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Citizens present petition at Governor General’s gate

6 February 2016 5 comments

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we the corporations

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NZ, Wellington, 30 January – Several hundred people met at  Wellington’s  Waitangi Park, to vent their opposition at the impending signing and ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA);

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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On Cable Street footpath, a citizen waved a flag of sovereignty to draw attention to the protest;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Protest organiser, Greg Rzesniowiecki, discussing  the march-route and other details with Police. There was good co-operation between organisers and police – and this time there was no noticeable carrying or display  of offensive weapons such as tasers by constables;

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Mick McCrohon - TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (39)

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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“Fats”, giving a mihi to assembled citizens in the park square;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (6)

 

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Greg Rzesniowiecki, addressing citizens, and explaining that the march would make it’s way peacefully to the Governor General’s residence where the petition would be presented. He said that what was being done today would make history; for the first time, citizens would be making a direct appeal to the Governor General on behalf of the entire country;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Co-organiser, Ariana, addressing citizens. She advised the crowd that this would be a peaceful protest and that Marshals would be assisting marchers throughout. She said that John Key was desperate to portray anti-TPPA protestors as a “lawless rent-a-crowd” and that “we should not give him that opportunity“;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Making your beliefs known through body-art ;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Citizens, expressing their views, opposing the TPPA;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Members of the New Zealand Health and Climate Council adding their opposition to the TPPA;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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In October 2014, the OraTaiao The New Zealand Climate and Health Council warned;

“Negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) threaten New Zealand’s ability to protect our climate and health. The Council’s ongoing concerns are voiced in an article in NZ Doctor online today, together with 9 other health professional groups representing doctors, nurses, midwives, medical students, academics and health promoters.

The biggest threat is the ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) provisions. This mechanism allows overseas companies, including fossil fuel companies, to sue our Government if local law changes to bring down greenhouse gas emissions might affect their value or profits.

This is happening overseas already, for example, in Germany where measures to reduce the damaging effects of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired power plant have been subject to an investment dispute.

‘Climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature death, with worse to come’ says Dr Alex Macmillan of OraTaiao The NZ Climate and Health Council.

‘Climate change is a health threat for all New Zealanders, with Māori, Pacific people, children, the elderly, and low income groups likely to be the hardest hit’.

‘For a just transition to a low emissions economy, we need to put people’s health first – not the profits of overseas companies. New Zealand needs to remain a free democracy to protect our climate, our health, our country and our future’.

Irrespective of  mealy-mouthed “assurances from our Esteemed Dear Leader, New Zealand remains vulnerable to law-suits from corporations  complaining of “loss of profits”.

Despite John Key repeating  the mantra that New Zealand has never been sued,  our own Parliament put off legislation enabling plain-packaging for tobacco products until an ISDS lawsuit brought by Phillip Morris against the Australian government had been resolved.

On 17 December 2013, John Key declared;

“It will almost certainly be introduced, have its first reading, then go off to the select committee.

But it’s very, very unlikely it will be passed. In fact, in my view it shouldn’t be passed until we’ve actually had a ruling out of Australia.

We think it’s prudent to wait till we see a ruling out of Australia. If there’s a successful legal challenge out of Australia, that would guide us how legislation might be drafted in New Zealand.”

So we don’t need to be sued under ISDS provisions. The mere threat of legal action is sufficient to stay the hand of the National government from passing health related legislation.

As usual, Key’s parroted reasurances that “we have never been sued” are hollow.  Last year, the National Government was sued (or, faced a High Court “judicial review” to satisfy right-wing pedants/National apologists) by Shanghai Pengxin. The legal action followed  a Ministerial decision to overturn an  OIO decision to permit the Chinese corporation ftom purchasing a14,000 hectare sheep and cattle station at Lochinver Station;

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shanghai-pengxin-going-to-high-court-over-lochinver-decision-tppa-investor-state-dispute-settlent

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As I wrote last year subsequent to the media report;

The only difference between scenarios envisaged under the TPPA and the Lochinver Station-Shanghai Pengxin-OIO case is that the latter is being tested under the jurisdiction of a New Zealand Court of law instead of an extra-judicial, and often-secret,  corporate tribunal overseas.

This is cold comfort.

We now have a situation in our own country where, if we determine not to sell to an overseas investor, that decision can be over-turned. Our laws now allow foreign interests to be on an equal footing with New Zealand citizens.

You no longer have to be a tax-paying citizen (born or naturalised) to hold certain rights.

The people assembled, ready to  march to the Governor-General’s residence;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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The driver of this vehicle slowed and aggressively yelled out pro-TPPA comments. He was largely ignored, and drove off before Police could catch up to him;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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No doubt being a proactive supporter of the TPPA, he will have the initiative to organise a counter pro-TPPA street march. Perhaps someone (his mum?) may even turn up to it.

Meanwhile, the marchers received more encouragement from other members of the public. Some joined in, swelling numbers, and others – like this woman – were content to clap and cheer us on;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (24)

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The head of the march, with TV1 reporter and cameraman filming their coverage for that evening’s news broadcast;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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This couple and their child joined the protest march as it made it’s way along Kent Terrace, heading toward the Basin Reserve;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Labour MP, Louisa Wall (brown dress, wearing carved-bone pendant) participated in the march;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Her fellow Labour MP, Phil Goff, could learn a lesson of self-discipline and loyalty to Party members from Ms Wall.

Above the marchers, people in apartments  waved and cheered;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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As marchers arrived at the Governor-General’s residence;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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… they found the gates closed and firmly padlocked;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Which raised the question – had the Governor-General been detained in his home, under house arrest?

Meanwhile, the National regime and our esteemed Dear Leader have at last found a useful purpose to what was once an annoyingly independent news-media – as part of the State security-apparatus. Note how the nation’s journalists lined up in front of the Governor-General’s gates, to form a “protective cordon”;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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The marchers assembled, which had by this time doubled in size to around 500 to 600;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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“Fats” and another citizen, holding aloft an anti-TPPA placard, where on-coming traffic around the Basin Reserve could clearly view the sign. Judging by the non-stop tooting of car-horns, public sentiment against the TPPA is widespread and palpable;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

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Amanda Vickers, from It’s Our Future,  addressed the marchers and explained the process by which the petition – bearing approximately 4,300 signatures – would be presented.

