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Thursday, July 31, 2008

nz blogosphere June rankings out now

The blogosphere rankings in full have been released. So much detail, so long in the waiting. The survey will be completed much faster next time.

Big movers:

#21 (80+) Homepaddock
#25 (+12) Keeping Stock
#27 (80+) Jafapete’s Weblog
#28 (+17) Hot topic
#32 (+39) Dim Post
#41 (+45) Barnsley Bill
#50 (+32) Anti-Dismal
#57 (+16) Oswald Bastable's Ranting
#63 (+11) Grant Robertson | Wellington Central
#65 (70+)Truth Seeker
#68 (+20) Jimmy Jangles
#70 (30+) Skinny
#71 (30+) PM of NZ

#24 (-12) KiwiBlogBlog (wound up)
#29 (-12) TBR.cc (The Briefing Room)
#31 (-16) whoar.co.nz
#37 (-14) Newzblog
#38 (-12) Silent Running
#60 (-17) John Key (yes - THE John Key)
#69 (-18) Eye of the Fish
#81 (-39) Green Machine
#84 (-27) Bill English (yes)
#87 (-19) Holden Republic
#96 (-24) Anarchia
#99 (-24) Spleen

Car 1 : Tree nil

Hattip to TV3 on another Kiwi salute to storm warnings:
A wild storm in Nelson, New Zealand blows down a large tree, A man in his car narrowly avoids being squashed by said tree.
Category: News & Politics
Tags: Nelson New Zealand Tree Storm Collingwood Liqourking

Note how the cops are all over the show, like they had a Jones moment on Dad's Army, and can't get it together to stop this car coming straight down the road and almost colliding with the obviously falling tree. Maybe it was deliberate? This is Nelson, after all. "What were they smoking?" indeed, observant stander-by.

Remarkable footage.

Crown-Tuhoe: 1895 v2.0

This is historic stuff:

Ngai Tuhoe and the Crown signed Terms of Negotiations, marking the beginning of negotiations for the settlement of Ngai Tuhoe's historical Treaty of Waitangi claims in spite of the fact Ngai Tuhoe did not sign the Treaty.
The Terms lays the ground rules for the negotiations which the Crown hopes to have resolved within the year.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said the negotiations were an opportunity to address grievances and move forward.
Ngai Tuhoes claims included the confiscation of tribal their land, historic losses of lives as a result of Crown actions and the execution of unarmed prisoners by Crown forces during the New Zealand wars.

But they have it wrong here:

This is the second time Ngai Tuhoe have negotiated with the Crown.
In June this year they signed the Central North Island Collective Deed of Settlement.
This settled Ngai Tuhoe's claims to central North Island forest land but did not address the settlement of their remaining historical claims.

They "negotiated" with the Crown in 1895:

the Native Land Court was going to break into the core Tuhoe territories. It may have been this threat... which led the chiefs of Te Urewera... to enter into negotiations with Seddon, the Liberal Prime Minister, in 1895...

In effect the Urewera tribes made a cession of their de facto sovereignty in return for certain promises made by the government of the day on behalf of the Crown. The main points supposedly agreed to, as identified by Seddon, were:
(a) an external survey of the Urewera block;
(b) internal subdivisions to be carried out by a Commissioner, rather than the Native Land Court; and
(c) the establishment of a process of self-government through a General Committee representing the various iwi and hapū of the region.

The Urewera District Native Reserve Act was passed on 12 October 1896. The Act is described in its Long Title as "an Act to make provision for the ownership and local government of the Native lands in the Urewera District".
The Preamble states:
Whereas it is desirable in the interests of the Native race that the Native ownership of the Native lands constituting the Urewera District should be ascertained in such manner, not inconsistent with Native customs and usages, as will meet the views of the Native owners generally and the equities of each particular case, and also that provision should be made for the local government of the said district...

The guarantees of 1896 were soon forgotten as the Native Land Court was introduced to the region and the Crown embarked on an aggressive programme of undivided share-buying of the Urewera block. Most of the region passed into Crown title during a massive title consolidation scheme during the 1920s.

An Act to facilitate the Settlement of the Lands in the Urewera District...
WHEREAS the [Maori] lands within the district referred to in Schedule 1 to this Act have for a number of years been under special administration, and it is now desirable to apply the ordinary law thereto... hereby repealed... The Urewera District [Maori] Reserve Act 1896.

That's the backgrounder. They hammered out a deal with the Crown and then the government changed its mind and dicked them over. That ought to be in everyone's minds - this history of deals. But the Waitangi process and the systematised method of Crown-Iwi contact must be some way ahead of where we were at a hundred odd years ago. Surely. The statute arising from these negotiations will settle the constitutional status of Tuhoe - and thus determine the price and terms upon which they sign the Treaty of Waitangi (even if they don't actually sign the document). But there's no reason the Crown can't offer the same text of The Treaty as part of the agreement.

The Crown - the mechanism of the settler-speculators to aid their economic and social interests - decided that Maori were the enemy üntermenschen that stood between them and their fortune, and started incapacitating them by war, seizure and harsh laws from the 1860s. All the Crown gains from suppressing Maori autonomy have been locked in by each succeeding generation of settler-speculators. They confiscated and enforced sales of Maori land everywhere - in every district and in many different ways. The more immigrants they can pump in the better for them. Maori votes will be further diluted, their democratic power diminished, meaning they can't politically resist the onslaught. It had become in the economic interests of the Pakeha not to think about it. Each year that stolen piece of Maori land increases in value if immigration remains high. The higher the price of the land the less likely it will be that the Crown will return it or pay for its return. The more incentive the settler-speculator has to keep hold of it. The system is a basic colonial-styled immigration-based land speculation pyramid. Always was - organised immigration came before organised government - and always will be... if we accept the status quo.

So, given that the Crown party to these negotiations has been accused of war crimes, and that Tuhoe maintain a constitutional independence from the Crown (even if day-to-day co-operation with the "Crown agents" is commonplace) it must set a high threshold of guaranteed internal self government. The rest of the nation's tribes may then reasonably assert the same level of territorial and jurisdictional autonomy as that which has been gained by Tuhoe. Surely. The Crown would find it impossible to argue their way out of extending all the Tuhoe gains on to every competent Iwi grouping. This is very important. Tuhoe could be the new model of the Crown-Iwi relationship and would give the Tino Rangatiratanga cause something achievable to aim for in the medium term. The Crown making a National Park out of the centre of their territory will mean consequences for all National Parks and DoC land under my scenario.

I hope the Maori Party make the Crown negotiate properly if they are in a position to demand it.

Michael Cullen
Crown and Ngāi Tūhoe sign Terms of Negotiations

Ngāi Tūhoe and the Crown have today signed Terms of Negotiations, marking the beginning of negotiations for the settlement of Ngāi Tūhoe’s historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen said.

The Waitangi Tribunal held hearings into Ngāi Tūhoe’s claims in 2004. The claims included the loss by Ngāi Tūhoe of land and lives as a result of Crown actions, the execution of unarmed prisoners by Crown forces during the New Zealand wars, and the Crown’s 1916 raid on Maungapohatu and arrest of Rua Kenana.

The Crown recognised the mandate of Te Kotahi a Tūhoe in September 2007. Terms of Negotiations set out how the Crown and Ngāi Tūhoe will negotiate, and indicate the subjects to be discussed.

“The Crown and Tūhoe have a long and troubled relationship to rebuild,” Dr Cullen said.

“Through these negotiations we have the opportunity to resolve the grievances of the past and build a future based on common understanding together.”

