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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..

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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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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)

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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.

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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 5 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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