The Jackal: August 2013

31 Aug 2013

Police out of control

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Arthur Allan Thomas has been re-interviewed by police investigating the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe, one of New Zealand's best-known unsolved crimes.

Mr Thomas spent nine years in prison for the killings, but was then pardoned.

The Weekend Herald can today reveal that in the past few weeks, Mr Thomas, two of his brothers, his sister and her husband have been interviewed by police - and some have been asked to provide alibis.

This is clearly a case of Police harassment.

A rifle belonging to Mr Thomas' brother was taken away by police for testing.

Officers have told the family that they still believe Mr Thomas' rifle was used to shoot the young couple at their Pukekawa farm in June 1970, despite his being cleared of the double murder.

His family say they are horrified that the police are still pursuing and "harassing" them, instead of finding out who really killed the Crewes.

Good point. Instead of looking for the real killer/s, the Police are intent on trying to save face by pursuing a guy they had stitched up.

The problem is there's no proper Police accountability in New Zealand. Arthur Allan Thomas has been cleared of the murders and should therefore be left alone to get on with his life. But instead of doing the right thing, the Police are determined to pin the murders on him or his family when there is no evidence showing that they were involved.

Another recent case that shows the Police are out of control is their decision not to pursue charges over the GCSB's illegal spying. Despite the law being clear, the Police are claiming that there was no intent to break the law and this somehow makes it OK. There was obviously intent to break the law, because requests were made for the illegal spying to be undertaken.

Then we have another story from this week whereby the Police broke a confidentiality agreement with the mother of Halatau Naitoko, a new father they killed in a shootout in 2009. He was an innocent victim who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The agreement the Police broke also threatened Ivoni Fuimaono with three months jail time if she revealed the name of her sons shooter. This shooting is not an isolated case and Police in New Zealand are never held to account for accidentally or intentionally taking somebody else's life.

So who is meant to have oversight? Firstly there is the Independent Police Conduct Authority, an organization specifically set up to protect the Police from prosecution. Take the case of them refusing to investigate the Police ignoring evidence that clearly shows Malcolm Rewa is guilty and Teina Pora was wrongfully convicted. If the Police had acted upon the evidence from one of Malcolm Rewa's victims, more than twenty rapes and perhaps a murder would not have occurred.

These are not isolated cases of Police incompetence and corruption. Although this is not a criticism of all police officers, as many of them do a fine and difficult job; how is it possible for rogue cops to harass, beat, kill and stitch up people and get away with it? How are they able to be involved in high speed car chases that lead to death and never be at fault? We called off the chase just seconds before the accident... Yeah right!

The Police aren't being held to account for their illegal activity by the IPCA or the Minister, Judith Collins. She will be actively involved in the harassment of Arthur Allan Thomas and his family. Instead of accepting that he was pardoned, Collins is determined to ignore the courts ruling and believes she is a law unto herself. Unfortunately that arrogance is infecting the entire Police force, an infection that must be remedied before the public can have faith in our guardians of the peace.

30 Aug 2013

Citizen A with Keith Locke & Simon Prast

Russel Norman vs John Key

PM stokes fears over deep sea drilling

Today, NewstalkZB reports:

PM allays fears over deep sea drilling

The Prime Minister's adamant the public's not going to be muzzled over deep sea drilling projects.

The Government's considering a law change that would make application for offshore exploratory drilling non-notified.

A law change which essentially means the public won't know about where and when seismic testing is taking place and exploratory wells are being drilled. They also won't be allowed a say in any decision making. If that's not muzzling the public, I don't know what is.

But John Key doesn't think that locks people out of having a say on such projects.

"This is at the exploratory stage and if eventually they go to full exploration, then that will go through the normal process with normal consents and public input."

This subsequent law change is of course because the government has realised their "Anadarko Amendment" to make protesting at sea illegal will simply be ignored. There are many New Zealander's who are strongly opposed to deep sea oil drilling and will risk prosecution to stand up for what is right.

Instead of listening to the people of New Zealand, the government is trying to win the argument by removing people's access to information. They are trying to remove people's right to peacefully oppose dangerous industries that have proven disastrous to the environment on more occasions than I would like to number.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Environmentalists say the exploration stage is risky with a danger of spills. The Deepwater Horizon disaster took place during drilling a deep exploratory well, killing 11 crewmen and sending millions of barrels of oil gushing into the sea for 87 days.

A study by Scandinavia's largest independent research organisation SINTEF shows more than a third of blowouts take place during exploratory drilling.

Clearly oil exploration isn't the benign industry that the government is making it out to be. It is a highly dangerous and risky enterprise and therefore something the public should be notified about.

Why isn't this decision going though a parliamentary select committee? By ignoring proper process and trying to limit the public's say on such decisions, the government is once again acting undemocratically. They therefore don't deserve to govern.

Head meets brick wall

Today, the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor reported (PDF):

Promoting the use of evidence in policy formation across government

As a priority, I have engaged in the promotion of quality scientific evidence in policy formation and its evaluation. This has been developed much further over the last year. The Office completed a survey of 17 public service agencies to critically assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding the use of research-derived evidence in their work. I have analysed these results and presented my findings and recommendations to you in a draft report scheduled to be released in September 2013. In short, policy responses that are grounded in local needs and values and that are evidence-informed will stand a greater chance of success in effecting positive change for New Zealanders.

Wanting the current government to take an evidence based approach is admirable, but I doubt it will happen. National is full of ideologically driven policy that when compared to what the evidence shows, falls flat on its face. Government MP's also have a number of vested interests that ensure the evidence is ignored.

Here is a case in point. Sir Peter Gluckman's previous report (PDF) was all about climate change and what New Zealand should be doing. He succinctly states that:

There is unequivocal evidence that the Earth’s climate is changing, and there is strong scientific agreement that this is predominantly as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

However Gluckman's observations and recommendations are being ignored by the Prime Minister. By pushing ahead with a deep sea oil drilling program and expanding New Zealands fossil fuel industry in other damaging ways, the government is ignoring the risk that climate change posses.

National is determined to build more highways when there is no evidence of any positive economic return compared to the astronomical cost. They clearly have no consideration for the additional greenhouse gas emissions their policies will cause.

That's because John Key is essentially a climate change denier. There is no real indication that he's changed his opinion from when he scoffed at the idea, as displayed in this video from before he became Prime Minister:

Police misinterpreted the law

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Police today released their decision following an investigation into Dr Norman's complaint into the Government Communications Security Bureau's (GCSB) illegal interception of the communications of New Zealanders.

The police found that Kim Dotcom and his associate Bram van der Kolk were illegally spied on, but as GCSB staff did not act with criminal intent, no one would be held accountable.

Read the letter sent by police to Dr Norman here

Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch's letter to Dr Russel Norman states:

Although the inquiry focussed on issues specifically related to the offence against section 216B of the Crimes Act 1961, it also considered offences in a wider context including section 216C and 107 of the Crimes Act 1961, with reference to the GCSB Act 2003.

