THE LANE WALKER RUDKIN COLLAPSE: LABOUR MUST TAKE ITS SHARE OF THE BLAME


The Christchurch clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin has been put into receivership and some 470 jobs jobs are on the line. Given that LWR has debts reportedly of some $50 million its hard to see any happy ending to this story - if the conventional route is followed.

LWR is a diversified manufacturer of clothing and textiles with operations in several locations in New Zealand and Australia. Approximately 470 people are employed in textile, hosiery, underwear and garment factories in Christchurch; garment manufacturre in Greytown and Pahiatua; a sock factory in Timaru; and a sports apparel factory in Brisbane.

The National Distribution Union has been quick to point the finger of blame at the owner, Christchurch businessman Ken Anderson.

According to Maxine Gay of the NDU: "We had a terrible debacle with a very public and acrimonious and bitter marriage and business break-up within the Anderson family. And it's our view that it then moved into some very erratic decision making,"

The difficulties that LWR are confronting follow on from a whole string of redundancies in Chrstchurch at the likes of G.L Bowron, Skellerup, Click Clack, Tip Top and Feltex.

Maxine Gay should really be pointing her finger at the political party that her union supports.

In 1987 Labour began cutting tariffs on clothing imports and the next National Government followed suit. By the time Labour took power again in 1999 tariffs they were down to 19 percent, six percent below those of New Zealand's largest trading partner Australia.

Indeed none other than Maxine Gay attacked Labour's tariffs reductions back in 2003. Then secretary of the Clothing Workers Union, she said:

"There is no good reason for these reductions. No-one benefits. The Government loses revenue, workers lose their jobs, manufacturers lose their businesses.'

At it's peak LWR had some 3,700 staff - before the tariff cuts began

And Labour's signing of a free trade agreement with China simply heaped more pressure on local manufacturers.

In 2004 LWR was warning the Labour Government that it could not compete with Chinese manufacturers in the capitalist 'free trade zones'

'"The reality is a company in China can employ children, a company in China can pour whatever it likes down the drains. They don't have to pay ACC, they don't have to pay time and a half, they don't have to pay sick pay. And they get government support.' it said.

The global economic meltdown has simply brought matters to a head.

Of course New Zealand can no longer retreat behind a battery of tariff and import controls.

The real answer must be, as the Alliance Party also argues, public ownership - and subsequent direct worker ownership of industries like LWR.

It's time the union leadership stopped supporting Labour, stopped promoting the anti-worker 'nine day fortnights' and began offering some real economic alternatives to the failed ideology of neoliberalism.

The union hierarchy needs to be asked again whose side they are on.

GUESS WHO'S PAYING THE PRICE FOR THE CRISIS


Despite getting a nice old government subsidy to implement the 'nine day working fortnight', Fisher and Paykel have gone ahead and sacked another fifty workers.

But wasn't this scheme supposed to save jobs?

Exactly the same thing has happened at Summit Wool Spinners in Oamaru. Forty-eight workers were given the boot but the Summit owners still got the subsidy.

Prime Minister Key said that under the scheme, the jobs of 350 workers at Fisher & Paykel's Auckland factory were guaranteed for the next six months.

Well, that 'guarantee' has proven to be nothing of the sort.

What's Fisher and Paykel's excuse? These dismissals apparently don't count because the unfortunate workers concerned are - were- employed in 'different divisions of the business.'

Eh? They still worked for Fisher and Paykel, right? Fisher and Paykel are having a laugh, right? And they are allowed to get away with this self-serving rubbish?

What make this situation even worse is that our gutless trade union officials have been promoting these shonky deals.

Paul Watson from the National Distribution Union thought the deal at Summit was great. I wonder if Watson told the sacked workers that or did he just issue a press statement from the safety of his office?

Meanwhile at Fisher and Paykel the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union officials have been promoting the 'nine day' fortnight as the best thing for workers. Yeah, right. The 'best interests' of workers or the 'best interests' of a trade union hierarchy desperately trying to suppress worker militancy?

Next the EPMU will be telling us that 'business friendly' national secretary Andrew Little doesn't sellout workers.

All this is happening while official unemployment statistics - which always conceal the true figure - say that 17,0000 jobs were lost in the last year.

Trapped in its failed neoliberal economic orthodoxy - policies that kicked the world into an economic meltdown - the National Government have no answers to the crisis.

The government fiddles while the economy burns.

