Thursday, June 30, 2005

What about the players?

Evil House Monkey pointed me at an article on CricInfo, where Andrew McLean asks the above question: what about the players? They have sporting careers to think about, and for some this may be their only chance ever to play an international match. To which I think the only response can be that there are some things more important than cricket, and any player (such as, say, Jacob Oram) who thinks otherwise is exhibiting colossal moral blindness.

Of greater concern is the fact that the players depend on cricket for their livelihood and would suffer a large financial loss (up to $40,000) if the tour did not go ahead. I'm sympathetic to this, and my natural instinct is to compensate them if the government forces the tour to be cancelled. But there's no legal obligation to do so, and if the players manage to lose that sympathy (by, say, making more dumb comments like Oram's putting cricket ahead of torture and human rights abuses), well, fuck them. I'm willing to compensate helpless victims caught in the middle, but I'm not willing to pay off people who are simply arseholes.

More generally, McLean trots out the tired old argument that "sport is separate from politics". But this is simply another example of moral blindness. Sport does not happen in a vaccuum, and who people play sport with has political and moral consequences. Sports teams such as the Black Caps are seen as official representatives and their presence as conveying official approval. By touring Zimbabwe, the Black Caps will not just be conveying their own personal approval of the Mugabe regime as fit people to visit and talk with - but also, by implication, that of every other New Zealander. And I don't see why we should tolerate an unelected body doing that at all.

Slack budgeting

David Slack has a nice little guide to tax cuts up today, which goes over the numbers and some of the arguments used by the right to justify slashing taxes. And the short version is that they just don't stack up. There's not enough "wasteful government spending" to support the kinds of cuts being promoted, and while the surplus could be spent on tax cuts rather than invested in roads, hospitals, and pensions, that will both drive up debt and leave us with nowhere to go when economic times turn bad (as they are expected to do by next year). What the tax-cutters are promoting, in other words, is not "responsible economic management", but living beyond our means - with a hefty side order of creating a fiscal crisis so as to justify privatisation, smaller government, and (of course) lower taxes for the rich (the Bush-Norquist strategy).

We spent the 70's and early 80's living beyond our means, and the late 80's and early 90's trying to recover from it - and recover from the recovery. Now that we finally seem to have, it would be a mistake to piss that all away. Michael Cullen's great achievement - and one he should be defending, not trying to deny or hide under the carpet - is that our country is now on a sound economic footing, (mostly) able to support the level of public services we expect, and with a structural surplus so that we can both tide ourselves over economic downturns without needing radical cuts, and save for the future. It's an enviable position - compare with the UK's persistant budget deficits - and one that we would be foolish to throw away.

As for the advocates of smaller government for its own sake, I think that most New Zealanders want poor people as well as rich ones to be able to have somewhere to live, something to eat, and to be able to see a doctor when they are ill - which requires government provision for those who cannot provide for themselves. They also want some measure of equality in the fundamental services that provide opportunities in later life, such as education, to ensure that people get a fair chance rather than being constrained by birth or wealth. This is essentially a moral position, not an economic one, but no less valid. A smaller government and freer market may very well be more efficient, and result in greater wealth for those at the top of the heap - but as the US so amply demonstrates, the human cost is simply not worth paying.

Unkept promises

Via BlogGreen: The Independent reports that the Asian Tsunami is turning out just like every other disaster. As usual, the west has made big promises, but has failed to deliver on them:

Government aid which was pledged to tsunami victims in an outpouring of sympathy following this century's worst humanitarian disaster has not all materialised. According to ActionAid, both Japan and Britain have met virtually all of their initial commitments, but the US and the European Union have delivered barely a third of their promised funds. Australia has come up with just 7 per cent of the money it committed to tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts.

The full figures are in ActionAid's press release:

Bottom of the pledge list is Australia. Australia is a key player in the region, but has so far only managed to give 7% of the money they committed to the emergency relief and reconstruction effort.

Next comes France with a meagre 13%, followed by Germany with 15%, then the Netherlands with 16%. The United States and the European Commission have delivered on just over a third of their pledge, 38%, yet Canada has only handed over 20%. Norway has only managed 46% while Italy has given 59% of its promised money.

Leading the way are the UK and Japanese governments. The British government has provided 97% of the aid money it committed to donate, whilst Japan has a perfect score of 100%.

To be fair, this doesn't tell the whole story. Australia's commitment, in particular, was supposed to be spread over a number of years - as I believe was the US's. But the rest is pretty shameful, especially in the case of France, whose contribution was pretty low in the first place.

As for how New Zealand ranks, we've kept our promise, delivering 76% of our initial pledge, with most of the balance explicltly earmarked to be spent over four years. I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of.

The lesson here is that it is easy for governments to promise aid in the face of public demand, and then not deliver. And the only way this will change is if people keep an eye on them and embarass them into keeping their promises.

Less trustworthy than Winston

Every year, Readers Digest runs a survey on how much trust New Zealanders place in various professions, and every year politicians come out on the bottom, behind even used-car salesmen and lawyers. This year, they also added individuals to the survey, asking the public to rank a list of 50 prominent kiwis by trustworthyness. Unsurprisingly, Sir Ed topped the poll, reflecting our overwhelming esteem for a man who not only climbed a mountain and drove a tractor across Antarctica, but worked selflessly for the people of Nepal. But political junkies may be more interested in what's buried at the bottom of the story:

Politicians, who have ranked bottom of the profession category every year, took the lowest two places in the individual category, with Dr Brash narrowly beating New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to the unenviable least-trusted award. Prime Minister Helen Clark fared slightly better, coming in 43rd.

That's really quite an achievement. I'd have thought Winston was a shoe-in for the bottom placing, but I guess Don has been working pretty hard at it, and deserves to be rewarded for his efforts.

Putting NZC on the spot

The government is finally putting NZ Cricket on the spot, asking what their position on touring would be if they were left to make a moral decision and not exposed to financial penalty. Unfortunately, NZC doesn't seem at all interested in the moral question; despite attending the recent ICC meeting, they failed to even raise the issue, and do not seem to have made any real effort to see what can be done to escape the tour. NZC CEO Martin Sneddon has avoid questions on the topic, and has not attempted to work with the government to find a solution. The implication is pretty clear: NZC doesn't give a rat's arse, and wants to tour regardless of how many people Mugabe is making homeless and how many children are being run over by bulldozers. However, they're also aware that actually fronting up and saying so will cost them - hence the silence.

If we want to change NZC's minds, we need to make them care. One way of doing this is targetting their sponsors, and getting them to apply pressure on our behalf. This is already bearing fruit, with the National Bank demanding an urgent meeting with NZC to discuss the tour. As the Black Caps' chief sponsor, they have a considerable financial stick to wield, and I doubt that they want their good name tarnished by association with the Mugabe regime (as it almost certainly will be if they sponsor a tour to Zimbabwe).

As for the government, while phrased in the context of funding a court challenge to the ICC's rules, it seems that they're slowly moving towards paying the ICC's fine. Some of that fine would almost certainly go to Mugabe, but given the number of people coming forward and publicly offering to chip in regardless, it's clear where the public stands. The amount involved - $2.8 million plus possible media rights - is chump change, and people certainly seem willing to pay it. At this stage, an offer to pay would put NZC on the spot, and make it perfectly clear that there is no financial pressure for a tour, and that if the Black Caps go, they go by choice rather than necessity.

Candidate Survey: Twenty-Third Response

From Katherine Ransom, Tauranga candidate for Democrats for Social Credit. Katherine is ranked 6th on the Democrat party list.