Section 216B of the Crimes Act 1961 (PDF) states:

Prohibition on use of interception devices

(1) Subject to subsections (2) to (5), every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally intercepts any private communication by means of an interception device.

Mike Rusbatch
Subsection (2)(b)(iiia) states that a person is not liable if their intercepting of a private communication does so pursuant to, and in accordance with the terms of, any authority conferred by or under the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 (PDF).

That's the bit the Police think lets the GCSB off the hook. They have in fact misinterpreted the law. The GCSB Act 2003 did not confer any authority to the GCSB to illegally spy on New Zealand citizens. That's why the government is currently changing the law. However these changes should not apply to a criminal act that occurred prior to those amendments.

It is for the courts to decide whether the GCSB intended to illegally spy on Kim Dotcom and his associate Bram van der Kolk. The Crimes Act 1961 specifically states that illegal spying is an offence and the GCSB Act 2003 did not confer authority to the GCSB to breach the law.

When the Police are intentionally misinterpreting the law in order to not prosecute the GCSB, people need to start asking some serious questions about Police corruption. Because by all intents and purposes that's exactly what this looks like.

29 Aug 2013

Aw! Did I offend you?

Walk away John

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

A threat from Prime Minister John Key to "walk away" from Christchurch red-zoners challenging their buyout offers has been labelled offensive and lacking compassion.

Just when you thought John Key couldn't get any lower he goes and makes a despicable and inexcusable threat to people trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible Christchurch earthquakes.

The 68-strong Quake Outcasts group this week won a judicial review of the offer to buy uninsured properties and empty sections at 50 per cent of the land valuation.

Justice Graham Panckhurst ruled on Monday the offer was unlawful and should be revised.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee immediately announced plans to appeal, but would not comment before seeking further legal advice.

Why on earth is the government appealing the decision? They are in effect simply wasting more taxpayers money fighting the people of Christchurch instead of doing the right thing.

Why is dragging this through the courts a bad thing you might ask? Consider Rio Tinto recently receiving $30 million of taxpayers dollars without there being any economic benefit known by the government, the $1.7 billion taxpayer bailout of South Canterbury Finance, the $500 million AMI bailout, the asset sale loyalty incentive that will gift at least $40 million to retail investors, National's Open Bank Resolution (OBR) which means all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund a bank’s bailout, the millions of taxpayer dollars spent bailing out leaky homes victims instead of the real culprits paying as well as the millions of dollars (approximately $115 million and climbing) the government is spending to sell our power companies to their rich investor mates...then tell me these Christchurch red-zoners don't deserve a fair deal?

Key yesterday warned the Crown could simply walk away.

"One option is the Government says: ‘Thanks very much, it's been a lot of fun. If you don't want to take the offer, that's where it's at'."

Key threatening to give the Christchurch red-zoners nothing for their land, land that the government was trying to force them to sell for half its value, is a clear abuse of power. That's not the type of person we should have as Prime Minister of New Zealand. John Key should do the honourable thing and walk away from the well paid job he is failing to do properly.

"What do we do when there is an uninsured landslip later in the year because of a flood somewhere? Those land owners will say, 'But you paid out in Christchurch'," Key said.

What Key obviously fails to understand is that insurance for bare sections wasn't and still isn't available.

"It's not easy for the Government."

Outcasts members spoken to were appalled by Key's comments saying they showed a lack of compassion and that he did not understand how hard the situation was for affected residents.

Key apologised today, saying he was sorry if any offence was caused, but his comments needed to be taken in context.

Taken in the context of John Key being a complete idiot, what he said is acceptable. However he's the Prime Minister for god's sake and shouldn't have made such ludicrous statements in the first place.

Furthermore, the countries so-called leader should know how to make a proper apology, because saying if people were offended when they clearly were offended is offensive in itself. It's a Clayton's apology, which considering the circumstances is simply not good enough.

It's not easy being the government? Then resign!

28 Aug 2013

The Stream - NZ: Safer under surveillance?

Tweet of the day

27 Aug 2013

National fudges suicide stats

Today, National reported:

Despite the continuing unacceptably high number of suicides, the Coroner’s latest provisional figures, for the year ending 30 June 2013, show a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide among both young people aged between 15 and 24 years and Māori. The figures also show that suicide deaths in Christchurch have decreased compared to the previous year, back to pre-earthquake levels.

That's not correct. Here's what the Coroner actually reported (PDF):

Suicides in the Christchurch region (Timaru to Kaikoura) have risen from 67 (2010/11) to 81 (2011/12). The average number of suicides per year for this region over the past four years is 74. The figure of 67 deaths last year reflected the drop in suicides post-earthquake. The phenomenon of a drop in the suicide rate after a large scale crisis event, such as a natural disaster, has been observed elsewhere.

NZ Doctor also reported:

"We experienced an immediate drop in suicide in Christchurch post-quake but last year those numbers began creeping upwards. This trend has been observed elsewhere after a large-scale natural disaster, where there is an immediate drop," Judge MacLean said.

Todd McClay obviously hasn't read the report properly, because suicides have started to increase in Christchurch again since the earthquake. More to the point, there were 70 suicides in Christchurch per year when National gained power, there were 117 suicides to June 2012. That's if we are to believe this graph from the report instead of what the Coroner has stated:

What else does the Minister get wrong?

The total number of suicides for the year was 541, which is a decrease of six from last year, and two less than the average number of suicides over the last six years.

So National is claiming that a decrease of only six suicides is some sort of success? How despicable! It's even more despicable when you consider that the provisional suicide rate between July 2008 and June 2009 was 531.

Other negative parts of the Coroners report that McClay is ignoring are:

The highest number of female (153) suicides since records began.
The highest number of suicides (75) in the 20 to 24-year-old age cohort since records began.

Despite these facts, McClay writes:

“There are signs that concerted community and health agency programmes and activities have been effective in reducing suicides in these two groups and that is encouraging.”

Effective? National has cut funding to many organizations working on the front lines to help reduce New Zealand's terrible suicide rate. National has also increased inequality and hardship, both of which are known to lead to an increase in suicide.

There are now on average 17.6 more suicides per year since National gained power. That rate is likely to keep increasing while their destructive neoliberal agenda continues to degrade people's lives.

Shell's priceless Grand Prix moment

Cost cutting an expensive mistake

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

New Zealand may boost the number of trade specialists in Asia in the wake of Fonterra's botulism and DCD scares, Prime Minister John Key says.

But Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff says Mr Key's comment is "deeply ironic" given it was Foreign Minister Murray McCully's restructuring at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) last year that led to the loss of key trade staff.

Cost cutting that led to the mislabeling of suspect meat exported from New Zealand that sat on China's wharves for months on end. In fact hardly a week goes by without us learning of another export market stuff up likely attributable to MFAT cutbacks.

Mr Key yesterday faced questions about protests over contaminated milk which have forced Fonterra to pause operations in Sri Lanka. Those questions came as the Herald reported a range of New Zealand dairy products remain stranded on Chinese wharves more than three weeks since the botulism crisis erupted.

