Return to Back Benches

So, here’s another post about Back Benches!
[yes, I’m pasting info directly from Prime’s PR – but why change perfectly good material when you don’t have to?]

This week’s Back Benches panel in Wellington is Labour MP Phil Goff, National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, and Green Party MP Kevin Hague.

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

WHO SHOULD GET THE PILLS?: Pharmac—the Government’s drug-buying agency wants your input on their funding policies? Who should be getting the pills? Where should our priorities lie? Should they put more money extending the lives of the elderly? Or should they prioritise medicines that would improve the lives of younger people? What about the poor—are they more deserving of help than rich people? Should the future earning potential of children be considered? Focusing on preventable diseases vs. genetic?

SPY BILL—IS IT SAFETY vs. PRIVACY?: The Law Society has made their opinion over the GCSB law changes proposals known. They hate it. They say the changes would mean the GCSB would go from a foreign intelligence agency to a domestic one. So, would the new powers be too broad? Why would New Zealanders need to watched? In order to gain safety—is a loss of privacy the price to pay?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:
First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 26th of June at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!
http://www.primetv.co.nz/

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Update:
I’ve missed my weekly fix of fun at the Back Bencher pub in Molesworth St, but during a flying visit, managed to squeeze in an evening with old mates.
The renovated pub layout is rather swish, I do approve of the changes – it’s been a bit hard to see how it all fitted together from the Prime footage I’ve watched. Up close, there was a lot to enjoy, not the least of which was the new puppets, which I hadn’t seen for myself before.
This weeks episode was full of rather good quotes – if you didn’t manage to watch it on Prime, catch it on i-Sky’s on-demand section, Prime shows are free-2-watch for a fortnight after transmission.

Feminism and Transphobia panel

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants


St Andrews on the Terrace was the venue for an oversubscribed panel discussion (don’t worry, more chairs were poached from another room) on Friday evening, organised by Brooklynne Kennedy with help from many who attended.

The hall filled up very quickly, and after each panelist had spoken about their reasons for being part of the event, a lot of very interesting discussion ensued between panelists and audience members.

The panel comprised Brooklynne Kennedy, Nicole Skews, Joseph Hapgood and Griffin, and covered many aspects of the offense that Germain Greer, currently in Wellington for Writer’s and Readers’ week events, has caused to members of the Trans* community over the years. Feminists of many stripes attended and contributed to the discussion, as well as members of the trans* and intersex communities.

This is not the only event being held around issues of transphobia during the week, so if you missed this panel discussion, do try attending Gender Trouble, a Queer Avengers discussion group, to be held at Anvil House, Wakefield Street this Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm.

There’s a facebook event here, with info like a reading list of links if you’re keen.

More Back Benches to come!

Haven’t done a post about Back Benches for a while. Not because I haven’t been attending (I have had the soggy overcoat to prove my dedication) but because other things going on in my life have interfered with writing posts for a while.

So here’s a compendium of reviews of the past two shows and a plug for the next one.

The first one (22nd Feb) was very busy, the bar was crowded and the topic in hand was the Christchurch earthquake anniversary. Christchurch MP’s were on the panel – Liane Dalziel (L), Nicky Wagner (N), Kennedy Graham (G) and Denis O’Rourke (NZ1). They had all been at commemoration events during the day in Christchurch, then flown to Wellington to be on the show, so kudos for that. The media coverage of the days events was pretty much wall-to-wall, and the MP’s referred to where they’d been under the assumption that non of the audience could possibly have missed seeing footage.

The following week was ‘leap day’, 29th Feb, and a re-shoot of the Hamilton show that didn’t get broadcast during the summer tour. The pub was barely filled, and I was surprised to be invited, with my young companion (a friend’s son) to move to another, closer table so that the cameras had some audience to film. So we did, and ended up sitting right next to National MP David Bennett’s wife and daughter, who both got spots speaking with Damian Christie. Other MP’s on the panel were Cath Delahunty (G), Sue Maroney (L) and Richard Prosser (NZ1). Students with or without jobs got a fair bit of airtime, especially given recent announcements by the Minister for Social Development during that week’s press on welfare reforms.

Pre-show shot of the panel with Damian and Wallace

Pre-show shot of the panel with Damian and Wallace

This week 7th March, the line-up is Labour MP Rino Tirikatene, Dr. Cam Calder (Nat) and Denise Roche (Green) – still from 8pm if you want to get a drink beforehand, at the Back Bencher pub, opposite Parliament in Molesworth St, Wellington.
There’s been some good young Green crews along in the past, now that Orientation is on again, might be nice to get some more yoof down to the pub for a bit of a laff, eh?

Update
That was a very good night out, episode here and here’s a quick pic from before filming began showing all the panellists.

