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Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

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Some Context

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The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion.

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When National claims it must cut spending for vital public services like health and education to control its borrowing, it carries much of the blame.” – former Green Party Co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, 14 May 2012

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The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery.” –  Judy McGregor, Equal opportunities commissioner, 28 May 2012

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It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

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We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.” – John Key, former Prime Minister, 28 May 2012

 

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Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.”- Bill English, current Prime Minister, 18 April 2017

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The Announcement

On 18 April, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Finance Minister, Bill English, announced that healthcare workers in the disability, residential care, and home/community support sector had successfully won their pay-equity claim;

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The response from the trade union movement was positive;

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.

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E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.

However, there remain unanswered questions to this “deal”.

Questions raised

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman;

On 18 April you announced that disability, residential care, and home and community support services will  have their pay increased in a pay-equity settlement costing $2 billion over five years.

In your 18 April press release you stated;

“A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.”

I have some questions regarding this issue, namely;

1. Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

2. Will workers who are deemed to qualify for pay-equity wage increases  be determined solely by their employer?

3. What measures will be put in place to ensure that workers are paid appropriately and pay increases not arbitrarily with-held by employer(s)?

4. You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “spread over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

5. If the answer to Q4 is “yes”, will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?

6.Will the settlement amount be increased over time to compensate for annual rises to the Minimum Wage?

7. Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?

8. Will NGOs who qualify for the pay equity settlement for their workers have their Budget-allocations cut in other areas?

9. How will pay rises for workers who quality for pay equity settlement impact on contract negotiations with relevant NGOs?

10. You state that “The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this”. If ACC levies rise, will workers who qualify for the settlement be compensated for having to pay an increased ACC levy?

Call me a cynic, but I sense fish-hooks in the detail. When National cut taxes in 2010, they gave with one hand;

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– and took with the other;

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When it comes to fish-hooks, National has prior ‘form’. Even when National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas. Even special-needs children are not exempt from National’s shell-scam, as reported in The Daily Blog  in August last year;

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing.

I won’t be celebrating until I read the fine print and get some answers.

Watch out for…

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References

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dominion Post: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

NZCTU: Historic day as caregivers offered equal pay settlement

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald: Budget 2010 – Experts praise tax cuts for all

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Young workers out of pocket

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Additional

Radio NZ: Settlement could help rest homes attract workers

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Herald: MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2017.

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Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

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7 April 2017 – A Day of Infamy

Along with 7.5 billion other humans on this planet, I was dumbfounded  when the newsflash came over Radio New Zealand that the US had launched cruise missiles against Syria, nearly obliterating a military airfield at Shayrat airbase;

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Only an hour and a half earlier, Trump has been “considering retaliatory action” over the Syrian government’s alleged use of sarin gas at  Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib Governorate.

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That was fast work. A cynic might suggest that the attack had been planned well in advance.

Despite my many reservations about Trump’s fitness to be the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet; despite his gullibility in listening to dubious “news” sources; despite his slavishness toward Israel;  despite his racist diatribes against ethnic groups; despite his stated intention to squander billions on the military; despite gagging aspects of family planning services; and despite his covert right-wing agenda to pare-back healthcare, environmental protections, and slash critical government services for the poor – there was one thing about him that stuck in my mind. His willingness to “do deals” to overcome problems;

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Trump made no discernible attempt to deal with  the Russians – Syria’s main sponsor –  to determine who had launched the poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun. There was no “deal making” in evidence as Trump gave the order to unleash the destructive  firepower of 59 American ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles.

In fact, Trump’s decision to attack Shayrat airbase contradicts his own warning from 12 November last year when he cautioned;

“…if the US attacks Assad, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”

So it is hardly surprising that  Australian  Green Party senator, Scott Ludlum, spoke for many when he admonished Trump’s cowboy adventurism;

“The horror of the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week requires a credible, independent investigation, not a random barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President.”

It’s OK when our ‘side’ does it

Despite a previous poison gas attack in Ghouta, Syria in 2013 – for which the Assad regime was implicated, but not proven – there is  little actual firm evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the gassing at Khan Sheikhoun on 7 April. Whilst it is known that Syria does (or did) indeed posses sarin gas – so does Israel. (Though Israel has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, to date it has not ratified it.)

It is, however, not unknown for middle east despots to use poison gas to suppress rebel groups, as Saddam Hussein did in March, 1988, in Halabja. Saddam’s target at the time were Kurdish rebels fighting for independence. Some 6,800 men, women, and children were killed outright, and estimates put the eventual civilian death toll at 12,000.

Iraq used poison gas in it’s war with Iran without sanction. The West continued to support Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime despite the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi villages as well as Iranian combatants;

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Means, Motive, and Opportunity

When considering a crime and it’s possible perpetrator(s), law enforcement officials take into account motive, means, and opportunity. The Assad regime certainly has two of the criteria: means and opportunity.

Fellow blogger and political commentator, Chris Trotter, recently questioned what would motivate Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to launch an attack using banned weapons that would earn near-universal condemnation from the international community – and possibly embarrass  and alienate critical support from Moscow. Chris asked;

… “Why would Assad do such a thing?” Syria was en route to a new round of peace talks. More importantly, she was about to enter negotiations in which the usual American, British and French demands that “Assad must go!” were to be, for the first time since the Syrian Civil War broke out in earnest, quietly put to one side. Having won the war on the ground, the Assad regime was on the brink of clearing away its enemies’ unrealistic preconditions. Finally, a serious conversation about Syria’s future could begin.

And yet, we are being invited to believe that, with all this at stake, President Assad ordered the use of Sarin gas on his own citizens. Somehow, instigating a reprehensible war crime against women and children was going to strengthen his moral authority. Somehow, by revolting the entire world, he would improve his chances of being accepted as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Somehow, by embarrassing the Russian Federation, his country’s most valuable military ally, he would enhance Syria’s national security. The whole notion is absurd.

Fair questions.

Did Assad believe that he could get away with it? Did he feel that Russia’s success in East Ukraine and Crimea, and the West’s unwillingness to challenge Moscow’s flexing of  its “hard power” gave him free license to use whatever means he had at his disposal? Did Assad feel emboldened at Trump’s “close relationship” with Russia’s President Putin?

But why chemical weapons, which, in this case resulted in no appreciable military gains for Assad’s military? Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons adviser to NGOs (and  former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion) offered one possible rationale;

The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war. Less than 0.5 percent of casualties during World War I were attributed to chemical weapons, yet the Great War has become synonymous with their use. The current conflict in Syria and Iraq depicts a similar picture.

ISIL employs a morbidly brilliant psychological warfare, and chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.

It would seem unlikely to engage in such a risky gamble. Especially for such little military advantage. It would  be a colossal mis-judgement on Assad’s part if he thought that reliance on Western inertia and Trump’s isolationistic worldview would pay off.

According to Russian government-aligned RT News, Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem;

…denied claims that the military used chemical weapons in the western city of Idlib. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Muallem said an airstrike by Syrian military had targeted an arms depot where chemical weapons stockpiles were stored by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front militants.

He said it’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists.

The lack of clear motive on Assad’s part raises real doubt as to who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun.

If not Assad, who?

There have been suggestions that rebel groups operating in Syria to overthrow Assad’s regime launched the gas attack as a ‘false flag’ operation to draw the U.S. into the conflict.

I have doubts on this.

