeless person

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Meanwhile, in another Universe far, far away…

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£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

Acknowledgement: The Guardian – £13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2013.

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Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: 126 Meals for $20 – show us how?

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Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

30 June 2013 7 comments

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Big Brother Inc

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say  those who attempt to justify the  increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.

I find that usually these people fall into three categories;

  1. the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
  2. the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
  3. the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with  their  Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst  in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.

The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.

Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of  then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and  a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as  actual military (if not more so).

Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.

A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding  information for the  New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,

‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.

[…]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.

Acknowledgement:  NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed

By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc –  fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the  CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.

But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?

In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act  2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,

The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.

Acknowledgement: NZ Police – New Zealand’s designated terrorist individuals and organisations

It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,

Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Some 21 groups  around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations.  One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.

Perhaps the best known example of  “terrorist-come-statesman”  is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the  African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.  The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.

Once upon a time,  Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa  and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.

Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”.  It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s  terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only –  subsequent to  the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,

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Urewera Raids

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Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?

However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.

Eventually, none  were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by  Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.

The Act, however, remains in force.

Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.

As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force

The report went on to state,

Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm]  Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.

“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”

He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.

Acknowledgement: IBID

“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.

Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?

Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess would say the opposite, like this,

“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.

“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”

Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man  from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)

Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;

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Illegal spying - 85 Kiwis watched - Fairfax Media - Andrea Vance - Kitteridge Report

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched

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Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which 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.

– the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?

No.

Instead National has amended the law – in effect  legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new  Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

National is also enacting the new amendment  – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person  who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.

But you wouldn’t think so.

Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,

  • There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” –  John Key, 15 April 2013
  • …covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
  • This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013

When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,

I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)

And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,

He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”

He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Not one, as Key admitted,

Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB  .”

If this had happened thirty or fourty  years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.

New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.

Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?

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anti tour marchers

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What happened to us?

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On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,

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Employment reforms 'sinister' - Labour

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

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In a series of  tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,

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jamie lee ross - twitter conversation - 14 june 2013

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Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.

You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.

The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient  workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.

As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,

1. Notice for strikes.

Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.

2. A strike tax

The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.

3. Restrictions on the right to strike

The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.

There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.

40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.

Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws

Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,

“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.

It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.

It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off  Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment  Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.

Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.

The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.

Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table.  Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.

Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public,  rightwing politicians and employers  are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.

No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.

It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in  the ports of Auckland dispute.

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds

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So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming”  New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.

This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.

I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.

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And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.

I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one 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“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).

On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,

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

Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.

National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.

I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.

It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian  government that is afraid of it’s own people.

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National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.

Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.

Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,

  • ACT
  • National Party
  • New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
  • Family First
  • NBR
  • Karl Du Fresne
  • Michael Laws
  • Cameron Slater
  • David Farrar
  • Business NZ
  • Crosby Textor

And probably a few others  I’ve forgotten to list.

The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ  Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.

National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.

Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)

Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.

No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see:  “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)

There is no more privacy.

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Conclusion

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The rise of the Police surveillance state…

Crushing Union opposition…

Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…

These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control  over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).

Through growing  surveillance,  National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists,  civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.

Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.

And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire  threats of imprisonment.

This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.

Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.

Norman got it partly right. Actually,  this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power  with which to  intimidate  opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)

The questions now demanding an answer;

  1. Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
  2. How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
  3. Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government committ to reversing these autocratic laws?

There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous  story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.

But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.

Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.

Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.

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neil roberts - we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity

Neil Roberts
1960 – 1982

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

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Bricks, Bouquets, Bain, and Winston Peters

30 June 2013 1 comment

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Brickbats

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Brick1

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There is an unpleasant tendency in our politics for parties to bash each other when they amend or dump a policy.

I’m not referring to breaking election pledges, such as National’s raising GST when Key promised that would not happen. That was clearly dishonest, and worthy of public condemnation.

I am referring to Parties putting forward a new policy outside of the Election period, and which the public has not had an opportunity to consider. These are policies that have not been tested, and are yet to be  subject to scrutiny, debate, and a verdict from the public.

Recent examples include Labour dropping their policy to remove GST from fresh food; National changing their policy on class-room sizes; and the Greens dumping their policy on Quantitative Easing.

National’s “u-turn”  on the Auckland rail-loop is another example. In this instance, the issue of the Rail Loop has been discussed and debated in the public arena. Eventually,  National Ministers realised that there was strong public support for this project and their own oppositional posture was no longer tenable. (No doubt this realisation was amply assisted by Focus Groups.)

So, yesterday, the Nats announced that they would be supporting the Rail Loop, with appropriate levels of funding,

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Govt to contribute to Auckland rail link

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt to contribute to Auckland rail link

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– and the response from Labour; other political opponents; and the media was to slam National for it’s “u turn”.

Now, I’ll emphasise the point here that I am no friend of right wing governments. That includes this National government.

