The Jackal: May 2013

31 May 2013


Regular readers of The Jackal might have noticed that I haven't been blogging over the last couple of days... Don't worry it's nothing permanent.

A couple of week's ago I simply hit a brick wall with my writing, and was finding it difficult. This is more commonly known as writer's block, which has no specific scientific explanation.

However what I think has caused my writer's block is that I've pretty much covered every political topic out there and have started to repeat myself. I'm also a bit demoralized that National is still so high in the polls despite their numerous stuff-ups, which have been well documented by left wing bloggers, if not the mainstream media.

Over the last couple of years, The Jackal has published well over a thousand articles in an attempt to change the political landscape in New Zealand for the better. It appears that my work has really only just begun and after a small holiday to recharge my batteries, I will be back with all guns blazing.

28 May 2013

What's The Kiwi Bid?

Another ambulance at the bottom of the cliff

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The Government's new national suicide prevention plan, announced today, contains a raft of new initiatives, including support for small communities which lose major industries and more support for families of suicide victims.

It aims to reduce the national average of 500 suicides each year, including about 100 youth suicides.

What a load of rubbish! The average number of suicides for five years to 2012 was 543. In 2008, 510 people committed suicide, which increased to 547 in 2012. The suicide rate hasn't been 500 for a very long time and certainly not since John Key became Prime Minster.

People should question such generalized figures when the actual amount of suicides per year is much much higher. The fact that information relating to the current suicide rate hasn't been released indicates that it has reached epidemic proportions. It's likely the suicide rate has exceeded the peak of 577 in 1998 and that recent figures haven't been released because it makes the government look bad.

Mr Key said the number of young people who took their own lives was "far too high - I mean, any number above zero is too high".

He said the issue predominantly affected boys as well as Maori and Pasifika youths.

"So it's critically important that we pour more resources in that area," he said.

"There's been some very tragic examples of copycat suicides. There's been quite big groupings in certain areas, and there are a lot of different complicating factors in this area.

It's not all that hard to understand... If people's lives are difficult, they sometimes choose to commit suicide. When more people's lives are difficult, there are more suicides committed. This is why the suicide rate is a good indication of how well a government is performing, or not performing as the case may be.

When you create high unemployment, cut funding for education, increase the cost of living, increase inequality, make services harder to attain and ensure there’s an underclass that has little hope to achieve a brighter future no matter how hard they work, there's consequences.

"So all I can say is that we care passionately about wanting to make sure that we protect youngsters. We know they're vulnerable."

If Key actually cared about young people, he wouldn't have reduced their ability to earn a proper living wage. Income for 16 to 20 year olds had already decreased before the government reintroduced youth rates, which essentially means young people will earn less and therefore not be able to purchase the basic necessities they require.

National's ageist agenda has ensured that New Zealand will continue to have the worst youth suicide rate in the world.

Hardship is the main contributor to suicide. That's why there are more suicides in rural areas than in urban communities and more suicides within financially struggling families. Under Keys incompetence, inequality has increased the fastest of all OECD countries leading to an increased amount of suicides.

So while the government is ignoring the adverse social and economic conditions they've created, they're grandstanding about an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that will do little to fix the problem. The government also appears to be trying to keep secret the extent of the problem, which is entirely unacceptable.

The amount of suicide in New Zealand always increases under a National led government and unfortunately nothing has changed in that regard under John Keys failed administration.

27 May 2013

Something to do on Wednesday

Failing to improve workplace safety

Earlier this week, an Independent Taskforce released its report into Workplace Health & Safety (PDF) in New Zealand. Although largely another human interest story, it found that:

Each year, around 1 in 10 workers is harmed, with about 200,000 claims being made by people to acc for costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses.

That's an atrocious record that shows health and safety laws in New Zealand are not adequate. In fact the report states that a lack of proper regulatory oversight is one of the reasons for such an appalling amount of work-related injuries and illnesses.

New Zealand’s health and safety law, and its implementation by the regulator, have failed to deliver the protection from workplace harms that New Zealanders can reasonably expect.

...And the cost to the nation for the governments failure is huge:

Workplace injuries and diseases caused by work-related exposures inflict an enormous emotional toll on individuals and their families. There are also significant economic and social costs to our nation. In 2010 these were estimated to be about $3.5 billion a year – around two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in today’s terms. This is the figure that MBIE accepts is the most reliable. However, costs have been estimated to be as high as $15 billion a year and $21 billion a year, depending on how the costs are measured and the extent to which indirect costs are included.

Economic cost that are a result of uncaring businesses trying to increase their profit margins.

To improve New Zealand's unsafe workplaces, the Independent Taskforce recommends that new legislation be drawn up and that such legislation extend to acute, chronic and catastrophic harm caused by unsafe business practices. It also recommends that corporate enterprises be prosecuted for their failures that lead to widespread harm.

National of course won't like this aspect of the recommendations, being that it flies in the face of their promotion and expansion of dangerous enterprises like mining, fracking and deep sea oil drilling.

We can therefore expect National to drag its heels over many of these recommendations.

25 May 2013

Coromandel Watchdog Regatta

Lockwood leech

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said New Zealand taxpayers should not have to fork out $7500 a week to pay for alternative premises for the High Commissioner while the official residence remains empty.

"Foreign Affairs has just been savagely restructured, with staff being made redundant and allowances slashed to save money.

"There will need to be very good reasons why $390,000 a year is being spent on alternative High Commission accommodation. That sum would cover the annual salaries of more than five Ministry staff."

Imagine how many children could be fed at school for $390,000 per year.

Mr Goff has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to say why the money is being spent.

Perhaps I can answer that question; the exorbitant amount of money being spent on Lockwwod Smith's accomodation is because he's in the old boys club.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand government policy continues to cause poverty to increase. Clearly social responsibility is a foreign concept to National, with John Key claiming the government cannot afford to ensure poor kids have enough to eat at the same time $7500 taxpayers dollars are being spent each week on rent for one of his mates.

While many thousands of children don't have enough sustenance to reach their full potential and the elderly are freezing because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly, all Lockwood leech has to do is smooze with other elitists. The very high and mighty commissioner gets to drink the finest wine and eat the best foods public money can buy while New Zealand becomes even more unequal and impoverished.

Let's hope that the next government will ensure such gluttony by public officials doesn’t continue to deprive the poor of the basic necessities of life.