And there's nothing for the Labour and the Greens's to get smug about either. Because they are also wedded to the same neoliberalism, they are as much a part of the problem as National.

WE WILL NOT CEASE


I listened to a little talkback radio yesterday which, like most of the media yesterday, went into Anzac Day overdrive.

'Lest we forget' was the common theme but as Dean Parker in the New Zealand Herald has pointed out there's also a selective and ultimately conservative view being presented of New Zealand's involvement in war generally. It's a view that 'deletes' from history those New Zealanders who don't quite fit the mould of 'the brave New Zealand soldier defending the freedoms that we enjoy today.'

Dean Parker observes little or no mention is made of New Zealanders who went to fight Franco's fascists in Spain in the late 1930s - what proved to be a 'dress rehearsal' for World War Two.

Parker recalls the story of Tom Spiller, a member of the New Zealand Communist Party, who after fighting in Spain as part of the 'International Brigades', was told he was unfit to join the New Zealand army.

Writes Parker:

At the end of the war, fascism defeated, he turned up for the Anzac Day parade.

He was told his Spanish service didn't make him a real war veteran, so he wasn't allowed to march with the RSA. But he could march by himself, at the back.

He declined.

As Joe Hendren points out:

Britain and France, instead of leaping to support the Republican government of Spain when it faced a military coup d'etat in 1936, chose to place an embargo on support for the besieged democracy. Only two governments spoke up to defend democratic Spain in the League of Nations - the USSR and the New Zealand's first Labour government. This is the genesis of New Zealand's independent foreign policy, not David Lange's reluctant establishment of the anti-nuclear ban. In 1936, the New Zealand National Party were indignant Labour were failing to support our traditional allies - in other words the National party are the original promoters of appeasement in New Zealand.

It should also be pointed out that Spiller's own communists - acting on instructions from Moscow - sold out the emerging Spanish Revolution and turned their guns on the Trotskyists and anarchists. George Orwell gives a vivid portrayal of the Stalinist betrayal in Homage To Catalonia.

There is also not much talk of New Zealand's conscientious objectors on ANZAC day. I certainly didn't hear them recalled on either talkback or in the many media news stories.

The Minister of Defence at the time, James Allen, had no sympathy for conscientious objectors - and thought they should be sent off to the killing fields of Europe anyway.

Conscientious objectors were sent to the Trentham military camp where over a hundred men were housed. In 1917 the military top brass came up with the idea of relieving the overcrowding by sending fourteen of the more 'difficult' obejectors to Britain on a troopship. Among the fourteen were Archibald Baxter and his brothers John and Alexander. Archibald wrote about his experiences in We Will Not Cease.

Another objector sent to Britain was Mark Briggs. He had refused to participate in the war on socialist grounds. He appears to have been an 'independent' socialist and not one to take his instructions from Uncle Joe.

Briggs ended up in Etaples in France in October 1917 where he refused to walk, stand, salute or wear uniform. He soon found himself in the trenches where he met Archibald Baxter.

Every day the other conscientious objectors were forced to walk the thousand yards or so to the frontline. Briggs refused and military police tied wire around him and dragged him to the front. Dragged back to camp again he was denied medical treatment.

In early 1919 he was invalided back to New Zealand. He refused the soldier's wage that was offered to him.

Maori conscientious objectors also faced the wrath of the Crown.

Kingitanga leader Te Puea Herangi offered refuge at Te Paina pa (Mangatawhiri) for Maori who chose to ignore the ballot. Maori who refused to serve were denounced as 'traitors' by the government.

The police arrived at Te Piana in July 1917 and arrests began

The arrested men were taken to an Auckland army camp where, for refusing to cooperate, were subject to a battery of military punishments, including being fed only bread and water and being supplied with minimal bedding. When all this failed to convince the men to join the war effort, some were sentenced to two years' hard labour at Mount Eden prison.

Only a handful of Tainui men were ever put into uniform, and none of the Tainui conscripts were sent overseas.

While no one can doubt the courage and sacrifice of the men who did fight, equally no one can doubt the courage of the men who had the courage to follow their beliefs and stand against the current of prevailing political opinion.

Unfortunately on Anzac Day it appears that we are just a little too eager to airbrush these men out of the picture.

HE'S A REAL NOWHERE MAN


Russel Norman is proving to be very comfortable with political pomposity.

