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The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

31 October 2015 8 comments

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Fun Fact #1

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax cuts in New Zealand;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Fun Fact #2

John Key says he supports New Zealanders paid higher wages. In fact, he stated  that desire in 2007, and repeated it in  2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012;

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We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Mr Key has not repeated those statements since April 2012.

Fun Fact #3

The gender pay gap in New Zealand has worsened, from 9.9% last year to 11.8% this year;

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Source

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Timeline

2012

Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union lodge a claim with the Employment Relations Authority, alleging Ms Bartlett’s employer Terranova Homes and Care Ltd was in breach of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

November 2012

Ms Bartlett’s case referred to the Employment Court as it raises an important question of law.

June 2013

A preliminary Employment Court hearing held on questions of law.

23 August 2013

Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

Unions are hailing an Employment Court decision which allows a female rest home caregiver to argue she is underpaid because she is in a female-dominated industry.

Hutt Valley woman Kristine Bartlett is arguing her employer Terranova Homes is violating equal pay for equal work legislation, saying she would get more money if she was not working in an industry dominated by female staff.

The Employment Court held a preliminary hearing after Terranova Homes argued the court could only compare staff within its own workplace and not look at other workplaces.

The three court judges say the legislation makes specific provision for work predominantly performed by women.

The law says pay rates must be the same as male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility and service performing the work under substantially similar conditions and with substantially similar effort.

The judges said there was no way gender discrimination in pay could be removed if they could not compare pay rates more widely.

January 2014

Terranova appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal.

February 2014

A decision on a landmark pay equality case has been reserved by the Court of Appeal.

The Employment Court last year found in favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett, who argued her $14.32 hourly pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The ruling – which paves the way for pay equality in the female-dominated aged care sector – has been challenged in the Court of Appeal by Ms Bartlett’s employer, Terranova Homes. The two-day hearing finished yesterday with the decision by Justices Mark O’Regan, Lynton Stevens and Christine French reserved.

October 2014

The Court of Appeal has supported an Employment Court decision which ruled that a Lower Hutt rest home worker should receive pay parity with other equivalent sectors.

Kristine Bartlett won her landmark Employment Court case last year – arguing that being paid less than 15 dollars per hour, despite working in rest homes for over 20 years, was discriminatory. Her employer, Terranova Homes and Care, took the issue to the Court of Appeal. But the Appeal Court has dismissed the appeal, saying the language and purpose of the Equal Pay Act back up the decision by the Employment Court.

November 2014

Today the New Zealand Aged Care Association will appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of TerraNova Homes and Care Limited in their case with the Service and Food Workers’ Union and Kristine Bartlett.

“This case has vast implications for all New Zealanders and we felt compelled to have the highest court in the land settle the questions around the Equal Pay Act 1972 once and for all,” said Martin Taylor, CEO of the NZACA.

“In handing down its recent judgement, the Court of Appeal said the decision was finely balanced with strong arguments favouring both sides. We believe the issue must be seriously looked at and tested again.

22 December 2014

Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in landmark pay equity case

The Supreme Court has denied aged care provider Terranova Homes and Care, at the centre of a landmark court case paving the way for gender pay equity, leave to appeal the ruling.In October the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Terranova Homes against an earlier Employment Court ruling backing Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett’s claim that women care workers’ low pay was discriminatory. She took a case against her employer, arguing her $14.32 an hour pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The Service and Food Workers Union also made a claim on behalf of 15 other caregivers employed by the company, asking for a statement of the general principles to be observed for implementing equal pay.

In a Supreme Court decision out this afternoon, the judges said it considered the company’s appeal premature.

20 October 2015

Equal pay on the way for women?

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Early 2016

Case scheduled to go before the Employment Court  to early 2016 (dates to be determined). 

(Acknowledgement: Much of the above Time-line, with  exceptions, is re-published from the New Zealand Aged Care Association.)

 

The Case: exploited labour

The case of Kristine Bartlett  is a relatively simple one. For twentytwo years working-experience in rest-home facilities she earned just barely above minimum wage. Since the 1990s, her wages have risen by $5.

Ms Bartlett’s profession is predominantly female, and like many female-dominated professions, it is paid less than male-equivalent jobs.

As Fairfax media Christie Hall wrote  on 19 January;

On  23 August 2013,  the Employment Court ruled that Ms Bartlett’s was in fact underpaid because she worked  in a female-dominated industry. (The document is well-worth reading and provides sound, rational, and carefully-constructed argument for advancing equal pay for women.)

Subsequent Court decisions have upheld the Employment Court (see Timeline above).

The NZ Aged Care Association (NZACA) has expended large sums of money on legal action to thwart  the cost of raising wages for aged-care workers. NZACA fears the increased cost of a ballooning wages-bill impacting on it’s members, which has traditionally relied on low-paid labour to operate.

In October 2014, in a press release published on nzdoctor.co.nz, NZACA stated;

Unfortunately the Government subsidy for aged care is not enough for providers to make a profit. Over the last decade, 200 aged care facilities have closed primarily for financial reasons. The majority of these facilities relied on the government’s subsidy for their revenue.

[…]

The existing aged care sector cannot afford to increase all aged care worker’s wages at an estimated cost of $120 – $140 million alone – the sector will need increased Government subsidies to prevent further closures of our aged care facilities.

In an undated statement on NZACA’s website, the Association states;

The Government contract undervalues the worth of caregivers working in the private aged care sector. A caregiver working in a District Health Board geriatric hospital receives on average $17.50 an hour compared with an average hourly rate of $15.30 in our sector.

NZCA has been lobbying Government for many years to put more money into this sector which cares for New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

And in November 2014, NZACA’s CEO, Martin Taylor, stated;

“Another reason why we need to appeal is that there are hundreds of rest homes operated by individuals and community trusts from Kaitaia to Bluff who have told us they would close if wages went up significantly and funding stayed the same.

When you understand this reality we have no option but to appeal, despite everyone agreeing caregivers are worth more.”

On 23 December last year Service and Food Workers Union National secretary, John Ryall, said it was about time the Government  took responsibility to achieve gender pay equity;

“The Government is the sector funder and it is really up to it to decide whether it wants a resolution to the long standing pay equity issue,” he said.

Encouraging National to act will be no easy task to achieve.

Bronwen Beechey, writing for Fightback! on 17 April 2015, pointed out National’s apalling track record when it came to implementing equal pay legislation;

The Employment Equity Act was passed in 1990, but repealed within months after the National Party came to government.

In 2009, the current National government abolished the Pay and Employment Equity plan of Action and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit that had been set up in the Department of Labour in 2004.

A cynic would suggest that low wages assist National to reduce the amount it has to pay to subsidise aged-care workers. It is providing a service ‘on-the-cheap’, in a way similar to  fast-food chains employing staff at minimum wage, to produce  high-carb, fat-laden, ‘fast food’.

In fact, it would not be the first time that National has been exposed as supporting low wages – despite Key’s pious utterances otherwise.

Three and a half years ago, on  10 April 2011, on TVNZ’s Q+A, English made his now-infamous comments justifying a low-wage economy;

“Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.”

Three years later, on 30 July 2014, John Key appeared to ‘forget’ his earlier pronouncements on increasing wages when he responded to a question in Parliament from David Cunliffe;

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Prime Minister support the pay increase for the quarter of a million workers who would directly benefit from Labour’s minimum wage changes, which will provide a significant boost to the economy through boosting workers’ spending power?

Rt Hon John Key: In a word, no. The reason for that is I am not so irresponsible that I would say to 6,000 New Zealanders that they are losing their jobs because the Labour Party is polling at 25 percent—

No wonder E Tu  union spokesperson, Alistair Duncan, was wary of how National would respond to the Court rulings, as he said on 21 October;

“This is a well-timed and very smart move – if we can deliver genuine equal pay, it will be a very good thing.  But it’s not certain and we now need to work very hard to make sure we get equal pay for equal value.”

Meanwhile, as aged-care workers (and low-paid women workers in other industries) have had their case validated by the Courts, employers are not so happy. A new ‘bogey-man’ was erected by the Employers and Manufacturers Association CEO;

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said the task force would need to establish clear terms of reference, because comparing the relative value of different jobs was complex.

He said any decision to boost pay rates in some industries would come with a cost.

