The Jackal: June 2014

30 Jun 2014

National wastes $100,000

In their rush to come up with some election bribes for regional New Zealand, the National party has made a serious financial blunder. Not only has John Key claimed that the regional roading projects he announced at their pre-election conference on Saturday would be paid for by the profits from asset sales (money already allocated to other areas), it appears that nobody bothered to check whether such projects are even required.

Today, Stuff reports:

The Government has almost finished a $100,000 project to strengthen a bridge it will now tear down and replace as part of its new roading package.

Prime Minister John Key unveiled the Government's $212 million roading package at the party's annual conference in Wellington at the weekend. It includes the replacement of the one-lane Motu Bridge between Gisborne and Opotiki.

Strengthening of the bridge began in April and is due to be finished in the next fortnight.

The government has effectively wasted $100,000 of hard earned taxpayer dollars in their attempt to bribe rural voters.

National's failure to check whether the bridge needed replacing before announcing their election bribes was bad enough, but when you consider that they've been starving regional areas of much needed funding for roads for a very long time, and their election bribe starts to look rather cynical!

There's no question that regional New Zealand needs more funding. However that investment needs to be properly costed, strategic and required. Wasting money when the country is in so much debt is simply unacceptable!

Coupled with the fact that the 14 projects will provide very little economic benefit for struggling rural areas and that the government hasn't bothered to release any cost to benefit analysis and you get the picture that National has no answers at all.

Image credit: nintendoug

Equality? Job creation? Renewable energy?

Shocking animal abuse

Like most New Zealanders I used to enjoy a good steak and chips for dinner or a fry-up of bacon and eggs for breakfast. However a while ago I became a vegetarian and am glad that I did. Don't worry though, this post isn't about trying to persuade you to cutout meat from your diet, it's about the terrible conditions many farmed animals live in and who allows such inhuman conditions to occur.

Yesterday, One News reported:

Pork farm inspections under scrutiny

The Pork Board is defending its inspection process following allegations that meat certified as being farmed safely and humanely under their pork care label comes from a farm with substandard conditions.

TVNZ's Sunday programme (video) showed footage filmed by animal rights group Farm Watch, which showed pigs living in squalid conditions. In fact it was difficult to watch because of just how horrendous those animals were being treated.

"They found dozens and dozens of rats running over the animals, just shocking conditions" Hans Kriek from SAFE told the programme. "The whole pig care labelling scheme is a complete nonsense and basically it's just a bogus scheme to mislead consumers."
Here's the Farmwatch video:

Yesterday, Scoop also reported on a Green party press release::

Horrendous conditions on pig farm show MPI failing

The horrendous conditions animals are living in at a Canterbury pig farm are completely unacceptable and show that MPI are failing to do their job by putting economic interests ahead of animal welfare, said the Green Party today.

Footage obtained by Farm Watch and SAFE from a Canterbury farm, which featured tonight on TV One’s Sunday programme, showed animals living in horrendous conditions and revealed how inadequate New Zealand’s regulation of the pig industry is.

Documents obtained show that this farm was investigated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in April 2013 following a complaint. In August 2013, MPI claimed that the farm was compliant.

Another thing that was unacceptable was Nathan Guy's response to questions concerning the well documented animal abuse that has occurred at the Canterbury pig farm. After trying to say that he wasn't responsible and any questions should be directed to the Ministry for Primary Industries, Guy basically said that the inspection process was "robust" and there wasn't any problem at all. What a load of rubbish!

When pressed on the issue the Minister said MPI would be ensuring there wouldn't be any further abuse. However that's exactly the same assurance they gave last time the same piggery was found to be abusing its livestock. The only reasonable conclusion one can reach is that National has been ignoring the fact that these pigs were being abused.

My question to the Minister is that if the piggery was being inspected properly in the first place, why do those terrible images of pigs being abused exist? This points to a complete failure on the part of MPI, a failure that Nathan Guy should accept responsibility for.

No help for homeless

Nearly six years after National won the 2008 election it's becoming increasingly apparent that the neoliberal agenda they've forced upon this great country is causing some serious social and economic problems, especially for people on fix and low incomes.

While John Key is happy to cherry pick statistics that make his governance seem balanced, the real story of how National has failed New Zealand is clearly outlined in headlines like this one:

On Saturday, the NZ Herald reported:

Newborn spends first days living in car

A young mother and her newborn baby lived in a car for two days after finding themselves homeless when they were discharged from hospital.

The woman contacted the Salvation Army who has provided her with counseling and emergency housing in South Auckland over the past two weeks.

On Friday, Radio NZ also reported:

Homelessness on the rise in Auckland 
An Auckland organisation working with homeless people says the number of people coming to them for help has almost doubled in the past six months - and is continuing to climb.

Please take the time to listen to this report:

Clearly the increasing numbers of homeless people in New Zealand is becoming a serious issue. In my opinion, this type of social dysfunction should be reported on more frequently and therefore made harder for the government to ignore.

