Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The obvious question

Te Kāhui / Criminal Cases Review Commission has found another potential miscarriage of justice, where police appear to have coached a witness in an indecent assault case, making their evidence unsafe, and then covered it up. So its been sent back to court for a re-hearing, which is appropriate. That's bad enough, but the Post version of the story is even worse:

A police officer influenced a victim into identifying a suspect, then officers deliberately hid what had happened from judges and courts, a wrongful conviction body has found.

And when investigators discovered what they’d done, police officers lied to them while under oath, according to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

Which raises an obvious question: will those officers be charged with conspiring to defeat justice (for the original offence) and perjury (for lying to Te Kāhui)? And if not, why not? Because if police are allowed to outright lie to judicial bodies, why should we or the courts believe anything they say ever again?

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Morally bankrupt

Over the weekend the International Court of Justice found that there was a real risk that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, and ordered it to stop. Israel responded by accusing the UNRWA, a UN agency which feeds refugees in Palestine, of supporting Hamas, and persuaded their allies the US and UK to cut funding - basicly making them complicit in Israel's genocide. And now, to our shame, Chris Luxon has decided to join them.

This is utterly morally bankrupt, and it clearly aligns us with Israel and the US and makes our government complicit in Israel's actions in starving the Palestinian people. Maybe we should be sending them to The Hague for that.

James Shaw: At least he tried

The big political news of the day is James Shaw's resignation as Green co-leader. It was expected: his refusal to contest Wellington Central clearly signalled that he was planning to leave Parliament if Labour lost the election, and the change in government was the time to go. And with the Greens winning a record vote last election, there's a good depth of talent there to replace him.

Shaw's big success as a Minister was getting the Zero Carbon Act over the line. His big failure was failing to get agriculture into the ETS and make our biggest polluters pay their fair share of the damage they do. That failure was forced by Labour's cowardice, which is Shaw's Ministerial career in a nutshell: trying to do the right thing and being constantly undermined by a partner who just didn't grasp the seriousness of the problem, didn't care, or thought they could PR their way out of it, as if an existential crisis could be handled by their usual lies and bullshit. I'm not trying to paint Shaw as a radical here, but I credit him with at least recognising what needs to be done. He didn't always do the best job in presenting that to Labour - too much pre-watering-down to try and get their agreement (again, see agriculture) - but at least he tried. And events over e.g. the ETS proved him right again and again.

(And now we have a climate minister who doesn't care about the climate, doesn't recognise what needs to be done, and isn't interested in actually trying to keep us all alive. And we are going to notice it in policy, and in disasters. You have been warned...)

Shaw will stay in Parliament to push his member's bill to put the environment in the BORA (something I expect National to vote down out of pure spite). And then he'll finally escape. Which is good: Parliament is a toxic environment which ruins people, and its good for people to get out before they are institutionalised into it. There's a lot of other good work which can be done outside of the hellmouth - possibly better, more effective work - and I look forward to seeing what he will do next.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Robbing from the poor to pay the rich

That's the only way to describe David Seymour's latest tax proposal:

ACT campaigned on flattening the current five-tiered tax system down to three rates by 2026/27.

In simple terms, ACT would immediately axe the lowest tax threshold of 10.5 percent, meaning the government would collect more revenue from all income earners.

Some of that extra revenue would then be returned to low-and-middle income earners through a targeted tax credit to ensure they were not worse off.

The money left over would allow the government to reduce the higher tax rates at the top of the income scale - dropping the 33 percent rate to 30, and the 39 percent rate to 33.

Rimmer calls this "simplification". But taking money from people and then giving some of it back to them isn't simple - its complex. Meanwhile, "some of" is doing a lot of work there, and if no-one was really left any worse off then there would be no point, because there would be no money to lower other rates. What will happen in reality is that Rimmer's credits will be a token (and then done away with because of complexity), the poor will be taxed more heavily, and their money given to rich pricks like Rimmer. Who, in case anyone has forgotten, is on $296,007 plus slush, which will increase to $334,734 when he replaces Winston as Deputy PM. How many poor people will he have to pillage for his tax cut?

