The Jackal: March 2013

31 Mar 2013

Marsden Point disaster zone

This week, Refining NZ released its annual report (PDF) for 2012. Within that report is a somewhat alarming statement about five breaches of consent at the Marsden Point that the company believes are minor:

Our resource consent has several strict conditions that limit the emission of sulphur dioxide. The main condition limits our yearly average emission of sulphur dioxide to 12 tonnes per day. For 2012 the Company had an average daily emission of sulphur dioxide of 10.88 tonnes per day. Other conditions within the consent make allowances for the Company to discharge at higher rates for limited periods of time due to client disruption, startups and emergency trips. The table above shows that we exceeded the allowance for discharges greater than 40.8 tonnes per day by 2.67 hours.

10.88 tonnes per day is a huge amount of sulphur dioxide to release into the environment. Of course Refining NZ claims that there are no adverse effects, despite the safety data sheet (PDF) showing that sulphur dioxide is a listed toxic substance and can cause severe health problems.

Refining NZ also claims that:

For several years, a comprehensive suite of testing and monitoring activities has been in operation, covering shellfish, soils, marine sediments, water quality, air quality and vegetation. The results of this monitoring continue to demonstrate that there were no significant adverse effects on the environment as a result of Refining NZ’s operations.

This really doesn't tell us much, being that "no significant adverse effects" doesn't discount the fact that there are obviously some adverse effects on the environment. There's no scientific value in such a statement, which fails to properly highlight what creatures are being affected. Clearly there's no proper independent testing being undertaken, and therefore no objective scientific basis for Refining NZ's claim.

The report also outlines problems with flooding whenever there is heavy rainfall leading to increased pollution washing into the ocean. Despite their Environmental Department spending $683,962 in 2012, all the report outlines in the way of protecting the environment is counting 21 Dotterel's in the site and "taking steps to ensure that the nests are protected".

All in all the report gives the once over lightly in terms of Marsden Point's effect on the environment. Despite Refining NZ claiming that there's a "comprehensive suite of testing and monitoring activities" being undertaken, there's no reference to any scientific study to determine the extent of adverse effects. Any data is not publically available, if it exists at all.

Interestingly the report briefly describes a major accident:

In 2012 a manual transfer of petrol component saw a significant loss of product (API Tier 1) from a floating roof tank. As a result improved controls for manual blending and training for operations staff are being put in place.

It appears that there has been no report given to the Northland Regional Council about this event, even though under the American Petroleum Institute's guidelines (PDF), Tier 1 accidents should be publicly notified. The term Tier 1 is used to describe events with the greatest consequences.

Despite being in breach of their consents on numerous occasions throughout 2012, there were no infringement fines imposed. It's also questionable as to whether any procedures have been put in place to ensure similar incidents don't occur again in the future. Instead the council has entirely failed to impose any restrictions or even make recommendations on how best Refining NZ can adhere to their already lenient consents... The incompetent council have also failed to act on their 2007 Marsden Point Air Quality Strategy (PDF), with the amount of complaints doubling in 2012 on the previous year.

Clearly Marsden Point refinery is another blot on our clean and green branding, and one we wouldn't need if the government removed subsidies for the oil and gas industry and ensured that alternative modes of transport were available. That would eventually enable renewable energy to be competitive and ensure most polluting industries were no longer financially viable.

In the mean time we need to see some proper oversight and investigation into the environmental effects from numerous accidents at Marsden Point... Refining NZ must be made to clean up what is essentially an environmental disaster zone in Whangarei.

30 Mar 2013

29 Mar 2013

No mandate to mine

Yesterday, 3 News reported:

The Government is allowing mineral prospecting on protected conservation land despite promising in 2010 no mining will be allowed on such high-value estate.

Eight consents have been granted to prospect and explore for coal and other minerals in Coromandel and the West Coast's Paparoa National Park.

That's despite public outrage in 2010 when the government proposed freeing up some conservation land for mining. It was forced to back down and promised there would be no mining.

In fact on 20 July 2010, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson announced that there would be no exploration or mining on Schedule 4 land. This decision was made after a consultation process that saw 37,552 submissions, the vast majority of which were against the proposal.

Here's Nationals press release:

"Most of those submissions said we should not remove any land from Schedule 4.  We heard that message loud and clear.

That consultation process was initiated after the largest public protest in New Zealands history on 1 May the same year. 50,000 Kiwis turned out on Queen Street to march against the Government's mining plans, sending a very clear message that Schedule 4 land should not be considered for exploitation.

Nothing has changed since then, with the public still overwhelmingly against mining on conservation land. But despite that huge public protest and the consultation process that caused the government to back down and say they would not proceed, National has gone back on their word by allowing prospecting to occur, ignoring both the previous consultation process and what the majority of the public wants.

There was no mandate given at the last election to explore for mining Schedule 4 areas, and that's a clear indication that we no longer have a democracy in New Zealand... Instead, under a National led government we have a dictatorship. Why on earth would anybody support that?

Citizen A with Marama Davidson & Faasoa Ma Faanana

28 Mar 2013

Prostitution law reform not the answer

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

A church pastor says underage girls in south Auckland are being pimped out by their parents and as many as three generations of some families are working as prostitutes.

Pastor Trent Membrey of the contemporary Christian C3 Church said he and others from his parish had worked to offer support to underage girls, one as young as 11, who were working as prostitutes in Manurewa.

I hope the good Pastor informed the appropriate authorities and those authorities are targeting the men using underage sex workers?

His comments come after community leaders in the area announced a public meeting next month amid fears of a rising number of underage prostitutes in South Auckland, some as young as 13 said to be earning up to $600 a night.

Pastor Membrey said he and others from C3 Church had worked with young women who were being forced into prostitution.

"For a lot of them it's not their call. Their brothers and uncles are pimping them out ... a lot of them don't have a say,'' he said.

"There are three generations of [some families] out there ... it's an ongoing cycle. Some of these girls won't know any different because it's inbred in these families.''

Placing the blame solely on these girls and their families is a means to ignore the real cause for the apparent increase in underage prostitution; poverty.

In my opinion, it's desperation for money that's the reason for this kind of social dysfunction, and the blame can therefore be placed on a dysfunctional government that's failing to ensure there are adequate social services available for these young girls and their families.

Pastor Membrey said the toxic lifestyle was driven by drugs and alcohol and he believed police were doing all they could to keep underage girls off the streets.

He said police confiscated drugs and took home underage girls suspected of working as prostitutes but they immediately return to the streets.

"Their brothers and uncles are pimping them out" but the Police "took home underage girls suspected of working as prostitutes" anyway?

If that's the case, Pastor Membrey is basically saying that the police aren't doing their jobs properly. If there's evidence of underaged prostitution and that brothers and uncles are the perpetrators, simply taking these young girls back home to an often-abusive situation isn't the answer. Instead, we should be seeing an increase in the use of appropriate social services.

