Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's pumpkin time!

Some deep-sea creatures which live in the darkest depths use a lighted lure to trick prey into their jaws. At this time of year, I use a carved pumpkin.

I have a large bowl of chocolate by the door, and hopefully there'll be some trick or treaters to hand it out to. And if not, at least I'll have something to console myself with...

Something to go to in Auckland

The Bruce Jesson Foundation will be holding its annual Bruce Jesson Lecture at Auckland University next week. This years' speaker is NDU secretary and former Alliance leader Laila Harre, on Union relevance in Aotearoa in the 21st Century:

For 20 years unions have been engaged in a struggle for relevance - relevance to both workers and the wider social and economic environment in which we organise. This lecture will look at possible futures for the union movement and the potential and need for workers to organise industrially and politically. More than ever we are dependent on what happens at work and what we get from doing it. The question is not whether we need unions, but what sort of unions we need.
When: 18:30, Friday 9 November (bar open from 17:30)
Where: Maidment Theatre, University of Auckland.

Information on previous Bruce Jesson lectures can be found here.


Meridian Energy's Project Hayes - the planned 630 MW windfarm in Central Otago - has been granted resource consent. I'm not sure how I feel about this. While I support wind energy, there are very strong landscape values at stake which the wind farm will ruin forever. OTOH, with the decision almost certain to be appealed to the Environment Court, those issues will at least receive a thorough going over and a check to make sure the council has made the right decision.

On the plus side, Hayes will put us well on track to the renewable future the government is trying to push us towards. But it also illustrates that that future will cost us.

Reshuffling the deck

Political news for the past month or so has been dominated by speculation about today's Cabinet reshuffle. Who'll be promoted? Who'll be dumped? And who'll be sharpening the knives as a result? But while this sort of court gossip is of deep interest to the harpies in the press gallery (just as it was of deep interest to the sycophants and courtiers who played and monitored the status game at monarchical courts), I don't actually find it that interesting at all. Sure, the faces will change, some people will strut while others slither - but will it lead to a change in policy?

The answer to that question is almost certainly "no". While a new Minister can bring a fresh pair of eyes and a new direction to a portfolio, with only a year till an election, that won't be their focus (and there wouldn't be time to implement anything anyway). Instead, they'll be primarily interested in the ongoing business of damage control, ensuring that the inevitable screwups (because there are always screwups, no matter who is in charge or what cabinet rank they hold) are properly managed so as to cause minimum damage to Labour's chances of re-election. And on a broader front, Helen Clark shows no signs of wanting to change her overall policy direction. So our foreign policy will remain in thrall to George Bush, and our immigration and Treaty policy to Winston Peters and his clique of aging rednecks. So, it'll be safe pairs of hands all round, and a lot of noise signifying nothing.

One area where I think a change might matter is in climate change. Here the Minister has rejected the advances of the business and farmer lobby groups who have previously dominated and frustrated policy, and pushed ahead towards a policy which might actually begin to help. Replacing him would give those lobby groups a second chance at a veto, and potentialy result in a repeat in the fiasco of the last seventeen years. And at this stage, we simply can't afford to let that happen.

Update: Yup, safe pairs of hands all round...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Shared values"

Saudi Arabia's absolute monarch, King Abdullah, is currently visiting the UK. The visit has come in for public criticism, with one MP boycotting a state dinner in protest at Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record. In response, the UK government has gone on the offensive, with a Foreign Office Minister praising the two countries' "shared values".

Which "shared values" would those be? Democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech? Gender equality and religious tolerance? What about capital punishment, torture, and corruption?

The blunt fact is that Saudi Arabia is about as far from the public values of the UK as a country can get. And yet, it's leaders are still willing to invite the Saudi despot there, fete him, dine with him, and shake his hand. Why? Because there is one thing they very much agree on: that Saudi Arabia should spend billions on buying weapons from the UK. And to get that business, the British government is willing to compromise anything...

New Fisk

King Abdullah flies in to lecture us on terrorism

A narrow brush with justice

Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been forced to flee France in order to avoid prosecution for torture over his authorising the torture of suspected terrorists [PDF], and his personally supervising the torture of Mohamed al-Kahtani in Guantanamo Bay. Obviously I'd prefer it if he'd been arrested, tried, and jailed, but even this narrow brush with justice should be a warning to current and former Bush administration officials involved in establishing the policy of torture. Like Kissinger and Pinochet, they will have to be very careful about where they travel to in future - because if they go to any country which is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture (which is pretty much everywhere), they will be facing arrest, trial, and punishment.

Something to go to in Auckland

This weekend, the Labour Party will be holding its annual conferance at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna. And on Saturday, those outraged by this month's "terror" arrests will be there to meet them, to let them know that they do not support the misuse of terrorism laws against protestors.

When: Saturday, 3 November, 9:00 am
Where: Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna.

Again, if you can't go, you can always donate to the defence fund here.

Fiji: finally

In January this year, Sakiusa Rabaka was detained by Fijian soldiers as a suspected drug dealer. He and his friends were taken to a reservoir, stripped, and beaten so severely that he suffered seizures and required brain surgery. He died a month later as a result of his injuries. Yesterday, eight Fijian soldiers and a police officer were charged with his murder.

It remains to be seen whether this will actually lead to justice. The Fijian military have been uncooperative about the investigation, refusing to make soldiers available for interviews and even attempting to spirit them out of the country while the investigation was still ongoing. They've since criticised the decision to press charges, and it would not be surprising if they try to invoke their self-declared "immunity" decree, or simply force the police to drop charges at gunpoint. What's frightening is that they seemed to think there was nothing wrong at all about beating a criminal suspect to death. Which is a pointed reminder of why the military should never be allowed to pretend to be police.

The first court appearance is in a month. And hopefully then we'll see some justice for Sakiusa Rabaka.

Worse and worse

How much evidence do the police actually have against the Urewera 17? Unfortunately, the media have generally been excluded from the bail hearings and the details supressed - but of what John Minto wrote in The Press yesterday about Rongomai Bailey's bail hearing is true, it seems the case is rather tenuous:

The police opposed bail and were required to indicate the strength of evidence against him. It was a somewhat bizarre legal discussion which followed. It transpired the police had no admissible evidence to justify laying the arms charges. In fact, they had no direct evidence whatever that he had ever even touched a firearm of any sort. What they did have was evidence gained under surveillance which cannot be used as evidence on the arms charges.

So here was a person arrested on gun charges but then detained on evidence inadmissible under our gun laws but admissible for denying bail for charges under the gun laws. Confused? I was.

So the police proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes or so reading what they regarded as the juiciest excerpts from the surveillance transcripts. These were obtained by bugging conversations in a car on a couple of road trips.

I'd like to record here the details of these transcripts but that evidence is suppressed. Suffice to say, these conversations were nothing one wouldn't hear on a Saturday afternoon at any gun club around New Zealand – even before the beer comes out.

It was all quite surreal. Those of us sitting in court were incredulous. The lack of substance to the evidence we heard was frankly embarrassing.

(Emphasis added)

Given this lack of admissible evidence, you have to wonder why the police were allowed to file arms charges and obtain arrest warrants for them in the first place.

The bigger question though is what happens if the Attorney-General (through the Solicitor-General) refuses leave to prosecute - or if leave is granted but the charges are subsequently withdrawn before being contested in open court. Will the police issue an apology, or any explanation at all for smearing these people's names - or will they leave the horrible taint of terrorism to smear them for the rest of their lives?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Raising the stakes

The police are seeking the solicitor-general's consent to press terrorism charges against the urewera 17. Whatever evidence they have, it had better be good - because its very difficult to see what three environmental film-makers, a Palestinian rights campaigner, a stirrer and a nutjob have in common.