New Zealand officials have been trying to reassure the Chinese that everything is fine. However, the Chinese are doing more testing on various products because they no longer trust the safety of New Zealand's exports. With so many incidents of contamination, who can blame them?

Mr Key said the botulism scare and the previous DCD scare which has prompted the Sri Lankan protests had sparked debate amongst ministers "about whether we need to have bigger footprint offshore in some of those critical markets".

"If you think about China, we've gone from about $2 billion worth of exports in recent times to about $7 billion and maybe our footprint needs to be a bit bigger there."

In 2008, New Zealand was exporting around $500 million worth of dairy products to China. By 2012, that had increased to $2.5 billion mainly because China was looking for sources that it believed could supply safe product.

If Key is talking about total exports to China, then his figure is also wrong! Total exports to China to December 2012 were $8.1 billion. If he is talking about merchandise exports he is once again wrong, but only by $114 million this time.

Even though our multimillionaire Prime Minister is inaccurate by hundreds of millions of dollars, who cares? Certainly not those right wing propagandists who claim that he's good with numbers.

The prospect of more money for MFAT comes little more than a year after cost-cutting proposals at the ministry prompted criticism from top diplomats, a number of whom left.

You've got to wonder why National gutted MFAT at a time exports were increasing so dramatically?

With export volumes to China increasing by 190% between 2008 and 2012, surely it's complete mismanagement to decrease administrative oversight. This is especially the case if you consider that MFAT didn't have the capacity to deal with their workload when the restructuring occurred.

It's almost as if the Natz wanted to stuff things up.

Former Foreign Minister Phil Goff said MFAT lost some of its best trade personnel as a result of Mr McCully's restructuring, "because they were utterly disillusioned with the direction the minister was taking the department".

"It's deeply ironic now that the Prime Minister should be saying we're going to revamp our trade specialists when the actions of his own minister are responsible for gutting that ministry of its best people."

Phil Goff was one of the people warning the government that cutting MFAT would lead to problems. He's rightfully justified in his criticism both then and now.

National's ideological drive for a smaller government and cost cutting has once again led to disaster! The cost of their mismanagement on our economy that relies heavily on a strong export sector will be significant.

Even though National knew China's demand for dairy products was going to keep on increasing, they still went ahead with gutting MFAT anyway, which has clearly caused a lack of proper oversight.

The same thing occurred when National instructed Solid Energy to increase debt at a time coal prices had fallen dramatically. In effect National couldn't organise themselves out of a paper bag. They are entirely incompetent and not fit to govern.

26 Aug 2013

Rap news 20

Majority don't trust Key

Today, Stuff reports:

A majority of New Zealanders do not fully believe what John Key says, despite rating him as a strong and effective leader whom they trust to run the country, the latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll testing voters' attitude to our political leaders shows.

Asked if they fully believed what Key said, 58.6 per cent said no and just 23.5 per cent yes.

The fact that nearly 59% of Kiwis don't believe John Key is no real surprise considering how many lies the dishonest PM has been telling. In fact hardly a day goes by without the con artist spouting forth another inaccurate or blatantly false comment.

The current Prime Minister is an embarrassment, both domestically and internationally. He has brought the government of New Zealand into disrepute on so many occasions that it would fill an encyclopaedia.

25 Aug 2013

Anonymous vs GCSB

Today, the Herald on Sunday reported:

Worldwide activist group Anonymous is believed to be behind a hack attack on the Government Communications Security Bureau website on Friday.

On Thursday, Anonymous posted a threatening video on YouTube, claiming that Prime Minister John Key, the Act Party and veteran politician Peter Dunne were to be held responsible for the destruction of internet freedom and basic human rights of New Zealand citizens by passing the GCSB bill, "which allows your government to spy on you".

It's taken the HoS until Sunday to write 178 words about it? They even fail to mention the name of the operation: #OpFuckGCSB.

It is understood the GCSB website suffered a saturation of external communication requests, to the point where it could not respond to legitimate traffic.

The communications interception agency confirmed the attack slowed its gateway for about 30 minutes.

There are conflicting stories here. Anonymous claimed that the "tango" was down, meaning the GCSB website had crashed. The GCSB claims that the site was slowed, which is a completely different thing. Why I wonder are they trying to downplay the hacking?

This follows similar denial of service (DDoS) attacks back in July whereby the haktivist group disabled 14 websites linked to the National Party. Interestingly this more recent article fails to mention that these attacks are occurring on a regular basis and that the government has no answers.

Clearly John Key was wrong to claim on Campbell Live that the GCSB was some sort of antivirus program. They cannot even protect their own websites from a low level DDoS attack.

In the warning video, a man wearing a black hooded outfit and Guy Fawkes mask said: "We, as Anonymous have decided to take action. To the Government of New Zealand, you now have our full attention and we will be watching your every move ... this is your final warning."

Actually, it's a computer generated voice, not an actual person saying anything. Most computers have text to speech software built into their operating systems these days. The man in the video is stock footage and used in lots of Anonymous projects. Whoever that is in the video isn't likely to have anything to do with this recent attack on the GCSB's website.

Here's the video:

A spokesman for GCSB said there could have been some temporary degradation of service.

Why they would try to downplay an effective DDoS attack against the GCSB website because of National's expansion of spying powers might have something to do with the FBI recently claiming that they had dismantled Anonymous.

This claim is of course untrue as well, being that Anonymous cannot be dismantled. Claiming such a thing clearly indicates that the FBI has no idea about how Anonymous operates.

23 Aug 2013

Resign now John Key

Today, itnews reported:

Police affidavits related to the raid on Kim Dotcom's Mega mansion appear to show that New Zealand police and spy agencies are able to tap directly into United States surveillance systems such as PRISM to capture email and other traffic.

The discovery was made by blogger Keith Ng who wrote on his On Point blog that the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) requested assistance from the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), the country's signals intelligence unit, which is charge of surveilling the Pacific region under the Five-Eyes agreement.

A list of so-called selectors or search terms were provided to GCSB by the police [PDF, redacted] for the surveillance of emails and other data traffic generated by Dotcom and his Megaupload associates.

'Selectors' is the term used for the National Security Agency (NSA) XKEYSCORE categorisation system that Australia and New Zealand contribute to and which was leaked by Edward Snowden as part of his series of PRISM revelations.

Very interesting indeed, especially so because only three days ago the NZ Herald reported:

Prime Minister John Key says he and the head of GCSB would resign if the spy agency were found to have conducted mass surveillance.

XKEYSCORE is a mass surveillance tool that captures all data communications. This is how Wikipedia describes it:

A detailed commentary on an NSA presentation published in The Guardian in July 2013 states that the XKeyscore system is continuously collecting so much Internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time. Content remains on the system for only three to five days, while metadata is stored for 30 days. The commentary also cites a document published in 2008 declaring that "At some sites, the amount of data we receive per day (20+ terabytes) can only be stored for as little as 24 hours."