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

I would like to see an act passed that prohibits commercial banks from creating money, as they do now through loans, mortgages and overdrafts, and charging interest for them. As part of the act, the Reserve Bank would have full power to create and manage the money supply for New Zealand at 1% or less, on-lending to commercial banks and funding essential services such as health and education. This Act would make a reduction of our national debt possible, instead of helplessly watching it grow every year. Instead of having billions of dollars in bank profit sucked away overseas as happens now, there would be more money retained in New Zealand for infrastructure and capital works, for a health system that starts with the planet, for an education system that, rather than treating schooling as a commodity to buy and sell, regards it as an investment in our future. There would be no worries about keeping ourselves in our old age, more than enough for a comfortable digified retirement. We would have our country back.

What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Malcolm Murchie, Democrats for social credit candidate for Wanganui; John Steemson, Democrats for social credit candidate for East Coast Bays; Richard Prosser, Democrats for social credit candidate for Otago.

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

No sitting MPs have the economic policies I see as essential to solving the problems of debt facing New Zealand and the world. The Greens have similar strong views on the environment, but no plan of economically achieving them.

The Democrats would not go into coalition with any other party, but work with all parties that recognise our core economic policies as being the first move toward eradicating poverty, war and injustice and saving the environment for our grandchildren.

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

I oppose this. While my party does not have a policy formulated on this issue, I personally feel that using our young adults as a consumer group for banks to feed off (student loans) and a political football to kick around (the drinking age), then expecting them to stick around and keep us in our old age is an absurdity that beggars belief. People who can vote, who can be conscripted and killed for their country, who can sign contracts and be sued, should also be allowed to drink. If there is a problem, it is one we all share as a culture, and the problem as a whole should be addressed. When the National Government lowered the drinking age, other parties voted for it on the understanding that health and education programs would accompany the measure to deal with any additional problems. Not only were the programs never put in place, but existing programs have been starved out of existence, Hanmer Springs for one.

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?

I support this. Again, the Democrats do not have a specific policy on this issue. We are a party working for economic justice, and we allow our candidates and MPs a conscience vote on what we view as moral issues. I think the wide variety of products that can come from cannibis should be allowed, not just medicines.

...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

I support this, for lots of good reasons. (See the last answer for the party policy.) Legalising marijuana would take the handling and profits out of the hands of dealers in more dangerous drugs, people often associated with gangs. Users who are otherwise law abiding would no longer be automatically criminals, or forced to associate with criminals to purchase what is a realitively mild recreational drug. Thousands of perfectly ordinary Kiwis could admit to using marijuana, giving health professionals and insurance companies a clearer picture of a patient's well being. The Government could have another source of revenue, and the product could be regulated, graded for strength, package for consumption, and still be cheaper than the current street price.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

I support this. There is no evidence to suggest that children raised by same sex couples are any more likely to be abused or neglected than those from more traditional families. Less, probably. Children just need unconditional love, from anyone prepared to give it.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

I support this, although I wouldn't break my neck to fight for it. Not being a church-goer, I don't see any advantage marriage has over a civil union. It is just the name that carries the historical weight, and it's fading already. But in fairness to gay church-goers, I would support an amendment.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

I am not sure about this. Although I know there are good arguments for allowing euthanasia, and many people who work for it have been through harrowing experiences seeing loved ones die in prolonged and unnecessary agony, I am wary of a change that will possibly allow unscrupulous people to rid themselves of elderly or infirm relatives. I would rather first see a fully funded hospice system throughout the country. My own father died in a wonderful hospice, and I can't say enough in praise of them. Allowing euthanasia under rigorously strict conditions could conceivably restrict the work that hospices do.

...state funding of integrated schools?

With conditions. I would like to see lower decile schools in areas crippled by poverty more fully funded before richly endowed private schools get a bite of the pie. Parents should be able to send their children to a church school if they wish, and home-schooled children should also be supported. I would like to see the correspondence School saved from 'market forces' too. Every child, urban or rural, religious or secular, rich or poor, should have access to a high quality, free education right through tertiary level. Under a Democrat Government, there will be no need to rob Peter to fund Paul; the education system will get adequate funding across the board.

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?

Any violent attack on anyone should continue to be a crime. I am not aware of the wording of the particular section that deals with 'sedition'. I would vigorously oppose a law that limits free speech and the right to gather and protest.

...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?

No. The dieties themselves can look out for any blasphemy going on.

...further restrictions on hate speech?

No, or we will have to charge Winston Peters. Wait, maybe that's not such a bad idea...

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

No. Bring charges if a law has been broken, or deport the suspect to a country that does not endanger him/her. Indefinite detention is a blatant violation of human rights.

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?

No. The definition of 'serious crime' is the operative phrase here. None of us are gods, to sit in ultimate judgement on others. Murder is murder, whether by a government or by an individual.

...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

I support human rights of all forms. Yay, Georgina! You go, girl.

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

No. I support property rights only as they conform to human rights.

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

Not without a great deal of public debate and discussion. The Bill of Rights in the US seems to have entrenched some really dodgy 'rights' such as gun-toting for every paranoid with a grudge. Entrenching anything is a serious business.

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?

I don't know much about this issue. Certainly any institution that brings international criminals to account is desirable, and our participation in that process is a good thing. But if the International Criminal Court is a political tool to get rid of unwanted dictators previously set up by the powers now trying to get rid of them, then we might be better out of it.

...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

I support this, but not too much lower, say 4%, or the voter confusion would be terrible. It's bad enough now with 25 parties contesting the general election.


With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

It should not have needed the public outcry to accord Zaoui his basic rights. The world is in a dark place since 9/11, and it seems secret services the world over are a law unto themselves. If they are, then they should keep quiet about it, and allow the justice system of a soveriegn nation to manage any suspected criminal.

As usual, Katherine's views are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Democrats.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Targetting the sponsors

With the ICC refusing to act (and NZ Cricket seemingly refusing to ask them), the next step in persuading the Black Caps not to tour Zimbabwe is to target their sponsors. But who are they? NZ Cricket's 2003 - 2004 annual report [PDF] gives the following information:

Commercial Partners

In October The National Bank replaced TelstraClear as the sponsor of the Black Caps. This sponsorship, in addition to The National Bank's existing sponsorship of the summer home international series, will continue until at least 2011.

The National Bank's sponsorship was highly visible and well leveraged by the Bank through its integrated marketing campaigns which featured television advertising and this year included an interactive road show which toured most venues hosting ODIs against South Africa.

The National Bank's cricket sponsorship page can be found here. According to National Radio this morning, the person to contact there is

Wellfit, NZC's apparel sponsor and official apparel supplier, also renewed its commercial partnership with NZC and the Black Caps.

Wellfit's website is here. You can email them at, or call David Stiassny on (09) 375 7000. They don't think it has anything to do with them; let's see if we can change their minds.

Puegot became NZC's official car supplier during the year and is already firmly associating with cricket as it seeks to leverage this commercial partnership.

Puegot's sponsorship page is here. The section on cricket says that

The BLACKCAPS will now head off to Zimabwe [sic] and South Africa during the year ahead. Watch this space!

If you'd like to ask them why they're so pleased about it, you can try calling their local NZ representatives on 09 526 7010 and asking to speak to Rod, their marketing manager. Or you can fill out a contact form here.

NZ Cricket also receives money for sport development and "high performance" from SPARC (AKA Sport and Recreation NZ), the government's funding arm. The person to contact about this is the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Trevor Mallard.

Other commercial and funding partners include: Air New Zealand (air travel supplier), DB Breweries (pourage rights holder), Montana Wines (wine supplier), The Radio Network (radio rights), SKY TV (TV rights), and TelstraClear (telecommunications supplier). Feel free to contact any of the above as well.

Not even discussed

According to the news this morning, the question of whether Zimbabwe should be banned from international cricket was not even raised at the ICC meeting in London. TVNZ quotes ICC chairman Ehsan Mani as saying:

"The question was not raised by anyone, so there's no need to discuss it," Mr Mani said.