On the  It’s Our Future, website, she said;

“We are requesting the Governor General to command John Key – to put the question of TPP to a binding referendum prior to signing.”

We are asking him to refuse to assent to any enabling legislation unless the people vote in favour. No one can force the Governor General to sign legislation. If he doesn’t sign it doesn’t become law.

Amanda says, “The Governor General in agreeing with our request, provides a unique opportunity to defuse the polarisation around TPP, allowing for open public discussion about the TPP implications, in the period before a referendum was held.”

The petition to the Governor-General requests;

We, the UNDERSIGNED citizens and residents of Aotearoa New Zealand, PETITION Your Excellency:
1. to COMMAND the Government to put the question of proceeding with, or withdrawal from TPPA to a BINDING REFERENDUM; and
2. to PROHIBIT the Government from signing any final agreement, or taking any binding treaty action UNLESS the People vote in favour; and
3. to REFUSE Assent to any enabling legislation UNLESS the People vote in favour.

Ms Vickers told marchers  that professional bodies had spoken out against the TPPA and that there was widespread condemnation of many of it’s provisions. She said there could be no mandate for  an agreement that had been negotiated in secrecy, and that we were only now learning how much of our sovereignty would be ceded, especially to offshore, secret tribunals under the ISDS provisions.

Ms Vickers said that a hundred jurists and judges  had written to the National government, voicing their concerns at ISDS secret tribunals and their total lack of accountability. They had not received a reply from the government.

This was a huge loss of sovereignty and called the provisions of the TPPA, extreme.

She said that the TPPA should be put to a binding referendum and in the meantime, any legislation to enable the Agreement should be rejected by the Governor General. Ms Vickers further added that this event was still only the beginning, saying;

“We are not prepared to surrender our sovereignty and self-determination.”

Ms Vickers then explained to the assembled people that when the Governor General’s representative, Gregory Baughen, arrived at the gates to receive the petition, that everyone should stand and see the hand-over through in silence. She said this would honour the process and give it solemnity.

She also gave a warning that if any agent provocateur’s  tried to incite violence or disruption, that protest organiser’s would not tolerate it. She said “we had enough of that during the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, and we don’t want to see it again“. She asked people to film anyone who attempted to disrupt proceedings.

The Governor General’s representative, Gregory Baughen, arrived, and in near-silence (to the background noise of passing traffic) he received  the petition in a flag-draped box;

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TPPA - 30 jan 2016 - petition to governor general (40)

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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The hand-over was carried out with quiet dignity. As he walked back, up the driveway, the people assembled spontaneously began to sing (see TV1 video at 1:48) the New Zealand anthem, first in Maori, then in English;

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Frank Macskasy The Daily Blog Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com TPPA protest - governor general - Wellington - 30 January 2016

Image used courtesy Mick McCrohon

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This was dignified respect which John Key has yet to earn.

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Postscript:

Seen at an anti-TPPA protest march in Wellington  on 15 August 2015;

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tppa-15-aug-2015

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Because some matters are apparently  “too important” to be left to We, The People to vote on.

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References

Evening Report: Kelsey accuses PM Key of ‘orchestrated move’ to make TPPA debate a security issue

Fairfax media: TPP protesters were ‘misinformed’, says John Key

OraTaiao The New Zealand Climate and Health Council: Health professionals say TPPA risks climate and health protection

NZ Business Review: PM to TPP critics – ‘We’ve never been sued

Fairfax media: Key – Let Australia go first

Fairfax media: Shanghai Pengxin going to High Court over Lochinver decision

Radio NZ: Little gives Goff green light to cross floor on TPP

TVNZ News: Wellington protesters ask Governor General to block TPPA

Additional

Otago Daily Times: Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’

NZ Herald: TPP – Hundreds gather outside Governor-General’s residence

Labour: Andrew Little On the TPPA

Citizens’ Action

No Mandate: Download and Sign the Petition

It’s Our Future: Take Action Against the TPPA

Previous related blogposts

Al Capone lives again?

Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al

Another of John Key’s lies – sorry – “Dynamic Situations”

Key’s TPPA Falsehoods – “We’ve never, ever been sued” ***up-date ***

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 

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Medicine-Whether-You-Want-It-Or-Not-1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2016.

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= fs =

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s recent policy announcement regarding re-introducing free tertiary education met with predictable knee-jerk hysteria from the Right;

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Though why the media still seeks comment from the so-called  “Taxpayers Union” escapes me, as they are a well-known front-group for the National Party, and are run almost exclusively by National and ACT party apparatchiks.

National’s Tertiary education minister, Steven Joyce, was somewhat frothy-mouthy with his panicky tweeting;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

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Image courtesy of The Daily Blog

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Which prompted me to write letters to the editor to remind New Zealanders of a certain salient fact…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Immediatly after the release of Labour’s new tertiary education policy, which promised three years of free education, National’s Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce tweeted,

“Labour Party wants to take more than a billion dollars a year off taxpayers to achieve absolutely nothing #desperate”

Which is an irony, considering that Steven Joyce received a free university education, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer, before user-pays was implemented in 1992.

Even more ironic is that whilst National is unleashing the Police to arrest graduates who have not re-paid their student loans, neither Steven Joyce nor John Key have ever repaid their free University educations.

The only ones desperate are Joyce, Key, and other National ministers, who have rorted the system; gained personal benefit; and now displaying a level of hypocrisy that can only be described as breath-taking.

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-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Soon after Labour leader Andrew Little released their “new” policy advocating free tertiary education for the first three years, National’s own Tertiary Education Minister was quick to respond on Twitter;

“Labour more desperate than we all thought.Stealing massively expensive InternetMana policy on “free tertiary education from last election”

Which is astounding, for two reasons;

1. New Zealand once had free tertiary education and was readily affordable until seven tax cuts since 1986 gutted taxation-revenue, making social services less affordable and increasingly more user-pays.

2. Both John Key and Steven Joyce benefitted from a free tertiary educatyion. Yes, folks, Both Key and Joyce had their University tuition paid by the taxpayer. Neither men have ever repaid a single cent of their education.

