The Jackal: June 2013

30 Jun 2013

Matthew Hooton - Asshole of the Week

Today, the NBR reported:

Those most supportive of the Don Brash and ACT Party message of “one law for all” should be deeply grateful to Hone Harawira.

If the Northland firebrand had the slightest emotional intelligence and ability to think medium-term, he would now be set to become leader of a united Maori Party capable of winning all seven Maori electorates and something approaching 5% of the party vote.

Instead, his personal anger and belligerence, his childish emotional need to be a staunch bro’, and his extraordinary arrogance, so associated with the Harawia clan, meant he moved to split the Maori Party in 2011 and set up his own far-left Mana movement.

What a load of codswallop! The idiot Hooten is completely ignoring the fact that the Maori party suspended Hone Harawira and then the party's disciplinary committee recommended his expulsion, at which point Harawira left. Even a cursory glance at the Wikipedia article on Harawira confirms that Hooten is talking out his ass!

The right wing propagandist clearly hasn't let the facts of history get in the way of his ranting, which points towards a biased and perhaps racist opinionator. If Hooten is willing to make up a bunch of bullshit to try and besmirch Harawira's credibility, one has to question his motivations, and in this case it's likely not just political. Unfortunately Hooten's despicable diatribe gets even worse.

His complaint was that the other Maori Party MPs weren’t radical enough for him and were prepared to accept crumbs from John Key’s table as opposed to the … well, it is never quite clear what he would try to deliver to his people were he ever to have the chance.

The reason the split between the Maori party and Harawira occurred was because they couldn't reconcile their differences. Firstly the Maori party have supported a government that has done nothing to help Maori, and have instead moved to further disenfranchise an already marginalized people. Poverty and unemployment have increased dramatically, and disproportionately affected Maori.

If the Maori party consider giving Maori a fair deal ‘radical’, then Harawira is best rid of them. I mean how can feeding children and building houses be considered radical? Harawira will undoubtedly achieve far more without the constraints of a party that simply isn't representing their constituents, but try telling the ignoramus Hooten that.

In truth, he knows he will never have the chance to achieve anything and likes it that way.  It allows infinite bluster and zero accountability and he assumes his constituents are so stupid they don’t know the difference.

In truth? Hooten wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on the ass!

Claiming that Harawira hasn't achieved anything just highlights Hooten's bigotry. Let's take the Mana party's most recent achievement, which is in my opinion significant. After Harawira gained coverage and widespread support for his food in schools policy, the National party moved to introduce their own watered down version of the food in schools program.

Without Hone Harawira making the initial move to highlight a serious problem, nothing would have changed. Although the government's measures are clearly not progressive enough, it's an achievement none the less that Hooten should damn well be aware of... Fucking moron!

Had Mr Harawira not split the Maori Party in 2011, it is almost certain it would have won last night’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.  It would most probably have held on to Te Tai Tonga in 2011 so that it would now hold six of the seven Maori electorates and have much greater leverage over Mr Key and Labour.

The people who voted Mana would more likely have voted for the Greens instead of a Maori party aligned with National's agenda. One would have to discount all those voting for Mana not caring that the Maori party have promoted right wing policies that have further degraded their standard of living.

Instead, Mr Harawira and his motely crew of far-leftists are celebrating coming second to Labour last night in an electorate the Maori Party came within a whisker of winning as recently as 2008 – before Mr Harawira took his destructive path.

Chalk another one up to Hooten's complete failure as a political commentator...this guy really needs a serious reality check.

Why on earth shouldn't the Mana party, who clearly aren't radicals, celebrate increasing their support in Ikaroa-Rawhiti by almost 19 percent since the last general election? With such a low turnout, this is clearly an achievement worth celebrating.

It is all rather pathetic.  Most likely, Labour will win six of the Maori seats by 2014 or 2017 at the latest, with Mr Harawira hanging on alone in his Northland redoubt.

If Mana campaign strongly at the next election they're likely to pick up Te Ururoa Favell's seat in Waiariki. Labour came a distant third in that electorate, which means their winning six of the Maori seats is not assured. Saying otherwise this far out from a general election is simply deluded!

Like his mother – jailed in 1989 for violent crimes against mental health patients in her care – Mr Harawira will have a legacy of bullsh-t and bluster but no real achievements for himself or advancement for his people.  The dumbest bro’s will think he’s cool though.

That folks is why Matthew Hooten wins this week's Asshole Award.

29 Jun 2013

MegaBreakfast II

Rudd should revamp mining tax

In my opinion, one of the main issues that should be highlighted concerning Kevin Rudd ousting Julia Gillard is the controversial mining tax. What many commentators seem to be missing is that after Gillard initially rolled Rudd back in June 2010, the mining tax that he helped devise was watered down and is now ineffective.

Large mining companies were let off the hook by Julia Gillard, and in May this year it was announced that they were expected to pay only $200 million of the $3.7 billion the government had previously projected...although listening to the industries howls of protest you wouldn't know it.

With Rudd regaining the leadership role, they've once again started their vociferous outrage at the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), and any potential changes to fix it.

Yesterday, The Australian reported:

THE resources industry has warned Kevin Rudd not to tamper with the mining tax, calling instead for a new compact that will secure the productivity gains needed to offset collapsing commodity prices.

It was Mr Rudd who warned the miners ahead of his 2010 dumping as prime minister that the Labor Party had a "very long memory", raising concerns that payback with a tougher and extended resources tax could be in the offing.

One industry veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Australian the leadership change came at the "worst possible time for the industry". "However bad the Gillard government has been, Rudd's return only further destabilises the business outlook until an election is held," the senior mining executive said.

There has been a substantial and well-funded campaign against Labor because of that tax, which effectively caused Rudd's downfall. In many ways the policy change after Gillard gained power was badly handled, and along with a huge amount of industry propaganda, Labor has thus far lost the public debate.

Whether Rudd moves to amend the policy to ensure large mining companies in Australia pay their fair share is yet to be seen, but be aware that he has made a number of statements to this effect and has a rather large bone to pick. Also be aware the claims that Labor will lose the next election are presumptuous, with polling being at similar levels to the last election that Labor won.

Lets hope the rise of the Australian Greens helps shift Labor onto a more sustainable path, and that Rudd doesn't backtrack on making the changes required to ensure the mining industry contributes appropriately to the Australian economy, because as the graph below clearly shows, they presently aren't.

28 Jun 2013

Citizen A with Julie Fairey & Keith Locke

Mighty River plummets

Today, the Dominion Post reported:

MRP shares fell 0.9 per cent yesterday to $2.24, bucking a 0.5 per cent gain on the benchmark NZX 50 Index.

At this level, the state-controlled power company is trading 4 cents off its all-time low.

That is a notable drop from the $2.73 level seen when the shares made their debut on May 10.

It's also a significant drop from the $2.50 the shares were floated at. At $2.24 each, the 377 million shares bought in the retail offer are now worth $100 million less than investors paid for them back in May this year, and at this rate, Mighty River is unlikely to reach the top 10 index.

So, what has the government got to say about Mighty River Powers falling share price? Nothing!

This is more bad news for National, and more specifically Bill English and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall. Both these idiots had previously claimed that 86.5 percent of the MRP shares issued would be sold to 'mum and dad' investors and 13.5 percent overseas.

Their claims have been proven entirely false, with retail investors gaining only 13.4 percent of the company, which is less than the amount taken by overseas institutions.