"The (Australian, New Zealand and British governments) have not got together, and our policy is our policy.

I think someone owes us an explanation - and not just Phil Goff, but also Cricket NZ chairman Martin Sneddon. And while we're at it, perhaps the Black Caps' chief sponsor, the National Bank, could front up and tell us why they are continuing to support a team and a sport which shows so little regard for human rights. According to the Herald this morning, they've said that they "continue to have faith in New Zealand Cricket to make appropriate decisions on this matter". But its fairly clear that NZ Cricket is not making appropriate decisions - and that this is now placing their sponsor's good name at risk. Shouldn't National Bank therefore withdraw its sponsorship?

Floating gulag

Not content with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram, it seems the US is also running a secret, floating gulag, indefinitely imprisoning terrorist suspects on military vessels at sea in order to keep them beyond the reach of both the Red Cross and international law. The allegations come from the UN special rapporteur on torture, and he wants a full investigation as well as a list of all detainees so that their status can be examined.

The special rapporteur is also trying to investigate allegations of torture at Guantanamo, but is being stalled by American authorities. He'll probably receive the same treatment here. Which really does make it look like the Americans have something to hide...

Candidate Survey: Twenty-Second Response

From John Pemberton, of Democrats for Social Credit. John is ranked 2nd on the Democrat party list:

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

An act which would ensure that whatever is physically possible is: desirable for the happiness of humanity; is voter approved; and is environmentally friendly can always be financially possible.

Too often we allow man made rules or conventions to limit the implementation of our visions and dreams.

What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Stephnie de Ruyter
Katherine Ransom
John Steemson

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

There is no one.

There are MPs throughout all parties who hold similar beliefs, on individual issues, but there is no one person, who holds a package of views similar to mine that I am aware of.

No doubt time will tell as your survey questions are completed.

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

No, I do not. It infuriates me to hear support for this change coming from people who in their early teens had access to alcohol, and survived and are now suggesting those 18 years up to 20 are too young - double standards if you ask me.

Just as we have education programs on healthy eating etc the same should apply to alcohol ... all things in moderation

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?


...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

Yes. It should be controlled on the same conditions as alcohol. Education programs etc. Wide spread use makes a mockery of the current law.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

Yes. Our children's happiness and well-being is important. This is facilitated by loving caring parents and a supportive community not by matters or issues of gender.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

Yes. This is a fairness issue, a law of the land that currently enjoyed by only one section of our community.

I am quite happy for those who wish to have an unofficial ceremony restricted by whatever their personal or religious beliefs dictate.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

Not an easy issue but one which needs to be dealt with. We find it relatively easy in assisting animals we love to die to relieve suffering, unasked by them, and yet hesitate to assist someone we love when asked.

I feel that, with the necessary safeguards it should be allowed.

...state funding of integrated schools?

A high quality, freely available (both in dollar terms and accessibility) education system to all New Zealanders is essential and possible and is the first priority.

Assistance to integrated schools should be in the form of a per head grant related to the cost of education in a similar public school.

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?

Oppose is the answer to this one. I must admit to planning and scheming to over throw all of our past and present governments for the last 33 years.

...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?

I Oppose. We can leave it to the Deities themselves to meet out their own punishments.

...further restrictions on hate speech?

No further restrictions are required as long as free speech is facilitated by equal opportunities for replies.

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

Oppose. You have either committed a crime against our laws, and thus should be charged or you think maybe possibly a law has or will be broken in the near future then nobody should be detained, till a case is made and charges follow.

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?


...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

I support. Human rights says it all

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

Private property rights are protected already and fit well enough within the overall rights of the community.

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

I support the proposal, only after a huge amount of public debate and amendments, it should be entrenched so that it genuinely guarantees the human rights, freedoms and civil and political liberties it purports to promote.

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?


...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

I support. The original recommendation from the commission of inquiry that lead to Electoral Reform, recommended 2.5%. (From memory)


With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

Followed the laws of fairness and justice - evidence based.

As usual, John's opinions are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Democrats.

Mukhtaran Bibi update

Pakistan's Supreme Court will re-try fourteen men for the gang-rape of Mukhtaran Bibi. Eight of the men were acquitted in the original trial, five on appeal; all acquittals were for lack of evidence and faulty investigation by the police. While clearly in the interests of justice, I'm also not sure that I like this contravention of the bar on double jeopardy - but what can you do in a country where the police deliberately sabotage their investigations in order to pander to the powerful?

What is clear from this whole sorry saga is how desperately Pakistan needs a professional police forces which actually does its job, rather than foundering about in a half-arsed manner. If Musharraf is the enlightened moderniser he claims to be, maybe he should be looking at this, rather than locking up rape victims?

And on a more positive note, Ms Mukhtaran has got her passport back. Hopefully she'll be visiting the US soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not good enough

Parliament's Standing Orders Committee has reported back on the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill and confirmed that it will be put into the Standing orders rather than passed into law. This simply is not good enough. The purpose of financial disclosure regulations is to promote openness and transparency - but under the proposed regime, failure to disclose or falsifying a disclosure would be a breach of standing orders, judged by the Speaker and the Privileges Committee, rather than a crime able to be enforced by the courts. And as the repeated attempts by the Opposition to take government Members (most recently David Benson-Pope) to the Privileges Committee have shown, its "justice" leaves a lot to be desired. The upshot is that rather than having an impartial and enforceable system of disclosure, we are likely to get one which is widely ignored, or enforced in an openly partisan manner for purely political purposes.

The New Zealand public deserves better than this. Our elected representatives must not just not corrupt, they must be seen to be so. This demands not just transparency, but transparency which is actually able to be enforced. We no longer accept the police judging their own; why should we accept it of politicians?

Financial disclosure is not a matter of "Parliamentary sovereignty". It is not a matter of whether MPs trust one another, but whether we trust them. This requires independent and public oversight and open, fair, and impartial enforcement. Politicians cannot provide this. The courts, on the other hand, can.

High Stakes

How high are the stakes in this election? Very high indeed, according to Chris Trotter's column in the Dominion last Friday [offline]. The electoral choice we make in September will define what is politically possible for the next ten years:

Labour is going to learn whether or not it is possible to resist the public clamour for tax cuts and still win a general election. At the same time National is going to discover whether dishing up the warmed-over remnants of 1990s neo-liberalism is still a surefire recipe for electoral disaster.

If Labour loses, they will be forced to the right, and everything the left works for - publicly provided health and education, a welfare system to smooth out the bumps in life, environmental protection and an end to discrimination; the whole project of pursuing substantive freedom and equality for all rather than freedom for the rich and powerful and economic slavery for the rest, in other words - will be taken off the table, redefined as "politically impossible" for a decade or so. By contrast, if National loses, they will finally be forced to abandon the Revolution and seek the center, just as they were forced to in the '40's after the First Labour Government defined poverty, homelessness and economic subjugation as politically unacceptable through the creation of the welfare state.

The stakes are high and the choice is clear. This is not, as Matt McCarten alleges, a choice between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. While Labour is far from perfect, they are still nominally committed to a society which cares for those in need and in which everyone is treated fairly and equally regardless of wealth, gender, race, or sexual orientation. National isn't - but they may be forced to become so if they lose. Which is a strong reason to vote left on election day.

I thought they were knocking it down

In the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, in which US soldiers abused and tortured helpless Iraqi detainees, President Bush promised that the infamous prison used by Saddam as his chief torture center would be demolished. Instead, they're expanding it. Just think of the message that is sending to the Iraqi people...

Arroyo comes clean

President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines has come clean and admitted that the tape of her conversation with an election official, in which she allegedly tried to influence the counting of the vote, is genuine. Previously she had tried to claim that the tapes had been doctored.