Something to do today

I am the Ocean

Tony Ryall - Asshole of the Week

Yesterday, the Press reported:

A patient was allegedly forced to kneel for hours in a garage with his nose against the wall at a ''seriously dysfunctional'' residence for the intellectually disabled.

The man also complained that he was kicked, beaten and videotaped by staff, who an inquiry later found were abusing and neglecting their highly-dependant clients.

Latest Ministry of Health documents reveal that concerns from health professionals about the neglect of clinical care at facilities run by the Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust, a nationwide provider, went unanswered for up to two years.

It takes a real narcissistic asshole to neglect and abuse severely disabled people in this way. But what I find most despicable is that the abuse was allowed to continue for so long. Where on earth was the oversight for this horrible organization?

Therefore it's not just the abuser's that are at fault here... It's also the fault of those who allowed this abuse to continue. Being that this so-called trust attains substantial government funding, it's the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to ensure that public money is being spent appropriately, and not going towards supporting abuse.

In my opinion, providing money to an organization that's so obviously dysfunction while ensuring disabled people cannot be looked after by their own families because of funding restrictions is entirely unacceptable.

Couple this with the fact that cuts in funding so that checks and balances are no longer in place and it’s pretty clear that government policy is also at fault here. That's what has led to this widespread abuse of disabled people and the responsible Minister, Tony Ryall, should step up to the plate and ensure this kind of abuse doesn't occur again. He should also accept responsibility for it happening in the first place.

The latest revelations of widespread abuse are centred on the upper North Island, follow an investigation that uncovered a litany of horrors at a residence in South Auckland, including a disabled boy who was left alone in a paddock to eat grass.

Reports of failings at that facility, Parklands, prompted Health Minister Tony Ryall to order a review of the auditing, monitoring and accreditation of all residential disability providers.

At the same time, clients were physically assaulted by ''untrained and unsuitable'' staff - some who were former prisoners - who allegedly treated the residents more like inmates than patients.

Yet another review into problems caused by National cutting funding, in this instance cuts that have affected the most vulnerable within our communities.

Therefore this week's Asshole Award doesn't just go to Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust employees for conducting the abuse, it also goes to the government and more specifically Tony Ryall who has ensured, through detrimental policy, that defenseless disabled people are victimized.

The buck stops with the Minister of Health who has totally failed to make sure the Ministry of Health properly monitors such institutions. Tony Ryall is therefore in breach of his portfolio and should resign. In the mean time the incompetent Minister of Health wins this week’s Asshole Award. Hurrah!

24 May 2013

Citizen A with Selwyn Manning & Efeso Collins

Horrible slug!

In yet another inaccurate blog post by Cameron Slater, he asks:

What has been the most hilarious reaction to the IPCA Operation 8 report?

In my opinion, the reaction on Whale Oil Beef Hooked is the most laughable excuse for blogging I've read in a long time. The ever deluded Slater bleats:

And how about the most tragic aspects?

Our media buried the fact that the IPCA said the raids were justified.

Bzzt Wrong! The Independent Police Conduct Authority said the raids weren't lawfully conducted, which is a far more serious story to write about. Thie finding was a surprise being that the IPCA usually backs Police behaviour no matter what.

It's also a surprise that no police officer will be charged for their unlawful conduct during the raids and that this aspect of the sorry debacle hasn't been properly covered by our mainstream media.

As Bomber Bradbury succinctly points out:

There is clearly discrimination in this case, and such racism that is endemic within the Police force should in my opinion be the focus of any future investigation into the matter.

Media also failed to show the Police footage of the military camps.

Bzzt Wrong again blubber boy... On Tuesday 3 News reported a still image from a video shown in court last year as evidence of military-style training camps.

What the media did fail to show was the image of a police officer decked out in full combat gear, carrying an M-16 and harassing children on a bus.

The so-called Independent Police Conduct Authority claim the Police didn't stop and search a kōhanga reo bus full of young children as was reported in the media at the time. Conveniently for them the image of the police officer on board a kōhanga reo bus has disappeared from the Internet.

And perhaps most tragic of all – the media don’t even ask those involved why they were in the bush with rifles, playing at being soldiers and throwing Molotov cocktails.

Bzzt wrong yet again oh most ludicrous one. The media and the police have both extensively asked the accused why they were in the bush with guns and the answer has always been the same... they were training to survive in the bush. This is more commonly known as bush craft or hunting, which incidentally Slater often enjoys without police harrasement.

Now the left wing are using this report to attack the government…do we have to remind them that these raid occurred in 2007 under the rule of Helen Clark, with Annette King as Police Minister.

It's the current government that is responsible for fixing the problem, which by all accounts still exists within the Police force. Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any impetus by National to even look at why the Police acted unlawfully, let alone fix the problem or make amends for the harm its caused.

Why haven’t the media asked Annette King for comments about the raids? Why haven’t they asked Helen Clark?

Except the media has asked Annette King to comment on the IPCA's findings. In fact there has been a number of interviews given, which any blogger with half a brain should have been aware of if they wanted to be taken seriously. Here's what she said:

I can assure your listening public that I had no knowledge of how they were being carried out.

Now we know how they were, we know what the recommendations are, and I'm interested in ensuring that, if I was in that position again, it would not happen again.

So all in all a complete brain fart from Cameron Slater, one of his best yet.

23 May 2013

End of the Line

Undermining the future

Today, Coal Action Network reported:

“The Government appears hell-bent on backing yet another financially precarious coal company. It has changed the law retrospectively to give itself the power to allow access for mining, contrary to the requirements of the Conservation Act.

“Why allow this struggling company to rip the heart out of our precious conservation estate and wreck the climate? This is not what the people want and it will be opposed all the way, from in the courts to on the land.

I totally agree with Jeanette Fitzsimons and the 40,000 people who marched down Queen Street to protest against mining in conservation areas. Ignoring the people is bad enough, but the process National has used to allow Bathurst Resources Ltd to mine Denniston Plateau is entirely undemocratic.

Not only has there been no proper public consultation, it appears there has been no proper consideration of the environmental impact either. Along with the West Coast green gecko, giant land snail and giant weta, there is a plethora of flora unique to the area that will be adversely affected. There is also the increased greenhouse gas to consider that will be released from burning even more coal.