Winston's new whipping boy

In the past, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has relied on racial hate campaigns as a core part of his election strategy. Since 1996, he's targeted asians, refugees, and Muslims, exploiting the fear, ignorance, and longing for the past of his mostly dead and white core constituency. And with another election approaching, he's hit on a new target: Maori - and specifically, those Maori who refuse to take the injustices of the past lying down, and who dare to think that the Treaty might actually mean something rather than just being a cunning ruse to trick them out of their land.

It's a classic Peters job. Pick out an identifiable group, demonise them, and paint them as a threat to "the New Zealand way of life", with the aim of terrifying the elderly audiance into soiling their incontinence nappies and voting to end this terrible threat. So we have the usual claims pushed by racists over the past few decades: Maori are lazy and all on the dole. Standing up for the Treaty's promise of te tino rangitiratanga is "seperatism", and its promise of equality under the law "apartheid". And land returned in Treaty settlements is undeserved, lost to New Zealand, and might as well be sold overseas. The net result is to paint Maori - all Maori - as outsiders, alien interlopers in their own land.

This is as ridiculous as it is obscene - and all the more so because it comes from a man who is himself an advocate of state racism. But Winston is a man without shame, and he's clearly hoping to repeat the success of Don Brash and ride a wave of racial tension back into Parliament. I guess the rest of us just have to hope that he fails.

Another one bailed

Two weeks after being arrested, another of the Urewera 17 has been bailed. Like Rongomai Bailey, who was bailed last week, Marama Mayrick is an unlikely terrorist. She's part of the same environmental film project (as is at least one more of the arrestees who still has name suppression), and has submitted to Parliament in support of climate change legislation - not exactly someone you'd expect to be running around the bush with a gun planning to kill people. Again, people could be wrong about this, but if so she's fooled a lot of people.

This is why people are so angry and taking to the streets: because once you find out who the arrestees are, the police's carefully leaked claims simply become incredible. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and so far the police have insisted on secrecy and given us none.

Argentina votes

Argentina went to the polls today in Presidential and legislative elections, and according to preliminary results, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (partner of current President Néstor Kirchner) has won the presidency with 46.3% of the vote. Her nearest rival, Elisa Carrió, gained only 23.7%, but in a crowded field of 14 candidates was hoping to make it to a run-off (under Argentina's two-round system, the winner needs to get 45%, or at least 40% with a 10-point lead, otherise there is a run-off between the two top candidates). So, Argentina has its first elected woman president; unfortunately, she's a Peronist.

(Argentina's first woman president, Isabel Martínez de Perón, was originally elected as vice-president and succeeded after her husband died. She was toppled by the military shortly afterwards, and is currently under house arrest in Spain awaiting extradition back to Argentina for crimes against humanity).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Climate change: the cost of abandoning Kyoto

Earlier in the week, the New Zealand Institute suggested that New Zealand "slow down" on climate change by unilaterally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. It suggested this as a means of avoiding the assumedly high costs of compliance, and it assumed that abandoning our international obligations would be costless (and not just because it puts no value on mana). But they're wrong. The European Union - a major export market - is openly considering imposing border taxes on countries which refuse to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. And France has just thrown its support behind this policy:

France has thrown its support behind a European Commission idea to tax environment polluters and also urged Brussels to consider EU levies for imports from non-Kyoto countries, such as the US and Australia.


[Mr Sarkozy] urged European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, present at the speakers' podium, to discuss in the next six months the implications of "unfair competition" by firms outside the EU which do not have to abide by strict European standards on CO2 emissions.

So, if we try and dump our costs on others, we will end up paying them anyway, plus penalty fees. And as an added bonus, we'll also get to see "food miles" style campaigns against our exports, arguing that environmentally conscious EU citizens shouldn't buy goods from or holiday in environmental cheats who refuse to do their bit in combatting a real and pressing global environmental problem. The upshot is that rather than pressing for withdrawal, our farmers and exporters should be pushing for us to conspicuously adhere to Kyoto - because otherwise they will be paying the price.

Ahmed Zaoui: welcome home

Four years after being granted refugee status, and almost five years after first arriving in the country, Ahmed Zaoui has finally been reunited with his family.

As an interesting note, Zaoui should be able to apply for citizenship in about a year. I wonder if the SIS will try and block it?

"Moral clarity"

What does Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani think of waterboarding? Asked at a town hall meetign whether it was torture, he equivocated:

I’m not sure it is... It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.
Translation: it's OK when Americans do it, but not OK when done to Americans or by America's enemies.

This is what Republicans call "moral clarity". And it's what the rest of us call pure hypocrisy.

Friday, October 26, 2007


UNEP released its 4th Global Environmental Outlook today, and the news is bad. Almost every environmental indicator is heading in the wrong direction, and while we've achied significant progress on some minor problems, the larger ones appear intractable. While the world has become richer, we are now living well beyond our ecological means,effectively strip-mining our ecosystem and endangering long-term sustainability in favour of short-term, unsustainable growth. And it simply can't go on forever. Either we adapt our economies to be ecologically sustainable, or we will find ourselves having to deal with the problems of unsustainability: resource shortages, famine, war, and death. And that's a future I'd like to avoid.

Ending provocation

Four years ago, David McNee was beaten to death in a brutal and vicious attack. His killer was subsequently acquitted of murder, but convicted of manslaughter, on the grounds that McNee had "provoked" him by making homosexual advances. This "provocation" defence, enshrined in s169 of the Crimes Act, was subsequently used to excuse at least one other anti-gay hate crime, as well as a case in which a man beat his wife to death with a cricket bat because she was going to leave him. Now, the Law Commission is recommending repeal, declaring that provocation is no excuse for murder.

The full report is here. Reviewing the cases, it finds that rather than being used by battered women, the provocation defence is primarily used by misognyists and homophobes to excuse the inexcusable. It also argues that it is simply philosophically unsound, and that while human frailty ought to be recognised, no ordinary person should respond to any provocation, no matter how strong, by killing. The law is thus a murderer's charter, and needs to be repealed.

The report includes draft legislation for repeal, and hopefully the government will advance it as quickly as it did the repeal of sedition. This law is simply shameful, and the sooner it goes, the better.

Hate week

Apparently, it's Islamo-Fascism Week, an event organised by the NeoCon dead-enders to "rally American students to defend their country" and educate them about the evils of Islam. Orwell's 1984 had a similar event, the two minute hate:

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.
The purpose of this daily ritual was to whip the people of Oceania into a frenzy of hatred against their perpetual enemies (whichever one of them they happened to be fighting that week), so ensuring support for perpetual war. And the purpose of "Islamo-fascism week" doesn't seem to be much different. Also in tune with 1984 is the level of hypocrisy on display. As Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy wittily points out, the "Islamo-fascists" and the Christian fascists running this campaign are in perfect agreement in their hatred of women, gays, and modernity. But that hasn't stopped them from denouncing the other's bigotry, which they'll no doubt return to echoing at the end of the week.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Jimmy O'Dea is a 72-year old trade unionist with a long history of social activism and support for Maori rights. He played a key role in organising union support for the Bastion Point protests in the 1970's. Last week, despite being in poor health, he helped to organise the Civil Rights Defence Committee to defend those arrested in the police's recent "anti-terror" raids.

Today, his house was raided by eight carloads of police, ostensibly in relation to a kidnapping in the area.


