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War – the line between rememberance and glorification

6 October 2018 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Look through the periscope to your right.

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

— Miss him and he’ll shoot back.

The little red button glowed invitingly;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They make a chilling observation;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the very least it was unhelpful.

It was certainly disrespectful.

 

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Note:

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

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References

Ministry of Culture and Heritage: Dominion Museuem

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

NZ Herald: Gallipoli exhibition shows soldiers frozen in time

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

Te Papa: Te Papa celebrates a record-breaking year

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

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

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

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

Other Blogs

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

Previous related blogposts

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The gentrification of Te Papa

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

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John Key – we will not be held to ransom!

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When news of the kidnapping of Australians and a New Zealand citizen in Nigeria hit our headlines, our esteemed Dear Leader’s response was unequivocal;

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John Key - NZ won't pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

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Key was adamant;

“Our very strong policy is not to pay a ransom and our reason for that is we think if we paid a ransom, we’d potentially put a bounty on any New Zealander’s head who travels to a dangerous part of the world, and it potentially makes the situation worse.”

Our Leader was not for turning. Key does not cave in to pressures.

Or, so it seems…

In October 2010, the country was “rocked” with news that that  the Hobbit movies would be “taken away” from New Zealand;

Jackson’s company, Wingnut Films, said in a statement that Warners representatives were coming to New Zealand next week “to make arrangements to move the production offshore” because “they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their investment.”

A week after Peter Jackson’s dire warnings of impending Mordor-like doom, Dear Leader Key intervened and rode like a Ranger to the rescue (in a BMW limousine, not a stallion);

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Key comes through $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ - NBR - Peter Jackson - Warner Bros

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Even the Warner Bros movie execs had  stallions limos provided (at taxpayers’ expense, yet again) when they came-a-visitin’ to New Zealand to collect their $34 million bucks;

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Along with $34 million of taxpayer’s money paid over to Warner Bros, the National government passed legislation changing the status of Jackson’s workers from employees, to “contractors”. This lessened the working-conditions of people working throughout New Zealand’s movie industry.

The employment law changes passed through Parliament within forty eight hours – a feat unheard of in New Zealand’s political process. Unions, workers, and the public had no say in the matter.

As Key said at the time,

“It was a commercial reality that without this [law] change, these movies would not be made in New Zealand.”

So the sovereignty of New Zealand’s Parliament was not ransomed by Warner Bros to gain $34 million plus a change in our labour laws?

Note: On 21 December 2010, two months after Jackson declared that there was an imminent threat to losing The Hobbit to another country, he conceded that no such “threat” existed;

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Peter Jackson Actors no threat to Hobbit - Warner Bros

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Three years later, Rio Tinto threatened to close it’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter if it’s demands were not met;

Mining giant Rio Tinto has rejected the Government’s offer of a short-term subsidy to continue running the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Instead, it has gone back into negotiations with electricity supplier Meridian to try and get a better deal.

If no deal is made, Prime Minister John Key says the smelter, 79 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 21 percent owned by Japanese company Sumitomo, could be shut down in about five years.

In February 2014, National conceded to Rio Tinto’s demands that it’s electricity subsidies be increased. A further ‘sweetener’ of $30 million of taxpayer’s money was paid over to the smelting multi-national;

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As Key said at the time;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

This was echoed by Finance Minister, Bill English;

“The $30m was a ‘one-off incentive payment’ to help secure agreement on the revised contract because of the importance of the smelter to the stability of the New Zealand electricity market.”

So the jobs of eight hundred jobs in Southland were not ransomed by Rio Tinto to gain $30 million plus cheaper electricity rates?

John Key says his government will not pay ransom to extortionists?

His track record proves otherwise.

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References

Fairfax media:  John Key – NZ won’t pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

Hitfix:   ‘Hobbit’ Crisis – Peter Jackson warns film could leave New Zealand

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

Fairfax media:  Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Previous related blogposts

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

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KickingThe HobbitRGB

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

20 February 2015 3 comments

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key and skycity

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We all know the story by now; how Key admitted to discussing a convention-centre deal over  dinner with Skycity executives on 4 November 2009,

“I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003”.