Now Joyce is issuing comments on social media condemning the concept of free education? The same free education he personally benefitted from?!

The man’s hypocrisy is boundless.

Education was wasted on him.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous Prize Hypocrites

Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act – claims emails “not found” – and it gets worse!

30 January 2016 1 comment

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As first revealed on 1 December (Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act), Minister Hekia Parata’s office has apparently deliberately broken the law by ignoring requests for information lodged under the Official Information Act.

Intro

The story begins several months ago when this blogger wrote to the Minister’s office on  27 October last year,  requesting answers to the following questions regarding National’s Food in Schools programme;

1. How much has been spent on the programme since 28 May 2013?

2. Is the funding still set at $9.5 million, over a 5 year period from 2013 to 2018?

3. How many schools are part of the programme?

4. It was initially available in decile 1 to decile 4 schools. Higher decile schools would be able to opt in from 2014. How many other, higher decile schools have opted into the programme?

5. Are there any figures as to how many children are participating in the programme? If so, what is that data?

6. Is there a time limit as to the length of time a school can participate in the programme?

7. Have any schools been declined participation in the programme? How many? For what reason?

8. Are Sanitarium and dairy cooperative Fonterra still participating in the programme? Have any other companies joined in?

9. Does the KickStart programme in any way affect a schools allocated budget?

10. Have any Charter Schools requested to join the programme? If so, how does this affect their funding?

By 12 November, after no response nor even an acknowledgement, this blogger wrote again to Minister Parata;

On 27 October, I lodged this OIA request with your office. I have recieved no reply or even an acknowledgement.

Please advice whether or not you intend to respond to my OIA request. If not, I will proceed by laying a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office.

As at 29 November, no response had been forthcoming from the Minister’s office, and a complaint was laid with the Ombudsman’s Office. As this blogger pointer out in the complaint;

I do not believe it is satisfactory that a Minister of the Crown wilfully ignores the law and fails to follow her obligations under the Official Information Act.

Up-date

On 10 December, a response was received from the Ombudsman’s office stating;

“We have made enquiries with the Minister’s Office about this matter and it appears that they did not receive your request. They have conducted an extensive internal search and have been unable to locate your emails of 27 October or 12 November.”

The Ombudsman’s letter went on to that that “the Minister’s Office advised that the information you are seeking is likely to be held by the Minister for Social Development” and suggested that I “may wish to put [my] request to the Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, directly by emailing: a.tolley@ministers.govt.nz“.

I wrote back the following day to the Ombudsman, providing specific information of the email addresses used to lodged my OIA request with Parata’s office;

“I am in receipt of your letter dated 10 December where you state that the Education Minister’s office claims “that they did not receive [my] request”. (Emails dated 27 October and 12 November)

I am cutting and pasting the header of both emails into this email;

from:Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:Hekia Parata <hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz>
date:Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 12:57 AM
subject:KickStart breakfast in schools
mailed-by:gmail.com

from:Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:Hekia Parata <hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz>
date:Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 10:45 PM
subject:Fwd: KickStart breakfast in schools
mailed-by:gmail.com”

I pointed out;

“If the Minister’s email address is incorrect, my emails did not “bounce” back to me.”

I invited the Ombudsman’s office “to test the email address – (hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz)  to ascertain it’s validity”.

The response from the Ombudsman’s Office, on 15 December, was less than inspiring;

“I note you emailed your original request for information to the following address: hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz. The Minister of Education’s Office has confirmed that this email address is correct. However, as Mr Ilott explained in his letter of 10 December 2015, the Minister’s Office conducted an extensive internal search but was unable to locate your emails.

This Office has no reason to doubt either party’s account of what has happened. In situations like this where a dispute of facts exist, it is generally not the function of an Ombudsman to determine which version of events is the one that should be preferred.”

The Ombudsman’s response does not reassure this blogger that his Office is capable of holding Ministers to account to uphold the letter and spirit of the Official Information Act.

Specifically;

(A) “Losing” one email sent to a legitimate, active, email address is possible. An accidental deletion is not outside the realms of possibility.

But “losing” two emails seems unlikely and does not withstand the credibility “sniff” test.

(B) The Ombudsman stated that Minister Parata’s Office “conducted an extensive internal search and have been unable to locate your emails of 27 October or 12 November“.

How has the Ombudsman  arrived at the conclusion that Minister Parata’s Office “conducted an extensive internal search“?

It almost seems as if the Ombudsman has become an (unwitting?) apologist for Parata obvious willful refusal to answer a legitimate OIA request.

(C) Having established  Minister Parata “alibi” that they could not “locate” my emails,  why was her Office not advised to write to me directly to request copies of my emails?

In what manner is it the responsibility of the Ombudsman to act as a “go between” between a Minister and a Citizen to advise me to write to Minister Tolley’s Office?

Is Minister Parata refusing point-blank to deal with me solely because of past criticisms of her actions? (See ‘Previous related blogposts’ below)

The Ombudsman’s Report bears out this suspicion when she refers to “different and more risk averse treatment of requests by the media and interest groups” (p142).

(D)  In stating that “This Office has no reason to doubt either party’s account of what has happened. In situations like this where a dispute of facts exist, it is generally not the function of an Ombudsman to determine which version of events is the one that should be preferred” – it beggars belief  that the Ombudman’s Office appears to be abdicating any responsibility to hold a Minister of the Crown to account for what appears to be a breach of the Official Information Act.

If the Ombudsman’s role does not include “the function of an Ombudsman to determine which version of events is the one that should be preferred” – then what is the raison d’être for that Office?

This situation is simply not acceptable. The Minister’s Office has broken the law; offered an implausible excuse; and has drawn the Ombudsman into their sphere of chicanery. The Ombudsman appears to have naively permitted itself to be used as a puppet in this instance.

According to a 2013 dossier compiled by Labour, Parata’s record to responding to OIA requests is poor;

“Along with uncertainty whether the log is 100% accurate, it is also evident that she regularly responds to requests late with only just over half the total number of responses sent within the 20 day statutory period. “

Status of OIA Request

Following on from the suggestion from the Ombudsman’s office (10 December), I duly wrote to Minister Tolley the following day and put the same ten questions to her that I initially sent to Minister Parata.

