Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Indonesia’s latest round of executions

April 29th, 2015

Gordon Campbell on Indonesia’s latest round of executions

To no-one’s real surprise, Indonesia has carried out its second wave of executions this year. Given the varied nationalities of the drug convicts put to death – from Africa, Australia and South America – Indonesia’s relatively new President Joko Widodo seems to have firmly turned his back on the progress that South-East Asia had been making recently on capital punishment.

Reciprocity had been a driver of those positive changes. Earlier this decade, both Malaysia and Singapore brought in law changes to reduce the scope of the death penalty, and – before Widodo arrived on the scene – Indonesia did in 2012 commute the death sentence of a drug trafficker. Reciprocity was the main reason, as the US academic Sandra Babcock pointed out in the Northwestern Law Journal :

When Malaysia’s government announced that it would likely abolish the mandatory death penalty for certain categories of drug traffickers, Law Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz explained that close to 250 Malaysians had been arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death in countries such as China: “[H]ow are we to appeal for leniency from other governments for Malaysians who are in death row in their countries when we hand out the death sentence?” Seventy-five Indonesians on Malaysia’s death row would be affected by this change in the law.

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Gordon Campbell on the hair-pulling finale and Gallipoli

April 24th, 2015

Don’t know about you, but when hi-jinks and horsing around are going on, my understanding is that everyone involved is supposed to be having a good time. Those terms don’t apply to a situation where one person with immense power is harassing someone with none – and whose job depends on them having to grin and bear it. Amanda Bailey wasn’t at a party. She was in her workplace, trying to do her job. As others have noted, everything Prime Minister John Key has said and done since uttering his “apology” has been calculated to dispel the sense that he had done anything to apologise about.

If Key felt remorseful and had really learned from this experience wouldn’t he – for instance – be keen to extrapolate from it, and remind other people in power to respect the people who are serving them, and cleaning up after them? Not a chance. Key has been intent throughout on minimizing his virtual droit de seigneur to repeatedly badger this woman. It looks as though he will get away with it, too. Judging for instance, by Annette King’s muted performance on Paul Henry’s show – which she seemed almost apologetic for criticising the PM’s behaviour and raising the issues of harassment etc – Labour has decided that there’s little mileage in pursuing the matter any further, and a greater risk of seeming you know….strident about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the PM’s Hair-Pulling Power Trip

April 23rd, 2015

There have been striking differences between (a) the account of the waitress involved in the hair-pulling incidents, and (b) the account being given by Prime Minister John Key. The version by the waitress is available here and is recommended to anyone yet to read it. By her account, there were multiple instances of hair-pulling and these persisted and persisted long after she had made her annoyance clear to Key – who had also been advised by his wife, and by other café staff that the behavior was evidently not being welcomed.

According to Key though, he was merely joking and had apologized immediately he realized that offence had been taken. This doesnt square with her account of repeated transgressions, and the PMs Office has not disputed the facts of her account. Ultimately, even one incident of a customer pulling the hair of a young woman in her workplace is unacceptable. Even more so by a Prime Minister – given the power and potential for intimidation he has, and which the young woman clearly felt. The repeated behavior, even after being told that offence had been taken, is disturbing. It is as if her rebuke had only angered him, and compelled him to repeat the actions to assert his authority. Maybe the sort of response shown by Anne Shirley ( in Anne of Green Gables ) would have given Key the message more clearly :

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Gordon Campbell on the key battle Obama is waging over the TPP

April 21st, 2015

For the past two and a half years, this column has been arguing that the fate of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal will hinge on whether US President Barack Obama can win Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) from Congress. This so called ‘fast track’ authority would enable the TPP to be subjected to a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote in Congress, and without the deal being liable to a clause by clause rewrite. Countries like Japan are waiting to see if Obama can win TPA before expending their political capital at home on a deal that might otherwise get pulled apart by US politicians on the floor of Congress, for all kinds of partisan reasons.

Last week, the White House finally, finally unveiled a draft TPA Bill, and battle has commenced to see if Obama can get the numbers he needs to pass it. He needs a large number of Republicans – who usually oppose conceding anything to Obama – and a sizeable number of Democrats – most of whom oppose the TPP – to get the TPA Bill across the line. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Reserve Bank’s call to arms about the Auckland housing crisis

April 16th, 2015

The ‘crisis – what crisis?’ response by the government to the Auckland housing price bubble is no longer acceptable. So says Reserve Bank governor Grant Spencer – who used unusually frank language in his speech and subsequent interviews yesterday to call for a capital gains tax, and to generally chastise central and local government for their inaction on a threat to the country’s economic health and financial stability.

