BOB IS 'VERY SAD' THAT HENDO HAS BEEN BANKRUPTED


It's been a long time coming but Dave Henderson has finally been bankrupted - another bankruptcy that can be added to his list of bankruptcies.

He was bankrupted in the High Court yesterday.

Yes, the man who Sideshow Bob Parker hailed as an 'urban visionary' has finally been sunk under a mountain of debt. He reportedly has $142 million worth of personal debt.

Sideshow Bob says he is 'very sad' that his property developer mate has been bankrupted. Bob though hasn't expressed any sympathy for all the people who have ben mucked about by Hendo over the years.

Hendo's bankruptcy is one of the largest in New Zealand's history.

What this also means, of course, is that our libertarian hero won't be buying back any of the properties he flogged off to the Christchurch City Council

This was nothing more than a bailout by Sideshow Bob and his council flunkies.

The Christchurch City Council is claiming it has been approached by 'interested parties' about the properties.

But since the council won't say who these 'interested parties' are, chances are that this is just more of the proverbial.

Even if the council isn't telling porkies, it hasn't the remotest chance of getting its money back on the properties which were over-valued in the first place.

At the time of their purchase Sideshow Bob pompously dismissed claims that the council had paid too much for the properties.

He was backed up by his devoted follower, Councillor Sue Wells, who told us that the Henderson deal was 'a very good deal' and the opponents of the deal were 'stupid'.

But in The Press today Sideshow Bob is quoted as saying that 'with the benefit of hindsight, the properties could have been bought for less.'

But Bob - you were told at the time the buildings were over-valued. You just didn't listen.

A WAVE OF PROTESTS SWEEP THE UK AND IRELAND



I'm writing this in the aftermath of a pitched battle between police and protesters who invaded a Lewisham Council meeting in London on Monday night. I've been keeping tabs on it via Twitter.

The protesters set off gas cans, bringing to an abrupt halt a council meeting all set to impose 60 million pounds of cuts to council services.

The riot police turned up as well as police on horses.

One protester has told Socialist Worker: “The police were like animals. The beat people with their truncheons and even attacked a 72 year old pensioner.”

One person tweeted from the scene: 'I've never seen anything like it. One on one fights with cops.'

Lewisham has a despised Labour mayor and administration which has no problem with the Com-Lib Government's savage austerity cuts. Mayor Steve Bullock has referred to anti-cuts protesters as "fucking idiots'. A charming and enlightened man, obviously.

Instead of fighting the cuts Bullock and his flunkies have decided to make big cuts in such areas as the children and young people’s service, adult social care jobs and care packages, and daycare support for people with learning disabilities.

This protest is occurring against a wave of protests sweeping Britain. If David Cameron and Nick Clegg thought they get away with imposing savage austerity agenda with the minimum of fuss, they have been proved horribly wrong.

University students and young people generally have been at the vanguard of the protests. At the present time some 18 British universities are under student occupation.

So much for the claims that young people have been 'depoliticised', are 'apathetic', have bought into the 'consumer culture', etc. etc.

But there have been more general protests too including a massive protest in Dublin. On Saturday, over 100,000 people marched against the Irish government's austerity plans.

It was one of the largest protests in the Irish Republic's history

A 77 year old man told the The Guardian: "I have lived through three recessions and I think this could be the worst one yet. I'm here because I'm angry that the EU are telling us to cut euros off the minimum wage and boss Irish workers around while the people that caused this crisis get off scot-free.'

Here are a few photos people have downloaded on to Twitter.

A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN



Any Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy at the Pike River coal mine must look at whether the coal mine should have been given the go ahead in the first place.

As pointed out in previous post, experienced geologist Murry Cave, a consultant to the Ministry of Conservation (2000-2004 ) warned about the presence of an active fault and the danger of gas explosions (outburst).

He said there was a pit bottom with 'deep highly gassy coals 'and the associated risk of 'outburst'.

His comments have recently been reinforced by University of Canterbury engineering and mining geologist David Bell. He has said that the 'Hawera Fault zone' running through the mine shaft allowed pockets of methane gas to build up

Both PRC's John Dow and Peter Whittall strongly rejected Cave's views.

PRC chairman John Dow flatly denied there was an active fault rock. This appears to be incorrect because the Hawera Fault is a strand of the larger and active Alpine fault.

Similarly Peter Whittall claimed in a letter to the Greymouth Evening Star in May 2007 characterised the conditions at Pike River as 'shallow, moderately gassy, non-outburst prone.'

It is likely that the disaster was caused by a power failure that disabled the mines’ ventilation system. Since the mine extracts coal from close to the Hawera fault line, conditions would have quickly deteriorated.

Despite the fact that there have now been four explosions at the mine Whittall is sticking to his view that the mine is 'moderately gassy'

He told TVNZ's Q+A on Sunday:

'It was a moderately gassy mine. It had quite a range of gas, from virtually nothing on the escarpment, obviously, to the west - it's bled off over many thousands of years - to still low levels about more than half the lease, but it was quite gassy, I would say moderately gassy, on the eastern side of the lease, which is the first part that we're mining.'

