Thursday, March 21, 2019



Banned

The government has followed up with its strong words on Monday by announcing plans to legislate to immediately ban all semi-automatic and military-style firearms, backed by an immediate order-in-council recategorising them as requiring an E-class licence (so immediately banning sale to almost everybody):

Military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned in New Zealand under stronger new gun laws announced today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch. Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.

“An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme. Further details will be announced on the buyback in due course.

The law will be introduced under urgency when parliament meets again the week after next. It will have an abbreviated select committee process, and be passed within two weeks of introduction. There will be further legislation later around registration, but the immediate objective is banning these weapons and getting them turned into police. An amendment to the arms regulations means turning in a lawfully bought reclassified MSSA is not a crime, but as of half an hour ago, anyone who tries to retain or on-sell them is now a criminal. The government has made it clear that the police will be using their power to obtain records from dealers to track any semi-automatic that has been purchased, and will be following up if these guns are not turned in. So, the ban will be enforced, these guns will be taken off people if they don't return them lawfully, and the police will be asking questions if any of them can't be accounted for.

And that's that. The government is delivering exactly the sort of swift action people have demanded. And exactly the opposite of US-style "thoughts and prayers".

Wednesday, March 20, 2019



Looking the other way

In the wake of Friday's terrorist attack, the SIS has been quick to disclaim responsibility, making increasing claims that they were looking at Nazis, really. Perhaps then they'd care to explain why there's absolutely no mention of the issue in ten years of documents from them:

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of public documents from the Security Intelligence Service or the GCSB.

[...]

RNZ has examined ten years of annual reports and ministerial briefings and the threat of right nationalists is never specifically mentioned.

There is a heavy focus on Islamic fundamentalists, in the context of several terrorist attacks in other countries and conflict in the Middle East and parts of Africa.


The latter makes it clear that this is not about a reluctance to broadly identify target communities for "security reasons". They have been quite happy to publicly identify Muslims as targets of security interest for the past fifteen years. So again, you'd expect that if they were really paying attention to Nazis, they would have made similar mention. They didn't. The first public mention they make of the issue was last month, as an afterthought.

Their silence speaks volumes. In the face of an increasing international campaign of Islamophobic terrorism by Nazis, the SIS looked the other way. While they are now, finally, paying attention to the real threat against our society, their leadership needs to be held accountable for that failure. And that process can start by the director of the SIS offering her resignation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019



Show us the warrants

The SIS, in an effort to claim that Friday's terrorist attack which killed fifty people wasn't a failure on their part, is saying they had their eye on far-right extremists. It's an extraordinary claim, in contradiction to everything we know about their past behaviour and priorities. Fortunately, its easy to prove.

Since 2002, the SIS has been granted 314 intelligence warrants. These are basicly the sign of a serious investigation, allowing phone taps, computer hacking, and black bag jobs to gather evidence of interest to "national security". If they've been properly keeping their eye on Nazis, then there will be intelligence warrants for them. All they have to do to prove they've been doing their job is tell us how many there are, per year (or per 3 years, to give some statistical cover), relating to that sort of target.

They won't want to do this, of course. Telling us even broadly who they are spying on is anathema to the SIS. But they've already kindof done that by saying they've been surveilling Nazis. If they want us to actually believe it, and believe the level of surveillance was appropriate to the threat, they need to provide some proof. They need to show us the warrants.

Giving the finger to the Nazis

Parliament met for the first time today since Friday's act of terrorism, with an abbreviated timetable for a condolence motion. It opened with a procession of a dozen religious leaders of different faiths. Parliament's normal christian-centric opening prayer was preceded by an Islamic one.

This is what the Nazis say they fear. But rather than being some sort of sinister "takeover", here it was done as a sign that Muslims are New Zealanders, that they belong - as do members of those other religions, and those not represented, and those of no religion at all. That in New Zealand, religion is not exclusive of nationality, any more than ethnic or cultural background is.

