Archive

Author Archive

A possible solution to Party campaign funding rorts

.

.

1. Party donations

As the law currently stands with regards to party donations, there are set limits to election spending. According to the Electoral Commission;

Expenditure limit

A registered party’s election expenses during the regulated period for the 2017 general election (23 June to 22 September) must not exceed $1,115,000 (including GST) plus $26,200 (including GST) per electorate contested by the party.

If a registered party does not contest the party vote, its total election expenses cannot exceed $26,200 (including GST) for each electorate candidate nominated by the party.

The candidate election expenses regime does not apply to people who are list candidates only. Any spending by those candidates promoting the party is an election expense of the party and must be authorised by the party secretary.

Party limits are separate from the expense limits applying to electorate candidates.

The issue of donations is more complicated;

Party donations and contributions to donations of more than $15,000 (including GST) are required to be declared in the party’s annual return of donations. A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.

Fundraising activities are also covered;

Raffles, stalls and other fundraisers

A supporter providing a party with free cakes or other goods or services to use for fundraising is not making a donation for the purposes of the Electoral Act if the value of the items given is worth $1,500 or less. Purchasers of raffle tickets and cakes from a cake stall are not ‘donors’ as they are not making a donation to anyone. The total proceeds of a raffle or a cake stall for a party’s campaign are treated as a donation. The person who runs the raffle or cake stall will normally be the donor.

If the total funds from the raffle or cake stall are over $15,000, then the party’s donation return must include the name and address of the person who ran the fundraiser and subsequently donated the proceeds, along with the total amount given and the date that the donation was received by the party secretary.

It would be a fairly profitable “chook raffle” or “cake stall” to raise $15,000. That’s a very expensive chook. And a truck-load lot of cupcakes.

2. Dodgy dealings

Fundraisers such as National’s $5,000/plate dinner event at ‘Antoine’s’ restaurant in Parnell, Auckland in 2014 raised eyebrows, forcing then-PM John Key to defend  his Party’s activities;

.

.

Fundraising events using fronts such as ‘Antoine’s‘ restaurant are nominally legitimate – if dubious – methods to avoid identifying donors to political parties. Donation returns for National in 2010 and 2011 showed tens of thousands of dollars being funnelled through the restaurant;

.

.

.

There is currently little protection from circumventing disclosure requirements by using ‘fronts’ such as Trusts and private companies.

Only direct donations are monitored.

Only where non-disclosure or false information is provided is the law is unequivocal regarding a donation;

If the party secretary knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that the donor has failed to supply information about contributions, the whole donation must be returned to the donor.

And,

Parties are not allowed to retain anonymous donations exceeding $1,500. An anonymous donation is a donation made in such a way that the party secretary who receives the donation does not know the identity of the donor and could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor. [See section 207 of the Electoral Act]

If you receive an anonymous donation greater than $1,500 you may retain $1,500 of that donation. The balance of the donation must, within 20 working days of receipt, be paid to the Electoral Commission for payment into a Crown bank account.

NZ First was forced to return a portion of one such donation in 2008 when it received a donation of $3,690.02 from an unknown donor who was obviously providing bogus details;

.

.

The possibility of a deliberate set-up by a political opponent should make all Party Secretaries highly cautious when dealing with donations where the donor’s details are dubious. The Donghua Liu Affair showed vividly what can happen when a Party is accused (falsely in this case) of rorting the Electoral Act.

But where a donor providing larger donation is known to Party leaders it becomes easier to circumvent legal requirements for disclosure. Recent allegations from Jami Lee Ross that businessman Zhang Yikun donated $100,000 to National, via the Botany Electorate of that Party, and was broken up at some point into smaller portions below the $15,000 threshold for mandatory declaration, are being investigated by the Police.

The apparent ease by which the Electoral Act’s requirements for disclosure can be flouted is disturbing. It opens up dangerous vulnerabilities for corruption; undue influence by big business and the wealthy, and candidates-for-money.

The US shows us where Big Money buying influence leads us – and it is not a good place.

Problems surrounding rorting the party donation system need to be urgently addressed. It is harder to cut out rot once it has set in; corruption is hard to dislodge once it has taken hold.

3. Solutions

Suggestions for tightening up legislation has ranged from lowering the limit for mandatory disclosure to $1,000 to full public funding of political parties by taxpayers.

As Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson warned;

“The fact of the matter is, as long as political parties are accepting donations from powerful vested interests, there is a constant risk of corruption.

It is clear that those vested interests have a tangible influence on the decision making of political parties. This is a threat to democracy and should change.

Political parties are an important component of our democracy and if increasing state money for electioneering removes the influence of powerful vested interests, then it should be considered.”

Writing for Interest.co.nz, David Hargreaves has gone further, calling for a total end of private donations to political parties;

But there’s no question also that these ‘donations’ can be used by those making the donation to seek influence. If a donation ‘buys’ the people giving the money access to the political party concerned (such as dinner at someone’s house) then the opportunity is there to carry influence.

So, you get the situation in which the person making the donation wants to be able to influence proceedings – without the public at large knowing that – while the party receiving the donations doesn’t want the public at large to know that they are getting money from places that might suggest they are being subjected to particular influence.

There has to be obvious concern if particular vested interests are pumping money into political parties in order to seek influence. Now that could be say religious groups. It could be people from other countries – and what if other countries are seeking to assert their so-called ‘soft power’?

This all has to be taken very seriously.

[…]

It’s the lack of transparency about the current system that’s the real problem.

[…]

I increasingly think ‘donations’ should be banned. I think it should be illegal for anybody to contribute money to a political party.

Activist group, Action Stations has called for three significant reforms for Party donations:

  • All donations over $1500 should be declared and the donors named.
  • Loopholes that allow fundraising through trusts, dinners, and charity auctions to remain anonymous should be closed.
  • Donations should be publicly disclosed in real time, to allow greater and immediate scrutiny.

4. There is a further option to tighten up controls on donation.

This blogger proposes that all donations above a certain amount (whether $1,000 or $1,500) be made directly to the Electoral Commission, using internet banking. For those not au fait with internet banking, donations could be available by other means – NZPost, etc – but still made directly to the Electoral Commission.

Each donation would be made to a  nominated Party or Electorate Candidate using drop-down menus on the Commission’s website.

.

.

.

.

Donor’s details can be matched with their bank account details. Once verified, the donated amount is lodged in a holding-account and the donor’s name  made public in real-time.

Donations through dinners, auctions, etc, can be lodged directly during the event, into the Commission’s account, disclosing the details of the donor at the dinner or auction. (Again, if the donor’s details do not match their bank account details, the donation is automatically rejected.)

As per Action Station’s demand, donations through Trusts would be banned. Any method that does not provide transparency would not be permitted through the Commission.

Parties would be banned from handling funds greater than $1,000 or $1,500.

This still allows for low-level fund-raising such as sausage sizzles, cake stalls, and chook raffles. (Cake stalls raising $15,000 would be scrutinised to see what the hell those ‘cakes’ were made from.)

Once verified, funds would be disbursed to relevent Parties to meet campaign expenses.

Any funds over the Party and Electorate cap (see above) would be held in escrow for the following election.

Interest gained from holding these funds in the Electoral Commission’s account would self-fund the system.

The obvious primary benefit would be that it makes it harder – though not impossible* – for political Parties to rort the system.

(* A wealthy donor could still, theoretically give smaller amounts to friends and family, who then make said donations to a Party or Electorate Candidate via the Commission’s account. A bank would have to implement protocols to detect suspicious payments. Any police investigation; subsequent prosecution and conviction, would have to have financial penalties so severe that anyone contemplating such a scheme would think very carefully before proceeding.)

The above proposal does not cover every aspect of donations (such as goods and services) to political parties – but it’s a start.

