Blog Meme time – “How I’m voting”

Having spent an appreciable amount of today surfing the net and reading posts by other political bloggers on the topic of “How I’m voting tomorrow”, some adding “and why”, I have finally succumbed.

So I’m going to tell you who I advance-voted for last week, and why I ruled out the various other options that have peppered my in-box with information in the past few weeks.

Firstly, I’m (as regular readers may know) a voter in the Wellington Central electorate. I’ve blogged enough times about our ‘new kid on the block’, James Shaw, who is standing in Sue Kedgley’s stead as Sue is retiring at this election.

So it will come as no surprise that I have voted two ticks Green, one candidate vote for James and a party vote Green, which has actually been my Wellington Central strategy since I moved back into the electorate before the 2002 elections.

My long-term strategy is actually anchored to a deep distrust of the Labour leaders, and especially Phil Goff who was the relevant Minister of Defence, since the first SAS sortie into Afghanistan, which they have repeatedly lied about in Parliament and media questions.

There have been books written about this period of our recent military history, most recently Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars, and also this one, an official 50th anniversary history sanctioned by the SAS and NZDF hierachy. Woops, they should have cross-checked with Hansard to find out where their line of plausible deniablility stood.

I genuinely like Grant Robertson; I know very little about Paul Foster-Bell, but he seems to be a nice young man, if a little like dishwater. I have heard the Libertarianz, ACT, ALCP, Pirate Party and New Economic Party’s candidates speak at various Wellington Central forums, and I have been very much entertained by their presentations.

My view of National as a party has been refined over many years (nay, decades…) of interaction at a local level with Bill and Mary English, whose many children overlap three of mine in ages, and have shared educational institutions with them from primary through to secondary.
I have heard Bill’s spiel about private schools getting a hard deal so many times I could practically give it myself, if I felt motivated. I do not.
It is essentially the selfish howl of an over-entitled man, pleading special interests to those who are similarly selfish and over-entitled, and as a former public servant in the Education field, I have always found that position to be repugnant.

John Key has further compounded the selfish policy ground of National by busily driving the country into the ground, slashing taxes for the rich, while cutting services to the poor, and throwing public servants on to the redundancy scrapheap.
This is such short-sighted policy that I am astounded, until I reflect on the behaviour exhibited by the Coates Government during the Great Depression* – they protected Farmer’s incomes, forced unemployed and starving men into work gangs, sleeping by night in the fields next to the roads they were ‘mending’. This is the Government that lost to Micky Savage’s first Labour Government in the election that led to the institution of the welfare legislation that gave us such a stable and prosperous period in the years immediately after the war – when the generation that are today’s Baby Boomer retirees were brought up.
National appears to have no clue that by giving tax breaks to the well-off, demonising those who can’t find work, sacking public service employees, and bailing out failed businesses who should have been allowed to fail instead of continuing to trade, they have merely repeated the worst of the excesses of the Coates Government.

Those who do not heed history are doomed to repeat it.

The lessons of the past might be well learnt by John Key and his cronies, as he tries to cynically manipulate his way into another term, with asset-stripping as a Key policy for the next three years,and a probable golden parachute lurking outside New Zealand once he’s overstayed his welcome.

Aah, but what about Labour’s future plans? Well, I’ll be interested again when Goff finally gets rolled by Grant Robertson. This election, despite a strong finish, the Labour leader has looked weak, indecisive and feckless, and made me glance wistfully at the “I miss Helen” button that I bought from Unity Bookshop shortly after Helengrad was vacated when her Helenship departed for the UNDP.

*Update:
If you wish to ascertain the accuracy of my statements about the Coates Government, I thoroughly recommend the works of Tony Simpson, “The Sugarbag Years”, published in 1975, and “The Slump”, published in 1990, both available in Penguin NZ editions. Should be available in any public library with a decent NZ History section.
Or you could read any of the biographies of John A Lee, Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser, or indeed anything written about the Coates Government itself. Here ends the history tutorial assignment, don’t post me the answers, I’ll be happy enough if you just educate yourselves.

Transport policy launch – Get on the bus for light rail!