The co-leader of the Green Party is standing in the Mt Albert electorate, Helen Clark's old stamping ground.

It will as come as no surprise that little Russell was the only nomination - as the Green hierarchy didn't actually seek out other nominations.

This is becoming pretty much the norm in the Green's. The parliamentary clique make all the decisions - like making a deal with National for instance - then tell the membership afterwards. The party that once put some value on 'grassroots' input, has become just another top-down parliamentary party.

Yet this is the same party that thinks the decision to combine the various Auckland councils is undemocratic and that a public referendum should be held. Did the Green's hold an internal party referendum before signing up with the National Government? No, it did not.

But back to Mt Albert. Norman has no show of winning but he says its just about getting the Green message 'out there'.

But what is the Green 'message? At the last election it was 'Vote For Me' and it hasn't moved on much from this vacuous nonsense. More often than not, the Green's message is an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an audience.

Pompous Norman says that '“The Greens stand for a fairer and more sustainable society in New Zealand.'

Well, who doesn't ? I doubt if any politician would get into Parliament on a platform of more unfairness and more unsustainability.

The truth is that Norman believes in the free market. He still believes in neoliberal economic policies. He waffles on about the 'power of the market' and then has the cheek to suggest that he's not just another capitalist politician.

Just exactly how does the failed creed of neoliberalism lead to a 'fairer and sustainable society'?

Once again, like he always does, Norman just doesn't say. Yet he persists in calling National and Labour the 'old parties' as if the Green's were somehow different,

Little Russel and the Green Party are selling the same neoliberal snakeoil as National and Labour - but it comes in a recycled pale green bottle.

RADIO 0.2 PERCENT


Everytime I write about Kiwi FM a number of critical missiles are launched my way and my most recent post was no exception - although this time I received a couple of 'unhelpful' emails, which didn't add anything to the debate.

I'm not obsessed about Kiwi FM. I usually only comment when the six-monthly ratings are released. At the same time, I think that its also important we don't treat Kiwi FM as a permanent feature on the airwaves. This is a station that was supposedly given a 'one year trial' to prove itself - failed that trial - but remains on air nevertheless.

Kiwi FM was failing - indeed the station was about to be closed - when the Labour Government came to the rescue.

Like Neil Finn and others I remain irritated that despite all the hard work that clearly went into preparing the groundwork for a non-commercial youth radio network (YRN), the former Labour Government did a deal with Brent Impey from Mediaworks. This was in early 2006

Neil Finn at the time said that the (YRN)

"...was effectively sidelined by the Labour Government after eight years of putting together forums and advisory groups and with the overwhelming result from all of those that young people wanted it and that it was the best idea out there to improve radio services for young people. I took part in a few of them, some of them were without me, but certainly the Government got plenty of incentive and very good information and a model was drawn up, but they just ignored it and there's been no movement whatsoever."

The former Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey didn't even both to consult with the supporters of the YRN. Instead he mades a deal with Impey - the same man who had previously argued that the FM frequencies should never be given by the Government to anyone (ie the YRN) for free.

Said Neil Finn:

"I can't understand how [CanWest] can be that the main opponent of youth radio and the main opponent of any Government interference in radio is now the recipient of three frequencies and courtesy of NZ On Air a whole lot of free programming....Brent Impey, I've got a letter from him saying that a YRN - a youth radio network - would ghettoise New Zealand music by putting it, by separating it. Well, I think that's exactly what Kiwi has done."

This deal was made without the usual competitive process.

Maharey at the time claimed that the deal would not jeopardise the future of any public youth radio network. Maharey was clearly just making things up as he went along because Kiwi FM effectively torpedoed the YRN.

Maharey also said this: "It's a one-year trial to see if people like [new general manager] Karyn Hay can make a go of it."

Basically Maharey provided some not insubstantial corporate welfare for a multinational media organisation that consistently argued that there should be no 'government interference' in broadcasting - except when it was of benefit to Mediaworks obviously

Three years later Kiwi FM is still on the air broadcasting to a farcical 0.2 percent of the total radio audience.

Although a Kiwi FM staffer claims the cumulative audience has grown, albeit slightly, what he doesn't say or just doesn't know, is that Kiwi FM's audience has been in decline ever since Maharey bailed the station out.

For example in March 2006 Kiwi FM had 0.6 percent of the total Auckland radio audience - today it has 0.3 percent.

