GAZA BURNS AND THERE'S SILENCE FROM THE KEY GOVERNMENT


Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, launched when much of the global corporate media is in 'holiday' mode, have killed over two hundred people and injured nearly 800.

And there's been no response from the John Key government. Indeed the only squeak we've heard from the National is Gerry Brownlee asking the oil companies to drop their petrol prices. Brownlee is hoping to collect a few brownie points, parading himself as a 'champion' of the little guy.

Gaza though appears to be well off National's radar.

At least the Alliance have condemned the air strikes and called on John Key to condemn them as well.

Fat chance of that though. The National Government's silence amounts to tacit support for the Bush-approved military attack.

Of course our media have gone into hibernation for the next month. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully knows that he can breathe easy, safe in the knowledge that TVNZ and co are too concerned with other pressing matters - like holiday traffic 'jams' and shopping mall sales.

SANTA SUCKS v1.1


I'm not a Christmas person. Naturally I was when I was a child (I think), but, as an adult, I view Christmas as an irritating tedium.

What is it about Christmas that gets under my skin? I quoted Christopher Hitchens in my 'Christmas post' last year and I will quote him again:

.'.what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivisation of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy.'

I was going to post the same post this year - bar a few minor changes - but there's something different happening in 2008, the year global capitalism went into meltdown.

At my local mall, the same Christmas decorations are up and the same awful Christmas music is being piped through the sound system. Bloody 'Snoopy's Christmas'.

And the retailers - backed by their trusty allies, the corporate media - are using exactly the same arsenal of Christmas bullshit to coax/harass people into buying stuff they probably don't need.

Last year, on the back of an overheated housing market and easy credit, Christmas platitudes and false Christmas bonhomie was enough to drive the punters into opening the wallets and purses. The formulae was a simple one: the Christmas 'spirit' means spending money.

But the formulae isn't working this year because the 'bubble' has burst, the economy has collapsed - times are getting tough.

In my local mall the stores have dramatically cut prices in a desperate attempt to get the volume of sales they need. The economic imperative is that many retailers rely on the three or four weeks leading up to Christmas to get them through the next year.

Judging by what's happening in my mall, its going to be a rough year for many of them and some of them may go to the wall. Unlike last year the buying frenzy is missing, people are spending less.

Last week figures showed that applications for credit were down almost thirty percent on one year ago while loan defaults were on the rise.

Just today investment firm Goldman Sachs - who have added to the dole figures themselves this year - predicted that unemployment could rise as much as 75,000 next year. I think this is an optimistic view.

While last year the party was in full swing, this year the stereo has been switched off and the lights have been switched on. People are being told to go home.

The black economic clouds of 2009 are looming on the horizon.

People are rightly worried about the future and the calculated jollity of retailers and the media just doesn't cut it. They are standing alone in the living room with their party hats on while everyone else heads for the door.

There's something in the air and it isn't a fat guy in a sleigh.

CAUGHT IN HIS CONTRADICTION


The rub is that Chris Trotter wants to be 'progressive' and support Labour as well. The problem is he can be one but he can't be both. This is the contradiction that Trotter is seemingly incapable of getting himself out of.


Chris Trotter is a man of contradiction - especially since the demise of his Clark government, a government he consistently defended.

On the one hand he's managed to carve out a place for himself as a newspaper columnist and the 'goto' guy whenever the mainstream media wants a 'leftish' comment.

He is, for the corporate media, the 'acceptable face' of left wing politics - the guy who sounds vaguely dissenting but, in the end, won't frighten the horses. The very-right-wing Paul Henry regards him as New Zealand's 'leading political commentator'. This is the same Henry who has a low opinion of John Pilger and Robert Fisk.

But since the election defeat of the Clark government, Trotter has been having a go at what he regards as the silly and unrealistic 'far left' - which is basically anyone to the left of Labour.

In his weekly newspaper column of a fortnight or so ago, he threw out the hackneyed old prejudice that the 'far left' welcomed the election of the John Key government because it would make life hell for the working class - because it would make them more 'receptive' to socialist politics.

Putting aside Trotter's implication that life was dandy for workers under the Labour-led government - which it wasn't - Trotter's charge only holds water against what is commonly referred to as 'ultra leftism'.

I don't need to rehearse the arguments here - and Trotter knows them too well - but revolutionary socialists do not reject the struggle for reform, they embrace it!

You will find revolutionary socialists on the picket line, involved in various single-issue campaigns, in community groups. They are fighting for the implementation of measures that will make the lives of ordinary people better now. They are not holed up in some office or bedsit somewhere, rubbing their hands in glee whenever the government sticks it to the working class.

Of course it is true that, unlike Chris Trotter, the socialist left has no illusions about the nature of the Labour Party.

