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Is Major Craig Wilson being set up as a scapegoat?



As the questions to how Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone were killed in the battle at Baghak in August last year get asked, along comes this fascinating leak to the NZ Herald’s best investigative journalist/assassin, David Fisher…

Officer was ‘too aggressive’
A senior army officer involved in a battle in which two soldiers died had been reported to commanders for being too aggressive before being sent to Afghanistan, the Herald has learned.

Fisher is the Herald’s top marksman and if you want someone eliminated from several kilometers away, he is the weapon of choice. So why is he being leaked details like this to damn Major Craig Wilson so severely as the Court of Inquiry into how two NZ soldiers ended up dead continues?

We know that the NZDF have manipulated and played the NZ news media ever since the war in Afghanistan started. Nicky Hager’s demolition and serious critique of the manner in which our mainstream news service has been captured by the military is no better championed than by the NZ Herald’s very own John Armstrong who when reviewing Hager’s book wrote

Those who think Nicky Hager is just another left-wing stirrer and dismiss his latest book accordingly should think again.

Likewise, the country’s politicians should read Other People’s Wars before condemning it.

Whatever Hager’s motive for investigating New Zealand’s contribution over the past decade to the United States-led “war on terror”, it is pretty irrelevant when placed alongside the mountain of previously confidential and very disturbing information his assiduous research and inquiries have uncovered.

With the help of well-placed informants and thousands of leaked documents, Hager exposes the cynical manner in which the Defence Force has purposely misled the public by omission of pertinent facts and public relations flannel.

…so it is not beyond the NZDF to twist and lie and manipulate through the news media any situation that doesn’t paint them in a good light.

I don’t know how these two soldiers died, and whether the insinuation that Major Craig Wilson was some over the top aggressive gung-ho officer who used tactics beyond the ability of his soldiers. What I do know is that the wider questions around the implications of 20 tours of duty with purple deployments won’t get answered.

When a deployment is put together, the preference is that they all come from the same service, because of the vast stress this unending war has caused the NZDF, we are deploying mixed services (Red is Army, blue is Navy and Air Force) thus giving us purple deployments.

The stress of this and 20 tours of duty in Afghanistan is taking a terrible toll on the Armed Services, and the wider acknowledgment of that seems to be purposely getting smoke-screened by blaming Major Craig Wilson for what happened last August.

I do not trust a group of mid career solders, all eyeing up their next promotion, to look at those issues in this Court of Inquiry. Soldiers quickly realize they are not promoted for reigning in Politicians, they are promoted for enabling them.

The wider question of why we are in this pointless war and how our desire to suck up to America has placed our Armed Services at breaking point will not be asked in this Court of Inquiry, and the scapegoat for such failed strategy looks like he’s already being prepared for media crucifixion.

How convenient that it appears to be a rogue element and not a systemic failure caused by an under resourced Army being asked to do far more so John Key can get photo ops with Barack Obama.

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Too fast, too furious: New Zealand youth, moral panics and the police chase



The images on Monday night were dramatic. Four West Auckland teenage girls steal a car and cause havoc in Mission Bay, with the night ending in a tragic police pursuit that saw three of the teenagers in critical care after smashing their car into a traffic barrier. It was traumatizing for the police involved, dangerous for the public and a split second decision that would alter the life of these young women. Positioned as an exceptional event that was the inevitable result of stupid decision-making, the media glossed over the way Monday’s crash taps into a broader debate on police chases.

Sociologist Stanley Cohen coined the term ‘moral panic’ in his 1972 study of Mods and Rockers to explain the way that the mass media demonizes certain groups in society by positioning them as a threat to the dominant moral order. In doing so, we lose our ability to think rationally about the issues around these groups, and our response becomes more punitive and blown out of proportion. Youth constitute one of the key groups that these panics tend to circulate around, amplified by the sense of nostalgia for past days that constructs a narrative for the need to control and reassert the social order. Cohen’s work is particularly interesting in the case of police chases, because although the discussion of these chases often revolves around the desire to be punitive, this desire functions at the expense of a rational discussion that enables us to reduce the harm that these cause to innocent bystanders, policemen, and the criminals themselves.

Since 2003, New Zealand has seen an exponential rise in car chases – from 500 in 2003 to 2500 in 2010. This mirrors the pattern of Australia, and the UK and the US, the latter two of which have seen car chases rise since the 1990s. In 2009, concerns over the frequency of police chasing led to a review of police pursuit policy conducted by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA). This review examined 137 police chases that resulted in serious injury or death from 2003 to 2009, with a total of 24 people killed and 91 seriously hurt. In the US, the figures are much more disturbing. Police car chases now kill 30 innocent people every six weeks and one police officer. In Los Angeles alone, more than 10,000 people have been injured by car chases since 2002.

