Red Alert

Archive for November, 2012

By The Numbers

Posted by on November 30th, 2012

259,500 – Kiwi blokes took home $80,000 or more in personal income this year – but only 92,500 women did. Gender pay gap? Yes.

125,000 – Dollars invoiced to the Education Ministry this week by schools to cover extra staff hours spent sorting Novopay.

110,000 – The annual income for one of National’s “more affordable” homes.

100,000 – Kiwi families Labour will help into genuinely affordable homes.

14,497 – Dollars – The NZ Facebook tax bill for last year. Sound small? it is!

1 – Worthwhile cause, amongst others, to support this Christmas.

Red Alert: Deadline tomorrow to submit to the manufacturing inquiry

Posted by on November 29th, 2012

Submissions to the joint party Parliamentary Inquiry into Manufacturing close tomorrow Friday 30 November.

The inquiry has been jointly called by the Labour Party, the Green Party, New Zealand First and Mana as they seek to address the crisis in our manufacturing industry that the National Government continues to deny.

More than half of the manufacturing businesses that began in 2008 have disappeared in the past four years and the rate of new manufacturing businesses starting up has declined by a third in four years, from over 2,000 a year in 2008 to just 1,300 a year this year. Over 8,000 manufacturing businesses have closed and more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since this government took office. Jobs and businesses shutting down or heading off shore affect whole communities and local economies.

The recent announcement of 90 redundancies at KiwiRail’s Hillside workshops is an example of this that hits close to home for myself and my constituents. Workers at Hillside have lived with their uncertain futures since the intended sale was announced in May while the announcement of 25 redundancies at the O’Brien’s Benchtops Ltd no doubt took many of those affected by surprise so close to Christmas. I have started a collection for Christmas

Further afield the reverberations of further losses such as Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Mataura’s Meatworks are being felt through my electorate and the wider South Island. And I know we are far from the only area hit by this crisis.

The Inquiry Committee is calling for submissions and will hear from people around the country early next month but you only have until tomorrow to submit in writing and request to be heard by emailing

We want to hear the personal experiences of workers and businesspeople who have lost jobs and income in recent years, as well as anyone else who has an opinion or ideas about what the Government should be doing to support these industries in the current global economic climate.

Because some workers fear there may be reprisals for having their say or simply don’t want to be personally identified, if so you can still submit.

Send your views to before the end of this week.


A Rocky Road To Asset Sales

Posted by on November 27th, 2012

National has failed to reach its target of selling of shares in State Owned Energy Companies prior to Christmas 2012. They underestimated the broad public consensus opposing the move and they overplayed the level of ‘support’ from iwi leaders that did not equate to real votes on the ground for the Mixed Ownership Model (MOM) being promulgated.
Today the New Zealand Maori Council (NZMC) will present their case in the High Court. There are several strands to the arguments being debated about water, the rationale builds on the firm belief that;

➢ The Crown has a moral obligation to recognise the tino rangatiratanga that Maori assert over their Taonga and a fiduciary obligation to protect those rights and interests

It seems to me that this argument was the initial premise that built the case for the New Zealand Maori Council who sought to object to the Sale of Shares in SOE’s and the Mom model being promoted by the Government. That the Tribunal went a step further and suggested a ‘shares plus’ model to resolve the disputed action was, in my view, a pragmatic step to try and reconcile a way forward.

It was unhelpful and has become a red herring to the real issue that is that Maori do have proprietary rights and interests in water albeit undefined.

➢ That the common interest that all New Zealanders have in water is not prejudiced by Maori seeking greater protection of their proprietary rights and interests in water

Insofar as water is concerned, Maori accept that there is a common interest in water and that the Crown must take steps to preserve and protect those bundles of rights. The assertion that’ no-one owns water’ is offensive to Maori who see the hypocrisy of a water management framework that ascribes rights and interests through resource consents and allocation models.

This is why iwi have sought greater input into the RMA framework and the current management regime to accommodate the generic interests of Maori as kaitiaki and the co-existing rights of iwi insofar as localised Treaty Settlement outcomes.

