Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

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Gordon Campbell on holidays, Hekia Parata and Badlands

October 25th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

At this time of year, a lot of New Zealanders tend to bemoan the increasing popularity of Hallowe’en. They regard it as an alien, commercialized American import with no real connection to this country – even though, thank goodness, Hallowe’en seems to be replacing an equally alien, commercialised British import called Guy Fawkes Day, which also has no genuine connection to this country. At least the American import offers more dressing up options for children, and doesn’t involve the terrorising of animals via fireworks. Such is social progress.

Otherwise, one of the peculiar aspects of the holidays and celebrations on our public calendar is the virtual meaninglessness (and/or divisiveness) of most of them. Easter and Queens Birthday for instance, have retained virtually none of their original meaning. Nor do the anniversary holidays that celebrate the joys of provincial identity. By contrast, Anzac Day has regained a good deal of meaning after decades of steadily losing relevance. Waitangi Day ( which is the closest thing we have to a national day) still polarizes the nation as much as it unites it. Arguably, that’s a good thing – in that it signifies how much work still needs to be done before there are grounds for outright celebration, for everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on plastic bag activism, and street harassment

October 18th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

Amusing to see the Act Party experiencing another outbreak of young fogey-ism. What has aroused the ire of Act Leader David Seymour this time is the introduction of a Greens private members bill to the ballot process, calling for a 15 cents levy on plastic bags to reduce pollution.

Clearly, one of the dastardly things about this measure is that elsewhere it seems to work, brilliantly. Reportedly, figures from Wales show that single journey plastic bag use dropped by around three-quarters after the introduction of a 5p charge in 2011.

Ireland’s €0.15 (11p) levy on bags reportedly led to a 90% reduction in consumption. Scotland introduced a similar measure in late 2014, and it seems to be having a similar impact. In England, the plastic bag levy has reduced the incidence of one trip plastic bag use by 85%. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Surplus, And Bob Dylan

October 14th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

To quote the distinguished Nobel laureate, ‘Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?” True, Bob Dylan didn’t have Finance Minister Bill English or Labour leader Andrew Little exactly in mind when he wrote those lines, but they definitely fit. It’s been a weird old morning when the country wakes up to a $1.8 billion surplus and yet the strongest advocate for social justice is the guy from the Salvation Army.

No surprise that English should continue his Mr Magoo act in the face of – to take a few examples – a crumbling health system, the plight of the homeless and the underfunding of special needs education and mental health services. But hooray! The surplus this deliberate starvation has made possible means there could still be tax cuts in election year. Such a safe pair of hands we have in the good Mr English. If only he wouldn’t keep them so tightly wrapped around the nation’s throat.

The real disappointment is Labour who apparently (a) would spend the surplus on more police, and are (b) reportedly intent on portraying Election Year 2017 as a choice between Tax Cuts or Safer Streets. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Judith Collins, crime and poverty

October 13th, 2016

Usually, populism is associated with Winston Peters and his regular tweakings of community prejudice about race and immigration. Just as predictably, Police Minister Judith Collins engages in the same process of liberal baiting. It is just the way that a certain brand of politics gets done. Law’n’order and the criminal poor have always been a reliable source of public concern. Not that Collins is much interested in the difficult, time consuming process of identifying the causes of crime and devising solutions. Trolling the electorate is much easier, and generates far bigger dollops of personal publicity.

Collins made her dismissive comments about the links between poverty and crime in response to a question from the floor at yesterday’s Police Association annual conference.Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on how the political centre is a mirage

October 11th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

And now as the dust from the local government outcomes begins to settle, the policy battles between central and local government kick into gear. Could a regional fuel tax for Auckland be back on the table? Might Phil Goff forge ahead regardless with a Vancouver-style stamp duty levied on foreign home buyers? Who will be National’s candidate in the December 3rd by election to find Goff’s replacement in Mt Roskill? Given the reports released late last week that claimed to find a reduced – but still significant – national benefit from the Wellington runway extension, was central government feeling any more inclined to support the project? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on dairy farming, the battle for Mosul and drugs in sport

October 5th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

So….wholemilk powder prices were down 4% overnight, the first decline since July. Well, boo hoo. Arguably, the last thing New Zealand needs is for the current levels of dairy production to return to profitability anytime soon. Obviously, no one wants the individuals concerned to suffer. But is it really a national disaster when dairy powder prices fall, and remain – at $US2,681 a tonne- below the break even level of circa $US3,000 ? If prices did hit that higher level… it would mean more land being converted to dairy production, more money being poured into irrigation, more damage being done to our rivers and lakes, with more risk incurred to our tourism brand etc etc

With all that in mind, maybe our media should stop treating any slump in dairy prices as if this were a national disaster. As things stand, we’re basing our national income on an industry that’s ravaging our natural environment. Luckily, there are a few recent signs that dairy production (globally and domestically) may be declining. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on privatizing education, and the Amen Break

September 29th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

Here’s a link to a brilliant piece by the Aussie economist John Quiggin – occasionally of this parish – about the failures of the market when it comes to the delivery of social programmes.