What would the Nazis hate? For New Zealand to embrace the Muslim community. For us all to get along, in celebration of our differences, and protect each other against hate. Parliament gave a powerful symbol of that today. Now we all need to live it.

Little's whitewash

One of the obvious questions which immediately arose after Friday's act of terrorism was why our extremely well-budgeted spy agencies didn't stop it from happening. The fact that it happened, and 50 people were killed, represents a huge failure on the part of the SIS, and one the public deserves answers about. Yesterday, in her post-cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister suggested that we would get those answers, promising an inquiry into the question. But her Intelligence Minister Andrew Little has just pre-judged the outcome:

The Minister in charge of New Zealand's intelligence agencies, Andrew Little, says an inquiry into the events surrounding the Christchurch terror attack will show those agencies did their jobs.

[...]

Speaking to Q&A on Monday night, Little welcomed the news of the inquiry and said it would show the intelligence agencies did their jobs.

"… these agencies have done the correct things and done nothing other than fulfil their mandate in terms of security and intelligence."

He rejected any comments there was too much attention given to surveying potential Islamic extremism over other kinds of extremism.


So I guess we'll be getting a whitewash then, an exercise in arse-covering designed to protect the reputation of the spies, while doing nothing to address the question of who they target. Just like the Operation Burnham inquiry. Except of course they'll probably try and grab even more intrusive powers along the way.

We spend $80 million a year on the SIS, an amount which has nearly quadrupled in the last 15 years. What do we get for it? 50 dead bodies. They need to be held accountable for that, and we need to know where they went wrong, so we can be sure it will never happen again.

Monday, March 18, 2019



The Aftermath

I was expecting to spend today blogging about climate change, building on the enormous message of hope sent by the school strike on Friday. Instead, like everyone else, I'm struggling to deal with the aftermath of a horrific act of terrorism which targeted one of New Zealand's most vulnerable communities. According to Radio New Zealand, the terrorist talked in their manifesto about his victims "assault[ing] my civilisation". The real assault on civilisation is murdering people because of their religion, murdering children, spreading this sort of hate. The good news is that he's been arrested and will be prosecuted, and given that he videoed the thing, probably convicted. That won't bring back the dead, but it will stop him from killing anyone else. The other good news is that we're going to get better gun laws, which should make it vastly more difficult for people to engage in mass-murder in the future. And hopefully people are going to be a lot less tolerant of racism in future, now its been rammed home in blood what it leads to.

Obviously there has been a huge intelligence failure here, and I hope some very pointy questions are being asked about why police and the SIS have spent the last two decades spying on Muslims, Maori, environmentalists and the left, while ignoring Nazis. Or why the police were tapping the phones of human rights activists while handing out gun licences to militant racists. Given the scale of the failure, I am shocked that no-one has offered to resign over this. While I wouldn't expect such an offer to be accepted (at least, not immediately), I would have expected it at least to have been made. And it casts serious doubts on SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge's professionalism and integrity that she didn't.

I expect the government to be feeling quite uncomfortable as well. While the Prime Minister has shown us all why she is PM, and expressed the best of New Zealand, her deputy is a racist xenophobe who has repeatedly campaigned on Islamophobia and exploited it for political profit. He's wisely kept out of sight all weekend, but when he slinks back into the light, people are rightly going to ask why he is still in government, or indeed, in Parliament. And since he is unlikely to resign in shame, we're just going to have to de-elect him and his racist party at the next election.

Friday, March 15, 2019



Striking for a future

Thousands of schoolkids around New Zealand have walked out of class today in a school strike for the climate. They're part of a global movement, sparked by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, which is sacrificing a day of education to demand real action on climate change. The people in power now won't live long enough to be badly affected by the disaster they have made. These kids will. They are striking to make their parents care. They are striking for their future.

As it stands, that future is grim. The decisions their parents and grandparents have made - to knowingly keep spewing carbon into the atmosphere and warm the planet so a few people could keep on making money - have had terrible consequences. On current projections, we are heading for between three and four degrees of warming by 2100 - enough to destroy our food crops, spread tropical diseases, make significant chunks of the world uninhabitable, and cause widespread drought, mass-migration, and conflict. And that's just to 2100. Temperatures will continue to rise after that, making things even worse. This isn't extinction, not yet, but things will be very, very bad, with a huge amount of pain and suffering.