“The government has the greatest interest in this because they’re paying for most of the aged care and hospital workers and they must be concerned that if you increase their salaries, people’s taxes may go through the roof.”

This argument that, by increasing wages, people’s taxes “may go through the roof” is not just over-the-top scare-mongering – but is instructive of the mentality of individuals like Kim Campbell.

The argument that Campbell is putting forward is that taxpayers are entitled to cheap labour.

Is this the inevitable consequence after seven tax cuts, spanning twentynine years?

Because if reduced tax revenue has resulted in central government being unable to pay fair wages for workers (whether as state sector employees or subsidised workers in the private sector), then we have created a rod for our own backs.

Regardless whether sufficient tax revenue exists or not, Campbell’s suggestion that taxpayers are somehow justified in expecting an exploited workforce is odious. It is attempting to re-create a quasi-modern-day slave work-force.

The Employment Court addressed this very issue in it’s 22 August 2013 Judgment:

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

If successive governments were foolish in cutting taxes (usually as election bribes) to such a level that the State can no longer afford to pay for services New Zealanders expect as of right, then the solution is crystal clear: raise taxes.

Or go without.

I doubt many National-voting New Zealanders will happily contemplate a future in their dotage without a workforce of aged-care staff who are remunerated sufficiently to wipe the spittle from their wrinkled chins; change their faeces-and-urine-soaked underwear; and all the other myriad tasks associated with necessary good care.

Just how much do New Zealanders want aged-care in their twilight years?

If we do, we should be prepared to pay for it.

National Prompted to act

The successful court cases supporting Kristin Bartlett’,  equal-pay case has prompted National to finally move on the problem;

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Mr Woodhouse said there were other cases before the courts.

“We believe the most efficient way to deal with that, and to step back and take a look at what the principles for pay equity might look like is to get this working group together, and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to do that.”

Unions had agreed to put legal action on hold until March 2016 to allow the working group to proceed, he said.

This problem could never be resolved without government involvement. By subsidising aged-care workers, it is in effect, a secondary employer, and therefore has responsibilities to make good an untenable and unfair situation.

Otherwise, if National cannot resolve this decades long problem, more radical and direct solutions need to be considered.

Possible solutions

  1. Where aged-care facilities are non-profit, increase subsidies paid directly to workers or change their employment status to State employees, with similar pay rates, benefits, and protections.
  2. Where an aged-care company, are profit-making ventures that return a dividend to shareholders, such Oceania (45 facilities), Ryman (25 facilities), and Radius (19 facilities), they should be made by law to increase the wages of their staff first and foremost.
  3. Nationalise the aged-care industry. Looking after the elderly should not be an “industry” where the profit motive (in many instances) is the guiding principle. This should be no more acceptable than having primary schools or hospices run as businesses.

If private enterprise cannot pay it’s workers a fair wage, as well as operate effectively, then the State has a responsibility to intervene and assume a more direct role.

Neo-liberal activists and fellow-travellers may balk at such a suggestion, but they should consider one important factor they may have forgotten: we all grow old eventually. Including free-marketeers.

Appendix1

Legislation.

Equal Pay Act 1972

Court may state principles for implementation of equal pay
  • The court shall have power from time to time, of its own motion or on the application of any organisation of employers or employees, to state, for the guidance of parties in negotiations, the general principles to be observed for the implementation of equal pay in accordance with the provisions of sections 3 to 8.

Appendix2

Employment Court.

[108]

Reference was also made to the likely high costs of adopting a broader
approach, if it leads to a significant wage increase for the plaintiff members.
The Aged Care Association made the point that it receives funding from the Government,
via the Ministry of Health, on a per bed basis and that it would not be able to absorb
any increase. Although the Ministry was invited to appear as intervener it apparently
declined to do so. Accordingly, we did not have the benefit of hearing from it. In
any event, it is apparent that the Government of the day, in promoting the Bill, was
aware of the potential financial implications of the legislation. The Minister
of Labour made the point that female industries would feel the greatest impact in terms
of cost, a point later echoed by the Hon E S F Holland. [pg 31]

[109]

Further, and more fundamentally, the expressed concerns relating to cost
overlook one important point, namely the unquantifiable cost (including societal
cost) of adopting an approach which may have the effect of perpetuating
discrimination against a significant and vulnerable group in the community simply
because they are women, doing what has been described as undervalued women’s work. [pg 32]

[110]

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

Employment Court – Judgment: 22 August 2013

Appendix3

Employment Court.

Never let it be said that the Employment Court is bereft of a sense of humour, as this comment suggests;

[31]
The purpose of the Equal Pay Act is plain, and is reflected in its long title. [p 9]

Appendix4

On 2 April, Aged Care Association’s CEO, Martin Taylor, left his role at NZACA and assumed a new position  as Labour leader, Andrew Little’s,  director of research and policy. The nzdoctor.co.nz press release refers to Taylor’s role in the Kristin Bartlett equal-pay case.

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References

Ministry for Women: Gender pay gap

Radio NZ: Caregivers back equal pay campaign

New Zealand Aged Care Association: Equal Pay Case

TV3 News: Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

NZ Herald: Landmark pay equality case decision reserved

Scoop media: Court dismisses appeal by Hutt rest home, supports decision on equal pay

Scoop media: TerraNova Case Appealed To Supreme Court

Scoop media: Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in pay case

Radio NZ: Equal pay on the way for women?

Radio NZ: Landmark ruling for women

Fairfax media: Where next for equal pay

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Understanding caregiver wages in aged residential care

Fightback!: Fight for Equal Pay continues

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviws Bill English (April 2011)

Parliament: Hansards – Wage Rates – Growth, Inequality, and Minimum Wage

Legislation: Equal Pay Act 1972

Employment Court: Judgment: 22 August 2013

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Andrew Little headhunts Aged Care boss Martin Taylor

Additional

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

NZ Herald: Battle to close the pay gap

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 October 2015.

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Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

26 October 2015 7 comments

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14 October: Surplus

On 14 October, seven years after National came to power, Finance Minister Bill English, announced that  his government had posted it’s first surplus; $414 million for the last financial year. English said,

“So that means the government has to take a different approach to reducing debt and maintaining surpluses than we have done in previous cycles.

So there won’t be any sense of the constraints coming off because I think in the past that has been the expectation after a period of constraint. It’s important that we continue to focus on improving our expenditure management so that we don’t slip into old habits and put that 10 kilos back on again.

The Budget 2015 one was pretty slim. We’ve had six months of growth that were softer than expected, that seems to be coming right now. But we’ve yet to see what impact that will have on the forecast.”

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14 October: Death by Deficit

From a story broken by Radio NZ on 14 October;

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley admitted that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.

She said cancer patients could not expect special treatment, because then everyone would want it.

“Where you draw the line is always the issue,” she said.

“You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

According to the Radio NZ report by Alex Ashton – and released on the same day as Bill English announced his “surplus” – people suffering from cancer and about to undergo critical surgery, were being harassed by MSD/WINZ to undertake “job seeking obligations”;

Hundreds of cancer patients are being placed on the Jobseeker benefit while they are getting treatment.

One woman, who does not want to be identified, applied for a benefit when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was put on Jobseeker Support, which replaced the sickness benefit after the 2013 welfare reforms.

She said she had to pay for a medical certificate every month to prove she could not work – even though her surgeon insisted she would be off for much longer.

“The letter from the hospital wasn’t sufficient. I then had to go back and get a doctor’s note to keep them happy, just to prove the fact that I was going in for surgery,” she said.

“Then I also had to, on the day of my surgery, get someone from the hospital to fax through that I had been operated on.”

Cancer Society chief executive Claire Austin said the woman’s story was common, and the system lacked common sense and sensitivity.

She said many cancer patients had never been on a benefit before, and deserved help while they were going through an extremely tough time.

“The situation really is ludicrous. We’ve got people who are already in work, who are unable to work because they are either sick and have to go through treatment, or have surgery.

“They have to then apply for a benefit, which is a benefit that requires them… to be available to work.”

The welfare “reforms” of 2013 were carried out by Paula Bennett – herself a former solo-mother and receiver of a free tertiary education paid by WINZ.