Tokelau stays (again)

Tokelau has again voted to stay part of New Zealand. The independence vote did better this time round - 64.4% as opposed to 60% - but still fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed for independence. And the margin is absolutely tiny: only 16 votes out of the 692 cast.

After two referenda in less than two years, I'd say the result is pretty clear: not quite enough Tokelauans want to be independent. Hopefully the Tokelauan administration won't make the same mistake as last time, and force their people to vote again until they get it right. Instead, it would be better to back off, spend a little more time building that majority for change, and have another go in a few years time.

But regardless of what Tokelau chooses, one thing shouldn't change: like the people of the Cook Islands and Niue, these people are whanau. They should always be welcome here, and we should continue to help them for as long as they want and need it.

Brawling MPs

Oh, the irony. At the same time as the government is ramming through a bill supposedly aimed at stopping political violence, one of its MPs was engaging in exactly that in the lobby. Like pretty much everyone else, I think this is inexcusable; violence is never acceptable, and our MPs should behave like adults, not obnoxious high school students. At the same time, I also think it is pretty minor. While the media clearly crave a scalp so as to produce more headlines, that would be disproportionate. Such an assault would likely not result in prosecution outside of Parliament, so it should not result in a lynching within. Mallard has apologised, and should take some time off to calm down (though there's a recess next week, so he should get that anyway); beyond that, the public humiliation and opprobrium at his thuggishness should be enough.

And on the third hand, what would happen to a high school student who did this? Detention, suspension, and the humiliation of having their parents called in. If MPs persist in behaving like children, maybe they should be treated as such? I can just imagine Mallard, held in after Question Time to write lines for the SPeaker: "I will not hit other people"...

Defend your civil rights

Protests will be held across the country on Saturday to protest against the New Zealand police's rounding up of Maori, greens, and peace activists in "anti-terror" raids:

  • Auckland: Saturday, 27 October, 12 noon, Aotea Square.
  • Hamilton: Saturday, 27 October, 12 noon, Garden Place.
  • Whanganui: Saturday, 27 October, 12 noon, River Traders Market on Moutoa Quay.
  • Wellington: Saturday, 27 October, 12 noon, Midland Park (I ran into a group putting these posters up last night, so now I have one on my wall. I should also note that every lamp-post outside Parliament had a "Tame Iti freed; Rickards jailed" poster. We wish...)
  • Christchurch: Saturday, 27 October, 12 noon, Cathedral Square.
  • Dunedin: Sunday, 28 October, 12 noon, Otago Museum Reserve (because they just have to be different down there).
  • Palmerston North: Saturday, 27 October, 1pm, The Square (SE corner)

There will also be protests in Sydney, Melbourne, and London. See Indymedia for details.

If you can't come along, then you can donate to the Auckland and Wellington defence funds here.

Update: Added Palmerston North.

Carnival of the Liberals

The 50th Carnival of the Liberals is now up at That Is So Queer. And it rhymes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill passed its third reading tonight, 114 - 7, six months to the day after the minor parties held their press conference to demand repeal. The law will come into force on 1 January 2008.

Naturally, I'm pleased. It's not every day you change the law. Though when it came down to it, all I had to do was suggest it to a few people, read a lot of books, and dump the information in the right inboxes. The Law Commission, Keith Locke, and the Maori Party did all the real work. So, thanks to them, to all the MPs who spoke on it, and all the parties who voted for it. And thanks to Tim Selwyn, whose stupidity with an axe ironically provided the impetus for repeal. This doesn't mean I approve of what he did - frankly, I think he was a dick - but such dicks deserve to be punished for the crime they actually did - criminal damage - rather than thoughtcrime. Finally, I think we should remember all those victimised under the law. There's a short list here, but there's at least twice as many I never got round to detailing. Fortunately, there are unlikely to be any more.

Next target: blasphemous libel.

The Muldoon test

I've been watching to the debate on the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, hoping for a repeat performance from the Maori Party or a heavy criticism from the Greens. But the strongest criticism of the bill has in fact come from Rodney Hide, who asked the simple question: "What would Sir Robert Muldoon have done with this legislation?"

It's a terrifying thought. The bill would make designation the privilege of the Prime Minister, with no real right of review (and any attempt to do so crippled by the use of secret evidence). Designation effectively creates a strict liability offence, allowing participants or supporters of designated groups to be prosecuted and jailed for prolonged periods. And Muldoon would have used these powers to the hilt. And while his evil piggy countenance no longer darkens our government and Parliament, can we ever really be sure we won't be governed by someone as evil and vicious as him in the future?

This "Muldoon test" is something we should apply to every piece of legislation. And if we wouldn't trust Rob Muldoon with a law, we shouldn't trust anyone with it.

Meanwhile, NZ First's Ron Mark has gone beyond the usual trick of calling opponents of the bill "supporters of terrorism". Instead, he's called the Maori Party actual terrorists for supporting te tino rangitiratanga. What a vicious little thug. NZ First truly are Muldoon's heirs...

Climate change: National reverts to type

National has never been keen on acting on climate change. While they've grudingly responded to public concern by talking up their environmental "credentials" (which include gutting the RMA - apparently removing environmental protections is considered a positive step for the environment in National's la-la land) and promising to act to curb emissions, they've continued to try and have it both ways, talking out of both sides of their mouth and having unfortunate reversions to pandering and outright Denialism. So it's no surprise then that National leader John Key - who once declared Kyoto to be "a hoax" - has eagerly greeted the New Zealand Institute's proposal that we "slow down" on climate change and let polluters externalise their costs for another decade, saying that they are "on the right track" and that "you need to balance your economic opportunities with your environmental responsibilities" (by completely ignoring the latter).

Just to make it clear, this means that National's climate change policy is now exactly what it was back in 2005, when Don Brash was in charge: do nothing, and withdraw from the only international instrument which might credibly begin to address the problem. Plus National change, plus c'est la même chose...

Update: But despite Key's words, apparently there's no change in policy. So, does this mean they won't withdraw from Kyoto, or that they were planning to do so all along?

Climate change: a world leader?

So, the New Zealand Institute is suggesting that New Zealand should slow down on climate change and seek to be a "fast follower" rather than a "world leader". But quite apart from their strange definition of "slowing down" - I'd have thought that unilaterally abandoning Kyoto would count as "stopping dead in the water" - there's also the fact that their entire analysis is predicated on the idea that New Zealand will somehow be "leading the world" if we implement climate change policy. And this is simply false. To pick my favourite example, Norway - the real "world leader" on climate change - started pricing carbon fifteen years ago. The European Union has been trading carbon since 2005 (though overallocation means it has been less effective than it could have been - a mistake we hopefully won't be making here). By contrast, we won't have even the rudiments of an emissions trading scheme until 2010. To claim that this would somehow be "leading the world" displays either a complete ignorance of international policy, or a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

The inconvenient truth is that even if the government implements its entire programme of emissions trading and regulation, we will not be a "world leader". We will not even be a "fast follower". Instead, we will be playing catch-up after 15 years of sitting on our hands doing nothing, and implementing measures that other countries implemented long ago.

Update: Hot Topic has an excellent analysis of the NZI report, and finds it to be "deeply flawed, overly simplistic, and... spectacularly misguided". Ouch.


For the past couple of years there has been an increasing debate about peak oil - the point at which global oil production peaks and then declines, leading to spiraling price rises and "demand destruction" (meaning people not being able to afford to drive their cars anymore). Much of this debate has been focused on when the peak will hit, whether it will be 2010 or 2030. But it seems the supertanker has already sailed. According to the Energy Watch Group, oil production peaked last year.

