Monday, July 16, 2018

Israel's new apartheid law

Israel is an apartheid state. But the pretence in Israel has always been that this is about the occupation and "security" against their victims, and that Arab citizens are equal in law. Now, a new law aims to allow formal, legal segregation:

Israel is in the throes of political upheaval as the country’s ruling party seeks to pass legislation that could allow for Jewish-only communities, which critics have condemned as the end of a democratic state.

For the past half-decade, politicians have been wrangling over the details of the bill that holds constitution-like status and that Benjamin Netanyahu wants passed this month.

The proposed legislation would allow the state to “authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community”.

In its current state, the draft would also permit Jewish religious law to be implemented in certain cases and remove Arabic as an official language.

This isn't some fringe party project, but official government policy. The good news is that it is being vigorously opposed by Israelis who recognise its naked racism and corrosive effect on the society they live in. But the fact that it has been proposed shows how sick Israel is as a society, and how the occupation is undermining its democracy.

New Fisk

The fisherman in Sarajevo told tales of past wars – and warned me of ones to come

Will Talleys get what they paid for?

Talleys is one of the country's largest political donors. Last year it dished out $49,000 to election candidates, including $10,000 to NZ First's Shane Jones. Talleys also hates the idea of the government properly regulating the criminal fishing industry, and has written to the government opposing plans to but cameras on fishing boats:

The fishing industry says a Government plan to put cameras aboard commercial fishing vessels has been "driven by a level of hysteria around discarding" fish.

Stuff has seen an industry letter sent to the Government this month expressing "real concerns about the use of cameras without understanding what their purpose is".

In June, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash confirmed he would push ahead with plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats.

He hoped to put a proposal to ministers this month, but needed to get agreement from NZ First and the Greens.

...and reportedly, the primary opponent of the proposal is the aforementioned Shane Jones. But I'm sure it has nothing to do with the $10,000 they gave him. Absolutely nothing.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Minister for Open Government, yet again

Clare Curran attended a secret meeting with Google and refused to take notes about it:

At least two Cabinet ministers attended a dinner at an exclusive club hosted by Google's top lawyer under secretive "Chatham House" rules, but made no notes of what was discussed.

National open government spokesman Nick Smith blasted their attendance, accusing Labour of hypocrisy.

Google's chief counsel, Kent Walker, hosted the dinner at the capital's swanky Wellington Club for invited guests who included Justice Minister Andrew Little, Open Government Minister Clare Curran and top public servants and lawyers.


Walker's visit came at a time when the world's fifth largest company faces the possibility of additional regulation in the areas of tax, privacy and competition policy.

Little said in a letter sent in response to an Official Information Act request that he didn't generate any notes or memos from the event. A spokeswoman for Curran said she hadn't either.

In which case, they should have generated them in response to the request. The Ministers attended in an official capacity, so any information that resulted is official information. And that includes information in Ministers' heads. Their failure or refusal to take notes does not protect them from requests, only from poorly-worded ones (though arguably, that would violate the duty of assistance). As for the "Chatham House rule", the government can not contract out of the OIA. It may be able to withhold information provided to them under such an express obligation of confidence, if the interest in receiving such information in future is not outweighed by the public interest. But they cannot withhold information they provided to others simply by declaring it "confidential". The problem is that refusal to record gives deniability, so even if Smith successfully appeals this atrocity to the Ombudsman, Curran will be able to smile and say she remembers nothing - while providing Google with whatever secret backhanders it wants.

And that's why refusal to keep records is bad: because it enables the government to lie to us, and it enables them to behave corruptly. Ministers who deliberately do so (and Curran is a serial offender) need to be held to account.

Better news than it sounds

Last night, a German court ruled that exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont could be extradited to Spain - but only on charges of "misuse of public funds". The charge Spain really wants to stick him with - "rebellion" - was rejected. Which is better news than it sounds, because (thanks to EU law) it means he can not now be prosecuted for that offence if extradited. The German court found that there was no violence or criminal organisation in the independence referendum (or at least, not from the Catalan people. The Spanish state is another matter). This hands a ready-made legal argument to those facing extradition elsewhere, as well as to the nine Catalan political prisoners Spain is currently holding. Its so bad for Spain that they may themselves refuse to accept the extradition rather than live with the legal consequences (though its unclear whether they can then seek it again elsewhere on charges which have already been rejected).

