Wednesday, October 31, 2018



NZ Police sexually assault prisoner

Part of my city was turned into a police state today, with streets closed off and walls of police quizzing residents in order to defend a pack of out-of-town blood merchants at their weapons expo. People protesting against it were arrested and assaulted, and one was left with concussion. Worse, one was sexually assaulted:


This is just wrong - both the assault and the pointed silence and complicity of other officers. And it shows that the New Zealand Police have learned nothing from the police rape affair, and utterly failed to stamp out the culture of silence and cops defending their own which allowed Rickards, Shipton and Schollum to rape so many women for so long.

Queensland's Human Rights Bill

One of the odd things about Australia is that it is almost alone in western democracies in not having formal protection for human rights. But Australia is a federation, and where the federal government sits on its hands - perhaps so it can continue its abhorrent treatment of refugees - the states will act. Victoria and the Australian capital Territory have already enshrined human rights in law, and now the state of Queensland will join them:

Queenslanders will have protections for 23 human rights enshrined in law, such as freedom of expression, religion and privacy, and a right to education and health services.

[...]

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath on Wednesday introduced the long-awaited human rights bill into the Parliament.

Ms D'Ath said it was about changing the culture of the public sector.

"The primary aim of this bill is to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded in the culture of the Queensland public sector, and that public functions are exercised in a principled way that is compatible with human rights," she said.

"The bill will require departments, agencies and public entities to make decisions and act in a way that is consistent with human rights."


The bill is here. Comparing it to our own Bill of Rights Act, it has a similar requirement for legislation to be interpreted through the lens of the affirmed rights, and a similar requirement for bills to be assessed on introduction to parliament (though this is done by the member introducing them, and is positive - a declaration of compatibility - rather than negative - a declaration of inconsistency. Which invites all sorts of bullshit from self-interested politicians). The rights themselves are more expansive, including rights to health and education, property and culture, but apply only to natural persons - corporations have no rights. The real difference is that where a law is found to be inconsistent with human rights - that is, no rights-compatible interpretation is possible - the courts can formally issue a declaration of inconsistency, and the government must respond, and that response must be scrutinised by Parliament. On the flip side, damages in human rights suits are forbidden, meaning there's no effective means of enforcement for low-level abuses. Another weird point is that the law doesn't apply to the judiciary and courts themselves - they're required to interpret the law in a rights-consistent fashion, but have no duties to respect human rights themselves in e.g. sentencing decisions or court procedures.

There's ideas here New Zealand might want to steal when updating the BORA, but also things that don't seem like such a good idea. Still, its a huge advance for Queensland, and hopefully the federal government will eventually be forced to follow suit.

Pumpkin time

jack2018

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Member's Day

Today is a Member's Day, and its yet more later stages, as all the stuff put into the pipeline earlier in the year comes back. First up is the third reading of Jan Tinetti's Education (National Education and Learning Priorities) Amendment Bill. Following that there are the committee stages 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 there's any time left, then the House will make a start on the second reading on Andrew Bayly's Arbitration Amendment Bill, a nasty little move to US-style secret private "justice" which has been fortunately gutted by committee. It will be interesting to see whether National wants to proceed with it now.

There is unlikely to be a ballot tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018



Ecocide

Bad news: humanity has killed 60% of animals in the last 50 years:

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.

The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”


Habit destruction, hunting and fishing are the chief culprits. And its only going to get worse as climate change bites. We are committing ecocide, destroying the natural environment we rely on for our survival.

As for what we can do about it, in New Zealand at least we can try and protect what we have, by locking land away under DoC protection and imposing marine reserves and strengthening the quota system to limit fishing. But over 80% of our native animal species are endangered, so we need to be doing a lot more than we are at present to protect them.

No hope for Australia

Australia's policy of imprisoning refugees in offshore concentration camps has long had bipartisan support, but recently there's been some hope that that support was fading and the policy of cruelty might be able to be ended by electoral means. Sadly, that hope has been dashed, with the Australian Labor Party pledging to keep torturing refugees in camps forever, just as Tony Abbott did:

Australia's opposition Labor Party will maintain the offshore processing of asylum seekers if it forms government.

Leader Bill Shorten has told the Lowy Institute that Operation Sovereign Borders would be "fully resourced".

Under the programme, asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat since 2013 have been sent to detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Mr Shorten says his government would look to appoint an Ambassador for Refugees and boost efforts to find resettlement countries.

"Stopping the boats was never meant to leave people languishing in indefinite detention," Mr Shorten said in his speech.


In other words, the ALP's big "solution" is to look for other countries to dump the problem on - a quest which ignores their moral and legal responsibilities to their victims. Meanwhile, the ALP's position combined with Australia's use of full preferential voting (an establishment rort requiring voters or parties to preference every candidate for their vote to be valid) means that voters and parties who oppose concentration camps cannot effectively threaten to withhold their electoral support from the parties who support this cruelty - meaning that there is no electoral pressure for change. The Greens might oppose concentration camps, but unless they win, their preferences will ultimately flow to Labor, who support them. The only hope of change is for a change in the leadership and direction of the ALP.

