Red Alert

Archive for August, 2009

Murdoch is wrong

Posted by on August 31st, 2009

If you’ve ever watched Fox News, you’d know it’s entertaining, but extremely frightening to see rabid, right wing opinion and prejudice passed off as news in the US.  Well watch out. It could be coming here.  James Murdoch’s (son of Rupert) latest pronouncements, as reported in today’s Australian newspaper, argue that Britian’s commitment to a state funded fourth estate is destroying democracy.  It sent chills down my spine and made my blood boil (if it’s possible to feel cold and hot at the same time).

Read it yourself, but I’ll quote a couple of paras from the article (originally reported in The Times) to get you going:

He (Murdoch) said the “chilling” expansion of the BBC meant commercial rivals and consumer choice were struggling. In particular, the “expansion of state-sponsored journalism” in the form of the BBC News online was “a threat to plurality and the independence of news provision, which are so important to our democracy”.


Mr Murdoch, who is the chief executive of BSkyB, 39.1 per cent owned by News Corp, said he believed broadcasters such as Sky should be freed from the longstanding requirement to produce impartial news.

Crikey. Let’s have partial news then. What do you call it? Infotainment? Bias. Ratings driven news? Oh, I forget. That’s what we have already. Let’s forget about a public broadcasting system built on a set of professional standards. Let’s forget about newspapers of record. Let’s just have a free-for-all, driven by the market.

If that’s what James Murdoch thinks is a happy outcome of democracy, then he and I live in different universes.

Tolley getting advice on introducing vouchers

Posted by on August 31st, 2009

The Press reports that Anne Tolley is seeing one of the key actors in the failed US voucher system implementation.

Vouchers privatise the education system – leaving state schools and poorer /middle income families struggling in a second class system.

Our strong state led system is one of the reasons our results are so much better than Australia, UK and US who all are way behind us on most international measures.

If this is Tolley’s next move then bring on the debate.

The fourth Service

Posted by on August 30th, 2009

Today, I attended the Merchant Navy Remembrance Day Service at the Birkenhead RSA. It meant I missed out on Len Brown’s great announcement, but I’m glad I went.

The service was to remember the several thousands of New Zealanders who served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. They sailed the ships that delivered troops, military equipment and cargos of food, fuel and raw materials across the world’s oceans. This work was so essential to the Allies’ war effort that the Merchant Navy was regarded as the fourth service alongside the army, navy and air force.

The Merchant Navy faced the same dangers of war as the regular armed forces, but they did so as civilians. Their merchant ships were peacetime vessels, not designed to withstand an enemy attack, but they carried vital troops, food, fuel and equipment to wherever they were needed in the war.

Today, I learned about their most crucial struggle, “the Battle of the Atlantic” which lasted 2074 days: from 3 September 1939, the day war was declared, to 7 May 1945, the day Germany capitulated. Allied merchant ships were sunk with loss of life in the Atlantic on each of those days, and on virtually every day in between. Merchant seafarers found themselves in the front lines of the war at sea. Many ships were torpedoed or bombed; survivors sometimes spent days or weeks in lifeboats before being rescued. More than 130 New Zealand merchant seafarers lost their lives, and around 140 were taken prisoner.  Internationally, around 80,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Today was no Anzac Day revival service. There were no young people at the service day wearing their grandfather’s medals, just old sailors remembering those who were lost.

No other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during war time yet are so little recognised for their contribution.

That’s why, on a day when there was an exciting political announcement in Auckland, I chose to go there instead.  I’m glad I did.

Filed under: history

1.4 billon reasons

Posted by on August 30th, 2009

Last night I emceed the Auckland launch of the Global Poverty Project, a new international campaign to eliminate extreme poverty.

About 700 people were there to see an inspiring presentation by Hugh Evans, a charismatic 26 year old Australian who has made the fight against extreme poverty his mission in life. The event was one of six launches around NZ and follows 40 around Australia in recent weeks.