It remains to be seen whether EWG's theory is correct - they project oil supply to fall 7% a year from now on, which should be relatively easy to measure. But even if they're wrong, it's nothing to celebrate - it just means we have a few more years before having to face up to the reality that you cannot indefinitely extract a finite resource. Unlike some people, I don't think peak oil will destroy civilisation. But the end of cheap oil will have a serious effect on New Zealand (notably on our tourism industry), and its something we should be preparing for. Unfortunately, it seems our government is still locked in a death struggle to build more roads and bigger airports, in order to cater to cars and tourists that just won't be there in twenty years time.

What did he say?

In his speech in Parliament yesterday on the police's "terror" raids, Maori party MP Hone Harawira mentioned that

Ross Meurant, Auckland Task Force, Red Squad, and the MP who used protected disclosure to try to get me lynched for terrorism during his maiden speech in this very House
What did Meurant say? Here's some excerpts from Hansard on 6 October, 1987:
I now wish to speak briefly about the advent of racial terrorism. They say that until an alcoholic acknowledges that he has a problem there is no hope for a cure or a remedy; I say that until we are able to admit that we have a problem with our race relations they will steadily deteriorate. When white middle-class New Zealanders turn on the television they see radical nationalist Maoris demanding land and compulsory Maori language in schools; insulting white New Zealanders; swearing that white man's blood will run in the streets; and threatening the rest of the country with armed revolution. White New Zealand hears calls for absolute Maori control of our country, sees Maori gangs involved in shocking crimes - and white New Zealand turns off. The backlash has begun.


We must also maintain our vigilance against extremist elements in our society that would exploit our racial difficulties and that advocate the overthrow of the New Zealand Government by armed force and the removal of white New Zealanders. Who are the people who want total Maori control of New Zealand? They are Maori radicals who espouse a philosophy of nationalism, yet accept assistance from communist States and training in Third World countries. Those people include Atareta Poananga, Titewhai Harawira, Hinewhare Harawira, Rebecca Evans, Donna Awatere, Hilda Halkyard Harawira, and Emily Karaka, who are the principal cell of the Maori nationalist movement in New Zealand. They call the shots. Males are regarded as inferior, and sit in the second row. They include Arthur Harawira, Hone Harawira, Mangu Awarau, Benny Dalton, Dr Pat Hohepa, Eru Potaka-Dewes, Norman Te Whata, Syd Jackson, and Haami Piripi. Those people operate under several organisational labels - the Waitangi Action Committee appears to be the umbrella group, with PENAK, NFIP, MLPA, Rangitahi Action Group, and Te Ahi Kaa some of the subsidiary groups.

As an inspector of the New Zealand Police, I - along with others - watched the movement grow. Those people were first seen at Bastion Point in 1978; they then moved to Waitangi, and turned our national day into an annual battle between police and protestors. In 1981 New Zealanders experienced unprecedented violence in the streets as members of the group recruited, organised, mobilised, and motivated gang members across the nation, from the Mongrel Mob to the Headhunters, to clash with the police. They have moved underground, and they are now a greater danger; they now plan to overthrow the New Zealand Government. Poananga stated: ``We want all the land back, every inch of it.'' She also said that they will resort to the barrel of a gun to achieve their goal. That group will never succeed with its objective, but - as with the Black September movement in the United States - it will cause a lot of misery and turmoil, and the danger it presents to the nation must not be underestimated.

It's an ugly reminder of past attitudes which unfortunately haven't entirely disappeared. Maori demanding justice and "insulting white New Zealanders"? The outrage! And obviously, anything done by Maori must really be all about gangs (a belief Ron Mark still seems to subscribe to). But what's really amusing is how many of those named by Meurant have gone on to fill powerful roles. Atareta Poananga was an MFAT diplomat and 3rd on the Maori Party list last election. Rebecca Evans helped establish the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Donna Awatere and Hone Harawira both ended up in Parliament (though hopefully Harawira will last longer and not make as messy an exist as Awatere-Huata). Pat Hohepa and Eru Potaka Dewes are both academics. Syd Jackson was a union leader and broadcaster, and established the first Maori-sponsored PHO. And Haami Piripi was chief executive of the Maori Language Commission. Meurant's "racial terrorists" have become the establishment. I wonder where that leaves him?

Says it all II

Of course, this one has rather wider application than the current "terror" raids.


Eight days after being arrested, one of the Urewera 17 has finally been bailed. Rongomai Bailey is charged with four counts of posession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, but argued that the police simply didn't have enough evidence to justify it. More importantly, with no previous convictions, no real likelihood of offending while on bail, no risk of flight and no evidence that he would attempt to interfere with witnesses, there was just no legal reason to hold him. As I've pointed out before, bail is a human right in this country, and remand requires a strong justification. And mere allegations of terrorism just don't cut it.

This is good news for Bailey, but it also allows us to see for the first time (well, publicly at least, without the risk of prosecutions for violating name suppression) the sorts of people the police have targeted with these raids. And on the face of it, it doesn't look good for the police. Bailey is not the sort of person who strikes you as a terrorist. He is a peace, social justice and environmental campaigner who has reportedly expressed no previous interest in firearms or violence. His greatest claim to fame is working on an environmental film. He's the sort of person you'd be interested in if you thought that environmentalism was just a front for communist subversion or similar nonsense, but a "terrorist"? Hardly. And many of the people we aren't allowed to name are similar. As this press release from the recently-formed "Friends Of Wellington Terror Arrestees" states, the Wellington group are peace activists, environmentalists, and community activists - hardly the sorts of people you'd expect to be planning a guerrilla campaign or to murder politicians. Now, it's possible that their friends have the wrong impression and that they really are murderous, gun-toting psychopaths as the police allege - but if so, they've fooled a lot of people.

That's the problem the police are up against - the sheer incredulity not just of the allegations, but also of the suspects. And so their evidence had better be good - because if it turns out they've simply rounded up everyone who has talked to Tame Iti in a desperate attempt to justify eighteen months of surveillance, heads are going to have to roll.

Meanwhile, it seems our local Libertarians think that expressing support for the environment and opposition to digging up wildlife reserves is a reason to keep people in jail. Nice to know where they stand on core issues of freedom...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Terrorism and sedition

The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill passed its committee stage this afternoon, 112 - 7, and according to the provisional Order Paper is now set down for its third reading tomorrow. So, I'll be hitching a bus to Wellington, to see it go through. After which, I shall have to drink something to the memory of Peter Fraser, Harry Holland, Rua Kenana, Te Whiti and Tohu, Paddy Webb, Tim Selwyn and all the other stirrers, troublemakers, and dissidents who have been victimised by this unjust law.

The bill is second on the Order Paper, which allowing for the usual general debate on Wednesdays probably means debate will start after dinner. As for what's ahead of it, it seems the government has decided that its a good idea after all to debate the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill against the backdrop of a terrorism scare. It's an extraordinarily cynical move, but I guess they figured that the longer they waited, the stronger the public backlash would be, and that a rapid passage is the best way to head off growing public calls for the bill to be amended to conform with basic standards of justice and human rights. On the plus side, it means the Maori Party and the Greens will be able to rip into it - though they'll be hard pressed to top Hone Harawira's speech from this afternoon. Still, I'm sure they'll be willing to give it a go...

Maharey and by-elections

DPF asks when can Maharey resign from Parliament while avoiding a by-election? As he points out, a vacancy within six months of the expiry of Parliament doesn't necessarily lead to a by-election. But while he quotes the law and gets the date right, he misses a vital point: a by-election can only be avoided if

a resolution that a writ not be issued to supply the vacancy is passed by a majority of 75 percent of all the members of the House of Representatives
What this means is that National can force a by-election if they actually want one. Whether they do or not will become apparent when Maharey actually resigns, but it's perhaps something the mob DPF is dog-whistling might like to remember.