An open cast mine at Denniston Plateau spanning 106 hectares will not only be detrimental to our biodiversity, it will mean increased carbon in the atmosphere leading to even more climate change. When most other countries are moving away from coal for that very reason, New Zealand is flying in the face of environmental concerns and economic responsibility, which is something Fitzsimons eloquently highlights:

“Why back coal, a sunset industry, when we could be getting ahead of the clean energy curve? All around the world investors are getting out of coal because they know 80% of it can never be burned if we are to stay within a safe level of climate change.

“Papers released by Treasury this week show that Solid Energy advised the Government in 2010 to mine as much as possible, as fast as possible, before the world sees the light and moves to renewable energy. It appears to me that the Government has wholeheartedly embraced Solid’s plan to destroy as much of the climate as possible before they are stopped,” said Fitzsimons.

You can help save the Denniston Plateau by signing Forest and Birds petition here.

22 May 2013


21 May 2013

Follow the Frog

Mutton or what?

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Prime Minister John Key says the refusal by Chinese officials to clear containers of frozen meat being held at the border is simply because of confusion over documentation. 
The ministry's recent name change from Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to Ministry of Primary Industries, which issues export certificates, had caused confusion.

However last week the Shanghai Daily reported:

A raid at the market earlier this month led to the discovery of "New Zealand mutton" stored in the warehouse. The "mutton" had no production date or list of ingredients mentioned on the package.

It appears that the meat has been mislabeled before being exported. The issue is that New Zealand was exporting meat labeled as mutton when it's not mutton, which will do untold damage to our export industry worldwide... But try telling John Key that:

He was not convinced New Zealand export meat companies would be financially affected by the delay.

"The frozen meat is remaining frozen so that's a delay in terms of its entry across the border but realistically it won't be spoilt and the chilled meat is prioritised, so I'm not convinced there's a lot of costs here."

So why is the government and their obedient media lackeys still claiming its confusion over a government department name change instead of the real reason behind millions of dollars worth of meat from New Zealand being seized?

The mutton from New Zealand simply wouldn't have been impounded in China if it had been labeled correctly and was in fact mutton. The diplomatic as well as economic fallout from this fiasco could be extensive.

Reality Check: Canada's Oil Sands

Natz discriminate against disabled

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

On any number of counts, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill represents a particularly sorry piece of law-making.

Both its content and the manner in which it made its way through Parliament warrant the strongest criticism. The bill, which allots $23 million annually to people who care for disabled adult family members, was passed under urgency, denying public input through select committee hearings. To add insult, official advice from the Health Ministry on the legislation was heavily censored, with whole sections of the 28-page document blacked out.

It's unusual for an editorial in the NZ Herald to be so critical of the National party. With a plethora of equally bad legislative changes since 2008, one would think that such articles would be more commonplace.

The legislation limits the liability of the Government. Payments of the minimum wage are limited to adults assessed as having high or very high needs. It is estimated that the cost would jump to $65 million a year if payments were extended to all carers and all disabled adults.

In the normal course of events, those rendered ineligible by the legislation would surely mount a legal challenge to see if the Government's policy complied with the verdict of the Court of Appeal. But under the legislation people can no longer bring unlawful discrimination complaints about the new law or any family care policy to the Human Rights Commission or take court proceedings.

National should really listen to what the editor has to say... Instead we have John Key claiming:

Prime Minister John Key has defended the urgent passing of controversial legislation which restricted who could be paid for caring for disabled family members, saying that the Government faced further legal action if the law was not changed.

The government would normally face further legal action by discriminating against those who are eligible as a carer of disabled family members. But to impede the course of justice we have National trying to limit their liability by acting undemocratically.

Mr Key said that the Government risked further legal challenges if it did not change the law. "There are lots of permutations and combinations which could pose a very significant liability on future governments." He also said the Minister of Health was looking at similar cases which could be taken against the Government.

The parents as caregivers case was initially lodged with the Human Rights Commission over 14 years ago, and has been dragged through the courts since September 2008. National and Labour have both been fighting tooth and nail against the HRC and court rulings all the way.

The governments appeal against the decision by the high court was more recently dismissed, yet we still have National trying to avoid their responsibilities and essentially continue to discriminate against families with disabled members.

Clearly people who look after disabled family members should be financially supported. In my opinion, that financial help should be in proportion to the disability the family member has, not subject to continued discrimination that doesn't uphold the courts ruling.

Ensuring all disabled people get the assistance they require would amount to a fraction of the Ministry of Health's enormous budget. That means this isn't a financial decision, or even a legal one made for the reasons dishonest John outlines.

It's about National not wanting families with disabled members to stick to together... It's about National wanting to further discriminate against the disabled to ensure they cannot attain the dignity they deserve.

19 May 2013

Herald churnalism

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

We saw the many faces of National in Bill English's fifth Budget. There was the prudent, fiscally responsible National with an emphasis on moving the Government's books back into the black after years of deficits; the priority to cut government debt; the steely resolve to continue on with the partial sale of state assets and the nod to business with cuts in ACC levies.

Kerre McIvor (Woodham) has really outdone herself here... While Bill English's fifth budget essential does nothing, McIvor has made it seem grandiose. But even worse, she's claimed that National's priority is to cut government debt, which is a complete lie!

Under this budget, the government's net debt is forecast to rise from $57.9 billion in 2013 to $70.3 billion at the end of 2017. New Zealand's national debt will increase by $61 billion in the same time period, meaning we will be $208 billion in debt to the rest of the world.

How the fuck does that translate into "prudent and fiscally responsible" in anybodies language?

Somebody who writes for the NZ Herald should really get the facts straight and dig a little deeper into the story. McIvor has simply relied on National's propaganda to write her story and that's not journalism, that's churnalism.

17 May 2013

Put the fear of god in them

Today, Stuff reported:

The only memorable lines came later at the after-match function - John Key called Labour and the Greens "the devil beast", Labour leader David Shearer called the finance minister "Blackjack" Bill. And NZ First leader Winston Peters reckoned he was tempted to call in the Serious Fraud Office, the numbers were so shonky.

Claiming that the Greens and Labour are "the devil beast" is extraordinary, especially considering John Key is meant to be agnostic.

The Prime Minister apparently doesn't believe in the devil, and therefore shouldn't be using the fear of god as a way to try and undermine the opposition.

Some have even claimed that Key isn't just agnostic but is in fact an atheist... I wonder how that can be true though when this latest reference to spiritual matters isn't an isolated incident.