The Guardian's article is entitled: XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'.

By using a mass surveillance tool to gain access to Kim Dotcom and his associates communications, isn't the GCSB in effect conducting mass surveillance? They clearly have access to the mass surveillance undertaken by the NSA on New Zealanders.

If John Key was a man of his word he would resign.

Labour's next leader

In my opinion, David Shearer's shock resignation sends the wrong message to many voters, especially his supporters. Although the party obviously needs renewal, the current message is that Labour is unstable. I hope I'm wrong, but my prediction that we should expect another three years of National if Labour was to have further leadership troubles hasn’t changed.

Shearer’s resignation might be good for the Labour party in the long run, but it is not good for the left wing in general at a time when we should be pressing home the undemocratic passing of spy legislation. The GCSB amendment bill is a clear attack on our values and rights as New Zealanders and Key’s dictatorial rushing through of such unjust policy should be highlighted at every opportunity. The only benefit is that Labour is in the news again, but for all the wrong reasons.

However, Shearer resigning isn't what's really damaging Labour and the lefts chances to depose John Key's destructive regime. What is really damaging Labour at the moment is the medias response to his resignation and the fact that further leaks surrounding divisions within the party have come to light.

We now know that Shearer jumped before he was pushed. He jumped to try and save the party from a protracted and damaging leadership struggle, which is commendable. He did say that without the full support of his caucus he would step down and he is clearly a man of his word. Unfortunately his detractors within Labour don’t appear to be happy with his dignified resignation, with the NZ Herald's Claire Trevett reporting today:

A group of Labour MPs were planning a motion of no confidence against party leader David Shearer at the caucus meeting on Tuesday - a step pre-empted by his resignation from the leadership yesterday.

Mr Shearer said he was stepping down because he had not achieved the desired results.

After taking "soundings" from some of his colleagues, he believed he had lost the confidence of many Labour MPs, and it was time for a change before next year's election.

He said there was no challenge against him.

But the Herald has learned MP Maryan Street was preparing a motion of no confidence in Mr Shearer for Tuesday's meeting.

Plans were also being made to send a delegation to him before that to ask him to stand down rather than force the confidence vote.

The MPs involved were certain the motion would have succeeded if it had been required.

Although the media are manipulating the situation to make Labour look as bad as possible, it is clear that Shearer's opponents within Labour weren't happy with him preempting their attempted coup. You have to ask yourself why they would run off to the media with information that will only damage Labour’s chances for reelection to the government benches next year? In politics such unscrupulous tactics should sometimes be respected, but when it comes at the party's expense, no such respect should be forthcoming.

Clearly Shearer's honorable decision to step aside wasn't good enough. The knives are still out and not just from people like Judith Collins, Paula Bennett and John Banks. While they hissed and spat insults at David Shearer’s back, the right wings media lackey’s were also promoting their own choices for who should lead Labour. It’s ironic that the disloyal Shane Jones and fossil fuel advocate Andrew Little have gained their attention, but lets stick to the candidates who actually have a chance to become the Labour party’s next leader eh!

While many leftwing commentators support David Cunliffe, he is unfortunately largely alienated from the general public. Like it or not, there is some merit to the argument that Labour should remain a centrist party. Although fervently supported by many on the left, Cunliffe's direction will encroach further on the Greens. In my opinion, Labour will only increase its chances by securing more votes from middle New Zealand while retaining its core values. Having said that, the right wing propagandists clearly fear him, mainly because Cunliffe is an impressive speaker of the truth.

Grant Robertson is a bit more moderate in his beliefs. He is nonetheless just as charismatic and formidable a politician as Cunliffe. Although some have argued that his time in Helen Clark's office and sexuality will be a factor, I have to disagree. Experience is in my opinion a good thing and homophobes who would vote against Robertson just because he's gay aren't likely to vote Labour anyway. Bigots are National, Act and NZ First party supporters, so there is nothing to really lose there. I like to think that New Zealand has moved ahead enough so that an openly gay politician would gain support. While Cunliffe is likely to win more of the membership vote, Robertson is the clear winner within caucus. Healing division within Labour should perhaps be their top priority.

As for the future, serious consideration should be given to Jacinda Ardern. She is after all the people’s choice and has no association with Labour’s dead wood so to speak. In light of the ever-degrading social and economic situation in New Zealand, many people are pining for the days of Helen Clark’s steady leadership. Jacinda Ardern speaks for those who do not have a voice. She also has many of the same qualities as Clark and perhaps none of her flaws. Plus the prospect of seeing Key’s chauvinism exposed to the nation in a debate with Ardern is a chance worth taking. H3 or the Cheshire Cat up against the smiling assassin are similarly appealing things to think about.

Whoever is chosen, let’s hope the Labour party can put their quarrels behind them. Because without a strong and unified Labour party showing they can lead New Zealand to a brighter future, without a cohesive opposition that speaks for the majority of Kiwis, there is no telling what National will do with another term in power. That prospect alone is worth the left putting their differences aside and supporting Labour’s choice no matter who the next leader is.

22 Aug 2013

Grand Designs: Manus Island

David Shearer resigns

Today, 3 News reports:

David Shearer has resigned as leader of the Labour Party, citing poor polling and admitting he doesn't have the confidence of his colleagues.

"I've made this announcement now after the fight to defeat the GCSB bill," he told media shortly after an urgent caucus meeting this afternoon. "I didn't want us distracted before now."

He said there was no ultimatum given or vote taken before he quit, but refused to answer questions about the process.

Unfortunately there is a lot of gloating going on about Shearer's resignation as Labour leader and glee shown by those who want to see the party destabilized.

Mr Shearer's resignation is effective from when a new leader is appointed, a process which is expected to take three to four weeks. Nominations for the leadership will open within 48 hours.

"Whoever becomes next leader will have my full support," Mr Shearer said.

The silver lining being that Labour will have around a year to introduce their new leader to the general public.

The right will of course try to undermine them in the same fashion they undermined Helen Clark, Phil Goff and David Shearer...with more innuendo and lies.

More heads should roll

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Two senior ministers chose to break their silence - and break ranks in the process - in the full media glare of a meeting of Parliament's privileges committee.

Justice Minister Judith Collins and Police Minister Anne Tolley were in high dudgeon, making it abundantly clear they were less than impressed with the actions of the David Henry inquiry into the leaking of the report by Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge into the workings of the Government Communications Security Bureau.
The privileges committee has moved with commendable speed in launching a probe into the Henry inquiry - for which Key has responsibility - particularly its requests for assistance from Parliamentary Service in retrieving data detailing Dominion Post journalist Andrea Vance's phone logs and movements around the parliamentary complex. 

The pair rounded on Henry for not weighing up the constitutional implications of an informal inquiry rummaging through a minister's communications. As a former senior public servant, Henry - more than anyone - should have been aware of the need to tread very carefully. 