The lack of transparency in the deal-making process was subsequently criticised by the Auditor-General in February 2013. Toby Manhire from The Listener listed ten quotes outlining the AG’s dissatisfaction with Key and his officials’  behaviour;

1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

Key’s response, in Parliament was an outright denial;

“Absolutely, and the reason for that, as the member will be aware, is that the Auditor-General’s report was divided into three parts. The first part of it was focused on my involvement, and I was totally and utterly cleared and vindicated in that. That was my only involvement.”

The Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, was less than impressed by Key’s attempts at mis-representing her Office’s report as a ‘vindication’;

”That fact that [the report] took 50 or 60 pages suggests that nothing was entirely clear cut. We have said that we found problems with the process that was adopted and so I think the report speaks for itself.”

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist and National sympathiser, John Armstrong, was trenchant in his condemnation of Key’s comments. On 20 February, 2013, he wrote;

Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas – that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government’s selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.

The Prime Minister’s attempt to downplay Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s findings in advance of their release yesterday by saying he had not lost any sleep from reading draft copies may turn out to be a costly political miscalculation.

John Key may have escaped personal blame for the serious flaws in the old Ministry of Economic Development’s handling of the convention centre project but the report is far worse than he had been leading people to believe.

He is taking refuge in the report’s assurances that no evidence could be found to suggest “inappropriate considerations”, such as connections between political and business leaders, were behind the final decision for the Government to negotiate with SkyCity as the preferred bidder.

In other words, no corruption. Or at least none that could be found.

Right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, was more scathing and pulled no punches;

The procurement process for the Auckland centre was a farce and as close to corruption as we ever see in New Zealand.

As reported by the Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Eagleson – whose best friend and Las Vegas gambling buddy is Mark Unsworth, SkyCity’s Wellington lobbyist – had been conducting private talks with SkyCity through 2009 and early 2010, including about what regulatory relief SkyCity wanted.

Mr Eagleson argued a procurement process was unnecessary and that the government should just go with SkyCity on the grounds no one else could realistically compete.

(Hat-tip: No Right Turn.)

Read Hooton’s full column. It is far more critical and insightful than any left-wing commentator (including myself) has been on this issue.

Even before the AG’s investigation and damning report, Key’s figures of extra jobs resulting from the proposed convention centre were in doubt.

On 3 April 2012, Key stated in Parliament;

“I might add, when we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland, he was quite a little lamb chops before the election, because Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing, hundreds of thousands of visitor nights for a convention centre, and tourists who will be spending twice as much in New Zealand.”

By June, Key’s claims for “1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing” were questioned by hospitality and travel specialist analyst, Horwath Ltd. Horwath director, Stephen Hamilton, was blunt;

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479.

“That’s not the number of employees at the convention centre. That’s the number in the whole economy. Some will be at the convention centre, some will be in the hotels and some will be additional taxi drivers.”

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He also questioned the construction job figures, saying: “I’m not quite sure what the source of that 1000 was.”

The original Horwath report said 150 jobs could be created over a five-year construction period for a total of 750.

But the most well-known promise from Key was that the convention centre would not cost tax-payers a cent. In May 2013, Key justified his deal-making with SkyCity by stating;

“The construction of the new convention centre will not cost taxpayers or ratepayers a cent, with SkyCity meeting the full project costs in return for some concessions from the Government.”

Nearly two years later, inflation appears to have  turned “not a cent” into an estimated “$70m to $130m shortfall”, with SkyCity hustling National for a tax-payer bail-out.

On 10 February, Key appeared to have caved to SkyCity pressure to pay a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to the casino operator;

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.

In a nutshell, the Government has an agreement with them [SkyCity]. It could make them meet that agreement but the escalation in prices to build the convention centre, which is bigger than was proposed and flasher than was proposed, means there is a hole.

So there are a couple of options. Option one would be to say to Sky City, ‘Build the convention centre exactly at the price that we all agreed, on the conditions of the deal that we agreed’, but it would be smaller I think than we had hoped and less attractive.

Or the second option is to see if there’s any way of filling that hole and to identify how big that hole is, and that’s the process we’re going through.”

By the following day, as a public and media furore exploded in Key’s face, and even his own Finance Minister was cool on the proposed bail-out,  he was forced to do a sudden 180-degree u-turn;

“We agreed a deal at $402 million…our strong preference is that the SkyCity convention centre is built and paid for by SkyCity.”

It seems that the public and media have become weary of Key’s continual back-tracking; broken promises; and often outright lies.

