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Monday, October 29, 2007

Backwoods terror?

Anti-terror laws are a legislative response to a political problem. The New Zealand anti-terror laws seem motivated more by extraneous concerns about mollifying the demands of the US ruling elite (themselves a group responsible for more civilian killings by military violence than any designated terrorist group could ever hope to effect) than by any real threat of terrorism inside our country.
As we all know, the only terrorist bombing that has taken a life within the borders of Aotearoa was the Rainbow Warrior sinking executed by the French secret service. Notoriously, neither our own spy agencies nor our putative allies' spy agencies gave any warning of this outrage.
So what of the "anti-terrorist raids" of recent weeks? Have we developed a home-grown terrorist culture with individuals or groups willing and able to wreak violent destruction on the social and material fabric of our relatively peaceful society? The jury is still out on this, but what is clear is that new anti-terror laws were not necessary to deal with any such real or perceived threat. The police already had sufficient powers to deal with arms and conspiratorial offences.
The greatest threat posed by the new 'anti-terror' laws is to otherwise legitimate political action by opponents (and defenders) of the status quo. The Council of Trade Unions has called for the repeal of the anti-terrorism laws and is right to express its concern. The laws will be able to be used against those taking action to disrupt economic activity to force a government to act in some particular way. This would clearly threaten union strike action against, say, the reintroduction of anti-union laws along the lines of the Employment Contracts Act of the 1990s.
The political groups and individuals targeted in the recent raids are a disparate gaggle of anarchists, Maori-sovereignty campaigners, peace and rights activists along with at least one possibly deranged or disturbed individual. Are they terrorists? Well if we are talking about Al Qaeda or the IRA, the French DGSE or the CIA, then no, there is no comparison. However, was there a likelihood that someone or some sub-group within the targeted and arrested people was capable of and planning armed or violent action that could have injured or killed people? This is, as yet, an open question.
In the relatively recent past, activist groups and individuals have utilised explosive devices for political purposes in New Zealand. Tim Shadbolt relates in his book Bullshit and Jelly Beans the story of "The Bombers" who carried out a campaign of thirteen bomb attacks on "military bases and conservative establishments throughout the country". Their first attack was on the Waitangi flagpole in 1969. This small group centred around the Bower brothers who came from a troubled background. These young politicos, frustrated by the seeming ineffectiveness of more conventional protest action like demonstration marches, sit-ins etc (particularly against the US invasion of Vietnam), turned to 'direct action'. No-one was hurt, and the bombers never intended to hurt anyone, but bombs could obviously do harm to people if they happened upon the scene inadvertently.
The police and justice department did not need special anti-terror powers to deal with these young men. As Shadbolt wrote: "Everyone realised that they were guilty, including themselves, but everyone also realised that they were not really criminals." Nevertheless, not many quibbled with the four to five-year jail sentences that three of them eventually received.
Chris Trotter reminded us in his last Sunday Star-Times column that in 1981 some anti-springbok tour protesters used a bomb to disrupt Wellington's passenger rail system on the day of a rugby match in that city. Other potentially dangerous stunts like the threat of flying a small plane into a packed football stadium were also utilised in the service of this undoubtedly just cause. Serious damage was done to television broadcast equipment on at least one occasion. Mass action of people to block roads and motorways was another tactic utilised by anti-springbok tour protesters in 1981.
Could the perpetrators of the 'direct action' tactics in 1969-70 or in 1981 be called terrorists? Well they could, and some undoubtedly would give them this nomenclature, but it would be stretching the definition of the meaning of "terrorism" to do so.
Bombing and killing or injuring hundreds of innocent holidaymakers in Bali; bombing the tube train and double-decker bus in London; flying hundreds of passengers to their deaths while using jet-planes as flying bombs to kill thousands of others; blowing up drinkers in an English pub; blowing up the Rainbow Warrior with total disregard to the safety of those on board; air-strike and guided missile bombing of civilians with high explosive, napalm and cluster bombs: that is terrorism.
Running around the bush with guns is not terrorism. Thousands of people do this every week in New Zealand - it is usually called "hunting". Nevertheless, if police had solid information that lives were being threatened or endangered by misguided political activists who saw themselves as acting in the tradition of the guerrilla freedom fighter, then no one in New Zealand would expect anything else but that the police would act to stop such threats in their tracks.
Some questions must be asked, however. The first question that arises is; did the police act judiciously in their 'invasion' of the Tuhoe country, given the past history of the Maori of that area? The second question is; are draconian anti-terror laws that could potentially outlaw hitherto legitimate political activities necessary to deal with such a threat, whether real or perceived?
The answer to both questions must be a resounding; No!
The additional question that left and green political activists should be addressing themselves to is; what are the acceptable limits of direct political action? For example; is planning to assassinate leading establishment figures (eg as has been claimed by some; George Bush or Helen Clark) an acceptable political strategy? For the socialist left, terrorism has always been seen as the preserve of the despairing and the disconnected, usually petit-bourgeois, members of society who try to substitute individual action for the action of the masses.
Left-activists must defend democratic rights from erosion by the passage of draconian legislation, but they should also be careful about how far they go down the road of defending the provocative actions of wild-catting individuals who, inadvertently (or possibly deliberately), discredit the just causes we fight for and pave the way for attacks by the right and the state on the hard-won democratic rights we currently have.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Review: No Left Turn by Chris Trotter