But Andrew Watson, the operations manager of the United Kingdom Mines Rescue Operations recently told the New Zealand Herald that methane levels had to have reached 5 to 15 percent of the atmosphere for an explosion to occur. He pointed out work in British mines stopped once methane levels reached just 1.25 percent, and miners were evacuated once levels reached 2 percent.

It's PRC's apparent confidence about the geological conditions and safety standards at the mine that surely have contributed to Whittall declaring that 'There's absolutely no reason why that mine … can't be safe after an absolutely tragic and fatal event.''

This is an extraordinary statement for Whittall to have made given what we have learned about conditions at Pike River. That he has got away with comments like this highlights the fact that the media have given him an easy ride throughout the course of this tragedy.

Indeed the media and politicians alike have been lining up to praise Whittall for his 'leadership' and 'compassion'.

However all bets are off until the Royal Commission of Inquiry releases its report and recommendations and this could be up to a year away.

The Prime Minister, after initially declaring that New Zealand mines were 'safe' has now said that the future of 'underground mining' is now under scrutiny.

But any measures taken against PRC and the mining industry generally would fly in the face of of the National Government's so-called export-led economic recovery - which includes the mining of non-renewable and environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

And Labour is not blameless either.

in 2007 Labour's Phil Goff was enthusiastically talking about Pike River Coal and Solid Energy wanting 'to supply coal to fire steel production in China and other growth economies.'

It was a Labour Government that shelved a 2008 report into mine safety by the Department of Labour. It recommended that safety check inspectors be reintroduced - one of several recoommendations Labour ignored.

In 2007 Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn celebrated the prospect that: “Private mining is coming back – it’s good to see the emergence of private companies on the West Coast”

In recent days Kokshoorn has said that he wants to see the mine re-open.

West Coast-Tasman MP Chris Auchinvole has also said that he wants to see the mine reopen as soon as it was 'appropriate' because it was important part of the West Coast economy.

'The coal seam is still there. Coal is extremely valuable and the Pike River mine is a $300 million-plus investment.'

There are likely to be some powerful corporate and political considerations brought to bear on the Royal Commission not to reach conclusions that may be 'detrimental' to either PRC or the wider mining industry.

WHITTALL CLAIMED MINE WAS 'NON-OUTBURST'


From 2000-04 Dr Murry Cave was a geological adviser on the Pike River mine to land owner the Department of Conservation as part of the resource consent and access process.

In 2007 he warned of geological risks associated with the Pike River mine.

Two issues in particular are extremely relevant in the light of the recent tragic events at the mine site.

Cave said there was an active fault that needed to be crossed underground, presenting 'a zone of considerable and sustained ground stresses'.

Secondly, he said there was a pit bottom with 'deep highly gassy coals 'and the associated risk of 'outburst' - gas pressure-forced explosive events at the coal face.

His comments have recently been backed by University of Canterbury engineering and mining geologist David Bell. He has said that the 'Hawera Fault zone' running through the mine shaft allowed pockets of methane gas to build up

In 2007 Pike River Coal (PRC) chairman John Dow, also a trained geologist, said that some of Cave's assumptions were wrong, notably that there was an active fault through the mine. He argued that the fault was not active and was in very old rock.

Dow said Pike River was a different proposition from some of other mines on the West Coast. Dow said the mine 'was shallower and without some of the other potential problems like outburst' that Cave had claimed were present.

A story being circulated at the time was that Cave was hostile to Pike River because he was annoyed that the project was given the go ahead by Chris Carter, the Minister for the Environment

Carter over-ruled the recommendations of DoC that the project be turned down.

In a letter to the Greymouth Evening Star in May 2007 Peter Whittall , who was at the time the General Manager of PRC, slammed Murry Cave. Wrote Whittall:

In yesterday’s Mail Box (22/5/07) Dr Murry Cave, under the guise of giving “advice” to potential investors in the Pike River Coal share float, made a number of inaccurate, inappropriate and ill informed statements. Dr Cave drew parallels between Pike River and a number of other mines operating in different areas, in different seams, at different depths and by different companies that bear little relevance to the Pike River mine development.

Pike River will extract coal from the Brunner Seam. The seam has approximately 6.5 kilometre of outcrop along the escarpment in the Paparoa ranges and the pit bottom will be at a depth of 80 to 100 metres with the majority of the mine is at a depth less than 200 metres. Dr Cave’s references to Mt Davy, operating in a very deep, low permeability, outburst prone seam and the tragic deaths at that mine are extremely inappropriate. Similarly Dr Cave’s vague references to the production life of Strongman 2, is as irrelevant as comparison to any other mine in NZ or overseas as the particular mining parameters and extent of mining area and resource are different.

Finally, Dr Cave’s description and assessment of conditions underground at Pike River, and in particular the pit bottom area, are inaccurate and ill informed. I am not aware of Dr Cave’s definition of an “active fault” or why it is applied here, and his description of deep, highly gassy coals and associated risk of outburst bears no relationship with the shallow, moderately gassy, non-outburst prone conditions at Pike River.