In June this year, Ngāi Tūhoe signed the Central North Island Collective Deed of Settlement. The Collective Settlement settled Ngāi Tūhoe’s claims to central North Island forest land but left the settlement of their remaining historical claims to be negotiated. The redress provided under the Collective settlement is on account against such a settlement.

Cullen is leading treaty negotiations and does have his address to Tuhoe online but I can't find the actual Terms.

And this picture from NZPA is priceless. If that isn't goodwill on both sides I don't know what is.

Winston's slush fund diagram

Click on image to enlarge


The image above has been amended to include the correct photograph of Mr Vela. The photograph used in the previous version of this diagram was of Mr David Ellis. This was a result of a caption misunderstanding - no imputation of involvement in this affair by Mr Ellis was meant by the photo. This was an honest mistake.

Tumeke! unreservedly apologises for this mistake and any inconvenience or distress that it has caused Mr Ellis.

Tumeke! aims for high standards and we have failed in this respect on this occasion. We renew our commitment to get the facts right and keep the facts right, and when alerted to an error we will endeavour to remedy that error promptly.

Stuff reports we can add another random $20k to the chain:

The Dominion Post has obtained a deposit slip showing $19,998 was deposited in one or more cheques into the party's coffers in December 1999. The donation, banked into the party's Westpac account, fuels the issue of big-business donations to NZ First - a party that has proclaimed that it does not take money from big-business donors.
Electoral Commission records for 1999 show that NZ First did not declare any donations of more than $10,000 - the threshold requiring such a donation to be reported.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the party leader, Winston Peters, said: "Phil, I told you I'm not talking to a lying wanker like you. See you." He then hung up.

I don't think he should be making threats to someone who seems to have the incriminating paperwork in his bottom draw. Whether Kitchin is putting these allegations on a slow release timer or whether disgruntled people are popping out of the woodwork spontaneously now Winston looks to be on the ropes is another question.

How does the money that WInston owes to his lawyers - and incurred as part of his (and therefore party's) political gain - get paid? His lawyers handle that side and it's reeking. So is the money seemingly paid to NZ First after being washed through his web of trusts.

The trick is for Winston to maintain that he had nothing to do with the money trail. No evidence exists in writing that he does, but at every turn his hand is present. But as yet no smoking gun. And there might never be one. This is a public credibility issue - not a criminal one, despite the SFO being called in by Rodney Hide. I would be astounded if someone as fastidious and lawyerly as Winston would leave so much as a loose hair on his teflon suit.

“Gangs are terrorists” – banning gang patches and other European NZ fantasies

Gang patch ban 'outweighs rights'
A jump in gang crime and the recruitment of youths by gangs means a city-wide patch ban outweighs any human rights considerations, Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says. Speaking to Parliament's law and order select committee yesterday, Mr Laws said new police figures showed gang criminal activity had increased, with violent attacks almost doubling from 52 in 2006 to 99 in 2007. The Wanganui District Council Prohibition of Gang Regalia Bill, which was spearheaded by Mr Laws and Whanganui National MP Chester Borrows, would ban gang colours, patches and regalia from Wanganui's public places.
Mr Laws said gang members were terrorists, were New Zealand's largest drug manufacturers, and existed only to create mayhem and intimidate law-abiding citizens. Gang regalia was used to recruit children as young as seven who looked up to gang members as role models. "[The ban] is designed to remove intimidation and the potential for violence from public places. We're not solving the gang problem here but we are giving our police another facility to police a safer community."
Mr Laws said the main concern over the bill - that it infringed on gang members' human rights - should be put aside for the greater good. Former police gang specialist Cam Stokes said the bill would be ineffective and make policing gangs more difficult. "It makes it harder to identify those people without their patches. The quicker we identify them after they have committed a serious crime the quicker we catch them."

Oh Lord, where to begin? I used to like Michael, after reading his very good book, The Demon Profession , you got the real feeling that Michael was a very principled voice within NZ First and took his responsibilities as an MP very seriously, however since then he has bloated into Talkback reactionary dog whistle speech that seems more intent at creating heat than any light. This latest outburst demanding gang patches are made illegal is on par with last months call to set the Army on gangs. Setting the Army on NZ citizens because we have decided those citizens are ‘terrorists’ is perhaps the most ill thought out, backward, fear mongering bullshit I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. The Army? Michael wants to turn the Army on it’s own citizens? He then, without even understanding the irony, invokes the collapse of Zimbabwe as a reason why we should use the Army, of course in Zimbabwe Mugabe has in fact used the Army on his own citizens and managed to do that by painting his opposition out as traitors and terrorists. The way we deal with organized crime in NZ is by reforming the old SFO and attack the financial structures that allow Organized Crime to prosper and have the assets to keep ahead of the Police, as for street gangs, the societal alienation that drives much recruitment for gangs needs to be tackled while a much quicker Court system would hand out quicker Justice so that gang members do perceive that there is a direct counter reaction to their actions, with Court cases taking almost 2 years at the moment, there is no immediate effect felt. These are structural and resourcing issues and would go much further in finding solutions than the madness of suggesting we have the Army turn their guns on a splinter group within society and crush them in some type of bloodbath that Commissioner Laws envisions would be an Apocalyptic cleansing of the filth from the planet, only someone drinking deeply from their own well of bullshit could ever believe that is a solution. Likewise this call to ban gang patches, it won’t change a damned thing and only start a precedence where Michael can decide which group should be in society and which group can’t be in society, his evidence that gang violence doubled last between 2006 and 2007 also coincides with a massive economic downturn that is squeezing those on the bottom, economic factors tend to be more of an exacerbating factor with gangs in this country than some recruitment drive on behalf of the gangs – but Laws doesn’t even consider that, instead he wants them banned, damn the consequences. This is not wisdom, it’s malformed hate.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

General Debate: Peters in Wonderland

Winston was enjoying himself this afternoon. Gerry Brownlee made as much headway as he could through his interjections. The cautious PM kept strictly to her lines. The cockroach survives another day.

National's angle in the House was that Winston threatened the PM with withdrawal of his party's votes if she didn't express confidence in him and so she was forced to accept his word and do nothing to investigate the slush fund allegations - rather than risk a suicidal early election. Brownlee asked if Winston gave instructions to the Spencer Trust and said he assumed Winston was the beneficiary of the Trust. Peters did not challenge this assumption, and naturally, failed to answer any part of the question.

Come Winston's speech in the General Debate the entire Labour front bench had vanished. They weren't going to be caught in the presence of Winston flinging out mud. He was going to use Alice in Wonderland as a theme, and there was no way that the Queen and the Mad Hatter were sticking around for that drama. Winston marked out the conspiracy against him:

  • In May 2005 Winston informed the Speaker of allegations carried now by the Dom Post. [Vela Bros.?]
  • Big money wants him out.
  • TVNZ hired two private investigators to get dirt on him. Ian Fraser threatened him and Bill Ralston authorised the detectives.
  • Phil Kitchin (Dom Post) gave material to TVNZ
  • Ex NZ First staff member had split up with disgruntled partner and they leaked material
  • Defamation action from Winston is live against some of these people.

    What ever, Winston. Investigating potential corruption is something Winston used to pride himself on, now he says when it's against him it's a conspiracy of the wealthy and the media to bring him down. The groove in that track is rather deep, seeing as how he plays it every time any allegation at all of any nature on any subject is ever made against him. It's a vast conspiracy. It could not match, however, the detail of intrigue and webs of connexions that link Winston to his pots of big money. That's the conspiracy here. He's the one taking money from big money interests. We know that now, so his ascetic mirage of financial rectitude has evaporated.

    He must have been in trouble. He had to mention his mother's funeral twice in this speech. Maybe it was Rodney Hide asking the Serious Fraud Office to investigate him? He's angry evidently. NZ Herald reporting Peter's walked off from a media stand-up because journalists wouldn't move away for him (?) Maybe because that angle would make him look short?