I particularly liked this introductory contrast between Thomas Edison and Tony Blair :

Thomas Edison is supposed to have said, “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote comes irresistibly to mind when thinking about Tony Blair’s famous commitment to “what works”, as opposed to ideology, in public policy.

In retrospect, it seems that Blair, and like-minded reformers throughout the English-speaking world, have delivered an Edison in reverse. Edison experimented with many things that didn’t work, but ended up with a light bulb. Market-oriented reforms, particularly in the provision of human services like health, education and public safety, have begun with a working system and replaced it with a string of failed experiments.

Quiggin proceeds to give some examples of those dismal market experiments from all around the world, with even Serco’s private prison experiments in New Zealand rating a mention. Links are also provided to US data on the school privatisation industry, aka charter schools.

The argument that Quiggin is making seems especially relevant to this country at a time when several major experiments on New Zealand children are getting under way. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Key style of crisis management

September 27th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

Obviously, anyone paying much attention in recent weeks has been serially appalled/amazed/cynically amused by The Great Fish Dumping Fiasco, and the evidence of top Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) officials being caught in email flagrante saying such stuff as… how they don’t dare to enforce the official policy because they’d put half the industry out of business and/or would get offside with the skippers they’re supposed to be monitoring – which could be fatal for keeping a regulatory contract that’s subsequently been
(a) handed over to a company with ownership links to the industry and
(b) where the monitoring role is seemingly awarded on condition that the regulator doesn’t do anything likely to earn the disfavour of the industry they’re supposed to be regulating.

Incredibly, the MPI cameras installed on boats were put there to detect and deter the unlawful depletion of the nation’s fish stocks – but MPI then concluded that this footage could not subsequently be used in court to clinch the prosecution of those caught on camera actually depleting the nation’s fish stocks. In fact, having the MPI cameras on board ship seemed to create a virtual immunity for anyone violating the rules that the cameras were there to spot… In fact, it has transpired the cameras were there in an entirely passive monitoring role, and not an active enforcement one.

Ultimately, the legal advice to MPI was that they couldn’t use the footage compiled for one purpose – assessing the health of the fisheries – for the allegedly different purpose of prosecuting the people putting that health at risk. At least that’s assumed to be what the legal advice given to MPI actually said. In the final absurdity, the relevant legal advice is being kept under wraps, lest the government set a precedent by divulging the legal advice on which it supposedly acts. (This secrecy convention also enables the government of the day to conveniently hide the occasions when it chooses for political reasons to diverge from what it has been told it should be doing, under the law.)

Enter Prime Minister John Key. At yesterday’s post Cabinet press conference Key was in his finest wide- eyed “ Problem? What problem?” mode. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Judith Collins’ self correction

September 26th, 2016

First published on Werewolf

Thousands of prisoners currently in prison may be entitled to an earlier release than expected – and compensation – because Corrections has incorrectly calculated their term of imprisonment. Thousands more who have been released (and who served longer terms than they should have) may also qualify for similar compensation. Unless of course, the government buries its mistakes by changing the law and retro-actively getting itself off the hook.

That looks very much like the road that Corrections Minister Judith Collins is about to take. With a logic that would do Donald Trump proud, Corrections Minister Judith Collins has claimed that she and her department are actually in a “strong position” because they can point to a Court of Appeal ruling in their favour.

In fact, that ruling had already been overturned last week by a unanimous Supreme Court decision. Almost any high school student could tell Collins – a lawyer and former Justice Minister – that the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land, and therefore Collins cannot simply rummage around among the lower court rulings to find one that she likes, and use that as a justification for the correctional mistakes for which she, ultimately, as Minister, is responsible. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on our posturing at the UN

September 21st, 2016

First published on Werewolf

Hey, how hard is to be John Key? Not very. Yesterday in New York for instance, Key basically took an old May 2 Washington Post article written by Barack Obama, recycled it back to the Americans, and still scored headlines here at home such as: “John Key Warns US Of Risks In Failing To Ratify TPP…” That’s telling them. Read the rest of this entry »