While the crash that critically injured the three teenagers this week might seem like an exception – after all, one minute hardly seems like a chase – it is actually more typical in duration than you might expect. International research tells us that the majority of car chases are under 5 minutes, and a quarter are over within 2 minutes. In New Zealand, one in four chases will end in a crash, making this tiny fraction of time that the hunted and their pursues make their decisions incredibly important.

Many might contest that the decision to flee is indicative of guilt for a more serious offence. However, the IPCA’s 2009 review is that the majority of people likely to flee from police were not people who had committed serious offences. This data falls in line with international research on the rise of car chases. More than a third of police chases were over non-imprisonable traffic offences, and another 9% were the result of police stopping a car for no specific reason. In contrast, only 23% of police chases were in pursuit of people that were known criminal offenders. Who are the most likely to make the decision to flee? The IPCA found that 40% were aged 20 years old and under, with another 30% falling in the 20-39 year old range.

So why would some people without previous prison convictions choose to flee on the basis of a minor traffic infringement? Like other research in psychology that tells us we are less individual than we think – that under the right conditions anyone might have the potential to torture another or become part of a riot – the international research seems to indicate that the decision to flee is partially founded in a split-second, fuelled by high adrenalin and panic. While some people might feel this when they hear a siren and stop, others in this fight or flight mode decide to flee. Police are no less immune to these kinds of pressure, with research revealing that some police in chases also being overcome by adrenalin – a phenomenon of rage and excitement that is referred to as the ‘red mist’. This research reveals that once police make the decision to chase, they can find it difficult to stop even if the conditions are dangerous.

So how can we reduce the phenomenon of teenagers and thirty-somethings fleeing the police at high cost to public and police safety? Well, as the IPCA suggested in 2009, the research tells us that most people slow down within two blocks if they are not chased, meaning minor infractions should not result in police chases – a policy recommendation that was ignored. If this sounds too difficult, this is something that the LAPD believed would reduce police pursuits by up to 60% in 2003. While the application of this policy was not consistent, Texas has managed to reduce their fatalities by focusing on public safety and a similar debate is occurring in Australia. While we eventually might see technology that disables the car motors of errant drivers, for now the best approach seems to be harm minimization that aims at creating safer conditions for communities and the police that patrol them. As police car chase expert and Professor in Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina Geoff Alpert argues, the division in statistics between death-injury-crash remain fairly consistent across all states regardless of their policy. He argues that most people will reduce speed when they feel like they are no longer being chased, making a violent felon only policy an effective method for harm reduction. And if that seems too lenient, consider this statistic from the International Association of Chiefs of Police – 72% of police chases end for a reason that is completely out of the police’s hands.

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TV Review: 3rd Degree: surviving the burn



If you can survive an hour of World’s Deadliest Most Boring and Monotonously Windy Roads then you deserve a lot more than what airs next on TV3 Wednesday. Not to say the swaggering, open-necked shirt bromance that had all the appearance of a Brute-drenched mating dance around a barrel at the Loaded Hog was entirely without merit – mainly in the field of marketing. Marketing and the cynical use of the show as a an extended screen test for the nation’s weeping victim celebrity, Anna Guy, and as a content mill for Duncan Garner’s new Radio Live talkback slot.

It’s been sold as GQ, but the inside is all Cosmo. This is both grating and genius. But promising burn and delivering tepid is a risky over-sell. An hour of “Kiwi current affairs” is what they were promising. This turned out to be a mix of internal promos for prospective network talent and a hidden camera oriented ‘gotcha’ expose – all heavily personalised. The Guy piece was mostly her own video diary, and the New Plymouth wheel clamping story appeared to be a profile of a failed job placement for a high-functioning Aspergers as much as it was about Police intimidation.

Toxic to critics – certainly. The twittersphere’s eruption of real-time criticism was hilarious and devastating. I thought the rights angle and the ‘Bok bitch bag bash’ incident AKA the Veldt Viper (a hissing, striking, spitting South African lady who described the clamper, named Mr Clout, as being ‘lower than a snake’s shit shadow’) saved the clamper story with her tirade; but not even an out of character skull smashing attack with a hammer by a non-murdering husband upon the staff in the editorial suite could not have saved the other Guy. They still would have had the as-live studio interview to contend with. Not that she had to contend with any razor questions – the whole encounter was scripted and rehearsed. Maybe she’d make a fill-in weather presenter? But really. Not what the promise of a blistering edge of current affairs ought to look like.

However it is what that looks like and it has the same taste as crack cocaine. I think it will prove a winning formula for ratings. More 20/20 than 60 Minutes (which is where they got the budget from after 60M when to Prime). Not my cup of tea, but this is an opium den now, not a coffee shop.

The Garner-Espiner combo is what is being trialed here and they are tight. They are pros and they do not fuck around – as is apparent from the clipped interchange and macho dialogue. Garner (still sporting the Bellamy’s bulge from his gallery days) broke the mould withan aggressive approach to TV political reporting- scathing more than crusading. Espiner is more straight – as he would be marching along the narrow corridors of TVNZ for most of his career – but no less tenacious. And all that undoubted credibility was utterly wasted on that first episode. The duo were just meat puppets for the marketing department. It’s a populist start, not an auspicious one.