In March this year, Stuff also 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.

Talking about Hell and the Devil might be a normal practice of devout Christians, but it certainly rubs the wrong way against a Prime Minister who claims to be agnostic. Perhaps we should add this latest inconsistency to John Keys list of falsehoods?

Citizen A with Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton

Scientific consensus on climate change

Yesterday, the Guardian reported:

A survey of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals has found 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity.

Authors of the survey, published on Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, said the finding of near unanimity provided a powerful rebuttal to climate contrarians who insist the science of climate change remains unsettled.

The survey considered the work of some 29,000 scientists published in 11,994 academic papers. Of the 4,000-plus papers that took a position on the causes of climate change only 0.7% or 83 of those thousands of academic articles, disputed the scientific consensus that climate change is the result of human activity, with the view of the remaining 2.2% unclear.

Clearly the protestations that climate change isn't man made are entirely wrong!

The study blamed strenuous lobbying efforts by industry to undermine the science behind climate change for the gap in perception. The resulting confusion has blocked efforts to act on climate change.

It's not just lobbying, it's the huge amount of money polluting industries have available to spend on buying politicians and trying to mislead the public.

In 2004, Naomi Oreskes, an historian at the University of California, San Diego, surveyed published literature, releasing her results in the journal Science. She too came up with a similar finding that 97% of climate scientists agreed on the causes of climate change.

She wrote of the new survey in an email: "It is a nice, independent confirmation, using a somewhat different methodology than I used, that comes to the same result. It also refutes the claim, sometimes made by contrarians, that the consensus has broken down, much less 'shattered'."

We can therefore say with absolute certainty that the scientific consensus that climate change is man made has not changed and any claims to the contrary should simply be dismissed.

15 May 2013

14 May 2013

Hauiti hardly progressive

Hasn't National done well to spin the Aaron Gilmore scandal to their advantage? Not only has John Key been able to pretend he’s a leader by taking the moral high ground, one of the right wings main propagandists, Cameron Slater, got his face on the news to complain about bullying. That might seem ironic, but the real irony is that such bullyboy tactics are commonplace within the right wing, which makes their supposed outrage rather trite.

Aaron Gilmore getting drunk and threatening a person’s job wasn't anything unusual for a National MP; neither was trying to mislead. In fact the Tories lie to each other all the time, just like they lie to the public.

What was unusual was the single-minded focus of the mainstream media on Aaron Gilmore, who played his part as the bumbling fool perfectly. In fact one suspects that the medias disproportionate attention given to the list MP's stupidity was specifically designed to keep other stories out of the limelight. However there’s another reason for why the MSM wanted Gilmore gone.

Perhaps the most contentious aspect of the well controlled media circus is that Claudette Hauiti has jumped nine places in the National party rankings to replace Gilmore, not because she's particular talented, but because she apparently ticks all the boxes.

Hauiti is obviously Maori, female and a lesbian, and therefore is a difficult Tory for the progressive left to criticize. That's more than can be said for the two male list MP's Hauiti jumped ahead of, who were all too familiar as the born to rule to be effective at closing down the scandal.

So who exactly is Claudette Hauiti? For starters she's built up a successful Auckland based media company called Front of the Box Productions LTD., which has received a couple of million dollars of public funding. That funding caused former Act party leader, Rodney Hide, to question the then Minister of Māori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, about value for money... There will be no easy road between the far right and National's new MP.

Working with many actors and journalists producing various programs, some of which haven't been aired for some reason, Claudette Hauiti obviously has support from the very organization’s that have been so damning of Aaron Gilmore, which in my opinion is a bit of a conflict of interest.

Why is that a problem you might ask? After all, Hauiti can’t be worse than the drunken bully Aaron Gilmore. Well even though New Zealand has come to expect self-serving politicians anyway, Hauiti is a wolf in sheep's clothing and just as devious as any of her peers. Obviously Hauiti will feel right at home within a political party looking after the elites business interests, because she is of and for the 2%.

This seems to be news to some on the left, who have claimed Hauiti is somehow open-minded because she was apparently a former Grassroots Labour supporter, something that Hauiti has now explained away as being for research purposes.

Some on the left have gone so far as to claim she will support Hone Harawira‘s food in schools bill, even though there’s no way that will happen, not only because National won’t allow a conscience vote on the issue, but because Hauiti herself is highly critical of any type of welfare. Hell has more chance of freezing over before Hauiti crosses the floor to support any of the lefts progressive policies.

13 May 2013

Operation Relentless

12 May 2013

Privacy rights vs security interests

Today, Stuff reported:

An American expert who came to New Zealand to write a report on border security claims he was subject to heavy-handed tactics by intelligence agencies that seemed determined to shut him down.

Craig Lebamoff has worked on border security around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was working for the high-powered Department of Homeland Security when he won the prestigious Sir Ian Axford Fulbright Fellowship in public policy, and elected to have a stint as an "embedded attorney" with New Zealand's security, intelligence and police agencies. His aim was to write a thesis on border security.

But the New Zealand sabbatical quickly turned sour after seven months and his thesis was never published after the New Zealand Government refused to clear its release.

Obviously Lebamoff wasn't in agreement with how New Zealand's spying agencies are conducting their business and they couldn't handle a bit of constructive criticism from a respected academic.

Lebamoff insists there was nothing in his report that compromised New Zealand's security and everything he cited was in the public domain. He is also adamant that regular updates were provided to his host agency mentor at NZ Customs, Peter Taylor, and that his report was reviewed by two lawyers at Customs to check the information cited was publicly available, as well as subject to regular reviews and checks by other agencies.

But when he circulated a draft of his report for feedback and comment it set in train a series of bizarre events.

He received an email from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warning it "wouldn't be responsible for the consequences" if he published the report. Within the hour, the SIS phoned and accused him of using sensitive information, Lebamoff says. They also warned him of a possible investigation.

Both MFAT and the SIS have refused to comment.

Craig Lebamoff was specifically researching how New Zealand balances privacy rights and security interests, which is very interesting indeed. I wonder what exactly the government is trying to hide?

Considering he was doing his research at the same time widespread illegal spying was being conducted on New Zealand citizens, perhaps the report highlights the fact that the right to privacy has been systematically breached by overreaching spying agencies?

Clearly the balance between our privacy and upholding national security is out of kilter with the advent of new legislation to legalize spying on New Zealand citizens. It's also obvious that the increased powers, staff numbers and budgets of our spying agencies far exceeding those assigned to biosecurity should be questioned.