So, does this mean that the sedition charges against Samuel Ong, the former intelligence official who leaked the tapes, will be withdrawn?

Justice for Tom Hurndall

An Israeli soldier has been convicted of manslaughter for the killing of a British peace activist in the Gaza strip in 2003. Tom Hurndall was escorting children away from Israeli gunfire when he was shot in the head; he died nine months later, having never awoken from his coma.

This is a victory for justice and for the principle that even soldiers are accountable for their actions. But at the same time, it highlights the ongoing injustice faced by the Palestinian people. Tom Hurndall's killer was only prosecuted because his victim was British, and because his family and the British government pressed the Israeli government to investigate properly and enforce the law. By contrast, those who shoot unarmed Palestinians escape prosecution. As a consequence, the only justice available to the Palestinians is the lex talionis, "an eye for an eye", the "justice" of the suicide bomber. But that's not justice - it's just bloody, indiscriminate vengeance, and exactly what justice systems exist to prevent.

This is essentially Locke's formulation of the classic Hobbesean problem, and the answer is the same: justice. Israel must prosecute those of its soldiers who murder civilians, and do so in a fair and open manner whose impartiality cannot be questioned - because without justice, there can be no peace.

Monday, June 27, 2005

More acquittals in Kenya

A Kenyan judge has acquitted a further three men of involvement in the 2002 Mombasa suicide-bombing. As with the previous acquittals, the prosecution had simply failed to make any sort of case. Again, this emphasises the value of civilian prosecutions in protecting the innocent and making sure the police actually do their job, rather than just rounding up the usual suspects and relying on the allegation of "terrorism" to carry the day.

Maybe someone should ask him?

Here's something that Brash has just brought into sharp focus: National is standing its first openly gay candidate this election: Chris Finlayson in Mana. Maybe someone should ask him how he feels about his leader's position that gay New Zealanders are not part of the "mainstream"...

Don Brash and the politics of division

So it's settled then. Having initially sold himself as "socially liberal but fiscally conservative", someone who would run a balanced budget while supporting liberal social legislation, Don Brash has decided to run an election campaign based on the politics of division. His keynote speech at the National Party conference over the weekend was peppered with references to "mainstream" New Zealand, and "mainstream" New Zealanders. When challenged by a journalist, he was unable to define exactly what a "mainstream" New Zealander was. But on Morning Report this morning he was quite happy to tell everyone what it's not:

PRESENTER: Okay. Let's have a look at some of the other things you said over the weekend. You talked about mainstream New Zealand. What does that mean precisely?

BRASH: It means the large number of New Zealanders whom this Government has neglected for the last six years. This Government has been trying to work hard for minority groups, small parts of the community...

PRESENTER: Which minority groups, which minority groups are we talking about?

BRASH: Well we know, for example, that the Government has been funding Maori programmes more generously than non-Maori programmes...

So if you're Maori, you're not a "mainstream" (meaning "real") New Zealander in Dr Brash's eyes. But it doesn't stop there:

PRESENTER: Okay. So Maori is one of the minority groups. What other minority groups?

BRASH: Well we know also that Government has been focusing on prostitution legislation, civil union legislation, all that kind of stuff, which caters for a small minority of people, while neglecting...

In other words, this is about social liberalism, "political correctness", Labour's efforts to expand opportunity and erode privilege, and ensure that every New Zealander is treated fairly and equally, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But its clear that Brash doesn't agree with that struggle, because he doesn't see gays as real New Zealanders:

PRESENTER: No, I just want to pick up on something else here. You talked about civil unions. Does that mean you do not regard gay people as mainstream New Zealanders?

BRASH: Well they're clearly not, they're a small minority of people, but let me be clear. I made it very clear in the debate on that issue that I thought this should be dealt with by referendum because it's a big change in the civil institutions of society. I also said that in the referendum I would vote for it because I have no problem with same sex couples committing to live together faithfully as heterosexual couples do.

PRESENTER: You simply don't regard gays as part of mainstream New Zealand?

BRASH: Well they are clearly, by definition, a small minority of New Zealanders...

So, Maori aren't "mainstream", gays aren't "mainstream", and judging by the way he runs his caucus and National's list selection, women aren't either. This is a clear attempt to scratch the itch of racism, homophobia and bigotry and pander to the culturally insecure in order to grub for votes. If it all seems a little Murray McCully, it's because he's National's campaign strategist and has obviously decided that playing Muldoon or Winston is a sure winner. The problem is twofold. The first, as pointed out by Nandor Tanczos in his second-reading speech on the Civil Union Bill is that

there no longer is a mainstream. We have become a braided river.

National's supporters may decry that, and long for the "good old days" when New Zealand culture was defined by white, middle aged, straight farmers - but those days are dead and gone. And not because of "political correctness" or "social engineering", but because of urbanisation, immigration, globalisation, and pure generational and demographic change. National's dead white males can try and stuff this genie back into its bottle, the gays back into their closet and Don Brash's wife on a plane back to Singapore, but the best they can get is temporary respite - because none of this is going away. Under these circumstances, I think it is far better to adapt and get used to it.

The second problem was pointed out by Brash in his speech: New Zealanders are better than that. We may be a braided river now, with many different and intertwined strands to our culture, but that does not mean that we have nothing in common. New Zealanders do generally share values, and perhaps the defining value is a sense of fair play. Opinion polls showed that New Zealanders supported "politically correct" moves like the Civil Union and Relationships Act - because they were fair. Similarly, we supported Homosexual Law Reform back in '86 - because it was fair. And we support the Treaty settlements process and efforts to ensure that Maori enjoy the same life-chances as any other New Zealander - because it is fair. Using the politics of division may gain praise from bigots and seem attractive to those who superficially base their political strategy on whatever worked last overseas, but it runs deeply counter to New Zealand values. I am hoping that that will be proven at the ballot-box.

But what's really disappointing about all this is that Don Brash knows better. In his speech, he mentioned his role as an ongoing patron of Amnesty International's Freedom Foundation. He voted for prostitution reform - something he now criticises Labour for passing. And he supported the Civil Union Bill through its first reading on principle. Prior to becoming leader, he was a fairly consistent advocate for equality and human rights. Now, he seems willing to sell out any principle if it increases his chances of handing out tax cuts to the rich.

I do not believe a man who is willing to set New Zealander against New Zealander in this way deserves to be Prime Minister - do you?

And the Democrats

The Democrats (known many years ago as Social Credit) have also released their list today. They're only standing in four electorates, but have a further 30 candidates on their list, just in case they regain their glory days of the early 80's when they were the default "plague on both their houses" protest vote.

Who does this leave? United Future, the Progressives, and DestinyNZ. Everyone else is ready. I guess the next step is to start closely examining the lists to see who the parties are putting up - and to ensure that we don't have a repeat of last election, when United Future suddenly got 6 MPs who no-one knew anything about.

Maori Party List

The Maori Party has released its party list. But will it matter? On current polling, the party is expected to take five of the seven Maori seats, but to only capture 1 or 2% of the vote - meaning that there will be an overhang and no list candidates will be appointed. Given the rankings, they'd need to get 5% before getting their first list candidate (most likely Ikaroa-Rawhiti's Atareta Poananga). OTOH, there's some reason to believe that Maori Party supporters, being mostly rural with fewer telephones, are under-represented in the polls, and they reportedly have a great party machine pounding the pavement and getting out the vote.

Unfortunately I'm having trouble surveying Maori Party candidates as they have very little information on their web-page, and practically no contact information. If anyone can help out here, please let me know in the comments.

New Fisk

Amid the horrors of the Middle East, it is strange to hear about this European ’crisis’

Can we prosecute?