The moment the Crown seeks to privatize rights in water through exclusive shareholding interests in water companies, transferability of water permits or the like, then the game changes and iwi/Maori are forced to ensure that their collective interests will not be disenfranchised.

In many respects, if New Zealanders who believe that Energy Companies should be operated for the benefit of all New Zealanders, they would support the actions of the NZMC to stop the sale of SOE’s and seek greater clarity over the nature and extent of proprietary rights and interests in water.

➢ That s.9 of the SOE Act was a mechanism used by Maori to protect their interests vis-à-vis Crown actions and the new clause inserted in the Public Finance Bill does not ascribe the same level of protection

This legal mechanism was intended to be Nationals solution to soften the Maori sentiment towards a share sell-down of 49% in SOE’s. But the Government failed to consider whether its actions fundamentally breached the Treaty of Waitangi and the fiduciary obligation to protect the ‘rangatiratanga’ of Maori in relation to water.

The Maori Party a close ally and coalition partner tried to dance on a pinhead by saying that they supported consultation with ‘the people’. They hid behind a small group of iwi leaders who showed some interest in the MOM model and transferring the s.9 clause of the SOE Act into a similar provision of the Public Finance Act. Yet they opposed Assets Sales. This is a confused position and reeked of political maneuvering rather than principles and should the NZMC be successful it will be despite the action of the Maori Party.

Once again, the take home point is that while the Government believes it may have a political mandate, 3 Maori electorate members of the Maori Party does not constitute a broad consensus or mandate from iwi or Maori on the issue and the Government should be concerned if the Court pursues the fiduciary obligation that the Crown has to protect the interests of Maori insofar as Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

➢ That the Treaty Settlement process does not adequately provide for Maori proprietary rights and interests in water that may be specific and localised to whanau and hapuu
The Waikato River Settlement is a case in point. It is a historical settlement that has affirmed co-governance and co-management mechanisms in the ongoing management of New Zealand’s most utilised waterway. That settlement does not, however, ascribe proprietary rights and interests to hapuu or whanau who may have a puna, aquifer, lake, waterfall or stream in many parts of the rohe.

The NZMC court action may assist those hapuu and whanau whose interests may not be captured in the Treaty Settlement but have an important bundle of rights that need to be protected.

➢ That the final determination of the extent of Maori rights and interests in water will need to be accommodated in Resource Management legislation alongside Treaty Settlements
Whatever the outcome of the NZMC case, change is inevitable insofar as the Resource Management Act, water catchment management, co-existing rights vis-à-vis efficient allocation models. The Land and water Forum has been a constructive process to focus many minds on the challenge of sustaining more efficient water management regimes to enable productive enterprise, be cognisant of Maori rights and interests, protect the ongoing quality of waterways and sustain community utilization.

A post Land and Water Forum should lead to more sophisticated water-management tools and frameworks that bring together ‘competing interests’ with greater coherence around the sustainable use and allocation of water.

➢ That the Crown does not have the moral mandate of Maori to sell 49% of shares in State Owned Energy Companies because it prejudices the ability for Maori to assert their tino rangatiratanga over a significant Taonga that is managed in the common interest of ALL New Zealanders
Last but not least the political point to be made time and time again in relation to the Governments Asset Sale Agenda and the rights and interests being asserted by Iwi and Maori alike is that the Crown must assure itself and the Court that their actions do not prejudice the Article 2 interests of hapuu and iwi.
If they cannot demonstrate this high threshold based on proper consultation or a significant and broad-based mandate from hapuu and iwi then it would be safer to retain that common interest that all New Zealanders have in water by holding onto New Zealand’s Energy Companies for the ‘Public Good’.

I remember a kaumatua once saying that:
“…the trick to walking on water is knowing where the rocks are…”

Now is a very good time for the Government to rethink its SOE Asset Sales Agenda….

Aung San Suu Kyi to NZ – was anybody listening?

Posted by on November 25th, 2012

What was Aung San Suu Kyi’s word to the west during her recent European tour? “Yes – we welcome foreign investment, but ethical investment and people-centred aid please.” Did John Key hear any of this before he swanned off for another photo opp?