This is a station going nowhere. It is a impostor occupying three valuable FM frequencies that should be home to the YRN - a network that would have enriched youth culture and provided a range of shows on youth-related issues and concerns.

The ratings prove that while people may support New Zealand music they don't want to listen to it exclusively.

Kiwi FM is simply irrelevant.

THAT'S A GOOD DEAL?


Despite laying off 47 workers (see previous post on Summit), the National Government have agreed to pay Summit Wool Spinners a subsidy in order that the remaining 53 workers can stay in work.

That subsidy is $325,000

As I mentioned in a previous post, Summit cut wages by reducing shift hours from twelve hours to ten hours in November last year.

According to Paul Watson of the National Distribution Union the Oamaru business was looking to cut hours further from ten to nine hours.

So, in effect, all this 'subsidy' has done is prevent a further cut in wages - but 47 workers still find themselves out of work.

While the final deal was signed off by Robert Reid from the National Distribution Union this deal was largely 'brokered' by John Gardner from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).

EPMU president Andrew Little said last month that “Workers didn't cause this recession and it’s not on to expect them to pay the price.'

Big words from 'business friendly' Little - but 47 former Summit workers are now paying the price.

Also, there is no guarantee that there will not be further job cuts once the six month subsidy runs out.

MORE RATING WOES FOR KIWI FM


The new radio ratings confirm, yet again, that Kiwi FM continues to broadcast to, well, no-one.

No, that's not exactly true. It's broadcasting to a farcical 0.2 percent of the total radio audeince - as it was during the last ratings sweep. Given that there is a margin of error of 0.70 percent, its audience could even be smaller.

What rankles about Kiwi FM is that it is squatting in the three FM frequencies that were reserved for a non-commercial youth radio network.

This network would have provided youth-orientated shows on a range of issues.

The debacle that is Kiwi FM is mostly Steve Maharey's fault.

The former Minister of Broadcasting in the Labour Government said that Kiwi FM would be given a year to 'prove itself'. Well, it didn't prove itself - but Steve 'Third Way' Maharey sat on his hands and allowed the farcical Kiwi to keep the frequencies.

Trevor Mallard took over from Maharey and he also did nothing.

So Kiwi FM remains on air, broadcasting to a ridiculous 0.2 percent of the total radio audience.

How long will this farce be allowed to continue?

VIOLENCE IS NOT OK, SORT OF


It's kind of ironic that my previous post was about the New Zealand prison system mostly locking up the working class and the poor - then we see a wealthy 'celebrity' walk away from a possible five-year stint behind bars.

Not only that, Tony Veitch's media mates have come out in his support - even providing the convicted partner basher with glowing testimonials.

One such glowing testimonial came from Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. She works at the Radio Network, Veitch's former employer.

She also has an on-air role at TVNZ - reading the news at the weekends. You would have thought she might of thought it inappropriate to come out in defence of a man who put his former partner in a wheelchair for several weeks.

Unbelievably, a TVNZ spokeswoman said the state broadcaster had no problem with staff providing testimonials for Veitch, saying it was not a conflict of interest for people such as newsreader Oliver-Kirby.

Another TVNZ presenter who provided a testimonial was weatherman Jim Hickey.

Hickey is on the board of the fundamentalist Family First - an organisation that has been actively campaigning aginst the anti-smacking legislation.

TVNZ, of course, apparently knew what Veitch had done before the story broke - and then remained mute on the subject for a day or so before Veitch returned to read the sports news for one last time.

Only then, when they realised the story was not going to go away, did TVNZ drop Veitch.

While all this was happening, TVNZ was running an extensive anti-domestic violence campaign.

Against this murky backdrop, Oliver-Kerby's decision to write a testimonial for 'Veitchy' was ill-advised at best and suggests that TVNZ - and the Radio Network - still have dubious moral and political ethics when it comes to the issue of domestic violence, especialy when it involves 'one of their own'.

TVNZ's flexible attitudes were also evident on last night's Close Up, where the mediocre Mark Sainsbury gave Veitch an easy ride.

Oh and let's not forget that another prominent Veitch supporter can be seen on TVNZ's Q+A - yes, it's Paul Holmes.

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare got it right when she said some of the high-profile Veitch supporters should be embarrassed after he was convicted of a 'serious charge'.

PETER SHARPLES INSULTS MAORI


Peter Sharples, co-leader of the reactionary Maori Party, is in a huff with Labour. And he's getting all high and mighty about it.