It's one thing to lie to the people about who will be benefiting from the partial privatization of state owned assets, but it's another thing entirely when there is no benefit for investors at all.

With MRP shares plummeting, the writing is on the wall for National's plans to partially privatise Meridian Energy, Genesis, and Solid Energy.

26 Jun 2013

Irradiated food labelling a joke

Last Sunday, the NZ Herald reported:

Irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums will arrive for the first time on shop shelves soon.

Public submissions closed last Friday, and a decision to change import health standards to allow the irradiated produce, to prevent the spread of Queensland fruit fly, is expected early next month.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says all irradiated produce must be clearly labelled, whether it is a whole vegetable or a slice of tomato in pizza or a burger.

Today, the Ministry for Primary Industries released its actual Labelling Requirements for Irradiated Food (PDF), and I was disappointed to learn that there's no real requirement for exactly how the irradiated food is labelled.

There is no prescribed wording, so irradiators can pretty much write whatever they want. In addition to this so-called labelling, the international symbol of irradiation known as the radura may or may not be included.

Isn't it pretty? Most people won't even know what this symbol stands for FFS! Here's an article that gives a number of good reasons for why you should avoid any potentially irradiated food.

25 Jun 2013

Farrar is a fool

Today, Kiwibog reported:

Great to hear a Labour MP blast fiscal irresponsibility and raise the alarm on debt. I can only presume Lianne will not be voting Labour at the next election then, as their policies are for more spending and more debt.

What a load of rubbish! When the fifth Labour government gained power in 1999 government debt was around 17% of GDP. They paid this down until it was 9.4% of GDP in 2008.

Then National gained power and started borrowing extensively to fund tax cuts for the rich and roads of little significance. Government debt to GDP is now well over 30%, which is the level at which countries usually start to struggle to meet their commitments.

In fact this debt clock shows National debt at an alarming 38% of GDP. Total debt is even worse at around 130% of GDP, all thanks to Nationals financial mismanagement.

Many of Labour's policies actually pay for themselves. Couple this with an effective capital gains tax and the oppositions policies are far more likely to get New Zealand back in the black again.

If the current borrowing regime continues, National will turn New Zealand into another Greece.

24 Jun 2013

Fluoridation, a waste of resources

There's been a lot of debate recently concerning fluoridated water since the Hamilton council voted to remove it from their cities water supply. The debate has been robust, but there is in fact no clear winner. This has prompted The Jackal to investigate the positive or negative effects of population wide drinking water fluoridation.

The question really comes down to whether the benefits outweigh the cost and any detrimental impact on people's health, and whether there are alternative interventions and strategies that could be employed instead of fluoridation?

In order to understand this we need to look at what the research is telling us, and unfortunately there are defects in most studies because of a lack of appropriate analysis.  For instance no study looks at the degree of tooth decay, dietary changes or the effects of other potential confounding factors.

Despite these research-based issues, there is conclusive evidence that children who drink fluoridated water have slightly less tooth decay. However high levels of fluoride need to be administered to achieve this, with low levels having no measurable benefit compared to people who drink non-fluoridated water. There is also evidence suggesting that there's no benefit in drinking fluoridated water later in life.

The issue here is that even relatively low doses of fluoride have been shown to cause dental fluorosis, or a mottling of tooth enamel. At 1 ppm, far lower than current concentrations, fluoride causes 12.5% of the population aesthetic concern in the form of white streaks, specks, cracking or discoloration of the teeth. This condition is usually permanent.


There has also been some scientific speculation that fluoride can cause an increase of bone fracture and bone development problems, however observer bias and contradictory findings make these studies unreliable. Likewise, studies into the increased risk of cancer from fluoridation have been inconclusive.

Although there are many claims to the contrary, there's currently a lack of any robust scientific evidence to confirm the benefits of fluoridation are greater for people who live in conditions of material deprivation.

In many ways it's still an unresolved debate... However with most of the adverse effects of fluoridation not being properly studied and a number of confounding factors making the existing research unreliable, the use of widespread fluoridation as a way to reduce tooth decay is not recommended.

There is no conclusive evidence that the benefits outweigh the cost and of more concern, the potential detrimental impact on people's health. There is also a number of other ways to help reduce caries in the general population that have been proven just as effective as fluoridation, which do not have any associated health concerns.

Therefore people should be given the opportunity to choose if their water supply is fluoridated or not. Having mass medication that doesn't benefit the majority of the population is of no advantage to society, and is simply a waste of resources.

Instead, a more targeted approach should be taken, which would include increased oral hygiene and dietary education and a reduction in the availability of foods and drinks containing sugar causing tooth decay.

In my opinion, these products should be appropriately taxed, with the proceeds going towards promoting healthier choices. This would have a two fold beneficial effect of helping to reduce obesity, which like the terrible rates of tooth decay in New Zealand is an issue that the government seems determined to ignore.

21 Jun 2013

Citizen A with Efeso Collins and Selwyn Manning

Stop poisoning bees

Today, an industry associated lobby group for most of the major agrochemical businesses in New Zealand, AGCARM, released a so-called Fact Sheet On Neonicotinoids (PDF), which is filled with inaccuracies and blatant lies.

This is in response to the European Commission deciding to impose restrictions on three neonicotinoid compounds (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam), all of which have been shown to cause adverse effects in bee populations.

The restrictions are being imposed because the EFSA identified a number of risks to bees by these three neonicotinoid based insecticides.

But despite their findings, AGCARM thinks it knows best:

The report did not indicate whether the potential theoretical risks to bees should be deemed acceptable or not.

Which is completely untrue! The European Food Safety Authority concluded that the three products pose a ‘high risk’ to honey bees in many crops producing nectar and pollen. That's why their use is being restricted.

EFSA's research is extensive, and despite there being gaps in the available data, they have categorically found that neonicotinoid based pesticides cause adverse effects on bees.

Other peer reviewed research also comes to the same conclusion. But despite a large body of research showing the same thing, AGCARM claims:

Neonic products have been widely used in New Zealand for over 20 years and there is no evidence that they have any adverse impacts on the health of our bee populations.

DDT and 245T were also used for a long time in New Zealand with the manufacturers claiming there were no adverse health effects. We later learned they were lying, who along with the government tried to hide the extent of the damage being caused.

With 80 per cent of all pollination due to the activity of bees, applying neonicotinoid based pesticides to the detriment of this essential part of the ecosystem is madness! Therefore there should be a ban on the use of this scientifically proven unsafe substance in New Zealand.

The manufacturers should need to prove that their products are safe before they are used, and there currently is no unbiased data to this effect.

20 Jun 2013

Rap News 19 - feat. Edward Snowden

Dunne's bureaucratic nonsense

Although I don't usually agree with anything they advocate for, The Sensible Sentencing Trust has come out strongly against Peter Dunne's track record as Associate Minister of Health, and in this instance their criticism is for the most part right on the button.

Today, Scoop reported:

“In a desperate effort to make up for his lethargic approach to suicide prevention in this country, Mr Dunne has recently thrown eight million dollars at the issue, yet refuses to speak to privately funded organisations that are leading the way in this field. It is rich coming from him to accuse the Electoral Committee of petty bureaucracy when he continually responded to requests to amend mental health legislation with one paragraph, bureaucratic nonsense.”

I wouldn't say the Sensible Sentencing Trust is "leading the way" in suicide prevention.

