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Posts Tagged ‘Urgency’

Pita Sharples, Spooks, Maggie Barry, and Bully-boy Brownlee

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Pita Sharples – gone

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Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

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Pita Sharples has effectively taken responsibility for the Maori Party’s poor showing (third place) at the  recent Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election.  That result was an indictment on the Maori Party’s decision to support an increasingly shakey government that is losing support in more accurate polling.

The internal leadership struggles between himself and Te Ururoa Flavell has also taken it’s toll on the 71 year old,

“It’s clear that the leadership issue…has taken a toll on the Maori Party and our people deserve a united Maori Party.”

Acknowledgement: Domninion Post – Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

It’s also something that is focusing closer scrutiny upon an increasingly unstable government. The toll thus far;

  • Hekia Parata – lost part of her port-folio. In essence, a partial sacking.
  • Aaron Gilmore – forced to resign from Parliament.
  • John Banks – facing charges in Court. If found guilty, he will hve to resign.
  • Peter Dunne – Party de-registered; lost his ministerial portfolios; and becoming increasingly oppositional to National’s policies.
  • Pita Sharples – standing down as Maori-Party co-leader

An early election this year (or early next year) is becoming more likely with each passing crisis.

Not a good time for National.

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The spooks have a new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security…

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On 1 July, John Key announced that Paul Neazor would be replaced in his role as  Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (for the SIS and GCSB) by former-Judge  Andrew McGechan.

Key says that McGechan’s role will be on an  “interim” basis, instead of the usual three years, as the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is currently being considered  by a Parliament Select Committee.

However, with Peter Dunne wavering on this issue; with mounting public opposition; and god-only-knows which way Winston Peters will jump; the passing of the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is by no means guaranteed.

In which case, National has two options remaining,

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The office of the Inspector-General must be expanded; properly staffed;  and appropriately funded. At present, the  Inspector-General’s role is a part-time position, with no permanent staffing. Our Inspector General is faced with oversight of two intelligence agencies with a combined staff of around 520. In effect he is out-numbered, out-resourced, and consequently, out-manouvered.

By contrast, our Aussie cuzzy’s  version of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has approximately 20 people working full time for the Inspectorate (see IGIS Annual Report 2011-12  Part three: Management and accountability )

This, I believe is the real problem surrounding our security-intelligence agencies – not the legislation needing “tightening up”.  The legislation is tight enough as it is.

It just needs to be obeyed.

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The Labour Party’s call for a full public commission of inquiry on this matter cannot be ignored any longer.  If Key wants cross-party support and public buy-in to secuirity/intelligence issues, then it must be open to all political parties and the public to contribute to the debate.

As matters stand now, if National forces through  unpopular, undemocratic,  and ultimately counter-productive laws – an incoming government will be bound to amend or repeal it entirely. This is grossly wasteful use of the Parliamentary process and taxpayer’s money.

This blogger hopes that the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is set aside.  Aside from National ministers and a few misguided rightwing bloggers, there is very little support for this proposed legislation.

Additional

Parliament: External oversight of intelligence agencies: a comparison

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Egg; Face; Maggie Barry

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Ex-radio host-come-National politician – known for her acerbic and often nasty tongue in Parliament’s debating chamber – has copious amounts of egg on her face.

Ever the loyal, obedient National Party foot-soldier for towing the OPL (Official Party Line), she loudly parroted her party’s opposition to the Auckland rail link. She expressed her “well wishes” to  Len Brown after he won the 2010 Mayoralty race with this graceless message,

The morning after National’s resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Maggie Barry’s line in sand

Charming.

But political Karma being what it is,  National’s change of heart on this issue had made her look foolish. Her senior fellow politicians have now endorsed Len Brown and Auckland Council’s plans for the Auckland rail link,

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Auckland Mayor celebrates Government's agreement to support rail loop

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz – Auckland Mayor celebrates Government’s agreement to support rail loop

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Ms Barry, not quite bringing herself able to tow the new OPL, endorsed only certain  aspects of Auckland Council’s transport plans,

North Shore National MP Maggie Barry said there was a “flurry of excitement” about the suggestion the North Shore could get another link to the city.

“It is essential and long overdue, and it would make a phenomenal difference to the North Shore.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key to give Auckland a crossing

I suspect there’s enough egg on Ms Barry’s face to cook up a decent size omelette.