Unless we change. Another future is possible: one where we decarbonise the economy, stop polluting the atmosphere, and live within our ecological means. The schoolkids are striking for that future. And we should listen to them - because it is their future. We should not let the dead hand of the old destroy it.

No justice for Bloody Sunday

On 30 January 1972, British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in Derry in Northern Ireland, killing thirteen people. The usual official whitewash followed, and the leader of the murderers was awarded an OBE for his services. But a second inquiry in the 2000's called the crime what it was: murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland finally began a murder investigation, and now one former soldier has been charged with murder. But only one. As for the rest, the men who pumped bullets into a crowd, shot those trying to flee, and murdered those trying to help the wounded, they all get away with it. But it gets worse - because the reaction of the British government to this was not an acknowledgement of its past crimes and a desire that a prosecution might finally bring some justice, however imperfect, to its victims, but this:

Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

“The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

“And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”


No, Cthulhu forbid murderers living in fear that they might finally face justice! Won't someone think of the poor, oppressed killers?

In case anyone needs reminding, the dead of Bloody Sunday were UK citizens, killed by their own government for daring to demand human rights. They deserve justice. But they will never get it from Britain.

Thursday, March 14, 2019



How MBIE spies on people

Back in January, we learned that MBIE staff were being trained in using fake social media profiles to spy on people. This raised a number of issues around surveillance, freedom of expression, unreasonable searches and human rights, and so I sent an OIA request to MBIE seeking copies of this training material. They refused to provided it, but they did provide a copy of their social media guidelines, which are disturbing enough. MBIE staff will use Google to stalk you. They will log on to Facebook or LinkedIn to access information not shared with the general public, which is beginning to get intrusive. Worse, they will use false personas to perform passive searches, or even for "active engagement" (talking to people), suggesting they are not just accessing private, friends-locked or closed group information for which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, but also raising the possibility that they are attempting to manipulate public opinion or group actions. Which pretty heavily engages both the freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search issues the Law Commission expressed concern about.

Looking at a similar request sent via FYI, MBIE won't say who in their organisation is receiving this training or what it is being used for. Nor will they say whether they seek warrants or production orders to access this private information. Which is pretty dubious. The use of search warrants is the exercise of a statutory power, and there can be no justification for refusing such an abstract query. But the fact that they don't want to tell us tells us what the answer is: they don't, meaning any use of information harvested by such methods is potentially unlawful.

(And yes, in accordance with the "if in doubt, complain" principle, I am complaining about the response on a number of grounds, and have advised the FYI requester on some arguments for their request as well).

If in doubt, complain

Today Stuff launched Redacted, a series of articles on the Official Information Act and how it is abused, to raise awareness about the government's public consultation. Today's big piece is about how public servants circumvent and manipulate the Act to keep information secret and undermine accountability. Its an appalling read, but probably nothing new to regular OIA users familiar with these tactics. So what can we do about it?

Simple: complain to the Ombudsman. Public servants use these tactics because they get away with it, and they get away with it because no-one pulls them up on it. They also use these tactics because it is less work than obeying the law, and again, they get away with it because no-one makes it more work. If we want them to obey the law, then we need to reverse that calculation: make it more work to refuse, and make it likely that bad behaviour will be detected and called out. And the way to do that is by complaining.

Public servants hate Ombudsman's complaints. They are a shit-ton of work, and unlike requests from us peasants, they can't just ignore them, refuse them to meet deadlines, or give bullshit responses. Making complaints is a direct way of incentivising the public servants handling OIA requests to do their job properly and obey the law. At the minimum, they make it clear that someone is watching, and that bad behaviour may be caught.

So, if there is anything dodgy about a response, complain. If material has been withheld as "confidential" or "free and frank opinion" (the most frequently-abused withholding clauses), complain. If the public interest in release has not been considered, complain. If they are late, complain. If they dick you around in any way, complain. Anything less lets the fuckers get away with it.