"This is consistent with my attempts to discuss various issues with Mr Dunne relating to criminal offending by those labouring under mental illness”, Mr Moyle says, “The Minister states that it is important to regularly review approaches to suicide prevention and take into account new research and evidence, along with changes in society, yet when it pertains to offending by the mentally ill, he relies on studies carried out in the 1990s, and he has the nerve to accuse the Electoral Committee of living in the days of quill pens and parchment"

Peter Dunne was an absolute failure as Associate Minister of Health in terms of suicide prevention, with the rate increasing markedly under his watch. In fact when the government came under fire for their lack of preventative measures, Dunne had the gall to come out and claim that the rate had decreased, which was an absolute lie!

The suicide rate has increased since 2008, which clearly indicates that increasing social hardship since National gained power is causing more people to commit suicide. Previously suicide had reduced under a Labour government by 27.3% between 1998 and 2007.

Some might argue that there's no relationship between economic conditions and the suicide rate... Here's what the experts say (PDF):

Economic instability and insecurity increase the likelihood of immoderate and unstable life habits, disruption of basic social networks, and major life stresses − in other words, the relative lack of financial and employment security of lower socioeconomic groups is a major source of their higher mortality rates.

~ Brenner

So the exact opposite would apply... If people have economic stability and security they're more likely to have moderate life habits, and less major life stresses. That's where any Minister who gives a damn should focus their attention if they want to reduce New Zealand horrendous suicide rate.

The Electoral Committee not allowing Dunne to register his party is in my opinion a non-issue. Dunne needs to follow the rules, and if he doesn't have enough paid up members and the paper work or electronic equivalent to prove it, he shouldn't receive any additional funding... It's as simple as that.

19 Jun 2013

Something to do in Patea tonight

Fonterra's fracked milk

Today, the Taranaki Daily News reported:

Dairy giant Fonterra will not collect milk from any new landfarms.

Taranaki has a number of landfarms where oil and gas drilling waste is stored in pits and then spread over paddocks.

The practice has attracted critics who claim the landfarms may contain toxins in the soil that could have an effect on the milk produced by cows that graze on the grass.

May contain? Does contain more like. Not only does fracking waste contain a number of highly toxic chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer, it also contains Radium 226, often well above safe levels.

The fact that this hazardous practice was allowed to occur in New Zealand at all is astounding!

Fonterra already accepts milk from six farms but has said no more will be taken on, Radio New Zealand reported this morning.

Thankfully Fonterra have finally realised that accepting milk from any new landfarms will be detrimental to their clean and green image, something the dairy industry relies heavily upon for much of its profits from overseas markets.

Let's hope they also decide to stop accepting milk from the existing six landfarms. With most countries not having a bar of it, surely having any contaminated milk product because of landfarming will be detrimental to Fonterra's bottom line.

The company said the cost of testing the milk is too expensive at about $80,000 per year, and the need to have a public perception of a safe clean dairy industry was also taken into consideration.

Pity it's just a perception, not a reality. With Fonterra being associated with the Chinese melamine scandal in 2008 and growth hormone scandal in 2010 plus the more recent contamination from soil-treatment product DCD found in 371 New Zealand milk samples, a safe and clean dairy industry is clearly not happening.

Unfortunately milk produced in New Zealand isn't being tested for Radium 226 at all. Fonterra is talking about testing for other toxins and Cesium 137, which is a requirement by most of our main overseas markets. With the milk and farms themselves not being tested for Radium 226, there can be no real assurance that consumer’s health isn't being put at risk.

The Taranaki Regional Council says landfarming is safe and has no environmental effect except to improve coastal sandy soils for productive farming.

But they admit there is limited information to inform their decisions.

There's no scientific information to show that landfarming "improves coastal sandy soils" or is in fact safe, and a number of reports from overseas that show it isn't safe and has adversely affected people's health. That's why many countries have moved to ban the practice outright.

Being that the Taranaki Regional Council consists mainly of people associated with the oil and gas industry, we should be sceptical about anything they claim.

In my opinion, any potential threat to people's health through contaminated milk products should be eliminated, and therefore landfarming and likewise fracking in general should be halted forthwith. The potential adverse affects clearly don’t outweigh the benefits.

Fracking waste leaching from BTW's Browns Road landfarm in Taranaki - June 2013.

18 Jun 2013

#ChangeBrazil

Family First wrong

Yesterday, Voxy reported:

Family First NZ says that six years since the anti-smacking law was passed in a supposed effort to lower our child abuse rates, it has been confirmed as a spectacular failure based on flawed ideology.

Actually, the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 (PDF) is likely to be the main reason children requiring the care of the Chief Executive reduced by 18 per cent (from 6136 cases to 5020) between 2008 and 2011. Likewise, children being placed in CYF's care reduced by 14 per cent (from 4522 placements to 3885) in the same time period.

The amendment came into effect in June 2007, and the only plausible explanation for such a dramatic reduction is that the law change has in fact worked.

On Monday, the Prime Minster was interviewed on Breakfast TV about the issue:

But there were about 6000 children who were in um Child Youth and Family care, so essentially looked after by a foster parent or more likely than not last year in which there were 23 cases of abuse. So we do have to say most foster parents do a fantastic job of looking after children, some are not.

If Key's figures are correct, it's astounding that there's been such a huge increase of children requiring the states assistance. From 5020 in 2011 to "about 6000" in 2012 is an astronomical jump in just one year. So what's the reason for this increase?

Family First is also rubbishing claims by Prime Minister John Key that the increased numbers of child abuse simply reflect an increase in reporting.

Thankfully Mandatory reporting for Police and DHB's was implemented in 2009, so we would expect to see an increase in children being placed in care in the following two years if there was previously widespread underreporting.

Personally I think Key and Family First are both wrong! For Key to be correct, underreporting would have to be extensive, which is clearly not the case. The conservative Christian group is simply wrong! There has been four years of steady decline in severe cases of abuse requiring the states intervention since the law was amended.

In my opinion, that initial decline in children being referred to CYF's care because of the law change has now been surpassed by the degradation the neoliberal agenda has caused society. With reduced wages, less services and a harsher welfare regime, more people are stressed, and this sometimes results in them taking it out on their children.

It would help the debate immensely if those concerned with the welfare of children got their facts straight. With approximately 15 per cent of children in New Zealand at risk of abuse, and over 80,000 children witnessing family violence each year, this is something we simply cannot get wrong.

17 Jun 2013

Where the buck should stop

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

...It is now common practice, when things go wrong, for ministers - not to defend their officials, but to blame them - as a means of avoiding any responsibility themselves.

The most recent and egregious example is the outfall from the Novopay debacle. A process that has created huge damage to an important public sector undertaking - our schools - was monitored and eventually signed off by three ministers; when they put their signatures to the sign-off, they in effect accepted responsibility for what they had decided.

We are now told that they did not know what they were signing because they had been provided with inaccurate information by their officials. The consequence is that the senior officials involved have been hung out to dry; two have departed (the second under threat of an investigation) and the pressure is mounting against the third.

The ministers sail on unchallenged and unaffected. It was not, it seems, anything to do with them. In this, they are following an unfortunate precedent set - among others - by Murray McCully.

Considering there's a complete lack of any ministerial accountability, one has to ask the question; do we really need a government at all? If all a Minister of the Crown needs to do is pass the buck down the chain of command in order to save their own hides, then what use are they?

I ask because with big business effectively owning the government, more and more decisions are being made that only benefit the 2 per cent, while the vast majority of people are paying a very high price indeed for a failing system. Clearly the current situation is detrimental to democracy, and verily to society in general as well.

