Tuesday, October 23, 2018



Reserves are not for mining

The Court of Appeal has made a significant decision today in the ongoing battle over the Te Kuha mine. The orcs want to rip the top off a mountain on the West Coast to dig an open cast coal mine, but there's a sticking point: most of the land is protected by the Reserves Act. Strangely, neither the mining company nor their supports on the Buller District Council saw this as a problem. Even more strangely, relying on an archaic provision of the Reserves Act which referred to some even more archaic and long-repealed laws, neither did the High Court. In a shocking decision back in February, the High Court ruled that the Crown Minerals Act trumped the Reserves Act, effectively opening every reserve in New Zealand to mining.

Today, the Court of Appeal reversed that. The decision isn't very long, but the short version is "if Parliament had meant for that to happen, they would have explicitly said so". The slightly longer version is that the Crown Minerals Act regime is so different from the long-repealed legislation that the usual interpretive presumption of reading references to repealed acts as references to their corresponding replacements simply does not apply:

There is nothing that “corresponds” to the old regime in relation to minerals or coal. Those repealed provisions and the concepts behind them are gone. An entirely new regime has been put in place.

Instead, the Court of Appeal relies squarely on the Crown Minerals Act provision that mining is subject to all other applicable legal obligations, and ruled that access to dig the mine is subject to the Reserves Act. Which you would hope would kill it. Of course, it will probably go to the Supreme Court, because the mining industry will not accept such a limitation on its "right" to destroy our environment. But you'd hope that they'd uphold the obvious: that reserves are for protecting, not mining.

Climate change is a threat to global security

One of the expected effects of climate change is famine and water shortages, resulting in forced migration, political instability and conflict. And according to the Red Cross - who are on the sharp end of this - it is already happening:

Climate change is already exacerbating domestic and international conflicts, and governments must take steps to ensure it does not get worse, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

Peter Maurer told Guardian Australia it was already making an impact and humanitarian organisations were having to factor it into their work far earlier than they were expecting.

“In many parts of the world where we work it’s not a distant engagement,” he said.

“When I think about our engagement in sub-Saharan Africa, in Somalia, in other places of the world, I see that climate change has already had a massive impact on population movement, on fertility of land. It’s moving the border between pastoralist and agriculturalist.”

[...]

He said changing rainfall patterns change the fertility of land and push populations, who may have settled and subsisted in one area for centuries, to migrate.

“It’s very obvious that some of the violence that we are observing … is directly linked to the impact of climate change and changing rainfall patterns.”


And as the temperature rises, its only going to get worse. Which invites the question: at what stage is the global community going to start considering nations who refuse to act to reduce emissions a direct threat to global security? Because like those who "harbour terrorists", they're exporting instability - not just to their neighbours, but to the entire world.

Byelections have consequences

Over the weekend Australia held a byelection for former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's vacated seat - resulting in the government losing one of the safest seats in Australia on a record-breaking swing. More importantly, they lost their majority, meaning that things are going to get very difficult for them over the next few months. And one of the things they're getting difficult over is refugees. New MP Kerryn Phelps immediately declared that getting refugees off Nauru was her first priority - and suddenly, its happening. Overnight, the Australian government transferred eleven kids to Australia for medical care, and there's suddenly pressure in the Senate and the House for the government to take up New Zealand's offer to rescue the refugees. Part of this is sticking a lifetime ban on entering Australia on anyone they've imprisoned in their gulags, but if its what gets them out of there, that's acceptable - that particular piece of shittiness can always be overturned later. The priority is to save the kids from the concentration camps. Justice - including prosecuting those responsible for establishing and running those camps before the International Criminal Court in The Hague - can wait.

So, byelections have consequences. It would be good if people remembered that more often.

Friday, October 19, 2018



No "compensation" for those who want to destroy the planet

The government is currently progressing legislation to ban offshore oil exploration. The oil industry doesn't like this, because its the first step towards putting them out of business. And now they're outrageously demanding "compensation" for the violation of their "property rights":

A body representing seismic testing companies is demanding more than $100 million in compensation for its members if the Government passes a ban on issuing new exploration permits.

[...]

IAGC members claim they have invested heavily gathering data on areas not covered by exploration permits. While this has led to claims that the business model is highly speculative, MinterEllison partner Rachel Devine, representing IAGC before the environment select committee, said the Government encouraged companies to seek data to make the block offer process competitive.

