Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the Children’s Commission report on CYF

August 27th, 2015

Accusing the overworked and underfunded staff at Child, Youth and Family of a “dump and run culture of neglect” is the kind of luxury that a Children’s Commissioner can afford to indulge in from his own comfy perch in the bureaucracy. Newsflash: CYPS staff care about the welfare of children at risk, too. In the real world of case workers ‘clients’ and caregivers, every link in the chain of care that the Children’s Commissioner identifies as lacking would be strengthened by more funding.

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Gordon Campbell on the flag campaign

August 25th, 2015

So far, the public has treated the government’s flag campaign with something between disinterest and disdain. Most New Zealanders have instinctively seen through the marketing hype involved. Basically the flag campaign is a ‘feel good’ bit of self-promotion for the government and concocted to enable Prime Minister John Key to wrap himself in the national emblem, at taxpayer expense. The flag campaign format will play out like one of those TV reality shows whereby a series of designs gets voted off the island, until – finally – the public is invited to choose a future with the surviving new contender, or with their current old reliable. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Donald Trump, and Dr Dre

August 19th, 2015

For the past few months, you, me, and Rupert Murdoch have been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Trump campaign, and for some drab incarnation of business-as-usual (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker) to emerge as the real Republican standard bearer in next year’s presidential election. Hmmm. But if the wheels haven’t come off Trump by now, then when – and by what means, exactly? The more that Trump cuts his links to common decency, the higher his balloon seems to fly.

And if you look beyond Trump, the next highest rating Republican contender right now is no suit for corporate hire, but the next most crazy candidate in the field, Ben Carson. This is the guy who likened US political correctness to Nazi Germany, and who called Obama’s health care programme the worst thing to happen to the US since slavery. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Tim Groser and the Wrecking Crew

August 17th, 2015

At times, a protest march can feel like a futile political tactic, but at least afterwards… Trade Minister Tim Groser can always be relied on to put his foot in his mouth. The weekend’s turnout of thousands – in Auckland in wet weather – was no exception. In his comments afterwards, Groser not only came out with a goofy line about the alleged need for TPP secrecy – “Discretion is the handmaiden of progress” – but then proceeded to slag off the thousands of concerned New Zealanders as being either fools, hysterics, or professional agitators. If this is how Groser conducts his negotiations, no wonder Japan is blaming New Zealand for the fact the TPP talks in Maui ended in deadlock. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on China’s devaluation, and Wolf Alice

August 13th, 2015

As China’s currency takes the down elevator towards the basement – and after two days of decline no one knows how far down it will eventually go – its hard to see any good news for New Zealand. Our main export commodity (dairy powder) has already lost 70 % of its value over the past 18 months – and now everything we sell into our biggest export market (China) will cost more. Top use the ruling cliche, it’s a headwind. Demand will inevitably diminish, given that those much-prized customers in China’s emerging middle class will now have to pay more for New Zealand goods. Similarly, tourism from China – a recent bright spot for us – will also come under pressure, as Chinese tourists discover the bad news that their money will buy less, abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s pandering to the redneck vote about refugees, and the SIS charm offensive

August 12th, 2015

Labour’s readiness to play “Gotcha” politics over the 27 incidents where refugee status were first granted and then revoked is pretty shameful. According to documents obtained by RNZ, fraud may have been involved in some of these cases. Labour wants to know why the citizenship of the people concerned was not revoked – an outcome that would presumably have seen the culprits deported. Really? A little perspective might be in order, and one might reasonably have expected some from the Labour Party.

First, New Zealand has one of the lowest intakes of refugees – in terms of numbers per GDP – in the developed world. We can well afford to err on the side of compassion, especially since there is no indication of the number of years over which these 27 examples were spread. Moreover, the determination of refugee status is not an exact science, and many cases will fall into a grey area. Does Labour really think that New Zealand – having first decided to let these people into the country – should then after a period of time has elapsed, change its mind about its original decision and toss these families out again, back into some camp in the likes of Kenya or Malaysia?