Only the most heartless person could pretend the misery that many homeless people live in doesn't matter. This travesty is made all the worse when you consider that with the right policies in place nobody in New Zealand would need to be living it rough at all.

But it's not the only problem that's getting worse under this failure of a government.

Despite the Prime Ministers claims that things are getting better under his leadership, New Zealand has experienced the fastest growth in inequality of any country in the OECD. Other socially damaging things John Key is desperate to ignore like childhood poverty have also become a lot worse since 2008.

Include stagnate wage growth and a broken social housing program and it's no wonder more Kiwis are becoming homeless. Contrary to the right wings propaganda the dysfunction outlined above has a knock on effect for the rest of country as well.

These are things that even the most ideologically blinded National supporter will be having a hard time ignoring. Even with the unrelenting propaganda of #TeamKey and their media lackeys, I suspect many people who voted for National at the last election will be changing their minds in September 2014.

29 Jun 2014

Media ignore rules

As the dust settles on the Donghua Liu scandal it's worthwhile taking a closer look at the rules that many media outlets appear to be oblivious of. These rules are pretty straightforward and have been in place for a very long time. It is therefore concerning that they've been in many cases blatantly ignored and in some cases scoffed at by some journalists who appear to be determined to decide the upcoming election.

No matter what your politics are, journalistic integrity is important because without it we the general public cannot hope to be properly informed on important matters that will effect our lives. Being properly informed is an issue that transcends political beliefs and is an integral part to a democratic society. Even the Australian right wing politician Malcolm Turnbull thinks that an independent press is highly important, saying in 2011:

The most effective check and balance on government has been an independent press which maintains its credibility by ensuring that its criticism is balanced and based on fact - based indeed on solid journalistic work.

Turnbull also highlights the issue of how time and staffing pressures lead towards shriller and shallower coverage. This appears to be exactly what happened with the NZ Herald’s recent coverage of the Donghua Liu debacle whereby a number of false allegations were made against Labour. But it was worse than that, because the Herald failed to apply some of the basic tenets of journalism to their reports, that of proper acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent balanced dissemination to the public.

Unfortunately the Herald appears to have gone out of its way to print untruths without any effort given to investigate and report on the actual facts. They also printed these untruths without providing those they were accusing any proper recourse to defend themselves, which completely ignores some of the basics rules of journalism: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

Are we to believe that the journalists involved in that particular smear campaign over at the Herald weren't aware of these rules? I don't think that’s a valid excuse. Instead it appears that those involved intentionally printed untruths and for that there should be a proper apology in a place of prominence and perhaps even some resignations.

The Press Council outlines the rules here, which I think that any journalist who wants to be taken seriously should at least have a basic understanding of. The Broadcasting Act 1989 (PDF) also outlines some simple rules for our media outlets to follow. The only reason they shouldn't be followed is if the mainstream media cannot read.

28 Jun 2014

The other side of Brazil's World Cup

27 Jun 2014

Paying for Nationals propaganda

Don't let the current polling fool you, the September 2014 election will be perhaps one of the closest in New Zealand's history. It's no surprise then that the current right wing government is pulling out all the stops in promoting themselves.

With the help of a compliant mainstream media, the National party, United Future and the Maori party are all desperately trying to cling onto power and what better way to achieve that than with a few well placed photo opportunities to make themselves look good during an election campaign?

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

The cash-strapped Department of Conservation paid $6000 to fly three ministers, two TV crew and a photographer to the West Coast for a photo opportunity.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced last week that the Government would pass special legislation to allow the recovery of high-value native timber blown over in April's Cyclone Ita.

Parliament would this afternoon debate the emergency legislation.

To make the announcement last week, DOC chartered two helicopters for ministers Smith and Peter Dunne, and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell to fly from Nelson to Blue Duck Creek, in Karamea, and back.

They were accompanied by one reporter and two camera operators from TV3 and TVNZ, a photographer from the Nelson Mail and a handful of advisers.

The way the initial story was reported on TVNZ and 3 News had even some of the greenest minded conservationists amongst us thinking there was nothing wrong with removing windthrow damaged trees from our native forests. In fact that's what I initially thought as well. That's until I read some articles from more qualified people concerned with preserving our conservation estate.

Last week, Forest and Bird reported:

"The idea of not wasting timber may sound superficially sensible. But as soon as you look at the facts, the idea makes no economic sense at all,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“Flooding the market with large volumes of timber from the conservation estate will pose a direct threat to the established sustainable native timber industry, which includes those indigenous timber production forests in Southland that are covered by the South Island Landless Natives Act.

The other side of the story that jobs will also be lost because of this legislation wasn't told by our mainstream media at all. If they weren't looking through their blue tinted glasses they would have seen that there's actually no financial benefit if these logs are recovered using the least damaging processes. In fact there will be considerable damage caused to Karamea's ecology even if helicopters are used, because areas will still need to be clear felled.

However there's no stipulation within the hastily written West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill (PDF) that helicopters should be used. That means it will be left up to the loggers on how they remove the trees, some of which I'm sure won't have been damaged in Cyclone Ita at all. They will likely choose the most cost effective and subsequently damaging systems to recover these trees.