A better alternative would be to tax rich people like Rimmer more heavily, both to discourage those causes of social division, and to help fund the public services we need. But a Cabinet of people paid $296,007 a year are hardly likely to vote for that, are they?

Friday, January 26, 2024

Utter contempt

In 2022 the Supreme Court ruled that the current voting age of 18 unlawfully discriminated against 16 year olds, and issued a formal declaration of inconsistency with the NZBORA. The previous government's weak and pathetic response to this was to propose lowering the voting age for local body - not general - elections, with the Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Legislation Bill. The bill was passed through its first reading and sent to select committee. Now, before that process has even ended, the new government has thrown it in the bin:

The coalition government has formally dumped plans to lower the voting age to 16 for council elections, something considered by the previous Labour government.

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said he wrote to the chairperson of the Justice Committee informing him that the government did not intend to support the Electoral (Lowering Voting Age for Local Elections and Polls) Legislation Bill through further parliamentary stages, and requested that the Committee ended consideration of it.


He said the coalition government would not entertain the previous government's voting age proposal and was withdrawing the bill from any further consideration.

This displays utter contempt for our democracy and for the people who submitted in good faith on this bill. The government tells us that select committees are an opportunity for us to "have our say". For it then to bin the bill before it has been hear sends a clear message that this is a lie, that they have no intention of listening, and that the entire process is a fraud upon democracy. It brings the entire institution of parliament into disrepute (which is technically a contempt). Many of the submitters on this bill are likely to be young people, so it has also sent them a clear message that they have no place in politics, and that pursuing democratic methods of change is a waste of time. That message is both immoral and dangerous.

But beyond the contempt it displays for submitters and democracy, it also displays contempt for the BORA and our constitution. While we formally have Parliamentary sovereignty, if the courts find something is so bad that they issue a formal declaration of inconsistency, then it is the clear obligation of Parliament to fix the law. By throwing out this bill, the government is refusing to let Parliament perform that duty, and committing to an ongoing, unlawful, abuse of the human rights of young New Zealanders. And in doing so, it is once again demonstrating that it is unwilling to properly perform the duty of being the ultimate guardian of our human rights, and that that job should therefore be taken off them and given to someone both willing and able to do it: the courts.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Corrupt, cancerous, and dishonest

One of the first things the new government did was scrap anti-smoking laws. It was a naked revenue grab, done in order to fund tax-cuts for the rich. But now, they've decided to forgo the revenue, with Associate Health Minister Casey Costello - who entirely coincidentally used to work for the cancer-industry-funded "Taxpayer's Union" - wanting to freeze tobacco excise. So, the former cancer lobbyist appears to be implementing a cancer-industry wishlist. That's stinky enough, but to add insult to injury, she decided to lie about it:

"I've had no discussions on that at all. Like, that's - it's not even something I specifically sought advice on," she said. "I haven't looked at a freeze on the excise at all."

But RNZ has seen a Ministry of Health document, sent to Costello, which says the minister is proposing to freeze the excise tax.

"The additional information you provided to us proposed also to freeze the excise on smoked tobacco for three years," the document says.

While Costello told RNZ she had not asked for advice on the issue, the Ministry of Health document appears to contradict that.

The document sent to Costello asks: "whether you would like advice in January 2024 to include implications of a three year freeze on CPI-related excise increases for smoked tobacco." The 'yes' option is circled in the document, which was signed by Costello on 20 December, 2023.

I remember a time when Ministers were sacked for lying to the public like this. But clearly Chris Luxon has lower standards. His government is corrupt, cancerous, and dishonest. And the sooner we are rid of it, the better.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

We should not be supporting foreign wars

Yesterday the government announced that it was sending a handful of New Zealand troops to the Middle East, to participate in the US bombing campaign against Yemen. The numbers and roles - six people, doing target selection - is very much a token contribution. At the same time it reveals a fundamental difference in outlook between this government and the previous one. When the US started bombing people, Labour would say "no thanks". National by contrast is eager to join foreign wars, sucking up to the Americans and British so they can be "part of the club".