  • King George chucks it in

    His Majesty's coronation programme.

    The sudden move of the King (right before his coronation) to yield more power to parliament has come as a surprise. The Prime Minister's speech "His Majesty King George Tupou V, A Monarch for a time of change"

    The Sovereign of the only Polynesian Kingdom, whose official coronation takes place on August 1st, is voluntarily surrendering his powers to meet the democratic aspirations of many of his people. They see Tonga’s royal heritage as integral to the country’s culture and identity, but favour a more representative, elected Parliament. The King agrees with them.

    This statement is on the Tongan government website from the office of the Prime Minister and authorised by the office of the Lord Chamberlain (which must be the King's advisor?). If this is for real, this is the end of the centuries old model of executive monarchy and the establishment of a Westminister style parliamentary democracy. An achievement the King was working towards apparently:

    King Taufa’ahau, therefore, accepted the advice of the Crown Prince that appointment of ministers should in future be made on the recommendations of an elected Prime Minister. It was an important voluntary transfer of authority.

    To King George, this was a binding precedent. He has gone further and given an undertaking that he will be guided by the recommendations of the Prime Minister of the day in all matters of governance, with the exception of the Monarch’s judicial powers. These relate to the appointment of judges and king’s counsel, clemency and commuting prison sentences. King George is strongly of the view that they should never be subject to political considerations. He has appointed a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council consisting of four Law-Lords-in-Waiting to advise him on the exercise of these powers.

    Consistent with his new definition of monarchial duty and conduct, the King is strictly impartial when he has to meet with Ministers and Members of Parliament. He does not now make personal statements on political issues and usually refuses requests for media interviews.

    King George is committed to further devolution of more royal prerogatives to Parliament. There will be a ceding to Cabinet of some of the functions of the Privy Council, over which the King is constitutionally required to preside.

    His Majesty wishes to ensure that the Monarchy is fully prepared for elections in 2010 under a revised voting system granting the majority voice in Parliament to the people.

    On paper he still has unchecked powers - and judicial appointments and so on in NZ will always be dealt with via Ministers and the relevant ministries and signed off by the Queen's representative - and so it isn't quite the model we have. But that is how things evolve. The dimunition of executive power will continue to flow away from the Monarch.

    I thought the guy was stark raving bonkers, that he had molded himself into a mad English aristocrat and would take his Kingdom down in flames to stay in power. The rioting in the capital a few years ago seemed proof that the people had had a gutsful of him and his cronies. He was, after all, posing as a businessman and deriding the Tongan peasants as unworthy and uncouth while he (and his sister) looted the state treasury and used his father to transfer companies into their ownership which they promptly ran into the ground, eg. Royal Tongan Airlines. So people have been very skeptical towards the King's democratic instincts.

    Has he been strong-armed by the PM, by the MPs, by the international community? Is it genuine? Note the defensive tone later on:

    King George, the progeny of an ancient dynasty of sacred rulers, is known for his individuality, formidable intellect and learning. His hopes and aims for Tonga, his abilities, erudition and foresight, are often overlooked by overseas news media. Many articles about him tend to be trivialized, sensationalised or stereotyped and marked by misinformation and error.

    He's regarded as a total muppet, actually; "formidible intellect" if I may trivialise for a second, has never been associated with the ruler. And as for "foresight":

    But the King has said he has no talent for farming. He decided therefore, when he was Crown Prince, to invest in other areas of the economy, with the attendant commercial risk. He has previously made the point that royalty in other countries have investments and business interests.

    Soon after he was proclaimed Monarch in September 2006, the Office of the Lord Chamberlain announced that His Majesty would dispose of all his commercial interests. This was in compliance with the demands and obligations of his high office. The divestment is virtually complete.

    The "divestment" was, as I understand it, because he has ruined the companies he tried to manage and in the case of Royal Tongan - nothing was left.

    Then there was the riots. They need overseas (Chinese) money now more than ever.

    Teenager accused of smoking weed requires police helicopter overkill

    Police deny overreaction
    Police have denied they overreacted when arresting Bailey Junior Kurariki on Friday night, saying reports of staff numbers had been exaggerated. Kurariki is back behind bars after allegedly breaching his parole conditions by using drugs. Kim Workman, former national director of the Prison Fellowship, said Kurariki's family had told him between 30 and 40 police officers surrounded the house and a helicopter hovered overhead as he was arrested. But Counties Manukau police spokeswoman Senior Sergeant Denise Traill said there were nothing like 30 police officers present.

    Note they don’t deny they used a Police helicopter to arrest a teenager accused of smoking weed, and why don’t the Police tell us how many cops they sent into arrest a teenager accused of smoking weed, if it wasn’t 30 – how many were there? How can any level of Police + copters to arrest an allegation of weed look anything other than over kill? We sentenced a child to prison for nothing more than being a look out in a mugging that went wrong, most NZers, based on the hysteria created by the Michael Choy killing, seem to think that Bailey himself beat Michael Choy for several hours, I questioned the hysteria at the time, I questioned sending a child to prison and I questioned the rehabilitation available to him with the media glare is so firmly fixated on watching him fail once released – and I sure as hell question sending a chopper and teams of cops – not 30, but teams of cops into arrest him on suspicion of smoking a joint, the wider attitude towards Bailey and the manner in which we are treating him is jaw dropping and on some level reeks of outright racism.

    Choy’s death was a tragic mistake what we are doing to Bailey is a tragedy.

    Olympics 2008 is the Olympics of 1936

    Beijing haze recedes
    Haze that has covered Beijing for the last few days cleared as rain fell 10 days before the Olympics begin, but the government came under renewed pressure from a damning human rights report.

    Every Human Rights Reports shows that things have not gotten better as China promised the world when they were awarded the Olympics , their human rights record has actually gotten worse since 2001 – WORSE! With this knowledge how can anyone do anything other than boycott the Olympics? They promised to clean up their human rights record and they have in fact ended up being worse, to participate now would be helping that repression rather than challenge it. The world did that in 1936, will we do it again in 2008?

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Parliamentary Question Time: Winston's ego explosion

    Winston Peters was standing to attention from the outset. His personal explanation to parliament is the most anticipated event this week. After mentioning the death of his mother Winston quickly rattled out the usual insults to the media and the "media ego explosion" surrounding the temerity of the press to inquire as to the nature of his web of slush funds. None was forthcoming. No surpises there - same old bluster. Ending with a final flourish of, "and that speaks volumes!" just to top off the string of non sequiturs. If anything was speaking volumes it was Rodney Hide's hideous yellow jacket. Dressed like a canary, Hide had more credibility than Winston could muster with his non "explanation".

    Hide was left wondering how the brief statement consisting of media condemnation and insinuations was in any way a persoanal explanation: when granted leave for one "the custom is you make one." Cue threats from Winston about telling all on Hide. Rodney just laughs and shakes his head.

    John Key then began his skirmishing. He kept asking the PM, repeatedly, about what Winston told her in their meeting. Clark reiterated that Winston's "behaviour has been lawful" because WInston had assured her. Every time Key mentioned the Spencer Trust and $25k from Bob Jones Clark came back with the Waitemata Trust and National's anonymous donors. Backwards and forwards.

    Then Winston, bristling, attacked National backbencher Craig Foss for an undisclosed shareholding. He would do this again later. But this sort of dirt, revelation, lapse, call it what you will... allegation... met with no effect. His diversion tactics would not blunt the attack.

    Clark had her shields up on full power. If anyone wanted to make something of it there were avenues to go down and authorities to ask - but not her.