Not only is the government once again ignoring the advice of those who actually know what they're talking about, they're using precious funding allocated to DOC to promote themselves and their environmentally destructive agenda. That propaganda completely ignores the fact that there will be significant disturbance to the forest's ecology, damage that the forest may never recover from.

Undertaking a propaganda mission whereby there was absolutely no balance given to the story is bad enough, but using taxpayers money that was meant to be spent on other things is completely unacceptable!

With Damien O'Connor and Rino Tirikatene crossing the floor in support, the bill unfortunately passed into law last night, no independent scientific study required. Why this had to happen under urgency is still unclear?

26 Jun 2014

The cult of personality

Following closely on the heels of a rather lopsided piece requesting that Labour leader David Cunliffe resign over an 11-year-old letter comes another John Armstrong masterpiece in that Tory rag, the NZ Herald.

Not content with simply airing his rather soiled blue undies in the public domain, Armstrong takes another step backwards towards political irrelevancy by openly endorsing the National party in what is best described as a Herald love fest for the right wing.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel Armstrong parroting John Roughan plays the sympathy card over and over again desperate to try and make the Prime Minister appear human. John Key is just the bloke next door they imply; why don't you pop over for a beer and a yarn? The reader is drawn into the article with a hint that the ever so humble and all round nice guy thought about resigning in 2012 because he might lose something. How terrible would that be for his ego?

Armstrong's article then elucidates how John Key prided (past tense) himself on his ability to focus on the things that really matter. He even goes so far as to claim that the Kim Dotcom donation that caused John Banks to eventually resign was just a trivial side issue. Other side issues of little consequence to the Prime Minister, Armstrong and Roughan include; the SkyCity convention centre for pokies deal whereby the government changed our gambling laws, the ongoing Novapay debacle that the government can’t or doesn’t want to fix and the back down on increasing class sizes.

Apparently John Key let one such “trivial matter gnaw away at him for months” while the teapot tapes saga unfolded. OMG! What could that be? I'm really starting to feel sorry for the guy, are you?

At least John Key managed through all his soul searching to use the police to strong-arm the press. While wringing his hands he still managed to take a court case against Bradley Ambrose, the journalist who inadvertently left his recording device behind that recorded the now infamous conversation. After weeks of speculation, how terrible it must have been when the content of the tape was finally revealed. Banks and Key must have felt terrible that they’d been caught out joking about elderly New Zealand First supporters dying off. Pity they didn't bother to apologize.

Don't worry your pretty little heads about it though. The article then becomes positive with Armstrong bringing Bronagh Key into his story telling:

Roughan writes that at the end of 2012, Mr Key had a "quiet discussion" with his wife, Bronagh, during which they "kicked the tyres" after his four years of running the country and asked themselves, "Are we still committed to all this?"

Mr Key's strong belief and confidence in the progress the country was making under his prime ministership prevailed. "Sure I could walk away, but the test of being a successful Prime Minister in my mind is doing the best job I could do in the circumstances we faced," he told Roughan.

John Keys' confidence in the progress the country was making prevailed? Well Thank god for that! Unfortunately back in the real world New Zealand has been steadily going backwards under a National led government. Things like child poverty, inequality, third-world diseases, housing affordability, unemployment and incomes have all become worse under Keys' so-called leadership. In particular the growth in government debt under National's mismanagement has been astounding!

None of that matters to Armstrong or Roughan though who seem determined to not only get Key back into power next year, but also sell a few books along the way. Thankfully the NZ Herald is happy to help with some free political advertising, no authorization statement required.

Armstrong then makes a "startling" revelation:

John Roughan, the author of a biography of John Key published today, has a new take on why the Prime Minister has such a strong rapport with voters.

The senior Herald journalist says politicians normally follow advice not to put themselves in potentially embarrassing situations - such as wearing a funny hat or unbecoming clothing - especially when the media and cameras are present.

Mr Key, however, is an exception. He indulges in "publicity risks" - such as appearing at the Big Gay Out or his memorable but excruciating catwalk strut modelling Rugby World Cup uniforms - because such events play well for him.

Roughan argues that the more ordinary and even error-prone Mr Key appears in such moments, the more it works - because it's marked contrast to his wealth and business success.

Obviously it has nothing to do with the love fest between our mainstream media and the PM eh? Key's popularity apparently all comes down to him being error-prone with nothing to hide.

Isn't it just great that none of the voting public is antagonized by John Key...not one of them. That's because Key is such an honest man and why he's decided to fire his diplomatic security squad and save us taxpayers a few million bucks each year, because the whole world just loves him. /sarc.

While Armstrong and Roughan are trying to rewrite history and openly endorsing the National Party in the run-up to the election, the policy direction John Key stands for is being ignored. That’s because if the media actually did some proper investigative reporting on what each party really stands for, National would get decimated at the polls come September 2014. But who really cares about the details when we can simply worship a cult of personality in the form of the Prime Minister? Who actually gives a damn about the environment, society or our international standing when we have the scripted soap opera that is the Prime Minister, John Key?