The reactionary Maori Party have come up with the draconian idea that there should be a separate Maori prison system. Labour have described this as 'separatist' and now Sharples says that the Maori Party might have difficulty with working with Labour in the future.

He also says that Labour's policies 'are on the wrong path', the implication being that he and the Maori Party are the source of all political wisdom.

Well, those who have watched Sharples bumble his way through Parliamentary question time would have strong doubts about that implied claim - he's been spending a lot of recent time evading answering questions.

I don't hold any brief for Labour, no surprises there, but Labour is correct to oppose a separate Maori prison system.

What Sharples just doesn't get is that crime is a class and not a race issue.

I'm not going to go into all the intricacies here but it's patently evident that most of the people who get locked up are working class. Since Maori are predominantly working class it's no surprise that a lot of them are behind bars.

Because Maori are predominantly working class they have suffered the ravages of the exactly the same neoliberal economic policies that Peter Sharples and his Maori Party colleagues support.

Most working class Maori resort to crime simply a as a means of economic survival - just like working class Pakeha.

But Sharples doesn't want to know about this because he speaks only for that new layer of Maori capitalists who have benefited from neoliberalism.

Professor Elizabeth Rata has identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism - what Rata refers to as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.'

This has seen the transformation of tribes into capitalist enterprises dominated by a small Maori elite of lawyers, businesspeople, leaders, bureaucrats.

These are the people that Peter Sharples and the Maori Party represent.

Professor Rata writes:

Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite. Even if ownership of resources is nominally owned by the whole tribe (the corporate tribe, and not an individual, is the legal owner), and even if iwi members have a shareholding in the business, the undemocratic nature of neotribal capitalist business ensures that working class iwi do not have any real say in the corporate iwi head office.

So what is Sharples offering working class Maori who have not seen any of the wealth? He's offering them their own prisons. What a disgrace. What an insult to all Maori.

Sina Ana Brown-Davis was so right when she wrote recently on Indymedia:

'I can’t think of anything more offensive than to be held under lock and key by your own, and maybe on your own whenua. Then being force feed your culture by Maori who wouldn’t even give you the time of day on the outside.'

Peter Sharples is more interested in making money for his Maori capitalist friends than truly representing the interests of ordinary Maori.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF 2009-10?

There was an alarming little poll published a few days ago. It was alarming because it appears to indicate that many New Zealanders have yet to grasp the seriousness of the economic crisis the world is now in.

The poll was commissioned by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted online by its ShapeNZ website.

Between April 5 and 8 2469 New Zealanders were surveyed on 'the home, tax cuts and the economy'.

While surveys like this have to be treated with caution, the results displayed a remarkable naivety about the nature of this economic crisis.

More than a quarter of New Zealanders who did the survey expect the economy to be growing again within the next year and nearly two-thirds expect growth within two. Another 24 percent didn't expect to see any economic recovery for three years.

There doesn't appear to be any factual basis for this apparent optimism.

This bravado contrasts sharply with the mixed messages coming from the economic experts'.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), for instance, expects there to be modest growth in the New Zealand economy in 2009. They anticipate growth will then accelerate in 2010 and 2011.

This somewhat rosy picture contradicts with that of Treasury who said this month that the economy is in a lot worse shape than in predicted it would be in December. It expected GDP to shrink by 0.2 percent in 209 and 0.4 percent in 2010. It also said that the official unemployment would rise to 7.2 percent in 2010.

Some economic commentators though think that the official unemployment rate could rise well above 10 percent.

Perhaps the Minister of Finance Bill English was closer to the mark when he said that Treasury was 'guessing' with its economic predictions.

'No one knows quite what is going to happen,' he said in Parliament last week - although it would be fair to say that English thinks it's going to be really, really bad.

Of course neoliberal politicians, don't want to admit that the game is up. It's better to either just brazen it out or claim the picture is unclear.

Last week two influential economists released a report that provides substantial evidence that the world economy is nose diving into a Depression.

The report, titled 'A Tale of Two Depressions', was written by Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of California, and Kevin H. O’Rourke, Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin.

Both economists say that this crisis, although it originated in the United States, has swept around the world and 'that events have taken an even uglier turn outside the US, with even larger falls in manufacturing production, exports and equity prices.

They have done a comparison between the peaks of world industrial production in June 1929 and April 2008.