How large exactly New Zealand's spying agencies are in comparison to our border security agencies the government will not say, but I presume their secretiveness is because the public would likely be aghast at the revelation of just how enormous, unaccountable and all powerful New Zealand's spying agencies actually are. Perhaps that was also a part of Lebamoff's research, which would have likely resulted in a recommendation to reduce their funding in favour of increasing border security efforts.

Being that there are obvious priority issues, it's little wonder that the agencies themselves weren't pleased with the report and National isn't going to release it, even though it's of public interest. Certainly getting a couple of names wrong isn't a genuine reason for burying it in a pile of political double speak.

As well as trying to keep a lid on the Lebamoff report, National is refusing to provide details concerning the actual number of spies employed by the government. In April a letter was sent to the Prime Minister to request information concerning New Zealand's intelligence agencies:

Please provide me with information relating to the Security Intelligence Service, Government Communications Security Bureau, Organised Crime Intelligence Unit, Financial Intelligence Unit, Strategic Intelligence Unit, National Drug Intelligence Bureau, National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, Identity Intelligence Unit, Threat Assessment Unit, Police Terrorism Investigation and Intelligence Group, Special Investigation Group, National Assessments Bureau, Domestic and External Security Group, Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security and the Joint Geospatial Support Facility.

I formally request information on the total number of staff in each of these organisations per year from 1998 to 2013? Please also divide that total into separate positions within each organisation and the annual remuneration for each position? Please also provide the total budget for each organisation per year from 1998 to 2013?

That request was made under the Official Information Act 1982 (PDF), because the number of employees being funded by the taxpayer in each of these agencies should obviously be public knowledge. However the Prime Minister's office has refused to provide that information, claiming the annual reports are where such statistics can be attained. Unfortunately that's not the case.

John Subritzky even cites section 9(2)(a) of the act, saying there's no public interest in releasing the withheld information concerning the positions and amount of remuneration paid to each group of employees. The Director of the Office of the Chief Executive also claims that collating this information would take too much time and, ironically, that releasing such information would also be a breach of the employees right to privacy.

Such information would normally be collated for budgeting reasons and should therefore be readily available. The upshot being the request is declined not because of the reasons stated, but because the government wants the share size of our spying agencies to remain secret.

To decline such formal requests for information is normal practice for the current government, being that they're a failed administration with lots and lots to hide. The Lebamoff report is just one more example that shows National doesn't have its priorities in order. In my opinion, the right for a law abiding citizen to have privacy and the nations biosecurity should always be put ahead of the the interests of the spooks, especially in peaceful times.

10 May 2013

Citizen A with Chris Trotter & Selwyn Manning - Hero of the Week

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Hip-hop star has donated $100,000 to help low-decile Auckland schools provide information technology to students.

The US singer, songwriter and producer who rose to fame as a member of the Black Eyed Peas, was brought to New Zealand for a private show last night.

The star made a surprise appearance at Point England Primary School in east Auckland this afternoon where he presented a $100,000 cheque to digital literacy charity the Manaiakalani Education Trust.

What a cool cat! Not only has recognised that low-decile schools are struggling to fund such programs, he's donated a large amount of his own cash to ensure deprived children in New Zealand have the chance to reach their full potential.

That's more than can be said for the current government who isn't even going to help kids in decile 1 and 2 schools get enough food to eat let alone provide adequate funding to allow them to participate in the digital revolution.

Of course National will have no qualms about poor people being technologically disadvantaged. After all, keeping the public in the dark is really the only way they can govern.

The money would go towards the trust's programmes of providing netbooks to students and their families, building its own wireless network for students, and supporting e-learning for teachers and parents.

This should already be something the Ministry of Education is fully funding, especially if we want New Zealand to not be left further behind the rest of the world. clearly understands how important it is for kids to keep up with technological developments, and has made similar donations all around the world:

In my opinion this guy deserves a knighthood or something similar better to recognize his wonderful generosity, not to mention his achievements as a performing artist.

The singer, whose real name is William Adams, talked to students about his modest beginnings in a Los Angeles ghetto, how he never knew his father and was driven by a desire to provide for his mother.

I bet those students will remember that for the rest of their lives. Not only has come from the mean streets, he hasn't lost his head with the huge success of The Black Eyed Peas. That makes him a dude through and through and therefore highly deserving of this week's Hero award.

9 May 2013

Gareth Hughes on new spying laws

Dunne supports hunger

Today, Kiwibog published a letter by Peter Dunne:

I fully understand what is intended by this essentially laudable proposals, but I think it is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child. That is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem. 
At one level, the idea of meals in schools is superficially attractive, but it is essentially palliative, and does little to deal with the circumstances of these children on a long term basis. 

I really don't see how feeding hungry kids can be viewed as superficial? Its children's short-term hunger leading onto long-term problems that Peter Dunne should be concerned with, which is clearly anything but a superficial problem.

Unless Dunne plans to increase benefits and wages to a degree that parents can afford to pay bills and buy enough food each week, which simply won't happen under this National government, then a "palliative" solution is all that is currently available.

I'm left wondering if Dunne would perhaps argue against soup kitchens during the great depression because it wasn't going to permanently cure the problem of widespread unemployment and impoverishment?

Then there is the question of which group of children should we be focusing on. After all, not all children in schools will come from the same socio-economic backgrounds. So, should such a programme be applied universally, which would be as expensive as it would be impractical, or should it be more tightly targeted?

How about feeding the kids who arrive at school without having any breakfast? How about feeding the thousands of kids who arrive at school without any food to eat and don't have any money to purchase lunch? Asking kids if they want breakfast or lunch seems like a pretty simple solution to me.

And if so, how? Should, for example, it just apply in low decile schools, even though there will [be] children in those schools from a higher socio-economic status who would not need such a programme?

So the children from low-income households (270,000 children are now considered to be living in poverty) should go hungry because there are some children who's families can afford to feed them? What an entirely pathetic argument based on elitism!

In that event, what about low-income household children in higher decile schools? Or, to get around income definition problems, should the children of beneficiaries be the only ones eligible?

Of course not! There are many New Zealanders who are considered to be working poor because of our low waged economy and the high cost of living. Having a job these days doesn't necessarily mean people can pay the bills and buy enough food each week.