When the extraordinary situation of cancer patients forced to undergo work-testing and fulfill job-seeking obligations was put to the current Minister of Social Welfare, Anne Tolley, her response was less than sympathetic;

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley acknowledged that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.

She said if cancer patients were given special consideration, other people would want those considerations as well.

“Where you draw the line is always the issue,” she said.

“You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

Tolley  complained that if cancer patients were given special consideration, other people would want those considerations as well ?!

Well, yes. If “other people” were equally sick,  critically injured, or suffering some degenerative condition – they would need state support. After all, that is why we have a welfare system. That is why Ms Tolley is the Minister for Social Welfare, and is  on an annual salary of $272,581 (plus some very generous allowances, retirement  perks, and superannuation fund).

Tolley has exhibited questionable behaviour in the past. As previous Minister for Police, she made a spectacle of herself standing atop a crushed car that had been seized from some teenage boy-racer. She positively gloated at it’s destruction;

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anne tolley - crushed car - boy racers - minister of police

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Interviewed on TV3 News in June 2012, she even taunted boy-racers to carry on breaking the law by challenging them to “bring it on“, so their cars could also be confiscated and destroyed.

Thankfully, boy-racers apparently  had the good sense to ignore Tolley’s dangerous school-yard ‘dare’, leaving the Minister’s childish words hanging embarrassingly in the air – though not before an editorial in the NZ Herald voiced it’s own distaste at her actions;

“What, then, was the Police Minister, Anne Tolley, doing dancing on the bonnet of a crushed car at a Lower Hutt scrapyard this week? This was a crass stunt unbecoming of any minister of any government.

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But worse than the undignified celebration of such a dubious landmark was the message being delivered by Ms Tolley. She was suggesting, in effect, that when on top, the boot should be put in as far as possible. That it was fine to wallow in the misfortune of others.”

Three years later, on 21 June this year, political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley for TVNZ’s Q+A. The interview was brilliant, in that we, the public, caught a further glimpse of a person who apparently has very little empathy or concern for those less fortunate than herself.

To re-cap from my previous blogpost;

Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.

In a coronial  inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”

Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s  death;

@ 6.35 –

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

Tolley responded;

@ 6.54 –

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

A member of the public listening to Tolley’s  comments where she admitted to “[not knowing] the details of that particular family” might have forgiven the Minister for an unfortunate turn-of-phrase  that simply came across as someone who didn’t care.

However, when placed alongside her  recent comment on 14 October, on Radio NZ’s report;

“Where you draw the line is always the issue. You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

–  and Tolley’s  apparent lack of interest in children dying in cold, damp State houses, coupled with an obvious  delight in crushing cars – confirms an impression of a somewhat indifferent, cold, and unpleasant personality.

But is that the sum-total of why Tolley refuses to understand the needs of families living in damp houses, or cancer-sufferers being forced to jump  through bureaucratic hoops for no discernible good reason?

14 October: Where the money went

Last year, the outlook for National to meet it’s self-imposed goal of a surplus for the 2014/15 financial year seemed bleak.  This was a problem for National, as Radio NZ’s Brent Edwards explained with simple clarity  on 21 November 2014;

“From National’s perspective, it has been a key political argument to perpetuate the narrative that only it can be fiscally responsible while in contrast Labour is irresponsible with taxpayers’ money.  Setting a surplus target of 2014-15 has been an important part of that political strategy.”

The Opposition were prepared to make the most of National’s impending failure to meet it’s own goal of generating a surplus.

It’s reputation, according to public perception, of being the Party of Responsible Fiscal Management would be badly damaged if it failed to deliver on it’s promise of a 2014/15 surplus.

English’s task was made harder by the deteriorating state of the economy, as Brent Edwards reported. English lamented;

“This combination of lower commodity prices and low inflation means that the nominal or dollar value of New Zealand’s economic output will not grow as fast as previously expected. This will affect farm and company incomes and we expect this to flow into the Government’s books through lower revenue.”

If National could not balance it’s books by tax-revenue, it had only one other option available to it – reduce spending.

And cut spending the government did – by a whopping $1.081 billion  in ten Vote areas. According to Treasury, Total Crown Expenses cuts comprised of;

  • Government Superannuation Fund: cut by  $2 million
  • Health: cut by $52 million
  • Education: cut by $235 million
  • Core government services: cut by $42 million
  • Law and order: cut by $96 million
  • Transport and communications: cut by $304 million
  • Primary services: $108 million
  • Housing and community development: cut by $97 million
  • “Other”: cut by $140 million
  • Forecast new operating spending: cut by $7 million

Note that many of the areas cut were those relating to health, education, justice, and housing/community development – four of the most critical areas of any government’s spending.

No wonder so many hospitals are in the ‘red’ with their budgets.

No wonder so many schools cannot afford maintenance on their delapidated buildings.

The cut to Law and Order did not just affect prisons, courts, and policing. As Radio NZ recently discovered, it also impacted on legal aid for domestic violence victims;

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Legal aid rules not failing domestic violence victims says minister

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The Radio NZ report explains;

The Ministry of Justice took over legal aid in 2011, and introduced a series of budget cuts aimed at saving $250 million.

[Criminal Bar Association president Tony] Bouchier said things had deteriorated since then, and more funding was the answer.

“The whole idea of legal aid is to give people the opportunity of access to justice which is an absolute basic right in this country,” he said.

“It comes down to whether the government is going to properly fund the legal aid system; that’s where we’re at at the moment.

“The legal aid system is not being fully provided for and it’s causing all sorts of issues of justice in our court system – it’s legal aid on a shoestring budget.”

Remember Anne Tolley’s rebuke to cancer sufferers;

“Where you draw the line is always the issue. You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.”

Fair-minded people would not  expect that women (and others) needing protection under the law, from violent partners,  should be denied access to a lawyer, and expect legal aid if they required it. Especially if their safety, and that of their children, depended on it.

But not according to this government.

According to this government, cancer sufferers and victims of domestic violence should not expect ” special consideration “.

14 October: Spending on ‘important stuff’

“I suppose that’s possible, we put the allowance in there three years ago…[and] we’ve always got the capacity to move that around.”

The Herald, though, was less than impressed at loose talk of tax cuts, suggesting instead that National address the ballooning $60-plus billion debt (see Appendix1) racked up by National;

The surplus is worth celebrating, even if it does not last long. But it would be wrong to give it away in tax cuts, even if it proves to be sustainable.

It’s editorial headline, “Use surplus for benefit of everyone” was positively socialist.

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  • National Ministers had an early Christmas when they gifted themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use.Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)

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  • National loves to invest. Cycleways. Aluminium smelters. ‘Hobbit‘ movies. Even farms in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert. Cost to taxpayer: $11.5 million

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  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

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Anne Tolley asked; “Where you draw the line is always the issue”.

The above list might be a good start.

National’s “achievement” of a $414 million surplus was paid for by ordinary New Zealanders; sick people suffering from cancer; State house tenants with sick and dying children; women bashed by their partners. Children living in poverty. The unemployed and solo-parents (mostly women) pushed off welfare for most trivial reasons. All have also paid dearly for this government’s excesses.

Some who are “paying dearly for this government’s excesses” may not have expected to be victimised.  Cancer Society chief executive, Claire Austin, suggested that up to 800 cancer sufferers could be on a jobseeker’s benefit, without  an official WINZ work exemption excusing them from job seminars, interviews, and other bureaucratic hurdles. She stated;

[There were] probably just as many who gave up because it’s just too distressing, too complex, there’s a lack of sensitivity in terms of the process”.

One wonders how many of those estimated 800 cancer sufferers who are on the jobseekers benefit, and are being chased by WINZ  to fulfill work-ready obligations, also voted National?

If one quarter of the population are represented by the 1,131,501 voters who voted for National last year, then it would be fair to assume that a similar ratio of one quarter (200) of those 800 cancer sufferers voted National.

Is this what they expected from their charismatic Prime Minister, that nice, friendly, easy-going Mr Key?

Which sector of New Zealand society will be next to feel the cold, dead hand of this penny-pinching government? A government that refuses to invest in  New Zealanders who need assistance the most – but has no hesitation throwing money at luxury limousines; multi-million dollar residences; subsidies to corporations; and a farm in the middle of nowhere in a Saudi desert.

Who will be next?