25 Jun 2014

Pesticides threaten food supply

There is now overwhelming scientific evidence showing systemic pesticides, primarily the neonicotinoids, have a serious adverse effect on bee colonies, with many studies pointing towards the conclusion that these pesticides are behind the rise of colony collapse disorder.

One recent study entitled Systemic Pesticides Pose Global Threat To Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (PDF) released yesterday is a good example of such research which categorically shows the concentrations of these chemicals building up in the environment in many areas exceeds levels approved as safe by pesticide regulations.

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides study states:

The analysis found that the most affected groups of species were terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms which are exposed at high levels via soil and plants, medium levels via surface water and leaching from plants and low levels via air (dusts). Both individuals and populations can be adversely affected at even low levels and by acute (ongoing) exposure. This makes them highly vulnerable to the levels of neonics associated with agricultural use.
The next most affected group is insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies which are exposed to high contamination through air and plants and medium exposure levels through water. Both individuals and populations can be adversely affected by low or acute exposure making them highly vulnerable.

Despite this conclusive evidence showing that neonicotinoid based pesticides also adversely effect other friendly organisms including birds and fish, there seems to be very little political action both here in New Zealand and abroad to curb let alone halt the use of these dangerous substances.

When scientists are now saying that the continued use of these dangerous pesticides could pose a threat to our ability to produce food, because bees are an integral part in the pollination process, something really needs to be done before it's too late.

It is however doubtful that the EPA in conjunction with the current government will take any notice of such research. They are perhaps the most ideologically blinded government we have ever had in New Zealand.

Driving Maui’s to extinction

If you happened to watch parliaments question time yesterday, you would have seen a particularly arrogant display of bravado from our Prime Minister, John Key. Not satisfied with just calling the potential extinction of the Maui's dolphin a "load of mumbo-jumbo," Key also claimed that the Greens wanted to "close Taranaki down" because they’re opposed to the endangered dolphins habitat being opened up for oil exploration.

Of course such claims are a complete straw-man argument, with neither the Greens nor Labour proposing that existing oil wells in the area need to be closed down. They have on the most part taken a very pragmatic approach to the situation.

Clearly Key's statement was designed to try and make the Greens look extreme, when their position on this matter is anything but. Not only did the Prime Minister once again mislead the house of representatives, he’s ignoring the fact that further oil exploration and drilling in the Maui's dolphin's habitat will have an adverse impact and likely cause the marine mammals extinction. None of that seemed to matter to our Prime Minister though and unfortunately he was simply point scoring over the dead bodies of Maui's dolphins.

Likewise, the Minister for Energy and Resources, Simon Bridges, isn't accepting the truth of the matter. He's at pains to ignore the fact that this is a new area within the Maui's habitat that's been opened up for exploration and comparing it to existing wells is simply not appropriate. Unfortunately because no proper studies have been conducted concerning Maui's dolphins mortality rates, no accurate figures are available to show any association with the oil and gas industry. In fact necropsy reports of dead dolphins usually don't see the light of day for some reason. I wonder why?

When Simon Bridges claims; "there is no record of the species being harmed by the activity," that's because nobody has been keeping a record. To document the deaths of dolphins is difficult enough, but to associate those deaths to pollution from the oil and gas industry is even harder. That's because unless a dolphin washes up covered in oil, a proper autopsy needs to be conducted to determine the cause of death. Without those results being made public, Bridges can basically claim whatever he likes.

Being that seismic testing and oil pollution have an adverse effect on a dolphin’s ability to hunt for food, the usual cause of death is found to be starvation. Most reports simply state: starvation, and don't document any related causes. Another adverse effect of the oil industry pollution on marine mammals is dolphins being stillborn. However the association with oil pollution is hard to prove, therefore the industry and their political mouthpieces have an easy excuse for continuing their environmentally damaging practices.

As you may know oil exploration uses seismic booms which have been documented to cause serious harm to marine mammals. However there's also the adverse effect from waste created from drilling new wells which is simply dumped into the ocean. Ignoring the science concerning these issues isn't acceptable when we're talking about species extinction, so here's a few excerpts from various studies that Simon Bridges and his oil industry masters should be aware of.

This 2005 study by Nkosi Luyeye (PDF) which is concerned with the reduction in fish catch rates as a result of seismic survey activity outlines exactly why further seismic activity in the Maui's dolphin’s habitat will have an additional detrimental effect:

Unlike humans and other terrestrial animals, marine mammals rely on sound instead of sight as their primary sense. Dolphins, whales and seals utilise their sense of hearing to locate prey, avoid predators, choose migration routes , and to communicate across long distances. The noise associated with seismic surveys can affect the ability of these animals to detect natural underwater sounds, thereby disrupting these critical activities.

Researchers have also observed signs of physical stress such as startle responses in humpback whales while seismic surveys were being conducted many miles away  (Lokkeborg, 1993).