The really interesting question, of course, is what happens on the confidence front after Maharey goes. While Labour will be safe thanks to the Greens' abstention, things will be tight, and they may need to shift the Greens or Maori Party over into the positive column to be certain.

Sedition committee stage today

The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill will have its committee stage today. Tune in around 16:30 or so if you want to watch.

Hopefully this means we'll see a third reading tomorrow.

Update: Whoops. Debate just started at 16:00.

Not taking the hint

David Benson-Pope will be standing again in Dunedin South. Talk about not taking the hint. But while it seems he'll win selection and re-election, given the scale and repetition of his fuckups, it's unlikely he'll ever sit in cabinet again. OTOH, he is reportedly enjoying being merely the Member for Dunedin South, so maybe he'll be happy enough to do that for another three years...

The NZSF grows a conscience

Earlier in the year, the Listener's Matt Nippert revealed that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund was a dirty investor, with almost 10% of its stock holdings held in companies whose business activities were directly at odds with government policy. The NZSF was investing in nuclear weapons, big oil, gambling, private prisons, torture, genocide, and the rape of Iraq - and they were doing it all in our name.

In response, the NZSF promised to develop a responsible investment framework to ensure their investment decisions conform to basic ethical standards. One of their first decisions has been released today, and as a result, the NZSF will be divesting itself of NZ$37.6 million in tobacco industry stocks. I wonder if Nippert can claim a commission?

The background information [PDF] they've released reads like a press release from ASH. Tobacco is legal, but the industry violates basic standards of business ethics and product safety. In addition,

Investment in tobacco stocks is inconsistent with New Zealand’s international commitments, national legislation, and Crown actions – in particular the objectives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its extensive focus on the tobacco industry
So, they're bailing out, and as a result the pensions of those who make it to 65 won't be funded by the deaths of those who didn't due to lung cancer. It's a good decision, and hopefully they'll make the same one on nuclear weapons and Halliburton.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Labour Day

Eight hours work,
Eight hours play,
Eight hours rest,
And a fair day's wage for a fair days work.
That was the cry workers marched under when fighting for the eight hour day in the nineteenth century - a struggle we remember on Labour Day. But today, for many, the eight hour day is a distant dream. Twenty percent of us work more than 50 hours a week, and that rises to 40% among men aged 35 - 54. And we pay a price for it, in depression, in illness, and in our relationships with family and friends.

The 1991 Employment Contracts Act bears much of the blame for this. By repealing the previous limits on working hours and requirements for overtime, while smashing unions and removing their ability to stand up for their members and workers generally, it gave employers a free hand to demand that we work longer and longer hours. As a result, we're rapidly heading back towards the nineteenth century, unravelling more than 150 years of progress in barely two decades. The National Party calls this "freedom", of course, just as their ideological forebears did back then, but it is a one-sided freedom. The ugly truth is that we are "free" to work for as many hours as our bosses demand. Fundamental choices on how we live our lives, how much time we spend with our friends and families, even how much sleep we are allowed to have and so how shit we feel every day are in their hands, not ours.

As for what can be done about this, like Darien Fenton I favour restoring maximum hours of work and mandatory overtime. But the blunt fact is that the Labour Party is far too cowardly to risk anything so radical as restoring basic employment rights we took for granted for more than a century. So, if we want those rights, we're going to have to fight for them all over again. As for how, I suggest taking a page from the founder of the eight hour day in New Zealand, Samuel Parnell. When Parnell was asked shortly after arriving in New Zealand to work a twelve-hour day just as he had in London, he refused. He was able to do this because at the time the colony had a severe labour shortage and skilled workers were in demand. To point out the obvious, we have a severe labour shortage now, with unemployment the lowest it has been for twenty years and employers constantly complaining about how they can't find staff. We should use it. This is not a battle we should have to fight - a Labour Party worthy of the name would have dealt with this issue in its first term in government, if not its first week - but employment conditions do not protect themselves. So, the next time your boss tells you they need you to work longer so they can get richer, remember Samuel Parnell and just say "no".

European elections

Switzerland and Poland went to the polls yesterday in Parliamentary elections. In Switzerland, the racist Swiss People's Party - those of the infamous white sheep / black sheep ad - won the largest share of the vote and will form the core of the government. Their plans include kicking out immigrants and banning the construction of minarets (but not churches, of course). Meanwhile, in Poland it looks like the lunatic "Law and Justice" party has been toppled, and its even-more-lunatic (not to mention anti-semitic, anti-gay, and "barely crypto-fascist") coalition partners evicted from Parliament. Instead, Poland will likely be governed by the economically ultra-right Civic Platform, in coalition with the more centrist and agrarian Polish People's Party. It says something about the craziness of Polish politics that this is actually an improvement.

European Tribune has some good discussion threads here and here.

Says it all

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Middle NZ will recoil in horror"

That was Bomber's view of what would happen when the allegations behind this week's "terror" raids on Maori, greens, and peace activists came out. But reading the allegations in the Sunday Star Times today, I'd say it's more like "rolling around on the floor laughing their arses off". Killing George Bush? Around half of New Zealand have made similar "threats" in response to his warmongering, and the idea that they'd be considered credible by anyone outside of SIS headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is absolutely laughable. As for Helen Clark and John Key, again, people (even people with guns) mouth off all the time. That doesn't mean they're serious, let alone "terrorists".

But assume for a moment they are serious. The relevant offence is "threatening to kill" or "conspiracy to murder" - not "terrorism". People have been prosecuted for low-credibility threats to the lives of politicians in New Zealand in the recent past: former undercover cop Frank Miessen was convicted of threatening to strangle Helen Clark in 2005. His sentence? He was bound to keep the peace for twelve months, or face being called up for sentencing. And that's about appropriate for most such "threats". Conspiracy to murder is a serious crime with a penalty of up to ten years' imprisonment - but it would require strong evidence of intent and an actual, credible plan (and merely being a brown guy with a gun doesn't cut it). Of course, that's all fairly academic, because the police in their infinite wisdom didn't list those offences on their search warrants. Which means that as far as the police are concerned, it's terrorism or nothing. Which means they've effectively backed themselves into a corner, and we may very well see charges laid just so they can avoid immediately losing face...

Strengthening Europe

The European Union has just agreed a new constitutional treaty, reforming its government structure, strengthening its Parliament, and binding it to core human rights standards. The treaty still has to be ratified by the member-states, at least one of which (Ireland) is planning a referendum, but that is expected to go smoothly. And so Europe's slow march towards confederacy continues...

There are downsides. There is still a democratic deficit, with too many decisions being made by the council of Ministers (representing the member-states) rather than the European Parliament (representing the people). The EU's new president, who will serve a two and a half year term, will be appointed by the member-states rather than subject to popular election (and France ahs gone so far as to suggest Tony Blair - a man whose reputation as a US toady, warmonger and war criminal means he would be universally rejected by the people of Europe - other than perhaps the Poles). And there are the usual exemptions and exclusions common to these deals - the UK, for example, has opted out of various provisions covering justice and human rights, for no apparent reason other than that they are European and therefore bad. But overall, this strengthens the European project, and it helps make Europe much more than just a trade deal. And that IMHO is a Good Thing.

More discussion on European Tribune here.

