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The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

29 March 2019 4 comments

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“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.”

That was from the trial of Clayton Weatherston in 2009, convicted killer of Sophie Elliott. His behaviour in court, televised for all to see, was appalling.

Chief executive of Women’s Refuge (at the time),  Heather Henare, described Weatherston’s self-serving exploitation of his courtroom platform with disgust;

“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.

Everyone must have a fair trial, of course, but I think we need to be asking whether a trial like this actually represents any kind of justice whatsoever.”

Even as the nation looked on at Weatherston’s performance, the fact is that there was only one real person that Weatherston was playing to: himself. He would have had very little, if any, support from his audience.

Two years later, another killer took the ‘stage’ in a Norwegian courtroom. Mass-murderer, terrorist, and far-right fanatic, Anders  Breivik was charged and later convicted of murdering seventyseven innocent people. Breivik made his court appearances with dramatic effect;

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(Note: this blogger will not share images showing the killer’s face. If you’re sufficiently curious, look it up yourself.)

Breivik justified his killing spree with a chilling statement that bears relevance to the Christchurch terror attack on 15 March;

“They were not innocent, non-political children; these were young people who worked to actively uphold multicultural values…”

During his court case, Breivik expounded his far right views. It became his platform to promulgate his ideology and to create an image of “heroic action” amongst the far-right in every nation on Earth, from America to Britain to Greece to Ukraine and elewhere.

One survivor of his terror attack, Viljar Hanssen,  was clear in his condemnation of the Courtroom circus;

“For many of us, the relentless struggle for a good and dignified life continues… while the media incessantly give a podium to the Breivik circus.”

It had an eerie similarity to critics of Weatherstone’s behaviour during his trial.

The difference between Weatherstone and Breivik is that Breivik was playing to a supportive, approving audience throughout the world.

It should not be lost on people that the alleged Christchurch shooter committed his terrorist atrocity having been inspired by Breivik.

Breivik, in turn, disclosed he had been inspired by Oklahoma bomber and far-right terrorist, Timothy McVeigh.

Breivik and McVeigh have becomes heroes amongst the far right, with many openly declaring their admiration of the murderers. Some, llike Christopher Paul Hasson, were fortunately  caught by law enforcement authorities before they could carry out their own terrorist attacks.

Hasson had been inspired by Breivik.

In the far-right “community”, the term “Going Breivik” has obvious, deadly meaning.

There are multiple instances of far right individuals carrying out, or attempting to carry out, their own terror attacks. All have been inspired by other attackers.  It is an ongoing cycle of domino of death.

It is against this back-drop that we now have to consider the alleged Christchurch shooter’s own looming trial. The alleged killer has indicated he will represent himself;

The duty lawyer who represented Tarrant in court on Saturday confirmed to the Herald today that he was no longer acting for him.

Richard Peters said Tarrant appeared to be lucid and was not mentally unstable – other than the extreme views that he held.

Peters said that his job representing Tarrant ceased on Saturday – and that the accused gunman had told him he wanted to represent himself in future.

This raises the spectre of the alleged Christchurch shooter repeating past instances of terrorists turning his trial into a platform to spout his racist, xenophobic views; his motivations; and his ideas of a world-wide war against other ethnic and religious groups.

Any notion that this will not happen is naive.

When the alleged shooter went on his killing spree, it was live-filmed and up-loaded onto social media. Since then Facebook confirmed removing 1.5 million copies of the terror attack. That was two days ago (as at writing this blogpost). The number has probably increased by the time you read this.

The purpose of filming and uploading a video of the attack should be clear to everyone.

For the alleged shooter to be given a Court platform by televising or  radio-broadcasting his comments would compound his desire to spread his toxic extremist views. As Massey University law professor, Chris Gallivan, pointed out;

“We’re going to hear a lot more about this gentleman and probably from this gentleman, and also about his ideology, before this is over.

We have to ensure the victims are protected through that and that it is not a platform to be able to extol his worldview. But if he self-represents – the courts probably will struggle to stop him using this as a platform.

Anders Breivik didn’t recognise the jurisdiction of the court and used every opportunity he possibly could to spout his vitriol and worldview.”

From there, it is a short step to that publicity being widely disseminated amongst the far right, and inspiring the next terrorist attack. Copy-cat attacks are already occurring in Britain;

Detectives are investigating an alleged far-Right terror attack in Surrey after a teenager was stabbed amid a spate of racist incidents across Britain which came in the wake of the New Zealand massacre.

Politicians and police have condemned the attacks and said extremism has no place in British society.

The 19-year-old victim was said to have been attacked by a man armed with a knife and a baseball bat who it is claimed was heard shouting racist comments.

Yet, conducting the trial in secret is also not a solution.

Secrecy breeds suspicion. It would give birth to a host of mind-numbingly tedious conspiracy theories. Salient information about his actions would be lost. It would create dangerous legal precedent.

There has to be a middle-ground. A compromise where the alleged shooter is denied a platform – but where secrecy does not create unintended consequences.

Televising and radio-broadcasting the alleged shooter’s comments is simply not tenable. That would give him the stage to encourage others by his own words.

Just as The Daily Blog denies links to ‘Infowars‘ because the administrator(s) consider Alex Jones a crazed hate-monger who cannot be reasoned with.

Worse still, it re-victimises the survivors and families of the terror attack. The ghoulish spectacle of the alleged shooter on our TV screens or his voice on our radios, would be an unbearable trauma for many people. There is no fairness in such a prospect.

The best compromise is to allow media to attend the trial – without electronically recording and disseminating anything the alleged shooter says. His comments can be paraphrased, if they are salient. Simply repeating his toxic beliefs is unnecessary. Anyone interested in his ideology has a multitude of far right websites to visit: they are not shy in seeking publicity (and recruits).

RNZ chief executive, Paul Thompson,  has  taken a lead by approaching other news media to show restraint how the alleged shooter’s comments should be reported in the media;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said the organisation would have “really strong editorial controls” in its court coverage, focusing on the key legal aspects of the case.

“Just because someone’s representing himself, perhaps, and makes a three-hour opening statement, you don’t have to cover every word of it,” he said.

Mr Thompson said he had begun contacting others in the news business to see if they wanted to develop a joint approach.

“It’s no good if some of us exercise that restraint and other outlets don’t,” he said.

This shows responsible restraint.

Furthermore, Court gallery seating should be given priority to the families, friends, and community leaders of his victims. They, above all of us, have a right to see the face of the alleged killer who took so many precious lives.

Recording devices (smart phones, dictaphones, etc) should not be allowed into the Court.

Some may balk at these suggestions. I make no apology for making them.