More than ever, I am reminded of this;

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FIRST-THEY-CAME

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Appendix1

According to Treasury, as at 30 June 2015, net government debt currently stands at NZ$60.631 billion. That equates to 25.2% of GDP.

In 2008, net debt stood at around NZ$10 billion, as the Treasury chart below shows;

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net debt 2005 - 2015

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Current net debt is six times what it was, seven years ago.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Treasury reports OBEGAL surplus of NZ$414 million in year to June 30, 2015

Radio NZ: Jobseeker benefit for cancer patients ‘ludicrous’

Radio NZ: Welfare should be a safety net not a trap – Bennett

Legislation.govt.nz: Parliamentary Salaries Determination 2015

TV3 News: Car crushing ‘discredits law’ – expert

NZ Herald: Editorial: Car crushing an undignified stunt

TVNZ Q+A:  Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)

Radio NZ: Power Play with Brent Edwards

NZ Herald: No surplus this year – Treasury

NZ Treasury: Analysis of Expenses by Functional Classification for the year ended 30 June 2015

Radio NZ: Legal aid rules not failing domestic violence victims says minister

Fairfax media: Tax cuts ‘possible’ after first surplus for NZ government

NZ Herald: Editorial – Use surplus for benefit of everyone

Fairfax media: Crown looks to trade in its luxury limo fleet

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

Fairfax media: Poverty-stricken kids resort to scavenging

Fairfax media: Cancer Society attacks ‘ludicrous’ benefit requirements for cancer patients

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election

Additional

NZ Treasury: Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2015

NZ Treasury: Year End Financial Statements – 14 October 2015

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

The law as a plaything

A fitting response to National MP’s recent personal attacks on Metiria Turei

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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bill english - cuts - budget

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 October 2015

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Key’s TPPA Falsehoods – “We’ve never, ever been sued” ***up-date ***

22 October 2015 7 comments

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law_scale

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Previously blogged on 13 October;

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4 October 2015 - TVNZ Q+A @ 13.04 "There has never been a case taken against New Zealand..." @ 16.24 "We've never, ever been sued..."

4 October 2015 – TVNZ Q+A:- @ 13.04 “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” @ 16.24 “We’ve never, ever been sued…”

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On 4 October,  our esteemed Dear Leader assured New Zealanders that, under the various free trade agreements we are party to, “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”.[…]

Key’s insistence that  New Zealand is safe from lawsuits from foreign corporations indicates  he was privy to the text of the finalised Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (which is still a closely guarded secret by Trade Minister Groser) and that  we, as a nation, are now fully exposed to litigation from Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) processes.

It seems that Dear Leader spoke too soon.

Not even a fortnight passed since he uttered those fateful words – an apparent challenge to the gods – and New Zealand is now being sued;

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Shanghai Pengxin going to High Court over Lochinver decision - TPPA - investor state dispute settlent

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In response to the lawsuit, our esteemed and much-loved Dear Leader stated;

“Quite frankly, you can get appeals both ways, so when Shanghai Pengxin was granted the right to buy the Crafar farms, there was also an appeal because that went through, and it was tested back in court – now it’s going the other way.

But look, in the end, if the courts determine that the Overseas Investment Office got it wrong, the Government will go and reflect on that and honour the law, we always do that.”

The only difference between scenarios envisaged under the TPPA and the Lochinver Station-Shanghai Pengxin-OIO case is that the latter is being tested under the jurisdiction of a New Zealand Court of law instead of an extra-judicial, and often-secret,  corporate tribunal overseas.

This is cold comfort.

We now have a situation in our own country where, if we determine not to sell to an overseas investor, that decision can be over-turned. Our laws now allow foreign interests to be on an equal footing with New Zealand citizens.

You no longer have to be a tax-paying citizen (born or naturalised) to hold certain rights.

You can be a foreign corporation (or wealthy individual) with deep pockets and a small militia of flinty-eyed lawyers.

Money is now all it takes.

Mark 15 October 2015 in your diary as the day when our sovereignty was forfeit in the pursuit of global finance. If we dare say ‘No’, they have ways of changing our minds.

This will be the first, of many to come, “legal” challenges to our sovereignty.

And the worst aspect to where we have arrived, 31 years after David Lange’s government was elected and Roger Douglas began his so-called free-market “reforms”?

As a nation, Kiwis have allowed it to happen. We did this to ourselves.

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References

TV1 Q+A: PM on TPP – ‘We’ve never ever been sued’

Fairfax media: Shanghai Pengxin going to High Court over Lochinver decision

Additional

MFAT: New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement

New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement (text)

Government could have faced lawsuit

Previous related blogposts

Al Capone lives again?

Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al

Another of John Key’s lies – sorry – “Dynamic Situations”

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TPPA-cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 October 2015.

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Letter to the editor – John Key; “We’ve never been sued” (up till now)

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Fri, Oct 16, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times
.On   4 October 2015, on  TVNZ’s Q+A, our esteemed Prime Minister reassured New Zealanders that we had nothing to fear from the newly signed TPPA, and it’s controversial provisions for corporations to sue us.

Key insisted,  “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and  “We’ve never, ever been sued…”
Barely a fortnight has passed since he uttered those resolute words on our television screens –  and New Zealand is now being sued.

Chinese corporation Shanghai Pengxin – the same company that bought the 17 Crafar Farms last year – was recently denied permission to purchase the vast 14,000 hectare Lochinvar Station.

Even the current National government believed that was a step too far.

John Key’s words that “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and  “We’ve never, ever been sued” now ring hollow in our ears.

The first (of many) lawsuit by a foreign corporation has begun. With it, the beginning of the end of our sovereignty, as overseas interests now force their way further into our country, and economy, irrespective of our wishes.

And the TPPA’s provisions to allow further lawsuits by corporations has not even been implemented yet.

-Frank Macskasy

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

TV1 Q+A: PM on TPP – ‘We’ve never ever been sued’

Fairfax media: Shanghai Pengxin going to High Court over Lochinver decision

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try the carrot again

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 14: The TPPA – “We’ve never, ever been sued”

18 October 2015 1 comment

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tpp-banner

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On 4 October,  our esteemed Dear Leader assured New Zealanders that, under the various free trade agreements we are party to, “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”.

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4 October 2015 - TVNZ Q+A @ 13.04 "There has never been a case taken against New Zealand..." @ 16.24 "We've never, ever been sued..."

4 October 2015 – TVNZ Q+A:-

@ 13.04

              “There has never been a case taken against New Zealand…”

@ 16.24

              “We’ve never, ever been sued…”

 

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Key’s “assurances”   were made four days prior to MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) releasing “Fact Sheets” outlining New Zealand’s exposure to lawsuits from corporations. Two MFAT documents – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment are dated by a Scoop Media press-release  which places their release at 8 October.

Key’s insistence that  New Zealand is safe from lawsuits from foreign corporations indicates  he was privy to the text of the finalised Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (which is still a closely guarded secret by Trade Minister Groser) and that  we, as a nation, are now fully exposed to litigation from Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) processes.

Despite Key’s insistance that “there has never been a case taken against New Zealand…” and “we’ve never, ever been sued…”, one only has to look across the Tasman to understand the full ramifications of ISDS provisions in trade agreements.

As Corin Dann reminded Key during the 4 October Q+A interview;

@13.07

“…If we look at the plain packaging [proposed legislation for tobacco] in Australia, you’ve always said, ‘Australia’s being sued over that issue of plain packaging … in that that Investor-State Forum’; you’ve always said ‘we’ll wait for Australia to see how they go, ‘cos they’re going cop a massive legal bill’, so that’s stopped that [proposed legislation for tobacco] happening in New Zealand.”

Indeed, Dann was spot on.

A little under two years ago we  had our own Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, introduced by then co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, on 17 December 2013.

With  15,682 submissions received  from interested groups and individuals, on 5 August 2014 the Health Committee recommended;

The Health Committee has examined the Smoke-free Environments (TobaccoPlainPackaging) Amendment Bill and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Despite cross-party support (with the curious exception of NZ First, for reasons that defy understanding), the Bill was put on “hold” by National.

This is what Key had to say about why  the Bill was put  “on hold”, until a court case between the Australian government and tobacco giant,  Philip Morris, is settled in an Australian court. He said,

“I don’t really see the point in us finally passing the legislation until we see exactly what happens in the Australian court case. We have a slightly different system, but there might just be some learnings and if there are learnings out of that, it would be sensible to potentially incorporate those in either our legislation or avoid some significant costs.”

