Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the Glenn Greenwald revelations

September 15th, 2014

All that hanging out with the All Blacks clearly hasn’t taught Prime Minister John Key a thing about the ethics of playing the ball, and not the man. Still, in slagging off Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald as “Dotcom’s little henchman” Key is being consistent with the politics of character assassination that has been the hallmark of his office for some time, with and without the help of Key’s own henchman, Cameron Slater.

Before getting onto the specifics of Key’s defence, the change in his relationship with the GCSB is, literally, incredible. The John Key of last year has vanished in a puff of smoke. Remember the Key who claimed to be unaware of what on earth the GCSB was up to – trust him, he knew nothing, nothing about the joint Police/FBI/GCSB operation being mounted on Kim Dotcom’s home until virtually the day it happened? All gone. Now we are being expected to regard him as the eagle-eyed monitor who crisply intercepted the GCSB’s proposed new modus operandi and knocked them back when they presumed to step over the line. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Obama’s major foreign policy speech today on the Islamic State

September 11th, 2014

For the Syrian people, the next ten years offers them two really unpleasant choices. They can be slaughtered by the forces of the Islamic State, or take their chances with another decade of the murderous stalemate into which the Syrian civil war has now descended. That’s the stark backdrop for this afternoon’s speech by US President Barack Obama. The US is not offering anyone victory, or peace. At best, Obama is trying to use American airpower and the assistance of regional allies with a self-interested stake in the outcome (ie Turkey and Saudi Arabia) to restore the conditions on the Syrian battlefield to a point where the current bloody stalemate can be perpetuated for years to come. In the process, Obama has to apply significant US military force within Syria against the IS rebels, yet without giving the impression that the US and the Saudis are propping up the Assad regime.

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Gordon Campbell on National’s phantom tax cut package

September 9th, 2014

Hmmm. So National’s tax cuts package turns out to be one of those television advertisements that screams a headline promise – perfect skin! a youth tonic that works! – while in very small print there’s an out clause: special conditions may apply. Heading into the home stretch of this election campaign the government yesterday admitted it didn’t know whether it can afford tax cuts at all, much less give any detail on what they may deliver, when and to whom. Tax cuts, though! Because you’re worth it.

As far as anyone can tell, the government is planning to carve out the tax cuts from the $1.5 billion a year it has set aside for discretionary spending over the next three years. Apparently, some of those funds will be used (a) to meet the unknown shortfalls in health and education as they arise, some of it will also go (b) into repaying debt and the rest… well, $500-750 million might be available in future for (c) a teeny tiny tax cut package to low and middle income workers in 2017, all else permitting, no guarantees. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the West’s existential crisis about what to do with Putin, and the Islamic State

September 5th, 2014

Say one thing for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At least he’s given NATO a purpose in life. Right now, that consists of being something that Barack Obama and David Cameron can hide behind, point at Putin, and say : “Go get him, tiger.” Just what NATO is supposed to do about Putin’s armed advance into eastern Ukraine is less than clear. But there is a lot of “steely determination” around in high places. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Greens proposal to gradually lift the minimum wage

September 3rd, 2014

Heading into the election home stretch, voters have a clear choice about the best way to help low and middle income New Zealanders. They can do so by gradually lifting the minimum wage (as the Greens propose ) or by a small tax cut, as the government seems about to announce. The minimum wage boost – by 75 cents an hour to $15 in December, and then by gradual annual increments to $18 an hour by 2017 – that the Greens are talking about is just one part of a packet of employment measures that would include scrapping youth rates and the 90 day trial period, introducing a redundancy package of four weeks, offsetting any abatement effect of the policy package for those receiving Working For Families, and finally… ditching the exception made by the government (during the Hobbit negotiations) for workers in the screen industry, which denies them normal workplace safeguards and entitlements.

