Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on secrecy about charter schools, and Dotcom

October 17th, 2012

So the Act Party and its friends in government have concocted a fresh piece of legislation – aka the Education Amendment Bill 2012 – that will exempt crucial elements of their charter schools experiment from public scrutiny under the Official Information Act. Meaning: the taxpayers who will largely bankroll this exercise will be prevented from knowing much about how their tax dollars are being spent, or about who is turning a profit from state-sanctioned education. In all likelihood, we won’t even know who is “sponsoring” the charter schools concerned. So much for transparency, and open government. Given this deliberately induced informational fog, surely the new Bill should be being denounced by someone in the Act Party as being tantamount to taxation as theft?

The people who set up charter schools will be exempt from public scrutiny and Official Information Act requests under legislation that is being pushed through Parliament to pave the way for the schools to open in 2014… The groups that run charter schools are called “sponsors” in the Bill, and are given powers to set teachers’ pay rates, hire unregistered teachers and set their own hours and days of operation.

Frankly, why don’t they simply declare each charter school to be a film set, which would allow them to re-define school teachers as independent contractors and the pupils as hobbits? They could then give the charter schools cool names like Breaking Dawn, New Moon, An Unexpected Journey and Power Rangers and impose the medieval contracts that seem common within foreign film and television productions operating on New Zealand soil.

Unfortunately, this new education legislation includes a grab bag of other search and seizure ideas that apply far more widely than the charter schools proposal. The seizure of cellphones is nothing new, but this now extends to accessing the content on the phones – presumably text messages – if teachers happen to think that such information may be “preventing learning.” Oh, and each child under six will be assigned “a national student number.”

The search and seizure rules will apply to information stored on computers or other forms of electronic device, including cellphones, if a teacher believes they are endangering a person’s safety or preventing learning.

The bill prevents physical touch or use of force during a search of a student. It also prohibits random or blanket searches, the use of drug dogs and the collection of bodily samples… Other changes include:
The introduction of a national student number for children aged under 6.

The national student numbering move has been interpreted by the Greens as being part of the government’s welfare reform process:

“The most concerning change is the ‘national student number’, which is a veiled device to force families who receive a benefit to send their young children into early childhood education (ECE),” said Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty. “The forcing of only a select group of young children into ECE will happen regardless of the family’s circumstances…or whether there are even any places available in ECE centres.”

Joining the Dotcoms

Charter schools are not the only areas where an informational fog is being generated. We are now being told that yes, a camera was present at the controversial GCSB kitchen gathering in February with Prime Minister John Key, but – just like the PM’s memory – it was not switched on. Either way, the chances of that tape emerging into daylight are about as likely as…oh, the Parliamentary committee for the security services demanding that it be produced, and/or a briefing on just what is commonly recorded by security cameras within the GCSB building, and who has custody of said tapes.

In this scandal, we are currently at much the same point as the Watergate proceedings got to, when the Senate committee headed by Senator Sam Ervin crucially intervened. Right now we have sufficient indication of official obstruction and convenient memory lapses to necessitate the intervention of a Parliamentary inquiry, since we can’t seem to get anything like an independent inquiry up and running. Short of sending in Nicky Hager one dark night to find the tape, can Parliament at least establish whether the GCSB routinely operates a CCTV system on events that occur within their own building? Just saying.

The latest revelation – that the GCSB knew of Dotcom’s true residency status in February before it briefed Key on February 29, but allegedly failed to realise the implications of this knowledge throughout the subsequent court proceedings and until it briefed the PM again in mid-September – is literally unbelievable, as David Fisher intimates this morning in the NZ Herald:

The GCSB was told of Kim Dotcom’s residency status in February – months before the bureau told the Prime Minister it had illegally spied on Dotcom. The bureau is now saying it failed to understand the implications of Dotcom’s residency status when it received details in mid-February.

GCSB director Ian Fletcher said last night: “It was checked soon after the arrest which is when the Inspector General noted there was an incorrect legal interpretation.” The Herald confirmed with the bureau it made a second check about a month after the January 20 raid on Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion – meaning for eight months the GCSB had all the information it needed to know it had broken the law. It also means the GCSB held the information at the time its agents briefed John Key on their involvement in the raid on February 29.

So now we have the spooks who did not speak to set alongside the camera that wasn’t switched on and the PM who can’t remember a thing about his visit to the GCSB, or about his briefing concerning an unprecedented FBI/Police raid with choppers, on a mega-millionaire’s residence located in his own electorate. What is there about Kim Dotcom that engenders such debilitating spasms of Political Alzheimer’s in everyone – John Banks, John Key, the entire GCSB – who happens to cross his path?


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    1. 4 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on secrecy about charter schools, and Dotcom”

    2. By donna on Oct 17, 2012 | Reply

      Oh, bravo! What a relief to see someone else is p’ed off by the whole charter schools scam. The thought of snake-oil salesman Brian Tamaki receiving public money to peddle his toxic crap to kids without any accountability is utterly outrageous.
      Then there’s the small matter of the student number. The Greens are, sadly, probably correct. The Minister of Social Development is keen on not only telling beneficiaries what’s best for their pre-schoolers, but cutting the benefits of parents whose school-age children wag school for any reason. In Paula’s world, it’s only the kids of beneficiaries who wag. So a unique identifier will help MSD meet its benefit cutting targets (which, remember, have already been accounted for).
      Do you trust them to keep your children’s data safe? You probably shouldn’t. And don’t complain in public or your info might suddenly find its way into the public domain, too.

    3. By Simon on Oct 17, 2012 | Reply

      If one of the filmset/schools were named Breaking Bad then the issue of teacher’s salaries might go up in a puff of smoke.

    4. By john on Oct 17, 2012 | Reply

      Loved the phrase Political Alzheimers. How about these gems?
      Elective memory syndrome
      Defective memory syndrome
      Reflexive memory syndrome
      Reflective memory syndrome
      Retrospective memory syndrome
      Retroactivated memory syndrome.

      And who forgot about $9 billion dollars from the US in 2008? 2 minutes 45 seconds in!

      What US wheels has this oiled in NZ? Was this where the Cullen surplus went…in order to give reasons for selling off assets, privatising ACC, chartering schools?

      In 2008, NZ got $9billion US dollars at close to 0%, traded for a $9billion deficit and Ben Bernanke was quite happy to be “getting interest off the money”. Who forgot to tell New Zealanders about this little money trade??

      Found this out via a post to a Campbell Live story on Pike River (another memory black hole) ….

    5. By Plan B on Oct 18, 2012 | Reply

      We are now being told that yes, a camera was present at the controversial GCSB kitchen gathering in February with Prime Minister John Key, but – just like the PM’s memory – it was not switched on.

      Re the Camera- modern cameras are computers with lenses, so…..

      1. It has been confirmed the there was a camera present.

      2. Is the location of the camera right now known?

      3. If so it may be possible to look at the internal (non removable)memory of the camera to look at the log and see when it was recording- not this would mean that someone had set the clock correctly on the camera in the first place-

      So if the camera exists and if the camera’s clock had been set when they got it then the camera could be easily analysed to see when it was used- i.e. when it was recording.

      Ok some big ifs in there. Maybe worth getting it checked out by an expert. Either way , just asking for the actually camera to be looked at should put them into a spin

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