That letter was acknowledged the same day (11 December) at 9.50AM.

At 11.36AM (11 December) I received a subsequent email from Minister Tolley’s office stating that my OIA “request has been transferred to Brendan Boyle, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development in line with section 14 (b)(ii) of the Act“.

Since then – nothing.

A month and a half  passed. On 21 January I wrote back to Minister Tolley’s office, who subsequently contacted the Ministry of Social Development. The following day, I recieved this unsigned, anonymous response from the Ministry;

With regard to your Official information Act request, it was transferred to the Ministry of Social Development on 11 December 2015. While it has not been our standard practice to acknowledge transferred requests (as the transfer letter is effectively an acknowledgement), we realise it would have been helpful if we had brought to your attention at the time the fact that the days between 24 December 2015 and 15 Janaury 2016 do not count as ‘working days’ as defined in section 2 of the Official Information Act 1982 (http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz). Due to this holiday period, your response is due on 1 February 2016. We apologise for not informing you of this at the time that your request was transferred to us.

Somewhat bizarrely, when the anonymous author from MSD stated that “the days between 24 December 2015 and 15 Janaury [sic] 2016 do not count as ‘working days’ as defined in section 2 of the Official Information Act 1982 “, s/he then posted a link – not to the OIA legislation referred to – but to the Ombudsman’s Office.

When this blogger checked  “Section” 2 (actually, Part 2) of the Official Information Act 1982,  no reference was found to “the days between 24 December 2015 and 15 Janaury [sic] 2016 do not count as ‘working days’ as defined in section 2 of the Official Information Act 1982 “.

The Act simply refers to twenty working days, which, from December 14 (the next working-day following my OIA lodgement) extends to 13 January.

Accordingly, I wrote back to the Ministry (22 January);

I am in receipt of your email to me, dated 22 January 2016, whereby you claim that “the days between 24 December 2015 and 15 Janaury 2016 do not count as ‘working days’ as defined in section 2 of the Official Information Act 1982”.

I have checked Part 2 of the Act and can find no reference to “the days between 24 December 2015 and 15 Janaury 2016”. Please feel free to enlighten me as to where that proviso exists within the legislation.

By my calculation, twenty working days extends from 14 December to 13 January 2016, inclusive.

If you do not intend to abide by the statute, please advise me and I will lay a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office.

I will keep readers of this blog appraised of this on-going situation.

The shenanigans being played out by Ministers, ministeries, and sundry government departments and other state bodies makes a joke out of the Official Information Act.

National obviously has little regard for the law when it is inconvenienced. Which is ironic, considering right-wing political parties portray themselves as champions of Law and Order.

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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John Key admits to his government flouting the law

Whether by an unintended slip, or by some machiavellian plan, on 16 October 2014, our esteemed Dear Leader admitted that his government abused the Official Information Act for purely political self-interest;

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"Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that's in our best interest to do that."

“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that.”

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This disturbingly candid admission of the contempt held by National to the Act provoked condemnation from the Ombudsman, who a day later on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, called it “cavalier and a disregard for the law“.

Even National’s allies within the  right-wing blogosphere at  Your NZ, Whaleoil, and  Kiwiblog were taken aback by Key’s dismissive hubris toward the Act.

Wakem said she would be ” having words with a few people, I suspect” – including Key.

Previous Criticisms of the Ombudsman

On 8 December 2015, the Ombudsman – Dame Beverley Wakem –  released a reporton an investigation into  the practices adopted by central government agencies for the  purpose of compliance with the  Official Information Act 1982“.

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eight_col_oiacomp

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In the Report’s conclusion, the Ombudsman stated;

“I commenced this investigation because of what I perceived to be growing concern
and criticism that government agencies were not complying with the requirements
of the OIA, nor acting in accordance with its principle and purposes when making
decisions about the accessibility of official information they held. Following a
comprehensive examination of how agencies have organised and resourced
themselves and currently operate in practice, I am satisfied that the OIA itself is
fundamentally sound, but it is not always working in practice.

On the positive side of the ledger, agencies are compliant with the OIA most of the
time and most government officials working within these agencies have a genuine
desire to ensure that they are compliant.” – p140

However, the report’s Conclusions also drew attention to Ministerial interference in responding to OIA requests;

“Where I have found that agencies are vulnerable to non-compliance with the OIA,
I have not found evidence of deliberate obstruction but rather the unintended
consequences of various attempts to:

[…]

try to meet the expectations of two masters ie, the public under the OIA and
the Minister under the ‘no surprises’ principle;

[…]

well-meaning practices that invite opportunities for ministerial/political
advisors to influence more than they ought to and sometimes on matters
where they have no legitimate place” – p141/142

The Ombudsman’s Conclusions then veered off onto a tanjeant shifting fault to the public, bloggers, and media. A  subsequent Dominion Post editorial was scathing;

What a shame, then, that retiring Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem is leaving office amid a cloud of justified controversy. Her recent remarks make her look less like a champion of freedom than a friend of the powerful.

It is truly extraordinary to hear her scolding journalists as “rottweilers on heat” and warning them not to annoy “innately conservative” officials who might then become “gun-shy”. These statements are what you would expect from a bad-tempered bureaucrat, not an ombudsman. 

It is not for the Chief Obudsman to tell anyone to be polite and humble when asking for information. It is most certainly not for her to suggest that officials can obstruct information – because that is all that being “gun-shy” can mean here – when they are irritated.

The Official Information Act requires the government to provide information unless there is good reason not to. The reasons for refusal are laid out in statute. The law must determine when the gate is open and when it is shut, not the manners of the applicant or the mood of the gatekeeper.

If Wakem had made these statements when first appointed, they would be good grounds for seeking her resignation. They show a fundamental misunderstanding of her role and an establishment mentality.