Meanwhile, if you're outside Australia, remember: don't buy Australian. Buying Australian goods means supplying the Australian government with tax revenue - tax revenue it spends on the torture and abuse of refugees. If you support refugees, you should boycott Australia until its policy changes.

Climate change: Wales ends coal

The Welsh regional government is banning all new coal mines:

Future coal mining applications are set to be rejected as a matter of policy for the first time in Wales.

New proposed planning rules, which are due to be finalised by the Welsh Government by the end of the year, would only allow permission under "wholly exceptional circumstances".

[...]

Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: "It is a historic moment. This is the end of coal in Wales after a long association and history."

She added: "We have to be aware of our global responsibility and the impact all of the coal has had over the years and to make sure that we really do play our part in Wales now to be globally responsible and to reduce our carbon emissions,"


This is something that needs to happen if we are to avoid catastrophic temperature change and the human consequences it entails. we can't afford to burn the coal we're already mining, let alone dig up more, so its go to stay in the ground. And if somewhere like Wales, which was once one of the biggest coal mining areas in the world, can do it, then so can we.

So, when is the government going to follow suit?

Monday, October 29, 2018



Climate Change: Spain ends coal

If we are to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change - meaning war, famine and death - humanity needs to end fossil fuel use by 2050. And Spain has just taken the first step, shutting down its coal industry:

Spain is to shut down most of its coalmines by the end of the year after government and unions struck a deal that will mean €250m (£221m) will be invested in mining regions over the next decade.

Pedro Sánchez’s new leftwing administration has moved quickly on environmental policy, abolishing a controversial “sunshine tax” on the solar industry, and announcing the launch of Spain’s long-delayed national climate plan next month.

Unions hailed the mining deal – which covers Spain’s privately owned pits – as a model agreement. It mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries.


Most of the mines being shut down were uneconomic, so this is simply doing what the market would have done anyway, while saving billions of Euro in subsidies. They've made a huge shift to renewable energy in the past decade, and practically eliminated coal from the electricity system, so its not going to cause problems for their electricity sector. But it will remove a dangerous source of pollution.

So, the obvious question is when are we going to follow Spain's lead? Most of the coal we mine is exported, and there seems to be little need to allow that to continue. Meanwhile, our major coal users have announced plans to exit the market: Huntly will close in 2022, and Fonterra is switching to electricity in the South Island. Announcing a phased shutdown will help drive that process, while pushing those industries still dependent on coal to look for alternatives. So, when will the government do it? Or is their talk of climate change being "my generation's nuclear-free moment" just hot air?

Ireland repeals blasphemy

While things seem to be going badly all over the world, with a murderous autocrat winning in Brazil, plus the ongoing retreat from democracy in the US, there is one place where things seem to be heading in the right direction: Ireland. In recent years, Irish voters have voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality and legal abortion. And now, the same liberal consensus has done it again, overturning the country's medieval blasphemy law:

Ireland has voted to remove blasphemy as an offence from the country’s constitution.

In a referendum, 64.8 per cent of voters were in favour of changing the law, with 35.1 per cent supporting the status quo.

The result was largely expected, as the article on blasphemy in the constitution is generally agreed to be outdated and obsolete.


The amendment finally needs to be brought into law and the outdated offences formally repealed, but its pretty much done.

If you're wondering, our government's bill to repeal blasphemy in New Zealand is currently waiting for its second reading.

Friday, October 26, 2018



Reforming abortion law

During the election campaign, Jacinda Ardern promised that if elected she would decriminalise abortion. Labour followed up on that by referring the issue to the Law Commission for consideration. Today, the Law Commission reported back, with three options for reform:

  • Under Model A there would be no statutory test that must be satisfied before an abortion could be performed. The decision whether to have an abortion would be made by the woman concerned in consultation with her health practitioner.
  • Under Model B there would be a statutory test. The health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Under Model C, there would be no statutory test until 22 weeks of a pregnancy. After 22 weeks, the health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Doctors overwhelmingly supported model A (which is used in Canada and the ACT), with a tiny fraction supporting model C. Nobody seems to have supported model B, and its pretty obviously there as salmonella. But what's worth noting is that any of these models is going to mean repealing the Crimes Act provisions and regulating abortion under the existing regulatory framework for health services, and ending the requirement for women to jump through hoops, declare themselves mentally ill, and endure the wagging finger of society. Abortion will be a health service, between a woman and her doctor.

