Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Video: Dennis Maga protests against state lunch for Philippine President

On Monday I posted about the protest held outside Parliament as President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got a state lunch on the tab of Prime Minister Helen Clark. Filipino trade unionist and spokesperson for the Ka Bel campaign, with some friends, used the occasion to highlight the human rights abuses Arroyo has encouraged in her own country.

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Role of the Alliance in the early 1990s: A response to Jordan

I thought I would repost a comment I made in response to Jordan on his blog.

Jordan said
"Imagine, if you will, a situation where the Labour Party and the Alliance re-united in 1994, rather than not, and that as a result the Labour Party of today was a much more left wing creature than it is. (Practically this was never going to happen for a huge range of reasons, but bear with me). Imagine that this more left wing Labour party, with a wider activist base and a more radical policy and caucus, had taken power in 1999, aided by the Greens as a coalition partner."

Jordan then lists a reasonably moderate left wing programme with uncanny similarity to the programme the Alliance would have liked to have implemented in 1999, if we had not faced so much opposition to such a programme from within the parliamentary Labour Party.

Such a programme would have had more chance in 1999 if Labour party activists had not stuck slashes on electoral billboards with the poe faced lie 'Only a party vote for Labour can change the Government', costing the Alliance 2-3% of our party vote.

In any case, this is my response to Jordan's rather hopeful little scenario.
"I think it is pretty well established that Labour have drifted right again over the three terms they have been in government. Perhaps you should not be so ready to blame others for the Labour party lacking vision.

The direction of the programme you outlined would have been more likely if the Alliance had replaced the Labour party as the major party of the left in 1994. It nearly happened. If a few more people had based their party membership on policy and what they actually believed in, rather than party branding, we may have got there.

Without the existence of the Alliance in the first half of the 1990s the time the Labour party would be even more right wing than it is now (the Act people may have stayed and Goff might be the leader). Without the Alliance Labour would have had no reason to change. You can see this by comparing the policy of the Labour party in 1993 and 1996.

Not that I am saying Labour has changed enough to even contemplate the programe you outlined - it hasn't. It may have lost the neo-liberal crusading zeal in some areas (it retains it in trade policy), but this didn't equate to a desire to undo anything the forth Labour Governemnt did. While Labour reversed some of National's policies - they hardly touched their own.

Nor I do not believe it is fair for you to blame the left for failing to advocate an alternative. The Labour party need to take some responsibility for this too - since 1984* Labour have attempted to sell NZ a very limited version of social democracy - if you could even call it that. Labour party ministers regularly defend the neoliberal economy.

The fact that Government spending as a percentage of GDP is now lower than it was under National is not a record any self described social democratic government should be proud of. Perhaps if people had seen more significant increases into health eduction and housing people now would not be so ready to ask for tax cuts."

* On second thoughts can I change this date to 1981.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Update on Dennis Maga tour

As the President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received a state lunch from Prime Minister Helen Clark, Filipino unionist Dennis Maga and friends held a protest outside to highlight the human rights abuses Arroyo has encouraged in her own country.

Maga stood inside a cage to highlight the continuing imprisonment of Congressman Crispin Beltran - locked up for daring to oppose Arroyo. Photos here.

Apparently 858 extrajudicial killings are not enough to put Arroyo or Clark off their lunch. The US and Chinese Ambassadors also joined in the lunch - but then these two countries don't have a stellar human rights record either. The Philippines are a key ally of the US in the 'war on terrorism'.

Congrats to the leadership of New Zealand's trade unions who walked out on the lunch.

Interviewed in New Zealand today, Arroyo claimed due process is being followed in the case of Mr Beltran. Bullshit. Arroyo is lying. The Inter-Parliamentary Union has called for Beltran's immediate release. Also, under the Philippine Constitution it is illegal for a member of Congress to be detained in the way Arroyo has locked up Ka Bel.

Arroyo admitted today that her country had a problem with political killings, but she failed to be completely upfront about this - a significant part of the problem starts with A and ends with O.

Dennis Maga says Mrs Arroyo's regime is the worst in his country's history, with the political death toll - about 130 a year - even worse than the 100 a year killed under dictator Ferdinand Marcos' in the 1970s and 1980s.

