Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell


Gordon Campbell's blog updates are now published at Werewolf.co.nz.

Gordon Campbell on the ch-ch-changes at IRD

July 20th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

New Zealand may pride itself on being relatively free of political corruption, but the corruption of our political language has built up a fine head of steam. On any number of issues we’re now supposedly engaged in a ‘conversation’ about policy options, even if that ‘conversation’ mostly involves the government saying what’s going to be what, while the rest of us get to shut up and listen.

In similar vein, job cuts aren’t happening at the IRD, exactly. Instead, there’s apparently a ‘transformation’ in store, and jobs won’t be axed ; no, they will be ‘transformed’ before our eyes into… non-jobs, if you happen to be among the unlucky legion of 1,900 who are being lined up for transformation, which seems to work rather like a secular version of the Rapture. Except that at IRD, not even your shoes will be left behind. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Greens’ room for political pragmatism

July 19th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Try and guess which party I’m talking about. They’ve led the way in promoting women to leadership positions, and in allowing their MPs to vote according to their conscience. They’ve never won much in the way of electorate seats, but one of their main pitches to voters involved a promise that they’d keep Parliament honest. The support for this party has largely come from middle class, urban-based, educated and younger voters disillusioned with the major parties. Long debunked as being too idealistic to make the compromises necessary to make policy gains, they’ve been described as a politically impractical ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ kind of party. Who are they?

Congratulations. You’re right: I’m talking about the Democrats in Australia. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on humane welfare, child support and tax

July 18th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

It made for an unusual Venn diagram, but Greens co-leader Metiria Turei and Finance Minister Steven Joyce were briefly sharing some common elements this week in the set that says – hey, don’t use the powers of the state in ways guaranteed to make the system you’re trying to defend worse, not better. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on National v Labour family support packages

July 13th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Too bad that poverty can bring out the worst in people. Especially at times, among politicians well-fed, well-housed and amply rewarded by the same state that they’re prone to decry when it offers assistance to individuals and families who are less comfortably situated. Unfortunately, some of the political rhetoric that has surrounded the competing packages on income support and child poverty put out by Labour and National has been particularly mean-minded… Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Winston Peters sitting pretty

July 11th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Ah, Winston Peters… ’tis winter, but he could hardly be feeling more contented. Traditionally Peters and his party are good finishers in election campaigns and yet this year they’re already enjoying a strong 11% showing in this week’s ONE News Colmar Brunton poll and blimey, they seem to be doing just as well in the rolling poll of polls.

The same polling also indicates that the government’s partners (Peter Dunne, Act and the Maori Party) cannot currently deliver National a parliamentary majority. Peters is needed. Ergo, he must be wooed. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the current US moves against North Korea

July 10th, 2017

First published on Werewolf
If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and North Korea does eventually become a fully fledged nuclear state… that would still make it only the ninth nuclear state on the planet, behind the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and Israel. No doubt, it is undesirable that the nuclear club should expand; but is it really worth risking a massively devastating war merely in order to prevent the likelihood of such expansion?

To compound the absurdity of the logic involved, there is plenty of evidence that – despite its bellicose rhetoric – North Korea sees its nuclear status as primarily defensive. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Shane Jones concept

July 5th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Since Shane Jones has never really existed, the media felt it necessary to invent him. Meet Jonesy, the rough diamond politico with the superhero powers of communication with working class Kiwi males! As Danyl McLauchlan indicated a few years ago, the media has fallen harder for its own creation than the voters have ever done. It’s understandable. For a while there, Shane Jones seemed like a walking slice of blokey Kiwiana. There were murmurs about him becoming Labour leader, and our first Maori Prime Minister.

In reality, Labour’s working class hero was anything but a champion of the battlers. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Peter Thiel’s bad attitude problem

July 3rd, 2017

Column – Gordon Campbell

S o far, we haven’t been able to find what Peter Thiel may have said about us on Trip Advisor, after those four lightning trips he made here, totalling 12 days in all – but I’m sure he liked us. Really liked us. Funny though that our alleged … Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s policy resurgence, and Alex Chilton

June 29th, 2017

For much of this year, almost all the diversity in politics has been down at the retail end, where apparent differences reside in the tone, and in details. Up at the wholesale end – in the economic settings that drive the engine of politics – the story has been of convergence, exemplified by Labour and the Greens signing up to the Budget Responsibility Rules.