New Zealand society is marked by two great fissures: that between Pakeha and Maori, and that between capital and labour. Any history of New Zealand must portray and explain both. Chris Trotter accomplishes this in his No Left Turn. Trotter's book is a welcome and impressive addition to the ideological armoury of the left.
Unlike historian Michael King who gave priority to the Maori/Pakeha divide in his best-selling History of New Zealand, Trotter concentrates on the class-based struggle between those whose social motivation is wealth and power and those who fight for equality and justice: the on-going battle between right and left.
No Left Turn takes the form of a series of essays canvassing significant events in modern New Zealand’s history, from the days of colonisation up until the end of the twentieth century.
Trotter deals first with E.G. Wakefield’s “systematic colonisation” plans which sought to recreate the class relations of Britain in the last frontier of New Zealand. This land-grabbing, money-grubbing project cost Wakefield's brother Arthur his life in the Wairau “massacre”. This occurred in 1843 as settlers sought to seize the Wairau Plain from the Maori warrior-chief, Te Rauparaha.
The second chapter exposes the role of the banker and land speculator Thomas Russell and his partner-in-crime, lawyer Frederick Whitaker, in provoking the Waikato and Taranaki land war that raged through the 1860s. Trotter calls this the “Sovereignty War” because it was the heroic last stand of Maori in defence of an independent political realm.
Although this period was one of colonisation by Great Britain, settlers from that country came from both the oppressor and oppressed classes: the latter were looking for a better life, the former had less noble motives. The same capitalist imperatives that were behind the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand drove all subsequent economic, social and political developments. The exploitation of the land was premised on the exploitation of wage-labour.
The working class, like Maori before them, were also warriors – class warriors. After the subordination of Maori resistance, the main battleground shifted to the urban centres. Maori joined this class-struggle as they were urbanised into the working class.
Trotter’s graphic prose does justice to the dramatic battles that ensued, like that in 1912 at Waihi where Frederick George Evans was murdered by a scab lynch-mob as striking miners and their families were violently driven out of town.
The stories of the Great Strike of 1913 and the waterfront Lockout of 1951 are interspersed with chapters on the ANZACs and Auckland as it could have been. Trotter reveals how thousands of young men were sacrificed in WWI in the interests of British imperialist capitalism in order to safeguard New Zealand's butter and meat trade. In 'The Auckland that never was' chapter he exposes the sabotage by the Sid Holland-led National government ("the crudest, most ignorant and bigoted collection of far-right reactionaries by which New Zealand has ever had the misfortune to be governed") of the public transport and urban development plans that would have created a model, human-centred city instead of the car-clogged monstrosity that Auckland is today.
Trotter’s main subject matter is the changing political landscape of the twentieth century, especially the rise and fall of Labour and its latter-day revival. Here we have a left-revisionist, revision of previous versions of New Zealand’s political history.
His assessment of the 1951 Lockout, for example, is that Jock Barnes (the leader of the wharfies and the militant breakaway Trade Union Congress) and F.P. Walsh (the leader of the Federation of Labour) were “never on different sides”. The breach in the working class ranks that they provoked was the result of their irreconcilable differences in strategic approach. They both wanted to maintain and extend the gains that had been made during the fourteen-year term of the first Labour Government (elected in 1935), but Barnes utilised militant industrial struggle while Walsh favoured political rapprochement with the government of the day. In retrospect, a combined industrial and political campaign by the working class would have been most likely to succeed, but entrenched ideological and political positions prevented this.
As Trotter puts it, those generally regarded by many on the left as the “villains” of 1951, the trade union leaders Walsh and Young along with the Labour Party leaders Fraser and Nash, sought to adapt the union movement to the “political and economic realities of corporatism”. “Their unacknowledged and unappreciated role” was, Trotter writes: “To keep the milk of Labour’s social and economic reforms, by separating out and sacrificing the cream of the labour movement.”
The book ends tantalisingly with the coming to power of the Labour-Alliance coalition on 6 December 1999. “The Left was back in power.” The “Epilogue” outlines the right’s reaction to this unwelcome (to them) turn of events. Labour’s conciliatory response showed that: “Though Labour, the Alliance and the Greens had won, New Zealand capitalism had not lost.” The coalition government “would need to emulate the strategy of the Roman general Fabius Maximus, and learn how to ‘make haste slowly’.”
The controversial judgements in No Left Turn will undoubtedly spark much debate on the left. The book will certainly attract critical commentary from the right. It will be interesting to see what labour-historian turned Tory-propagandist, Michael Basset, for one, makes of Trotter’s foray into historiography.
A further book by Chris Trotter on the twenty-first century chapter of the left-right struggle is bound to be in the offing. Let's make sure this will not conclude with a description of the victory of the right in next year’s general election. The lesson of No Left Turn is that the left must be united in struggle if we are to defeat the right.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who has the power?