Until Trump’s ascendancy to the White House, the United States has been reluctant to supply Syrian rebels – including the Free Syrian Army – for fear they could end up in the wrong hands;

In theory, the embargo aims to prevent anti-aircraft weapons getting into the hands of terrorists who might down civilian planes. Yet such weapons exist on the black market; since the US has gone out of its way to prevent the FSA from getting any – even from there – the weapons that do get snapped up end up in the hands of anyone but the FSA.

Even anti-tank weaponry supplied to certain rebel groups was closely monitored;

While warplanes and helicopters had replaced tanks as the main form of regime slaughter by mid-2012, this US embargo blocked not only anti-aircraft but also anti-tank weaponry. Thus only small arms and ammunition were allowed, in the face of a massively armed regime continually supplied by Russia and Iran.

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US pressure is clear: Only “vetted” groups get TOW [anti-tank] missiles, sometimes only three or four at a time, they have to apply for them for specific operations, and they have to return the shells to make a claim for more. Even favoured groups soon found supplies dwindling, and the program diminished by late 2014.

By December 2016, after Trump’s inauguration, the US government softened it’s policy forbidding anti-aircraft weaponry being sold to Syrian rebels;

The House voted for the first time today to explicitly authorize the incoming Donald Trump administration to arm vetted Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.

While the language in the annual defense bill also creates restrictions on the provision of the controversial weapons, it represents a win for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a fervent advocate of helping the rebels resist President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.

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Trump was outspoken about his reluctance to get dragged into the Syrian civil war throughout the presidential campaign. He has since picked hawkish advisers and candidates for Cabinet positions, including retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.

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Mattis is well known in military and foreign policy circles for his aggressive determination to take on America’s foes, notably Iran, including in Syria and Iraq.

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The new provision “would require the secretary of defense and secretary of state to notify the congressional defense committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee should a determination be made to provide MANPADs to elements of the appropriately vetted Syrian opposition,” according to the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise bill. “The conferees expect that should such a determination be made, the requirement for the provision of such a capability and the decision to provide it would be thoroughly vetted by and receive broad support from the interagency”.

At least one US lawmaker realised the lethal consequences of allowing anti-aircraft missiles into rebel hands. Representative John Conyers (Dem-Michigan) warned;

“I am disappointed that the House of Representatives’ explicit prohibition on the transfer of these dangerous weapons into Syria was reversed — behind closed doors — by the conference committee. This brazen act shows that some in Congress still hope to further escalate the civil war in Syria. Sending these weapons would only prolong this horrific conflict — and endanger civilian airliners across the region, including in Israel.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Charles Lister reported that the Free Syrian Army had tried – and been stopped – from purchasing anti-aircraft missiles on the black market.  One FSA leader was reported as saying;

“Somehow, the Americans found out and our purchase was blocked.”

To date, use of anti-aircraft weaponry by rebels forces has been minimal.

If  the US was wary of handing over anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebel groups – from where they could disperse to who-knows-where – it is hard to believe that even more deadly weapons such as poison gas would be permitted into rebel hands.

If anti-aircraft missiles could be used by ISIS  operatives to bring down civilian passenger jets – imagine those same operatives with poison gas in subways in New York, London, Paris, Moscow.

And remember the comment made by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, above;

“The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war… chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.”

Which suggests that the only other ‘player’ in the Syrian civil war capable of deploying chemical weapons would be a sovereign state.

If not rebels, who?

In a June 2013 story, the BBC reported on who was supplying the myriad ‘players’ in the Syrian conflict. One of the arms traffickers in the region was Saudi Arabia;

In late 2012, Riyadh is said to have financed the purchase of “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns”, rocket and grenade launchers and ammunition for the FSA from a Croatian-controlled stockpile of Yugoslav weapons.

These were reportedly flown – including by Royal Saudi Air Force C-130 transporters – to Jordan and Turkey and smuggled into Syria.

Note the link: Croatian-controlled stockpile

Follow the link and it leads to a February 2013 story in the New York Times, which stated;

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.

So, what sort of weapons was Croatia selling on the open market? Interrogate Google with the parameters ‘Yugoslavia Croatia chemical weapons’. It offers this April 1999 story in the UK Guardian;

After months of prevarication, Nato launches a ground war against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces in Kosovo. But no sooner do British and US troops begin to move in and threaten Serb army units than Milosevic unleashes his secret weapons – sarin nerve gas and BZ, a psychochemical incapacitant.

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According to former Yugoslav chemical weapons officers, Milosevic’s arsenal is far larger than previously thought. Besides sarin and BZ, it includes the blister agent sulphur mustard and the choking agent phosgene. And it is thanks to scientists in Britain and the US that he could use them on Nato troops.

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In total, the Serb army may have as many as 5,800 122mm sarin-filled shells and 1,000 mustard gas shells, say these sources. In addition, Serbia is also known to have been developing a multiple rocket delivery system for sarin and a bomb capable of delivering 20 litres of the nerve gas to the battlefield.

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Even the Pentagon, which is sceptical about Croatian estimates of the numbers of chemical shells and rockets in the Serb arsenal, accepts that Milosevic inherited from the JNA a programme capable of producing a deadly 3,000 rockets filled with sarin and 100 shells filled with mustard gas.

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Although the Pentagon says it has no evidence that Serbia has continued to manufacture and test chemical weapons since the break-up of the Yugoslavia federation, officials told the New York Times they were ‘concerned’ about the stockpiles.

The Pentagon would be right to be “‘concerned’ about the stockpiles“. Where would they end up?

There is no proof that amongst the weapons purchased from Croatia there was included chemical weapons such as sarin gas. But the facts are clear;

  • Former-Yugoslavia developed massive quantities of poison gas weapons, including sarin gas
  • After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia sold plane-loads of weapons to Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia supports rebel forces in Syria
  • Sarin gas was used in the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun

It is all circumstantial, of course. But it seems plausible that Saudi Arabian military/intelligence agents could have transported sarin gas shells/rockets to Idlib Governorate where, under close supervision,  they were launched against a defenceless city.

The plan was simple; to provoke a politically unsophisticated, naive, and impressionable Donald Trump into  military retaliation by blaming the attack on the Syrian regime.

Clinton – Not helping!

Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Syrian regimes alleged poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun do her no favours;

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, US, 6 April 2017. The interview took place a few hours before the attack was launched on Syria. Acknowledgement: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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“Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days. And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.

I still believe we should have done a no-fly zone. We should have been more willing to confront Assad.

Her strident jingoism confirms her critic’s description of her as a warmonger.

We can excuse Trump’s political inexperience, naivete, and  unsophisticated view of the world around him. This is  a man who gets his “news” from the Republican Party-mouthpiece,  Fox News, or the far-right Brietbart website. His political development appears arrested and not to far from that of an adolescent.

Trump may blunder into WWIII but a President Hillary Clinton  would apparently have egged it on. With decades of political experience behind her, Clinton should know better. She has no excuse for her simplistic  jingoism.

She should also have deeper insights into  Middle East politics than this. Her willingness to perpetuate the Syria-Is-Guilty narrative cannot be excused as easily as Trump’s stupidity.

Which means she is manipulating current events for her own agenda.

With the planet edging closer to WWIII, whatever ‘game’ she is playing is a dangerous one.

World War III – Are we there yet?

Moscow’s unofficial mouthpiece, RT News, relayed a chilling message to Washington’s power-establishment (not Trump) to ‘back off’. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the illegal  missile attack the Syrian airfield was putting the US  “on the verge of a military clash” with Russia.

Not since the Cuban missile Crisis in October 1962 have the two nuclear-armed super-powers faced off, bringing the planet to the verge of atomic annihilation.