The excuse for this has been that hey, in this time of surpluses, there is still going to be plenty of room for social spending on traditional centre-left causes post election, so… no problem. Even if that means an embrace of the Blairite, Third Way economic policies now sliding into disfavor almost everywhere else, and especially in Britain. Yet what happens when the business cycle turns down, and the centre-left has signed itself onto the dotted line for the next bout of budget balancing and belt-tightening? Fair weather leftism isn’t the real thing.

However, and only three months out from the election, there is finally some genuine good news. Twice this week, Labour has released policy that has well and truly gotten up the nose of the sort of lobby groups that it has spent most of 2017 trying to cultivate. First, Labour’s freshwater policy has been denounced by Federated Farmers. Now its workplace relations policy has been attacked by the Employers and Manufacturers Association. Yay. It seems Labour may finally be doing something right…or more to the point, left.

The battles over freshwater policy are being waged on several fronts e.g. over (a) the wasteful and environmentally harmful taxpayer subsidies for irrigation, (b) the oversized national dairy herds, (c) the resultant levels of pollution in the nation’s rivers and lakes etc etc…. Back in February, the government released a Clean Water Plan that promised to make 90 per cent of the country’s waterways “swimmable” by – wait for it – the year 2040.

Absurdly though, the government’s Plan allows for weaker gradings of e coli river than the 2014 National Policy Statement (NPS) it was supposed to replace. Evidently, even the officials have had considerable difficulty with it. Emails released under the Official Information Act have just revealed that soon after the government policy was unveiled, Environment Ministry staff were frantically emailing scientists here and in the United States, asking for “thoughts or suggestions” because “we are struggling to explain the science in easy-to-understand terms for the general public.”

OK…so Labour freshwater plan isn’t perfect, but it is better. Labour’s 12 point freshwater plan aims to improve water quality and make rivers and lakes “genuinely swimmable” within a five year period, rarher than a 23 year period . The policy would also include overt action to clean up some of the country’s most grossly polluted rivers and lakes. More controversially, the Labour plan would crack down on intensive farming by requiring all heavily stocked farmland situated near waterways to be fenced within five years, and would regulate the run-off allowed from the so-called ‘ spray and pray” methods currently in practice Local councils would also be required to report on compliance within their regions.

Not all that surprisingly, Federated Farmers has already weighed in against the Labour plan to cap stock numbers – calling such moves “ bizarre” and likely to jeopardise rural economies. However, on this issue – as on climate change – public sentiment now seems to that our waterways problems are now of such severity that they will not fix themselves. At its heart, this relatively new political imperative for change rests on a strong feeling that swimmable rivers and lakes do form a key part of the nation’s identity. Simply put, people who used to swim in rivers want their children to still be able to do the same, without them being made sick in the attempt. On a more hard-headed level, the potential economic cost to New Zealand’s clean and green tourism image also outweighs the likely costs of compliance.

Tourism aside though, it is this inter-generational aspect of waterways policy that makes it such a potentially powerful election issue. Can the drive for short term profit by farmers be allowed to undermine the natural legacy that’s available to our children ? It doesn’t help National that Nick Smith – one of the Cabinet’s poorer performers – is the Minister defending its case.

Much the same story goes for the workplace relations as well. Again, Labour’s proposals are not perfect, but they speak to fairness issues, and they address how this should apply across the generational divide. Basically, Labour is promoting Fair Pay Agreements that would set basic employment conditions across an industry. As the NZCTU has already pointed out:

If bus drivers in New Zealand were covered by a Fair Pay Agreement they would have some certainty. But as things stand, Wellington bus drivers face pay cuts and casualisation. The problem with the current model is that it allows for, and even encourages, employers to drive wages down in order to increase their own profit margins. This model is outdated and unsustainable. Fair Pay Agreements are most certainly the way of the future. The huge success of the recent equal pay settlement shows how this approach can significantly improve the lives of working people…

Other elements of the workplace policy include a commitment to introduce Living Wage pay rates to the public service within 12 months of gaining office. Labour also propose to introduce unjust dismissal procedures into the 90 day employment trial period ie. this heralds a welcome attempt to correct the imbalance of power the current government has fostered in the workplace. Not surprisingly the dinosaurs of the right have attacked this move on “ flexibility” grounds. According to the EMA, having no protections for yo0ung workers “gives the employer and the employee the flexibility to gauge if they are the right fit, without the risk of litigation.”