Who has the power?
What kind of power?

This was one of the chants that rang out on the picket lines outside many of our public hospitals over the last week.
Hospital cleaners, orderlies and kitchen staff are to be congratulated for staying staunch in the face of the nine-day lockout by their employer, Spotless. The lockout of the 800 Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) members involved was yesterday declared illegal by the Employment Court.
Spotless has now acceded to the terms of the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) already agreed by the District Health Boards (DHBs) and three other contractors. This is a great victory for the Spotless employees and the more than two thousand other hospital workers who will gain significant pay increases as a result.
The future of contracting-out is now under question by workers, their unions, some DHBs and by Labour MP, Mark Gosche. Why use private multi-national contractors, especially now that DHB service workers are on common pay and conditions across the whole sector?
Contracting out was introduced in the 1990s by a National Government to cut costs in the health sector. This meant wage and job cuts.
It is time to bring health sector workers back into direct employment by the DHBs. Service workers are essential for the healthy and efficient operation of hospitals and deserve decent pay and conditions.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


RED & GREEN 6 - Out Now!

The latest issue of RED & GREEN (#6) has just been published. It can be purchased for $12.50 by contacting me (or by emailing Subscriptions (two issues) are also available for $25 ($50 Institutions or International). This NZ Journal of Left Alternatives is 162 pages of essential reading for those on the 'left'.
Note: I am one of the editors of RED & GREEN.

CONTENTS (of Issue 6)
The CTU and the struggle against the ECA
Brian Roper
The engineer, the Wobbly and the scribe
Len Richards
The post-September 11 AWM in New Zealand
Matthew Stephen
Toby Hill (1915 - 1977)
Gerry Hill and others
Remembrance: Men and Women of ‘51
Len Gale
Human rights on the agenda in Philippines
Rod Prosser
Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution
Scott Hamilton
National exposed. Wayne Hope reviews The Hollow Men by Nicky Hager (2006)
Lest we forget. Len Richards makes additional comments on The Hollow Men
The power of speaking truth. Chris Trotter reviews Speaking Truth to Power
The ‘War on Terror’ and the class war at home. Jason Schulman reviews Blood in the Sand
Let the “underclass” roar
Jill Ovens
Swap Treaty rights for human rights
Bernard Gadd
The curse of nationalism
Don Franks
Haven on earth?
Don Franks

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Comments on The Hollow Men by Nicky Hager

