In an age where TV current affairs are now a dead joke served cold at 7pm weeknights on TV One, you take your wins where you can get em, and Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman & Juan González is a win.
Playing 10.30pm Tuesday-Friday on Face TV, Sky 83, Democracy Now! is considered one of the best Independent News shows available with a host of lefty media awards that would make Noam Chomsky jealous…
Winner of the Izzy Award, Honoring Independent Media, 2012 – Gandhi Peace Award, 2012 – Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival Award, 2012 – Right Livelihood Award, 2008 – Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award, 2009 – Communication for Peace Award from the World Association for Christian Communication, 2008 – Project Censored Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009 – ACLU-NCA Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award, 2008 – The Paley Center for Media She Made It Award, 2007 – Gracie Award for American Women in Radio and Television Public Broadcasting, 2007 – James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, 2007 – Webby Award Honoree, 2007 – Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, 2006 – Ruben Salazar Journalism Award – George Polk Award – Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Prize – Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award – Edwin H. Major Armstrong Award – National Federation of Community Broadcasters – Project Censored Award – Society of Professional Journalists – United Press International – Associated Press – Electronic Frontier Foundation – American Women in Radio & Television – National Catholic Association of Broadcasters – Radio/Television News Directors Association – Alliance for Community Media.
Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman & Juan González, 10.30pm Tuesday-Friday Face TV, Sky 83
It used to be pretty lonely being a left-wing feminist off-campus. While I had political friends I was reasonably sure were feminist too, I was surprised enough times by sexist statements from lefties and ardent rejections of the f word by sisters in the movement that I didn’t take it for granted that we were fellow travellers on the Down With Patriarchy journey.
Slowly but surely I started to identify like-minded individuals, many of them already people I gravitated to for other reasons like simpatico senses of humour. But still it was a lonely every-day existence sometimes, with energy stored up from those sparse get-togethers to see me through.
These days my life fair buzzes with feminist left-wingedness and it’s mostly thanks to my friend The Interweb. Through the internet, blogging at first, then Facebook and now Twitter, I have met so many amazing women; feminists all, left of centre mostly, and each a jewel in their own way. It seems hard to remember now that five and a bit years ago, before The Hand Mirror existed, I was often nervous about posting a feminist-minded status update; how could I know that my Facebook friends wouldn’t trot out the old tropes “man-hater” or “feminazi” or, perhaps worst of all, silently defriend me.
I’ve also found the feminist friends I had all along but didn’t recognise as such, or wasn’t sure of; people from my past, before I was actively political, who I knew from school, or sailing, or via family connections. They’ve been able to show their agreement and support through the really very small, but often highly significant, act of clicking Like.
For me this solidarity has been amazing. Not only have I been able to make visible my work, I’ve been able to receive feedback, not always positive but generally always well-meant. The Likes, the comments, the occasional Shares have been like a kind word in my ear, or a thumbs up and a grin from across the room. Retweets and Favourites are the high fives of the digital world. They give me a warm glow that helps to keep me going when the world that isn’t in the ether is getting tough.
The proliferation of hashtaggery poking fun at Colin Craig was not just a chance for people to exhibit their wit (although it was also that). It was in a very real way a chance to show support for Uffindell and his (often) good works on The Civillian. Tweeters nailed their colours to the mast, very publicly, and most of them weren’t in Colin Craig’s shade of blue.
Then there were the solidarity blog posts, from other oft-times satirical bloggers Danyl Maclauchlan and Scott Yorke, and even a newspaper column from Toby Manhire, again standing alongside Uffindell, for satire, for freedom of speech, and for puncturing the pomposity of politicians who act in such a humourless manner.
The Power of Like is now an undeniable part of our political interaction. Those who are excluded from the internet are excluded too from this solidarity. I hope we can get better at becoming more effusive with our honest compliments and warm thoughts in real life too.
We are at a crossroad when it comes to our refugee policy and treatment of those seeking protection from persecution. Why are we following Australia down a misguided path of viewing asylum seekers and refugees as an underclass less deserving of protection?
Most recently, of course, we have seen in New Zealand the proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, the so called “Mass Arrival Bill”. Although impossible to confirm, it appears to have been drafted either by the National Party’s favourite consultant, Mr Warner Brothers, or more probably by folks in Canberra.