Two points to consider:

  1. Remember that this is an industry that kills up to 4,600 people each year. If it were a bacterial or viral disease, the entire nation would be in a State of Emergency, and entire communities, towns, and cities quarantined.
  2. Is “learnings” an actual word?

John Key insists that New Zealand has never been sued under any free trade agreement.

Strictly speaking, that is correct.

However, we have already seen how even the possible hint of a lawsuit is sufficient to stay his hand and prevent the passing of a law that could potentially have  saved  up to 5,000 lives a year and saved the health system up to $1.6 billion per annum (est.).

In which case, the ISDS clause of the TPPA may never be tested under a National government – they would simply shy away from any legislation or other governmental policy provoking the merest suggestion of legal action. No matter how beneficial  a policy might be.

In an interview onThe Nation’, on 10 October, Trade Minister Tim Groser already seemed resigned to the fact that New Zealand could be sued if a government went ahead to introduce plain packaging for sugar-laden ‘fizzy’ drinks;

Lisa Owen: You could force plain packaging for fizzy drinks, say?

Tim Groser: I believe you probably could as long as you had a good health-based case and you’re ready to defend it.

Key’s timidity has already been shown with crystal clarity; we’ve never been sued before simply because National hasn’t the guts to be challenged.

Get some guts, Dear Leader!

Addendum1

During the 4 October Q+A interview, Key insisted that Phillips Morris initiated the lawsuit  under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong instead of the Australia-US FTA because the threshold for proving a case under the US trade agreement was “too high”. Key said,

@ 13.25

“Well interesting enough, Australia has a free trade agreement with, ah, the United States. And in fact, um, they looked, I think, Phillip Morris, or whoever’s taking the case, at taking it under Investor State [Disputes Settlement] and they recognised, that Investor State, the threshold was so high, they’re actually not taking it under the US-Australia FTA. It defeats the very case that Jane Kelsey’s been making. They’re taking it out of a very strange agreement they’ve got with Hong Kong, which is why actually they went and registered themselves with Hong Kong to take the action against Australia.”

So Key is suggesting that Philip Morris chose to use an Australia-Hong Kong FTA rather than an Australia-US FTA because “the threshold was so high”?!

John Key is deflecting.

He is either woefully ignorant, or willfully disingenuous, of the fact that the United States has been the main instigator of Investor State Disputes claims, as UN stats show;

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UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Most frequent home States (total as of end 2014)

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Even if tobacco company Philip Morris chose to employ a Hong Kong-Australia FTA to sue the Australian government, the fact seems immaterial at best.

As UN data shows, US-based investors are not at all reticent in using ISDS provisions to launch lawsuits against sovereign governments.

We have just entered into a trade agreement with the most litigious nation on Earth.

Addendum2

According to UNCTAD report Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS;

By the end of 2014, the overall number of concluded cases reached 356 out of 608 claims;

Of  these, approximately;

  • 37%  (132 cases) were decided in favour of the State (all claims dismissed either on jurisdictional grounds or on the merits),

  • 25% (87 cases) ended in favour of the investor (monetary compensation awarded).

  • 28% of cases (101) were settled

  • 8% of claims were discontinued for reasons other than settlement (or for unknown reasons).

  • 2%  (seven cases), a treaty breach was found but no monetary compensation was awarded to the investor.

The number of cases (608) has ‘exploded’ since 1987;

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UNCTAD - ISDS claims - Known ISDS cases, annual and cumulative (1987–2014)

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The same UNCTAD report reveals who is being sued by corporations;

In 2014, 60 per cent of all cases were brought against developing and transition economies, and the remaining 40 per cent against developed  countries.

In total, 32 countries faced new claims last year. The most frequent respondent in 2014 was Spain (five cases), followed by Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, India, Romania, Ukraine and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (two cases each). Three countries – Italy, Mozambique and Sudan – faced their first (known) ISDS claims in history.

Addendum3

The Economist reported;

Multinationals have exploited woolly definitions of expropriation to claim compensation for changes in government policy that happen to have harmed their business. Following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, for instance, the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry. Soon after, Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, demanded compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion), under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments.

This claim is still in arbitration. And it is just one of a growing number of such cases. In 2012 a record 59 were started; last year 56 were. The highest award so far is some $2.3 billion to Occidental, an oil company, against the government of Ecuador, over its (apparently lawful) termination of an oil-concession contract.

The Huffington Post reported;

Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging the country’s environmental laws, according to a new study.

[…]

About 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management programs that allegedly interfere with the profits of foreign investors.

The government has lost some of these environmental challenges and has been forced to overturn legislation protecting the environment.

In 1997, the Ethyl Corporation, a U.S. chemical company, used chapter 11 to challenge a Canadian ban on the import of MMT, a gasoline additive that is a suspected neurotoxin and which automakers have said interferes with cars’ diagnostic systems. The company won damages of $15 million and the government was forced to remove the policy.

A year later, U.S.-based S.D. Myers challenged Canada’s temporary ban on the export of toxic PCP waste, which was applied equally to all companies. Canada argued it was obliged to dispose of the waste within its own borders under another international treaty. However, the tribunal ruled the ban was discriminatory and violated NAFTA’s standards for fair treatment.

The Age reported;

Egypt raised its minimum wage at the beginning of last year [2014]. It wasn’t much by Australian standards, just $74 a month, but for a state employee on 700 Egyptian pounds a month ($102), a rise to 1200 pounds is not to be derided.

A French multinational with operations in Egypt, however, did not like this minimum-wage effrontery. A couple of months later, Veolia, the global services juggernaut, bobbed along and sued Egypt for the grievous disadvantage it had suffered thanks to the industrial relations changes.

Veolia’s claim relies on ISDS provisions in a trade treaty between Egypt and France.

Addendum4

The Philip Morris lawsuit is expected to cost Australian taxpayers $50 million to defend, and proceedings will be held in Singapore, before a secret tribunal.

Addendum5

Two MFAT “fact sheets” – Investment and ISDS and  Market Access for Services and Investment – offer a government view of the TPP Agreement. The actual text of the TPPA will not be released for several weeks, giving National Ministers a monopolistic opportunity to push the government position, unchallenged.

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References

TV1 Q+A: PM on TPP – ‘We’ve never ever been sued’

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Investment and ISDS

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans Pacific Partnership – Market Access for Services and Investment

Legislation.govt.nz: Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill

TV3 The Nation: Interview – Trade Minister Tim Groser (transcript)

Daily Mail Online: Cigarette giant Philip Morris sues Australian government for billions over plain packaging law

Parliament: Health Committee Report – Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill – 5 August 2014

Ministry of Health: Excise on Tobacco: Proposed Changes

McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer: Philip Morris Asia Challenge under Australia – Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty

UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Recent Trends in IIAs and ISDS (pg6)

Yahoo-Channel 7 News: Tobacco giant sues Australia

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia faces $50m legal bill in cigarette plain packaging fight with Philip Morris

The Age: Trade deals acronym really translates to ‘we lose’

Additional

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics: A closer look at the TPP

Radio NZ – Focus on Politics for 14 February 2014

Radio NZ: Plain packaging bill passes first hurdle

NZ Herald:  Most MPs set to back plain-package smokes

Smokefree Coalition: The health effects of smoking

The Economist: The arbitration game

Huffington Post: NAFTA’s Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

Previous related blogposts

Some thoughts on the Plain Packaging Bill

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Annette King on the TPPA

Even Tim Groser was in the dark?!

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 13: Kiwisaver – another broken promise

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TPP-burger and dead rat

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 October 2015.

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A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

15 October 2015 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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To: Radio NZ, Morning Report
Txt no: 2101
Date: 15 October 2015

Hospital DHBs are in debt; community groups underfunded; and there’s a $60 billion government debt hangjng over our heads – and English is planning an election bribe with hints if tax cuts? This is irresponsible in the extreme. Question is, will kiwis buy this bribe? As long as they know we will end up paying for it with higher debt and slashed public services. We get what we pay for, or in this case, what we don’t pay for.

