Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

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Gordon Campbell on (not) taking responsibility, terrorism porn, and Dylan’s 76th birthday

May 24th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

So Martin Matthews, our current Auditor-General wishes he could have detected “earlier” the fraud that occurred on his watch at the Ministry of Transport. Hmmm. But he could have detected it earlier, surely? That’s the point. Reportedly, some junior members of his staff had been trying to tell him and his senior colleagues in management for years about the fraudulent actions of Joanne Harrison. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Navy’s dealings with Fat Leonard, and Twin Peaks

May 23rd, 2017

First published on Werewolf

At an official level, our “she’ll be right” attitude routinely spills over into a keen resentment of anyone who suggests the outcomes may be less than satisfactory. Oversight at any level of performance is not New Zealand’s strong suit – from our one-chamber Parliament on downwards.

The NZ Defence Force for instance, has all but insulated itself against criticism. A few weeks ago in the Hit and Run affair, it investigated itself and found its behaviour to have been splendid – while refusing to release the relevant information that might enable anyone else to conclude otherwise. Oh, and it also relied on an “independent” evaluation carried out by the coalition forces in Afghanistan to which our troops belonged. The coalition found itself to have performed pretty darn well, too.

The Navy has now gone one step beyond. It won’t even ask itself whether it did a good job. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the demonising of Iran

May 22nd, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Will New Zealand still be willing to pursue its recent trade overtures to Iran, now that US President Donald Trump has used his speech in Riyadh to single out Iran as the main source of terrorism and instability in the Middle East? Trump did so only hours after a moderate was re-elected in a landslide in Iran’s elections, a victory that opened up a potential for dialogue that the US has chosen to spurn instead, utterly. Trump’s unblinking hostility will only strengthen the hand of the conservatives in Teheran, who’ve always felt that trying to pursue any compromise policy with the bellicose Americans was a complete waste of time. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Bill English’s bizarre new/old trade deal

May 19th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

So, according to the Prime Minister, we all have an obligation to get in behind his zombie TPP deal, because of all the “jobs and income” it will bring in its wake. Really? That’s hilarious. This new “TPP 11” deal is entirely a pig in a poke. English has not got the foggiest idea what benefits this deal stands to bring right now, in a month’s time, or by year’s end – much less longer term out until 2030. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on housing, exploding lap-tops and Jon Taplin

May 19th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

OK, and since we’re all barrelling towards the Budget and beyond … how useful a thing really is National’s programme of building 34,000 houses, as a solution to the crisis of housing affordability? Answer: not very. The details are here. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on dealing with Japan over the TPP

May 16th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

As PM Bill English flies off to Japan with his business delegation today, his discussions with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will focus on how to keep the TPP trade pact alive, now that the United States has bailed. It is much, much easier to see what Japan stands to gain from this “TPP 11” version than gleaning what New Zealand possibly stands to gain. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Alfred Ngaro’s standover tactics

May 15th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

When someone like Alfred Ngaro is being paid circa $350,000 a year (in salary and perks) you’d think he wouldn’t have to learn on the job about the basic moral rules of his role. Evidently not though, so here goes. Mr Ngaro, the money you were threatening to withhold from any organisation headed by Labour candidate Willie Jackson for his daring to criticise the government on the campaign trail… it isn’t your money. It doesn’t belong to the National Party, either. It belongs to taxpayers, who expect it to be distributed to competent providers of social services in the sector that Ngaro administers, regardless of their political stripe. Political obedience to the National Party isn’t supposed to be the criterion that Ngaro can demand before dispensing said moneys. But evidently, that’s his default setting:

“We are not happy about people taking with one hand and throwing with the other,” Ngaro said. “If you get up on the campaign trail and start bagging us then all the things you are doing are off the table. They will not happen.”

There’s a Cabinet manual that outlaws the sort of Mafioso tactics that Ngaro was advocating. Subsequently, Ngaro didn’t apologise to the person he threatened – Jackson – or to the public, whose money he was threatening to co-opt for political purposes. Instead, Ngaro has apologized to his consiglieres (eg Finance Minister Steven Joyce) and to the capo di capo (aka PM Bill English) of the National Party, for embarrassing da bosses.

Not that Ngaro will be swimming with the fishes any time soon. Cabinet Ministers (eg Nick Smith now, Hekia Parata beforehand) are judged to be too big to fail. Once a Cabinet Minister has become” made” they cannot be taken out by pressures exerted by outsiders. The family closes ranks:

Senior Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce relates that Ngaro has since apologised for the comments to Prime Minister Bill English, deputy prime minister Paula Bennett. “He knows he overstepped the mark,” Joyce said. “He didn’t mean to, he got carried away.”

