Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Earthquake Welfare and Libya

March 29th, 2011

Illustration by Tim Denee –

The decision to phase out the government’s support package for Christchurch business seems to have been plucked from the air within ministerial offices in Wellington, and not reached by any process of consultation with the businesses affected. The wage subsidies for qualifying firms will be shut down in fortnightly steps starting from April 18:

For employers, the current payment of $500 per week for each fulltime employee would drop back to $375 a week, then down to $250 a week two weeks later. For employees, the job loss cover payment, which has been taken up by 6700 people, would be scrapped and replaced with a top-up payment for those still out of work. It would be paid out at $50 per week for a single person, $80 for a couple without children and an additional $10 per week for each child, up to a maximum of $110 a week.

This is hardly a soft landing for business, or their staff. Many employers are still being forcibly denied access to their business premises and therefore can’t yet even begin the process of resurrecting their firms. Hardly the time to start talking about cutting off aid, and telling them to stand on their own two feet. For all the stirring, inspirational talk of standing together shoulder to shoulder with Christchurch the cold reality is that within three months of a huge natural disaster, many employers and their staff are facing a ‘sink or swim’ message from central government. Major firms and multinational chains will be better placed to absorb the shock – but many small businesses with less than 20 staff will go to the wall. Day by day, more and more Christchurch jobs are still being lost, with 600 jobs going in the aged care sector alone:

Having a cut-off point for aid at some point in the future is inevitable – yet preferably one reached on the basis of consultation, and with some analysis of how long various sectors of the Christchurch economy will need to make the transition, with as little social damage as possible. Compassion, not toughlove is supposed to be what Christchurch needs and deserves right now. Terminating aid for business at this point – when nothing remotely like normal activity has returned to the city – makes no sense. Many workers will be tipped out onto the dole, and losing their trained staff will make it that much harder for employers, who merely need help to bridge the period until reconstruction work begins to pump money back through the veins of the Christchurch economy. Does government have any idea of how long this transition will take ? If he has, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee refused an invitation to go on RNZ this morning to tell us, or to discuss the government’s phase out decision.

PM John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announce the details of the recovery package yesterday at Parliament (Photo: Alastair Thompson)

This arbitrary, top down response is a poor prelude for how the new central government agency being set up to co-ordinate Christchurch’s reconstruction is going to operate. On this evidence, all the major decisions are going to be made in Wellington and imposed on Christchurch, with short term cost savings being the driver of the entire process. Once again – as we saw at Pike River – the Key government seems to be long on photo opportunities and compassionate soundbites, but desperately short on follow through.

Libya Intervention

Given the level of news discourse in the US, it is hardly surprising that Barack Obama is still taking flak over the US role in the UN intervention in Libya. As US academic and Middle East specialist Juan Cole says, if Obama had done the opposite – and let Gaddafi’s tanks roll into Benghazi and crush the democratic uprising, just as Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring in 1968 – he’d be being slammed for being ineffectual.

As yet, the outcome on the ground is still undecided, though Cole has made the additional point (in the course of his “Open Letter to the Left on Libya”) that the UN air strikes have not only taken out Gaddafi’s air superiority but most of his tank forces as well, thus evening up the military odds between the untrained rebels and Gaddafi’s forces. The rebel supply lines are already severely stretched, well short of Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli. It may take the full 90 days (or more) currently being projected for the UN campaign, before the rebels can finally rid Libya of its tyrannical ruler. The rebels can then rebuild the country on the back of Libya’s vast oil resources, which should make it easier for them to resist neo-colonial domination by its new friends and liberators. By getting rid of Gaddafi, Cole concludes, the rebels will also make it that much easier for the fledgling democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt to survive, and to flourish.


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    1. 7 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on Earthquake Welfare and Libya”

    2. By Tony Newey on Mar 29, 2011 | Reply

      I totally agree with you about the completely inadequate and unthinking response of the government to the continuing crisis in Christchurch. What they should be doing is a planning exercise involving experts in every relevant field (professional engineers and managers, trades, medical etc.) so that alll the people who have been displaced by the earthquake and its aftermath can be re-deployed into other areas related to the incredible amount of reconstruction required. This will obviously involve a large amount of money in retraining and redeploying people but ultimately it needs to happen if our compassion for the people of Christchurch is to mean more than just spouting nice words and platitudes.