There simply isn’t any progress when Ministers continually make the wrong decisions because it suits their business interests or defunct ideology, and without any consequences for those wrong decisions, how can we hope the current lot of errant Ministers will start making the right decisions instead?

14 Jun 2013

13 Jun 2013

Kim Dotcom - The RAID

New Zealand oil spill response team

Loose lips sink ships

In the budget debates (PDF) last Month, Bill English announced:

The Government will invest $158 million over four years to attract more visitors to New Zealand, particularly high-spending visitors. This includes funding to attract high-end visitors from emerging markets and funding to attract international business events to New Zealand.

Today, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a document relating to statistics on tourism (PDF) for New Zealand. It shows there's been zero growth in international visitors over the last year and that domestic tourism is in decline. There's also been a 2% decline of how much each visitor is spending.

Being that there's a 13% decline of international visitors from the UK, it's my guess that John Keys' statement re David Beckham has caused some serious harm to our tourism industry.

Exactly how much the Prime Ministers stupidity has cost us may never be known... But it’s likely that calling a well-liked football legend "thick" has a multi-million dollar price tag attached to it.

Unfortunately most Kiwis weren't aware of just how huge the backlash against Key was, especially in Britain. But one thing is clear... Throwing more taxpayer dollars at a problem Key has caused is obviously not the answer.

Lack of evidence based policy reform

If you've got a moment, and can stop laughing at a speech by Bill English being likened to a "god-ordained" moment, it might be worth reading Kim Workman's entire speech on Reducing Crime and Reoffending (PDF) in New Zealand, presented at Victoria University on Tuesday.

There are a number of poignant and relevant comments that don't just relate to researching the topic of criminal behaviour and how best to spend our criminological dollar, but also relate to journalism and policy development in general.

Here's an excerpt from her conclusion that I found particularly interesting:

We must not be discouraged. Evidence is intellectually and socially important on all these issues. Even with those non-negotiable items, evidence sharpens and clarifies what the issues really are. For example, if there is no credible empirical evidence to show that prison acts as a deterrent, people who support imprisonment for ideological reasons, may hide behind a claim that prison incapacitates offenders; i.e. that while in prison they cannot victimise. If they are confronted with the emerging evidence, i.e. that prison simply postpones offending behaviour, then they are left to defend the policy on moral grounds - a much more difficult proposition.

Last week I watched the You Tube Parliamentary speeches in support of the The Prisoners and Victims Claims (Continuation and Reform) Act; legislation which allows victims of crime to take the compensation granted to prisoners who have been abused or mistreated by the state. The legislation is morally corrupt, and the discomfort on the faces of politicians speaking on this legislation, was palpable. There was no rational justification for the legislation, and they were left in a vulnerable place, supporting morally indefensible legislation, in the absence of empirical evidence for its support.

Kim Workman is correct; the Prisoners and Victims Claims (Continuation and Reform) Act is indeed morally corrupt. Unfortunately the current governments moral compass doesn't look like being fixed anytime soon by an evidence based argument.

But what else is new? We see the same thing with the debate concerning marijuana legislation, private prisons and charter schools. In fact nearly every policy change the current government is advancing is not supported by the evidence.

As Workman succinctly points out; "researchers have been largely replaced by legislators and politicians, in influencing media reports and public policy." In my opinion, this dynamic can only be detrimental, and a return to an evidence based policy direction is required to ensure our society isn't further degraded by politicians with ulterior motives.

Mallard a bully?

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Police Minister Anne Tolley said Labour MP Trevor Mallard was attempting to destroy the career of deputy commissioner Mike Bush, who she described as one of New Zealand's top-performing policemen.

That's a pretty big claim to make.

At a parliamentary select committee yesterday, Mr Mallard asked Police Commissioner Peter Marshall whether he supported Mr Bush's eulogy at the funeral of former detective inspector Bruce Hutton in April.

Mr Bush told mourners that Mr Hutton - who was found to have planted evidence in a murder inquiry - had "integrity beyond reproach".

Only somebody with questionable morals would plant evidence to ensure a wrongful conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas for the murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe.

With knowledge of this gross injustice, Bush claiming that Hutton had "integrity beyond reproach" is simply delusional! In my opinion, anybody that deluded who makes such clearly false statements shouldn't be in a position of power.

Mr Marshall said he "absolutely" supported Mr Bush's attendance at the funeral.

He also defended the eulogy.

"You have to remember this was a funeral service attended by grieving family, by grieving friends and associates of the deceased and he made those comments in the context of that particular set of circumstances."

Mr Mallard then accused the Police Minister of lying in the House with regard to Mike Bush's eulogy.

Basically Peter Marshall is saying it's OK to lie as long as the people where you make that false statement will accept it. Unfortunately for them the lie has been exposed to the public, and more importantly to Arthur Allan Thomas' family.

Clearly anybody who plants false evidence to convict an innocent person has no integrity, and Bush saying otherwise looks like the Police are accepting of that kind of corruption.

The fact that Hutton was never convicted for planting false evidence also shows that the Police are accepting of this kind of corrupt practice.

I note that Marshall and Tolley have both defended Bush's statement, which implies that they also support Hutton's despicable actions and think that he has integrity.

What does it say about their morals when a senior officer who plants false evidence isn't criticized, those who praise such an obviously corrupt officer are defended and those that question such positions are chastised?

After the meeting, Mr Bush said his comments had been directed at Mr Hutton's family.

"They weren't meant to be taken by any wider audience and they weren't meant to cause offence to anyone."

Well they have caused offence, and for that a formal apology should be offered to Arthur Allan Thomas' family as well as the general public. The Police need to accept that praising an officer who has been found to falsify evidence is unacceptable no matter the circumstances.

Mrs Tolley said she would not tolerate senior police officers being harassed.

"Trevor's just a bully. And I'm not going to allow the police to be bullied."

I don't think Trevor was being a bully in this instance... He simply appears to be standing up against police corruption and saying that those who promote it should not be in the force.

Of course the manner in which Mallard went about making his point could probably have been a bit more diplomatic, but a lack of diplomacy isn't the making of a bully. If that was the case, then the bully label could be widely applied, especially across the current governments benches.

12 Jun 2013

Make way for Noddy

11 Jun 2013

Forced exit destabilises government

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Talk of any byelection in Dunne's Ohariu seat is premature. An early election is in the realm of the fanciful.

I'm not sure what reasoning is behind John Armstrong's claim, but he is clearly making shit up.

Peters has referred the latest matter to the police, but that is not expected to result in any moves to prosecute Dunne.

Really? As far as I'm aware, the Police haven't made any statement about the issue apart from saying they're investigating it.

Armstrong is obviously talking nonsense! He simply cannot know what the police investigation regarding who leaked the sensitive Kitteridge report (PDF) will turn up.

The Police investigation will likely look at the emails Dunne has refused to release and it appears the only reason for Dunne to try and keep those emails secret is because they will confirm him to be the leaker.

The Henry report (PDF) clearly points the finger at Dunne being the leaker, stating:

I [David Henry] identified three people who had access to the Kitteridge report prior to 9 April and who had contact with the reporter. Two were public servants and one was the leader of a political party supporting the National-led government.

In relation to the two public servants I have obtained all the information I required, including the content of emails exchanged with the reporter over the period 22 March to 9 April (inclusive). I have established those contacts were entirelly commensurate with their official duties.