His post-Burma visit interview with Audrey Young was a lesson in how to learn nothing from one of the world’s greatest and most principled democratic leaders. It was like watching a child trying to speak adult language. And as for the Boy’s Own Annual approach to Foreign Affairs –  of the East Asia Summit: “It was a pretty interesting meeting just generally….I know…all these guys. I’ve met them lots now” – one wonders what Key thinks he is there for. And did he not know how ASSK might react to the name Myanmar?

Key announced $7 million in aid to go to Burma – $1 million in humanitarian aid to Rakhine state and $6 million in agricultural reforms. I blogged positively on the fact that he announced aid at all. But Key’s and National’s obsession with Foreign Affairs being reduced to trade shone through his announcement as did his disregard for everything for which ASSK stands – democracy, poverty elimination, reliable and accessible health care, accountable structures, rule of law, credible governance, anti-corruption.

Contrast Key with Obama’s brave and principled leadership shown in his speech at the University of Yangon: “Above all, when your voices are heard in government, it’s far more likely that your basic needs will be met. And that’s why reform must reach the daily lives of those who are hungry and those who are ill, and those who live without electricity or water.”

$6 million in agricultural reform assistance is another way of saying how can the NZ government make life easy for our biggest company, Fonterra? Somewhere down the track, that may be an appropriate question. Right now, instead of the developed nations circling like vultures over the next and possibly last untapped market in the world, why aren’t we concentrating on what Burma needs in order to get its people back on their feet so they can trade their riches of oil, gas, gems such as rubies and other minerals, as well as their fertile land, on their own terms and for the benefit of their people?

What business needs to flourish is the rule of law, transparency, a lack of corruption and democratic accountability. US businesses are not lining up to flood into Burma yet because they know the banking system is embryonic and capricious (crisp US bills only please, no bank accounts for foreigners, cash only). Check out what US businesses are saying here.

But to get to that stage, Burma will need health care and education. Our UnionAID programme training young Burmese leaders ($175,000!) is more likely to be effective in the long term than opportunities for NZ businesses. Getting some of the basics such as human rights, health care and education sorted are the priorities, not laying the ground for us to do well out of Burma in the future. Journos can see that. A real leader would see that.

Domestic violence is a workplace issue

Posted by on November 25th, 2012

Today is the United Nations international day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In New Zealand, the White Ribbon campaign takes place throughout the whole of November and over the years, has increasingly gained support from the community, businesses, cultural groups, sports teams, local government and government agencies.

Thank you everyone who has taken the pledge to eliminate violence against women and who is involved in campaign activity throughout New Zealand.

There are other things we could perhaps learn from other countries. Australia is ahead of the rest of the world in recognising domestic violence as an issue which can potentially impact on workers and workplaces, with approximately 600,000 Australian employees now covered by domestic violence clauses in their agreement or award conditions.

Here’s a little help :



Keep Our Assets: Sign-a-Thon

Posted by on November 25th, 2012

If you’ve got any spare time today, why not join in the Keep Our Assets Sign-a-Thon. This ia weekend long push to get us the remaining signatures we need to force a referendum on asset sales. Reports coming in from yesterday indicate a great response, just as it has been all year.

You can find out all the information about activities in your area here

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Annual Conference- It’s the constitution, it’s the vibe….

Posted by on November 24th, 2012

I’m not sure that sitting in David Shearer’s office on the day he and I had been elected Leader and Deputy Leader, discussing a root and branch review of our Party I actually believed we would see the most thorough review in a generation done and dusted in a year.

One of the other people in the room that day, Party President Moira Coatsworth deserves huge credit for making it happen- swiftly and inclusively. She and David Shearer had both committed to a thorough review, and between them, the working group, the review group and thousands of party members- we did it.

As it happens a couple of things (candidate and list selections particularly) have been pushed off to next year, but what has been achieved is nothing short of remarkable.

The reforms are exactly what we need to be a modern, outward looking and democratic organisation. The review meetings made clear what many people had felt. The way people look at joining organisations has changed significantly over the decades. The cynicism for politics of all shades is at an all time high. We needed to turn outwards and provide people with hightened levels of engagement, influence and fun.