It seems strange that all the mainstream media reports concerning this privileges committee hearing have ignored one of the most important facts to come out so far...that David Henry was specifically given authorization by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to look at Ministers communications.

That those communications would potentially be discoverable under the Official Information Act should have taken some wind out of the two ministers' billowing sails.

And Henry should not have been their only target. The Prime Minister's office told ministers to co-operate fully with the inquiry - and that Key expected nothing less. That effectively gave Henry much more muscle in his hunt for the leaker.

What has been uncovered during the first faze of the hearings is that the Prime Ministers Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson, informed David Henry that he had explicit permission to access Ministers communications. Whether that permission included journalist Andrea Vance's communications is yet to be resolved.

It turns out that Eagleson didn't have that permission and had mislead David Henry. Therefore, making Henry the scapegoat for Eagleson's misconduct isn't what I would call good reporting. Such propaganda only serves to undermine democracy and let those who are at fault off the hook.

But then Collins and Tolley were also treading carefully yesterday. Key's response to their gripes was short and to the point.

The two ministers were entitled to their point of view. But he had approved the Henry inquiry's terms of reference. If any minister had a problem with those, they had been free to complain. But none had.

Armstrong is really trying to spin this one away from the main culprits.

Firstly, Wayne Eagleson lied to David Henry about what he was permitted to access. It also appears that he instructed Parliamentary Service to undertake illegal spying. This occurred after the terms of reference were released. Clearly the DPMC interfered with the inquiry on as many as four occasions. The terms of reference did not outline that the DPMC would instruct Parliamentary Service and David Henry to breach people's privacy without their permission.

Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), the DPMC has withheld an email sent by Wayne Eagleson to Parliamentary Service on the 9th of May. That email, which instructed them, isn't even referred to in the DPMC's timeline of events. This is a significant issue that the Department of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Andrew Kibblewhite, had no explanation for when questioned by the committee.

I for one hope that Collins, Tolley and the other committee members get to the bottom of what has occurred, because by all appearances the DPMC is trying to coverup their and the Prime Ministers misconduct.

Chris Finlayson - Asshole of the Week

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson attacks critics

On Rodney Harrison, QC
"It's not true that we haven't allowed for enough time to craft good legislation but maybe we haven't allowed enough time for the rate at which Dr Harrison can get to grips with this legislation."

On Sir Bruce Ferguson, former GCSB director
"Let us not forget that despite his recent attempts to reinvent himself as a political commentator, many of the problems we are dealing with today in this legislation occurred on his watch."

On Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Labour PM
"[He] allowed the GCSB to operate with no legislation at all when he was Prime Minister. Sir Geoffrey has claimed this legislation is rushed. Well it isn't ... If we want to talk about rushing something let us look at the debate on the SOE bill in 1986 ... He has managed to recast himself as the guardian angel of constitutional propriety. He's not. He's deeply partisan."

On Dame Anne Salmond
"The worst contribution has come from Dame Anne Salmond ... some of her shrill and unprofessional comments ... [have comparisons with] McCarthyism and comparisons with Nazi Germany."

What a disgraceful and pathetic excuse for a Minister of the Crown. Chris Finlayson should feel highly ashamed for spouting forth such plainly untrue and reprehensible statements. There is obviously nothing honourable about him.

Here's the video if you want a first hand account of Finlayson's weasel words:

Let's not forget that it was John Key who first started using fascist propaganda to try and sell his massive expansion of spying powers to the public. 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear' is a direct quote from Josef Goebbels, the Nazi German Minister of Propaganda who coined the phrase.

By using such reprehensible tactics to try and undermine the opponents of the GCSB amendment bill, Finlayson is showing that he has no real argument in support of the legislation.

Dame Anne Salmond is entirely correct when she says that it's sad the discussion about democratic freedom in New Zealand has descended into gutter politics, disgraceful misconduct by the Attorney-General that brings parliament into disrepute.

The despicable Finlayson is therefore clearly an asshole of the first degree and quite rightly wins this week's Asshole Award.

1080 kills Kea

Today, the NZ Herald reports:

The Department of Conservation says five out of 39 monitored kea have died of poisoning during the first field study using a bird repellent in an aerial 1080 operation near Otira.

DOC has been trialling repellents after a number of kea deaths from 1080 poisoning. In 2008 seven died in the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier area, and in 2011 seven more died at Okarito.

Why on earth have DOC been trialling 1080, a poison that is known to kill Kea, in a habitat where large numbers of the bird are known to be residing?

DOC said today results from the recent Otira trial were "disappointing".

This isn't just disappointing, it's a travesty!

Technical adviser threats Michelle Crowell said losing five birds was "naturally disappointing".

"But overall the benefits to kea populations from pest control continue to outweigh the loss of individual birds to 1080."
Kea bird eating 1080

What a load of rubbish! Losing any amount of an endangered species through 1080 poisoning when there are other systems available to eradicate pest species that don't impact on native birdlife is simply not acceptable.

In my opinion, DOC needs to be reigned in from their mass 1080 campaign that is destroying the chances of many endangered species to survive. The only advantage 1080 has over other pest eradication systems is that it's cheaper.

Let's hope that some prosecutions for killing native bird life will curb DOC's insane belief that 1080 is the only answer.

Bill English misleads the House

Yesterday, PC World reported:

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English struck out against critics of the bill, saying "What we've heard [from the opposition] is a whole lot of left-over, half-warmed rhetoric about democratic rights ... they simply have not contributed at all to settling the issues which they say are so important."

English claimed that the Human Rights commission, which has been critical of the bill, "didn't read the legislation".

The Human Rights Commission didn't read the legislation? Then how exactly did they write an extensive report (PDF) on the subject matter outlined in that legislation? English claiming that the HRC didn't read the GCSB amendment bill and the TICS legislation is obviously wrong!

What makes his untrue statement even worse is that the deluded Bill English made it in an official capacity in parliament. He has therefore mislead the House of Representatives in a most disrespectful way.

Even though his claim was obviously false, the asleep at the wheel speaker unfortunately failed to hold the Deputy Prime Minister to account, which is just another indication that our government is dysfunctional.

A Minister of the Crown shouldn't be able to lie to the House of Representatives with impunity. It's as simple as that.

21 Aug 2013

Simon Bridges misleads the House

During question time yesterday, the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues, Simon Bridges, mislead the House of Representatives:

Moana Mackey : Is he concerned that a recently released section 89 report shows a huge increase in deforestation and foresters exiting the emissions trading scheme in droves over the last year, which will make achieving even his very modest target difficult; if so, what is he planning to do about it?

Simon Bridges : No, I am not concerned. The fact of the matter is that Moana Mackey plainly has her facts wrong again. More trees have been planted than cut down since National has been in Government. Although 26,000 hectares of forest have been cut down, under our Government 42,700 hectares have been replanted. The fact of the matter is that—I know that, again, Moana Mackey does not get this—foresters plant, they cut down, and they replant again, and under this Government they have replanted more than they have cut down.

