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Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

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Plague town?

There are two things right now in Aotearoa New Zealand that are guaranteed to piss people off.

Firstly, it’s National playing silly-bugger politics with the covid-19 pandemic. This cost Simon Bridges his job as National’s Leader.

Lately, Michael Woodhouse has been playing fast and loose with revelations that he waited a day before informing the Ministry of Health (MoH) that two sisters had been allowed out of quarantine without testing. The two women later tested positive for covid-19.

Mr Woodhouse chose first to talk over the tip-off from his source with his Party leadership. Later, after some strategy had no doubt been engineered (with Matthew Hooton’s involvement?), Mr Woodhouse went public.

In his interview with RNZ’s Suzie Ferguson, Mr Woodhouse was at pains to point out that it was not his job to inform MoH or the government that two untested returnees were travelling the length of the North Island and who later tested positive for covid-19. Evidently, the risk that the pair could have infected others; put people in hospital; potentially killed someone; and further harmed the fragile state of our economy – was not a matter worthy of consideration for Mr Woodhouse who has aspirations to one day be a government Minister.

As he put it so eloquently to Ms Ferguson;

“I’m not part of the cheerleading team.”

Mr Woodhouse criticised Health Minister David Clark as being “completely disengaged from his role [as Minister of Health]” and demanded his resignation.

The same charge could equally be levelled at Mr Woodhouse for playing politics with a disease that has destroyed so many lives.

It’s a moot point which is worse; incompetence or politicising a lethal pandemic.

The second thing that has roused the ire of New Zealanders is the constant flow of media stories of a small number of returnees who have whinged at aspects of their quarantine, or expected special treatment to attend family members who are near death, or funerals. (And I write this as someone who understands all too well what it feels like to face the ghastly frustration of seeing a loved one dying and not being able to do a damn thing about it…)

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Or the non-stop media stories of businesspeople who demanded exemptions and wanted to continue trading during Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown .

Nothing quite says “Batshit Crazy” as a weight-loss company  so full of it’s own self-importance that they think they are an essential service during a global pandemic;

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Because if you’re on your death-bed from covid-19 – about to meet your Maker – no doubt losing a few kilos is first and foremost on your mind…

Three months later, and we have a new contender for Self Important Entitlement: Scenic Hotel Group’s managing director, Brendan Taylor.

Mr Taylor was apoplectic that *HIS* town, Rotorua, would be hosting additional quarantine facilities;

“It is a concern to a lot of New Zealanders travelling as to which hotels are being used as isolation hotels and which ones aren’t.

Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so I would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels.”

Yes, Mr Taylor was mightily concerned that “Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so […] would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels”.

So no concerns then about pandemics? Or re-infection if we don’t begin to get our act together with stringest quarantine procedures. Or the lives that could be lost. Or that returnees were our fellow Kiwis.

Mr Taylor’s point-of-view was that hotels were “doing really well with weekend business“.

That’s not all he’s done “really well with“. Interestingly, Mr Taylor has benefitted fairly well accepting the taxpayer’s coin;

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Thus far, Mr Taylor’s company has taken $1,512,379.20 of the taxpayer’s coin for wage subsidies. That’s our taxes going to his company to pay his staff’s wages.

The least he could do is not whinge  and understand that this government is doing what it must to assist New Zealanders to return to this country safely, and in a way that does not bring contagion back into our community.

Because it may have escaped Mr Taylor’s attention that if covid-19 returns and the second wave is even more disastrous for our economy – he may not have much a hotel chain left to be Managing Director of.

Instead of  being self-indulgent, perhaps he could return the generosity of the taxpayer by asking; “what can we do to assist”?

As for Radio NZ which carried the story – this is not the first tale of self-indulgent, woe-is-me, “grief journalism” they’ve engaged in. Or badly mis-represented a story.

In this case, the headline carried the ominous warning;

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Except… there was no reference within the text of the story to any “potential travellers” being “wary”.

Or “weary”, as their Twitter version suggested;

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In fact there was no mention of “potential travellers” full stop. Just the “reckons” of one businessman more concerned  with “doing really well with weekend business” than his fellow countrymen and women.

One could also question RNZ using the phrase;

“As the school holidays approach there is concern people may put off plans to travel to Rotorua where two hotels were commandeered for quarantining returning Kiwis at the weekend.”

This is immature tabloid journalism and not the standard we expect from RNZ.

The commentary after RNZ posted a link to the above story on Twitter was scathing. One could have been forgiven that people were commenting on the latest confused ramblings from Mike Hosking, Kate Hawkesby, or Sean Plunkett, and not this country’s most respected media outlet.

Not good, RNZ:

D Minus. Can do much better if they apply themselves.

Pay-To-Stay?

Today (23 June), the government floated the ‘kite’ of demanding co-payments from returnees to Aotearoa New Zealand. The co-payment would be charged for their 14 day quarantine;

“What we need to consider as a government is the fairness of a potential co-payment system, so we need to factor in a whole range of issues and keep in mind we cannot stop New Zealanders from coming back to the country where they are a citizen, and so that will have to underpin all of our decisions.” – PM Ardern

Human Rights lawyer, Michael Bott, was damning of the suggestion;

“I would say, potentially, it’s in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, because you have a right of entry in terms of your country and to impose a cost on New Zealand citizens who are overseas and wish to come back home… is something which may be considered disproportionate and severe.”

Put in plain english, this is a really terrible idea. It is the sort of money-grubbing we might expect from a National government  prepared to put money ahead of the well-being of our fellow citizens. This would be Labour’s moment equivalent to National raising prescription charges in 2012 from $3 to $5.

This would be the antithesis of the positive message that PM Ardern has steadfastly maintained these last few months;

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Yes, we are all in this together. The quarantining of hundreds – thousands – of returnees is not for their personal benefit. A postcard to Aunt Nellie showing their hotel room doesn’t quite have the same romanticism as a beach at Bali.

This benefits us all, from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island; the entire Team Five Million. We all stand to gain from returnees quarantining.

Just as returnees benefitted from the entire country going into lock down for six weeks.

To expect them to pay – even only a portion – would be like expecting people to pay for their own covid-19 testing. The idea would be ludicrous because when it comes to an infectious micro-organism there is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only “We”. As in, we’re all in this together.

I have no idea who came up with this short-sighted notion. It is quite mad. And I am surprised that it would pass PM Ardern’s “sniff test”.

I hope it is binned. Because there is nothing remotely kind about it.

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As at 23 June 2020:

Confirmed covid19 cases: 1,165

Active cases: 10

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle  (audio)

RNZ:  Travellers ‘shocked’ at last minute transfer to quarantine in Rotorua

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: Isolation hotels making potential travellers wary

Work and Income:  Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Employer Search

Twitter: RNZ –  Isolation hotels making potential travellers weary – 23 June 2020

RNZ:  Cabinet to consider co-payment scheme for new arrivals

Stuff: Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

ODT:  ‘We’re all in this together’

Ministry of Health:  Two new cases of COVID-19

Other Blogposts

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

The Daily Blog: Snakes and Mirrors – National Sat On Covid-19 Infection Information For Hours Before Dropping Political Bombshell In Parliament

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

 

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

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20 June

The bad news: Aotearoa New Zealand has two new cases of covid-19.

The good news: the two cases were picked up at an Auckland quarantine facility.

The terrifying news: had the story of the two women leaving quarantine without testing not broken four days ago – this couple and their child were due to depart the facility;

The couple returned to New Zealand on a repatriation flight from Delhi – AI-1306 – and arrived on 5 June. They also have an infant who has not been tested due to age.

The couple showed no symptoms and returned a positive result after being tested on day 12 of isolation.

They were tested on Day 12. Up until now testing had not been done or was haphazard.

The infuriating news: Dr Ashley Bloomfield needs to stop bullshitting us. At today’s presser, he made this statement. See if you can pick up the half-truth:

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@ 4:44 – 5:52

“Just a good time to remind everybody that we were always expecting to get new cases at our borders, as Kiwis return home from overseas.

And I guess the comment here is, we had several weeks where we didn’t get any cases at the border and now we are. And I’d like to reflect on the reasons for that.

First of all, we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe.

The second is, just to reiterate the point that I have made, there is still a global pandemic raging offshore.

And only overnight the Director General of the World Health Organisation noted that the global pandemic is accelerating, with Thursday this week being over 150,000 new cases worldwide.

So there is an increased likelihood we will see Kiwis coming back, especially from countries where there are high rates of infection, like India. We also earlier in the week of course had those two Kiwis who’d returned from the UK where they’ve got high rate of infection.

So this explains why we are now detecting these cases at the border.”

Dr Bloomfield’s assertion that new cases of covid19 are being picked up because “we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe” is not the reason.

The reason infection is being detected is because testing is now being carried out in earnest.

If personnel at quarantine facilities were still half-heartedly (or not at all) implementing testing protocols, all three recent cases (one returnee from Pakistan, and the couple from India) would likely have departed their respective facilities without having been tested.

They would be in our community – along with their viral “passengers”.

In fact, Dr Bloomfield may have revealed the magnitude of the potential crisis we might be facing;

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2400 people who had left a managed isolation facility but had not had a test“.

I fear our good luck is about to run out.

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As at 20 June 2020:

Confirmed & Probable covid19 cases: 1,159

Active cases: 5

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  Two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand (alt link to video)

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – New arrivals to New Zealand told swab testing is not compulsory

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – NZ has another new case – a man in his 60s in a quarantine facility in Auckland

Ministry of Health: Two new cases of COVID-19

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Reinfection: Labour’s kryptonite

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

24 June 2020 2 comments

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17 June

Labour’s “dream run” of being a competent manager during the Covid19 Crisis may just have come to a crashing end.

Recent revelations that some of the quarantine facilities (hotels converted to the task) have been shambolically mis-managed has raised alarm bells and widespread criticism;

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Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights

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A day later, on 12 June, former Police Commissioner, Mike Bush – in charge of the Government’s Covid-19 operational taskforce – stated that he was not satisfied with the lax procedures in the TVNZ story and promised to tighten adherence to protocols;

“That’s not good enough. We’ve got to keep those people safe … We need to get that right.

Walking groups have gone. Some hotels can bus people to another location. For others we’ve found another location on site where people can ensure that they’re not near any other members of the public.

We will put a new practice in place to make sure people on day one don’t mingle with people who have been there a lot longer. That is a difficult process.

The smoking area, we’re trying to make improvements there so we don’t have people there from day one with people from day 12.”

He specifically added:

“Now we’re in Alert Level 1, we will be having a new testing regime so people will be tested on day three and then on day 12.”

Yet, we now know that the two women who drove from Auckland to Wellington a day later, on 13 June,  were not tested.

When TVNZ ran the story above, I guessed even then that our lax border controls and complacent, half-hearted, quarantining would not end well;

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None of this was unknown to us. We knew flight crews were exempt from mandatory 14 day quarantining – despite travelling to covid-19 hotspots around the world.

This should not have surprised officials or Government ministers. As far back as April – two months ago – it was reported that isolation procedures at these quarantine facilities were being flouted;

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Which makes this random comment I posted on Twitter, on 15 Junethe day before the story broke in the media – eerily prescient;

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Little did I realise that my remark about “inept quarantining leading to another C19 infection in Aotearoawould become an unpleasant reality and headline news the very next day;

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Minister of Health and serial screw-up, Minister David Clark, reassured the public on RNZ’s Checkpoint that evening (16 June);

“They followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people … but nonetheless I am disappointed to learn they were out of the facility without testing negative first, because that was my understanding that that would have happened.”

According to Dr Bloomfield, speaking on RNZ’s Morning Report on 17 June;

“There was a, an agreed plan in place. As part of the approval process for the compassionate exemption, and that included for the travel arrangements.

So they had a private vehicle dropped to the hotel. They then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities and they also have been just with a single family member since they arrived in the Wellington region.”

I call bollicks to both statements.

Minister Clark assures the public that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

Unless he – or a Ministry staffer was travelling in the same car – how on Earth could he possibly know that they “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“?! [We now know they didn’t.]

On RNZ’s Morning Report, on 17 June, Minister Clark alluded to the fact that contact tracing was well under way, and he was “waiting for data overnight“.  He admitted that he “needed to know how many people” [had to be traced].

That clearly conflicts  with his  assurance the previous day that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

At least one of those women was infectious [as at 17 June].

We may see the resurgence of clusters potentially from Auckland to Wellington. It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Even more problematic is Dr Bloomfield’s assurance that “they then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities“.

Again, how does Dr Bloomfield know for certain that neither women “had no contact with anybody else“? Contact tracing is already under way – so clearly that must have been in contact with someone?

It also defies credulity that on a ten hour-plus drive from Auckland to Wellington that neither women “didn’t use any public facilities“?!

Modern vehicles have developed considerably since their early fuel-guzzling predecessors and are more efficient. A vehicle could make the Auckland-Wellington trip without having to re-fuel along the way.

But not so human beings. We’ve hardly changed much over the last 200,000 years.

I doubt very many human beings could make a ten to twelve hour drive without having to stop along the way to use public toilet facilities, at least once.

Dr Bloomfield should be fully aware of this – he graduated in medicine in 1990 and so should have a fairly good understanding of the workings of human plumbing.

So please Minister Clark and Dr Bloomfield: stop BSing us.

Neither of you can have any idea what those two did on their drive to Wellington.

It is inconceivable that they did not use public facilities along the way.

What about the other 200 people released from quarantine on “compassionate grounds”? Were they  tested before release?  Have they recently been re-tested?

Do we even know where they are?!

No wonder Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, questioned this government’s fitness to carry out health sector reforms after the Health and Disability System Review was released;

They haven’t been able to deliver anything else. I dare say a large reform of this nature is certainly beyond them.”

I’m starting to think the same thing.

Up until now, public support for this government has been stratospheric: between 80s and 90s in favourable percentage terms. But watch that support wither and fall away if – due to complacency and mis-management – the virus reappears in the community.  And watch it collapse altogether if Aotearoa New Zealand has to go back to Level Alert 3 or – Thor forbid – Level Alert 4. The public will not be happy.

Adulation can turn to animus pretty damn quickly.

When National’s Leader, Todd Muller expressed his anger;

“I’m as furious as I suspect most New Zealanders this morning.

This is clumsy and totally inappropriate when you consider what’s at stake here … we’ve spent a number of months locking our country down, we’ve got ourselves to the point where we’re Covid-free, we have systems in place that we expect to be followed and they simply weren’t.

We can’t have such a lax approach to our border when the stakes are so high.”

— he was reading the room and expressing a reaction shared by about 99% of the population. Unlike his hapless predecessor, Mr Muller got the tone 100% right. People are pissed off.

The incompetence of those managing our quarantine facilities was sheeted home when, on 17 June, Mike Bush was interviewed on RNZ’s Checkpoint. It was a class act of evasion, vagueness, buck-passing, and a startling inability to offer information to some basic questions. It reminded me of former Corrections Minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga‘s inept responses when interviewed on TV3’s The Nation, in May 2015 (an interview which, coincidentally, was also done by Lisa Owen).

Minister, Lotu-Iiga‘s responses had to be heard to be believed.

Likewise, when Ms Owen kept repeatedly asking Mike Bush who was responsible for failures, he kept deflecting to Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield, et al.

He simply could not answer Ms Owen’s questions – because he was obviously ignorant at what was going on in the quarantine facilities. Mr Bush confirmed to listeners what most New Zealanders already suspected: no one was in charge; no one knew what was going on; and the people supposedly carrying out quarantine protocols and testing were not doing their jobs.

No wonder PM Ardern has had a gutsful and appointed Air Commodore Darryn Webb to take over.

However, PM Ardern cannot simply call this colossal clusterf**k  “an unacceptable failure of the system“. Assigning responsibility to a mythical creature called “The System” is a cop-out.

It wasn’t  “the System” at fault. It wasn’t System Bush, or System Bloomfield, or System Clark, or System Ardern in charge. Human beings were in charge.

The public knows this. When “The System” is blamed, there is a collective eye-rolling of five million pairs of eye-balls. People recognise “Politician Speak” when it is fed to them.

If PM Ardern wants to engage in “Politician Speak”, that’s her mistake to make.  Up until now, she has earned the respect of the nation as a Leader, not Just A Politician. Does she really want to be seen as Just Another Politician? I would have thought that was a step down in any person’s career path.

Someone screwed up. Someone in a position of authority where they should have been doing their job. Their. One. Job.

In fact, this government’s astronomical popularity has been predicated on them doing Their One Job: guiding Team Five Million through this crisis; doing the tough calls; ensuring all our resources were targetted at containing and defeating The Enemy.

They had one job. And they’ve been shown up not to have done it very well.

Expect Labour’s popularity to take a nose-dive in the next political poll. They will have earned the bollicking that the public is about to dish out to them.

But if we’re going to dish out the Finger-Pointing Pie, there is plenty to go around.

The Mainstream Media has amplified every “human interest” story of tragedy; people returning to Aotearoa New Zealand desperate to get out of 14 day quarantining to attend to dying relatives or attend funerals. (The six people who absconded from quarantine had attended a tangi in Hamilton.)

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Media amplification of these tragic stories – aka “grief journalism” – has no doubt put inordinate pressure on government ministers and Ministry staff. Whilst these stories are good click-bait and help sell advertising space (or attract listeners in RNZ’s case), they serve no other useful purpose.

Quarantines are not quarantines if people can side-step them because of tragic personal circumstances.  (And I write this knowing full well how it feels, as last year someone close to me died. The awful feeling of total helplessness cannot be adequately put into words.)

In one case, the Courts ruled to overturn a Ministry of Health decision to decline an exemption, saying;

“decisions to decline permission are on their face legally flawed” and the “exceptional” case “had the hallmarks of automatic rejection based on circumscribed criteria rather than a proper exercise of discretion.”

The media should take a long, hard look at itself and the role it played in undermining implementation of quarantine protocols.

And the Courts should decline to become involved in pandemic-control policies. Lest it need be repeating: the virus is no respecter of our human-made laws.

Next, the National Party and sundry business lobby groups with their relentless, irresponsible agitation  to move down Alert Levels and re-open our borders to foreign students, tourists, Uncle Tom Cobbly, et al;

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In the case of foreign students, National is particularly strident;

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Ms Kaye’s assertion that “…[National] have also proposed that education providers would handle quarantine procedures” did not age well. Four days later…

As I write this, there are over eight million confirmed covid19 cases in the world. The real figure is most likely higher as countries like Brazil have consistently under-reported their infection rate. The global death toll has passed 450,000.

That is the threat that vote-chasers in the National Party and profit-takers in the business world would expose us to.

National’s cynicism is nowhere more apparent than Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, who reported the case of two women leaving quarantine whilst infected with covid19 – several days after finding out from “a reliable source”.

As blogger “Mickey Savage” outlined the timeline of events in The Standard;

The timing in interesting.  According to this interview on Morning Report Woodhouse found out these details two days ago and yesterday spent time checking the veracity of the story.

He then discussed matters with his leader’s office.

He did not go to the Health Ministry and did not think he should.

He thinks this was necessary for presentation of the story.

In his view his job is not to work to improve the quarantine system but to hold the government to account and show shortcomings.

But as we are fighting a pandemic that has caused huge damage to countries overseas didn’t he have a duty to bring this information to the authorities as soon as possible?  So that these operational holes could have been filled?

I heard the interview. Mr Woodhouse did indeed insist it was not his job “to improve the quarantine system“. Also not his job to potentially save lives either, it appears.

So while National Leader Todd Muller was reflecting the anger felt by 99.99% of the country – one of his loyal MPs was reporting to him quarantine failings; potential re-infection throughout the country; and possibly ending in death – all from a “reliable source”. National Party priorities – certainly not saving lives.