The campaign aims to build a global movement behind the Millenium Development Goals – a set of internationally agreed targets to reduce hunger and extreme poverty, and get every child into school among others. It is sound stuff, and backed by the UN and NGOs like Oxfam, Tear Fund, and VSA. Evans’ presentation is called 1.4 billion reasons – one for each person on the planet living in extreme poverty.

It is fantastic to see this kind of campaigning.  Average age in the hall was under 25,  it was an ethnically diverse audience, and well tuned into the politics of the issue from the quality of the contributions from the floor. This is timely  – given we have a Government that is making our overseas aid programme a tool of its regional free trade agenda, and can barely conceal its disdain for the Millenium Development Goals.

You can help. Join up now.

PPTA wrong on integration

Posted by on August 30th, 2009

The PPTA want to close the door on schools wanting to integrate.

I think that to legislate to do that would result in a rush while the legislation was processed.  I also think that it is wrong. Private schools are very cheap on the taxpayer, are needed as part of the network in some cities and in some cases are either innovative or fulfil specific cultural needs. Exterminating them or integrated schools might sound great rhetoric but it doesn’t make good policy sense.

Just to make it clear I think the government decision to increase the subsidies for private schools was wrong. To do it in this budget by cutting the funding of disabled kids and night classes was evil.

But the real issue is why some integrated schools are allowed to insist on donations well beyond the dues set out in their integration agreements with the crown.  It was an issue in this post on Education Ownership.

Sexy Coal Brownlee

Posted by on August 29th, 2009

National’s Gerry Brownlee made a video clip last year which he entitled “Sexy Coal”.  The mind boggles at Gerry being the poster boy for anything, but he’s certainly trying for “Mr Lignite 2009″.

Coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world after oil, but National want more of it.

Gerry confirmed in his speech to the mineral industry on Wednesday that he wants to help the industry mine more of it – including in National Parks!

Mining is currently banned in National Parks. Elsewher on the DOC estate it is not prohibited – indeed a miner can apply for permission to mine on other DOC land without a public hearing, unlike someone appliying for a tourism concession. So when he says National is looking at loosening up mining including in National Parks, he means it. Maybe because National is in the title he thinks they own them.

This is the third action to promote the use of coal that Gerry has pursued since the election.

Straight after the election Gerry had a hand in changing the boundaries of the new Otiaki conservation park. He excluded the main stem of the main river in the park (the Manuherikia) so as to leave all of the lignite reserves outside the park boundary. Most of the lignite was outside the park anyway, but Gerry thought small proportion of lignite inside the proposed park more more important than the river.

Then he revoked the restrictions on more base-load coal fired electricity generation – despite the fact that we are blessed with amonst the cheapest renewable electricity options in the world – we have lots of geothermal and wind already consented and cost competitive.

Now its mining in parks.  Although he’s now trying to down play the lignite angle now, the ODT reported that he specifically talked up the coal in parks angle in his speech. 

I’m not opposed to all mining. I use steel and aluminium, wear a gold ring. I’m not in the camp that says all mining is bad.   But mining in National Parks?  For lignite! What is he on?

Maybe Mr Lignite has never walked more than a hundred metres from his car, but hopefully he’s seen a few photos.  Does he really think a lignite mine would fit in? They don’t come small. Maybe someone can load some links to those big mines in Australia, or the ferris wheel-like diggers they use in Germany.

Is this part of the Minister of  Toryism’s support for  the 100% Pure campaign?  Perhaps the Nats are trying to justify their pathetically small greenhoue gas reduction target. 

Perhaps Sexy Coal Brownlee wants to star in “The Age of Stupid – 2″

Gov’t loses in select committee

Posted by on August 29th, 2009

A key part of Anne Tolley’s Education Amendment Bill was defeated at select committee this week.

Her policy  to allow corporate takeover of the school board function either as a commissioner or limited statuory manager and allow one school board to take over another was rejected by Labour Greens and Act.