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Proverbs you won’t read on Whaleoil



“It is better to trust an ape than to trust a wealthy man.”

Radical Proverbs

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Greg Boyed fat shames two women via twitter – happy international women’s day


Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 2.28.37 PM

I know what social media will be wanting to talk about on Seven Sharp tonight.

This has to be the most creative way to resign from TVNZ ever created.

Happy International Women’s Day sisters.

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The Daily Blog – First Week Stats


Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 1.32.44 PM

The first stats of our first week are out and I just wanted to thank all the bloggers and all the readers and all of commentators who have made this project so immediately successful and popular.

Our goal is to get a million page views per month by the end of this year so that The Daily Blog hits election year 2014 with momentum.

Our first week stats suggest we are well on our way.

Visits – 18 859
Pageviews – 55 164

I want to thank the bloggers who have provided such amazing content and the readers who keep coming back here daily and the commentators who really have put together threads of debate and dialogue that are some of the best I’ve read in the NZ blogosphere.

We will make another announcement on May 1st of an additional 10 bloggers and Unions who will be joining our monthly line up.

Thank you for the kind and very positive feedback. To sum up the ethos of this blog, let me paraphrase the ever inspiring Hunter S Thompson…

‘I put the bastards of this country on notice, that I do not have their interests at heart. I will try and speak on behalf of the underdog, that is my promise.

And it will be a voice made of blogs and sarcastic rage.’

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Procurement policy not just about a fair shake of the stick


RMTU Safety First Logo green2

Government procurement policy needs to be much more than just giving firms a “fair shake of the stick” as Steve Joyce put it this morning, the union for rail workers said.

This morning Steven Joyce commented on proposed changes to government procurement policy, including requirements that New Zealand firms are consulted before tender documents are prepared, and government taking a ‘whole of life’ analysis of procurement.

Wayne Butson, General Secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, said it was galling to hear Steven Joyce talk about whole of life cost analysis, after he so flatly rejected exactly that approach in the 2010 BERL report on the Auckland train electrification project.

“Steven Joyce refused to step in as shareholding minister and give KiwiRail a steer to take on a whole of life analysis with the build of Auckland’s trains, and opted instead for a focus on the cheapest products available.”

“He then assured rail workers on Close Up in May 2010 that they’d have a good chance of building the rolling stock, but that job went overseas also, and Dunedin lost its Hillside workshops.”

“As Dunedin workers, business leaders and the City Council all pointed out, value is not just upfront costs. It is also about ongoing repairs and maintenance work and the primary and secondary jobs that are created and industries supported when goods are manufactured locally.”

“KiwiRail suffered maintenance problems with its flat top wagons made by China CNR, and also had major commissioning issues with the DL locomotives in 2010, relating to their suspension, traction motors and noise.”

“In fact, in the month of February last passed, of the 20 locomotives from China in the KiwiRail network, there were 3 faults registered. Compare this to 6 faults with the 85 locomotives in operation that were built in 1951 – and we can see that on a proportional basis, the recent China built locomotives are causing many more headaches for KiwiRail than those built 62 years ago!”

“It is also rubbish to hide behind trade rules. All our trading competitor countries have much stronger government procurement rules.”

Wayne Butson said the RMTU would carefully analyse the government’s proposals when they were issued, and said that to be of any use, they needed to take the lead from other countries like Australia, where Industry Participation Plans set out in detail how local firms should be prioritised.

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Two Fingered Salutes


2 finger
THE UNHELPFULNESS displayed by Mighty River Power at yesterday’s meeting of Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee was extraordinary.

“Mighty River Power has given taxpayers a ‘two fingered salute’ with its refusal to answer simple questions [said] Labour’s SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove … Mighty River had responded to just 37 of the 133 questions and the answers received lacked detail.”

The Labour MP for Dunedin North, David Clark, agreed. “I don’t think we as a committee can effectively do our job on behalf of taxpayers unless we have the questions we have put to Mighty River answered.”

Extraordinary Mighty River’s behaviour might have been – but it was not unprecedented.

Thirty years ago, when a much younger Winston Peters and his winebox of documents were exposing the tax avoidance strategies of some of New Zealand’s largest companies, New Zealanders were treated to a very similar display of corporate disdain for democratic accountability.

Mr Peters was doing everything within his power to bring the major players in the so-called “Winebox Scandal” before the scrutiny of the Commerce Select Committee. Precious little support was forthcoming from either the National Government or the Labour Opposition, but the politicians’ unhelpfulness was trivial compared to the towering arrogance of the targeted companies and their legal advisers.

At one point it was even suggested that Parliament had no authority to question such exalted commercial entities. There were dark mutterings about seeking injunctive relief against the prying eyes of Mr Peters – as if the House of Representatives was a collection of errant schoolchildren in need of – and subject to – judicial reproof.

