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A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part tahi

23 January 2014 27 comments

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new-zealand-national-party_3382 adapted 2014

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An incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?*) coalition government will have much work to do – especially in it’s first three years.

In the six years that National has been in power, they have passed many odious and often repressive pieces of legislation. Labour and the Greens have already committed to repealing some of these laws and policies.

As a Labour-led coalition government addresses growing problems of child poverty; income inequality; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; and chronic unemployment (currently at 7.1% according to the 2013 Census), a legislative programme will demand a long list of progressive reforms.

In no particular order;

“The Hobbit Law”

Enacted on 29 October 2010, the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill/Act ( aka “The Hobbit Law”) was passed by National in just 48 hours. If Parliament was an Olympic event, Key and his cronies would’ve won a Gold Medal  for the breath-taking speed at which this Bill was rammed through the House under “Urgency”. The law effectively stole the rights of workers to be treated as employees (rather than “sub-contractors”) and negotiate collectively.

It was part of a package of corporate welfare for Warner Bros, which included a $67 million subsidy, courtesy of the taxpayer. That was despite the first installment of The HobbitAn Unexpected Journey making over US$1 billion, world-wide.

Never before in our history has a government yielded to such naked, open pressure to change our labour laws to suit a foreign corporation. The term “prostitute” doesn’t begin to cover the heinous nature of this sell-out by a New Zealand government to a trans-national corporation.

A year later, Labour announced it would repeal this odious piece of legislation. I expect them to keep their word. If only to send a clear message to firms wanting to do business in this country that our laws are not for sale.

Charter Schools

Sponsored by the one-man-band ACT Party, Charter Schools are private companies using tax-payer’s money to make a profit. No wonder Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon – this is Muldoonism at it’s best/worst (depending on your point of view).

The Charter Schools policy was never put before the public during the 2011 general election, and there is no mandate for it. The ACT website’s Education Policy contained a vague, oblique reference to “reforming education towards a more market-like and entrepreneurial service” – but no specific regard to “Charter Schools”.

There are many things wrong with the Charter Schools policy – chief amongst them that they are not accountable under the Official Information Act; nor are registered teachers required; companies running Charter Schools need not hold any education experience; public scrutiny is weak to non-existent; and overseas evidence shows that Charter Schools are not a solution to education problems.

In fact, they may owe more to ideology than to any robust study and even Treasury – no bastion of progressive thought – has voiced criticism on the proposal,

However they also show Treasury is not convinced the benefits of introducing the schools will outweigh the costs and risks.

The papers express scepticism that increasing competition between schools will improve the education system.

The documents show both the Treasury and Ministry of Education opposed the Government’s plan to allow partnership schools to hire unregistered teachers.

Treasury told the Government that teacher registration is an indication of a minimum level of quality.

Labour has firmly stated that legislation enabling  Charter Schools will be repealed.

Excellent. As it should be. This is not about educational “excellence” nor parental “choice”. This was an ill-conceived, ideologically-driven, nutty policy from a small, dying political party that gained 23,889 (1.07%) popular votes at the last election. As such, the education of our children cannot be left to the idealogical whims of what is, in reality, a fringe group of right-wing, free-market zealots.

Terrorism Suppression Act

This was a legacy from the Clark-led Labour government and it was a knee-jerk, ill-conceived, poorly executed piece of repressive garbage that belongs more in Pinochet’s Chile or Ceausescu’s Romania, than in a social democracy such as New Zealand. The Act was a ‘nod’ to our so-called “allies” in Washington and London, post September 11, when paranoia about global terrorism was at it highest.

The law was used to facilitate the Urewera Raids in  2007 (along with raids in Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton). Eighteen people were arrested.

None stood trial under the Act itself, and instead four individuals were eventually charged under more mundane firearms offenses. The Court threw out out “evidence” which had been illegally obtained.

The Terrorism Suppression Act itself was described by Solicitor General, David Collins, QC, as, “unnecessarily complex, incoherent and as a result almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by the police in this case“.

Considering that the Urewera village of Rūātoki was held in lock-down by para-military garbed and armed police, with many innocent people including women and children confined for a lengthy period under armed guard, this was nothing less than a suspension of our rights as citizens, and a step towards a neo-fascist state (though one suspects there are some New Zealanders who would happily welcome such a regime) .  The only acts of terrorism on that day in October, seven years ago, was by the State and it’s frightening, menacing,  para-military which forced it’s way into people’s homes and threatened them with lethal weapons.

Thirty years previously, movie-maker Sam Donaldson presented us with Sleeping Dogs – a cinematic version of C.K. Stead’s novel, Smith’s Dream. The storyline was of a nightmarish, dystopian near-future, of New Zealand as a repressive police state, with all dissent brutally crushed.

That future arrived on 15 October 2007.

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armed paramilitary police

“We are from the government. We are here to help.”

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In December 2013, the Human Rights Commission published a report on the raids – called “Operation 8 by Police – which stated, in part, that  innocent people had been  exposed to unnecessary trauma. Earlier that same year, the  Independent Police Conduct Authority stated that  the police  had  illegally stopped vehicles, detaining people in their homes, and taking their photographs,

Three children under 10 had rifles with red laser lights pointed at them and were kept under armed guard in a shed for nine hours without food or water during the Urewera police raids in 2007.

“They smashed through our front gate and came running up towards us telling us to come out with our hands up,” Tu Temaungaroa Moko, now 14, said yesterday after the Independent Police Conduct Authority branded police actions during the raids unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.

Tu was bundled into the back shed with his mother, Awhi Tia Koha, and brothers Te Ahoaho Hellman, now 15, and Taihakoa Rawiri Moko, now 9, and kept there by two armed police.