The changes would allow for the detention of asylum seekers arriving by way of an “unauthorised vessel” (although not unaccompanied minors – it is not sure where they would go, maybe they could get work on the new youth wage for Petrobras). Less talked about, but potentially equally punitive, is the ban on these arrivals from being able to apply to sponsor their family members for at least three years.
The rhetoric – both in Australia and increasingly in New Zealand – is full of myths and mistruths. Fuelled by balanced comments from such noted human rights advocates as Winston Peters (note to Colin Craig: this is sarcasm, Winston will get it, so ask him to clarify), there is very little in the debate reflecting anything tangible for the refugees themselves: individuals and families fleeing to save their lives.
What remains is a convenient political picture painted of a cynical form of migration criminalised by the notion of people smuggling, but a picture far removed from reality and, ultimately, absent any empathy, compassion, or humanity.
Let’s take a brief look at two of the key myths out there.
MYTH 1: THE BOATS ARE COMING!
Well, no. We haven’t seen one yet.
What we have seen is the arrival of two boats in Australia with asylum seekers claiming they wanted to go to New Zealand, one in Darwin and another in Western Australia (the Government has also implied intelligence suggesting other attempts, but just how intelligent is our intelligence?). The last time I got out my National Geographic, however, both were on the other side of Australia with still a fair way to go and neither boat being able to continue its journey.
The truth is that any ability to circumnavigate from South East Asia to New Zealand would suggest a very serious abdication of Australia’s own border security, which is unlikely, or a sophisticated vessel able to somehow both avoid detection across a long journey and actually complete such a difficult journey. Doesn’t sound like an Indonesian fishing boat to me.
Any arrival by boat would also not overwhelm our refugee processing system. There is no literal or figurative wave of asylum seekers about to force themselves upon us. Recently, UN’s refugee agency (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR) reported that there were 1,401,435 registered Syrian refugees in the countries surrounding Syria as a result of that conflict. Now, that’s a mass arrival!
Perhaps a less extreme example, but still instructive, is that to date in this calendar year over 30,000 asylum seekers have made the dangerous sea journey from Africa to Yemen.
Our situation just doesn’t compare. It’s almost a desperate attempt to be one of the big boys to suggest that we have a refugee problem when simply one does not exist.
Frankly, this highly unlikely event of a “mass arrival” to New Zealand is being used as scaremongering to justify a punitive shift in policy by a government determined to further compound social inequality across the board. If I am being charitable, the policy is misguided. If I am being cynical, the policy is about National Party politicians wanting to be Australian.
MYTH 2: REFUGEES ARE ECONOMIC MIGRANTS
Economic migrants are those looking for better work, education and other opportunities. This is a criticism often lobbed at those on the boats who seek to come to Australia: “they are just coming for our jobs”.
To help with this, let’s remind ourselves of what it is to be a refugee. The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as a person who is unable to return to her home country showing:
“…a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group…”
This is a legal definition at international law now with over 60 years of academic writing and jurisprudence.
The point is that claiming refugee status is not some untested assertion. For the fear to be “well-founded” requires an objective evidential basis to show why you cannot go back to your country. This includes evidence beyond what the asylum seeker can present herself (such as government reports, news reporting, and other independent verification).
The concept “of being persecuted” has been decided by courts all over the world to amount to serious harm (eg, death, torture, sexual or gender based violence – serious human rights violations) demonstrative of a failure of state protection. This is at the centre of the refugee framework. Where your State will not protect you, the community of nations will.
What are known as the “Convention grounds” – “race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group” – outline a requirement of a form of discrimination, that I fear for my life because I am a Roman Catholic. That is, there must be a clear causative connection between the harm feared and one of the grounds. (For those of you new to discrimination or…ahem…race relations, I would be happy to squash in a posting on the test at international law for discrimination in the future).
So, and through this very cursory overview, we can see that refugee status requires clear elements that must be satisfied. It is not a vacuous concept.
This is important when we look at the statistics for boat arrivals in Australia and the ultimate acceptance rate:
(Source: Refugee Council of Australia citing the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship)
What this says to me is that an extremely high proportion of those arriving by boat in Australia are genuine refugees! They meet the very strict criteria we outlined above. They are not all economic migrants, far from it. They have independent and objective evidence of fleeing a level of harm that is serious, that is due to a fundamental human rights violation, and is clearly discriminatory rising to the level of persecution. They are not looking for work, they are trying to save their lives!