Yeah, right. Workers are not nuts and bolts that can be screwed in, and tossed aside if they don’t “ fit”. The greater risk is that they will be screwed, period. Good employers have nothing to fear from what Labour is proposing, and young voters have a stake in putting these proposals into effect. In an election that has been looked short of core differences between the centre right (National) the far right ( Act) the fellow travelling right ( the Maori Party) the soft right (Labour) and an environmental right (the Greens)…there are some glimmerings of hope emerging on the left hand side of the policy ledger.

Minimum wage hikes

As Labour talks up the Living Wage, much of the press coverage this week on the offshore impact of minimum wage increases has focussed on the Seattle experience, where a large minimum wage pay hike ( from $13 to $15 an hour has reportedly had negative impacts on the earnings/employment of the workers affected.

It should be noted that a different study by academics at Berkeley contradicts the negative conclusions on minimum wage hikes and is more consistent with previous studies of the impact of such pay hikes.

The experience of Denmark has had less coverage and can be read two ways: critics of government-imposed minimum wage hikes ( eg the EMA) will point to the drop in employment that routinely kicks in once young workers in Denmark reach the age of 18. Those on the centre-left will point to the fairness and productivity arguments that should count against this kind of “flexibility” being left to the mercies of the market, and/or the goodwill of employers:

Denmark has laws making age discrimination illegal but these do not apply when a young person turns 18 and firms may legally search for under or over-18 age workers.

A variety of restrictions mean that under-18 age workers can do less than adults (e.g. they can’t legally lift more than 25 kilos or have a driver’s license.) Thus, productivity increases at age 18, making the employment loss at this age even more dramatic. The authors can’t tell for certain if workers are quitting or getting fired but there are few other obvious discontinuities around exactly age 18. Students are eligible for certain benefits at age 18 but the authors are able to look at sub-samples where this objection doesn’t apply and the results are robust.

Alex Chilton

At a time when we’ve had the 50th anniversary re-issue of St Pepper yada yada….I’d like to point to one of the rare recent examples where the re-issue (plus out-takes) process has been more than a mere cash-in. The 3 CD Complete Third will come as a revelation to those who love the Alex Chilton/Big Star album that’s variously known as Sister Lovers and the Third Album. The Complete Third packages all the demos and out-takes and mixes the album went through and in a linear narrartive. By doing so, it up ends the folklore that’s grown up around this legendary example of artistic self destruction. The core tracks ( Kanga Roo, Holocaust, Night Time, Blue Moon, Femme Fatale, O Dana, Strike It Noel) have fuelled the perception of Chilton’s disintegration occurring in the studio, on the mike.

Not so. The voice tracks on the demos are not miuch different from what ended up on record. Meaning : this was more like an artistic depiction of self-destruction, no doubt triggered by Chilton’s troubled relationship with his muse, Lesa Aldridge. But hearing the 3 CDS in sequence, its hard to sustain the legend that it was a real meltdown, accidentally caught on record.

Here for example is the demo of “Kanga Roo” which initially was called “Like St Joan”….

Then here’s the final finished product.

Both are great. But Chilton knew exactly what he was doing, all along. Which only makes this great one-of-a kind album seem even more of an achievement.

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Gordon Campbell on the EU’s beef with Google

June 28th, 2017

Column – Gordon Campbell

T here’s every indication that Google would be on a losing wicket if it chooses to fight the European Union competition watchdogs, who have just levied a $3.3 billion fine on the firm – with the prospect of worse to come if Google doesn’t quickly … Read the rest of this entry »