‘Phase 1’ of the alleged shooter’s plan was to live-stream his terror attack. If the alleged shooter is allowed to use the Court as a platform for his toxic views, we are, in effect, allowing him ‘Phase 2’ of his plan for maximum publicity.

We should deny him that oxygen. Just as we deny ISIS the oxygen of publicity by removing their on-line propaganda videos whenever they are found.

Otherwise, any direct publicity given to him could inspire the next far right terrorist to commit his own atrocity. We would be complicit in that.

New Zealanders never thought this would happen here. But it did.

New Zealanders may think giving the alleged shooter a platform won’t inspire the next killer. It will.

We should think carefully on what we do next.  There will be consequences.

There are always consequences.

 

Postscript

This episode of Radio NZ’s “mediawatch” appeared too late for the blogpost above, but it is pertinent to the issues raised:

Mediawatch – How Christchurch’s assault has made a mark on our media

Mediawatch – Lessons from Norway on covering the quest for justice

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: Weatherston trial a ‘national disgrace’

The Guardian: Anders Behring Breivik claims victims were not innocent

France24: Breivik makes Nazi salute at court appearance

Sydney Morning Herald: Christchurch suspect claimed ‘brief contact’ with Norwegian mass murderer

The Buffalo News: For some alt-right extremists, bomber Timothy McVeigh is a hero

Public Radio International: Oklahoma City bombing inspired Breivik, Norway’s mass murderer

Washington Post: ‘They hate white males’ – A Norwegian mass murderer inspired the Coast Guard officer accused of plotting terror, feds say

New York Times: The Anatomy of White Terror

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings – Brenton Tarrant to represent himself in court

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch terror attack: Lessons from the Anders Breivik trial

Fairfax/Stuff: Christchurch shootings: Facebook removed 1.5 million videos

The Telegraph: Surrey teenager stabbed in ‘far-Right terror attack’ amid spate of racist incidents after New Zealand massacre

Radio NZ: How media plan to cover the accused Christchurch shooter’s trial

Additional

ADLS: Judges zoom in on courtroom cameras

Other Bloggers

TDB:  On the trial, on the failure of our intelligence agencies & on the blame game

TDB:  Dr Liz Gordon – The narcissist twins and the future of humanity

TDB:  Selwyn Manning – Christchurch Terror Attacks – New Zealand’s Darkest Hour – Friday 15th 2019

Previous related blogposts

A funny thing happened at the Mall

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 March 2019.

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Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

23 March 2019 2 comments

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An Official Information Act (OIA) response released to this blogger appears to confirm suspicions that anti-trans-activists mis-represented six cases of trans-women prisoners allegedly involved in violent incidences in Women’s correctional facilities.

The OIA response from the Corrections Department, was first released to persons unknown (see original document, with recipient redacted) in September last year. The recipient asked several questions related to trans-gender women (male-to-female) prisoners held in Women’s prisons:

  • How many trans-identified males are in New Zealand prisons.
  • How many are in for violent crimes, including sexual assault?
  • How many trans-identified males are in women’s prison’s?

The ‘loaded’ language of the questions pointedly referred to “trans-identified males” instead of the more common-usage of “trans-gender women” by the LGBTQI community.

This is a strong indication that the unknown recipient had their own bias on the issue of trans-gender men and women.  The unknown recipient was setting the narrative by not  correctly address trans prisoners in women’s prisons as trans-women.

It may also have created some confusion in the mind of the author of the OIA response;

“As your request focuses on ‘trans-identified males’ in prisons, each of these questions has been interpreted to relate to transgender individuals who may have been assigned female at birth, but identify as male.”

It is apparent, though, that the unknown recipient actually had in mind “assigned male at birth, but [who later] identify as female”.

The Corrections OIA response states;

“Custodial staff are also being provided with training material to develop an understanding of gender diversity, with a focus on the use of correct pronouns and appropriate language.”

Mis-use of  correct pronouns and appropriate gender terms has been prevalent by “gender critical” activists to the point where accurate meaning is obscured and becomes denigrating to trans-people. This appears to be deliberate.

Previous commentators on The Daily Blog and social media have also referred made reference to attacks on women by trans-“men” prisoners;

six attacks on women by trans men in prison

Correction says that over the year there have been six attacks on women prisoners by these trans men who retain their male bodies

six women prisoners have alleged they were attacked by some of the men transferred into the women’s prison

“I have an OIA from NZ Corrections. SIX women were assaulted by male-bodied people (who id as women) in the last 24 months. NO women assaulted a male-bodied person”

One commentator asserted, inaccurately;

“Some men are imprisoned for committing violent crimes against women. If they are trans in prison they may be attacked themselves. Corrections have moved to protect these people by transferring them to women’s prisons.”

– though this was later retracted by the same person, admitting it could not be substantiated.

However, the OIA response from Corrections does not verify the allegations. Corrections has clarified the issue by pointing out;

“… no transgender individual housed at a women’s prison (either identifying as male, or female) has been convicted of sexual offences.”

There has been no reported instance of a ‘Karen White‘-type assault in New Zealand. In the case of British sex-offender, “Karen White”,  Jenny-Anne Bishop, from the UK  transgender rights group Transforum, was highly critical of the way in which White was not correctly assessed, nor that White’s sexual offending against women and children had not been more rigorously considered.

In Britain, Ms Bishop, said;

“The case boards* are a good way of doing things – you can’t say the system is wrong when it goes wrong once. It is almost the exception that proves the rule – you’ve just got to look at what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. No system is perfect. It’s human nature that people will sometimes get it wrong.”

(* A local transgender case board consisting of prison managers and psychologists who decide where to place trans-identifying prisoners – eg; “Karen White” – within three days of incarceration.)

In New Zealand, Corrections has stated that a trans-gender prisoner who has  been convicted of a sexual offence against a person of their own nominated gender would not be placed alongside prisoners of their nominated-gender;

“A transgender prisoner whose detention relates to a serious sexual offence against a person of their nominated gender, or who was released from a prison sentence for such an offence within the last seven years, will not be eligible to apply to the Chief Executive [for placement in accordance with their nominated gender].”

At no point have “gender critical” activists publicised this salient point from the OIA release.

The claim that there have been “six attacks on women by trans men in prison” (ie, trans-women) has also not been fully confirmed by the OIA release.The statement confirms six alleged assaults;

“A total of six prisoner on prisoner assault incidents occurred in women’s prisons from January 2017 to the date of your request, where the prisoner alleged to have committed the assault had a transgender alert.”

There is no clarity provided as to the circumstances of the alleged assaults. No incident reports have been attached with the OIA release. There is no indication what investigations were carried out or what findings, if any, were made.