It is important to put the unprincipled and even unlawful 2005 election campaign tactics of the National Party into the historical context of the last twenty five to thirty years. This period saw the collapse of the "historic compromise" based on an a "long-term reconciliation with capitalism" by the working class represented by the Labour Party and trade unions. According to Bruce Jesson, this compromise had its origins in the first Labour Government elected in 1935.
The compromise had two sides to it and was embedded in a global context. Internationally, after WWII, there was an historical compromise struck between capital and labour. Its economic basis was the ‘Bretton Woods’ agreement that set up the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Its political basis was hammered out between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in talks at Yalta at the end of WWII. The threat of revolution subsided and capitalism was stabilised.
This compromise suffered meltdown from the late 1960s under the pressure of declining profit rates. By 1980, in the words of Senegalese Marxist economist Samir Amin, "the new single thought" of capitalist ideology guiding and justifying government policies all over the world had changed from Keynesian economic interventionism and welfare-statism, to one directing policies aimed at "systematically dismantling the specific rights that had been achieved by the workers and lower classes" .
In New Zealand this took the form of the introduction of neo-liberal ideas and policies by the 1984-1990 Labour Government in a country hitherto rightly considered as a bastion of Keynesian Welfarism. The neo-liberal "New Zealand Experiment", as it is known, is perhaps definitively depicted by Jane Kelsey in her book with that title. Bruce Jesson and others, including myself, have extensively explored the co-option of that Labour Government to the ends of the neo-liberal project.
Wayne Hope's forthcoming review of The Hollow Men in RED & GREEN 6 points out that the 2005 election campaign conducted by National was comparable to the 1987 Labour campaign. They were both based on "new right corporate backing and the construction of a deceptive communications strategy".
The same could also be said of the successful election campaigns of Labour in 1984 and National in 1990. These Governments were both elected on platforms which espoused the conventional class-compromise policies of the post-WWII period, but were Trojan-horse vehicles for the implementation of economic policies that were straight out of the neo-liberal text books.
In 1984 Lange was elected to end the oppressive regime of Muldoon but his finance minister, Roger Douglas, led the charge to corporatise, deregulate and privatise the economy. The electorate was deceived. Similarly, Jim Bolger was elected in 1990 on the slogan of creating a "decent society’, but Ruth Richardson carried on the ‘Rogernomics’ agenda with benefit cuts, the anti-union Employment Contracts Act and the continued sell-out of state-owned assets to her private business backers. Again the voters were betrayed.
In all three cases the electors were conned by clever election campaigns that concealed the real agendas that were to be implemented after the elections. National in 2005 systematically set out to repeat the feat. The fact that they failed (only by a whisker) does not detract from the perfidy involved. Nicky Hager’s book reveals how Ruth Richardson and Roger Douglas were intimately involved in the far-right take-over of National by Don Brash.
MMP was supported in 1993 by an electorate who saw proportional parliamentary representation as a way of breaking the treacherous two-party election swindle that they had endured for a decade or more. However, it was one of the MMP parties that next let the voters down (in 1996) with Winston Peters’ NZ First enabling the National Party to continue in office despite having camapigned against National before the election.
The Alliance and a Helen Clark-led Labour Party finally got their game together and began to turn the new-right revolution around with their victory in the 1999 election. But rust and the new-right never sleep.
The far-right cabal of Deane, Shirtcliffe, Richwhite, Fay, Myers, Heatley, Friedlander, Foreman, Colman, Farmer, Trotter (Ron) and others like Kerr, Scott and Brash from Treasury have been actively promoting the Freidman/Hayek, "Washington Consensus" strategy for more than two and a half decades. Their projects include the infiltration of Treasury, the colonisation of the Labour Party, the campaign against MMP, the formation of the Act party to make best advantage of MMP, the Brash coup in the National Party, and support for his surrogate John Key.
Hager exposes the key roles of these and other players like Michael Bassett and the perhaps less known supporting roles of the likes of Margaret Austin and David Caygill. The New Zealand working class public has been subject to the Machiavellien machinations of these political plotters for far too long.
Nicky Hager describes the Brash challenge to be leader of National as "not so much a leadership coup as a political coup, in which a group of ACT Party and others from the radical right succeeded in gaining control of the National leadership... This coup set the stage for a two-year fight in which Brash and his backers from the 1980s and 1990s tried to regain control of government." The revelations of the shadowy intrigue behind the election attack-ads on the Greens and Labour by the Exclusive Brethren cult, and their links with Brash (that are more fully exposed in Hager’s book), probably stymied this attempt in 2005.
But we can be sure this right-wing group who comprise some of the richest and most powerful people in New Zealand, whose agenda is intensely anti-working class (using that term in its broadest sense), is still actively plotting and planning to take power in the next election if they can. It is crucial to stop this happening and the left can thank Nicky Hager for providing, with The Hollow Men, an important tool to help do this.
Brash lost the support of his big-business backers because he failed to win the election and because his cover was blown. Brash’s far-right credentials and support was exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny.
The myth now being promoted by former Brash supporters like spin-manager Richard Long is that Key is a "centrist". To think that John Key offers a ‘softer’ alternative to Brash would be a mistake. His speech to the 2006 National Party annual conference showed his true politics. He called for lower taxes and attacked public spending, red tape and overly protective labour laws.
Commentator Chris Trotter called this speech "pure Business Roundtable-speak" and noted that Key was the natural successor to Brash – the insurance policy for the right wing.
As Hager comments, National will "continue along the same tracks" under Key. "It would continue with the same strategies, the same political alliances and the same hidden agendas." If Brash is the archetypal Hollow Man, then Key is Hollow Man 2.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Reply to James (2)*