MP's and candidates at the bus terminal

MP's and candidates at the bus terminal

Today’s Wellington launch of the ‘Green is for go’ transport policy saw a bus full of Green Party volunteers, candidates and MP’s touring the route of the proposed light rail link from Wellington Bus Station, stopping outside Kirkcaldie & Stains department store, then through to Courtney Place and on to Wellington Hospital in Newtown.

Green Co-leader Russel Norman launching the policy

Green Co-leader Russel Norman launching the policy

At each stop, there was an opportunity for media to catch interviews with the candidates and MP’s, and for volunteers to hand out leaflets detailing the new transport policy to passersby. You can read the gist of the transport plan here, and read MP Gareth Hughes’ press release here.

Hutt candidates Holly Walker and Tane Woodley

Hutt candidates Holly Walker and Tane Woodley

While the bus was in transit, the passengers heard from MP Gareth Hughes (Ohariu) and candidates Holly Walker (Hutt South), Zach Dorner (YG ‘Victoria University candidate’), Jan Logie (Mana), Tāne Woodley (Rimutaka), and our own James Shaw (Wellington Central). Each spoke about the public transport challenges faced by their respective electorates, and the value of added funding for buses, trains and light rail. Jan Logie spoke of the enormous community opposition to the Kapiti Expressway, which has galvanised local residents, and James Shaw took his stand just as the bus rounded basin reserve, describing the extent to which the proposed flyover would overshadow the historic Basin cricket grounds, as well as cutting off Newtown, Berhampore and Island Bay access into the Te Aro/CBD area.

James Shaw as the bus rounds the Basin Reserve

James Shaw as the bus rounds the Basin Reserve

Wellington Central Candidates at Aro Valley Community Centre

This is the famously ‘most fun’ candidates forum in Wellington, in the Green heart of Te Aro. It was an awesome night, the chairs were full half an hour before the stated starting time of 7.30pm, and by the time the candidates had all arrived, there was no standing room, and a build-up of late-comers hanging on the ramp outside the huge windows (all opened fully) peering in and listening to the speakers with assistance from the sound system courtesy of local Aro events manager Martin Wilson.

packed out Aro Valley Hall

packed out Aro Valley Hall

The Candidates speaking were Grant Robertson (L), the sitting MP; Paul Foster-Bell (N); James Shaw (G); Stephen Whittington (ACT); Gynn Rickerby from the Pirate Party, who spoke first as he had to leave for family reasons; Reagan Cutting (Libertarianz); Laurence Boomert from New Economics Party; and the perennial Michael Appleby (ACLP), who is always such a good showman, and well-liked by Aro residents and regulars.

The candidates up against the wall ...

The candidates up against the wall ...

There was a sausage sizzle, popcorn, warm spiced orange juice, macaroons, and eventually mulled wine, all at ‘gold coin’ prices to support the Aro Valley Community Centre; the half-time break saw much chatting and slurping of various cups of beverages, and popcorn chomping.

The questions from the floor were articulate and engaging, asking Labour whether they had any policies to announce that weren’t stolen from the Greens (Grant responded with a list of prior policy launches that were ‘all their own work’), and a few goes at getting Paul to respond on sticky issues, which he pretty much dodged using the Party-approved phrases, deviating only once when asked if he supported gay marriage and gay adoption. (He does.)
James made some excellent capital out of responses to questions directed at other parties, throwing out replies that covered pretty much every policy angle the Greens own, while emphasizing the core three issues of jobs, clean rivers, and child poverty reduction.
The rest were pretty much repeating the same sentences I’ve heard on the past two nights on the Welli campaign trail, with Whittington in particular sounding like a stuck record. Appleby answered every question with a reference to industrial hemp as the wonder agricultural product of the future, saving exports, tourism, and leading to biofuels advances, all of which was received with good humour by a jovial crowd.

The audience were mostly happy and raucous, the timing of speeches was kept strictly, and enforced by water-pistols in time-honoured fashion, while a little girl held sway over the vuvuzela to sound when the speeches ran out of time; this is my home suburb, my favourite place to talk about politics, my favourite event of any election year, and this year as ever Aro Valley did themselves proud.