While Trotter might get invited on stage at Labour Party conferences- is he a card-carrying Labour member? - the left sees no significant difference between National and Labour. While Trotter is chatting away with Labour MP's over wine and cheese, the 'silly' and 'impractical' socialist left is outside the conference hall protesting.

I can see Chris Trotter at the conference window now, another glass of chardonnay in hand. 'Look at those deluded socialists,' he says complacently. 'They should be in here having wine and canapes.'

The difference in having a National Government is purely organisational, which Bryce Edwards pointed out in a response to Trotter's newspaper column:

.'we believe that the "silver lining" of having a National Government is that it will actually provide greater opportunities for real fightbacks against workers rights to be built than when Labour is in power. This isn't really a positive comment on having a National government but a critique of how the left and the trade union movement capitulate to anti-worker governments that are led by the Labour Party.'

But Trotter, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, rejects the charge that Labour is anti-worker.

In a response to Edwards, Trotter argued that Labour couldn't be anti-worker because it got 796,880 party votes, mostly from working class voters.

The absurdity of this argument becomes clear when we consider that National garnered a fair few 'working class votes' as well.

What Trotter is trying to avoid here is any real scrutiny of social democratic politics.

He has, admittedly, pondered on the 'paternalism' of the Clark government but he is merely trying to reinvent a creed that died a death many years ago. Isn't it time to switch off the life support, Chris?

Social democracy, Labour politics, have moved to the right to embrace free market policies and ideology. Labour is no longer a transmission belt for new ideas but rather just another parliamentary face of corporate capitalism.

I'd have more time for Labour if I heard some talk about such things as direct democracy, self-management, worker-cooperatives and a critique of the capitalist financial system- but I don't. I just hear the same dreary pro-market stuff I've heard for more years than I care to remember.

In his most recent blog post Trotter urges the young Resident Action Movement (RAM) candidate Oliver Woods to get involved in 'building up' the so-called 'progressive' forces within Labour.

Having accused the socialist left of elitism, Trotter sounds positively condescending as he urges the 'wayward' Woods to recognise the 'error' of his ways and get involved with Labour. Take a hundred lines Master Woods - 'I must recognise the error of my ways.'

Woods is in good company - Trotter doesn't think much of John A. Lee either.

And who are these 'progressive forces' anyway? Apparently they are the MP's Grant Robertson, Clare Curran and Phil Twyford. Well, if these three are 'progressive' they have certainly been keeping it a secret.

All these MP's are comfortable with the free market economic policies of Labour. They are typical career politicians.

The rub is that Chris Trotter wants to be 'progressive' and support Labour as well. The problem is he can be one but he can't be both. This is the contradiction that Trotter is seemingly incapable of getting himself out of.

GILCHRIST ALSO SPYING ON UNIONS


Despite attempts by Prime Minister John Key to downplay the activities of police spy Rob Gilchrist, the affair continues to gather momentum.

Unite union leader Matt McCarten has released emails that Gilchchrist sent to the Special Investigation Group (SIG).

These emails detailed activities being organised by the union as part of their push to abolish youth pay rates and increase the minimum wage.

These emails are yet more evidence that Police Commissioner Broad has been telling tales. It is clear that Gilchrist was spying on a wide range of organisations, including political parties, unions and activist groups - and it appears that his 'handlers' never reined him in.

Gilchrist also forwarded the SIG an email from activist Simon Oosterman, in which Oosterman asked him to be a witness in his case against police for misusing pepper spray. That email was covered by litigation privilege.

Gilchrist subsequently served as a witness in the case.

THE HENDERSON CHRISTMAS HORROR SHOW


This blog has been following the adventures of Dave Henderson for well over a year. The failed property developer and Christchurch City Council beneficiary has provided a lot of 'copy', but this next story is venturing close to the surreal.

Last Saturday night the owner of Smith Crane and Construction, Tim Smith, who employs about 150 people, was arrested at one of Henderson's South of Lichfield (Sol) establishments, the Yellow Cross bar.

Henderson followers will know that Henderson's companies owe close to $1 million to Smith Crane.

The company began receivership proceedings against Henderson but withdrew them after an agreement was made with Henderson to pay off the debt over time.

Part of that deal was Henderson agreeing to Smith Crane having its Christmas Party at the Yellow Cross bar and Henderson would pick up the tab.

There's usually a twist in the tale when it comes to Hendo, and the 'twist' this time was the police turning up at 11.30pm, despite the fact that everyone at the Christmas party had been well-behaved throughout.

This is what one patron wrote about events:

I happened to be downstairs in the Yellow Cross as this happened. First 10 police went up, then another 10. Another 10 or so remained outside. After a while, patrons started leaving. Bouncers made a big deal of getting us out of the way, and forming a line (3 long) to try to protect us from the dangerous people upstairs.