The Ombudsman also complained of a lack of public and media submissions to her Inquiry;

“I note that the public were less forthcoming in responding to the surveys, and I was
unable to determine precisely why that was. It could be interpreted many ways –
from a loss of confidence in the OIA and the work of my Office, to a demonstration
that a significant proportion of the public believed with so much official information
now being made available on a regular basis, the OIA was working for them…” – p143

Which is an astounding suggestion to make, considering that  for the 2013/14 financial year,  the number of complaints to the Ombudsman was the third-highest ever. The Ombudsman could easily have based it’s report – even partially – using information gleaned from complaints of  non-compliance and tardiness from Ministers and Ministries.

This blogger suggests that the a lack of public submissions could well be attributed to a perception that the Ombudsman’s office is powerless in the face of a government that has been unrelentingly secretive and autocratic.

Indeed, recall that in their 10 December statement to me, the  Ombudsman’s office suggested;

 “…the Minister’s Office advised that the information you are seeking is likely to be held by the Minister for Social Development. Accordingly you may wish to put your request to the Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, directly by emailing: a.tolley@ministers.govt.nz”.

It is simply not the role of the Ombudsman’s Office to be adopting a “helpful” position for a government minister.

Otherwise, the perception – whether rightly or wrongly – is that the Office of the Ombudsman has been captured by ministers and agencies of this government.

As NZ Herald reporter, David Fisher, said on 15 October 2014;

“In the 25 years I have worked as a journalist, there have never been so many questions, or such a loss of faith, all at once.”

Dark Clouds Looming

Up to now, the two weapons-of-choice employed by National Ministers and our Esteemed Dear Leader has been Delay and Defer. For many journalists and bloggers, waiting  long periods for a response is not uncommon. By then, news stories have become ‘stale’ and public interest has moved on.

Recently, a new  weapon in government and bureaucratic armoury has been unveiled; charging for OIA requests.

On 18 January, the Dominion Post published an editorial describing how the Reserve Bank had begun to demand compensation for information;

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Editorial A tax on official information is a tax on democracy itself

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The editorial said, in part;

The Reserve Bank has started a very bad trend by deciding to charge for most Official Information Act responses. The bank says it made this decision last October, but the world only learned of it last week, when the bank invoiced a Fairfax reporter. This is not the right way to make or reveal such a momentous decision.

The bank’s move is in important ways an undemocratic act. The Act makes information available as of right to the country’s citizens; it reverses the previous legal assumption that the government’s information is secret. Information is power, and the act provides power to all.

Charging for researching and providing that information puts a barrier in the way and is an obstacle to the exercise of what is now a vital democratic right. No doubt the bank will point out that the act allows for some charging for costs. But the bank’s policy will institutionalise what has until now been a patchy thing.

This means that ordinary citizens could now face a hefty fee for information. The invoice sent to Fairfax business reporter Richard Meadows was for an estimated $651. A fee of that size would be a serious obstacle for an individual. If OIA requests routinely cost this much it would also be a problem even for large media outlets.

In the Ombudsman’s 2015 report,  “Not A Game Of Hide And Seek“, Wakem quoted an earlier  Law Commission Report from 2012, which stated;

“…access to official information is an important tool for opposition parties to be
able to scrutinise government policy, and that parliamentary research units should
not usually be charged for reasonable requests. However, there is no reason why
unreasonable political requests should be completely exempt. Voluminous and
unrefined requests from parliamentary research units can cause a great deal of
expenditure of resources. The charging mechanism should be available to agencies
as a defence mechanism in appropriate cases, regardless of the source of the request.
The public interest waiver should provide the flexibility for appropriate charging of
MPs and incentivise these requesters to ensure that requests have a sufficient public
interest basis in order to qualify for a waiver of charges.” – p96

Wakem agreed, saying;

“I agree with this approach and believe it should apply to all types of requesters.
The OIA does not provide for an outright exemption based on the identity of a requester
or their role in its charging provisions. Nor did I find many members of the media
who believed they ought to be exempt from charging, although some worked for
organisations that had a policy not to accept any charge for the provision of official
information. “

The Law Commission and Ombudsman’s Office ignore the cold hard political reality that politicians and and their bureaucratic minions will not recognise “niceties” of what constitutes “a sufficient public interest basis”.

To be be blunt; if politicians can get away with it – expect them to do it.

The Reserve Bank’s policy of charging for OIA requests is a thin-end of a wedge. It is a test to see if they can get away with it. Other government agencies, Ministries, and Minister’s will follow with predictable succession.

Only expensive legal action could over-turn a charging policy – and few individuals and organisations have pockets deep enough to take on the State.

In a pathetic defense of his organisation, Reserve Bank deputy governor, Geoff Bascand, said;

The Reserve Bank has established a policy on when it will charge for responses to Official Information Act (OIA) requests that has drawn the ire of some critics.

Far from it being an obstacle in the path of freedom that The Dominion Post editorial claimed (January 18), the policy is a common, fair and reasonable response to a marked growth of OIA requests.

I’d like to explain our rationale, and what the policy means for requesters – most of whom will likely not be charged.

Our approach is consistent with the Official Information Act and meets the bank’s commitment to transparency.

Garbage. This is a naked attempt by the RBNZ to stifle transparency, not promote it. Any assertion to the contrary is a ridiculous attempt at ‘spin’ from a not-very-clever spin-doctor working for the Bank.

The irony is that the RBNZ is attempting to charge for information that rightly belongs to us, the tax-payer. That information was gathered  using taxpayer-funded resources and by taxpayer-funded public servants.

It is not private information – it belongs to us, the taxpayer.

Politicians, bureaucrats,  the Ombudsman’s Office, and Mr Bascand, would do well to reflect on this salient fact.

Conclusion

This blogger will vigorously pursue the OIA lodgedment with  Minister Parata; who passed it on to Minister Tolley; who passed it on to the Ministry for Social Development, requesting answers to the following questions regarding National’s Food in Schools programme;

1. How much has been spent on the programme since 28 May 2013?

2. Is the funding still set at $9.5 million, over a 5 year period from 2013 to 2018?

3. How many schools are part of the programme?

4. It was initially available in decile 1 to decile 4 schools. Higher decile schools would be able to opt in from 2014. How many other, higher decile schools have opted into the programme?