Scientists believe that pods of whales that include calves are at serious risk from seismic activities due to their need to utilize critical habitats for feeding and resting. If seismic surveys continually displace whales from these important areas, declined population levels may result.

The other issue here is that some chemicals added to drilling fluids to solve certain problems are toxic to marine animals. Unlike cuttings piles, where they mainly accumulate under the platforms, drilling mud can be distributed over vast distances. The chemicals in this drilling waste include but are not limited to diesel fuel, chromate salts, surfactants and paraformaldehyde biocide.

Components of such waste can either diffuse into the atmosphere, adsorb onto and settle out onto the bottom sediments, disperse due to water currents, or be taken up and metabolised by both pelagic and benthic marine organisms (Holdway, 2002).

This study from 2010 by the Heriot-Watt University entitled: Studies on the Impact of a Water-based Drilling Mud Weighting Agent (Barite) on some Benthic Invertebrates (PDF) clearly outlines the adverse effects on marine life. It is mainly concerned with one particular byproduct amongst many produced in the drilling process:

The presence of barite within the benthic boundary layer could have adverse effects towards marine communities, especially non-motile suspension feeding bivalves.

The combination of reduced gill functionality, extra energy consumption from the production of excess pseudo faeces and the possible interference with food reaching the mouth is the most likely reason for the early mortality observed in animals exposed to suspended barite.

Clearly drilling and fracking for oil will have an adverse effect on the marine environment in general and these negative consequences will have a knock on effect right up the food chain. With this study clearly showing an adverse effect on fish numbers from oil drilling, what exactly are the Maui's dolphin's supposed to eat? They will be forced to move to another area or starve.

These are scientifically accepted facts that Simon Bridges, John Key and the rest of the Tories who place profit before the environment should be aware of. Although existing wells have the potential to leak oil, the main concern here is with any new exploration and drilling in the habitat of the endangered Maui’s dolphin. National is simply arguing from ignorance and that’s not a position they should find themselves in come election day.

24 Jun 2014

Russel Norman vs John Key

Nuclear warships on the agenda

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported on an interview between political editor Audrey Young and Prime Minister John Key after his visit to the White House on Saturday:

Obama said the US-NZ relationship was the strongest it has ever been. Is this as good as it gets?

I think so. I don't see New Zealand going back to invoking Anzus. I think New Zealanders value independent foreign policy. You can make the case [that] Australia has an independent foreign policy and has Anzus, but in New Zealand, I think they would just see it as a step away from us being in total control of the decision-making we have. In a practical sense, some people would point to a ship visit. We didn't ask for that. I don't say it would never happen, because at some point it just seems a natural thing that might happen. But I think it is one of those things that you just let evolve.

John Key seems a bit overly relaxed about US nuclear warships visiting New Zealand.

It's up to them to want to come?

Yes. It's very misunderstood. They don't have to tell us anything. The Prime Minister of the day has to sign the declaration form that says, "I'm confident through whatever means, open sourcing or whatever, that the ship that comes is neither nuclear-powered nor nuclear-armed."

Will some Prime Minister see a ship arrive on their watch?

I suspect so.

Does it matter though?

No. It's just symbolism.

Clearly a nuclear warship visiting New Zealand wouldn't just be symbolic because one of the most important pieces of legislation in New Zealand's history would have to be changed for that to occur. The only other way around the legislation is for the prime minister of the day to effectively lie on the declaration form about whether a warship is nuclear powered or carries nuclear weapons. The US is simply not going to change it's neither confirm nor deny policy.

Such a move wouldn't just be highly unpopular with the general public, it would be seen by other superpowers as a clear indication about what side we're on. This could have very negative implications with our trading partners, particularly China and Russia.

New Zealand is a hugely important strategic position for the US in any global war they might instigate. That's why they reacted so badly when the Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act (PDF) was passed in 1987. It might not be gone by lunchtime, but the current government is incrementally undermining this fine piece of legislation.

Despite overwhelming public opinion the right wing still wants to change this legislation so that nuclear powered or weaponized warships can visit New Zealand.

John Key's statements are clearly designed to try and soften the public up for a change of position that would see New Zealand become less of a world leader and more of a lackey to the United States and their industrial war machine which in many regards still hungers for a global empire.

Considering the public opinion on this matter and the fact that removing our nuclear free legislation would be detrimental to our clean and green image not to mention the economy, National has a long way to go with their propaganda campaign before the public would even contemplate such a stupendously idiotic move. To try and change this legislation now would basically amount to political suicide, which just goes to show how brainwashed Key became on his trip to the US.

By even hinting at nuclear warships visiting New Zealand, National are in fact showing that they have little regard for the people they're meant to represent and far more consideration of the United States' foreign policy. That in itself should see a change in government come September 2014.

23 Jun 2014

Housing crisis denial

If you're a generation X or Y'er like me, you would probably have been badly impacted by the housing crisis through higher rents and unaffordable houses.