This was not the first time that Key had promised the public one thing – and then delivered something else. In October 2010, as an industrial dispute erupted between SPADA and Actor’s Equity, there were threats that Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit”  movie project would be moved off-shore (an empty threat as Jackson later revealed).

On 26 October, Key was telling the public that his government would not be paying extra incentives to Warner Bros and that there would be no “bidding war” with other countries to provide greater incentives to the U.S. movie industry;

“If we could make the deal sweeter for them that would help; that’s something we would consider… but we can’t bridge the gap that is potentially on offer from other locations around the world. We’re not prepared to do that and… I don’t think the New Zealand taxpayer would want us to do that.”

When asked about any possible taxpayer subsidies, to match other countries incentives, he added;

“It’s not in the tens of millions, put it that way. There’s a lot of noughts.”

Key was  adamant; Warner Bros would not screw another cent out of the New Zealand tax-payer. There were already generous tax breaks in place. So said Dear Leader at 11.45am, on the morning of 27 October;

“They’ve got movies to make and in the end, money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works. We can’t stop other countries around the world putting up much better and more financially-lucrative deals. If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

By 7.38pm – barely eight hours later – Key had pulled out the taxpayer chequebook,

Tax rebates will also be changed for Warner Bros, which will mean up to an extra $NZ20.4 million per movie for Warner Bros, subject to the success of the movies…

… The Government will offset $NZ13.6 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership.”

As Key lamely explained,

 “It was commercial reality. We did the business.”

The subsidy that was supposedly “ not in the tens of millionsbecame a $34 million tax-payer funded gift to Warner Bros  – on top of a 15% tax-break given to the movie industry – a tax-break not available to any other industry in this country.

Key had caved to the movie moguls from Hollywood, and the tax-payer would foot the bill.

Three years later, the next corporation to hold a “gun” to Key’s head and extort millions in tax-dollars was Rio Tinto.

As State Owned powerco’s were being partially privatised, the multi-national corporation demanded their electricity-supply contract be “re-negotiated” and tax-payer “assistance” to keep the smelter at Tiwai Point  afloat during low aluminium prices – or else the facility would be closed. The threat was the loss of 800 jobs (some claimed indirect jobs up to 3,000) and economic activity that was claimed to be 10% of Southland’s GDP.

With the possible closure of the smelter – which uses 15% of the country’s electricity – the price of power would collapse, making shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power worth only a fraction of their float price.

Key bravely asserted  on 3 April 2013  that government and the New Zealand tax-payer would not  be “held hostage” to Rio Tinto’s threats of closure;

“It’s quite possible that that power could be used either by new ventures that come to New Zealand or, alternatively, it would allow some less productive assets to be closed down or it would allow New Zealand not to build as much generation as might be required.”

Five months later, on 8 August 2013, Key had surrendered to Rio Tinto’s demands and as well as a deal for increased  electricity subsidies, National handed over a cheque for $30 million to the corporation.

Key justified the tax-payer bail-out and increased subsidies by pointing to saving jobs;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

However, the loss of thousands of jobs from the economy seems not to have taxed Key’s concerns when it came to thousands of State sector workers being made redundant;

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State-sector job cuts 'will make life tough'

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By February the following year, Rio Tinto  posted a US$3.7 billion profit, and issued a 15% increase in dividends to it’s shareholders. Part of the dividends pocketed by shareholders was no doubt made up of $30 million gifted  from the pockets of hard working New Zealand tax-payers.

Soon after the tax-payer funded bail-out of Rio Tinto, Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes made this remarkably prescient comment;

“Treasury told National right from the start ‘don’t give them any money’ – it just means every corporation will have its hand out for public money whenever they have any leverage over the Government.

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Is that how you want your government to govern? Do you want your government playing fast and loose with public money; using your cash as a bargaining chip to cut deals over the phone with multi-nationals every time it finds itself backed into a corner?”

I can answer Gareth’s question: the next corporation with it’s hand out is SkyCity.

John Key plays fast and loose  with tax-payers’ money – not to save jobs – but to present an appearance to the public that National is “saving” jobs. It is a matter of the public’s perception he is focused on.

If that involves handing out cheques to Warner Bros, Rio Tinto, and now possibly SkyCity – he will do it.

This is the party that prides itself on being a “sound, prudent, fiscal manager” of the government’s books. Except that New Zealand governments have not engaged in this kind of  tax-payer funded largesse since Supplementary Minimum Prices were paid to farmers in the 1960s and 1970s.