And now its a question of which option the government will choose. Which is going to be a matter of ugly horse trading between Labour's young progressive women, and its old conservative / bigot rump and coalition partner. Because it will be a conscience vote, they'll also be looking across the House for liberal National MPs to secure a majority (assuming there are any: it seems any ambitious Nat feels obliged to grovel to the bigots and misogynists). It would be good if National's supposed liberals stepped up and made it clear which options they would support, but that would require them to display both principle and courage. And sadly, that seems to be too much to expect from politicians.

The full report can be read here.

New Fisk

Jamal Khashoggi: Did they bury him with his body facing Mecca?

Climate Change: Labour isn't serious

When Jacinda Ardern called climate change "my generation's nuclear-free moment", it suggested that she recognised that the problem was urgent and that her government would be doing everything it could to fight it. Since then we've seen a cowardly, deceitful backdown on the offshore oil ban, and now we find out that they didn't even bother investigating solar power for kiwibuild homes:

Housing Minister Phil Twyford didn't consider installing solar panels in Kiwibuild homes.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Mr Twyford received no advice in relation to solar power and the 100,000 affordable homes the Government wants to build through the Kiwibuild programme.

Mr Twyford told Newshub it's too expensive at the moment. He says it could've added $15,000 in price to each home.

"Until the cost of domestic solar comes down, I don't think it's going to be practical financially to put them on Kiwibuild homes."

According to My Solar Quotes New Zealand, the average price to install solar power is $9000.


...and it pays itself back while you live there, and will be even cheaper with mass installations.

KiwiBuild is a massive opportunity to significantly upgrade our housing stock, and raise housing standards. But its also a massive opportunity to drive the shift to decentralised, renewable generation we desperately need to make to reduce electricity emissions and enable the shift to electric vehicles. Twyford's penny-pinching is squandering that opportunity. And its another sign that Labour isn't taking climate change seriously, and that all Ardern's fine words are just more hot air from uncaring, institutionally compromised politicians.

Thursday, October 25, 2018



Climate Change: One state at a time

Earlier in the year, New Zealand ended offshore oil exploration. Now the US state of Oregon is set to follow:

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a plan to block offshore drilling off the state's coast on Monday.

"At a time when the states are doing more than the federal government to protect the environment, the Trump administration is trying to allow oil rigs to be built off of every single coast line in America except for Florida," Brown said in a Facebook Live event. "I'm tired of waiting for the federal government to come to their senses and realize this is a terrible mistake."

[...]

"Today I'm announcing that I will sign an executive order to permanently ban offshore drilling along the Oregon coast," Brown said, announcing she would work with state Senator Arnie Roblan, a Democrat who has spoken out against offshore drilling, to "make sure that no future governor can reverse this executive order with the stroke of a pen."


Hopefully other US states will follow suit. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to end the oil industry, and the first step towards that is ending offshore exploration and drilling. Though this being the US, no doubt we'll see a series of court cases over the balance between state and federal rights to regulate, which will ultimately be resolved in favour of whichever lobbyists control the political party which has most recently stacked the Supreme Court...

Ignoring the obvious solution

NewsHub reports on the growing risk to the government of being taken to court by iwi over freshwater:

The Government could face a decade-long battle over Māori rights to freshwater, a conflict with potential to become as difficult as the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Some legal minds are saying Māori are entitled to ownership of water - including the right to restrict others' use, and to compensation for unpaid royalties.

Darrell Naden of Tamaki Legal told Newshub denying Māori ownership to water is akin to the confiscation of land by early Pākehā settlers.

[...]

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said the Government could face a decade in court.

"I'm deeply fearful of another 10 to 15 years of litigation," he said on Tuesday.


Of course, there's a solution to that: settle. The government did it before, with fisheries, and it can do it again. And its pretty obvious what any settlement would look like: a share of any royalties or tradeable rights and a voice in environmental control. But the barrier to that doesn't seem to be iwi, but a government which is absolutely unwilling to address the issue. But if they refuse to even explore settlement, they have only themselves to blame when iwi seek to enforce their rights through the courts instead.

Time to end this rort

Parliamentary Services has released its annual report, showing that former MPs and their partners rorted us for $1.1 million in travel in the last year:

Travel perks for former MPs and their spouses or partners cost $1.1 million in the past year - but at least two of the ex-MPs, with quite differing ideologies, are dubious about the allowances.

The figures are included in the Parliamentary Service annual report for the 2017-2018 year. They show more than $350,000 was spent on former MPs, along with more than $320,000 on spouses or partners. Fringe benefit taxes added a substantial $435,000.

Among the top spenders were Roger Maxwell and his partner, who spent $22,180 between, Steve Maharey and his partner with $21,652, Warren Kyd and his partner with $20,614, and Sir Lockwood Smith and his partner with $20,064.

The allowances can be paid to former MPs elected before 1999, and their partners. The amount also depends on how many terms they served. There's no allowance for those with fewer than two terms, and most former MPs don't get anything unless they spent three terms in Parliament.