So, astonishingly, I am going to post a link from stuff, ‘cos they actually did quite a good write-up here, complete with some video shot during the meeting. Enjoy. Welcome to the vibe of ma ‘hood.

Wellington Central Candidates on Back Benches

This was the one we’d been waiting for, and with the excellent (for Greens) polling figure that came out in Wednesday’s paper (Fairfax), the Wellington branch and campaign team were firing hot.

James is a happy chappy

James is a happy chappy

The line-up was Grant Robertson, sitting MP for Wellington Central (Labour), Paul Foster-Bell, (National), James Shaw (Green), Stephen Whittington (ACT). And so the fun began.

There was high excitement after the experience of the Auckland Central Candidates on last week’s episode, and a little crowd-calming instruction by producer Damian Christie went a long way. There was a lot less shoving, barging and/or disruptive heckling, which is not to say that is was a quiet night, just a slightly better controlled one than the Britomart Country Club threw up. I ended up in a crush of very keen Young Greens, having gone over to talk to someone then found I couldn’t get back through to where I’d been discretely out of the way. Oh, well, the show must go on … and usefully, our Japanese visitor Hiroshi had need of some explanations and translations, so I was glad to be standing beside him in the final count.

Despite a rainy night, the bar was full to standing-room-only levels, and there was a lot of coreflute signs in the hands of youth wings of every party – except for ACT, who had a very hastily handmade wooden number, stencilled with their logo, with an authorisation written on in Vivid marker. Interesting, I wonder whose trust fund ran out of publishing funds at the last minute?

The first round was “Why I should be the MP for Wellington Central”, with social housing, economic growth and child poverty coming up for Robertson & Shaw, with some blustering from Foster-Bell posturing John Key as the saviour of the nation while avoiding supporting any actual policy, and then Whittington gave a set-piece reminiscent of his spiel at the WYFC forum last night.
Best quote from this round goes to James Shaw, once again, “twelfth level elven war-mage” (view from 4.56 mins to get this in context…) which provoked cheering and chanting from YG supporters, and even a risqué quip from Damian (5.19..). James’ suggestion for an ACT party sign on the Wellywood site was a close second (5.45…).

So as you may have guessed from the timing marks I’ve quoted, there’s a lot of very good moments stacked up in this episode. See it here on TVNZ7 On-demand.

If you’ve been enjoying Back Benches this year, despite my erratic posts, do also go to the petition to save TV7, which is the subject of cuts at TVNZ due to ‘budget restraints’ imposed by the overseas owners.
Public service broadcasting in Aotearoa/New Zealand is under threat of cuts and privatisation, it’s time to stand up and say we want it, we need it, and we’re going to fight for it, including by voting out this National Government on November 26th.

‘Left Further Behind’ report launched by CPAG

Rahui Katene, Maamari Stephens and Anne Else after the launch

Rahui Katene, Mamari Stephens and Anne Else after the launch

Child Poverty Action Group launched their latest research report Left Further Behind last night, concurrently in Auckland and Wellington. I attended the Wellington launch, so my comments are specifically about the presenters there. I’m sure someone else will write about the Auckland Launch, I’ll link to that when I find it.

The launch was held at the Salmond Room of the Scool of Law, VUW, in Lambton Quay. For those, like myself, who got there after the 6pm internal door lockdown, it was a frustrating experience trying to locate a door into the building that actually got to the area where the launch was being held – not a failure on CPAG’s part, I might add, but on the part of a Faculty that is happy enough to book rooms to outside organisations, but then does not provide adequate access for those unfamiliar with the building. I had to ask a Law Librarian to swipe me through one set of doors, then climbed stairs and discovered that even those who work in the building can’t swipe through into some sectors, necessitating a trawl back down three floors to find a point of access to the back wing of the building, trailing those I’d met along the way.

Consequently, I arrived mid-way through Anne Elses’ opening speech, which drew heavily on facts and figures from the report. Here’s one phrase I will quote in its entirety:

The core message is very simple: ALL children, irrespective of the status and position of their parents or carers, are entitled to the best possible support from their parents and from the whole of New Zealand society. Together we share responsibility for ensuring that children are given that support.