New Fisk

Executed at dawn. But who was he?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No confidence in secret "justice"

So, five days later, and all those arrested in Monday's raids on Maori, greens and peace activists have been denied bail. Those arrested in Wellington will be transferred to Auckland to face charges. Worse, the reasons for this denial and the evidence supporting it have all been suppressed, with the public and media frequently excluded from the courtroom. Such secrecy was unacceptable in the Zaoui case, and it is unacceptable now. Public scrutiny of the justice system is vital to ensure it does not run amok and that people are not held on spurious charges and "evidence" that fails to pass the laugh test. It is necessary to keep the system honest. Unfortunately, without such scrutiny, we're left with reports such as this one about the photographing of people in Ruatoki in today's Herald:

He said police had apparently photographed members of the public with their cars in the Ruatoki area on Monday so that they could match people against video footage of alleged "terrorist" training camps.

"Part of the problem is that they can't identify people, so in their charges it says, 'Man in dark coat with brown pants'," he said.

"The public are being shepherded like sheep in what you call a line-up to assist in the conviction of someone from their community."

I sincerely hope this is not the case, and it would be difficult to imagine such charges being sustained in court. But in the absence of public scrutiny, we have no way of knowing - and no reason to have any confidence at all in the outcome.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Fisk

Secret armies pose sinister new threat to Lebanon

Maharey quits

The Herald reports that Education Minister Steve Maharey is resigning from Cabinet to take over as VC of Massey University. It's a shame - Maharey is an able Minister - but the government's loss is Massey's gain. OTOH, this does mean he lied to Chaff several months ago.

Since the government is desperate to avoid a by-election, he'll be hanging around as a backbencher for a while. After that, it seems there'll be a vacancy for a Labour MP in Palmerston North. I wonder whether recently ousted mayor Red Heather will stand?

It was the SIS

Since the police started raiding the usual assortment of Maori, greens and peace activists on Monday, people have been suspecting the hidden hand of the SIS behind it. We now have conformation. On Morning Report this morning, National Party Leader John Key admitted that he had been briefed by the SIS last week, before leaving for Europe.

This speaks for itself. Given the laughable "evidence" they tried putting up in the Zaoui case, my estimation of the evidence the police could have to support terrorism charges just took a dive.

Defence fund and protests

Indymedia mentions that Global Peace and Justice Auckland have established a defence fund for those arrested in this weeks raids. Donations can be made to:


Remember to label them as being for the defence fund.

Peace Action Wellington also has a legal defence fund: 02-0536-0458570-00 Particulars/Code/Reference: LEGAL DEF.

Everyone deserves a good defence in court, no matter what they are accused of, so I urge everyone to contribute.

Meanwhile, a thousand people protested in Whakatane this morning, and protests are also planned for around the country this Saturday:

Auckland: Saturday, 20 October, 12:00, Aotea Square
Christchurch: Saturday, 20 October, 12:00, Cathedral Square
Dunedin: Saturday, 20 October, 12:00, Albany St Labour Party office.

I guess whether anyone turns up will depend on what the police lay on the table today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Progress on sedition?

The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill is second on the Order Paper today, so there's a good chance we'll finally get through its second reading. It was also the mentioned in the business statement as a priority for next week, so if we're lucky, we might see it passing next Wednesday or Thursday. I'll be watching the Order Paper like a hawk, ready to hitch a bus to Wellington for the third reading. And since Tim Selwyn finally seems to be out of jail, maybe he'll be able to join me.

Update (17:00): Debate has just resumed on the bill, so they'll get it through by the time the House rises tonight.

Update 2: Nicky Wagner talks about the Electoral Finance Bill (because limiting the right of the rich to undermine democracy by buying elections is the same as barring political dissent). Ron Mark bangs the terrorism drum and says we need sedition to protect democracy; NZ First will be opposing the bill. Russell Fairbrother gives a powerful speech, but gets his facts wrong - he thinks that Tim Selwyn was acquitted. Charles Chauvel talks about the select committee process, and attacks National for its repeated claims of police bias.

Update 3: Passed 109 - 7; ACT and half the Maori Party didn't vote.


As mentioned below, the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill is unlikely to be debated today, and was not mentioned as a priority in today's business statement. Michael Cullen's response to a query about this was that the agenda of Parliament is determined by the Leader of the House, not the public of New Zealand.

What struck me most about this was not the futility of the denial - of course the government is moving the bill down the order paper to avoid claims that it was burning the Reichstag - but the arrogance on display. Someone, I think, has forgotten what Parliament is for and who they are supposed to represent.

The Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill

There's a conspiracy theory going round in the wake of this week's raids on Maori, greens, and peace activists that the whole thing is a stunt designed to ensure the safe passage of the government's latest piece of anti-terrorism legislation, the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill. I don't think so. To point out the obvious, the bill passed its first reading 109 to 12, with only ACT, the Maori Party and the Greens voting against. With that sort of support, there's no need to burn the Reichstag to get more. As Don Christie and Colin Espiner have pointed out, its likely that the raids have suddenly focused public scrutiny on the bill. Which is a good thing, because it needs it.

New Zealand's primary anti-terrorism law (other than the Crimes Act, of course) is the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. This defines a "terrorist act", creates a number of offences relating to terrorist bombings and the financting of, recruiting for, or participation in terrorist groups, and establishes a system allowing the government to "designate" terorist groups, thus effectively outlawing them. Unlike the UK and US, the bill grants no special powers of search and detention - that is all handled under ordinary criminal law.

The amendment bill tweaks this in various ways, the most significant of which are changes to the designation system. Rather than having to be specifically designated by the Prime Minister, groups designated by the UN will be automatically designated in New Zealand, which again raises concerns about political designations (the US, for example, likes to designate the standing military forces of countries it doesn't like as "terrorists" for PR purposes and to stoke tension). Appeal and review rights are significantly curtailed - there is no review for groups designated by the UN, and where previously other designations had to be renewed by the High Court, they will now be done at the whim of the Prime Minister, and while her decision may be subject to (expensive, time-consuming) judicial review, this has much narrower grounds than previous appeal rights (essentially being a procedural check), and the government is allowed to use secret evidence which may be hidden from the appellant - exactly as in the Zaoui case. This is simply an affront to justice, a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister, and a dangerous removal of review by the courts.

The bill creates a general offence of "committing a terrorist act". Given the broad definition of terrorism (it includes, for example, "serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life" if done to compel a government to do or not do anything), this raises concerns about the criminalisation of protest. To give one example, protesters in New Zealand have climbed power-station chimneys and chained themselves to railway tracks in an effort to change government policy, in the process causing serious disruption to those facilities and endangering lives (chiefly their own). At the moment, they are at most looking at prosecution for trespass. If this bill passes, they could theoretically be looking at terrorism charges and life imprisonment. While it is argued that this change is needed to cover all eventualities, this is a distraction. The core of terrorism is the use of violence to achieve a political objective (something covered very well by the rest of the definition). Under the current law, every act of terrorism is by definition also an act of murder, manslaughter, assault, or criminal damage. And that I think is perfectly sufficient.

Finally - and this one will actually matter to New Zealanders - the bill makes an important change to the offence of terrorist financing, removing the defence that it is not a crime to collect funds "for the purpose of advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights". As many people have pointed out, this would have made those who supported the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the 70's and 80's terrorist supporters, and could have a chilling effect on New Zealanders' long and honourable tradition of support for democracy and human rights overseas. This clause at the least needs to be removed.

Fortunately, it seems the bill has - for no apparent reason - been delayed. It is unlikely to be debated today, and was not mentioned in the business statement as being a priority next week. So rather than advancing the bill, the police's raids seem to have done precisely the opposite.

Al won't run


Former US Vice-President Al Gore has ruled out again making a late entry into the 2008 presidential race.