We were briefly locked in as a few blokes had a go at each other outside. I'm not sure if they were from upstairs or not. As we left, we saw someone arguing with the police about his ruined Christmas party.


Tim Smith, not exactly in a 'party' mood anymore, then took his partner and a few friends to another Sol establishment, the Fish and Chip Shop.

Smith tried to buy a round of drinks using one of ten Sol Square vouchers (worth $400 each) which Hendo had given him as another offset against the million dollar debt.

But things got even worse for the unfortunate Tim Smith and friends - one of Henderson's bouncers, for no apparent reason, asked him to move away from the bar.

Smith, already naturally upset with having his Christmas party ruined, had a heated argument with the bouncer concerned.

The bouncer's response? He called for the assistance of some of his fellow bouncers and they wrestled Tim Smith to the ground.

And, to add insult to injury, Smith was charged with disorderly behaviour and spent the night in the police cells!

I bet Tim Smith is wishing that he never made a deal with Henderson.

So who had the called the police when the Smith Crane Christmas party had been entirely peaceful?

The police say they received a call from Yellow Cross management claiming that the Christmas party was 'getting out of hand' and they were concerned by the 'aggressive behaviour' of patrons towards the poor and defenceless bouncers! (one former Sol bouncer was recently convicted of breaking a patron's nose).

Yellow Management had decided to close the bar and wanted the police's assistance.

In reality Yellow Cross management, appearing to act under instructions, were looking for an excuse to close down the Christmas party and they invented the fiction of patrons getting 'aggressive' toward 'security staff' to justify the closure.

Not surprisingly Henderson has denied that the Yellow Cross management phoned the police. This begs the question - why would the police lie about it?

Henderson also denied that he had anything to do with phoning the Press newspaper and pulling a receivership notice placed by Smith Crane and Construction. The Press later traced the phone call to Henderson's Sol offices.

The reader will also not be surprised to learn that the Yellow Cross Brewing Company had an interim liquidator appointed to it on December 1, on an application by the Inland Revenue. The taxman is seeking to liquidate the company over unpaid PAYE tax.

SIDESHOW BOB MOVES TO 'PLAN B'


The headline in today's Christchurch Press is 'Tenants Applaud Parkers's Apology' as opposed to 'Council To Consider Sale of Housing Units'.

The Press, which has already suggested that looking at selling some or all of the council's housing stock is a 'good idea', has highlighted Mayor Parker's apology for the invalid twenty-four percent rent rise.

"I want to say to the ratepayers, residents and citizens of Christchurch that I am sorry," Parker said. "We were wrong and therefore we should admit that and say we are sorry."

A contrite Mayor Sideshow Bob? Really?

Definitely not.

What Parker is apologising for is the shonky process that led to the decision to raise council rents - he's not apologising for the rent rise itself. In fact, he still believes that the massive rent rise was 'the right decision'.

Parker has now moved to 'Plan B'' - details of which are buried toward the end of the Press article.

Rents have now risen 2.3 percent but Sideshow Bob is now looking at increasing rents 14 percent in July next year - along with a number of other 'options', including a 27.5 percent rise.

But having been slapped on the wrist by the High Court, Parker is forced to send out these lousy proposals for community consultation.

Oh, and one of the 'options' to be 'considered' is - surprise - 'the possible sale of housing units'.

The big problem is that, as we have seen in the past, the Christchurch City Council can do some token 'consultation' then proceed to do what it likes anyway.

As I said in a previous post, this particular battle might of been won but the war continues.

Meanwhile the appalling and arrogant Councillor Barry Corbett still wants his pound of flesh - he thinks that even a 14 percent rise isn't big enough.

With the New Zealand economy sliding into a very big recession, Corbett doesn't have any problem at all inflicting even more economic pain on council tenants via large rent hikes.

What a creep.

THE MURKY WORLD OF ROB GILCHRIST


Rob Gilchrist originally established nzscanners.org.nz, a 'website for serious radio scanners and scanners in New Zealand'. He posted messages under one of his online names 'zeroalpha'. He has also been using the names 'balaclava' and 'anarchist'.

The site includes a chatroom and a forum. The site says that it has over 20,000 registered members.

However it appears Gilchrist has had no involvement with this site for several years and that it was merely a short-term 'business front' . The domain name is now registered to someone else who has no connection to Gilchrist.

The domain nzscanners.co.nz, which was established for the business, no longer exists.

Gilchrist however does own the company NZ Scanners Ltd, registered in January 2005. He is the only shareholder.

The company address is a post box number.