At that time, the Cold Warriors of the former USSR and USA still remembered the destruction caused by WWII. The Soviets, in particular, understood what Total War meant.

Alarmingly, though Putin has some understanding of military service, Trump has never served in the armed forces. Trump’s understanding of war most likely comes from brief news clips  and popular entertainment from Hollywood;

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Hopefully someone in his national security council is advising Trump that real war is not like ‘The Green Berets’ or ‘Hogan’s Heroes‘.

Sanders – the voice of calm sanity from a President the Americans never had

Former Democrat-candidate, Bernie Sanders, apparently accepts the official Washington narrative that the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun was orchestrated and executed by Assad’s military;

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Though hours later he issued a statement highly critical of of Trump’s unilateral use of military force against Syria. In a statement, later that day, Sanders said;

In a world of vicious dictators, Syria’s Bashar Assad tops the list as a dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to protect his own power and wealth. His regime’s use of chemical weapons against the men, women and children of his country, in violation of all international conventions and moral standards, makes him a war criminal.

As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States must work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Syria, where over 400,000 people have been killed and over 6 million displaced. The horror of Syria’s civil war is almost unimaginable.

If there’s anything we should’ve learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it’s that it’s easier to get into a war than get out of one. I’m deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East. If the last 15 years have shown anything, it’s that such engagements are disastrous for American security, for the American economy and for the American people.

The Trump administration must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria’s devastating civil war ends. Congress has a responsibility to weigh in on these issues. As the Constitution requires, the president must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.

Further, the US must work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons, to hold Russia and Syria to the 2013 deal to destroy these weapons and to see that violators are made accountable.

There appears to be mixed-messaging from Sanders on this issue.

The only positive from Sanders is that he would (apparently) “work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons“. Though naming Syria and Russia in the same breath ignores the reality that these weapons still exist in American stockpiles and Israel has refused to ratify treaties to eliminate them.

However, anything that pulls Moscow and Washington back from the brink of the abyss of WWIII must be viewed positively. At this point, Sanders appears less insanely unstable than Trump, and certainly less insanely hawkish than Clinton.

By the way, Mr Trump…

Israel also possesses atomic bombs – which seems not to concern Washington one bit. It would not be an over-statement to point out that detonating an atomic weapon over the Middle East would set the planet on fire.

Game over.

New Zealand’s Response to an Illegal Attack

Hours after the US attack, Bill English responded by explaining;

“We’ve seen the atrocities with the use of chemical weapons … We support action that is proportionate to the requirement to stop further atrocities.”

Which raises four questions and an observation;

#1 How can bombing a Syrian government airbase “stop further atrocities” when it has not been clearly established who was responsible for the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun? Is that not “jumping the gun” (excuse the inappropriate  metaphor) before guilt/innocence is proven?

#2 Considering that English refuses point-blank to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into a 2010 SAS  raid in the Tirgiran Valley, in Afghanistan  – despite a former Minister of Defence confirming that there were civilian casualities – is the National government  in a moral position to endorse a potentially illegal bombing of  Shayrat airbase?

#3 There is no firm evidence that the Assad regime is guilty of using poison gas on Khan Shaykhun – why has English  rushed to judgement and pre-determined guilt?

#4 There is evidence that the SAS may have committed war crimes in 2010 in the Tirgiran Valley – why has English rushed to judgement and pre-determined innocence?

#5 English’s “moral compass” is highly dubious, to put it politely.

Chaos in  Trump’s Administration?!

Washington’s renewed appetite for military adventurism in the Middle East (which, by the way, rarely ends well) has cloaked two recent events that the White House wanted off the nation’s front pages and lead-bulletins.

#1: Bannon

Arch far-right activist, Steve Bannon has been quietly removed from Trump’s National Security Council a day before the missile strike on Shayrat airbase.  According to a New York Times report;

…White House officials said, the ideologist who enjoyed the president’s confidence became increasingly embattled as other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, complained about setbacks on health care and immigration. Lately, Mr. Bannon has been conspicuously absent from some meetings. And now he has lost his seat at the national security table.

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Bannon, though, was not taking his removal from the NSC quiety, threatening to resign if his removal went ahead.

But Bannon will still be present at certain meetings, on an “ad hoc”* basis, according to this report;

“He is off the memo as a member of the principals committee,” said the source familiar with Wednesday’s meeting, “but the president or McMaster can invite him to attend at any time.”

Asked why Bannon attended a meeting on the same day his departure was being announced, the source said, “He is one of the president’s closest and most trusted advisors.”

Asked whether Bannon would continue to regularly attend NSC meetings, the source said, “I don’t know. It’s going to be ad hoc, I think.”

(* Ad Hoccery  appears to be the defining basis upon which the Trump Administration is predicated.)

One does not have to be political scientist to realise that a power struggle is taking place in the White House – a struggle for ascendancy over a President who appears  easily influenced.

On the day of the attack on Shayrat airbase, Bannon (circled in red) was present at the National Security Council meeting held at Trump’s ad hoc “Situation Room” at his private  resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida;

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#2: Nunes

Another event which has slipped well under the political radar is the “voluntary temporarily stepping down” (aka, removal) of Devin Nunes (Republican-Tulare), from the House Intelligence Committee.  Nunes is (was?)  Committee Chairperson until it was discovered that he had inappropriately leaked information obtained from the White House regarding an investigation into possible collusion with Russia by Trump associates during last year’s election campaign;

In short, the new chronology is this: White House officials leaked intelligence information to Nunes, who then announced them last Wednesday as fresh revelations, saying that he had received them from an unnamed source and that the White House was unaware. Nunes then made a show of going to the White House to brief President Trump on revelations that had come from his staff in the first place. The administration finally used the information to claim vindication on its still-evidence-free claims that President Obama surveilled then-candidate Trump.

Nunes blamed unnamed “left-wing activists” for his “voluntary stepping down”.

Devin Nunes is the second (third? I’ve lost count) casualty from Trump’s erratic presidency, following on from the resignation (not “voluntarily temporarily stepping down”) of national security adviser Michael Flynn on 13 February.

Hey! Look over there!

If ever Trump needed a diversion to deflect public attention away from ongoing turmoil in his Administration, what better than a spectacular show of American military muscle in a country he had previously said the US had no interest in intervening;

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Of course, Trump gave his explanation for changing his mind;

“ Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Trump added;

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses… many lines.”

Laudible and noble. What righteous person doesn’t love children?

Everyone, of course. Everyone except the vile villains who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun (whoever they might be). And this person;

One man said he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, where [Donald] Trump has a home, and there were plans to relocate Syrian refugee families there.

He asked Mr Trump if he could “look children aged five, eight, ten, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here”.

Mr Trump did not hesitate and said he could, which brought applause from the crowd.

He said: “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face.”

It is a shame that Mr Trump wasn’t considering “beautiful babies” and  “children of God” during his election campaign last year.

Even Breibart ‘News  reported Trump’s comments.

Breitbart ‘News’

Meanwhile, Breibart ‘News’ has been an ongoing cheerleader supporting military action against the Assad regime, in 2012, as well as more recently. On both occasions, unsubstantiated allegations of Assad using poison gas against civilians and rebels was reported as ‘facts’ by Breitbart;

2012:

Rebel forces in Syria report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now using chemical weapons on them. Moreover, intelligence operatives from the West have confirmed those reports as well. But there has yet to be a peep out of the Obama administration over it.

2017:

The strike was aimed at deterring another chemical weapons attack by the regime.

This is the same far-right Breitbart ‘News’ where Steve Bannon – Trump’s current Chief Strategist –  once held the position as Executive Chairperson.