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

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References

Radio NZ: English won’t guarantee future surpluses

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Serco, Monitors, and the Corrections Dept cover-up

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serco logo f

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Continued from: Questions over Serco’s “independent” monitors and it’s Contract with the Crown

As I wrote over a year ago,  on 4 August 2015;

 

Questions have arisen regarding the  supposed “safe-guards” Monitors at Mt Eden Prison, and at least one aspect of the Serco-Corrections Dept Contract.

According to section 21.2 of the contract between Corrections and Serco, between two to three Monitors were tasked with;

(a) compliance with this agreement;

(b) the accuracy of the Contractor’s invoices or reports relating to the Services;

(c) processes and procedures of the Contractor or any subcontractor relevant to the provision of the Services;

(d) anything else relating to the Services.

[…]

The prevalence of violence (including alleged  “dropping”); “fightclubs”;  injuries; at least one death; drug use; home-brew production*; contraband such as cell-phones; and now three prisoners arrested for involvement in gang-related drug activities – does not seem to have impacted on Mt Eden’s high ranking on Corrections’ Prison Performance Table – the most recent being for twelve months ending March this year;

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Mt Eden prison - prison performance table - corrections department - serco

(Hat-tip: Martyn Bradbury, for above chart)

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Since April 2014, Mt Eden has rated “Exceptional” in previous performance grades. It’s rehabilitation rates at 96.75% – which in itself is odd, as Mt Eden is also a Remand Prison, and 676 out of 952 prisoners (as at 31 December 2014) are on remand; awaiting trial;  and have not been convicted of any crime.

[…]

Not only has Serco apparently circumvented the spirit, as well as the intent, on their contract with Corrections, but it has apparently connived to suppress information, as Kim Vinnell reported for TV3 on 24 July;

There are fresh revelations private prison operator Serco went out of its way to make sure its squeaky clean record stayed that way.

In Mt Eden prison where inmates are king, are guards who say they’re understaffed and afraid.

“It’s about time we all spoke out and say what it’s actually like,” says one guard, who spoke to 3 News on the condition of anonymity.

He says when prisoners or guards break the rules, management would rather official reports tell a different story.

“You’re told to state the facts, but to leave all other things out of it.

“They go missing off the system several times, or they get edited and you’re not told that they’re edited.”

The Government says it didn’t know what was going on, despite the fact three prison monitors – who are Corrections employees – have been there since Serco’s first day.

Under the Corrections Act, prison monitors must report to the chief executive at least every four months. The sole purpose of their job is to report on prison management and any concerns they may have about the prison’s running.

The government claims “it didn’t know what was going on”.

In which case, not only was the Correction Minister’s office kept in the dark – but also the entire Corrections Department. Is this feasible?

It is inconceivable that National Ministers did not know the depth of problems afflicting Mt Eden and Serco.

In which case, this government was actively complicit in a cover-up, to protect it’s credibility with voters – and to  safeguard it’s privatisation agenda.

As I reported in the Addendum to the above story, on 28 July last year, I lodged an Official Information Act request with the then Minister for Corrections,  Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga;

Kia ora Minister  Lotu-Iiga,

I am querying the appointment on Monitors for Mt Eden Prison, which up till yesterday (27 July), was managed by Serco.

Can you please advise  regarding the following;

1. Who employs the Monitors? Is it Serco or the Corrections Department?

2. Who do they report to; Serco or the Corrections Department?

3. Who pays their salaries; Serco or the Corrections Department?

4. Are the Monitors responsible for providing information to Corrections, which forms the Prison Performance Table? If not, who provides that information?

5. Are the Monitors still employed at Mt Eden? If not, why not?

6. Have the monitors made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility (para 22.2). If so, what Incidents were reported and when?

Please respond asap to this OIA request, as this is a matter of some urgency.

I predicted “that Corrections Dept will use a provision within the Official Information Act to request an extension to the 20 Working Day time-limit“.

I was wrong. It did not take 20 working days to respond.

It took over two months.

The Corrections Dept did not respond until 6 October last year. Even then, the information provided did not answer my questions and was totally unsatisfactory.

In response to my questions, “Who employs the Monitors? Is it Serco or the Corrections Department?  Who do they report to; Serco or the Corrections Department?  Who pays their salaries; Serco or the Corrections Department? Are the Monitors still employed at Mt Eden? If not, why not?”

– Corrections confirmed  that “Prison monitors are employed by the Department of Corrections and are paid by the Department“.

The response went on to state;

“Prison monitors review the performance of a contract managed prison on behalf of the Chief Executive. Prison Monitors report to the Chief Custodial Officer. They continue to be employed at MECF  [Mt Eden Corrections Facility].

In which case, Lisa Owen’s assertion on TV3’s The Nation on 2 May, last year, that;

“…The person who employs the monitor— the person who employs the monitor is the company, Serco. They employ the monitor, and pay their wages.”

– was misleading and unhelpful.

On this issue, the ‘buck’ stopped firmly with the Corrections Dept and at CEO Ray Smith’s desk.

Then-Corrections Minister, Sam Lotu-Iiga, displayed appalling ignorance in not knowing this salient fact.

The next – and perhaps most important – questions put to Corrections were;

” Are the Monitors responsible for providing information to Corrections, which forms the Prison Performance Table? If not, who provides that information?

Corrections replied;

“The Department releases a Prison Performance Table (PPT)  [see above – FM]  that monitors and evaluates each prison’s performance. Prison monitors are not responsible for providing information to the PPT. The information for the PPT is provided by Serco New Zealand Ltd (Serco), and is verified by the Department[my emphasis – FM]

That question was followed up with this;

“Have the monitors made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility (para 22.2). If so, what Incidents were reported and when?”

At this point, the response from Corrections became  little more than opaque obfuscation;

“Under the Department’s contract with Serco for the daily management of MECF, section 22.2 provides that if an incident occurs, Serco must report the incident to Corrections as set out in Schedule Five. A copy of the Department’s  contract is available on it’s website: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/prison_management_contract_for_mt_eden_prison.html.&#8221;

Note that response: “if an incident occurs, Serco must report the incident to Corrections“.

But that was not the question put to the Corrections Dept. The question was “have the monitors [my emphasis – FM] made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility“.

Clearly, the responder to my OIA – Deputy Chief Executive Jo Field – was unwilling to address the question as to what Incident Reports had been made by Prison Monitors employed by Corrections to keep an eye on Serco’s management of Mt Eden.

On October 16, I wrote back to Jo Field pointing out the evasive nature of the response I had been given;

Further to my initial OIA request, I note that your response to my query, where I asked;

“Have the monitors made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility (para 22.2). If so, what Incidents were reported and when?”

On Page 2 of your 8 October response, you stated;

“Under the Department’s contract with Serco for the daily management of
MECF, section 22.2 provides that if an incident occurs, Serco must report the
incident to Corrections as set out in schedule Five. A copy of the Department’s
contract with Serco is available on it’s website:
http://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/prison_management_contract_for_mt
_eden_prison.html.”

This is not an answer to my question  “Have the monitors made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility (para 22.2). If so, what Incidents were reported and when?”

Under the OIA, you are required to provide relevant information to the question;  1. Have the monitors made any Incident Reports to Corrections, as required Prison under the Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility (para 22.2).  2. If so, what Incidents were reported and when?

Furthermore, under the OIA, I am requesting  Incident Reports, or any other documents, from Prison Monitors at Mt Eden,within six months leading up to 24 July 2015,  to Corrections Dept,  the Corrections  Minister, or any other government agency.

Two and a half weeks later, on 3 November 2015, I received a response. The salient point made by Deputy Chief Executive, Vincent Arbuckle;

“Thank you for your email dated 16 October 2015, requesting  information about incident reports prepared by Prison Monitors. Your request has been considered under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA).

[…]

Prison monitors do not prepare Incident Reports; this is the responsibility of the Contractor (Serco). Prison Monitors prepare Monthly Contract Reports, which update senior Departmental staff on issues and events that occur each month at MECF.  These reports are prepared in confidence. Therefore, your request for incident reports and documents from Prison Monitors is declined under section 9(2)(ba)(ii) of the OIA, to protect information which is subject to an obligation of confidence or which any person has been or could be compelled to provide under the authority of any enactment, where the making available of the information would be likely otherwise to damage the public interest.”

