The week that was | The Jackal

22 Apr 2011

The week that was

National says cuts to the youth justice system are necessary to ensure funding is only given to high quality legal services. This led one family court lawyer to say that the review is "frightening" and "to slash and burn something you don't understand isn't particularly wise or fair."

Opponents including the Law Society say a shake-up of the Family Court could end counselling and mediation services, introduce more user charges and restrict cases that need to appear before the court. Justice Minister Simon Power announced a review of the system a week after he said legal aid in the Family Court would become harder to obtain and more expensive.

Many employed in this indispensable sector are predicting essential services may be chopped and vulnerable parties left without proper court protection. The National Government obviously has no consideration for people in the family court who are often under massive stress, sometimes after years of violence.

The Prime Minister John Key has been accused of inappropriately commandeering an air force helicopter to get to photo opportunities. Labour's Trevor Mallard said he had been told the cost would have been as high as $10,000. 

"He could have got up a bit earlier in the morning... or cut short his time there. His photo op only took five or 10 minutes and I think that if he was better organised, it wouldn't have been as extravagant",  Mr Mallard said.

Rodney Hide and cohorts approached the Prime Minister’s office proposing that John Key interfere in the National Party selection process. The toxic Act brand must be hard to bear and the fact that National had taken Labour to task over list selections makes National appear to be hypocrites.

Although John Key initially denied that any deal had been done over Epsom, National now looks set to throw ACT a lifeline and do a deal with Peter Dunne in Ohariu as well. Contradicting himself, John Key later gave a clear indication that National will endorse Rodney Hide to try and save ACT from certain electoral death as it struggles to poll above 1 percent.  Shonkey’s ability to convince National voters in Epsom to bypass their better judgement and vote Hide is debatable.

Labour has received only 27% in the latest TV3/Reid Research poll. Mediaworks, who owns TV3 recently received a $43 Million loan from the National Government in a deal that many are questioning as being inappropriate because of Steven Joyce's association with the company. The poll is despite National undertaking many unpopular policy changes and other questionable actions that one would expect to cause a shift in favour of Labour. Although their recent vote in support of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill which was passed under urgency, overly publicized flippant remarks and a resignation could account somewhat for the low result.

Expectation was that Labour's floundering and National's dodgy deals would cause a shift towards the Green Party of Aotearoa. However the poll sees the Greens percentage also falling slightly, causing many to question the inconsistent polling results and process used in gauging public opinion.
Labour leader Phil Goff said he believed National's polling would erode as the election neared and opposition grew to state asset sales.
"I think the effect of the rising cost of living, the economy having stalled and unemployment being high and rising will have a corrosive effect on this Government", Mr Goff said.

On April the 13th Gordon Campbell wrote a great article on National's lead in the polls, and Labour’s response: 

So far, the Key government has reduced the right to a jury trial, extended the powers of search and surveillance by state agencies, restricted the rights against self incrimination, sought the ability to conduct trials in the absence of the accused, and ended the independence of the agency dispensing legal aid and that’s even before we got to today’s changes. Read the full article here.

The Government confirmed that Team New Zealand will receive $36 million tax dollars to contest the 2013 America's Cup. In light of the many recent bail outs despite extensive cuts in social spending, this has drawn widespread condemnation. With the South Canterbury Finance debacle costing 1.8 Billion and the AMI bailout probably exceeding a billion dollars, the Government has also thrown finances at the Rugby World Cup, which coincides nicely with the 2011 election. Tax-payers are to cover much of the the multimillion dollar losses expected.

The Government has also paid out millions in stadium upgrades and other facilities for the tournament, including $2 Million on a controversial plastic waka for Auckland's waterfront.

The unrest in the Middle East continues with The United States strongly condemning the Syrian government's brutal repression of demonstrations, who are reported to have shot indiscriminately into a large crowd with hundreds of people being killed. There are also substantiated reports of violence and killings of civilians at the hands of security forces. In Libya Gaddafi stated: "a new crusader battle that the crusader nations have launched against Islam" and "all of the Islamic armies in all places must participate in the battle." In Turkey, The Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party said police tried to halt a demonstration in Diyabakir in southeastern Turkey where protest has been occurring for some time. There are many reports of deaths from the widespread conflicts.

The Egyptian government fact-finding panel has concluded that at least 846 people were killed during the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. It accuses the security forces of "excessive" use of force during the mass protests which began on 25 January, the AP news agency reports. Mr Mubarak stepped down on 11 February after almost 30 years in power.