Most Kiwi's in this age group will be keenly aware of the problems inherent in renting or purchasing a home and should realise that the current National government has absolutely no answers. In fact their entire response thus far has been to refuse to properly measure how many are owned by foreign speculators and blatantly lie about the amount of houses being built.

Of course building houses isn't the only answer to affordability, because the already overheated housing market will ensure any new builds will also be unaffordable. The drip feeding of new builds will ensure they'll be as overpriced as houses already for sale. Basically under the current settings not enough houses can be built fast enough to ensure market supply balances things out on the demand side.

None of that seems to register with the right wing though. While Nick Smith is busy lying about 10,000 houses being built in Auckland, when the actual figure is zero, the more deluded right wing propagandists are busy trying to say there isn't a problem at all.

On Saturday, the stupendously deluded Muriel Newman wrote:

When no-one knows who owns one in five New Zealand houses, it becomes impossible to make serious assertions about the rate of home ownership.

As a result, claims by Statistics NZ, that the Census shows home ownership rates have fallen from 66.9 percent in 2006, to 64.8 percent in 2013, are simply not credible.

She's basing this assertion on an article by Michael Littlewood, who wrote:

There are too many gaps in the questions asked in the 2013 Census (and earlier equivalent questions) for us to be certain about any recent trends in home-ownership rates.  The gaps mean we have no ownership information for about 362,000 of all dwellings; that’s 20.7% of all 1.76 million dwellings on Census night in 2013.

Basically these idiots are trying to say that the statistics are wrong and therefore nothing needs to be done. They're of course older New Zealanders who have benefited from the housing bubble and want to pull the ladder up behind them.

Clearly it's highly lucrative to trap younger people in rental accommodation for the foreseeable future. That's before you equate any social cost from declining home ownership rates and a loss of community, which should be of concern to any government that actually gives a damn.

The obvious problem with their argument is that the home ownership rate is calculated with the amount of people who actually own and reside in their homes. It doesn't actually matter to this statistic who owns the non-owner occupied houses.

This is such an obvious problem with Newman and Littlewood's reasoning that I'm amazed their articles have been allowed to be published. Apparently Littlewood is even some sort of professor at the University of Auckland, LOL! All I can say is thank god the Act party is in terminal decline.

So just to reiterate...the statistic showing a decline in home ownership isn't concerned with who owns those other houses. They could be owned by foreign or New Zealand speculators or the man on the moon for all it matters to that statistic.

The decline in home ownership isn't a recent trend either, it's been happening since 1991, about the same time Rogernomics kicked in. That's 23 years of decline without any proper governmental intervention in what is clearly a broken system.

The important thing here is that home ownership rates are in decline in New Zealand and have been for a long time. The main reason for that decline is an overpriced market compared to our low waged economy. Many Kiwi families can no longer work themselves into enough savings to purchase a home as easily as before. Many are simply struggling to even meet the day to day cost of living because of the poverty trap that by all accounts, like housing affordability, is also getting worse.

Newman goes on to say that market prices are solely determined by supply and demand, completely ignoring the problem of speculation based on what a house might be worth in the future. She also tries to place the blame entirely on councils and restrictive planning rules. However most councils have revised the consenting processes so they're both faster and cheaper. There is no doubt that the time for governments to be passing the buck has ended.

So all in all a failed argument from the right wing about why their inaction is justified. Time to get a proactive government that's willing to build New Zealand into the 21st century.

Further reading:

Green Party Housing Policy - Living Well (PDF)

Labour Party Housing Policy - Kiwibuild (PDF)

22 Jun 2014

Lorde - Hero of the Week

Today, the Herald on Sunday reported:

Teen superstar Lorde will urge people to vote in this year's general election — even though she's not old enough to have her say.

The Electoral Commission is hoping the 17-year-old Royals singer will convert more than 100,000 youth voters.

She tweeted excitedly about her involvement but was not giving much away.

"I went and spoke to youth enrolment about why young votes are important a few weeks ago, should be out soon," she posted.

If there's a better argument than Lorde for lowering the voting eligibility age I'd like to see it?

Not only is this young lady imminently successful in her chosen profession, she's obviously switched on and knows that youth participation in politics matters. Without youth participation we simply won't be able to change New Zealand for the better, it's as simple as that.

Unfortunately there's been a very unproductive argument from the establishment as to why things shouldn't change. Basically they believe that young people don't really know what's going on and therefore shouldn't have a choice about who represents them.

Of course this is the same old ageist argument that ensures our government is made up of a particular age group that promotes policy which only benefits their demographic.

Lorde is perhaps the best argument as to why the current system should change and be more inclusive of young people's ideas and beliefs. In fact I cannot think of a better person to be a role model to encourage youth to get out and vote. Therefore Lorde wins this weeks Hero award...well done.

More oily recipes from National Party headquaters

A failure to report

If you happened to attend the Maui's dolphin protest yesterday in Tauranga and then tune into the news @ 6 O'Clock on channel One last night you may have been disappointed that it wasn't reported on.