(*See comment to previous post)
You are, I think, being somewhat disingenuous with your criticism of Jill Ovens and her leadership of the SFWU members in the Air NZ outsourcing dispute. Rather than acting "immaturely and irresponsibly", Jill Ovens showed remarkable courage and strength of purpose in resisting strong pressure to concede to the EPMU/Air NZ-negotiated solution. Her determination reflected that of the members who stood with her.
The SFWU members involved voted five times to reject any attempts to destroy their existing CEA. They opposed accepting cuts in wages and conditions. They also strongly opposed the attempt to separate them from their fellow Air NZ workers who are parties to their collective. They were entitled to expect their CEA to be honoured and to maintain the position that they would renegotiate it when they had the right to take industrial action. This was a perfectly rational and responsible stand to make as workers and trade unionists.
The EPMU is to be congratulated for its democratic processes but democracy, as you well know, is constrained by the choices put before the electorate. The EPMU position was that the choice was between ‘outsourcing’ and ‘an in-house solution’. This thrust the EPMU members into a catch-22 situation where they were damned to accept cuts no matter which choice they made. It was a bit like giving a condemned person the choice of which form of execution they wanted. The dispute was allowed to be framed in the employer's terms. The SFWU chose to fight the dispute under their own terms, as was their right.
This fight included two highly successful mass-mailing campaigns to the Board of Air NZ. One was a postcard campaign. Thousands of signatures were collected from members of the public at places like markets. I helped to collect these and there was huge support for the workers and opposition to outsourcing. The other campaign was an email one organised through the international Labour Start website. This campaign had the biggest response ever recorded by Labour Start.
The SFWU position was simply "no concessions". The only way to stop cuts is to first of all reject the employer's right to make them. Workers of today do not have the right to give-back the hard won gains of workers of the past. Their duty to the class is to fight to retain and improve those past conquests. If this is your frame of reference then you will come up with the course of action that was decided upon by the SFWU members and Jill Ovens as their (elected) regional secretary.
As to some of your other analysis; it is an open question as to whether the Government’s position would have remained fixed. Governments have been known to change their minds under public pressure. A campaign by two of the country’s most powerful private-sector unions, supported by trade-union-backed Labour MPs, could have tested the Clark administration’s resolve. The public could expect a publicly-owned entity like Air NZ to listen to and act upon public concerns.
The argument that the Government cannot legally interfere in the running of state-owned enterprises and companies does not hold water. This is a matter of political will. Government’s can change laws or apply political pressure to appointed boards; it happens all the time. The neo-liberal legislation and assumptions from the 1980s that still underpin social and economic life in New Zealand should be challenged when they conflict with the public interest and the interests of workers.
The point about being in a "far worse" situation under the Swissport deal is also a moot one. The savings and conditions proposed by Swissport look remarkably similar to the in-house deal eventually struck. Before the SFWU pulled out of the process, experts from both unions examined the Swissport proposals as part of the process of developing an "in-house solution". Swissport’s $20 million-per-year claimed savings were shown to be only about $12 million worth: the same amount of saving being made by the EPMU/Air NZ-agreed deal. So workers would not have been "in a far worse position". In fact the Swissport outsourcing would have resulted in all the workers receiving a full redundancy pay-out, whether they were staying or transferring over. Only workers who leave the job in the face of a cut in basic pay rates will now get redundancy. The $3000 sweetener goes nowhere near making up for the lost wages or the forgone redundancy payout.
Similarly, you say that the workers are now not subject to a "retendering process" and are therefore are in a better position to claw the cuts back in the future. Two things: First, the threat of "retendering" in the form of outsourcing has not been permanently removed. It could be argued, as Jill Ovens has in fact done, that it will now be more attractive for the outsourcing to proceed in the future because the transition costs have largely been eliminated by the cuts already made in this current deal. Second, the workers’ position is not stronger but weaker, because, for one thing, they are separated off in a separate CEA from their fellow Air NZ workers who were previously under the same CEA.
The best way to claw back cuts is to not concede them in the first place. The SFWU have not conceded their wages and conditions, they have not been separated off into a different CEA; that is why the SFWU can rightly claim a victory. Of course there is still a fight on to maintain wages and conditions, but not conceding them in the first instance was a pre-condition to engaging in that fight. The SFWU is at least on the front foot, unlike the EPMU members who have a hard slog just to get back to where they were before.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reply to comment on SFWU, EPMU, Air NZ dispute