“We had tried to hide in the bedroom, we were scared stiff, we didn’t know what to do,” he said.

The armed police arrested their father, Moko Hellman, and searched the house.

“They tipped food on the floors, wrecked the furniture and pulled everything out of cupboards and shelves.”

All the search recovered was several rounds of .303 ammunition belonging to the boys’ grandfather, Tu said.

The IPCA report published yesterday says police had no right to block roads, search vehicles, detain and photograph locals, or detain residents while their homes were searched.

This was shocking, brutal,  and unacceptable behaviour by the State.

This law must go. It has no place in a civilised society that purports to respect civil rights and justice. There are adequate firearms laws enough with which to pursue and prosecute those who mis-use guns, or conspiracy laws to deal with more nefarious activities.

The Terrorism Suppression Act gives too much power to the State, and it’s para-military arm, and  events in 2007 demonstrated that such tyrannical laws can easily be mis-used.

This law was a product of a Labour government. It is an obscenity. It must be repealed by a new Labour government.

Search and Surveillance Act

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act

Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act

As if the Terrorism Suppression Act wasn’t sufficient power with which the State could coerce it’s citizenry, this National-led government found it necessary to implement more draconian laws. The  Search and Surveillance Act, Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act, and the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act all gave government extraordinary powers to monitor New Zealanders and to carry out searches on the flimsiest pretexts.

In 2012, National passed it’s Search and Surveillance Act, which as TV3 reported,

It gives police the right to search or keep people under surveillance without a warrant in urgent or emergency situations, changes the right to silence and empowers judges to decide whether journalists can protect their sources or not.

That Orwellian piece of legislation was followed up a year later with not one, but two, new laws allowing the State to further spy on New Zealanders.

As I wrote on 30 June last year, 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 was perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

The GCSB was never mandated to spy on New Zealanders. John Key’s National government changed all that with it’s one-seat majority in Parliament, and not only legitimised the Bureau’s spying on 88 New Zealanders – but has given it authority to spy on us all.

The GCSB Act was followed in quick succession by the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act which, as

The TICS Bill is a replacement for the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004. This law forced communications providers (ISPs, telcos, data networks, etc) to provide “lawful intercept” capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB could access communications once they had a suitable warrant. The new bill expands and clarifies these requirements.

[…]

The Bill specifies that the law applies to companies whether based in New Zealand or overseas. It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.

[…]

Network operators must decrypt the intercepted communications if they have provided the encryption, but there is no obligation to do so if the encryption is provided by others.

What does this mean for providers such as Mega (file locker) or LastPass (password storage) who have a business model based on the fact that they supply a cloud product that uses encryption but have deliberately designed it so that they can not decrypt the files themselves? This gives users the assurance that they can trust them with their data. Will the government close them down unless they provide a backdoor into the system?

The TICS Act is insidious because it forces telcos to comply with politicians and spy agencies demands for access to our communications. In effect,any company such as Telecom, Vodaphone, Slingshot, Chorus, etc, which offers a telecommunication service becomes a spy-agent  for the State. Not content with the Police, SIS, and GCSB, private companies become extensions of the State to surveil the populace.

Orwell himself could not have dreamed of a more unbelievably cunning plan.

Little wonder that telcos, Apple, Google, etc, opposed this draconian piece of law-making,

Opponents may be facing an uphill battle against spy bill fatigue as TICS goes through the house.

But there are a couple of intriguing twists.

One is its provision for the ICT Minister to require service providers (such as Apple with iMessage, Microsoft with Skype and Google with Chat, Talk etc) to make communications on their services interceptable. Apple and Google have submitted against the legislation. Will they ramp up their opposition as TICS works its way through Parliament – especially given Vikram Kumar’s revelation that they could be forced to allow the GCSB back-door access, with the orders kept secret? And would the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google or Facebook actually decide to give New Zealand a swerve?

These three laws are inimical to an open, free, society that prides itself on respecting privacy and civil rights for its citizens.  Because, really, just how many bad people does New Zealand have, as enemies,  to warrant such hard-line laws that would be more at home in a nation at war with it’s neighbours?

All three should be repealed forthwith, by an incoming Labour-led government.

To be continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

(* At this point in time, NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters,  has not indicated which bloc – Labour or National – he intends to coalesce with. As such, any involvement by NZ First in a progressive government cannot be counted upon.)

Continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 January 2014.

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References

Statistics New Zealand: 2013 Census QuickStats

Fairfax media: Controversial Hobbit law passes

Radio NZ: Government defends Hobbit subsidies

Dominion Post: The Hobbit hits $1billion mark

Fairfax media: Nats criticise Labour’s ‘Hobbit’ law stance

NZ Herald:  Norman – Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

The Press: No mandate for charter schools

ACT Party: Education Policy

Stanford University: CREDO Report on Charter Schools

Radio NZ: Treasury papers reveal reservations on charter schools

Labour Party:  Charter school applicants put on notice

Wikipedia: 2011 Election Results

Parliament: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

NZ History: 2007 ‘Anti-terror’ raids in Urewera

NZ Herald: Terrorism Act ‘unworkable’

Radio NZ: Mana ‘trampled’ by Te Urewera raids, says HRC report

Waikato Times: Police ‘unlawful, unjustified, unreasonable’ in Urewera raids

TV3: More surveillance powers for Govt and police

NBR: Govt proposes GCSB control over NZ communications in new TICS Bill

NBR: As GCSB Bill becomes law, focus turns to Telco Intercept Bill – which has a protectionist twist

Additional

NZ Herald: Banks wrongly held back charter school information

Fairfax media: Facts about Terrorism Suppression Act

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