Meanwhile other serious allegations have been swirling around Gilchrist and because they have not been substantiated I'm choosing not to publish them here for the moment. I do note though that Gilchrist was expelled from the Anti-Vivisection Society in 2002.

As well as spying on the Workers Party, Green MP Keith Locke today said that Gilchrist had been passing Green Party information on to the Special Investigation Group and his 'handlers' Detective Peter Gilroy and Detective Sergeant John Sjoberg.

THE NATIONAL PARTY APPRECIATION SHOW



TVNZ's Breakfast, otherwise known as the 'National Party Appreciation Show', hauled in the right wing Graeme Hunt to talk about the activities of police spy Rob Gilchrist.

Graeme Hunt – a new right zealot- is one of those right wight wing loonies who equates all democratic protest with subversive activity. In his poor book Spies and Revolutionaries: A history of New Zealand Subversion, Hunt portrayed labour strikes, the peace movement, the ant-Springbok tour movements and the anti-conscription movement as the tools of 'spies' out to subvert 'the New Zealand way of life' on behalf of the former Soviet Union.

Said Hunt when the book was released: "It is high time we called these people the traitors they are… People make light of the corrupting influence of the Soviet Union on New Zealand life, but Russian communism attracted friends in government departments, universities, and the unions with several committed to establishing a communist state here."

There you go - opposing the Springbok Tour wasn't about fighting apartheid, it was all about helping out the Soviet Union and creating a Stalinist state here!

Hunt's book completely fails to understand the reactionary nature of Stalinism and Soviet foreign policy. Hunt's dislike of left wing politics borders on the pathological and he is simply incapable of rational discussion.

But back to Breakfast.

The ludicrous Hunt told the very-right-wing Paul Henry and the absolutely hopeless Pippa Wetzell that it was quite okay for Rob Gilchrist to spy on animal rights groups, the Happy Valley Coalition, the Workers Party, etc because, yes, these groups are - you guessed it – potential threats to 'our' New Zealand way of life.

Of course since the demise of the Soviet Union, Hunt can no longer talk darkly of the Soviet threat and since China is one of 'new best friends' of New Zealand business Hunt can't raise the Chinese regime as the new bogeyman either.

He cuts a pathetic figure but Breakfast gave the clown an easy ride.

This was an appalling interview designed to show the National Government and the police in the best light possible.

Breakfast hauled into the studio in an old right wing hack who they knew would give them the opinion they wanted.

Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell should do as us all favour and get jobs as press officers with the National Party. They won't of course - they'd much prefer to continue riding the TVNZ gravy train.

BROAD TELLS PORKIES


Yesterday, Police Commissioner Howard Broad defended the Strategic Investigation Group operation, which employed Rob Gilchrist to spy on environmental, animal rights, political parties and various other activist groups. Broad claimed that they were targeting people police believed could pose a 'national security threat', although he didn't elaborate what this so-called 'national security threat' was.

Broad of course also approved the arrest of Tuhoe activists because of alleged 'terrorist' activities. Such charges were subsequently dropped.

Rochelle Rees, an animal rights activist, who exposed Gilchrist's activites after finding emails from the police on his computer, has released a series of questions Gilchrist received from police which dispute Broad's story.

These emails suggest that the police were interested in the activities of groups themselves and not just specific individuals.

About groups concerned with climate change one email reads:

"Climate Change Groups: What is happening with climate change groups in Auckland? Who is involved? What actions might they be considering for the future? What specific plans are in place for Climate Day of Action 07/07?"

Simiarly about 'Anti-war/Anti-American groups' the police asked Gilchrist;

'What is happening within these organisations. What sort of numbers are now involved. What activities or targeting do they have planned for the future'

Another email requests information on Auckland Animal Action, including its structure, contact phone numbers, addresses, what cars key players drive, and if they use chat rooms.

The police were also interested in the activities of a legitimate political party, the Workers Party. The party stood candidates in this year's general election.

It's very clear that Howard Broad is telling porkies about what the police have really been up to.

SPY IN THE HOUSE



The uproar about Rob Gilchrist the police informant is a little bizarre.

The underlying theme appears to be one of indignation and incredulity: how dare Gilchrist spy on activist groups and how on earth can this be happening in little old New Zealand!

There appears to be an attitude of 'hey, we might agree to disagree, but, in the end, we're all New Zealanders!'

Green MP Keith Locke's comment that this isn't 'East Germany' was just silly. Yes this isn't East Germany where every second person was a Stasi informant and where people routinely 'disappeared', but does Locke seriously think that the state does not covertly spy on left wing organisations it is interested in?