As for what you should put in your complaint, simply say that you are not satisfied with the response and ask that it be reconsidered. If there's a clear violation of the law - lateness, an illegal second extension, failure to consider the public interest, or hyper-literalism and perverse interpretation of the request (a failure in the duty to assist), point that out. I find it useful to ground my complaints in the Ombudsman's guidelines, providing reasons why any cited withholding grounds do not apply, and this is usually an effective tactic. As the Stuff article points out, most public servants handling requests are poorly trained and unfamiliar with the guidelines, so frequently make mistakes.

The statistics are on your side. Complaints get remedies. Even when there's no formal finding, the fact that the Ombudsman is asking questions usually forces an agency to reconsider a response, and maybe you'll get something. And again: it incentivises public servants to make good decisions and lets them know they're being watched. Which means the public benefits as well.

Public servants will probably hate me posting this. Fuck them. If they don't want complaints, then they need to make obviously sound decisions. If they don't, they have no-one to blame but themselves if someone asks for it to be checked.

Juking the stats

The State Services Commission released its six-monthly OIA statistics yesterday, reporting basic information on volume and timeliness (but nothing on outcome or quality of response). But while the official press release crows about improved timeliness, there's a twist:

As signalled late last year, the non-Public Service departments subject to the Official Information Act, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Defence Force, are not included in the latest numbers. They are now reported separately to focus attention on the results of public service agencies and better reflect the Commissioner’s mandate.

And of course its just a pure coincidence that these are two of the largest and worst-performing agencies, the inclusion of which would have ruined SSC's narrative of ever-improving performance. Hell, the police are so crap that they couldn't even report timeliness for the last six months.

OIA statistics are an important performance metric: you can't manage what you can't measure. But they need to be honest. SSC's exclusion of two of the largest and worst-performing agencies means that that is simply not the case. Its another unpleasant example of how the government is trying to lie to us and pretend that the transparency status quo is fine and nothing needs to change.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has also released complaints data. Complaints have risen again, so I guess the Ombudsman was wrong in attributing the last increase to "the electoral cycle". The proportion of resolved complaints which resulted in a remedy - in other words, which found poor decision-making - continued to increase, from 66.2% to 73.3%. The other trend identified from the last stats - an increase in the proportion of complaints for full rather than partial refusals - has continued, suggesting even more strongly that agencies are meeting SSC's timeliness criteria by simply refusing requests to clear them off the books. The upshot: if your request is refused in full, complain. Public servants hate Ombudsman's investigations, so if you make it more work to refuse, then maybe you'll get them to obey the law.

(Analysis of the last batch of statistics is here).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019



Growing the conservation estate

A decade ago, the public fought a battle with Meridian Energy over the Mokihinui hydro scheme - a plan to build a dam on conservation land, flooding a scenic river gorge. Now the area has been protected forever by adding it to Kahurangi National park:

A wild and remote river gorge that was nearly dammed for power generation will be part of the largest piece of land ever added to an existing national park.

Nearly 65,000 hectares of land north of Westport will become part of the Kahurangi National Park, expanding the country's second largest national park by 14 per cent, the Government announced on Wednesday.

The added area is slightly larger than Christchurch and about half the size of Auckland.

Its the largest addition to a national park ever, and a huge victory for conservation. But its worth remembering that DoC still controls approximately 2.5 million hectares of unprotected stewardship land, which still needs to be assessed and then assigned protected status according to its value. Hopefully this is jut the first step in that process.

A British-style whitewash

Last year, the government announced that they would hold an inquiry into Operation Burnham, the SAS operation in which six Afghan civilians were killed, including a child. But now, it looks as if the "inquiry" is instead becoming a British-style whitewash:

"The ultimate objective is to get to the truth."

Sir Terence Arnold made this commitment as he opened the only hearing of his Operation Burnham inquiry so far held in public.