    When Key queried Clark's record and conceded that although Winston may have done nothing illegal she must act with "integrity" she reiterated that as an MP he is an honorable member and his word must be taken as correct. But she went further - she didn't have to, but she did - "I have never been led astray by him" she said. And as for the current issues he "declared it promptly."

    At this stage Ron Mark's antics were becoming too much. Hide objected to the "threats" from Winston's barking protégé about declaring everything. Bouyed perhaps by his apprentice's carping, the master must have decided to give him a lesson in how to really counter-punch like a pro: he dredged up the case of a Green MP who had an affair with someone appearing before a select committee and had to excuse himself, before taunting Hide with a sexually themed: "why don't you tell the world what you['re ?] really like!?" That's how it's done, Ron. Multiple attacks on several parties and the innuendo of sleaze - all within a single outburst.

    "We'll have none of that" the Speaker chastised. But of course we'll have more of exactly that in another ten minutes. The same sorts of warnings are issued during every question time I've ever heard.

    With Key asking more supplimentaries to the PM along the hypocrisy line, Clark effectively turned the focus back to National's slush funds. Clark looked calm and business like, Key was a notch or three under how a forceful and commanding leader should sound. Key responded with a rehearsed line about her "high standards disapperaing like her poll ratings" prompting Clark's simmering bile to stream forth about his "slippery" nature and his weekend Agenda performance. This rarked things up. The pitch was now elevated. She called his MPs "dogs" and proclaimed "I've had a set of principles, he's never had one!" I note she spoke of her principles in the past tense.

    The Speaker wasn't impressed where this was going and hit the most piercing of her legendary shrieks for order when her own rulings came under fire. I'm not alone in wondering how she copes with this circus.

    Key had gotten under Clark's skin, at last. So Winston was happy now to use points of order to break up the assault and score some free hits: accusing Key of being a "bag man" for the Exclusive Brethren. But Key would persist: "integrity" he wondered was that still a principle she held? Her answer was a list of u-turns from Key about invading Iraq and that climate change was a hoax. But she chose to answer his question by saying she had "consistency"... rather than integrity? The two perhaps being the same thing in her mind.

    Winston claimed that "Audrey finally got it right" that "the question was not raised in my company" - over the slush funds. I can't recall Winston ever apologising to a journo - only vindications for calling them liars. Today would be no different.

    And after half an hour we got to change the subject with a question over Treasury's new forecasts. Bad. Cullen said there would be $3.5 billion deficits for the next few years - and a tax take $700 million below estimates. This makes any tax cut from National very tricky. Cullen's plans seem to be working.

    Gerry Brownlee tried to draw David Parker into announcing the election date. Parker said that they were following constitutional conventions and not appointing people to boards within three months of an election. Therefore, Brownlee mused, the election must be on the 8th of November because of the timing of the last weeks deluge of appointments - including swathes of its Labour supporters. Parker didn't deny it, but curiously said that Brownlee "mis-states" the convention. (!?) Unhelpful.
    PHOTOS: A J Wilson

    10 Trillion reasons America is on the slide.

    USA Today has a fascinating graph of America's fiscal bow-outs. Under Clinton the Reagan-Bush deficits were erased, surpluses were created by the end of his term it was peachy. Under George W Bush the US government's spending has exploded.

    Their Treasury Secretaries were very ideological about the benefits of the tax cuts - but limiting the government's revenue and pursuing an expensive policy of foreign wars will always be difficult to manage. They keep printing greenbacks as an answer. Bailing out the two big mortgage firms has raised their total US govt. debt ceiling to $10.6 Trillion - though they claim they won't push it out over 10. Time will tell.

    [Anyway: Winston's call to the stage is upon us, I'll adjourn to the TV and post on the parliamentary exchanges].


    Breakfast on TVNZ this morning

    On Breakfast this morning Pippa and that stoner from New York were interviewing some wonk from the Institute of more debt for students, wonk was soothingly telling the stoner from New York that students can just take out more money in student loans than a universal allowance thus damning them to a lifetime of even more debt. New York stoner didn’t challenge it and Wonk got away with the softest hand job of interviews. Pippa cackled about students shouldn’t get education if they can’t pay for it, New York stoner said students should party like he did. At no point did the issue of student debt and their crippling effect on students and the solution universal allowances could provide to that crippling debt ever manage to pop it’s head into this totally shit interview.

    NZ Bloggers blog more than any other bloggers

    Kiwis top of international survey for blogging
    A new study has revealed one in 13 New Zealanders has a weblog, making us the keenest bloggers out of 15 countries surveyed for a world research project.

    Researchers at AUT University asked 1430 people about their internet use as part of the World internet Project, a California-run initiative that tracks how people around the world use the internet.

    The survey, the first comprehensive study of New Zealanders' attitudes to the internet, found one in 10 internet users had a blog - about 8 per cent of the population.

    The director of the World internet Project, Dr Jeffrey Cole, said New Zealand had the highest rate of bloggers out of any of the 15. The other country that rated highly for blogging was Japan.

    Dr Cole said that although the global audience for blogs was "tiny", it was hugely important because it included other journalists working in traditional media who might pick up on a story and publish it.

    Dr Cole said most blogs disappeared after about three months, when the blogger realised their online musings would not bring them fame and fortune. "Anyone can put their random thoughts up on the internet for the world to read, but the truth is, most people's random thoughts aren't that interesting." However, occasionally a great thinker or writer emerged who might otherwise not have been published.

    Blogger Russell Brown, who runs the weblog community PublicAddress.net, said the ability to hide your identity on the internet meant people could share information they might not share in person.

    In New Zealand, people identifying as Asian were the most likely to report having a blog, with 31 per cent of Asians blogging, compared with 12 per cent of Pasifika people, 6 per cent of Pakeha and 2 per cent of Maori. Most bloggers were under the age of 30.

    Nice to see the on-line blogging community is growing.

    Breaking up with Winston Peters

    You know the weirdest thing about all this Winston Peters business? I actually feel disappointed in him, a man who has spent his political legacy railing against corporate influence and has demanded democratic transparency only for it to be now revealed that he has received massive corporate donations and has actively done all he technically can to hide that leaves me strangely disappointed in Winston. I listened to his claims of the winebox inquiry and watched with admiration his staunch taking on of the corrupt establishment of the corporate elite, and I agreed with many of his issues on foreign ownership and asset sales, but to see him obfuscate answers to such serious allegations in this manner is ugly and this isn’t the second time he has disappointed me. When he turned to race baiting Asians, that was the time I first realized it wasn’t going to work. Immigration does bring pressure to NZ – it always has, especially when the minority feels unwelcome in their new home, but you deal with that with compassion and understanding and resources into these communities to build strong links with every group, we don’t even hold classes for new migrants to help understand the social norms of their new country. You don’t respond to those challenges by evoking rage in one part of the community to ostracize and vent racist foam, which is exactly what Winston did.

    So this is the second time he has disappointed me. Winston, I think it’s time we started seeing other people.

    National selects one of the Hollow Man as a candidate

    New National list candidate 'Hollow Man', says Clark
    Steven Joyce, National's 2005 election campaign manager and a millionaire, is to stand on the party's list. Prime Minister Helen Clark was quick to condemn the nomination, saying Mr Joyce's appointment demonstrated that National still had a far-right agenda it wasn't being honest about. Mr Joyce, who was also the party's general manager, was one of the key background players featured in Nicky Hager's 2006 book The Hollow Men, which made disclosures about former leader Don Brash's links with the Exclusive Brethren. The book detailed Mr Joyce's involvement in meetings with the shadowy religious group, in using controversial Australian political strategy company Crosby-Textor and approving billboards such as Iwi-Kiwi. The book also said Mr Joyce offered to pay for lobby-group Fairtax's direct marketing campaign and went into how donations were gathered.