The importance of being campaign ready and ‘party vote’ focused drove the creation of the “hubs” which I think will go from strength to strength. The more democratic process for election of the leader is a huge step forward for recruiting, involving and engaging members.

I want to specifically mention the significant change in terms of member involvement,the Policy Platform. Actually, it has been well covered by Anthony over at The Standard. This is a great development for Labour. It means that we will have an enduring Party endorsed statement of our policy. It will clearly state our values and priorities, and guide the creation of election manifestos. It’s in draft form now and through next year we will finalise it. I want to congratulate Jordan Carter and the rest of the Policy Council for the work on getting us to this stage. As the Chair of the Policy Council I am hugely impressed with the calibre of people we have involved in our policy work.

At the conference itself the robust debate was on the level of Caucus support to trigger our new democratised leadership process. What there was universal agreement on was the need for the process itself, in particular member involvement. Despite the impression one or two people want to make, no one was opposing the 40:40:20 process, and indeed over the review many Caucus members, me included, have strongly advocated for it.

The process is a balance between democratisation and stability, and throughout the review meetings I went to, and submissions I read, most members were very aware of the need for this. It’s interesting to note that a motion to not have a Caucus trigger for the Februry vote was soundly defeated by the conference.

In any event no one could mistake over the last year in the many review meetings and conversations, nor in the enthusiasm and passion at conference that the review is going to see a different party in the future. It will be more energised, dynamic and member driven. That will not be without its challenges and upsets, but it will be a very, very good thing for us and I hope for politics in general.

Annual Conference- The Young and the Restless

Posted by on November 24th, 2012

My first time up for air this week, and I have been reflecting on a remarkable annual conference. I’ll do a couple of posts, but I have an overriding residual impression from the conference, and its probably not what you think.

This was my 14th annual conference and without doubt had the highest level of energy and buzz of them all. A significant reason for that, and the stand out performance at the conference came from Young Labour (and recent Young Labour alumni).

They organised superbly through the weekend to see their core policy ideas pass the remit process, including on marriage equality, voting age and poverty eradication. They spoke brilliantly in workshops and on the conference floor, and had two outstanding candidates (Soraiya Daud and Rory McCourt) for the Young Labour rep on New Zealand Council. Congrats to Soraiya on winning that contest.

Having worked closely in the Wellington region with Young Labour over the last few years, this has not just happened over night. Its been dedicated work and an unabashed sense of fun that he seen Young Labour build year on year over recent years.

I have long felt that you can judge the strength of a party on its youth wings, and on any count Labour is in terrific heart taking a look at our young’uns. I left Ellerslie knowing that we are a Party and a movement with a bright and energised future.

By The Numbers

Posted by on November 23rd, 2012

100,000 – Kiwi families would be helped into their own modern, affordable home, through Labour’s new housing initiative – KiwiBuild.

2,000 – Apprenticeships and numerous skilled jobs would be created through KiwiBuild – which could be the largest public building programme in 50 years.

5 – Per cent of new homes built in New Zealand at the moment are entry-level, affordable, homes. That is a fraction of what we should be able to offer.

2 – Billion dollars a year would be generated in economic growth through extra jobs and spending on construction materials.

1 – Summary worth a read

Aid to Burma

Posted by on November 23rd, 2012

I am pleased that John Key has announced $7million in aid funding is to go to Burma, during his visit to that emerging country today. $1 million is to go to the strife-torn province of Rakhine in the western part of the country, where the Muslim Rohingya people remain stateless and in the most appalling need of aid and humanitarian support. I am pleased Key has been able to utter the words ‘human rights’ in Burma – how many decades of tyranny does it take for him to recognise that humans rights abuses exist?? – because he didn’t seem to be able to do so in Cambodia.