[...]

I have not obtained all the information I require from Mr Dunne. I advised him that I considered it necassary for the purpose of this inquiry to have access to the full text of 86 email exchanges between him and the reporter during the period 27 March to 9 April. Mr Dunne declined to allow me to read those emails.

So, only one of three people (two of whom were ruled out) could have leaked the Kitterridge report and Dunne is refusing to release all the emails he had with the reporter who broke the story, Andrea Vance. In my opinion it's pretty clear that Dunne leaked the embargoed report, which is a serious security issue.

But despite this being a tonne of egg on the governments face, Armstrong claims:

If Peters' blowtorch did burn Dunne to the point of his leaving the House, National would more than likely win the subsequent byelection.

Although Dunne won nearly 39 per cent of the electorate vote in Ohariu in 2011, National won close to 50 per cent of the party vote in the seat against Labour's 26 per cent.

What Armstrong is ignoring is that electorates are won with electorate votes, not party votes. In Ōhariu, Labours electorate vote was over 34% while National only had 18%.

Only a truly deluded fool would make a statement of fact that National would win a by-election in Ōhariu, and that there might not need to be one.

It would be a different sort of byelection - one in which voters would be unable to register a protest vote just for the sake of it because a Labour win would be seen as leaving the Government less stable.

This makes no sense... Most people who vote out of protest won't be concerned with their vote destabilising the government.

In the next sentence, Armstrong completely contradicts his assertion by saying the government wouldn't be destabilised anyway even if Labour won Ōhariu.

Either Labour winning Ōhariu would destabilise the government or it won't... Armstrong can't have it both ways.

In my opinion, the sooner old fool Armstrong and the Dunce are given their marching orders the better.

9 Jun 2013

Irrelevant propagandists

In spectacular fashion (as exiting as politics in New Zealand get anyway) Peter Dunne has resigned as a Minister of the Crown, and looks set to end his political career in disgrace.

With a few well-timed statements and insider info, Winston Peters could have in fact brought down the government... The reason being that if Dunne is found by the Police to have leaked confidential information he will be forced from parliament, which would mean National's already tenuous hold on power becomes even flimsier.

If the government cannot pass legislation, a call of no confidence would be successful, and a snap election that National will likely lose will be called.

The stakes are very high indeed and currently Peter Dunne is stuck high and dry for people to speculate about his motivations. The embattled MP has already admitted there's no credible excuse for not releasing all his email correspondence with the reporter who broke the story about the Kitteridge report, Andrea Vance. Despite that non-disclosure, what is clear is that the right wing propagandist’s couldn't have been more incorrect when they dismissed Peters’ proclamations out of hand.

At the time, it was clear to me that Peters wouldn’t have made such claims without being able to follow through. The fallout from making false claims of this nature could’ve been just as damaging to Peters' career as they have proven to be for Dunne.

However Peters gained knowledge of who the leaker was, the reaction by many right wing propagandists when he made that information public was clearly inappropriate. Obviously their defunct opinions were based on nothing more than speculation and hatred, which caused them to lose all objectivity.

Here's David Farrar venting his spleen:

This is a cowardly and defamatory smear. It is especially cowardly because Peters has a long record of suing people for defamation (and threatening numerous more that he will do so) yet he cowers under parliamentary privilege to defame Dunne.

The issue here isn't how the public was informed, or whether Peters ensured he was protected with parliamentary privilege, which exists for a very good reason. The issue is that Peters has been proven to be correct... Why else would Dunne resign? That makes Farrar entirely wrong, and he should apologize for his unacceptable comments.

Another propagandist who should apologize for his pathetic analysis is NBR reporter Jock Anderson, who wrote (pay-walled):

Mr Peters does not have the guts to repeat his allegation outside Parliament because he is afraid Mr Dunne might sue him for defamation.

This suggests Mr Peters knows his allegation is not true.

That's bad enough, but what about the reaction from the most deluded right wing propagandist of them all, Cameron Slater:

Of course it isn’t true…even yesterday in parliament he failed to produce any evidence, bizarrely suggesting that cellphone records would prove the leak of a document.

Get that, another statement of fact by the slug that has been proven entirely wrong. Why exactly Slater thinks cell phone records can't prove Dunne is the leaker shows just how deluded old blubber guts is. The paid propagandist also wrote:

Winston Peters is a cancer on the body politic. Good on Jock Anderson for calling out Winston Peters. 

Yeah! Good on Jock for putting his foot right in the proverbial and Farrar and Slater jumping in like the idiots they are.

These divisive individuals also put the boot into Peters about a Privileges Committee investigation concerning donations NZ First received from Owen Glen. What they fail to report is that Winston Peters was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Serious Fraud Office. Any reference to historic events the propagandists have made to try and paint Peters in a bad light should be viewed for what it is, muckraking!

The fact that the right is desperately trying to discredit Winston Peters with their suppositions clearly shows where NZ First’s allegiance in forming any future government should be.

What this all shows is that the opinions of the tory propagandists are entirely worthless! They have no credibility and have proven time and time again their ineptitude at reading and reporting the facts.

The mainstream media should learn to ignore their spin doctoring. That’s if they want to be taken seriously, which is obviously not a goal for people like David Farar, Cameron Slater and Jock Anderson.

8 Jun 2013

Swallowing dead rats

With the demise of United Future and the Act party, most of National's coalition partners will likely not be around after the next election to help form a right wing government. That leaves the Natz in a precarious position and somewhat desperate for friends.

One potential friend could be found in the form of Winston Peters, who managed (thanks to the teapot tape scandal) to get seven other MPs into the House of Representatives at the last election.

Prior to that election, John Key had categorically ruled Winny out, saying:

I want to lead an aspirational Government, I don't believe a Winston Peters Government does that.

Got that... Winston isn't aspirational enough. The Prime Minister also said:

If Peters holds the balance of power then it will be a Phil Goff led Government.

I would be interested to know what exactly has changed to now make NZ First an option? After all, Key has spent the last few years burning down any bridges between the two parties.

Here's another statement by Key that criticizes NZ First:

It's not a matter of political convenience, it's a matter of political principle - we just do not find NZ First acceptable.

Those insults are probably why Winston more recently rejected Keys offer to meet.

As far as I can tell, the only thing to have changed is that National now has no friends and will likely require NZ First's help if they want to retain power, provided NZ First can pass the 5% threshold that is.

In my opinion, this is an entirely unprincipled decision, but one that's obviously not beneath Key.

In order to stitch up a deal with NZ First, Key would need to swallow a whole bucket load of dead rats, which is something not many voters will have the stomach for.

7 Jun 2013

ExxonMobil tar sands spill

Citizen A with Colin Craig & Wayne Hope

Dunne's position untenable

Today, Stuff reported:

Government Minister Peter Dunne has quit after the release of a report into the leaking of a Government Communications Security Bureau report.

In a statement, Prime Minister John Key said the report by David Henry into the leaking of Rebecca Kitteridge's review to Fairfax Media reporter Andrea Vance showed that Dunne had not met all the requests for information.

There can really only be one explanation for withholding information, Dunne leaked the report.

Dunne had given a categorical assurance to Key that he did not leak the report and the Prime Minister said "I want to believe him" but, because Dunne could not cooperate, he had no choice other than to accept his resignation.

Even John Key appears to believe Dunne leaked the report... Why else would Dunne offer up his resignation and John Key accept it? This is very serious indeed, as leaking official government documents is by all intents and purposes an act of treason.