Thanks for putting the EPMU position James. The point is that outsourcing and the deal cooked up in response to this threat by the EPMU and Air NZ both had the same outcome for the workers involved - wage cuts of several thousand dollars per year on average.
The SFWU position was to reject outsourcing (resulting in wage cuts), AND also reject making concessions to Air NZ (resulting in wage cuts).
The EPMU position was that it was better for the union leadership to engineer (excuse the pun) the wage cuts than let Swissport do it. The result was similar for the workers.
EPMU members and non-union workers on IEAs now face taking significant cuts in take-home pay while SFWU members' conditions are protected by their existing CEA up until it expires at the end of June, and for twelve months after that date or until a settlement on a renegotiated CEA is reached.
The point about the publicity campaign is that there wasn't one - not against outsourcing as such - because the EPMU stepped in and offered to negotiate a "competitive in-house solution" to achieve the same or similar labour-cost savings, so outsourcing was removed from the agenda (except as a background threat).
The SFWU opted out of this "in-house" process in January. At this point the EPMU could have done likewise, called the company's bluff on outsourcing and mounted a robust legal, public and political campaign against the company's attacks. After all Air NZ is a publicly-owned company and, despite company law, is vulnerable to public and political pressure. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain from such an approach. The jobs were not able to be outsourced off-shore; they were not under threat of disappearing altogether.
It seems the EPMU's greatest worry (listen to Little on Checkpoint radio) was that many of the members wanted to take redundancy. Even in this respect the negotiated deal lets workers down. If the jobs were outsourced to Swissport every single Air NZ worker leaving the job OR transferred over to the new employer (at least those covered by CEAs) would have stood to gain a redundancy pay-out. Under the EPMU/Air NZ deal only those leaving the job will get the full pay-out. The $3000 (or $4000) incentive payment will not make up for that loss of redundancy pay for many workers who want to stay on.
This is not to say that I am arguing for outsourcing. An inspection of Air NZ board minutes from 18 months ago revealed that the outsourcing bogey was raised precisely and only to extract concessions from workers - one way or another. There was, I believe, an illegal breach of good faith involved in this whole process of deliberately setting out to break an existing CEA. Air NZ should be before the courts on this account, not just on the grounds that they did not provide adequate information etc.
My contention is that the combined legal, political and industrial muscle of the SFWU and EPMU should have been brought to bear on the management. Back room deals with the employer by one union can only undermine workers strength.
Don't forget there are important issues for all unionised workers involved here - not the least the sanctity and value of a negotiated and signed-off CEA.
"An injury to one, is an injury to all", the old Wobblies' slogan, comes to mind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What's new pussycat?