All we are told is that there were six incidents and the prisoner(s) involved “had a transgender alert“. There are several questions that remain unanswered;

  • How many trans-gender people were involved? One? Six? Is it the same person involved in all six incidences? Or six people in one incident each?
  • Were the alleged assaults made on CIS women, or were trans-prisoners involved in incidences involving each other?
  • And were these incidences cases where the trans-gender person was the instigator, or self-defence against harassment or assault by another person?
  • What was the nature of the assault? A shove; a slap/punch; a life-threatening attack?

The Corrections Dept OIA release breaks down the number of transgender prisoners in women’s facilities’

“Of the 33 transgender prisoners mentioned above, 26 were housed in a men’s prison, and 7 were housed in a women’s prison.”

Interestingly, one of those seven was a trans-man (assigned female at birth, but identifies as male);

“One transgender prisoner in a women’s prison is recorded as identifying as a male.”

There is no indication whether this female-to-male trans-prisoner was involved in any of the six incidents.

It is a struggle to understand how “gender critical” activists can make a case against housing trans-women in Women’s prisons based on such a profound lack of clear evidence.

What is clearly understood is a history of trans-people suffering harrasment, assaults, sexual violation, and worse within prisons in New Zealand and overseas. For “gender critical” activists to now target trans-people as threatening women in “safe places” such as prisons is disturbing.

Prisons are already brutal institutions where ongoing brutalisation takes place on a daily basis. Page 84 of the 2016/17 Corrections Dept Annual Report reveals that in the 2016/17 financial year, there “were almost 1,500 non-serious/no injury assaults (on prisoners and staff)”, twentyfive of which were serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

There is no break-down on gender, ethnicity, age, location of facility, etc.

That is not to say that women’s (and men’s) prisons should not be made safer. It is our social responsibility to ensure that people whose lives have been damaged and de-railed (often from a very early age), and then incarcerated by the State,  are not brutalised any further.  It serves no useful purpose to see prisoners eventually released into the community more bitter and violent than when they went in.

Focusing on six transgender prisoners out of a prison population of approximately ten thousand is unhelpful.  Re-victimisation of an already marginalised minority is something that is no longer acceptable in New Zealand.

Whatever point “gender critical” activists have attempted to make with those three loaded OIA questions, and the subsequent mis-representation of the response from Corrections, has been lost in a swirling miasma of irrational transphobia.

They have not helped their case one iota.

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References

Corrections Dept: OIA statement on transgender prisoners – 3.9.2018

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Snopes: Did a Male Rapist Who Identifies as Female Transfer to a Women’s Jail and Assault Female Inmates?

Transforum

The Guardian: Karen White – how ‘manipulative’ transgender inmate attacked again

Corrections Dept: Annual Report 2016/17(p84)

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 March 2019.

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15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

22 March 2019 1 comment

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On a day when our young people succeeded in prodding grownups to take notice of the looming climate change disaster bearing down on us, other “grownups” had more nefarious, murderous thoughts in mind. On a day which should have been positive and filled with idealism and hope, we ended with tragedy and tears.

This was not our first terrorist attack in modern times. Many of us will recall the Wellington Trades Hall bombing in March 1984 and most of us will recall the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour a year later.

A life was lost on each occassion.

On 15 March, 49 unarmed, innocent people – men, women, children – were shot dead by a coward. His political agenda – white nationalism. His means of “persuasion” – a high-powered rifle.

It was a gutless act of terror espousing a corrupt, poisonous ideology.

The handful of fanatics responsible do not represent Aotearoa New Zealand and our espoused values. Not even close. Their minds are as alien and repellent to us as something that crawled out of a primordial swamp.

It is still early days. New Zealanders are still in shock as disbelief is replaced with reality setting in. Then will come the other stages of grief, including anger. Our Prime Minister’s steady, measured voice of calm reassurance has been a godsend. Her resolute rejection of extremism was heartening, almost Churchillian;

“For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here, we, New Zealand, we are not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this violnece because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the fact we represent none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.

And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages and amongst that diversity we share common values and the one that we place the currency on right now and tonight is our compassion and the support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy

Secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology for those who did this … we utterly reject and condemn you.”

After the grief and anger, there will be debate and questioning. Perhaps I am premature, but these are some of the things we, as a nation, will have to confront and address…

1. A Message to the GCSB and NZSIS: where were you?

Why were security services targetting left-wing bloggers like Martyn Bradbury and investigative journalists like Nicky Hager – but white supremacists were “unknown” to them? What do they spend their days and budget on?

Commentator, Matthew Hooton was one if the first to put the question on social media:

@MatthewHootonNZ
I know this is early, but it seems to me the Director-General of Security should at least offer her resignation to the Prime Minister, even if it probably shouldn’t be accepted today. This is a disastrous & inexcusable failure by the intelligence services. 
9:09 PM · Mar 15, 2019
Former member of parliament, Tau Henare, put the same question;
@tauhenare
It was so easy for the Security Forces of NZ to lay camera’s in the Urewera to spy on Maori “terrorists” It was so easy for them to arrest Tame and to send him to prison for having a clapped out Lee Enfield rifel. I’m sorry, but this is NZ. “How did we miss this” the media ask?
8:22 AM · Mar 16, 2019
As events unfolded, Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted what many were already starting to suspect:

“No agency has had any info about these people. I’ve been in touch with my Australian colleagues who had no information about them either.”

It cannot be for a lack of resources and legislative power.

Since 2002,  successive governments (mostly National) have enacted a string of amendments and new laws. Each law change ramped up surveillance powers of the State’s agencies:

Labour government

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National government

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

National/Labour

Customs and Excise Act 2018 (legislation) (history)

The Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013 – one of the most contentious in recent history – increased the reach of the GCSB to allow monitoring of New Zealand citizens, and other individuals, at home and abroad.

Prime Minister at the time, John Key, justified increased State surveillance by invoking the threat of terrorism;

“In a world of global terrorism where Isis is trying to reach influence into a country like New Zealand, of course on a much lower scale than they do somewhere else, we can best defend ourselves by stopping that before it ever happens.”

During a review of the security agencies in 2016,  Michael Cullen put the case for widening the surveillance powers of the GCSB by invoking emergency scenarios;

“Let us suppose a New Zealander is in imminent danger, in terms of their life overseas. Maybe lost at sea or some other example. Under this legislation as the GCSB feels it has to interpret it, the GCSB’s capacity to trace an individual’s cellphone and to say exactly where it is, cannot be used.

We have no way of finding out where that person is, using that capacity, in order to take immediate and urgent action, in whatever way, to try to protect the safety of that New Zealander.”