As Bryce Edwards points out on his Liberation blog the state has always taken interest in the activities of left wing groups. Personally, I'm old enough to recall police spies being 'outed' from within the anti-Springbok tour movement, for example. And who doesn't remember the house of Dr David Small being broken into by SIS agents?

The fact is that these events are not an aberration - they indicate a routine pattern of behaviour by the state.

Anecdotally, I can recall rumours circulating about Rob Gilchrist some years ago.

Back in 2006 I was employed by Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) as a writer/researcher and I can recall suspicions being raised about him then on more than one occasion.

At that time some of the coordinating work for the Save Happy Valley Coalition was being conducted out of the SAFE office.

Interestingly Bryce Edwards has posted an email he received about Gilchrist in August 2005. Edwards says this email was sent to several people:

Balaclava aka Rob (otherwise known to me as pavlova), is a complete tosser. He is an anarchist who also calls himself a property developer& businessman. He is a trust fund bludger whose father was a Coca-cola executive. He stayed at the Duxton hotel (a swanky zionist-owned hotel) for months while playing protestor with his other anarchist vegan mates up here in Auckland. He is mostly CHCH& WLG based though. He also claims to have a huge knowledge re surveillance that just comes from him being loaded and having all the toys! He is ex-army though so thinks he's boot camp leader for any new activists. However, he is a mallowpuff who pissed off after 1 day cause it rained when he visited the occupation against the prison at Ngawha, Northland. What a fraud!! The friend of mine, previously of CHCH, who he credits with bringing him to anarcho politics (is that a contradiction in terms?) & animal rights, said that she didn't trust him & many people thought he was a plant/nark/cop.?? I don't think I believe that, but he does seem to ingratiate himself into animal rights & maori radical activist circles. Sorry, more irrelevant information. Also during one visit to Auckland he chose to lead 2 people away from a protest with some false excuse before the police attacked - APEC (he had the scanner& was listening to the cops). He is dodgy, not to be trusted, and of course he doesn't support freedom of speech. He's an anarchist& a pavlova. 'Balaclava' indeed - bloody tosser!!



Despite the rumours, Gilchrist continued his activities. This included, says Edwards, forwarding emails from the Workers Party on to his 'handlers'.

Edwards says that Gilchrist was never exposed because of the 'incredible naivety' on the part of the left and, yes, this is an important factor. I also can't help feeling that the left groups he got involved with, continually battling with minimal resources, also tended to disregard the rumours because Rob Gilchrist was an enthusiastic and hardworking 'activist'.

YOU CAN'T TRUST SIDESHOW BOB!


Sideshow Bob has conceded defeat on the massive 24 percent council rent rise.

That rise will now be replaced by a 2.3 percent rise and the extra rent paid by tenants since July 1 will be refunded- with interest - by the Christchurch City Council.

Thanks to Sideshow Bob's ideological lunacy, the ratepayer will also be paying the $17,000 legal costs incurred by the Council of Social Services which mounted the court challenge to the proposed increase.

This is on top of another $15,000 forked out on legal bills to see whether a legal appeal could be mounted to challenge the High Court decision to rule the massive rent rise invalid.

This particular battle may of been won but the war is far from over.

Parker can't be trusted ever, and he continues to push the myth that unless rents are substantially raised then council housing will not be self-funding.

Of significance is that last week Parker raised the prospect of council rents being subsidised by rates. This is a clear attempt by Parker to garner support among the Christchurch community by falsely portraying council housing as being another 'burden' on Christchurch ratepayers.

What Parker and his supporters were really trying to do was substantially raise council rents in order to keep rates down for everyone else down. It was more of Sideshow Bob's 'take from the poor to give to the rich philosophy': some of Christchurch's poorest and most vulnerable people were being targeted in order to give Fendalton and Merivale homeowners a 'rates break'.

The increase in rent would of meant that the council’s own maintenance company could charge more and contribute to increased profits for its holding company and so keep rates down.

It's a little worrying that social agencies who have said that they are prepared to work with Parker to find 'new funding for social housing' appear to have accepted, perhaps unintentionally, Parker's false argument about council housing not being self-funding.

They should not accept Parker's agenda to move social housing from being a breakeven concern to one that provides a profit. This is discredited monetarist philosophy and one that organisations like the Council of Social Services should not buy into.

It'll be interesting to see what comes out of the extraordinary council meeting this week where ' a new direction for council housing' will be set.

Opponents should already be alerted by such phrases as 'new direction' - this is code for nothing more than implementing a tired and discredited new right agenda.

The Minister of Local Government and monetarist zealot Rodney Hide will no doubt be watching proceedings closely...

YOU'RE FIRED!


It's hard to see how the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, could seriously expect anyone to believe her when she said in Parliament today that 'the fire at will' bill (The Employment Relations Amendment Bill) does not take away any (further) worker's rights.