Profitting from the attack on Syria

The PAC which raised money for Trump’s election campaign last year has capitalised on the attack on Shayrat airbase. As reported on the ‘Daily Beast‘ and elsewhere;

President Trump ordered a military strike on Syria Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack. By Friday afternoon, a supportive PAC was fundraising off of the strike.

“Last night, President Trump ordered military action against Syria in response to their chemical weapons attack,” an email from the Great America PAC, first flagged by Dave Levinthal at the Center for Public Integrity, read.

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“59 United States tomahawk missiles destroyed the airfield used to store Syria’s toxic weapons and aircraft involved in the Sarin gas attack.

What are your thoughts?”

The message asks respondents to vote on whether they approve of the strike and subsequently includes a request for money. The email was signed by Ed Rollins, currently the national co-chair of the PAC who joined the group in May of 2016.

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In case the wording on the second image is too difficult to read, it says;

Thank you for your vote. President Trump sent a message to the world by striking Syria. Help us support our Commander-in-Chief by making a special contribution below.

It should come as no surprise. There has always been money to be made from war, especially in the American Empire where industries such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Bell Helicopter Textron, and many others have made billions in profits making weapons for the US military.

But it must be a novelty (or new low, depending on which way your moral compass is pointing) that a political fund-raising organisation has exploited death and destruction to raise cash for their candidate/office-holder. Especially when that death and destruction  may be predicated on a lie.

This must give even  the most ardent Trump supporter pause for thought.

Infowars Turns on Trump

…And at least one previous Trumpista has indeed paused, thought, and turned his back on the Orange One.

Infowars editor, Paul Watson recently ‘tweeted’ his defection  from the Trump Camp;

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Although this may be fake news/false flag/deception/deep-state conspiracy and the real Paul Watson is safe aboard the Mothership, along with JFK, Trotsky, Elvis, and Doris Day.

Israel – the Red Flag to Middle East Bulls

Israel has voiced it’s support for the US attack. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – himself no stranger to aggression against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank – congratulated the US for it’s missile attack on Shayrat airbase;

“Israel supports the recent US missile attack in Syria because it is morally right and because it makes clear there is price for the use of chemical weapon. We are doing this because of moral reasons in light of the difficult images from Idlib, and also so that it will be clear that there is a price for the use of chemical weapons.”

Israel has also violated Syrian airspace to attack and destroy so-called terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. In March this year, Netanyahu stated;

“When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it. That’s how it was yesterday and that’s how we shall continue to act.”

Days later Netanyahu revealed that he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin point blank;

“We attack if we have information and the operational feasibility. This will continue.”

Israel’s arrogant sense of entitlement extends it’s military operations from Gaza and the West Bank to another sovereign state – Syria.

Syria, predictably has exercised it’s legal right to  attempt to shoot down Israeli warplanes that crossed into it’s airspace. Just as Turkey exercised it’s right to shoot down a Russian warplane that crossed into Turkish airspace in November 2015;

Vladimir Putin has called Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and warned of “serious consequences” after a Turkish F-16 jet shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday morning, the first time a Nato country and Moscow have been involved in direct fire over the crisis in Syria.

The Russian president, speaking before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, said the plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace and fell 4km inside Syria. Putin said it was “obvious” the plane posed no threat to Turkey.

The Syrian conflict is a quagmire with multiple players – both state and various armed factions.

The complexity of the conflict – coupled with information that may or may not be true – creates a potential powder-keg. In some ways, I am reminded of Europe, in 1914; an interwoven web of imperial powers jostling for supremacy; strategic alliances; revolutionary groups; unstable monarchies; and ethnic tensions.

Sound familiar?

The drums of war are beating, and they are getting louder. This time, we may have to rely on the stability of the Russian leadership to deliver us from another Sarajevo, 1914.

That stability appears dangerously lacking in Washington right now.

Postscript – The Curious Case of Peter Thiel

Writing for Mediaworks, veteran journalist and media-host, Mark Sainsbury, had this to say in February of this year;

Citizenship rightly should be prized and earned. It is not a commodity to be traded.

Which brings us to the curious case of Peter Thiel, the controversial American billionaire whose “exceptional circumstances” somehow allowed him to become a citizen of this fine country.

[…]

He apparently had a strong desire to be a citizen of a country he hardly visited – certainly not enough to qualify for an application in normal circumstances.

So was it the fact that citizenship enabled him to bypass the Overseas Investment Office’s scrutiny when he bought his Wanaka property? You’d have to say given all his amazing qualities, that shouldn’t have been a problem anyway.

I listened to Xero boss Rod Dury – a strong supporter of Mr Thiel’s application – not surprising given Mr Thiel made a significant investment in Xero. Mr Drury accepted that many successful people like Peter Thiel want a bolt hole in case it all goes pear-shaped in the Northern Hemisphere.  And if you could afford it, why wouldn’t you?

But is that what it really comes down to?  That we are a convenience, a Hobbit-themed panic room for the super rich?

Let’s just call it for what it is: We are a haven for sale.

The great irony, of course, is that any implosion in the Northern Hemisphere could likely be triggered by another of his influential friends; the man he backed for the US presidency: Donald J Trump.

Perhaps Mr Thiel knew something we didn’t?

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References

Radio NZ:  Afternoons – US launches strikes on a target in Syria

Radio NZ: Midday News for 7 April 2017

Wikipedia: Khan Shaykhun

Wikipedia: Sarin Gas

The Guardian: ‘Global gag rule’ reinstated by Trump, curbing NGO abortion services abroad

Twitter: Donald Trump – Deals – 21 May 2015

RT News: Trump warns that by attacking Assad, US will ‘end up fighting Russia’

Sydney Morning Herald: Malcolm Turnbull ‘knew in advance’ of US strike on Syria, called for a ‘strong response’

NTI: Israel

New York Times: Halabja – America didn’t seem to mind poison gas

Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack

BBC: Iraq – chemical warfare

Foreign Policy: Exclusive – CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack

RT News: Syria denies & condemns use of chemical weapons – foreign minister

The New Arab: Anti-aircraft missiles could be a game-changer in Syria

Al-Monitor: Congress authorizes Trump to arm Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles

Huffington Post:  Russia’s Intervention in Syria: Protracting an Already Endless Conflict

BBC: Who is supplying weapons to the warring sides in Syria?

The Guardian: UK link to Serb poison gas

CNN: Hillary Clinton – US should ‘take out’ Assad’s air fields

RT News: America’s Syria strike ‘on verge of military clash’ with Russia – PM Medvedev

Twitter: Bernie Sanders – Syria – 7 April 2017

Politicususa: Bernie Sanders Shows America How A President Should Handle Syria And The Middle East

Radio NZ: NZ told in advance about US Syria strike

Radio NZ: Little on SAS claims – ‘We need to know what the truth is’

Radio NZ: Afghan raid – Ex-minister accepts reports of civilian deaths

New York Times: Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post

The Independent:  Steve Bannon threatened to quit if removed from National Security Council, say reports

CNBC: Bannon attended National Security Council meeting after his removal from top committee

New York Times: Who Was in the Room? These Advisers Joined Trump for the Syria Strike

Los  Angeles Times: Devin Nunes says he’s temporarily stepping aside from Russia probe

The Atlantic: The Call Was Coming From Inside the White House

Bloomberg: Trump Asked for Flynn’s Resignation After ‘Eroding’ Trust, Aide Says

Twitter: Trump – Do not attack Syria – 5 September 2013

CNBC: Trump explains why he launched missile attack on Syria

Radio NZ: Syria chemical killings ‘cross many lines’ – Trump

The Telegraph: Donald Trump – ‘I’ll look Syrian children in the face and say they can’t come’

