Occupy Wellington in it’s second week

There have been a lot of very interesting workshops and discussion groups facilitated by the campers at Occupy Wellington, with many outside speakers coming down to share an hour or two with those interested.

On Wednesday, despite afternoon rain that left the campsite soggy and some spirits dampened, former Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons stopped by the campsite with some of the crew from Generation Zero, to talk in an informal open discussion about climate change, activism, and her own personal political history.
She was only in Wellington for a day for meetings, and graciously added a visit to Occupy Wellington to her schedule. The discussion began around 4.30pm, and needed to finish promptly at ten to six, as she was part of a panel on MMP speaking at Te Papa, just across on the waterfront from the campsite.
Despite much tent-shifting and space-changing that had gone on in the previous two days of wind and rain, one useable space was ‘floor-cleared’, and the talk began with a carpet of young people closely snugged-up in the largest water-tight tent available. Jeanette took this all in her stride, joking that her plastic chair made her look enthroned amongst the cross-legged throng seated on the canvas floor.

The cosy tent workshop

The cosy tent workshop

The spare floor-space seen in this photo was quickly filled up by late-comers, and the discussions were intelligent and humourous as Jeanette responded to questions about what got her into activism, some practical details about how groups were organised back in the 70’s and 80’s before the internet came along, and some personal reminiscences about her days in the Values party during the long campaign against nuclear shop visits to Aotearoa, which culminated in the passing of the Nuclear-free legislation that we all take so much for granted these days.

This is how the campsite was looking on the day:

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Note the larger puddly bits – it has been getting very muddy and boggy in places around the campsites, which are beginning to be referred to as ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ – there has been some movement of tents to allow the grass to air again where yellowing is taking place, so don’t think that all those yellow patches refer to campers who have left – it’s just some grounds management going on.

Next up for the camp is another weekend of workshops and speakers 29-30th October, and then some hijinks for Halloween, as Capital E puts on events for children after-school and early evening, which may encourage some halloween dressups by the locals of Occupy Wellington. There’s also a critical mass bike ride on the 28th October, 5pm from Civic Square, with a Halloween costume theme.

Lots to see and do, pop by if you’re in town and at a loose end, looks like the weather is clearing up in time for the weekend events.

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Wellington replaces Tolley in shock Cabinet reshuffle

Education Minister Anne Tolley finds herself demoted to the backbenches in a shock Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister John Key today.

Tolley will be replaced by Merv Wellington, who previously served as Minister of Education in Sir Robert Muldoon’s Cabinet between 1978 and 1984. Wellington, plucked from backbench obscurity by Sir Robert, was a controversial figure in the 1978-84 government, presiding over substantial and wide-ranging cuts in education spending and decreeing that the New Zealand flag was to be flown at all school assemblies. He died in 2003.

“Anne has been a hardworking and competent Minister, said Mr Key, announcing the reshuffle. I am confident she will find something to do as a backbencher where her talents will be appreciated.

“However, Merv was a fierce advocate for excellence in education and those views put him ahead of his time. I have always thought he deserved another chance, and given the challenges of implementing National Standards and reshaping the Ministry of Education, I have decided Merv is the man for the job.”

The Prime Minister said he was relaxed about the constitutional precedent of appointing a deceased Member of Parliament to Cabinet. “Our Constitution is always evolving. The previous Government appointed Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford as Government spokespeople outside Cabinet even though the Greens were not a part of that Government. I don’t think appointing the late Merv Wellington to Cabinet sets any greater constitutional precedent than that did,” he said.

When asked how she felt about her demotion, Mrs Tolley replied “Currently a large number of assessment tools are used by schools, and no one standard applies across them. That is what national standards are. So the existing assessment tools will remain in place, and the national standards will go right across all those tools, so that it will not matter which school a child goes to, or which assessment tool a particular school uses, because there will be a standard that is national. That is the essence of national standards, so the inter-school moderation is exactly that. Parents will know, whichever school their children attend— Well, it just shows that you do not understand— It just shows that you do not understand what national standards are…”

The late Merv Wellington was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson said he was delighted with the opportunity to return to Cabinet to complete his unfinished business.

Greens welcome Winston on board

Green Co-Leader Dr Russel Norman today welcomed Winston Peters’ decision to join the Green Party, saying it will help the Greens to broaden their voter support base.

“Over four percent of voters at the last election voted for New Zealand First,” Dr Norman said. “I am confident that a large proportion of those voters will now give their support to the Greens. It is an unexpected and very real bonus for us, and may finally give us the chance to break through 10%.

“The Greens have never managed to appeal to the redneck vote,” said Dr Norman. “David Garrett has proven with ACT just how electorally valuable having a drunken bigot among the senior ranks of a political party can be. Winston will now be able to perform a similar role for us.”