The government's justification is protecting trade and the "rules-based international order". Sure, but rule #1 of that order is "don't commit genocide", and the US is currently preventing that rule being enforced against Israel. Rule #2 is "no war without UN permission", and the US is breaking that one too: there is no UN mandate for this operation. Basicly, National is siding with the lawless here, and we shouldn't be doing that.

What's the alternative? Simple: stay out of it. If the US wants to piss all over the rules-based international order while purporting to uphold it, let them do it alone. That would actually be consistent with our long-standing foreign policy of support for international law. By getting involved, National have shown themselves to be nothing more than sociopaths, willing to kill - or have others kill for them - for social status. They're utterly despicable, and we should regard them as criminals.

Meanwhile, if we don't want our governments to do this sort of shit in future, we need to take a hard look at the capabilities of the NZDF, and start removing the ones which enable this. NZDF performs many useful functions for us - disaster relief, search and rescue, peacekeeping. But getting involved in foreign wars is not one of them. There's no reason for a country without an air force and which opposes American bombing campaigns to have people trained in choosing who to murder from the sky. Likewise, there's no reason for us to have an SAS, or frigates, or gold-plated ASW aircraft. These capabilities serve no purpose other than allowing governments to drag us into illegal and immoral military operations. And as a peaceful nation which supports international law, we are better off without them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024


Over the weekend 10,000 people turned out to a hui at Tūrangawaewae to oppose the government's racism against Māori and its racist plans to Vader - or effectively repeal - Te Tiriti o Waitangi. National's response? To wheel out Nicola Willis to claim that the government are "committed to th[e] relationship that the Treaty of Waitangi promises ":

In response however, National MP and Finance Minister Nicola Willis told RNZ's First Up it was clear the Treaty of Waitangi established a foundational relationship between the Crown and iwi.

"It is our founding document as a nation. How that relationship works in practice is something that the courts have likened to being like a partnership," she said.


"Our government is very committed to progressing results for Māori and we're committed to that relationship that the Treaty of Waitangi promises.

Which invites the question: if they're so committed to this relationship, why are they trying to destroy it? Because that's what their racist Treaty Principles Bill does - replaces the Treaty partnership with a colonial one of dominance and subordination.

If National were truly "committed" to the Treaty relationship, they wouldn't be advancing this bill. They wouldn't be voting it to select committee. They'd have recognised immediately that seeking to unilaterally redefine the relationship in a one-sided manner was not consistent with the text or spirit of Te Tiriti, and that even attempting to do so would fundamentally delegitimise the New Zealand state. They would have told ACT that they would not support it, would not allow it to be presented as a government bill, and that they would vote against it if it was drawn from the member's ballot. The fact that they did not do that, and have instead decided to test the waters on white supremacy, tells us how "committed" they actually are: not at all.

Friday, January 19, 2024

National's racism breaches Te Tiriti

In their coalition agreement with ACT, the National government agreed to advance a bill unilaterally redefining the Tiriti relationship. That bill is apparently going through the policy process, and the Ministry of Justice has pointed out the obvious: its a breach of Te Tiriti:

But the ministry raises major compliance issues. It has sent the document, also known as a legal bid, to various Government departments for consultation.

The report's author says: "I expect the Bill may be highly contentious. This is due to both the fundamental constitutional nature of the subject matter and the lack of consultation with the public on the policy development prior to Select Committee.

"The Bill will also change the nature of the principles from reflecting a relationship akin to a partnership between the Crown and Māori to reflecting the relationship the Crown has with all citizens of New Zealand. This is not supported by either the spirit of the Treaty or the text of the Treaty."


"Developing a Bill that purports to settle the Treaty principles without working with the Treaty partner could be seen as one partner (the Crown) attempting to define what the Treaty means and the obligations it creates."