As I've argued over the years, this "perk" has never been justified. MPs have never been poorly paid (except perhaps in their own minds), and the other myths trotted out by the entitled rorters to "justify" it turn out to be false as well. On the flip side: every single one of these former MPs was handsomely paid while in Parliament. How much longer should we be expected to subsidise their sense of entitlement?

It is long past time to end this rort. Doing so will require an Act of Parliament. Which MP wants to put up the bill?

Voter suppression right here in NZ

Entrust is a regional electricity trust. It owns a majority of lines monopoly Vector, and distributes the dividends to 320,000 households in Auckland. Its supposedly democratic, with elected trustees - and in fact, there's an election on right this minute. But you wouldn't know, because those elected trustees - all of them from National's Auckland subsidiary, Citizens & Ratepayers - have forbidden the electoral officer from advertising it:

City Vision has discovered that current C&R Entrust Trustees have banned the independent Electoral Officer from promoting the Entrust election turnout in a cynical attack on democracy.

Peter Neilson the City Vision Leader sent emails yesterday and today to the Entrust electoral office, asking if they had or planned to make a media statement encouraging people to vote in the Entrust Election for 5 trustees. Judith Ofsoske the Director and Operations Manager for election services the Entrust election’s returning officer, Dale Ofsoske, advised today that “Unfortunately, the Trust has limited the press releases we are able to make-we are unable to promote the election. Dale has raised this with the Trust again this week.”

“While the first day turnout was well up on the last election in 2015 as of today the turnout is less than 10% and on current trends may barely exceed the abysmal final turnout of 12.84% achieved at the last election” says City Vision Team Leader Peter Neilson.


Four of the trustees have also refused to give any interviews for the election, despite standing in it.

This is classic voter suppression: if you can't convince people to vote for you, you try and stop people who won't vote for you from voting (in this case: people who don't already know about Entrust and might have different views on what it should do with the community's money). Kiwis have long considered this to be an American evil. But the right here is swimming in American memes (see their frequent calls for voter ID laws to deter voters), and it looks like now they've caught the full-blown disease.

As for what to do about it: vote the pricks out. No-one who attempts to suppress turnout belongs on any elected body. If you live in Auckland you can still vote by delivering your ballot to the Independent Elections Services office at L2, 198 Federal Street, Auckland by 17:00 tomorrow. Given low turnout, every vote will make a difference, and it will be well worth doing just to throw these arseholes out of office.

As for the longer term, as a quasi-local government body, Entrust seems like it should be covered by LGOIMA and the Local Electoral Act.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018



A reason to support public funding of political parties

As with MMP, just look at who is against it.

Public funding would reduce political parties' dependence on wealthy donors. It would therefore reduce the influence of those donors over policy (and correspondingly, increase the influence of those of us outside the top 1%). Its no surprise therefore that the voices of the wealthy virulently oppose it, the same way they oppose anything which might reduce their power, influence or wealth.

Looking into it II

The Ombudsman has officially confirmed that they will be investigating Callaghan Innovation's OIA practices. Good. This agency seems to have a problem of political handling of requests, culminating in the wrongful release of the personal information and contact details of requestors they had decided were "enemies". That's absolutely something which needs to be investigated and corrected.

Unfortunately, the Ombudsman has also continued his attacks on requestors:

"I don’t have any formal powers to investigate the conduct of requestors. However, I feel strongly that both requestors and agencies need to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law."

"The use of fictitious names by requestors isn’t unlawful but I believe they need to be up front about who they are unless they have good reason to keep their identities secret."

He can believe it all he likes. But in seeking to impose an extra-legal requirement on requestors, he is undermining the very Act he is supposed to protect. As for "good reason", there is ample evidence from across the public sector of requestors being treated differently based on agencies' perception of political risk, and it is well-documented in Stephen Price's 2005 study of the Act. Throw in Callaghan's wrongful release of personal information, and there seems to be good reason for every requester to use false names and throwaway identities, just to protect their privacy from vengeful rogue agencies.

Climate Change: The consequences

For the past week in Question Time, the National Party has opened with a question complaining about high petrol prices. In doing so, they're suggesting that petrol prices be lower, and that therefore greenhouse gas emissions increase. In other words, they're demanding that the government destroy the planet. Meanwhile, there's a scary article today on what climate change is doing already. The short version:

  • The tropical dry zone is getting bigger by half a degree of latitude a decade;
  • The Sahara desert has increased by 10% since 1920;
  • The boundary between the wet part of the continential US and the Great American Desert (previously on the 100th meridian) has shifted east by 140 miles;
  • Tornado Alley has shifted 500 miles east in 30 years, endangering more people;
  • US plant hardiness zones are moving north at 13 miles per decade. This is a proxy for natural ecosystems, so what it means is shifting climates and the potential extinction of plant species;
  • Canada's permafrost line has moved 80 miles north in 50 years. Again, this means shrinking natural ecosystems;
  • Australia's wheat belt is moving 160 miles south per decade, meaning reduced production.