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Gordon Campbell on John Key’s ‘blame it on Judith’ strategy

September 1st, 2014

Right now, Prime Minister John Key seems intent on limiting the scope of any inquiry into his government’s dealings with Cameron Slater. The declared aim is to make that inquiry solely about Judith Collins’ behavior with respect to the Serious Fraud Office. Nice try, but it won’t wash. What the Dirty Politics book and other emails have revealed is a pattern of misbehavior that has involved the SIS, ACC, Cabinet Ministers and staff in the Prime Minister’s office. Meaning : it is a problem that seems to have involved the systematic misuse of government information and procedures (such as the Official Information Act) in order to launch attacks on public servants and political opponents alike. Finally (see below) there is email evidence that could even entail criminal behavior.

Despite the hard evidence contained in the emails (written by the individuals involved) in Hager’s book, Key has been living in denial since its publication. For well over a week now, Key has tried in vain to discredit the book until finally on Friday, the room for living in denial finally ran out. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on last night’s debate, and the Collins accusation

August 29th, 2014

Debating is a peculiar discipline in that what you say is less important than how you’re saying it. Looking poised, being articulate and staying on topic generally wins the day – and on that score, Labour leader David Cunliffe won what turned out to be a bruising encounter with Prime Minister John Key last night on TVNZ. Cunliffe marshalled his points better, kept Key off balance and – more often than not – was in control of the general tenor of the contest. Labour supporters would have been heartened, and given some belated reassurance that maybe the change of leadership last year had been the right decision. Certainly, it was very hard to imagine David Shearer carrying Labour’s banner in that debate last night. The traffic might have been moving a bit too fast.

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Gordon Campbell on Winston Peters’ latest bout of immigrant bashing, and Bob Dylan in the basement (again)

August 28th, 2014

So in the latest 3News-Reid Research poll, New Zealand First and the Conservatives have been the big winners. It is only one poll, but rather than cannibalising each other’s vote, Colin Craig and Winston Peters do seem to be managing to find the room to co-exist. For all the talk among minority centre-left parties about growing the vote, the momentum among the minority parties appears to be down at the other end of the political spectrum. Any cannibilisation going on would appear to be of National’s vote, down to 45% in this poll.

Poll fixation though, is a symptom of horse race journalism. To date, the focus has been on the poll numbers for New Zealand First – at 6.3% in this latest poll – and the power that this puts in Peters’ hands. Few are questioning how he’s got to this happy place, and what it says about the mood of the electorate. Yet as sure as night follows day, Winston Peters is once again peddling bile at the immigrants in our midst. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the US foreign policy somersaults over Syria and Iran

August 26th, 2014

Amidst the day-to-day reports about the military advances of the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, one remarkable aspect of this war has barely been mentioned. Namely, the complete 180 degree turn of US foreign policy whereby its former enemies – the Assad regime in Syria, the Sh’ite regime in Iran – are now US allies and their main bulwarks in stemming the tide of Sunni fundamentalism in the region.

Only a year ago, in the wake of reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the US was on the brink of a bombing campaign against the Assad regime. It was only the last minute intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin that talked the Americans down off the ledge and enabled a deal to be brokered that now seems to have successfully eliminated Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

This week, the Americans are again talking about a bombing campaign in Syria – but this time it would be to prop up the Assad regime, and to inhibit the advance of the Islamic State rebels. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on National’s housing assistance plan

August 25th, 2014

So, as many as 90,000 people could derive some benefit from National’s housing assistance plans for low and middle-income earners. As much as $218 million might be spent on the programme that was announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key. Yet in reality, the benefits seem likely to be insignificant, and they will be skewed towards those at the top end of the income group that’s supposedly the target.

Essentially, the policy involves tinkering with Kiwisaver in order to boost the size of the deposits available. However, to derive the significant benefits from the scheme, applicants will (a) have to be earning below certain incomes (b) the house price has to fall below a certain cap (c) the applicant needs to have been contributing to Kiwisaver for five years and (d) needs to be building a new home, rather than buying an existing one. Oh and obviously, the applicants will also (e) have to be able to service the subsequent mortgage.

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