Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the EU/NZ trade deal, and Scotland’s growing rejection of independence

March 26th, 2014

So Europe is “considering” whether to launch free trade discussions, with New Zealand ; the parties plan to establish a scoping process and will hold talks next year and if all goes well, negotiations will proceed from there. Given that the EU already has free trade deals with all but a handful of OECD countries, this is hardly a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, the initial reporting is depicting the possiblility purely in terms of the positives for this country, as if such deals carry no downsides with them. This morning for example, RNZ was already talking about potential savings in the tens of millions of dollars on the compliance costs of doing trade in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Crimea, Paula Bennett, Dotcom and the uses of history

March 25th, 2014

So the US wants Russia to be banished “indefinitely” from the G-8 club for its actions in Crimea. Talk about gall. Astonishing to watch the US lecture Russian leader Vladimir Putin over its breaches of international law in the annexation of Crimea, given that the US trampled all over international law in its invasion of Iraq in 2003. In its own defence, Russia could at least argue that the outcome of events in Ukraine/Crimea has security implications on its borders, and e.g. would affect the ability of its Navy to be deployed. That defence was not available to the US, which faced no comparable threat from Saddam Hussein. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the difficulty of imposing effective sanctions against Putin

March 21st, 2014

For decades now, there has been a peace dividend from global trade. The more interdependent our economies become, the less likely we are to go to war, as we may have done in times past. Well, the crisis in the Crimea shows one of the downsides of those trade linkages ; when one country invades another, economic sanctions are just as likely to backfire on the countries imposing them, as they are to hit the intended target. Last night, Russia’s RT television channel was gleefully pointing this out – did the EU really want to impose sanctions on the Russia that provides 2/3 of Europe’s energy needs, buys 45% of its automobile exports, 18% of its chemicals and 5% of its food exports? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on New Zealand’s currency deal with China

March 19th, 2014

During Prime Minister John Key’s current visit to China, Key and Chinese premier Li Keqiang agreed to a deal that enables direct trading on the Chinese Foreign Exchange between the NZ dollar and the Chinese renimbi (aka yuan). It is easy to see how New Zealand exporters stand to benefit. Kiwi firms will no longer need to shift payments and earnings back and forth via a third currency, usually the US dollar. Considerable savings will be made on these transactions. New Zealand has become the sixth country to engage in direct currency trading with China, after Australia did so last April. This was the same month that New Zealand – which appeared to have been caught on the wrong foot by the Australian move – initiated its own negotiations with China, for similar status. Japan had clinched a similar deal in mid-2012 and Brazil signed its own direct currency trading deal in March, 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Genesis share float debacle

March 14th, 2014

In one sense at least, Finance Minister Bill English has done everyone a favour with the way the Genesis share float has been structured. So the shares have been set at an especially low price, the dividend yield has been set at an especially high level and buyers will be given bonus shares for every 15 shares they purchase. Such generosity, with something that belongs to taxpayers. A large chunk of the energy companies they own have been given away just as ordinary people head into winter, and are already facing rising power bills for the electricity they need to warm their homes. Now, thanks to Bill English, they have just seen wealthy investors handed a fresh incentive to jack up power prices, and to maximise the return on their new investment. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Shane Jones reverting to type, and a reply to Richard Prebble

March 12th, 2014

Anyone who may have feeling twinges of remorse that it might have been a good idea for Shane Jones to have won the Labour Party leadership race last year should be thanking their lucky stars that Labour dodged a bullet on that one. Jones’ most recent attack on Gareth Hughes and the Green Party – this is the latest in a series of attacks, not a one-off – comes hard on the heels of Jones’ attack on the negative effect that international students are supposedly having on our tertiary education system. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Act’s problem with taking personal responsibility

March 10th, 2014

If it does nothing else, this election will be a test of whether marketing really can turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse. Although it barely registers a pulse, the Act Party has been the beneficiary of saturation coverage in the NZ Herald over the past fortnight. True, not all of it was positive. There was for instance, a Herald editorial headlined “Act needs to come up with fresher ideas than flat tax” which makes you wonder why the newspaper had already devoted so many column inches to…Act’s flat tax idea. Then again, that also seems to be a pattern. After gifting Colin Craig with similar saturation coverage for his ideas on smacking, the Herald rounded that effort out in mid January with an editorial headlined “Craig needs to do better than revive smacking row.” Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Judith Collins’ alleged milking of the system

March 6th, 2014

The Cabinet manual not only forbids actual conflicts of interest when Ministers are performing public duties from which they or their family members and close associates might derive private gain – it also puts the onus on the Minister to actively avoid even a perception that such a conflict might exist. In the case of Justice Minister Judith Collins, she used a taxpayer funded trip to China to visit a milk company in China on whose board her husband serves as a director, sampled the company’s product, declared it to be “nice” and allowed herself to be photographed. Not surprisingly, the Chinese company then posted the Minister’s photo and positive comments on its website – at least, until asked to take down the apparent endorsement. The same company also donated $55,000 to the National Party before the 2011 election, and Ms Collins opened the company’s new office in Auckland last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on our response to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine

March 4th, 2014

To the Russians, the current crisis in the Ukraine must seem like a no-brainer. Ukraine has always been treated as vital to Russia’s self-defence, and to its role as a modern world power. (Russia has had a fleet stationed in the Crimea since 1783.) The Crimea had been gifted by Russia to the Ukraine only 60 years ago and it is now being taken back, apparently with the enthusiastic support of the pro-Russian population of the region. In the process, the territorial integrity of the modern Ukraine now seems doomed. We seem headed for a re-run of the crisis in 2008 when the Russian military annexed parts of Georgia (namely, the regions of Abhazia and South Ossetia) after the pro-Western leadership in Georgia over-reached itself, only to find that the response of the European Union and United States was limited to expressions of deep moral outrage and hand-wringing regret. Similarly, the interim government in Kiev is about to discover that the support shown to it by that nice Catherine Ashton of the European Union will be of little use in stopping a Russian tank. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the latest NSA spy scandal, and the Pike River pay-off

February 28th, 2014

Once again, the “Five Eyes” intelligence network (to which New Zealand belongs ) has been caught out in a privacy outrage. According to this morning’s Guardian, the British spy agency GCHQ has been secretly recording the images from the Yahoo webcam communications of Internet users not suspected of any wrongdoing, storing them, and then handing them over to the US National Security Agency(NSA). Read the rest of this entry »