The real silly thing about Peter Dunne's argument is that even a cursory glance at the actual Education (Food in Schools) Amendment Bill (PDF) would enable somebody to understand that the policy proposes a targeted approach. Here's the explanatory note to the bill:

This Bill amends the Education Act 1989 to provide for the introduction of fully State funded breakfast and lunch programmes into all decile 1 and 2 schools and other designated schools in New Zealand.

The meals will be available to all enrolled students in these schools free of charge, and will be required to meet Ministry of Health nutritional guidelines.

Despite that well-defined policy initiative, The idiot Minister of Revenue bleats:

Whatever way one looks at the issue, the definitional problems are massive, and strongly suggest that such a programme would not only be unsustainable, but also impractical, and in a number of cases potentially inequitable.

Except Dunne's definition above is clearly wrong! It's what they call a straw man argument to make the problem appear disproportionately large so that any solution seems unattainable. Not only is Dunne being dishonest in his argument, he's ignoring the fact that food in schools programs are being effectively run all around the world.

With New Zealand being a huge producer and exporter of food, surely we can find enough to feed some hungry children in schools? Besides, the long-term cost to the nation and to children's ability to learn from not doing anything far outweighs any short-term cost of providing children with enough food.

The heartless Peter Dunne also appears to be arguing that some well off children will abuse the system by getting breakfast or lunch for free when their parents could otherwise afford to provide it. That might be the case, but it shouldn't preclude poor kids from getting enough sustenance.

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them get the support they need to properly feed their children.

That might be a laudable idea, but would be just as costly as providing food in schools and take far longer to ensure children are getting enough food, which is an immediate problem.

That support could take any number of forms, depending on individual circumstances, including direct assistance with the provision of food, at one end of the scale, through to such things as life skills advice on cooking, for example, and proper budget advice at the other end of the scale.

The ever-deluded Peter Dunne appears to be saying that poor families should attain more food parcels from charitable organisations, many of which are already swamped. Likewise budgeting agencies are struggling to keep up with demand, especially since National cut funding for many of these agencies. That clearly shows the government has no intention to implement any of Dunne's already failing proposals.

Such a targeted approach is far more likely to succeed in the long term, and benefit directly at-risk children, and would have my full support.

Then why is he propping up a government that's doing the exact opposite? Since 2008, National has ensured the amount of children living in poverty has increased by more than 50,000 by cutting funding for budgeting services, kicking thousands off the welfare they're entitled to and generally increasing unemployment. They have been actively working to make the problem of inequality a lot worse.

I used to think Dunne had a heart, but now I see it's been corrupted by National's selfishness.

Here's a list of organisations supporting the campaign to feed children in schools:

Anglican Church
Auckland Action Against Poverty
Caritas Aotearoa NZ
Child Poverty Action Group
CTU Rūnanga
Every Child Counts
Methodist Church
NZ Educational Institute
NZ Nurses’ Organisation
NZ Principals’ Federation
Poverty Action Waikato
Salvation Army
Save the Children
Te ORA (Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa): Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association
Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League)
Te Waka Huia
The Royal New Zealand College for General Practitioners
Unicef NZ
Unite Union
Women’s Refuge

8 May 2013

Our green roadie

Stand up and fight

Yesterday's man

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

There are two reasons why the Prime Minister should not have made this comment. The first is that it's not true. The second is that if it was true, then instead of publicly and gracelessly blurting it out in this manner, as Prime Minister he should be mulling the consequences, more so as he won't be Prime Minister in 18 months.

But the fact is that it's wrong. A dying city claim is a reflection of a declining population. Wellington's is rising, not as rapidly as Auckland, but then what city in Australasia is?

Surely Key must realise that he's up shits creek without a paddle now that one of his staunchest supporters has come out and publicly lambasted him? Bob Jones isn't known for his criticism of National politicians, which makes his argument all the more compelling.

My company, as the largest private CBD office-building owner in Auckland and Wellington, provides an excellent test. For the past decade office-space demand in the capital has exceeded Auckland's. That position reversed six months ago but I've been around long enough to know these things are cyclical.

Not only was Key lying when he said Wellington was a dying city, it appears that his excuse for lying is also incorrect. Bob Jones is indicating that demand for office space in the capital city is still strong, and with Wellington's population increasing, which will result in economic growth, more businesses will obviously require office space.

The strongest economies in the Western world are capitals, be they London, Canberra or Washington. As I said, democracy equals bureaucracy, an unavoidable price we pay in lieu of dictatorships. No one is forced to live in Wellington, Timaru, Taupo or Auckland. They choose to and will still be there long after the Prime Minister has become yesterday's man, a fate awaiting all politicians.

In my opinion, Key has already become yesterday's man. His Tephlon coating was obviously not built to last.

Only for children

7 May 2013

Is Wellington a dying city?

Today, the Dominion Post reported:

Prime Minister John Key admits he should have chosen his words more carefully when he branded Wellington a "dying city."

He told Takapuna business leaders last week that the government doesn't know how to "turn it around".

This morning Mr Key attempted to clarify want he meant. "I should have said under sustained pressure, which would have been a better terminology."

The capital is "very vibrant, actually".

Talk about confusing! Either Wellington is a dying city or it's a vibrant city, it cannot be both. It appears that Keys first comment is what he actually believes, whereas the second comment that Wellington is vibrant was made to reduce any backlash for his stupidity!

If Key labels Wellington a dying city, then I would hate to know what he thinks about small town New Zealand. Many rural areas have been badly impacted by National's neoliberal agenda and have experienced an increase in unemployment and a huge loss of productive businesses.

A lack of employment opportunities has resulted in people leaving in droves to place like Auckland and Australia. In fact if Key describes Wellington as a dying city, then other areas of New Zealand should be considered dead and buried.

Of course this is an inappropriate way for a Prime Minister to describe anywhere in New Zealand, with all its innovative potential just waiting for a proactive government to develop and encourage. John Key is in fact describing the current governments failure to tap into that potential growth, even in the countries capital city.

Wellington is definitely not dying... It might be afflicted with a government that has no actual plan for sustained growth, but it's a long way away from requiring funeral arrangements.