An unusual alliance driven by a variety of reasoning. One common point was the need to have an individual to hold to account when schools are under temporary governance.

All ‘wee-weed up’

Posted by on August 28th, 2009

Instantly, the title of this Bill tells you its not going to be a straightforward one:

Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance and Remedial Matters) Bill

What a mouthful.

This Bill is so complex that it has got almost everyone involved all ‘wee-weed up’.

The phrase ‘wee-weed up’ was coined by the extremely gifted orator Barack Obama recently to describe people who get all nervous for no reason.

This Bill has left me all ‘wee-weed up’ – but for good reason.

As the Hon David Cunliffe pointed out during his speech on Thursday – at 824 pages, this is a huge bill. Add to the fact that a vast number of Supplementary Order Papers didn’t even get sent to the Finance and Expenditure Committee and this bill is positively perplexing.

The size and breadth of this bill, combined with a tight report-back date, put considerable pressure on the deliberation process.

Bearing in mind that Labour first introduced this well intentioned bill, which is now in danger of being blighted through a rushed process, and it’s fair to say that I’m now officially ‘wee-weed up’.

On Telecom

Posted by on August 28th, 2009

Telecom’s remuneration conduct is obscene. Increasingly it resembles Spot the dog on his skate board sliding over very thin ice. The thin ice is societal tolerance and Telecom is the dog!

Telecom acquiesces in biased employment practices, as we are seeing in my rohe, Northland/Tai Tokerau. In this area it is trashing its own brand. At a time when the whole country is belt-tightening and other corporate leaders are observing restraint they are doing the opposite.

Theoretically CEOs are rewarded on the basis of results. The stratospheric salary of Telecom’s CEO is nauseous. There is no way that he represents $7.5 million of value to either shareholders or society. At the same time the economic prospects of Northland employees have been disconnected by an overbearing, self-serving, bogus type of governance masquerading as a board of directors. Telecom obviously believes it can hoodwink its shareholders but it neglects at its peril the importance of societal sanctions as to what is proper commercial conduct.

I fear in the North that the livelihoods of Telecom employees are being screwed to embellish mahogany panelled lifestyles.

ETS shambles… Maori, Dunne under pressure?

Posted by on August 28th, 2009

The ETS select committee is due to report back. I haven’t spoken to members of the committee but putting things together from points of order in the house yesterday:

  1. The select committee deliberated and resolved to report back thursday last week.
  2. As part of their deliberation the committee agreed to wait for 5pm that day for the Maori party’s minority points for the commentary.
  3. The Maori party submitted their comments.
  4. At that point Peter Dunne had an obligation to include the comments and table the report.
  5. Key met with the Maori party leadership. The pressure went on and the Maori party tried to withdraw their comments and change their position.
  6. They have been advised they can’t. Because the deliberation was complete and can’t be reopened.
  7. Dunne hasn’t tabled the report,

It is simply a disgrace. Frankly I thought both Dunne and Sharples had more integrity.

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Posted by on August 27th, 2009

The Labour team have been really saddened by the death of US Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy overnight.

I think Edward Kennedy will be remembered not just as a part of a progressive political dynasty, but also as an icon of liberal democratic politics the world over. Of course he will always be recalled fondly for his work with the Special Olympics movement, and by those who fight for better health care for the vulnerable.

Edward Kenney believed strongly in Government’s ability to help people improve their lives. I think that’s a vision shared by Labour, and by many readers and contributors to this blog.

Quinn auction

Posted by on August 27th, 2009

Paul Quinn originally said he wanted to be MP for Wellington Central, he still lives there, he ran in Hutt South but now appears to be sniffing around Rimutaka – though some of us doubt that he could find parliament from that far out.

I want him to be the candidate for Hutt South again. I enjoyed going to meetings with him during the last election and I have been encouraging my constituents to get to know him.

So I’ve decided to put up $200 – $100 for Paul’s campaign and $50 each for Grant and Chippie if he is the Hutt South candidate.