Section 78A of the Crimes Act (PDF) states:

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, being a person who owes allegiance to the Queen in right of New Zealand, within or outside New Zealand, (a) knowingly or recklessly, and with knowledge that he is acting without proper authority, communicates any official information or delivers any object to any other person knowing that such communication or delivery is likely to prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand.

There is no doubt that the leaking of the Kitteridge report (PDF) caused the government a huge headache. Whether that amounts to prejudicing the security and defence of New Zealand is yet to be seen.

Today, Winston Peters made a formal complaint to the Police about the issue, which is likely to accuse Peter Dunne of being a traitor. If found guilty, Dunne would be automatically expelled from parliament. That would likely cause a snap election, being that the government would not be able to pass any legislation the Maori party didn't agree with.

The choice Dunne has to make is whether he wants to drag things out in the vain hope that his teams prospects of winning the next election improve. In my opinion, the discredited Peter Dunne should do the honorable thing and resign from parliament forthwith. Of course that would mean an end to his numerous perks of the job, so he's likely to hang on as long as he can.

The war you don't see

Living for a cause





Labour beware?

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Here is some free advice for Labour. Leave the persecution of Peter Dunne to Winston Peters to handle.

The hounding of United Future's sole MP is fast resembling an old-fashioned witch-hunt.

A witch-hunt? Clearly John Armstrong has lost the plot. The issue here is that Peter Dunne continuing to receive public money for a deregistered political party is bringing the House into disrepute. Any MP who actually has morals should be outraged!

There is no reasonable excuse for flouting the rules and allowing Dunne to keep receiving $122,000 per year of taxpayers money he's no longer entitled to.

But instead of criticizing David Carter for his entirely unacceptable decision, Armstrong is focusing attention on the response to the Speakers stupidity... Talk about biased journalism.

The rationale for Peters' pursuit of Dunne is obvious - the weakening of National's grip on power by forcing out the MP whose vote gives National a majority without having to rely on the Maori Party.

Of course there are politics being played here, but it's not the only reason for Winston Peters pursuing Dunne about the leaked Kitteridge report (PDF) and being outraged about the Speakers cronyism. I believe the overriding motivation here is that Winston Peters is an old school politician who believes in accountability.

Holding officials to account is an important function and in my opinion, parliament is in need of more watchdogs that will stand up for what's right. The reason Dunne looks so worried is because Winston won't let this matter rest, nor should he.

But the means are beginning to sully the ends. Yesterday's chaotic scenes in Parliament - which included Trevor Mallard's walkout along with the subsequent exit in similar protest of NZ First's full complement of MPs - was the result of fury with Speaker David Carter's decision to allow Dunne to keep the extra taxpayer-provided funding that he gets as the leader of a parliamentary party even though that party currently does not have the requisite 500 fully paid-up members needed to qualify.

The boycotting of parliament is an effective way to get the story some attention... Otherwise the mainstream media would likely disregard reporting such events and the public would be none the wiser about corruption at the highest levels.

Strangely, Armstrong seems to be tolerating the corruption while also recognising that it's wrong.

Sure, Carter might have got it wrong in allowing Dunne to keep the money. Equally, the Speaker might be seen as only being fair in giving Dunne a "reasonable opportunity" to put the matter right. Whatever, it all fails to add up to the sort of constitutional outrage which supposedly justified senior Labour MPs shouting "corruption".

I very much doubt there would be an equal amount of public opinion in favour of the Speaker giving Dunne an opportunity to sort his affairs out. Most reasonable minded New Zealanders would be just as aghast at David Carters' corrupt decision as the opposition if they were aware of the rules.

The Speaker is clearly ignoring Standing Orders, which state:

Every political party registered under Part 4 of the Electoral Act 1993, and in whose interest a member was elected at the preceding general election or at any subsequent by-election, is entitled to be recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes.

United Future is no longer a registered political party under Part 4 of the Electoral Act (PDF), and therefore Dunne is not entitled to continue receiving the extra $122,000 in funding per year. There is no grace period under the law between being deregistered and losing the perks.

Obviously Dunne should also lose some of his speaking rights in Parliament and membership on certain committees, which being a leader previously granted him. Anything less is a travesty.

But instead of recognising that this is the main issue, Armstrong is clasping straws:

The net result is that Labour looks like it is very much party to Peters' campaign to force Dunne out.

I really don't see a problem with Labour and NZ First agreeing on this matter... Besides, Dunne can remain in parliament as an independent. However if it's found that he leaked the Kitteridge report, the bouffant should go.

There should be no place in the House of Representatives for politicians who actively flout the rules and are only there to feather their own nest. Thankfully Armstrong seems to agree with this point of view.

Peters has already done enough to put Dunne's standing as an MP in question if the inquiry being conducted by former senior public servant David Henry finds that Dunne was the likely source of the leak of the highly sensitive Kitteridge report on the Government Communication Security Bureau to the media.

In my opinion, there's no harm to Peters' credibility in keeping these issues the focus of attention. What is apparent though is that Armstrong simply doesn't like the NZ First leader for some reason and is letting his blinkered opinion in this instance impede his journalism.

There is another telling reason for Labour to keep its distance from Peters. Would Labour be complaining about the Speaker's ruling were the political boot on the other foot and Labour needed Dunne's support?

Of course not. The public can spot such hypocrisy from miles away. And it does not like it.

Clearly Armstrong doesn't have a firm grip on public opinion and is simply making shit up. The boot would simply not be on the other foot, because any speaker from the opposition's ranks would never make such an obviously incorrect and corrupt decision.

6 Jun 2013

The Biggest Threat to the Internet

Navajo coal

Inside job

Rena to hold her secrets

For over a year and a half now The Jackal has been attempting to learn exactly what was onboard the MV Rena when it ran aground near Tauranga on 5 October 2011. I was wanting this information to try and work out the potential environmental impact, but unfortunately my efforts have been in vain.

On 10 October 2011, I made a formal request under the Official Information Act (PDF) to Maritime New Zealand for information relating to what the MV Rena was carrying, which they declined. I then approached the Ombudsman about that lack of disclosure.

This week, I received the Ombudsman's final ruling on the matter:

OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT COMPLAINT
MARITIME NEW ZEALAND
REQUEST FOR A COPY OF THE INVENTORY LIST FOR THE MV RENA

Ombudsman

Thank you for your email of 19 September 2012, concerning your Official Information Act (OIA) complaint about the decision of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) to refuse your request for the inventory list of the cargo on the MV Rena.

Following receipt of your email, the investigator assisting me sought further information from MNZ and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the shipping company that chartered the MV Rena. By email of 8 May 2013, MNZ released some further information to you.

I have now had an opportunity to consider your comments on my provisional view and the further information provided to me. Having considered all the issues raised, I have now formed the opinion that it was open to MNZ to refuse your request, on the basis that it is necessary to protect information where the release of that information would be likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the shipping company and those shipping and receiving cargo on the MV Rena (section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the OIA refers).

While there is a high public interest in the release of information about the cargo on the MV Rena, the further information provided to you meets this interest.
I have outlined the basis for my opinion below.

My role

As an Ombudsman, I am authorised to investigate and review, on complaint, any decision by which an agency subject to the OIA refuses to make official information available when requested.

My role in undertaking an investigation is to evaluate the grounds for refusing requests for official information in terms of the tests set out in the OIA, and to form an opinion as to whether the request was properly refused.