(For full email-trail, click here.)

It was clearly evident that whatever written documents had been issued by the Mt Eden Prison Monitors, the Department of  Corrections was not about to make them public.

It was questionable that any such documents “would be likely otherwise to damage the public interest“.  In fact, the only interests that would likely be harmed would be Serco and the Corrections Department itself.

This was to be borne out by the Chief Inspector of Corrections, Andy Fitzharris, who was tasked with investigating allegations of fight-clubs at Mt Eden, and smuggling of contraband (cellphones, etc) into the facility. His report – which was initially held back as Serco sought a judicial review to contest it’s findings – was only recently released.

High Court Judge Karen Clark  said, “To my mind, the report is measured and temperate and Serco’s description of it is wholly unwarranted. The investigation was fair and the report is without error.

The Chief Inspector’s report was damning of Serco and critical of the Corrections Department.

More critically, the Inspector was able to learn why Prison Monitors had been impotent in the face of Serco’s mis-management of the facility.

The role of Prison Monitors is /was crucial to ensuring that Serco met it’s obligation under contract with the Crown and Corrections NZ. According to the Corrections Act 2004, the Monitors would be tasked with reporting on;

  • i) the management of that prison; and

  • (ii) whether or not the contractor responsible for the management of that prison is complying with that contractor’s prison management contract and with the provisions of this Act, and any regulations made under this Act, and any instructions or guidelines issued by the chief executive under section 196 that are applicable to the prison.

The Prison Inspector’s Report was even more explicit in the role of Prison Monitors;

14. “The principal means of oversight is via Monitors, who are appointed under the Corrections Act 2004 to assess and review the management of MECF. Serco is required to provide incident reports and performance reports to Monitors. The on-site monitoring team is managed by Corrections’ Relationship Manager Private Prisons, who reports to Corrections’ Chief Custodial Officer.

15. “…Carrying out daily observation walks through MECF, and observing operational practice.

…Conducting a daily review of incidents and prisoner complaints.” – p9

“If an issue raised by Monitors or auditors is not able to be resolved through informal discussions and consultation with Serco management, the matter can be referred to Commercial Contracts Team. This team conducts service audits to monitor contractual compliance, liaises closely with the Monitors, and can recommend the issuance of Performance Notices for non-trivial breaches of the Contract. Corrections has a range of powers available to it under the Contract, including issuing directions to Serco to remove personnel who are not considered to be fit and proper, or adequately trained, including the Prison Director. The primary means of managing contractual non-compliance is through issue of a Performance Notice. A Performance Notice requires Serco to investigate and resolve the root cause of any breach, and can lead to a Final Warning Notice.  The Commercial Contracts Team is also responsible for calculation of the Performance Related Fee.” – p10

320. “A contractor must ensure that any monitor has free and unfettered access at all times to:

a) every part of the contract prison managed by that contractor;
b) all prisoners in that prison;
c) all persons who work in that prison, but only when they are actually in the prison; and
d) all records held by the contractor that relate to;
I. that prison;
II. any prisoner or former prisoner; or
III. any staff member or former staff member of that prison.” – p79

321/o. “If considered necessary, immediately reporting any matters of concern to the Serco management team. If the monitors consider that the issues are not being adequately dealt with, they may issue a ‘Monitor’s Request’. If the request is not dealt to in a timely manner the monitors may issue a direction instructing the contractor to resolve the matter, or provide assurance of a resolution. The direction is used in cases whereby the Monitors seek assurance that the safety and security site has not been compromised.” – p80

However, that role was subverted as Serco piled on the pressure and Monitors’ roles blurred between observing and reporting, and becoming more task-oriented;

“The Monitors’ relationship with Serco was often very difficult. They would sometimes experience significant ‘pushback’ from Serco when raising issues requiring remedial action such as meal distribution, homebrew, graffiti in cells, and disorderly evening lockup. Following a lack of timely action, the Monitors appear in many cases to have accepted Serco’s position as to the adequacy of its own response to identified issues. The extensive ‘pushback’ and challenge received from MECF management was successful in shifting Monitors’ focus away from core issues, and minimising the Monitors’ criticisms of the significance of the issues identified.” – p5

“* confusion in that the Monitors believed they did not have any statutory power if issues did not directly relate to a breach of Contract, legislation, or the Chief Executive instructions…

* a task-orientated focus on scheduled reviews, which may have distracted Monitors from undertaking observations and recording issues as they arose; and

* lack of specific training or guidelines for the role of a Monitor.” – p6

That “pushback” from Serco was manifested when they attempted to unsuccessfully exploit legal action to suppress or dilute down the Inspector’s Report;

In the High Court in Wellington yesterday, Justice Clark rejected Serco’s application for review and ordered the company to pay costs, saying its description of the report as “a collection of unsubstantiated claims and allegations drawn together in such as way as to willfully portray Serco in the worst possible light and to minimise any criticism of the department” was “unfounded and inaccurate.”

Contrary to Corrections stating in their 3 November 2015 OIA response that “Prison monitors do not prepare Incident Reports; this is the responsibility of the Contractor (Serco). Prison Monitors prepare Monthly Contract Reports, which update senior Departmental staff on issues and events that occur each month at MECF. 

– it is clear that Monitors did indeed record incidences relating to various staffing, violence, and health-related problems (referred to as “issues” in business/bureaucratic jargon);

131/b. On 7 February 2014, Monitors noted that “incidents appear to be taking place in the units when the staff are out of the unit/s for short periods of time”, and that “a visit to Delta unit on Friday 07 Feb did identify nil staff in the wings of both Delta 1 and Delta 2 [i.e. both Delta Unit pods].” – p41

131/c. “On 28 February 2014, it was reported that the Monitors’ observations over a two week period showed that unit pods were being left unstaffed while prison officers conducted prisoner escorts and attended to other duties.” – p41

131/e. “On 9 June 2014, the Monitors observed that staff shortages meant some prisoners did not receive breakfasts.” -p41

The Inspector pointed out  the experience of two of the three Prison Monitors;

319. “It is noted that two of the three monitors have been in the role for approximately four years.” – p79

But experience was gained at the expense of lack of training;

350. “The Investigation found that there was no specific training given to Monitors in respect of their role, authority and responsibilities at MECF. In my view, Monitors ought to be given training specific to the requirements of their role, which includes reporting on the management of the prison as well as contractual compliance. There is a need for a training package to be developed to ensure Monitors are suitably equipped to undertake the tasks required of them.” p85

There also appeared to be a “silo-isation” of Corrections management, resulting in paralysis where Serco’s shortcomings were obvious but not acted on;

328. “The Chief Custodial Officer (CCO) provides informed advice on emerging custodial practices and developments worldwide, and maintains an overview of research trends and future thinking…

329. The CCO is in daily contact with the Relationship Manager and matters arising from MECF are discussed. The CCO advised that he does not hold any authority over provisions of the Contract with Serco nor does he hold a separate statutory monitoring power…

330. He believed that there was no formal process for him to elevate matters raised by the Monitors to the Chief Executive. He understood that the appropriate formal processes for elevating these matters by the Monitors was through the Northern Regional Commissioner or Director Commercial. Accordingly, the Monitors report contractual breaches to the Commercial Contracts team. Custodial and operational issues were elevated to the Northern Regional Commissioner who is responsible for operations at all prisons in the Northern region, including MECF.” p81

Where instances of short-coming were presented to Serco, the private contractor actively fobbed off the Monitors;

332/a. “…The Monitors sent a request to MECF for a FFR [Fact Finding Reviews – FM] on 24 March 2015 in regards to the allegation of “prisoners arranging fights” they had raised on the Issues Log. A FFR conducted by Serco management, was received on 30 March 2015 and was deemed not up to standard by the Monitors. The issue was closed off on 20 April 2015 after the Monitors received an updated FFR. However the second FFR does not address the issues raised by the Relationship Manager in respect to the first FFR<b> and appeared to be the same report</b> [My emphasis – FM] . No further action was taken by the Monitors or Serco.” p.82

In case the above point was lost on anyone in government or Correction, the Prison Inspector spelled it out;

333. “I believe that in the instances identified above, the Monitors were ineffective in following up on remedial actions to the issues they had raised. Issues were prematurely removed from the Issues Log without satisfactory remedial response or action from Serco.” p.82

The effectiveness of Prison Monitors then became diluted and confused;

340. “The Monitors reported that they considered that they were required to establish a balance between reporting potential non-compliance by Serco, and providing advice on operational matters to Serco. There was therefore some confusion among Monitors as to the appropriate steps required to address identified issues.