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Bully-boy Brownlee

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Not content with creating the Auckland super city without first putting it to Auckland ratepayers through a referendum

Not content with pushing more laws through Parliament under “Urgency” than probably any other government in New Zealand’s history…

Not content with dis-establishing Environment Canterbury in March 2010; replacing it with un-elected Commissioners; whose decisions cannot be appealed to the Environment Court…

Not content with usurping the authority of the Christchurch City Council with the creation of CERA…

Not content with being given sweeping political power in the Christchurch re-build, via the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act which  effectively gives unbridled power to National Ministers  for five years…

Not content with expanding the surveillance powers of the GCSB, where no one will be safe from being spied upon by the State…

Not content with moving to take control of Christchurch

Gerry Brownlee is now putting none-too-subtle pressure on Auckland City to sell its assets to help pay for the Auckland rail loop,

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City's shares eyed for rail

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail

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Acting more reminiscent of a feudal Baron ruling over his fiefdom, Brownlee is treating Mayor Len Brown as a vassal, forcing Auckland City to obey National’s diktats.

I wonder what Aucklanders think of this kind of high-handed Ministerial control being exerted over their city – all the way from Wellington?

It must be demeaning for Aucklanders to realise that their elected local representatives are being treated like puppets, and that real power is being exerted from the Beehive?

So much for the quaint notion of democracy.

So much for Aucklanders being in charge of their own destiny.

So much for the  “partnership” that our mendacious Prime Minister promised, three years ago,

The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland council to improve the city’s transport systems, Prime Minister John Key says.

He said today the Government shared Mayor Len Brown’s vision of getting Auckland moving and it was a government priority as well.

“The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland City Council on what comes next, and contribute its fair share to the continuing goal of improving transport,” Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.

Acknowledgement : NZ Herald – Govt will work with council on Auckland’s transport

Having a Minister of the Crown attempting to bully Auckland to sell it’s assets in not a “partnership”.  And just because National has engaged in an act of wilful economic sabotage by it’s agenda of partial asset-sales – is no reason to expect others to follow that lunatic policy.

Gerry Brownlee should take note. He is playing with political fire, and a million votes in Auckland may come raining down on his (and other National MPs’) head.

If I know Kiwis as well as I think I do, they will not take kindly to being bossed around. (The Americans found this out, to their cost, when the Lange-led Labour government passed our nuclear-free legislation.)

How much does Brownlee really want to piss that many voters off?

Tread carefully, bully-boy.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2013.

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Roosting chickens

25 September 2011 6 comments

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I think we all remember the ‘Hobbit‘ fiasco, last year. The cast of this little tragi-farce included Actor’s Equity; Peter Jackson; Warner Bros; and John Key and his guvmint.

It also included a gentleman by the name of Greg Ellis, who played a ‘bit part’, as leading a “break-a-way” group of actors (numbers unknown) and formed the so-called “New Zealand Actors’ Guild – Te Taurahere i Te Hunga Toi Whakaari“, in October 2010.

Mr Ellis formed the NZAG to oppose Actor’s Equity, who at the time were attempting to negotiate with SPADA (Screen Production and Development Association – Waka Papaho). The NZAG came out firmly in support of Peter Jackson’s views that actors and production workers were “independent contractors”, and not employees. Though, in an expression of  “generosity”, Mr Ellis’  “temporary” (operating since October,  2010) website did ask,

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“One of the big issues that has been at the heart of recent disputes has been the status of actors as employees on productions…

… Tell us about the up and down sides of being an independent contractor and let us know – do you want to remain self employed?”

Self-employed or employee?, October 26th, 2010

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As we have no way of knowing who is a member of NZAG – or for that matter how many members they have – it is difficult to determine what sort of response there was to that question, if any.  Considering that NZAG’s existence is predicated on keeping actors as independent contractors, and not as employees (as Actor’s Equity was wanting) – what would NZAG/Greg Ellis do if their membership opted for status as employees?

Though there must have been some form of response, as Mr Ellis later comments,

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“One of the things that irks us most is the CTU’s failure to acknowledge that almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors. “

The CTU trolls through the past again”, April 14th, 2011

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One wonders how Mr Ellis arrived at the conclusion that “almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors”?

How many members does this so-called “Guild” actually have? It can’t be that many, as they have registered themselves – not as a Union, but as a charity,

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“Just sent off an online application to become a registered charity.  That means that people can make donations to us and have them classed as charitable donations by the IRD.”

“Applying to become a charity”, January 30th, 2011

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I’m not even sure if this is legal?! It certainly begs the question as to how an organisation dedicated to the advancement of it’s own members can be classed as a charity?

It certainly puts paid to one of the posters on the NZAG’s blogsite, who believes that the NZAG is some kind of “union”,

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James says:
October 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

“Truth to the membership and real principles based on the strength of coming together are the base of every union.”

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But moving along.

The NZAG criticised Actor’s Equity for daring to want negotions with SPADA.  NZAG said,

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“The NZ Actors’ Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles. The actors in the roles of stand-ins and doubles are also on generous contracts for extended periods of time and there will be the opportunity for a large number of performers to benefit from extra roles, giving many actors valuable experience and an ongoing income in uncertain times…

… So New Zealand actors will be rubbing shoulders with overseas counterparts but Kiwis are present in this Hollywood film in large numbers and this is to be celebrated.”