Panel being readied by production crew, March 7th

Panel being readied by production crew, March 7th

There’s still time to email TVNZ about saving TV7, have a look here.

Hutt South Candidates on Back Benches

Before filming commenced

oops obscured the ACT candidate behind Wallace Chapman's head....

Last night was a very busy show.

Hutt South is well-supplied with candidates, and so we heard from six (count’em, six!) political parties, although only five could fit along the bench, with Trevor Mallard and Paul Quinn very closely placed elbow-to-elbow. Holly Walker, our fabulous feminist Green candidate was next along the row, and she was bookended by Rob Eaddy of United Future, and finally Alex Spiers from ACT. The round-up was completed by Graham Coupland from the re-branded Conservatives, which those of us who are older may recognise as the Christian Heritage party of yore.

Damian and Wallace were contending with a very packed house, and then an unexpected and seemingly unwelcome (and, some considered, very rude) interruption by a small but vocal group from Occupy Wellington, who chanted over the top of the presenters while Wallace was quizzing the panel on a policy issue.

There was the usual amount of banner and placard waving, ALCP managed a bit of screen-time for one of theirs, and the campaign against MMP had their placard removed by the producer after some overly aggressive behaviour.

Got you interested yet? View the whole episode here on TV7’s on-demand link, and while you’re paying attention, support the retention of TV7 here.

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

This is what a feminist campaign looks like…

The Wellington Young Feminists Collective ran a very well-attended candidates forum last night, held in the mezzanine meeting room at Wellington Public Library, titled “Ladies in the House”.

“Come and hear what your candidates are planning to do for local women and ask them the questions that matter… like why there only two female Wellington Central candidates. Or why abortion is still in the Crimes Act. Or why after the 2008 election only 27% of electorate MPs were women.

Women’s issues are everyone’s issues. Let’s make them election issues.”

So, who was there? Candidates invited were:
Paul Foster-Bell (National Party Candidate for Wellington Central)
Jordan Carter (Labour Party List Candidate)
Stephen Whittington (ACT Party Candidate for Wellington Central)
Holly Walker (Green Party Candidate for Hutt South)
Jan Logie (Green Party Candidate for Mana)
Ben Craven (NZ First Candidate for Wellington Central)

and they were ably MC’d by Bryony Skillington.

There were indeed questions put about the Crimes Act, abortion law in general, health policy, domestic violence, how to get more women elected, whether parties would keep the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, poverty in general and child poverty in particular, and since my notes from the hour and a half ran to seven pages, I’m not going to detail all the answers that were given, suffice to say that Ben Craven was clearly well out of his depth, and not any kind of asset to his party affiliation in his ineptitude, which gave a lot of unintentional humour.
Paul Foster-Bell read out his set-piece answers very coherently, but you could see the gloved hand controlling the puppet.
Stephen Whittington, to his credit, gave some very unpopular answers but at least stuck honestly to his own, well-known beliefs. Prolly not gonna help ACT get any more women voters, but then they don’t seem to want a world where women are enfranchised and empowered, so I guess they’ll take as long as they need to come to grips with 21st C realities.
Now to the two women candidates – our own Green party women, Holly Walker and Jan Logie. Both spoke strongly on policy platforms, and gave well-considered answers to questions asked by the audience. Holly handled gender pay gap and child poverty issues, while Jan spoke mostly about gender violence.

Linky roundup: Radio NZ here, Wellington Access Radio here, Jan Logie’s speech here.

Update: Wellingtonista did a far better review of the guts of the forum here, which proves my personal point that I can afford to be lazy every now and then when I know someone else has got my back 😉 Big ups to the Wellingtonista team.

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.

Occupy Wellington

I’ve held off from commenting on this affair until now, as I wanted to get a feel of how the media was handling it, whether facts were being published, and how the Occupy Aotearoa project was coming along.

There have been some interesting things going on. Occupy Wellington has a distributed leadership consensus decision-making group, which holds twice daily general assemblies of all attending the occupation, and is generally allowing allcomers to participate, discuss, vent, and help put plans together.

There have been a few issues, at first mainly weather related (one structure was re-assembled three times in as many days…), but as time has gone by a few personalities have become problems. There are sufficient skills in facilitation within the group that such issues have been quietly and firmly dealt with, although one disruptive visitor has been identified by Police as someone they want to remove from Wellington environs, so reluctantly an agreement was made that they would be contacted if he showed up again; when he did this was communicated to him and he went away immediately after yelling abuse at the ‘hospitality’ team, shouting that it was all lies. But the fact that he wasn’t keen to hang around and dispute the topic (his usual behaviour) gives the lie to his protestations, and to my knowledge he hasn’t been seen since.