There will be an appeals process, of course. But its a good sign for Puigdemont at least, and it puts pressure on the Spanish government to drop its ridiculous charges. And given that they've declared that no public money was spent on the referendum, they should drop the "misuse of public funds" ones as well.

Climate change: Getting rid of petrol cars

What does the government's target of zero net emissions by 2050 mean in practice? James Shaw states the obvious: no more petrol cars:

If New Zealand is to meet its zero carbon pledge, nearly all the country's cars will have to be zero-emission by 2050, Climate Change Minister James Shaw says.

As of June, roughly 8700 plug-in cars are on the road of a total fleet of more than four million.

Mr Shaw said achieving the country's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 was reliant on significantly boosting the uptake of plug-in vehicles.

"We can't get to the zero-emissions carbon goal without switching over the ground vehicle fleet to electrics. You just can't get there," he said.

"We think that means about 95 percent of vehicles in the year 2050 will be zero-emissions vehicles."

Which is obvious if you think about it. Road transport was responsible for 13.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2016 - 17.3% of our national total. And if we are to reach zero emissions, those emissions need to be eliminated or offset. Some of that can be done by mode-shifting - getting people out of cars and into electric-powered trains and buses in our major centres. But the car is unlikely to die, so that means getting people to use cars which don't ruin the climate. And on current technological trends, that looks like a massive switch to electric vehicles.

The good news is that its possible. Electric vehicles are a tiny chunk of the fleet at the moment - there are less than 9,000 on the road. But thirty years is a long time for technological change, and New Zealand imports more than 250,000 cars a year. There's about 3.4 million cars registered, and the entire fleet will turn over multiple times before 2050. And while electric vehicles are expensive at present, the price will drop as they become standard, and we'll see greater numbers showing up on the used market (which is where NZ gets about half its cars).

As for how to push that change, rather than ending up a dumping ground for the rest of the world's discarded dirty cars when they switch to electric, the obvious policy is to set a long-term cutoff date on the sale or import of petrol cars. Overseas, dates have been set between 2025 (for Norway) and 2040 (for the dirty UK), with 2030 as the average. For New Zealand, I'd suggest no later than 2035, giving plenty of time for petrol cars to age out of the fleet. The followup policy is to have a cutoff date for registering petrol cars, 5 - 10 years after the import ban, which would restrict them to historical display use only. Because by that stage they should all be in museums, or driven only by obsessive engineers who like tinkering with and restoring dead technology, like Model-T Fords and 1957 Chevys today.

It sounds hard, but remember that it took only thirty years for the petrol car to completely replace horses in city streets. We've got that much time, and the technological shift required is smaller. We can do this. The trick is to make sure that it happens sooner rather than later, and not just leave it to the market.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Brexit as a natural disaster

Something bad is about to happen. The government has plans to stockpile food and medicine to ensure continued supplies, and to float thousands of generators on barges in the irish Sea to provide electricity to Northern Ireland. A hurricane, earthquake, or asteroid strike? No - all this is preparation for Brexit:

MINISTERS have drawn up secret plans to stockpile processed food in the event of EU divorce talks collapsing - to show Brussels that “no deal” is not a bluff.

Theresa May has ordered “no deal” planning “to step up” — with the government poised to start unveiling some of the 300 contingency measures in the coming weeks.


The Sun can reveal that includes emergency measures to keep Britain’s massive food and drinks industry afloat - including stockpiling ahead of exit day on 29 March next year.

More than £22 billion worth of processed food and drinks are imported in to the UK - 97 per cent from the EU - in an industry that keeps 400,000 workers employed in the UK.

Similar stockpiles are also being prepared for medical supplies amid fears of chaos at British ports next year.

Its as if the UK is preparing for a state of siege. Except it will be one entirely of their own making. And it really makes you think that the Brexiteers' insistence on leaving the common market is a really, really bad idea.