But eventually, responsibility for this colossal mistake lies with those people whom we entrusted to safeguard us. We know who they are. Most have appeared nightly in our  homes; on our devices; encouraging us to do the right thing. Most New Zealanders followed their lead.

We rewarded them accordingly, singing their praises. And printing t-shirts bearing their image.

Those hymns of praise have stopped, to be replaced by the silent sound of bemusement, if not outright anger. The t-shirts may take a bit longer to sell.

The public will be in no mood to go back into any form of lock-down. In case I have to spell it out for Prime Minister Ardern; Health Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield; Mike Bush, et al, the good will of the public has mostly evaporated. Faith has been replaced by cold fury.

The problem with being at the top? The only way from there is down.

Regardless of whether anyone takes responsibility for this failure, the ultimate decision will be taken from the hands of this government and its officials on 19 September.

As I wrote on 12 June – four days before the story of the quarantine failure broke;

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As at 16 June 2020:

Current covid19 cases: 1,156

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

TVNZ: Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights, members of the public during Covid-19 isolation

TVNZ: Government to make changes to managed isolation facilities following 1 NEWS investigation

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 10.44PM Jun 11, 2020

Stuff media: Covid-19 – new cases as thousands fly in from Australia, Asia, Pacific Islands and US

Mediaworks/Newshub: Father concerned after quarantined son taken for walk with person with COVID-19

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Two new cases in New Zealand, both arrivals from UK

RNZ:  Two new Covid-19 cases in NZ visited dying parent – Bloomfield

RNZ:  Health Minister temporarily suspends compassionate exemptions from quarantine

RNZ: Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker (audio)

RNZ: No answers yet on why Covid-19 cases weren’t tested leaving isolation – Clark (audio)

The Spinoff: The face of the Covid-19 response – Who is Ashley Bloomfield?

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker

Mediaworks/Newshub: Health and Disability System Review aims to end racism in New Zealand’s health sector

The Spinoff: Exclusive new poll: public support for Covid response remains sky high

TVNZ: Public sector’s reputation in NZ reaches record high amid Covid-19 crisis, survey shows

RNZ:  Government slammed after new Covid-19 cases revealed

RNZ:  Mike Bush answers questions over botched Covid-19 isolation

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

RNZ: Two new cases leaving isolation ‘an unacceptable failure of the system’ – Ardern

ODT:  Six people – not two – abscond to go to tangi

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

Magic Radio:  Dr Bloomfield denies ‘blanket approach’ used for quarantine exemptions despite zero approvals

Twitter: @JudithCollinsMP12:44 PM · Jun 8, 2020 – Go to level 1

Twitter: @nikkikaye – 12 June 2020 – foreign students

Worldometer: Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Brazil stops publishing number of virus deaths

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Woman in the same hotel as new coronavirus cases ‘shocked’ at finding out via Ministry of Health press conference

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdown

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 June 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

23 April 2020 1 comment

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April 22: Day 28 of living in lock-down…

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

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Kia ora Ms Ardern,

Firstly, let’s set one thing pretty well straight before launching into the point of this letter to you. You, your government colleagues, and hard working civil servants have done an amazing job in navigating us through this crisis. History will remember the strong but compassionate leadership our country has had the great fortune to have.

We could just as well have had the likes of Bolsonaro, Orbán, or Trump leading us.

You have led us through ‘Hurricane Covid19’ nearly flawlessly, considering humanity hasn’t experienced an event like this since the 1918 Influenza pandemic. Nearly flawlessly. There have been ‘stumbles’ along the way. The problem of issuing PPEs is an irritant that refuses to go away.

But perhaps the ‘stumble’ that may yet be the worst is the exemption given to Air New Zealand not to isolate flight crew after they have completed an overseas assignment.

This first came to my attention on 21 April on RNZ’s Checkpoint. The story, in brief;

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

To say that I  was utterly gobsmacked would be an understatement. I listened to the unfolding story with a growing horror; a rising anger; and a deep disappointment.

Let me explain. For the last four weeks we have been in Level 4 lock-down. This has separated friends and families. Closed non-essential businesses. Curtailed recreational and sporting activities. Borrowed billions to keep our economy afloat and society intact.  And thousands have lost their jobs.

The vast majority of New Zealanders heeded your call to stick to our “bubbles”.

You called on us;

“New Zealand, be calm, be kind, stay at home.

We can break the chain.”

You minded us time and again;

“Stay home, save lives.”

And you challenged us;

“… you may not be at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home, and breaking the chain.”

And the people you cheerfully referred to as “our team of five million” responded;

“Hell yeah, let’s do this!”

And we did. For the most part, people responded and made the sacrifices we knew in our hearts and minds were necessary to save lives.

But it was a battle that was not without many casualities. So many people found themselves suddenly unemployed. Some lost the businesses they had worked long hours to establish. And fourteen of our fellow New Zealanders lost their lives.

We retreated to our homes, venturing out only for food and exercise. Some of us – like myself – carried on working as we were as essential service. Which often meant our “bubble” became necessarily inflated to encompass our colleagues and those we cared for. Some of us were not successful in dodging the viral ‘bullet‘.

But we carried on, because, well, it had to be done.

As the lock-down progressed, there were calls to loosen the restrictions and allow more exemptions. Golfing greens (which was eventually allowed); surfing; hunting; butchers… There was quite a list. Aided and abetted by yammering voices from the National and ACT parties.

Though as any sensible person will tell you, the more businesses and recreational activities are open, the more ‘porous’ the lock-down becomes until it is a lock-down in name only. Cue covid19 to become rampant through the entire country.

Which was something wiser heads in our communities understood with crystal clarity;

“I don’t want the Muslim community to look like [they’re] insensitive, inconsiderate over the Covid-19 issue – that they’re just worried about the meat situation.

That is a picture I don’t want New Zealand to get because there there are people in the Muslim community who are actually worried about saving people’s lives in this state of emergency.

We should go with the available options because there are many people who are missing out on what they like to have. It’s not only the Muslim community who are missing out on halal meat, there are other communities missing out on what they want.” – Usman Afzali, 31

Mr Afzali was opposing calls for specialised Halal butchers to be given an exemption to the lock-down. Mr Afzali understood the consequences of permitting endless exemptions. He knew the price that would be demanded by the virus – and it would be a cost met by lives lost.

And I understand that. I really do. I’ve even supported my colleagues in a work situation where management who were not part of our facility’s “bubble” were point-blank denied entry. We have vulnerable clients and non-essential people were barred – no exemptions.

My ‘bubble’ consists of my flatmate; four colleagues (down from six) in our facility, plus our clients. (My flatmate’s ‘bubble’ is tiny, as she hardly knows anyone in the Greater Wellington Region.) My partner, who has her own house, is not part of my ‘bubble’. For four weeks we have not seen each other, except through the ‘Star Trekkian‘ marvel of ‘Zoom‘ technology.

We have taken your call to keep to our “bubbles” with utmost seriousness and urgency. We have not deviated. We have been staunch.

So after reading all that, you can understand, Ms Ardern, how absolutely gutted I felt when I read that Air New Zealand flight crews were returning to our country; disembarking from their aircraft; and… entering our community.

No fourteen week quarantine.  Nothing.

When challenged by RNZ, Air New Zealand responded;

“This is expert medical advice for all airlines to follow in New Zealand. If there are general concerns or questions about this advice then that is a matter for the Ministry of Health as they have established these standards.”

So the entire country is asked to go into stringent lock-down and when asked a legitimate question why Air New Zealand flight crews are exempt, we are given that corporate  gobbledegook-speak?!

Did anyone send a copy of that particular memo from Air New Zealand to the virus?

An un-named (for damned good reason) Air New Zealand employee reminded us;

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’.”

A person died from that ‘cluster’: the groom’s father.

The following day from that initial RNZ story, Air New Zealand disclosed that thirty employees have tested positive for covid19.

And yet you still allow Air New Zealand to be given an exemption?

Tangata whenua  going into the bush to shoot food for their whanau is considered a risk to transmission of covid19 – and it’s banned?

Whilst flight crews returning from Los Angeles, Shanghai, and god knows where from – are not exempt?!

Ms Ardern, I struggle to understand the logic to this, I really do. I’ve looked at it from every possible angle and all I can come up with is that Air New Zealand is part-owned by the government, with a massive $900 million bail-out loan extended to the company by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

I really hope it’s not about saving an asset that the State has high stakes in. I really do. That would seem to be beneath your dignity to be party to such a venal deal.

So my question to you should be fairly obvious by now – or rather, two questions;

(1) Why:  does Air New Zealand have the privilege of enjoying an exemption to a fourteen day quarantine when – out of all the businesses in this country – it is the riskiest one that could re-introduce covid19 to our shores? What makes Air New Zealand safer than someone going out shooting in the back-blocks?

(2) Why:  have I bothered with my ‘bubble’; securing the facility where I work with vulnerable people; and foregone seeing my partner for nearly an entire month – when Air New Zealand flight crew could, at this very moment, be infected and spreading their contagion in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch?! Why have I bothered?

I really, really hope your reconsider the justifications you  offered at your 1pm ‘presser’ today (22 April). I really do.

Because if we manged to eliminate covid19 from our shores, only to have it reappear with new infections brought in by Air New Zealand flight crew – then it’s all been for nothing. Our efforts have been undermined because – and this is critical – no matter how many times we eliminate the virus, it will be reintroduced by flight crews who remain exempt for reasons that are beyond my understanding.

Singapore should be a clear lesson to us that this virus can return if we allow it even the smallest opportunity;

Fears have resurfaced about the ability of coronavirus to surge again after lockdowns are eased, as Singapore confirmed a sharp rise in new infections.

One of the worst-hit countries when the virus first spread from China in January, Singapore’s strict surveillance and quarantine regime helped slow the outbreak, but recent rises in locally transmitted cases have raised fresh concerns. Singapore reported 142 new infections on Wednesday.

When we move to Alert Level 3 I will be seeing my partner again. I’m even tempted to go to the beach, if we’re lucky to have any fine days left.

I’ve done my bit. God knows I have.

But this is beyond me.

Please reconsider Air New Zealand’s exemption. It’s not worth it.

 

Current covid19 cases: 1,451

Cases in ICU: 2 (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 14

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References

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (video)

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – ‘Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home’

BBC: Coronavirus: How New Zealand relied on science and empathy

Newsroom:  One third of new Covid-19 cases are health workers

Fairfax/Stuff: Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

Change.org: Allow Responsible Surfing in New Zealand

RNZ: Covid-19: Whānau relying on hunting for food should have exemption – leaders

Rural News:  Pork farmers want butchers to start trading

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Community safety trumps access to halal meat, Muslim man says

RNZ:  Father of groom in Bluff wedding dies from Covid-19

RNZ:  Covid 19: What happened in New Zealand on 22 April

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ: Coronavirus: Government offers $900m loan for Air New Zealand

The Guardian: Singapore coronavirus surge raises fears of post-lockdown breakouts

RNZ:  Six new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, one more death

Must Read

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

RNZ:  Bubble-bound: Data shows most people obeying rules

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 20

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April 14: Day 20 of living in lock-down…

Today was a rotten day for four (at least) families. Four more people have succumbed to covid19. Despite recording only seventeen new cases – a cause for some celebration – knowing that families have lost loved ones to this virus dampens any notion of joyous celebration.

And I fear it will get worse.

Meanwhile there remains agitation from some quarters to lift restrictions and open up the economy. Whether it’s Matthew Hooton on RNZ’s Political Panel, or ACT’s David Seymour, or disturbingly chilling comments from senior lecturer in epidemiology at Auckland University Dr Simon Thornley on today’s [14 April]  Morning Report – there are clamouring voices who appear to take our limited success in containing the contagion as some sort of “green light” to throw caution to the winds.

Dr Thornley’s cool, calm, methodical voice belied the casual disregard he showed to the risk faced by the elderly and those with under-lying medical conditions;

“We believe that the lockdown is an over-reaction, we believe that it doesn’t match the threat posed by the virus. One of the world’s leading statisticians has said that the risk of dying of covid19 is about same as your risk of dying that year anyway.

It’s effectively like squeezing your risk into two weeks.”

Corin Dann asked what Dr Thornley’s modelling has shown on the risks of covid19, he um’d, ah’d, and replied;

“We haven’t done modelling to predict what is going to happen, but we’ve actually observed what has happened in other countries that have had less severe lock-downs…”

When Corin Dann pointed out that Dr Thornley was asking the vulnerable and the elderly in New Zealand to “shoulder a much bigger risk”, he couldn’t offer an answer. You could almost feel Dr Thornley “shrugging”.

Dr Thornley replied he was “sceptical of modelling and assumptions”. He glossed over high death rates until Corin Dann pointed out high death rates had hit certain countries hard.

Corin Dann returned to the elderly faced a greater risk of death from the virus. Dr Thornley replied that “the elderly unfortunately every flu season people die of seasonal influenza“.

So, that’s ok then. In effect, the premature death of people is acceptable as long as the number is below fatalities caused by influenza. Premature death caused by disease; automobile crashes; drug and alcohol abuse; poor safety practices in the construction, farming, and logging industries; murder…

Because influenza has a set death rate, it has become a bench-mark for Dr Thornley?

Corin Dann quite rightly pointed to influenza vaccines being available to protect the elderly and vulnerable.

Dr Thornley deftly side-stepped influenza and referred to Australia “weathering the storm” with fewer restrictions.

Australia has 6,500 covid19 cases with sixtyone deaths. Hardly a target we should be emulating.

Microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, was not impressed  with Simon Thornley;

“To all the media listening to the 6 expert men, please ask them for the data which they say shows #COVID19 is “not the disaster we feared and prepared for”. Also please be mindful that Thornley did some spectacular cherry-picking last time he made the same claim.

It’s worth noting that the 6 experts seems to be saying that as vulnerable people would die at some point anyway, why not just let it be from Covid. My mum has a condition that makes her very vulnerable. But she’s fit & active & still leading a full life. Why should she die now?”

She quite rightly asked for the data from Dr Thornley;

Again. #COVID19 cases grow exponentially. So please Thornley, Schofield, et al. Show us your data. Because the data I’m looking at has plenty of countries digging mass graves.

But… according to Dr Mengele Thornley, mass graves are ok. As long as the number do not exceed influenza-caused deaths in any given year.  And anyway, victims of covid 19 were going to die anyway.

Much like you, reading this blogpost. Or me, writing it. And everyone else. We’re all going to die. Covid19 just does it in two weeks.

It strikes me as bizarre that – in a strange way – we are victims of our own success in dealing with this contagion. Because our elected representatives, the Ministry of Health, and legends in the  health sector  have achieved such incredible success in containing the spread of infection, somehow that has translated in the minds of some as an “over reaction”. That we should have been more relaxed. Let the disease take it’s course.

Because didn’t that work out well in China, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States?!

The irony is that these Doubting Thomas’s and Thomasinas  have the luxury to express such a view only because of our success. Had we gone the way of China, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States – the screaming would be from the other direction;

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Why didn’t you go sooner and harder?!”

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Typical of some New Zealanders to be so lacking in self-confidence that success somehow equates to failure.

Well, listening to our very own “Angel of Death” was a helluva way to start the morning off. And it went downhill from there…

The good news is that Hutt Gas & Plumbing were able to fix the hose on my washing machine.

The not-so-good news? The plumber (nice bloke buy the way!) had better PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) than I have in my job: full body protection suit; mask; gloves, the whole nine yards. He put the gear on outside; entered the house; replaced the munted hose; left; and removed his gear.

So to get good PPE you should be a plumber, not a worker in the Health sector.

Good to know for future reference.

Also good to know that DHBs should be sacked in future and replaced with Commissioners if they continue to withhold PPEs from frontline health workers;

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Another work day. Despite getting used to the restrictions of the lock-down, there are still frustrations. Food delivery to the facility I work at did not arrive today. Three hours wasted. Supplier promised delivery tomorrow at mid-day.

Running short on ASTM level1 masks. But on the positive side, our facility has plenty of blue latex gloves.

Maybe another facility that has spare face masks but is short on gloves can contact me and we can do an exchange?  Can throw in some feijoas from my tree as well, to ‘sweeten the deal’?

Or I can take up plumbing.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,366

Cases in ICU: 3 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

 

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References

RNZ: Nine To Noon – Political Panel

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Academics want much looser rules after lockdown

Twitter: Dr Siouxsie Wiles – Dr Thornley – 14 April 2020

Twitter: Dr Siouxsie Wiles – mass graves – 14 April 2020

Otago Daily Times:  Health workers call for urgency over protective gear shortages

Mediaworks/Newshub:  DHBs accused of charging doctors for personal protective gear amidst COVID-19 outbreak

RNZ:  DHBs accused of ‘rationing’ PPE say they’re working to distribute it

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – New national PPE distribution system introduced after faults and shortages

Newsroom:  Carers forced to wash and reuse masks

RNZ:  Four more Covid-19 deaths in New Zealand, 17 new cases

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 15 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 14

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April 8: Day 14 of living in lock-down…

The good news first: the downward trajectory of new cases appears to be a real thing. In the last four days, since Sunday, new infections have been dropping:

Sunday: 89 new cases

Monday: 67

Tuesday: 54

Today (Wednesday): 50

The bad news? Businesses and their shop-bought political servants in Parliament and fellow-travellers in the msm will be agitating to have the already-porous lock-down lifted as soon as the four week period has ended. A certain right-wing politician – with one eye on winning his electorate and boosting his Party Vote, and another eye on potential One Percenter donors – has actually called for lifting the lock-down even earlier.

Add to the above toxic mix of money-hungry business people and their right-wing political stooges – the repugnant side of self-entitled, privileged Middle New Zealanders for whom the rules do not seem to apply – and the stage is set for a potential disaster.

With the Easter long weekend fast approaching, police have been issuing statements that they will not tolerate people jumping into their cars; boats in tow; and heading off to their holiday “baches/cribs”;

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Up until this point the police have been pleading for everyone to do the “right thing”. Because as we all know, pleading works so well for a minority of Middle Class selfish idiots. The same selfish idiots who usually vote National because they demand tough “Law and Order” policies when it comes to brown people in Otara or Porirua – but don’t ever expect it used against their own privileged white skins.

The Middle Class have always expected better treatment than their poorer (mostly brown) cuzzies. Case in point, the Australian government has temporarily increased welfare benefit payments;

Jobseekers will get a $550 boost to their fortnightly welfare payments for six months in one of the largest increases to social security benefits in Australia’s history, as the government seeks to shield the unemployed ahead of a looming recession.

In a press conference at Parliament House on Sunday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the changes, which effectively double the rate of Jobseeker Payment, reflected a desire to cushion those “who will be feeling the first blows of the economic impact from the coronavirus”.

Make no mistake, this is not about giving extra humanitarian support for lower socio-economic people who have survived on the most basic welfare benefits. The simple reason the benefits are increasing is, as Scott Morrison, disclosed: “to cushion those “who will be feeling the first blows of the economic impact from the coronavirus”. Translation: to pander to the Middle Class who will be made jobless as covid19 cripples the Australian economy and send hundreds of thousands of them onto welfare.

Imagine the howls of outrage if Middle Class workers made unemployed suddenly discovered how pitiful welfare actually is?

The Middle Class votes (unlike those in lower socio-economic groups). No government will want to antagonise that group of voters. So up goes welfare – temporarily.

That same sense of privileged entitlement is also pervasive throughout (some of) our own Middle Class.