Which is completely untrue! Since the National government gained power, the number of hectares clear felled outnumbers the hectares replanted by more than ten to one. Here's a simple graph from the MPI's forestry facts and figures pamphlet (PDF) to illustrate the problem:

As you can see, only 12,200 hectares were planted between Dec 2008 and Dec 2010 while 128,600 hectares were clear felled between March 2009 and March 2011. There has been no increase in investment into planting more trees since those figures were released, which makes Simon Bridges a big fat liar!

20 Aug 2013

Dodgy deals Dunne dirt cheap

In a post today, Peter Dunne's numero uno (and perhaps only) fan republished the United Future leaders generic response sent out to people who've been emailing him and requesting that he vote against the GCSB amendment bill (PDF).

In his response, Dunne claims to have negotiated:

The removal of the proposed Order in Council mechanism which would have allowed other agencies to be added to the list of agencies able to request assistance from the GCSB. Any additions beyond the Police, SIS and NZ Defence Force will now be required to be made by a specific amendment to the legislation, and not just by regulation as the Bill currently proposes.

This is untrue. The GCSB amendment bill allows for the GCSB to transfer any communications that are "incidentally" recorded onto any foreign agency of their choosing. However, the amount of incidental recording is not defined. New subsection (2) means they don't need a warrant to undertake this task and Dunne's amendment will not change that fact.

To ensure effective oversight in the issuing of a warrant the Bill be amended so that the Inspector General is informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander.

Except clause 3 of the GCSB amendment bill states the GCSB Act 2003 (PDF) allows for warrantless interception of people's communications. It is only when a NEW device needs to be PHYSICALLY attached to a network to intercept a domestic or foreign communication that a warrant is required.

This section of the act will not change, which means warrantless spying will continue. Under Dunne's amendment the inspector general won't need to be informed of spying conducted without a warrant, which means oversight will not be increased.

The GCSB will be required to report annually on the number of instances when it has provided assistance to the Police, SIS or NZ Defence Force.

A report that will likely not be made public. Under Dunne's amendment the 88 New Zealanders who were illegally spied on by the rogue agency will not be informed that their legal rights were breached. Any further illegal activity by the GCSB will clearly not be divulged under Dunne's pathetic provisions for an annual report.

The GCSB will also be required to report annually on the number of warrants and authorisations issued.

Which effectively means nothing! With the law enabling warrantless surveillance of New Zealand citizens, reporting on the number of warrants and authorizations issued is largely irrelevant. The figures provided will not divulge the true extent of spying by the GCSB on New Zealand citizens nor the reasons why most of that spying is being undertaken.

The Intelligence and Security Committee will hold public hearings annually to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the SIS.

What a load of rot! These agencies, or should I say their boss John Key, has refused to release information relating to the full extent of their government funding and foreign investment. There is nothing within Dunne's amendments that will increase disclosure.

There will be an independent review of the operations and performance the GCSB and the NZSIS and their governing legislation in 2015, and thereafter every 5-7 years.

Something that was already mooted by the Prime Minister. Dunne is merely agreeing to Key's defunct idea, that a review be conducted well after the GCSB is let off the hook for their illegal spying on 88 New Zealand citizens. That's what this legislation is really all about, making the GCSB's illegal activity legal by the passing of this bill into law.

Instead of treating the general public like fools, what Peter Dunne should do is vote against the badly written and rushed through legislation. Clearly the bouffant should #crossthefloor.

David Shearer vs John Key

Auckland waterfront polluted by Mobil

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

A petrol company says it should not have to pay clean-up costs for decades of petrochemical pollution on prime waterfront land.

The civil case by the Auckland Waterfront Development Agency against Mobil Oil New Zealand began in the High Court at Auckland yesterday before Justice Sarah Katz.

The agency claims Mobil is liable for $17.9 million in clean-up costs for two sites in Wynyard Quarter, part of the former tank farm.

The sites were used by Mobil or related companies for petrochemical storage and more recently other bulk chemicals and lubricants.

This is typical of Mobil who is known internationally for damaging the environmental and then fighting tooth and nail through the courts to not have to pay for the clean up.

Mobil vacated the sites in 2011, and Waterfront Auckland plans to redevelop the area with parks, apartments, shops and commercial premises.

Both parties agree the site is now significantly polluted but disagree on the contamination's source and Mobil's liability for the clean-up.

What's the bet that the taxpayer will end up having to pay.

One of the main issues here is that the 'significantly polluted' soil won't be will simply be dug up and moved somewhere else to potentially be an environmental hazard in the future.

Some of the pollution comes from fill material used when the land was originally reclaimed, including waste from the old Auckland gas works.

Agency counsel Alan Galbraith, QC, said it was seeking remediation costs only for Mobil's contamination, not for the gas works' waste.

Mr Galbraith said the case hinged on new leases signed in 1985, when the new pipeline from Marsden Pt to Wiri was commissioned and oil companies were expected to progressively pull out of the tank farm.

Those leases expired in 1993, but Mobil and Ports of Auckland were unable to agree on new terms relating to site remediation, so the leases continued on a periodic basis under existing terms until 2011.

So why are we only just finding out about this now? With the site being significantly polluted surely it shouldn't take ten years before something is done about it.

That's ten years whereby contaminants were likely to be leaching into Waitemata Harbour and ten years when people could have been adversely affected from being inadvertently exposed to the contamination. There certainly weren't signs warning the public or adequate fencing to keep them out.

The 1985 leases, unlike earlier versions, included a clause related to keeping the land clean and tidy.

Mr Galbraith said that meant Mobil was obligated to return the land "in good condition and that means free of contamination".

Even if there was no clause within the lease that stated the land should be clean and tidy upon it's return, Mobil is still obligated to clean up their pollution.

For Mobil, Michael Ring, QC, said there was no breach of the tenancy contract, and the company was not liable for costs. He said the "clean and tidy" clause was never intended to require Mobil to remove historic sub-surface contamination.

Firstly, Mobil will need to prove that any of the sub-surface contamination wasn't caused by them or their subsidiary companies during any of the lease periods. If they cannot do that conclusively, they should be made to pay for the sites remediation.

Mr Ring said that in 1985 it was not envisioned the site would be used for anything other than heavy industry.

It was already heavily contaminated from reclamation fill, which included lead, arsenic and cyanide pollution. "This was not a pristine green meadow that somehow has been destroyed by sub-surface contamination." APNZ

Whether the site wasn't intended to be lived on or that there was already some pollution before Mobil started to contaminate the area is beside the point. There simply is no excuse for continued spills of hazardous materials, especially in a built up area such as Auckland. Just because the area was designated heavy industry doesn't mean Mobil can pollute to its hearts content.

Along with remediation costs, I would slap the dirty bastards with a hefty fine as well. After all, there are laws that pertain to polluting New Zealand with petrochemicals, but unfortunately they're hardly ever applied.

GCSB public meeting - video

The Coalition to Stop the GCSB Bill organised a powerful line-up of speakers for this public meeting in front of a packed Auckland Town Hall and tens of thousands of online viewers -- each speaker explaining why this GCSB Bill is bad for our country.