How can we not help such people? Why do we further traumatize and criminalise these people through our policies of denial? When did New Zealand become a nation of people who didn’t care? If we do care, why do we let politicians in our name pursue such punitive measures?
These are just two of the myths. Of course, there are many more and we can cover these in later postings if need be. For now, let’s not fall for the rhetoric and remember that refugees are victims of serious trauma – our humanity demands we protect them.
Editor’s Note: This is Michael Timmins’ first post with The Daily Blog.
Continued from: The Politics of Power and a Very Clear Choice – Part Toru
As Chris Trotter pointed out in his excellent blogpost just recently,
“ONLY STEVEN JOYCE could offer up JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, and Forsyth Barr as credible critics of the Labour-Greens’ energy policy. As if these six financial institutions were ever likely to offer the Opposition parties their fulsome support!.”
Minister of the Known Universe, Steven Joyce’s actual comment was,
“Financial analysts including JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management and Forsyth Barr are unanimous in their condemnation. One has labelled it a ‘hand grenade’ to the New Zealand economy, while others have said it will cut the value of every New Zealanders’ KiwiSaver account and lead to rolling blackouts. ”
“Kiwis are deeply suspicious about the Labour-Greens announcement and its timing. It’s simply economic sabotage. ”
Hmmm, considering the high value of the New Zealand dollar’s destructive effects on our manufacturing/export sector and the 40,000 jobs that’s been lost in the last four years – if I were Joyce, I would not be too keen to bandy about charges of “economic sabotage”. National’s policies in the last few years have been more than effective in that regard,
It’s hardly surprising that most of the negative response has been from the financial markets and commercial firms. They are the ones with the naked vested interests.
To date, the following fear-threats have been thrown at the New Zealand public – because make no mistake, these doomsday scenarios are directed at voters, and not Labour or the Greens.
Perhaps the most outrageous claims – or outright lies – came from share broking company, First NZ,
“Despite the alleged “excessive price increase in the 13 years since 2000 we are not convinced the system is broken. If it isn’t, then it doesn’t need fixing.
Since 2008, the “real” rate of increase (net of line charges) has slowed even further to 0.5 per cent per annum. Your writer knows for a fact he is paying less for electricity today than three years ago.
Our modelling assumes 11.6 per cent residential tariff increases over the next four years, however net of line charges this reduces to 3.2 per cent over four years.
We believe the Opposition’s desire for a 10 per cent reduction in power prices can mostly be achieved through the current market without the need for a complex and costly change of market structure.”
In another document, First NZ made the extraordinary claim,
“Despite the alleged “excessive” price increases in the 13 years since 2000we are not convinced the system is broken. We estimate that, net of linecharges and after allowing for inflation, residential electricity prices have risen 2.6% since 2000.“
Is First NZ is really telling the public that power prices have only risen 2.6% since 2000?!?! Well, they do qualify that with “net of line charges and after allowing for inflation”. Though why they would omit line charges seems pointless; the public are still paying at the end. “Clipping the ticket” seems the norm and impacts on the end-consumer regardless of how it is done.
Which also raises a question in my mind; why is First NZ making this assertion only now? Why did they not make the effort to rebut National’s claims when Dear Leader issued public statements like this, on 27 January, 2011,
“In the nine years Labour was in government, power prices went up 72 per cent and the Government owned 100 per cent of the assets.”
Why did First NZ not issue public statements ‘correcting’ National’s “misrepresentations” at the time?
Why have they left it only till now, to counter the assertion that “power prices went up 72%”?
Why is a single-buyer desk for electricity sending brokerage firms into a panic? Especially, considering, that we already have single buyer-desk’s in the form of Fonterra, Zespri, PHARMAC, etc.
The answer, I submit, is fairly obvious. First NZ’s fanciful statements and assertions are part of an orchestrated litany of bullshit to scare Joe & Jane Public to run back into the cold, dead arms of Nanny Neoliberal.
The Financial Money Men, with their Federated Farmers allies, are propping up their neo-liberal stooges in Parliament. The rats are out of the woodwork, and we can see who is lined up against the best interests of the public.