But not this time. I suspect that the great majority of New Zealanders from every socio-economic class; ethnic group; political leaning; gender, race; etc, have had a gutsful of these entitled oafs for whom a global pandemic means very little except an impromptu holiday. Most New Zealanders, I believe, want to see the millions of tax dollars spent on Police put to good use, clamping down on spoiled pricks who think they can get away with shit because… expensive car… expensive holiday home… latest devices… nice clothes… often private schooled spawn… in short, they’re entitled.

Our ‘protestant urge to punish’ may finally be put to good use.

Up until now, Police response has been one of tolerance that has been increasingly frustrating to those of us who fulfil our collective responsibility to stay home and respect the lock-down. The Police disclosed on 8 April that they “have now dealt with 367 breaches of the alert level four lockdown rules, with 45 prosecutions, 309 warnings and 13 youth referrals“.

Only 45 prosecutions out of 367 breaches? Is this the same Police who are going uber-macho with their armed response teams? In poorer neighbourhoods, of course.

So it’s refreshing to see in the last 24 hours our police force leadership growing a pair and moving from plaintive pleas, to outright threats of arrest;

We have … the power to arrest and we can charge for breach of the Health Notice. We’ve taken a pretty gentle approach up to this point but people have had a long time now to understand what the powers are, and so we are prepared to take enforcement action if people are deliberately flouting the rules.

And we will be out in high visibility, patrolling. We will use checkpoints in some places.

Our message to people is ‘stay home’. We’ve put too much into this to compromise it by trying to get away for a holiday weekend.” – Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, 8 April 2020

Make no mistake. The idiots who wilfully flout the rules are endangering everyone else. People have lost their jobs; their incomes; their businesses; and tragically, their lives overseas, and one here in Aotearoa.

As Far North mayor, John Carter, explained with crystal clarity;

“If we all behave ourselves, we’ll all be able to travel freely without restrictions soon. But if we breach it, and decide that we can travel and one or two or three of us spread the disease then we’re going to be in lockdown for a hell of a lot longer.”

There must be zero tolerance shown to these idiots. Prosecute and convict. No exceptions: lives and livelihoods depend on this.

Otherwise, this;

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Meanwhile, my own living in Lock-Down continues. Except, of course, I have little choice in this crisis and being part of the wider health sector, I’m an essential worker. (Kind of like winning Reverse Lotto?)

This morning, my usual ride to work took me past the Park N Ride carpark. Only two cars present.

On the main thoroughfare to SH2, the white motorhome was still parked in its odd, facing-oncoming-traffic, spot.

On the motorway, the following were observed; a light gravel-truck, marked “Whakatiki”, carrying a full load of gravel; a small “Kiwirail” hi-ab truck; an unmarked small tanker-truck; 2 ambulances; “Cabernet Foods” refrigerated truck; a fire appliance truck; a black ute marked “Arlington Motors”; “JC Plumbing” van; an unmarked traffic management van; an “Armourguard” branded car; a ute marked “WE” (Wellington Electricity); a “Toll” van; a “FMS” van; an “Inter Group” truck; a medium-sized gravel hauling truck; “Arrow” branded van; a “Downer” van; another gravel truck (company name not visible); a covered “Linfox” truck; a “Food Rescue” truck; a “Big Chill” truck; 2 “New World” covered trucks; “Downer” Incident Support truck; a “Mainfreight” truck; a flat deck truck carrying 4 port-a-loos; a “Downer” gravel truck; a “Chubb” security van; a “Hawkins” plumping van; a drain-unblocking plumber’s truck; a “Bridgestone Tyres” light truck; a “Prestons” light truck; an unbranded skip-bin truck, et al.

Note: several more commercial vehicles were either unmarked or their corporate logo could not be discerned.

Also sighted, a police car and a campervan, heading north.

It rained reasonably heavily the previous night. Cloud cover was clearing, and the sun was already shining over the region. Traffic north of SH58 turn-off was moderate; four vehicles in front, four to the rear. Moving south of the SH58 interchange, traffic thinned out. Traffic today trough the Terrace tunnel was the heaviest it has been throughout the lock-down, as was traffic in the city itself. Exiting the Terrace tunnel I could see about a dozen cars in front of me – a marked change from the one or three usually present.

Observation; despite the downward plunge for oil prices, 91 octane car fuel has remained steady at most Wellington major service stations at $1.95 per litre. Petrol companies have not been responsive to the massive drop in crude oil prices, it seems.

Tonight, as I watched the weather forecast on TV1, I was suddenly reminded how much I was missing my partner. We haven’t seen each other for three weeks, (phone calls and skype don’t count) as we scrupulously adhere to our own respective “bubbles”. There’s two weeks to go.

As Prime Minister Ardern has reminded us constantly, we need to Stay The Distance.

That evening, on my way home between 7.30 and 8.00PM, I sighted two Fulton Hogan road marking gangs at work; one in the Terrace Tunnel, and another north of the tunnel near the currently-blocked off Aotea Quay turn-off. More road marking work going on, in addition to that sighted on Monday night.

Is road marking an essential task during a global pandemic?

A further observation: with retailers, cafes, and most others obeying the letter of the law as well as the spirit, my bank account is healthier than ever before. There’s simply very little to spend money on aside from fuel, food, utilities, and the bank mortgage.

It’s amazing how much one can save (if privileged to be in a reasonable paying job) when consumerism is put on-hold.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,210

Cases in ICU: 4 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 1

 

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References

RNZ: Covid-19: What happened on 5 April

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

Fairfax/Stuff media:  Coronavirus – PM, police Covid-19 warning – don’t go to your bach this Easter

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Policing Easter lockdown to include checkpoints

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Police to arrest Easter holidaymakers who don’t comply with coronavirus lockdown rules

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Police warn checkpoints, extra patrols will be in place to stop Easter lockdown getaways

NewstalkZB:  Covid 19 lockdown – Police setting up checkpoints over Easter

ODT – Star News:  Cabin fever – Warning to stay away from holiday spots over Easter

RNZ: Covid-19 – Easter holidaymakers warned to stay home, away from bach

Trading Economics: Crude Oil

RNZ: Covid-19 – The key developments in New Zealand from April 8

RNZ: Number of new cases of Covid-19 continues to slowly fall

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Democracy Now:  Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

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Acknowledgement: Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 10 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

For those folk who find my other Lock-Down Diary versions too “negative” or otherwise unpalatable…

Here’s a photo of my cat,

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Better?

Tomorrow’s Sanitised Version: a pretty flower.

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Citizens vs the Rogue Deep State

16 November 2019 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still believe this more than ever to be necessary.

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

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

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

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

The appropriate phrasing should have been;

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

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

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

I find that troubling in the extreme.

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

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

Famous Last Words

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

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

Media Reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

They utterly failed us.

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

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

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References

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

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

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

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

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

NZ Herald:  TV3 searched over teapot tape

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB Act – some history…

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whether NZ First actually believes that is unclear.

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

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

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

Writing for Newsroom, Sam Sachdeva made a similar point;

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

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

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

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

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

An unpleasant thought, to put it mildly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1993 there were two Alliance MPs.

After the 1996 Election, the number skyrocketed to thirteen.

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

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

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

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

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

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References

NZ First: Binding referendum on End of Life Choice Bill

NZ Parliament: End of Life Choice Bill

Mediaworks/Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

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

Scoop Media: New Poll – Euthanasia Support Overwhelmingly Strong

Wikipedia: Referendums in New Zealand

Newsroom: Why Winston Peters is wrong on referendums

Wikipedia: 1996 New Zealand general election

Wikipedia: 1993 New Zealand general election

ODT: Euthanasia bill to go to referendum

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Death with dignity (various)

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

The Standard: The End of Life Choice Bill

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

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

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

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Ihumātao – What Pākehā should *NOT* do

1 October 2019 2 comments

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With some historical and present context, it should become readily apparent to Pakeha that the occupation at Ihumātao is not a free-for-all conflict for any and everyone to become involved in.

First, some important dates:

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1840

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The year in which the Treaty of Waitingi was signed. Article Two of the Treaty was especially important for Maori;

Article Two

Māori version: confirmed and guaranteed the chiefs ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ – the exercise of chieftainship – over their lands, villages and ‘taonga katoa’ – all treasured things. Māori agreed to give the Crown a right to deal with them over land transactions.

English version: confirmed and guaranteed to the chiefs ‘exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties’. The Crown sought an exclusive right to deal with Māori over land transactions.

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1863

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Twenty three years after the last signature to the Treaty document had dried, land at  Ihumātao was seized ‘by proclamation’ under the New Zealand Settlements Act. Four hundred hectares of land at Ihumātao was taken by the Colonial Government and transferred to settler families in the area;

“There was an accusation that was levelled against Waikato that there was an imminent plot to attack the settlers of Auckland. It was a fabrication, part of [Governor George] Grey’s dodgy dossier,” says O’Malley. “The accusation was window-dressing for the British Colonial Office, to give the appearance that Grey had no choice but to take troops into the Waikato.”

More than 400 hectares of land at Ihumātao was confiscated by the Crown, as punishment for the community’s allegiance to the King movement, and given to a handful of settler families.

Article two of the Treaty had been well and truly breached. “Exclusive possession of the land” had been “disturbed” as thoroughly as it could be.

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2008

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The Crown recognised Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority with which to undertake settlement negotiations for breach-of-Treaty claims.

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2014

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A Deed of Settlement was signed at Makaurau Marae in Māngere, between the Crown and Te Kawerau ā Maki Iwi Authority.

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2016

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A group of tangata whenua calling themselves SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) establish a presence at Ihumātao Quarry Road.

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Present

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The presence  of SOUL and supporters at Ihumātao had swelled to several thousand people, from all over the country. The congenial attitude of Police, interacting peacefully with protectors/protestors, could be seen as the ‘New Zealand Way’ of doing things. (Subsequently, that good-will took a severe battering when some twit within the Police hierarchy thought it would be a ‘clever idea’ to publicly carry a firearm in the vicinity of the occupation.)

Politically, there have been many voices demanding many forms of ‘action’ or ‘intervention’.

From ACT’s shallow knowledge of history and feeding red-meat to it’s reactionary base;

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Mr Seymour’s references to the occupiers “break[ing] the law and illegally occupy[ing] other people’s private property“; “legitimis[ing] unlawful behaviour by capitulating to an illegal occupation“, and “capitulat[ing] to a ragtag bunch of socialists and prison abolitionists” can only be described as a toxic, noisome, brew of crass ignorance and racism.

There is black irony and unashamed hypocrisy is describing the occupation as “break[ing] the law and illegally occupy[ing] other people’s private property” and “legitimis[ing] unlawful behaviour by capitulating to an illegal occupation” when the land was originally unlawfully seized, illegally occupied, and on-sold to colonial settlers in the first place.

His description of the occupiers as “a ragtag bunch of socialists and prison abolitionists– without once mentioning that they were tangata whenua, was wilfully insulting, with more racism piled on.  David Seymour is without self-awareness or shame with his appalling comments.

Then we heard Simon Bridges criticising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern making a state visit to Tokelau on Radio NZ;

“She’s put herself in it and where is she? She’s taken herself off for days to Tokelau – 1500 people – well every MP has a street she hasn’t visited that has many more people than that and look, whether it’s the stalling economy, whether it’s Ihumātao, whether it’s a bunch of other issues – the prime minister and government are showing themselves to be a part-time prime minister and government.”

But when asked by Radio NZ’s Corin Dann if she should have attended Ihumātao, his equivocation was cringeworthy and embarrassing;

“No. Because I don’t believe a leader necessarily needs to insert themselves in this. I think that’s – [interuption]

[…] She shouldn’t have got involved.

[…] She got involved. She set a bad precedent.

[…] I would not be intervening in this particular instance, the way the Prime Minister is.”

On Twitter, Russell Brown from the Public Address blog, put it perfectly when he summed up Simon Bridge’s insanely contradictory statements;

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Hone Harawira said it most clearly;

“It would be nice to see the Māori ministers leading here rather than being told what to do by Jacinda. I don’t think she knows what’s going on here. Stay overseas. Leave it to Peeni and the whānau here. Let’s get it done.”

This is especially vital considering that the dispute over Ihumātao appears to be a schism with local Māori. As RNZ’s Te Manu Korihi Editor, Shannon Haunui-Thompson, explained;

This isn’t a Māori versus Fletcher issue – on both sides are members of the same iwi, hapū and whānau.

When the eviction notices were served yesterday, well-respected kaumātua of Te Kawerau a Maki and Te Akitai accompanied police and asked for the occupation to end and for them to leave Ihumātao peacefully. They even performed a karakia.

Ms Haunui-Thompson also rejected that the dispute was “generational”;

“…to say it’s a rangitahi [younger generation] issue is incorrect. There’s definitely a divide though amongst the iwi, amongst the hapu and whanau.”

To make it clear, it was not for the Prime Minister to intervene. Calls for her to visit Ihumātao were misguided. Her presence, at best, would be symbolic. At worst, misconstrued as more pakeha paternalism.

What was appropriate was for Māori MPs to visit; to listen; to facilitate where possible; to carry back to the Government what they had seen and heard. Māori working with Māori.

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“It’s a tense feeling here at Ihumātao as ministers arrive at the whenua.” – Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, Radio NZ, @teaniwahuri

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Simon Bridges then played the “law and order” and “private land rights”, cards. On 30 July, interviewed on  TVNZ’s “Q+A”, Jack Tame asked the current National Party Leader if he “would support police removing the people who are occupying the land at the moment“. Mr Bridges dodged the question;

“Well, it’s pretty simple when it comes to protests. You have an absolute right in this country to legitimate, fair, vociferous protest; you don’t have a right to break the law and get in the way of other people’s lawful activity.”

When asked again, Mr Bridges played the “Dumb Card”;

“Well, I don’t know the ins and outs…”

It was a simple question. It had only two possible answers;

  1. Yes, I would support the police removing protestors.
  2. No, I wouldn’t support police removing protestors.

There is no third option.

Any mature person watching that exchange and listening to Mr Bridges’ response could reasonably infer that (a) Simon Bridges had no idea whatsoever of the issues surrounding Ihumātao or (b) understood the issues perfectly well, but did not have the guts to offer a definitive answer.

Neither option is an edifying position for The Man Who Would Be Prime Minister. If he doesn’t “know the ins and out” perhaps he should do what all new MPs do in Parliament: breathe through his nose.

Barely two weeks later, Simon Bridges was once again pontificating by press release, On 11 August, he demanded that Prime Minister Ardern tell “protestors to go home and let the landowners build houses for Aucklanders“.

So there we have it: Simon Bridges is of the opinion that Jacinda Ardern has the Stalinist power to command  “protestors to go home“.  Who would have thought she wielded such Imperial Roman authority over her subjects. Mr Bridges had best tread cautiously; the Prime Minister could send him packing as well.

The reality is that Mr Bridges can comfortably pontificate  what should or should not be done. Or both. His comments can (and have been) as contradictory as he fancies. He can cause harm; sow discord; rattle nerves. From the relative safety and responsibility-free-zone of  the Opposition, he can say whatever he likes, regardless of consequences.

What is telling is that none of his utterances have been in any way constructive. His chest-thumping machismo no substitute for calmer, cooler heads. We are fortunate that he is nowhere near the “levers of power”.

Contrast Simon Bridges’ incoherence and impotence with that of the solemn mana of the Māori King, Kiingi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII, who on 3 August was welcomed onto Ihumātao with a formal pōwhiri;

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Kiingi Tūheitia offered to mediate between protectors/protestors and the Iwi authority to find a way forward. Kiingitanga spokeswoman, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, said;

“We have to hear all the mana whenua and find a way forward that works for all of them.”

The meeting would not include Fletchers, or the Government, Schaafhausen said. 

And that is the point that has eluded most people: this issue is for mana whenua to discuss and to arrive at a solution. It is not for the pakeha Coalition government to intervene. It is not for the police to force protestors out. And it is most certainly not for self-serving politicians from the Right to exploit this issue for a perverted “law and order” beat-up to win a few votes from ill-informed redneck voters.

This is for Māori to resolve.

As the Māori version of Article Two of te Tiriti states;

“…confirmed and guaranteed the chiefs ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ – the exercise of chieftainship”

At a time when Māori are determined to take firmer control of their own affairs – such as up-lifting and placement of Māori children by Oranga Tamariki – resolving disputes such as Ihumātao can only achieved by those directly involved.

The Crown – represented by the government – can assist. It can mediate. And in the end it can listen.

On 18 September, mana whenua announced that they had negotiated and reached a decision;

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Māori had arrived at a resolution. By Māori, for Māori.

Kiingi Tūheitia explained the position that had been arrived at:

“Mana whenua agree they want their land returned, so they can make decisions about its future.”

Kiingi Tūheitia further expressed mana whenua’s desired outcome:

“Kiingitanga has conveyed the views of mana whenua to the government and urged it to negotiate with Fletchers for the return of Ihumātao to its rightful owners.”

Now is the rightful moment for the Crown, through the Coalition Government, to sit at the table and play it’s rightful part as one of the two Treaty partners.

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References

Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Te Ara: Treaty of Waitangi – Interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi

Radio NZ: Ihumātao land battle – a timeline

New Zealand Geographic: When worlds collide

NZ Government: Te Kawerau ā Maki – Summary

NZ Government: Te Kawerau ā Maki

NZ Herald: Battle for Ihumātao – How farmland became a flashpoint

Fairfax/Stuff: Police officer sings with protesters at Ihumātao

Fairfax/Stuff: Ihumātao – Police deny carrying firearms at protest after Facebook video outcry

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 10:25 PM – July 26, 2019

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 11:01 AM – July 27, 2019

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 08:12 AM – July 28, 2019

Radio NZ: Ihumātao – Simon Bridges slams PM for timing of Tokelau trip

Radio NZ: Bridges defends ‘part-time PM’ criticism of Ardern

Twitter: Russell Brown – Ihumatao – Simon Bridges – 7:34 AM – July 31, 2019

Radio NZ: Ihumātao – Government ministers welcomed to protest site with powerful powhiri

Radio NZ: Explainer – Why Ihumātao is being occupied by ‘protectors’

Twitter: Te Aniwa Hurihanganui – Ministers arrive at Ihumātao – 12:11 PM, July 27 2019

TVNZ: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Jack Tame

Victoria University: Research Archive – Breathing Through their Noses – Candidate Selection and Role Adaptation amongst First-Term MPs in the New Zealand Parliament

National: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

NZ Herald: Kīngitanga flag raised at Ihumātao, to stay until resolution reached

Fairfax/Stuff media: Ihumātao – Māori King invites mana whenua to meet to find a solution

TVNZ: ‘By Māori, for Māori’ – Oranga Tamariki hui reveals Māori want to look after their own

Radio NZ: Mana whenua reach decision on Ihumātao land

Beehive: Government welcomes Kingitanga statement on Ihumātao

The Spinoff: Mana whenua have agreed to keeping the land at Ihumātao. So what comes next?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 September 2019.

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Simon Bridges: the 15 March Christchurch massacre and winning at any cost

21 September 2019 Leave a comment

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Just when you thought Simon Bridges couldn’t sink any lower – he has.

After the March 15th  Christchurch terror attack, the (current) Leader of the National Party issued strong committments to support urgently needed gun law reform;

“We will be ready and prepared to be constructive and to look at anything here because we do need to see some change.”

“Change is needed, I understand that, and the National Party will make sure it’s a constructive party in all of this. I am no expert in this. There may be loopholes that can be fixed quite readily and quickly.

Yes, that’s probably the right way to go [to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons] but let’s hear from the government. It is now for the government and the prime minister, whose roles I respect in this, to put forward those proposals. We are up for change.”

“Everything has changed. Everything has changed. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to you we shouldn’t have gun control change. I don’t myself know what would have changed this… we had someone who had IEDs in their car.”