5. Are there any figures as to how many children are participating in the programme? If so, what is that data?

6. Is there a time limit as to the length of time a school can participate in the programme?

7. Have any schools been declined participation in the programme? How many? For what reason?

8. Are Sanitarium and dairy cooperative Fonterra still participating in the programme? Have any other companies joined in?

9. Does the KickStart programme in any way affect a schools allocated budget?

10. Have any Charter Schools requested to join the programme? If so, how does this affect their funding?

More than ever, I am curious what the answer(s) will be.

And I do not intend paying a cent for it.

From Radio NZ’s Mediawatch

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Information watchdog’s probe into political meddling - Radio NZ - mediawatch(Alt.link)

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“Information is the currency of democracy and my Office will play its part in ensuring the OIA is not devalued.”

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References

Red Alert: The right to know – Hekia Parata

Parliament: Official Information Act 1982

Radio NZ: PM admits Govt uses delaying tactics

TV3 The Nation: Transcript – Beverley Wakem

YourNZ: Disgraceful Key admission on OIA delays

Whaleoil: Key and PM Office told to stop farting around with OIA requests

Kiwiblog: Chief Ombudsman to review OIA compliance

Ombudsman:  OIA Report Not A Game Of Hide And Seek

Dominion Post: Editorial – Chief Ombudsman shows how not to be an information watchdog

Radio NZ: PM’s admission concerns Ombudsman

NZ Herald: David Fisher – OIA a bizarre arms race

Dominion Post: Editorial – A tax on official information is a tax on democracy itself

Dominion Post: Reserve Bank – Charging for official information a ‘reasonable’ response

Additional

Radio NZ: The watchdog and the rottweilers

Radio NZ: Mediawatch – Information watchdog’s probe into political meddling (alt. link)

Other bloggers

The Jackal: Back to school for Hekia Parata

The Jackal: various

The Daily Blog: Hekia speaks with forked tongue

No Right Turn: An attack on our democracy

Previous related blogposts

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

Karma for Key?

Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 January 2016.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

14 January 2016 7 comments

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ls_childliar_feat

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As this blogger reported last year, on 16 June;

In the ongoing debate on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, Dear  Leader John Key has been at pains to try to reassure New Zealanders that any TPPA document would be “first  presented to Parliament”.

On 1 October 2013, Key said;

With all [free trade agreements] the way that they work is that have to be ratified by Parliament, and we have to build a parliamentary majority, and all of that has to happen through the transparency of the deal.”

“…my advice is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will require legislation, so, ultimately, once it has gone through the select committee and the public have had their chance to have input, and it has gone through all of those various stages, the Government of the day will require a parliamentary mandate, so by definition people would have had a lot of input.”

And on 31st March this year, Key asserted on NewstalkZB;

In the end, this thing has to go through our Parliament has to be ratified by our Parliament and has to bear scrutiny and I believe is in the best interests of New Zealand.”

At every opportunity, our esteemed Dear Leader and other National MPs and Ministers have been eager to assure New Zealanders that the text of the  TPPA would be submitted to a select committee; scrutinised, and ratified by Parliament before it was signed.

Key’s assurances were seemingly air-tight.  (Though I, for one, am always skeptical of any assertion made by our esteemed Dear Leader.)

However, a media statement from Chile’s General Directorate of International Economic Relations head, Andrés Rebolledo Smitmans, has seemingly given the game away. On 5 January, Smitmans stated;

“En la oportunidad expuso en primer lugar sobre el contexto en que se desarrolló la negociación de este tratado, que será firmado el próximo 4 de febrero en Nueva Zelanda.”

Google translation;

“At the time I first spoke about the context in which the negotiation of this treaty, to be signed on February 4 was developed in New Zealand.”

Also, according to Bloomberg  the impending signing-ceremony is confirmed by the Peruvians;

Peru’s Trade and Tourism Ministry (Mincetur) confirmed that Deputy Trade Minister Edgar Vasquez, the country’s TPP negotiator, will be on hand for the signing ceremony in New Zealand.

And the Mexican financial periodical, El Financiero, reported;

“Los 12 países integrantes del Acuerdo Estratégico Transpacífico de Asociación Económica ( TPP , por sus siglas en inglés), firmarán el documento el próximo 4 de febrero en Nueva Zelanda, informó el secretario de Economía, Ildefonso Guajardo.”

Google translation;

“The 12 member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP, for its acronym in English), [will] sign[ed] the document on February 4 in New Zealand, the Minister of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo said.”

The fourth of February is five days before Parliament resumes sitting, on 9 February.

Which makes a lie out of Key’s promises that the TPPA would be put before the House for Select Committee scrutiny and Parliamentary over-sight. By the time Parliament resumes, the TPPA will have been ratified by all participants according to the Chileans, Mexicans,  and Peruvians.

Evidently someone forgot to mention to our South American friends  not to reveal the up-to-now-secret ratification date, leaving Simon Bridges to do some fast-explaining;

“Arrangements for the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership are not yet confirmed, as a number of countries are still working through their domestic approval processes required before signature.

Further details will be announced when and if they are confirmed.”

National’s media spin-doctors must still be on leave if that statement is the best damage-control they can come up with.

It is clear that National was planning on “pulling a swiftie” by keeping the ratification date secret from the public – a point not lost on University Law professor and TPPA-critic, Jane Kelsey;

“Consistent with the government’s obsessively secrecy throughout the TPPA process, we have to get confirmation of what is happening in our own country from offshore.

Polls have shown the government doesn’t have popular support for the deal. Presumably it wants to limit the chance for New Zealanders to make their opposition heard. We were reliably told by offshore sources some time ago that the meeting is in Auckland, but we expect the government to try to keep the actual venue secret until much closer to the day.”

National has (again)  been caught attempting to deceive the public.

It beggars belief that they really thought no one would notice.

It is now up to other political parties – Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, and Peter Dunne – not to support any enabling legislation put to Parliament on this trade deal.  Otherwise they risk being associated with, and tarred, by a political process that has been uncovered to be  patently dishonest.

Any government that has to employ deception to enact policy is afraid of it’s own people. National is not fit to govern.