That, to, was initiated by the supposedly pro-free market National Party.

Which leads on to an interesting situation regarding this government; it’s lip-service to the “free market” and supposed hands-off by the State. Committed right wing National/ACT supporters should be asking themselves three very pertinent questions:

  1. Is it ok if future Labour governments intervene and gives subsidies to various businesses as National has done?
  2. Does on-going State intervention by this National government signal the end of the neo-liberal experiment?
  3. Has National’s intervention in the “marketplace” illustrated the failure of neo-liberalism?

One thing, though, should now be clear to all; Key will say one thing, and then renege and do completely the opposite if it suits him politically.

One would think that any self-respecting journo from the media (no, not you, Mike Hosking) these days would be asking Key a very simple question;

“Mr Prime Minister, you have issued statements in the past and then flip-flopped months down the track. Why should we take anything you say at face value value, when you have back-tracked so many times previously?”

Put another way;

“Mr Prime Minister, you’ve said what you intend to do. How long before you change your mind when it becomes convenient to do so? You do have ‘form’, you realise?”

Or, even more bluntly;

“Mr Prime Minister, how long will this decision last? Days? Weeks? Six months?

I’ll leave it to esteemed members of the Fourth Estate to frame their questions in a suitable manner.

Just don’t be expecting an honest answer.

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Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Image acknowledgement: “The A List

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Postscript 1

As I wrote on 6 February;

In terms of past events; past scandals; and past instances where the PM has been caught out – it is by no means the worst.

This time, however, matters have reached a critical flash-point. The media has awoken to a smell of a government on the defensive and where Dear Leader has pushed the envelope once too often. Journalists and media commentators are no longer as tolerant;  no longer awed; and no longer willing to be mollified by a popular prime minister.

The Shipley Factor has kicked in.

At this point, nothing that National does will counter the  same style of growing clamour of criticism it’s predecessor faced in the late ’90s.

Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to resile from my earlier expressed belief that Key’s current administration is terminal.

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Postscript 2

‘Natwatch’ from The Standard wrote on 12 February;

“The focus group results are in and John Key is backing off from the Government injecting further money into the SkyCity convention centre.”

Which probably makes more sense than anything else this shabby government has done since 2008.

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References

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Office of Auditor General: Skycity

NZ Listener: The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – June 4 2013

Fairfax Media: Auditor-general backs Sky City report

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’

NBR: Close to corruption

Parliament: Prime Minister—Statements and Statements Made on His Behalf

NZ Herald:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Fairfax Media: Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: John Key warns of SkyCity ‘eyesore’ if more money is not found

NZ Herald: John Key backtracks on taxpayer cash for SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

Fairfax Media: Key – No Hobbit bidding war

NZ Herald: PM – I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

NZ Herald: Hobbit to stay in NZ

NBR: Key on Hobbit deal: ‘It was commercial reality. We did the business.’

NBR: Key comes through: $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ

TVNZ News: Relief in Southland over Tiwai Point deal

Radio NZ: Tiwai Point closing could have some advantages – PM

Otago Daily Times: PM defends Tiwai payout

Fairfax Media: State-sector job cuts ‘will make life tough’

RadioLive: Why John Key handed $30 million of your money to Rio Tinto

Te Ara:  Government and agriculture – Subsidies and changing markets, 1946–1983

Additional

Fairfax media: SkyCity’s ‘fair deal for all’ questioned (hat-tip Mike Smith, The Standard)

Previous related blogposts

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

The Maori Party, the I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party, the Gambling-My-Money-Away Party, and John Key’s Party

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

Other blogs & blogposts

Imperator Fish: It’s about friends helping friends

Insight NZ: National splits in two over Sky City bailout

Liberation: NZ Politics Daily – 13 February 2015: SkyCity

Local Bodies: SkyCity’s Glorious Deal

No Right Turn: More money down the drain

No Right Turn: “Close to corruption”

Polity: Fleeced

Polity: Mo’ money

Polity: Small on “free” convention centre

Polity: I agree with DPF, Jordan Williams, and (mostly) with Matthew Hooton, too

Polity: Why all governments are bad at commercial deals

The Civilian: Disappointment as meteor misses Sky Tower

The Daily Blog: Key’s SkyCity Scam is a dirty deed done relatively expensively

The Daily Blog: Brenda McQuillan – A Problem Gamblers View of the Deal

The Dim Post: On Hooton on Sky City

The Dim Post: Win by not playing

The Standard: The SkyCity Deal

The Standard: Sky City’s playing us for suckers

The Standard: Key is in reverse gear about Sky City

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 February 2015.

