Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Andrew Little’s debut, Mockingjay, and drunk texting

November 28th, 2014

John Key’s credibility has taken a hammering this week – at least among the 50% of the electorate who have always had doubts about him on that score. The other substantial story of the week has been about Andrew Little’s debut as Labour leader, which has received top marks, especially among the 25% of the electorate still voting Labour. According to some reports, the Labour caucus has been ‘in seventh heaven’ about Little’s success this week in taking it to the government in the House.

This is encouraging news for the centre left, given that Little’s oratorical/debating skills were actually supposed to be his weak link. His strong suit is acknowledged to be his organisational nous, very much in evidence in the way he put together his team. Putting Annette King in the Joe Biden role – as the only possible deputy with no ambition to become leader – was a smart move, and so was offering Finance to Grant Robertson, who is being invited to regard this role as lending gravitas to Robertson’s own ambitions to someday lead the country. What Little did was promote the caucus grandees, while putting them on notice to perform – in that everyone’s role would be re-evaluated in a year’s time. A caucus reshuffle, if needed, had thereby been flagged well in advance. Smart planning in the long term, and short term. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on government arrogance, Ferguson, and Police pursuits

November 27th, 2014

As anyone who’s ever encountered him around Parliament will verify, Chris Finlayson’s arrogance is matched only by his sense of self-esteem. On RNZ this morning though, he exceeded himself on both counts. Right now, National is ramming anti-terrorism measures through Parliament. This legislation will grant the SIS the power to carry out 48 hour bouts of surveillance on anyone without a warrant, and will bestow on government the power to unilaterally revoke anyone’s passports and thus deny them the freedom to travel. Ludicrously, the public has been given exactly one day to make submissions on these major infringements of their civil liberties. Despite Finlayson’s misleading signals on RNZ that these are only stopgaps until next year’s full review of our security laws, the measures in question will not, in fact, expire until 2018. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the inquiry into one case of dirty politics

November 26th, 2014

Suddenly, we’re awash in inquiries and reviews. (It feels almost as if the Greens won the last election.) Caught out by the damning inquiry by SIS Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, the government’s response yesterday was utterly in character – it released two other major reports at the same time to try and distract public attention.

Let’s see…we’ve had (a) the inquiry into the SIS collusion with the PM’s senior staff and their subsequent coaching of Cameron Slater on how to quickly access SIS info in order to undermine Labour’s then-leader Phil Goff (b) the inquiry into Judith Collins’ alleged collusion with Slater and his cohorts to try and undermine the Serious Fraud Office’s then CEO, Adam Feeley….and on the side (c) the inquiry into Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee’s sins against airport security (d) the State Services investigation of the sexual harassment claims against Roger Sutton and its subsequent mishandling of the aftermath (e) the review of security legislation by SIS/GCSB Minister Chris Finlayson and (f) …the ‘independent’ ministerial inquiry into the case of the paedophile & murderer Philip Smith ne Traynor, and his dash to Rio on a passport cunningly obtained under his real name. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Rick Ellis as Te Papa’s new CEO

November 24th, 2014

The recent appointment of former TVNZ boss Rick Ellis to head Te Papa has copped a fair bit of criticism.

Much of it has been inspired by the suspicion that Ellis has been hired to pursue the same purely commercial goals as he did at TVNZ, while similarly neglecting the serious cultural side of his mandate. True, it is pretty easy to lament the crass commercialism of the national museum, and all too regularly, Te Papa’s actions have begged to be mocked.

Given his track record then, there are good reasons for concern that Ellis is likely to become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the SAS role against Islamic State, and Podemos

November 20th, 2014

Could this news report serve to explain – in a nutshell – why Prime Minister John Key has not ruled out the SAS forming part of New Zealand’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State? From the New York Times a fortnight ago:

With relatively few Iraqi offensives to flush out militants, many Islamic State fighters have dug in to shield themselves from attack. The vast majority of bombing runs, including the weekend strike near Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, are now searching for targets of opportunity, such as checkpoints, artillery pieces and combat vehicles in the open. But only one of every four strike missions — some 800 of 3,200 — dropped its weapons, according to the military’s Central Command.