Last night Sunday apparantly had a piece on the Rainbow Warrior bombing. I didn't watch it, but it apparantly outed another of the bombers:

Former army officer Louis Dallias lives in Washington DC and is a respected businessman. While he regretted someone was killed in the mission, which was dubbed Operation Satanic, he says he was simply a soldier following orders.

New Zealand has an extradition treaty with the USA. Shouldn't the New Zealand government now be trying to extradite this man so we can bring him to justice for his role in the bombing and murder of Fernando Pereira?

Mukhtaran Bibi update

Mukhtaran Bibi / Mukhtar Mai's appeal against the acquital of the men who gang-raped her goes before Pakistan's Supreme Court today. The world will be watching to see if President Musharraf's policy of "enlightened moderation" includes justice for women (or indeed, justice at all) - and, if the rapists must be acquitted due to lack of evidence (as opposed to their victim being a low-caste woman), whether his regime will do anything to ensure that they do their job properly in the future. Unfortunately, they seem more focused on silencing NGOs and preventing them from raising such cases in the future, rather than doing anything to prevent them from happening or ensure that justice can be done after the fact.

The BBC also has a story about Ms Mukhtaran's problems with the police. Two police officers now live in her home - but rather than being there to protect her, they seem more interested in protecting Pakistan's international reputation from potentially embarassing interviews:

After a while, the two policewomen left the room.

They have gone to tell the authorities that I am giving an interview," Ms Mai smiled.

Clearly, that was exactly what they did. After a while, several policemen barged in. They all looked worried.

They told us that Ms Mai's statements were bringing a bad name to the country and that "they could lose their jobs" if they let the interview go ahead.

Seeing that no one was convinced, they finally left us alone.

If this is an example of the priorities of the Musharraf regime, then it has a long way to go...

New kiwi blog

Robbo's - which seems to worship Robert Muldoon.

On voting for Jim

Thinking more about not voting for Jim, I'd just like to say that I dislike Jim Anderton and will never really forgive him for what he did to the Alliance. That said, I can think of two reasons for voting for him:

  1. To give Matt Robson a chance. Sure, he's trying to stop 18 year olds from drinking, but other than that he's a decent guy, and he has been a consistent voice for human rights. I'd much rather have him in the House than out of it.
  2. In an election this close, we can't afford to lose even 1% of the left vote to the stupid and undemocratic threshold. Jim winning Wigram would stop that from happening - and depending on how well the Progressives campaign, could result in 1 or possibly even 2 other MPs who will vote for a Labour- rather than National-led government.

Obviously whether or not to vote for Jim will depend on how highly you value those outcomes, compared to how intensely you dislike him. Speaking for myself, I think that working for a left-wing government and more liberal MPs who respect human rights is more important than my hatred. I don't live in Wigram anymore, but if I did, I'd hold my nose and vote for Jim - and then give my party vote to someone who actually deserved it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Candidate Survey: Twenty-First Response

From Julie Fairey. Julie is ranked 4th on the Alliance list.

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

I would entrench the right of access for unions and the right to strike outside of bargaining. They seem like such little things, but the way I have seen bosses treat workers when they try to organise themselves makes it clear that many don’t see their employees as actual human beings. Workers need the right to have union visits to their sites, and the right to strike is too fundamental to be restricted to times when bargaining is happening, especially when most private sector workers are never in bargaining, due to still being on individual agreements.

What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Jill Ovens (Alliance), Sue Bradford (Greens), Kane O’Connell (Alliance)

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

Sue Bradford (and Keith Locke probably) - they are Lefties who have chosen the Greens as a path forward but personally I think they belong back home in the Alliance ;-)

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

Oppose - I was vehemently against lowering it, but I can see now that 18 is the logical age - if you can die for your country and vote you should be able to have a beer too. I think tinkering with the drinking age is a cop-out in terms of addressing our alcohol problems - it’s about our drinking culture, not our drinking age.

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?

Support. If it helps more than it harms then it should be allowed.

...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

Support for 18 year olds and older - we need to address it as a health issue, not just put people in prison where they don’t get help.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

Support - it’s more important that children have loving parents than what sex they are.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

Support - to oppose it is to support discrimination. I supported the Civil Unions Act as a stepping stone towards this, and to give another option to those who don’t want to get married but do what State recognition of their commitment.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

Unsure - in theory yes but the devil is in the detail with these things.

...state funding of integrated schools?

Support with caveats around balanced teaching, ie not leaving out evolution because it doesn’t fit the character of the school. It’s still in the curriculum so it should be taught.

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?

Oppose - what an archaic institution!

...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?


...further restrictions on hate speech?

Unsure - again the detail is important. I do believe that the best antidote for hate speech is more speech, but I also feel that those who deliberately incite violence towards others should be restricted, or at least culpable for any violence they cause.

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

Oppose - it’s simple natural justice to give everyone their day in court and to not prolong it unnecessarily - how would those involved in the Zaoui case feel if they were the ones being detained?

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?

Oppose! I can’t believe anyone would seriously support this in 2005 - as long as we remember Arthur Alan Thomas I suspect it will never be considered.

...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

Support. I imagine that transgender people encounter more discrimination than most as it stands, so they need some protection.

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

Oppose - it seems to me to be a hamfisted attempt to gut the RMA.

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

Support - but it would probably need some attention beforehand.

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?

Support - and I fervently wish we could force the USA into it as well.

...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

Support (surprise surprise) - I think the threshold should be lower - the reality we have today is that every minor party in Parliament now has split from another party. The threshold is too high for new players to break in and the advantages (media and resources in particular) of being in Parliament are just massive.


With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

You can’t just hold someone indefinitely like that - this is the kind of thing we complain about other nations doing. Freedom or fair trial was the only way to deal with it. The reality is that Zaoui is probably now one of the last people who could get away with forming any kind of terrorist plot - the SIS have said the main "danger" is to our reputation, but that is not danger enough in my book.

As usual, Julie's views are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

New kiwi blog

Not voting for Jim - about, well, not voting for Jim.

Dean Kenny is paying the price for Winston's bigotry

The other day I pointed out NZFirst's grossly hypocritical stance in both demanding stringent checks (including DNA testing) to prevent potential migrants from using sham marriages and sham family relationships to gain entry to New Zealand, and complaining about the treatment the Department of Immigration has handed out to former All Black Dean Kenny - and pointed out the obvious reason for NZFirst's hypocrisy: Kenny's wife is British, rather than Arab or Muslim. But just in case it wasn't clear, this does not mean that I think Kenny's family has been treated fairly. The Department of Immigration have a suspicious and adversarial attitude towards potential migrants (and that is exactly what Ms Kenny and her children are - potential migrants), and the Kennys have fallen victim to it. But why does Immigration have this attitude? Part of it is the nature of the job, of course, but it is also due in no small part to constant pressure to tighten regulations and increase scrutiny from people like New Zealand First. I think Paul Swain put it perfectly when he said that

if the system was lax, the New Zealand First members would be the first to scream, whinge, and whine about it.

New Zealand First have spent their entire political career howling that our immigration regulations are too lax, and that it is too easy for people to scam the system. Dean Kenny and his family are now paying the price for that. Their treatment - the suspicion, the humiliation, the denial that valid documents constitute proof - is exactly what NZFirst have asked for. Maybe people should think of that before howling in the future...

Prosecuting for rendition

Coverage of extraordinary rendition - the American practice of transfering suspected terrorists to despotic regimes so they can be tortured - has so far focused on cases like that of Ahmed Agiza, where this has occured with the full complicity of the suspect's host government. But not all governments will cooperate in sending someone overseas to be tortured (something to do with it being a gross violation of the Convention Against Torture), and so it seems that the Americans have resorted to other methods - such as outright kidnapping. But not everyone is willing to look the other way on this, either, and so we now have the situation of Italian prosecutors issuing arrest warrants for 13 members of a CIA snatch squad for the kidnapping of an Islamic cleric, Osama Mustafa Hassan:

An Egyptian woman said she had witnessed the abduction of Mr Hassan on 17 February 2003, while he was walking from his house to the mosque where he preached.

