Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on John Key avoiding being held accountable for the SIS and GCSB

October 7th, 2014

Will the management split on security and intelligence issues that Prime Minister John Key announced yesterday serve to enhance or to reduce his public accountability on such matters ? On RNZ’s Checkpoint last night, Key was vague about the substance of the division of labour, which seemed to entail a good deal of overlap between his role and that of Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

Key told RNZ’s Mary Wilson he would be playing more of a ‘leadership’ role on the formation of policy, matters of agency funding and the reform of the SIS, while Finlayson would be handling the “day to day’ matters of signing off interception warrants and shepherding SIS and GCSB legislation through the House etc. Yet Key would still remain aware of the targets of SIS/GCSB interceptions, and Finlayson would now be attending Key’s weekly briefings with security agency officials.

So, if a Key is playing the ‘leadership” role in policy formation at our security agencies – and logically, if the buck stops with the leader – does that mean Key will be accountable via OIA requests and ministerial inquiries if and when a controversy erupts over the activities of these agencies? Probably not. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Lyttleton executive pay scandal, and more TPP problems

October 3rd, 2014

It isn’t often that one story can encapsulate (a) the bogus rhetoric used to justify sky-high pay packages for top executives, (b) the unequal way that workers are rewarded for their efforts, and (c) the threat that outsourcing can pose to workplace health and safety. Yet yesterday’s story about the pay package for Lyttleton port chief executive Peter Davie contained all of the above.

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Gordon Campbell on the last rites for the TPP

October 1st, 2014

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is one of those litmus issues that has always had more to do with one’s place on the political spectrum than with any imminent reality. To date, the Greens have opposed (a) a wide range of the leaked content of the TPP (b) the secretive way it has been negotiated and (c) the undemocratic way in which any final document would be ratified. Labour has shared some of those concerns, but while remaining generally supportive of the deal itself. To date, Labour has restricted its criticisms to the (limited) role of Parliament in its ratification, and the possible fate of Pharmac in the bargaining process.

National has, for its part, been very enthusiastic about the TPP, while still giving assurances about Pharmac being protected. Even so, at the outset of the December 2012 Auckland meeting of TPP negotiators, NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser publicly – and unilaterally – announced the government’s readiness to change some of the “transparency” issues to do with Pharmac’s operations. As this article explains, even a benign-sounding term such as “transparency” can still expose Pharmac to litigation from drug companies and impinge on its discretion to seek cheaper medicines for New Zealand consumers.

For the TPP’s friends and foes alike though, the end now seems nigh. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the farcical elevation of David Seymour

September 30th, 2014

With the election won, it’s time to find jobs for the boy. David Seymour is the Act Party’s latest scrounger to be rewarded by the National Party, and not only with a seat in Parliament. This time around, a couple of parliamentary Undersecretary posts in education and regulatory reform have been thrown in, plus an annual salary of $175,000 while he learns the ropes. Shouldn’t Seymour at least be put on a 90 day trial before he gets his hands on that sort of serious moolah?

It would be for his own good, really. At this rate, Act is never going to learn how to make its own way in the world. It is going backwards. The Act Party got only 14,510 party votes nationwide on election night 2014, a 40% decrease on the 23,889 votes it won at the 2011 election. It’s the benefit trap in action, eroding motivation. It has been nearly 20 years since Richard Prebble first had Wellington Central handed to him on a plate by Jim Bolger, and Act has been on life support ever since. First Prebble, then Rodney Hide and John Banks in Epsom, and now David Seymour. Someone really should tell Paula Bennett about these guys. If Bennett wants a classic example of intergenerational welfare dependency… there it is, grinning shyly at her across the Cabinet table. Four whole generations of Act Party politicians, with no incentive to look elsewhere than to National for their next handout. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the case for using air power against the Islamic State

September 26th, 2014

There is an Alice Through the Looking Glass quality to the current response to the Islamic State. Everything about it seems inside out. Many people who would normally oppose US air strikes in other countries have reluctantly endorsed the bombing of IS positions in Iraq and Syria – not because they think air power alone will defeat IS (clearly it won’t) but because it will slow it down, and impede its ability to function. Doing nothing isn’t really an option, even though Simon Jenkins does try hard to make a case for it in the Guardian and the effort leads Jenkins into some casual brutalities of his own e.g. “ The caliphate is an implausible construct. These horrors pass.” Try telling that to the Yazidis.