After hearing arguments on whether proceedings should be held in secret, Arnold and his co-chair Sir Geoffrey Palmer retreated behind closed doors. And that is where they have stayed.

The inquiry was due to finish in April. Instead, key witnesses have walked away, and some of its core participants are disillusioned, with one understood to be on the verge of taking legal action.


The core problem is secrecy, who gets it and who doesn't. Everything NZDF says will be secret, its witnesses protected from scrutiny and challenge. Meanwhile, the whistleblowers who provided information to Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, the journalists who exposed this crime, will be expected to give evidence in public and so be exposed to official and unofficial retaliation. And so unsurprisingly, they've decided that the cost of participation is too high. The result will be a one-sided inquiry which makes no effort to get at the truth - basicly an official whitewash for the NZDF. But the result is that whatever the inquiry concludes will simply not be seen as credible, and the taint will linger.

The lesson is clear: the New Zealand political system is incapable of providing justice by official inquiries, at least where the defence and security establishment is concerned. People who want it will have to use leaks and direct court cases instead.

The latest Brexit clusterfuckery

So, having rejected Theresa May's shit Brexit deal, UK MP's were told to vote until they got it right - and rejected it again. Which means that the UK is now just 16 days from Brexit and has no plan whatsoever.

Tomorrow the UK parliament will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. They will reject that (again). The day after they will vote on asking the EU for an extension, so they can flail around and fail to make up their minds some more. But with no prospect of any change to the deadlock, there is little point to an extension. The EU may grant it, simply to give the UK every possible chance, but ultimately the deal they have offered is the only deal on the table, and the UK can take it or leave it.

The real problem here is the dysfunction and delusion of the UK political class. Faced with the biggest political crisis in a century, they are unable to agree on anything, unable to even accept their negotiating position. So we have delusional absurdities like the EU just giving them whatever they want if they whine loudly enough, or that they can ignore their binding international legal commitments to the Irish peace agreement because they're Britain and they Rule The Waves. Or their imperialist delusions that Ireland would leave the EU and "re"-join their colonial oppressors for the convenience of the latter - or that threatening them with food shortages would change their minds (I guess they don't teach about the potato famine at Eton or Oxford...)

Given this utter failure, there is really only one solution: parliament can't make up its mind, so kick it back to the people in a second referendum. But that would involve the UK political class admitting its failures and yielding a smidgen of power (not to mention the risk that the people might then want to address the fundamental causes of an unfair electoral system and an intellectually inbred elite which produced this clusterfuck), so it will never happen. So instead they'll just continue the cannibalistic orgy all the way to the bottom of the cliff.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019



Climate change: Time for divestment

We are facing a climate crisis. If greenhouse gas emissions continue, the earth will become uninhabitable. Even if we're lucky, things are going to get very, very bad, with famine, plague, mass-migration and war. And currently, the new Zealand Superannuation Fund is helping push us towards that future, by investing in the companies which are causing it:

According to data from the NZ Super Fund – New Zealand's Sovereign Wealth Fund owned by the Government – as of June 30 last year the fund had a stake roughly 130 oil and gas companies.

The total value of those stocks at the time was $555 million. The value of the fund as a whole is more than $40 billion, meaning oil and gas stock make up just 1.4 per cent of the total fund.


This is madness. On a moral level, we should not be investing in companies whose business plan is the destruction of human civilisation. And on a financial level, these companies do not have a future, and therefore are simply bad investments. Greenpeace has called for the NZSF to divest from fossil fuels, and its a call we should all support. Norway is doign it, and if we want a future, so should we.

Not a good look

Thanks to the dodgy dealings exposed by former MP Jami-Lee Ross, the National Party appears to have become the first New Zealand political party to be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office:

Police have referred Jami-Lee Ross' complaint about National's election donations to the Serious Fraud Office.

Ross, who was kicked out of the National Party last year, lodged a complaint with police in October.

A police statement today did not refer to Ross by name but said:

"Police have referred to the Serious Fraud Office a complaint received in October last year in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act.

"The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.