Time to fix renting

Renters United this morning launched The Plan to Fix Renting, a set of policy proposals building on last year's People's Review of Renting. Things like giving renters security of tenure by banning no-cause evictions and requiring landleeches to give reasons which can then be legally challenged. Reducing the degree to which landleeches or their property managers can intrude on their tenant's lives with inspections. Limiting rent increases to the CPI once a year, unless significant improvements are made. Requiring minimum standards for rental properties, and licences for property managers. And fixing the Tenancy Tribunal so tenants can actually use it without fear of being evicted and blacklisted.

These are all sensible proposals, and the government has already committed to implementing some of them (though that seems to be taking a while). Of course, the landleeches' union is outraged, and making their usual threat that they'll get out of the landlord business. Which is great - because one of the problems with our housing market is that there are too many greedy boomers hoarding houses so they can harvest tax-free capital gains, and playing landlord in between to pay the bills. If tighter regulation drives these parasites out of the market, we get a double benefit: the demise of bad landleeches, and more houses on the market, leading to a drop in prices. I fail to see any downside in this.

If you'd like to show your support for these proposals, ActionStation has a petition here.

We need to protect dolphins from mining

Correction: The Conservation Minister had no role in granting this permit. I had assumed that, as on land, exploration would require an access arrangement, which would have required her approval. But thanks to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011's "no-one owns the seabed" position, the Crown Minerals Act was amended so that you don't need an access arrangement to explore or mine in the common marine and coastal area. And thanks to Taranaki District Council's "drill, baby, drill" policy, exploration is a permitted activity despite the entire area being a marine mammal sanctuary, so there's no RMA process either. There will be an RMA process for actual mining at least, but that won't stop the disruption from exploration.

As for how to fix this, the Marine Mammals Protection Act allows activites within Marine Mammal Sanctuaries to be regulated, and this is already used to prohibit mining (but not oil drilling) in part of the West Coast North Island Sanctuary. That area could be expanded, and further oil drilling banned. But in the long term, there seems to be no reason to distinguish between onshore and offshore wildlife sanctuaries, so they need to be added to Schedule 4.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage MBIE appears to have quietly granted a permit to explore for ironsands in a Marine Mammal Sanctuary:

A mining exploration permit has been quietly granted inside a marine sanctuary set up to protect the endangered Māui dolphins.

The decision has shocked conservation groups who were unaware of the move and the Department of Conservation has “significant concerns” about the safety of the dolphins if mining were to go ahead.


In May, permission to explore a 220-square-kilometre section off the coast of New Plymouth that falls within the sanctuary was granted to a company that wants to dredge the ocean floor for minerals.

Ironsands Offshore Mining Ltd will now be able to carry out tests, including drilling, to assess the viability of the project.

Its an appalling decision, and a pointless one: while the impact of exploration may be low, it is difficult to imagine a full mining operation being approved. But like the Otakiri Springs water decision, it may be a case of the Minister's hands being tied: marine mammal sanctuaries enjoy no special protection from mining, while the law covering access arrangements requires the Minister to consider economic benefits but not environmental costs unless the land is specifically held for conservation purposes (because in theory that is dealt with at the RMA stage, not at the mining consent stage. Except where the local council short-circuits the entire process with a "drill, baby, drill" policy...)

As for how to stop this, hopefully Greenpeace will OIA the advice, and seek a judicial review if there is any doubt about the decision. And of course there's protests (though again, when will the government repeal the Anadarko Amendment?) But in the long term, if we want to prevent mining or prospecting in marine mammal sanctuaries, we need to change the law. And at this stage it is worth noting that sanctuaries for land-based wildlife enjoy the protection of Schedule 4, meaning mining is absolutely forbidden. Sanctuaries for marine mammals do not, despite serving an identical purpose at sea. It would be a very simple members bill to add them. Maybe a Green MP would like to put one in the ballot?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Taking on dirty dairying

Taranaki is one of the country's biggest dairying districts. And somewhat surprisingly, the Taranaki Regional Council appears to be taking on dirty dairying, with prosecutions and fines:

A dairy farmer collapsed in the dock and cried into her husband's arms after a judge slapped them with a $45,000 fine for illegally discharging untreated dairy effluent into a Taranaki creek.

John and Alison Vernon, who live and manage a 144-hectare Denbigh Rd dairy farm in Midhurst, admitted one charge each of discharging contaminants into water, a breach of the Resource Management Act.