If Jami Lee Ross has achieved anything, it is casting the full glare of public scrutiny over Party donations. His methods may have been unorthodox – but he’s got our attention. We can no longer feign lack of awareness of this dark shadow over our democracy.

The rest is up to us, as a nation, what we do now.

Otherwise, we end up with more-of-the-same;

.

.

For sale: one parliament.

.

.

.

References

Electoral Commission: Part 3 – Election expenses, donations and loans

Mediaworks: Key not talking about fundraising dinner

Electoral Commission: National_Party_donations_2010.pdf

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand National Party donations 2011.pdf

Electoral Commission: NZ First Party Donations Returns 2008

Fairfax media: Show us the money: Donors bankrolling Greens lead way in fronting up to public

Interest.co.nz: We should urgently consider changes to the way our political parties are funded

Action Stations: Fix Political Donations

Scoop media: Stop powerful vested interests and preserve democracy

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Should taxpayers fund political parties?

Fairfax media: Secret donors – Buck stops here

Additional

The Good Society: Max Rashbrooke – Donations to political parties 2011-16

Electoral Commission: Party Donations by Year

Fairfax media: Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

NBR:  Key under fire for Antoine’s donations

Other blogs

The Standard: Ross saga quiescent, but donations scandal needs addressing

Previous related blogposts

National’s fund-raising at Antoine’s – was GST paid?

Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

.

.

.

With acknowledgement to Sharon Murdoch

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 October 2018.

.

.

= fs =

Advertisements

Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

.

 

.

Jami Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges

Whatever drama is taking place before our eyes, one certainty should be borne in mind: this is not a story of Good vs Evil; Light vs Darkness; a lone battler for justice vs corruption in our highest political places. What we are seeing are two faces of the same coin at war with each other.

One is motivated by revenge – for ambitions thwarted.

The other is motivated by desperation – for pure political survival.

Jami Lee Ross has been associated with a small cabal of far-right political activists; Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Judith Collins, Aaron Bhatnagar, and Cameron Slater. (There are others, but they are bit-players.) More on this shortly.

Ross was better known for his Employment Relations Amendment Bill in 2013 which  would allow businesses to break strikes by employing temporary scab labour during industrial action. Ross’s undisguised hatred for unions was apparent when, in June 2012, he released a vicious attack public attack on the Maritime Union (involved in a bitter dispute at the time with the Ports of Auckland management);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland.

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

For Simon Bridges, he is better known for enabling legislation criminalising/banning protest action against deep-sea oil exploration;

The government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.

Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced “stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference”.

Individuals who intentionally damage or interfere with mining structures, like rigs, or vessels face a 12-month prison sentence or a $50,000 fine. Organisations face a penalty of up to $100,000.

Activists who break a 500-metre “no-go” zone around structures would be liable for a $10,000 fine.

A year later, and National continued to curtail public rights to protest oil and gas exploration in our waters;

The public will lose their right to formally oppose deep-sea oil and gas exploration from tomorrow.

A law change will see applications by oil giants go through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will now be “non-notified” preventing members of the public lodging a formal protest.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said  the new classification was the “pragmatic option” for exploratory drilling. She believed it provided regulation “proportionate to its effects”.

Neither men fit any notion of being “Champions” for public scrutiny and openess when it comes to political matters. Both are on record willing and able to curtail workers’ rights for collective bargaining, and public rights to oppose environmentally damaging fossil fuel exploration.

Furthermore, if we disregard the (now admitted) sexual shenanigans and the controversial (though not illegal) tape recordings by Jamie Lee Ross, there remain several questions  that deserve far greater scrutiny.

The $100,000 Donation (the real one, not the fabricated Donghua Liu/NZHerald version)

Was a donation of $100,000 made by Chinese businessman, Zhang Yikun?

According to Southland mayor, Gary Tong, who was on a recent business trip to China  with the businessman, Mr Zhang denies ever making such a donation.

Assuming that a donation was made, where was the $100K deposited? In his now infamous recorded conversation with National Parliamentary leader, Simon Bridges,  Jami-Lee Ross pointed to the amount being  deposited into a “Botany electorate account”.

“What would you like done with it? It’s currently sitting in a Botany electorate account.”

In a follow-up text message to National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, Ross said;

.

 

.

In what form was it deposited – one lump sum, or in smaller amounts?

According to Ross – in the same text message – they were “all under $15,000”.

The following conversation between Bridges and Ross is suggestive that there is a question how the donation should be disclosed to Peter Goodfellow;

.

Bridges: The money’s fine sitting there in the Botany account. I don’t know what your arrangement is with Goodfellow or not, that’s all. I need to talk to him. I’m actually seeing him tonight, I wonder if I should.

Ross: I don’t think we can.

Bridges: I should wait and get the right words.

Ross: I don’t think we can raise tens of thousands and completely keep him out of the loop.

Bridges: No, no we can’t.

Ross: Maybe if you’re just honest with him about it.

Bridges: I think that’s right. I’ll raise it with him but we should probably just think it through. I mean, it can be in the Party but I do just want to make sure we’ve got that money to do those things. Don’t you think?

Ross: Donations can only be raised two ways: Party donation or candidate donation.

Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine. But if it was a candidate donation that’d be different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally though if they’re party donations they’re kind of under Greg’s name as the party secretary.

Bridges: We need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him…I think he’ll accept it I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Unless I get him to…leave it with me. I might talk to McClay as well; see what he’s got up his sleeve. Because Peter is going to be with me at this meeting in Wellington, is all. If I then brought him after that…good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

.

In the last highlighted extract Ross practically spells out to Bridges that the donation was made by “multiple people and multiple people mak[ing] donations“.

Tellingly, Bridges accepts Ross’s statement without question. He reconfirmed his acceptance of multiple donations/donors on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 24 October. When asked by Suzie Ferguson if he had “found the $100,000 donation yet“, Bridges replied;

We’ve established that the position is , it was some seven donations from eight people. I didn’t know that at the time – [inaudible].”

Ms Ferguson pressed the point by asking if it added up to $100,000. Bridges replied;

“Look, I think it’s something very much like that, yeah.”

Bridges’ claim he was unaware of multiple donors is at variance with what Jami Lee Ross told him during their recorded conversation;

“Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine.”

National Party President, Peter Goodfellow confirmed unequivocally that no  “$100K” donation had been received by the National Party office;

“There was no such donation. The Botany Electorate of the National Party received eight donations, and Mr Ross declared eight donations to us.”

It will be a  simple matter for Police to conduct a forensic accounting investigation. Once deposited into the Botany-National account the electronic money trail will be relatively straight forward to follow.

If – as Peter Goodfellow claims, and Ross outlined in his recorded conversation with Bridges – it was deposited in smaller amounts, again it would be straight forward to trace the source(s) and donor (s).

If dodgy dealings were involved and the $100k was split into “eight donations“, an electronic trail will reveal the donor(s). The Police probably have those details by now.

Furthermore, if seven of those “eight donations” were individuals who happened to receive an identical sum of, say, $12,500 from Zhang Yikun; and those seven individuals then donated precisely the same sum of, say, $12,500 to Botany National – then a prima facie case exists that an attempt was made to circumvent the Electoral Act 1993.

If it became known that Mr Zhang received that $100,000 from a foreign government – or state-sanctioned entity controlled by a foreign government – that would be explosive! It would cripple the National Party for years to come.

The bottom line is that a donation was made. The question is: how was it made? Both claims of a single $100k donation  and “eight donations” cannot be reconciled.

Someone is lying. By now the Police probably have a good idea who.

Perhaps not quite so “insignificant?

All of which makes Bryce Edwards recent remarks questionable;

“The extraordinary National Party scandal currently unfolding before our eyes is undoubtedly high drama. It has it all – leaks, anonymous texts, threats, secret recordings and explosive allegations… At its heart, however, the scandal is empty. It contains nothing of significance for democracy and society.”