She told police he was stopped by two men dressed as police officers, and cried for help in Arabic as he was bundled into a white van.

According to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Mr Hassan was then driven to the US base at Aviano north of Venice and transferred to another base in Germany, before eventually being taken to Egypt.

The 42-year-old imam called his family in Italy after being released last year, and said he had been tortured with electric shocks during his detention.

(Emphasis added)

Hassan was the subject of a terrorism inquiry at the time of his abduction, and prosecutors are rightfully angry that that inquiry has been hampered (or even scuttled) by the US action. But more importantly, kidnapping someone in order to torture them is a crime in any civilised jurisdiction. And that applies regardless of whether or not the victim is alleged to be a "terrorist".

Candidate Survey: Twentieth Response

From Luke Howison. Luke is ranked 18th on the LibertariaNZ party list.

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

An Act establishing the Libertarianz Constitution as the foundation of New Zealand law would be just the thing to kick off our first term in Parliament.


What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Philip Howison (Libertarianz candidate for Hutt South)
Bernard Darnton (Libertarianz candidate for Wellington Central)
Julian Pistorius (Libertarianz candidate for Northland)

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

Rodney Hide (ACT)

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

The argument for raising the drinking age to 20 seems to based on the drinking habits of 15 and 16 years olds

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?

Support, see next question.

...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

Drugs shouldn't need to be 'legalised' or 'decriminalised' - what one does with one's own body is nothing to do with the government.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

Any responsible person willing to take on the task of raising a child, with the consent of the child's legal parents or guardian, should be allowed to do so.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

The Marriage Act will be repealed. There is no reason why the government should be legally sanctioning certain relationships and not others.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

The time and method of one's death is again a matter of personal choice. We can certainly ask the person to reconsider, but it is immoral to intervene by arresting them.

...state funding of integrated schools?

All education should be run and funded by non-governmental organisations such as private education companies, foundations, churches and charities.

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?


...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?

... duh.

...further restrictions on hate speech?

Free speech is a human right (unlike the "right" to education, welfare and so on - no one has the right to take money from others).

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

Oppose. Every person has the right to a reasonably short period of detention and a fair trial, regardless of "security risk". Either they have committed a crime, or they have not.

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?

Some crimes may morally justify a sentence of death, but the state cannot be trusted with an action of this kind. Jail sentences can be overturned, and compensation given, but posthumous apologies are poor compensation.

...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

It is not a 'human right' to
not be discriminated against. Other people are entitled to opinions, even bigoted ones. Look up the difference between positive and negative rights.

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

In order to provide for ourselves, we must be able to
own and use what we produce - from our shoes, furniture and food to money and land. Private property rights are a basic human right.
"They who have no property can have no freedom. " - Stephen Hopkins

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

The current Bill of Rights Act is based on the wrong principles. Certain rights are justified, but not others, eg individuals have the right to life, but not the right to compulsory support from other people.

See the Libertarianz Constitution for a much better Bill of Rights:

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?


...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

Obviously the Libertarianz are biased, but the 5% threshold smacks of the US system which blatantly discriminates against any parties outside the Democrat-Republican monopoly. The threshold should be 0.83%, to allow smaller parties to gain single MPs. The argument that a lower threshold will make it harder to form governments is flawed, because it assumes that a firm government is required. New Zealand does not need a single governing party, and without one, it will be harder to pass laws which infringe on personal and economic freedoms.

With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

In general, libertarians advocate an open immigration policy, but not for individuals convicted of serious crimes. It should have decided quickly whether or not Ahmed Zaoui had committed any crimes, and then either allow him to immigrate without prejudice, or ship him right back to where he came from (on his own expense).

As usual, Luke's views are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of the LibertariaNZ.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Is National pro-tour?

It's a curious question - but then, so is the National Party's response to Phil Goff's announcement that the Zimbabwean cricket team would not be welcome to visit in December. Rather than joining in and condemning the visit, National instead declared that

A National Government will not be bound by decisions by Labour, over which there has been no consultation, to ban any Zimbabwe teams from visiting NZ

The implication is clear: a National government means a Zimbabwean tour. Unless they can convince Labour to join them in playing silly-buggers, of course. Either way, I'm not impressed. Our support for human rights on the international stage is not something which should be used as a political football.

I'm also wondering how this fits with Don Brash's public opposition to the Black Caps' tour. Are Lockwood Smith and Murry McCully making embarassing policy on their own, or is this yet another example of Brash going back on his word on human rights...?

David Slack strikes again

First it was the Treaty quiz, now its the automatic tax-cutter. Just enter your income and your desired rate of tax, and it will tell you both how much extra you will get in the hand every week, and how much it will cost the country. It will also present a series of options on what government "waste" you can cut - and tell you exactly how little of your tax cut each will pay for.

This sort of tool can only be good, and the more people who play with it the better.

Justice for Munir

Last year, Indonesian human rights activist Munir Said Thalib died during a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. Subsequently, an autopsy found that he had been fed a massive dose of arsenic. An independent inquiry was organised by the Indonesian government, and now it has reported back, pointing the finger squarely at Indonesia's intelligence services - and in particular at former intelligence chief Abdullah Hendropriyono and at one of his deputies, Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono. The latter previously commanded Kopassus, a special forces unit which specialised in kidnapping and torturing pro-democracy activists and in terrorising the civilian population of places like Aceh and East Timor. Munir's life's work was speaking out against these abuses.

The inquiry has passed its evidence to the Indonesian police and recommended further investigation and possibly prosecution. It remains now to be seen whether the police will follow it up - and whether Indonesia is going to be a nation subject to the rule of law, or one ruled by arbitrary military tyranny where people can get away with murder.

More here...

New Fisk

We shelter behind the myth that progress is being made

A rort of their very own

How unsurprising. ACT's leader has spent the last nine years alleging rorts throughout Parliament and the public sector, and in the meantime his own party's president has been running a rort of her very own, and feathering her own nest with public money. But then, this is not the first time. We only have to look at the arrangements for their electorate staff (who were all purportedly helping constituents from ACT's research unit in Wellington) to realise that ACT is quite happy to rort the system when its to their advantage.

I look forward to seeing consistency from Rodney Hide, and to him denouncing his own party's rort with the same bombast he reserves for public servants caught partaking of real coffee and chocolate biscuits at public expense. But somehow, I doubt it...

Asset forfeiture: worse than I thought

In my previous post, I criticised the government's Criminal Proceeds and Instruments Bill for allowing assets to be seized on a civil ("balance of probabilities") standard of proof, as this would almost certainly lead to injustice. However, reading through yesterday's Question Time, it is in fact far worse than that. The bill would also allow assets to be restrained if the police can show that they have "reasonable cause to believe" that they are derived from serious criminal activity. This is the same standard of proof required for a search warrant: suspicion. And according to Phil Goff, it won't just lead to temporary restraint, but outright forfeiture:

This bill is modelled closely on legislation that has operated for many years in New South Wales. In that respect, the New South Wales authority has found that once the assets have been restrained on the basis of "reasonable cause to believe", in 90 percent of cases the crooks give up and surrender the assets without further taxpayer expense and without requiring the involvement in the court system. That is a great thing.

(Emphasis added).

So if the bill becomes law, we won't just be seizing the property of those who are probably criminals, but that of those who might be. This is a ridiculously low standard of proof, and one that is a blatant end-run around the checks and safeguards of the justice system. We would not tolerate a court fining suspected criminals on such low standards; this is no different.