None of this is good news. But by supporting lower petrol prices, this is what National is implicitly demanding: the continued devastation of our natural ecosystems, more disasters, more drought, less food. These are not responsible policies. They are not humane policies. And parties which advocate for them do not deserve your vote.

An admisison of guilt

Over the weekend, former National MP Jami-Lee Ross was "sectioned" to a mental health facility. The police and health system respected his privacy, and didn't talk about it - in fact, the reason we learned of it at all is because the National Party gloated publicly about it and talked about "seeking advice from medical professionals and involving police wherever necessary to ensure support is made available to Mr Ross."

This naturally led to suspicions that National had had him detained in order to silence him. National Party leader Simon Bridges was explicitly asked about that this morning - and dodged the question:

Simon Bridges is staying tight-lipped on whether the National Party was involved in Jami-Lee Ross being sent to a mental health facility over the weekend.

"I'm not going to comment on the details, and I'll tell you why: I only learnt about it after the event," Mr Bridges told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"I have some second hand accounts of what has happened, but the reality is I don't know for sure, so I'm not going to engage in that."


The idea of a political party weaponising mental health and engaging in Soviet-style tactics to silence their critics is one that most kiwis would find utterly abhorrent. Given how damaging the allegation of National involvement is, if Bridges could truthfully deny it, he would. The fact that he refused to speaks volumes.

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.

The "solution" that wasn't

In 2013, National introduced its "solution" to housing unaffordability. Its "Special Housing Areas" were basicly a developer's charter, with fast-tracked resource consents and lax oversight. The aim, as stated in the bill's purpose clause, was to "enhance housing affordability by facilitating an increase in land and housing supply in certain regions or districts". Higher supply (via lower standards) was supposed to lead to lower prices. Instead, it raised them:

The previous government's solution to the housing crisis in Auckland actually made homes less affordable, research has found.

Special Housing Areas (SHAs) were created in 2013 and touted as "crucial" in "enabling young Kiwi families to get into their own home".

Developers were offered fast-tracked consents on the proviso a portion of the development would be "affordable".

But the creation of Auckland's SHAs have now been found to have pushed up prices by 5 per cent within the area.

[...]

"The SHA programme simply allowed developers to offer new homes with an additional attribute (a shorter delivery time), which allowed developers to set higher prices," the researchers said.


So, National lowered consent standards, and their greedy developer mates made out like bandits. Why am I not surprised?

The market is not going to provide affordable housing, because there's just no profit in it for them (or rather, less profit than building palazzos for foreign immigrants). The only way it is going to happen is if the government builds those houses for us (and enough of them to crash the market). The current government, at least, is taking the first few timid steps towards this.

NZDF decorated a war criminal

Nicky Hager has a new piece in North & South today, with new dirt on the defence force, including drunkenness in the field in Afghanistan, and a systematic failure to investigate a sexual assault. But the worst of it is that they decorated a war criminal:

Investigative writer Nicky Hager says sources from the Defence Force have exposed a culture of bullying, sexual violence, drinking and cover-ups in the military.

In Mr Hager's 12-page investigation, published in the North & South magazine today, he details how a source revealed that an SAS soldier - known as Corporal B for privacy reasons - was awarded the second-highest military honour despite previously being considered for court-martial action for killing two children in Afghanistan.

"The Americans asked the SAS commander if they could take one of the New Zealand medical staff, a medic, on a raid they were doing on a Afghanistan compound," said Mr Hager.

[...]

Mr Hager said the soldier got involved in a firefight and later found he had shot two young boys, who joined the adults in defending the compound.

"And then when he got back to base he became a very unhappy and confused person, because the SAS commander was saying 'well hang on a moment, you've broken all the rules here, we're gonna court-martial you'.


But instead, for PR purposes, they gave him a medal, relying on secrecy to cover up the circumstances (its mentioned as a footnote in Willie Apiata's press release). In this, they're behaving exactly like the NZ Police: rewarding staff who have behaved criminally rather than punishing them. And in both institutions the cause is the same: a secretive institution which believes itself to be above the law.

NZDF and its soldiers need to be held accountable for their actions in Afghanistan. The first part of that is cleaning out the command staff who ran that war and who believe themselves to be unaccountable to the New Zealand public. But there also needs to be a full investigation, followed where necessary by prosecutions. And needless to say, the latter can not and should not be run by NZDF, and probably can't even be run by the police (because their natural instinct is to grovel to power and not rock the boat). Instead, we will probably need a special purpose authority to handle it, independent of NZDF, the police, and the national security state. Its the only way we will be able to get any form of justice.

Friday, October 12, 2018



Cuts kill

Another example of how austerity kills. A couple of years ago, when National was looking for things to penny-pinch on so it could pay for its tax cuts for the rich, NZTA cut the number of checks it made on heavy vehicle certifiers. And suddenly, there was a spate of crashes involving heavy vehicles:

Newly-released information shows checks on engineers who inspect big trucks plunged at the same time as the number of large rigs on the road jumped.