And if they don't listen to the Ministry of Justice, I'm sure the Waitangi Tribunal will be willing to tell them, far more forcefully.

National has been trying to back away from this ever since they realised that outright racism isn't as popular with the public as it is with ACT's kook supporters. But they agreed to this, so they own it. And if they don't want to be the party that tried to rip Aotearoa down the middle, they need to tell Rimmer and his racist mates to go fuck themselves.

(Meanwhile, Labour has a clear opportunity here to kill this and position themselves on the right side of history and public opinion, just by saying "we will repeal it immediately". But that would require them to actually stand for something, rather than being afraid of their own shadows...)

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

From a clean car discount to a clean car tax

One of the first things the new coalition government did on gaining power was repeal the clean car discount. It was an act of pure climate vandalism, eliminating an effective policy which was significantly shifting the long-term emissions profile of the light vehicle fleet, basicly because it made farmers and the rest of Ute New Zealand may for their desire to pollute and hog the roads. But it gets worse. Because they've now followed that up with making EVs pay road-user charges. "Fair enough," you might say. "After all, we've got to pay for the roads". Sure. But they're making them pay at twice the amount an equivalent modern vehicle would pay in petrol excise tax:


So we've basicly gone from having a clean-car discount to having a clean-car tax, all because of National's climate denial and ingrained hostility to environmentalism.

This is clearly unfair. It is also, in the long-term, unsustainable. The RUC system is complicated, avoidable, easily rorted, and has high compliance costs. The only reason it exists is because farmers didn't want to pay excise tax on diesel used in their tractors (which they then drive on the roads anyway). When normal people, used to invisible, pay-as-you-go petrol taxes, are exposed to it, it is likely to lead to problems. And with National committing to moving all vehicles to RUCs as their "solution" to an expected decline in revenue, those problems are only going to get larger, and pressure is going to build for change. As for what that might look like, its worth pointing out road damage increase with the fourth power of mass, and so almost all of it is caused by trucks (which are already heavily subsidised by the RUC scheme). So we could just charge the people who do the damage, keep RUCs only for heavy vehicles, and let the rest of us pay through general taxation, thus avoiding all that bullshit paperwork. But why would National - heavily funded by the road transport industry - ever go for that?

Monday, January 15, 2024

Willis made no complaints about the PREFU

From the day she took office, Finance Minister Nicola Willis claimed that the previous government had cooked the books and left the new coalition with a financial mess to clean up. It was a serious allegation, made all the more serious because we have institutional protections against exactly this sort of thing, in the form of the Public Finance Act and the Pre-Election Financial Update (PREFU), dating from the last time a government did this back in 1990. Essentially, Willis was claiming that the PREFU was inaccurate. But if that was the case, you'd have expected her to have raised any inaccuracies with Treasury, the agency responsible for its preparation.

So did she? I used the OIA to ask for all communications from the Minister of Finance or her office with Treasury on the accuracy of the PREFU. And surprise, surprise, there weren't any. You can draw your own conclusions about the honesty of the Finance Minister and the accuracy of her claims from that.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Climate Change: The hottest year so far

Its official: 2023 was the hottest year on record:

2023 “smashed” the record for the hottest year by a huge margin, providing “dramatic testimony” of how much warmer and more dangerous today’s climate is from the cooler one in which human civilisation developed.

The planet was 1.48C hotter in 2023 compared with the period before the mass burning of fossil fuels ignited the climate crisis. The figure is very close to the 1.5C temperature target set by countries in Paris in 2015, although the global temperature would need to be consistently above 1.5C for the target to be considered broken.

Scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS) said it was likely the 1.5C mark will be passed for the first time in the next 12 months.

1.5C is the limit of a safe climate. Once we're over that, things are going to get worse with every extra 0.1C. And things are already pretty bad already, with fires, floods, heatwaves, storms, and droughts.

Which raises the obvious question: what is our new government going to do about this? Try and limit the damage by reducing emissions? Or just fiddle while we all burn?