      I suspect that the reason the government does not want to admit to this reality is that this involves ‘intervening’ in the market – a word that is foreign to their monetarist, economic rationalist mindset.

    3. By Huatoki on Mar 29, 2011 | Reply

      The one “consultation” they cannot take away from us is coming on November 26. Brownlee no longer wants to engage with us. He might just discover his electorate feels the same about him.

    4. By Tara on Mar 30, 2011 | Reply

      While it was important to have Joe’s conflict style blogging call attention to what is missing, it is still a concern that the govt are inventing more unaccountable authorities without any public consultation (but with Iwi and private consultation!?!).
      Redefining privatisation as a ‘restructuring’ is not innovation. Neither the proposed public service cuts or calling public services “lower value activities” is innovative. The govt needs to remember PUBLIC service delivery is not something to label “indulgent” or a “nice to have” and it is THE primary JOB of Govt . After 2 years to hear gems like ”the cost of running govt is too high” bring tears to my eyes as I watch an MP scoot past in a newly leased BMW, setting up duplicates (and also new) authorities. Authorities none of which are accountable, transparent or publically approved of as no public consultation has taken place.
      If they still plan to privatise GOVT service delivery contracts to IWI and private companies what the heck are we paying taxes for?!!!
      Service contract management and high dollar administration, if the iwi’s and private( foreign) corporations own govt service provision and profit, then can profit further by cutting taxpayers entitlements that is a recipe for disaster.
      There is no excuse for redefining words, creating in this tactic oxymoron’s like “humanitarian bombing” “war on terror” &“NZ Public Government privatised”.
      Is the Govt now telling us that key taxpayers services are the “new unsustainable “. Taxes for the management of IWI and privately contracted public services .
      LESS for more is the new campaign slogan.
      (The CEO of airNZ with yet another bonus wiggling his jiggle in bodypaint).

    5. By Joe Blow on Mar 30, 2011 | Reply

      In my experience down here a lot of those small businesses that are wholely dependent on the CBD have gone to the wall with the recovery package or not. My wife has been laid off her part-time job even though her business was receiving the recovery package! Maybe their decision would have been different if they had thought they would be supported longer than 6 weeks. I guess with National in government we should feel lucky that they are actually extending it….

      This phase out could be their way of smoothing the transition from the recovery package to life on the dole.

      The only businesses from the CBD that seem to be surviving are those that have shed labour and relocated out of the city centre.

      The official word was that the CBD would be closed for 4 to 5 months. I hear rumours that actual business as “usual” won’t be back until some time next year.

      Anyone else out there from Christchurch hear any better news?

    6. By Joe Blow on Mar 31, 2011 | Reply

    7. By tara on Apr 1, 2011 | Reply

      Righty Adam Curtis is accused of many things such as “understating the explosion of “humanitarian interventionist” sentiment that occurred in the late 1990’s. “A Solution from Hell”
      John Pilger did an interview with the BBC in his new movie. The BBC spokesperson said the BBC did not feel they had an obligation to investigate any of the lies they reported pre war invasion and were not sorry.
      Adam considers targeting civilians in invasions to be ‘humanitarian bombing’ and to be a “belief of our age”.
      Saying that installing a new puppet dictator would change( socialize) the fascist puppetmasters pulling the strings is absurd.
      For the multinationals swapping out dictators just a tire change on the monster gas guzzler. The fuel is human life, it emits economic and social devastation -all the while profiting .

    8. By Joe Blow on Apr 2, 2011 | Reply

      One thing that Adam Curtis does do that John Pilger does not is manage to portray the different discourses at play on both sides of an ideological debate like the one surrounding humanitarian intervention unlike John Pilger who takes sides and often selectively picks and distorts the evidence and the international law that supports his ideological views.

      However, Adam does not point out the differences between Iraq and Libya such as mass killings of unarmed protestors in the streets who were calling for a regime change and international backing in the form of both NATO and UN Security Council support of which Iraq had none!

      Good to see you are at least reading someone credible like Adam Curtis now!

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