As a series of stories on Radio NZ’s Morning Report began to explore – whilst the prurient side-show of sex, tapes, and personality-plays dominated media headlines last week (15- 19 October) – the real issues of campaign donations is yet to play out.

Ross’s allegations may  be the critically-needed spark that reviews our party donation rules by casting the glare of public scrutiny over ways  the Electoral Act has been, and is, being rorted.

The Four Anonymous Women, What The Nats Knew, And When They Knew It

The  issue raised by the story of four women allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross was raised by independent media, Newsroom, on 18 October – three days  after National party leader Simon Bridges held his press conference identifying  Ross as the leaker of his travel expenses.

The story was written by Newsroom   veteran journalist Melanie Reid and Cass Mason.

Initially, all four complainants were anonymous. Which made any similarities to the revelations by three women against US Supreme Court (then-)nominee, Brett Kavanaugh questionable. Those three women – Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick – came forward and made their identities public.

One, Christine Blasey Ford, appeared before a Senate Judiciary committee where she was subjected to intense scrutiny and questioning. Her demeanour and testimony was composed, compelling, and credible.

One day prior to the Newsroom story being published, National’s deputy leader, Paula Bennett accused Ross of unspecific “inappropriate behaviour”;

“He had gone out there and said we had been accusing him of sexual harassment of women and that’s not true, and we haven’t done that and he likened himself to Brett Kavanaugh, which was quite extraordinary in his hour-long stand-up, so I continued to be asked about sexual harassment and we hadn’t put sexual harassment to him, but we had put inappropriate behaviour to him.”

It was also in this story that Ross’s allegation that Simon Bridges had met with businessman Zhang Yikun was first confirmed by the National Party. Until this point, Bridges had been evasive in answering media questions on any donations.

All four women are apparently connected to the National Party. One has come forward – former National Party Candidate for Manurewa, Katrina Bungard;

.

.

Ms Bungard’s conflict with Ross began in 2016/17. Ross was campaigning vigorously to have his wife, Lucy Schwaner, appointed to the Howick Local Board.

This was National Party intra-politics with Ross allegedly threatening Ms Bungard for not supporting his wife onto the Howick Local Board. At one point, Ross had served a trespass order against Ms Bungard, to prevent her attending a National Party event. Far-right political operative, Simon Lusk, became involved on behalf of Jami Lee Ross.

Ms Bungard complained to the National Party hierarchy. Apparently, Ms Bungard was satisfied at the time with the National Party’s action addressing Ross’s alleged bullying;

“They helped me at a really stressful time and I am thankful for their assistance.”

Ms Bungard has stated that if  Ross resigned , she would run for his Botany seat in the by-election.

As our American cuzzies put it, Ms Bungard “has skin in the game” – she would stand to benefit materially and politically if Jami Lee Ross resigned.

The other three alleged complainants remain anonymous and their stories cannot be scrutinised or verified.

Other Complainants come forward

David Collings, chair of the Howick Local Board, alleges that he also had a confrontation with Ross. On TV3’s The Nation, Mr Collings painted a grim picture of Jami Lee Ross;

“It got very nasty. He actually threatened, attacked my members, for support. For example, my deputy chair [Katrina Bungard] has aspirations – she’d be a great National MP… he’s used that over her to try and get his way. Threatening her – ‘you’re political career will go nowhere’ – other members of the board, even a sworn police officer, veiled threats about your employment.

[…]

Oh, it got very nasty.

[…]

I wasn’t even contacted. But obviously, I knew exactly what was going on, even was privy to… I think it was on the actual day of our meeting when we elected the chair. He called through – and I’ve said it before – in, like, a Darth Vader voice, ‘I can’t believe you’re willing to give up your political career.’ Sorry, I can do a better Darth Vader voice than that, but that’s what it was like. But like Freddy Krueger or something.

[…] I’m not sure if he said it was him, because I was actually going to try and get my phone to try and record it, so I missed the end of it. But it was on – what do you call it – a cell phone that was untraceable, sort of thing – no number.

We complained to the National Party, and Greg Hamilton – who was the manager at the time – was quite helpful. He said, ‘What you’re telling us is not right. An MP shouldn’t’ be getting involved in something in local government, particularly when his wife is involved.’ Greg was quite helpful, but it didn’t stop.”

Mr Collings went on to describe Ross as;

“Look, this guy – we’ve got a guy in our area that makes Todd Barclay look like an angel.”

National Party member, Katrina Bungard is Deputy Chair of the Howick Local Board.

TV3’s The Nation co-host, Simon Shepherd introduced  David Collings as the chairperson of the Howick Local Board.

.

.

What wasn’t disclosed is that Mr Collings was elected on the right-wing ‘Vision and Voice‘ ticket; a local  grouping of  members that appears to be National Party-aligned;

David Collings

Bob Wichman

Garry Boles

John Spiller (formerly member of National-aligned )

Peter Young

Katrina Bungard (former National candidate)

Adele White (supported by Jami Lee Ross in a petition, 2013)

Lucy Schwaner (Jami Lee Ross’s wife).

As described in a Newsroom story;

Many on the Howick board are National Party types but the party doesn’t stand candidates directly.

It would appear that David Collings also “has skin in the game”.

Obvious questions should be raised as to why the complainants have only now made their stories about alleged harassment public. As Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West, pointed out to Newshub;

“You’re jumping to a whole lot of assumptions about behaviour you don’t know about and I don’t know about.

There are allegations that have been made, but I think given the situation we’re now in, the best thing is for us all to just step back, allow authorities do the jobs they’re needing to do, and I don’t think it’s helpful for us to be involved in public speculation.

As I say we have some allegations that have been made, they may be wildly at variance from the facts.”

The conclusion that this is a “pile on” by National Party members and supporters cannot be easily ignored. Alleged bad behaviour is apparently tolerated by National as long as everyone ‘tows the party line’ and remains loyal.

National Party action over past harassment charges

Justifying Ross’s expulsion, an un-named National Party spokesperson said;

“What Jami-Lee has done and continues to do is unacceptable and the more that comes to light the more we know we made the right decision to expel him from the Caucus.

We are supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour.”

However, many of the allegations made against Ross appear to have been recent-historical and have only now surfaced.

Whilst National was “supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour” one complainant was encouraged (?) to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Signed two years ago,  National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, denies it was a NDA;

“We haven’t used any NDAs. That matter was a private matter and they wanted confidentiality, so they both agreed that it would be kept confidential.

That’s the only instance that I’m aware of in my time as president that we’ve had an issue like that and it’s certainly the only time that the parties have requested confidentiality.

It was a matter that was raised by a couple of people and was dealt with – and actually to the satisfaction of the parties.

We acted quickly and helped them to resolve the differences and move on.”

According to Peter Goodfellow, the document was not a NDA but rather a “gentlemen’s agreement”. Which is a quaintly odd euphemism, as one of the signatories was a woman.

Despite the agreement; despite the complaints made over his alleged behaviour, Ross’s career continued to rise within the National Party. He rose to become National’s Senior Whip.

Though the National hierarchy had been aware of complaints  about Ross’s alleged behaviour, at least one woman who complained was silenced through a non-disclosure agreement – and in the meantime Jami Lee Ross continued his rise through the National hierarchy. He was rewarded, whilst complainants were silenced.

His promotion makes a mockery of the sanctimonious utterances of both Simon Bridges and his deputy, Paula Bennett;

“I am in admiration of the courage of these women for what had happened. As soon as I was aware of inappropriate conduct, I acted immediately I knew nothing before the leak investigation about any of these sorts of things … within a day of knowing about them I confronted Jami-Lee Ross about this.” – Simon Bridges

“I think there are bound to be other women, at various degrees, he was grooming. I feel a sense that people deserve to feel safe and particularly from someone in power. I think those women are incredibly courageous and strong to have spoken out. I’m sure when you are dealing with that potentially narcissistic personality, then any kind of position of power would feed into that.” – Paula Bennett

Simon Bridges denies any knowledge of Ross’s alleged bad behaviour. This seems unlikely in a ‘pressure-cooker’ political environment where people talk to each other and gossip runs rampant.  Bridges’ claim of not knowing is simply not credible.