Hearing this in the House Paul said he wanted an auction. Well he has got one.

Rudman comments

Posted by on August 27th, 2009

While I generally agree with Brian Rudman – and he is certainly one of the Herald’s most thought provoking columnists – he doesn’t seem to understand that Labour politicians work with businesses in their electorates and get frustrated when jobs are exported – especially new economy jobs such as these which have gone to a French defence company.

Leading Auckland Labour Party politicians involved in the negotiations were also appalled with the comments, and that Mr Mallard had made no effort to check the facts with them.

I would be very very surprised if any politician had been involved in the commercial negotiations. It would be improper. The negotiations would have been conducted by officials from ARTA and NZTA.

He might have realised that he was the victim of a last-ditch PR campaign by Wellington-based Infratil, whose proposal had been found inferior by ARTA, ARC and Wellington government funding agencies.

I reiterate what I said in a comment on that post:

My source is someone who has enormous IT experience and was an early critic of the Police and INCIS. Remember it is IBM it must be best syndrome.

I did not discuss it with Infratil or any of their PR people.

As was clear in the very articulate debate between Jarbury and Tim Brown some people think it is important to develop and own the ticketing system and be responsible for all upgrades and others think this is not core business and it can be rented. Some people think the $10m+ plus spent to date on the bid process is good value for money and others think that knocking 20c off every fare in Auckland would have been a wiser spend. Some people think having something up for the RWC is a good idea and others think that 2012/13/14 is a better idea.

I’m not fan of all of that Infratil does. My view is that Labour should make it clear that it will reverse any Nact decisions to put schools into Infratils PPP arrangements.

However I’m not sure that we need to spend ratepayers or taxpayers funds on a system in Auckland when we haven’t had to in Wellington.

Wilkinson hides… Mapp misleads…

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

Good old Hone Carter is now being held up as a model MP for his calling the contract being offered to the Chorus people a crock. I hope all National Ministers follow his lead. And for that matter the backbenchers too.

Thanks to the NDU for releasing the material to make it clear that Wayne Mapp acting for Wilkinson misled the House today.

So she’s chicken, he’s fibbing and only Hone looks good over there… again.

Pathway needed for migrant doctors

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

After finally succumbing to the winter chills yesterday, I got to thinking about the New Zealand health system.

All across the country, communities are facing escalating GP shortages.With an aging population, a reluctance of GP’s to relocate to rural areas and increasing migrant communities, action is required on this issue – and a solution lies right under our noses.

There are a vast number of migrant doctors in New Zealand who cannot practice here due to various reasons.

It is important at this time, when our health professionals are stretched thinly across the nation, that we make use of this wonderful resource.

The North Shore Chinese Community recognised this in 2006 and organised a panel discussion on the issue.

The conclusion reached was that many illnesses can be prevented or cured by way of a proper and early diagnosis. One solution touted was a ‘diagnosis detection centre’.

This would be the ideal platform for migrant doctors (doctors who are yet to be qualified in New Zealand) to assist in providing diagnosis services.

That way they can ease the pressure on GP’s and hospitals while also gaining an insight and transition into the New Zealand health system.

This could form part of a ‘bridging’ programme, which will enable these migrant doctors to eventually practice in New Zealand.

Annual ‘diagnosis detection’ checkups are common in China, Japan and South Korea, where they save the health system millions of dollars, and hundreds of lives, through early detection and cure of many illnesses.

Another cost-effective way is for Tertiary Institutes to offer programmes for migrant doctors to hone their English and medical skills. These programmes would prepare the doctors to qualify and practice in New Zealand.

Creating a pathway for migrant doctors to practice in New Zealand will not only ease the dire doctor shortage, but will also satisfy the medical needs of our migrant communities.

Filed under: asian, ethnic, health

Standing room only for Maori

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

The Maori Party have been handed a lesson in real-politick. I refer here to Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that there will be no specific Maori seats on the Auckland Super City Council. The slogan “kiwis not iwis” is back in vogue.