    Well. Well, well – the cries from the right that ‘we have changed’ from the fall out caused by the Hollow Man has been shown up for what a hollow claim that is with the nomination of one of the main players in the Hollow Men, Steven Joyce. By advancing Joyce, this shows that National have no intention of changing their tactics from the last time and that what we are seeing is a repeat, think about it, last election the hard right Don Brash was spun as a moderate, 3 years later John Key is spun the same way, last election National used the inoculation tactic of declaring all privatization would occur in a second term, 3 years later National are claiming the same thing, last election National had a secret radical right wing privatization agenda they kept hidden, 3 years later we have the nomination of one of the architects of those tactics nominated for the Party list. National are still a privatization in public service clothing.

    Alt Tv leads the national debate (once again)

    Banks under fire for remarks
    Auckland's mayor John Banks is under fire for his comments that he is more interested in Antarctic penguins than he is about social services. He made the comments during an interview on ALT TV over the weekend. "I am much more interested in the penguins of Antarctica than I am at some of the social problems that we have in New Zealand. I am much more interested in the bears that are baited in China, I'm much more interested in donkeys in the Middle East," he said. Those concerned with social issues in New Zealand are not impressed. "In my view it shows an impoverished view, because care for people should be central in the activities of the Auckland City Council," says Dr Bruce Hucker, Former deputy mayor. Hucker says affordable housing, an area Banks has long said shouldn't be council's responsibility, must be a high priority, along with ethnic relations, better community facilities and educational issues. Banks also played down the issue of global warming during the interview. "I am far, far more concerned with animal rights and animal welfare than I am in climate change," he said. When questioned about the values expressed, Banks reaffirmed his commitment to animal rights, but said he would not be "cross examined".

    I almost fell off my chair in the studio when John made these remarks, oh and he was serious, I honestly believe he cares more about penguins than the ‘gypsies’ he complains clog Queen street.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    How Winston's slush fund works

    Having failed to find a flow chart of the slush fund trail I've made one myself. Other as yet unknown characters and intermediaries are in the mix too - it's complicated. I suspect multiple trusts are involved and that Winston's lawyers are behind them. If you go to that website you will discover that structuring deals is what these guys do. And suing people is what Winston does so I can't make any bald assertion beyond the chart [click on image for full-size].

    Wayne Peters is keeping quiet, but says he does administer the Spencer Trust. WInston denies everything:

    The allegations have been baseless.

    1. The Glenn contribution went to my barrister Brian Henry. As soon as I learned of it I informed the Prime Minister and alerted the media.

    2. The issue of taxation on this contribution is without merit. Legal experts have said so.

    3. No gift duty is payable. Gift duty is based on the laws of the country where the donor is domiciled.

    4. No declaration of pecuniary interest is required. This was made clear by the official advice given to Nick Smith as he revealed in the House this week.

    5. The Vela cheque is lawful.

    6. The Robert Jones claim that he gave $25,000 to New Zealand First?

    The cheque was made out to the Spencer Trust.

    The cheque was not made out to New Zealand First.

    I have been advised by party officials at the time that there is nothing New Zealand First is required to disclose arising from the Spencer Trust.

    7. Neither I nor my barrister has any involvement with the Spencer Trust.

    8. The claim that the 1997 Cushing case settlement of $125,000 was paid by an anonymous donor is untrue. I paid the costs and have offered to show the reporter in question the details. This offer has not been taken up and no withdrawal of the claim has been published.

    There are still many outs left for Winston. The evidence that he is involved had to be non-existent for the deals to work properly. Only problem is Sir Bob Jones isn't playing the game. He says Winston solicited the money directly and in person - Winston says no. But who believes him?

    John Key and his money tree

    Key reverses stance on cash for families
    National is still outwardly confident its election-year tax-cut package will impress voters, despite the fact that it has adopted another Labour policy - this time Working For Families - and further restricted the amount of money it has to spend. National leader John Key yesterday pledged his party would keep the Working For Families tax credit scheme intact if it wins power. He said the commitment extended to keeping inflation-adjusted increases to Working For Families payments and included the October 1 rises that were announced in May's Budget. It is quite a turnaround for Mr Key, who has previously labelled the tax credit scheme "a giant welfare package" and criticised the idea of families who earn more than $100,000 a year getting extra government payments. National has now moved to adopt - or neutralise - interest-free student loans, the nuclear-free stance, ownership of Kiwibank and other state-owned enterprises, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Working For Families.

    The list of Labour Party costs that John is agreeing to adopt all on top of a much larger slice of tax cut is now starting to look like quack economics – where is Mr Key intending to find all the budget to not only match all of Labours large social spending but also find the cash to throw at tax cuts. His sudden U-turns on issues that he has voiced ideological opposition to suggests he either doesn’t believe his ideological leanings in the first place or he’s being crosby-textered and this is one of those lies he will simply dump the second he’s in power. Conspiracy aside – I would love to see where in Gods name he intends to find all this magical money that will pay for everything.

    Dominion Post sanitizes the news

    Immigration overhaul clears two hurdles
    The Labour Department has admitted New Zealand has fallen behind other countries in border security as it moves towards a major revamp of the Immigration Service's computer system. The department issued a request for information from vendors on a new system at the same time the Immigration Bill - which would give Immigration the right to collect and use biometric data to identify non-citizens - cleared another hurdle in Parliament. The bill has been reviewed by the transport and industrial relations select committee, which made several changes to the proposed legislation. These include giving people denied residency, refugee status or facing deportation the right to see a summary of allegations against them.

    The Dominion Post has sanitized this story, no where is it mentioned that secret evidence is going to be used by up to 14 departments to deport people back to regimes that allow torture – instead it’s some bullshit suck up to a press release about the technical needs to keep up with the worlds paranoia on security. Un-fucking-believable, the Dominion Post you have done yourself a disservice and it is outrageous that such a mammoth distortion of our civil liberties is being sneaked through under the guise of immigration reform. The people on the fringes are always the first to feel the heavy hand of repression, the Urewera ‘terrorists’, gangs are being sold as ‘domestic terrorists’ with new laws targeting ‘them’ and immigrants face immediate deportation based on secret evidence back to regimes that torture.

    China worse not better

    Media find set-up slow going
    Internet connection is proving to be a major problem at the Beijing Games, despite Olympic organisers promising uncensored access. Slow connection speed and apparent restricted access to news websites have riled many of the media outlets already in Beijing 12 days out from the opening ceremony. The Chinese ruling party is widely known to monitor and limit all internet access within China. However, two years ago BOCOG media services head Li Jingbo promised in the official China Daily newspaper that there would be uncensored access during the Games, which begin on August 8.

    China promised when it got the Olympics that it would clean up its act on human rights, pollution and censorship but the reality has been a bigger crack down on human rights, the pollution problem has not gone away and air quality is still severe despite ordering cars off roads and shutting down industry and censorship is making itself felt in the very face of the worlds media. The opportunity to turn China away from its totalitarian brutality and take the worlds stage as a genuine super power with the mana that goes with that has been missed and we haven’t even started the games yet.

    How terribly disappointing.

    The madness of humans

    Ninety billion barrels of oil revealed in fragile Arctic
    The future of the Arctic will be less white wilderness, more black gold, a report on oil reserves in the High North has signalled this week. The first comprehensive assessment of oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle, carried out by American geologists, reveals that underneath the ice, the region may contain as much as a fifth of the world's undiscovered yet recoverable oil and natural gas reserves. This includes 90 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply the world for three years at current consumption rates, or to supply America for 12, and 47 trillion cu m of gas, which is equal to about a third of the world's known gas reserves.