In Parliament, people talk. Especially staff. And often that chit-chat gets back to politician’s ears.

The culture of the National Party seems geared toward rewarding brutal politics and hiding away the victims of those who wield the power. This fact has been made abundantly clear to the public.

Sectioned into care?

On Sunday 21 October, the media reported that Ross had been taken into “mental health care“.

There were suggestions he had been “sectioned” – admitted under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. This usually involves psychiatrist reports and a decision before a sitting judge. A Court Order is made for compulsory treatment. It takes time to be “sectioned” and is not an easy process;

For the first month, the patient must accept treatment. From the second month onwards, the patient is not required to accept treatment unless they give informed consent, or treatment is considered in the interests of the patient by an independent psychiatrist (not being the responsible clinician), or the patient needs emergency treatment and it is not possible to get their consent.

Two days later, on Tuesday 23 October, Ross was discharged from care.

Two days.

According to David Fisher at the NZ Herald, the “friend” assisting Ross after his “discharge was none other than – Cameron Slater;

It is believed Slater has been personally supporting Ross since the weekend and his assistance extended to helping the MP in his release from Middlemore Hospital’s mental health facilities yesterday.

In the two days that Ross was in “mental health care”, the media spotlight went from the beleaguered rogue MP facing numerous allegations of “bad behaviour”, harrassment, extra-marital affairs – to National Leader Simon Bridges.

Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on Tuesday 23 October focused on interviews and hard questions put to Bridges, the National Party, campaign donations,mental health, and workplace harassment. Anything but Jami Lee Ross;

And more the following day on ‘Morning Report‘;

All of a sudden, the blow-torch of media attention was off Ross and on Simon Bridges and the National party in most instances.

If Ross really was admitted into “mental health care” – it was a timely coincidence.

If not, it was a strategic master-stroke – whoever planned it would fit the role of a Bond villain with perfection.

Which leads us to…

The Dirty Politics Cabal

Conspiracy of cock-up?  Jamie Lee Ross’s recording  of conversation(s) with Simon Bridges was either a shrewd decision to cover his back-side as he fell from grace with his Leader – or something far more calculating and sinister.

Bridges claims  that he believes Ross have may been planning and executing his strategy for a considerable period of time;

“I think he has been recording me, and potentially many other members of Parliament, for a very long time.”

So obviously not a spur-of-the-moment, rash-impulse kind, of thing by Ross.

As the Ross/Bridges crisis unfolded since 15 October, several names began to show up – names which feature prominently in Nicky Hager’s expose, Dirty Politics:

Assuming – for a moment – that the most machiavellian planning has gone into destroying Simon Bridges as the leader of the National;

  1. Who would benefit?
  2. What would be the likely outcome for the Party?

In answer to question one, the likely successor to Bridges being deposed would be Judith Collins. Ms Collins featured recently in the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton polls, just marginally behind Simon Bridges;

.

.

Jami Lee Ross’s full scale assault has inarguably destroyed his political career. He may even be unemployable in the private sector, as Kiwiblogger David Farrar, and former MP, Tau Henare, pointed out recently.

But his attacks on Simon Bridges has also undermined his leadership – perhaps beyond repair.

If National falls any further in polling; and Bridges’ popularity drops further; and Collins’ popularity  rises – the inevitable would happen. Bridges would be rolled and Judith Collins installed as the new leader.

In answer to question 2: National would lurch hard-right. New Zealand politics would suddenly become more partisan; more divisive – in short, more like Australia. The hard-right warriors Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, Aaron Bhatnagar, Jami Lee Ross, et al, would have their new leader and National would become the vehicle for their political agenda and aspirations.

Jamie Lee Ross would eventually be “rehabilitated” politically  and would be appointed to various SOE boards as Collins’ ‘head kicker’.

Far-fetched conspiracy la-la stuff? Perhaps… though even  David Fisher seemed compelled to write in the NZ Herald;

“It’s impossible to know exactly when Ross took a step down what he sees as a righteous – and what Bridges calls treacherous – path.  It’s also difficult to know where it ends. Ross’ actions have shown clear signs of strategy.”

.

.

.

References

NBR: Ports behind strike-breaking bill – Ross

Scoop media: Jami Lee Ross – Union biting the hand that feeds

Newstalk ZB: Ross saga – Businessman denies making $100k donation

Fairfax media: Environmental protesters’ Govt crack down

Fairfax media: Law will hit deep-sea drilling protesters

Fairfax media: Jami-Lee Ross admits affair with MP, pledges to stay on in Parliament

NZ Herald: Full transcript – The Jami-Lee Ross tape of Simon Bridges

Mediaworks: As it happened – Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges saga reaches new heights

Mediaworks: Read Jami-Lee Ross’ texts to Greg Hamilton about $100,000 donation

Radio NZ: National’s hollow political scandal entertaining but insignificant

Radio NZ: Morning Report – National Party inquiry to ensure staff ‘feeling safe’ – Bridges (alt-link)

Legislation: Electoral Act 1993

Radio NZ: Morning Report for Tuesday 23 October 2018

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross: – Four women speak out

Radio NZ: Jami-Lee Ross identified as National Party leaker

New York Times: The Women Who Have Accused Brett Kavanaugh

NPR: Kavanaugh And Christine Blasey Ford Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Radio NZ: Bridges did talk to businessman at centre of donation claim – Bennett

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges continues to stonewall questions about donations and sexual harassment claims

Fairfax media: National party candidate allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross speaks out

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

Auckland Council: Contact Howick Local Board

Scoop media: C&R Howick Announce Local Board Team

Talking Southern Auckland: Honesty and Integrity Part Two

Newsroom: Nats have a long Jami-Lee agenda

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross’ behaviour allegations might not be accurate – National MP Tim Macindoe

Interest.co.nz: Jami-Lee Ross to remain in Parliament as an independent MP for Botany

Scoop media: TV3 The Nation – Chris Simpson and David Collings

Fairfax media: Vision and Voice dominate Howick Local Board

Radio NZ: National defends handling of woman’s complaint against Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: National aware of Jami-Lee Ross grievances for years

Fairfax media: Toxic relationships with Jami-Lee Ross reported

The Spinoff: ‘I am just motivated to cut throats’: meet Jami Lee-Ross’s political mastermind

NZ Herald: Jami-Lee Ross saga – Identity of ‘Cathedral Club’ donor revealed

TVNZ: After horror week, Simon Bridges takes a hit in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Radio NZ: Tau Henare – ‘NZ has never seen anything like this’

NZ Herald: MP Jami-Lee Ross admitted to mental health care

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross has been ‘sectioned’ – but what does that actually mean?

ODT: Jami-Lee Ross out of hospital, ‘not focusing on politics’

NZ Herald: National’s leader Simon Bridges rings Dirty Politics blogger to talk Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 23 October 2018

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 24 October 2018

NZ Herald: Special report – Simon Bridges v Jami-Lee Ross – the National Party Botany Bagman and his plan for political survival

Additional

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross and the shadow of Dirty Politics

Twitter: Jami-Lee Ross – 15 August 2018

Sharechat: Bridges denies Ross allegations, welcomes police inquiry

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel (alt-link)

Other Blogs

Whaleoil: Despicable text sent to Jami-Lee Ross by female MP

Kiwiblog: The terrible personal cost

Chris Trotter:  Questions, Questions, Questions

Martyn Bradbury:  Could the Spinoff be possibly wrong about JLR? Maybe?