The figures are both startling and chilling. They show that the decline in world industrial production in the last nine months has been at least as severe as in the nine months following the 1929 peak:



Eichengreen and O’Rourke also show that global stock markets are falling faster now than at any time during the Great Depression:



World trade is also falling faster now than in 1929-30:



The authors conclude: ' globally we are tracking or doing even worse than the Great Depression, whether the metric is industrial production, exports or equity valuations...The “Great Recession” label may turn out to be too optimistic. This is a Depression-sized event.'

Perhaps if authoritative reports like this were more widely circulated than our parliamentary 'representatives' would find it more diffcult to keep on stumbling down the same failed 'free market' path.

ALLIANCE CONDEMNS GREEN DEAL WITH NATIONAL


The Alliance Party has rightly condemned the Green Party's cosy little deal with the National Party.

Alliance national spokesperson Victor Billot says that the Green Party's claims of standing for social justice had been torpedoed by cosying up to the National Party.

“They are now in a close working relationship with the people who are destroying the planet they say they care about.”

Billot went on to say;

“We now have a bizarre four colour combo running the country – blue for National, yellow for ACT, brown for Maori, and pale Green – add those colours together and what you get is something that looks and smells like toxic political sludge.”

A nice turn of phrase - I might use it sometime.

Billot also makes the point that the Green's have become a party of comfortable middle class 'greenies'.

“It appears the Greens are more concerned now with organic supermarket shopping tours for their well-heeled lifestyle supporters than food bank baskets at the front counter.”

Norman, who regards himself as a big political 'player', claims that this deal will give the Green Party 'wider political support'.

However he may well find that support for the Green Party will collapse - already some Green supporters are saying that Norman is destroying the Green's grassroot support.

As one Green supporter has angrily commented on the Green's Frog Blog:

'I watched him destroy the grass roots of the party in his last role. Why are you rewarding his failure by letting him destroy the parliamentary wing? He is a dangerous amateur and Key has played him like a fiddle. Stop being suckers.'

Norman jumped political ships when in Australia - he may end up doing that in New Zealand as well.

THE GREEN PARTY ARE A JOKE


Given that the Green Party has so thoroughly embraced the 'free market', it comes as no surprise that its prepared to make deals with either Labour or National.

The Green's really don't care which brand of neoliberalism they have to adopt.

Before the 2008 election Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said in a speech that ' This is not the time to turn to the failed politics of National and Act.'

Of course back then Norman and his parliamentary colleagues were supporting Labour's failed neoliberalism

A few months later, without a hint of embarrassment, the Green's have signed a 'memo of understanding' that will see the Green Party and the National-led government working on some joint initiatives.

In return for helping out National, the Green's have been tossed a few policy favours including an agreement to work together to implement a home insulation programme and to 'update' New Zealand's energy efficiency programme.

There has been no consultation with the wider Green Party membership - this has been a deal hatched by Norman and his parliamentary colleagues.

Former socialist Russel Norman thinks this is a great deal.

On the Green Party website he crows: “This is a chance to get more New Zealanders into healthy homes and to make our country more energy efficient generally.'

But Norman's got nothing to say about the collapse of neoliberalism and the rising tide of poverty and unemployment. More and more New Zealanders are in danger of losing their homes but here's little Russel, in his new wardrobe of business suits, waffling on about 'healthy homes'.

The Green's are offering no alternative to neoliberalism. Indeed the party thinks that 'the power of the market' (Norman's words), can be harnessed for environmental ends.

For Green Party members and supporters who still harbour the illusion that the Green's are somehow 'progressive' this may well be the final straw.

After all, why support a party that will sell itself to whichever party is in power?

WASTING MONEY WITH SIDESHOW BOB


Some interesting information has come to light on the Ellerslie International Garden Show.

While Christchurch Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker was keen to exploit the event to boost his flagging popularity, he was rather less keen to reveal just how much the Christchurch City Council paid for the 'rights' to the garden show.

Indeed while Sideshow Bob has boasted of the success of the show, he won't reveal whether or not it ran at a loss. He has claimed 'commercial sensitivity'. Who is it 'sensitive' to exactly? Sideshow Bob doesn't say. We're guessing that this issue is only 'sensitive' to Sideshow Bob and his council supporters - and their chances of getting re-elected.

The rumour is that Sideshow Bob paid some $2 million for the so-called 'rights'. But Sideshow, usually not short of a few words, has been not been prepared to reveal what the Christchurch City Council paid for the former Auckland horticultural event.