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Gordon Campbell on Cunliffe’s Last Stand

September 24th, 2014

Right now, embattled Labour leader David Cunliffe has three options. None of them are particularly attractive for him personally, or for the Labour Party. In scenario one, Cunliffe could resign immediately and trigger a leadership vote among the caucus, the party membership and unions affiliates. This would be a high risk gambit in that it would pre-empt any review of the Labour election campaign and would be likely to open up new divisions. While one can safely predict the caucus would vote against Cunliffe, the wider party and union response would be unpredictable, given that Cunliffe (ineptly) ran a centrist neo-Goff/Shearer campaign this year and not the left wing campaign that those who voted him into the leadership were expecting him to pursue. If the wider party/unions sullenly voted for him as the least worst option while the caucus still rejected him, its hard to see how the cause of unity would be enhanced.

Option Two is just a variation of the first, without the resignation. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the troubled aftermath of Scotland’s independence vote

September 23rd, 2014

A week can be a very long time in Scotland’s 300 year struggle for independence. The “ No” vote last week that seemed to end the cause of Scottish independence for a generation, has turned out to have had an enormous fish hook attached, especially for the British Labour Party. The problem has emerged in the wake of promises made during the desperate scramble to head off the “Yes” vote in the last week of the campaign. Before getting on to that though, have a look at just how skewed the vote for and against independence was, among different age groups. By and large it was older people who bought the scare messages, and voted “No” while young age groups, with one narrow exception, had voted “Yes”…. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s very bad year

September 22nd, 2014

While Labour leader David Cunliffe still appears to be in denial about the extent of Saturday night’s debacle, there was hardly a single redeeming feature about the election results for the centre-left. Even the victory by Labour’s Stuart Nash in Napier was the outcome of a strong showing by Conservative Party candidate Garth McVicar that split the centre-right vote. Current MPs Andrew Little, Moana Mackey and Maryan Street have all fallen victim to Labour’s low party vote, and that’s symptomatic of the wider problem. Even where Labour stalwarts won their electorates quite handily – Annette King in Rongotai, Ruth Dyson in Port Hills etc – they proved incapable of successfully conveying a “two ticks for Labour” message and time and again, Labour finished well behind National on the party vote. Thus, even where Labour “won,” it consistently lost.

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Gordon Campbell on a campaign that is ending as it began

September 19th, 2014

This election campaign is getting no less strange as it heads on down to the wire. Winston Peters is still refusing to say whether a vote for New Zealand First is a vote for changing the current government and its awful, awful policies, or ensuring that it gets three more years in office to expand them. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on first time voting (Greens)

September 18th, 2014

For the last two days, I’ve turned my column over to a couple of guest columnists who are first time voters. They’ve been asked to explain why they were voting, for whom and what role they thought their parental upbringing had played in shaping their political beliefs ; and at the end, to choose a piece of music. Yesterday’s column was by centre-right voter James Penn. Today’s guest columnist is Ana Avia-O’Connor, 19, an Accounting/Law double major from Christchurch – who will be casting her first time vote on Saturday for the Greens.

If I didn’t know any better, it would seem the world has conspired for me to be a Green Party voter. Parents, Green voters? Check. Participation in bilingual education that stressed the importance of inquiry, solidarity and the Treaty? Check. Some sort of vegetarian leanings (seven years and counting, jus’ sayin’)? Check. However, above all of that, I’m voting Green because I believe in supporting the importance of every New Zealander’s contribution to Aotearoa, from the hairdresser in Foxton to the fisherman in Bluff. You could say that I like the cut of the Greens’ jib. Read the rest of this entry »