Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the lack of leadership on refugees

September 4th, 2015


Image: Lyndon Hood – Cartoons: Refugees, Flags and What I Stand For

John Key still doesn’t get it. At least he’s now talking about raising the UN quota, after – only last Monday – flatly denying that there was any need to do so. Yet even this potential turnaround (the step has yet to be taken ) seems weirdly out of whack. As RNZ has reported:

Mr Key said the Government needed to get good advice before upping its intake in order to ensure other refugees already here were not disadvantaged.

Huh? Surely, the only way that existing refugees would be disadvantaged would be if Key upped the intake without increasing the funds or the services allocated to meet their needs. Incredible. Is Key saying he needs to be advised by officials on whether existing refugees should be made to cross-subsidise the new arrivals via spreading the existing inadequate resources in this area even more thinly? Clearly, Key and his Cabinet colleagues still need to get their heads around the ideas that extra and substantial new funds and resources have to be allocated. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Refugees, the Flag and Bo Diddley

September 2nd, 2015

There’s a simple statistical reason why New Zealand should increase its refugee intake. Our UN quota has remained static – or fallen slightly – over the past 30 years. Over the same period, both our economy and our population has grown substantially – which means the burden imposed on New Zealand by this static number of refugees has steadily fallen in relative terms over the past several decades. It also means that if New Zealand’s capacity to support an expansion of its UN quota intake is currently a problem – which it apparently is – then this should be taken as an indication of the systematic neglect of refugee needs by a series of National and Labour governments. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the government’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe

September 1st, 2015

The government’s refusal to accept an emergency intake of refugees from the hundreds of thousands now pouring into Europe is pretty shameful. This country makes so much of its Anzac heritage. Yet now, John Key and Tony Abbott are standing side by side against the exercise of compassion, while it is Germany that is extending the hand of assistance – even though the lack of help from other nations (including the wartime Allied powers of Britain, Australia, New Zealand) seems to be fuelling the local resentment of refugees within Germany. As a result, we are seeing the further rise of the sort of neo-Nazi groups that made WWII inevitable.

By taking in more refugees on an emergency basis, New Zealand would – among other things – be easing some of the neo-Nazi heat that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking for her brave and principled stand. When it comes to generosity towards refugees, New Zealand can learn a lot from the Germans, the Italians, the Swedes, the Serbians, and the Lebanese – who, as others have recently pointed out, have a population the same size as New Zealand packed into a territory about as big as the Waikato. Yet regardless, Lebanon has taken in well over a million refugees from Syria.

We need to open our borders first, and then help each other to cope. That’s the lesson of history. For example: the UN Convention of Refugees was set up in the post-war shadow of a Europe that in the 1930s, had shown very little compassion for the fate of European Jews, with terrible consequences. The Refugee Convention was put in place by a world that – at the time – felt determined to ensure that borders would not remain closed in future to humanitarian need. Yet thanks to the dismal likes of David Cameron (looking over his shoulder nervously at UKIP) Tony Abbott and John Key, those historical lessons are now being ignored.

In Key’s case, the inaction is particularly surprising. His own family history might have been expected to induce him to reach a different conclusion. According to reports, his aunt Lottie had fled from Nazi persecution in the 1930s to Britain, where she got a British visa by a bogus marriage of convenience – and it was this ill-gotten British visa that via family re-unification, enabled Lottie to bring across her brother Herbert and her sister Ruth, who later became John Key’s mother.

Given that history, Key is not in a strong position to tell other refugees to wait their turn, go through proper channels, and delay their arrival until the recipient country has the ideal reception procedures in place. Moreover, when it was rationalising our military response to Islamic State, the Key government made a big deal out of New Zealand’s need to step up, shoulder the burden and join the international response to the common threat.

Well, if we felt so impelled to do our bit militarily against an evil foe, it seems perverse to make only a token contribution when it comes to helping the innocent victims of that very same war. Hardly the sort of spirit we claim to revere on Anzac Day. Right now, New Zealand is being put to shame by the Germans and the Italians.