[...]

The agency cut its heavy vehicle compliance staff numbers in half in 2014. Figures released under the Official Information Act show that led to the number of audits it was doing on truck-certifying engineers - who both check and design things such as towing connections and brakes - plunging from 70 a year before 2014, to just 30 a year since then.

The discovery of a mass of poor certifications, and a spate of cracked or weak towing connections, has massively disrupted the industry this year.


NZTA denies any link between its cuts and higher crash rates, but they would, wouldn't they? Meanwhile, it seems pretty intuitive that failing to check the work of the people checking safety allows them to do a sloppier job, and that these may in turn have contributed to crashes. Unfortunately - and conveniently - police record-keeping is inadequate to show any link. But there's a reasonable case here that National's penny-pinching led to unsafe vehicles - and killed people on the roads.

New Fisk

A hundred years ago a ship sunk in the Irish Sea, causing more than 500 deaths – here's what its legacy can teach us about Brexit

One state at a time

While America is looking like a pretty horrible place at the moment, there's some progess: the Washington state supreme court just abolished the state's death penalty:

The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down the death penalty there as unconstitutional and “racially biased,” a ruling that makes it the latest in a string of states to abandon capital punishment in recent years.

The order will not stop any scheduled executions because Washington state has already frozen its death penalty under a moratorium by Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in 2014. But the court’s order, which declares that death sentences in the state should be converted to life in prison, is a sweeping rejection of capital punishment at a time when it is being used less nationwide and as states are struggling to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.

In their opinion, the justices focused on what they said was the unequal use of the death penalty, describing it as a punishment meted out haphazardly depending on little more than geography or timing.

“The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” the justices wrote. “While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.”


This is a state decision rooted in state law, so Republicans can't overturn it with their stacked federal supreme court. And while its not the rejection on principle any decent court would have made - the death penalty is cruel, unusual, inhumane, and contrary to international human rights norms - anything which stops the killing is good.

Thursday, October 11, 2018



Submission on the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill

  1. I support the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill and ask that it be passed with the amendments suggested below.

  2. As this week's IPCC report shows, humanity needs to move rapidly away from fossil fuels if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Our global carbon budget does not allow humanity to burn the fossil fuels we have already discovered. Therefore, looking for more is both pointless, and insofar as it encourages the burning of fossil carbon and the pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, actively dangerous.

  3. Banning offshore oil exploration is a small step towards making that necessary shift, but it is a step in the right direction, and I support it. Banning exploration will gradually strangle the oil industry in New Zealand, and so reduce our contribution to global climate change. Obviously it needs to be followed up with further action: banning onshore exploration, banning fossil fuel extraction, banning fossil fuel vehicles, and ultimately banning fossil fuel use entirely. But those (and measures combating other greenhouse gases) are topics for other legislation.

  4. The bill however does not go far enough. There are two obvious flaws which limit its effectiveness:

  5. Holders of exploration permits have a statutory right to convert their permit to a mining permit if they make a discovery. If the government is serious about calling time on offshore oil, then it needs to remove that right, or put a sunset clause on it. Given the urgency of the global situation, I recommend eliminating it entirely for any petroleum permit outside of onshore Taranaki. Alternatively, a five year sunset clause seems more than generous, keeping in mind that any mining permit means another twenty years of dangerous emissions.

  6. Holders of exploration permits can also have them changed to change the area covered, the minerals to which they relate, extend their duration or change their conditions. Section 7 of the bill partially addresses this by forbidding petroleum permits from being extended to areas outside the onshore Taranaki region. However, this would still allow a holder of an existing permit to have it extended or have its conditions modified to remove "drill or drop" or surrender conditions, which is contrary to the intent of this bill. It also allows the holders of permits for other minerals - for example, ironsands - to have their permits changed to allow them to explore for or mine petroleum. The bill needs to be amended to ensure that no existing offshore petroleum permit can have any change to its conditions, and that no permit of any form can be changed in any way so as to allow the prospecting or exploration for or mining of petroleum outside the onshore Taranaki region. Failing to do this will invite game-playing by the fossil fuel industry, and will directly undermine the purposes of the bill.

  7. I do not wish to appear in person before the committee.

Benefit sanctions don't work

The Greens are currently campaigning to end benefit sanctions, under which people have their benefits cut and are left to starve if they refuse an arbitrary and demeaning drug test, or fail to take the first shit job they are offered. its a sensible policy, because the evidence shows tha tthese sanctions just don't work. Locally, MSD has concluded that the sanctions regime does not help people find secure and meaningful employment: those forced into shit jobs or into low-level training through the sanctions regime simply end up back on benefits again, with no increase in their financial security. And its the same story in the UK:

There is “no evidence” that benefit sanctions encourage claimants to get into work or increase their earnings, according to a government report published last month.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of “sneaking out” the findings, which cast doubt on the effectiveness of a key element of its flagship universal credit system.