In an interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK, he said he would not make a fresh bid for the White House.

Mr Gore told NRK he wanted to focus on his climate change campaigning, which won him a Nobel Peace Prize last week.

On the one hand, Gore will probably effect more change for the better by staying out. OTOH, he's also the most inspiring and credible candidate the Democrats could have. Still, this way at least means that climate change doesn't have to be a partisan issue in next year's election, and allows whoever wins to steer the US away from denialism and back towards a more sensible policy of engagement with the international community.

Election funding: shaky?

The Dominion-Post breathlessly reports that support for the government's Electoral Finance Bill is looking "shaky" in the wake of yesterday's op-ed piece by Peter Dunne. Hardly. If you actually read Dunne's article, it's quite clear that he doesn't oppose the bill, and in fact fully supports its aim of removing the rich's undue influence from our electoral system. Instead, what he's arguing about is exactly how the bill will be amended - and there his views are entirely uncontentious. The committee and the Minister have already dropped some very strong hints that the definition of electoral advertising will be amended so as not to cover advertisements which merely take a position on an issue associated with a party and to make it clear that only material which seeks to influence the vote will be covered. The committee has also made it clear that it will look at registration thresholds and spending limits with an open mind. The one area where Dunne disagrees with the government is on greater transparency and disclosure - and on that, there is a majority in Parliament and on the committee to force the government to swallow that dead rat regardless. Presuming, of course, that National lives up to its rhetoric, and acts constructively for once, rather than continuing to act in bad faith.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Election funding: Dunne on the EFB

United Future leader Peter Dunne has an op-ed piece in today's Dominion Post on the government's Electoral Finance Bill. The supporters of the rich being able to buy elections will no doubt focus on his comments that the bill is flawed and must be "radically rewritten" if it is to gain his support, but the specifics of his views are rather more interesting. Dunne identifies three key problems with the bill:

  • The definition of third parties - he thinks it is too broad and captures "almost any group that dares to express an opinion that could be construed as political (in that it reflects upon the policies of one or other political party)". He wants to see the definition narrowed to include only groups who are genuinely trying to affect the outcome of an election (though given his example, many of his objections would be dealt with by a change in the definition of election advertising as well).
  • The definition of election advertising is too broad. This point has been noted even by supporters of the bill, and it is likely to be narrowed. Dunne seemingly supports a definition which only covers positive advertising, leaving third parties free to spend unlimited amounts on negative, Brethren-style campaigns, but he's unlikely to get that much change. The obectionable subclause (iii), covering taking a position on an issue associated with a party is almost certain to go.
  • The low spending limit for third-parties. Again, this has been highlighted even by supporters of the bill, and is also likely to change.
What's more interesting is that he doesn't criticise the extension of the regulated period to one year, and that he supports greater transparency around donations. There's a chance then for Dunne to get together with the Greens and NZ First and offer a select committee and Parliamentary majority to National on transparency, and challenge them to live up to their rhetoric.

Update: Added link to article on UF website [Hat tip: Dave Crampton]

Destiny Mk II

So, from the ashes of the schism emerges Destiny Mk II, otherwise known as the "family party". Co-lead by Destiny's Richard Lewis and former United Future MP Paul Adams (who in 2005 split from UF because it wasn't conservative or Christian enough), they're planning to target Labour voters in Manukau and Mangere. I guess they think god is on their side - because the voters in those electorates are unlikely to be. Looking at the 2005 election results for Mangere and Manukau East shows that the combined United Future - Destiny electorate vote was around 5% of the total (1,465 and 1,447 votes respectively), and in both cases less than 10% of Labour's. So, their dream of taking either electorate is simply a fantasy. The two parties did even worse on the party vote, so I don't think they're any real threat there either. The brute fact which these people have to face is that the number of people who actually want a theocracy in this country is vanishingly small - but I guess they can always pray for a miracle.

Dangerous radicals

Vernon Small is in Tonga at the moment covering the Pacific Forum, and today has an interesting post on the small pro-democracy protests happening outside the forum venue. The Tongan government has been trying to downplay the protests and present the protestors as dangerous radicals, but the truth is a little different:

when Tutone speaks it is not about wild revolution or even republicanism, but a constitutional monarchy for the Kingdom based on the Westminster system. He warns royalty can get out of touch with the people, and wonders why the people’s elected MPs have not been invited to the formalities at the forum.

What is needed, he says, is not revolution but “political renovations - leave the King in the salon”.

It says quite a lot about the attitudes of Tonga's ruling aristocracy that these views are considered dangerous and seditious. But then, that was exactly the attitude of Britain's aristocracy to the same views in the C19th, and they resorted to the same tactics in order to keep such views in check: censorship, arrests and sedition charges. Tonga is fortunate that its aristocrats haven't used the other tactic from Britain's past: massacre.

The cause of democracy in Tonga is one our government should be wholeheartedly supporting, but instead they are absolutely silent on it. We can help, by pressuring the kleptocrats towards change, and assisting with designing durable constitutional institutions, and we should help. Our refusal to not only betrays our democratic values; it also boosts the chances of change following a violent rather than a peacful path.

Member's Day

Today is a Member's Day, and looking at the Order paper, there's an awful lot of local business to get through. Fortunately, this tends to go quickly, and I have it from a fairly reliable source that the kibble will be out of the way by 17:30, allowing the House to get on with the real business of finishing off the committee stage of Sue Kedgley's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Bill. This has been slowly working its way through the system, with the supposedly new and friendly National Party fighting it every step of the way (they are a faithful representative of employer interests, as always), but it looks like it'll be done tonight, allowing a third reading next member's day. The other major business will be the second reading of Doug Woolerton's Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill, which is expected to fail. Beyond that, the House has a pile of second readings to get through, as the bills sent to committee over the past two years finally make it back. These are all expected to fail, but it will take time, so there's little chance of seeing a ballot anytime soon.


Looking at the list of bills before select committees, it seems that Jeanette Fitzsimons' Resource Management (Climate Protection) Amendment Bill has been deferred again, to May next year. I guess we can infer from that that it doesn't have sufficient support to pass the House yet.

On the good news front, the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill, which was supposed to be back next week, has also been delayed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


From Question Time today:

Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree that the environmental, peace, and Māori rights movements have a long history of peaceful protests and should not be, in any way, smeared by association with the alleged acts of violence by one or two individuals?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand stands for the right to peaceful protest; many of us in this House have engaged in peaceful protest in the past. Indeed, the *Terrorism Suppression Act itself is quite specific around that matter.

Indeed it is. For example, it provides an exemption to the laws on terrorist financing in s8 (2) making it clear that it is not an offence to collect funds "for the purpose of advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights".

Naturally, the government is planning to repeal this clause in its Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill currently before the House.

More wind

Contact Energy has announced that it will continue to defer its consented Otahuhu-C gas turbine, and instead build a 650 MW windfarm on the Waikato coast. This wouldn't just be the largest windfarm in New Zealand (it pips Meridian's Project Hayes by 20MW) - it would also be the country's third largest power station, with only Manapouri and Huntly being larger. And unlike Hayes, it has a good chance of gaining resource consent - there are no outstanding landscape issues, and Environment Waikato has been pretty good about consenting windfarms (they've already consented two further down the coast at the Kawhia harbour).

(The windfarm will be supplemented by a 100MW gas-fired fast peaking plant at Stratford, but that will be offset by Contact reducing usage of its existing 330MW New Plymouth Steam Turbine (an aging, creaking, inefficient wreck, already relegated to reserve) and consigning it permanently to dry-year backup. Which isn't a bad Thing at all).