The NZ Herald also failed to inform the general public about the large protest in today's publication. Strangely they do have an article online that was published yesterday:

Hundreds of angry protesters have closed a section of Devonport Rd as they marched to Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges' office this morning.

They chanted "Simon Bridges, what do we say? Save our Mauis, save them today" and "Simon says drill, we say no, save our Maui dolphins, bro".

These concerned citizens gathered in their hundreds to make it known to the government that oil exploration and drilling in the habitat of the endangered Maui's dolphins is not acceptable.

With 79% of those polled thinking Simon Bridges' decision is disgusting and that no marine sanctuary should be opened up for oil exploration, this is clearly a topical issue that should have had proper coverage.

In contrast to that failure to report on the Maui's dolphin protest One News did report on a much smaller protest that occurred in Auckland concerning an alcohol outlet being allowed opposite a school.

One can only assume that TVNZ made a conscious decision to not report on the larger Maui's dolphin protest because it made the government and more specifically Simon Bridges look bad.

This is but one example of many that our mainstream media is biased in favour of protecting the current defunct government. They are essentially trying to chose who wins the next election.

Unfortunately without proper coverage of these important issues we cannot hope to have a proper contest of ideas leading up to the next election. We cannot therefore hope to have a functioning democracy under a corporatised media that fails in its duty to properly inform the public.

H/T Porcupine Farm

An unfair fight

As a casual observer of politics in New Zealand I've been somewhat dismayed at the lack of standards currently on display by our mainstream media. Nothing could be more ridiculous for instance than John Armstrong requesting that David Cunliffe resign over an eleven-year-old letter and nothing could be more incompetent than journalists generally taking National’s propaganda as gospel.

The Dongau Liu letter scandal that has led the news cycle for an entire week is a prime example of just how biased our media is. Not content with just reporting the facts of the matter many reporters have been attempting to persuade voters that David Cunliffe should be hung out to dry over such a trivial matter. Essentially he forgot an eleven-year-old letter that was penned by his press secretary and asked a simple question; when will a decision about Dongyou Liu’s immigration status be made? Despite the many headlines to the contrary there was in fact no advocacy on the part of the now Labour leader. There was certainly nothing revealed that should instigate a resignation.

Unfortunately common sense has not prevailed in the Dongyou Liu case and the media at the behest of their political overlords have been flinging mud like there's no tomorrow. They have taken what is a minor lapse in memory and blown it out of all proportion. You might have noticed that this is effectively the strategy a bully with ulterior motives uses to control people. A bully will find any old excuse to abuse those they view as different or as competition. Now competition is usually all well and good, but when the referee (the media) is practically playing for the other team and consistently making the wrong decisions, that's not really cricket is it?

You would expect that such an uneven playing field might grate against New Zealander's egalitarian nature, but unfortunately that doesn't appear to be the case. Instead we see a large group of voters siding with those who aren't playing by the rules. For some reason they respect the political mobbing of anything left wing that’s a regular occurrence throughout our news coverage. We therefore have an even larger group of potential voters disengaging because the dirty spectacle of politics has lost all integrity. However it's not just the politicians who are at fault, it's a biased media who also has credibility issues that need to be addressed.

So what can the left wing do about this conundrum? They could turn the other cheek so to speak in the hope that the public will see this virtuous stance even though it won't get any airtime. They could hope and pray that the media will miraculously change its spots and stop trying to manipulate voters into believing untruths. In my opinion that would be an ineffective strategy against the right wings bullying tactics and the medias corrupt and complicit practices. Instead the left wing needs to be prepared to get their hands dirty and use some of the same tactics as their opponents. Otherwise it's simply an unfair fight that the nice guys will keep losing. Unfortunately there will be no proper contest of ideas under the current settings.

Simply put, the left wing needs to view this election campaign as warfare...not only for their own political ends, but also for the good of the nation. There’s simply too much at stake to keep making the same old mistakes. One mistake would be in thinking that their failure wouldn’t have serious consequences for the many New Zealand families already living in poverty. Another mistake would be thinking that New Zealand could survive economically if the National party is allowed to continue borrowing such large amounts of money without anything substantial to show for it. The debt they’ve already amassed will keep New Zealand in servitude for a very long time, and any continuation of such debt creation will see us bankrupted.

There are a few simple tenants in political warfare that are worth mentioning. One is to not let your opponent have any ammunition to fire. In general the left wing has been pretty good at this, especially compared to the current government. An eleven-year-old letter shouldn’t be regarded as ammunition unless you’re particularly desperate!

Another rule is to move into a position where any flack against you or your allies is ineffective. This would mean having well thought out responses to any controversial issues that arise and well promoted policy that cannot be easily misconstrued by a largely biased media. This is where hard work and discipline matters.

Of course you shouldn't target your own allies with any friendly fire even when they leave themselves open or wander into no mans land. That would just be stupid! Maurice Williamson, Simon Bridges and Judith Collins are still standing in no mans land and should make for easy pickings.