    Don’t you love this? Forget the Arctic is about to be ice free and the massive ramifications that body of open water will cause in terms of absorbing heat and turbo charging the planet closer to tipping points, these morons are squabbling who can get the oil out when the amount there would only feed the planets addiction for three years. If this is the debate, we deserve our fate.

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    The Sunday News Roast

    On the Sunday News Roast tonight at 7pm, Sky Digital 65, Alt Tvs News and weekend newspaper critique show that is Unfair & Unbalanced, THE SPIN STARTS HERE with the best political news team on television with your host, Bomber - head of Current Affairs at Alt Tv, Ben Thomas - Political Editor of the NBR, and Blogger Tim Selwyn - the last man to be convicted of sedition in NZ.

    Kick the show off with our thoughts on The Hollow Man doco we all saw on Thursday night…my thoughts were how interesting the similarities were between the last election and this election – last election the hard right Don Brash was spun as a moderate, 3 years later John Key is spun the same way, last election National used the inoculation tactic of declaring all privatization would occur in a second term, 3 years later National are claiming the same thing, last election National had a secret radical right wing privatization agenda they kept hidden, 3 years later who knows?

    News that caught the eye this week
    1: Hangover Finance – how can we close down the SFO right when we have our 25th Finance Company collapse? Are Finance Advisors worse than used car salesmen, lawyers and real estate agents combined? Kudos to Mr Selwyn and Mr Thomas who have been pointing out anomalies in the Hanover Finance façade for many months. Oh and did anyone notice this week Annette King confirmed for the first time that they would transfer not having the right to silence powers from the SFO to the Police, bringing to fruition another prediction made here on the Sunday News Roast that the Police were lusting for that power and we now predict the blurring of that power from serious fraud to everyday use by demonizing gangs thus defending any erosion of civil liberty.

    2: The Winston Peters fiasco: How can a man who has spent his political life building a legacy of railing against corporate influence and corrupt ethics when it has been revealed that he has taken large sums from those corporate interests in a way to avoid laws for their public disclosure and transparency.
    The Conspiracy Theory: Winston’s being set up by backers who have an interest in seeing NZ First collapse and bring votes to National – the racing allegations have surfaced from an industry who were 100% in the pocket of the National Party last election and the sudden profile pieces that surfaced about those who are alleged to have given Winston the money seems very convenient and spun. Even if that Conspiracy is true, it is no defense against what Peters has been accused of doing.
    Prediction: If he realizes he is about to be executed for what is common practice by the other political parties, my bet is that he will blow the charges on every piece of dirt he has ever been given in a massive Mutually Assured Destruction launch , if Winston goes down, he’ll bring everyone with him .

    3: Policy Pending – According to a poll out this week - 55% of NZers want National to show their policy – as we pointed out last week, most National Party policy is diminutive at best, their Broadcasting policy is 339 words long…

    Art and Culture - Policy : Chris Finlayson
    Broadcasting - Policy : Jonathan Coleman
    Communications & IT - Broadband Policy : Maurice Williamson
    Community Affairs - Policy : Paula Bennett
    Defence and Security - 2007 Discussion Paper : Wayne Mapp
    Education - Policies : Anne Tolley
    Environment - Outdoor recreation Policy : Nick Smith
    Foreign Affairs - John Key Speech : Murray McCully
    Health - Policies : Tony Ryall
    Justice - Law & Order - Policies : Simon Power
    Primary Sector - 2007 Discussion paper : David Carter
    Social Services - Policies : Judith Collins
    State Services - Policies : Gerry Brownlee
    Trade - 2007 Discussion Paper : Tim Groser
    Housing - Policy : Phil Heatley

    … here is what National has no policy or anything close to it, on…

    Auckland Issues - nothing : Wayne Mapp
    Building & Construction - nothing : Nick Smith
    Commerce - nothing : Simon power
    Consumer Affairs - nothing : Kate Wilkinson
    Economic Development - nothing : Richard Worth
    Energy - nothing : Gerry Brownlee
    Ethnic Affairs - nothing : Pansy Wong
    Finance and Taxation - nothing : Bill English
    Immigration - nothing : Lockwood Smith
    Labour & Industrial Relations - nothing : Kate Wilkinson
    Local Government - nothing : John Carter
    Maori Affairs - Culture & Development - nothing : Georgina Te Heuheu
    Maori Affairs - Education & TPK - nothing : Tau Henare
    Pacific Island Affairs - nothing : Judith Collins
    Small Business - nothing : Lindsay Tisch
    Tourism - nothing : Lindsay Tisch
    Transport - nothing : Maurice Williamson
    Treaty Negotiations - nothing : Christopher Finlayson
    Women's Affairs - nothing : Jackie Blue

    John Key hasn’t held a set press conference in over a year (the last one was the embarrassing Health policy release where journalists ended up pointing out National didn’t seem to be aware of their own policy), is this hopeless 2 part 16 page unauthorized biography of John Key in the Herald an attempt to make people think they know the unknown 6 year politician? How could it be unauthorized when Key gives an interview in it and has obviously authorized people to talk to the Herald Journalists – where were the questions about his not having a position on the Springboks or his claim to have never met with the Exclusive Brethren when in the Hollow Men doco we see him clearly meeting face to face with the Exclusive Brethren or how he first supported the Iraq war but then didn’t – how come an unauthorized biography of him didn’t focus on those issues?

    4: The Herald's report this week that medical experts had found the MeNZB vaccine given to more than a million under-20-year-olds in the Government's $200 million-plus campaign provided protection for a period of only months. In a quote from the draft paper for a scientific journal, it said: "MeNZB vaccination was not expected to provide long-term protection. In the youngest age group studied (6- to 8-month-old infants) only 27.5 per cent had ... antibody [levels] likely to protect, at 7 months after the third dose of vaccine." It is outrageous that $200 million was spent on a vaccine that covered less than 30% for only 7 months, the drug company must be laughing all the way to the bank, seeing as this disease is mostly a poverty related one couldn’t $200 million on warmer insulated healthier homes do ore than a vaccine that lasted only months and could possibly lull parents into a false sense of security? The final insult is the Ministry of Healths defence that the following statement made it perfectly clear that this vaccine only lasted a few months for some people sometimes, "The majority of people are expected to be protected but the vaccine may not protect every person who receives the three doses. Protection is expected to last for a few years but the exact period is unknown."

    5: Be careful for what you wish – McCain was goading Obama into visiting Iraq and playing up the foreign affairs inexperience so Obama visits the world and the world loves him leaving McCain to barely attended press conferences. The images of Obama surrounded by soldiers will be replayed each time the Republicans try and play the foreign affairs inexperience line in the campaign – interestingly though, rabid American Nationalism is so psychotic and feral that images of foreigners cheering Obama have a domestically negative impact on those more flag blinded knuckle dragging good ole boys who seem to get to determine which puppet of the military industrial complex sits in the White House.

    In the Weekend Newspapers
    STORY 1 – Young killer back in jail - hos
    The country's youngest convicted killer is back behind bars after being picked up by police following allegations he has been using drugs. Bailey Junior Kurariki was arrested at 7.30pm on Friday and charged with breaching parole after his probation officer lodged a formal complaint with the Parole Board. The claim that Kurariki had been under the influence of drugs came after a routine check of his South Auckland address.
    Is there an awful inevitability here? We’ve detailed the media hysteria that jailed Bailey, the media hysteria that whipped up his parole hearings, the media hysteria that published details on his parole conditions from the lost corrections file Tumeke was handed (btw Tumeke did not publish any personal details from the report where as the mainstream media did, meaning in this case, the much maligned blogging community upheld journalistic standards well above the mainstream) – we know the faults with our current lock em up and throw away the key sensible sentencing lynch mob debate and yet the Police Association wants to move to lower the criminal age of responsibility to 12 year old children and National claim their policies are so strict it will automatically require the building of a new private prison by a private prison company. Are we making progress on the challenge of punishment for crime in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the damaged people entering the prison system and is there anything on the horizon that suggests reason is coming back into the debate?