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Gordon Campbell on Japan’s current doubts that the TPP has any future

August 10th, 2015

Japan has made it clear it thinks New Zealand was the key major stumbling block to a successful conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Alas, New Zealand proved to be the axle-breaking bump in the road that nobody saw until it was too late to slow down. An August 9 piece in Japan News about the timing of the next round of ministerial talks on the TPP repeats that point:

There was a plan to hold the ministerial meeting after the economic ministers’ meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be held in Malaysia in late August. However, New Zealand did not relax its hard-line stance over other nations’ import quotas for its dairy products, with [Japanese Minister in charge of TPP negotiations Akira]Amari saying the country made excessive demands.

Therefore – and maybe forevermore – Japan will not participate in further ministerial meetings until a broad agreement can be reached by officials beforehand. Such an approach ignores a TPP reality where the divisions still run so deep that only politicians can leap across them. Mere officials would not dare.

The timetable for TPP passage remains very tight. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the economic bad news, and Turkey’s fears about the Kurds

August 5th, 2015

Traditionally, voters regard National as a more competent manager of the economy. It is the sole upside of crony capitalism: surely these guys must know what their mates in business want and need. These last few months though, have put that faith sorely to the test, as the government seems helpless to stem the flow of bad economic news. In brief (a) prices for our main export commodity are in freefall, down to their lowest point since 2002 (b) the exchange rate is also tumbling, raising the price of imports and the cost of the imported components that go into our export drive. Due to our dollar’s steep decline since June 2014 against the US greenback, New Zealanders have not benefitted from the tumbling global price for oil and (c) while the exchange rate decline is good news for foreign tourists coming here, it is terrible news for any New Zealanders wishing to travel.

Meanwhile (d) economic growth in our biggest export market, China, is slowing significantly amid ongoing carnage on its share-market. Oh, and the construction boom in Christchurch that has been one of the few signs of life in the domestic economy has now peaked. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on why we should still oppose investor-state dispute measures

August 3rd, 2015

Even in this dark hour for the TPP, the secrecy farce continues. On RNZ this morning, Trade Minister Tim Groser said he looks forward to the day when he can take the covers off, and show New Zealand what a good deal we’ve won. Oh, good grief. What is left to hide? Every single negotiator went into those talks in Maui knowing exactly where everyone else stood, what the TPP texts are, and what the bracketed bits of problematic text were in every single chapter. By week’s end they knew even more clearly what level of offer was unacceptable, what alliances had emerged, and which bits of the TPP were being held to ransom by which countries in order to jack up the offers in the parts relevant to them.

Meaning: inside the negotiation tent, the TPP isn’t wearing any pants. It never has been. The whole exercise of secrecy has been about hiding the content from public opinion, not about negotiating the text. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Tim Groser missing in action on the TPP

July 31st, 2015

While rapid change is always possible in trade talks as they approach the deadline, lets assume that the offers on the table for dairy at the TPP talks in Maui won’t improve much beyond the “appallingly bad” level currently being lamented by New Zealand dairy industry participants. What is Plan B now for New Zealand? As tactical partners to date, New Zealand and Australia have found some common ground in stalling on the patent terms for medicines, particularly in the expensive, cutting edge realm of “biologics” treatments.

New Zealand has been stalling on the medicines and IP provisions in general, to try and prise that better deal on dairy from Japan, the US and Canada – while Australia has taken the same obstructive line in order to leverage better access for its sugar exports to the US domestic market. Dream on. One of the features of this allegedly “free” trade deal is that the US has decreed that its protectionist wall for sugar is not open to negotiation, and don’t even think of asking the US to reduce its enormous farm production subsidies. And then there’s the Jones Act which has given blanket protection to the US shipbuilding and maritime industry for the past 95 years. You get the picture: from the US point of view, removing trade barriers is something for other countries to do, for its corporate benefit. Read the rest of this entry »