This was constitutional nonsense – as everyone familiar with the Bill of Rights Act of 1688 quickly pointed out. Even Mr Peters enemies bridled at the corporate sector’s disdain for the principle of parliamentary supremacy. It appeared not to know, or care, that the writ of Her Majesty’s justices did not run beyond the doors of the House of Representatives. Or that to suggest otherwise risked charges of Contempt of Parliament.

The arrogance of the corporates, both then and now, is, however, instructive. Contempt for the processes of democracy is one neoliberalism’s defining characteristics. Indeed, halting and then rolling back the economic side-effects of the democratic surge of the 1960s and 70s was neoliberalism’s whole purpose.

In the early 1990s, when the Winebox Scandal was in the headlines, the corporate sector’s triumphalism was unrestrained. The “historic compromise” between capital and labour which had distinguished the first thirty years of the post-war era had been smashed in the 1980s, and in 1991 the Soviet Union had simply blipped off history’s screen. Free market capitalism now had no rivals. Francis Fukuyama called it “The End of History”.

Twenty years on, and much of the gloss has come off Capitalism’s triumph. The Global Financial Crisis has exposed neoliberalism’s shortcomings to the degree that “corporate morality” has become an oxymoron.

But still the corporate leaders sneer at the pretentions of their parliamentary questioners. Not even the fact that the corporate entities over which they preside are publicly owned is sufficient to render them co-operative.

How is this disdain to be explained?

Simply. The tiny elite of obscenely remunerated business executives that run our economy have been presented with nothing even remotely resembling a threat to their ideological certainty. Eighty years ago, during the Great Depression, capitalism had to contend with a clutch of ideological competitors: rival systems which could point not only to a solid base of theory, but also to countries in which the theory was being put into practice.

Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove and David Clark, and the Greens Gareth Hughes, can criticise and question SOE board (bored?) chairs and chief executives all day, but until they present alternatives which pose an existential threat to the ideological hegemony of neoliberal capitalism why should corporate New Zealand respond?

The One Percenters who run this country will go on flouting the traditions of democratic accountability until someone, or something, from the other ninety-nine percent gives them a compelling political incentive to do otherwise.

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The Breath of the Volcano



I have decided what I want to be when I grow up. It’s one of the people in the light-up suits with the spinning catherine wheel on the back. The rest of my family has decided the same thing so we could possibly form a troupe. I think we would find it hard to compete with The Breath of the Volcano though.


I have not been this excited by fireworks since watching Kim Dotcom’s extravaganza from the roof of the Skycity Grand. Last night filled me with the kind of awe fireworks used to when I was a kid. Ear-to-ear grin and sharp intakes of breath and eyes so wide they started leaking.


But it wasn’t just fireworks, no no. The side of the museum was used as a screen for light projections to great effect. Groupe F also had a cast of about 20 who wore light-up suits so that all you could see of them were sparkling figures across the bank.


The 55 minute show moved through different phases, using different equipment, inspired by the land, sea and air. Or so the program says. But I’m still trying to work out how the giant fluffy chicks in the futuristic city fit into that.


Also puzzling, was the French group’s choice to have a projection of three animated frogs blowing up a rainbow. I don’t care that it was nearly 28 years ago, and before I was even born, it’s still felt too soon to be making cutesy animations about it. However, the explosion of rainbow fireworks which followed was so spectacular that it mostly made up for it.


The flames arranged in a figure 8 that were choreographed and perfectly timed to music were a highlight. As were the fireworks that made the sky look like a giant golden glitter cannon had been let off.


This is a great family event so pack a picnic, take a rug and prepare to be filled with child-like awe and wonderment.


Pro-tip: Sit well away from the loos, the smell of disinfectant is overpowering. But don’t worry about getting too close to the front, you can see everything just as well from at the back.


Thursday 7th – Saturday 8th March. Gate open 6.45pm for 9.00pm start. Gate sales $33, Adults $28, Under 14s $10, Under 4s free. 


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Free Market reforms have not made our country better


chris Flatt 006Well look at that, it’s March already. To churn out that old hairy chestnut, it will be Christmas soon.

The thought of that will probably make most of you deeply worried on many levels. If you are like me, you are probably still paying off the credit card from the last Christmas holidays. Because the cost of living just seems to be getting higher and higher. And as a result, many New Zealanders are doing it tougher and tougher. And the National Government’s recent increase to the minimum wage of 25 cents an hour will not make it any easier.

So preparing for my first post on The Daily blog, I got to thinking about the cost of living in Aotearoa New Zealand. And then I saw a recent newspaper story about how a majority of Kiwis felt that they were better off 10 years ago. And I started to wonder whether every generation looks back at the good old days or whether it really has got that bad and if so, how did we get here, and I started to look at a few costs that most of us have to pay for and I started to see a pattern.

So first there is the price of food. And I wondered who sells us our food. And I realised it was basically just two big companies – I think the economists call it a duopoly market. Hmm no surprises there then.