The Standard:  Bridges loses connection with reality

The Standard:  Nothing to worry about

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 October 2018.

.

.

= fs =

Israel and Saudi Arabia: the rise of rogue states

.

 

.

Israel

.

On 10 July 1985, the bombing, sinking, and fatality aboard the Greenpeace ship, ‘Rainbow Warrior‘, taught New Zealand that as a small country we could be vulnerable to the perniciousness of foreign powers.

Despite being supposed allies; despite the blood of our soldiers shed for their liberation in two World Wars, faraway France sent a team of DGSE secret agents to our shores and committed what could only be described as an act of state-sponsored terrorism.

As a nation, we did not take kindly to being bullied by a foreign power. The NZ History website pointedly observed that;

This incident did much to promote what has been described as New Zealand’s ‘silent war of independence’ and was central to an upsurge in New Zealand nationalism. There was a sense of having to ‘go it alone’ because traditional allies such as the United States and Britain sat on their hands while France worked to block New Zealand exports. The failure of Britain and the United States to condemn this act of terrorism hardened support for a more independent foreign policy line.

Thirty three years later, and another nuclear-armed, aggressive nation is arrogantly throwing it’s weight around and trying to “have a go” at us – Israel.

NZ-Israel relations took a nose-dive last year when singer-entertainer Lorde decided to cancel her planned tour of Israel;

.

.

The bitter reaction from Zionist individuals and organisations could only be described as  – at times – reaching levels of insane hysteria. A full page advertisement in The Washington Times by fanatic Rabbi Shmuley Boteach showed the intolerance to dissenting views by hardline Zionists;

.

.

Obviously, Rabbi Boteach’s call to “support our campaign to defend Israel and promote human rights” (bottom of advert) didn’t extend to people having the right to make a decision on whether or not to tour the country he was “defending”.

Two young women who last year called on Lorde not to tour Israel have found themselves on the sharp, pointy-end of Israel’s hard-line extremism when it comes to criticising that country;

.

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab had appealed to Lorde in an open letter to join the cultural boycott of Israel.

.

Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab wrote;

Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip. The occupation is considered an affront to international law and Israeli settlements in the area explicitly violate the Geneva Convention. The military occupation of Palestinian territories has resulted in an apartheid state. Palestinians living in the occupied territories do not enjoy the same rights Israeli citizens enjoy, they are denied freedom of movement and often basic services and necessities.

Today, millions of people stand opposed to the Israeli government’s policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid. As part of this struggle, we believe that an economic, intellectual and artistic boycott is an effective way of speaking out against these crimes. This worked very effectively against apartheid in South Africa, and we hope it can work again.

Israel’s violations are so brutal, Nelson Mandela’s own grandson, Mandla Mandela, said: “The settlements I saw here [in the West Bank] reminded me of what we had suffered in South Africa because we also were surrounded by many settlements and were not allowed to move from one place to another freely. Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.” He added, “Israel is the worst apartheid regime” and called for the continued support of the boycott movement.

They called on Lorde to follow in our country’s tradition of standing up to injustice;

Israel might seem like a world away from New Zealand but that shouldn’t stop us from speaking out and being on the right side of history. In 1981 New Zealanders took to the streets to protest the Springbok tour and South African apartheid. It’s remembered proudly now, so it’s easy to forget that at the time this stuff was seriously fraught. Many argued the politics of apartheid shouldn’t be brought into sport. People will say the same about music.

We’re not just writing to appeal to the past. We’re writing this because we know you agree that our part in movements for justice and equality shouldn’t just be a memory that gathers dust. We can play an important role in challenging injustice today. We urge you to act in the spirit of progressive New Zealanders who came before you and continue their legacy. In 2017, Lorde, reignite the spirit of 1981 and show the world that New Zealanders are the progressive forward-thinking people we say we are. Please join the artistic boycott of Israel, cancel your Israeli tour dates and make a stand. Your voice will join many others and together we can and will make a difference.

I am in awe of the courage of these two young women.

In the interests of fair, free speech, The Spinoff also published a counter-opinion, by Dane Giraud from the NZ Jewish community.

For their actions, a pro-Zionist group in Israel called “Shurat Hadin” has sued – and ‘won’ a legal case in an Israeli Court – seeking ‘damages against Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab. The award was for 45,000 Israeli New Shekel ($NZ18,976).

According to a Jerusalem Post report;

In January, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shoshana Steinbach, Ayelet Wertzel and Ahuva Frogel. The three all purchased tickets to see Lorde, and were refunded when the show was canceled. The suit demanded NIS 15,000 in damages for each of the teenagers, claiming that their “artistic welfare” was harmed as was their leisure time, “and above all damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews.” The lawsuit said that Lorde’s response on Twitter to the letter Sachs and Abu-Shanab penned showed a direct connection to the concert cancellation.

[…]

“This is a precedent-setting ruling according to the Boycott Law,” [Shurat HaDin lawyer] Darshan-Leitner said Thursday. “This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the State of Israel could find themselves liable for damages and need to pay compensation to those hurt by the boycott call, if they’re in Israel or outside it.”

Shurat Hadin” makes no secret of their hard-line Zionism and willingness to exploit “legal avenues” to further their cause;

.

.

As their website clearly states;

Shurat HaDin is at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide. We are dedicated to taking action to protect the State of Israel and its citizens. By putting terrorists and their supporters on trial to compensate victims and block funding of terror, by fighting to end the use of social media for inciting violence and promoting terror, by defending Israel, its leaders, and soldiers against claims of war crimes, and by battling lawfare, BDS and other efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State, Shurat HaDin is using court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel’s enemies.

Former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer, Philip Giraldi, has accused ShuratHaDin as engaging in lawfare;

Lawfare, as the name suggests, is the concept of using the law itself as a weapon of war. What it has meant in practice is turning American courtrooms into battlegrounds between private actors and foreign litigants seeking leverage in international political disputes. As a court case just concluded this week [February, 2015] in New York against the Palestinian Authority highlights, the increasing abuse of Lawfare litigation in the U.S. courts may soon have dangerous and irreparable implications for American foreign policy interests in the Middle East.

Israel’s Shurat HaDin Law Center has featured in much of the Lawfare litigation, seeking to harass groups and individuals that it regards as hostile, tying them up with litigation so they become ineffectual or even bankrupting them when a friendly judge rules its way. Shurat HaDin is headed by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and her husband Avi, who have described their organization as a means of “fighting back,” particularly appropriate for Israel because “the Jews invented law.”

He pointed out;

More recently Shurat HaDin has been threatening to use litigation on American university campuses where it perceives that there is toleration of “an environment of intimidation and hostility” that fails to protect Jewish and Israeli students against alleged anti-Semitic harassment, by which it means demonstrations by Palestinian supporters and calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Shurat HaDin have links to Israel’s security agency, Mossad.

Clearly, Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab are the latest victims of Shurat HaDin’s ‘lawfare’ strategy to coerce  critics of Israel into silence.

Philip Giraldi‘s analysis is backed up by Waikato University law professor, Alexander Gillespie, who said this was an attempt to quell free speech;

“This is political theatre. This is not really a legal issue, this is about a court in Israel trying to create a precedent and it will have quite a large global impact.

A lot of people will start watching this because the fear will be that if you’re critical of Israel, no matter where you are in the world, you could be sued.”

However, Professor Gillespie said it would be difficult for Israel to enforce their Court decision to demand payment from the two women;

“In theory they can apply to the courts here to enforce their judgement, but it’s very unlikely that the judgement will be enforced because it’s completely contrary to our own laws.”

To their credit, Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab have bravely refused to cave to Israel’s abuse of legal process and have set up a ‘Givealittle’ page where donations toward their ‘fine’ will be forwarded to the  Gaza Mental Health Foundation.