On the 20th, The head of the UN warned on a landmark visit to Chernobyl that the Ukrainian tragedy and the recent accident in Japan prompted "painful questions" about the future of atomic power. Speaking in Kiev afterwards, he warned that the recent quake damage to Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant showed that accidents like Chernobyl were likely to occur again in the future.  

The chief of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon also warned that the effects of climate change were likely to lead to more disasters like that at the Fukushima plant, which was damaged by a quake and tsunami in a disaster that Japan has labelled as equal in severity as Chernobyl. On the 19th, the EU, which has so far committed the lion's share to Chernobyl-related projects, committed another €110 million for a new sarcophagus, sealing the damaged Chernobyl reactor at least until the end of the century.

Fukushima could take 9 months before a cold shut down is fully achievable. This news comes on the back of huge largely unreported anti nuclear protests across Europe. The Japanese government has also advised its inhabitants that they should continue to eat vegetables from the Fukushima prefecture, despite high readings of radiation and possible contamination.

Another story that has gone largely unreported by mainstream media is the protest flotilla, which departed from Hicks Bay north of Gisborne on Wednesday, again aiming to disrupt Brazilian company Petrobras from their deep sea oil exploration. On April the 12th the police utilized a Navy vessel to travel to the East Coast and serve exclusion notices on the protestors with a penalty of up to $10,000 or a year in prison. 

The protesters, who include local iwi and environmental activists from Greenpeace, had been tracking the survey vessel Orient Explorer and managed to disrupt its seismic testing by putting swimmers in the path of the vessel. More recently, the victorious protestors returned to shore to get provisions and weather a storm. The departure on the 20th April happened on a Greenpeace initiated day of action (also under reported) and coincided with the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Greenpeace update us on developments:

Around midnight on the 21st the flotilla yacht Secret Affair was contacted by Police from the Navy vessel HMNZS Taupo. Skipper David Armstrong was ordered to turn 90 degrees towards and into the seismic testing arrays that trail up to 10 kilometres behind the oil survey ship Orient Explorer. The Skipper of Secret Affair protested that this would be unwise. The Police forcefully repeated their orders for the Skipper to head into the arrays, which he then complied with. Read the full story here.

Gordon Campbell also wrote another fine article on the oil lobby’s claims: 

Nice of petroleum industry lobbyist John Pfahlert to offer to correct “the number of media inaccuracies” that he feels have crept into coverage of the Petrobras protests. Here’s an example of what Pfahlert offers as evidence of media “errors”. Read the full article here.
One of only three oil response boats for use in sheltered waters.
Families of the 11 men who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion have flown over the Gulf of Mexico, where the disaster happened a year ago. Candlelight vigils were also held in states affected by the spill. The disaster, jointly blamed on BP, Halliburton and Transocean, affected the lives of millions of people in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. US President Barack Obama paid tribute to those who died and the thousands involved in the operation to clean up after the worst US oil spill.

“While progress had been made” Mr Obama said, "the job isn't done".

On Monday 'Operation 8: Deep in the Forest' had its premier screening in Auckland. The documentary film which details the October 2007 terrorism raids, paints a frightening vista of police repression of political dissent in Aotearoa.

On the 19th, John Minto wrote about the film and Police raids:

Last night I saw the film Operation 8: Deep in the forest about the now infamous Urewera terror raids. It tells the story from the defendant’s point of view and as well as being a very good film, it's a welcome contribution to public debate about the case and associated police action. Read the full article here.

Telecon plans to appeal a $12 million penalty imposed by the Auckland High Court for a breach of the Commerce Act, in the so-called 'data tails' case. The penalty is the highest imposed under the Commerce Act, which was amended in 2001 to increase the fines available for anti-competitive conduct. The Commerce Commission had sought a penalty in the range of $20m to $25m. In October 2009 the High Court found that between 2001 to 2004, Telecon unlawfully leveraged its market power to charge downstream competitors disproportionately high prices for wholesale access to its network. If you use the internet, it hit you in the pocket.

The Gillard government's plans to put a price on carbon have suffered a body blow, with key unions demanding exemptions for industry that are unacceptable to the Greens. Paul Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, demanded that the steel industry be given a complete exemption from the carbon scheme and that there be generous compensation for the aluminium, cement and glass sectors. The Australian government is negotiating with the Greens to put a price on carbon and one key sticking point is the level of compensation for trade-exposed industries. The other is the starting price for a tonne of carbon.