Breitbart ‘News’: Trump – I can look into face of Syrian children and say ‘You can’t come here’

Breitbart ‘News’: Obama Yawns As Syria Uses Chemical Weapons, Crosses ‘Red Line’

Breitbart ‘News’: Trump Orders Strikes Against Syrian Regime Airbase in Response to Chemical Attack

Wikipedia: Steve Bannon

Great America PAC: Home page

The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump PAC Raising Money Off Syria Strikes

Wikipedia: List of United States defense contractors

Wikipedia: Paul Watson

Twitter: Paul Watson – Donald Trump – 7 April 2017

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu – Israel backs US attack on Syria on ‘moral’ basis

Al Jazeera: Netanyahu – Strikes in Syria targeted Hezbollah arms

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu – Israel clarified to Russia that IDF will continue Syria strikes

The Guardian: Putin condemns Turkey after Russian warplane downed near Syria border

BBC: Syria war – A brief guide to who’s fighting whom

Mediaworks: Mark Sainsbury – Peter Thiel’s made NZ a haven for sale

Additional

The Boston Globe: Trump and the Doomsday Clock

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: Gas Attack In Khan Sheikhoun! But why would Bashar al-Assad blow himself up?

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10April 2017.

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Letter to the editor – Bill English dives head first into the cover-up cess-pool

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: 4 April 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
The Listener
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On 3 April, our esteemed Prime Minister, Bill English, announced that there would be no independent commission of inquiry into allegations of civilian deaths, injuries, and deliberately destroyed homes in a SAS-led raid in Tirgiran Valley in 2010. It was also alleged that a  prisoner was handed over to Afghan security forces where torture was a well-known interrogation technique.

English’s excuse;

“After considering [that] briefing, [General Keating’s] letter to [Defence Minister] Gerry Brownlee and viewing video footage of the operation, I’ve concluded there is no basis for ordering an inquiry.”

I trust the facts as presented.”

English’s explanation for refusing an impartial inquiry defies credulity.

In effect, an instigator of an alleged crime – the NZ Defence Force – was asked to provide a reason to avoid an inquiry. The NZDF duly complied.

What did English expect, a full admission of wrong-doing by New Zealand forces in Tirgiran Valley? A written, signed confession?

Is this to be the new standard of accountability from National? That any allegations of impropriety is put to alleged offenders; they deny wrong-doing; and English accepts said denials without question?

Let us not forget that on 21 March, the NZDF responded to allegations of civilian deaths and injuries at Naik and Khak Khuday Dad with a flat-out denial;

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”

Six days later, Defence Force chief, Tim Keating admitted “possible” casualties;

“Subsequent information, received after Operation Burnham indicated that civilian casualties may have been possible […] The investigation team concluded that civilian casualties may have been possible due to the malfunction of a weapon system.”

Both statements are currently viewable on the NZDF  website.

By resisting calls for an inquiry, English has implicated himself in a possible cover-up.

There is no other way to interpret his words.
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.-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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Appendix

Email addresses for newspapers for other budding letter-writers wanting to express their demand for a Commission of Inquiry. (Maximum word-length stated in brackets)

Daily Post (250 words)
editor@dailypost.co.nz

Dominion Post (200 word limit)
letters@dompost.co.nz

Listener (300 word limit)
editor@listener.co.nz

NZ Herald (200 word limit)
editor@herald.co.nz

Otago Daily Times (150 words)
odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz

The Press (150 words)
letters@press.co.nz

Southland Times (250 words)
letters@stl.co.nz

Sunday Star Times (150 word limit)
letters@star-times.co.nz

Waikato Times (200 words)
editor@waikatotimes.co.nz

 

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References

Radio NZ: ‘No basis’ for Afghan raid inquiry – PM

New Zealand Defence Force: NZDF Response To Book

New Zealand Defence Force: Speech notes for Press Conference on Operation Burnham (p6)

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the editor – Commission of Inquiry, NOW!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 April 2017.

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Letter to the editor – Commission of Inquiry, NOW!

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 31 March 2017
subject: Letter to the editor
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The Editor
Dominion Post
 
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Since the release of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s “Hit and Run” on 21 March,  the public has been treated to denials and conflicting information from the NZDF.

On 21 March, the NZDF responded to allegations of civilian deaths and injuries at Naik and Khak Khuday Dad with this statement on their website;

“The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”

Six days later, Defence Force chief, Tim Keating stated;

“Subsequent information, received after Operation Burnham indicated that civilian casualties may have been possible […] The investigation team concluded that civilian casualties may have been possible due to the malfunction of a weapon system.”

Both statements are currently viewable on the NZDF  website. They are irreconcilable.

Journalists Hager and Stephenson have presented considerable evidence to back up their investigation findings, including death certificates for those killed in the SAS-led raid.
 

Bill English has refused to undertake a commission of inquiry for reasons that remain unclear.

Until an Inquiry is held, there exists a cloud of suspicion hanging over the NZDF, and the SAS. This is not good enough, especially as there is ample evidence innocent people may have been killed.

What more does Mr English need to warrant an inquiry?

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-Frank Macskasy

(Address and phone number supplied)

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Appendix1

NZDF Statement 21 March 2017

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NZDF Statement 27 March 2017

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Appendix2

Email addresses for newspapers for other budding letter-writers wanting to express their demand for a Commission of Inquiry. (Maximum word-length stated in brackets)

Daily Post (250 words)
editor@dailypost.co.nz

Dominion Post, (200 word limit)
letters@dompost.co.nz

Listener (300 word limit)
editor@listener.co.nz

Otago Daily Times (150 words)
odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz

The Press (150 words)
letters@press.co.nz

NZ Herald (200 word limit)
editor@herald.co.nz

Southland Times (250 words)
letters@stl.co.nz

Sunday Star Times (150 word limit)
letters@star-times.co.nz

Waikato Times (200 words)
editor@waikatotimes.co.nz

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References

New Zealand Defence Force: NZDF Response To Book

New Zealand Defence Force: Speech notes for Press Conference on Operation Burnham (p6)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 April 2017.

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TV3’s The Project – A Babyboomer lowers the boom

2 April 2017 2 comments

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“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.” Martyn Bradbury, 26 March 2017

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I don’t often comment on other bloggers who have contributed a piece for The Daily Blog. Ninety percent of the time, my ideals, values, and beliefs are  muchly similar to those expressed by others on this forum.

Martyn Bradbury’s piece on   “The Project meltdown raised a point that has been on my mind since I saw the very first ‘Project’ billboard in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Waiting patiently at the lights, my gaze wandered over to the billboard on my hard right (metaphor?);

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The Billboard was situated just above clothing bins where unwanted stuff is dumped by people. (Irony?)

At first, I was stumped. I couldn’t work out what ‘The Project’ or the logo, ‘+HR=E’ was supposed to signify. My first impressions were that it was promoting a new New Zealand comedy movie. Or a novel, upmarket chain of childcare centres was entering the country. ‘+HR=E’ would be a pretty nifty corporate logo for the latter. ‘+HR=E’. Three year olds. Geddit?

A few moments later, as the lights were still red,  I noticed the blurb “News delivered differently” and “Weeknights 7pm”, and then it dawned on me. It was Mediawork’s latest effort to wrest primacy of the 7pm timeslot from ‘Seven Sharp’ and ‘Shortland Street’.