Bogus polls oppose anti-child-bashing bill

Bogus polls of the "have you stopped beating you wife?" variety have been rolled in a last gasp deperate bid to stop Sue Bradford's anti-child-bashing bill being passed into law. The question asked in these polls was: "Do you think people should be able to lightly smack their children?" (or words to that effect). This question has next to nothing to do with the effect and intent of the anti-bashing bill.
It is not an anti-smacking bill, although it is repeatedly referred to as such. This is disinformation spread by those who want to have the legal right to use on their kids whatever force they deem necessary.
If the question asked in the polls had been: "Do you think the law should give parents (or presumably, guardians) a legal defence for heavily hitting/ bashing/ whipping their kids?" You would have got 80% saying it shouldn't.
The effect of Sue Bradford's (now the Labour Party's?) bill merely removes the 'section 59' defence of allowable corrective punishment that often prevents successful prosecutions of child-beaters. I am with Helen Clark on this one.
Surely we do not believe in mob-rule led by bible-bashing bigots and reinforced by their "hollow" opinion-creating polls.
A valid point could be made about the violence done by capitalist society to people as a matter of course. The lack of action on the increased levels of severe hardship affecting many thousands of children at the poverty-stricken (and stranded) end of society is inconsistent with the concern shown by the chattering classes and the government over this bill, but still, the change in the law will help create a culture of non-violence towards kids, and that can only be a good thing.

SFWU claims victory over Air NZ outsourcing and cuts

The Service and Food Workers' Union (SFWU) is claiming victory in its battle with Air NZ . The company has conceded that the 250 SFWU check-in and services workers must remain on their existing contract (and conditions). Despite intense pressure from many quarters, Air NZ has failed to force these workers to accept cuts in their pay and conditiions under threat of outsourcing (which would have meant cuts to their pay and conditions). These workers decided neither option was acceptable, and were willing to fight outsourcing.
Meanwhile the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) is putting to the vote a deal they have negotiated to voluntarily give back conditions of the 1500 Air NZ baggage handlers and frontline staff they represent. If they had stood firm with the SFWU they could have stopped outsourcing (with a public campaign to put pressure on the majority owner, the Government, and the Board) AND held onto their existing Collectve Employment Agreement.
It would be good to see the EPMU members reject the Air NZ/EPMU deal that cuts take-home pay by several thousand dollars per worker (on average) - probably too much to hope for although the SFWU stand has won support from EPMU members.
SFWU northern region secretary, Jill Ovens, and EPMU general secretary, Andrew Little, aired their views on the Checkpoint National Radio programme last Monday. This is the link to the radio broadcast:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Outrage at result of police-rape trial

The outrage over the police-rape case is palpable and almost universal. In one (admittedly unscientific) poll carried out by the Stuff website, 80% do not believe Rickards should get his job back - that is because 80% think he is guilty. The juries were clearly misled and manipulated in the two trials Rickards faced.
Louise Nicholas testified that as a teenager she was forced to have sex with Rickards and his two former associates. The most horrific act she described occurred in a Rotorua flat where the three men serially raped her and then a police baton was forcibly inserted into her vagina and her anus by one of the policemen (Shipton) while Rickards and the other policeman (Schollum) cheered him on from the sidelines.
Rickards admitted having so-called 'group-sex' with the 18 year-old Nicholas. The story the three accused rapists tell is that the the sex was consensual and the baton incident never took place despite two other policemen testifying that such an abhorrent event was boasted about at the time.
She says she was raped, they say she wasn't - it was down to whose word you could take as true, and New Zealand juries, faced with such a choice, will more often than not believe the police.
EXCEPT that two of the accused (Shipton and Schollum) had already been found guilty of a chillingly similar rape and were in jail serving eight-year sentences for that. The rape which Shipton and Schollum were convicted on also involved the use of a police baton to sexually assault their victim. This was legally-suppressed information. How could any jury accept their denials in the Louise Nicholas case, or in the most recent case involving an unnamed women, if the jury members had been made aware of this extremely pertinent fact?
Our rage is due to our perfectly reasonable belief that justice was not done, nor seen to be done, in these trials. The accused got away with, not murder, but a crime equally repugnant - and the people committing the crime were the ones we turn to for help when a crime is committed against us.
Not only women are outraged; all men who have any sense of justice are equally appalled at the actions of these policemen and the "not guilty" verdicts.
The other great concern is that such a man as Rickards could rise so high in the police hierarchy. Police culture needs to change, and change rapidly and thoroughly. Lets hope the current police leadership, the ones who rightly prosecuted Rickards and his mates, clean out the stables with a large broom and a high pressure hose.
The thought of Rickards returning to his job in charge of the Auckland Police District is too deplorable to contemplate. He should be drummed out of the police completely.