342. I believe that this raises potential risk of a conflict of interest, in that Monitors who may have provided advice to Serco on policy matters may be compromised if they are required to monitor and direct action in regard to situations where they have provided “expert advice”.” p84

Serco was only too happy to assist with the neutering of Prison Monitors as they increased pressure on the three staffers;

344. “The Monitors advise that their relationship with MECF management was often very difficult. They would sometimes experience significant ‘pushback’ from the MECF Prison Director when raising issues requiring remedial action. There is no evidence that their objectivity and independence has been compromised.

345. However, I believe the Monitors have been overwhelmed, worn down and consumed by MECF management continually challenging their requests for resolution to matters.” p84

The Prison Inspector further pointed out that;

344. “The Monitors advise that their relationship with MECF management was often very difficult. They would sometimes experience significant ‘pushback’ from the MECF Prison Director when raising issues requiring remedial action. There is no evidence that their objectivity and independence has been compromised.
345. However, I believe the Monitors have been overwhelmed, worn down and consumed by MECF management continually challenging their requests for resolution to matters.
346. This is evident from certain entries in the Issues Log, which show Monitors escalating issues through the Relationship Manager without appropriate resolution. Following a lack of timely action, the Monitors have accepted Serco’s decision as to the adequacy of its own response to identified issues. The extensive ‘pushback’ and challenge received from MECF management would shift the focus, or minimise the significance of the issue concerned.” – p84

Serco’s response was, by now, wholly predictable and the Prison Inspector was candid in his criticism;

348. “Serco does not accept the characterisation of its actions as ‘pushback’. It says that its relationship with Monitors was “a robust one, as should be expected in a complex environment such as MECF”. Whatever language is used, I consider that the Monitors’ effectiveness was affected by Serco’s persistent challenges to the issues they raised.” – p85

However, this was not simply the fault of stressed, overwhelmed, worn down Prison Monitors.

Nor even Serco which exploited what it quickly perceived as weaknesses in the system, and an ideologically-driven government that was sensitive to any suggestion that it’s privatised prison model was failing on all levels.

Corrections NZ should also be held to account.

It is my belief, based on the obfuscatory nature of OIA responses from Corrections NZ, that it was unwilling to answer specific questions regarding Prison Monitors.

The responses from Corrections NZ were not just shrouded in ‘bureaucratese’ – they were a deliberate ploy not to provide answers to specific questions.

But more damning is a discovery by the Inspector of a secret report in July 2014 that was ultimately suppressed;

36. In May 2014, Corrections received information from a Probation Officer that she had been informed by offenders that there was organised fighting occurring at MECF.

37. On the basis of the information received, the PSU made enquiries, which included interviewing the probation offenders who alleged there was a significant amount of fighting taking place, particularly in two units. Offenders had also made allegations that staff were involved in assaults, gambled on fights, and placed prisoners in dangerous situations. However the PSU investigation concluded that there was no substantiated evidence supporting these claims.

38. Following the PSU enquiry, the National Commissioner of Corrections directed an operational review of this issue. Two principal custodial advisors were appointed as special monitors (the Special Monitors), and undertook an investigation in June 2014. The Terms of Reference for the Special Monitor’s report were to investigate the allegations of organised fighting uncovered by PSU’s enquiries. The methodology included: reviewing all available CCTV footage and interviewing any prisoners, staff or incident notification reports that related to fights and assaults.

39. A final draft of the Special Monitors’ report was completed on 9 July 2014 and a copy delivered to the office of the National Commissioner.

40. The Special Monitors’ draft report found that:

a) Prisoner interviews indicate that organised fighting was occurring.
b) All prisoners who confirmed the existence of organised fighting said it was being organised by criminal gangs.
c) There was no evidence of staff involvement other than reports by prisoners, but staff at MECF must at least be aware of the existence of organised fighting.
d) Staff who confirmed that organised fighting had occurred around 12 months ago said that incidents had occurred during periods of reduced staffing.

41. The report was never finalised, but was provided in redacted draft to the MECF Prison Director in May 2015. <b><i>The Prison Director has stated that he was told not to reveal the contents of the report to anyone. </i> </b> [My emphasis. – FM]

42. The reasons why this report was never finalised were investigated by a separate body to this investigation. I am of the view that this report should have been finalised and provided to Serco. The failure to finalise the report is not attributed to Serco. Two independent members of the Corrections’ Audit and Risk Committee had been tasked with reviewing the management of this report under terms of reference approved by the Chief Executive. I have been provided a copy of their review which supports my belief that the original report should have been finalised and provided to Serco, and escalated to Corrections senior management including the CE. The Investigation will not include any further consideration of this matter. p13/14

Corrections NZ knew more than it has let on. That is why the 2014 Report was ‘buried’.

It was only when the video-evidence of “fightclub” footage on Youtube  emerged that Corrections NZ could no longer keep turning a blind eye to Serco’s mis-management at Mt Eden. The dirty little secret was out in the open for all to see.

It is my considered belief that Corrections NZ – up to the very  senior levels of management – knew what was happening at Mt Eden.

The reason that Corrections chose a deliberate policy of ignoring the growing crisis at Mt Eden was simple: do not embarrass the government. This policy is central to National’s credibility to govern;

A former high-ranking Customs lawyer says he resigned from his job after allegedly being told to bury information that could embarrass the Government.

Curtis Gregorash said he was told by senior Customs executives to refuse Official Information Act and Privacy Act requests, which he believed was at the direction of former Customs Minister Maurice Williamson.

It comes at a time the Prime Minister’s office is under inquiry over the release of intelligence material through the OIA and accusations that former Justice Minister Judith Collins was manipulating OIA responses for political purposes.

There is now growing evidence that the new prison at Wiri is also experiencing problems under it’s Serco administration;

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sercos-prison-fight-clubs-might-have-spread-to-wiri-labour-tv3

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This time, however, we can only hope that the Prison Inspector and Prison Monitors will force Corrections NZ not to look the other way.

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References

Corrections Dept: Prison Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility

NZ Herald: Head Hunters raids – Police investigating former Mt Eden prison guard

Corrections Dept: Prison Performance Table

TV3: Mt Eden prison guards ‘understaffed, afraid’

Scoop  media:  The Nation – Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga

Corrections Dept: Inspector of Corrections

Corrections Dept: Chief Inspector’s Reports into Circumstances surrounding organised prisoner on prisoner fighting (Fight Club) and access to cell phone contraband (background & terms of reference)

Radio NZ: Serco challenges Mt Eden fight report

NZ Herald: Serco investigation ‘fair’ – High Court

NBR: Serco’s criticism of Mt Eden fight club report ‘wholly unwarranted’, judge says

Corrections Dept: Chief Inspector’s Reports into Circumstances surrounding organised prisoner on prisoner fighting (Fight Club) and access to cell phone contraband (redacted report)

Corrections Dept: Prison Management Contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility

Legislation.govt.nz: Corrections Act 2004 – 199E – Monitors

NZ Herald: Ex-govt lawyer’s ‘bury bad news’ claim

TV3 News: Serco’s prison fight clubs might have spread to Wiri – Labour

Additional

Radio NZ: New details about Mt Eden Prison fight clubs released

Radio NZ: Serco sacked dozens of staff while running prisons

Radio NZ: Serco lost $10m after Mt Eden fiasco

Radio NZ: PM admits Govt uses delaying tactics

Other blogposts

No Right Turn: A failure of privatisation

The Daily Blog: So the SERCO fight clubs were weekly?

The Daily Blog: Hold on, wait, there was a secret SERCO report that was smothered? Things you’re missing because of rugby toilet sex

The Standard: The Chief Prison Inspector’s report on Serco and MECF

Previous related blogposts

So what is the rationale for private prisons?

The closure of three prisons and loss of 262 jobs – five issues for the National govt

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

Questions over Serco’s “independent” monitors and it’s Contract with the Crown

 

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Serco cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 October 2016.

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