The National government got the “green light” and the GCSB Act was duly amended.

And it did not help us one iota.

As for financial resources, both the GCSB and NZSIS enjoyed a considerable increase in funding over a decade:

GCSB:

2008/09: $48,888,000 (up $8,543,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $158,029,000

NZSIS:

2008/09: $36,889,000 (up $3,138,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $82,843,000

So any suggestion that  State agencies did not have the legislative power or government funding to enable monitoring of extremist groups in this country is not credible and flies in the face of facts.

The threat existed. Just not from ISIS. The State was looking in the wrong direction.

Indeed, surveillance was widespread in Aotearoa New Zealand by State agencies, even going so far as to employ private investigators to spy on Christchurch  property-owners, affected by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

The spying by Thompson and Clark was illegal, but it indicated a strong willingness by various State agencies to carry out snooping when it suited them. Thompson and Clark spied on political activists, iwi groups, and environmental protestors such as Greenpeace.

The invasive and illegal breach of Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury’s privacy by Police is also a matter of public record.

But when it came to keeping a watchful eye on our own, local hate groups, the Police, SIS, and GCSB failed.

They had one job to do and they failed us. They failed 49 innocent people.

Where were you?

2. A Message to Simon Bridges

As the awful horror of the terrorist attack slowly dawned on us, social media was flooded with many messages of support, well-wishes, empathy, as well as disbelief, anger, and horror, our elected representatives added their voices.

One, from current leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges, ‘tweeted’;

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

I’m shocked to hear about the incident unfolding in Christchurch. My heart goes out to the families and I stand with the Canterbury community.
2:49 PM – 15 Mar 2019

My response – perhaps overly emotional as the Christchurch terror-attack impacted on me – was not impressed;

fmacskasy
@fmacskasy

Replying to

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

Mr Bridges, I have one request of you. DON’T YOU DARE USE THIS TRAGEDY AS SOME PERVERTED LAW & ORDER ELECTION ISSUE NEXT YEAR. Don’t even think about exploiting this for votes. Just. Don’t.
6:29 PM · Mar 15, 2019

Is it a forlorn hope that National’s party strategists, desperate to regain the government benches, would not exploit this tragedy and the deaths of fortynine people? National has exploited the “law and order” issue in the past;

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If, as I suspect, National goes down this road, I hope the vast majority of good New Zealanders responds accordingly.

Does Mr Bridges really want to end his career as the self-serving politician who was willing to exploit the worst terrorist attack in our modern history? I hope that wiser heads in the National Party counsel him against such a grotesque idea.

Don’t do it, Mr Bridges.

3. A Message to my fellow Progressive Comrades
Last year, two alt-right (I call them polite-fascists) Canadian activists visited Aotearoa New Zealand. Their visit generated much soul-searching and debate – especially within progressive circles. There were many bloggers and  left-wing commentators who – whilst opposing Southern and Molyneux’s racist, transphobic, Islamophobic, and sexist beliefs – supported their right to free speech.

I held a different view.

On 29 August last year, I explained why I believed that countenancing the spread of hate-ideology by visiting “activists” was a luxury we could ill-afford;

For many others, free speech was not absolute. Spreading racist, homophobic, sexist, and transphobic vitriol belittled already-marginalised and disempowered people in our society.

For others, their Care Factor was zero. Faced with an empty refrigerator, or sleeping in a garage or car, or choosing whether to pay the power bill or medication for a child with rheumatic fever, was a closer reality for many New Zealanders.

If you were white, male, and straight – you would be right to feel safe from the bigotted chauvinism of two alt-right Polite Fascists .  A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.

If you were a person of colour, gay, a woman with a career and a baby, or transgender – not so much.  You might feel less inclined to welcome people into our country whose main purpose was to denigrate you; deny you your equality; your inclusivity in society; your very identity.

[…]

For the more rational angels on the side of the Free Speech debate, it was a necessary price to pay for a free society.

Unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors.

Perhaps my background as the son of immigrant parents gave me an insight that other New Zealanders, whose parents were also born here (or immigrated from another Anglo-Saxon country) could not easily appreciate.

I repeated my subtle warning that “free speech” was not free and “unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors“.

As in the United States, many Americans support their Second Amendment “right to bear arms”. At least 5% support gun rights with “no or very few” restrictions”. For those Americans, mass-shootings is the “price” to pay for their Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, that “price” is paid by others.

Just as the sale of one gun, from one gun shop, somewhere in New Zealand, probably didn’t contribute directly to the mass-shooting in Christchurch. Or the sale of one gun in the US didn’t contribute directly to mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.

Am I suggesting that Southern and Molyneux were directly responsible for the terror attack in Christchurch. No, not directly.

After all, their voices were only two, of many.

But really, what did people think  was the purpose of Southern and Molyneux  to visit Aotearoa New Zealand? To engage in rational debate with progressives over a cup of Earl Grey and gingernut? To do the Tourist Thing and take ‘selfies’ on the Fox Glacier?

What did we think their purpose was to visit Aotearoa New Zealand?

Let me answer that. They were not here to debate. They are past debate.

They were here to (a) encourage new recruits amongst the disaffected and (b) re-energise existing far-right and alt-right groups.

It took barely six months after I wrote my rebuttal to permitting the Polite Fascists to visit. They came, nevertheless. They made their public speeches. (There was no debate.) And they left, to continue their ‘mission’ to spread their poison somewhere else, to eager listeners with anger and hate in their minds.

So we had our free speech. Only, it wasn’t “free”. There was a cost attached.

The price for their free speech has been paid-in-full. By the gods, we paid dearly.

Or at least, people of colour; of another religion; another ethnicity, paid. Those earnest, white, Free Speech Advocates who called for free speech – they didn’t have to pay the price.

The alleged shooter reportedly approached a white male by-stander outside one of the Mosques and spared his life. Because the person was white. Fortynine others were not so lucky. Wrong skin colour.

I hope that Aotearoa New Zealand’s naive notions of free speech for visiting far right extremists has come to an end.  Extremists have no natural, “god-given” right to enter our country. That “right” has never existed and was an indulgence we mistakenly encouraged.

The price to pay is too high.

15 March was a day when thousands of  young people took to the streets to demand action on worsening climate change; which would impact on them and steal their futures. Meanwhile another “grownup” was committing cold-blooded murder. On a day which should have been positive and filled with youthful  idealism and hope…

… it ended in tragedy and tears and grief that would break our hearts.