"They've spent money in reasonable expectation that the regime would be the way it is, it's been set up to entice them to come in and do these things for the benefit of the New Zealand government," Devine said, claiming that the legislation would strip the companies of property rights they had spent $104 million acquiring.

"Passing this bill will put New Zealand on a blacklist of countries with sovereign risk," she said.

Get that? If this law is passed, they might sulk and not "invest" here. Which is the point of the bill, because "investing" in destroying the planet isn't an "investment" we want anybody to make.

As for the idea of "compensation", its as odious as Britain's compensation of slaveowners when they abolished slavery, and as justifiable as the idea of compensating some Saudi wide-boy for banning live sheep exports. There should be no "compensation" for people whose business model is literally the destruction of the planet. Democracies are entitled to change their minds, and that's exactly what we're doing. If companies doing business here haven't factored that risk in, then they're simply fools. Our right to govern ourselves and set policy according to the will of the people is not subject to a foreign financial veto, and isn't actionable in any court. And again, if foreign companies don't like it, they can just fuck off. In fact, the quicker they do that, the safer the world will be.

Reminder: Saudi Arabia kidnapped people from New Zealand

Earlier this month, journalist Jamal Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He was then beaten, drugged, and dismembered - apparently while still alive - by a 15-man Saudi kill team who had been specially flown in for the purpose. Its a horrific act, and one which should make Saudi Arabia an international pariah. But Khashoggi is not the only victim of the Saudi regime. As Stuff reminds us, in 2014 they apparently kidnapped a refugee from New Zealand:

Friends of Khalid Muidh Alzahrani, who they called Daniel, know what the Saudi regime is capable of.

Four years ago, the refugee disappeared from his sparse flat in Redwood, Christchurch, and they haven't spoken to him since. They fear he's been executed.

Daniel had converted to Christianity - a crime in Saudi Arabia - and his friends believe he was forcibly repatriated, possibly with his family's help.


The original media stories are here and here. And as this story makes clear, Alzahrani wasn't the only one: in May 2013 an unnamed Saudi refugee was apparently snatched off the street in Auckland and rendered to Saudi Arabia, where he was reportedly tortured.

The New Zealand government owes a duty of care to those we have granted refugee status, and we have an obligation to protect them from this sort of shit. The Stuff article argues that we should be demanding "proof of life" of these snatched refugees from the Saudis, and they're right. And if they don't provide it, we should cut ties with that tyrannical monarchy.

New Fisk

The story of the Armenian Legion is finally being told – and it is a dark tale of anger and revenge

Time to ban gag clauses

Yesterday, we learned that the National Party was arseholes all the way down. They'd known about bullying and sexual harassment by Jami-Lee Ross for years, and their response had been to sit on it, cover it up, and ultimately try and use it as leverage in their internal political squabbles rather than doing the decent thing and getting an arsehole harasser out of their party. And yesterday afternoon, we learned they'd gone further, explicitly gagging Ross' victims to keep them silent. Its a story we've seen time and again from overseas, where gag orders are used to silence victims and allow their abusers to keep on victimising. But we've also seen the solution: ban them. California for example prohibits confidentiality clauses in civil settlements for sexual assault. And just a few months ago, they went further, banning them in sexual harassment cases. Settlements can be used to protect victims, but never to silence them.

Isn't it time New Zealand, as a progressive country, followed suit?

Thursday, October 18, 2018



Drawn

A ballot for one Member's bill was held this morning, and the following bill was drawn:

  • New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income (Fair Residency) Amendment Bill (Mark Patterson)
The bill is typical NZ First racism, seeking to make it harder for immigrants to gain access to superannuation. A similar bill proposing a pro-rate entitlement based on residency (rather than simply extending the residency qualification) was defeated in 2015. Though the bad news there is that both Labour and the Greens voted for it. Hopefully they will refuse to vote for this piece of racist shit.

Queensland decriminalises abortion

When running for election, Labour promised to take abortion out of the Crimes Act. That promise has been shunted off to the Law Commission for the moment, but while Labour is pissing about and covering its arse, over the Tasman Australians have stolen a march on us, with the Queensland state parliament voting for decriminalisation:

Nineteenth-century laws making abortion illegal in Queensland have been scrapped, in one of the state's biggest legislative reforms.