The lights turned green, meaning my *facepalm* moment had gone and I kept both hands gripping the wheel as I mercifully left the scene of the Braindead Zone I had stopped in.

My thoughts turned to another image I remembered from Google Images;

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Oh, how times change.

From sombre anchormen (and they were all men during Phillip Sherry’s time at the NZBC), to… muppets.  Yes, really, muppets. ‘The Project’ has muppets on its set. Here’s the evidence, from an episode on 4 March 2017;

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Let’s play a game, children… see who can spot The Muppet.

Take…

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Your…

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Time…

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No?

Can’t pick it?

Ok, it’s probably this one;

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(But I could be wrong.)

Now, I’m not suggesting for one micro-second that we return to the era when our NZBC was practically an off-shoot of the 1950s-version of the BBC.

But Mediaworks already had a well-recognised, well-respected ‘brand’ in the form of TV3’s ‘Campbell Live‘. It was solid journalism covering a wide range of stories, from the sombre and thought-provoking to the occassionally light and frothy.

Its in-depth coverage the  GCSB Bill, and the Ian Fletcher scandal  in 2013 and 2014 were perhaps one of only two serious media  analysis (the other being Radio NZ) of National’s widening of the surveillance state in this country;

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Campbell Live’s‘ on-going investigation of  post-earthquake events in Christchurch also raised new standards of journalism, as well as nationwide consciousness of events and on-going problems in that stricken city.

Indeed, John Campbell and his talented team at TV3 were so successful at raising public awareness on the GCSB issue that it provoked our former-Dear Leader Key to respond in his usual trivialising, shoulder-shrugging, *meh*-sort of way;

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Jessica Wright: “How do you think that Kiwis feel about the bill?

John Key: “I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “But I’m not talking about snapper quota, I’m talking about the GCSB Bill. How do you think that they feel about the GCSB Bill?”

John Key: “Yeah, I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “Why?”

John Key: “Because they like catching fish.”

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Despite ‘Campbell Liverise in ratings, it was insufficient to save the programme from it’s apparently pre-determined doom.  It was soon followed by the jaw-droppingly  inane New Zealand-version of  ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

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Rivetting stuff. Almost as engaging as watching grass grow.

By sheer coincidence the producer of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was  none other than Mediawork’s Board Member, and unReality TV porn-purveyor, Julie Christie.

When Mediaworks axed ‘Campbell Live‘ in May 2015 – most likely at the behest of corporate head-kicker Mark Weldon, aided by his trustee henchwoman, Julie Christie – they opened a can of worms.

There were (unsubstantiated) rumours that Key had contacted Weldon, demanding that Campbell be gotten rid off.

The short-lived garbage  that was ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was considered unappetising by the viewing public, and was quickly canned after only two months. It was followed by Story’  in August 2015 but seemed not to engage viewers. The last chapter of ‘Story’ was broadcast in December 2016.

Now we have ‘The Project‘.

Firstly, I have no idea where Mediaworks execs get their ideas from or why they think that something as vacuous as this programme would appeal to the public.

As “Bomber” Bradbury succinctly put it;

“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.”

We ‘boomers  are the generation that grew up on serious investigative journalism. We are the who watched as Muldoon was taken down by a younger Simon Walker and John Campbell took on Helen Clark. We’ve enjoyed the stellar talents of committed professionals like  Lindsay Perigo, Louise Wallace, Brian Edwards, Maggie Barry, Bill Ralston, Kim Hill, Ian Fraser, Mihingarangi Forbes, Liam Jeory, Kathryn Ryan, Carol Hirschfeld, Paul Holmes, Anita McNaught, Cameron Bennett, Melanie Reid, Guyon Espiner, Genevieve Westcott, Mike McRoberts, Lisa Owen,  and so many, many more. 

Regardless of their politics, these were dedicated journalists who we could rely on to ask the questions that we ordinary Citizens were rarely in a position to do. They were persistent. They asked the hard questions which demanded answers and in doing so, challenged those in authority.

That is the purpose of journalism.

Not to look like this;

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I can’t speak for all Babyboomers (of which I am a member of that privileged demographic), but I want my current affairs and news more like BBC/Al Jazeera/Radio NZ/CNN/etc instead of this;

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I want to see this;

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And most certainly not this;

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Next, the number one rule in business is;

#1 The customer is always right

The second rule is;

#2 If in doubt, refer to Rule One

That rule may not always apply. If a customer requests cyanide in their latte, that request can be rightly declined (or not, depending on what is clearly stated on the menu board).

Aside from issues of life and death, public morality, and physical/biological impossibilities, the customer (in the form of the Viewing Public) is always right when it clearly expressed a desire to keep ‘Campbell Live‘ very much alive. So, how right was the  customer?

Viewers:

Campbell Live – 23 May 2015: 330,830

According to comparative ratings, approximately 186,830 customers were very much right. They “walked” from TV3, en masse. Consider me one of them.

Instead of telling us, the viewers what we want to watch, perhaps Mediaworks should have listened to us in the first place. Businesses that turn a deaf ear to their customers usually end up like this;

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If Mediaworks is attempting to cater to Babyboomers, then shite offerings such as ‘The Project‘ will not cut the mustard. It is a pale, immature, sickly parody of professional journalism. What else can you call something that is fronted by people whose day-jobs are comedians? (Though, to be fair, Jesse Mulligan and Josh Thompson are pretty damned good comedians. I’ve enjoyed watching their gigs on ‘7 Days‘.)

It is an insult to my intelligence.

It is an insult to the intelligence of every person who has grown up (or not) watching real journalism, covering real stories, in a real, professional manner.

To be blunt, Mediawork Execs, if you can’t cobble together credible meaningful journalism for your 7pm timeslot, just repeat F.R.I.E.N.D.S or M*A*S*H* or anything else with excessive punctuation marks in the title.

Or just show this;

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Add a bit of background elevator-music and you’re sorted.

Or, you could try something Different/Not Different. Hire a bunch of the most respected, experienced, capable journalists; resource them properly; and give them sufficient editorial-independence to do their jobs properly.

Guarantee them security from interference by the Mark Weldons and Julie Christies of the world.

Spend money on promoting the product. If Mediaworks can spend millions promoting ‘The Block‘, ‘The Batchelor‘, ‘The Project‘, and other programmes of dubious value – then it should be able to promote a serious, flagship current affairs programme.

Treat the viewing public with respect.

That is how a business succeeds.

It’s not that hard. Does it really have to be explained?

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References

Radio NZ: Labour calls for inquiry over GCSB appointment

Scoop media: The GCSB Bill – We at least have to try

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

Fairfax media: John Campbell bows out of Campbell Live show

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Wikipedia: Story

NZ On Screen: Tonight – Robert Muldoon interview

NZ On Screen: 3 News – ‘Corngate’ interview with Helen Clark

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Fairfax media: MediaWorks boss – Project is here to stay and will win the ratings war

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: The Project meltdown – when Executives come out to support your 7pm Show, that’s when you know you are in trouble

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Campbell still Live, not gone

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 March 2017.

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The Rise and Rise of Daddy State: MSD blackmails NGOs for private data

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Nanny State takes a Shower

What do showers have to do with this issue?

Wait and see.

Spying, Spooks, and Silly Journos

Nearly five years ago, the highly controversial Search and Surveillance Act 2012 was passed by National. As reported at the time;

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

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

[…]

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

Yes, indeed. Police surveillance and seizure powers were being massively extended. But according to the Police Commissioner, citizens could rely on the Police using “pretty common sense” to use them.