Because, in the final analysis, this all boils down to money – who makes it and who gets to keep it. And because so much money is at stake, we are told that rising power bills is the price for living in a “free” market.
We’re also promised that power prices will drop. Sometime. In the future.
We just have to be patient.
Maybe another thirty years?
It will be interesting if people buy into this propaganda BS. Will voters believe the fear-mongering campaign from the money-pushers?
Or will they realise that share brokers and merchant bankers are interested only in seeing that power prices remain at stratospheric levels, to provide maximum returns for their shareholders?
Because one thing is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow; these firms are not remotely interested in our welfare. Nor in the welfare of Kiwi families being gouged with higher and higher power bills.
I’m struck senseless that so many National supporters believe that siding with the likes of JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management, Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will somehow gain them some kind of ‘benefit’. Are National supporters so masochistic and blinded by their faith in the “free market” that they are willing to tolerate paying higher and higher prices for electricity?
I hope they realise that JB Were, Woodward Partners, Milford Asset Management, First NZ Capital, Devon Funds Management, Forsyth Barr, Business NZ, Federated Farmers, et al, will not pay the power bills for National supporters.
Good luck with that!
The Labour-Green coalition should welcome these attacks as an opportunity. Every time one of these money-pushing firms launches a critical attack on NZ Power – the Labour-Greens should counter with press conferences where facts, stats, and more details are presented for the public and nice, big, colourful graphic-charts presented.
Like this one, from the Ministry of Economic Development/Business, Innovation, and Employment;
(Note price drop around 1999. Whilst Industrial and Commercial prices fell, residential prices continued to rise. There is more to explain the 1998/99 price fall here; Statistic NZ – Electricity consumption. It had little to do with Bradford’s reforms, and more to do with competing retailers changing their methods of calculation for the CPI electricity price index and building extra generation capacity. The cost of the latter had shifted from the State and onto domestic consumers.)
Where possible, David Parker and Russell Norman should speak at engagements around the country at public meetings. (Community newspapers and other local media should be engaged, as they love anything that happens within their community.)
Invite others such as the Salvation Army, and experts such as energy-sector expert, Molly Melhuish, and Victoria University researcher Geoff Bertram, should be invited to address media events.
Invite members of the public; families, etc, to present their power bills as evidence of skyrocketing prices.
Build a Broad Front of support. Show the country that there is support for NZ Power.
People want reassurance. We need to give it to them. And we need to show them why the National and the finance sector are working in cahoots.
Because ain’t it funny that no community organisation has come out, demanding that the electricity sector remain unregulated and welcoming higher and higher prices?
And if the media aren’t presenting the full story, use progressive blogs to publish the information. We, too, can be “foot soldiers” in this struggle. (Because surprise, surprise, we too, use electricity.)
This is a war between the Neo Liberal Establishment and Progressive forces fighting to roll back thirty years of a failed experiment.
That war began on 18 April.
There is no reason on Earth why we should not win.
I find it hard to trust NZ First. Or, to be more precise; I find it hard to trust it’s leader, Winston Peters.
His parliamentary colleagues; party members; and supporters – I have no problem with. They are people who, generally, want the best for this country and dislike the false religion of neo-liberalism as deeply as those on the Left do.
Peters has ‘form’. He has changed direction on numerous occassions, and I find it hard to take him at his word.
In 1996, Winston Peters campaigned to defeat the National Government and remove it from power. His campaign statements at that time seemed unequivocal;
“Jim Anderton: Is the member going into a coalition with National?
Winston Peters: Oh no we are not.” – Parliamentary Hansards, P14147, 20 August 1996
“There is only one party that can beat National in this election that that is New Zealand First.” – Winston Peters, 69 & 85 minutes into First Holmes Leaders Debate, TVNZ, 10 September 1996
“Of course I am not keen on National. Who is?