The Greens are also considering changing their Constitution so Peters can succeed Jeanette Fitzsimons as Co-Leader when she steps down at the Party’s Annual General Meeting on Queen’s Birthday weekend.

“Having two male Co-Leaders would help dispel the perception that we are too pro-feminist. We’re never going to get the blokes’ votes with that image,” Dr Norman said.

“Of course Winston would be Co-Leader outside Parliament like I was when I was first elected. But he has immense expertise in fundraising and managing electoral donations and already has a strong relationship with the media, so working as Co-Leader outside Parliament should be easier for him than it was for me.”

Vote for me – the caption contest

Well, it’s certainly got attention! The NZ Herald is now running a caption contest for its wonderful photo of Jeanette with three pregnant Green Party supporters.

There are a few puerile and downright nasty captions on their website.

Let’s get some strong Green ones there too >>

[Comments off on this post – captions to the NZ Herald]

All publicity is good publicity

I just spent a bit of the morning handing out leaflets in Kilbirnie where I met a man who proved the maxim that all publicity is indeed good publicity.  It turns out he is probably voting Green for two reasons.

The first is he saw a new story about political party leaders’ pets.  John Key had a cat and so on and so on.  But Jeanette Fitzsimons had a cow.  And he thought that was fairly impressive.

The second was that he had heard that Jeanette Fitzsimons had slept with Tim Shadbolt, and she was a good looking woman.  Then and now.

I thanked him for his vote.

Showering with Jeanette

The punters are running feral over at Kiwiblog, inspired by Jeanette’s appearance on Close Up last night defending the proposed energy efficient home hot water standard. Most are trotting out the tired old “nanny state” line and falsely claiming the Greens are wanting to ban high pressure shower heads.

And someone called Brad got so excited about it that he’s come to g.blog and posted a comment (naming his bathroom with capital letters) in the g.blog rules thread, because he couldn’t find anywhere else appropriate.

So I thought I’d give Brad a thread to comment on, and clear a few matters up.

First, this is not a ban on anything. No-one will be forced to change their shower head. The standard will apply only to new buildings and to major renovations. The proposal is for new homes to have more energy efficient hot water systems. An efficient hot water system will save homeowners money by lowering power and gas bills.

Second, there a several ways in which the standard will be able to be met, including:

  • installing low flow shower heads
  • insulating/lagging water pipes to minimize heat loss
  • minimizing the distance between the hot water source and the outlet
  • installing a solar water heating system

But instead of doing some research and finding out about it, the Kiwiblog commenters and Brad just resort to the tired old “nanny state” / “it’s a ban” routine that they inevitably use to attack the Greens. I’m surprised they didn’t come up with a high pressure energy inefficient shower head being necessary for effective child discipline too.

Well said, Jeanette!

Jeanette Fitzsimons blogged this morning on frogblog about the preoccupation of the media with what Winston Peters may have said and done.

The tragedy is that this is what passes for news, when we ought to be debating what is happening to our economy with rising prices for food, petrol, power and mortgages at the same time as economic contraction and loss of jobs? Shouldn’t we be debating the causes of this, and linking them with peak oil, resource limits and climate change? Most of all, shouldn’t we be debating what to do about it?

It’s not just the MSM – over on Key wee-blog David Farrar has devoted an extraordinary 34 separate threads in the past week to various aspects of Peters’ alleged behaviour, and what others have said and done in response to it.

Now, I’m not suggesting the allegations against Peters are not serious. They are. But they are being investigated by both the Serious Fraud Office and Parliament’s Privileges Committee, and all will come out in due course.

In a week when we saw Labour announce its Emissions Trading Scheme will go ahead and National announce it would be supporting tolls on roads, I would have thought both the MSM and bloggers might have been giving these issues some more attention.

Will the Government’s ETS be effective in reducing greenhouse emissions? Are the transport and agriculture sectors being brought into it too slow or too fast? Will people on low income be adequately protected against emitters passing on the cost of their emissions?

What roads will is National proposing to toll? Whose policy is the real one – Maurice Williamson’s or Bill English’s? How much will the toll charges be? What will the revenue be applied to – public transport infrastructure, or just more and more roads?

These are the real questions people should be asking in deciding how to cast their votes in an election that is less only 10 weeks away? Peters’ credibility is already close to zero – so let’s focus on the policies.

Mini McCarthy

Check out Trevor Loudon’s latest investigative work where this time he aims even higher: Jeanette Fitzsimons.  He sets out with the ambitious goal of proving she is a communist.  But after taking  well over 1000 words to make his case he manages to prove that she attended two conferences of suspected socialists about 13 or 14 years ago at which she argued the importance of the environment and that they needed to become Green.

Good work Trev, that’s another secret communist plot exposed. (But wait, isn’t the Emissions Trading Scheme is a capitalist market response rather than a communist one, to an environmental problem?)

Thanks for the photo: Infinite Jeff at Flickr