National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government. We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military style semi-automatic weapons. National supports them being banned along with assault rifles. We also support the Government’s proposals to limit the access to other high powered semi-automatic weapons and ammunition.”

It’s imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe. The attacks on Friday changed New Zealand, the intention of the gun law changes is excellent and I understand the need for urgency. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of New Zealanders and fighting extremism in all forms.

National will work constructively with the Government to ensure we get this right. We support the prime minister and I think most of our rural communities will understand.”

The above statements from Mr Bridges were also posted on the National Party website. So there is simply no room for error and claims of being misquoted.

Writing on The Standard, L Prent acknowledged Simon Bridges’ constructive response to the massacre and need for thorough, wide-ranging gun-reform laws;

“Now I know that most people are going to be surprised that I finally have a reason to laud Simon Bridges (I know I am). But I just have to on this occasion. Both he and the public responses of National to the announcements yesterday were excellent.

They’re fully supporting the thrust of the proposed changes going forward into the future. As National seem to have made a career in politics of being stupid over my lifetime, I’m sure it won’t last. But I’m going to enjoy it while it does.

And on Twitter, this blogger posted a dire warning/prediction;

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Alas, neither L Prent nor I were to be disappointed.

Six months later, Simon Bridge is back tracking.

On 28 August, Simon Bridges announced he would not be supporting a second trance of gun reform laws.

“No, I’m not making this political, it’s not about the Police Association. It’s about a situation where National supported the first law, which was the right thing to do – but the buyback scheme, however, is a fiasco.

We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

Just to be clear, the buy-back scheme has thus far netted around 20,000 banned weapons from 20 June this year. The scheme will be on-going until 20 December.

Whether the scheme will retrieve every single banned weapon and parts is unknown: successive governments have failed to implement registration of individual firearms. Which is bizarre, considering we, as a society, consider it normal to register cars, dogs, real estate agents, etc.

Since the initial banning of semi-automatic weapons and associated parts, and buy-back scheme (which Australia successfully carried out following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre by a deranged gunman), a second tranche of gun reform was introduced;

  • Establishing a firearms register
  • Make owning a gun a “privilege” that comes with obligations
  • Tighten the rules to obtain and keep a gun licence
  • Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence
  • Require licences to be renewed every five years
  • Not allow visitors to purchase guns in New Zealand
  • Introduce a new warning system for police so they can intervene if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour
  • Introduce a licencing system for shooting clubs and ranges
  • Set up an expert group to advise the police on firearms
  • Introduce new advertising standards around guns
  • Require licences to buy magazines, parts and ammunition
  • Increase penalties and introduce new offences

The rules seem so straight-forward that it beggars belief they were not already in place. Bear in mind, these are lethal, high-powered weapons we are talking about – not registration of ‘Mr Bigglesworth‘, the family pet chihuahua.

By the end of August, Simon Bridges began walking-back of every statement he made following March 15th. His spin-doctor-crafted “talking points” glaringly obvious;

“We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

“In short, the Government is going after the good guys and not the bad guys [with these rules].

“There’s no politics. It’s simply a question of a next series of laws that seem to be aimed at good, law abiding people rather than criminals, the gangs and extremists.

It is difficult to understand how the proposed new restrictions would “not [be] aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists“. Just to remind everyone that the (alleged) Christchurch shooter was also a licenced, “good, law abiding person” – right up until he pulled the trigger at his first victim. Then he wasn’t.

In fact, the new laws should make it harder for  “gangs, the crims and the extremists” to possess firearms. Because – according to Police – most firearms ending up in the hands of “gangs, the crims and the extremists” – come from “good, law abiding people” with gun licences.

According to a NZ Herald report in 2016, by Phil Taylor, licenced gun dealers were a prime source of guns for “gangs, the crims and the extremists”;

“Most of the illegal guns we come across are from burglaries or from rogue licensed owners,” said the drug enforcement source.

Rogues such as Peter James Edwards. Edwards, who had a class A licence that enabled him to buy rifles and shotguns in a sporting configuration, made a business out of buying guns and pimping them for criminals by cutting down the barrel or stock and adding pistol grips and silencers.

Pistol-size firearms are prized by criminals because they are easily carried and concealed.

Over 18 months, Edwards, described in court as unemployed, bought 74 firearms including 69 from Gun City’s Auckland and Christchurch stores, plus more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition, a large number of parts including pump-action pistol grips, and pistol grips.

He pleaded guilty to supplying firearms to unlicensed people, supplying a pistol and supplying methamphetamine. Edwards sold methamphetamine to his daughter, starting on her 19th birthday.

He was sentenced in 2014 to a total of five years and 10 months in prison. It was revealed in court that he had 53 previous convictions in Western Australia. He had failed to declare any previous convictions on his gun licence application.

Edwards claimed not to know the names of anyone he sold to, and would not help recover 64 firearms that were missing and believed to be in the hands of Head Hunters gang members and associates.

In another example;

Another who didn’t want to help police trace the firearms he sold to criminals was John Mabey.

“He probably has a greater fear of those associated with the guns than anything we can bring to bear,” Inspector Greg Nicholls told the Herald after Mabey was sent to jail in 2009.

Mabey gained a gun licence at a young age and later added a “collectors’ endorsement” that entitled him to have restricted weapons such as pistols and submachine guns and military-style semi-automatics.

He fell into debt and decided to sell his collection on the black market. When notified that police planned to check his collection, he faked a burglary in which he claimed his entire collection of restricted firearms had been stolen. He maintained the fiction for two years before admitting he had faked the burglary.

Only 11 of 121 of Mabey’s restricted guns have been recovered. Glock and Beretta pistols were found in the possession of a drug maker and seller who had fired at police officers during a routine traffic stop.

A Browning pistol was found in the possession of a methamphetamine cook. A Luger pistol was found in the home of a Mongrel Mob member. Methamphetamine was involved again.

Because individual firearms are not registered, the number of transactions involving purchase and sales is not recorded. As the same police source pointed out;

“There is no way of identifying who is buying too many guns. There might be an innocent explanation for why someone buys firearms five times a year, but when someone buys 69 guns in a short space of time … hang on, that’s not right.”

In 2012, in a Police report – the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper – found  that “325 illegal firearms were seized in police raids in the year to June. While that is the lowest haul in the past five years, it is still an alarming number and, along with other aspects of the present firearms regime, a cause for continuing concern. Most of the guns seized by the police were stolen in residential burglaries or from collectors by organised criminals.

Four years later, in 2016, information relating to the underground business of illegal firearms sales was sought by the the Law and Order Select Committee when Judith Collins was Police Minister. Simon Bridges was a colleague of Ms Collins in the same government. They did nothing to tighten gun control laws. Three years later, fiftyone people were shot dead in a Christchurch mosque and scores more injured.

The same 2012 Herald editorial, which revealed the findings of the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper had warned presciently;

Parliament needs to act before the laxity of current regulations is underlined again by a tragedy involving unlicensed guns.

The (alleged) terrorist-killer was a legally licenced gun owner. His weapons – unregistered.

If Simon Bridges is now playing politics to curry favour with gun owners and conservative voters, it is a deadly ‘game’ he is indulging in. Fiftyone people paid the ultimate price because this country – and successive governments – was to naive and blase to realise the deadly nature of poorly regulated gun ownership.

Mr Bridges has plumbed new depths of dirty politics. To return to partisan politics on an issue which – literally – is a matter of life and death is troubling.

It is obvious that he has waited until the moment of the tragedy subsided. Once the screams and cries of frightened innocent men, women, and children no longer reverated through our collective consciousness; once the searing white-hot grief had dimmed; once the headlines moved on; did Mr Bridges think it was safe to conduct political business-as-usual?

If so, it demonstrates an almost sociopathic callousness that would be beyond most of us.

His win-at-any-expense strategy for next years’ election shows the true, deeply-flawed character of the man. It raises the question; what won’t he do to win votes?

And for all New Zealanders, especially National supporters, the question becomes; is this the kind of person we should trust to lead us?

Postscript:

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A recent National Party leaflet delivered to households;

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In the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, eligible New Zealand voters were asked what they thought of the Government’s moves [on gun reform].

Sixty-one per cent thought the changes were about right, 19% thought it did not go far enough and 14% thought it went too far.

Simon Bridges should listen more carefully.

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References

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expected to announce gun law changes

Radio NZ: Christchurch terror attacks – National Party leader Simon Bridges says gun control laws need changing

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch mosque terror attack – National changes tune on gun control

Newsroom: Military style semi-automatic guns banned

Fairfax/Stuff media: National supports gun law changes in wake of Christchurch mosque shootings

National: National supports firearms reform

Twitter: F. Macskasy – Christchurch shooting – Simon Bridges

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Radio NZ: Police Association says National playing politics with gun laws

Fairfax/Stuff media:

Fairfax/Stuff media: Scepticism and enthusiasm for new gun laws as buy-back figures approach 20,000

NZ Police: Information on prohibited firearms

Wikipedia: Port Arthur massacre (Australia)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Second tranche of gun law changes – Firearms register, tighter licencing

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges reveals National is unlikely to support second tranche of gun law reforms

Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges says gun laws soft on ‘crims, gangs and extremists’

NZ Herald: The Big Read – How are criminals getting their guns?

NZ Herald: Editorial – Unregistered guns invite a tragedy

Parliament: How do criminals get illegal guns?

TVNZ: New poll – 61% of New Zealanders back gun ban in wake of Christchurch atrocity

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road: What Happened Here?

The Daily Blog: Trying to understand National’s position on Gun reform is like trying to understand Trump’s position on nuking hurricanes

The Daily Blog: Dear Gun owners of NZ – you don’t like the buy back plan? We are honestly more than happy for you to be arrested and the guns seized from you

The Daily Blog: Gun nuts should be under surveillance now

The Daily Blog: Jacinda goes beyond ‘thoughts & prayers’ and will change gun laws

The Daily Blog: If we can ban single use plastic bags and fireworks – why the Christ can’t we ban machine guns for civilian use?

The Daily Blog: Bryan Bruce – 100% support for gun law reform call by The Prime Minister

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on why the government shouldn’t run the Christchurch massacre inquiry

Previous related blogposts

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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

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13 November 1990

That was then…

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15 March 2019

This is now…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 September2019.

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= fs =

The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response

14 September 2019 3 comments

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This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues…

Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of the Palestinian people; the threat of climate change; human rights here and abroad; the  reaction to globalisation  manifested by the symptom of Trump and Brexit; opposition to the secretly negotiated TPPA; the obscenity of the international arms industry; the utter failure of the neo-liberal experiment as families were forced to live in motels, garages, and cars, and much more.

The hostile, dehumanising culture of WINZ was a problem I took particular interest in, as well as homelessness.

In February 2013, Martyn invited me to contribute to his ‘new’ project, The Daily Blog. It was a honour to participate and I devoted as much time as could be squeezed into a 24 hour period to research, write, correct, research more, format, write, proof-read – post! Always research. Make sure the facts were as correct as could be – though on occassion sharp-eyed readers picked up on a mistake and were not shy in letting me know. (Which I always appreciated.)

My motivating principle, as much as possible, was to highlight a injustice; point out where something had gone wrong, and offer a solution where possible.

The Key-led (later Bill English-led) government offered no shortage of issues to write up. There were even problems with this current government that I felt necessitated criticism.

I rarely took exception to issues and opinions expressed by my fellow Daily Bloggers, even when I thought they were wrong (we don’t all think alike as some collective ‘Hive Mind’ – more on that point in a moment).

At the top of my concerns were always those most vulnerable; the poor; the homeless; ethnic minorities, and others who were slightly different to mainstream white middle-class Aotearoa New Zealand such as the LGBTQI community.

On 5 September, my Daily Blog colleague (and in many ways, a mentor to me) Martyn Bradbury published a blogpost; “Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did.

It was a critique on the Green’s decision to remove an article by “long-time Green Party member Jill Abigail“.

I have read the article.

Far from being a “moderate”, “mild”, or “reasonable”, it was a thinly-disguised attack on tran speople – specifically, trans women. Trans men are not mentioned anywhere once in her article. It was another in a line of attacks on trans women.

Ms Abigail tried to sound tolerant and inclusive;

“Transpeople are a vulnerable group that until recently has been excluded from general consideration and now justly claim their right to be treated with equal respect.”

But her subsequent comments revealed her true agenda and negated her previous sentiment;

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts; young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes; women’s refuges and rape crisis centres no longer safe sanctuaries; lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships; malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes; the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’.

[…]

Most serious of all is the medicalisation of children. I recently met a woman who had taken her 11-year-old daughter to a doctor because of a sore throat. The daughter is a tomboy, with short hair. The doctor asked the mother if she wanted the girl to go on puberty blockers. An 11-year-old goes to the doctor with a sore throat and is given a suggestion of puberty blockers?

Gender-critical feminists have allies among some transpeople themselves, who see this ideology as a misogynist, homophobic, men’s rights push. No previous extensions of human rights for new groups have involved taking away the rights of others needing protection. It would be progressive of the Greens to be working for solutions that are fair to everyone, rather than reinforcing the current divide.”

Like saying, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Those three paragraphs are a regurgitation of similar comments made by other so-called “gender critical feminists” (aka “TERFs”) and their over-eager cis male allies.

Let’s scrutinise those three paragraphs.

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts…”

Many of those “academic experts” have columns in mainstream media as well as reported widely via social media. The fact that Ms Abigail’s article has been widely reported; republished; and commented on belies her assertion of being silenced.

Furthermore, there is no automatic right for anyone to be published anywhere, unless engaging in self-publication or self-blogging. The Green Party does not publish opinion pieces by National or ACT supporters and vice versa. The Daily Blog does not publish blogposts from David Farrar or Cameron Slater, and vice versa. Even supporters of a given group cannot expect automatic right of publication.

The Daily Blog itself often declines publication of comments from individuals for various reasons. I publish on TDB at the ‘pleasure’ of Martyn, which he may rescind at any time. That is his prerogative. Anything else is “entitlement”.

The so-called “abuse” Ms Abigail references is often legitimate push-back from trans rights activists; others in the LGBTQI community; cis women; and Inclusive lesbians. It has to be reminded that publishing a controversial  opinion piece (like this one) will attract critical as well as supporting responses. That is the free speech we are continually called upon to speak out for.

young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes…”

What “young children” is she referring to? What age?

Apply that statement to young people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc and it becomes an obvious slur attacking Rainbow people. No one is teaching “young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body“. Just as no one is teaching young people to develop same sex attraction.

What “stereotypes are being reinforced”? Is Ms Abigail suggesting that only binary sex and heterosexual orientation is acceptable? Binary heterosexuality would constitute stereotyping.

The statement makes no sense except to conjure up frightening images of “young children” brain-washed by unknown agents of a secret cadre of LGBTQI.

Similar slurs were made against gay men during the horrendous “debate” surrounding the 1986 Homosexual Law  Reform process. Homophobes constantly accused gay men of lurking in toilets and changing rooms, waiting to turn young straight males gay and fearing that gay law reform would facilitate that “corruption”.

It never happened. Civilisation did not collapse. The sacred family unit has not been dismantled.

“lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships…”

That one is more complicated to unpack because no examples are given. What constitutes transphobia? A simple rejection usually doesn’t. A full-on attack on a transgender person would do it. Have any heterosexual cis men been accused of homophobia because they declined an advance from a gay man? A polite decline would hardly constitute homophobia. A vitriolic response attacking gay men would do it.

“malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes”

According to Wikipedia, there are 28 prominent male-to-female trans athletes and 12 female-to-male. (And those numbers are spread over a fortyfive year span.)  Forty trans athletes out of millions of sports people around the world.

If the trans community were planning for world domination in sporting endeavours, they have a long way to go.

“the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’ ”

This metaphysical complaint should be seen for what is it: chauvinistic. There is no suggestion of “erasing females/women” any more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986 erased heterosexuality. Lesbianism has not “erased” heterosexual women.

Curiously, the Gender Critical Feminist theory of “erasure” appears to echo the Great Replacement theory espoused by White Identitarians;

The great replacement can generally be understood as two core beliefs. The first is that “western” identity is under siege by massive waves of immigration from non-European/non-white countries, resulting in a replacement of white European individuals via demographics…

When both are analysed side-by-side, the similarities are striking. It is no coincidence that both Erasure and Replacement fears have gain wider traction during the current Trumpian Era when “The Fear of The Other” is heavily influencing US, European, and British political discourse.

US journalist, Katelyn Burns wrote an in-depth analysis of the convergence and close co-operation between Gender Critical feminists and conservative Think Tanks, organisations, anti-abortion activists, and a prominent rightwing host on Fox TV. In Britain, Gender Critical feminists have been supported by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in his tabloids.

So maybe it is not  a coincidence that “Gender Critical Feminists” are (almost always?) white, middle class women. Likewise their cis male allies.

This chauvinism is further demonstrated with comments such as this, by Martyn;

However. As a white heteronormative cis-male, I also believe you can’t force women to accept Trans women into their spaces. Telling women who the must and must not include in the spaces they have fought for seems utterly contrary to respecting feminism.

Which makes certain the assumption that all women think alike on this issue. As mentioned above, and by a reader’s post-article comment, women do not have a single Hive Mind on this subject. There are as many diverse views on this issue as there are with cis men – and bloggers.

At the same time, consider whether any one group in society has the right to define and dictate human and civil rights for another. Think very carefully of the implications.

Does The Majority have the right to define and limit the rights of a minority? If the answer is yes, consider the implications this would have for Maori in a predominantly Pakeha society. Or gays and lesbians (as well as trans) in a predominantly heterosexual society.

Remember that women’s right to vote was determined by men. Now imagine if that vote had failed.

It was only in 1971 that women in Switzerland won the right to vote – after a general referendum by men voting. Twelve years earlier, men had voted against women having the vote.

In apartheid era South Africa, it wasn’t even a Majority holding power and denying a minority equal rights – it was the other way around until 1994.

When one group in society can define and dictate the rights of another, there should be cause for concern. That some Gender Critical Feminists are advocating some form of gender-chauvinism and denying trans women their right to self-identify as such (with some even denying to exist at all), is a giant stride back in time. It would seem to be everything that feminism and the LGBTQI community have struggled to achieve.

Over the last hundred or so years, white heterosexual men have had to share their power with others; women; gays; lesbians; other ethnic groups; etc.

It should not be a surprise that cis women are now called upon to do likewise for their trans-sisters. Radical? No more radical than women’s emancipation and dismantling patriarchal privilege.

That this seems to make some regular commentators on The Daily Blog react negatively is not only disappointing – but disturbing.

In my eight years of blogging I have read many chauvinistic, reactionary comments on the pages of Kiwiblog and Whaleoil. Whilst I shake my head at the wilful ignorance of those right-wingers, I understood that they were railing against the gradual dismantling of their white male privilege.

So it was disheartening to read similar comments – many openly transphobic – from a few TDB regulars.

We resist and condemn the injustice shown to welfare recipients; the working-poor; solo-mothers; Maori, prisoners; the homeless, and others who have been marginalised by the neo-liberal system that treats us as “consumers with spending power” rather than citizens with rights. We understand the innate injustice of an economic theory that treats humans as disposable units.

But when push-comes-to-shove, this current challenge to the predominant status quo is met with scorn, derision, and hateful comments. The response to the transgender issue on The Daily Blog, from some, has been shameful.

In 1986 we decriminalised male homosexuality. Cis hetero men did not “erase” overnight. Toilets and changing rooms are still safe to use. Civilisation  has not collapsed into public debauchery.

New Zealand was not just the first sovereign state where women won the right to vote, in 1999 we were the first country to elect a transgender woman to Parliament.