Helen Clark refused to condemn Mrs Arroyo's record, but said the Government was committed to providing help. Oh, and something about selling a lot of butter.

New Zealand and the Philippines have signed a 'police co-operation' agreement. I hope the New Zealand authorities are not looking for new ways to deal with happy valley protesters :) While Clark was looking for trade opportunities, and she has talked in the past of 'internationalising' SOEs, she should not let Solid Energy open up a mine in the Philippines. As we have seen this week, there appears to be no end to the methods they would use to protect 'their business'.

But protecting the business was exactly what Clark was doing today. The small matter of 858 deaths came up for little if any discussion.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Costs of insurance for young drivers must be lowered

Jeremy at Aucklander at Large dismisses the call of the Transport Safety Minister Duynhoven for compulsory third party vehicle insurance and says it simply will not work.

Duynhoven claims requiring third party insurance for all drivers would I have an impact on the behaviour of the so called boy racers. "That very soon changes behaviour because people realise they are not in a position to drive if they have a lot of speeding tickets, a lot of vehicle offences or a vehicle which is modified with a very high premium because if they misbehave their premiums then go through the roof."

Like Jeremy I think the Minister is dreaming if he thinks the kids think 'premium' when they are burning the premium unleaded.

But unlike Jeremy would like to see all drivers required to have at least third party insurance, so long as it can be made affordable.

If many young drivers cannot afford insurance, the insurance industry needs to take some responsibility for this. Simply put, by stupidly inflating the premiums on the young, the insurance industry have told young drivers they are not wanted as customers, even if they have a clean driving record.

As a 31 year old male driving a slightly underpowered Mazda Familia station wagon I did not expect to be quoted nearly $700 for insurance*. For the crime of not requiring car insurance for the previous two years (I had been overseas) I did not qualify for any discounts. Now that I have moved to Auckland I am told my premium will nearly double in August, while I will get a 30% no claims discount, my premium it will be more than I paid in Christchurch last year. While the insurance industry may claim it is legal to insist the young pay more, there must also be a point, in terms of degree, where there is a possibility of challenging this under the Human Rights Act.

Before third party insurance could be made compulsory I believe any social democratic government worth electing should first consider intervening in the insurance market to lower premiums. The introduction of the state owned Kiwibank into the banking market has lowered fees and forced the other banks to offer banking packages for those with few beans in the beanbag.

So why not also allow Kiwibank to offer lower cost insurance packages? The only difference between the insurance offered by Kiwibank and Westpac would be the cost.

The irony is that the Government used to operate State Insurance, and this 'brand' is still in use by the private sector many years after privatisation. To my mind State Insurance, and their owners the Insurance Australia Group, continue to trade on the state's good name in false pretences - this has irked me for some years. If 'State' wasn't a commercially valuable brand they would have dropped it by now. Perhaps this also tells us New Zealanders are not as hostile to the 'state' as the far right would have us believe.

Drivers already pay a kind of insurance premium for accident injuries when they licence their vehicles, so why can't government owned insurance cover the vehicles as well? (though ACC need to be told it is not acceptable to adopt the ethics of private insurers)

I have sympathy for requiring compulsory third party insurance as I believe being hit by a driver without insurance can lead to unjust and highly costly situations, for both the person hit and the person having to pay the bill. Messy court action may be required, increasing the costs of time and money for both parties. But more often than not, an insurance company sues or threatens to sue the uninsured driver for everything they have, and then some. If premiums are simply unaffordable, and a car is the only way to get to work - an accidental swipe of a BMW can cause a person to be financially crippled for years - is that really a just outcome?

A parallel argument could be made here about the ability of those on very low wages to afford the 'premium' to be part of Kiwisaver (4% of wages). Will we see a future government blame the non savers for not having the disposable income to make contributions, and use this as an excuse to remove universal public superannuation? Will they be left financially crippled in old age?

I would also like to see more restictions placed on the lending institutions to offer easy car finance - as finance on a fast depreciating asset like a car should be subject to greater restrictions to ensure the banks and the loan sharks are not simply ripping people off. Why not teach the boy racers better saving habits?