I was in Burma two weeks ago with the GAVI Alliance which distributes vaccines to the poorest parts of the world. 650,000 children will receive a new pentavaccine (diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and influenza B) in the next 6 months and 1.5 million children will get their second measles vaccination in the next 12 months. I saw it starting in poor, rural villages outside of Nya Pyi Taw. NZ doesn’t contribute to that. That would be a better to place to start than agricultural development in my view. Fonterra can be left to do that, because it will for its own interests – government aid money could more usefully go to the primary needs for health care for the next generation.

I came away from Burma convinced that the new President and some of his Ministers are indeed committed to reform. I hold more hope for the progress of democracy than I have ever had before. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will take her rightful place as the elected leader of Burma in my lifetime – something that has felt like a distant dream for such a long time.  It is time for NZ to stand alongside the real efforts being made to lift Burma out of poverty and deprivation. I know agricultural reform can help there. I don’t deny that. But health care for women and babies is always a good investment in the long term.

I just hope that Key also decides to continue putting $175,000 into a valuable NZ-based UnionAid programme which takes 6 young Burmese leaders every year and gives them English language training at VUW and exposure to democratic structures and community organisations. It is a small investment with big results. I met with some of these interns while I was in Yangon. They are in a think tank advising the President on monetary policy, taxation, fiscal policy and writing of budgets. They are working for the ILO on its Freedom of Association project setting up trade unions under our own Ross Wilson, or on training others for leadership roles. It would be a shame if Murray McCully axed this small but significant programme when he should be doubling it. He is considering axing it apparently because one of the interns refused to go home last time and was granted asylum by Immigration NZ. Fix the process, Murray. Don’t axe the programme.

And by the way, Mr Key, don’t call it Myanmar in front of ASSK. That was an embarrassment you could have avoided with a little thought or experience.

A glimmer of hope for leaky home owners

Posted by on November 21st, 2012

The Law Commission’s announcement today that it will revisit the ‘joint and several’ liability issue is to be welcomed, because it could have spin-offs for leaky home victims that are still being denied full compensation.

 The existing principle of ‘joint and several’ liability means where two or more people are liable for the same loss, then each defendant will be potentially liable for the whole of the loss.

 This principle has become very contentious, particularly where defendants in leaky homes cases argue they will only accept liability for their portion of the losses, and this seriously delays or stalls the whole process.

 So the Law Commission’s issues paper – discussing and calling for submissions on its Review of Joint and Several Liability – could be a trigger to get things moving – although it is unclear whether it applies retrospectively, which is a different matter.

We already know about the existing  ‘log-jam’ in settlements with the Financial Assistance Package. There have been reports that although 1232 owners had lodged expressions of interest by the end of September, only 35 claims were proceeding thus far and only 12 had received their final payments.

 The Law Commission is now seeking views on the options for reforming the system of liability, and also for the advantages of the status quo. The closing date for submissions is Thursday 31 January 2013. This media release and a copy of the publication is available from the Law Commission website at


Will Pacific bilingual language education feature in the Pacific Education Plan announcement tomorrow?

Posted by on November 21st, 2012

Many in the Pacific community want to believe that Minister Hekia Parata’s announcement and release tomorrow of the Government’s Pacific Education Plan 2013-2017 will feature Pacific bilingual language education prominently. Given that whenever the Minister has spoken to a Pacific audience she has promoted the value of Pacific languages and has held herself up as an example of someone who has benefited from bilingualism, there is expectation that she would at least reinstate Pacific language bilingual goals that her Government removed in 2009 from the Pacific Education Plan 2008-2012.
The Pacific bilingual language goals are strongly supported by the wider Pacific communities. In fact when the former Minister of Education, Anne Tolley stopped the production of the Pacific language resources – the Tupu series (for Cook Islands, Vagahau Niue, Tokelau, Samoan and Tongan) and the Folauga journals (for Samoan learners) – being used by schools there was opposition from parents, teachers and researchers. This opposition quickly sent to parliament a 7000 signed petition calling on this Government to reinstate funding for these resources. The government still hasn’t responded to this petition.
Labour pressed the Education & Science committee to conduct an inquiry into Pacific bilingual language education to at least table the evidence that educators had in supporting Pacific bilingual language education. The government instead would only support a narrowly focussed inquiry into Pacific Language education in early childhood education.
Those in the Pacific education sector who made strong submissions in this inquiry may well feel that the smiles and nods they received from the government members might be a signal that their request for support would be positively responded to by the Minister’s announcement tomorrow.
However, I note that the Minister is announcing the Pacific Education Plan 2013-2017 from two primary schools that are not known to have Pacific language classes at all. That might be a signal in itself that the Pacific community will be sorely disappointed and that the struggle for the rights of our Pacific children to grow up learning and speaking in two or more languages will continue.