Despite Judith Collins recently declaring the government's law and order policy a success, there has actually been a steady increase in the number of charges resulting in convictions for sexual offences. This indicates that the problem of sexual abuse, including paedophilia is getting worse. In my opinion those worsening conditions are mainly due to social disintegration brought about by increased poverty and a lack of appropriate social services.

The main issue here is therefore a political one, whereby the government has caused an increase in poverty resulting in social dysfunction and certain MPs are now using the issue to try and change prostitution laws, which are clearly not the problem.

Yesterday, Scoop reported:

New Zealand First says the risks and dangers of street prostitution must be addressed for the benefit of both those working in the sex industry and society in general.

Social Policy spokesperson Asenati Lole-Taylor says alcohol and drug abuse, poor physical and mental health, and under-age prostitution are rampant among street sex workers.

“So far the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective has received about $8.6 million from the Ministry of Health to help tackle these issues. But there is another way that would prove to be effective.

“Our Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Amendment Bill would ban all street prostitution and confine sex work to brothels.

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PDF) has worked well to reduce the amount of prostitutes being abused and the amount of sexual diseases being transmitted, both good indications that the current law doesn't need changing.

In my opinion, politicians trying to take advantage of what is essentially social dysfunction as a result of  an increase in poverty is entirely inappropriate!

Instead, the government needs to ensure the current laws are being properly enforced, social services are adequate and available and most importantly overal poverty is reduced... Only then will we see a reduction in such cases of social dysfunction.

Cold Dead Hand with Jim Carrey

27 Mar 2013

Unhealthy food should be taxed

Tonight, Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner had a debate on 3rd Degree in which the public could vote on whether unhealthy food like takeaways and soft drinks should be taxed. In my opinion they should be, here's why.

In 1990, National’s so-called Brat Pack, including Bill English, Roger Sowry, Nick Smith and Tony Ryall posed at McDonalds to mimic the mid-80s Labour Fish n Chips brigade... Let's consider this the before photo:

And the after photo:

The Brat Pack after a parliamentary caucus meeting where Bill English was overthrown as Leader of the National party by Don Brash - October 2003.

That's a clear cut case of cause and effect... I rest my case.

Why National is toxic for the environment

David Carter - Asshole of the Week

Today, the Speaker of the House, David Carter, made a complete fool of himself by allowing the Prime Minister to personally insult another member of parliament with relative impunity.

This continues the incorrect and biased nature of Carter's oversight whereby parliamentary proceedings, especially in question time, have become a complete farce.

Carter has now ruled against standing orders on many occasions to allow National MPs to continue treating important questions from the opposition as a joke.

Here's today's abhorrent display:

Grant Robertson: What role if any did he play in recommending the appointment of Ian Fletcher to GCSB?

John Key: Mr. Speaker his appointment was made by the State Services Commissioner but if the member is trying to ah make some other allegation yes I knew Ian Fletcher, I went to school with his brother. His brother was way brighter than Grant Robertson, I tell you what.

David Carter: And that answer does not assist the order of the house.

Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister for making comments which were out of order, at least. Mr Speaker earlier when the Right Honourable Winston Peters made an out of order comment he was required to withdraw. You have never done that to the Prime Minister, and I just want to know if it's going to be even both ways?

David Carter: Speaking to the point of order the Right Honourable John Key.

John Key: I can't be expected to withdraw that Grant Robertson isn't as bright as Alister Fletcher he's not.

The house then fell into a shambles whereby the speaker fumbled along stumbling over words and contradicting himself on numerous occasions. The idiot then proceeded to kick Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins out, who were both rightly indignant about David Carter's ineptitude.

Throughout the furore, John Key wasn't required to properly answer Grant Robertson's question, which judging by the Prime Ministers response clearly hit the spot. It's pretty obvious to all and sundry that John Key did know about the GCSB's illegal spying, and like Bill English has tried to cover it up.

In my opinion, the PM would've likely been informed about GCSB's criminal activity at one of several briefings with Ian Fletcher prior to it becoming public knowledge. They subsequently lied about the extent of Keys knowledge in order to save face. Trying to protect brand Key appears to be more important than adhering to any type of ethical standards.

Again, the Speaker of the House who is meant to be impartial in such matters, has allowed the Prime Minister to weasel his way out of a direct line of questioning concerning his portfolio, the brevity of which John Key and his fellow ministers have shown complete disregard for.

Here's the video:

Shameful! It's pretty self evident as to why David Carter has won this week's Asshole Award... He's an entirely ineffective, incompetent and biased speaker who allows government MPs to bring the house into disrepute through disrespectful answers, if he requires them to give any answer at all.

Under David Carter's so-called stewardship there's no accountability for the numerous instances of government incompetence and questionable conduct... In fact I've seen more decorum in a school playground.

26 Mar 2013

Kaibosh Food Rescue

Media super-regulator bad idea

Today, the Law Commission released The New Media Meets ‘New Media’: Rights, Responsibilities and Regulation in the Digital Age report (PDF). It's an extensive report, but what I found most interesting was this:

We conclude that it is not in the public interest to impose statutory regulation on the New Zealand news media. Instead, in line with the principles outlined above, we believe accountability to an external standards body should be entirely voluntary.  However … membership of our proposed new body will bring with it advantages which in our view will be of considerable value to those willing to be subject to its jurisdiction.

In my opinion, effective self-regulation through a voluntary basis will not work. This is because media outlets are more often than not private enterprises, which are usually regulated by self interest and not by any real concern for society.

In order to ensure that private businesses do not publish material that's detrimental to the public interest, there must be statutory oversight through various regulations to ensure legal measures can be imposed on media outlets when they breach publication laws.

In this regard, the proposed system will likely remove the ability of the regulating body to administer any punishment to private publishing firms (without costly legal proceedings), with a lack of government funding being the only detrimental impact for them.

It appears, that under these recommendations, private businesses with their own capital will be able to publish whatever material they like with relative impunity.

We do not recommend, however, any monetary sanctions, either fines or compensation.

Which fits nicely into Nationals deregulation agenda that has caused so many disastrous results in many other industries. Personally I think that fines should be increased and imposed more frequently... After all, money talks.

Like the Leveson and Finkelstein Inquiries, we recognise that in this dynamic new publishing environment there remains an overriding public interest in ensuring the survival of a robust news media, unfettered by political interference.

There's a big difference between ensuring there's no political interference and removing statutory regulation, which the Law Commission also recommends.

Although the Law Commission is making the right noises about reducing the amount of crony appointments that have plagued regulatory bodies since National came to power, removing legal redress on both a public and political level is not appropriate. Instead, statutory regulations should be increased and broadened to deter disinformation in all its guises.

We also recognise though that the majority of individuals using digital communication technologies, including many bloggers, will choose to sit outside our proposed new complaints body and will not be covered by its standards.

Which would include all those promoting disinformation ie those that need the most censuring.

However, they will be subject to the law of New Zealand and also the various measures we have recommended in our earlier Ministerial Briefing Paper to combat communication harms.