Meanwhile, in a separate case, a husband and wife pair of company directors were fined $54,000 after admitting two charges of discharging contaminants into water.

Kevin and Diane Goble did not live at Block 8 Farm, on Block 8 Rd in Waverley, but had employed a contract milker on the site since 2016.

In both cases, farmers had let cowshit flow into streams, poisoning them. In most areas of the country, this simply isn't prosecuted: regional councils work for farmers, or view enforcement as too much work, and so take a passive role. Taranaki seems to be taking it seriously, and hopefully it will lead to an improvement in farmer behaviour.

No incentive

The UK Information Commissioner looks likely to fine Facebook £500,000 over its enabling of Cambridge Analytica:

Facebook is set to be fined £500,000 by the UK’s privacy watchdog after it concluded the social media giant broke data laws.

The California-headquartered company failed to protect users' information and then failed to be clear about how that information had been harvested by others. That was the conclusion of a major report into whether personal data had been misused by both sides during the EU referendum.


In a progress update to a parliamentary select committee, the ICO said it had served Facebook with a notice of intent to issue its maximum fine after it found the company had twice breached the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). A final decision will be made after the social media giant has had a chance to respond.

While a fine of £500,000 is the biggest possible punishment available to the ICO, it is the same amount of money that Facebook makes in just a few minutes.

And that's the core problem: that the fines UK law enables are completely inadequate to provide any incentive whatsoever on a global company like Facebook. Still, they're better than New Zealand, which currently has a fine of a mere $2,000. The government's Privacy Bill (currently before select committee) will increase this to a whopping $10,000, which is still nothing like what is needed. The Privacy Commissioner wants to see that raised to $1 million, but that's less than the UK maximum, which is clearly inadequate. An EU-style cap set as a percentage of global turnover (not profit) would be far more effective at providing an incentive against multinational privacy abuse.

Make our Parliament accessible to parents

In addition to the Prime Minister, several other MPs have already become parents this term. And one of them is highlighting that Parliament's new travel rules pose a big barrier for new parents:

One of Parliament's new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs' partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs' partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called "perk" was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

The cap does not apply to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford, who will be primary caregiver for baby Neve, because the Prime Minister's partner gets unlimited travel.

However, the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers' partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

As Allen highlights, 20 trips a year isn't enough for new parents, and apparently works out to a visit every six weeks. Raising it would allow far better work-life balance, and allow these MP's to better participate in our democracy without unduly burdening their families. And she's absolutely right: it is an unreasonable burden - but one that is so easily fixed. And if we want our Parliament to look like New Zealand, and to include MP's at all stages of life, we need to raise that cap for them.


Nurses are going on strike tomorrow for higher pay, after years of being underfunded. The government has condemned that underfunding, and says it wants to help, but also says that they have no more money to give. And meanwhile, their Defence Minister is wasting $2.3 billion on high-tech anti-submarine warfare aircraft their own defence policy says we don't need.

I guess that's where the nurses' pay-rise went: on pointless militaristic wank-toys, whose sole purpose is to make NZDF feel like they're a "real" defence force, and allow them to involve us in yet more American wars.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

A "free speech coalition" is planning a judicial review of Auckland mayor Phil Goff's decision to ban a pair of visiting Nazis from speaking in a council venue. A judicial review is welcome: I think Goff has behaved illegally, and should be forced to obey the law. At the least, it will clarify the law on freedom of speech in New Zealand in a useful way. At the same time, this "free speech coalition" looks a little odd:

It was being supported by former Labour Party minister Dr Michael Bassett, former National Party and ACT leader Dr Don Brash and business leader and Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church.

Also in favour was Auckland University senior lecturer Dr David Cumin, Canterbury University academic Melissa Derby, lawyer Stephen Franks, AUT professor Paul Moon, broadcaster Lindsay Perigo, writer Rachel Poulain, political commentator Chris Trotter and Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams.

If you were wanting to run a principled free speech campaign, then simply as a matter of PR, it might be a good idea not to have so many outright racists in it. Or people who have been outright hostile to free speech in the past. And be led by someone who hasn't called for critics of the government to have their arts funding cut. And OTOH, at least this time they're doing the right thing, if almost certainly for the wrong reasons.