Then there’s that roof over our heads. And I wondered who helps us put a roof over our heads. And I realised that if you are lucky to own your own home then it’s the banks. More importantly, it’s the big overseas banks. And I remembered a recent newspaper article that reported a profit of $3 billion over the 2011 financial year (up 18% on last year) mostly for the four big Aussie owned banks.

Then there’s the price of the house itself. And I wondered why are prices so high? And I realised that with no capital gains tax in NZ, buying and selling your house is one of the few non-taxable earning opportunities for many Kiwis. And that NZ house prices by all economic metrics are way over valued and a new speculative housing bubble seems to be growing again. Even the Reserve Bank has noted that houses remain expensive in affordability terms relative to household incomes at 4.5x versus 3.0x in the 1990s.

Then there’s the electricity that is vital to run our homes. And I wondered who owned the electricity companies. And I realised that it was the government, but a government that had long given up on the view that the role of government-owned electricity companies was to provide cheap electricity to its citizens and instead saw them as a very lucrative dividend stream.

And not only that, but a current government that as we speak is spending over $1million of our own money on an advertising campaign to convince you to buy shares in an electricity company you already own! And I thought, well I don’t see the price of electricity coming down any time soon. Especially if those “Mum and Dad” investors we seem to be hearing so much about decide to sell their shares on the secondary market to realise a potential capital gain (remember we have no capital gains tax here).

And I came to the conclusion that we are in a bit of a mess here in New Zealand. And that it seems like we have been sold a bit of a lie. A lie that the market was supreme and that somehow we needed these great “market reforms” of the last few decades in order for us to be unshackled from the oppressive restrictions of state control.

Because as far as I can see these changes have not led to a cheaper cost of living, let alone a fairer, more equal or richer New Zealand. In fact all the stats seem to be pointing to the opposite reality.
And I thought, well isn’t it good that the new Daily blog has been established so we can discuss these things, and maybe, just maybe, and with your help, suggest an alternative fairer vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Cause despite these issues, I love this country, it’s my home, my place, and I love it too much to let it be sold further from underneath me. You with me?

Chris Flatt is the National Secretary of the NZ Dairy Workers Union

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The real impact of climate change as an infographic



For those still in denial about climate change comes this infographic from the amazing ‘Learn Stuff’

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When workers never come home – why safety standards are no joke


Wayne ButsonThis quarter’s Rail and Maritime Transport Union magazine The Transport Worker has a special focus on the Union’s health and safety concerns within KiwiRail.

A factual report on an incident in the Kaimai Tunnel sets the tone. Two groups of contractors, undertaking track work, were overcome by the fumes they were creating and had to evacuate the tunnel in a state of distress. There had been a total lack of compliance with KiwRail’s own internal requirements for tunnel entry and work nor were they supervised by KiwiRail staff – another safety requirement. One of the groups was undertaking core rail work – a clear demonstration of the validity of the Union’s statements of fact that rail maintenance tasks remain unchanged following staffing cuts. Last year cuts were made to the infrastructure group affecting permanent rail workers and the RMTU predicted that there would be increased contracting out and consequently more risks to safety on the network.

There are other warning signs. In our view KiwiRail’s drive for commercial profitability and on-time performance is encouraging workers to cut corners and take risks. What else can you say when the company erects clocks in its workplace with stickers on their faces stating “We live and die by the clock”. Additionally, they published a league table of on-time performance in the company newsletter exhorting staff to do better.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against improved on-time performance and growing customer satisfaction rather, it is about the messaging and getting the balance right. It is outrageous that in the year 2000 the rail industry was the subject of a Ministerial Inquiry into health and safety with five deaths within seven months and 22 serious accidents between the years 1993 and 2000. There is no question that during those dark days the law, the regulator and the employer failed rail workers and their families. Similar circumstances stood behind the tragedy at Pike River where 29 workers lost their lives. It appears to me, and probably to the rest of you, that Pike River Coal also put profitability ahead of safety. Conditions are now almost identical for forestry workers where safety is being set aside for profit. I urge you to support the campaign called: What killed Ken Callow and view the video at whatkilledkencallow.org.nz

It is essential that we all commit to fighting for improved workplace safety and remember the lessons from the past.

To this end the RMTU is supporting the publication of a book titled ‘Your Life For The Job’ authored by Hazel Armstrong, a longstanding campaigner for improved healthy and safe workplaces. The book tells the story of rail from 1987 through to the Ministerial Inquiry and reminds us of the gradual and insidious erosion of safety within. It exposes the collaboration between Government political figures, officials and company management and is an important story. It must not be forgotten nor should the sands of time be allowed to bury these details. The book will be launched by the RMTU on the day that we commemorate International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April. The RMTU has been a strong supporter of marking this day around NZ since its inception in 1995 and many rail and port memorials have been established throughout the country. We are also expecting the current Independent Health and Safety Taskforce report to be released a few days later and we will watch with anticipation to see their recommendation for the law, the regulator, employers and workers – the four cornerstones for a safer workplace.