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In Wairarapa – a rural seat! Not exactly a hotbed of progressive politics pushing for LGBTQI rights.

In 2013, Aotearoa New Zealand gained marriage equality. The “sanctity” of marriage did not end. Heterosexual’s right to marry was not “erased” just because same-sex couples now shared that right.

These are rights that quite rightly we have shared with everyone. No one is denied equality and inclusion because one group feels threatened. “Get over it!” we told the homophobes and the male chauvinists.

For gods sakes, people, no one asked which toilet Georgina Beyer used when she entered Parliament.

Instead, we were damned proud of that achievement.

As a blogger, I will continue to write for those who are marginalised, attacked, scorned, and powerless. I will continue to support Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trans people to be included in our society and to have the same rights and privileges straight cis people take for granted.

Not because I’m Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Trans, but because I’m bloody minded and I know it’s the right thing to do.

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An injury to one…

… is an injury to all.

(Popular motto of trade unions around the world)

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Postscript

Disclosure: I am a Green Party supporter (if that makes any difference).

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References

Wikipedia:  Transgender people in sports

The Guardian: The ‘white replacement theory’ motivates alt-right killers the world over

Vox: The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained

Wikipedia: Women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Additional

NZ Herald: Greens members leave after ‘transphobic’ article in magazine

Other Blogposts

Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did

Previous related blogposts

First they came…

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

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

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= fs =

National and petrol taxes – when journalists gets it right

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It’s not often that it happens, but every so often one will stumble across examples of journalism that probes deeper than the immediacy of the here-and-now, and actually takes a step back in very recent history to put political events and utterances into context.

National’s desperation to remain relevant involves a two-pronged strategy to promote Simon Bridges as Prime-Minister-in-waiting and to portray the current coalition government as tax-and-spend and wasteful with our tax-dollars.

With Mr Bridges at 6% in the polls, the first of National’s strategy is stuck firmly in a political mire. The public do not seem to like and/or trust the current National leader. His constant barking-at-every-passing-car and relentless negativity (without proposing alternative solutions) is problematic and his hyper-critical, carping style is a major turn-off with voters.

The second prong of National’s grand strategy – to throw as much mud as possible at every part of the Coalition’s activities – continues at full-throttle. It’s success is yet to be determined.

National’s current attack focuses on  petrol prices, with the Opposition and it’s leader blaming the Coalition for high fuel prices. This despite Gull NZ’s general manager, Dave Bodger, stating that lack of competition was the deciding factor in fuel pricing, not government taxes;

“That restricts the supply, which inflates the price, especially if you look in parts of the South Island and areas where there’s not as great competition; the consumer is paying a lot more than they are in other places.”

The Commerce Commission’s recent investigation and report into the fuel industry criticised excessive profit-taking by some petrol companies. As Commerce Commission chairperson, Anna Rawlings stated unambiguously;

“Our preliminary findings suggest that many fuel companies are earning returns on investment that are higher than what we would consider a reasonable return to be.”

Those facts did not prevent National from issuing countless press statements and bombarding social media to smear the Coalition as culpable for high petrol prices;

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Fairfax/Stuff journalist, Henry Cooke, reported Simon Bridges’ attack-point verbatim;

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“I agree with Jacinda Ardern that New Zealanders are being fleeced, but the reality of this is the biggest fleecer isn’t the petrol companies, it’s Jacinda Ardern and her Government. Jacinda Ardern is the fleecer-in-chief.”

But then, Mr Cooke, took a further step. He delved into the past and with a few clicks of research, offered readers some further salient facts;

He said fuel taxes were rising by 24c over this Government’s term, compared to just 17c over nine years of National. But this figure included the 11.5c Regional Fuel Tax which is only charged in Auckland – where fuel is typically cheaper than other parts of the country – and did not include the GST rise his Government brought in.

National raised fuel taxes six times over nine years in Government, raising the price by 17c in total. The National Government also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 per cent.

The Labour Government has raised the excise by 7c so far this term and will raise it by another 3.5c in July next year. 

Which helps put current fuel excise rises into some context, when a journalist reminds readers that National was not averse to doing precisely what it self-righteously condemns the Coalition government for doing.

Not forgetting that as well as raising GST (despite promising not to do so), National’s tax-grab reached deep into the pockets of newspaper boys and girls, in a desperate effort to balance their books and make up for billions of dollars squandered in two tax cuts.

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Simon Bridges’ hypocrisy was underscored when Henry Cooke finished his story with the National Party leader’s comments;

Asked if he would cut excise taxes if elected he was non-commital, saying he would need to have a better look at the books when coming to Government.

He stood by the general user-pay system in transport, whereby fuel taxes fund major new roading infrastructure, rather than the general tax take.

The public’s collective eye-rolling at Mr Bridges’ “bob-each-way” explains why he is on 6% in the polls. This is not a politician who “means what he says, and says what he means”.

The following day, on Radio NZ’s deputy political editor, Craig McCulloch, also took National to task on its criticism over fuel excise taxes.

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On Checkpoint, on 21 August, Mr McCulloch  presented listeners with a refresher course in recent political history;

“By the end of it’s three year term, the [Coalition] government will have put up petrol taxes by ten and a half cents, not including the eleven and a half cent regional fuel tax in Auckland.

When National was in charge it put up taxes by seventeen cents, but over a much longer nine year period. But National also increased GST from 12.5% to 15.”

Embarrassing stuff.

Mediaworks/Newshub had also pointed out the same hypocrisy from Nation, but a few months earlier. Dan Satherley and Lisette Reymer reported in early July;

Between 2008 and 2017 National raised petrol taxes six times, usually by 3c – Simon Bridges was Transport Minister for three of those years. They also increased GST from 12.5 to 15 percent.

But more conspicuously, despite considerable media exposure; spending considerable effort and money on wide-reaching social media propagandising, aside from the Auckland regional fuel tax,  National leader Simon Bridges has refused to state if he would repeal the Coalition’s fuel tax excise increases;

“Right now, in the Transport Budget, they have dramatic underspends. I wouldn’t put the [taxes] on, my inclination would be to not have them, but if you are already there and they are already there, there is no way I am putting more on.”

That’s because last year, Mediaworks/Newshub pointed out that National and Labour have both increased fuel excise taxes by almost the same amount. (Though it is unclear from  the infograph below if Mediaworks/Newshub have factored in National’s GST increase in 2010.)

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It’s a fair bet that National will not be using the above infographic in any of their attack ads. Too close to the inconvenient truth for one thing.

It’s also a fair bet that National will retain the Coalition’s excise fuel tax increases; add a few of their own; and then offer a “neutral tax switch”. That’s because National believes in user-pays for most, if not all government services. In 2014 the NZ Labour Party kindly put together a list of just some of those government service fees increases;

  1. GST increase from 12.5% to 15%
  2. Increased taxes on KiwiSaver
  3. Compulsory student loan payment increase from 10% to 12%
  4. Increased tertiary fees
  5. The 2012 ‘Paperboy’ tax
  6. Civil Aviation Authority fees rise
  7. Additional fuel tax increase of 9 cents with annual CPI increases locked in for perpetuity
  8. Road User Charges increased
  9. New annual student loan fees introduced
  10. Massive unnecessary ACC levy increases
  11. Prescription fees increased by 66%
  12. New online company filing fees imposed on businesses
  13. Creeping expansion of the scope of Fringe Benefit Taxes – National tried to tax car parks and plain-clothes police uniforms
  14. Lowering of Working for Families abatement threshold and increasing the abatement rate, taking money out of the pockets of families
  15. Imposing a $900 Family Court fee

Whether fees for DoC huts and tracks, the Family Courts, ACC, roading, etc, National has never been averse to loading costs of those services onto individual users – whilst then cutting income taxes.

This is precisely what they did from 2009 to 2017.

We can expect more of the same from National should they be returned to power.

In the meantime, kudos to Henry Cooke, Craig McCulloch, and other journalists, for  delving into National’s past track record on this issue. This is the sort of journalism the public rightly demand – not simply cutting-and-pasting Party press releases.

The media should now press Mr Bridges harder on this issue: will he repeal Labour’s fuel excise tax increases or not? It’s a simple enough question. After all, he was 100% adamant that National would scrap any Capital Gains Tax if it became government;

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If Simon Bridges wanted the increased fuel excise taxes dumped, there is no reason on Earth why he wouldn’t commit. The fact is that National supports user-pays charges and their claims of being champions for “Kiwi battlers” is populist rubbish. National’s plans are blindingly obvious;

  • increase user pays charges, excise taxes, etc
  • cut personal income taxes – especially for the wealthy

Hence why Mr Bridges has said repeatedly;

“We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.”

The caveat, Ifs, Buts, and fine print underlying that statement should not be lost on anyone.

If the (current) Leader of the National Party cannot be straight up with voters as to what his intentions are (on any issue!), then he cannot be trusted to lead this country.

For Simon Bridges, the timer on his political career is counting – downward.

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Postscript 1

Fuel prices in New Zealand Aotearoa from 2005 to 2019:

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A bit embarrassing for National: fuel was more expensive during their term in office. New Zealanders cannot afford a National government it would appear.

Postscript 2

Interesting to note that National’s spin doctors appear to have ‘borrowed from my “That was Then, This is Now” memes on which to base their own “What she said, What she did” propaganda;

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But we’re all aware by now that National is not averse to ‘borrowing’  from other peoples’ creative efforts – without paying.

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References

NZ Herald: Latest political poll – National rises against Labour, with 45 against 43 in 1 News Colmar Brunton poll

RNZ: Fuel prices – Government urged to free up wholesale market

Fairfax/Stuff media: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealanders are being ripped off over petrol

National Party: Axe the Tax

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 5.52 PM, Jul 24, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 6.26 AM, Aug 23, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 7.15 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Twitter: Simon Bridges – petrol prices – taxes – 2.49 PM, Aug 20, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 10.25 AM, Jul 1, 2018

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – taxes – 9.40 AM, Jun 30, 2019

Twitter: National Party – petrol prices – 4.05 PM, Aug 29, 2018

Fairfax/Stuff media: Petrol prices – Simon Bridges says Jacinda Ardern is ‘fleecer-in-chief’

Fairfax/Stuff media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax/Stuff media: Young workers out of pocket

RNZ: Blame game in Parliament over high petrol prices (audio-link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fuel tax hike – How much it might cost you

Mediaworks/Newshub: National’s Simon Bridges refuses to say he will overturn new petrol tax increase

TVNZ/One News: National promise no new taxes and repeal of Auckland fuel tax in first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Fact check – Who taxed your petrol the most – Labour or National?

Fairfax/Stuff media: Trampers torn on price hike for New Zealand’s Great Walks

RNZ: DoC fees rise

Labour Party: At least 15 new taxes under National

Scoop media: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

National Party: National would repeal Capital Gains Tax

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

Twitter: Simon Bridges – tax cuts – 2.58 PM, Jan 30, 2019

Otago Daily Times – National: No new taxes in the first term

NZ Herald: National Party found guilty of Eminem copyright breach

Addition

Fairfax/Stuff media: Intolerance fed by wrong and hateful assumptions is all the rage right now

Fairfax/Stuff media: National’s ‘desperate’ attack ads to be investigated by Advertising Standards Authority

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

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Judith Collins – Foot in Mouth Award? Or something more sinister?

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Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister in the previous John Key government, Judith Collins, has been ridiculed on social media after posting a comment on Twitter that was patently untrue;

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Wrong!! National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted. Restoring prisoners’ right to vote still not a priority – Andrew Little | Newshub

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Ms Collins stated-as-fact “National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted“.

Twitter posters were quick to point out that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was indeed a National government Bill. The Bill was introduced by then-National MP, Paul Quinn, on 10 February 2010.

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Mr Quinn’s Bill passed it’s third reading on 8 December 2010, with National’s fiftyeight MPs and ACT’s five MPs voting it into law.

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party, Jim Anderton (as the Progressive Party), and Peter Dunne (as the United Future)  voted against the Bill. Contrary to Ms Collins advising people to “note where NZF voted” – New Zealand First was not even present in Parliament at the time.

The Bill received Royal Assent from the Governor General seven days later, formally becoming the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010.

Ms Collins was wrong in almost every respect in her August 12, 2019  Twitter post: the law was National’s from beginning to end.

Her blunder (or wilful misrepresentation) was compounded when her Leader, Simon Bridges, publicly confirmed Ms Collins’ “tweet” as mis-information;

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It’s our law – we believed in it then and we still believe in it so we will oppose change. Quite simply if you do a crime that’s serious enough for jail you lose a number of rights, including most importantly your liberty, but also we think it’s right while you’re in prison you lose that right to vote.”

Simon Bridges’ statement owning the 2010 law change made Judith Collins look like a complete fool. She was lucky that her Twitter post did not gain wider media and public traction. (Those two really need to talk more often.)

This is not the first time Ms Collins has publicly mis-represented an issue. In August last year, Ms Collins used social media to promote a bogus ‘story’ from a fake news site;

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The mainstream media coverage was brutal in condemnation;

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Ms Collins was unrepentant, resorting to verbal gymnastics to defend her ‘right’ to spread lies;

I still share them because, actually, I don’t believe in censorship on people’s ideas.”

And politicians wonder why the public do not trust politicians?

National’s current Leader, Simon Bridges, made no attempt to reprimand his MP, saying;

“I’ve liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think when you’re scrolling through things, you know that’s created its own little controversy. I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that’s legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right.”

The reason that Mr Bridges failed to tell Ms Collins to remove her fake news post was simple and had little to do with fearing a challenge from his errant MP.

Ms Collins, along with every other National MP and Party apparatchik are presently engaged in a Trumpesque campaign to win next year’s election. Whether this involves half-truths or shonky data, or outright spread of lies – National will do whatever it takes to win.

As Chris Trotter wrote this month (15 August 2019);

“And so it begins, the National Party’s simultaneous descent and ascent. Downwards, into the dark territory of “whatever it takes”. Upwards, into the glare of electoral victory. It’s happening because the party’s present leader has convinced himself that it is only the first movement which makes possible the second.

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That is no small matter. Once truth and propaganda become fused in the minds of one’s followers, debate and discussion become redundant. If one’s opponents are all outrageous liars, then engaging with them in any way is pointless. Rather than waste its time, a political party should, instead, target all its messages at those who have yet to grasp the full mendacity of the other side. Tell these “persuadables” the truth – your truth – before the other parties tell them theirs.”

Whether Ms Collins knew that her comments regarding the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was true or not is utterly irrelevant.

National has entered into a propaganda blitz. They will use half-truths, exaggeration, out-of-context material, distortions, and outright fabrications to win next years’ election.

Whatever it takes.

They will use dog-whistles; throw ‘red-meat’ to bigots; demonise every group that their conservative base despises.

Whatever. It. Takes.

Thus is the style of election campaign strategy set from now till Election Day: Whatever it takes.

With an under-resourced mainstream media, it will be a Herculean task for journalists to keep track of National Party propaganda. It may take a day to fact-check assertions from National MPs – and by then, party apparatchiks will have moved on to the next part of their diabolical strategy. (Though on 29 July, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report Gyles Beckford challenged National leader Simon Bridges with dogged determination we rarely hear these days. )

Fortunately, they will still fail. New Zealanders, for the most part, don’t take kindly to Trumpian-style politics. And Simon Bridges is certainly no flamboyant Trump.

The only certainty is that Simon Bridges will not be leading the National Party in 2021.

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References

Wikipedia: Judith Collins, Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister

Twitter: Judith Collins – Prisoner Voting – 8:59AM August 12, 2019

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Parliament: Paul Quinn

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Wikipedia: NZ First – 2008 General Election

Radio NZ: NZ First tightlipped on prisoners’ voting rights

Twitter: Judith Collins – Fake News Twitter – 12:36 PM  Aug 6, 2018

Mediaworks/Newshub: Judith Collins defends her fake news tweet to Jacinda Ardern

TVNZ: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’ – Judith Collins stands firm over tweeting from ‘fake news’ site

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins defends linking to fake news article on France consent laws

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins digs in heels on fake news story

Radio NZ: Collins on fake news tweet: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’

NewstalkZB: Judith Collins slammed for retweeting fake news

Radio NZ: Collins’ fake news blunder a Bridges fail

Twitter: National Party – manufacturing graph – twitter – 5.24 PM  Aug 16, 2019

The Daily Blog: Chris Trotter – Simon Bridges Leads National Down Into The Dark

National Party: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges criticises govt’s cancer treatment spending

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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The Daily Blog: The madness of Judith Collin’s fake news tweet

The Standard: Is Judith Collins willing to denounce the use of fake news?

The Standard: Of course Judith should #DeleteTheTweet

Previous related blogposts

Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 August 2019.

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Recycling – National Party style. Something embarrassing about Mr Bridges conference speech uncovered

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Current Leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges gave the usual rah-rah speech to the Loyal & Faithful in Christchurch today (27 July). With National’s party polling and his own personal popularity sliding steadily in the polls, Mr Bridges has not much left to reverse his fortunes.

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The entire Conference was geared toward promoting Simon Bridges to the public.

Even his wife, Natalie Bridges, was pressganged to put in a good word for her husband;

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However, it was Mr Bridges’ speech that really stood out – though not for the right reasons.

When this blogger heard certain parts to it, there was a sense of deja vu. It was as if I had heard the speech before. In fact, listening to other parts of it, I was sure I had.  From eleven years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 30 January 2008, then leader of the National Party, John Key gave his own “State of the Nation” speech, whilst still in Opposition. Mr Key said;

“So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this: Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand? Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, Simon Bridges said;

“We cannot and will not sit back and think this is as good as it gets. You deserve better, you deserve and are entitled to expect a government that delivers.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof? […] We know you cringe at the thought of filling up the car, paying for the groceries, or trying to pay off your credit card. “

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“I feel a deep sense of urgency as I watch this country that I love falter, as I see middle New Zealanders struggling to pay increasing rents and to put petrol in their car.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A housing market that builds houses.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“The New Zealand that I want to lead will not have a two class health system that provides care for those who can pay and leaves others suffering because they can’t.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“A strong economy means confident thriving businesses that create more jobs and increase incomes.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder…”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We know it’s the men and women of New Zealand that work hard…”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“National has a plan and a track record of getting things done. We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.”

 

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.”

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“This year, signs are emerging that the winds of global growth have not only stopped but are turning into a head wind.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“All that platitudes and hope have given us is a weakening economy that’s not delivering for anyone.”

 

 

 

 

In 2008, John Key said;

“We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.”

 

 

Simon Bridges said;

“We are the party of infrastructure.”

 

And there’s more. Read both speeches and the repetition is startling and humourous. As if someone had dusted off past speeches; re-ordered a few words, and then handed it over to Mr Bridges.

Different decade, same bovine excrement. Political manure at it’s best.

This is recycling, done National-style.

Expect more of the same last nine years of National should that party find a coalition partner to propel it over the 50% party vote line.

Which, all humour aside, is a dangerous prospect. With New Zealand – and the entire planet – is facing unprecedented challenges (ie; crises) such as worsening climate change, and resurgent nationalism,  growing from social stresses and dislocation. There are war drums on the horizon.

National has not demonstrated it is a forward-looking political party. It’s “more-of-the-same, business-as-usual” philosophy, as demonstrated by Mr Bridges’ recycled speech,  is simply not tenable.

National’s contempt and constant undermining of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a cynical ploy to win votes. It is short-term self-interest, done at the expense of our climate and future generations.

If National can re-cycle a speech from eleven years ago, it clearly demonstrates it has no new ideas.

Check out Simon Bridges’ speech. He does not mention climate change at all. The word “environment” is barely mentioned once, in passing. Even then it is in the context of growing the economy.