To repeat: only 25% of the US bombing runs are even managing to locate IS targets worth bombing. As the NYT explains at length, this underlines the need for better on-the-ground intelligence to direct the air campaign to where the bad guys have holed up. (After their initial flurry of success, the US planes are now only hitting “ pop-up targets of opportunity.”) Well, on-the-ground intelligence gathering is one of the things our SAS forces did in Afghanistan while operating in the south of the country, before they shifted to an urban ‘training’ (and combat) role in Kabul. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Andrew Little’s victory

November 19th, 2014

So Andrew Little has won the leadership – by the narrowest possible margin – from Grant Robertson, and has already been depicted by commentators as being simultaneously (a) the creature of the trade unions and (b) the most centrist of the four candidates, which would be an interesting trick to see someone try in a game of Twister. The centrist tag was being applied to him as a compliment, and is MSM code for “not leftist”. Personally, I think it’s doubtful whether a lurch to the centre makes any sense at all – let alone any political sense – when applied to the Labour Party of late. Before people start booking a trip to Centreville for Andrew Little, we need to know more about who lives there these days, and what does that neighbourhood look like? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Australians scoring trade points against us with the Chinese

November 18th, 2014

It hasn’t been a great year for Trade Minister Tim Groser. The Trans Pacific Partnership deal has been deadlocked all year, amidst increasingly desperate attempts to jawbone it towards the finishing line. Secondly, we’ve just concluded an FTA with Korea that lacks adequate milkpowder provisions, which can only be read by the Japanese (in a TPP context) as a sign that we will perhaps settle for less. To top it off, Australia has just signed a FTA with China that has far better provisions on dairy exports than what New Zealand currently enjoys in our own FTA with China. This has not escaped the attention of the Japanese press, who reported the Aussie FTA this morning in this fashion: Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on our training efforts against fundamentalism

November 14th, 2014

As New Zealand scopes out the training role that we’re likely to play in Iraq next year against Islamic State, we should perhaps be keeping in mind the last time our troops got involved in a training and support role against Islamic extremists. That would be in Afghanistan. Over a year ago, Afghan forces stepped up to take over the leading role in the fight against the Taliban. How’s that been going? Not so well, US commanders recently conceded. In fact…the current casualty rate among the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) cannot be sustained, according to a top US officer within the international coalition. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s next leader, and Putin’s problems

November 12th, 2014

Now that the Labour leadership pageant has finally ground to a halt, the voting (and the guesswork about the likely result) can begin in earnest. At this point, no one really has a clue as to who will be announced as the winner next Tuesday, but the most common speculation around the traps is that Andrew Little seems the most likely victor – if only because of his CV. Little, now 49, has been head of New Zealand largest union (the EPMU) and is a former president of the Labour Party – and he’s generally regarded as having made a fairly good fist of both those jobs. While the affiliated unions and party members do not vote monolithically, they do account for 60% of the vote. Within caucus, Little could also reasonably expect to pick up most of the enemies of the old Anyone But Cunliffe bloc, obviously apart from Nanaia Mahuta. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the unravelling of the government’s responses to Islamic State

November 10th, 2014

Despite having had months to prepare its story about the threat allegedly posed by Islamic State, the government’s rationale for its line of response is looking increasingly shabby.

1. We’ll maybe be training their troops, but not any time soon, and not in any part of Iraq where things might be risky. Such pre-conditions would seem to (a) rule out most of the currently contested territory of Iraq and (b) be too little, too late given that a visible IS presence is currently being reported in Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad. Currently, we’re sending a scoping mission on whether (and where) we might safely play a training role sometime next year – assuming that the government in Baghdad hasn’t been over-run by then. Read the rest of this entry »