However the Labour-leaning Christchurch 2021 have done some digging and unearthed some interesting information.

They have released documents that reveal that the Auckland City Council had considered paying the Ellerslie organisers, SMC Events Ltd, $450,000 to stage the show at Ellerslie for three years. But then Sideshow Bob arrived on the scene with a big seven figure cheque.

The Auckland City Council documents show that council staff thought that even $450,00 wasn't value for money. And they also noted that the event could easily be replaced if it did move elsewhere.

It also appears that SMC Events are looking to take two bites out of this particular apple. The contract includes a clause allowing to SMC to organise a similar biannual event in Auckland.

So what did Sideshow Bob and the Christchurch City Council buy exactly?

Not much.

It looks like Bob shelled out a whole wheelbarrow of money for some nebulous naming rights and some vague organisational assistance.

The Christchurch City Council could of just as easily organised its own garden show using its own resources - and saved a lot of money in the process.

This is especially the case now that the Christchurch City Council are planning to change the name of the garden show - so why bother to buy the rights to the Ellerslie show in the first place?

JOBLESS FIGURES ESCALATE


I said some weeks ago that Treasury's predictions of an eventual worst-case 7.2 percent unemployment rate was unrealistically optimistic.

Yesterday the Treasury, dominated by neoliberals, issued a new forecast and this time its suggesting unemployment will tip the 10 percent mark which, roughly, means another 60,000 will be signing on at Work and Income.

I still think Treasury are fudging this one. This is no mild recession - this is a global economic meltdown - and I certainly think it will go beyond the 11.1 percent of 1992. When does a recession become a depression? Certainly a official unemployment rate heading for 12-13 percent is more than a recession - especially when we consider that the official unemployment rate does not cover people not claiming a benefit or working part-time.

Bill English, revealingly, won't predict how bad he thinks unemployment will get - which means he thinks its really going to be bad.

Has he got any answers? No.

Prime Minister John Key though appears to be a world of his own. He said that a increase of 60,000 within the next year 'seemed a bit high'.

This new forecast come against the backdrop of the G20 conference that achieved little other than paper over the cracks between countries. There certainly wasn't anything in it for working people.

The International Labour Organisation are predicting that a further 30-50 million people will lose their jobs over the coming months.

Before the commencement of the G20 summit the International Monetary Fund boss himself, Dominique Strauss-Kahn said “Bluntly, the situation is dire.”

He went on to say that millions of people will be pushed into poverty and hardship which will “affect dramatically unemployment and beyond unemployment for many countries it will be at the roots of social unrest, some threat to democracy, and maybe for some cases it can also end in war”.

While capitalist politicians around the world, including our own Parliamentary 'representatives', have no answers to this crisis at least Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been promoting a different path. Last week he said:

"It's impossible that capitalism can regulate the monster that is the world financial system, it's impossible. Capitalism needs to go down. It has to end. And we must take a transitional road to a new model that we call socialism."

THE DEBT PILES UP


I've been leaving the Dave Henderson soap opera alone for a while now - maybe I've been suffering from Henderson fatigue.

But, for the record, its worth noting that the receivers reported a fortnight ago that Hendo's Five Mile Village project now owes a whopping $93 million to secured creditors.

In September last year the receivers reported that Five Mile had some $79 million worth of debt.

According to the new report some $81m is owed to Hanover Finance - who displayed gross ineptitude when they lent Henderson the capital for his ludicrous village project just outside Queenstown.

The first stage of Five Mile Village, granted Environment Court approval in late 2005, following a 20-year debate, was proposed to house 2000 people, with an ultimate population of at least 10,000.

The first stage was supposed to include 25,000sq m of commercial development, including a supermarket and sports, appliance, furniture and fashion stores, bars and restaurants.

The big losers from Hanover's folly are its 16,500 investors who have seen none of their money since July last year. In December they agreed to a moratorium which will supposedly see Hanover pay off its $554m debt over the next five years.

One of the more prominent supporters of the Five Mile village project was Hendo's good mate Rodney Hide - and another neoliberal zealot. These days he seems less inclined to openly push that particular wheelbarrow.

DOES THE EPMU REALLY HAVE A 'BOTTOM LINE'?


Paul Watson from the National Distribution Union (NDU) has applauded the decision of an Otago company to implement the nine day working fortnight.