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And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

26 February 2013 4 comments

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… Peter Jackson, John Key, and Warner Bros, for their cunning performance over, ‘The Hobbit‘!

In 2010, Jackson, Key, and Warner Bros, created mass public hysteria by suggesting that film production of ‘The Hobbit‘ would be moved overseas,  unless labour laws were changed; the union,  Actors Equity neutralised; and film subsidies increased.   (see:  Hobbit tax rebate swells to $67.1m in second year of production).

Only private schools and soon-to-be-set-up Charter Schools enjoy similar taxpayer funded subsidies.

Key duly bent over,  changed labour laws (See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history) and turned actors and film technicians from being employees to “contractors”.

At the stroke of a pen – similar to a Decree issued by a lone despot in some authoritarian regime – National unilaterally changed workers from being employees to sub-contractors. The resulting changes were stark;

  • Employees can negotiate collectively for a collective agreement
  • Sub-contractors cannot
  • Employees had minimum wage; sick pay; holiday pay; appropriate employment/termination protections; etc.
  • Sub-contractors do not.

The law was passed in under 48 hours.

It subsequently turned out, according to an email from Jackson to National Minister, Gerry Brownlee, that the threat of moving ‘The Hobbit‘ overseas was non-existent,

Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors’ boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.

The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.

On October 1, he said: “The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.”

Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.

“It’s completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand.”

But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.

“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.

Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

Actors, as well as film technicians, lost many rights, and Warner Bros got everything they demanded.

Two and half years later, and consequences  remained to be played out.

Yesterday (25 February 2013), the Oscar Awards were held in Hollywood.

The Hobbit‘ did not fare well,

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Weta misses out on Hobbit Oscar

Source

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It might be said that events in New Zealand in 2010 – with the craven capitulation to Hollywood business moguls – did not escape the attention of actors and others in the film-making industry. The corporate-government assault on the rights of film workers has not been forgotten.

What is ironic, though, is  that Jackson, Key, and Warner Bros have forgotten that, in Hollywood movies, the ‘little guy’ triumphs in the end.

What was Frodo’s journey all about, Mr Jackson?

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Previous related blogposts

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint (2 March 2012)

Key: When I say ‘no’, I mean ‘no’. Maybe.  (4 Oct 2012)

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’ (9 Oct 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law” (11 Nov 2012)

Peter Jackson’s “Precious” (28 Nov 2012)

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Still someone else’s country

10 February 2013 6 comments

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someone-elses-country

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Wellington, Newtown, 9 February 2013 – As the issue of state asset sales and other New Right policies are on National’s impending  agenda, the Newtown-branch of the Mana Party considered it worthwhile taking the time to look back at recent history. The events of today are firmly rooted in the past.

The New Right had taken power in Britain with the election of Margaret Thatcher in May 1979, and in the United States, with the election of Ronald Reagan in November 1980. Our turn came in July 1984, with the snap election called by an inebriated Rob Muldoon. (Intoxication on power and alcohol – not a very healthy mix.)

The Labour government that was swept to power (see: New Zealand general election, 1984) was not the Labour Party that people thought they were voting for. In total secrecy, Labour had been captured by a cabal of fanatical neo-liberal reformers. It was a government firmly under the control of  what we know today, as the ACT Party.

Twenty nine years later…

Mana’s Newtown Branch decided to hold a public screening of Alister Barry’s hard-hitting, insightful, 1996 documentary, “Someone elses’s country“. The story told within that hour-and-a-half documentary is as valid today as it was three decades ago. (In fact, watch “Someone elses’s country” and then watch Bryan Bruce’s 2011 documentary, “Inside Child Poverty in New Zealand” – and the linkages of the radical transformation of our country is all but complete.)

Prior to the screening, the audience was welcomed by Mana Newtown organisor, Ariana, who gave a brief rundown of the content and it’s impact on our society,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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Many in the audience were young people who either had not been born in the 1980s, or were too young to remember the calamitous events that were unfolding. To these people, the events we now understand as Rogernomics and Ruthenasia would have been like the 1951 Waterfront Lockout dispute that rocked the nation.