The report, published with no ministerial announcement on 12 September, shows docking benefits as a punishment for alleged failures to comply with Jobcentre Plus rules does not encourage claimants to apply for additional work, and in some cases “damages the relationship between the work coach and the claimant”.


But then, in both countries you get the feeling that sanctions regimes aren't actually about helping people. Instead, they're about punishing the poor for being poor, and finding some ways to chisel "savings" for the government (while ignoring long-term costs, of course). sanctions regimes are there to fulfil the vindictiveness of people like Paula Bennett and Judith Collins - not to actually do any good for beneficiaries, the government, or society.

They're cruel. They're ineffective. They're pointless. So why continue with it? Or are we really just into pointless sadism?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018



"Surplus"

So, the government thinks its in surplus, to the tune of $5.5 billion. Of course, its nothing of the sort. As I noted last time, when there are queues for basic healthcare, people without homes, underpaid public servants, and kids going to school hungry, the government having cash on hand isn't really a surplus, any more than I'm rich if I have $1000 in my wallet and a $10,000 overdraft. What we have is deep-rooted social and infrastructural debt caused by decades of austerity and NeoLiberalism - debt that isn't recorded anywhere on the government's books. But the fact that its not recorded doesn't mean it doesn't exist or doesn't cause problems - merely that its not properly managed. And the government needs to manage it, by paying off that debt and investing in hospitals, homes, and yes, teacher's salaries, before it makes any moves to gives it themselves as tax cuts.

Bigotry loses in Romania

Romanians went to the polls over the weekend to vote in a constitutional referendum to ban same-sex marriage. Or rather, they didn't - because the referendum failed due to miserably low turnout:

A referendum to establish a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Romania has failed - after only a fifth of voters bothered to turn out.

Romanians were being asked whether they wanted the constitution changed to specify that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

But just 20.4% of eligible voters cast ballots - short of the 30% needed.


The referendum appears to have been a plot by the government to distract from ongoing corruption scandals by appealing to bigotry. Fortunately it didn't work. Those who opposed the change boycotted the poll, holding boycott parties instead. Unfortunately Romania still doesn't recognise equal marriage in law - but at least there's not a constitutional prohibition on it. Meaning that that failure to recognise can easily be overturned by the European Court on Human Rights when it catches up with the rest of society and recognises such legal bigotry as fundamentally incompatible with the ECHR's affirmations of equality and non-discrimination.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018



Australia wants to destroy the world

Australia's response to the IPCC's dire climate warning yesterday? Full denial:

The Australian government has rejected the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report’s call to phase out coal power by 2050, claiming renewable energy cannot replace baseload coal power.

The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said Australia should “absolutely” continue to use and exploit its coal reserves, despite the IPCC’s dire warnings the world has just 12 years to avoid climate change catastrophe.

He said the government would not change policy “just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do”.


In other words, they plan to destroy the world. They're as immoral as the oil companies. On the plus side, we'll all be able to say they deserve it when their continent dries up and blows away and they're left without drinking water - but by then it'll probably be too late for the rest of us as well.

Don't let OMV destroy the planet

Last month, we learned that Labour's "commitment" to end offshore oil drilling wasn't. In an act of bad faith with their coalition parner, and total, two-faced dishonesty, they were quietly planning to extend existing offshore drilling permits, giving polluters more time to drill. And now, thanks to Greenpeace, we know who they plan to help out this way: Australian polluter OMV:

Greenpeace has today revealed that Austrian oil giant OMV has requested an extension to its upcoming drill commitment in the Great South Basin.

Greenpeace Climate Campaigner, Kate Simcock, says an Official Information Act (OIA) request has uncovered OMV’s application for the permit extension, which otherwise required it to drill an exploration well before July 2019.

“Six months ago the Coalition Government announced it would not grant any new oil exploration permits because of climate change. Today we learn that Austrian oil giant OMV is going to test the Government’s commitment to action on climate change by demanding more time to drill for oil,” Simcock says.

“Any extension of an existing permit is essentially granting a new permit. In banning new oil exploration permits, the Government responded to a clear desire by New Zealanders for climate action. Now they must to stand strong on that principle – extending permits is not consistent with that.”


Looking at the documents, OMV wants to extend their drilling deadlines for two years each. Supposedly, this is about geophysics (though all the details are redacted as "commercially sensitive", of course). But realisticly, its about playing for time and gambling on a change of government to reverse the exploration ban. Because the cost-benefit analysis of whether drill in any particular spot looks very different if its the last one you're ever going to get.