Then-Justice Minister, Judith Collins offered this excuse for the extension of police powers;

The new Search and Surveillance Act 2012 brings “order, certainty, clarity and consistency” to messy, unclear and outdated search and surveillance laws.

(Interestingly, the fact that Collins felt the need to use irony-quotation-marks, in her Beehive statement, to enclose the phrase order, certainty, clarity and consistency is revealing.)

This is the same Judith Collins who, in 2009, passed personal phone numbers of a civil servant to far-right blogger, Cameron “Whaleoil” Slater.

A year later,  the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill  was being hotly debated throughout the country.

Essentially, the Bill (since passed into law), would allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens which up to then had been the sole province of the NZ SIS.

National’s  ‘spinned message’ – constantly parroted by Dear  Leader Key – was;

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

[…]

The advice we have recently received from the Solicitor-General is that there are difficulties interpreting the legislation and there is a risk some longstanding practices of providing assistance to other agencies would not be found to be lawful.

[…]

It is absolutely critical the GCSB has a clear legal framework to operate within.”

In fact, the law was clear with it’s wording and intent and Section 14 of the Act (since altered to reflect the Amendment) stated with crystal clarity;

14Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Some journalists were too lazy to fact-check Key’s lies;

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Journalists who failed to realise that Key was being disingenuous, and simply parroted the government’s official spin, did immense damage to public understanding of the issues involved.

Others, like Audrey Young and Tracy Watkins were sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable to recognise a government ‘stitch-up’ when they saw it;

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“ The GCSB Act 2003 expressly forbids it from spying on the communications of New Zealanders.  But, by a series of snakes and ladders through the stated functions and objectives of the act, it convinced itself it was allowed to help the SIS and police spy on New Zealanders.” – Audrey Young, 26 June 2013

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“ The GCSB’s interpretation of the law was so loose it managed to spy on 88 New Zealanders even though the law specifically stated it was not allowed to do so.” – Tracy Watkins, 3 August 2013

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National ignored strong public opinion wary of extending the GCSB’s surveillance powers. The Bill became law on 26 August 2013.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act was followed by the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act (TICS), made law on 11 November 2013.

The TICS law made it mandatory for all electronic communications companies (telcos) to comply with spy  agencies demands to  intercept and decrypt phone calls, txt-messages, and emails.

The excuse for this piece of intrusive legislation from Communications Minister, Amy Adams;

“ The fundamental reason that I have sought to introduce this bill is to safeguard New Zealand public safety and security. ”

The Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act was, in turn, followed by the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (split into several Bills after it’s Second Reading in Parliament on  9 December 2014).

This Bill, covering  three existing laws, allowed the  SIS  to conduct surveillance on terrorist suspects without requiring a judicial a warrant for up to 24 hours; to conduct secret video surveillance on private property; gave SIS access to Customs Department data in relation to suspected terrorism, and allowed the  Minister of Internal Affairs increased  powers to arbitrarily suspend or  cancel a passport.

The Labour Party were so opposed to this law change  that they voted for it. (NZ First, the Maori Party, and the Greens,  to their credit, voted against it.)

Then Dear Leader  Key used the usual “defending Kiwis against terrorist” bogeyman to justify the State’s growing surveillance powers;

“ The threats faced by New Zealand have grown and it is important that we have the ability to respond to that. The Government has a responsibility to protect New Zealanders at home and abroad…”

Simultaneously in 2014, the IRD signed an agreement to share data with the Police;

Taxpayer information is required to administer New Zealand’s tax system effectively. This information can be supplied by taxpayers, or it can be collected by Inland Revenue during an audit.

Broadly, the government’s current legislative position is that this information is not shared with other government departments on the basis that it is ‘tax secret’.

However, there are instances where sharing taxpayer information relating to serious crime could bring offenders to justice, support the goals of other government departments, and offer the State broad efficiencies.

Up until that point, the IRD expected everyone who earned money – whether from legal or illegal mean – to pay tax. This meant that, for example, sex workers prior to 2003 would be expected to pay tax on their earnings regardless of the fact it was an illegal activity.

The tax department didn’t care where or how the money was earned – they just wanted their “fare share”.

After 2014, the IRD abandoned that policy, and data-sharing with Police was implemented. It means that taxing other illegal activities such as the production and sale of cannabis, is no longer feasible. This has unintentional consequences – such as the hoarding of cash; use of firearms to protect that cash; and violence.

This is part of an on-going wider process of government departments sharing private information with each other.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act, Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act, and Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill all follow on from previous extensions of State power, notably  the  Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

This poorly thought-out law was Labour’s contribution to George Bush’s ill-conceived “War on Terror”.

Throughout National’s three terms in office, it has extended Police powers; widened the scope for the GCSB and SIS to spy on New Zealanders; and created a vast data-sharing network amongst it’s bureaucracy.

MSD, NGOs, and Demands for Data

To date, New Zealanders have been mostly apathetic as the government build up it’s ability to spy and store personal information on us. Most of the government’s “targets” have been so-called “terrorists”, immigrants, criminals, student-debt defaulters, and those on welfare benefits or living in state houses.

Most of Middle New Zealand find it difficult to identify with these elements of our society.

Recently, however, Radio NZ has been running a series of stories and interviews on a disturbing development regarding state aquisition of personal information.

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On 2 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed Brenda Pilott, the chairperson  of ComVoices (an umbrella organisation for NGOs).

At issue was the disturbing revelation that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), presumably under direction from National ministers,  was forcing NGOs to collect and pass  private information about their clients back to the Ministry,  in return for on-going funding. This proviso was to be written into new contracts set to take effect in July this year after negotiations had concluded after Easter.

>Kathryn Ryan interviews Brenda Pilott – 2 March<

Accordingly to Comvoices, NGOs were expected  to pass on;

  • names of clients
  • birth dates
  • ethnicity
  • other personal details such as dependent children’s names

NGOs that refused to share this information with MSD would forego funding. The result would be predictable;

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According to Brenda Pilot, the Ministry’s excuse to demand this data was;

“ They want to be able to find out what services are effective. And that this will provide information over time that will  allow sensible decisions to be made about government funding and where to apply that funding.”

Ms Pilot voiced concerns that private, identifiable  information would be used for tracking individuals who used NGO services. She said that vulnerable people needing to use services such as counselling, Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis, etc, would be reluctant to engage those organisations and would “walk away”. Ms Pilot was concerned that passing personal, identifiable data to MSD would force NGOs to violate Privacy Laws.

Ms Pilot said that the Privacy Commissioner was also concerned at MSD’s intentions to obtain such data, and was investigating. She said the Commissioner would most likely report on the issue by the end of this month.

On 3 March, Radio NZ reported; grave concerns held by at least one NGO, Women’s Refuge;

Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said agencies would have to abide by the contract change if they wanted to keep their funding.

“If agencies choose not to share this information they won’t be contracting with the ministry. That’s pretty much where it sits.”

Dr Jury said it was not an ideal situation for the refuge but they were not in a position to say no.

“This is not something that we would happily go out and say, ‘yes, this is exactly what we want to do’.

“If it is going to happen, our job now is to make sure we get the sort of safeguards built around that information that we need to keep our women and children safe,” she said.

At least one privacy lawyer doubted the legality of MSD’s demands;

Privacy lawyer Kathryn Dalziel said the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) looked to be on shaky ground.

“This is a potential breach of privacy because they don’t appear to have identified, anywhere, the purposes for which they are collecting that information.

“There doesn’t seem to be any transparency around it … I also don’t think it’s fair,” she said.