If all drivers had complusory third party insurance this would be for the benefit of everyone - a public good - so the use of public money to fund state intervention in the insurance market could be justifed IMHO.

* The quote was from State Insurance - I found a slightly cheaper premium elsewhere.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Public Meetings: Resistance to State Repression in the Philippines

Come and hear Dennis Maga, trade unionist and spokesperson for the Free Ka Bel Movement. See my earlier post here.

Monday 21 May 7:30 pm
Trades Hall
147 Great Nth Road, Grey Lynn

Wednesday 23 May 7:00 pm
2nd Floor ANZAC House
181 Willis Street

Thursday 24 May 7:30 pm
Trade Union Centre
199 Armagh Street

Sunday 27 May 7:00 pm
St John’s Church Centre
149 Kamo Road

Monday 28 May 7:30 pm
Bounty Inn
Cnr Bayview & Selwyn Road

Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is to attend an interfaith dialogue in New Zealand on Tuesday 29th of May. "Since she came to power six years ago, 858 people have died in extrajudicial killings – including left-wing politicians, rights activists, unionists, journalists and religious leaders. Among those detained is Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran".

Last week Dennis Maga met with the NZ ambassador in Manila and requested the following from the New Zealand Government.
  1. Sponsor a cross-parliamentary delegation to investigate the human rights situation in the Philippines
  2. Send a representative of the New Zealand Embassy to the court hearings on Rep. Beltran’s case.
  3. Redirect the NZ ODA funding from the Philippine government to the people’s organizations actively promoting and defending human rights.
  4. Offer the NZ embassy as a safe haven for victims of repression and assure them of refugee status in NZ.
  5. Campaign against the nomination of the Philippines as member of the United Nation Human Rights Security Council for the unabating occurrence of extra-judicial killings, involuntary disappearances militarization, political harassments and persecution.

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Two visitors from the Philippines

Next week New Zealand will host two visitors from the Philippines. One is responsible for the extrajudicial killings of 837 Filipino people. She has jailed members of parliament for the crime of opposing her.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will co-host an “interfaith dialogue” with Prime Minister Helen Clark and the Indonesian Government at Waitangi. Clark will host a state lunch in Arroyo’s honour in Wellington.

Dennis N. Maga is the spokesperson for the Free Ka Bel Movement. He is visiting New Zealand at the invitation of several NZ trade unions to bring attention to the systematic human rights violations carried out by arms of the Phillippine state. Dennis is calling for the release of Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran an ailing 74 year old congressman and trade unionist arrested in February 2006. Too sick to be sent to jail, Ka Bel has been held in hospital detention for 16 months, awaiting trial on trumped up charges.

Dennis Maga says “The case of Ka Bel is an outstanding case of political repression under the Arroyo watch. We denounce the agents of the Arroyo government who now threaten to arrest Ka Satur Ocampo on fabricated murder charges just as they arrested Ka Bel on rebellion charges using fabricated evidence.”. Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur reported to the UN that “virtual impunity” prevails in the Philippines with regard to the extrajudicial killings which are “convincingly attributed” to the military.

Who is Ka Bel?
Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran is an ailing 74 year old Congressman arrested in February 2006 on charges dating back to the era of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This very same case against Ka Bel was quashed in 1988. Recently Ka Bel has also faced trumped up charges of sedition.

Ka Bel was elected to the Philippine Congress in 2004 as Anakawis Partylist Representative. As the chair of the trade union federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), he is recognised in at least 83 countries, as well as the International Labour Organisation and various trade secretariats of the United Nations.

On 24 February 2006 Ka Bel joined others to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the people’s uprising against the Marcos dictatorship. Earlier that day, President Arroyo declared a state of emergency and banned all demonstrations, on the pretext that a coup was imminent. Ka Bel was arrested the following day.

Another Congressman faced charges for murders in Leyte he could not have been responsible for, as Marcos had him in jail at the time. A total of six Congressmen face charges.

Helen Clark raised her concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines with Arroyo, including Ka Bel’s detention, during the last East Asian Summit in Cebu. Arroyo assured her that “all proper legal and judicial processes were being followed”. Since then, the situation has only got worse.

