Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Tiwai Point, and saying “No” in Greece

July 2nd, 2015

Its hard to see how Rio Tinto’s one month delay in announcing its intentions about the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is a good sign for (a) the jobs of the workers affected or (b) for the New Zealand taxpayer. Either Rio Tinto is angling for another power price handout from the Key government, or is seeking more time to clinch the sale of the enterprise. Supposedly, the high grade aluminium produced at Tiwai Point makes it less subject to world prices and to competition from China – this making a sale unlikely. But that argument can cut both ways. Since Rio Tinto has been trying to sell some of its other, less attractive smelters as a package, Tiwai Point could still be the sweetener necessary to clinch the wider deal.

While we’re all still in the dark about Rio Tinto’s ultimate intentions, the corporate welfare involved so far has been breath-taking. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the crisis in Greece

June 30th, 2015

Greece, as the cradle of democracy, is getting no brownie points for actually practicing it. The decision by the Greek government to go back to the people for a mandate for the bailout terms being proposed by the Eurozone seems entirely appropriate. Syriza were not elected to impose a further round of austerity conditions of the sort that the Eurozone is now unilaterally seeking to impose, without any regard for Greece’s national autonomy. Quite the reverse. Syriza was elected to represent the country’s rejection of going further down the path of austerity that it has already walked at great personal and social cost for several years, all in order to repay debts from which the vast majority of the Greek population had received no benefit whatsoever.

Since the election, Syriza has tried to negotiate a compromise package. It is one the Eurozone has chosen not to accept, insisting instead on austerity conditions and a round of privatisations and pension cuts that were ultimately intolerable, given how much Greece has already suffered. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on climate change protest, and Iraq training

June 26th, 2015

For sheer style, humour and content fit for purpose, it would be hard to beat yesterday’s Greenpeace protest at Parliament. The fact that the hanging of functioning solar panels from Parliament Buildings caused such spluttering outrage among fogeys old (David Carter) and young (David Seymour) added a Monty Python level of amusement to the whole event. Even the way the response has been defined in terms of a security lapse has been comedy gold. The need for security (in the face of climate change) is exactly what the Greenpeace protest was about.

As Greens Co-Leader James Shaw pointed out in a recent speech we have a pretty skewed sense of priorities when it comes to taking steps to protect our security against potential disaster. “We have a military. We have civil defence. We have an earthquake fund. We have the security agencies, given staggering powers and budgets to keep us safe from terrorists, or bad guys. All this money, all this effort to keep us safe, and the one disaster we know is going to happen [climate change] is the one thing we’re not doing anything to prevent.” All true. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on telling the poor to ask for more

June 24th, 2015

The government’s “let them ask for more” response to the dilapidated, cold and unhealthy conditions faced by many families in state housing can only be put down to two things – utter cluelessness, or total cynicism. This week, Prime Minister John Key has suggested that families trapped in inadequate housing – or who are having trouble paying the power bills to heat them – should alert Housing NZ and ask for repairs to be done, or ask the Ministry of Social Development for more money. Wow. As if. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on what Uber and The Hobbit have in common

June 22nd, 2015

Remember the Great Hobbit Fiasco of 2010 – when John Key, Gerry Brownlee etc bowed and scraped to the lords of Warners and changed our labour laws at their request? As you’ll recall, what the studios wanted the Key government to do was to change the basis – originally set out by our Supreme Court in 2005 in the Bryson case – on which workers in the film industry are hired.

Instead of being ‘employees’ eligible for sick pay, holiday pay and other entitlements the Hollywood studios wanted New Zealand workers to be defined as ‘contractors’, whereby they would have no such rights. A supine Key government was only too happy to comply.

Well, in a fine example of legal karma, the California Labour Commission has just confirmed the basic logic of the Bryson decision. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Pope’s encyclical on climate change

June 19th, 2015

The spread of market mechanisms into every facet of life – as health, education and the environment get treated as mere commodities – has seen economic efficiency worshipped in its own right as a totem, and as a substitute for morality. The Laudato Si encyclical issued today by Pope Francis on climate change and the environment goes some away to restoring a sane balance. With careful logic and drawing on sources and commentaries both within and beyond the Catholic tradition, the encyclical begins by describing the damage that unchecked market forces have done to the world of creation. The Pope makes a distinction between human needs – which are limited and can be managed – and human appetites which are boundless and destructive, if unchecked.