15 March 2019 – it was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

15 March 2019. Our Day of Infamy.

#Love

#Christchurch

#ThisIsNotWhoWeAre

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References

Radio NZ: Christchurch mosque shootings – ‘This can only be described as a terrorist attack’ – PM Jacinda Ardern

Twitter: Matthew HootonMatthew Hooton

Twitter: Tau HenareTau Henare

Maori TV: Christchurch shootings – Man charged with murder

Fairfax/Stuff media: New GCSB bill allows spying on Kiwis

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics – 11 March 2016  (alt. link)

Budget 2008/09: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2008/09: Vote Security Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Security Intelligence

Radio NZ: Thompson and Clark spied on earthquake victims, inquiry finds

Radio NZ: Private investigators used vehicle register to spy on environmentalists for years

Twitter: Simon Bridges – 15.3.2019 2.49PM

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – 15.3.19 6.29PM

Southern Poverty Law Centre: Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Southern and Molyneux good test for our free speech tolerance video

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern ‘simply can’t’ be both a mum and Prime Minister – Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Oscar Kightley – This free speech victory tastes a little strange

Reuters: Gun control support fades three months after Florida massacre – Reuters/Ipsos poll

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 March 2019.

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Simon Bridges: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT”

13 March 2019 1 comment

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A recent bold statement from current National Party leader, Simon Bridges, declared his intentions should a capital gains tax (CGT) be enacted;

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…No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand ” – a statement so categorical that it made John Key’s 2008 commitment never to raise GST, look timid;

“National is not going to be raising GST.

National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.”

Except, he did.  In October 2010, Key’s National government increased GST from 12.5% to 15%.

Nine years later, Simon Bridges has made a similar, solemn, hand-on-heart, promise: “No ifs, no buts, no caveats, I will repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand“.

Except, he can’t.

On at least several levels, his commitment to repeal a capital gains tax will fail.

Labour’s  Grant Robertson, made it crystal clear that any proposed CGT will not be implemented until after the 2020 general election;

“We know it is important to get this right, so we will balance the need for certainty and urgency by ensuring that any potential changes will not come into effect until the 2021 tax year. This gives multiple opportunities for public input, and a general election before any new tax would come into effect.”

The process would be straight-forward: whatever the Coalition government decides would be put into legislation that would not ‘activate’ until after the next election. It would take a repeal of that legislation to stop CGT from ‘kicking in’.

The difficulty with this is two-fold.

Firstly, Simon Bridges and the National Party would have to achieve a simple little thing: win the next election.

The chances of that happening – with current polling – is marginal, to say the least.

For starters, National has been trailing Labour in the last two political polls.

Secondly, National has no ‘mates’. ACT is consistently in the zero-to-1% band and the faux-Bluegreen Party is nowhere to be seen.

That leaves two parties: the Greens and NZ First.

The Green Party membership would rather machine gun the last remaining Hector’s Dolphins than entertain a “teal” coalition with the Nats. Bridges’ promise to reinstate offshore exploratory drilling for oil and gas would make any potential National-Green coalition toxic and as likely as a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.

Which leaves NZ First. It is unclear as to what benefit – if any – a coalition deal with the Nats would offer to NZ First. As well as having been the “kiss of death” to other small parties, National has tried to destroy Winston Peters in the past. Peters is unlikely to have forgotten the leaking of his superannuation over-payment and the strong probability that it was engineered by a senior National government minister who shall remain nameless.

Moreover, if this current Coalition Government passes legislation for a capital gains tax to take effect in 2021, that would mean all three parties – Labour, Greens, and NZ First – voting to pass said necessary legislation.

For a National-NZ First Coalition to repeal that legislation would mean NZ First voting against a law that they themselves helped enact.

The fallout with the public would be massive, echoing NZ First’s disastrous decision to form a coalition with National back in 1996. Public support for NZ First would rapidly evaporate.

There would be simply no possible political gain for NZ First to travel down that road.

So unless Simon Bridges can find a new political party to ally with; or, unless National can win 50% outright of the Party Vote in 2020 – both unlikely scenarios – his promise to “repeal this CGT as Prime Minister of New Zealand” cannot be taken seriously.

Indeed, the comments following Bridges’ ‘tweet’ on 6 March reflected the disbelief of such an unlikely event happening.

And more than one social media commentor asked some pertinent questions;

“Does that include the Brightline Test your government introduced?”

And;

“Will you get rid of tax on wages and if not, why not?”

Considering that National introduced a limited capital gains tax – the  two year ‘brightline’ test – in 2015, Bridges would have to make some hard decisions and explanations to the public.

Would the ‘Brightline’ test remain in place if he had an opportunity the scrap the Coalition’s more comprehensive CGT?

Would he return the ‘Brightline’ test to two years or keep it  at five?

How would he justify retaining a ‘Brightline’ test – whether at two or five years – when scrapping a more comprehensive, and justifiably fairer, capital gains tax? Why is one form of CGT acceptable to National, but not the other?

And as more than one person demanded to know, why is National promising to get rid of one tax (Capital gains) which would benefit property speculators – but not income tax, which would benefit every wage and salary earner in the country  (and put a permanent smile on David Seymour’s face that would never be erased)?

Bridges would be facing these questions and more in 2020 if he decided to make capital gains taxation an election issue next year.

All of which is unsurprising: at around 5% in the polls, Bridges faced the ignominy of approaching the margin of error – depressing symbolism to be viewed as an ‘error’ – and over-taken by one of his National MPs, Judith Collins. This has made him that most desperate of beasts; a politician at risk of becoming irrelevant.

No party can hope to win the governing benches with a Leader who is seen as uninspiring and lacking support from even National Party voters.

If Bridges cannot succeed in campaigning to defeat capital gains, his tenure as National’s leader will come to an abrupt end. To be followed in rapid succession by his political career.

A further point has probably not escaped the attention of the National Party: if the Coalition government wins the next election and remains intact, that would signify not just the implementation of the capital gains tax – but it’s bedding-in for three years. That would make it much harder to repeal.

Especially if all the fear-mongering, gloomy predictions failed to materialise and the world (or at least the bit at the bottom where New Zealand sat) failed to end in Mayan Calendar 2012-style. Like GST, National would have to ‘bite the bullet’ and accept the new tax. They simply could not find any justification to repeal it without perpetuating their ‘other’ reputation as being a party of, and for, “rich pricks”.

If Labour, the Greens, and NZ First hold their nerve and don’t blink in the face of right-wing hysteria and bluster, the political gain from implementing CGT could be greater than they anticipate.

In fact, everything to gain, and National to lose.