Stop Coca-Cola trashing Australia

6 May 2013

Dumping poison on our bees

On 29 April, the BBC reported:

The European Commission will restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations. 
Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.
But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Actually the evidence clearly indicates that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees even when proper measures are followed to limit exposure. Here's what one robust Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees (PDF) found:

Although existing research has documented measurable sublethal effects, few field studies have been properly designed or conducted over a long enough period of time to assess the full risk to bees. Nevertheless, the overall evidence points to the fact that neonicotinoids are harming bees.

With bees being such a vital part of the ecology and our economy, it's little wonder that the European Commission has moved to protect them from neonicotinoids. The BBC article continues:

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban - not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids - and the UK cannot opt out.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year.

The European moritorium will of course reduce the sales of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, with manufacturers likely to be looking elsewhere to sell their poisonous products.

One such place is New Zealand, with North Carolina based Ensystex Inc. recently making an application to import a neonicotinoid based insecticide called Bithor.

At the beginning of May, the EPA reported:

The Environmental Protection Authority is calling for submissions on an application to import an insecticide used to eradicate ants.


In its application, Ensystex NZ Ltd, says the product will generally be used by professional pest control operators to treat homes and buildings.

It says one benefit of Bithor is that, because it contains two different active ingredients, there is less risk that the insects will develop a resistance to it.
The application notes Bithor can pose a risk to human health, but this risk can be minimised by the use of appropriate protective equipment.

The applicant has classified the substance as highly ecotoxic to bees.

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, this would trigger controls, such as restricting the application of the substance if bees are foraging or are likely to forage in the area, and if there are beehives in close proximity.

Bees in New Zealand are already under attack from a number of imported pests and diseases and with them being crucial to New Zealand’s primary sector, pollinating around one third of our food sources, we cannot afford to risk any further adverse impact by increasing the amount of dangerous pesticides they come into contact with.

New Zealand should follow the European Commissions lead, and move towards banning insecticides that contain neonicotinoids. We shouldn't be the dumping ground for dangerous substances that can't be sold elsewhere.

You can help save the bees from neonicotinoid poisoning by making a submission to the Environmental Protection Agency against the importation of Bithor, and any other pesticides that contain the toxic substance.

Please also download and sign the Green's save the bees petition to ensure the multi-million dollar industries that rely on these little insects remain profitable.

4 May 2013

Right wing confusion over NZ Power

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Investors in Mighty River Power should send the champagne next week to Russel Norman, Green Party, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

The stock looked a good buy even before he talked the Labour Party into threatening price control on electricity. It looks an even better one now.

What a confusing statement. Roughan is basically saying that the Labour and Greens policy announcement concerning NZ Power has caused the share price of Mighty River Power to drop, but is then saying that's a good thing for people buying shares because they will be cheaper. He then says it's a bad thing:

Brokers and fund managers expect the bids from institutions to be at the bottom or even below the range the Government considers fair value. Taxpayers should send the Greens' financial larrikin something else - a bill.

Brian Gaynor has estimated the likely cost to the public purse at $400 million.

Leaving aside the fact that National said they wouldn't partially privatise unless they got a fair price, where on earth has Gaynor pulled that $400 million figure out from? The actual estimated reduction to the government's books is $60 to $90 million, which is easily reimbursed to taxpayers through cheaper power prices.

Roughan then claims there is no real risk from the policy announcement:

When the stock starts trading on the New Zealand and Australian exchanges, probably on Friday, we could begin to see the "significant upside", as they say. But it might take a little longer for the price to rise, as it will when those who were too nervous to subscribe this week reassess the political risk.

The right wing hack is basically arguing that there will be no long-term adverse effect from the NZ Power announcement on the value of shares, and they will significantly increase in value making investment worthwhile.

That doesn't just contradict what most other right wing propagandist's have been claiming for week's on end, it makes their argument against NZ Power largely ineffectual. Will NZ Power cause the stock market to crash or not?

Roughan's argument, like most other deluded right wingers, is entirely based on a what if scenario, which basically amounts to making financial investment decisions on par with fortune telling.

Let's see what else Roughan's crystal ball gazing foretells:

Before the electricity market could be replaced with a state-controlled pricing regime, two things would need to happen. Labour and the Greens would need to win the next election, and if they did they would need to carry out this policy. Neither, I think, is likely.

Claiming that Labour and the Greens won't form the next government is all a bit premature... But claiming that they won't implement their policy to lower the cost of electricity if elected is down right insane! This is a policy both parties will campaign on, and the public will therefore expect it to be undertaken if Labour and the Greens win the next general election.

But what's perhaps even more delusional is why Roughan thinks National is a certain shoe-in:

John Key remains the most widely admired of any New Zealand Prime Minister I have seen. National continues to lead all polls by a margin that is remarkable five years into the life of a government.

Unless something disastrous happens, he looks certain to win again next year.

A mighty big claim 18 months out from the next general election, especially considering what the polling trend is showing. Here's the latest Roy Morgan:

Although National has substantially increased their vote, the low support for governing Coalition partners the Maori Party, ACT NZ and United Future mean a combined Labour/ Greens/ New Zealand First coalition remains a good chance of forming Government after the next New Zealand Election — due late next year.

Despite that statistical analysis showing National would lose, the ignorant propagandist believes:

Democracies, though, have an uncanny habit of getting the governments they want, and we don't seem to like coalitions at all, let alone coalitions of second and third. We have consistently punished smaller partners and let the leading party govern alone for all practical purposes.

National certainly aren't governing alone, and require the help of John Banks, Peter Dunne and/or the Maori party to pass legislation. We actually have a coalition government at the moment elected by 24% of New Zealanders.

That fact doesn't just make John Roughan look a little bit confused it makes him appear to be entirely mental! As Gary Morgan highlights, it's the declining support for National's coalition partners that could be the decider, and with things not looking good for them, John Key being reelected is not a certainty.

All Roughan's article really does is stroke the egos of those rich enough to invest in Mighty River Power, who are likely to support National anyway, while trying to blame the opposition for any possible issue the share offer faces.

Similarly, Fran O'Sullivan's article also dismisses NZ Power without justification. For instance, she completely fails to acknowledge the reason behind the policy in the first place, which is to reduce the extensive energy poverty in New Zealand so that people can heat their homes properly.

But if that ignorance of the key issue here wasn't bad enough, O'Sullivan seems to believe that Labour and the Greens somehow owe those who have caused such inequality in the first place an explanation and say in their socially conscious policy:

There certainly are genuine business concerns at the precedent the two parties have set by their announcement to set up NZ Power to constrain electricity market prices, without even discussing the proposed and complex policy with key players.