Following Ariana, a brief introduction to the film was made by sitting Wellington Councillor, Bryan Pepperell,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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Pepperell said,

It’s getting into it’s final stages where the agenda to actually get democracy out of the way of business is actually  now reaching a high-point.There’s an awful lot of window-dressing and democracy in New Zealand context has become that,  substantially window dressing…”

He then  shared with the audience when his first disquiet over the election of the Lange Government came to him,

When David Lange actually said on national television – and I remember the day when I sat and I watched it and I thought I can’t believe what I’m hearing – ‘from now on business is going to make the major decisions’. And that was actually a fairly startling thing as far as I was concerned… unfortunately poor old David probably got quite into something that was bigger than him, and here we are today with the consequences of those early decisions.  And of course the National Party is utterly committed to helping it’s friends further the direction that we started in.”

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The introduction completed, the screening began,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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For many of us who lived through the period, memories of the time came flooding back. In some instances, several people in the audience even recognisedthemselves – with much younger faces – in stills and video footage of protest actions.

It is also worth recalling that despite calls from throughout the country,  TVNZ’s Board rejected calls for widespread broadcasting claiming it it “too political”.

“Too political”?!?!

Of course it was bloody political!

It was so damn political that TVNZ’s boardmembers would have  soiled their panties at the thought of upsetting their Ministerial masters in the Beehive.

As the doco’s producer, Alister Barry , said in November 2009,

It was no accident that Someone Else’s Country wasn’t screened on TVNZ when it was completed in 1996.

It wasn’t that the Business Roundtable needed to actually tell the TV programmers not to screen it. Television executives knew perfectly well where their salaries came from and that TVNZ was being readied for sale.

Fourteen or fifteen minutes of every television hour – the very limit of viewers’ tolerance – was filled with messages carefully and expensively constructed to reach into their fears and appetites. Clutches of advertisements urged New Zealanders to “buy”, to think and feel like frustrated consumers. Airing a documentary which led viewers to think of themselves less as consumers and more as citizens capable of taking political action was not in the interests of the big corporations controlling the advertising dollar.”

See: Someone Else’s Screen

It was not until 2003 that TVNZ finally mustered the courage to air  “Someone elses’s country” – on a Sunday afternoon. Hardly peak viewing time.

Barry also had this pointed insight to make,

It had been anticipated by New Zealand’s New Right revolutionaries, that by the early 2000s our values would have changed and we would have come to think like them, accepting poverty and extreme wealth as both normal and necessary. To pursue personal advantage and to care less about our neighbours. But studies show that in fact our values haven’t changed much from those of our parents and grandparents.
 
What is happening though, is that we are forgetting how things used to be and who changed them. Even as the human and environmental costs of the neoliberal experiment increase, we are finding it harder and harder to imagine how things could be better.

I hope you will find this film a useful antidote to forgetfulness.”

See: IBID

Which is what this country so desperately needs – an antidote to the collective amnesia which so many of our countrymen and woman so often succumb to.

As this blogger noted above; imagine the disquiet and anger that would result if  “Someone elses’s country” was broadcast at prime-time, on a major tv channel – and then followed by Bryan Bruce’s, “Inside Child Poverty in New Zealand“…

Addendum 1

The neo-liberal agenda continues. National plans to partially-privatise three power companies; a mining company; and Air New Zealand (which was privatised once before on 17 April 1989).

National is implementing a privatised form of education via “Charter Schools”.

And the economy is to be further “de-regulated”  and made the rights of foreign corporations extended.

Addendum 2

In a society run along neo-liberal lines, it becomes dangerous to upsets one’s masters investors,

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Hollywood gets heavy over Hobbit

Full story

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And shame upon shame to Jackson and his mates for aiding and abetting Hollywood’s Heavies.

What are they hiding?

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Additional Info

Mana Party

Mana Party – Feed the Kids

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Anti asset sale rally – this Wednesday 13 February

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frank kitts park no to asset sales 13 feb

Source

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Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

28 November 2012 40 comments

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Today was the premiere of the first movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy.

I was not about to comment on todays events. For me, the shine has long since corroded from the Ring Trilogy and the “Hobbit” that came after.

Events surrounding the industrial dispute; the mass hysteria that followed; the vilification of actors who stood with Actor’s Equity; the demonisation of trade unionists; the the carefully crafted manipulation of public hysteria by some very skilled creators of illusion; the actions of National in unilaterally changing employment law – all left a sour taste in my mouth.