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Postscript

Response to National MP, Scott Simpson, engaging in fear-mongering over CGT:

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References

Twitter: Simon Bridges – no ifs no buts no caveats – 6 March 2019

Otago Daily Times: Key ruled out GST increase in 2008

NZ Herald: GST rise – The hole in your pocket

Interest.co.nz: Labour releases document setting out tax plan, says no Working Group taxes would come into effect until after 2020 election

Mediaworks/Newshub: National plunges to worst result in over a decade – Newshub poll

NZ Herald: National will reverse Govt’s offshore oil exploration ban if in power in 2020 – Bridges

Radio NZ: Peters’ legal action against National party continuing – lawyer

Beehive: Bright-line test targets gains on property sales

Interest.co.nz: The Bill that will see the bright line test extended from two-years to five has passed its third reading and now awaits the Royal Assent to become law

Mediaworks/Newshub: NZ prefers Judith Collins to Simon Bridges as Prime Minister – Newshub poll

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – Scott Simpson – capital gains tax

Other Blogs

The Standard: Why New Zealand needs a capital gains tax

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

ACT intending a “serious assault”?  (17 July 2011)

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax (31 May 2014)

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

Simon Bridges – out of touch with Kiwi Battlers (2 March 2019)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 March 2019.

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Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

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apartheid

noun

1. (in the Republic of South Africa) a rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population.
2. any system or practice that separates people according to color, ethnicity, caste, etc.

Dictionary.com

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Imagine having to apply a State body to confirm who and how you identify. Imagine if you are a Pakeha or Maori; CIS male or female; or a gay, lesbian, or bisexual,  having to acquire evidence from multiple medical specialists and compile a file to support your identity.

Imagine if you, reading this blog, had to rely on that Court’s decision as to how you would be identified by society.

Imagine, for example, if the identities of fellow bloggers Willie Jackson’s as a male Maori; David Farrar as a male Pakeha; Martyn Bradbury as a male Pakeha; Susan St John as a female Pakeha, former blogger Marama Davidson as a female Maori – were all determined by a Court of law.

Imagine if the required paperwork to present your application to the Court involved corroborating documentation from various professionals.

Imagine that the process was not free, but costs thousands of dollars. Imagine if you could not afford the cost, you could not apply to the Court: it was dependent on your ability to pay.

Imagine that the final decision then rests with a Court and a solitary judge (usually an old white male).

Imagine that your application could be knocked back; denied on a number of grounds.

Imagine that without approval from the Court, you could not identify as the gender, race, etc, that you felt yourself to be.

No need to imagine.

It exists.

There is a class of New Zealanders for whom all of the above is a reality: dictated by law.

But not for everyone. For the majority of us, there is no legal requirement for us to undergo a process to define who we are.

If you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you are who you are. The State plays no role in determining who you are or how your identify (for gay and bisexual men, since 1986).

You are a free citizen.

But the same does not apply for 100% of New Zealanders. We have a two-class system operating in this country.

If you accept the broad definition above, it may be surprising to discover we have an invisible  form of apartheid operating in this country.

The following is ‘Andrea’s’* story and how our own apartheid system has impacted on her.

Andrea is in her late 50s/early 60s. She is a university-educated professional, highly respected and successful in her field. Her research papers are required reading and has been referenced overseas by others working in her area of endeavour.

She is smart, observant, highly capable, articulate, and with a strong, supportive, close circle of  friends, loyal work colleagues, and loving family. She has two sons who adore her and are not shy or short of offering plenty of hugs, and an ex-partner with whom she maintains tight bonds of friendship and mutual support.

Andrea is also a trans-woman.

Andrea’s journey to transition to the gender she identifies with – female – did not begin in 2002, when she undertook gender-reassignment surgery here in New Zealand.

Andrea’s journey did not begin in 1999 when she came out to her work colleagues.

Andrea’s journey did not begin a year earlier, when she confronted her own true self and disclosed to her then-wife, Sharon*, that she identified as a woman and not as the male’s body she had been born into. It ended their marriage (which had already been under considerable pressure because of Andrea’s hidden gender dysphoria) – but in turn her disclosure to Sharon created a much stronger bond of trust and friendship.

Andrea’s journey began when she was three years old, when she “didn’t feel right” as a boy, and wanted to be a girl.

Her journey was not a simple one. But she says the surgical intervention she went through seventeen years ago was the least of her considerable challenges.

The surgery itself was reasonably straight forward,” she says.

The real challenges were the legal, procedural, and regulatory barriers she had to face.

To achieve a diagnosis for gender dysphoria and gain access to the female hormone oestrogen she first had to be assessed by a psychologist. That assessment consisted of ten, one hour long, sessions. It was a financial cost she had to bear.

Her next step was another specialist, an endocrinologist. That assessment was paid through her local DHB. This allowed Andrea to be prescribed androgen-blockers as well as critically-needed oestrogen.

She underwent electrolysis for unwanted facial hair. This process would be required for the following fifteen years. Cost, around $25,000, paid by Andrea.

Then came the major event that would transform her forever: genital reassignment surgery by New Zealand’s sole plastic surgeon qualified in this particular field. Cost, around $27,000,  again paid by Andrea.

But first – more professionals came and went through her life. The surgeon required two independent psychologist’s assessments; a psychiatric assessment and report, and an assessment by a social worker. The cost of these professionals – around $4,000 – was paid by Andrea.

In 2003, following succesful surgery, Andrea applied to the Family Court for a Declaration changing her gender, and recognising her as female. This required a sworn affidavit from Andrea’s endocrinologist to be presented by her lawyer.

A personal, sworn affidavit was also demanded from Andrea,  affirming that she would not change her mind – despite already having undergone radical genital reassignment surgery. (Perhaps law-makers thought she might “want it put back” later that afternoon?)

Cost of lawyer and court fees: paid by Andrea.

Andrea suffered an unexpected setback when the Judge refused to accept the endocrinologist’s affidavit. He demanded instead that the operating surgeon supply the required documentation.

Disappointed, but with black humour, Andrea asked her lawyer;

“What does he want? That I lift my dress and drop my knickers?”

Her lawyer replied that would probably not be helpful.

She paid more lawyer’s fees – around $3,000 – to obtain the surgeon’s affidavit. Another Court hearing followed.

That was followed by a process called tracheal shave – paid by Andrea. Cost, around $7,000.

The eventual Declaration by the Court reaffirming Andrea as legally female allowed her to be issued with a new much-needed female birth certificate.

That, in turn, would allow Andrea to apply for a passport in her newly identified female gender.

This permitted her to undertake facial feminisation surgery in Belgium. Cost, approximately $40,000, paid by Andrea.

That was followed by vocal chord surgery in Luxembourg in 2016, costing Andrea about $15,000.

A year later she had additional corrective surgery. More cost for Andrea; $12,000.