Despite many breaches of the law, how often are bloggers subject to any legal measures? Basically the Law Commission is putting blogger's in the too hard basket and proposing that large private media firms who don't sign up to the voluntary obligations should be at an advantage to publish whatever propaganda they like.

Today, National also reported:

“However, many of the laws governing media regulations, freedoms and protections pre-date the digital era. Nowadays, virtually anyone with a computer and an internet connection can publish and spread news and opinion,” Ms Collins says.

Judith Collins says that like it's a bad thing... In fact the liberation of the press is one of the best things to occur for humanity in recent history. No longer do governments or corporations solely control the news and its ability to influence the public's decision-making process.

Whether the Law Commissions recommendations will help that process of liberation is yet to be seen, but considering who's overseeing such changes, I have serious doubts.

WOF for Rental Housing

EQC privacy breach disinformation

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The insurance advocate who was sent details on 83,000 claimants in the Earthquake Commission privacy breach says the document contained detailed information on the expected number of settlements and the estimated cost of the claims.

Clearly EQC grossly underestimated the size of the privacy breach... I wonder why?

EQC announced yesterday that every Canterbury resident who had made a home repair claim after the quakes had their privacy breached last week.

It is believed to be one of the largest privacy breaches by a government agency in the country's history.

The information was mistakenly sent to former EQC employee Bryan Staples, the chief executive of insurance resolution company Earthquake Services, who is in regular contact with the commission.

An insurance advocate who used to work for EQC? Something smells very fishy.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson yesterday said it was initially thought the information of 9700 people was emailed in error.

But the scale of the breach ballooned to more than eight times that size after it was realised that if filters within the spreadsheet were manipulated, all the claims could be seen.

Actually it was one of the four people who viewed the spreadsheet when it was opened by Bryan Staples that made the discovery. They subsequently informed Labour's earthquake spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel about the extent of the privacy breach, who properly informed EQC, the media and the responsible ministers office.

If EQC or Gerry Brownlee's office didn't comprehend the email they were sent about the privacy breach or couldn't read the spreadsheet properly they're entirely incompetent. But it's more likely that they tried to down play the issue by providing false information to save face.

Once again it's a question of gross incompetence or lies from a government department.

Yesterday, 3 News reported:

The bungle was not identified by EQC's own investigations; instead they were tipped off by Labour's earthquake spokesperson Lianne Dalziel who was called by one of the four people who saw the document.

Ms Dalziel says she informed EQC on Sunday and now claims they tried to deny the actual figure was nearly seven times worse than they thought.

"The truth is no one at EQC or the minister’s office checked the email thoroughly enough.

So, we're expected to believe that EQC didn't know the extent of the privacy breach despite them having it available in the form of the spreadsheet and being sent an email detailing exactly what was leaked? Unbelievable!

Yesterday, the Herald reported:

Key plays down issue

Prime Minister John Key has played down the extent of a privacy breach by the Earthquake Commission in which the information of 83,000 claimants was leaked.

Mr Key said he was disappointed but breaches were expected to some extent in all government departments and agencies.

You can expect a few small accidental privacy breaches, but the sheer size and scope of privacy breaches under this National government points to incompetency, complacency or corruption at the highest levels.

"For the sheer volume of information that's dealt with the number of breaches are relatively small or decreasing.

What a load of rot! There's more breaches since National came to power than ever before... From the WINZ Kiosks security flaw that the government knew of and did nothing about for over a year to the ACC privacy breach that contained the sensitive information of thousands of claimants, John Keys government has categorically proven its ineptitude!

"EQC has been dealing with huge amounts of information and hundreds of thousands of client contacts in the last few years and have had one breach."

One breach? I think that's highly unlikely. But even if it's true, playing down what is likely the largest ever privacy breach by a government agency is not acceptable. You would expect the Prime Minister to treat such a huge breach of privacy with the gravitas it deserves.

In my opinion, the main problem is that lots of public servants were sacked or replaced with people who support National. These people weren't more qualified or competent than those they replaced, and that degradation of the public service through cronyism has led to widespread problems.

Privacy breaches are just one result of Nationals mismanagement... There are many many more.

25 Mar 2013

The radio call from the Exxon Valdez

Wind power more viable than fossil fuels

Today, Radio NZ reported:

At a wind energy conference last week Siemens talked about the steps it has been taking to try and reduce the cost of wind power so that it can become competitive with fossil fuels.

The company, which works across the energy sector around the globe, focuses on wind in New Zealand.

Its executive vice-president for energy for the Pacific, David Pryke, says the long-term viability of gas and coal in New Zealand is a problem and given the good wind conditions, wind energy is at the point where it's close to being a competitive source.

He says New Zealand is an attractive market to Siemens because it's perhaps the only country in the world where subsidies are not needed for wind energy.

That puts into context Nationals promotion of fossil fuels instead of clean energy... Even without any government subsidies, wind power generation is nearly as competitive as coal or gas powered generation, which is currently heavily subsidized by the government.

I have to disagree with David Pryke though, wind and solar power subsidies are required to make it an even playing field. Better yet, the government should simply remove the current subsidies and tax breaks that the oil and gas industry enjoys.

Increasing competition would ensure the best systems were implemented.

But Mr Pryke says Siemens would like to move towards making wind competitive in all markets globally in the medium term.

As to why there is not more wind site development in New Zealand, he says that's because there is not enough demand for power in general.

In the Radio NZ interview embedded below, David Pryke also said the size of known gas fields in New Zealand didn't warrant further investment into gas powered generation, saying that banks would likely not fund such endeavours because the supply wasn't available to make them viable long term.

The David Pryke interview is at 7:23

You've got to wonder why the government is helping to fund the building of more gas powered plants if there is no long term viability? If the banks aren't going to provide funding, why is National spending taxpayers money on a business model that has no future?

Is that the same kind of business sense that resulted in Solid Energy failing?

24 Mar 2013

John Banks - Asshole of the Week

There's been a number of nominations for Asshole of the Week this week, from Judith Collins appointing Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner and then calling Annette Sykes a stupid person for her justified criticism of that appointment to the Solid Energy debacle which highlighted Nationals incompetence, particularly by the idiot Bill English who tried to once again blame his mismanagement on Labour.

Then there was Rodney Hide proposing a slave trade of unemployed people in yet another blatant attempt to gain support by bashing some beneficiaries. However, what really takes the cake this week is yet another conflict of interest by the ever-corrupt "leader" of the Act Party John Banks.

On Wednesday, the NZ Herald reported:

Associate Education Minister John Banks had shares in Australian company Talent2 at the same time he sat on a Cabinet committee that received progress updates on a planned rollout of Talent2's Novopay payroll system before it was launched.

Mr Banks is a Minister outside of Cabinet, but is on the Cabinet Committee on State Sector Reform and Expenditure Control (SEC).

Between January and May last year SEC received key documents relating to a planned rollout of Novopay and a backup.