Provisions under present industrial legislation allow employers to take on a new workers for a probationary period. What National's proposed new law does is strip workers of any protection and the right to take grievance procedures against a boss for unjustified dismissal and so forth.

As the No Right Turn blog notes:

'The core of the bill is new sections 67A and B, which allow small employers ("by agreement" - meaning by economic coercion) to impose a trial period of up to 90 days on new staff, during which they will have no right to bring legal proceedings if dismissed. While existing rights to bring proceedings for racial discrimination and sexual harassment are purportedly preserved, the effect of new s67 B (2) will be to completely undermine them in practice. So, this is a racist's and sexist's charter.'

Wilkinson compounded her stupidity when she said that the legislation didn't apply to all workers, just those working for organisations with less than twenty workers. Well, this is 97 percent of New Zealand's workforce. Doh!

And what Wilkinson didn't say is that a footnote in the legislation says that the law could be extended to all workers at a future date. I'll lay odds that it will be.

Of course with the New Zealand economy spinning rapidly down into a recession that will be far deeper and serious than many people are expecting (certainly not the Reserve Bank governor), business expects John Key to tilt the balance well and truly in their favour.

There will be a price to be paid for the capitalist slump but it'll be paid, if we allow it, by ordinary workers through bills like this one.

My worry is that there will a concerted attempt to direct political opposition into supporting Labour and the Greens - and the Labour-aligned trade union bureaucracy.

Attempts to push Phil Goff as a champion of the working class just won't wash.

Recent history tells us that a fair number of 'wolves in sheep clothing' can be found within the ranks of Labour and its political allies...

HANOVER AND HENDERSON


Hanover investors have well and truly let owners Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson off the hook.

These two former 'stars' of the new 'entrepreneurial New Zealand' have been allowed to keep control of a company they stuffed up in the first place.

Hanover investors, stupidly, agreed to the restructuring proposal. The vote wasn't even close - 93 percent of the people present at the Auckland meeting yesterday agreed to it.

Hotchin and Watson are claiming investors will get all their money back in five years -but it means only 30 cents in the dollar by 2011 and does not return any interest.

Watson and Hotchin who have taken over $100 million out of the company have been allowed to continue purely on their assumption that there will be a massive recovery in the property market in the next five years.

This is a massive step of faith - to put it mildly - especially when we consider that Watson and Hotchin gave the shambolic Dave Henderson $70 million to fritter away on his ludicrous village project near Queenstown.

It would be interesting to know how Watson and Hotchin plan to extract $70 million from Hendo - who, of course, is already being pursued for massive debts from other quarters.

Meanwhile Christchurch City Council officers have apparently been seen poking their noses around several of the over-valued Henderson properties that the Christchurch ratepayer have been saddled with.

BEYOND LABOUR AND THE GREENS


It seems that the free market zealots within the Treasury haven't heard that neo-liberalism has collapsed.

Last week's briefing paper to the Minister of Finance Bill English included, among other things, an increase in GST and cuts to superannuation.

Bill English was quick to reject much of this briefing paper. While Treasury may still think its 1984 English knows that in 2008 the implementation of the Treasury recipe would spell election suicide.

That said, the pressure is already on from business and, as Lenin once said, capitalists can survive any crisis so long as workers pay for it.

So its interesting to see that in Auckland this week there will be a public meeting for people to discuss how the inevitable attacks on workers conditions can be resisted.

It's an excellent initiative but the left cannot just be reactive.

What also is needed is an alternative economic programme.

Fortunately we're not starting from scratch.

The Alliance has a well-constructed left-Keynesian program - steadfastly ignored by the mainstream media - which points us in a different economic direction.

Similarly both the Workers Party and RAM (Resident Action Movement) offered more explicit socialist programs at the general election.

And, if one was to delve into the past, one would find now-defunct political organisations that have offered alternative progressive economic programs.

The danger is that the left could be conned into campaigning for Labour and the Green's again despite the fact that both parties are wedded into the neo-liberal orthodoxy.

I note with some reservation that the Green's Sue Bradford is one of the guest speakers at the Auckland meeting.

Sue Bradford MP has been a huge disappointment and I'm not sure why she is speaking at this meeting in the first place. Personally I preferred the pre-parliament Sue Bradford. Like her party, Sue's been marching right for some years now.

In my view, the Green's support for the neo-liberal economic model needs to be challenged. Bradford should be asked to explain.

As well trade union bureaucrats linked to Labour also need to be challenged.

Yes, we need to build a movement - but not a movement that's about getting Labour and its parliamentary allies re-elected into government again.

That is no solution at all.