A New Direction for New Zealand- David Shearer

Posted by on November 19th, 2012

Here is the speech that brought the Labour Party Conference to its feet. A strong articulation of Labour values, backed up by concrete ideas to take New Zealand on a path to prosperity and fairness. Two specific new policies as well, Kiwibuild that will see 100,000 affordable houses and the Healthy Homes Guarantee that will see proper standards for rental properties. Enjoy.

Maintaining old friendships

Posted by on November 16th, 2012

Over the last week, I was part of a parliamentary delegation which visited European parliaments in London (Goff only), Copenhagen, Stockholm and Brussels as well as the European Parliament itself.

As well as to promote New Zealand interests, the purpose of the visit was to reassure Europe of our commitment to a strong on-going relationship after the Government has cut representation in our embassies there.  At a time when Europe is suffering from economic downturn, New Zealand must not create the impression that because we have increasing interests in Asia we are not maintaining old friendships and relationships with Europe.  We share values and interests with Europe including commitment to democracy and human rights.  We have in the past shared environmental concerns and worked with them on areas like climate change.  Europe also remains our third largest market for exports and the world’s single largest economic bloc.

We discussed trade, and I addressed a 120-strong meeting of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade.  We promoted the negotiation of a treaty level framework agreement with Europe that we hope will lead to a comprehensive free trade agreement.  We have diversified our markets and Europe has no need to protect itself from us by imposing high tariffs on our exports.  New Zealand poses no threat to Europe.   Only 8 per cent of our dairy exports for example today go there.  As it is, our unsubsidized exports have to compete with European agricultural production which is subsidized under a Common Agriculture Policy which consumes 40 per cent of the European Union budget.  We have a strong argument that Europe should reciprocate our readiness to allow its exports into New Zealand without tariff, quota or behind the border barriers.

We discussed foreign policy and defence, including the Middle East, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

We discussed the Euro crisis and future directions for Europe.  The European Union’s achievements are substantial.  It has brought peace to Europe after two devastating world wars in the 20th Century.  It has achieved unprecedented cooperation between member nations and has given former Eastern European bloc countries greater assurance of security.  But with serious economic problems within the Union, questions are being raised about where it will go from here.

Only two thirds of its countries have adopted the Euro, and one of the lessons of Greece, Portugal and Spain is that currency union needs to be backed by wider common fiscal and monetary policies to ensure economic success.   Providing a credit card without rules surrounding its use is not sensible.

The future of Greece in the Euro and, in the view of many Europeans, of Britain in the European Union is under question.

At the end of the visit we marked the weekend of Armistice Day 11 November, with visits to the battle sites and commemorative ceremonies in Ypres, Passchendaele, Messines and Le Quesnoy.

To stand at the graves of some of the more than 18,000 New Zealanders who perished in the war was a moving experience and a sobering reminder of their sacrifice and the need to work constantly to ensure a peaceful world.

I accompanied our Ambassador to France and her team to commemorate the last action of New Zealanders in the Great War, the liberation of the small French town of Le Quesnoy.

Rather than destroy the town and its historic sixteenth century fortifications, the New Zealanders used scaling ladders to climb the ramparts and took the town by storm, capturing over 700 German soldiers but losing 80 New Zealanders in the battle.

Tragically, they died within a week of the war’s end.  Families home in New Zealand would have celebrated the end of war and then learned of the deaths of their sons and husbands in its final days.

Today the town still celebrates their liberation by the New Zealanders every year.  Place names like Place des All Blacks, Avenue des Néo Zélandais, Rue Aotearoa and Rue Helene Clark show their on-going gratitude to and regard for New Zealand.