The question here is whether John Banks had any influence on the decision-making process concerning Novopay and the roll out of an inferior payroll system while he was set to personally gain.

The conflict of interest occurred when John Banks became Associate Minister of Education, while holding shares in a company that is a major contractor with the government.

In my opinion, the waft of corruption from John Banks over this issue has become overpowering.

On Friday, the Herald also reported:

Act leader John Bank's office has produced Cabinet Committee papers in a bid to prove that he did not take part in any meetings concerning Novopay while he was a shareholder in Novopay's parent company Talent2.

Mr Banks has previously stated that he had declared the potential conflict of interest, and had not seen any briefing papers or taken part in any meetings or discussions about Novopay before he sold his shares on May 28, last year.

Here's the relevant Register of Pecuniary Interests (PDF):

Hon John BANKS (ACT, Epsom) 1 Company directorships and controlling interests

Talent2 International Limited (ABN 19 000 737 744) (shareholder as Trustee for The Pukenui Family Trust) – Talent management solutions in HR advisory, payroll, learning and recruitment across the Asia Pacific region

So, apparently Banks divested himself of the shares at the end of May last year... However there was six months for him to have influenced the decision making process as Associate Minister while holding those shares and who's to say that he didn't influence the government previous to him becoming an MP?

The question in my mind of whether there was undue influence has been answered... Why else would National sign off and continue with such a flawed system if it wasn't for the benefit of one of their own? After all, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours is still entrenched philosophy within the old boys club.

Coupled with previous examples of corruption, that clear conflict of interest makes John Banks Asshole of the Week... He's certifiably not fit to be an MP.

23 Mar 2013

Fractured Land Trailer

Roughan declares Australian election result

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Meanwhile, in Australia the Gillard Government is at an end.

That's news to me... It would seem that the Australian Labor Party is still in power, which makes John Roughan's claims farcical!

The commentaries coming from Australia yesterday were utterly confused about the outcome of the governing Labor Party's leadership vote. It was variously thought to be a victory for Julia Gillard, a back-down by Kevin Rudd and an inexplicable switch of allegiance by deputy Simon Crean.

It was none of those. Even from this distance it was obvious what happened. It has been clear for some time that the Government is finished. It is going to be slaughtered in September.

What a load of tosh! Right wing propagandists might want the Australian Labor Party to be at an end, but it's not. Instead, current polling shows they're down 4.6% on the 2010 election result. In fact the latest Roy Morgan poll had the ALP up 1.5%, which clearly indicates that they're not done and dusted.

Political commentators don't like to say this categorically because it might sound partisan and you never know, a miracle might occur. But it is not partisan, it is obvious to politicians on all sides and they don't wait for miracles.

It's true that most political commentators don't usually make false claims that are easily refuted. However in New Zealand, we often have little journalistic integrity or accountability, meaning that old hacks like John Roughan can pretty much write whatever rubbish they like.

In Australia on Thursday, Crean tried to stop Rudd destabilising the Government by encouraging him to challenge for the leadership again. It was the classic poisoned chalice - nobody can save them now. As obvious as that was, even to Rudd, it was just possible his legendary ego could not resist it.

What exactly this has to do with the headline 'Memo to Key - listen to Brown' is beyond me. Working a story about the ALP together with a story about the ruction between the Auckland City Council and the National Party simply doesn't work. Along with there being deliberate lies in Roughan's article, there's no proper context, and it should therefore have been consigned by the editor to the dust bin.

But back on topic... The main problem with Australian politics at the moment is the amount of money being spent by the mining industry and their associates to undermine Julia Gillard's government. Like New Zealand, there is also a biased media that favours the right. Mining magnate Gina Rhinehart for instance has considerable shares in Channel 10 and Fairfax, which undoubtedly gives her editorial rights to promote her pro mining agenda.

With the current ALP moving towards ensuring polluting industries pay their fair share of taxes putting them at loggerheads with the mining industry, it's likely we will see an increase in campaigns of disinformation, that use similar techniques to Roughan's claim that the ALP is at an end.

However there's still six months until the next Australian election, which is more than enough time for Julia Gillard to regain the 4.6% she needs to ensure the right wing doesn't win. With the ALP now more compatible with the Greens than ever before, and the fact that they'll likely have the sole balance of power in any future Australian Senate, it's conceivable that the Greens will again provide confidence and supply to a Labor led government after the next election. However declaring the result at this stage is premature, which is obviously news to idiots like John Roughan.

22 Mar 2013

More fracking lies

Today, Stuff reported:

Prime Minister John Key has waded into the fracking debate, accusing its opponents of talking nonsense.

At a Taranaki energy site, he said he had had enough of the scaremongering over the practice, particularly from the Green Party.

"From what they're saying, you'd think that because of fracking we'll all go to hell in a handbasket," he said.

"But the truth of the matter is that the practice has been going safely on in Taranaki for the past 30 years without any issues. And last year the parliamentary commissioner for the environment gave it a tick of approval in a preliminary report on fracking, and I expect that nothing will change in her final report when it is issued later this year."

Clearly the Prime Ministers belief that fracking has been conducted "safely" in Taranaki for the last 30 years is wrong! There's been numerous instances of fracking accidents that have contaminated the soil and peoples water supplies in the area, and here's a few official reports that show Key up for the liar he is:

Table 3 on page 15 of this Drilling Waste Disposal Monitoring Programmes report (PDF) shows the amount of non-compliance for the Inglewood land farm. As well as ground water contamination, the operators spread their fracking sludge that contains many toxins directly onto the land.

Amongst these toxic substances, Hydrocarbons were tested for and shown to be six times over the limit or 26,742 mg/kg above the 4558 mg/kg limit outlined in the consent. There was no fine, the only response was to reduce the consent requirements and the amount of testing being conducted.

There is also the Shell Todd Oil Kapuni study (PDF) and the Cheal Petroleum study (which the Taranaki regional council has removed from their website), both showing water contamination above the already lenient consent limits.

These instances of unsafe practices have been publicly reported on and even raised in Parliament by Green MP Gareth Hughes... In my opinion, a competent Prime Minister should have been aware of those tabled documents.

If he was unaware, he's therefore incompetent. If he was aware (which is likely the case), he's attempting to mislead to public about the highly dangerous and environmentally damaging practice of fracking. Either way, dishonest John has no place being the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Mr Corruption can't talk

It was somewhat amusing to see the totally discredited John Banks get so steamed up about David Shearer's brain fade concerning an overseas bank account. The Act "leader" certainly didn't do himself any favours by trying to compare Shearer's forgetfulness to his far more numerous and egregious instances of corruption. In fact he looked downright ridiculous!

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

But the MP for Epsom, also known as the Act Party caucus, appeared to mistake the Prime Minister's remark for an endorsement of Banks' statements. He had shown an uncharacteristic distaste for the public spotlight since about the time that John Key was refusing to read the police report on donations to Banks's failed Auckland mayoral campaign. But look at him now, springing up like some great gurning Jack-in-the-box. Here, at last, was a chance to exact revenge on the cretins who gave him such a hard time last year.