Background

On 10 October 2011 you requested the inventory list detailing what the MV Rena cargo ship was carrying when it struck Astrolabe reef on 5 October 2011.

By letter of 8 November 2011, MNZ advised that it held the cargo manifest for the MV Rena, and that it was withholding this information pursuant to section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the OIA.
You asked me to investigate the decision to withhold the cargo manifest.

Relevant to this investigation, section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the OIA provides good reason for withholding official information where it is necessary to: "protect information where the making available of the information ... would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied or who is the subject of the information".

The interest in withholding the information must not be "outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make that
information available" (section 9(1) of the OIA refers).

Comments by MNZ

The investigator assisting me met with MNZ to discuss the decision to withhold the manifest.

She was advised that the manifest is the only information held by MNZ that falls within the scope of your request. It was provided to MNZ following the notice issued on 6 October 2011 pursuant to section 248 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994.

The manifest is very detailed, and includes:

who is shipping the cargo;
who is receiving the cargo;
the route on which the goods are shipped;
the number and kind of packages;
a description of the goods; and
the gross weight and measurements of the goods.

Shipping manifests are not available to the public, and are very rarely provided to port control authorities. MNZ advised that shipping routes are commercially sensitive.

The route a particular vessel takes impacts on the profit ability of thatvessel. I understand that this information cannot be determined from other publicly available documents. MNZ advised that if the shipping routes were released, it would be likely to impact on the competitive position of the shipping company.

The manifest also provides information on MSC's customers. Release of information identifying MSC's customers would prejudice MSC as it would enable competitors to target the MSC's customer base. The prejudice would be unreasonable as the information is not publicly available for any other shipping company.

Where operating commercially, details of the vendor, purchaser and volume of goods is also commercially sensitive. The volume of goods bought and sold, and the supplier of those goods, impacts on the commercial position of both the vendor and purchaser. Based on the information recorded in the manifest, other suppliers of similar products could target purchasers, and competitors to purchasers would be made aware of the volume and type of goods being imported and their source.

The investigator queried whether this information could be removed from the manifest and the manifest then made available with essentially just a list of the cargo on the MV Rena.

She was advised that this information is already publicly available, and was provided to you. However, it transpired that this reference was only to the list of dangerous goods.

My provisional opinion

By email of 18 September 2012, I advised you of my provisional view on the complaint.
I considered that the commercial position of both MSC and commercial vendors and purchasers of goods would be likely to be prejudiced by release of the manifest, through the disclosure of shipping routes, customers of MSC, and details of vendors and purchasers of the goods carried together with the level of stock bought and sold.

This would be unreasonable as it is commercially sensitive information that is not made available in regard to any other shipping company.

I therefore accepted that release of the manifest would be likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of MSC and commercial importers and suppliers of goods on the MV Rena (section 9(2)(b)(ii) refers).

I considered that there was some public interest in the release of information about the cargo on the MV Rena, though this would be confined to toxic or dangerous cargo. I could not see what public interest there would be in information on general cargo carried by the MV Rena. Having reviewed the manifest and the information made available by MNZ, I considered that the public interest was met by the already available information.
I invited you to comment on my provisional view.

Your comments

By email of 19 September 2012 you commented on my view. You advised:

I have not made a request for the MV Rena's entire Cargo Manifest, I have made a request for the inventory list. I am not interested in knowing who is shipping what cargo, who is receiving the cargo, the address of either party or the route the cargo takes. I am specifically interested in exactly what is being shipped and in what quantities?

Maritime New Zealand has released some of this information already because of public interest in dangerous goods, but that release of information does not entirely fulfil my request for information. The reason I'm interested in exactly what the MV Rena was carrying is because of the cumulative effect of various substances. I believe Maritime New Zealand has not considered this aspect and might view some substances to be innocuous when in fact they are not when combined together. Only a complete inventory list including quantities will allow a proper environmental impact calculation to be undertaken.

Maritime New Zealand has shown that there's no commercial sensitivity in releasing information on what the MV Rena was carrying because they have already released information concerning dangerous substances.

Please let me assure you that the information if released will not be released further to any competitor shipping companies. Information concerning what the MV Rena was carrying will only be published if there is a public or scientific interest in making that information available to the general public.

There's considerable public interest in the effects on the environment from the MV Rena disaster and no reasonable argument for not releasing the requested information because of commercial sensitivity. In my opinion, there's no risk to the companies financial or legal position by upholding my request and any commercial prejudice that is being perceived is entirely unreasonable.

Further comments from MNZ

The investigator discussed your comments with MNZ.

As noted above, the only information held by MNZ that fell within the scope of your request was the manifest. MNZ did not hold a less detailed list of the goods on the MV Rena.

The investigator therefore suggested release of one of the fields in the manifest that described the goods carried on the MV Rena.

MNZ were unable to provide detailed comments on the specific field.

Comments from MSC

The investigator consulted MSC on the release of the specific description field. In doing so the investigator noted the public interest in release of information about the cargo on the MV Rena.

MSC advised that release of the column would be extremely detrimental to its business. Many of its clients work in a small export sector, and release of the detailed description of the goods and volume shipped would provide competitors with an advantage over MSC.

MSC gave the examples of specific products, and how competitors could review the released information and then target specific exporters. MSC advised that importing and exporting in New Zealand is extremely competitive.

The investigator asked how that differed from the scenario where a shipping company could list the exporters of a specific product and target the exporters who do not currently use that company's services. MSC advised that knowing the current shipping company an exporter used would enable a competitor to tailor a package specifically to that exporter, with reference to the current service provided by MSC.

MSC also noted that the specific field of the manifest is the only free field section of the manifest. Clients can enter any details they wish to be on the bill of lading into that field.

The investigator sought release of a high level list of goods on the MVRena. MSC advised that it would not be willing to release quantities, as this would often disclose the client, but could release a high level list.

Further information released to you

By email of 8 May 2013, MNZ released to you the high level list of goods created by MSC following its meeting with the investigator.

Here's the released short description of goods the MV Rena was carrying:

Click on images to enlarge

My opinion

Based on the information outlined above, I have now formed the opinion that it is open to MNZ to refuse your request, on the basis that it is necessary to protect information where the release of that information would be likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the shipping company and those shipping and receiving cargo on the MV Rena (section 9(2)(b)(ii) of the OIA refers).

While there is a high public interest in the release of information about the cargo on the MV Rena, the further information provided to you meets this interest.
I have now concluded my investigation of your complaint.

Yours sincerely

David McGee Ombudsman

It's unfortunate that Maritime New Zealand is refusing to release the full inventory, making me wonder exactly what substances the MV Rena was carrying that they don't want the public to know about?

I guess we will never know what this substance leaking from the stricken ship, which in my opinion looks a lot like yellowcake, actually is.

Interestingly enough the Australian government also sites "unreasonably prejudice of commercial position" as a reason to not inform the public of what ships are carrying yellowcake. Is it just a coincidence that the MV Rena was on a known shipping route for transporting yellowcake from Australia? I guess New Zealand isn't as nuclear free as the public is led to believe.

Eyewitness account of the Gulf of Mexico disaster

Don't donate to a bad cause

Those bigots over at the Centre for Political Research have done it again. This time it's a watered down version of their last hysterical pamphlet claiming the constitutional review was going to "give the tribal elite supreme power in New Zealand"... Yeah Right!