Andrea recognises that she is highly privileged. Her social status; high education; generous income; progressive employer and work-colleagues; and well-defined support network have benefitted her in ways that the vast majority of trans-people do not enjoy.

At the time the public health system funded only two trans-gendering operations per year and she could personally afford to “jump the queue”. There is an underlying painful sadness in Andrea’s tone when says ruefully that most trans-people are nowhere as lucky or privileged as she is.

Her decades-long journey to become her true self could by no means be described as a “spur-of-the-moment” fancy. The many years she waited; the number of professionals involved; each momentous step; the milestones achieved; the high financial cost;  the regulatory demands from medical professionals and Court; the incredible patience and support from her colleagues, friends, and family – was not for the faint-hearted.

Yet, this is what we demand from those who are our trans-brothers and trans-sisters.

Nowhere else do we expect people to jump through regulatory hoops and cross artificial barriers to simply be allowed to be who we are. Whether you are straight or gay or bi-sexual, you don’t have to fill out a form and beg a Judge’s approval on a “Declaration”.

But we demand it from people who identify as “trans”. For no apparent, logical,  reason that makes any coherent sense.

There is the spurious argument that trans-men and trans-women are a “special case” because they require invasive surgery to allow them to function as they identify.

Yet we don’t expect the elderly to undergo multiple psychiatric, psychological, social worker assessments, plus a Court Declation, to undergo hip surgery. Or organ transplants. Or any of the myriad millions of other invasive medical interventions which nearly all New Zealanders undergo throughout their lives.

But we demand it from trans-men and trans-women.

There is no clear reason why we treat trans-men and trans-women so completely differently to the rest of the population.

As a person who self-identifies as a CIS Male, who do I have to appeal to, to be recognised as such? No one of course.

If the State demanded such stringent, bureaucratic, legal  rules from the rest of us, there would be widespread, massive public resistance. “State thuggery” and “nanny statism” would be screamed from both Left and Right.

But for reasons that remain unclear, it is considered acceptable to treat trans-people in such a callous, inhumane way.

In some ways, the way we treat trans-people is a form of legally-sanctioned, socialised bullying. As if society has found the smallest, weakest, most vulnerable minority in our community and saddled them with huge demands that exists nowhere else.

On TVNZ’s Q+A, Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, announced that the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill would  be deferred. She offered the excuse that it was necessary  to deal with “problems” caused by the select committee process;

“However, significant changes were made to the Bill by the select committee around gender self-identification and this occurred without adequate public consultation. This has created a fundamental legal issue.”

The Select Committee is usually the appropriate forum where public consultation takes place. It is unclear where Ms Martin believes “adequate public consultation” should occur, if not Parliament’s Select Committee – the highest “Court” in the nation.

It would be disturbing if a tiny, shrill minority of so-called “gender critical feminists” has put pressure on Ms Martin. If a Minister of a supposedly progressive government cannot act with courage to protect our most vulnerable, then that would be a tragedy.

I hope I am wrong in thinking that is what took place behind closed doors.

When Fran Wilde presented gay reform legislation to Parliament in 1986, she suffered unbelievable threats of intimidation, violence, and death. Opposition to homosexuality elicited insane arguments from homophobes;

Some people argued that the law would lead to more homosexuality and that this would eventually mean the collapse of the family unit. Fear and a lack of understanding led some to claim that young boys would be put at risk. Homosexuality and paedophilia – sex with children – were sometimes regarded as the same thing.

 

Many of the lunatic arguments against legalising male homosexuality in 1986 are being repeated again against trans-people. Most of those arguments are similar to the “claim that young boys would be put at risk” – but this time the supposed “victims” of the trans-bogey are girls and women “threatened in safe places”. Such claims are unclear in specifics and are deliberately vague to create a sense of unease with a phantom menace.

So-called “gender critical feminists” have taken to using offensive and degrading terms such ‘misgendering’ and ‘deadnaming’ to further undermine and deny trans-gender activists’ identities. It is an unnecessary, cruel tactic more commonly found on right-wing websites.

But Ang Jury, from New Zealand Women’s Refuge refutes any suggestion of problems with trans-gender women with Susan Strongman reporting for Radio NZ that “there is a solid process around deciding who gets into safe houses, and that transgender women have been allowed into many refuge spaces for years without issue“.

Last year, National Council of Women and YWCA came out strongly in support of the trans-gender community, with NCW CEO, Gill Greer, stating;

“Trans women’s rights are women’s rights – and ‘women’s rights are human rights.”

Feminists who support the trans-movement know full well that there are few such “safe places” and that most sexual abuse/attacks on girls and women occur in the home (or work place) and the perpetrator is usually known to the victim/survivor.

Exploiting the fear of “stranger danger” against the trans-community – many of whom have themselves been victims of harassment and/or sexual assault – is obscene.

The trans-community and it’s supporters counter opposition to the right to self-ID and describe it as fear-mongering;

Local transphobic campaigners are backed by a large group of extremely bigoted international social media accounts, many of which are controlled by extreme right wing and religious fundamentalists.

This article from the Southern Poverty Law Centre helps explains the relationships between the groups driving the campaign.

Campaigners are making claims about predators using the proposed law changes to gain access to vulnerable people. These claims are manufactured and intended to create a moral panic. Evidence shows that no such incidents have been reported in countries where these changes have been made.

It’s important to remember that anybody making changes to markers on their birth certificates would make a statutory declaration in front of a Justice of the Peace under penalty of perjury. The ability to more easily change the gender marker on your birth certificate can’t be carried out on a whim or with dubious intent. The changes proposed simply brings the process for changing all major forms of identification in line with one another.

Minister Tracey Martin has a moment in our history to do the right thing. Fran Wilde led the way with gay law reform.

But the movement for social justice and inclusion did not end thirty-three years ago. Just as the feminist movement still has much to accomplish.

We cannot, as a society, exclude a small minority by creating a system or practice that separates people according to their status as trans-gendered.

That is apartheid.

And we’re all agreed that apartheid is a bad thing?

To Minister Martin I say this:  thirty-three years years ago, your Parliamentary predecessor, Fran Wilde, did the right thing by standing up for gay men. She endured a storm of personal threats and vitriol that would wither most of us.

But she stood up for what was right.

Will you do the same; will you stand up for what is right?

It’s not a difficult question. Fran Wilde knew the answer.

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Acknowledgement: this author wishes to thank Andrea and others in the Wellington trans-community for sharing their experiences  and allowing me to honour their stories. – Frank Macskasy

* Name changed to protect ‘Andrea’s’ and ‘Sharon’s’ privacy and prevent harassment.