Whether or not Key had empowered his teapot confidant to let rip I do not know. But it was a gift for Shearer. What better way to make his foolishness look trifling? By explicitly comparing Shearer's brain fade with his own over the Dotcom donation scandal, Banks was inviting us to recall that ugly episode, replete with allegations of impropriety. Not so in Shearer's case.

It invites us to revisit, too, the means by which Banks ended up back in Parliament, those unsightly tea stains that just won't wash out. We're invited to mull again this week's slap on the wrist given to Banks by the Ombudsman for withholding information about charter schools. To recall that the planned charter schools, which Act apparently insisted on, themselves will not be subject to the Official Information Act. And then, on top of all that, come fresh questions about whether he held shares in Novopay operator Talent2 while sitting on a committee that received updates on the school payment payroll system's progress. This is hardly a man that can boast of an exemplary commitment to disclosure and transparency.

Toby Manhire is spot on here... There's no comparison between Shearer forgetting to register his bank account and Banks' numerous instances of outright corruption, and the Actoid pontificating about Shearer's oversight just makes him look foolish!

But where I diverge from the status quo is that in my opinion Shearer admitting that he has an overseas bank account shouldn't dull Labours ability to hold the government to account.

There is no question that Shearer should have registered his pecuniary interest, and that him not doing so looks bad, but if we say that such things mean the government is somehow absolved from their numerous instances of corruption, we're saying that democracy has failed and we accept that failure... We're saying that two wrongs make those wrongs right, when each instance should instead be judged on its own demerits.

I've lost count of how many demerit points John Banks has, but it's safe to say that he has more than enough.

Citizen A – Phoebe Fletcher & Julie Fairey

21 Mar 2013

National punishing the poor

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Welfare benefits will go up by just 0.61 per cent from April 1 because the Government has decided not to give beneficiaries any compensation for higher cigarette prices.

The increase is the lowest for many years and represents only an extra $1.25 a week for a single unemployed person aged 25 or over, or $2.08 a week for a couple.

But superannuation rates will go up by 2.44 per cent in line with the net average wage, providing an extra $8.50 a week for single superannuitants living alone and an extra $13.08 a week for a couple.

That seems entirely unfair... If superannuitants get the full increase, why aren't beneficiaries? That makes Nationals decision discriminatory, and it also makes a mockery of Paula Bennett's claim that benefits would match general inflation.

It's incorrect to make the calculation by averaging inflation across the board when most beneficiaries rent the house they live in. Rents have increased dramatically; therefore the cost of living for beneficiaries has increased more than the average waged person.

Having an increase of only 0.61 per cent in comparison to general inflation will simply cause more inequality, which is a shameful result that indicates a failure of governance to properly look after the populace. New Zealanders don't want a country divided between the haves and the have nots... We want an equal society where everybody can prosper.

The diverging trends mean that the super rate for a couple will stay fixed at 66 per cent of the net average wage, while the benefit for a working-age unemployed couple will slip further from 42 per cent to 41.3 per cent of the net average wage, continuing a trend which has been steadily downwards since the late 1980s.

A Treasury paper prepared for the Long-Term Fiscal External Panel in January forecasts that benefits will roughly halve again as a proportion of wages as wages continue to increase faster than prices out to the year 2060.

With many areas not having any opportunities for people to work themselves out of poverty, reducing benefits in comparison to inflation will simply have an adverse effect on society. It will dramatically increase inequality and hardship.

For instance, less beneficiaries will be able to afford health care, which accompanied by higher prescription costs, will lead to an increase in acute cases of illness and subsequently more time spent in hospital. That being the case, one has to ask whether Nationals attempt to save money is going to save any at all?

Salvation Army analyst Alan Johnson said a "low-income consumers price index", based on typical spending by low-income families, rose by 1.4 per cent during the year, significantly above the 0.9 per cent official average.

Which clearly shows that the governments decision to effectively cut benefits by by 0.79 per cent will adversely impact on those who are already struggling, and not just smokers I might add.

Unfortunately National is ideologically hard wired to punish the poor, and their stupidity looks set to increase inequality in New Zealand even further.

The Herald also reported:

Sweeping changes to the welfare system came closer to passing into law despite losing the support of New Zealand First and official advice that the changes would lead to a decline in poor families' health.

After a fiery, personal debate in which Opposition members accused former beneficiary and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett of "kicking away the ladder", the reforms passed their second reading 61 votes to 60.

That one vote is why nothing will be done about the corrupt John Banks.

Ms Bennett said that despite "hand-wringing" by the Opposition and claims of beneficiary bashing, National campaigned on the changes in 2011 and was overwhelmingly supported by New Zealanders.

Overwhelming support by New Zealanders? With a million Kiwis deciding not to vote at the last election, National only receiving 47% of the vote and such a slim margin of MPs supporting the defunct legislation, one has to ask whether the current government has a mandate to pass these detrimental changes into law at all?

But Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei pointed to Ministry of Health advice, released under the Official Information Act, which warned ministers that the economic benefits of the changes could be undermined by health impacts. Families who were sanctioned were likely to defer healthcare and increasingly show up in emergency departments instead of primary care.

The ministry also warned that making Well Child checks compulsory for beneficiaries' children could change the relationship between families and health providers and make the system less effective.

So, the government is once again ignoring its own official advice, and instead ramming through ideological changes that will have no benefit to society at all. There's also no benefit to the governments budget, which makes Nationals archaic policy changes not about helping the poor, and all about punishment for the sake of it. How stupid is that?

19 Mar 2013

More corruption from dodgy John

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

The Ombudsman's office found Associate Education Minister John Banks wrongly withheld information about how proposed charter schools would be funded.

The Post Primary Teachers Association made a request under the Official Information Act (OIA) about resourcing, capital and operating funding for charter schools. The information was withheld in February last year.

You've got to wonder why they wanted to keep charter school funding information secret... I mean what are they trying to hide?

This is taxpayers' money after all, and therefore the public has a right to know how and where it's being spent.

Ombudsman David McGee has recommended that Mr Banks release the information.

He advised that there was no good reason to withhold information on the funding of charter schools.

Which should raise suspicions about why the information was withheld in the first place.

Charter schools would get money for set up costs and property funding that their private-sector backers would be able to keep if a school folded.

That's a sure way to get a lot of dubious organisations setting up charter schools just so they can acquire property, and perhaps that's what a few of John Banks' mates have been planning all along... Talk about dodgy.

18 Mar 2013

Western Snowpack and Water Supply

Novopay getting worse

Today, 3 News reported:

A fresh glitch with the troubled pay system Novopay has effectively `fired' 100 teachers it believes will have their contracts terminated in April.

The new fault, which wrongly states some teachers are leaving their roles at the end of the term, is the latest in a string of problems that has plagued the system since it was introduced last August.