But. When the Nats  change their policies to be more in line with New Zealanders’ expectations; and when they dump an unpopular policy which was based more on ideological clap-trap rather than common sense; and when they bow to public and political pressure to adopt more progressive policies – they should be encouraged and applauded.

Otherwise, if we’re not going to give  positive reinforcement to their policy changes, the Nats will simply refuse to countenance future backdowns when faced with public opposition.

After all,  where is the profit in listening to criticism and dropping a policy  if you’re going to be bollicked regardless?

In this respect, I think there is a fair degree of immaturity on this issue and it’s high time we did a bit of growing up. Schoolyard tit-for-tats is no way to do consenting adult politics.

Hat-tip: No Right Turn

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Bouquets

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Bouquet3

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Big Ups to National for reversing it’s opposition to the Auckland Rail Loop.  This will be of major benefit to Auckland; improve public transport; take pressure of roads; reduce petrol consumption (and petroleum imports); create new jobs; and boost the economy. There is no downside to this major infra-structure project.

My only criticism is that National has delayed the project by three years; planning to start in 2020, rather than 2017. I see no practical reason for this delay and will only push up the cost of the project.

If it’s worthy of support by central government then it’s worthy of being initiated ASAP.

This blogger looks forward to more progressive changes to National’s policies.

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The Bain Mystery: case closed

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Bain case - Two dark lines on thumb point to father as killer

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald: Bain case: Two dark lines on thumb point to father as killer

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Last night’s (26 June) Third Degree on TV3 was as dramatic as the programme promos made out. New evidence indicates fairly conclusively that the muderer of the Bain family in 1994 was indeed – Robin Bain.

Twin carbon-streaks on his thumb are a match with the rifle’s ammo-clip.

Along with the bloodied foot-prints tracked through the Bain residence, which were closer to Robin Bain’s foot-size than David’s, this is the evidence which conclusively identifies the killer as Robin Bain.

In the US, this kind of homocide is known as the “family annihilator”, where the most common perpetrator is the father/step father/boyfriend. In a remarkably similar case  in New Zealand in 1992, a  family annihilation was committed in a  manner eerily resembling the Bain killings;

On May 20, 1992, Brian Schlaepfer, 64, shot or stabbed the family, killing his wife Jocelyn, 55, his three sons, Peter, 39, Karl, 33, and Darrell, 31. Also slain were Peter’s wife Hazel, 42, and their son Aaron, 11.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Day of slaughter on family farm

It is time for Justice Minister Judith Collins to pull finger and  pay David Bain compensation. There is no logical reason to stall any longer.

Whoever is holding up this process in National’s caucus no longer has a rationale for their intransigence.

What’s it to be, Ms Collins – bouquets or brickbats?

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Winston Peters channels Orwell

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Peters blasts 'Orwellian' censorship over stand on migrants

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Peters blasts ‘Orwellian’ censorship over stand on migrants

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The irony of Winston Peters channelling George Orwell’s 1984 should not be lost on anyone.  Mr Peters points out that life under Orwell’s totalitarian regime of Big Brother involved absolute suppression of free speech.  The slightest murmur of dissent invited dreadful retaliation by The State.

But Mr Peters also forgot to mention that in 1984, Big Brother was able to maintain it’s iron grip over the people by means of total surveillance.

Quite simply,  in 1984 the State watched and listened to everything that people said. Everything. No one was exempt.

Which sounds remarkably like the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

This Bill seeks to expand the powers of the GCSB to be allowed to spy on all New Zealanders.

Winston Peters is considering supporting this Bill (see:  Peters open to compromise over GCSB bill).

So, what was it you were saying about George Orwell’s 1984, Mr Peters?

Vote the Bill down, Mr Peters, vote it down. Do it for free speech; do it for privacy, and do it to keep Big Brother out of our lives.

Bouquets or brickbats?, Mr Peters?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 June 2013.

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References

NZ Herald: Day of slaughter on family farm (19 May 2007)

TVNZ: Bain trial considers sockprint measurements (20 April 2009)

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges (10 Feb 2010)

Fairfax media: Class-size backdown ‘to haunt National‘ (10 June 2012)

TV3:  Labour gone cold on GST-free food (25 March 2013)

NZ Herald: Greens ditch quantitative easing policy (19 June 2013

NZ Herald: Peters blasts ‘Orwellian’ censorship over stand on migrants (25 June 2013)

Radio NZ:  Govt to contribute to Auckland rail link (26 June 2013)

TVNZ:  Peters open to compromise over GCSB bill (26 June 2013)

NZ Herald: Bain case: Two dark lines on thumb point to father as killer (26 June 2013)

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Green Party action on deep-sea drilling

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Deepwater Horizon and Rena Stranding

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The Green Party is considering  further action on the problematic issue of deep-sea drilling of our coasts.  Environmental spokesperson on Mining and Toxics, Gareth Hughes writes,

The Government is currently taking bids from oil companies to explore 189,000 square kilometres of our coastal waters.