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References

Salon.com: The 10 biggest lies you’ve been told about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Note point 5 in this article)

Previous related blogposts

Some thoughts on the Plain Packaging Bill

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Public opposition grows against TPPA – Wellington

Annette King on the TPPA

Even Tim Groser was in the dark?!

Joyce, TPPA, and wine exports

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 14: The TPPA – “We’ve never, ever been sued”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 January 2016.

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Letter to the Editor – Rightwinger caught out parroting his own garbage

9 January 2016 7 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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From the NZ Herald, ex-ACT leader Jamie Whyte had his usual Right wing nonsense about “no real poverty in New Zealand“;

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Jamie Whyte - Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense

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… and the usual cliches, prejudices, and other garbage spouted by a man who has little inkling what poverty is like, and how it crushes the human spirit.

Then came this startling revelation;

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Jamie Whyte defends 'self-plagiarism' claim

 

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To which I replied with  this letter-to-the-editor;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jan 8, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Regarding former ACT-leader, Jamie Whyte’s self-plagiarism (“Jamie Whyte: Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense”, 7 January) – the fact he re-used a ten year old piece he’d written previously, and simply changed a few key identifiers, speaks volumes about his view on poverty.

It implies that he is not so much interested in looking at the facts and data, as simply re-stating his prejudices. His use of two boys (10-year-olds “Jimmy” and “Timmy”) who are inter-changeable between Britain and New Zealand, implies that his examples are made up fantasies, plucked from his imagination, and little else.

The real problem here is that after thirty years, the Right cannot admit that poverty exists in New Zealand. Nor that it has increased since the late 1980s.

To do so would be a tacit admission of failure, and that the whole “trickle down” notion is a fraud.

That is why the Right will argue, like AGW skeptics, that poverty exists.

Because to admit it, the next question must logically follow: what to do about it.

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte – Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense

NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte defends ‘self-plagiarism’ claim

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Welcome back, Collins

15 December 2015 Leave a comment

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Judith Collins' return to Cabinet - John Key had no choice but to reinstate 'the Crusher' - NZ Herald

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I’m happy-as-larry to have Judith Collins back as a Minister in this scandal-prone government.

I don’t know what possessed our esteemed Dear Leader to re-appoint her. One of them obviously has something on the other. But truth tell – I don’t much care.

Fellow blogger, Curwen Rolinson, has already detailed her impressively lengthy list of stuff-ups.

She is the gift that keeps giving and I’m waiting how long before the next pratfall, scandal, mis-use of ministerial power, and links to right-wing loony bloggers, hits our headlines. The woman just can’t help herself. Her bloated attitude of entitlement/power over-rides any modicum of common sense she might possess.

I’m betting the entire Press Gallery will be keeping a close eye on her.  As will be every opposition politician, political scientist, blogger, pundit, etc.

Scrutiny of her activities will be unlike anything ever experienced by past or contemporary members of parliament. Media will be falling over themselves to be the first ‘break’ news of her next cluster-f**k.

Worse still, Collins’ next stuff-up will damage not just her career, as well as undermine Key’s perceived reputation for sound decision-making (for reinstating her) – but also the National Party’s future ability to govern, with “the Crusher” as a potential Leader-in-waiting. New Zealanders are not ready for a third-rate, self-absorbed “Kiwi Donald Trump” – one prone to “errors of judgement” on a seemingly regular basis.

‘Fun’ days ahead.

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References

NZ Herald: Judith Collins’ return to Cabinet: John Key had no choice but to reinstate ‘the Crusher’

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Judith Collins

Letter to the Editor: Mana, Internet Party, Judith Collins, and “coat-tailing”

Judith Collins – Minister of Talking Crap

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

Judith Collins – the Gift that keeps Giving to the Opposition?

Other bloggers

Bowalley Road: The Secret Agreement

The Daily Blog: “Judith Collins Is An Unaccountable Monster. It Believes It Is Outside The Law”: On Collins, the SuperCity, Democratic Solution-Making & Accountability

The Standard: Hey Tracy Watkins – Judith Collins was not “cleared” of dirty politics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 December 2015.

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act

7 December 2015 2 comments

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A formal complaint has been laid with the Ombudsman’s Office after Education Minister, Hekia Parata, failed to comply with the Official Information Act.

A OIA request was lodged with the Minister’s Office by this blogger, seeking details of National’s Food In Schools programme, which was announced in May 2013. The limited programme, costed at $9.5 million, offered low decile 1-4 schools free milk and Weet-Bix throughout the school week. It would be run in conjunction with Fonterra, Sanitarium and children’s charity KidsCan.

The $9.5 million would be spread over a five year period, from 2013 to 2018.

More critically for National, the expanded “Kick Start” breakfast programme was promoted to directly counter Hone Harawira’s more comprehensive Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill which at the time was rapidly gaining traction throughout the country.

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food in schools

 

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Mana Party leader and then-MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira, said on 24 January, 2013;

It’s a pretty simple bill really. Invest in making sure the 80,000 kids going to school hungry each week are fed and ready to learn and realise the benefits in better educated and healthier school leavers down the track”.

In Parliament, Harawira was clear on the benefits of his Food in Schools Bill;

It is nice to know that KidsCan feeds some 10,000 of them on most days, and that the KickStart Breakfast programme feeds about 12,000 a day, but the reality is that even with the Government’s announcement in last year’s Budget, nearly 80,000 children are still going to school hungry in Aotearoa every single day. Yes, schools around the country have started their own breakfast clubs with support from teachers, students, parents, local businesses, and the wider community, but they tell us that it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of goodwill to keep them going, and that having secure funding would be a godsend.

The really embarrassing thing is that nearly every country in the OECD, apart from us, already runs programmes to feed kids at school. Some countries like Finland and Sweden provide fully State-funded meals to every school student as part of a wider framework of child well-being. It is a commitment that sees them regularly top the international surveys in child health and educational achievement. Some countries provide free meals to kids with parents on low incomes, and others provide free meals to schools in areas of high deprivation. But although the approaches differ, they all share the same view, backed up by the same kind of research and information from teachers, doctors, nurses, and policy analysts that is available to us here: kids need a good feed every day if they are to develop into healthy and well-educated adults. New Zealand really needs to join the rest of the enlightened world and make a commitment to feeding our kids, starting with those in greatest need, to help them to grow well and learn well.