National is a relic of a by-gone age. For the 21st Century, it is simply not fit for purpose.

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References

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges: ‘NZ can’t afford another three years of this government’

National Party: Speech to National Party Conference. Our bottom line – You (alt.link)

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Other blogposts

The Standard:  The weasel accurately dissects National

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 July  2019.

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Back to the Future Past with Paul Goldsmith

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On 25 June, Amy Adams (the National MP, not the actor portraying Lois Lane, Superman’s on-again/off-again love interest in the movies) announced she would be retiring from politics next year, not contesting the 2020 General Election.

National appears to have been short on experienced talent when they quickly announced her replacement as Opposition Finance spokesperson as Epsom’s Not-MP, Paul Goldsmith. Mr Goldsmith’s two stand-out political achievements thus far have been;

1. Standing for the Epsom electorate in 2011 as a “Clayton’s” Candidate in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge deal between National and ACT. The cuppa-tea-deal for (first) John Banks (and subsequently David Seymour) allowed him to secure the Epsom Electorate in an effort to bring in additional MPs on the ACT Party List. (Winning only 1.7% of the Party Vote, the cunning plan failed.)

2. Being the only known political candidate in recorded human history to deliberately remove election signs so voters would not vote for him.

National appointed Mr Goldsmith’s as their latest Finance spokesperson barely three hours and three minutes after Ms Adams’ announcement was made public.

Whatever experience Mr Goldsmith has to propel him into the Opposition Finance spokesperson position is unclear. His experience in the private sector is questionable, as his own National Party bio reveals:

Before entering Parliament, Paul created his own business as a historian and biographer focusing on New Zealand’s history and economic development. He has published 10 books, his last were biographies of Alan Gibbs (Serious Fun) and Sir William Gallagher (Legend). Between 2007 and 2010 he served as an Auckland City Councillor.

According to the same bio we are informed that  “he is an enthusiastic pianist”. (Good to know. As the fate of the Titanic showed, musicians are always handy to have around when a doomed ship goes down.)

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Despite lacking any personal experience in the commercial sector, it has not prevented Mr Goldsmith expressing firm neo-liberal beliefs. In 2015, as  National’s Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, he stated his categorical opposition to regulating corporate activities such as incentivising insurance brokers from selling products to clients who may or may not need them.

Instead, he opted for the usual “light handed” approach;

“I can’t rule it out, but I think it’s highly unlikely. I don’t personally like the idea of Government directly regulating such things.

The preference would be devising a disclosure regime, which is clear and simple and effective. There are countries around the world that ban commissions, full stop, and I think that’s probably carrying it too far.”

As Jenée Tibshraeny explained for Interest.co.nz;

“The main argument against commission is that it risks distorting the advice clients are given, as they’re often unaware of the perks their broker or adviser may receive for recommending different products.”

It appears obvious that Mr Goldsmith’s sympathies align more with corporate interests and defending the laissez-faire status quo rather than protecting consumers. (Only National could so blatantly subvert the role of “Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs” until the “Consumer Affairs” part of the ministerial title became meaningless.)

As if to underscore his disdain for safety in pursuit of unfettered de-regulation, in July last year, Mr Goldsmith drafted a Private Member’s Bill that would remove the 10pm “curfew” for new drivers on Restricted-class car licences. His rationale was that Restricted Licences potentially interfered with late-night work shifts;

“A lot of people at that age – in their last year of school or at university – have jobs in the hospitality sector. Very often, those shifts don’t finish until 10.30pm or somewhere around there, and it’s just a pain in the neck [to get home].”

However, Mr Goldsmith seemed oblivious (or simply did not care) to existing provisions where the New Zealand Transport Agency regulations permitted flexibility to Restricted licence requirements. As Fairfax journalist Damian George pointed out;

New Zealand Transport Agency regulations allowed for exemptions in special circumstances. The agency said 750 of 1585 exemption applications, primarily for driving hours, were approved for restricted drivers last year.

Automobile Association road safety spokesperson, Dylan Thomsen, was clearly not impressed.  He also pointed out that young  (under 25) drivers were predominantly involved in crashes and fatalities on New Zealand roads, especially at nights.

In early June this year, Mr Goldsmith slammed proposals from Associate Transport Minister, Julie Anne Genter, to reduce the speed limit on some open roads in this country. The NZTA revealed that “87 percent of speed limits on New Zealand roads are higher than is safe. An agency risk assessment tool, Mega Maps, suggests only 5 percent of the open road should have the current 100km/h speed limit. In most cases a speed of 60-80 km/h should apply, and in most urban areas 30-40 km/h would be appropriate“.

Mr Goldsmith’s extreme knee-jerk reaction on the same day bordered on “shower head-style” mischief-making;

“The reality is, New Zealanders lead busy lives and don’t want the Government telling them they need to operate at a slower pace. They would rather see their tax dollars spent on new, high-quality roads that are safe for them drive on at 100kmh, but this Government hasn’t built a single new road.

Drastically cutting speed limits to improve road safety is too simplistic. It would further isolate people living in regional New Zealand and pull the handbrake on our economy by hindering the movement of freight.”

Mr Goldsmith’s comments run counter to National’s previous Associate Transport Minister, Craig Foss, who recognised that some speed limits were inappropriate for certain stretches of roads. In November 2016, Mr Foss announced;

“New Zealand roads are unique and conditions vary from towns to cities, north to south. The Guide strongly encourages community involvement as local knowledge and perspectives, backed by the information and data provided in the Guide, will help ensure the best possible safety results.

Changes made under the Guide may include altering road design, lowering speed limits, or in certain circumstances, raising them.”

It is no secret that many of New Zealand’s roads are utterly unsuitable for high speeds. For Mr Goldsmith to “play politics” on this issue sadly demonstrates his willingness to exploit people’s lives when it suits his personal political agenda.

On 3 July, Mr Goldsmith told quasi-National Party chat-show host, Duncan Garner, on TV3’s ‘The AM Show;

Goldsmith also wants to look at dialing back excessive regulations, such as by reforming the Resource Management Act and reviewing health and safety laws.

“The health and safety laws were ones that we brought in and I think we need to just make sure we haven’t gone too far.”

Health and safety… “gone too far“?

Mr Goldsmith’s memory and grasp of recent historical events must be very poor indeed. He has apparently overlooked (or is ignorant of) instances of de-regulation in the early 1990s – the height of Small Government mania where common sense gave way to free market ideological purity – which has  cost us dearly. And not just in monetary terms.

The de-regulation of the New Zealand building industry can be pin-pointed with the “reforms” of the Building Act 1991. In essence, the Act “changed building controls from a prescriptive system to a more self-regulated regime“.

The resulting self-policing resulted in a free-for-all where caveat emptor  became the new standard for buying a home in New Zealand. Minimal regulation; self-policing; hands-off government… what could possibly go wrong?

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In 2009, Price Waterhouse Coopers stated in a report on leaky homes that there were up to 89,000 homes affected throughout New Zealand. Remedial cost: $11.3 billion dollars.

Another leaky homes consultant put the true cost of remedial work at a staggering $23 billion.

“Legal Vision” – a firm of barristers and solicitors wrote a lengthy, detailed analysis of the failures of our building industry in the 1990s. With regards to de-regulation and the Building Act 1991, they concluded;

There was a lack of accountability for those responsible for construction mishaps/defects. The market forces in themselves were not sufficient to protect the key stakeholder being the home owner. The power imbalance as between home owner and the supplier was significant, such that you cannot rely upon market forces alone to protect the home owner. There was little to protect them within the 1991 Act and other legislation.

The financial and legal consequences from rotting homes would make send many in the industry – from builders to private certifiers (outsourced from local bodies) bankrupt – often to escape their liabilities.

The financial, political, and social fall-out would last for decades. As then-North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said nine years ago;

“The Government must accept its own liability for the deregulation experiment inflicted on the building industry and local government and take responsibility for the liability accumulated by the private sector builders, designers, architects and certifiers who are now insolvent and unable to meet their responsibilities to leaky-home owners.

Unless these wider issues are dealt with, and dealt with soon, the ratepayers of the new Super City will be burdened for years, and the Government’s brave new world for Auckland governance will never be fully realised.”

As economist, Brian Easton, assessing the failures of the “reformed” Building Act, said in 2010;

The early 1990s was a period when the market extremists were still triumphant, and there was frequent reference to ‘light-handed regulation’, referring to a regulatory system in which the government is not very active but the regulation is based upon normal market practices, including litigation for breach of contract (perhaps under the Consumer Guarantees Act in cases where the contract was not very elaborate). Ideally, the threat of litigation is sufficient to ensure that the contractor maintains the agreed standards.

It appears that little thought was put into considering the issue of what redress the house owner would have if the performance standards were not attained. Suppose the cladding fell off after 14 years? Under light-handed regulation the aggrieved party can take the matter to litigation, but who exactly is to be sued? The above account suggests that there are many involved, and all, to some extent, may be at fault: the local authority, its building inspector, the builder, the architect, the buildings material supplier, the developer, the home owner who onsold, and even the legislators and their advisers who passed the relevant legislation. In such situations fault can be very difficult to establish in law.

Or perhaps Mr Goldsmith is thinking of the de-regulation of the Labour Dept, Mining Inspectorate, and safety legislation – also in the early 1990s.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) now “impose[d] the obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure safety at work“.

Then, Pike River happened.

An independent review commissioned by the then-Chief Executive of the Department of Labour revealed the nature of the new, de-regulated environment which dangerous workplaces such as mines, now operated.

The report optimistically set out expectations of of the HSE Act;

11. The nature of the Department’s regulatory role is set out in the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act). The principal plank of the legislation imposes the obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure safety at work. The Department sees its role under the Act as being to ensure that employers are aware of their obligations, to support and assist them to understand and give effect to these obligations and to enforce as appropriate.

And then revealed a staggering flaw in the Act;

15. There was one gap in this picture. The inspectors did not conduct general safety systems audits. They were not required to do so by their work plans. The approach the mine inspectors took in scrutinising specific complex and technical mine safety issues confronting the mine, is an appropriate one for a technical and specialist area involving high hazards. However, this approach should be complemented by also paying attention to general systems. In high hazard industries, inspectors should engage in an integrated approach that involves systems audits and in-depth scrutiny of specific, often technically complex safety issues. We note that in future the Department plans to complement its regulatory approach with a greater level of emphasis on safety system audits. When it does so, it will need to equip its inspectors with the training and support tools to successfully perform this role.

The report was damning in pointing out the utter failure of the so-called Health and Safety in Employment Act to actually do what it’s label demanded of it: to provide health and safety in employment;

45. In broad terms, the HSE Act replaced heavily prescriptive standards (telling duty holders precisely what measures to take in a particular situation) with a performance-based approach, primarily by imposing general duties (sometimes referred to as goal setting regulation) such as to take ‘all practicable steps’ to ensure health and safety, leaving it to the discretion of the duty holder how they achieve that standard. This approach was coupled with greater use of performance standards that specify the outcome of the health and safety improvement or the desired level of performance but leave the concrete measures to achieve this end open for the duty holder to adapt to varying local circumstances. There was also a focus on systemsbased standards. These identify a particular process, or series of steps, to be followed in the pursuit of safety, and may include the use of formal health and safety management systems.

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…

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50. Put differently, whereas under the previous legislation, inspectors had been expected to go into workplaces and direct duty holders as to what safety measures they should introduce (the expectation being that the inspector rather than the employer would take the initiative) under the HSE Act employers bear primary responsibility for health and safety while providing information and support, particularly when it comes to establishing and developing health and safety systems and processes and takes enforcement action where the employer fails to meet the practicability standard.”

Again, “reforms” replaced set prescriptive standards of safety with individual self-policing and self-regulation.

As well as deferring health and safety to individual companies, the government mines inspectorate was reduced to a shadow of it’s former self.

Amongst other things the Coal Mines Act 1979 took a strong, proactive approach to safeguarding health and safety in the country’s mines. The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy described the role of the mines inspectors;

“…provided for a chief inspector, district, electrical and mechanical inspectors of coal mines. Chief inspectors could support and review the actions of the inspectors. They held first class coal mine manager’s certificates and had significant coal mining expertise, usually as manager of a large and challenging New Zealand mine such as Strongman, which had problems with gas and spontaneous combustion.

…District inspectors had coal mining expertise and inspected mines within a particular geographical area. Inspections occurred with and without notice and following notification of incidents and accidents. Small mines were inspected monthly and large mines inspected weekly“.

The coal mines inspectorate was a unit with the then Ministry of Energy.

From 1993 to 1998 the MIG consisted of about 20 to 25 people. In 1995, for example, there were three coal inspectors, three mining engineers, five quarry inspectors, one electrical/mechanical engineer, two petroleum/ geothermal inspectors, two regional managers, one group manager and eight support staff.

In 1989, the Mines Inspectorate Group (MIG) was transferred to the Minister of Commerce. After considerable opposition from the MIG, the group was transfered to the then Department of Labour.

Staff rationalisation then proceeded with a vengeance.

Mines inspections were reduced from once every two months  in 1993/94 to every three months by 1995. By the time the Mines Inspectorate Group was incorporated into the DoL, it ceased being a separate entity and became part of general workplace safety inspectors.

Most mines inspectors resigned.

Only three dedicated mines inspectors remained by 2001.

From 2001 to 2011 the number of mines inspectors fluctuated between one and two – for the entire country. When one of those inspectors resigned in 2011,  one  was left by himself, for several months, to monitor every mine in New Zealand.

The gutting of the Mines Inspectorate over several governments and decades was a breathtaking act of stupidity for what was undoubtedly one of the most dangerous industries in the world.

The consequence was inevitable. On 19 November 2010,the ticking time bomb detonated:  a series of methane explosions at Pike River Mine killed twentynine miners.

In an almost perverse understatement, The Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy reported,

DOL now appreciates the importance of, and deficiencies in, its leadership of health and safety. As the minister’s proposal noted, ‘the Pike River tragedy and Royal Commission hearings indicate areas of weakness in the effectiveness and credibility of the regulator, and the ability to support industry-led activity and effective employee participation’.

As if to underscore the findings of the Royal Commission, another government enquiry, the  Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in 2013 wrote scathingly of our current mania for de-regulation;

Ultimately, New Zealand implemented a much lighter version of the Robens [workplace health and safety self-regulated by employers] model, and much later, than other countries. This light implementation reflected a range of New Zealand-specific factors during the late 1980s and 1990s, notably resource constraints (including public sector staff cuts), changing attitudes towards the roles of government and business (including an ethos of business self-regulation), and liberalisation of the labour market with weakened union representation.

As if to drive home the point, the Taskforce spelled it out for us:

Our national culture includes a high level of tolerance for risk, and negative perceptions of health and safety. Kiwi stoicism, deference to authority, laid-back complacency and suspicion of red tape all affect behaviour from the boardroom to the shop floor.

For those who see human life in purely monetary terms, the Taskforce estimated that the cost of workplace injuries was approximately $3.5 billion a year – nearly 2% of GDP.

Then-Labour Minister – and currently holding the position of Leader of the National Party – Simon Bridges, accepted the Taskforce’s report;

“The Working Safer package represents a major step change in New Zealand’s approach to meet our target of reducing the workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020,” says Mr Bridges.

The reforms recalibrate our approach so we are working smarter, targeting risk and working together to improve performance in workplace health and safety.

Working Safer addresses the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which provided Government with a solid foundation to work from.

We will improve the legislation and back it up with clear guidelines and enforcement, and investment in a strong new regulator WorkSafe New Zealand.”

So when Paul Goldsmith recently said to Duncan Garner;

“The health and safety laws were ones that we brought in and I think we need to just make sure we haven’t gone too far.”

– he had obviously missed the memo from his current Leader.

The cost of de-regulation in our building industry is estimated in excess of $23 billion.

The cost of de-regulation and watering-down of safety practices in our work places: injuries; permanent disabilities; and lives lost. In other words: incalculable.

If the definition of lunacy is to repeat the same thing over and over again, expecting differing results, then the National Party has been wildly successful: it is a party of lunatic ideologues.

It has not learned a single thing from our recent, well-publicised, recent history.

Who else will be injured, maimed, or killed, in the name of de-regulation if Paul Goldsmith gets his way?

Mr Goldsmith should not be allowed anywhere near a ministerial position. He is not fit for any role of responsibility.

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Postscript

Since December 2010 – one month after the Pike River Mine disaster – 422 people have been killed in workplace accidents:

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References

Parliament: Hon Amy Adams

Youtube:  Lois & Clark | In My Veins ( Batman vs Superman Drawn of Justice)

Radio NZ: Senior National MP Amy Adams to retire from politics

NZ Herald: Leaky homes a disaster and a $2b tax windfall

MoBIE: Dept of Labour – Pike River Mine Review

Parliament: Paul Goldsmith

Wikipedia: 2011 New Zealand general election – Epsom and the Tea Tape scandal

The Standard: Goldsmith removing Goldsmith signs

Scoop media: National Party Caucus reshuffle announced

Scoop media: Amy Adams to retire from politics at election

National Party: About Paul

Interest.co.nz: Minister Paul Goldsmith admits he doesn’t like the idea of the Govt directly regulating how insurers incentivise advisers to sell their products

Fairfax/Stuff media: Member’s bill to scrap curfew for restricted licence holders so they can get to work

Scoop media: Minister shows how misguided she is on speed limits

Radio NZ: ‘Huge majority’ of NZers would prefer lower speeds on some roads – Genter

Scoop media: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

Scoop media: A new approach to safer speeds

Mediaworks/Newshub: National Party Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith outlines plan for cutting regulation, taxes

Wikipedia: Leaky homes crisis

Merriam Webster: caveat emptor

MoBIE: Building Performance – Signs of a leaky home

Leaky Homes: A New Zealand Crisis

NZ Herald: Leaky homeowners on suicide watch

NZ Herald: Leaky-home bill estimated at $6.3b

NZ Herald: Repaired leaky homes worth 1/4 less

Fairfax/Stuff: 15 years of leaky homes and the brutal economics of owning one

Homes to Love: 10 tell-tale signs you have a leaky home

NZ Herald: It’s not if – it’s when for our dripping time bombs

Interest.co.nz: Price Waterhouse Coopers – Weathertightness – Estimating the Cost

Legal Vision:  Failings of the Building Act 1991 – Were these a cause of the leaky building crisis?

Brian Easton: Regulatory Lessons from the Leaky Home Experience

MoBIE/Dept of Labour: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy: The decline of the mining inspectorate

Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy: Chapter 24 -Effectiveness of the health and safety regulator
– Leadership of health and safety

Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety: Key Findings

Scoop media: Major reform of workplace health and safety (alt.link)

Worksafe: Workplace fatalities for all industries, all regions, all ages, from Dec 2010 to Jul 2019

Additional

Ministry of Labour: A Guide to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992

Other Blogs

Tumeke: The myth of over-regulation and the delusion of self-regulation

The Standard: Two faced John Key on Pike River

Previous related blogposts

This will end in tears

A hole they all dug?

A lethal lesson in de-regulation

Heather Roy – head down the mine shaft?

Health and safety jobcuts? Haven’t we been down this road before?!

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 July 2019.

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Ripples in History

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Question: What is the difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade?

Answer, later.

On 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved. Two years earlier, the Berlin Wall had been physically torn down by jubilant Berliners. (The symbolism of the Berlin Wall as divisive and an affront to the human spirit seems not to have be well understood by the current demagogue-President of the United States, who is maniacally pursuing his own version of a Dividing Wall between neighbouring nations.)