… This is a government bereft of economic and social performance [so] that they are now arguing for stability.” – Winston Peters, Evening Post, 25 June 1996
“The prospects are that National will not win this election, that they will not form part of any post-election coalition.” – Winston Peters, The Dominion, 5 October 1996
“It is clear that this National government will use every means at its disposal to secure power… Come October 12… Two months ago I warned that the National Party would use every trick and device at their command to to retain their Treasury seats.” – Winston Peters speech to Invercargill Grey Power, 26 August 1996
“The Prime Minister [Jim Bolger] is not fit for the job and come 12 October he will be out. He should not get on his phone and call me like he did last time, because we are not interested in political, quisling behaviour. We are not into State treachery.” – Winston Peters, Parliamentary Hansards, P14146, 20 August 1996
“We believe the kind of politician depicted by Bolger, Birch, and Shipley is not to be promoted into Cabinet. As a consequence we will not have any truck with these three people.” – Winston Peters, NZ Herald, 22 July 1996
“We are a party that says what we mean and mean what we say, regardless of the political consequences.” – Winston Peters, Speech to public meeting, 9 October 1996
Despite Peters’ assurances, on 11 December 1996 the public woke up to this nightmare,
In 1996, one of the biggest election issues was the sale of Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Ltd (cutting rights only, not the land). In 1996, the then Bolger-led National government had announced it’s intention to privatise the SOE,
In 1996, the Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to sell its shares in the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand (formerly Timberlands Bay of Plenty). The corporation’s assets were Crown Forestry Licences to planted forests, which had expanded to 188 000 ha in the central region of North Island, processing plants in various locations, a nursery and a seed orchard.
A handful of large forestry companies and consortia submitted bids. The sole criterion was price. However, as the strength of the bids was not as great as hoped, bidders were asked to resubmit their bids. In August 1996, it was announced that the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand had been sold to a consortium led by Fletcher Challenge in a deal that valued the assets at $NZ 2 026 million.
Throughout 1996, Winston Peters engaged in an election campaign to “hand back the cheque” should he and his Party be elected into a position of power,
Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 13 August 1996
Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Evening Post, 2 October 1996
To quote Peters, who said on 13 August 1996,
“I ask both the Labour and Alliance parties – putting politics aside for this one day – to join New Zealand First in it’s post-election pledge to reverse the sales process“.
As many who lived through the times will recall, Peters pledged to “hand back the cheque”. It was a powerful message.
But it never happened.
Peters joined in coalition with National (consigning Labour and The Alliance into Opposition) and the pledge to buy back the forests was dropped – much to the disgust of people at the time..
Sixteen years later, and Peters has made the same promise all over again. On TV3’s The Nation, on 24 June 2012, Winston Peters stated,
“The market needs to know that Winston Peters and a future government is going to take back those assets. By that I mean pay no greater price than their first offering price. This is, if they transfer to seven or eight people, it doesn’t matter, we’ll pay the first price or less. ”
“New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National and we are committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.”
Another quote from Winston Peters, who said in a speech to the NZ First Conference, in 1999,
“All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership. That is what leadership is about – trust. Nobody expects leadership to be infallible. But you have a right to expect it to be trustworthy.”
Acknowledgement: (hard copy only): Speech by Rt Hon Winston Peters to the New Zealand First Conference, 18 July 1999, at the Eden Park Conference Centre
Indeed; “All the policies and manifestos in the world are meaningless when you cannot trust the leadership.”
If Peters and NZ First hold the balance of power in 2014 and choose to enter into a coalition arrangement with National – will he carry out his pledge this time?
Or will that promise be dropped and buried for political expediency and some babbled, weak excuse?
It’s happened once, before. And not too long ago.
Can he be trusted for a second time?
I am of the belief that folks can learn from their mistakes. God knows I’m made a few in my early adulthood.
Has Winston Peters learned to honour his electoral pledges and not to treat the voting public as fools? Has he learned that he betrays voters at his peril? I hope so.
Because the public exacted a fitting response to his behaviour in 2008, as he and his Party were punished and spent three years in the political wilderness (see; New Zealand general election, 2008).
More than ever, the future of this country – and the power – is in our hands,
May Day 2013 was a sad anniversary for the people of West Papua. It marked 50 years since the United Nations handed the territory over to Indonesian rule, on 1 May 1963. Previously (until October 1962) West Papua had been a Dutch colony.
However, May Day 2013 also showed that the aspiration of the West Papuan people for independence has not dimmed over the half century of Indonesian colonial rule. In the capital Jayapura and in other town protesters raised banners such as “The Indonesian occupation is illegal” and “Fifty years of lies, manipulation, torture and killing.”
As usual, the Indonesian police harassed the demonstrators, causing the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to express serious concern: “These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and the excessive use of force in Papua,” Ms Pillay said. “I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.”