A further maneuver would be to get into a position where your enemy can be easily targeted. So take the moral high ground by all accounts, but also have a good supply of dry ammunition and be prepared to use it when the time is right. More importantly the left wing needs a better way to fire that ammunition and get the most coverage it can.

It goes without saying that any potential weakness should be exploited without mercy. National currently has a lot of weak points. Let's watch the bullies whine when the tables are turned.

21 Jun 2014

Coromandel Smashed by Flash-floods

Who refused to release the letters?

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Letters of support from two Government MPs for Donghua Liu's citizenship bid have been kept secret - despite letters from Labour politicians for his residency bid being released this week.

The Herald reported in March that Liu received citizenship in 2010 against official advice after lobbying by Maurice Williamson, the Minister for Building and Construction, and John Banks, the Mayor of Auckland at the time who later entered Parliament as an Act MP.

However, the Department of Internal Affairs refused to release the letters sent by Mr Williamson and Mr Banks under the privacy and commercial provisions in the Official Information Act.

The privacy and commercial provisions within the Official Information Act seem like a weak excuse for not releasing all the letters.

These are clearly letters between Ministers and Donghua Liu that should not really contain information that would prejudice or disadvantage people's commercial activities.

I should also mention that these letters can easily be redacted to remove any private information and should therefore be released because of the public interest in this matter.

No Right Turn blogs:

So it turns out that Immigration released letters from David Cunliffe and Chris Carter in support of Donghua Liu, but kept letters from government MPs secret.


This looks like a blatantly political release decision to advance the interests of the government of the day. It is an abuse of the Act which shames the entire public service and calls its impartiality into question. Transparency of official information applies to everyone, not just the government's enemies.

I would very much like to know if it really was Internal Affairs or Immigration that refused to release the letters written by Maurice Williamson and John Banks, or was it the Minister himself?

That would likely be the inept Peter Dunne, who would have to sign off on the release of any official information. However it could also be Michael Woodhouse, who is compromised because of his associated with the corrupt Donghua Liu. Either way, there are clearly spurious grounds for not releasing all the letters, as Idiot/Savant succinctly points out. Let's hope the Ombudsman makes the right decision in this matter.

Being that this whole thing has been carefully orchestrated to make David Cunliffe look bad in the run-up to an election, it wouldn't surprise me if Peter Dunne or Michael Woodhouse received a pro-release briefing paper with the letters in question attached and simply chose what information to withhold because they're biased.

The minister in question may well have then instructed Internal Affairs or Immigration to refuse to release the letters that would make the government look bad in favour of releasing an 11 year old letter soon after getting their media cohorts to ask David Cunliffe certain leading questions in order to entrap him.

That would seem to be a far more logical explanation for the letters from government MPs concerning Donghua Liu to be kept secret than any privacy or commercial reasons.

I very much doubt that Internal Affairs or Immigration would make such a politically biased decision on their own. In fact the evidence is pretty clear that one of these two ministers is responsible for this prejudiced decision.

Most ministry's are overly careful to not get caught up in political point scoring, because in general they want to keep their jobs when a new government is elected.

19 Jun 2014

18 Jun 2014

This is worth blogging about

As you may have heard, Simon Bridges, the Minister of Energy and Resources has decided to allow oil exploration and drilling in the habitat of the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.

Here's the media release from 3 News:

The Maui's dolphin is the world's rarest. It is estimated there are only 55 left.

"I think primarily once you go from exploration right through to production, you're not jeopardising the wildlife," says Minister of Energy and Resources Mr Bridges.

Simon Bridges is obviously living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks that seismic testing, oil drilling and potential oil spills will have no impact on a species like the Maui's dolphin.

But what's perhaps worse than this unbelievably bad decision is that the current government has tried to keep it a secret:

In April, the Government signed off a block offer – the biggest area ever of sea and land for oil and gas exploration.

Now official documents obtained by the Green Party reveal the Department of Conservation pointed out that this is the home of the Maui's dolphin, known as the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

The area the Government has opened up for potential drilling overlaps 3000 square kilometres into the sanctuary, including large areas off the Taranaki coast.

So without the Green party locating this information the government would have been happy to keep the public in the dark about their planned extinction of the iconic Maui's dolphin.

Although popoto's decline in numbers appears to mainly be the result of set-net fishing in the area, something that the government has also declined to do anything substantial about, in the interview the woefully inept Minister makes an extraordinary admission:

"There has been petroleum exploration in that area for a long period of time," says Mr Bridges. "I think it's about achieving a balance."

Clearly there's no balance between industry and the environment because dolphin numbers have continued to decline. That travesty appears to be the result of petroleum exploration in their habitat and not just unsustainable fishing practices.

In fact there is a growing body of evidence that shows seismic testing for instance has an adverse effect on such species. Even the US Navy now acknowledges that seismic testing kills whales and dolphins.

Of course the idiotic decision has resulted in a large amount of justified criticism. However it's also resulted in a number of calls for the Minister's head. That's not really a solution, as another oil industry puppet will simply take his place.

Instead, the best thing people can do is make MP's like Simon Bridges politically extinct at the next election.