It is no mistake that Kiwis are currently twice as likely to die at work than our Australian cousins and six times more likely than workers in the United Kingdom.

Wayne Butson is the general secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union

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Citizen A with Dr Wayne Hope & Selwyn Manning


Issue 1: 100 000 NZers jam the website to register their interest for shares in Mighty River Power so why are we spending a million to promote an oversold share offering?

Issue 2: Education Secretary Lesley Longstone was given a $425 000 golden handshake while Teachers are still getting the 2 finger salute from Novopay – why can’t the Opposition make any inroads into Education?

and Issue 3 tonight: What lessons could John Key learn from his South American trip?

Citizen A screens 7.30pm, Face TV on Sky 89

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“National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare”



People welfare, bad!







It’s fairly obvious what National thinks of New Zealanders who find themselves on the welfare safety net. Especially when those on welfare are there because of a global financial crisis brought on by unfettered,  laissez-faire capitalism (aka naked greed)  hitting a wall, and sending economies worldwide deep into recession.

But never mind. National has an answer for such dire events.

It’s called,


Corporate welfare, good!


Even as National continues to persecute, demonise, and blame the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, for their lot in life (because as we all know, the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, were directly responsible for the Global Financial Crisis that began in Wall Street’s boardrooms) – John Key and his cronies continue to lavish truck-loads of tax-payers’ money on corporate welfare.


1. ETS Subsidies for farmers


In June 2012, Business NZ CEO, Phil O’Reilly, wrote in the NZ Herald,

There has been a lot of redesign and tinkering with the ETS.  Established in 2008, reviewed and amended in 2009, reviewed again last year and about to be amended again – it’s no wonder that businesses involved in the scheme have review fatigue.”

See:  Phil O’Reilly: Emissions trading scheme must bring investors certainty

Mr O’Reilly may well complain. But he is unfortunately too late. On the morning of  3 July, Dear Leader John Key announced that  the 2015 postponement (of elements of the ETS) had formally become an “indefinite postponement” (ie;  gone by lunchtime on that day).

Key stated,

We’re not prepared to sacrifice jobs in a weak international environment when other countries are moving very slowly.”

See:  Slow economy puts ETS plans on hold

Yet that hasn’t stopped National from levying ETS on the public. No fears there, evidently, of  impacting on the pockets of ordinary Kiwis, and in effect, susidising farmers to the tune of  $400 million per year since 2009.

In effect, this is a transfer of wealth from polluters  to the ordinary taxpayer. After all, what else can it be called when the public have to pay for an ETS – but farmers, industries, coal & oil companies, etc, – the very groups that produce CO2 and methane –  are exempt?

See:  Public to pay tab for polluters

So much for Tim Groser – Minister for Climate Change Issues and International Trade – insisting,

The National-led Government remains committed to doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is worth noting that we are the only country outside Europe with a comprehensive ETS.”

National’s “committment” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions  has gone up in smoke and carbon dioxide.

As the Sustainability Council NZ reported in November 2009,

  •  Households would bear half the total costs under the amended ETS
    during its first five years (52%),
    while accounting for just a fifth of all
    emissions (19%). Together with small-medium industry, commerce and
    services, and transport operators, they would pay 90% of the costs resulting
    from the ETS during CP1 while being responsible for 30% of total emissions.
  •  Pastoral farmers would gain a $1.1 billion subsidy and pay an amount equal
    to 2% of their fair share of the Kyoto bill during CP1, while large industrial
    emitters would gain a $488 million subsidy (at a carbon price of $30/t).

See:   ETS – Bill to a Future Generation

On top of that, National appears unwilling to release actual financial data when it comes to the ETS.  Critical data has been withheld, as the Sustainability Council discovered last year,

Governments are legally required to provide an update of the nation’s financial position just before elections but those accounts do not recognise carbon obligations until they are in an international agreement, hence there is nothing concrete on the books until after 2012.

See:   Simon Terry: Carbon books reveal shocking gaps

And the Council report goes on to state,

The Sustainability Council requested a copy of those projections eleven weeks ago.
After various delays, the Treasury delivered its projections the day before the election
– late in the afternoon and with much of the key material blanked out.
What arrived is the carbon equivalent of a finance minister presenting a budget and

“Here is the estimated tax take for the next 40 years, and here is the total
spending. But we are not going to tell you how much tax is coming from any sector,
and we are certainly not going to tell you how tens of billions of dollars worth of
carbon subsidies and other payments are expected to be distributed. And no, we are
not giving you the figures for the past four years of the ETS either”.

It looks to be the closest thing in the public domain to New Zealand’s carbon books
and yet: future agricultural emissions are a state secret; future deforestation rates are a
state secret; even projected fossil fuel emissions are a state secret – all blanked out. “

See:  Show Me the Carbon Money

So what do we have here?