Why is Helen Clark welcoming to New Zealand a political leader who jails her Parliamentary opponents and is complicit in hundreds of killings?

What is Sedition?
Sedition is broadly defined as speaking, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government. During the First World War Peter Fraser, later to become New Zealand Prime Minister, faced similar charges for speaking out against the war.

In May 2007 Helen Clark acknowledged the need to abolish the crime of sedition in New Zealand, as such a ‘crime’ is widely regarded as inconsistent with a free and democratic society. The Greens, The Maori Party, United Future and Act all support removing ‘sedition’ from New Zealand law.

What can I do?
Come to a public meeting to hear Dennis Maga. Write to Helen Clark, your local MP and your local paper. Call talkback. Talk to your friends!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gordon the waka-jumper

With Gordon Copeland's bizarre decision to leave the United Future party tonight, I can't help but think he cited the 'anti-smacking' bill as his reason for waka-jumping merely because he thought this might be his 'popular' issue to go out on.

Now I am not one normally to defend a strong party whip, as I believe New Zealand political parties are usually far more authoritarian than they need to be. Consider the number of British Labour MPs have voted against Blair - this would never happen in New Zealand, given the authoritarian legacy of Prime Ministers such as Peter Fraser, Piggy Muldoon and King Dick Seddon. But there are times when caucus discipline is important, where a moment of idiocy can be as good as a visit from the mass assisted political suicide squad.

On Tuesday Copeland put out a press release bemoaning the failure of the Labour-led government to cut taxes and gave strong support to a report by the Centre for Independent Studies, a group that could only be described as a far right think tank. Did he not stop to think that his comments may cause some embarrassment to his leader Peter Dunne, given that he is the Revenue Minister in the so called Labour-led Government? Especially given it is budget week.

Yesterday Dunne put out a press release criticising the inaction of Justice Minister Mark Burton for being "blissfully unaware" of public concern over the way evidence is presented in New Zealand courts in the wake of the Bain case. Looking back on it now, this release could have been motivated heavily by caucus frictions calling on Dunne to 'differentiate' himself from Labour.

Copeland now says he has been considering resigning for six months, despite the fact Dunne claims Copeland gave him an assurance last week he had no plans to leave United Future. So not only does he define his Christian principles by the right to smack kids, it appears lying does not appear to be much of a moral problem either. It will be mighty interesting if written material happens to emerge over the next few months concerning this tussle in United Future.

Gordon Copeland's claim that his resignation was over the so called anti-smacking bill does not add up. The parliamentary party had already given Copeland a conscience vote allowing him to oppose the bill. My suspicion is that Dunne confronted Copeland over a caucus discipline issue, and Gordon then threw his toys out of the cot.

As the New Zealand Day Bill came up for debate in the house tonight, Dunne began his speech "On behalf of my loyal colleague Judy Turner..."
Update: Please note I wrote this before the budget. Inflation adjusting tax thresholds has long been one of Copeland's particular hobby horses, so I imagine he was less than impressed when he discovered Cullen was about to axe the 'chewing gum' tax cuts. Did Copeland's press release on Tuesday almost give away a budget secret? If so, Copeland would be a very naughty boy.

Span links to a number of posts discussing Copeland's resignation from United Untied Future, along with her own thoughts.

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Chadwick bill on shop trading hours defeated

Good news for workers just in - Steve Chadwick's bill attempting to open shops on Easter Sunday has just been defeated. The vote was 57 in favour and 64 opposed.

Two weeks ago Parliament voted down Jacqui Dean's bill, which would have opened up even more days for trading. Even the Retailers Association admit New Zealand already has some of the most liberalised shop trading hours in the world, yet some greedy shop owners make a big stink over not being able to open for three and a half days a year. Or perhaps I should say three days, as most of these same shopowners are too gutless to stick to their principles and call for open trading on Anzac morning.

The defeat of the two shop trading hours bills is a real win for the New Zealand union movement who successfully campaigned to ensure these bills did not become law.