The Government should know that Kiwis don’t want their beaches threatened by the risks of oil drilling, so we’ve set up a competing bid, the Kiwibid to allow Kiwis to voice their opposition to these plans.

If you’re ready to take action on deep sea oil drilling, join me for a live online Q and A session about what’s happening and how you can help. Join the Q and A session to discuss ways to encourage New Zealanders to sign up to the Kiwibid, and find out other ways we can work together to stop oil drilling.

When: Next Wednesday, 26 June at 8:00pm
Where: At your computer, live and online
Watch the livestream online:   Here

If you have questions about deep sea oil drilling and how you can help, I would love to hear them.

Email me your questions (kiwibid@greens.org.nz) then tune in to see the answers.

Thanks, and I hope you can join me next Wednesday.

Gareth Hughes

Deep sea drilling is an issue – and potential crisis – that I believe has not yet filtered into the public consciousness (too much bloody X Factor, Seven Sharp, and cooking porn on TV).   Should a worst case scenario come to pass,  our coastline could end up facing a crisis surpassing that of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010.

Consider for a moment  that it took the most technologically advanced nation on this planet; with almost unlimited resources and wealth; nearly three months  to cap the oil gush.

This was my suggestion to the Green Party on this problematic issue,

Like many New Zealanders, I’ve taken the stranding of the m.v. Rena on 11 October 2011, and the subsequent oil spill,  as a clear warning that New Zealand is incapable of containing such a disaster. Regardless of the mealy-mouthed reassurances by National ministers (none of whom have soiled their own hands to help clean the East Coast beaches of Rena’s oil), it’s fairly evident that if we couldn’t cope with the Rena – then a Deepwater Horizon type disaster would be utterly beyond our resources.

An oil spill of Deepwater Horizon proportions – which took the Americans EIGHTYSEVEN days to contain – would be an immense enviromental disaster of our coast.

So how to prevent National from implementing it’s policy of permitting deep sea drilling/prospecting?

1. Put all oil companies on notice that any contracts will be cancelled by an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government and that there will be no compensation.

This gives them fair warning of potential change of government policy.

After all, if National can change legislation such as labour laws, which previous governments have implemented, then a progressive government has the same sovereign right.

2. Set up a Crown-owned entity which will have all off-shore leases transferred into their ownership. This crown company should be independent; funded through the Remuneration Authority (so that political interference can’t choke of funding for company directors); and a contract made between Government and this Crown company to hold all leases in perpetuity. The Board of Directors should comprise of Iwi, environmental groups, local bodies, and representatives of other groups. If National can attempt to commit future governments to a contract with Skycity to build a new conference centre, then a center-left government should be able to do likewise.

If Option 2 is unworkable, then option 3,

3. Demand a US$1 billion bond per oil drilling facility; demand that each company commit to long-term corporate-entity representation in New Zealand (so legal papers can be served locally, if necessary); demand that all disputes be covered under NZ jurisdiction; demand that fully staffed,  state-of-the-art oil containment technology be held in each distinct area where deep sea drilling is being undertaken. And any other safety, legal, financial matters not covered here.

4. Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent. Accountability to include being charged with negligence, malfeasance, and contributing to any resulting oil spill. Prison terms to be considered.

Option 4 is particularly relevant.  Considering that the Pike River Mine disaster was a direct consequence of National’s “reforms” to the Mines Inspectorate in the early 1990s; and considering that none of the Ministers responsible were ever help accountable (Kate Wilkinson’s token resignation  being only a sacrificial goat); and considering that 29 men lost their lives as a result of National’s policies, it is evident that government ministers need to be held to account for their actions .

I especially have a fondness for Option 4:  Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent…  Prison terms to be considered.

It is high time that government ministers who enact legislation that eventuate in  dire consequences, should be help to account.

If government Ministers were held personally responsible it might slow down the process of so-called “reforms” and reduce Bills passed under “Urgency”.

After all, National demands the same responsibility from the rest of us.

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

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 28 June 2013

28 June 2013 1 comment

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 28 June 2013 –

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– Brent Edwards –

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Starting today, as with Citizen A,  this blog will be posting regular links to  Radio NZ’s Politics on Nine to Noon and Focus on on Politics. This will give visitors to this blog access to three excellent political programmes on one website. Click on the “Broadcast” category at the top navigation bar for past programmes.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to Listen:  Focus on Politics for 28 June 2013 ( 17′ 31″ )

A weekly analysis of significant political issues. A week after submissions closed on the Government’s new spy legislation there are doubts about whether it has enough support to get it through Parliament.

John Key;

“… and by the way, very senior Labour members within that caucus understand completely the importance of national security and of keeping New Zealanders safe. And the very question they might have to ask themselves if one day there was the equivalent of the Boston Bombings in New Zealand  would they be the very same  Members that would stand up and say they prevented New Zealanders being kept safer than they otherwise could be. No they wouldn’t, they’d run for the hills.”

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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