  1. Ongoing subsidies to polluting industries, with said subsidies paid by you and me, the taxpayer.
  2. Secrecy surrounding future  ETS  agricultural, deforestation, and fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Constant deferring of including polluters in a scheme that was designed specifically for dirty industries and farming practices.
  4. Importation of  unlimited, cheap,  foreign carbon credits.

Final point:

It seems a crying shame (as well as a fair degree of sheer madness) that we are paying subsidies to industry – whilst  not offering the same deals to  the  generation of renewable energy  and further research into renewable energy options (wind, solar, tidal, etc).

Ironically, the one subsidy that might have helped our economy and environment was scrapped in 2011, making Solid Energy’s biofuel programme uneconomic.  (See: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise)

Instead, the taxpayer continues to subsidise polluters. On 27 August 2012, National finally ditched agriculture’s involvement in the ETS, giving farmers, horticulturalists, etc, a permanent “free ride”  from paying for their polluting activities. (See: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses )

This is the inevitable  result of electing a corporate-friendly political party into government.



2. Subsidies to Private schools and Tertiary Providers


Subsidies to private tertiary education providers continues to increase,

The Government is investing a further $29.503 million in the Private Training Establishment (PTE) sector over four years. This increases the funding rates for private training providers in line with the Government’s promise to treat them more equitably with public providers. The resulting funding difference is now half of what it was previously. “

See: Tertiary Education Commission – Private Training Establishments

So, if you’re a private company offering to train someone a course in “xyz” – expect a hand-out from a corporate-friendly National.

In the meantime,

  • Student allowances are removed for post-graduate study the parental threshold for accessing allowances is frozen for the next four years.  The Government says the changes will save $240 million in the first year and up to $70 million a year thereafter.  The Budget cuts all funding for adult and community education in universities, saving $5.4 million over four years.

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • It also saves $22.4 million over four years by ending funding used to help tertiary education providers include literacy and numeracy teaching in low-level tertiary education courses...”

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • Sunday Star-Times recently reported one in five young people left school without basic numeracy and literacy skills, despite the future workforce depending on advanced expertise. “

See:  Not adding up on Easy Street

  • Early childhood education subsidy cuts worth tens of millions of dollars are likely to be passed on to some parents through increased fees.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has kicked a total revamp of ECE funding into a future Budget, opting instead to stop cost increases to the Crown by cancelling the annual upward inflationary adjustment in rates.

The subsidy freeze takes effect on the next funding round, stripping about $40 million out of ECE payments to 5258 ECE centres. About 1427 of those centres are eligible for “equity funding,” however, and will get a boost through $49m extra directed to them over four years in a bid to enrol more children from the lowest socio-economic parts of the country.

But the scrapping of an annual inflationadjustment for other centres will be an effective funding cut as inflation pushes the cost of running ECE centres up. “

See:  Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

National’s most recent hand-out went to private school, Whanganui Collegiate,


Govt ignored advice before private school's integration

See: Govt ignored advice before private school’s integration


For a Party that advocates the “free market”, it certainly seems odd that they’re willing to throw bucketloads of our taxes at businesses such as private schools.  After all, what is a private school, if not a profit-making business?

And don’t forget Charter Schools – which is the State paying private enterprise/institutions to run schools – whilst making a profit (at taxpayer’s expense) in the process. Why don’t exporters get this kind of support?

That was certainly Gerry Brownlee’s attitude when Christchurch’s post-earthquake housing crisis became apparent,


Christchurch rent crisis 'best left to market'

See: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’



3. Media Works subsidy


In 2011, this extraordinary story broke,


Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

Published: 8:28PM Friday April 08, 2011 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister is defending his decision to loan $43 million of taxpayer money to private media companies.

John Key claims the loan scheme was designed to help the whole radio industry.

But a ONE News investigation has revealed MediaWorks was the big winner after some hard lobbying.

Key is known for being media friendly, but he’s facing criticism from Labour that he’s become too cosy with MediaWorks which owns TV3 and half of New Zealand’s radio stations.

It has been revealed the government deferred $43 million in radio licensing fees for MediaWorks after some serious lobbying.

Key and the former head of MediaWorks, Brent Impey, talked at a TV3 Telethon event.

“I just raised it as an issue but we’d been looking at it for sometime. My view was it made sense. It’s a commercial loan, it’s a secured contract,” Key said.

It’s believed the loan is being made at 11% interest.

But in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

See: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks


Aside from another example of Key’s mendacity, when he originally claimed to have had no contact with Mediaworks,

… in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.


… this affair was another example of selective subsidies being offered to some business – whilst others are left to their own devices to survive,


The axe falls - Industry boss blames cuts on Govt



We’ve lost 41,000 jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors over the last five years. To which National’s Minister-Of-Everything, Steven Joyce’s response was,

Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

There is no doubt that economic conditions in the post GFC- world are challenging for some firms. The role of Government is to do things that help make firms more competitive and that is what our Business Growth Agenda is all about.”