We Won't Pay for Your Crisis- public meeting Thursday 11th December 7pm, Auckland Trades Hall

MORE FAN LETTERS FOR SIDESHOW BOB AND HIS COUNCIL CHUMS


Here are two good letters from Saturday's Christchurch Press which I thought I'd post here.

The National Council of Women (NCWNZ), an apolitical organisation, has an established policy around rental accomodation for low income people. Therefore, it is with considerable concern and disappointment that we write regarding the Chrstchurch City Council's response to the recent court decision - the council's decision to suspend all non-esential maintenance on its housing stock.

Leaving aside how worrying all of this must be for council tenants, it is nothing short of insulting for the tenants to find out via The Press that maintenance men were withdrawn, leaving jobs apparently uncompleted.

The Local Government Act requires local authorities to act efficiently and democratically in everything that they do, and it behoves the council to attend to its responsibilities under the Act in an appropiate manner.
Marie Bean, President, NCWNZ, Christchurch branch

I always understood it was the council's responsibility to administer support for the more vulnerable in society, not treat them as a captive cash cow to prop up the failing businesses of his friend to the tune of $17 million, while he sordidly mugs to the camera smugly brandishing dildoes and doobies.


I'm at a loss for words to describe how disgusted I am at Bailout Bob's petty and vindictive pogrom of council tenants, by first trying to fleece them of their meagre income, then denying them their basic human rights by maliciously and deliberately condemning them to a life of misery in cold, damp, unmaintained hell-holes.

I always understood it was the council's responsibility to administer support for the more vulnerable in society, not treat them as a captive cash cow to prop up the failing businesses of his friend to the tune of $17 million, while he sordidly mugs to the camera smugly brandishing dildoes and doobies.

Its my policy to rally against such selfish and greedy Thatcherites, and do my level best to put an end to their poisonous anti-social careers.
AJ Bennett, Lyttelton

SIDESHOW BOB: DIGGING A DEEPER HOLE



Sideshow Bob pointed to a big hole in the middle of the field.

'That's my hole,' he said proudly. 'And it's getting deeper everyday!'


Another day goes by and Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker just keeps on finding more ways to really annoy the fair citizens of Christchurch.

Now we learn that Sideshow Bob's arrogance is going to cost the ratepayer even more money.

Sideshow and his council cronies have sought advice on whether to appeal a High Court ruling that overturned a 24 per cent rent rise - and that advice is going to cost some $15,000.

Parker also said that an decison on an appeal would be made in a few days.

Of course this is the guy who also said that he had no intention of hocking off the council's social housing, so it comes as no surprise that the council will not vote on an appeal until December 19.

Councillor Yani Johanson has questioned the delay and makes a good point that it only took Mayor Parker and his council supporters four days to decide to give $17 million to failed property developer Dave Henderson.

But the big difference is that Henderson is one of Parker's mates.

Meanwhile it has emerged that the decision to stop maintenance work on council housing was never approved by counci itself. Yes, it was another one of those arbitrary decisions made by Parker and his righthand man, CEO Tony Marryatt.

WATCH OUT - THERE'S A PR CAMPAIGN ABOUT!


Do you smell the beginnings of a campaign to soften up the good people of Christchurch to the idea of hocking off the city council's community housing?

Hot on the heels of Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker raising the prospect of gettiing rid of the council's housing stock, an editorial in today's Press newspaper has also questioned why the council should keep its social housing programme.

The Press
however had nothing to say about Parker's election commitment to not only keeping community housing but expanding it. It appears that the newspaper thinks reneging on election commitments is just fine. So much for local democracy.

Meanwhile an increasing number of council tenants are not paying any rent until the council readjusts the rent to the previous rate.

As well council tenants are angry that they have not yet been reimbursed for the extra, and now invalid, rent they have paid since the rise on April 1.

Matters have not been helped by the council stopping all non-essential maintenance on council flats - and not telling tenants.

Some council tenants are not stuck with jobs barely half-completed.

Remember folks, this is what Sideshow Bob said last year when he was looking for votes:

'I believe community housing is a vital part of our city.'

Yeah, right.

Perhaps The Press could do an editorial on Parker's barefaced lies?

LIAR! LIAR! PANTS ON FIRE!


I am a strong supporter of Council housing and committed to keeping it. And I intend to find ways to invest in more Council housing over the coming years.
Bob Parker, September 26 2007


When Councillor Gail Sheriiff declared that council housing should be flicked off to Housing New Zealand she was directly opposing the council's commitment to social housing.

Her failure to uphold coucil policy should have earnt her a public ticking off from Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker.

It didn't. It was met with a deafening silence from Sideshow Bob.

Why? Because Sheriff has been acting as Parker's 'stalking horse'.

In his weekly column in the Christchurch Star, the slippery Parker states;

'maybe this is now the time for the council to reconsider its future in social housing..