“Principle 2 of the Privacy Act says that if you want to collect information from third party, you have to have a good reason.

“You also have to have … lawful and reasonable purposes for collecting that information in the first place. Now, none of that has been done.”

However, what really raised fears was Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive, Murray Edridge’s responses to Kathryn Ryan’s  questions. His answers not only failed to reassure, but raised serious concerns as to MSD’s intentions regarding the storage and end-use of personalised, identifiable data.

>Ministry responds to privacy concerns – 3 March<

Edridge parroted the usual monetarist rhetoric of  “the New Zealand public demands that government spend it’s money well”.

When Ms Ryan  put it to Edridge that MSD was attempting to track NGO service-users, he denied it;

“ No we’re not tracking them. What we’re doing is we’re saying to providers, look, for us to understand the effectiveness of services, to understand where the resources are best invested, where we will decide between priorities in terms of investment we need to understand who the people are and what value they get from the services. For some time we’d had concern that investment’s been made in social services where they’re not the most effective mechanism for the people that require them, and this is part of the mechanism by which we understand the clientele better and we understand how we can serve them better and invest in services that are going to support them.”

When Ms Ryan put it to Edridge that anonymised data would work just as well, Edridge kept referring back to needing to know “who these people are“.

Moments later, Edridge contradicted himself by admitting “we know who the clients are, we know all about them“. If that wasn’t creepy enough, Ms Ryan then asked Edridge why MSD demanded further information about NGO service-users. She asked why MSD needed to know who was approaching  (for example) Women’s Refuge for assistance..

Edridge’s response was further contradictory and throughout the twelve minute interview he could provide no satisfactory answer why MSD was requiring personalised data from NGOs. At one point he attempted to cloud the issue by stating that MSD required “demographic information”.

Ms Ryan dismissed that claim by remind Edridge that MSD was seeking names, addresses, ethnicities, children’s names and that was not simply “demographic information”.

When Ms Ryan suggested that NGO service-users might not want their details passed on to MSD or other ministeries, Edridge could only respond,

“ Well, we need to know where to get the money in the right place.”

Four days later, Rape Crisis draw a line in the sand and announced it would  flat out decline to sign contracts with MSD  in return for  passing private information about service-users in exchange for on-going funding.

>Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts – 7 March<

By 16 March, pressure on MSD and Minister Tolley was such that the ministry caved, and was forced to step back from demanding personalised data from some NGOs dealing with sexual violence.

>Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts – 16 March<

The “reprieve”, however, was only temporary, and would last for only one year until MSD “works out how to securely collect and store their clients’ private data”. It also did not apply to all NGOs.

The Creep of Big Brother and the Daddy State

Up till this point, data-collection has centered on those who come in contact with the Justice system; WINZ beneficiaries; and Housing NZ tenants. These are generally New Zealanders who are usually the most deprived and vulnerable socially and financially, and rely on State assistance to survive.

A person seeking help from WINZ and Housing NZ is forced to supply both ministeries their private data. To refuse means no help. Next stop; the street;

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A citizen in contact with the Justice system has even less option to refuse to provide private data.

MSD’s demand for personalised data from NGO service-users marks a new stage in National’s slow advancement in building a data-base on every person in the country.

NGO service users may not necessarily be unemployed beneficiaries or live in state houses or have broken the law in some way – but their details will still be required to be collected and supplied to the Ministry of Social Development.

The ministry has assumed the de facto role of collecting and storing data on New Zealanders who – up till this point – may never have come into contact with any governmental organisation such as Housing NZ, WINZ, or Police.

The implications of this are staggering.

The net to scoop up data on as many citizens as possible, has just widened considerably.

If you think you – the reader – may never need the services of Women’s Refuge or Rape Crisis, consider for a moment that there are thousands  of NGOs operating in this country and hundreds that are funded by the State.

Victim Support is just one state-funded NGO;

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So if you’ve just become a victim of a crime; Victim Support enters your life;  the State now has your personal data on file;

  • Client: Name, address, gender, date of birth, primary ethnicity, Iwi.
  • Dependents: Name, date of birth, relationship to client.
  • Service Level: Information Programme/service name, start date and end date.”

Middle-class New Zealanders who may never have had cause to have personal data collected on them may soon be on file with various ministeries.  With data-sharing, personal information from MSD can end up throughout other ministeries. Or on the desks of ministers;

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Never mind “Nanny State” – this is the muscular arm of Daddy State flexing it’s strength to reach out to grab more and more of our private information.

And it won’t end with this.

Not until we say “Enough is enough. No more“.

Back to Showers

Remember this?

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In the lead-up to the 2008 general election, National attacked the then-Labour Government for  “Nanny Statism”.

Following on from a disastrous drought in 2007 that cost the country’s economy  over $2.8 billion (in 2008/09 dollars), the then-Labour government sought out ways and means to  conserve water. The alternative was the possibility of further water-shortages or costly storage and irrigation systems. Labour opted for conservation. This included measures to save water in residential areas.

It could be  suggested that water-saving shower heads and energy-efficient light-bulbs are the least of our concerns.  National has surpassed anything that Labour envisaged, as this government  reaches further and further into our private lives.

If there is one thing that history has taught us – governments that spy on their own people do not trust their people, and are fearful of them.

National must be very frightened of us.

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References

NZ Legislation: Search and Surveillance Act 2012

NZ Herald: New police search and surveillance law in force

Beehive: Search and Surveillance Bill becomes law

Radio NZ: Collins defends giving details to blogger

NZ Legislation: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Beehive: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Legislation.govt.nz:  Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003

NZ Herald:  Spying on NZ: More power to watch us

Dominion Post:  Spy bungles start to entangle PM

Fairfax media: Kiwis do care, prime minister

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill

Fairfax: Spying bill passes into law

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill — Third Reading

Parliament: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

NZ Herald: Foreign fighters bill passes 94 – 27

Fairfax media: Labour backs anti-terror laws, despite attacking it

IRD: Information sharing with New Zealand Police

IRD: Cross-government Information-sharing to Identify, Stop or Disrupt Serious Crime

MacNicol & Co: Tax News – IRD to share information with police

NZ Legislation: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Wikipedia: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Radio NZ: Government demands private data from NGOs

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Relationships Aotearoa to close; funding models and issues in spotlight

Radio NZ: Govt on shaky ground over data-for-funding contracts, lawyers say

Radio NZ: Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts

Radio NZ: Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts

Comvoices: HomePage

Victim Support: Where does your funding come from?

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

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

Scoop: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

NIWA: 2007 – much drier than average in many places

Beehive: Drought costs NZ $2.8 billion

Additional

Fairfax media: UN privacy expert slams government stance on privacy and ‘big data’

Other Blogs

The Standard: Social investment meets the surveillance state

Previous related blogposts

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

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!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 March 2017.

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= fs =

2017 – Ongoing jobless tally

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2016 – Ongoing jobless tally

By the numbers, for this year;

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Events

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January

February

March

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Unemployment Statistics* at a Glance

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(*  See caveat below)

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Caution: Official Unemployment Statistics

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On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker. This   so-called “revision”  would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted and reported;

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statistics-nz-logo

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Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate
  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent
  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force
  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

When Statistics NZ ‘re-jigged’ its criteria for measuring unemployment in June, unemployment dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% (subsequently revised again down to 5.1%).

All  unemployment data from Statistics NZ should therefore be treated with caution. Unemployment is  likely to be  much higher than Statistics NZ figures indicate.

 

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References

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – June 2016 quarter

Trading Economics: New Zealand Unemployment Rate  to January 2017

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

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