And, as an interesting point of coincidence, our current Ambassador to France, Rosemary Banks, was delivered as a baby by a doctor by the name of Lieutenant Leslie Averill who was the first New Zealander over the ramparts in Le Quesnoy and after whom the town’s primary school is named.

Armistice Day Address, Le Quesnoy, France

Posted by on November 16th, 2012

E nga mana, e nga reo, e ngā hau e whā, tenakoutou katoa.

They came from the uttermost ends of the earth – young men from a young country far away.

There were 100,000 New Zealanders – ten per cent of the country’s entire population and nearly half of the young men of fighting age.

By the end of the war, nearly 60,000 were casualties and over 18,000 now lie in the places where they fought and died.

It was a huge price to pay for a small country.  No town and almost no family was left untouched.

They came as soldiers of the British Empire.  Those who returned did so as New Zealanders.

They came to fight for King and Country but most often they fought and died bravely because they did not want to let their mates down.

Well over 18 million died in the Great War which supposedly was the war to end all wars.  But 21 years later Europe was again at war with itself.

The greatest achievement of the European Union has been 60 years of peace.

For the first time in three generations, my generation did not have to come to Europe to fight a war.

Memorials eulogise the glorious dead.  But we know that the manner of their deaths, cut down by shell blasts, gas and machine gun fire was anything but.

We are here to commemorate the dead and honour their sacrifice, not to glorify war.

Eighty of our dead lie here in Le Quesnoy, killed tragically in the final week of the war.  Their families celebrated the end of the war before they learned that their sons had died on its final days.  We mourn the dead but we are proud that they liberated your town from four years of occupation and helped protect it from destruction.

Today we renew the bond between us, forged by their efforts and sacrifice, which has endured over the generations.

This year, as every year, we pay tribute to the men who fought and died, who gave up their lives for New Zealand, to liberate France and Le Quesnoy.

In New Zealand our veterans recite the Ode:

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.

            Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

            At the going down of the sun and in the morning

            We will remember them.

Nous les souvenirons!

Democracy …what’s it got going for it?

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

sat through half a day of hearings on the bill that takes away our (Cantabrians) right to vote for our regional council for another three years, today. A few submitters thought it was a good idea. Federated farmers and irrigators. That’s fine…they can express their views. What I am gobsmacked about though is how the term and the idea of democracy has lost currency.these submitters, and the National MPs on the committee response today was amazing. They said that the former Councillors, elected, weren’t doing a great job, and even though the Commissioners who were put in their place say the job is finished, it’s ok to remove our right to vote for a longer period.
Hello is anyone in National awake?? This is about the right to vote. Isn’t that important anymore? did I miss something….like a military coup or dictatorship appointed?
Their attitude to the submitters was derisory, and Nicky Wagner as chair, Jacqui Dean (prime mover of original bill to stop our vote), Nicky Kaye, Mike Sabine and Paul Goldsmith sneered as submitter after submitter expressed their anger about having their rights removed
This is an unprecedented move. Wake up National, you are smothering our region!

They’re joking, right?

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

Please give me a moment while I drag my jaw off the floor. As the Novopay debacle continues to roll on week after week, as teachers and support staff continue to be overpaid, underpaid, or just not paid at all, some genius at the Ministry of Education has decided now would be a good time to restructure the Payroll Services Unit. Checked the calendar, it’s not April fools, they’re serious about this!

In their infinite wisdom the Ministry has decided to reduce personnel in the payroll team from 23 to 14. These staff need to be focused on fixing the Novopay mess, not wondering if they are still going to have a job in the New Year. They’ve been given two weeks to comment on whether or not they should still have jobs.

Maybe the top managers at the Ministry of Education should get their pay via Novopay. Perhaps if they went a couple of months without getting paid correctly they’d get serious about sorting this mess out.

It’s the job of whoever authorised this restructuring that should now be on the line, not the jobs of the people working to get things back on track. The senior leadership at the Ministry of Education need their heads examined.