See: Opposition parties determined to manufacture a crisis

Or Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy saying,

Our trading disadvantage has meant that we need to do more with less, and to work smarter.”

See: Innovation in New Zealand’s Agribusiness sector

To which exporters responded with this,

We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Not very helpful, Mr Joyce.  Though Opposition Parties may appreciate that you are pushing your core constituents into their waiting arms.

That’s how you alienate your voter-base.


4. Sporting subsidies


The Rugby World Cup

  • Prime Minister John Key today announced a $15 million grant for an upgrade of Christchurch’s AMI Stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

See: Govt announces $15m for AMI Stadium (30 April 2009)

  • Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin says he is “chuffed” the Government will contribute up to $15 million to cover shortfalls in private sector funding for the $198 million Otago Stadium project.

See: Chin ‘chuffed’ at $15m for stadium

  • The Government blew out a $10 million budget to host VIPs at the Rugby World Cup – even though just a handful of foreign leaders attended.

See: $5 million overspend on World Cup VIP budget

  • An extra $5.5 million will be spent on the Rugby World Cup to make sure there’s not a repeat of the chaos that unfolded on the evening of the tournament’s opening ceremony.
  • Including the $350m spent to upgrade stadiums and provide IRB-approved facilities around the country and millions more pumped into infrastructure and preparations, the bill for the tournament has easily surpassed the $400m mark.

See: World Cup ‘absolutely worth’ price tag

Yacht Races

The Major Events Development Fund will invest $1.5 million on each of two Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers to be held in 2015 and 2018 following an announcement today by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce

See: Govt to support 2015 & 2018 Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers


Meanwhile, Health Minister Tony Ryall refuses to provide additional funding for specialised medicines for patients with rare disorders. See: Letter from Tony Ryall, 5 December 2012

The message is crystal clear; National will subsidise rugby games and yacht races. But don’t expect help if you discover you have a rare disease.


5. Warner Bros subsidy


After Jackson made public noises in October 2010 that ‘The Hobbit’ could be taken offshore, there was a kind of mass-hysteria that pervaded the country.

Warner Bros wide-boys jetted down to meet Dear Leader, who kindly supplied a taxpayer-funded chauffeured limousine to bring the Holloywood execs to Parliament.

Dear Leader said “no more subsidies”.

Nek minit; Warner Bros demanded, and got, an extra $15 million. (see: Govt defends Hobbit jobs claim)

All up, the New Zealand taxpayer coughed up $67 million to give to Warner Bros. (Who sez crime doesn’t pay? Gangsterism obviously turns a healthy profit now and then.)


Government defends Hobbit subsidies


The film obviously didn’t do too badly at the Box Office – $1 billion is not too shabby by anyone’s standards,


The Hobbit hits $1billion mark


Can we have our money back now, please?


6.  Broadband subsidy


Funny isn’t it.   Pro-business lobby groups always complain about State intrusion into the market place… Except when subsidies are being handing out.

One wonders why, if the Free Market” is more efficient than the State, that $1.5 billion in taxes has to be paid to private telcos to do what that they should already be doing.

Perhaps this is why it took the State to build this country’s infra-structure over the last hundred years. Infra-structure such as electricity generation. (See related blogpost: Greed is good?)

Which National is now preparing to part-privatise.

Private companies will soon be owning what taxpayers built up over decades, and which private enterprise was loathe to build in the first place. (If you’re wondering whether I’m referring to state power companies or broadband – there doesn’t seem to be much difference.)


Meanwhile, back in the Real World!


Full story


Dear Leader says,

Some argue that people on a benefit can’t work. But that’s not correct.”


Because as Welfare Minister Paula Bennett stated candidly on Q+A on 29 April,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview


Which means that National’s  “reforms” to push 46,000 of  welfare is not just a meaningless exercise (the jobs simply aren’t there) – but is actually a political smokescreen to hide their own incompetance at forming constructive policies for job creation.

Unfortunately, there are too many right wing halfwits and Middle Class low-information voters who readily buy into National’s smokescreen. It’s called prejudice, and means not having to think too deeply on issues,



Fortunately, it is the job of those on the Left to dispel these unpleasant notions for the Middle Classes. (National’s right wing groupies are a lost cause.)

Let’s start by posing the question; why is welfare for  corporations supposedly a good thing – but welfare for someone who has just lost their job, supposedly bad?

That’s what we need to keep asking the Middle Classes.

Eventually, they’ll start paying attention.


Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog





Scoop: Where’s National’s ‘corporate welfare’ reform?

Fairfax media: Doubt stalls biofuels growth (14 March 2011)

The Press: Solid Energy ‘wasted millions’ on biofuels (31 Aug 2012)

Southland Times: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise (30 May 2012)

TVNZ: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks (8 April 2011)

Radio NZ: Data reveals drop in manufacturing, building jobs (22 Feb 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

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


Tim Jones of  Coal Action Network Aotearoa



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