Sheer gall

In his immigration policy launch speech, Winston Peters promised to crack down on immigrants bringing family members into the country, promising DNA testing to ensure that claimed family relationships were genuine. Today in Question Time, NZFirst's Dail Jones asked the following:

Why, then, is a Mr Dean Kenny, a sixth-generation New Zealander and a former Otago, All Black, and New Zealand Mâori player who has returned to New Zealand with his British wife of 8 years and their two children, being put through the third degree by non - New Zealand immigration officials in so far as his wife’s application to stay here is concerned?

In a subsequent question, he provided further clarification:

Why is it that immigrants such as Mr Dean Kenny and his wife have to produce passport documents twice, documents to prove that their children are actually theirs, photos of them holding hands, and numerous other documents to prove that they have been living together in a genuine and stable relationship, and have to wait for 12 months before they get a decision; and does an 8-year Western marriage with two kids not speak for itself?

The sheer gall of this is simply astounding. One moment, NZFirst is demanding stringent checks to prevent migrants from using sham marriages (and sham parental relationships, even) in order to assist others to gain entry; the next they're complaining when such checks (or rather, far weaker ones - were those children DNA tested? I think not) are in fact applied. But I forget: Winston's stringent conditions were never meant to be applied to white people...

Doing the right thing

Well, the government might not be doing the right thing over the Black Caps' tour of Zimbabwe, but it is at least doing it over Zimbabwe's tour of New Zealand. Phil Goff has just noticed that this is scheduled for December, and has declared that the Zimbabwean team is unwelcome. Good. And if we're lucky, it will provoke a tit-for-tat response from the Zimbabwean regime.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

No tour!

The government is trying to defend its position on the Black Cap's tour of Zimbabwe, claiming that they can't stop it. But while Phil Goff is right to point out that under the Bill of Rights, everyone has the right to leave New Zealand, that doesn't mean that the government is helpless. As Frogblog points out,

[t]he ICC has recognised the right of all governments to cut bilateral cricketing ties if they deem it to be in their national interest. The Indian Government has already exercised this right, at no financial penalty to anyone. The New Zealand Government could do exactly the same thing.

Unfortunately, they haven't even investigated the option. A government led by politicians who marched against the Springbok Tour in '81 and who opposed sporting links with South Africa on the basis that it would lend moral support to the apartheid regime seems perfectly happy to see New Zealand sportsmen dragging our international reputation through the mud by playing with a regime that tortures people and bulldozes their homes for the "crime" of not supporting the government.

It is within the government's power to stop this, and without violating people's human rights. All they have to do is say "no". If they stand up and declare that, as a matter of foreign policy, the New Zealand government does not believe sporting links with a regime like Zimbabwe's are appropriate, and formally ask the Black Caps to stay home, NZ Cricket is off the hook. So why won't they do it?

From here, it looks like nothing less than cowardice...

ACT bilboards

People seem to be putting ACT's "design an ACT billboard" page to good use. Examples at Phantasmagoric Politics (two sets!), Just Left, and even DPF...

National should put up or shut up

DPF is complaining about this morning's article in the Press which claims that National's tax-cuts would cost $7.5 billion. But while the numbers are a quick and dirty back-of-the-envelope analysis, they do expose the key problem. National is making all sorts of promises with huge financial implications - "significant" tax cuts "in all income tax brackets", eliminating the carbon tax, spending all of the petrol tax on roads, building even more prisons - and even a cursory glance at the numbers show that they do not add up. This is not a spending package which can be paid for by trimming hip-hop tours, "bureaucracy", and government "waste". Either National will have to significantly cut spending in other areas - which means health, education and social spending - or it would need to borrow. Or, I suppose, they could take United Future's crazy route and sell state assets. But regardless of what their actual plan is, they owe the electorate some sort of explanation as to how they intend to pay for their promises. And if they don't provide one, they can hardly complain when others try to work out how they're going to do it.

In other words, National should either put up or shut up. If they believe they can pay for their promises, then they should show us the figures. Otherwise, they simply look like an opposition which promises the moon, regardless of the fiscal consequences, in a desperate attempt to get elected - hardly responsible enough to be in government.

More Fisk

ABC Interview: "I think there are going to be more assassinations"

Better late than never

Italy has convicted ten former Nazi officers and sentenced them to life imprisonment for their role in the 1944 Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre in which 560 civilians were shot and burned. It may have taken 60 years, but finally justice has been done and the truth has been told.

Some of our present world leaders and their rented torturers may want to take that to heart...

IWC vote

Well, it looks like the IWC's conservation bloc won and voted to condemn Japan's proposed expansion of its "scientific" whaling program - an expansion which seemed geared solely at increasing the supply of whale-meat to Japanese consumers rather than at gathering any real scientific data. Unfortunately, the Japanese will be going ahead anyway, as the IWC convention gives them an absolute right to kill as many whales as they want to for scientific purposes. With a loophole this large, you really have to wonder whether there's any real point in having a convention at all - but OTOH the other members seem willing to respect the moratorium (though opinions differ on whether it should be temporary or permanant), and that is definitely good for the whales.

This is only a temporary victory, however. The IWC meets every year, and so we get to do this again, and again, and again, until either Japan gets its way, or all the elderly Japanese with a taste for whale meat die of old age. I guess we just have to hope that the latter happens before the former...

Illegal provocations

A couple of weeks ago I read in New Statesman an article by Michael Smith about "the war before the war" - the secret bombing campaign carried out by US and British forces during late 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam into war and soften up his defences. The extent of this campaign was uncovered through Parliamentary questioning, and it is quite dramatic, as seen in the graph below of bombs dropped in the southern "no-fly zone":

Coalition bombing in the no-fly zone was basically flat until Bush decided to go to war, after which it increased steadily. This was characterised by Geoff Hoon, then Minister of Defence, as "'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime". In one such "spike",

more than a hundred allied aircraft attacked the H-3 airfield, the main air defence site in western Iraq. Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected.

The Times has now picked up the story, but with a new angle: the Foreign Office had advised that the pre-war bombing campaign was illegal. According to legal advice given at the same Cabinet meeting at which Blair decided to back Bush, the American view that force could be used in the no-fly zones to pressure the Iraqi regime was not consistent with international law. The only justifications for force were self-defence, humanitarian intervention, and Security Council authorisation, none of which applied. Despite this advice, Britain continued to bomb Iraq in an effort to produce a casus bellum; Blair knew that there was no legal justification for this and that doing so violated international law - and yet he did it anyway. He willfully and deliberately violated international war so as to wage an illegal war of aggression. And now, he should go to The Hague for it.

New Fisk

Anti-Syrian politician latest to die as murder takes hold in Lebanon
Lebanon wounded by personal ambition
General's return casts doubt on Lebanon's future

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Winston moves on to Africans

It looks as if Winston has now got sick of using Parliamentary privilege to defame innocent Iraqis, and has moved on to attacking Africans. In Question Time today he asked the following question:

Is the Minister aware that members of the Somali community are complaining to immigration officials that their daughters have no one to marry, as their tradition prevents them from marrying non-Muslims, or even those from other Somali tribes; and does he believe that the Immigration Service should be accommodating the principles of discrimination, social segregation, and denial of intermarriage by way of allowing fellow Somali tribe members into New Zealand on those grounds?

His argument is that the government should not be "allowing intermarriage exclusivity in a tribe and to no one outside the tribe". But this is a question of marriage, who you spend your life with. It is a deeply personal decision, and not one that the government should be interfering with. And if people wish to limit their available options to people of a specific religion, race, or tribe (or gender, for that matter), then they are perfectly entitled to and it is none of the government's goddamned business. Nor Winston Peters', for that matter.

As for the "appropriateness" of immigration permits being granted to prospective partners, as I understand it we grant such permits already to mail-order brides. This is no different - and the only reason Winston thinks it is is because the people involved are Somalian.