The reasons for the collapse of the Soviet system have been well traversed. But in the end, it boiled down to a simple reality: people simply no longer believed in, or cared about, the Soviet brand of authoritarian “socialism” and apathy reigned (as related to me by Hungarians in the late ’70s and early ’80s).

As the former Soviet Union broke apart and it’s bulwark of Eastern European nations looked westward for  their future, the fallout from the demise of one of the three great super-powers created ripples that would last for decades. Some of the unintended consequences are still not fully widely appreciated.

The United States, for a while, was hailed as the “the sole global superpower“. Writing in 2012, Mikhail Gorbachev said;

This event led to euphoria and a “winner’s complex” among the American political elite. The United States could not resist the temptation to announce its “victory” in the cold war. The “sole remaining superpower” staked a claim to monopoly leadership in world affairs. That, and the equating of the breakup of the Soviet Union with the end of the cold war, which in reality had ended two years before, has had far-reaching consequences. Therein are the roots of many mistakes that have brought the world to its current troubled state.

Declarations of an “American victory” were somewhat premature. In reality, with the rise of the Chinese economy and a resurgent Russia, the 21st Century would be anything but American.

The break-up of the former Soviet Union was also hailed as a “signal” to  humanity that the experiment of  collectivisation and state ownership of all means of production was a failure. As Indian Marxist, E.M.S. Namboodiripad wrote in 1991;

Today, however, talks are going on that not only have the socialist experiments in the USSR and Eastern Europe failed, but world socialism has collapsed. Adversaries of the socialist movement argue chat, far from the Soviet Union being the starting point of humanity’s transition from capitalism to socialism, the socialist countries in Eastern Europe including the Soviet Union have begun their march from socialism to capitalism. From this they go on to add that the theory of Marxism-Leninism itself has failed.

We Marxist-Leninists are above all realists and, as realists, we concede that the recent events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are a major setback to world socialism. We are therefore engaging ourselves in the process of a deep examination of the reasons why these developments took place and whether the trend that manifested itself in these developments can be reversed.

But there were other strands of fallout. The term “socialism” became – as the word “fascism” was after 1945 – a disparaging epithet to throw at one’s political rival. Post-Soviet Union, “socialist” and “socialism” was equated with failure.

Socialism could no longer be seen as a credible alternative to the fad of neo-liberal, free-market, globalisation sweeping the world. Championed by Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US, it reached New Zealand’s shores in the mid-1980s.

The NZ Labour Party – supposedly a social democrat/socialist party for the working class – implemented radical liberalisation of trade, banking, commerce, labour laws. Economic “reforms” went hand-in-hand with social reforms such as the 1986 Homosexual Law reform in 1986, de-criminalisation of prostitution/solicitation  in 2003, and the marriage equality act in 2013.

The Labour Party had been well and truly captured by apostles to Thatcher and Reagan. It could no longer conceivably be called a social democratic or socialist party.

Aside from the short-lived Alliance Party (which imploded in 2002 over New Zealand coalition government’s decision to participate in the invasion of Afghanistan), the only other Parliamentary parties that feasibly represented left-wing voters were the Mana Movement, led by MP Hone Harawira, and the Green Party.  The Mana Movement itself was destroyed after an unholy alliance in 2014 between Labour,  National, NZ First, and the Maori Party to support the Labour Party candidate, Kelvin Davis.

Which currently leaves the Green Party to represent the Left of Aotearoa New Zealand’s political spectrum.

The Green Party itself is currently under attack from both ends of the Body Politic in this country.

Some media pundits and the Right  are calling for the Greens  to return to their “environmental base” whilst the Left are decrying the Greens as not left-wing enough.

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Meanwhile, the rise of populism and the far right paralled the spread of neo-liberal “reforms” around the world.

In 1998, only two nations in Europe – Switzerland and Slovakia – had governments made up in part by populist parties.

By February of this year, the number of  European nations with populist parties in coalition governments had increased to more than eleven. (More, if countries like Russia and Ukraine are included.)

Europe’s populism has been matched with Trump in the United States;  Erdogan in Turkey; Duterte in the Philippines; Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, etc. Throughout the world, populist parties – mostly (though not always) of a right-wing persuasion – have been on the rise.

The most obvious causes for the rise in right-wing populism has also been well-canvassed;

Most have tapped into a backlash against immigration and a globalized economy that many people feel has left them behind..

[…]

The common thread dates back to the 2008 financial crisis, which opened the door for many populists. Rising inequality and the perception of an unjust — if not corrupt — response to the crash eroded trust in the ability of established leaders to address shifts in the global economy, including technological change and the rise of China.

In Hungary, right-wing populism has taken on a distinct air of neo-fascism;

The biggest advances have been made in central and eastern Europe. All four so-called Visegrád countries are governed by populist parties including Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungary – where populist parties secured 63% of the vote in this year’s elections – and Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice in Poland.

Both parties only started showing their true colours – populist, culturally conservative, authoritarian – after they were first elected. They are now attacking core liberal institutions such as the independent judiciary and free press, increasingly defining national identities in terms of ethnicity and religion and demonising opponents, such as the Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros, in language reminiscent of the 1930s.

The public backlash against immigration, globalisation, with a concomitant loss of well-paying jobs, and the flow of wealth to the top 1 Percent is well known, understood, and documented;

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What is not well understood is why voters have generally turned away from traditional left-wing parties and policies, and increasingly voted for right-wing (and often far right-wing) populist parties.

In Europe, the backlash against orthodox neo-liberalism/globalisation resulted not in the election of a left-wing government – but in Brexit. In choosing to shun the European Union, British voters by a small majority literally walked away from the continental bloc.

Whether consciously or sub-consciously, this blogger contends the public view the Left as having failed the ultimate  test. The former Soviet Union – a super-power in the 20th century rising from a feudalistic monarchy to becoming a nuclear-armed, space-faring nation with global influence and aspirations – failed. And it failed dramatically with the whole world watching.

Since 1989/91, the televised spectacle of the collapse of the former Soviet Bloc has imprinted itself in the psyche of most of the world’s population. The message was made abundantly clear as the Berlin Wall came down; the Red Army retreated from Eastern Europe; and President Gorbachev passed laws making his Soviet Presidency redundant: the Left were unable (or unwilling) to staunch the neo-liberal/globalist orthodoxy.

Indeed, in almost every country, neo-liberalism/globalisation had ‘captured’ supposedly social democratic or centre-left parties such as the Labour Party in UK; the Democrats in US; Labour in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, etc.

Thus the parliamentary wing of  social democratic/centre-left offered no solutions. They were seen by the voting public as part of the problem.

If Nature abhors a vacuum, the same applies to the Political Environment. The fall of the former-Soviet Union created a political vacuum on the established Right-Left continuum.

That political vacuum would soon be filled as people sought solutions to what many perceived as an attack on their national identities; falling standard of living; unfulfilled aspirations; unresponsive traditional political parties, and the rise and rise of a tiny wealthy elite.

So it came to pass. The vacuum was filled, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, by populist parties and demagogic leaders who offered quick-fix, simplistic solutions. Cue: the trumpets of nationalism, racism, intolerance of minorities, and the emboldening of even worse extremism on the far-right and alt-right.

To compound the worsening political climate, the Left continued to make itself largely irrelevant to the everyday struggles of working and middle class New Zealanders.

A cursory look at blogposts on The Daily Blog, for example will quickly reveal that up until recently (17 April, to be precise) most blogposts were fixated on the issue of “free speech” and the Green Party. Green Party MP, Golriz Ghahraman, to be concise.

Meanwhile, out in the Real World…

teachers, mid-wives, and medical professionals were on strike for better pay.

… the environment continued to be polluted out of existence.

greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise.

mental health continued to be in crisis.

… savage covert cuts to disability funding were planned.

homelessness was still a ‘thing.

… our security apparatus failed us spectacularly by spying on the wrong people.

… the coalition government buckled to property speculators.

For many on the Left, though, the priority was “free speech”.

If ever there was an instance of a public “Meh!” moment,  this was it.

Just as the GCSB, NZSIS, NZ Police, and Uncle Tom Cobbly were all distracted by Greenpeace, environmental activists, journalists, bloggers, Maori activists, Christchurch Earthquake  survivors, et al, instead of keeping an eye on white supremacists/neo-fascists – the left-wing blogosphere was seemingly distracted by it’s own Shiny Thingy.

The recent furore on the issue of “free speech” and the Green Party’s call to address hate speech appeared to suggest that Aotearoa New Zealand was about to become a quasi-Stalinist state with bloggers and journalists rounded up and despatched to re-education camps on Stewart Island. The unhealthy obsession with the Green Party – Green MP, Golriz Ghahraman, to be precise – drew anger usually reserved for the likes of Don Brash, Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner, et al..

Although, with considerable grim irony, some on the Left were quite happy to protect the “free speech” for the likes of Southern, Molyneux, Brash, et al, whilst launching tirades against Ms Ghahraman.

There remains an ongoing systematic vilification of Ms Ghahraman instead of addressing the issues surrounding “free speech/hate speech”. Some of the vitriol heaped on Ms Ghahraman took on sinister under-tones of misogyny and racism.

That some of the personal abuse has appeared on left-wing forums is especially troubling.

Yet, despite hysterical screams of outrage that the Green Party was advocating stifling “free speech”, a closer examination of their proposal was anything but.

In a recent post on social media, Ms Ghahraman posed a valid question;

“You’re not allowed to harass, or to make up lies that harm an individual. It’s against the law.

However you are allowed to spread hate and lies about a group of people based on their religion or gender, without consequence.

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So why are individuals protected from defamation,  or harassment,  but whole groups of people aren’t?”

The capitalist system is built on the primacy of individualism, property ownership, and reputational interests (which has a direct bearing on an individual’s commercial activities).

To protect that fundamental underpinning of capitalism, the rights of the capitalist individual was elevated above all else. Including above the needs of society itself.

In October 1987, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – architect of Britain’s neo-liberal, free-market “reforms” – was famously quoted in an interview saying;

And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first…”

Western law reflects the capitalist precept that the rights of individuals are recognised – but groups of people are not. (Class-action lawsuits are a rare exception, usually reserved for physical loss, such as mechanical failures, financial malfeasance, medical botch-ups, etc.)

Under the capitalist system, social groups are a nullity under the law.

Recent high-profile public defamation lawsuits have centered on Matthew Blomfield, Earl Hagaman, and Colin Craig.

All three cases involved lawsuits claiming defamation; suffering because of harmful untrue public statements, and sought awards for damages.

The case of Mr Blomfield successfully suing far-right blogger, Cameron Slater, was recently commented on The Daily Blog. Comments posted after the main article generally approved of businessman, Matthew Blomfield’s victory.

Yet, the right to sue does not extend to groups based on religion, ethnicity, gender/sex, etc.

That privilege is reserved solely for individuals. Those individuals are usually wealthy, white, and not women.

That was the point Green MP, Golriz Ghahraman was making. Or trying to make, as the issue was drowned out amidst a hysteria that veered well into moral panic.

It is salient to  note that “free speech” advocates remain mostly silent on this issue.

Free speech is not absolute. A person can be hauled before a court and sued for considerable sums of money if found guilty of defamation.

The legal system protects the rights of individuals.  Groups – not so fortunate. Because as pointed out above, capitalism is about the Individual. Groups – not so much.

At the beginning of this blogpost, I posed the question: What is the difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade?

Free trade is unfettered. It protects and serves the interests of  corporations. The goal is to maximise profits for individuals (shareholders) at the expense of all else.

Fair trade serves the interests of communities, as well as individuals in those communities. The goal is to better the lives of people, but not at the expense of all else (eg, the environment, workers’ rights, etc).

The Left prides itself on the point of difference from the Right in that we act for the collective good. The primacy of the Individual, at the expense of the greater good, is not something we generally look favourably upon.

We want our trade to be fair. Should we expect less for our public discourse?

It is a contradiction to our much vaunted progressive values that we extend the right to Individuals to legally defend themselves in a Court of Law against defamation and harm – yet deny that same right to groups who might also suffer defamation and harm.

We talk the talk when it comes to collective action for the greater good. We demand the right for workers to act collectively and join unions. We demand adequate taxation to pay for public education, healthcare, housing for the poor, environmental protection, support services for the disabled, etc, etc.

Yet, when it comes to walking the walk to extend the right to legal protections for groups –  some (many?) on the Left balk at extending the same legal rights extended to Individuals – usually wealthy businessmen or politicians in positions of power.

The irony is inescapable; that some on the Left seem wholly comfortable with wealthy businessmen being privileged with a legal right to defence against harmful speech that entire groups of people are not.

If we, as a society, are willing to have defamation laws available, they must be available to everyone, groups as sell as wealthy individuals. The law must be for all. Or not at all.

Those days of privilege can no longer be tolerated.

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References

CNN: Fall of the Berlin Wall – On 29th anniversary, it’s a different world

Norwich University: Exploring 5 Reasons for the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Noam Chomsky: Barack Obama and the ‘Unipolar Moment’

The Nation: Is the World Really Safer Without the Soviet Union?

E.M.S. Namboodiripad: ‘An Experiment that Failed’?  (alt. link)

Huffington Post: Trump Knocks Socialism And Bernie Sanders Does Not Look Pleased

NZ Herald: Prostitution decriminalised, brothels to be licensed

Scoop: Why The Alliance-Left Rebelled

Fairfax media: Winston Peters backs Labour’s Kelvin Davis

NZ Herald: Election 2014 –  Hone’s call to arms after Winston backs Kelvin

Fairfax media: Kelvin Davis blasts Mana Party  (alt. link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Lloyd Burr – The Greens have lost their way

The Daily Blog: If you think that the NZ Green Party (who are just as wedded to neoliberalism as Labour is) are your new political home, you are delusional

The Guardian: How populism emerged as an electoral force in Europe

Bloomberg: The Rise of Populism

Wikipedia: Right-wing populism

Vox: Forms and sources of inequality in the United States

The Irish Times: Conor O’Clery – Remembering the last day of the Soviet Union

Radio NZ: ‘No mandate’ for capital gains tax – PM

Fairfax/Stuff media: Secondary school teachers to strike, citing lack of patience with contract negotiations

Radio NZ: Midwives to strike next week

Fairfax/Stuff media: Resident doctors call back planned pre-Easter strike

Mediaworks/Newshub: New Zealand’s ‘dirtiest industry’ blasted over environment report

Climate News Network: Human carbon emissions to rise in 2019

Noted/The Listener: Youth mental health is in crisis and NZ is failing to keep up

NZ Herald: Limited showers, no meal prep – ‘Ruthless’ plans to cut disabled care revealed

NZ Herald: New report reveals the sharp end of homelessness in Wellington

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern announces Royal Commission into security agencies after Christchurch attack

Twitter: Golriz Ghahraman – Hate speech – 8:47am  17 April 2019

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

The Daily Blog: The Human Rights Review Tribunal has upheld a complaint against Cameron Slater and order that he pay $70,000 damages to Matthew Blomfield, one of the highest awards ever made.

Justrade: Prof Jane Kelsey & Jim Stanford

Additional

Green Party Aotearoa: Golriz Ghahraman speech in response to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks

Fairfax/Stuff media: MP lacks credibility in urging hate speech law

NZ Herald: Political Roundup – Outlawing hate speech and hate crimes

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings – Does New Zealand need hate speech laws after terror attacks?

Other Blogposts

Pundit: Doesn’t hate-speech need to include some hatred?

The Standard: Reflections on Free Speech and Public Discourse

The Standard: The Green Party on the Mosque murders

TDB:  Hone Harawira – Blaming black boys for a white boy massacre

TDB:  Recognising Hate Speech When You See It.

TDB:  Green Party start their campaign to curtail free speech – the danger of Millennial micro aggression policing culture defining hate speech

Previous related blogposts

National – the Party of free speech?! Yeah, right.

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2019.

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Tom Scott and Aramoana’s Long Shadow

From Tom Scott’s collection of cartoons, “Life in New Zealand” – his tribute to the Aramoana massacre on 13 November 1990 where a crazed gunman shot and killed thirteen people.

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The next one is a Public Service announcement to explain to “gun rights” enthusiasts what the purpose of weapons is:

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= fs =

A shameful response to Turkey’s generosity at Gallipoli

13 April 2019 3 comments

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– Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of Turkey (b. 1881 d. 1938)

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When President Atatürk uttered those words* in the plaque at the top of this page, it was an act of humanity, love, and generosity that few other leaders of a nation have demonstrated. Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela spring to mind, but the list is depressingly short.

Consider the compassion of the man. British Imperial forces made up of Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on Turkish soil in April 1915 in a doomed eight month invasion that cost  250,000 Allied casualties, including 44,000 dead.

The Turkish defenders also suffered 250,000 casualties, but with a higher number killed: 87,000.

When we in Australia and New Zealand cry, Lest We Forget our  fallen soldiers, we should also never forget President Atatürk’s comforting words.

And not just words either. Turkey has walked-the-walk. Every year, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders make a pilgrimage to the shores of Gallipoli.

The Turkish government and people not only tolerate this annual “re-invasion” of thousands of foreigners on their soil, commemorating an invasion that took the lives of thousands of young Turkish men, but assist with infra-structure from everything from road signage in English to facilities for the thousands who attend;

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With this Turkish generosity, the Dawn Service proceeds every year;

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You have to ask yourself one simple question: would we be so benign?

Would we be so welcoming to thousands of foreign young people; government officials; and representatives of their military , to commemorate the dead soldiers of an alien invasion force that had landed on our shores, killing many thousands of our own troops?

In case anyone thinks the answer is a simple ‘yes’ – it is by no means “simple” at all.

Afghanistan war veteran, Simon Strombom, from the Titahi Bay branch of the Returned and Services Association (RSA), had planned to invite Newlands Mosque imam, Mohamed Zewada, to say a brief prayer at its dawn service on Titahi Bay Beach. The prayer would have lasted about sixty seconds, in rememberance of the fifty murdered people, and others injured, at the Christchurch mosques on 15 March.

The response was an apalling torrent of resentment, abuse, and threats that went from the intolerant;

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Anzac Day came about to recognise all those who went overseas and served their country and returned, and those who never returned. That is the significance and the only justification for Anzac Day, and I feel it should stay that way.” – Dave Brown,  (former manager) Porirua RSA

The Titahi Bay Club, well, you’re completely disrespecting New Zealand culture on a day that is uniquely shared between us and Australia.” – Brendon Walton, New Plymouth

Dawn service is to honour the Anzacs. Anything else can be done at civic services.” – Peter Downie, (Malaya war veteran) Cambridge

We shouldn’t mix the two events. We have traditionally been a Christian country in terms of our services and that type of thing. Obviously we are a multicultural country now so it’s up to individual RSAs, but they are two separate events.” – Graham Gibson, Auckland RSA president

I was, to be quite honest, I was pretty disgusted. These people – and again, I’m trying not to be nasty about it because that’s not my intent – but New Zealand has been very, very welcoming for all people’s, all races, all beliefs and all religions which is absolutely fantastic, but we can’t step away from our tradition. A terrible tragedy has just happened and I feel for the people that died but Anzac Day is not that day for them – it is a day for our guys.” – Lee Sutton (former RNZAF)

I mean we’ve just had a global recognition of that last Friday so I don’t think there is a need to do it again on Anzac Day.” – Bob Davies (former New Zealand Army)

“It’s going to be a huge police presence, security is going to be a major issue, so from our perspective, while we respect exactly what happened and the feeling of the community, this is Anzac Day, and it’s a different purpose.”Pete Dawson, Christchurch RSA president

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… to outright threats;

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The threats became so severe that Stromberg consulted with Police and eventually decided against inviting the imam to give his one minute prayer.