That threat has been real for some time. The housing price bubble has already created a currency bubble – whereby the NZ dollar been kept aloft by the Reserve Bank’s interest rate policy, which has tried to dampen the speculation in housing by keeping interest rates relatively high, and – as a side effect – drawn in currency speculators who have pushed the currency to levels that have been hurting our exporters. Undaunted, the government keeps calling this situation a success story.

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Gordon Campbell on UE pass rates and university dropout rates

April 14th, 2015

Houston, there is clearly a problem with (a) the plunge in pass rates for University Entrance qualifications, which has been especially steep among Maori students and also a problem with (b) the failure rates for Maori students among those who reach university. Reportedly, almost a quarter of Māori students drop out of university in their first year.

Unfortunately the two problems seem related. The solution re university dropouts – which involves ensuring students are better equipped to cope with the academic challenges they face when they get to university – seems to have caused the problem of the plunging pass rates for UE. Supposedly, the tweaking upwards of the UE standards was expected to cause only a small decline in UE pass rates. Only a 5% change would result, NZQA jauntily predicted back in 2011.

Instead, the roof has fallen in Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the demise of Campbell Live

April 10th, 2015

The imminent axeing of Campbell Live has been the inevitable outcome of a mindset which considers only (a) declining ratings which impact on (b) advertising revenue, which are then offset against (c) the production cost of doing news and current affairs which (surprise, surprise) is a more expensive commodity to make than reality television. Those are the commercial realities. Once again, the market tells us the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Obviously, TV3 is not a charity. It is not obliged to provide a social service, at least not in prime time. Lets leave aside for a moment the question of whether broadcasters should be required – as a condition of holding a licence – to do news and current affairs beyond the ghetto of early morning weekend television….when almost no-one is watching, and no major advertising revenue is at stake. Lets also put to one side the question of the animus that TV3 director Julie Christie reportedly has towards John Campbell and his style of advocacy journalism.

The wider issue – beyond the fate of highly talented people like John Campbell – has to do with how many New Zealanders really put a value (beyond mere lip service) on quality news and current affairs journalism, such that they are willing to pay to retain it. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on a union victory in the fast food industry

April 9th, 2015

Good to have a reminder of why trade unions are still essential in the 21st century. The scrapping of zero hour contract provisions by the Restaurant Brand group – which owns the KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Carl’s Junior fast food outlets – is a step forward to more humane conditions in part of the industry. It also marks a victory for the Unite union, which represents some 2,000 workers in the outlets concerned.

Under zero hour contracts, workers need to be always available for work but have no guarantee, day by day, of how many hours of work will eventuate. This has obvious implications for workers and their families. If zero hour provisions are invoked, they have great difficulty in planning a weekly budget for rent and food. The new terms are not ideal, but they do mark an improvement. Under the new collective contract, staff are guaranteed minimum hours – reportedly, at least 80 per cent of the average hours they have worked over a three-month period.

The battle against zero hour contracts now shifts to McDonalds, Burger King and Wendys, who have so far refused to budge on this issue. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on dollar parity with Australia, and disarming Israel

April 7th, 2015

As the New Zealand dollar edges towards parity with the Aussie dollar, it seems facile to treat this as some game of Transtasman arm-wrestling that yay, we’re winning. The political rhetoric is all about our economic “strength” versus their “weakness.” Yet for starters, how much of the alleged NZD strength is being driven by currency speculators feasting on the high interest rates which our Reserve Bank feels impelled to maintain in order to control our out-of-control housing market? Meaning: is this currency high a sign of genuine economic strength, or has it been steroid-driven by speculation, in both currency and housing?

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Gordon Campbell on the inadequate response to sexual violence prevention

April 1st, 2015

On combatting sexual violence, the government has finally begun to undo some of the problems that were of its own making. Early in March, ACC launched the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims scheme – a package aimed at improving the attitudes of ACC staff towards sexual violence victims, and offering them more substantive support. Hopefully, this will help to reverse the damage done with the insensitive, punitive ACC policy put in place by the incoming Key government in 2009, which in some parts of New Zealand, saw 90 per cent of sexual violence victims being turned away by ACC.

As well as this new support scheme, ACC is also increasing its annual funding of sexual violence prevention education, from a paltry $1 million to $4 million, a figure still seen as inadequate by experienced workers in the field.

In addition, Justice Minister Amy Adams has invited the Law Commission to revisit its work on possible changes to the pre-trial and courtroom procedures faced by sexual complainants. The Police however, continue to be one of the glaring problem areas. Read the rest of this entry »