    STORY 2 – Eye Scans, fingerprints to control NZ borders – sst
    A new immigration law bill raises concerns about the level of secrecy iit allows. Border Control staff will be able to check passengers identities under major changes to NZ immigration rules. Despite criticism from Amnesty International at the level of secrecy permitted, the changes look set to become law, with the National Party pledging to support it.
    So after the absolute abortion of the Ahmed Zaoui case where an innocent man was held for 10months in solitary confinement based on secret evidence that can not be challenged in a trial, it has been decided that 14 Government departments can label evidence as secret and based on that secret evidence deport people back to regimes including ones that torture while also streamlining any of the appeal processes. Cosgroves quote takes the cake, “We have only ever used classified information once in the immigration context (referring to the Zaoui debacle) I don’t think that after the bill is passed, we are going to be rushing out to use it more and more”.

    STORY 3 – When Condi met Winnie - hos
    Winston Peters managed to deflect embarrassing questions about funding at a stage-managed press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday. Only four questions - two from the international press corps and two from local media - were allowed at Government House.
    Condi in the house, the AUSA students association put a $5000 price tag on her head for any student who could manage to do a citizens arrest on Condi for war crimes – why are we allowing War Criminals to visit the country and how come someone so instrumental in falsely selling the Iraq War hasn’t been savaged by the mainstream media here?

    STORY 4 - Jones gave $25,000 to NZ First - sst
    Winston Peters faces mounting pressure over undeclared NZ First donations amid revelations that Sir Robert Jones gave the party $25,000 — which was banked into a trust administered by Mr Peters’ brother.
    It’s two of our country’s most beloved grumpy old scotch lovers banging heads together over who is telling the truth. Don’t you love how Jones apparently gave Winston $25 000 to just shut him up during an argument? Who the hell does that?

    FINAL WORD – Paul Holmes column in the HOS today is brilliantly funny, Season two of Let’s be Frank is up an running, 8.30pm Tuesday, Oliver interviews the National Party Broadcasting spokesperson Dr Johnathan Coleman on the future of Broadcasting in NZ. I interview Alister Barry and Nicky Hagar on Green Core 8pm Wednesday on their Hollow Men Doco.

    Tolling and the new Transport Agency

    Further to the Labourite appointments to the Transport Agency as announced last week we have had National claim:

    As at Thursday evening there had been 43 government appointments this week. Yes, 43 appointments in four days. That’s part of a tally of 140 in the past five weeks.

    I didn't realise the crew of SS Labour had so many lifeboats available.

    David Farrar tempers his criticism with the reality that National engages in the same activities:

    in some cases it can be useful to have a board member with some political saavy [...] it is understandable that a Minister will want perhaps one or two people on the more critical boards who understand politics to the degree that they can help the Board avoid actions which will put them on a collision course with the Government.

    Then again if the government changes you've got a whole slate of political enemies in office until their terms expire and then they can start the stacking with the new government's cronies. Independent appointments, via select committees so we could have some sort of transparency, will never come about while the two big parties control the system.

    But back to the new NZ Transport Agency. It seems to be a Transit take-over of the other transport licensing, safety and funding departments. I note that there appears to be no-one with an engineering background on the new board - which is quite an embarassing hole. In the last few days I have become concerned that this round of transport restructuring may leave Transit in the lead position to implement tolling. The most effective way of tolling would be through chips or number plates - and as of Friday Transit controls that too.

    With Treasury's Public-Private Partnership concept official policy for some years now, we have had the spectre of the SH20 Waterview extension, Orewa-Puhoi tunnel and Transmission Gully projects (to start with) being privatised - effectively for up to 30 years. I am not convinced this will be anything other than foolish. The government in these situations usually ends up subsidising it (from my understanding). But what of "public" tolling?

    With an integrated transport agency it would be easier to implement tolling across the board on the entire national highway system. This is not great news. I do wonder if this may have been a consideration with the merger.

    Saturday, July 26, 2008

    Film Review: The Hollow Men

    The Hollow Men
    Director: Alister Barry
    Author/researcher : Nicky Hager
    Editor: Abi King-Jones

    This compelling documentary case study in political campaigning faithfully follows the chronology and material in Nicky Hager's original book of the same title, and as such is framed firmly from a liberal/left perspective. This partisanship ultimately taints what is otherwise a fascinating autopsy of the rise and fall of a would-be Prime Minister and the internal machinations and strategising of a Western centre-right political party. The shallowness of policy, the ruthless nature of the spin doctors and the consquences for the population are neatly underscored, while the connections between advisors, donors, and politicians are not just suspicious, they are sinister.

    Don Brash's political career was toast once these revelations came out in the book and after viewing the film few would argue he didn't make a wise decision.

    The film would qualify as Anti-National campaigning, and that agenda is telegraphed from the start, but the exposé is far too exquisite to be written off (as some have done) as mere propaganda. Offended National supporters may try to take some comfort in the irony that the film being released now means it is actually a form of third party negative election advertising - the same sort of antics the film itself highlights - however the picture it successfully paints of a rather squalid and opportunistic old boys club rings too true. There are many candid moments.

    The truly, excruciatingly, awkward moments of forced affection between Brash and his wife are used to comic effect, as are all the other "goofy" moments (to quote Brash on himself). The Diane Foreman emails have also been voiced over to give an effective lewdness to some of her crassly articulated correspondence to her new man.

    Key comes off as a likeable, if flippant, jock. In one scene a startled TVNZ reporter watches as Key casually blurts out everything in front of a documentary crew who were following him around. They also film him meeting with two members of the Exclusive Brethren at his electorate office. There follows a later clip of Key on TV point-blank denying he had ever met with them.

    It is a watchable and enjoyable feast despite the reliance on text documents for much of the story. Alister Barry and editor Abi King-Jones do well to mix TV footage with voice-overs to keep the pace surging. Background to Brash's Orewa speech set the scene well and sidebar explanations were carefully used.

    As a Hager critique of a conservative National Party he rests his story on interpreting lines of communication as evidence of an ideological and class motivated conspiracy. There is not one moment or even thought to compare what National does with what Labour or any other party does with the exception of bringing in the Act Party to play as National's side-kick. The complete absence of an explanation of how other parties work in New Zealand (but linking National to American ideologues) deprives the audience of calibration and in the anti-National setting it thus leads them to assume the behaviour is exclusively a National Party trait. Most seasoned political observers will revel in the sordid details of how the Nats conduct their business, but lament the angle being played here: that cynical manoevres to win an election are National's domain alone, and that routine discussions and documents are offered without context and then played up as yet more damning proof of evil plotting. It will irk the non-partisan viewer. Hager's annoying habit of forrowed brow seriousness and intonations of horror have a tendency to come across as a feigned naïveté. This is translated into the film somewhat.

    The audience at the film festival, the left wing audience, gasped and tutted and sighed on all the right cues. It has met with caustic abuse from the right. Usually from people, like Matthew Hooton, who sent these emails. The criticism from David Farrar (covertly filmed in a pub with Nick Smith and Tony Ryall in one sequence) has focused primarily on one lapse in the promotional material to condemn the entire film. That is not to say his more general criticisms about Hager's work are without merit. Once he sees it he may very well think he let Hager off easy in that post.