Speakers in order are:

Dr Rodney Harrison QC (lawyer)
Kim Dotcom (the most high profile victim of illegal GCSB spying)
Jon Stephenson (journalist and war correspondent)
Seeby Woodhouse (Founder of Orcon ISP and 2004 NZ Young Entrepreneur of the Year)
Helen Kelly (CTU President)
Professor Jane Kelsey (Law Faculty Auckland University)
Marama Davidson (Maori activist and blogger)
David Shearer (Labour Party Leader)
Russel Norman (Green Party Leader)
Winston Peters (NZ First leader)
Hone Harawira (Mana Party Leader)
Nicky Hagar (investigative journalist)

H/T The Daily Blog

19 Aug 2013

Pete George vs Cameron Slater

It seems that Peter Dunne's number one fan, Pete George, hasn't taken kindly to Cameron Slater criticizing the leader of the United Future party. In a post yesterday, George lays into old blubber guts, likening the Whale Oil Beef Hooked site to "a bull in a political china shop." He also makes some other observations that I find myself agreeing with:

Cam and his blog assistants are happy to dish up shit but they aren’t so happy being held to account for it. When challenged they launched into a bout of defensiveness and attempted lash backs on the blog.

Although drenched in rhetoric, George then highlights the differences between Slater's promotion of Whale Oil Beef Hooked as some sort of fine upstanding publication and his childish banter on twitter, something the deluded right-winger is notorious for.

Recently on his blog Slater claimed to have long game political goals, so this is confusing. “Cam Slater critically analyses politics” conflicts with this, where Slater seems more intent on lighting fires under politicians so he can watch them burn.

Critical political analysis? Or crappy political arsonist?

It’s difficult to see him as the former when he seems more intent on the latter. In politics people who keep playing with matches burn bridges, and are likely to burn themselves out.

By all accounts it's a conclusive trouncing that Slater hasn't answered. Although the annoying Pete George is attempting to defend a highly hypocritical politician, he has gone about highlighting a serious flaw in Slaters' propaganda.

It's my guess that the RWNJ has resiled himself to being a mere blogger. Even if he wanted to pursue a career in politics, it would undoubtedly fail. That's mainly because of leaked documents from a National party Board meeting showing they consider Slater and his accomplice, Simon Lusk, to have a "very negative agenda for the party" and that they effectively don't trust them.

Considering that vote of no confidence along with a number of other damaging incidents, Slater has assuredly ended any chance at a career in politics.

However, with his last vestiges of credibility gone, the oily slug really has nothing to lose as a propagandist. Let's hope he continues to promote his extremism that will assuredly help to turn middle New Zealand against National.

Wiretap legislation economic disaster

Yesterday, the NBR reported:

The government is planning to issue secret orders to service providers when the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill ("TICS Bill") becomes law to force them to create interception capability for surveillance agencies. This has been approved by cabinet and is therefore official Government policy.

What's not clear is if the mechanism of a Ministerial directive will also be used to gag the service provider? Or is the secrecy merely a guise to allow compliant service providers to pretend they haven't been forced to create a backdoor for the government?

Either way, the impact on New Zealand online service providers, and New Zealand as a country, could be truly devastating.

It's little wonder the service providers have unanimously come out strongly against such badly devised legislation. The TICS bill will clearly undermine their business models by giving their competition an advantage. Vikram Kumar explains why:

However, the consequences of this approach are very damaging and dangerous - when you don't know who to trust, you trust no one. There will be a loss of confidence across all service providers in New Zealand. A lack of information is quickly filled by rumour and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

In fact it won't just be damaging to the telecommunications companies, it will be damaging to New Zealand's economy as well.

As an example of just how bad the consequences are, consider how there is now a loss of trust in all US-based online service providers from Snowden's revelations. While there may be debate about the exact nature of the backdoor, there is no doubt that 9 online companies - Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple - do provide the US Government with secret, lawful access. Gag orders makes things worse - two email providers facing actual or potential secret orders have shut down but are unable to provide any real information, stoking FUD.

As a consequence of the loss of trust, The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has projected a $35 billion loss to US cloud companies. A Forrester analyst projects global losses at $180 billion. Meanwhile, European companies are likely to get an advantage over New Zealand and US companies, including a greater push to keep things within Europe.

So much for National being business friendly.

I wonder if the government has even considered the huge cost to New Zealand's economy because of their stupid legislation? Probably not! Instead they seem totally focussed on creating a mass surveillance state and damn the consequences.

Official government policy
Examples from around the world show just how corrosive secret spying capability orders and gag orders are to trustworthiness, both to the country and its online service providers. Secrecy also aids compliant online service providers, happy to go along with the Government without insisting on a warrant, protected by the Principle 11 exceptions in the Privacy Act. A real corporate-government surveillance partnership. 
Secret orders, secret compliance, secret evidence in courts... we just need secret courts to complete New Zealand's descent into a totalitarian state. 
People will quickly figure out that they have no way of knowing which particular service provider has or hasn't given the government a backdoor. The logical approach would be to assume that all service providers are compromised.

Which business is going to take the risk that their, say, Board papers or accounts, are secretly available in real-time to the NZ Police, SIS, GCSB, and the Five Eyes partners? In particular, overseas businesses will be spooked from doing business with any New Zealand based online service provider. They will know that warrants can be issued to safeguard New Zealand's economic well-being just as easily as they are for national security and law enforcement.

Will this strengthen the case for the likes of Google and Microsoft to pull out of New Zealand rather than risk getting a secret directive for a backdoor from the ICT Minister?

Will New Zealand cloud companies decide to move out to more democratic countries?

When the NBR starts questioning the governments position with such veracity, you know that National has got things horribly wrong! Claiming that the NBR is just fear-mongering along with New Zealander of the year Dame Anne Salmond, Rodney Harrison QC, the Law Society and the Human Rights Commission etc isn't going to cut it this time John.

The TICS and GCSB bills look set to not just undermine our democracy, they will damage the National party and their coalition partners as well. At least there's a silver lining to the governments undemocratic law changes that will undoubtedly be an economic disaster for New Zealand.

18 Aug 2013

Kerre's lost it

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

I think the bill sounds sensible enough - for the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders, they must ask nicely, explain why and then be subject to a review of their investigation.

The GCSB will ask nicely to be allowed to spy on people? Get real! Kerre (Woodham) McIvor clearly hasn't bothered to actually read the damn legislation. Instead, she's relying on the government's spin to form her opinions, mainly because she's a biased right winger.

That might be fine for people who aren't paid to investigate such topics, but it isn't acceptable practice from a supposed journalist. If McIvor is going to come out in support of such controversial legislation she should at least take the time to read what is proposed.

So what is her reason to support Key's GCSB amendment bill:

I couldn't give a fat rat's bum if they monitored my house and my life, but I think it would be stupid to give a government agency unfettered, unmonitored, unlimited access to its citizens. They must be accountable for every decision they make and they must be watched closely.