Harawira’s Bill was supported by a range of diverse groups and individuals ranging from Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, the NZ Educational Institute, as well as Child Poverty Action Group, Every Child Counts, Unicef NZ, Save the Children, IHC, Poverty Action Waikato, the Methodist and Anglican Churches (Methodist Public Issues and Anglican Action), Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League), PPTA, NZ Principals’ Federation, CTU Rūnanga, the NZ Nurses’ Organisation, and Te Ora – the Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association.

Harawira’s Bill was estimated to cost upwards of $100 million.

This contrasts with the  Children Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, which reported in December 2012 that the total economic costs of child poverty ranged up to $8 billion;

Currently, the economic costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 billion per year
and considerable sums of public money are spent annually on remedial interventions. Failure
to alleviate child poverty now will damage the nation’s long-term prosperity. It will also
undermine the achievement of other important policy priorities, such as reducing child abuse,
lifting educational attainment and improving skill levels.

In July 2013, Herald journalist, Kate Shuttleworth, reported;

In December 2012 the Expert Advisory Group on solutions to Child Poverty – a group comprising policy, public health and law experts – recommended that a food programme starting with decile 1-to-4 primary and intermediate schools, be implemented as one of their six initial priorities for immediate release.

[…]

Figures show 270,000 children in New Zealand – one in four – live in poverty.

Dennis McKinlay, Chairman of ‘Every Child Counts‘,  stated that 169 countries had a food in schools programme.

Shockingly, the Bill was eventually defeated in a Parliamentary vote of 61 votes to 59, with ACT and Peter Dunne also voting against it. The New Zealand government spends billions on school infra-structure, but not to feed hungry school-children from poverty-stricken families.

On 27 October, this blogger lodged a OIA request with Education minister, Hekia Parata. The request sought answers to the following;

1. How much has been spent on the programme since 28 May 2013?

2. Is the funding still set at $9.5 million, over a 5 year period from 2013 to 2018?

3. How many schools are part of the programme?

4. It was initially available in decile 1 to decile 4 schools. Higher decile schools would be able to opt in from 2014. How many other, higher decile schools have opted into the programme?

5. Are there any figures as to how many children are participating in the programme? If so, what is that data?

6. Is there a time limit as to the length of time a school can participate in the programme?

7. Have any schools been declined participation in the programme? How many? For what reason?

8. Are Sanitarium and dairy cooperative Fonterra still participating in the programme? Have any other companies joined in?

9. Does the KickStart programme in any way affect a schools allocated budget?

10. Have any Charter Schools requested to join the programme? If so, how does this affect their funding?

By 12 November, after no response or even an acknowledgement, this blogger wrote again to Minister Parata;

On 27 October, I lodged this OIA request with your office. I have recieved no reply or even an acknowledgement.

Please advice whether or not you intend to respond to my OIA request. If not, I will proceed by laying a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office.

As at 29 November, no response had been forthcoming from the Minister’s office, and a complaint was laid with the Ombudsman’s Office. As this blogger pointer out in the complaint;

I do not believe it is satisfactory that a Minister of the Crown wilfully ignores the law and fails to follow her obligations under the Official Information Act.

Readers of The Daily Blog will be kept updated as this issue progresses.

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Addendum1

Parata has apparently “gone to ground” on this issue. It is not the first time she failed failed to respond to media enquiries; requests for interviews; or fronted at events for which she has direct responsibility.

From a blogpost published on 18 January 2013;

Muppet #1 – Hekia Parata

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I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

See: Parata safe in her job – Key

Prime Minister John Key says Education Minister Hekia Parata will be safe in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, … because she is hugely talented and one of National’s best communicators.

See: Parata’s job safe in shuffle

*snort!*

I’d be a happy chappy if the Nats DID have more like her in Cabinet!!

If she’s one of the Nat’s “best communicators”, I’d luv to know why she’s kept ducking calls for media interviews and instead sent Lesley Longstone to cover for Parata’s f**k-ups,

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2 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (2)

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3 October 2012

Ministry of Education admits some errors in data

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4 October 2012

Education Minister avoids her critics

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26 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (3)

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29 October 2013

Longstone challenged to find solutions

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14 November 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (1)

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28 November 2012

lesley longstone Schools still beset by Novopay problems

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When Lesley Longstone’s resignation was announced last year on 19 December, Hekia Parata was still nowhere to be seen. The announcement was handled by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie (see:  Education secretary quits),

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19 December 2012

lesley longstone Education secretary quits

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20 December 2012

lesley longstone Parata, Key refuse to front over education debacle

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Parata’s office explained why she couldn’t front,

Parata is currently on holiday and has refused to front on Longstone’s resignation, but in a statement released this afternoon she thanked Longstone for her efforts in leading the Ministry.

See: Education Ministry boss quits after ‘strained relationship’

Hmmmm, judging by Parata not fronting for most of last year, was she on holiday for most of 2012?!

“Smooth communicator…”!?

Ye gods, this deserves a Tui billboard.

Roll on 2013 – it’s going to be a great year.

Addendum2

In January 2013, Hekia Parata’s responsibilities surrounding Novopay were transferred to Minister For Everything, Steven Joyce. Joyce was not above publicly denouncing those responsible for the Novopay debacle;

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government-sticking-with-novopay-for-now

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References

Kickstart Breakfast Programme

Radio NZ: Food in schools ‘could get good results’

Feedthekids: Support grows for MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill

Parliament: Harawira, Hone: Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Feedthekids: Feed the Kids Bill a “good initiative” – Jamie Oliver Food Foundation

NZEI: Food in schools bill will help children learn

NZ Herald: Food in schools bill delayed for second time

Commissioner for Children:  Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty

NZ Herald: Head boy disappointed in Dunne over food bill

ODT: Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

Every Child Counts

Radio NZ: Government sticking with Novopay for now

Previous related blogposts

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

Karma for Key?

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The hypocrisy from world leaders overCharlie begins to rattle observers. NZ's John Key's words of January 8 in particular raised many eyebrows amongst the'4th Estate'. Rod Emmerson 14/01/15

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 December 2015.

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