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Archive for November, 2019

Citizens vs the Rogue Deep State

16 November 2019 2 comments

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Blogger Martyn Bradbury has won his case against unreasonable search and surveillance against the NZ Police; and subsequent Police attempts to produce evidence in secrecy, in a closed Court.

His case highlights a disturbing growing trend in Aotearoa New Zealand for State power to be used against anyone who has “run foul” of The Establishment:

  • 2009: An attack by then Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, against two solo-mothers who criticised National’s social welfare policies. Ms Bennett released personal information pertaining to the two women’s financial circumstances to silence their criticism. Ms Bennett’s actions were deemed to have been a breach of their privacy.
  • 2011: Police searched several media offices during the “Teapot Tapes” controversy. Radio NZ’s Don Rood said Radio NZ would refuse to hand over any material that might compromise anonymous sources.
  • 2014: The illegal search and seizure of Nicky Hager’s property as retribution for his investigation into the close links between a far-right blogger and the National Party. Police were attempting to uncover the identity of the whistle-blower known as “Rawshark”. The search (and seizure of property) of Mr Hager’s home was later deemed unlawful.
  • 2017: The leaking of Winston Peters’ superannuation details as part of a patently obvious political dirty tricks campaign. Senior civil servants passed on details to then-Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley – the latter admitting in Court to disclosing those details to others. Mr Peters’ case was then leaked to the media prior to the 2017 General Election, ostensibly to destroy his political career and his party’s chances for re-election. The case is currently on-going.

This illustrates why so many New Zealanders – including the dogged John Campbell through his former programme, ‘Campbell Live’ – were 100% justified in opposing increasing the surveillance powers of the GCSB, SIS, Police, and god knows who else.

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The abuse of State agencies’ power – already considerable – showed how warranted our fears were. And still are.

It is why I made a submission in 2013 to the Justice Select committee on the GCSB Bill (which would permit surveillance of New Zealanders in our own country) should not only stop – but that the powers of the GCSB should be re-set to those of 1977. Then a full public enquiry held to determine what, if any, changes really needed to be made.

I still believe this more than ever to be necessary.

Secondly, the so-called Police apology to Martyn Bradbury is notable for an appalling part of their statement;

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“Police apologise for the stress and other psychological harm caused to you by virtue of YOUR INVOLVEMENT in this investigation.” [My emphasis.]

That is insulting phaseology and is a sly suggestion that blame continues to lie with Martyn Bradbury. It strongly suggests that Police hierarchy have yet to fully comprehend the nature of their abuse of power.

Additionally, there was also financial and reputational harm caused to Martyn by Police abuse of their power. It is now clear that he was denied bank loans as a direct consequence of improper Police activity.

The appropriate phrasing should have been;

“Police apologise for the financial, reputational, stress, and other psychological harm caused to you by virtue of our over-zealous actions that inappropriately involved you in our investigation.”

That phrasing would be accepting responsibility. The original wording barely achieves that.

Lastly, someone authorised this illegal activity. Those individual(s) are still in positions of authority within the New Zealand Police. They still wield power – unbridled power.

I find that troubling in the extreme.

There must be resignation(s) from the Police force. Someone must be held to account.

Just as the rest of us are, under the law.

Famous Last Words

From Parliament, on 27 March 2003, when the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill was being debated;

“This is a good bill. I do not accept the criticism of those who speak against it, that somehow it means that information about people will be gathered improperly…” – Peter Dunne, then-MP and leader of the United Future Party, speaking on behalf of a Bill to extend the power of the GCSB

Media Reporting

Perhaps even more shameful than Police behaviour has been that of the Fourth Estate reporting this issue to the public. Search engine checks (and confirmation by Martyn Bradbury) have both confirmed that only the NZ Herald and Magic Talk radio have reported the outcome of this case and the Police backdown and apology. The Herald article is pay-walled and consequently of little use to non-subscribers.