NZ Actors’ Guild seeks to celebrate the positive impacts on the lives of Kiwi actors, March 14th, 2011

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According to NZAG/Greg Ellis, Actor’s Equity were firmly cast as the “bad guys” in this affair. Actor’s Equity had no right to demand negotiations to improve the conditions of actors and other staff. After all, as NZAG claimed, “almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors”.

The government, led by our unfeasibly popular Prime Minister, John “The Baptist” Key, acted accordingly. They fulfilled their cameo-role as The Guvmint , and amended legislation that ensured that actors and other movie staff were independent contractors – not employees. At the stroke of a legislative pen, the rights of an entire class of New Zealand workers was taken away.

The Employment Relations Act 2000 was amended via the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill,  introduced to Parliament on 28 October, last year,  under Urgency*,  as part of a deal between Warner Bros and Government ministers to keep ‘The Hobbit‘ film production in New Zealand. (Though, as was later discovered in an email from Peter Jackson, there was little likelihood of  the production actually moving overseas.)

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The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act made film industry workers independent contractors by default, avoiding the definition in current employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

Just imagine, you are an employee on Friday, with four weeks annual leave; sick pay; the right to join a Union if you so wish; and job security.

Then you arrive at work on Monday and, by Government decree, you are now classed as an independent contractor. No more annual leave; no more sick pay; no more job security. And because you’re an independent contractor, the law forbids you the choice of belonging to a Union.

Yes, my fellow New Zealanders, that is precisely what happened.

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When the media enquired further, Gerry Brownlee’s office stated that,  “the Government was comfortable with its action and would not be commenting further“. Source.  Yeah, I’ll bet they didn’t want to comment further!

However, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for,

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Source

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“New Zealand Actors’ Guild secretary Greg Ellis said the changes could see local talent overlooked. “New Zealand may become merely a filming location and the creativity and innovation currently present in our creative sector could be lost.”

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Oh, good lord, the IRONY! Greg Ellis complaining about a law change that will impact on local actors’ working rights – when he himself led the charge for a breakaway “Actors  Guild” from Actor’s Equity – in support of Peter Jackson and Warner Bros!?!? And then the government amended employment laws to suit Warner Bros?!?!

The casualisation and erosion of actor’s rights in New Zealand started with National caving in to threats from certain quarters, in October last year, and Mr Ellis certainly played his part (albeit minor, perhaps) in undermining Actor’s Equity.

In fact, let me remind Mr Ellis about his comments last year;

“Actors’ Equity claims 600 members were reported to be unhappy about the casting of New Zealand roles in The Hobbit, but Actors’ Guild chairman Greg Ellis was pleased as punch.

“The NZ Actors’ Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles. ” Source

Mr Ellis’s colleague in the breakaway “Guild/Union/Charity”, also seemed to be quite pleased back in March of this year, when we crowed,

“”I have a great contract and awesome working conditions and a performance fee that is almost double my ‘day job’ wage,” says guild member Gareth Ruck.

“I look at the hundreds of fellow actors and crew members I’m working with and think how bad it could have been if Equity had its way.”” Source

I wonder if Mr Ruck will still be as happy if this government pushes through with it’s Bill? And just how much better would it have been had Actor’s Equity “had its way”?

And I think Mr Ellis was being somewhat optimistic when he naively expressed this sentiment,

“I think that an actor’s destiny needs to be controlled by New Zealand actors who are aware of our industry. There’s no point having people outside the country deciding our destiny, especially not people like Helen Kelly who don’t understand how our industry works or the relations inside it.”Source

There is nothing quite so dangerous as a person with good intentions, but wholly misguided in his actions, and in attempting to help others  has played into the hands of interests that he does not fully understand. In fighting Actor’s Equity, Mr Ellis and his NZAG have been well and truly  ‘played‘  by government, Warner Bros, and Peter Jackson (who would tolerate no intrusion into his private movie-making empire).

Look out the window, Mr Ellis, Mr Ruck, et al – your chickens have come home to roost.

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* “Urgency” in Parliamentary terms  means that thre Government’s Bill does not go to a Select Committee for public discussion; the public has no say on the contents of the Bill; and Parliament has no oversight. It is “rammed” through, simply bcause the Government can do it – it has the numbers. It also means that the Bill can  contain horrendous mistakes (as has happened in the past), and the public is powerless if they disagree with the Bill, or any aspect of it.

This current government has passsed more laws through “Urgency” than any other in recent history.

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Further reading

NZ Actors’ Guild Seeks To Celebrate The Positive Impacts On The Lives Of Kiwi Actors

The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

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