Hopefully the New Zealand government will act decisively to defend two of it’s citizens from the brazen bullying by a foreign power. If our government fails to act to defend it’s citizen on our own soil, then it has become a weak vassal-state of a foreign regime.

.

Saudia Arabia

.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia – another “ally” of the West – has taken it’s war from the bombing of Yemen to it’s Consulate in Istanbul where apparently it has murdered Washington Post columnist, and critic of the Saudi regime, Jamal Khashoggi.

Not content with bombing and mass-killing in Yemen that has resulted in at least ten thousand killed and tens of thousands more dead from starvation, the Saudi regime has adopted Mossad-style techniques of using execution teams to kill critics. The weapons used to kill innocent men, women, and children in Yemen – such as forty children in a school bus – are American-made;

.

Munitions experts said the numbers on this piece of shrapnel confirmed that Lockheed Martin was the maker of the bomb. – CNN

.

Sensitive to ongoing reports of mass deaths of Yemeni civilians, Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, tried to “make good” on assurances that Saudi Arabian warplanes would take better aim in attacks on so-called rebel targets;

Pursuant to Section 1290 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA), I certified to Congress yesterday that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.

In the same statement, Pompeo  also said how much the US government wanted peace in Yemen;

The Trump Administration has been clear that ending the conflict in Yemen is a national security priority. We will continue to work closely with the Saudi-led coalition to ensure Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain support for UN-led efforts to end the civil war in Yemen, allow unimpeded access for the delivery of commercial and humanitarian support through as many avenues as possible, and undertake actions that mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Oxfam America’s  Scott Paul responded the only way possible to US support of Saudi bombing of Yemen;

“Today, the Trump administration once put its Gulf allies ahead of Yemeni families who are struggling to survive. With Secretary Pompeo’s certification, the State Department demonstrated that it is blindly supporting military operations in Yemen without any allegiance to facts, moral code or humanitarian law.”

Many of the horror-weapons used in Yemen were banned from sale to the Saudis by the previous Obama administration.  Trump reversed that ban in March 2017.

Trump has promised a controversial US$110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia will proceed – regardless of the current storm of international condemnation over the mysterious disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi; regardlss of the fact that the Saudi regime may be engaging in extra-judicial killings; regardless of the the alleged murder taking place within the borders of another country.

In a statement that shows – yet again – the utter moral bankruptcy of the man, Trump explained;

“I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States. Because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China, or someplace else.”

And Americans wonder why they are hated throughout much of the Middle East?

Israel and Saudi Arabia – two regimes that brook no dissent. Both thumb their noses at free expression; democracy; and respect for human life. Neither are hesitant at using lethal violence to pursue their aims.

We certainly have no moral grounds to complain when Russia supports one of their own allies in the region. Russia has Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The US has Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi ‘Crown Prince’ Mohammed bin Salman.

Russia’s RT News may be a government mouthpiece, but on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Yemen,  and continuing arming of the Saudi regime, they make a valid point;

.

.

The West should choose it’s friends in the Middle East more carefully.

And New Zealand should have as little as possible to do with Israel and Saudi Arabia as possible. They are both rogue states.

.

.

.

References

NZ History: Nuclear-free New Zealand – Sinking the Rainbow Warrior

Rolling Stone: Lorde Cancels Tel Aviv Concert After Calls to Boycott Israel

Radio NZ: Rabbi continues criticism of Lorde

The Spinoff: Dear Lorde, here’s why we’re urging you not to play Israel

Shurat HaDin: Main Page

Jerusalem Post: New Zealand BDS activists ordered to pay damages over Lorde Israel boycott

The Hill: U.S. legislation abused by foreign entities

Radio NZ: NZ activist being sued in Israel calls it ‘publicity stunt’

Givealittle: Help Justine and Nadia raise money for Mental Health in Gaza

Jerusalem Post: Op. Harpoon – How the Mossad and an Israeli NGO destroyed terrorist money networks

Chicago Tribune: 50,000 children in Yemen have died of starvation and disease so far this year, monitoring group says

The Telegraph: Dubai Hamas assassination – how it was planned

CNN: Bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by the US

US Department of State: Certification to Congress on Actions of Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen Under the NDAA

NPR: U.S. Stands By Saudi Arabia, Despite Criticism Over Civilian Casualties In Yemen

NY Times: Why Are U.S. Bombs Killing Civilians in Yemen?

CNN: Trump’s $110 billion Saudi arms deal has only earned $14.5 billion so far

Twitter: RT News – Yemen, Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia

Additional

The Electronic Intifada: Israeli lawfare “backfires” in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Israeli court – NZ activists must pay for Lorde cancellation

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Concert Woes

Previous related blogposts

Exclusive: Provocateurs attempt to disrupt March for Palestine, in Wellington!

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

Barbarians at the Gates

To any Israeli solidiers reading this

Wellingtonians say ‘No!’ to Israeli aggression

What to do with the Israeli Ambassador?

Do our bit: boycott Israeli goods and commercial interests!

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

.

.

.

.

 

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 October 2018.

.

.

= fs =

That was Then, This is Now #29 – Joyce’s $11.7 billion hole – goneburger!

9 October 2018 1 comment

.

.

Billions of dollars extra cash that are there that they could dip into“, eh?

It would appear that Ms Kaye has inadvertently ‘sunk’ Steven Joyce’s claims of Labour’s $11.7 billion “hole” made during last year’s election campaign.

.

.

.

References

National Party: Labour must explain where the money is (alt-link: Scoop media)

Radio NZ:  Govt’s tertiary fees free policy wrong priority – Nikki Kaye (alt-link)

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

Dollars and sense – Joyce’s hypocrisy

St. Steven and the Holy Grail of Fiscal Responsibility

National’s $11.7 billion hole is right where they left it

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 October 2018.

.

.

= fs =

A funny thing happened at the Mall…

.

.

The other day I was at Johnsonville Mall, one of Wellington’s northern suburbs. Michael Wolff’s exposé, Fire and Fury was available at the mall’s Whitcoull’s at a discount, and I was keen to read for myself what was happening on the other side of the planet. The lunatic asylum currently inhabiting the White House held a fascination much like driving past a train-wreck and trying to make sense of the  tangled, smoking carnage.

Approaching the counter, with one customer in front of me, we suddenly heard several loud *pops*, slowly spaced out, emanating from the same direction.

We looked out into the mall…

.

.

We saw a worker from the pharmacy across the way climb back onto a ladder. She affixed balloons to the shop frontage, and as she did so, several burst…

.

.

I looked at my companion and remarked;

“You know, if this mall were in the United States,  we all would’ve been diving for cover by now.”

We approached the counter and the Whitcoulls counter-attendant, having overheard my comment, remarked;

“That’s exactly what I said to the customer before you!”

What does it say about two predominantly anglo-saxon societies – both settled from Europe, where English is predominantly the lingua franca – but which over two centuries have diverged in such a radical fashion? Where bursting balloons  would raise curiosity in one society – and abject mortal fear in another?

And how lucky we are to be living in the former and not the latter.

If ever New Zealand draws up a constitution, our Second Amendment should guarantee the right to bear balloons. And that’s it: balloons.

.

.

.

Previous related blogposts

NRA response; more guns. Common sense sez otherwise.

How many more? For god’s sakes, how many more?!

Why arming our Police is not such a flash idea

Michael Moore on yet more shootings in the USA

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘thedailyblog.co.nz – fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 October 2018

.

.

= fs =

War – the line between rememberance and glorification

6 October 2018 2 comments

.

.

Without doubt or argument, the World War 1 exhibitions at the former Dominion Museum and Te Papa museum were feats of outstanding  technical achievement. The abilities of creators Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor are a stunning mix of  technology, artistry, and the manipulation of human emotion to tell a story.

The sophistication of their visual story-telling of one of our nation’s bloodiest moments in history is laid out for all to see. The duel exhibitions opened in April 2015 and will soon be coming to an end after a four year “run“.