Chadwick's bill would have pushed the Easter Trading Issue out for local councils to decide.
Today Auckland City councillors signed a letter opposing the bill, as they believed Chadwick was merely passing the buck for regulating trading on Easter Sunday from the Labour Department to local councils. The letter said that as Easter Sunday was one of only 3 1/2 prohibited trading days, those days should be cherished by shop workers, the community and family development advocates and councils should not have to deal with the matter. Big cheer for Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey for organising the letter!

Waitakere City Councillors made a similar stand against the bill.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Subway are subpar with their workers

Subway bloggers

I join NZ bloggers from across the political spectrum in declaring that I will not visit any Subway stores until the charges against their employee Jackie Lang are dropped, and she is given her job back.

In a letter addressed to Lang, the directors of George St Subway in Dunedin said she had given the drink to a friend without payment and that was considered "serious misconduct" and a breach of their "trust and fidelity". A drink worth about 20 cents. Worse, Subway management failed to follow basic procedure by calling Lang to a meeting without advising her it was a disciplinary matter.

Well, if Jackie's name is going to be dragged through the media, it is only fair her unreasonable overreacting managers should get the same treatment.

George Street Subway is owned by Galcol Limited, with the two directors holding a 50% shareholding each. The Directors of Galcol Limited are:
George Hilary Gallagher - also owns Claudleigh Estate Limited. I am guessing this might be a winery but does anyone have any better information?
Robert William Nicol

As Span points out, the bosses behaviour towards Jackie is likely to be indicative of the way other employees are treated at George St Subway. Workplace Bully Alert!

All of this underlines the very good reasons why fast food workers ought to be a member of a union.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Was World War Two fought for a progressive cause?

Go read Reading the Maps' great post where he argues that Anzac Day actually does a grave disservice to the Anzacs who fought against fascism in World War Two, because it links them to "criminal enterprises" like the Vietnam War.

Maps says WWII is the only conflict New Zealand and Australian troops have been involved in that was fought for a progressive cause - the war against fascism. This is a view I have sympathy for - especially since I read the autobiography of British philosopher Bertrand Russell a few years ago. Russell, a prominent pacifist during the First World War, saw no contradiction in opposing WWI and supporting the war against Hitler.

That said I also think there is a lot in British historian Eric Hobsbawm's characterisation of the entire period 1914-1945 as the "Second Thirty Years War". Hobsbawm likens the mix of major battles and smaller skirmishes throughout the period as being similar to the drawn out war of the 17th century. So, if there had been not been WWI and Versailles it is unlikely there would have been WWII and Hitler.

NZ can be proud to be the only country besides the USSR to show their opposition to the threat to democracy posed by fascist Spain, when our so called Allies (mostly under right wing leadership) supported the policy of appeasement, right up to the point Hitler invaded Poland.

Right wingers who support imperialist wars have a habit of screaming 'appeasement' at left wing opposition, rather than confronting the issues at hand. It is an irony that 'appeasement' largely represents baggage for the right. Prior to the start of the war in 1939, support for the policy of appeasement was most widespread among right-wing conservatives.
According to Hobsbawn:
"Many a good conservative felt, especially in Britain, that the best of all solutions would be a German-Soviet war, weakening, perhaps destroying both enemies, and a defeat of Bolshevism by a weakened Germany would be no bad thing"*.
British Intelligence services continued to concentrate on the 'Red menace' to such an extent that they did not abandon it as their main target until the mid 1930s. It would not be the first or the last time right wing foreign policy 'hawks' had their priorities all out of whack.

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Dean bill on shop trading hours defeated

Just caught the vote on the Easter Sunday Shop Trading Amendment Bill - a victory for unions, workers and their families. Despite National MP Mark Blumsky attempt to give shopkeepers 'the right' to open their stores, and thereby putting pressure on retail staff to work, the bill was defeated!

I think the vote was 37 in favour and 84 opposed, with no abstentions.

Whoo hoo! I hope Labour MP Steve Chadwicks bill on the same issue will also end up where it belongs - in the parliamentary rubbish bin!

I think it says a lot about the proponents of the market that they cannot stand the idea of markets being partly shut for a whole three and a half days a year.

Update: Confirmation of numbers here

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