National 100% dirty on the environment and the economy

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

This month the National Government pulled New Zealand out of the Kyoto II negotiations to tackle climate change. With John Key’s blessing, the Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser put our country squarely in the fringe group of the world’s big polluters. How can National expect the developing world to commit to targets for curbing emissions when they won’t show good faith by doing the same?

Everyone can see the National Party are lost in a time warp on economics and the environment. In National’s twilight every problem can be ignored just as long as their mates can milk more cows and burn more coal, and especially if everyone else can be kept quiet. That’s why National abolished democracy in Canterbury: they’re so consumed with protecting their failed ideologies from the facts that they can’t even tolerate Cantabrians having a voice to say our rivers shouldn’t be making kids sick.

Today the Pure Advantage clean-tech group of business leaders issued their second landmark report on the multi-trillion opportunity in clean-tech and renewable energy.

The report comes with detailed analysis from some of the world’s leading economists and climate scientists. It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in turning around New Zealand’s economic decline.

Pure Advantage’s contribution proves what most New Zealanders instinctively know: the economy and the environment are two sides of the same coin. Protecting our environment not only doesn’t have to harm our economy – it can be the best thing for it.

Earlier this year, when Pure Advantage launched their first report, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce responded with an insulting attack on the trustees which include Sir George Fistonich, Rob Fyfe, Chris Liddell, Phillip Mills, Jeremy Moon, Rob Morrison, Geoff Ross, Justine Smythe, Mark Solomon, Sir Stephen Tindall, Joan Withers and Duncan Stewart.

But today Bill English was trotted out to do the government’s dirty work.

The Finance Minister had hours of advanced warning that I would be grilling the government about Pure Advantage: my question was on written notice.

But in all that time English didn’t even bother to read the report. It’s a 100% dirty disgrace.

In the coming days National MPs will spout all the usual nonsense and deny and demean science and sustainable economic growth, and may abuse the Pure Advantage team some more (unless they’ve learned from their earlier foot-in-mouth outbreak).

But the facts are clear. This government took New Zealand out of the international effort to stop climate change and they’ve just set a new record for unemployment too. National have no credibility on either the environment or the economy.

The only way New Zealand will have a clean, green, clever and growing economy is if Kiwis clean the National Party out of our Parliament come election time.

Remember Bastion Point

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

The Ngati Whatua Orakei Settlement Bill passed its third reading today. As an Aucklander the occupation of Bastion Point, and Ngati Whatua’s 170 year struggle for justice has always meant a great deal to me. I felt really privileged to be able to contribute to the debate on behalf of Labour.

Ngati Whatua’s loss of land, and their extraordinary struggle to hold on to some of it, and then get some back, is a story every Aucklander should know. The 1987 Waitangi Tribunal report sets it all out, including how city authorities in 1911 built an 8 foot high pipe across the foreshore to discharge the city’s raw sewerge onto Ngati Whatua’s shellfish beds.

And the compulsory acquistion and forced clearance in 1951 of the village at Okahu Bay. Today’s kaumatua remember watching their houses being burned to the ground.

The turning point for Ngati Whatua, and arguably for race relations more broadly, was the 507 day occupation of Bastion Point led by Joe Hawke 1977-78 to stop the National Government of the day selling off the land for high income housing.

The eventual eviction of the protesters by police and army shocked the nation, including me.

To see the settlement finalised today, in light of that history, is quite something. Something that all New Zealanders can take pride in.

Hone Harawira’s speech in the debate was one to remember. He recalls the occupation of Bastion Point with great humour.


Hey Steven Joyce – wanna see a real Road of National Significance?

Posted by on November 14th, 2012

This is the road to the Parliament in Nay Pyi Taw (Naypyidaw), the purpose-built new capital of Burma. It is 20 lanes wide – 10 each way and you could land a 747 on it – perhaps its original purpose? Except that it is a little undulating. And it clearly fixes congestion – there is no traffic! Or is that due to the fact that you need permission to visit Nya Pyi Taw? Whatever the situation, this is clearly a road of national significance. I think Steven Joyce lacks ambition for NZ……