In the first year alone, 402,896 visitors attended  Te Papa’s ‘Gallipoli: The scale of our war’ exhibition.

.

.

When first revealed to the public, Peter Jackson made great effort to ensure that the dual exhibitions were not to be perceived as a “glorification of war”;

“It’s not an anti-war museum, it’s certainly not a glorifying war museum. It is just showing the reality.”

Te Papa’s CEO, Rick Ellis, repeated the official ‘line’ that it was not a glorification;

It did not glorify war or shy away from questions around war.

But the depictions of the 2.4 times human scale figures of soldiers in various poses – from tragic weariness to stoic determination – raises questions surrounding those assertions. One particular aspect of the Te Papa display is deeply troubling when it’s implications are carefully considered.

For example, the “machine gunner” figure set in the diorama with a machine gun is depicted with a square-jawed, heroic pose;

.

.

.

Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog - The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com - thedailyblog.co.nz Te papa - world war 1 - world war one - WW1 - exhibition - Peter Jackson


Jacqueline Makkee of Weta Workship, works on the model of Gallipoli soldier Spencer Westmacott.

.

They  bear an uncanny resemblance to the gallant, valiant, clean-cut, stylised quasi-propaganda,  shown in old ‘Commando‘ comics;

.

.

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Te Papa is an interactive feature which invites members of the public to treat the roll of the sniper as a ‘game’. A precursor depiction to the ‘game’ revealed how some viewed sniping, contemporaneously;

.

.

To soldiers at the time, that may well have been a common attitude. If anything, the displays reinforces our notions of  war as a bloody kill-or-be-killed conflict. There was no time to consider the ‘niceties’ of polite society.

But the next feature of the sniping display cannot be justified or explained away so easily.

Citizens of early 21st Century society were invited to “Have a Shot”;

“Periscope rifles let you shoot without sticking your head above the trench.”

.

.

The following three “bullet points” were iconised with images of actual bullet cartridges;

— Look through the periscope to your right.

— Press the button when you see movement – any sign of the enemy behind his sandbags.

— Miss him and he’ll shoot back.

The little red button glowed invitingly;

.

.

 

.

And perhaps unfortunately, there was no end to a line of members of the public who seemed to hold no qualms in treating the killing of another human being as a ‘game’;

.

.

.

.

.

The creators of the exhibition have taken the mock-killings of internet/electronic gaming and applied it to the legitimacy of a museum setting. Mock killing has become mainstream courtesy of our local museum.

Which would seem to make a sham of exhibition creative director and Weta Workshop co-founder, Richard Taylor’s noble-sounding words when the exhibition was first opened to the masses;

[We wanted to] give respect to memories on the scale that they deserve.

We hope when visitors leave this experience that they carry more wisdom so that the spirit and the sacrifices of these young men and women are never forgotten.”

Little wonder that there was criticism of the dual exhibitions, pointing out the subtle apparent-glorification of our ‘Great War’ dead. Writing for the World Socialist website, John Braddock and Tom Peters said;

As a junior partner of British imperialism, New Zealand’s ruling class joined WWI to expand its wealth and seize more Pacific island colonies. The invasion of German Samoa, which was New Zealand’s first action in WWI, is not mentioned in either of the Wellington exhibitions. In the course of the war, 18,500 New Zealanders died and 40,000 were injured, out of a population of about one million.

Both exhibitions are virtually silent on the widespread opposition to WWI internationally. The exception is a reference in the Great War Exhibition to opposition among the American working class, which delayed Washington’s entry into the war. The wall text then quotes US President Woodrow Wilson’s cynical declaration in April 1917 that “America would ‘make the world safe for democracy’ by joining ‘the war to end all wars.’”

There is no reference to the class struggles against conscription and war, including protests and mass strikes throughout the world. The upsurge prompted the 1916 founding of the NZ Labour Party by the trade unions, which aimed to divert the anti-war movement into safe parliamentary channels.

The Great War Exhibition makes no mention of the Russian Revolution. The overthrow of capitalism by the Russian working class, led by the Bolsheviks, inspired workers internationally and forced the warring powers to agree to an armistice to prevent the revolution from spreading. The display falsely presents the armistice as simply a military victory by the Allied powers.

They make a chilling observation;

The pro-war carnival taking place across Australia and New Zealand must be taken as a sharp warning. The contradictions of capitalism that caused WWI are once again intensifying. Successive New Zealand governments have strengthened the country’s alliance with US imperialism, which is stampeding from one bloody intervention to the next in the Middle East, while building up its military forces against Russia and China.

Messrs Braddock and  Peters point out that “there is cursory acknowledgement of the Ottoman death toll—which numbered 86,692, more than 30 times New Zealand’s 2,779“.

Mr Jackson’s comments – reported above – take on a new  ambivalence as to the meaning of the exhibitions;

“It’s not an anti-war museum, it’s certainly not a glorifying war museum. It is just showing the reality.”

Meanwhile, the exhibition makes a fleeting gesture to the magnanimity shown by the Ottoman/Turks toward an implacable foe invading their territory;

.

.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… are now lying in the soil of a friendly country… and are in peace…

They have become our sons as well.” – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, commander of the Turkish 19th Division at Gallipoli and founder of the Turkish Republic, 1934

No mention of a Turkish museum-game to kill ANZAC soldiers.

In a 2016 thesis by  Elizabeth Anne du Chateau Blackwell also pointed out;

Perhaps, when foot traffic counts, controversy is not welcome: war as a back-drop for noble action and attitude is likely more appealing to a wide audience than war as waste, war as hate, war as frustration and fear and anguish. Certainly, Gallipoli sets the ‘ordinariness’ of the national character against a view of war designed to arouse pride rather than highlighting its brutality and devastation or the changes it caused in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The war is not a ninth character in Gallipoli, and it might have been. I called this section National pride and the glorification of war, but in fact, the exhibition does not glorify war so much as make it as ‘ordinary’ as the New Zealanders who fought there. It is not sanitised: it is simply accepted as taking place, and this is presents a disjoin for modern sensibilities. Setting aside the sentimental and cultural ties to Britain, a war in Europe, arguably, had little relevance to Aotearoa-New Zealand on the opposite side of the world, but it is in fact the sentimental and cultural ties that are elevated in Gallipoli.

Aotearoa-New Zealand, it seems, did a ‘right’ thing by sending troops and medical personnel to the war effort. Suffering is certainly presented, but it is objectified and put out for the wondering gaze of the visitors. Against the real stories of the eight real, but ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders, the exhibition offers no critique of the catalogue of escalating stupidity and unwise decisions made in relation to the campaign to take Gallipoli.

At a time when the current Labour-NZ First coalition government has voted to extend New Zealand’s military “mission” in Iraq,

.

.

– such questions of doing the “‘right’ thing by sending troops and medical personnel to the war effort” becomes even more critical.

If the exhibitions at Te Papa and the former Dominion Museum have made people think twice about the use of war as a political tool, then it may have served a purpose. Of all the things governments have the power to do – and must always  be unrelentingly questioned –  is their policy to engage in war.

If, as Ms Blackwell suggested,  the exhibitions present war  as “ordinary” and “simply accepted as taking place”, then it has become a form of desensitising propaganda. This may never have been the intentions of messrs Jackson, Taylor, and Ellis – but inviting members of the public to take a shot at a faceless enemy through a ‘game’ suggests otherwise.

At the very least it was unhelpful.

It was certainly disrespectful.

 

.

Note:

It will be interesting if the response from certain individuals associated with Te Papa will be as defensive and hostile as  they were in a previous museum-related story.

.

.

.