Summit Wool Spinners in Oamaru are in negotiation with the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) on how the nine day fortnight can be used.

Summit, says Watson, is looking to make use of the subsidy to reduce shifts from 10 to nine hours for a period of six months.

What Watson didn't say is that Summit reduced its shifts from 12 hours to ten hours in November last year.

So are workers are expected to wear another wage cut? If so, what exactly is Watson applauding?

Watson is claiming that this proposal will 'save jobs' but what he also neglected to mention is that 45 workers of the 315 staff have already taken voluntary redundancy. That's a little under a sixth of the workforce.

Workers were told by both the management and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) that job losses were on the cards and management encouraged workers to take redundancy by offering more than was provided for in the employment contract.

According to Company director Ricky Hammond-Tooke the 'reconfiguration' of shifts and shifts 'could 'involve the reductions in wages in some cases.'

But EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said this last month:

“Our members are telling us they can’t afford to take another hit in the pocket, they’re already paying for the recession through lost overtime and shift allowances and they’re not in a position to bear any more.

“Workers didn’t cause this recession and it’s not on to expect them to pay the price. Unless employers are willing to meet this subsidy with a substantial top-up of their own it’s unlikely to be accepted by workers.

“As far as the EPMU is concerned, this will be a bottom line.”

It'll be interesting to see whether the EMPU applies this bottom line at Summit Wool Spinners.

And while the NDU's Paul Watson might be claiming that jobs are being saved, Alliance Party President Paul Piesse has made a far more accurate observation about the nine day working fortnight.

He has pointed out that companies are not 'saving jobs' - they are simply required to withhold any redundancies for six months. At the same time, they will be cutting back on wages with the government providing a subsidy that doesn't fully compensate for the lost wages.

Summit Wool Spinners is owned by Sumitomo Corporation which is one of Japan's largest general trading companies.

TWITTERING


I've been checking out Davy-boy Cunliffe on Twitter. He's got a lot to say. The latest comments from Labour's Finance spokesperson are:

can't believe the stupidity of some journalists32 minutes ago from web

is mad with TV3, they used a clip from parliament...I have better lines than that one. I can't believe Goff sent a boy to do my job!about 13 hours ago from web

thinks Bloody TV3 screwed up big time, wait till I'm back in charge then we will see some decent newsabout 15 hours ago from web

is asking Twitter who the vile person is behind my online character assassination8:33 AM Apr 2nd from web

is annoyed, I had to make two personal statements and divert my excellent speech for the General Debate on to talking about Twitter9:20 PM Apr 1st from web

@ccosgrovemp you were a fat lot of help in the house today9:18 PM Apr 1st from web in reply to ccosgrovemp

I think they believed me3:07 PM Apr 1st from web

Sounds like a song..... Crusher, crusher, the old toilet flusher....6:57 PM Mar 31st from web

They should give me more questions in the house, I'd kick their proverbials given more of a chane3:57 PM Mar 30th from web

English should grow up and govern, and listen more to advice I tendered him in my presser: 8.07 AM Mar 30th from web


Of course, its a parody - but it fooled John Key and made Cunliffe give a 'personal explanation' in Parliament to deny that he had a Twitter account.

But Cunliffe isn't the only who has an alter-ego on the popular networking site.

Clayton Cosgrove also as an alter-ego on Twitter. His bio describes him as a 'Plug Headed Idiot'. 'Clayton' is following Britney Spears on Twitter. That surprised me - I thought Clayton would of been more of an AC/DC or Bon Jovi kind of guy.

And Phil Goff is also the subject of a Twitter parody, although he's only made three entries so far - obviously he's too busy organising those fantastic regional visits by his MPs.

The ambitious Labour MP Darren Hughes is on Twitter as well - but this isn't a parody because its boring.

THE STANDARD GETS IT WRONG AGAIN

The protests presently occurring in London are anti-capitalist protests. Even the BBC are describing them as such.

Out in the New Zealand blogosphere the increasingly silly The Standard has other ideas. In a absurd post, it has described the protests as being against ‘unregulated capitalism.’

Yes, people are demanding more ‘regulated capitalism’! That’s why there are dozens of red flags flying!

This sort of weak and self-serving nonsense is fairly typical of The Standard which continues to faithfully support the Labour Party and its brand of neoliberalism.

Talk about being totally out of touch - and out to lunch.

LONDON: 35,000 PROTEST AT G20 SUMMIT

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