New Fisk

Nearly two decades on from Nato's deadly bombing of civilians at Varvarin in Serbia, the wait for justice continues

The pathway to an equal parliament

Helen Clark has called for political parties to put more women on their party lists:

Political parties need to promote more women on their lists, former Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

Clark was speaking on Tuesday on a panel at Parliament on efforts to make Parliament's more family friendly.

Parties are the gateways through which most people enter Parliament and need to be "the greatest champions" for equality, she said.

Lists are crucial because research shows fewer women make it into electorate seats.

Though largely that's because parties don't nominate them, or don't nominate them in winnable seats.

Kiwis want a parliament that looks like New Zealand. But we can only elect candidates parties put up. And the reason we don't have an equal parliament, bluntly, is because our two biggest parties are sexist institutions which systematically discriminate against women. And if they don't like that description, maybe they should fix their sexism problem, by ensuring that their party rules provide for equal representation.

Wedding cake bigotry is illegal

So, some Auckland bigots have decided to try their hand at US-style wedding cake bigotry, and refused to provide a wedding cake for a marriage:

A same-sex couple is "shocked and upset" that their request for a wedding cake was refused by a Warkworth baker who said marriage equality was against her beliefs.

Moe Barr and Sasha Patrick both live in Brisbane, but since Australia had not yet legalised same-sex marriage when they got engaged last year, they planned their wedding at Waipu in Northland for next January.

When they approached Kath's Devine Cakes in Warkworth to make the cake, "Kath" refused, saying despite the New Zealand government legalising same-sex marriage, she believed it was not correct and therefore she would not make the wedding cake.

This is pretty obviously illegal. The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibits discriminating in the provision of goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation, just as it prohibits it on the basis of race or disability. While this must be interpreted through the lens of the Bill of Rights Act, which affirms freedom of religion, the consensus when the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was passed was that people had no right to refuse to provide services to gay couples, any more than they would to interracial ones. For that reason, a National MP put up a bigot amendment which would have allowed his fellow bigots to refuse services in exactly this manner. It was voted down, 79-36.

As for what should happen, the Human Rights Commission should take these bigots to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, which should award damages for hurt and humiliation (and pour encourager les autres). And of course, no-one should buy cake from these bigots ever again. Because this sort of shit isn't acceptable, any more than refusing to serve Maori is.

TOP and the politics of impatience

Gareth Morgan has a post-TOP interview at The Spinoff, in which he makes explicit everything wrong with TOP and exactly why he is fundamentally unsuited for politics. There's the obvious constant slagging off of voters for valuing things different from himself, of course. But there's a top-down model of politics in which policies are offered "on a take-it or leave-it basis" and elections are bought so that they may be implemented. The problem of course is that people (and potential coalition partners) can just leave it, and (as we've seen in the case of Colin Craig and Kim Dotcom's respective vanity vehicles) elections in New Zealand are not just about money. But Morgan's biggest problem is that he is impatient:

That implies that to change the voting public’s political priorities requires a massive investment of time – time that individuals who have other options might more productively apply on other projects. While of course there is a body of politically active enthusiasts for TOP’s approach who would like to keep plugging away, the project needs money if it’s to realistically ever be more than a bit player like the Greens or NZ First and actually challenge the status quo of the two Establishment parties.

Morgan calls the Greens a "bit player", but if you look at the way policy flows in New Zealand - who introduces it, who advocates it, who adopts it, and who has to pretend to to avoid being offside with the public - they're a major influence. And they do it not by Morgan's (or rather, his hero Roger Douglas's) preferred methods of "crash through or crash", but by slow and patient advocacy. Why are we going to get a capital gains tax? Because the Greens advocated it, convinced the public (with the help of a housing crisis), and Labour and National had to follow (to the extent that National was forced to introduce the first steps). Why do we have a home-insulation scheme and a renewable energy target? Its the same story. Why are we going to clean up our waterways? Because the Greens have convinced the public, and the major parties are following their steer. As a small party, you can have an outsized effect.

(NZ First are a different story, because as a reactionary party they're about keeping things the same, or returning to some idealised past, rather than advocating for new policy. So their story is one of veto, not advocacy).