She spoke about the popular notion that ‘relative poverty’ is not such a bad thing as ‘absolute poverty’, which we have seen much of in the media lately; well, those journalists who will blather on about there being no real poverty in NZ just haven’t bothered to do their research, or even to drive down the motorway into South Auckland and take a look firsthand – Middlemore Hospital is a great place to start, although Starship Hospital in central Auckland would have a decent whack of South Auckland children on any given day of the week, too.

One more quote from Anne:

Now here’s the really important part. The discussion in this report demonstrates that child poverty is not inevitable. It is the avoidable consequence of badly designed or inadequately considered policy.

Let me repeat that. Child Poverty is not inevitable. It is the avoidable consequence of badly designed or inadequately considered policy.

Mamari Stephens, a Lecturer in the School of Law, followed Anne, speaking with determination about the chapter she contributed to on The Whaanau Ora approach.
It was a very interesting commentary from someone who teaches welfare law, and admitted that she herself was daunted by the task of reviewing the programme’s implementation trials.
She concluded by saying that she considered that Whaanau Ora hadn’t done much for reducing benefit reliance (one of the key policy objectives), but that the trials did appear to show low income households making an improvement to their ability to cope on fixed low incomes.
Without an increase in jobs available, moving off benefits is problematic, to say the least.

We then heard from Lucie Trask, a final-year Law student, and a member of the Wellington Community Justice Project, who contributed to the chapter on Youth and Unemployment.
The group of law students contributing to this part of the research were present at the launch, and caucused together afterwards – it was great to see such keen young minds focused on this issue.
In her speech, Lucie quoted the figures for youth unemployment – 1 in 5 under 25 years is currently unemployed, a fact John Key does not acknowledge when claiming our statistics for unemployment are such a lot better than North American or European figures.
It gets worse when broken down by ethnicity and socio-demographic location, as the report shows.

Finally, our MC for the evening, Dr Nikki Turner, spoke about the chapter on Child Health and Poverty. This included some very grim facts for those who understood the epidemiological areas she discussed, and was sufficient to remind me of moments in the lives of my own children when access to medical care was precarious – although, being white, educated and slightly better housed when I was on the DPB, my children were not at great peril; not like the pre-schoolers who are admitted each winter to hospitals in Auckland with bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and other infectious conditions that become severe due to the cost or unavailability of access to a GP early in the illness. The figures for maaori and pasifika children are again much worse than those for paakeha children in the same demographic.

There was a brief question time before we broke for refreshments; Labour Deputy Annette King spoke briefly, as did the Green’s co-leader Russel Norman and the Maaori Party’s Rahui Katene in return, completing the round-up of influences at play on the night.
I did spot Brian Easton, whom I was not exactly surprised to see there, but I must say pleased to notice; and our hard-working new Wellington Central candidate James Shaw was also in evidence, networking afterwards with a policy analyst who shall remain nameless, as I went around catching up with my connections from the now-defunct Gender and Women’s Studies School, who were out in force to support CPAG on the night.

Eradicating Ecocide – the Tour

Status

Polly Higgins is a lawyer who has dedicated her life to one client – the Earth.

A barrister and author, Polly has become an expert in Earth Law, a new body of governance to give voice to the Earth.

She speaks on all aspects of governance required for the new world, a world governed by a new set of values – values that put people and planet over profit.

Her recent book, ‘Eradicating Ecocide – Laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of our Planet’ won The People’s Book Prize and was a nominee for both the Book Of The Year Award and the Beryl Bainbridge Prize.

Polly spoke today in Wellington to a lunchtime crowd, as part of her speaking tour organised by Wellington Central Green party candidate James Shaw. Her presentation is compelling, comparing the development of the definition of the crime of ‘ecocide’ to the post-WWII development of the crime of ‘genocide’ in respond to the crimes of Nazi Germany.