Liason with Police and City Council has been positive and open from early days. A ‘hospitality’ roster keeps the camping area safe from random pillaging, whilst also functioning as a meet’n’greet point for visitors, media, and those who are staying overnight but have jobs or study to go to during the day. Organisation of food, waste disposal, recycling and workshops is happening in an organically fluid way, as people volunteer to work on various tasks and rotate as they become interested in different aspects of keeping this kind of action going.

Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) principles are being followed in planning any kind of satellite action and with the discussion group structure working well, there is sufficient input to utilise all available skillsets, whilst also having critical oversight from those campers who have more extensive experience in running demo’s, marches, protests or occupations.

There are also Occupy groups running in Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau, New Plymouth/Taranaki, Christchurch/Otautahi, Dunedin/Otepoti, and a satellite of the Christchurch occupation at Nelson.
Some of these groups are in contact with each other, due to affinity group connections between individual campers.

There’s a lot of chatter on FB, Twitter, and mainstream media, not all of it accurate or positive about the events or meanings of these actions. Occupy Wellington has its own webpage here, which is being updated sporadically by various people. There are some workshops planned for Labour Day (monday) with a schedule here, and there’s a ‘blogroll’ of media reports here.

In the interests of fair and unbiased reporting, I have to state that I spent 3 nights camping at the Occupy Wellington site; my tent is still there, in someone else’s use, as I’ve slunk home to try to cure a dose of ‘flu. I admit to being closely linked to quite a few of those who are core to this occupation action, and I 100% support what they are doing.

As usual, here’s a few pix to finish off with. Not sweary at all, totally SFW.

Green Mana electorate candidate Jan Logie with supporters on day one.

Green Mana electorate candidate Jan Logie with supporters on day one.


General Assembly on the warm bricks, late afternoon, day one

General Assembly on the warm bricks, late afternoon, day one


70's retro peace and love... day two

70's retro peace and love... day two


placard, day two

placard, day two


the growing campsite, day two

the growing campsite, day two


Loaned tent, replacing storm-damaged wharenui tarp, day three

Loaned tent, replacing storm-damaged wharenui tarp, day three


A dry blackboard, workshops notices day three

A dry blackboard, workshops notices day three


golden clouds as dusk falls over the encampment, day three

golden clouds as dusk falls over the encampment, day three


sunshine after rain, laundry out to dry, day four

sunshine after rain, laundry out to dry, day four


donations of fruit were placed on the open table, compost bin at the ready, day four

donations of fruit were placed on the open table, compost bin at the ready, day four

Solidarity gig in Wellington

Gig poster

Gig poster


Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the raids in Ruatoki and other places, so there’s a few events to mark the passage of this time.

14th October – Solidarity gig in Wellington

An amazing line-up of musicians including Riki Gooch, Imon Starr, Mara TK, and Bennie Tones will play a free gig at the Southern Cross on Friday, October 14th to celebrate the solidarity and support given to the many people involved in the Urewera case over the past four years.

FREE Gig to commemorate the four-year anniversary of the State Terror Raids on communities throughout Aotearoa, and to celebrate the on-going solidarity and support for the defendants.

Featuring Riki Gooch, Mara TK, Imon Starr, Vanessa Stacey, DJ Hammondhead, Mikki D, Sheeq n La, and Benny Tones.

Venue: Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street, Wellington
Date: 14th October 2011
Time: from 9pm

Operation 8: Deep in the forest

There are opportunities around the country to see the ‘Operation 8’ documentary. The film is now also available on DVD. Have a look in your local DVD store for a copy. For more information see
http://cutcutcut.com/Operation8.html

Waiheke – Waiheke Cinema
Friday, 14 Oct, 8pm

Devenport – Victoria Picture Palace
Thursday, 13 Oct, 3pm
Friday, 14 Oct, 3pm
Saturday, 15 Oct, 3pm
Sunday, 16 Oct, 3pm
Monday, 17 Oct, 3pm
Tuesday, 18 Oct, 3pm
Wednesday, 19 Oct, 3pm

Auckland – Academy Cinema
Thursday, 13 Oct, 12.30pm
Friday, 14 Oct, 12.30pm
Saturday, 15 Oct, 3.45pm
Sunday, 16 Oct, 3.45pm
Monday, 17 Oct, 12.30pm
Tuesday, 18 Oct, 12.30pm
Wednesday, 19 Oct, 12.30pm

Raglan – The Old School
Friday, 14 Oct, 7.30pm

Whakatane – Cinema 5
15 Oct – time tbc

New Plymouth – Arthouse Cinema
17 Oct – time tbc

Wellington – The Paramount
Saturday, 15 Oct, 11.45am
Saturday, 15 Oct, 6.15pm

Dunedin – Metro Cinema
Screenings start 15 Oct

Back Benches for 5th October 2011

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...