The government's controversial plan to decriminalise pregnancy termination passed through state parliament with a comfortable margin of 50 votes to 41.

The laws mean abortion will be available, on request, at up to 22 weeks' gestation.

It also allows an abortion to take place after 22 weeks if the medical practitioner performing the termination has consulted with a second medical practitioner and both agreed that "in all the circumstances" the abortion should be performed.


So how long will it take in New Zealand? The Law Commission says they will be providing a response to Andrew little "within eight months of the Minister’s 27 February 2018 request", which is around the end of this month. Which means we should see legislation passed next year.

Arseholes all the way down

So, National has dumped the dirt on Jami-Lee Ross, revealing a series of harassing, threatening relationships with four women. I've said repeatedly that I'm not interested in the details of MP's private lives. If everyone involved is a consenting adult, then its really no business of mine. But there's a consistent thread here of manipulation, harassment, threats, abuse, and bullying, both in private and in the workplace. It makes it clear that, to put it mildly, Jami-Lee Ross is not a very nice person.

But he's not the only one on the hook for this. Much of this behaviour happened in the workplace environment of Parliament and the National Party. We know from earlier stories that some of the victims apparently complained. And the response of the National Party was to not to act immediately to ensure a work and party environment free of harassment, but instead to sit on those complaints and save them to use as leverage later. Which makes it clear that they are not very nice people either. Its arseholes all the way down.

Ross was a former party whip, so dumping the dirt on the guy whose job was literally to know where all the bodies were buried may not have been the best ideas. But to be honest, they're all arseholes, so why should we care what they do to one another? Burn them all, and we can toast marshmallows on the flames.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018



Will Labour vote to weaken workers' rights?

Labour's Film Industry Working Group has reported back on National's "Hobbit law", which arbitrarily excluded film industry workers from basic employment protections. But rather than recommending that it be repealed, they have recommended massively expanding it to cover all "screen production work", including local TV and internet video and computer games. And while they have recommended repealing the ban on contract workers in those industries collectively organising, and allowing the negotiation of collective agreements with minimum standards, they propose an explicit ban on any form of industrial action - meaning such "negotiation" will be one-sided, favouring bosses, with workers limited to basicly asking nicely. Which is basicly the situation we had in the C19th, before the union movement.

The "justification" for this is that the foreign film industry is "unique" and "internationally mobile". But as we've seen with climate change, every industry makes these sorts of self-serving claims in an effort to gain regulatory subsidies. The foreign film industry also "needs certainty", but they can have that whenever they want it by employing their workers as employees rather than trying to treat them as disposable serfs.

These are not recommendations the government should accept. Weakening workers' rights in one industry undermines them for everyone (as we're seeing with the attempt to expand the law: local TV producers have looked at the foreign film exemption and decided they'd like to be able to legally treat their workers like serfs too please). Rather than enacting these recommendations, the government should repeal the Hobbit law, and then restore the right to strike to contractors. And if the foreign film industry doesn't like the prospect of having to treat their workers with basic dignity, then can fuck right off.

Time to fix electoral donations

Jami-Lee Ross' explosive allegations that National Party leader Simon Bridges criminally laundered donations to hide their origin has put the issue of electoral donations and transparency back int he spotlight again. In a background piece, Stuff highlights the horrific fact that the 'least corrupt country in the world" has virtually no transparency at all in this area, with 80% of donations to parties happening in total secrecy:

In 2017, it was reported at least four out of every $5 donated to the two big parties is given secretly.

More than $31 million has been donated to registered political parties in the past six years, most of that to National.

Smaller parties like the Greens publicly disclose who provided most of their funding, but the big parties are secretive. 83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.

[...]

The worst offender is NZ First: Most years, it allows every single one of its donors to remain secret.


The reason? Because self-serving politicians set the disclosure threshold at a level where they would hardly have to declare anything, and then launder donations to flal under it to boot.

As for how to fix it, the answer is simple: align both the party and candidate disclosure thresholds (to prevent Bridges' trick of laundering candidate donations through his party), and significantly lower them to a level where we actually get transparency. $500 seems about right - more than any normal person would give a party, but small enough that splitting becomes too much damn work. Plus of course we need to actually enforce the law, and prosecute any party or politician who attempts to evade disclosure.