She clearly laid out the legal definitions involved, and spoke about several well-known cases of gross environmental damage that have been caused by corporate activity, from the Exxon Valdez spill through to the most recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Her tour continues to Nelson and Auckland before heading across the Tasman, so I urge readers outside Wellington to get to Nelson’s session tonite 7pm – 9pm at New Hub, New Street, Nelson CBD (opposite DeVille’s), and Auckland getting their turn Sunday 4th September 1- 9pm, at Earthsong, 457 Swanson Road, Ranui, Waitakere, Auckland, and in the CBD Monday 5th September 7pm – 9pm at Lecture Theatre 260-098, Owen Glenn Building, The University of Auckland.

She has a website of her own, with great info on ecocide here, and there is more information about her book here.

Final slide of the presentation

Final slide of the presentation

One last irony presented itself as we left the venue – Polly had not realised that the Spectrum Theatre, booked for her presentation, was in BP New Zealand’s head office building. Here she is with James after the humour of the situation set in, just before leaving to fly to Nelson.

Polly & James outside BP NZ HO.

Polly & James outside BP NZ HO.

Update:
Polly’s Auckland lecture at the University of Auckland was reported in the NZ Herald here.

Update #2
A mock trial on the crime of ecocide was held in London’s Supreme Court on 30th September, prosecuted by Polly Higgins. Reported here at the Independant, and discussed here at Learning From Nature blog.
It was also live-streamed on BSkyB, but I didn’t post that up in time, soz.
I admit to dropping the ball on that one. (This will be my only rugby-related metaphor, that is all)

Update #3
Very belatedly, here’s a link to the you-tube doco on the mock trial.

Looking After the Long Term

Last night in Karori, the Wellington Central electorate had one of its first public meetings of the campaign period.

Sue Kedgley MC'ing

Sue Kedgley MC'ing


Outgoing MP Sue Kedgley, who has stood in Wellington Central for four consecutive terms of Parliament, hosted new Candidate James Shaw and sitting MP Dr Kennedy Graham, from Christchurch, for an evening of presentations and discussion about sustainable options for our economy, a smart green economic plan which has been rolling out in stages over the past couple of months.

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight


Dr Graham spoke first, detailing the development of global policy initiatives developed during his time with UNDP – from the 1992 Rio Summit on Climate Change forwards, he has been in the vanguard of those trying to quantify, and provide a matrix of solutions for, a range of climate issues. He was our Green MP at Copenhagen 2010, and gave a sobering presentation on the changes that have occurred since that first conference in 1992. The win over ozone depletion of atmosphere was the best outcome of those years, but we have lost biodiversity, and seen global CO2 emissions rise far outside the protocols first discussed, then reviewed at each subsequent Climate Conference. The time is now at hand to be bold and bring our country into the possibility of a bright green future; it is not a time to sit on our hands and continue to say, ‘We’re so small, our emissions don’t rate against the big economies of China or the USA’, which is a cop-out taken by too many local commenters.

James Shaw making a point

James Shaw making a point


James Shaw then took the floor, and delivered an impressive presentation of the three key policies that the Greens are working on this election, to alleviate the pressures on kiwis that have been exacerbated by the global recession – Addressing Child Poverty in NZ, launched by Metiria Turei in West Auckland, Cleaning up NZ’s Rivers, launched by Dr Russel Norman in Wellington’s Waitangi Park just ten days ago, and a sneak peek at the next policy around energy sustainability, which I won’t go into here because it’s being launched on the 21st September, a mere three weeks away, so look out for the media on that when it happens.
Best one-line of the evening to James – “as Clinton said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, or as Kennedy put it, ‘It’s the stupid economy!'”; which followed on from Dr Graham’s rather sobering facts and figures very well, as the discussion turned to ways of improving both our economy and our sustainability.

The Green Lantern – a review of sorts

Time for a movie review I reckon. I went along to neighbouring Wellington Central’s movie fundraiser at the Embassy yesterday where they were showing The Green Lantern.

Hal Jordan in Duck Dodgers

Image via Wikipedia

After what seems like attending an entire festival’s worth of worthy, ethical fund-raiser films about causes the novelty of being able to watch a DC Comics blockbuster with no obvious links to the the Green Party aside from a shared chromatic preference was, to say the least, refreshing.

So, is the Lantern ‘Green’ (as opposed to green)? Continue reading