Ms Pillay’s comments are significant in that the United Nations has shied away from any consideration of West Papua since it rubber stamped the “Act of Free Choice” back in 1969 – a phoney “democratic” process whereby West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia.
Also forthcoming is new support for the West Papuan movement becoming member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the New Caledonian Kanak nationalist coalition FLNKS (already an MSG member) are the strongest backers. There is also more openness to such a move in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Formal status for West Papua in the MSG will put pressure on New Zealand and Australia to be more open to a self-determination process in West Papua, rather than simply backing the territory’s incorporation into Indonesia.
Meanwhile West Papua’s diplomats are busy with their international lobbying. Last Friday Neles Tebay, leader of the Papua Peace Network, met with the US Ambassador to Indonesia, Scot Marciel; and Octo Mote of the Papuan peace negotiating team has just completed a week in New Zealand, which included talks with politicians.
8.00 In Focus
8.45 Classic serial
10.30 Wellbeing A-Z
12.00pm Let’s Talk
12.30 T News
1.00 Korean News
2.00 NHK Newsline
2.30 TV Chile 24 Horas
3.00 German news
3.30 French news
4.00 Dutch news
5.30 DW Journal
6.00 Aljazeera News
7.00 In Conversation
7.30 Treasures of the World
7.45 Gay Talk TV [PG]
8.00 Eat, Play & Stay
8.30 Outside the Square: Kalashnikov [PG]
9.00 Australia News
9.30 Classic Film Club: Magnificent Ambersons (1942) [PG]
The tactics used by Rabobank’s receivers are eye-watering and the $2million earned in interest payments to Rabobank and their utter rejection to negotiate to the benefit of the Gray Family must be seen to be believed.
The assault of Melanie Reid however poses ethical questions to the hosts of Seven Sharp. Do they criticize the roughing up of a fellow journalist by their shows sponsor or do they stay utterly silent about it?
I’ll go a step further.
Seeing how draconian Rabobank were in the Gray family case, did Rabobank sponsor Seven Sharp to silence the main current affairs show in NZ from criticizing banking practices that are vicious and possibly par for the course of their business model within our country?
How many other small farms have Rabobank leaned on in this manner?
For the hosts of Seven Sharp to hide from discussing the wider implications are one thing, but refusing to criticize the physical intimidation and roughing up of a fellow journalist is unconscionable.
Last week I was endorsed as the Mana Movement candidate for the Auckland mayoralty.
I decided to accept the challenge because the same central government policies which are hitting low and middle-income families hard are being replicated in local body policies in the new Auckland City.
In national politics we have seen the tax burden shifted from businesses and the wealthy onto low and middle-income families through the likes of tax cuts for the rich and GST hitting the poor the hardest. At the same time in local body politics we’ve seen the introduction of general council charges, user pays for water, a flat rate for wastewater and a much smaller share of council income from rates based on property values. The result is that the financial burden for the operation of Auckland City has shifted from businesses and the wealthy to those on the low-incomes. No wonder most Auckland families are struggling to get ahead.
Mana will be promoting policies to tackle the burden on low-income families while providing innovative, distinctive solutions for the five big headaches facing Auckland on which this 2013 local body election will be fought.
Here’s the situation at present:
The council is moving inexorably towards congestion charges, a fuel tax, public-private partnerships, network charges and toll roads as ways to reduce gridlock. Each of these is essentially a “flat charge” which inevitably shifts a disproportionate share of the burden onto families on low incomes. The only significant point of difference the council has with the National/Act/ Maori Party government on traffic congestion is the council’s strong support for the inner city rail loop. This is fine as far as it goes but it’s not matched by policy which offers anything significant to Aucklanders living outside the inner city.
Affordable rental housing:
The council’s unitary plan for Auckland talks about the city going up rather than out and that makes sense. However the claim the plan will result in more affordable housing is unachievable as it stands because housing is largely determined by the supply of land from “land-banks” owned by property developers. There is nothing in the plan to suggest how this process can be managed by the Council rather than profit-hungry developers.
More worryingly the council joined up with the government last year for the “redevelopment” of Tamaki (Glen Innes, Point England and Panmure) The first stage of this development will see the number of state houses halved (156 to 78) and the land sold to private developers for seaside mansions for the rich. The low-income families will be moved into a ghetto of new high-rise buildings which will look like a typical European city slum in five years. So much for a council commitment to affordable housing.