The Police abuse of power and the gross invasion of Martyn Bradbury’s private life could happen to any of us. But you wouldn’t know it going by the Total Media Blackout at TVNZ, Mediaworks/TV3, Fairfax/Stuff, and even sadly – Radio NZ.

Perhaps if TV3, TVNZ, et al, had reported less of the gruesome details of two current murder court cases, the public of Aotearoa New Zealand might be more informed on one of the most important civil rights cases in recent years.

Imagine if every mainstream media devoted the same scrutiny and reporting of Martyn Bradbury’s civil rights case against the police as they did to Grace Millane’s drinking on the night leading up to her demise.

We might be a very well-informed nation indeed. Sadly that is not the reality.

We have been let down badly by those empowered to preserve the law, and by those we entrust to speak truth to power. The media are supposedly tasked to shine a light on events that are of crucial importance to society; to the people; and to every individual.The freedom of the Fourth Estate is critical, they keep telling us, as a bulwark against State excess; to promote openness; and to hold those in power accountable.

They utterly failed us.

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

– John Philpot Curran (24 July 1750 – 14 October 1817)

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References

The Daily Blog:  5 years and finally justice – NZ Police formally apologise & settle for breaching my civil rights

The Daily Blog:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

The Daily Blog:  Kafka’s Shadow – My hearing against NZ Police & secret trials

Fairfax/Stuff media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying

Fairfax/Stuff media: Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

NZ Herald:  TV3 searched over teapot tape

Fairfax/Stuff media: Radio NZ hands over ‘tea tape’ interview

NZ Herald: Police pay Nicky Hager ‘substantial damages’ for unlawful search of his home in hunt for Dirty Politics hacker

Radio NZ: Anne Tolley admits ‘outburst’ in Winston Peters superannuation case

Mediaworks/Newshub: Police accessed blogger’s bank records unlawfully – report

Parliament: Hansards – Government Communications Security Bureau Bill – Third Reading

NZ Herald: ‘Bomber’ Bradbury gets apology from police after exploit used to access bank records, driving him to the edge

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB Act – some history…

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The secret closed trials of Soviet Russia. (And Aotearoa New Zealand)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 November 2019.

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Referenda on Euthanasia – NZ First’s Victory – or a Major Miscalculation?

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NZ First’s success in putting the euthenasia bill to a public referenda may not be the victory they believe it to be. They may even have sounded the death-knell for a second Labour-NZ First-Green coalition.

On 23 July this year, NZ First MP, Jenny Marcroft, submitted a Supplementary Order Paper whereby a  binding public referendum on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill would be held at next year’s General Election.

Ms Marcroft voiced her party’s non-negotiable expectations on this issue;

“The New Zealand First caucus’ further support of the Bill is contingent upon the amendment, providing for a referendum, passing.”

Ms Marcroft’s justification for calling for a binding referendum sounded lofty, apparently based on high principle;

“New Zealand First believes this issue directly affects the fabric of society, and is one that temporarily empowered politicians alone should not decide upon. This decision requires the direct participation of the voting public.”

Whether NZ First actually believes that is unclear.

One thing is for certain; if successive polls are any indication, the referendum will pass the Bill into law.

In which case, NZ First can claim – hand on heart – that it “simply had no choice but to follow the will of the people”. So NZ First may escape the wrath of critics of euthanasia who will then focus their electoral retribution elsewhere (or so NZ First hopes.)

But NZ First can also claim praise from supporters of the Bill by pointing out it was instrumental in it’s adoption (albeit indirectly).

Writing for Newsroom, Sam Sachdeva made a similar point;

“But in pushing for referendums on euthanasia and abortion, Peters positions himself either claim the credit or dole out the blame depending on the vote result and fallout, and more easily peel off both red and blue voters come 2020. Politically, it is shrewd.”

All things to all people. It’s a cunning plan, if that was the true underlying reason for promoting the referendum.