Preying on gullible people's fears, the pamphlet is entitled; New Zealand, are we about to be crippled...permanently? It basically asks for money because they don't like the Treaty of Waitangi being formally recognised in government legislation. In other words they want money to promote their racism.

The racist document (PDF) also states:

If we’re not careful, our nation could end up paying a very high price for National’s coalition deal with the Maori Party. New Zealand could end up forever divided along racial lines.

Newsflash! New Zealand is already divided along racial lines... That's why Maori and Pacific people are overrepresented in most negative statistics in New Zealand.

The best way to remedy this is to build a fairer society that doesn't discriminate. One way to help achieve that goal is to have a zero tolerance policy for the publication of racially divisive articles, such as the one the Centre for Political Research is trying to promote.


5 Jun 2013

Lusk lies and leaks

Unless you've been on holiday like me, you should be aware that the far rights agenda to further corporatize our political system has come crashing down in spectacular fashion.

This hasn't been a result of any malicious intent by the left, but is instead a result of the far right shooting themselves in the foot. It's also a result of the leaking of specific documents that clearly highlights problems within the National party.

The first leaked document (PDF) outlines the aims and objectives of a so-called fiscally conservative group consisting of Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater and David Farrar. It makes some ludicrous claims such as there being credible right wing blogs and that these blogs "control the blogosphere." Meanwhile in New Zealand left wing blogs outnumber right wing blogs ten to one.

It also confirms that the Ports of Auckland worked with certain bloggers to malign striking workers, documents an intent to blackball MP's the group doesn't like, talks about taking over the public service sector and how to buy their way into power with increased donor control and contributions from overseas.

The second document (PDF) is a timetable for a two-day seminar at Kauri Glen Lodge in which Lusk along with blogger's Cameron Slater and David Farrar presented their "visions" for a not so brighter future. Perhaps the funniest thing about that agenda is the 45-minute speech Slater gave about Being a Small Target... Yeah Right!

The third leaked document (PDF) is by far the most interesting... It's the confidential minutes from a National party Board meeting held in March 2012, with an Update on Simon Lusk stating:

Michael [Woodhouse] reported a disturbing discussion he has had with Simon Lusk that highlighted his motivations and a very negative agenda for the party.
It was agreed that light needs to be shed on these issues with Key influences within the party.
It was further agreed that his agenda represents a serious risk to the Party and this issue will be followed up with a further meeting between the President and the Whip.

In response to these revelations, the best Slater and Farrar can come up with is to manufacture a controversy about a left wing activist, Martyn Bradbury. They claim he also has a conflict of interest because he works for the Mana party, something he's already openly declared. The difference is that Bomber isn't working against people within the Mana party, whereas Lusk et al clearly are working against the long-term interests of the National party... That's why they've been labelled a threat.

On Saturday, The Nation also covered the story:



Lusk is claiming to have lost his voice and has made no public comment about his anti-democratic campaigning. Instead, his business partner Cameron Slater states on his behalf that he will be "ecstatic" with the extensive media coverage, as if losing all credibility is a good thing.

The issue here isn't about people receiving remuneration for their work, it's about the agenda certain factions have and the direction they want to take New Zealand politics in. Clearly the direction the far right faction of Lusk, Slater and Farrar want to take New Zealand in will be bad for our political system, and consequently detrimental to our Kiwi way of life.

With some of those speaking at and attending the anti-democratic seminar working for Judith Collins and those very same people being viewed as a threat by many within the National party, it's pretty clear that there's a huge rift within the current government's ranks. It's not long now till they completely unravel at the seams.

The week that was

What a week to have a break from blogging.

First United Future was deregistered because Peter Dunne couldn't muster up 500 people silly enough to pay his membership fees. Then Winston Peters accused the somewhat deflated bouffant of leaking a report into the GCSB’s illegal spying, which is yet to be released to the public. The NZ First leader was careful to make his accusations under parliamentary privilege, but one thing is certain; Dunne's days in parliament are clearly numbered.

Another two prominent right-wingers had their names in the headlines for all the wrong reasons... Former National Minister "Sir" Douglas Graham is facing a sentence more befitting his crimes after the Financial Markets Authority appealed his and another three Lombard Finance directors slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. After making untrue statements that caused investors to lose $127 million, there's no doubt that the discredited Graham should be stripped of his Knighthood.

Also in the dog box again this week, Act party leader John Banks faces the prospect of being removed from parliament if it's found that he knowingly received political donations from Kim Dotcom and SkyCity that were recorded as anonymous. This could potentially be the undoing of the government who would struggle to pass legislation if Banks is found guilty. With the poll of polls showing a Labour/Greens coalition on the cards, a snap election is something National will be wanting to avoid.

Then there was the release of a report into the Novapay debacle, which pretty much blames the Ministry of Education for the entire mess. It even goes so far as to say they misled Bill English, Hekia Parata and Craig Foss. This seems highly unlikely, with the Ministry keeping the government well informed of the issues with Novapay since they first became apparent. At the end of the day (I hate that saying) it was the government’s decision to Go Live, despite numerous flaws in the system.

The Report of the Ministerial Inquiry into the Novopay Project (PDF) states:

Weaknesses in project governance and leadership allowed the service to go live with a number of significant risks, which the Ministry and its vendors were over-confident of managing.

It's very obvious that if the Minister's responsible had been doing their jobs properly; Novapay wouldn’t have been implemented and our teachers would be getting paid properly. In effect this report has been written to pass the buck onto the Ministry, which is occurring all too regularly as an excuse for Ministerial incompetency.

Then on Saturday at the Green party conference, co-leader Russel Norman got stuck into the Prime Minister saying he was corrosive, divisive and similar to Piggy Muldoon. This caused howls of protest from many right wing pundits who would prefer the public continue to believe Teflon John is all smiles and niceness. Of course anybody who has watched parliament TV or looked closely at National's policy knows Key is anything but nice.

The difference between the two men’s arguments is that Norman's is based in reality, whereas Key's "the devil beast" comments are off the planet. That's why the right wing has been so aghast at the Green's insightful commentary, because what has been leveled at the Prime Minister is by all reasonable accounts correct. Key has been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Also this week, the government and mainstream media have been trying desperately to convince the public that $170 million is the right amount of money to settle historic grievances with Ngāi Tūhoe. However anybody who has read the history books about what happened in Te Urewera might question such a small amount of compensation.

In comparison to the corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich distributed since 2008, the total treaty settlement’s to date of $1.5 billion seems on the low side. In fact it's a bit of an insult when you consider just how much state repression occurred, which is still having a detrimental impact to this very day.

On a related note, the lack of any proper response by the Race Relations Commissioner, Susan Devoy, to the flagrantly racist cartoons by Al Nisbet shows just how divided New Zealand really is. If such blatant racism doesn't breach the Human Rights Commission's "very high" threshold of inciting racial disharmony, then what will?

Clearly any publication of such prejudiced sentiment will create racial disharmony and should therefore not be tolerated. There should be no "freedom of expression" to publish work that creates racial division within society, and as Morgan Godfery over at Maui Street succinctly points out:

Racism is magnified and normalised when it's presented in the media. In an ideal world the media would be better than that, but not the Malborough Express and the Christchurch Press.

At least the government has now responded with a food in schools programme, even though that response is in my opinion largely inadequate. However after four years of denying the problem of impoverished children exists, at least some progress has been made.

As usual the government has taken one step forward and two steps back, but what else is new?