To which one can only say: if this was a minimum wage job (rather than a $350,000 a year Cabinet post) Ngaro would be out on his ear. He would have failed the 90 day test. Secondly, we know what “experience” really means. It means learning on the job that the same goal of ideological compliance can be achieved by restructuring the delivery process, and cloaking it in business jargon. For example, Ngaro could learn some quite useful terms from studying this sort of exercise.

In time, Ngaro will pick up the bureaucratic language whereby the government’s foot soldiers in the NGO sector get rewarded, and its problematic critics get weeded out. Threats then become unnecessary.

Trump Watch

The other guy who regards his job as an opportunity to settle scores with government critics (or anyone else who pisses him off) is, of course… the current President of the United States. Last week’s firing of FBI director James Comey has taken Trump for the first time, into the realm of an impeachable offence.

That’s assuming the Republican Party – once so willing to pursue impeachment over trivialities like Whitewater and Benghazi – was willing to treat the current blatant obstructions of justice (over the Russia links probe) as a serious matter. It was particularly striking that the same Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had recused himself from overseeing the Russia probe was central to advocating the firing of Comey over Comey’s pursuit of the Russia probe. So it goes. More White House firings may be afoot this week. Although, as this article indicates, the constant threats of firing someone – or everyone – may be just Trump’s way of letting off steam when he’s not out there whacking golf balls.

With North Korea testing a long range missile over the weekend– successfully this time – the odds on Trump also letting off steam by steam by using the US military to attack someone must also have shortened.

Labour and Labor

Over the weekend, Labour leader Andrew Little floated the idea of gradually removing – over the course of five years – the mechanisms that currently gifts property speculators with a tax write off for any losses they incur in the course of driving up house prices. Across the Tasman, Labor is being more old school: they’re planning a “soak the rich” tax cut by proposing a slight lift to the top marginal tax rate to 49.5%, despite the current rate of 49 % already being among the highest in the OECD. In other words, the Aussie state is formally taking nearly half the income of those earning over $180,000 a year, or at 2.2 times the average Aussie wage. The Alfred Ngaros of Australian commerce are not happy about this. Nor is former Labor treasurer Paul Keating, in the (paywalled) Australian Financial Review.

Mind you, the conservative Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull is continuing to advocate a steep 47.5% top tax rate. The Coalition also used last week’s federal Budget to raise the Medicare levy (which is imposed on all but the lowest paid) from 2 % to 2.5% – which will fully fund Australia’s popular but expensive National Disability Insurance Scheme, whose resources will reportedly swell from $3 billion this year, to $20 billion by 2020.

What I’m getting at is that for the blatant imperfections of the Australian political system, they seem more willing to confront the longer-term problems facing the country, and seem prepared to take the political heat from doing so. By contrast, our two major parties have all but converged on economic policy, and with party branding being done via token initiatives.

Dreams In Total Darkness

In a week that has seen the return of everyone from Fleet Foxes to Miley Cyrus, here’s an appropriate track from the National… The first single from their new album Sleep Well, Beast is called “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness” and you might be forgiven for thinking that Nick Cave has stepped into the vocal shoes of Matt Berninger. Bryan Devendorf’s drumming provides the fragile melody with the propulsion it needs.

And in case you missed it, here’s the wacky video for the new Fleet Foxes single “Fools Errand”.

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Gordon Campbell on our caving in to the Aussies

May 5th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Much as New Zealand may brood over its links with Australia, they barely acknowledge our existence. On Anzac Day, when Kiwis make so much of our identity-forging mateship on the battlefield, we barely register in the commemorations held across the Tasman. This renders all the more precious, those sporting encounters when we do manage to imprint ourselves on their consciousness. Like any kid brother, we don’t expect to be appreciated, but a little respect would go a long way.

Of late, that respect has been in short supply. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the killing of the Fairfax/NZME merger

May 4th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

So the Commerce Commission has nixed the Fairfax/NZME merger. Why? On the grounds that it would have had unacceptably bad consequences for the public interest in terms of media diversity, and for the quality of democratic debate. How come? Partly because the Commission has decided that none of the big multi-platform rivals (RNZ, TVNZ, Newshub) or small online rivals (eg Scoop) would be able to offer meaningful competition – either individually or cumulatively – to the behemoth that the merger would create. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Willie Jackson’s list ranking

May 2nd, 2017

First published on Werewolf

For a brief period yesterday, extreme weather conditions associated with Hurricane Willie (reportedly on course towards Wellington) resulted in an ‘unprecedented’ delay in the release of the Labour list rankings. Batten down the hatches. Willie Jackson had been assigned a position of 21 on the party list for September’s election, behind candidates with a far lower pubic profile! This perceived slight being the simple product of (a) the need to secure safe list positions for existing MPs and (b) the Labour policy of ensuring that the list reflected gender balance and ethnic diversity. Read the rest of this entry »