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References

Dictionary.com: Apartheid

Radio NZ: Births, deaths and marriages bill deferred to allow more public consultation

NZ History: Homosexual law reformPage 4 – Reforming the law

The Right To Self ID: What is the Births Deaths and Marriages Act?

YWCA: We support trans rights in Aotearoa

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Additional

Radio NZ: Transgender and non-binary communities disappointed at bill deferral

Robinhead: Gender Roles

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2019.

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Simon Bridges – out of touch with Kiwi Battlers

2 March 2019 2 comments

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As property investors/speculators; assorted financiers; and their  political-wing, the National Party,  ramp up their opposition to a capital gains tax to a stridency approaching hysteria, current party leader, Simon Bridges, has used the mainstream media to push his highly propagandised (and highly emotive and misleading) messages;

“What the Kiwi way of life is is a recognition that New Zealanders aspire, they understand that people who work hard, who save, who invest, who take risks deserve the fruits of their labour and there is nothing fair about a capital gains tax that fundamentally gets in the way of that.”

He makes it sound as if property investment in New Zealand is akin to carving out and building a railway through the Himalayas.

On social media, Mr Bridges has used blitzed Twitter and Facebook with isolated examples of supposedly “contradictory cases” where CGT might or might not apply and has even taken to mis-representing aspects of how such a tax might apply (though he was quickly called out by other social media users).

Anyone would think that the Four Harleyriders Of The Apocalypse are bearing down upon us.

But Bridges miscalculated badly when one particular message posted on Twitter caught the eye of several users;

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New Zealanders aspire & want to get ahead for themselves & their families. How is it right that an $8m home in Auckland won’t face a CGT but a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib for their family will get slammed with the top tax rate? That’s not the Kiwi way.

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The kiwi way“?!

Homeless people living in garages and vans; families crammed into over-crowded houses; and even the home-seeking kids of the middle-class who cannot afford their own first homes would hardly be “The Kiwi Way“.

They would hardly be sympathetic to property owners lamenting having to “scrimp and save for a bach or crib“. Not many tears would be shed over “a bach or crib“.

Especially when many, if not most, if these “baches” and “cribs” are now substantial constructions and no longer the rustic cottages we once knew as kids.

As several Twitter-users pointed out;

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“Because a primary home is a necessity; a beach house is a luxuary.”

Babes if you don’t understand how CGT works maybe don’t get into it. And your mate’s kids might be “scrimping and saving” for a Bach but most of nz are just struggling to get a house deposit together thanks to the mess which is the property market xox

If you are scrimping perhaps a holiday home should not be a priority?

I don’t know anyone scrimping and saving for a batch. Just to get by each week yes. You are so out of touch bro.”

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There were other criticisms made, with many pointing out to Mr Bridges that a capital gains tax would apply only to any profit made at the end of selling a bach/crib – not saving for it;

“It’s not profit unless you realise it by selling the asset, you mean”

But it speaks loudly that Mr Bridges is openly appealing to the propertied middle class – those who already hold assets.

He does not appear to be even remotely concerned at the homeless nor frustrated young home-seekers who have been forced out of the property market, and destined to forever rent. National could not even admit that a home ownership problem existed.

To do so would have been a tacit admission of failure.

The term “Generation Renters” exists for good reason, as economist Shamubeel Eaqub explained in 2015 (when National was strenuously  rejecting any suggestion of a housing crisis);

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Economist Shamubeel Eaqub calls the Auckland housing story “madness” – and his upcoming book Generation Rent captures the rising sense of hopelessness among young New Zealanders locked out of the home ownership dream.

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The number of households who own or part own their home has decreased by 75,000 since 2007, despite the total number of households increasing by 155,000 in the same period. The number of households renting has increased by 117,000 during that time.

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The facts, however, speak more clearly and truthfully than any rhetoric from the current leader of the National Party, desperate to shore up his waning support and struggling to remain relevent.  If Mr Bridges loses the CGT debate it will be another nail in his political coffin.

The data, however, is hard to dismiss:

In 1991 Home ownership had reached a peak of 73.8%.

By 2013, home ownership had fallen to 64.8%.

Last year’s census results are not yet available according to Statistics NZ, but they are hardly likely to show any improvement.

The numbers show the dire state of our plummetting home ownership rates. If Mr Bridges was truly concerned for the “ordinary Kiwi battler”, he would be focused on those locked out of owning their own home instead of those already owning property and ‘aspiring’ to buy holiday homes on top of their bricks-and-mortar assets.

Instead, Mr Bridges’ comments about “a couple scrimping and saving for a bach or crib” indicates how utterly divorced he and his National Party fellow MPs are from mainstream, non-propertied New Zealand. The fact that most of them own investment properties should not be lost on us. They epitomise privilege.

National was certainly not reluctant to raise GST, prescription charges, family court fees, and a whole raft of other charges in 2010. Where was Mr Bridges then, championing those who “scrimp and save”, only to be hit by increased GST, medicine costs, and government charges?!

Mr Bridges and his privileged colleagues appear clearly wedded to protecting the interests of those for whom property investments has created mostly tax-free wealth. If ever there was a party for entrenched privilege, it is National.

It is also clear that those wanting to “get onto the first rung of the property ladder” need look elsewhere than the National Party. “Aspirational” for  the homeless and first home-owners means something completely different to National.

When a party leader unashamedly declares that he backs existing owners of property; wanting more property; without paying their fair share of tax on unearned gain on property – then those without property should look elsewhere.

The real question is not whether Mr Bridges and National are on the side of the property-owners or home-seekers. That question has well and truly been answered by Mr Bridges’ revealing ‘tweet’ above.

No, the real question now is, which side does NZ First want to be on?

What will be Winston Peters’ legacy? Aspirational home seekers or paper-wealthy property owners looking to increase their assets?

I know which one I’d want to be remembered for.

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Note: This blog author is currently away from his main computer, so reference-links may not be as comprehensive as they normally are.

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References

Radio NZ: Capital gains proposal – ‘What we’ve got here is a tax on a tax’ – Simon Bridges

Twitter: Simon Bridges – oriental bay, ohariu, gorse – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – auckland home, auckland home office, exempt – 25.2.2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – couples, scrimping, saving, baches, CGT – 22.2.2019

Radio NZ: Housing ‘challenge’ still not a ‘crisis’

Fairfax/Stuff media: House price rises creating a generation of renters

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlight

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: ’The laughable myth of the ‘Kiwi way of life’

The Standard: Spare a thought for our poor impoverished landlords

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

ACT intending a “serious assault”?  (17 July 2011)

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax (31 May 2014)

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

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Capital gains tax labour NZ Politics Daily - Bryce Edwards Otago University liberation blog - www.liberation.org.nz

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 February 2019.

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