The Clash. MIA etc

In a previous workplace, when Tom Petty’s “Refugee” came on the radio one time, I remember a pious co-worker saying “But some people do have to live like refugees…” Sigh. Lets not go there this morning. Instead, here’s the Clash’s great “Straight to Hell” contribution to the limited genre of what one might call refugee rock… plus, the M.I.A hit “Paper Planes” that sampled the Clash track so successfully, while giving its own take on migrant politics…

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Gordon Campbell on the Children’s Commission report on CYF

August 27th, 2015

Accusing the overworked and underfunded staff at Child, Youth and Family of a “dump and run culture of neglect” is the kind of luxury that a Children’s Commissioner can afford to indulge in from his own comfy perch in the bureaucracy. Newsflash: CYPS staff care about the welfare of children at risk, too. In the real world of case workers ‘clients’ and caregivers, every link in the chain of care that the Children’s Commissioner identifies as lacking would be strengthened by more funding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the flag campaign

August 25th, 2015

So far, the public has treated the government’s flag campaign with something between disinterest and disdain. Most New Zealanders have instinctively seen through the marketing hype involved. Basically the flag campaign is a ‘feel good’ bit of self-promotion for the government and concocted to enable Prime Minister John Key to wrap himself in the national emblem, at taxpayer expense. The flag campaign format will play out like one of those TV reality shows whereby a series of designs gets voted off the island, until – finally – the public is invited to choose a future with the surviving new contender, or with their current old reliable. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Donald Trump, and Dr Dre

August 19th, 2015

For the past few months, you, me, and Rupert Murdoch have been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Trump campaign, and for some drab incarnation of business-as-usual (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker) to emerge as the real Republican standard bearer in next year’s presidential election. Hmmm. But if the wheels haven’t come off Trump by now, then when – and by what means, exactly? The more that Trump cuts his links to common decency, the higher his balloon seems to fly.

And if you look beyond Trump, the next highest rating Republican contender right now is no suit for corporate hire, but the next most crazy candidate in the field, Ben Carson. This is the guy who likened US political correctness to Nazi Germany, and who called Obama’s health care programme the worst thing to happen to the US since slavery. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Tim Groser and the Wrecking Crew

August 17th, 2015

At times, a protest march can feel like a futile political tactic, but at least afterwards… Trade Minister Tim Groser can always be relied on to put his foot in his mouth. The weekend’s turnout of thousands – in Auckland in wet weather – was no exception. In his comments afterwards, Groser not only came out with a goofy line about the alleged need for TPP secrecy – “Discretion is the handmaiden of progress” – but then proceeded to slag off the thousands of concerned New Zealanders as being either fools, hysterics, or professional agitators. If this is how Groser conducts his negotiations, no wonder Japan is blaming New Zealand for the fact the TPP talks in Maui ended in deadlock. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on China’s devaluation, and Wolf Alice

August 13th, 2015

As China’s currency takes the down elevator towards the basement – and after two days of decline no one knows how far down it will eventually go – its hard to see any good news for New Zealand. Our main export commodity (dairy powder) has already lost 70 % of its value over the past 18 months – and now everything we sell into our biggest export market (China) will cost more. Top use the ruling cliche, it’s a headwind. Demand will inevitably diminish, given that those much-prized customers in China’s emerging middle class will now have to pay more for New Zealand goods. Similarly, tourism from China – a recent bright spot for us – will also come under pressure, as Chinese tourists discover the bad news that their money will buy less, abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s pandering to the redneck vote about refugees, and the SIS charm offensive

August 12th, 2015

Labour’s readiness to play “Gotcha” politics over the 27 incidents where refugee status were first granted and then revoked is pretty shameful. According to documents obtained by RNZ, fraud may have been involved in some of these cases. Labour wants to know why the citizenship of the people concerned was not revoked – an outcome that would presumably have seen the culprits deported. Really? A little perspective might be in order, and one might reasonably have expected some from the Labour Party.

First, New Zealand has one of the lowest intakes of refugees – in terms of numbers per GDP – in the developed world. We can well afford to err on the side of compassion, especially since there is no indication of the number of years over which these 27 examples were spread. Moreover, the determination of refugee status is not an exact science, and many cases will fall into a grey area. Does Labour really think that New Zealand – having first decided to let these people into the country – should then after a period of time has elapsed, change its mind about its original decision and toss these families out again, back into some camp in the likes of Kenya or Malaysia?

Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Japan’s current doubts that the TPP has any future

August 10th, 2015

Japan has made it clear it thinks New Zealand was the key major stumbling block to a successful conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Alas, New Zealand proved to be the axle-breaking bump in the road that nobody saw until it was too late to slow down. An August 9 piece in Japan News about the timing of the next round of ministerial talks on the TPP repeats that point:

There was a plan to hold the ministerial meeting after the economic ministers’ meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be held in Malaysia in late August. However, New Zealand did not relax its hard-line stance over other nations’ import quotas for its dairy products, with [Japanese Minister in charge of TPP negotiations Akira]Amari saying the country made excessive demands.

Therefore – and maybe forevermore – Japan will not participate in further ministerial meetings until a broad agreement can be reached by officials beforehand. Such an approach ignores a TPP reality where the divisions still run so deep that only politicians can leap across them. Mere officials would not dare.

The timetable for TPP passage remains very tight. Read the rest of this entry »