The minister responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, is expected to announce the results of a technical review into the system this week.

That doesn't sound like a new "bug" to me, that sounds like somebody intentionally trying to mess with teachers in order to demoralize them and get some of them to leave.

The National government has had two years to ensure Novopay works, and you've got to wonder why they haven't fixed it yet? Perhaps undermining teachers would provide the excuse they need to implement charter schools, which will effectively privatise education.

Novopay problems have so far affected 1600 teachers at 628 schools.

A recent review showed 521 teachers have been overpaid, 589 underpaid and 552 were not paid at all.

Clearly the extensive problems at Novopay are getting worse and not better under Steven Joyce's so-called management.

Instead of looking at alternatives or putting in place a proper plan to fix Novopay, the responsible minister is twiddling his thumbs and awaiting yet another report into the flawed system, which is an all too familiar excuse we've heard before:

It is incompetence like that which should ensure National lose the next election.

16 Mar 2013

If fast food could talk...

Quick! Blame the teachers

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Up to half New Zealand's primary teachers may not have enough maths knowledge to teach children properly under new methods, says the education expert who introduced the changes.

We're not talking about rocket science here... With most if not all teachers having the skills to teach the curriculum required.

Professor Wright told the Weekend Herald the new methods were phenomenally successful when used in schools with strong leadership, a stable workforce and a culture of improvement and well-monitored student achievement.

But reformers might have overestimated the knowledge and confidence of many non-specialist primary teachers whose academic strengths were not in maths.

So now you have to be a specialist to teach times tables?

"Maybe we have to admit that we needed to provide more structured support for teachers than we did.

"In the ideal world, everyone would be able to run with this. Maybe they can't.

"I thought 50 per cent of the teachers were doing a fantastic job ... We just needed to have the other back-up plan, maybe, something more structured for those that it didn't work so well for."

Actually, the failure of the new system isn't because of teachers, its because the system they must use assumes that children already have basic maths skills when in many cases they don't.

Education Minister Hekia Parata described the results as "extremely concerning".

Somehow I doubt Parata will increase funding to ensure struggling students get the help they require. In fact having our schooling system underperforming will give the government the excuse they need to implement charter schools, which will in turn not improve educational outcomes at all.

Professor Wright co-ordinated the project from 2000 to 2010.

No wonder Wright is trying to blame the teachers then... He obviously cannot bring himself to admit that it's his system that's flawed.

Professor Wright said New Zealand had a longstanding difficulty finding teachers who were confident and knowledgeable teaching maths. Part of the problem was the low entry standard for teacher training and the limited time trainees had to study maths education, compounded by the shift from four to three-year teaching degrees.

If a low entry standard for teachers was the problem, then having no entry standard under a privatised schooling system National propose is obviously not the answer... Increasing class sizes and Novopay are also not the answer.

It should also be said that there hasn't been a reduction in the quality of teachers to cause such a reduction in outcomes. What has happened instead is an increase in poverty, with many more kids going to school hungry. Children simply cannot learn properly without sustenance.

But most of the struggling teachers were those already in the workforce, suggesting the real answer was better on-the-job training - like a maths version of Reading Recovery, which upskilled teachers as well as students.

So, Wrights' answer is to do the same thing again, which hasn't worked. The Numeracy Development Project that was designed to lift student performance by improving teachers' understanding has been a failure, which means Wrights advice shouldn't be listened to.

Instead, early childhood education, one on one teaching time and the welfare of our children all need to be increased so they're able to learn properly, and only the government can ensure that happens. Simply blaming teachers for the governments failure won't ensure kids can do the basics.

15 Mar 2013

Tax evasion is not OK

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Recent research also confirms that the legal system treats beneficiaries more harshly than tax evaders.

In a pilot study comparing three years of tax evasion and welfare fraud, Victoria University lecturer Dr Lisa Marriott found welfare fraud was significantly more likely than tax crime to be prosecuted, even though the sums involved in tax offences were far larger. In 2010, it was calculated that tax evaders cheated New Zealand of up to $6 billion.

Benefit fraud involved an average of $70,000 and the offender had a 60 per cent chance of being jailed. Tax evaders, with an average fraud of $270,000, had only a 22 per cent chance of being imprisoned.

That's a huge difference that clearly shows our current political and judicial system is biased.

On February 20 this year, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows announced new measures - not to crack down on the $2.6 billion owing in child support or the money lost through tax evasion, but to "prevent, detect and catch welfare fraud".

Chester Borrows is obviously playing to his constituency of beneficiary bashing tax evaders.

So it is not surprising that a UMR Research survey released last month found New Zealanders believed beneficiaries had now become the most discriminated-against group in the country.

Unfortunately having somebody to blame is a common human trait, and with the media and politicians invariably putting welfare instead of tax evasion at the top of their list, beneficiaries will continue to be unfairly persecuted.

That unfair discrimination has a detrimental effect on all people who are welfare dependent, which in turn costs the country in ways that most politicians don't often consider. Our high rate of youth suicide for instance can often be directly attributed to discrimination.

One way to help people out of poverty would be to ensure that tax evaders were pursued more vigorously, and that tax evasion became less acceptable within "polite" society.

In order to do that, we need to change the public focus away from beneficiary bashing and onto tax evasion, which is easier said than done when there's no political impetus to catch let alone prosecute more tax evaders.

Maybe that’s because many politicians also avoid paying their fair share of taxes as well.

14 Mar 2013

Manus Island Exposed

Tony Ryall misleads Parliament

Today, Tony Ryall misled the House of Representatives by claiming that coal prices were high when National requested the board of Solid Energy increased debt to ensure more dividends were paid to the government. He also claimed that coal prices were the highest ever between 2009 and 2011 and the collapse happened after they requested that increase in debt, which is an outright lie!

Here's one of the video:

The Minister for State Owned Enterprises made those false statements because National was coming under considerable fire for making that stupid request to the board of Solid Energy to increase debt, which ballooned from $13 million in 2009 to $313 million in 2012, at the worst possible time.

Ryall is echoing a misleading statement made by Solid Energy's management to the Commerce Committee, when a financial review (PDF) of Solid Energy was conducted in 2010/11. Here's what the Commerce Committee was told:

Dr Don Elder is the chief executive and John Palmer is the chairman of the board.

Financial performance 

In 2010/11 Solid Energy generated total revenue of $828.662 million and recorded a net after-tax profit of $87.2 million, an increase of almost $20 million on its 2009/10 result.  
Future revenue 

We noted that Solid Energy projected $1 trillion in potential earnings from a predicted 10 billion tonnes of coal. Solid Energy said this estimate represented the potential revenue from all coal-based products, such as fertiliser, and that it might prove to be conservative. We asked what coal price it used in this calculation. We noted that predicted returns assumed that the current price of fossil fuels would be maintained or increase. Solid Energy said returns were calculated on prices from the last several years; it believed they were very unlikely to fall, and were very likely to rise substantially.