But of course, we have the fundamental problem: why would those corrupt, self-serving hypocrites in Wellington ever vote for any curb on their own behaviour?

Member's Day

Today is a Member's Day, and the long slog through later stages of bills continues. First up is the committee stage of Jan Tinetti's Education (National Education and Learning Priorities) Amendment Bill. Following that, there's the second readings of Gareth Hughes' Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill and Simeon Brown's Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill. If they finish that, then its more law and order bullshit with Alastair Scott's Land Transport (Random Oral Fluid Testing) Amendment Bill. As the House is unlikely to get any further, there probably won't be a ballot tomorrow.

Climate Change: More bad faith from Labour

Remember when Jacinda Ardern called climate change "my generation's nuclear-free moment"? It turns out that she didn't really mean it. At least, that's the impression you'd get from the government's actions in granting foreign oil giant OMV a two year extension on its exploration permit for the Great Southern basin:

The Government has just granted oil giant OMV a two-year extension to drill in the Great South Basin, despite issuing a ban on new oil and gas exploration permits in April.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the decision by the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) to grant the extension is essentially a way to give the oil company a new permit.

“The Government is breathing new life into this permit, and the extra two years could be the difference between finding and drilling for new oil and gas reserves, or not,” she says.


And drilling for that oil means more emissions at a time when the IPCC is ringing the final warning bell.

If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change and the famine, war and death it entails, we need to end the oil industry - not in twenty of fifty year's time, but now. If the government had refused this extension, that is exactly what would have happened: the permit would have expired in a few months, and (if you take OMV's rhetoric seriously), they would have left the country in a huff, dropping a bunch of other permits in the process. That is exactly what needed to happen. Instead, the government has given them time to organise a drilling campaign, and increased the chance of them finding, exploiting, and most importantly, burning oil and gas - and burning the planet at the same time.

As for what to do about it, MBIE's decision seems prima facie unreasonable given the climate change context, and could potentially be judicially reviewed as such. And if it is upheld, I suspect there will be protests on the water if there is any effort to drill. Because unlike the government, the environmental movement is taking this problem seriously, and will do what they can to stop it.

What a coincidence!

Yesterday, ex-National MP Jami-Lee Ross made a series of explosive allegations against National Party leader Simon Bridges, alleging that he had asked him to hide a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman in violation of the Electoral Act. But it gets worse - because this businessman was awarded a major honour by National on their way out of office:

Chinese multi-millionaire Yikun Zhang was put forward for a Queen's Birthday honour by the National Party.

[...]

The Herald has learned Yikun Zhang of Remuera - who Ross said had done nothing wrong - was among those put forward by the National Party on its way out of office.

Inquiries have revealed the nomination carried the names of current National MP Jian Yang, former National MP Eric Roy and Auckland mayor Phil Goff.

Zhang, who owns $40 million in Auckland property, was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

[...]

Normal practice general sees the incoming administration sign off those nominated by the previous government. It is understood most of those under National went through in the New Year's Honours but a number - including the nomination for Zhang - didn't go through until the Queen's Birthday Honours.


This looks ugly, because there are a number of other such astounding coincidences, where people who made significant donations to the National Party are awarded honours. If we didn't know that MPs were all by definition "honourable", you might be left with the impression that they were selling the things to line the party's pockets, and wanted to avoid the obvious link a major donation would cause.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018



British police spied on democracy

The Guardian last night had a horrifying piece on the extent of the British police's anti-democratic spying, showing they had infiltrated at least 124 green, anti-racist, and leftwing groups over four decades:

Police deployed 24 undercover officers to infiltrate a small leftwing political party over a 37-year period, the Guardian can reveal.

The police spies infiltrated the Socialist Workers party (SWP) almost continuously between 1970 and 2007, often with more than one undercover officer embedded within the party.

[...]

Undercover officers spied on 22 leftwing groups, 10 environmental groups, nine anti-racist campaigns and nine anarchist groups, according to the database.

They also spied on campaigns against apartheid, the arms trade, nuclear weapons and the monarchy, as well as trade unions. Among those spied on were 16 campaigns run by families or their supporters seeking justice over alleged police misconduct.

According to the database, police spied on 12 animal rights groups and eight organisations related to the Irish conflict.


And of course, they deceived women into sexual relationships and fathered children during this campaign of infiltration.