Whoever O'Sullivan's "key players" are, they certainly don't have the best interests of the public at heart if they're against such considerate and moderate policy.

NZ Power is definitely not a "precedent" by any stretch of the imagination, and similar regulators are pretty normal in many other successful democracies around the world. By all accounts such systems work well to ensure consumers are supplied with affordable electricity.

O'Sullivan, like all the other National propagandists, is ignoring that fact like the plague. It also doesn't seem to matter to them that the policy behind NZ Power was proposed by the Ministry of Economic Development in their Review of the New Zealand Electricity Market (PDF) way back in 2006.

That well researched document looked at alternative models to benefit New Zealand, with a single buyer model being the result.

If you want to know just how much bullshit the right wing has been spreading about NZ Power, I suggest you read what the actual research is showing along with the Greens discussion paper (PDF) on the matter.

Another issue the right wing is ignoring is that most of our trading partners have recently gone back into recession, meaning there will be less foreign investment to ensure the government gets a fair price. Despite this glaringly obvious problem, O'Sullivan lays all the blame for the Mighty River Power share offer potentially failing on the opposition:

There's been plenty of back-of-the envelope estimates suggesting the Government could lose out on at least $400 million and possibly a much higher amount if the MRP float bombs and the shares don't reach the predicted price band. Other estimations - including that relayed by the business lobbies - suggest $1.4 billion could be wiped off the value of private power companies and a similar amount from the taxpayer-owned companies which will go on the block.

Next week, it will be apparent to what extent the Opposition's proposed intervention has affected values.

Things like the increased productivity from having a healthier population because NZ Power will allow for people to heat their homes properly is obviously of no concern to O'Sullivan. Nor is it a problem for these elitists that New Zealand is now the second most expensive developed country in the world to live in. They only care about the profits to be made from selling our assets, which will be of no benefit to the majority of Kiwi families.

In many respects the right wing doesn't share in the values that have made this country great. They seem to regard fairness and equality as principles that don't apply when it benefits their bank accounts. That lack of sympathy or social conscience clearly displays a complete disconnect between the right wing's spin doctors and your average Kiwi family, who's cost of living has increased while wages and opportunities for work continue to decline under a National coalition government.

The degree of the current governments failure to make people's lives better will decide the next election, not the rampant and baseless ranting's from right wing hacks like Roughan and O'Sullivan who wouldn't know the truth if it bit them on the ass!

The Climate Reality Pledge

3 May 2013

Citizen A with Colin Craig & David Slack

Real men don't shoot ducks

Kindness not cruelty sought for New Zealand’s ducks. Tomorrow is the first day of duck shooting season and we’ve got a message for the shooters who delight in taking pot shots at animals!

Read more about SAFE's campaign against duck shooting here.

Aaron Gilmore - Asshole of the Week

Today, One News reported:

The Service Union is calling for National MP Aaron Gilmore to step down and apologise to all hospitality workers following his behaviour on a night out at a hotel in Hanmer Springs on Saturday.

It is alleged the MP used abusive language and threatened to use his influence to have a waiter fired after he refused to serve him more alcohol.

The union representing hospitality workers is calling on Gilmore to formally apologise to all hospitality workers across New Zealand and resign if it is confirmed that he threatened to get a worker sacked by using the Prime Minister's office.

There's little doubt that Aaron Gilmore abused and threatened a hospitality workers job because he didn't get what he wanted, which in my opinion is a despicable abuse of power.

Gilmore might profess his innocence, but with more witnesses coming forward, the National MP trying to pass the buck makes his situation look even worse... It also makes him remaining in parliament an entirely indefensible decision.

Today, the NZ Herald also reported:

Mr Riches said that by the time of the incident - during which Mr Gilmore allegedly called the waiter a "dickhead" - only he and Mr Gilmore remained at the restaurant.

"I consider attributing blame to any other person to be completely unjustified."

Mr Riches said Mr Gilmore tried to "use his status as a Member of Parliament to his own advantage once he had been denied further alcohol service" and "threatened to have the Prime Minister's Office intervene and end the waiter's employment".

Mr Riches confirmed Mr Gilmore asked the waiter "Don't you know who I am?" and gave him his business card to verify his identity, "which was extremely embarrassing".

"After Mr Gilmore departed I was left to explain to the staff member that the powers of a backbench list MP are rather limited, do not extend to the firing of restaurant staff and that his job was safe," Mr Riches said.

It's reasonable to believe that Christchurch lawyer Andrew Riches' account of what happened is accurate. After all a lawyer must not certify the truth of any matter to any person unless they believe its true. That means Gilmore has not only tried to mislead the press, he's likely misled the Office of the Prime Minister as well.

Mr Key yesterday said: "Any suggestion that a member of parliament sought to use the influence of the Prime Minister's office inappropriately is a serious matter.

"My chief of staff has rung Mr Gilmore this afternoon and Mr Gilmore refuted the allegation. Mr Gilmore indicated that he did not believe that he used the words claimed in Mr Riches' statement."

Through a spokeswoman, Mr Key said he had accepted Mr Gilmore's apology.

He was "not going to get into the detail of claims and counter-claims but expected that Mr Gilmore has learned a lesson from the whole thing". But if a staff member or the management at the hotel wanted to lay a complaint, "the Prime Minister's office will ensure the complaint is thoroughly investigated". 
While being drunk and obnoxious in a restaurant is unlikely to result in serious disciplinary action, Mr Gilmore may be in trouble if Mr Riches' account is verified and shows Mr Gilmore misled Mr Key's office.

What all this shows is that Aaron Gilmore is a lying asshole! In my opinion, he should be removed from his privileged position of power so there’s no longer any opportunity for him to threaten people's livelihoods. Gilmore is clearly lacking something we should expect from all our elected officials, a moral compass.

Unfortunately Key is also lacking in this department and probably won't remove Gilmore from the position he's subsequently abused. In effect the Prime Minister was only paying lip service when he said he required high standards from his colleges. If Gilmore's arrogant actions are what we should accept as the standard, then our expectations will be very low indeed.

Aaron Gilmore's unacceptable conduct at a Hanmer Springs hotel is why he wins this week's Asshole Award. Along with lying on his CV about his qualifications, the National MP has shown only disrespect for his role as a representative of New Zealand. Aaron Gilmore should therefore resign or be removed forthwith.