Unfortunately, as with most cunning plans, there are often unintended consequences.

This is ACT’s Bill. Relitigating this issue next year as the election campaign heats up gives ACT much needed oxygen –  extra publicity by using every platform available to promote the referendum and promote itself at the same time.

If the publicity of championing the Individual’s right to choice gives ACT an extra couple of percentage points of Party Votes, David Seymour could find himself with three extra MPs.  If National’s support holds at around the 47%-mark – that gives them 57 seats. Fiftyseven National plus four ACT = Prime Minister Simon Bridges.

An unpleasant thought, to put it mildly.

NZ First’s wily old fox and its political strategists may not have thought this one through.

In 1996, the Alliance put forward a Citizen’s Initiated Referenda on whether or not the country’s state forest plantations and cutting rights should remain in public ownership.

The Alliance’s chief stategist-at-the-time, Matt McCarten toured the country, explaining to every electorate Branch that the CIR on forestry ownership would likely boost the Alliance’s prospects at the first MMP election in late 1996. Matt explained that the added publicity of the Alliance policy on public ownership of strategic state assets would be a major draw-card in the coming election. With MMP imbedded as the new, fairer, electoral system, the Alliance would finally be able to capitalise on every vote cast for the party.

No more “wasted votes”.  A CIR, in Jim Anderton’s name, would remind voters which political movement opposed the steady advance of neo-liberalism. That “nudge” in the ballot-booth could benefit the Alliance immensely.

Matt McCarten gave his speech to a packed hall in the Rongotai Electorate in the presence of dozens of party activists; local Alliance candidate, Bill Hamilton, and a much younger Electorate Secretary – Frank Macskasy.

The CIR lapsed due to the high number of valid signatures required – ten percent of registered voters – within an unfeasibly tight time-frame; twelve months.

But the very act of thousands of highly-motivated Alliance activists going door-knocking in the lead up to the 1996 Election Day, presenting the petition; discussing it with householders; reminding them face-to-face that the Alliance was staunchly opposed to privatisation – may have provided an impetus even if the CIR itself failed to gain sufficient valid signatures in time.

In 1993 there were two Alliance MPs.

After the 1996 Election, the number skyrocketed to thirteen.

Even though votes for the Alliance fell from 350,063 in 1993 to 209,347 (siphoned off to a fledgling NZ First, that had also campaigned on halting asset sales) public support was still considerable. The unsuccessful petition event may have contributed to the success of both parties.

Twentyfour years later, and the stark possibility exists that NZ First may – inadvertently – assist it’s nemesis at the next election.

According to media reports, David Seymour, says  “he didn’t feel strongly either way about the referendum, but saw it as a necessity“. A “necessity” to win more votes and seats next year?

Mr Seymour is not without political nous. With one eye on recent polling and the other on next year’s general election, he may also have calculated that NZ First has inadvertently thrown him a life-line.

If ACT gains exposure from the euthanasia referendum throughout next year’s campaigning, finally reminding voters at the ballot box, the outcome  may be the greatest unintended consequence since the a certain intoxicated Prime Minister thought an early election would be a… cunning plan.

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References

NZ First: Binding referendum on End of Life Choice Bill

NZ Parliament: End of Life Choice Bill

Mediaworks/Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

TVNZ: Strong support for legalising euthanasia in 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, as MPs set to thrash out details

Scoop Media: New Poll – Euthanasia Support Overwhelmingly Strong

Wikipedia: Referendums in New Zealand

Newsroom: Why Winston Peters is wrong on referendums

Wikipedia: 1996 New Zealand general election

Wikipedia: 1993 New Zealand general election

ODT: Euthanasia bill to go to referendum

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Death with dignity (various)

The Daily Blog: Why NZ First are right and the Euthanasia law needs to be a public referendum

The Standard: The End of Life Choice Bill

The Standard: Parliament votes to give disabled people the right to a good life

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2019.

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