So, the government's Energy Strategy is already bearing fruit. And unlike the frankly ignorant and alarmist Colin Espiner and the equally ignorant and alarmist DPF, I don't think we'll have any trouble securely meeting our future demand growth from renewables. To throw some real figures at the debate - something both Espiner and DPF conspicuously avoid - take a look at the New Zealand Wind Energy Association list of active projects. Taking into account the changes since its most recent update, we now have 244MW of wind farms currently under construction (Te Rere Hau and Westwind); 411MW consented and which can start construction anytime, 421MW awaiting appeals, and another 715MW still in the consent process - giving us almost 1400MW of new wind within the next five or six years if everything goes through. Add Contact's 650MW monster into that, and we're looking at 2000 MW. This is well in excess of forecast demand growth, and should mean we meet that 90% renewable by 2025 target with ease.

"Unlawful posession"

The dust seems to be settling on yesterday's police raids on Maori, environmental, and peace groups, and the court process has begun. In a good sign, one man has already been granted bail after a judge found that they did not present a sufficient danger to the public to justify holding them - which rather undercuts the police's carefully leaked extravagant claims. While the police have talked about filing charges under s13 of the Terrorism Suppression Act for "participation in a terrorist group", it will probably be a few weeks before they do so, and their public statements that those arrested had no common purpose would tend to undermine that. In the meantime, those arrested are being held on charges under the Arms Act of posession of firearms without lawful, proper, and sufficient purpose. Scoop has the details from one of yesterday's remand hearings:

Charge sheets filed in Wellington alleges offending occurred on:
16th-19th November 2006 (with a semi-automatic rifle)
10th to 14th January 2007 (a rifle)
26th to 29th April 2007 (firearm)
21st to 25th June 2007 (rifle)
16th to 19th August 2007 (shotgun & rifle)
13th to 16th September 2007 (Molotov cocktails & military semi-auto rifle)
The first point to make from this is that none of those in Wellington at least were found with firearms. The second is that the nature of the offending seems to be being allowed to play with someone else's guns; possession means possession at any time in any place, so if you go on a hunting trip with someone (ick) and they hand you a gun, that's possession. The police's leaks have talked about surveillance footage etc, so presumably the police have solid evidence of the accused actually handling firearms. Except for the latter charge, then, which covers things which every sane person ought to know are illegal and for which there is no legitimate use, the charges rest entirely on the assessment of whether the purpose for which the firearms were being used was "lawful, proper, and sufficient". And here, I think the police are on fairly shaky ground. While they will claim that the ultimate purpose of possession was related to some Grand Terrorist Plot, if the material they have leaked to the press is remotely correct, there's also a glaring immediate purpose of "learning to shoot". That immediate purpose is perfectly lawful in New Zealand, and it doesn't become unlawful simply because the person pulling the trigger is brown or a leftie.

I don't like guns. I don't like people who play with guns. I especially don't like people who think that guns are a "solution" to political problems - such people are a threat to every single one of us. But if the police want to stick people in jail, I'd humbly suggest they need to do a hell of a lot better than this.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Raids II

More information on this morning's "anti-terror" raids: the police appear to have been concerned about a paramilitary group operating "training camps" and providing firearms training. Some of those involved were reportedly planning serious crimes, and others had illegal firearms. This is bad stuff, and the sort of thing people should be prosecuted for. However, the raids seem to have gone rather broader than that. Police raided the 128 community house in Wellington (video) as well as another activist centre in Auckland, and have apparently arrested a student activist and several people from Open Rescue (who rescue chickens from battery farms). The Stuff piece notes that

More than 60 other people from around the country who have been recorded talking to, and in some cases training with, the arrested group will also be brought in for questioning.
So most of the activists probably fall into that category. Network with a core suspect on an unrelated project, get arrested and smeared by the media as a "terrorist". Lovely.

Scoop has video of Howard Broad's press conferance here. It's long, but he notes that there is no international aspect - this is purely a domestic group - and that not everyone attending the camps would necessarily have committed an offence. To expand on that, it's not an offence to dress up in camo and blow holes in things with guns (provided you have a firearms licence, the guns are legally owned, and it is done safely etc). It is an offence to do so as preperation to commit a crime of violence such as murder (or rather, it would help prove a conspiracy case) - so a lot will depend on what the police can prove about intent. Since they've apparently been tapping phones, they might have some actual evidence there which goes beyond mere mouthing off.

As for the Terrorism Suppression Act, the most likely offences would be recruiting members of or participating in a terrorist group. But as the group here is undesignated, the police would need to prove that it was a group that carried out terrorist acts, which could be difficult as none have actually been committed yet. Evidence of real planning would help here, but if they don't have that, then all they'll have are firearms offences and a very large headache.

(Note for international readers: this seems to have nothing to do with George Bush's "war on terror", and we're quite happy not to be a part of it, thankyouverymuch).

Update: Suddenly got paranoid about name suppression.

Immigration Bill: arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention

So far, New Zealand has avoided much of the madness of George Bush's "war on terror". Other countries have significantly restricted freedoms and violated human rights, subjecting suspected terrorists to control orders and indefinite detention, and even torture. We haven't. But the government's new Immigration Bill will change that, at least as far as visitors and immigrants are concerned. Buried in there among the arrest powers (most of which are aimed at enforcing deportations) is a clause which allows the arrest of anyone who is

on reasonable grounds, suspected by an immigration officer or a member of the police to constitute a threat or risk to security.
Once arrested, they can then be detained indefinitely under a warrant of commitment, or deported without any proper judicial process, all on the basis of secret evidence they are forbidden from effectively challenging.

The breadth of this clause is astounding. This is not about new arrivals and people who turn up at the airport with a bad security record. It applies to anyone. Tourists, visitors, students, even permanent residents. People who have lived here for years, who can work, receive superannuation, and vote, will be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention. All those Australian and British citizens who came here years ago but never bothered to apply for citizenship (because as de facto citizens it would make no difference to their lives) - people who are New Zealanders in every sense of the world, despite their lack of paperwork - will likewise be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.

The potential for abuse here is astounding. While current law allows police to arrest on suspicion, it must be suspicion of having committed a particular offence. Removing that and replacing it with a vaguely-defined criteria of being a "risk to security" is simply asking for police and immigration officers to enforce their prejudices rather than the law. We've also seen in recent years several cases of people being victimised by unfounded allegations of terrorism made through MPs or bottom-feeding media outlets - the latest apparently being the result of some sort of employment dispute. Under this law, those people could very well have ended up being arbitrarily deported or in prison.

The clause is also likely to fall foul of the BORA's affirmation of freedom from discrimination, as it clearly discriminates on the basis of national origin (prohibited by s21 (g) of the Human Rights Act). Now, in a sense immigration law is all about discriminating on the basis of national origin - but it's supposed to be about who is allowed into the country, not whether they are equal before the law and enjoy basic human rights while they are here. It was on that basis that the UK House of Lords found a system allowing for the indefinite detention of foreigners - but not British citizens - suspected of terrorism to be unlawful back in 2004. In New Zealand, our Bill of Rights Act affirms that the right to liberty, the freedom not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained, applies to everyone, not just citizens. And from a moral perspective, if we wouldn't tolerate this sort of treatment for New Zealand citizens, we should not tolerate it for permanent residents or visitors either.

The proper way of dealing with threats to security is prosecution. This allows the evidence to be fully tested before a jury, and ensures that the government actually has to prove its case. The proposed changes in the Immigration Bill would remove that vital safeguard, and allow the government to inflict significant punishment having convinced only itself. And that is not something any of us should be happy with.