The police supposedly exist to fight crime. The conclusion to draw from this is that they think that leftwing, environmental, pacifist, anti-racist, republican and trade union political activity is inherently criminal, as is campaigning for justice from police. Alternatively, they're not really about fighting crime at all, but keeping a corrupt political system in power. And if its the latter, then the entire institution needs to be torn down.

This will get people to care about climate change

Danyl Mclauchlan thinks that people will never care about climate change, because its all so abstract. Here's something that will make them care: its goign to fuck up the global beer supply:

Trouble is brewing for the world’s beer drinkers, with climate change set to cause “dramatic” price spikes and supply shortages, according to new research.

Extreme heatwaves and droughts will increasingly damage the global barley crop, meaning a common ingredient of the world’s favourite alcoholic beverage will become scarcer. Key brewing nations are forecast to be among the worst hit, including Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland.

The researchers said that compared with life-threatening impacts of global warming such as the floods and storms faced by millions, a beer shortage may seem relatively unimportant. But they said it would affect the quality of life of many people.


And if you're not a beer fan, it will also do the same to coffee. And probably other types of food as well. Which is the real threat here: famine, and the consequent mass-migration and war it causes. And all because arseholes in America want to keep profiting by burning coal.

National's corrupt electoral practices

The National Party mess has just gone thermonuclear, with Jami-Lee Ross making public allegations that party leader simon Bridges repeatedly engaged in corrupt electoral practices. In his unscheduled press standup, he specifically accused Bridges of knowingly falsifying the identity of the "Cathedral Club" donor on his electorate donation return, in violation of s207G of the Electoral Act, and of instructing him to split a $100,000 donation from a "Chinese businessman" in order to avoid disclosure, in violation of s207LA. He says he has recordings and photographs, and will be going to the police tomorrow to make a statement.

(He also says he's been accused of multiple cases of sexual harassment by National Party staffers, which he portrays as a political stitch-up. We can treat that denial with the contempt it deserves)

This is an allegation of serious criminal behaviour. Both of these are corrupt electoral practices, and if convicted, both Bridges and Ross (because he's a self-admitted party to at least one of the offences) would be automatically removed from Parliament. Of course, that assumes the police will bother to investigate. And as we've seen, they are only interested in prosecuting electoral offences by small parties outside Parliament, not by those who might one day set their budget. So, I fully expect that nothing will legally come of this, no matter how compelling Ross' evidence. But if what Ross says is true, it should taint Bridges permanently, and renders him utterly unfit to be in Parliament, let alone a party leader.

Monday, October 15, 2018



Leaks, dirt, and ethics

So, National leader Simon Bridges thinks he has found his leaker: the same MP he granted leave to a few weeks ago for "embarassing" personal health reasons. Given that the leaker supposedly sent text messages to Bridges and the Speaker claiming to be mentally fragile, I'm not sure how much I really want to go near this. But earlier today Jami-Lee Ross tried to pre-empt things with a series of tweets claiming he was being stitched up, including this one:



Which is presumably related to this morning's revelations about a "clerical error" around donations. But if its more than that, and Ross does in fact have such recordings, he should release them. Because sitting on solid evidence of unlawful activities and corrupt electoral practices by a politician, presumably as "insurance" or "leverage", is not just unethical, but also being an accessory after the fact.

Our racist health system

When Don Brash and his ilk talk about "Māori advantage", they're ignoring a hell of a lot of empirical data showing that Māori are in fact disadvantaged. And now there's another data point for the pile: our health system is less likely to try and save the lives of non-white babies, and this is being explicitly blamed on racism:

Babies close to death are less likely to get life saving treatment if they're Māori, Pacific or Indian - and experts partly blame racial bias.

A Weekend Herald investigation can reveal the ethnic divide in resuscitation attempts on very premature infants.

[...]

Resuscitation was tried on 92 per cent of Māori babies, 89 per cent of Pacific and 86 per cent of Indian.

That compared to 95 per cent for "other" - mostly Pākehā and non-Indian Asians - which medical experts say is a statistically significant difference.

"Institutional bias or implicit biases are likely to play at least some part," concluded the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee, a taxpayer-funded panel tasked with reviewing deaths of babies and mothers.


The Mortality Review Committee is now calling for training to minimise the impact of that bias, and that seems like a good idea. Because this should not be happening. The quality of health care you receive should not depend on the colour of your skin.