Meanwhile, as yesterday's IPCC report shows, even if there is oil in the Great South Basin, we can't ever burn it, which means there is no point even looking anymore. Obviously that's not something the oil industry is ever going to accept: they profit by destroying the planet, and their "response" to climate change is to buy lobbyists to deny it. Meanwhile, in the real world, the planet is melting, and the course of action is clear: if we are to live, the oil industry has to die.

As for what to do about it, the government is currently seeking submissions on its legislation to implement the offshore drilling ban. As part of this, they're proposing a minor tweak to the law on changes to permits, to prevent them from being extend to land outside Taranaki. A second tweak forbidding any change to any permit to explore for petroleum on any land outside of onshore Taranaki seems to be required. And if the government doesn't introduce such a change, we'll know that they are two-faced liars, and can vote accordingly.

Unnecessary intrusion

One of the aims of the Privacy Act was to regulate government use of information matching. The Act prevents unauthorised disclosure, so any government use for (for example) seeing if people on the electoral roll are citizens or residents and so qualified to vote requires specific statutory authorisation. There's a lot of statutory authorisations littering the books, and the Privacy Commissioner is required to review them every five years to see if they're still necessary. And it turns out that a pile of them aren't just unnecessary, but have never been used:

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is recommending the repeal of 22 government information matching provisions, after a report showed many of them were never used.

Mr Edwards says information matching provisions are enacted by Parliament to allow the sharing of information in ways that would otherwise breach the Privacy Act’s information privacy principles.

“I am concerned these exceptional powers have been sought by officials, agreed to by Ministers, enacted by Parliament, and then never used. It shows up a weakness in the system and demonstrates the importance of having robust policy development procedures in advance of enacting such provisions.”

Mr Edwards says the unused information matching provisions did not deliver their intended benefits to society and continuing Parliamentary authorisation of these privacy intrusive measures was unjustified.


It seems that government agencies have a bad habit of demanding statutory authorisation for intrusive database trawls, making big claims about how vital it is and how the sky will fall if they don't get these powers, and then never using them. Which undermines not just privacy, but also trust in government. The Commissioner is right: these intrusive and entirely unnecessary provisions need to be repealed. But beyond that, Parliament needs to provide much greater scrutiny of such demands in future, and only grant them where there is a clear and urgent requirement for information sharing. MP's giving agencies intrusive powers "just in case" is not fulfilling their basic duty to protect the privacy and human rights of New Zealanders.

The Commissioner's full report can be read here.

Cruel and barbaric

Over the weekend, Nauru threw out NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, which had been providing mental health services to the suicidal inmates of australia's concentration camp there. So what is the Nauruan regime going to do about suicidal refugees now that it has removed their only source of support? Arrest them:

Refugee advocates say police in Nauru have arrested a 36-year-old Iranian refugee for attempting suicide.

The Refugee Action Coaltion said the refugee swallowed washing powder at the Anibare camp on Monday afternoon.

The Coalition's Ian Rintoul said although the man was in obvious distress, police arrested him rather than calling an ambulance.

It follows a government edict made last week that any refugee who threatens or attempts suicide be arrested.


And its unclear whether they even gave him medical treatment.

This is simply cruel and barbaric. There's a reason civilised countries don't criminalise attempted suicide: because it doesn't work. Mental health issues are exactly that - health issues - and need to be dealt with by appropriate treatment, not the criminal justice system. Of course, the best way of dealing with these issues would be to remove the underlying cause: being detained for years without hope in an Australian concentration camp. But with Nauru being paid tens of thousands of dollars per refugee to torture them, why would they want to do that?

Monday, October 08, 2018



We should be trying to raise petrol prices, not lower them

Today the IPCC released a devastating report showing that we have only a decade or less to deal with climate change, and that we need to cut emissions to zero by 2050 if we want to avoid catastrophe. Meanwhile, at the PM's post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, the focus was firmly on... petrol prices. Apparently they're too high, so our political establishment wants to lower them. Labour wants to take it out of the petrol companies' end, by cutting their margins. National meanwhile wants to take it out on us, by cutting fuel taxes (which means less money to pay for roads and crash victims. So National wants us either to not have those things, or they believe there is a magic money tree they can use to pay for them). But by focusing on cutting prices, both are effectively saying they want to increase the use of petrol, increase emissions, and increase global temperatures. Or to put it another way: both parties want to destroy the world.

From a climate change perspective, high petrol prices are good, insofar as they discourage inefficient transport use, push people to alternatives, and reduce emissions (and past evidence is that they do). So rather than trying to lower petrol prices, a government which actually cared about climate change would be welcome this - and be planning to make them higher. Obviously, this has social impacts, so they'd need policies to deal with that: cheaper and more efficient public transport, low-cost loans to get people into more efficient cars, subsidies for certain users utterly reliant on vehicles. Obviously, it would be better if they had planned to put those policies in place beforehand, rather than being hit by a sudden market shift. But in general, they should treat high prices as what they are: a market signal to burn less petrol, and stop destroying the world.