A gross miscalculation was made by the Maori Party when they rubbished the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance’s recommendations for Maori representation. Dr Sharples dismissed their report as too weak. He evidently felt that his leverage over the government was such that he could deliver a better result than the Royal Commission.

The recommendations were not weak. They were based on many submissions, meetings and lengthy deliberations. They proposed three Maori representatives, one of them to be appointed by the local tribes. The ballast of this report would have given weight to Dr Sharples’ arguments, but he overestimated the value of the Maori Party in the eyes of the ruling class that controls National. Without the clout of the Royal Commission he was marooned.

Recently I described the exercise of choosing a Maori flag to fly over the Harbour Bridge as an episode of diversionary politics. Dr Sharples will probably get permission from the Prime Minister to fly the flag from the Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day. However iwi will have to content themselves with a flag blowing in the wind whilst having no presence at the top table of the Auckland Super City.

The tribes around Auckland have historical and ongoing interests in the region. The Labour Party was prepared to include Maori representation as a part of the new structure for the Auckland Super City. We would not have tolerated the irritation of Rodney Hide and his “one percent party”.

Hikoi means “walk” or “march”. This episode shows that Rodney Hide has stolen a march and John Key has just walked over the Maori Party.

Not just our voices, but faces too

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

A few weeks ago Red Alert was entered into the Internet Industry Awards (organised by the Liz Dengate Thrush Foundation) under the Positive societal impact category. We didn’t win, and that’s not suprising given we’re new, and we’re a political party.

The point of entering was to highlight the purpose behind Red Alert, which is to bring politics closer to people and to provide the opportunity for some real dialogue and engagement around real issues.

The feedback has been generally positive and we continue to evolve. Have a look at the video clip below, part of our entry, where we talk about the purpose of Red Alert and why it’s so important. We welcome your comments.

This weeks ballot – and we are off again

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

The ballot for a Member’s bill to be introduced resulted in the following bill being drawn:

2. John Boscawen Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill

The introduction of the bill will be announced at 2.00 pm today, and the bill set down for first reading.

Coalition Management 101

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

John Armstrong in this morning’s Herald has given his verdict on the Maori seats imbroglio.  Essentially he says this was not a dispute that was going to develop into a crisis but it is an example of slack coalition management. I disagree with John’s analysis of the gravity of the situation, but I found one comment he made particularly interesting

But the National Cabinet was never going to reverse its April decision ruling out Maori seats and suddenly endorse the idea.

Really? Why then was John Key negotiating with the Maori Party over a possible deal? I am quite convinced from everything I have heard from Pita Sharples, Hone Harawira and others that they thought  they were negotiating in good faith with Key about a deal. Further, that would seem to be the reason that Key went to see Hide in June.

Managing coalition arrangements is tough stuff. I played a minor part in managing theses relationships in my time as an Advisor in Helen Clark’s office. It takes enormous energy and time, a fair degree of flexibility, but above all bucket loads of goodwill and good faith. If John Armstrong is correct and National really did never have any intention of changing its position then this episode will have done far more damage to the long term stability of this government than he thinks.

Filed under: Auckland

Alcohol Purchasing Age

Posted by on August 26th, 2009

The Law Commission’s Alcohol Issues Paper is, I was told by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 1.4 kg heavy. It is probably one of the most comprehensive reviews of liquor issues ever created.

At this stage, the law commission is making no recommendations. The issues paper is out for consultation through to October after which the Law Commission has until the end of March to report back to Parliament.

So Lianne Dalziel and I though we’d post some of the issues on Red Alert and give you the opportunity to comment on them one by one.

And since the purchasing age is the point getting the most attention, let’s start there and get it off our collective chests…

There are a range of options for the purchasing age: Stay at 18 or increase to 19, 20 or 21.

There is another option also proposed: Split the purchasing age so it would be 18 for on-licence premises (ie pubs, restaurants etc) and 20 for off-licences (supermarkets, wholesalers etc).

Comment away…