References

Ministry of Culture and Heritage: Dominion Museuem

Fairfax media: Jackson’s Great War Exhibition unveiled in Wellington

NZ Herald: Gallipoli exhibition shows soldiers frozen in time

Fairfax media: Te Papa brings epic scale of World War I to life

Te Papa: Te Papa celebrates a record-breaking year

Fairfax: Sir Peter Jackson shows off his Great War Exhibition in Wellington

World Socialist Web Site: New Zealand’s WWI exhibitions falsify history and glorify war for a new generation

AUT: Gallipoli as Edutainment? Constructing national identity in a “new” museum

Newsroom: NZ’s ‘mission creep’ in Iraq creeps on

Other Blogs

World Socialist Web Site: New Zealand’s WWI exhibitions falsify history and glorify war for a new generation

Previous related blogposts

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The gentrification of Te Papa

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘thedailyblog.co.nz – fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 October 2018.

.

.

= fs =

The housing crisis: NZers deliver their verdict

21 September 2018 Leave a comment

.

.

New Zealanders appear to have rejected National’s on-going carping at the Coalition government’s ‘Kiwibuild’ programme.

In a recent Ipsos Survey, 50% of respondants chose housing as the country’s most pressing problem facing New Zealand. (A similar question put to Australians yielded less than half – 24% – as being concerned about housing.)

A further 63% chose other social problems (healthcare 31%,  poverty 32%).

An Ipsos media release pointed out that New Zealanders generally trusted Labour to be better equipped to handle critical social problems;

Labour is also viewed as the political party that is most capable of managing five of the top six issues facing New Zealand today, especially the issue of healthcare – at 41%, Labour’s ability to manage the issue of healthcare is 19 points ahead of National (22%).

Labour is also positioned 26 points ahead of National with regards to managing poverty-related issues in New Zealand (43% believing Labour to be better than National, at 17%)…

Managing Director of Ipsos NZ, Carin Hercock, pointed out:

“The fact that housing is rated as the most important issue by 59% of New Zealanders who have an Income over $100,000, the highest importance rating across all income levels, demonstrates that housing is not just an issue for the poor. Addressing social issues has become more important to New Zealanders over the last 6 months, while the importance of factors such as the economy, unemployment, taxation and household debt have all reduced.”

Only 9% picked “the economy” as a trouble-spot. This appears in stark contrast to successive business confidence surveys which puts a more negative spin on the economy.

Some, like former Reserve Bank economist, Rodney Dickens, expressed skepticism about business confidence surveys. He “believes the survey has a major political bias. Basically business leaders are likely National Party supporters and this view biases them against the new Government more than any actual concrete business risk“.

Research Manager for Ipsos NZ, Dr Richard Griffiths, under-scored Ms Hercock’s assessment;

“We know from media coverage that many New Zealanders are facing challenges relating to the housing market. Other issues such as poverty and healthcare have also been widely reported which is likely to increase New Zealanders’ awareness of these problems.”

Dr Griffiths made the insightful observation that social problems eventually touched more and more people and/or their families;

“As these problems continue to escalate, the likelihood of our respondents being personally affected by these issues will also have been growing.”

Meanwhile,  National’s Simon Bridges has dismissed the Coalition’s Kiwibuild programme;

“[It’s] private developers doing stuff, they stop, Phil [Twyford] comes in, he pays them more with taxpayers’ subsidised money and then he sticks a stamp on it.

“That is a KiwiHoax.”

The previous National government – of which Mr Bridges was a senior cabinet minister – oversaw a massive sell-off of Housing NZ houses.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (with a further 2,700 leased) – a reduction of 7,400 properties.

Even former Prime Minister, John Key’s, one-time state house that he grew up in, was not to be spared privatisation;

.

.

No one could accuse National of being “overly sentimental” on such matters.

As state houses were sold to private owners, the surge in homelessness was predictable, forcing National to put homeless people – including entire families – in motels. National spent $8.8 million in just three months on motel accomodation for homeless – $100,000 per night.

Even senior/retiring “baby boomers” were feeling the effects of growing homelessness in New Zealand;

Barry Mills, chairman of supported living facility Abbeyfield Nelson, said they had to turn away two men, who looked to be in their 60s, in the last year.

He said in both cases they were single men from out of town, living out of their car with no place to call home.

“We couldn’t do anything for them because we didn’t have any rooms vacant.

“Even if we did have a vacancy, we probably still couldn’t take them because we have a process to go through and a waiting list.”

He said Abbeyfield in Stoke had 12 rooms and the one in Nelson 11, which were both full, with about 16 people on a waiting list ready to move in.

By February this year, a report authored by economist Shamubeel Eaqub;, University of Otago Professor of Public Health, Philippa Howden-Chapman,  and the Salvation Army’s Alan Johnson revealed that homeless was far worse in New Zealand than had previously been revealed.

The report referred to “a burgeoning “floating population” – people without safe and secure housing, including in temporary housing, sharing with another household, or living in uninhabitable places“.

National’s response had been to invest in the motel market;

.

.

The number of motel rooms purchased by National was a fraction of the 7,400 properties sold off from Housing NZ’s stock. It was a drop in the tsunami of homelessness sweeping the country.

Meanwhile, National’s current spokesperson on Housing and Urban DevelopmentJudith Collins – has lately been ‘busy’ on social media, disparaging the Coalition government’s ‘Kiwibuild’ programme;

.

.

Two ‘tweets’ in particular appear to have constituted spectacular own-goals from Ms Collin,

On 13 September;

.

.

The article Ms Collins reposted in her ‘tweet’ referenced a Labour government led by the late Norman Kirk. It had been in power less than a year, following twelve years of National government.

The pattern is similar; a housing crisis after success National governments, followed by voters rejecting the lack of focus on social problems and electing Labour to clean up the mess. Judith Collins inadvertently reminded her followers of this fact.

But her next ‘tweet’ was not only an own-goal but a candid – if subconscious – admission how National views homelessness;

.

 

.

Her comment – “4. Are there alternatives to houses? Yes: cars, Motels, camping grounds, tents. Which would you choose?” – left some of her followers stunned and scrambling for a credible explanation. “Sarcasm” appeared to be their preferred excuse for the incredibly callous comment.

The Ipsos poll reflects the understanding of most New Zealanders that a fair, egalitarian, socially-inclusive country is not readily possible under a National government. That task is best undertaken by a left-leaning government.

For National, under-funding and cutting corners in core social services and privatisation is their number one priority.

Only when the consequences of their policies becomes to much for New Zealanders to stomach do they rebel at the ballot box and change tack by changing government.

Judith Collins’ ‘tweets’ and other public statements by her and other National MPs will ensure they remain in Opposition in 2020. They are not good stewards of our social services.

I doubt they even fully understand what our social services are for. Or the consequences of neglecting them.

But New Zealanders certainly do.

.

.

.

References

Scoop media: New Zealanders’ concerns about housing issues grow

Fairfax media: Fact check – Business confidence surveys have little to do with actual economy

Radiolive: KiwiBuild a ‘hoax’ – National leader Simon Bridges

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Mediaworks/Newshub: Homelessness on the rise in New Zealand

Fairfax media: Older people forced to sleep in car as housing crisis bites video

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister John Key’s childhood state house up for sale as Government offers 2500 properties to NGOs

NZ Herald: Homeless crisis – 80 per cent to 90 per cent of homeless people turned away from emergency housing

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Parliament: Judith Collins

The Standard: Which National MP leaked Bridges’ expense details?

Twitter: Judith Collins 12 Sept 2018 2.25pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 12 Sept 2018 2.24pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 9 Sept 2018 6.19pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 3.34pm

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 11.34am

Twitter: Judith Collins 13 Sept 2018 8:13 AM

Wikipedia: Elections in New Zealand

Twitter: Judith Collins 8 Sep 2018 11.37 AM

Previous related blogposts

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – 2,000 more state houses?!

.

.

.

.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 September 2018.

.

.

= fs =