If that's the best argument the right wing can come up with, the government has lost the GCSB debate big time.

This paragraph goes right back to the nothing to fear, (because she apparently has) nothing to hide argument. Giving this statement the once over lightly, it might seem reasonable...after all, if the government is merely conducting anti-terrorism surveillance, non-terrorists shouldn't be affected, right?

Wrong! The "nothing to hide" argument mistakenly suggests that privacy is something only criminals desire, when privacy is a fundamental right for all people, especially if they want to retain a functional democracy. A government that has essentially no restrictions around people's privacy will assuredly abuse that power.

Kerre then says that it's stupid to give the GCSB unlimited powers to spy on all New Zealanders, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. If she has nothing to fear, why would she be worried about how unlimited the GCSB's spying powers are?

The bill seems like a reasonable compromise and Key was Mr Reasonable himself when it came to selling the party line and fudging the uncomfortable bits that come with running a spy agency that interacts with others around the world.

If McIvor had taken the time to read the GCSB amendment bill (PDF), she might have realised that it allows for the GCSB to spy on all New Zealanders and give that information to any foreign agency of their choosing. They don't even need a warrant to pass on that information, which is clearly not a reasonable compromise.

Another problem is that the bill is designed to get the GCSB off the hook for their illegal spying on Kim Dotcom and at least 88 other New Zealand citizens. The spooks aren't being held to account for breaching the existing law and nothing in the new legislation will ensure an increase in accountability.

Saying that Key did well by "fudging the uncomfortable bits" is really just complimenting the Prime Minister for not answering questions. Sure, he has the gift of the gab...but that doesn't mean the proposed changes in law are beneficial for New Zealand or in fact required at all to increase our nations security.

For a much more thorough report on what the GCSB amendment bill actually means, read Rodney Harrison's excellent article that was published in the NZ Herald yesterday. Now that's somebody who understands exactly what the proposed law change actually means, which is more than can be said for Kerre bloody McIvor.

17 Aug 2013

Deane O'Connor - Hero of the Week

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The Tauranga police officer who is being hailed a hero for a saving the life of a crash victim this week has described his instinct-driven decision to dive from a bridge into cold waters.

Constable Deane O'Connor's actions after a van was shunted off Tauranga's Maungatapu Bridge on Monday night are thought to have saved the life of a passenger who managed to free himself from the van.

In a statement released this afternoon, Mr O'Connor said one of the difficult parts of rescuing the 23-year-old from the water - an exhausting struggle that took 30 minutes - was that he knew his friend in the driver's seat, 24-year-old Gregory Woledge, was gone.

"It's very hard because you feel elated that someone has survived, but you also can't help feeling for the family who have lost someone, especially someone who is a young dad," said Mr O'Connor, who has been rostered off since the tragedy.

Talk about taking the protecting public safety directive to new heights. Of course the police don't have to follow that directive when it might endanger their own lives, so O'Connor's actions are clearly extraordinary.

Here's what happened in the hero's own words:

"I hadn't even made a decision at that point; hadn't thought about jumping in. For some reason I just took the vest off and threw it in the back of the car," he said.

"I went to the bridge, someone had a torch on him and I saw him go under the water and then come back up again. I just started stripping down. I could hear someone saying 'someone has to do something'; and some people saying 'you can't go in, you won't make it' and I kind of just ignored that. It was a calculated risk - I assessed the situation pretty quickly.

"I don't think I ever thought I couldn't do; it's hard to explain. I've never felt fear like it. I was shaking and am not sure whether that was the cold or the anticipation of what I was about to do.

"It was only when I climbed over the rail that I actually started thinking 'what am I doing?' and then I saw him go under again and for that split second everything went calm and I just jumped."

What I really like most about this sad but heroic story is that One News reported the 24-year-old driver who died, Gregory Woledge, was likely to have seen O'Connor jump into the water to attempt a rescue. I like to think that Woledge's last mortal thoughts weren't of the terrible accident or the pain, but instead of a fellow human being risking his own life to try and rescue him.

Clearly he went above and beyond the call of duty. That's why Deane O'Connor wins this week's Hero Award. Well done that man.

16 Aug 2013

Send a letter

Key caught lying again

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

In a dramatic twist on the GCSB bill, John Key now says he will restrict warrants granted to the spy agency so it can't initially look at the content of New Zealanders' communications in carrying out its cyber-security function.

And he says if the Government Communications Security Bureau makes a good enough case to access content, he expects it to seek the consent of Kiwis before looking, unless there is a good reason not to.

First John Key gets caught out by saying the GCSB won't be able to look at the content of people's communications, then he claims that they will be allowed to but only with the persons permission, unless there is good reason not to ask for permission that is. Unbelievable!

The "good" reason to initially spy on people's private communications will be included in the warrant, so there will likely be no requests for permission from the targets. Key hasn't even informed the 88 Kiwis that the GCSB had been illegally spying on them, so disclosure isn't really his strong point.

Besides, Key has already made an argument (al-Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction) to be allowed to spy on all New Zealanders without their permission. In fact we haven't even been allowed to vote on this issue in a general election.

The major concession suggests the Government is worried that many New Zealanders, not just Government critics, believe the bill gives the GCSB the green light to conduct mass surveillance on New Zealanders and trawl through their emails.

It's not a major concession because what Key is talking about is not written into the proposed law changes. It is simply more excuses from an incompetent fool who is now realising that New Zealanders do actually value and care about their privacy. The GCSB bill is clearly a vote loser for National, but Keys mishandling of the issue could be an election loser.

Mr Key said that when he issued warrants under the cyber-security function in the future, he did not intend the GCSB to access the content of New Zealanders' communications, including email, in the first instance.

Initial warrants won't access content? Does that mean they will only access metadata? I also wonder about the scope of those warrants to allow the interception of metadata and Key's claims that mass surveillance isn't being undertaken?

It appears that John Key is saying that if any of your communications are inadvertently to persons or places of interest to the spooks then another warrant will be required to access the content of those communications?

That's not how the proposed law changes spelt out in the GCSB amendment bill (PDF) will work. That bill allows for the lawful interception by the GCSB of all New Zealanders communications including content. There is no distinction made between metadata and content.

But if a serious cyber intrusion was detected against a New Zealander, he would expect the GCSB to return to make the case for a new warrant to access content, and with the consent of the New Zealander.

This makes John Key look entirely ridiculous! He's continuing to try and say that the GCSB is like an antivirus software program. At a time when he was gaining praise for his performance on Campbell Live, the Prime Minister has once again put his foot right in the proverbial.

National obviously believes that there are enough Kiwis who are techno-illiterate and will believe John Keys seriously flawed explanation. Either that or their internal polling is up the wazoo and Keys chief advisors are off their rockers.

Getting caught out in a lie and bumbling around for excuses isn’t acceptable behaviour in a Prime Minister. It's more the actions of a conman, and a foolish one at that.