Asset forfeiture: sacrificing justice

The Government has finally introduced its long-anticipated asset forfeiture legislation to the House as the Criminal Proceeds and Instruments Bill. The bill allows the crown to seize assets from suspected criminals on a civil ("balance of probabilities") standard of proof. But the crown does not have to link the assets to any specific criminal activity; all it has to prove is that the target has engaged in "serious criminal activity" within the last seven years. No specific criminal offence needs to be proved, and the bill is explicitly intended to be applied not just to those convicted of a criminal offence, but for those suspected of one (but for whom the police don't have enough evidence to prove it), or even those acquited in court. Worse, the onus of proof on the accused is reversed;

"Those who want to dispute forfeiture will have to prove their wealth has not been funded by criminal activity. If they can prove the value of restrained assets exceeds the benefits they derived from crime, the forfeiture will be reduced accordingly. If they can't prove that, their entire estate may be confiscated."

This violates fundamental norms of justice, such as the presumption of innocence and the prohibition on double jeopardy. Instead, it's proof by suspicion and guilty until proven innocent - Ahmed Zaoui standards of evidence.

Goff claims that

"No person stands to lose assets or profits that they have rightfully owned or gained"

However, the civil standard and the reversed burden of proof virtually guarantee it. While Goff may see things like the presumption of innocence and the onus of proof being on the crown as impediments to putting criminals behind bars, they are there for a very good reason: to prevent injustice. By removing those safeguards, Goff opens the door to innocent people, incorrectly suspected of criminal activity, having their houses seized.

But perhaps the most odious aspect of the legislation is Goff's emphasis on money. According to his press release, the bill "will reap millions" from criminals. Reading down, the government expects to gain $14 million a year. And we're sacrificing justice for that?

See also:

Asset forfeiture: the dangers of settlements
Asset forfeiture: "a valuable means of revenue collection"
Asset forfeiture: disappearing concerns
Ahmed Zaoui Standards of Evidence

Candidate Survey: Nineteenth Response

From Kelly Buchanan, Alliance candidate for Mana. Kelly is the Alliance's spokesperson for human rights, queer rights, and electoral reform, and is ranked 14th on the party list.

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

A Privatisation Reversal Act, to restore full ownership of all former state assets to the people of New Zealand, and to operate all state assets as democratic, open, and accountable public services rather than as profit-making businesses. This would include electricity generation and supply, telecommunications, rail, etc. Compensation to the current owners would be at the discretion of the government, and take in to account the degree to which a private owner has run down the asset in question.

Or if I had to settle for something less radical (though merely undoing the stupidity of previous governments should hardly be considered radical), a Minimum Wage Adjustment Act to set the minimum wage to $15 with regular automatic inflation adjustment and no age limit.

What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Jill Ovens, Manukau East
Kane O'Connell, Wellington Central
Victor Billot, Dunedin North

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

Keith Locke, Greens.

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

Oppose. Excessive drinking is certainly a problem, but not just for 18 and 19 year olds, and an arbitrary age limit is not the solution. A big part of the problem is that bars and nightclubs depend upon alcohol sales for their income, which is a very strong disincentive for refusing to serve the already intoxicated.

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?

Definitely support. In some cases it's the most effective option.

...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

Support. I'm not fond of the stuff myself, but it's no more harmful than other legal drugs, and arresting people for taking a small risk with their health is both an unwarranted interference in people's lives and a waste of police resources. Legalising marijuana would also improve relations between the police and the public, and eliminate a source of funding for criminal gangs.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

Strongly support. Same-sex couples already raise children together; it's foolish and unfair to deny legal recognition to both parents. Same-sex couples are just as capable as heterosexuals of providing a loving environment for children.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

I'd prefer to repeal the Marriage Act to make marriage a purely social/religious institution, and convert existing marriages to civil unions. There's no practical need to have both civil unions and legal marriages, and putting marriage outside the jurisdiction of the law gives churches the freedom to decide for themselves which relationships they will recognise as marriage without imposing their views on the rest of the country.

Failing that, yes, I support allowing same-sex couples to marry.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

Support, though there must be very strict procedures and monitoring to ensure that the patient truly does want euthanasia.

...state funding of integrated schools?

I support public funding of "special character" schools that meet certain criteria. These would include: That the school does not charge fees; the state should not be subsidising higher-quality schools for the wealthy. That national educational and curriculum standards are met. That religious beliefs are not presented as fact in the classroom, and that scientific theories that conflict with religious beliefs get a fair hearing (if necessary by independent teachers).

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?

Oppose. It's archaic, unnecessary, and open to abuse.

...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?

Oppose. It's archaic, unnecessary, discriminatory on basis of religion, and open to abuse.

...further restrictions on hate speech?

Probably oppose, depending on the nature of the restrictions. Hate speech is a problem, but additional restrictions on free speech would be too open to abuse. Hate speech should be countered with rational arguments, and deliberate use of factually incorrect information to incite hate should be clamped down on.

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

Absolutely oppose. I have no confidence whatsoever in the identification of security risks, and nobody should ever be detained without trial for any longer than absolutely necessary.

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?

Oppose. Mistakes will always be made, and death is rather difficult to undo or make up for.

...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

Support. There is no justification for, for example, refusing to rent a flat to someone based on their gender identity.

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

Oppose. I have no particular respect for the "right" of private individuals to own property beyond that which they use personally (such as the house they live in), and it is entirely reasonable for the state to impose certain limits on how property can be "used and enjoyed" on the grounds of effects on neighbours, the environment, etc.

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

Probably support, but I'm not entirely sure what the ramifications of this would be.

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?

Support - and NZ should be pushing strongly for the ICC to put the Bush administration on trial for war crimes, in absentia if necessary.

...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

Support - 4% was originally recommended as appropriate, and the increase to 5% was entirely arbitrary. However, a much more important change would be to add STV-style voting to MMP. Voters should be able to rank their preferences for both the list vote and the electorate vote. That way, if a party failed to reach the threshold, its votes would be transferred to the voters' second choices. This would eliminate the problem of wasted votes, and distortion of voter preferences through fear of wasting votes. The advantages of STV for the electorate vote should be obvious.


With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

There is no case against Zaoui. He should have been accepted as a refugee, and if there really are genuine security concerns (as opposed to a desire to suck up to the US by appearing "tough on terror") he should have been monitored.

As a bonus, here's my Political Compass score.

Economic Left/Right: -10.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.23

As usual, Kelly's views are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance.

New MP blog

Via Hard News: Tim Barnett has finally started his blog. I guess Seth's machinations were successful...

Energy: coal is unnecessary and unwanted

Lee Neal has an op-ed in today's Herald arguing that "coal could be the answer to our problems". But what problems? The fact we've got too much of it?

Those pushing coal argue that we need it in order to meet the ongoing growth in electricty demand. But looking at the numbers shows that this is simply false. Our gross demand grows by about 150 MW a year - meaning that we need to be installing that much generation every year (on the average) if we are to avoid blackouts at some stage in the future. But the point missed by coal-advocates is that we are meeting this target. In fact, we're more than meeting it - and we're not doing it with coal.

Over the past few years a silent revolution has taken place in New Zealand's electricity sector: wind power has come of age. Last year we commissioned 132 MW of turbines and consented another 106 MW. This year, we've seen resource consent applications lodged for almost 400 MW of turbines so far, and Meridian last month announced plans for another 210 MW at Makara near Wellington. This puts us well ahead of the game, and from wind power alone. So what's the need for coal?

Coal generation is unnecessary. And, as the overwhelming public opposition to Mighty River's proposed Marsden B plant shows, it is also unwanted. We're better off leaving it in the ground rather than polluting our air and the globe by burning it.