Sometimes the threat of a terror attack is sufficient to achieve desired outcomes by the intolerant and fanatical. (Meanwhile, free speech advocates were nowhere to be heard or seen during this assault on our much-vaunted multicultural values.)

Whilst a rabid, vociferous minority (hopefully, a minority?) spewed their toxic racism, other social media commenters understood the inconsistancy of our people attending ANZAC services en masse in Turkey, a muslim country;

” #ANZACDay has nothing to do with Muslims…..right??? Except #Gallipoli, where #ANZAC soldiers fought, is in a #Muslim country. Where #ANZAC troops were trying to invade a #Muslim country. On behalf of the colonial power of the UK.”

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana also pointed out the rank hypocrisy of opponants to the imam’s one minute prayer;

We go to Turkey and say our prayers, perform our haka and sing our song and we are welcomed by people in a predominantly Muslim country.

The most significant thing I can think of was Atatürk allowing people into Anzac Cove to remember our people. If there’s an example of kindness, it’s that.

I do not believe for a moment that the hostility and threats expressed against the proposed prayer by an imam would have corrupted our precious ANZAC ceremony.  No more than the thousands who visit Gallipoli in any way create harm to the people and threaten the social thread of Turkey.

In 1915, we were warring with Turkey.

One hundred and four years later we are friends with that nation and they welcome us to their shores to commemorate our fallen ancestors. Turkey offers us the charity that we profess to value as a so-called Christian nation.

I witnessed very little Christian charity from the bigots who attacked Stromberg’s invitation to the local imam. In fact, it was the same intolerance and hate that they accuse Islamist extremists of.

Those bigots, I believe, are a noisy, unpleasant minority. Like fat blowflies.

Most New Zealanders would not fear the End of the World had the imam uttered his one minute of prayer. Civilisation would not collapse. The sun would still rise tomorrow. And we would have been a better nation; a more tolerant one.

We are better than those bigots. In fact, we’ve seen it with our own eyes.

In the years and decades to come, our Day of Infamy on 15 March 2019 will be remembered. Just as we now remember the attack on Parihaka. It will be a defining point in our history: we were tested, and I believe – despite all the scabs and warts – we emerged knowing ourselves a bit better. We are tolerant, in the main, and we do show compassion.

Despite everything, the Kiwi Way of giving others a Fair Go survives.

We should be damned proud of that.

And just as important, we have shown the world what the road to tolerance, compassion, and love looks like. Muslim and non-muslim alike, we locked arms – literally – in unity. We grieved together as a nation. We have a Prime Minister who caught the world’s attention. An act of barbaric violence was met with love and forgiveness.

After the darkness of 15 March, the willingness of people to forego hate and vengeance shone through. It seemed a collective, spiritual response reminiscent of  the Christmas Miracle of 1914.

Not bad for a little nation at the bottom of the world.

 

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[* Postscript: There is some debate whether or not Atatürk ever said those words. Like characters in the Bible, and other famous figures in the past, there will always be contentious views who-said-what throughout history. My story focuses on the sentiment expressed through those words, regardless who uttered them. – Frank Macskasy]

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References

NZ History: The Gallipoli campaign

NZ Herald: Muslim prayer at Anzac Day service upsets RSA veterans

Radio NZ: Muslim prayer dropped from Anzac service after threats

Fairfax/Stuff: Muslim prayer at Porirua Anzac Day service scrapped over security concerns

Twitter: Stories from the Sea – 4 April 2019 1.57PM

CNN: One week after Christchurch shootings, hundreds form human chain around New Zealand mosque

The Guardian: The Christmas miracle

Radio NZ: Christchurch mosque attack survivor Farid Ahmed – ‘I have chosen love and I have forgiven’

Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Johnnies and Mehmets’ – Kemal Ataturk’s ‘quote’ is an Anzac confidence trick

Related

NZ Herald:  Paul Little – RSA has had enough of support for New Zealand’s Muslim community since attacks

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  Shadows Of The Past.

Liberation:  John Moore – Anzac Day cultural wars

The Standard: This Is Who We Really Are

Previous related blogposts

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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

War – the line between rememberance and glorification

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

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

9 April 2019 2 comments

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History throughout the 20th century is replete with authoritarian regimes using  closed, secret trials to persecute dissidents. Closed, secret trials give a veneer of legal “respectability” to an autocratic regime that wants to do away with its critics, but without giving too much away to the public how they do it.

Or what the defendant might say in his/her defence.

The British conducted secret trials with their “Star Chamber“. From the late 15th century to the mid-17th century, the Star Chamber was a weaponised judicial system to serve the interests of the powerful elite.

Soviet Russia under Stalin perfected the system into an ‘artform’. Trials were secret before public show-trials were made for public consumption.

Often many of these “state enemies” were military officers, party leaders, and functionaries who had fallen “out of favour” with the ruling clique or somehow threatened the status-quo.

Other dissidents – intellectuals, academics, trade unionists, scientists, etc –  engaged in nothing more violent than a ‘ war of words’ and ‘contest of ideas’ with the regime. Autocratic regimes are not noted for tolerating a contest of anything, much less ideas that threaten their legitimacy and monopoly on power.

Thankfully, nothing like closed secret trials happen here in New Zealand, right?

Bad news, folks. We are about to have one. It will involve evidence given in secret, in a closed trial.

And the defendant will not be informed of the evidence against him.

On 28 August 2017, Daily Blog administrator/owner, Martyn Bradbury reported that he has been targetted by a Police search into his banking activities following the release of Nicky Hager’s expose, “Dirty Politics“.

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Martyn stated;

I was applying to extend credit to keep the blog afloat and I kept getting declined.

The extensions of credit weren’t extravagant and the manner in which the declines occurred just seemed odd.

I had followed the Nicky Hager case closely where Police had sent out warrantless requests for information and had obtained that information illegally and had even written a blog myself at the time of how the process of obtaining that information by Police could damage peoples credit rating and had even hypothesised that the Police could abuse this by targeting activists they didn’t like out of spite.

I don’t know why, but I felt suspicious and so wrote to the Banking Ombudsman and asked for access to my banking files to see if there was any 3rd person interaction.

The Banking Ombudsman replied early this year, and to my shock, I found out that the Police had, as part of their 2014 investigation into Nicky Hager, sent every bank in NZ a request for information claiming ‘Computer Fraud’.

The material released showed that before I was declined on my credit applications, each one had been referred in the first instance to the Banks computer fraud unit because the Police request red flagged my account.

Once I had discovered this, I requested information from the NZ Police into why they had secretly included me in the Nicky Hager investigation. They responded that while that had sent the requests, they wouldn’t tell me why.

Following police refusal to disclose why they had been secretly investigating him, the stress took a serious toll on his mental health. Police had effectively convicted Martyn a “computer fraudster” without the usual trial process.

Martyn took matters further;

I sent all the material I had from the Banking Ombudsman including the Police request and response to the Privacy Commission and lodged a compliant regarding the Police actions.

The Privacy Commission have just finished their investigation and found that not only did the Police breach my privacy, they also breached my civil rights by effectively conducting an illegal search.

The Privacy Commissioner found in Martyn’s favour;

Earlier this year, blogger Martyn Bradbury made a complaint to our office about a request from Police to his bank for information about him. We investigated that complaint, and recently sent him our final view on the matter.

Among other things, we concluded that Police had collected his information in an unlawful way by asking for such sensitive information without first putting the matter before a judicial officer. Our view is that this was a breach of Principle 4 of the Privacy Act, which forbids agencies from collecting information in an unfair, unreasonable or unlawful way.

Our investigation, as with all our investigations, only addressed the facts of this case. We concluded that Police action in this case constituted an interference with Mr Bradbury’s privacy.

The “judicial officer” that Privacy Commissioner John Edwards referred to is a Court judge.

In November 2017, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards issued a guidance statement “on releasing personal information to law enforcement agencies”. The Commissioner said,

“A number of different areas of our work have demonstrated the need for better information to be made available to companies and individuals about the circumstances in which personal information can be released and used for law enforcement purposes.”

Martyn took that decision to the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT). He said,  “they will process my complaint against the Police for breaching my privacy and civil rights through unlawful search. It’s not important to like or dislike my work, but I think we can all agree that allowing the Police to conduct secret investigations into activists and political bloggers that then damage their reputation negatively based on spurious grounds isn’t acceptable in a liberal democracy“.

Among the cases taken by the HRRT was a prosecution on behalf of businessman Matthew Blomfield against right-wing blogger Cameron Slater. The hearing for case was completed three years ago. (Blomfield won.)

On 12 June 2018, Police admitted liability in their October 2014 unlawful  search of Nicky Hager’s home. They made an apology and paid “substantial” restitution for considerable  harm caused to the journalist.

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David Fisher from the NZ Herald reported;

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager has accepted a police apology and payment of “substantial damages” after the unlawful search of his home during the investigation into the hacking that led to the Dirty Politics book.

The settlement revealed police had sought information claiming Hager was suspected of criminal behaviour, including fraud.

“Police accept that they had no basis for such allegations,” the settlement document read.

“Police apologise unreservedly for these breaches of his rights and have agreed to pay Mr Hager substantial damages and a contribution towards his legal costs.”

Martyn Bradbury was not so fortunate. Police refused to admit liability for their illegal search of Martyn’s bank accounts. He was forced to pursue his case further;

“…now that (Nickey Hager’s claim] has been finally settled, here is my statement to the NZ Police regarding my case against them for dragging me into this pus pit…

“You shredded my credit rating to every major bank in NZ by claiming I was a computer fraudster, caused me huge personal anguish and seized my banking records all for a case against Nicky Hager that you have now admitted you were wrong in proceeding with in the first place. I had nothing to do with hacking Cameron Slater’s computer and yet my case still sits in front of the Human Rights Review Tribunal despite the Privacy Commissioner recommending my rights have been breached.

It’s time to settle my case now.” 

…once the abuses of power have been settled, and the damages paid, THEN we should start asking how many other people have been caught out by this and who set the Police on this politically influenced investigation in the first place.”

In March this year, despite a massive caseload and under-funding that was hampering their mandated role, the Human Rights Review Tribunal announced they will finally hear Martyn’s case. The hearing is scheduled to take place in July and expected to last three days.

On 31 March, NZ Herald’s David Fisher published a story outlining impending Martyn’s case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal;

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Fisher also reported the extraordinary demand from Police that key evidence be presented in secret;

“Police indicate at this stage that it will seek to invoke the “closed” hearing process in relation to information relevant to this claim.”

According to Martyn, neither he nor his lawyer will be able to hear evidence presented at the HRRT hearing. In  emailed statements, Martyn told this blogger;

…The NZ Police intend to hold part of the trial in secret using secret evidence I am not allowed to see. Part of the trial will be open, part of it closed and held in secret.

My Human Rights Review Tribunal court case into how the police illegally seized my bank records as part of their failed Nicky Hager case  finally was granted a hearing to proceed and the Police announced that they would be demanding part of the trial is closed and held in secret using secret evidence I can’t see or challenge.

As stated above, this is all but unprecedented in Aotearoa New Zealand’s legal history.

A day after David Fisher’s story, Thomas Beagle from the NZ Council on Civil Liberties condemned the use of secret evidence in closed courts;

Let’s be clear about what secret evidence is. It’s not evidence that can’t be reported in the media, and it’s not evidence where the judge clears the court of all people not directly participating in the trial.

Secret evidence is evidence that the defendant, the person accused of the crime, is not allowed to see or hear, and therefore cannot challenge. The use of secret evidence makes a mockery of our justice system.

[…]

How can we trust the people keeping the evidence secret? While the courts may assert their independence from government, to the defendant they’re just another part of the government apparatus that’s going to put them in jail without the chance to defend themselves.

The only other (known) use of secret evidence took place in early 2018 when a secret trial, in unusually strict security,  took place in Wellington’s High Court.

Thomas Beagle was scathing at the time;

The right to a fair trial is a key part of our justice system and this must include the right to see and test the evidence against you. It’s impossible to rebut evidence when you don’t even know what it says. It’s hard to even appeal when the judgement against you omits critical details that the decision relied upon.

Appointing an advocate and letting the judge see the information is all very well, but as far as the defendant is concerned it’s just one part of the state telling her that she can trust other parts of the state. This is no comfort when it’s the state acting against you in the first place.

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We’re told the secrecy is for “security reasons” but secret trials with secret evidence are a much more significant threat to our security and liberty.

We need to stop accepting the use of secret evidence in our courts, it has no place in a free and democratic society.

 

Judge Dobson, who adjudicated the original 2018 secret trial was equally disturbed at the secrecy, calling it “an anathema to the fundamental concepts of fairness“.

In his more recent article, Thomas Beagle listed only four laws in Aotearoa New Zealand that permit the use of secret evidence:

  • Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 has schedule 4 concerning the use of secret evidence in labour disputes with employees of agencies handling classified information.
  • Immigration Act 2009 where sections 33-42 and 240-244 are for the use of secret evidence in immigration decisions.
  • Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 has sections 101 – 113 for the use of secret evidence in offences concerning intercepting communications for the spy agencies.
  • Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 where section 38 is for the use of secret evidence in offences under this act.

It is unclear how Martyn’s illegal seizure of his personal bank records is permitted under any of those four Acts.

Even worse is the realisation that it is not Martyn who is defending himself against criminal charges. It is the Police who are on trial for mis-using their powers by breaching a person’s privacy without due regard to the laws of this country.

The police over-stepped and mis-used their powers of search and seizure. It was an illegal action, as Privacy Commissioner John Edwards stated with searing clarity, “that Police had collected his information in an unlawful way”.

Against this backdrop of over-zealousness at best and cynical illegality at worst, that Martyn is now expected to trust any evidence that the Police will offer at the HRRT hearing? Evidence that the Police will use to defend themselves? Evidence that Martyn will not be permitted to determine the validity of?

The Police misrepresented their case when they seized Martyn’s bank records. We will have no way of knowing if they will again attempt to misrepresent their case at the HRRT review.

This is absurd. It is also disturbing.

As Judge Dobson pointed out, the use of secret evidence in closed trials is anathema to the concept of a fair trial. As Thomas Beagle stated, “it has no place in a free and democratic society”.

So why are we, as a nation, permitting it?

On 24 March, this blogger wrote on the matter of the alleged Christchurch shooter’s impending trial;

Yet, conducting [his] trial in secret is also not a solution.

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

If the alleged terrorist and mass-murderer of fifty innocent people has the right to a fair and open trial – on what grounds is the same right denied to a left-wing blogger who has committed no crime whatsoever? Remember, it is the Police on trial, not Martyn Bradbury.

This blogger will be sending this story to the Minister for Justice and Justice spokespeople from National, Greens, and NZ First.

But especially this story will be brought to Andrew Little’s attention. The secret trial of Martyn Bradbury is being done under the Minister’s watch.

Not a very good look, is it?

Time to put a stop to this Kafkaesque fiasco, Minister Little.

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Postscript

This story emailed to the following:

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References

Wikipedia: Star Chamber

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Purge Trials

Privacy Commissioner: Statement clarifying Martyn Bradbury’s privacy complaint

NZ Law Society: Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

Justice Dept: IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW TRIBUNAL [2019] NZHRRT 13

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

NZ Herald: Huge delays at Human Rights Tribunal as cases pile up

NZ Herald: ‘Secret’ evidence in closed hearing – how police want to defend access of blogger’s details without a legal warrant

NZ Council for Civil Liberties: Secret evidence is unjust and should be banned

Radio NZ: Hearing shrouded in secrecy at High Court in Wgtn

NZ Council for Civil Liberties: Secret evidence unacceptable

Additional

NZ Herald: Hunt for Rawshark sees police rapped again for ‘unlawful’ search of banking records

Other Blogs

The Standard: Bomber Bradbury wins privacy complaint against Police (28 August 2017)

The Daily Blog: Bryan Bruce – Good Cop. Bad Cop

The Daily Blog: My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights (28 August 2017)

The Daily Blog: My statement to the NZ Police now they have settled the illegal persecution of Nicky Hager (12 June 2018)

The Daily Blog: The Human Rights Review Tribunal FINALLY will hear my case against the NZ Police ( 7 March 2019)

The Daily Blog: Secret police trials using secret evidence in NZ – welcome to my Kafkaesque nightmare (31 March 2019)

Previous related blogposts

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 April 2019.

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

29 March 2019 6 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hasson had been inspired by Breivik.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any notion that this will not happen is naive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This shows responsible restraint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are always consequences.

 

Postscript

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

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

Mediawatch – Lessons from Norway on covering the quest for justice

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: Weatherston trial a ‘national disgrace’

The Guardian: Anders Behring Breivik claims victims were not innocent

France24: Breivik makes Nazi salute at court appearance

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

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

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

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

New York Times: The Anatomy of White Terror

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

ADLS: Judges zoom in on courtroom cameras

Other Bloggers

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

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

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

Previous related blogposts

A funny thing happened at the Mall

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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

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Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

23 March 2019 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Corrections OIA response states;

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

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

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

six attacks on women by trans men in prison

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

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

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

One commentator asserted, inaccurately;

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

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

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

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

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

In Britain, Ms Bishop, said;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have not helped their case one iota.

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References

Corrections Dept: OIA statement on transgender prisoners – 3.9.2018

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

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

Transforum

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

Corrections Dept: Annual Report 2016/17(p84)

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

 

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

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15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

22 March 2019 1 comment

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

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

A life was lost on each occassion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour government

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National government

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

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

National/Labour

Customs and Excise Act 2018 (legislation) (history)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it did not help us one iota.

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

GCSB:

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

2018/19: $158,029,000

NZSIS:

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

2018/19: $82,843,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where were you?

2. A Message to Simon Bridges

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

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

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

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

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

fmacskasy
@fmacskasy

Replying to

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

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

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

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

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

Don’t do it, Mr Bridges.

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

I held a different view.

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The price to pay is too high.

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

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

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

15 March 2019. Our Day of Infamy.

#Love

#Christchurch

#ThisIsNotWhoWeAre

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References

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

Twitter: Matthew HootonMatthew Hooton

Twitter: Tau HenareTau Henare

Maori TV: Christchurch shootings – Man charged with murder

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

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

Budget 2008/09: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2008/09: Vote Security Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Security Intelligence

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

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

Twitter: Simon Bridges – 15.3.2019 2.49PM

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – 15.3.19 6.29PM

Southern Poverty Law Centre: Stefan Molyneux

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

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

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

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

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

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

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

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

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

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

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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

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

13 March 2019 1 comment

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

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

“National is not going to be raising GST.

National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.”

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

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

Except, he can’t.

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

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

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

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

The difficulty with this is two-fold.

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

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

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

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

That leaves two parties: the Greens and NZ First.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Postscript

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

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References

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

Otago Daily Times: Key ruled out GST increase in 2008

NZ Herald: GST rise – The hole in your pocket

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

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

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

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

Beehive: Bright-line test targets gains on property sales

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

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

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – Scott Simpson – capital gains tax

Other Blogs

The Standard: Why New Zealand needs a capital gains tax

Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (14 July 2011)

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

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

A Claytons Capital Gains Tax? (13 September 2014)

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

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

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Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

5 March 2019 1 comment

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apartheid

noun

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

Dictionary.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No need to imagine.

It exists.

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

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

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

You are a free citizen.

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea is also a trans-woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of lawyer and court fees: paid by Andrea.

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

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

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

Her lawyer replied that would probably not be helpful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is apartheid.

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

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

But she stood up for what was right.

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

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

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

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

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References

Dictionary.com: Apartheid

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

NZ History: Homosexual law reformPage 4 – Reforming the law

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

YWCA: We support trans rights in Aotearoa

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

Additional

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

Robinhead: Gender Roles

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

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

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