The mandate of the SFO is to investigate serious or complex fraud. Being investigated by it is a big deal, and (in NZ political jargon) Not A Good Look. Hopefully they'll get to the bottom of any financial shennanigans and efforts to evade the transparency requirements of the Electoral Act and bring anyone who has committed a crime to justice.

Monday, March 11, 2019



New Fisk

Trump is trying to pay his way to an annihilation of Palestinian statehood, and an erasure of Israel’s crimes

Cimate change: Locked in

If we are to avoid the earth becoming unihabitable, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to virtually nothing by 2050. Which means eliminating coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels from our economy. But as Stuff highlights, a lot of our dirties emissions are locked in for decades to come, with long-duration resource consents giving a right to burn coal for a further twenty or thirty years:

It will be another 30 years before some of Canterbury's biggest consented burners of coal, including milk-powder processing companies, food and beverage manufacturers, a hospital and a university are forced to stop.

An Environment Canterbury (ECan) list of consented coal consumers shows Fonterra's Clandeboye plant in South Canterbury is allowed to burn up to 64 tonnes of coal an hour – the rough equivalent quantity-wise of bringing in every 60 minutes about 128 trailers of firewood.

Clandeboye is the region's biggest consented burner of coal. Its resource consent to use seven boilers to generate a maximum of 203.4 megawatts (MW) of electricity remains valid until June 30, 2039, during which time it is not allowed to discharge more than 463 kilograms of sulphur dioxide each hour.


Doing the maths using default emissions factors shows that this one dairy factory is up to a million tons of CO2 a year. Shutting it down would make a noticeable difference to our national emissions. But Clandeboye is just one source in Canterbury, and Canterbury is just one province. There are filthy, coal-burning factories all over the South Island contributing to this problem.

Fonterra won't shut them down until they become unprofitable. So, if we want to save the world, we need to make that happen. High carbon prices are one answer: if it costs too much to burn coal, then Fonterra will be forced to use cleaner sources of energy. But ultimately, we can't rely on those methods - we need to actually ban coal, and completely prohibit its importation, extraction, export and use. While we need a lead-time to give existing businesses time to switch fuels, the quicker we ban new coal infrastructure, the better off we'll be.

Taxing water

Two thousand people marched in Christchurch over the weekend to protest against a local water bottling plant threatening their water supply. And the government seems to be getting the message, suggesting that they may move to tax bottled water by the end of the term:

On Monday, Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said water bottling companies should be paying something.

Asked on The AM Show if foreign water bottling companies were likely to be charged a royalty or tax this term, Parker said: "Yes it's likely.

"It's not guaranteed, it's likely but the amount of it, well that depends on whether it's an export only charge - which has to be very low - or whether you charge, you know, a cent a litre for everyone," Parker said.

"Maybe a cent or two on every litre of bottled water would be fair too, again it might kick up a bit of extra money for councils and they could reduce their rates, or put it toward cleaning up our rivers for example."


Good. This is a hugely profitable industry built on a natural resource it is given for free. It is only right that the public receive a share of the revenue for use of that resource. But it shouldn't stop at bottled water: dairy farmers are the biggest users around, and they need to pay their fair share. And obviously the government needs to reach a settlement with iwi first, because fundamentally, its their water.

The solution is obvious

Another day, another employer whining about a "labour shortage". This time its rest homes:

Resthomes say they are exhausted by the constant struggle to find nurses to replace those they lose to better paid jobs in public hospitals.

[...]

Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said last year's district health boards' pay rise for nurses continues to strip resthomes of nurses.

"When you've got pay in the public hospitals at sometimes $5 or $6 an hour on average more, it is very difficult to hold onto our nurses."


Well, maybe they could increase wages by $5 or $6 an hour then. Its not as if they can't afford to: rest home companies are hugely profitable. If they build those profits on gouging their workers, and then find themselves with no-one to gouge, then that's no-one's fault but their own. And if they claim that they are unable to operate profitably while paying their workers what they're worth, then that seems to be an argument for nationalising the sector, to remove the wasted money that their profit represents.