Whilst I loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; the talents of actors, technicians, director and producer, and all the other fantastically imaginative craftsmen and woman who contributed to one of the most epic movies of this century –  I can no longer share those same feelings with “The Hobbit”.

As with our fraudulent claim to be “100% Pure”, there is something about “The Hobbit” which is a sham.

Unlike the “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” is not the product of Kiwi ingenuity. It is the product of back-room deals; media manipulation; and political-corporate connivance.

Have a look at TV3’s report today into the tumultuous  background of  “The Hobbit”, when Hollywood Hell broke loose in our country,

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[click here to direct to TV3 Video]

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Note Peter Jackson’s comment @ 1:27,

We are now being given signs that they [Hollywood producers] are looking very seriously about shifting [the Hobbit].”

Source: Ibid

That was a lie.

We know it was a lie.

We know it was a lie because Peter Jackson admitted it in an email to National’s Economic Development Minister, Gerry Brownlee, on 18 October 2010,

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Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors’ boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.

The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.

On October 1, he said: “The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.”

Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.

“It’s completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand.”

But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.

“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.

Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

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And Fairfax Media reported,

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The email showed Warner Bros wanted ”stability” to film the movies in New Zealand and was worried about ”grey areas” of employment law.

The Government secured the movies in October by an urgent amendment to the law which prevented independent contractors from claiming entitlements as employees, as well as an agreement to increase the tax concession for big screen productions.

The report said the email was signed ”Peter J” – apparently director Sir Peter Jackson – and was sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee who was involved in the negotiations with Warner Bros.
  
It said there was no connection between Actors’ Equity union action against The Hobbit movies and choice of location, which contradicted government statements at the time – which were that Warner Bros was concerned about strife caused by the blacklisting of the movies because of a row over collective pay conditions.

See: Union: Protest did not affect Hobbit decision

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It was all a giant con. And we, as a country, were the ones being conned.

Because three days later, on 21 October 2010, Jackson issued  a Press Release stating,

Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

Peter Jackson knew full it well was unlikely that  Warner Bros would move “The Hobbit”, for several practical, hard-nosed reasons.  Which Jackson duly shared with Gerry Brownlee.

Unfortunately, neither Brownlee nor Jackson shared that information with the rest of the country, and the mounting public hysteria gave John Key and National the ‘mandate’ they needed to act decisively.

The country panicked; and National used the opportunity to play “hero” by saving the day. It was like a Hollywood  scripted movie. (Though, for the life of me, I’m not sure that the “good guys” won.)

In 48 hours, National rammed through legislation amending the law covering all workers in the movie and television entertainment industry. The Bill was introduced on 28 October. It gained Royal Assent on 29 October. The fastest piece of legislation enacted since politicians voted themselves generous superannuation entitlements, late one night, in the 1980s.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

At the stroke of a pen – similar to a Decree issued by a lone despot in some authoritarian regime – National unilaterally changed workers from being employees to sub-contractors.

The resulting change was stark;

  • Employees can negotiate collectively for a collective agreement
  • Sub-contractors cannot
  • Employees had minimum wage; sick pay; holiday pay; appropriate employment/termination protections; etc.
  • Sub-contractors do not.

National got what it wanted; public support through a bit of Union bashing, and preliminary legislative attacks on de-unionisation of the workforce. (See: New industrial relations laws rewrite labour rules)

Warner Bros got what they wanted; more money (courtesy of the taxpayer) and de-unionisation of “The Hobbit” workforce.

Peter Jackson got what he wanted; an irritation out of his life.

In a way, I don’t blame Peter Jackson – despite his masterful manipulation of public opinion and reaffirming (if re-affirmation was ever required) that we can be a nation of sheep.

Peter Jackson is a talented, imaginative artist who can create the most visually stunning images on a screen. He is, in most likelihood, a genius.

Unfortunately, geniuses are often so focused; so obssessed; and so fixated on their work, that they will disregard all others around them. A genius is all-consumed with his work, to the detriment of others.

In this case, Peter Jackson identifies utterly with his projects; immersing himself in childhood fantasies that he now has the power to bring to life – albeit a two-dimensional “life” on the big screen.

In doing so, he swats aside any irritation that might distract him from his work.