This week’s line-up included ACT MP Heather Roy’s last attendance, supported by Labour MP Lianne Dalziel from Christchurch East, National MP Todd McClay from Rotorua and Green MP Kevin Hague, who although a list MP lives on the West Coast, and maintains a strong interest in the affairs of the local constituents.

The ‘Double-downgrade’, as it’s being called (‘a fiscal fact you can choke on’?) was the headline topic as Wallace and Damian rolled into a wet and windy Wellington show.

Most of the pub tables were taken up by members of PRINZ, the professional body for PR people, so it was a very different crowd than usual, despite an influx of young Labour supporters right before the show started. I lucked into a seat just before the filming began, but had to rely on the screens for a view as the wall of student shoulders clustered around the bar and the stage manager’s taped white line on the floor totally obscured the panel!

‘Teh News’ roundup focused, not surprisingly, on Dan Carter’s groin strain, and we were apprised of Wallace’s degree of compassion on this issue as he castigated Damian for his frivolity and told us all that he’d experienced groin strain and it was no laughing matter. Cue Damian heading off-screen to recover as Wallace went on with the script.
Ahem, Wallace, if you’re reading – TMI, darling, only your lovely girlfriend needs to know the state of your groin, mm hmm, ‘kay?
The rest of us would have been happy to have remained in ignorance of the depth of your experience in the matter under discussion ….

Back to politics again, Wallace went round the panel asking them how serious the Standard & Poors and Fitch downgrades are for the NZ economy. Fascinating, I could almost hear Sir Roger’s teeth grinding somewhere in Wellington by telepathy as Heather answered. The rest went through their paces, with Kevin making very good points about the cost of rebuilding Christchurch having had a strong effect on the decision to downgrade.
Then Damian spoke to NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who must be one of the smartest of the young crop of economists in NZ. He gave us all a good perspective on how much difference there is between an AA+ and an AA rating, and Damian quipped that he’d have been happy with either grade on any of his university papers, which got a solid laugh from the wall of students. The short version of what the effects of this downgrade might be was not looking good for property speculators, exporters, or even just those running businesses in NZ.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for mortgages to get more accessible, those who aspire to get into their first home any time in the next five years. (I’m getting déjà-vu from the late 80’s, am I the only one?)

Then Heather Roy got the topic of her choice and completely shot herself in the foot by saying that women are less engaged in politics than men, in her opinion, and that it’s not good enough … curiously, Damian couldn’t find anyone willing to support Heather in this view, and did find several members of the audience (male and female) who roundly contradicted that point, which was then carried on further by the other panel members. The overwhelming conclusion was that women are large-scale participators in NZ democracy, but maybe just not in the ACT party. Lolz all round.

Peter McCaffrey managed to win a book prize for answering a patsy question on ‘Who am I?’ which was engineered to find the young ACT supporters in the room, who’d been pretty silent while Heather was speaking. (The politician described was Sir Roger Douglas ….) I wonder if he’s ever read a short story by Katherine Mansfield, or knows anything about her? Perhaps it will make a good gift for his mother ….

PRINZ then got their moment in the sun, during a panel round on the importance of public relations in politics. Damian spoke to Daniel Paul, the MD at Four Winds Communication Ltd, who gave a very smooth, ‘Mad Men’ performance in support of the PR industry. Todd McClay professed ignorance of which PR company the National Party uses, which only made him look like an uninformed/disingenuous twat as it appeared most of the room, and indeed all the other politicians, knew the answer to that one. This segued into a discussion around the use of social media, and some vox pop’s on internet privacy issues with specific relevance to FB. Lolz, school holidays bring out the best in crowd-sourced opinion!

Todd did however win the Quiz round, and has a lovely book to take home, ‘The Great Crash ahead: strategies for a world turned upside down.‘ Let’s hope he hands it on to his esteemed leader when he’s finished dealing with his insomnia.

The final round up included Kevin Hague’s strong statement about the need for better safety for miners in the wake of the Royal Commission on the Pike River disaster, which has seen truly damning evidence produced by mines safety experts and the Pike River Mine management. Lianne Dalziel made an impassioned plea for further support for Christchurch from the rest of us, after thanking everyone for all the support given so far. Todd McClay thanked all the valedictorians for their service in Parliament, and Heather Roy thanked Wallace and Damian for ‘telling the story of politics’ and ‘having her on’. Can only say roflmao…

The full episode can be viewed here, if you want more detail than this post has provided.
There’s one more Back Benches in Wellington before they set off for their Summer Tour around the country, so if you’re local get down to Back Benches next week and if you’re out in the provinces, watch out, they’re coming your way soon.

BTW, if anyone thinks I’m being a little harsh on Heather, at least I’m not an ACT member with a politics blog who regularly has a go at her – see here for Cactus Kate’s view of the blonde mother-of-five. Friends like these, as they say.