The 180 page encyclical treats environmental policy as a human rights and justice issue. Given the current state of environmental degradation – we have created an immense pile of filth out of the world that we inherited, Pope Francis says at one point – we are morally obliged to try and redress the balance, and protect the world that God created and placed in our care, for our use. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the reasons for Southern DHB’s problems

June 18th, 2015

Once again in our health system, making the books look healthy seems more important than ensuring the patients are healthy. The fact that people pay taxes so that they can get the healthcare they want (when they need it) appears to be completely irrelevant to our busy bureaucrats on the go. Kathryn Grant for instance, the incoming Commissioner appointed to replace the sacked board of Southern DHB, has already made it clear that she will not be guided by “public sentiment” in her efforts to get the books at the beleaguered DHB back in order.

Major cuts in services seem inevitable – with the ODT indicating this morning for instance, that the neurosurgery service that the public rallied to save five years ago is once again in the firing line. Increasingly, the people of Dunedin and the heartland beyond will have to access their major health services from Christchurch – or go without, since the ageing population of Otago/Southland will probably find repeated travel to access treatment will be impractical, unaffordable and (in some situations) downright dangerous. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on today’s showdown over Obama’s TPP trade agenda

June 16th, 2015

The defeat that the White House suffered last Friday in its quest for effective ‘fast track’ authority (aka Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA) need not spell doom just yet for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. The language used by the Democrats’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – who became the key Congressional player in ensuring Friday’s defeat – was instructive. Pelosi talked about ‘slowing down’ the TPA/TPP sequence in order to achieve a better outcome for American workers, not about killing the deal entirely.

For now, the immediate problem is that the fates of two separate legislative measures have been tied together – namely, the TPA and the Trade Adjustment Authority (TAA) which is a Kennedy-era aid programme set up to provide job training and compensation for workers who lose their jobs in the wake of trade deals. In the House, the liberal group of Democrats who oppose the TPP – and who also oppose the ‘fast track’ authority that would enable US President Barack Obama to exempt the TPP from any meaningful Congressional scrutiny – came up with a surprise strategy to derail Obama’s trade agenda. Basically, they killed the TAA (which they like) in order to torpedo the TPA (which they hate). Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on why the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates

June 12th, 2015

All hail Graeme Wheeler. Because at some point this year, the government appears to have contracted out all the major decisions to do with running New Zealand to the un-elected Governor of the Reserve Bank. A housing crisis in Auckland? The government was still in denial that a crisis existed, until the Reserve Bank chose to crack down on speculators. Dairy prices in virtual freefall? The extent of farm debt a big concern? The tradeable sector in chronic deflationary mode? The currency over-valued? The economic stimulus and jobs related to the Christchurch rebuild beginning to wind down? For his part, Finance Minister Bill English continues to perform his earnest possum in the headlights routine about all of those issues… but at least the Reserve Bank has intervened. It cut interest rates yesterday by 25 percentage points (to 3.25%) in an effort to keep the economy ticking over in the meantime.

What this suggests is that the government’s “Look Ma, no hands” style of economic management has run its course. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the TPP revelations about Pharmac

June 11th, 2015

The health system transparency measures contained in the latest Wikileaks revelations about the TPP have been a long running concern. The fact that the Pharmac-related transparency measures would entail a cost to the government was being grudgingly conceded in December 2013 at least:

The Government had committed to protecting the fundamentals of the Pharmac central drug-buying agency in the face of changes sought by the United States.

However [Trade Minister Tim Groser] would not rule out some extra cost to the Government to meet so-called transparency rules on Pharmac that would allow drug companies to challenge Pharmac’s decisions. That could require new regulations and there could be a cost involved with that.

The potential costs go well beyond the mere enactment of regulations. Read the rest of this entry »