Actors Equity was such a distraction, and Jackson used his masterful skills at perception-manipulation  to rid himself of that irritation. He had the power – so he used it.

He’s not evil or tyrannical or nasty.

He’s simply a boy who never quite grew up and realised that he could fulfill all his childhood fantasies.

Unfortunately, in doing so, and like many other obessively-dedicated geniuses before him – he has hurt many people in the process.

Will I go to see “The Hobbit”? I really don’t know.

But if I do, it won’t be the same as “Lord of the Rings”.

The illusion will be broken –  the suspension of disbelief (film makers and writers  will understand what I’m referring to).

Because all the while, there will be the spirit of a little boy who never quite grew up; holding on to his childhood fantasies; and murmuring ‘my precious‘, as he never lets go.

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Additional

Fairfax: Union: NZ actors suffer after dispute

Gordon Campbell: On The Hobbit finale

Fairfax: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax: Hobbit ‘better deal than Lord of the Rings’ – Key

Previous Related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

11 November 2012 8 comments

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Continued from:  John Key’s track record on raising wages – preface

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1. The “Hobbit Law”

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On 20 October 2010, Peter Jackson released this statement to the media,

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

It was the opening shot of a public war-of-words between Jackson and his camp, and Actor’s Equity.  An industrial dispute had been elevated to DefCon One, and things were about to ‘go nuclear‘.

Almost overnight, a mood of hysteria gripped the country; we were about to lose ‘Our Precious‘ movies to Eastern Europe, Mongolia, or Timbuktu.

Public panic reached levels unseen since the 1981 Springbok Tour, or the satanic child abuse-ritual stories of the early 199os. There were patriotic street marches (flaming torches were considered but rejected because of OSH concerns.) Union officials were harassed in public; vilified; and threatened with death. A well-known  actress – popular up till this point – considered leaving for Australia after receiving death threats, because of her pro-Union stance.

See: And everybody take a deep breath – please

It was the nastier side of New Zealand’s collective psyche which we’ve come  to be familiar with. We do ‘mob hysteria‘ very well.

John Key and National would have none of it, of course. Dear Leader acted with authoritarian style not seen outside ex-Soviet republics, African, and Middle East  dictatorships.

As the Dominion Post reported,

The Hobbit dispute was resolved after Warner Bros executives jetted into New Zealand for a meeting with Government ministers at Mr Key’s official Wellington residence, Premier House.

After two days of tense days of talks with Warner Bros bosses, who were chauffeured around Wellington in Crown limousines, the Government agreed to a raft of measures including a $20 million tax break to keep the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand.

An agreement to change New Zealand’s employment laws clinched the deal after studio bosses and Jackson threatened to move production off-shore over a stoush with the actors union. Labour lawswere were [subsequently amended].

See: PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

The labour law that the Dompost piece referred to was the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill which made film industry workers independent contractors by default – thereby changing the definition in employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

See: The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Even if the nature of your employment mirrors that of an employee with a boss who determines your hours of on-site work; supplies all your tools and work materials; dictates your workplace requirements, including meal breaks – your employer can still treat you legally as a “contractor”.

A worker under these conditions has all the obligations of an employee – but none of the rights.  That same worker may be deemed a “self employed contractor” – but has none of the usual independence of a contractor.

A worker in this “limbo” has had all his/her security of employment; minimum wages;  holidays; and right to collective bargaining stripped away.

In effect, for the first time in our democracy, a government has legislated away a  workers right to choose. They no longer have any choice in the matter.

All done at the stroke of a pen. No consultation. It was all decided for you, whether you wanted it or not. Only a totalitarian, One Party, regime could match such dictatorial powers.

The “Hobbit Law” took precisely two days from First Reading to Royal Assent. An Olympic record in law-making.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

By 21 December 2010 – two months after Jackson had sent the entire nation into a spin with his first press release –  an email dated 18 October, to Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee, revealed a startling new picture,

There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit”.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

Peter Jackson and John Key knew precisely how to pull this country’s strings and make workers and the public dance to their tune. They managed to con workers to demand losing their own rights as employees. Well played, Mr Jackson, Mr Key.

So precisely, how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chaper:  2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

See also previous blogposts:Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’, Roosting chickens

Additional

Tech Dirt: The Hobbit Took $120M From Kiwi Taxpayers – Maybe They Should Own The Rights (5 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies (6 Dec 2012)

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