    The one sour note, the stalking footage of Peter Keenan, was unnecessary, inappropriate and ethically marginal at best. The use of the clips of him at home are clearly a breach of his privacy. Considering they used covert footage of him in public places, crossing the street and walking down a footpath, the choice to show him in a private house was gratiutous and for many unsettling. Richard Prebble being egged outside a meeting in the 1980s met with the intended approval from the deeply partisan audience. These register as cheap shots and detract from a story that otherwise invokes outrage and hostility toward the intended targets.

    Hager explained in the question time after the screening that Barry had sought the rights to the film immediately he learnt of the book's impending publication. Barry was described in a very good Scoop interview in 2004 as a Don Brashologist. His analysis of Brash is right on the money. His thoughts on the New Right (several documentaries worth) have added a rich baste to Hager's deserved roasting of Brash and his party.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    Part of the 40th Auckland International Film Festival

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    The elephant in the room

    Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel announced her high powered taskforce to investigate “deepening and broadening” the country’s capital markets on Monday. But there was an elephant in the room nobody wanted to mention. (It was quiet and orderly, after all, and not making anywhere near the racket going on outside, which sounded like a stampede of bauble-covered racehorses chasing down Winston Peters.) That elephant was the possible sale of state owned enterprises.

    The grandly named – and eminently qualified – Capital Market Development Taskforce is charged with looking at regulatory impediments, savings issues, and anything else material to the problem of New Zealand’s rather emaciated equity and bond markets. That will almost certainly mean examining the possibility – and desirability – of bringing state-owned enterprises into the public New Zealand equity and debt markets.

    This of course is a guess. But it is a guess based on the membership of the aforementioned eminently qualified panel, which contains many of the most eloquent advocates of (at least) partial privatisation of SOEs as stock opportunities for “mum and dad” investors.

    Chairman Rob Cameron was an architect of the SOE model in Treasury in the 1980s, and in 2006 produced a paper recommending (among other things) partial floats of those companies still in state ownership. NZX chief executive Mark Weldon has also publicly argued for listings of Crown companies. Rob McLeod is a former chairman of the Business Roundtable and Fletcher Construction’s Jonathan Ling is a current member of the small-government lobby group.

    Earlier in the year the government declared it would make asset sales a “defining” feature of the election, with the same kind of conviction that Winston Churchill announced his policies around the issues of beaches, landing fields and streets. No matter that “asset sales” was itself a phrase so poorly defined that the government included under its umbrella privately owned airport share transactions, possible partial share floats for SOEs, and public-private partnerships. But the government’s efforts to lump together so many different issues as one homogenous mass are awkward given the sharp delineation it tries to maintain between National’s tentative policy positions on SOE sales and its own.

    That’s because differences between the policies the parties have publicly promoted – in the case of Labour and National, gingerly – are fairly insubstantial. But quietly Labour has adopted a harder line against private sector involvement. Officially, the government encourages SOEs to expand their businesses into adjacent areas, and develop subsidiaries that may be eventually sold off or floated on the stock market. It’s part of the “economic transformation” agenda.

    State-owned Enterprises Minister Trevor Mallard confirmed on TV One’s Agenda last month this was still official policy. But he said that was in contrast with National – while Labour would allow, say, a float for Meridian Energy’s Whisper Gen company, the National Party would “sell off [Meridian’s] windfarms.” Labour’s position, as stated by Mallard, therefore also contrasts with his own launch of the policy in August 2006 where he said that “this could extend to the sell-down or sell-off of discrete new investments by SOEs, for example a new wind farm or new technology company.”

    In other words, a new wind farm could be sold down to the public but not an existing one. The difference is obscure, and probably irrelevant to investors (not to mention power consumers, so far as the “national interest” in state ownership is concerned). National, for its part, hasn’t discussed selling particular (for example) windfarms, but was considering sell-offs of say 25% of a company onto the NZX. Those plans have been abandoned though.

    Another option the party is believed to have investigated would be to sell non-voting shares, or to sell bonds from SOEs to retail investors to finance investment (say, in new wind farms). The government’s so-called “long-term hold” strategy for state-owned enterprises has been shrouded in secrecy since its launch in 2004. The plan is to move toward “more appropriate capital structures” for SOEs given the government’s strategy, a fairly question begging exercise about what that strategy will be.

    As far as the government will reveal, the strategy is essentially the opposite of having SOEs more involved in capital markets. It’s more of a move back to being departments of the government, with dividends flowing back to the Crown and ministers handing back cash for new investment and expansion like pocket money to the grateful petitioning boards. It also probably means plans to take on increased debt – one of the sure ways to get a company like New Zealand Post, with an AA- credit rating, down to the government’s inexplicable target of BBB.

    So when investment decisions are taken, it will entail negotiating more with government (the shareholding ministers) to get approval for an increased capital injection. That binds the SOEs more tightly to the government. Moreover, it also signals clues as to where the government may look for its pre-election spending spree, given that Finance Minister Michael Cullen boasts of having almost “cleaned out the cupboard.”

    The Treasury’s notes to the budget state dryly:

    “One possible outcome of these reviews is that some capital could be returned to the Crown. This may be in the form of a special dividend, which would decrease gross debt.”

    Of course, the government has signaled it has no real objections to the level of gross debt it’s carrying (around 20% of GDP), which means no qualms about sending any dividends to the consolidated fund for spending. Some SOE dividends could be tagged to specific expenditure – such as Meridian funding a low income electricity user rebate, should the emissions trading scheme pass.

    That’s not so much selling the family silver to pay off debt – it’s more like packing the kids off to work and sending their brother to university with the money. But it does signal a cleanout of SOEs that is at variance with any plans to get them involved in the capital markets.

    National, of course, has committed to not selling any of the state’s companies in its first term. If it ends up in government, it may face the same searching questions about what to do for capital markets that Labour would, but would also face much greater internal temptation when its natural allies – appointed by a Labour government – come back and tell it what it wants to hear.

    That’s assuming the government hasn’t cleaned out that cupboard as well by November.

    Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

    Google New Zealand now has a Google Aotearoa page in te reo Maori. It's a front page for Google search at this stage - not a Maori language version of all of Google's services (which are many). This is part of the normalisation process for the language - making it possible for a Maori language speaker to conduct everyday activities in the Maori language, instead of the default American English on which most of the world (and NZ) seems to be set.

    I note that Shortland Street had at least one episode subtitled in te reo Maori this week and the national mainstream broadcasters have made efforts at presenting items and issues around te reo Maori. As far as mass education goes it is more of an awareness of the language rather than actually trying to teach the language - given the medium and the audience.

    In the absence of any willingness at all from a Labour government to make te reo Maori a compulsory subject in the school curriculum it will be through constant repetition and saturation of key words that will make the biggest impact in assisting non-Maori speakers to understand the language.

    If you have ever gone through an English dictionary that includes an etymology of the words you will be struck by how little comes from Old English (ie. pre-1150). All the basic words: questions, binaries (up,down - long, short - hot,cold etc.) and so on are from Old English, but 95% plus are imported. In this country we should be aiming to have reasonable familiarity with a majority of these basic terms in te reo Maori in the next generation... at least. That's not aiming particularly high, and is a lot less than should be the case obviously, but it is realistic.

    The Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell meanwhile raises the point about the Crown appointing all members of the Maori Language Commission and Te Mangai Paho:

    “The board of MTS has seven members – four appointed by a Maori electoral college, and three, including the Chair, appointed by Ministers of the Crown. This model clearly works well, and should apply to the other key Maori cultural and language institutions.

    Not being fluent or even semi-versed in te reo Maori I use the online version of the widely known Ngata dictionary. The AUT/KEDRI translator is also pretty good.