Yes, Parker's real agenda is now in view.

After being told by the High Court that the council had failed to follow due process when it raised council rents by a massive twenty-four percent, Sideshow Bob - like Gail Sheriff - now wants to throw council tenants to the wolves.

During his election campaign Parker denied widespread rumours that he wanted to get rid of council housing. According to Sideshow Bob this was all part of a smear campaign orchestrated by his 2021 political opponents.

Parker distributed this letter to all council tenants, assuring them that he was committed to not only supporting council housing but increasing the number of council flats as well:

Bob Parker
28 Gloucester St
Christchurch

26 September 2007

Bob Parker absolutely committed to supporting and increasing council housing.

Dear resident,

I understand that someone has recently tried to start the rumour that I am planning to sell Christchurch’s community and pensioner housing.

I am writing to tell you this rumour is totally false.

I am extremely proud of Christchurch’s record of providing community housing for our people. I believe community housing is a vital part of our city.

I am a strong supporter of Council housing and committed to keeping it. And I intend to find ways to invest in more Council housing over the coming years.

I am very sorry that people have chosen to use these lies as an election tactic, and hope you weren’t concerned by the rumour. I am really upset that someone would use a threat on your home as part of their political campaign.

If you want to know any more about me or what I really stand for, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at the Council offices or on 0274-434-575.

Kind regards,
Bob Parker

Published under the authority of Bob Parker. 28 Gloucester St, Christchurch.


Well, that was then and this is now.

Parker looks like he's going to try and reneg on the clear promises he made to council tenants and to the the people of Christchurch generally.

And a big fat zero to Deputy Mayor Norm Withers who is backing Parker's campaign to betray a proud seventy year council history of providing social housing.

Parker will discover that he's in for a long and hard fight if he attempts to push through this election betrayal.

SIDESHOW BOB 0 COUNCIL TENANTS 1


Poor old Sideshow Bob - now some of his own council supporters don't want to back an appeal against the High Court's reversal of the massive twenty four percent council rent rise.

According to The Press It appears that both the unpopular Gail Sheriff and Claudia Reid, who voted for the increase, don't think an appeal woud be a good idea.

Sheriff last week threw a tantrum and publicly stated that all council housing should be hived off to Housing New Zealand - which would be in direct contravention of council policy.

Sideshow Bob has not publicly reprimanded Sheriff for failing to uphold council policy.

Councillors Mike Wall, David Cox, Bob Shearing, Ngaire Button, Sue Wells and Sideshow Bob - who all supported the increase and now with their credibility in tatters - are waiting for a final legal opinion from the council lawyers. These are the same lawyers who got it wrong in the first place.

It seems that Parker and his council cronies are finding it difficult to admit that the rise rise is now a non-starter. The maxim here would be - quit while you're behind.

Councillor Barry Corbett refused to talk to The Press. Apparently he's refused to talk to the newspaper for the past six months -which is somewhat ironic for a councillor who used to talk about 'accountability' and being 'available' to the public.

ROB FYFE - 'THE FAMILY MAN'


When it's a tragic accident like an airliner crash and people are killed there is, naturally enough, an inclination to tread lightly around the event and to steer clear of the more sensitive stuff.

But there's still a journalistic job to be done and this writer has been more than a little uneasy about some of the comments coming from Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe.

Sure, he's upset about what has happened and clearly the company are doing whatever they can to assist the families involved.

That said I found Fyfe's comments about the 'Air New Zealand family' coming togther in a time of tragedy more than a little unpalatable. Frankly they were nauseating.

Is this the same 'family' which just some ten days ago received news from Fyfe that two hundred of them were going to lose their jobs? Not a particularly jolly Christmas present for the 'family members' concerned.

Fyfe also warned that he couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be further job cuts in the future.

The Aviation and Marine Engineers Association has accused Fyfe of using the economic crisis as a convenient excuse to make unnecessary job cuts.

Indeed since he started in the job back in 2005 Fyfe has been more the family tyrant than the cuddly uncle.

To quote from NZ Management (September 5, 2006):

'Ever since he took over as Air New Zealand CEO at the end of last year, he's waved the company axe over pretty much everyone and everything. Engineers, marketing, human resources, finance, cleaners and ground staff.'

And with the help of the dismal bureaucrats in the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), Fyfe was able to force Air New Zealand engineers to 'agree' to reduced pay and conditions . Fyfe's ultimatum? Accept the new condiitons or you're jobs will be outsourced.

And Fyfe also had to furiously backpedal when it was revealed that Air New Zealand had been underpaying its Chinese workers to the tune of four times less than their New Zealand counterparts.

I guess there's family and there's family...

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