However international coal prices were clearly not indicating that Solid Energy should increase its debt levels when National requested them to on 28 May 2009.

Here's a graphic that shows coal prices had fallen dramatically just before Bill English made his request for increased dividend returns from Solid Energy by increasing debt.

Click image to enlarge

Science for Sale

Government unravelling at the seams

Today, TVNZ reported:

Senior Government officials are understood to be distancing themselves from a controversial car park tax that has sparked fierce opposition from business groups and unionists.

The proposal to extend a fringe benefit tax (FBT) of almost 50% to employer-provided onsite parking was the brainchild of United Future leader and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

The tax, which would apply only to workers in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs, has been widely described as petty and discriminatory.

Now National Party officials at the very highest levels are understood to be trying to shift the heat to Dunne, who is currently out of the country.

Talk about another National party PR disaster!

Being that United Future has a no surprises agreement with the National party, John Key and Bill English must have agreed to Peter Dunne's car park tax for it to be before parliament.

In fact Nationals Confidence and Supply Agreement (PDF) with United Future states:

Advance notification to the other party of significant announcements by either the Government or United Future.

Therefore it's safe to say that National did previously support the car park tax wholeheartedly... In fact along with Act they voted for it through its first reading, totally failing to raise any concerns about the issue, probably because they didn't realise at the time it would be so unpopular.

That was before a public backlash that subsequently initiated a strongly worded blog post from Cactus Kate, in which she asked a most poignant question:

Didn't John Key promise no new taxes?

Why yes he did, and in 2005 also pledged not to entertain any suggestion of applying new taxes to car parks. National supporting the car park tax through its first reading means the dishonest Prime Minister has once again broken his word.

Cathy Odgers' blog post in turn caused John Banks to come out strongly the next day against the new car park tax... However, the Act Party has now removed their "leaders" article, perhaps realising it doesn't look good to be attacking one of their own coalition partners.

Praise for Cathy Odgers doesn't come easily to me, but she's really outdone herself here... Firstly by encouraging the idiot John Banks to contradict himself and back track on supporting the car park tax, and secondly to once again show National up to be the duplicitous bastards that they are.

Today, Odgers follows up:

Peter Dunne has failed and Bill English has failed.  Spectacularly.


They are meant to represent the centre right and the far extreme left presently are upholding more principles of the right than they are.  It is not and never will be about the $17 million, it is about principles.

It is about principles and it presently appears that "Senior Government officials" are simply going to leave Peter Dunne blowing in the wind in order to avoid public criticism, after they knowingly agreed to the new on-premises car park tax... That backtracking succinctly shows the National party, and Act party for that matter, have no solid principles at all.

Perhaps them cutting Peter Dunne loose has something to do with his recent comments on how National has mismanaged some of their policy announcements, and the fact that United Future will be unlikely in a position to prop up any defunct neoliberal government after the next election.

Clearly all is not well within the right wings rank and file.

13 Mar 2013

Shane Jones shouldn't be rewarded

Yesterday, Bill English reported:

The Auditor-General’s report into the Yang Liu affair is extremely damning of the way Shane Jones handled the issue, and calls into question David Shearer’s judgment in reinstating him to Labour’s front bench, Acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

Perhaps it's the wording, but it appears that Bill English is saying the Auditor General, Lyn Provost, has been "extremely damning" of Jones being reinstated to Labour’s front bench.

However Jones' reappointment happened after the Auditor General released her Inquiry into the decision by Shane Jones to grant citizenship to Yang Liu (PDF), and she's made no further comment on the issue.

But not satisfied with that clunker and desperate to gain some political ground, the deluded Bill English goes on to cherry pick:

For example, on page 66 of the report, the Auditor-General says of Mr Jones: “In our view, given that he knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand Police, he should also have consulted them before making his decision, as the investigators note of the first meeting suggested he was intending to do.”

There is no doubt that Shane Jones failed to do his job properly, mainly because he didn't seek advice from other concerned parties before making his decision to grant Yang Liu citizenship.

He also ignored some of their formal recommendations and didn't properly document a reason for his decision to grant citizenship or give other concerned parties enough time to question that decision before informing Yang Liu and his representatives the application had been successful.

Clearly Yang Liu shouldn't have been granted citizenship, and that incorrect decision should have raised questions in David Shearers' mind about the ability of Shane Jones to follow proper process.

In my opinion, Shane Jones' incompetency has brought Labour into disrepute and should have ruled him out from reattaining the front benches, especially because Labour has other more competent MPs to choose from.

So what else does the equally incompetent Minister of Finance think is wrong here:

And on page 67, the report continues: “The decision to approve an urgent private ceremony, following so closely the decision to authorise the grant of citizenship against the recommendation of officials, caused a degree of consternation among the department’s staff. It added to the impression that Mr Liu was receiving special treatment.”

Actually, the report found that Jones, upon his granting Yang Liu citizenship was somewhat perturbed about the legal requirement for there to be a ceremony. He apparently inadvertently approved an urgent ceremony, a ceremony that was attended by a number of National MPs who had supported Yang Liu's application I might add.

“This is just a few weeks after he [David Shearer] demanded the Government stop the Sky City Convention Centre project because of an Auditor-General’s report. He should look in his own party’s backyard first.”

However the Auditor General found no evidence that there was any improper motive, collusion, or political interference in the Yang Liu decision, which is more than can be said about what the report into the SkyCity convention centre deal found.

So all in all another very messy affair and one clearly displaying that our political system is dysfunctional and full of idiots who don't bother to follow the rules.

National wasting time and money

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Labour leader David Shearer won't rule out supporting Winston Peters' policy of buying back Mighty River Power shares at cost if they form the next Government.

Mr Peters said he would be happy for a Government of which he was a part to borrow or to use the superannuation fund to buy back shares at no more than cost.

I think that's the right position to take, being that it won't be until a Labour led coalition government get their hands on the books that there will be a clear indication about whether a buy-back is achievable.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English told Parliament the 290,000 people who had pre-registered for the float of Mighty River Power over a week compared favourably with the numbers who signed the petition "achieved in a year with paid parliamentary staff bailing up school children".

I find it somewhat concerning that Bill English is dismissing the signatures of young people, being that anyone of any age can sign and petition the House of Representatives. Is he ageist?

Despite what the idiotic Minister of Finance seems to believe, there is no age limit, and being that it's young people who will be most affected by the sales, their opinions should matter just as much as anybody else's, if not more so.

National has spent a million dollars on unnecessary advertising for the Mighty River Power float, which makes them total hypocrites! In fact they plan to spend over $106.3 million of taxpayers money on selling assets the majority of the public don't want sold.

National is trying to compare apples with oranges here, when we're still awaiting the outcome of the all-important referendum... Only that can give a clear answer concerning a mandate to sell our most profitable assets.

In the mean time any sales are simply wasting more time and money, which is about the only things National seems good at doing.