The overall council attitude to workers is appalling. As the employer of the port workers the council refused to stand up and help them (with the notable exception of a small number of councilors) as they fought to retain reasonable hours of work for themselves and their families. The council has left them out to dry and the issue remains unresolved even now.
Who runs Auckland – Auckland or Wellington?
When it come to who runs Auckland it’s true there has been a decades-long tussle so nothing new here but does the council have what it takes to stand up to the heavy pressure from Wellington over the Unitary plan and the rail loop for example? The council is wavering and already close to half the councilors are siding with the government. It’s a worrying sign.
Rates and Council Charges:
The new Auckland City Council has continued the move to user pays and flat charges that has been a feature of the past twenty years of right-wing councils in the Auckland region.
Mana is working on the solutions to these five big problems which we will put to Auckland voters as a real choice. For details you’ll have to wait till Mana’s Minto for Mayor campaign is launched. Watch this space.
Watching Auckland’s traffic issues play out, like a car-crash unfolding in slow motion, I just want to stop the tape and yell “No! Just build the goddamn rail loop!” Then I sit back and remember: the man overseeing this automotive clusterfuck, Gerry Brownlee, is the same man charged with the rebuild of our second city Christchurch. Considering that, I almost feel sympathetic towards you. Almost.
See, there are threads that underpin Auckland’s traffic issues which are amplified here in the south: blind ideology trumping any semblance of economic analysis; communities being consulted then ignored; belief that the invisible, neigh absent, hand of the market will somehow fix all of these issues. In both cities, Brownlee’s obstinance could leave a dysfunctional legacy that takes a generation to unpick.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The rest of the country has a vested interest in making Auckland’s transport system work; conversely, the rest of the country has a vested interest in seeing Christchurch get back on it’s feet. The government are throwing what seems like a lot of money at the rebuild – $15 billion, maybe $17 billion – though that it remarkably similar to the amount of money being talked about in the Auckland Transport Plan. Not that this should be an either / or discussion, but what would you rather do: fix up a whole city, or fix up some roads?
Obviously we should be doing both, but it is worth thinking about them together. Fixing Christchurch should be part of a wider strategy to alleviate some of Auckland’s transport and housing issues. Around 600 people are moving to Auckland a week, and yet down here, we need something like 17,000 workers for the rebuild. We need to attract some of those people to Christchurch, otherwise we will have to continue to import migrant workers from places like Ireland and the Philippines. Not that there is anything wrong with international labour, but it seems crazy to think that with youth unemployment in parts of the north being so high, we’re still importing labour to do these jobs.
Even with a badly run rebuild, like we have at the moment, there will be construction jobs in this city for 10 or 15 years. It’s long enough to move here, to start a family or have the kids go through school. What if we had a well run rebuild, a plan that tapped into some of the hope and vision that people had two years ago? We have a virtually clean slate in the CBD on which we can sketch out a different way of living, and yet the plan that Brownlee and the government have drawn up tends to put things back to the ways the were before the quakes. The problem with that is pre-quake Christchurch was dying; the core had become necrotic, all the life leeching out to the suburban malls; suburbs stretching beyond suburbs out into what was greenfield lands just a generation ago; public transport being nothing more than an afterthought for planners assuming people will be able to drive forever. Sound familiar?
While there have been moments where the rebuild has become political, such as the flare up over EQC, there has largely been agreement between all the political parties that we’re on the right track with Christchurch. Analysis of the 2011 election would suggest that National won by carrying Christchurch, and that the opposition should not rock the boat too much. I hope that as Labour and the Greens work together to offer a realistic alternative at the 2014 election, that they do what they did with NZ Power and throw out the consensus on Christchurch. The CCDU blueprint needs to go, or at least be drastically modified. Christchurch should be centred on people and communities, not stadiums and convention centres. Both Labour and the Greens believe in sustainable, affordable housing, with innovative solutions for transport issues. There is no better place to put these values into effect; there is no better time to start than now.
Launched on Friday 1 March, 2013, the ‘TheDailyBlog.co.nz’ unites New Zealand’s leading left/centre-left commentators and progressive opinion shapers to provide the other side of the story on today’s news, media and political agendas.