But its not just about introducing policy, but ensuring its survival. If TOP had won power and implemented its policies, it would still have had to do the hard work of building consensus behind them, or see their repeal at the next election. We want change. We want change now. But if we want it to stick, we need to convince people, either before or after the fact.

Max Weber called politics "a strong and slow boring of hard boards" - and that was said in an era when that was done with hand drills. Building consensus behind policy and changing political priorities requires time and patience. It requires convincing people. Morgan didn't have patience, either for the process or with the people he was trying to convince. And that is why he was doomed to failure.

Monday, July 09, 2018


The Opportunities Party has decided not to contest the 2020 election, and has asked the Electoral Commission to deregister it. Officially, they've recognised the reality that their policies just aren't popular enough, but Morgan couldn't do that without taking the opportunity to heap scorn on voters:

“The voting public demonstrated that best practice, evidence-informed policy is not of significant concern when deciding elections. When 20% of the vote moves in 48 hours simply on the back of a change of leader, with no improvement at all in policy being offered, what makes the New Zealand voter tick is clear.”

Hear that? We're all irrational and unworthy of Morgan's genius, so he's taking his ball and going home. Which I think demonstrates the problem with TOP in a nutshell: its hard to win the support of voters while displaying such utter contempt for us. And its hard to win elections when you clearly have no idea how politics works. Because despite what the self-proclaimed uber-rational TOP-men purport, politics is not just about policy. Among other things, its also about trust and credibility. And the reason Labour's vote shifted so dramatically simply with a change in leader was because Labour got a leader people could believe in, someone people could trust to do what Labour said it would do, and trust to do what a Labour party ought to do in response to all the events that will inevitably pop up over a three year term. No-one trusted the faceless Daves. And about the only thing you could ever trust TOP to do was for Morgan to throw a temper-tantrum while slagging off everyone who didn't agree absolutely with him. What's surprising is that 2.4% of voters went along with such an abusive relationship.

But while its clear that TOP has died a natural death, it means we'll be down to only 12 registered political parties (and only 5 in Parliament). Which isn't a lot of options for voters to choose from. One way of measuring the health of a democracy is by the number of registered political parties. And on that metric, ours seems to be in slow decline.

The cost of a free and democratic society II

On Friday, we learned that a pair of Canadian Nazis had tacked New Zealand on to an Australian (of course) speaking tour, and were planning on visiting New Zealand. Cue an immediate public outcry, which was cut short by Phil Goff apparently banning them from Auckland Council venues:

Auckland Council apparently acted on this and cancelled their booking, ostensibly for health and safety reasons. Which is about as credible as Donald Trump saying his anti-Muslim ban wasn't about religion. When the mayor of a city says they've given a direction, and what they want happens, I think we're entitled to take their word for it.

The problem, of course, is that this is all illegal. Auckland Council is a body performing a public function and so subject to the Bill of Rights Act. Which affirms, among other things, both the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of political opinion. The Auckland Council's actions are a prima facie violation of those rights and invite judicial review. And given Goff's tweet, the outcome of such a review is likely to be ratepayer's money spent on compensating Nazis for the breach of those rights, as well as an order that the council provide them with a venue (if they want one) on the same terms as any other customer.

Goff won't care. Like police officers who beat suspects, he will face no personal consequences for violating these rights, and there's no political downside for him because he's picking on someone everyone hates. But we should care. Because if we let the mayor of Auckland decide what speech is acceptable in public facilities, then a future mayor may decide that they don't like speech that we approve of. Like union meetings, or speeches in favour of reforming drug laws, or political movements against landlords and the rentier economy. Or speeches in favour of racial justice - because Pakeha New Zealand's neck seems to be pretty red these days, and there's votes in sticking it to "the Maoris".

That's why we need to stand up for freedom of speech, even for people whose views are repugnant. Not because we agree with those views, but because being able to express your views without interference from the government is the key to any democratic change, and giving away that principle gives politicians a veto on what we can demand from them. When push comes to shove, I'd rather put up with Nazis than trust politicians with a power so ripe for abuse.

(And, because some moron will need it to be explicitly said: threatening people is a crime and these people need to go to jail).