12 Mar 2013

Thank you for standing up against asset sales

National to ignore referendum

Today, Stuff reported:

The Government has vowed to proceed with asset sales irrespective of whether a referendum on the process comes out against the issue.

I would expect around 70 per cent of public voting in that referendum will want to keep our assets, meaning that 70 per cent of the voting public will feel let down if their wishes are ignored by National.

That's 70 per cent of the voting public who are more likely to vote for a political party that respects their opinions, and not one that would dismiss them outright without any proper justification for doing so.

Finance Minister Bill English said it would make no difference to the process.

"The sales are going ahead," English told TV3's Firstline. "We've already launched the Mighty River Power float and there will be others.

"This is an issue that was campaigned on right through election year, we laid out the policy in detail, the opposition parties had a year to debate it, and they didn't win the election so we're proceeding with the sales on the basis of that mandate."

The election was held on various different issues and didn't give National any clear mandate to sell off our most profitable state owned assets.

I shouldn't even need to reiterate that a referendum on the issue is the only way to find out if the government has a mandate to pursue their plans for partial privatisation or not... Without it, National simply don't have a mandate.

In my opinion, ignoring what the public wants in that referendum will be a one way ticket out of office, and gaining the publics trust again will take a very long time indeed.

Ohope Beach does the Harlem Shake!

Petrobras not welcome in New Zealand

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Prime Minister John Key says he will raise the possibility of Brazilian energy company Petrobras returning to New Zealand when he meets the country's President, Dilma Rousseff, today.

Shouldn't Key be asking New Zealanders first?

Mr Key said he wanted to encourage Petrobras to return to New Zealand after it gave up its exploration permits, including the Raukumara Basin, last year. Mr Key said Petrobras had given up many of its other speculative ventures internationally at the same time.

It's true that Petrobras was in financial trouble and had to pull out of other potentially less profitable investments in other countries... But it's also true that there was substantial pressure from activists to inhibit Petrobras from exploiting the East Coast of New Zealand. That was more likely to have made Petrobras forgo their permits.

"We will certainly say to the President that we think New Zealand is a good place for Petrobras to be involved and that they are welcome in New Zealand if they want to come. They've given back their licence, but that shouldn't deter them in the future."

If there was any real cost associated with acquiring exploration permits, that would be a deterrent. Increased funding to ensure that exploration and drilling is undertaken safely and that when accidents occur, there's adequate safeguards in place would also be a good idea. Unfortunately New Zealand is currently ill equipped to deal with even a moderately sized oil spill.

He ruled out offering any incentives for such a move.

Except for the usual incentives of course like prolonged tax holidays and having the initial surveying expenses all paid for by the government. In fact the public extensively subsidizes the oil and gas industry to the tune of millions of dollars per year.

It has been shown that for the same investment into clean tech, we could create at least twice as many jobs... That fact alone makes companies like Petrobras, one of the world's worst polluters, unwelcome in New Zealand.

Once again the Prime Minister isn't speaking on behalf of all Kiwis.

Nathan Guy MIA

Today, the NZ Herald reported on Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy, deciding to stay in South America instead of returning home to contend with the drought.

"I can't make it rain. This is a very important trip and we're opening doors to getting our products into these markets. What I can tell farmers in New Zealand is that I am getting a regular update. The areas I have declared a medium drought event support is flowing.

Support is flowing? The Herald also reported:

A spokesman for Work and Income said no rural assistance payments had been made since drought had been declared. The payments are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available in extreme hardship.

So, despite no support payments being made to farmers, Nathan Guy thinks support is flowing? What an idiot!

It appears that National is trying to minimize the effects of the drought as best they can because to do otherwise might mean they had to acknowledge one of the main reasons for its severity; climate change.

Instead of waking up to the reality of anthropogenic climate change and realising that agriculture is not immune, National are simply burying their heads in the sand... What a pack of dipshits!

11 Mar 2013

Bright Eyes (NZ)

Click here to sign the global campaign against cosmetic animal testing.

10 Mar 2013

Frank Bainimarama - Asshole of the Week

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says he will support his men if they were involved in the repeated beating an escaped prisoner.

His comments come after a recent video showed two people getting badly beaten up by a group of men, believed to involve security staff.

Warning! The video is very graphic:

How someone could possibly try to justify that kind of depravity I will never know.

Bainimarama told security personnel worked hard to protect the citizens of Fiji from hardened criminals.

That's no excuse for systematically beating people until they're permanently disabled... Epeli Qaraniqio, one of the men in the video, lost one of his legs because of the beating, a beating that looks likely to have been undertaken by Fijian police officers.

He told the website the matter would be investigated but said he would support the men.

"At the end of the day, I will stick by my men, by the police officers or anyone else that might be named in this investigation.

"We cannot discard them just because they've done their duty in looking after the security of this nation and making sure we sleep peacefully at night," Fijivillage reported him saying.

The abuse is bad enough, but trying to justify it in the way Bainimarama has makes him equally responsible. It's his lack of proper oversight that will be allowing such disgusting crimes to occur, and he should also be held to account.

In the mean time Bainimarama wins this week's Asshole Award. Let's hope there's an independent and full inquiry into the matter and some international pressure to remove the dictator.

8 Mar 2013

Citizen A with Dr Wayne Hope & Selwyn Manning

Kick Don Elder off the payroll

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Labour's state owned enterprise spokesman Clayton Cosgrove believed Dr Elder was paid out $1.5m in addition to his annual salary of $1.3m.

Mr Ford confirmed Dr Elder was "working from home" in a consultancy capacity and was receiving full pay. He is due to finish with the company on April 1.

Receiving full pay as a consultant working from home? FFS! In these hard economic times where public services are being cut left right and centre, that's entirely unacceptable.

It appears that Elder is being paid to do sweet fuck all when he should be made to front up and answer for his part in the failure of Solid Energy.

When asked how much the entitlements were, he [current Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford] said: "If Dr Elder was happy for us to report his salary, I am more than happy to disclose what it is".

Mr Ford said a confidentiality agreement in Dr Elder's employment contract had prevented a disclosure of his entitlements.

Now hang on a minute... Elder is receiving an extensive amount of public money... The public therefore have a legal right to know exactly how much he's being paid and his contract cannot impede the law as it is written.

Clearly divulging such information wouldn't damage the economy, prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of the Government, meaning it's allowable under the law set out in the Official Information Act 1982 (PDF).

It was unclear if Opposition calls for a subpoena, forcing Dr Elder to appear, would have the support of government MPs, which it needs for it to be carried forward.

Obviously they won't want anymore light being shone on the issue, mainly because it was their incompetence just as much as the companies management that caused the publicly owned enterprise to go down the drain.

Nationals incompetence is so egregious that it looks like they might have failed on purpose in order to devalue the asset just before privatisation.

History has shown that such a tactic has been used to get public assets transferred into their greedy money grubbing hands and perhaps Elder is complicit in such a crime? That would explain why he's still on the payroll.