Pike River registered its prospectus on 22 May 2007 in both New Zealand and Australia. The prospectus sets out the benefits and risks associated with the mine development as well as reports from independent experts far better acquainted with the Pike River development than Dr Cave. Dr Cave is correct in one aspect however. That potential investors in any company need to consider all factors relevant to that investment decision.


So in 2007 Whittall claimed that Pike River was characterised by 'shallow, moderately gassy, non-outburst prone conditions.'

He also denied that Pike River had a pit bottom with deep highly gassy coals and such assessments were 'inaccurate and ill informed'.

In the light of the two devastating explosions at the mine in recent days, resulting in 29 men losing their lives, the question has to be asked whether the owners and management of Pike River Coal were wrong about the mine's geological characteristics.

One correspondent to this blog has suggested that an inaccurate assessment of 'environmental conditions' at Pike River means that the mine 'has been developed with much less evaluation drilling and fewer surface gas evacuation facilities than would normally be the case. I would guess that there are numerous gas-bearing fracture systems within the seam that are only found when mined into. These would be within small faults and fracture zones related to the Hawera Fault. In a properly developed mine these fractures and faults would be evaluated as fully as possible before mine development.'

A WORLD TO WIN



Unite sponsored day of dialogue with activists against injustice and inequality.







Saturday, November 27, All Day, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, 15 Canning Crescent, Mangere
Registration $20.


8.30am: Registration, Tea/coffee
9.00am: Welcome/Intros

9.15am: “Confronting the economic crisis – what caused it and how it can be overcome”.

The worldwide economic crisis over the past few years has seen a massive growth of unemployment and cutbacks in basic entitlements for working people. This session will discuss how this crisis came about and how we can fight its effects. Speakers: Jane Kelsey, professor of law at Auckland University and author of many books exposing the effects of neoliberal economic theory on NZ will focus on the international dimension of the crisis;

Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union will focus on the impact of the crisis on NZ and how working people can resist.

11am: Activist Workshops. This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following possible subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan – Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist; Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing

12-1 Lunch

1pm: Poverty and inequality – can it be ended?

The growth of inequality and poverty in Aotearoa was the one unarguable effect of the neoliberal economic changes imposed over the last few decades. What happened here was mirrored around the globe. This reality barely changed under the last Labour led government and none of the major parties have a programme to seriously combat – let alone eliminate – the terrible social consequences of poverty and inequality. But can it be ended?

Speakers: John Minto (Spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland and Unite Union organizer); second speaker to be announced.

3pm: Activist Workshops: This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan – Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist); Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing.

4pm – 6pm: “The left and parliament – some lessons from the Alliance and Green Party experience”

Matt McCarten (Unite General secretary, former Alliance Party president), Sue Bradford (community activist and former Green Party MP)

7pm Drinks Dancing and Revolutionary Music!!!! @ Onehunga RSA

WHY IS ANDREW LITTLE DEFENDING PIKE RIVER COAL?


While an increasingly befuddled operation continues its attempt to rescue the twenty nine men trapped in the Pike River mine, politicians and union leaders alike are rushing to the defence of the mining company.

While geologists warned of the danger of gas explosions at the mine some three years ago, both National and Labour politicians have moved on to suggest that the mining company is not at fault.

While the Prime Minister has said that there will be 'several inquiries' when the crisis is over, Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Energy, has been quick to say that Pike River Coal (PRC) has 'an absolute focus on health and safety'. The emerging details do not support Brownlee's view but he is a strong proponent of increased mining in New Zealand. He has been forced had to back down on plans to mine on conservation land in the face of widespread public protests.

Labour's Damien O'Conner, another politician on friendly terms with the mining industry, has suggested that no one as to blame and that the disaster is 'just one of these things that the West Coast unfortunately has had to get used to over the years'.

In other words disasters like the one playing out right now are just a 'natural phenomena' that no-no one is responsible for. Perhaps O'Connor has forgotten that the 1967 disaster at the state-owned Strongman mine in Runanga, which killed 19 people, was caused by two breaches of safety regulations. The Government was ordered to pay compensation to the families.

Disgracefully the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which represents some eighty PRC employees, has gone into bat for the company's owners.

National secretary Andrew Little told the New Zealand Herald yesterday there was 'nothing unusual about Pike River or this mine that we’ve been particularly concerned about'.

He told TVNZ'x Close Up that underground mining was inherently unsafe and the risk of gas explosions, particularly on the West Coast, was high.

While the industry was aware of the risks and took the necessary precautions, unfortunately these kinds of incidents still happened, he argued.

All workers at the mining site should be seriously concerned that the EPMU has such a benevolent view of its safety standards - although that hasn't stopped Labour leader Phil Goff from praising the EPMU in Parliament.

Andrew Little's support for PRC flies in the face of the emerging expert opinion.

An Australian gas drainage engineer, who wishes to remain anonymous and who visited the site last year has said operating standards were 'extremely poor'.

The Australian expert, who still has close contacts with miners at Pike River, said he had been told the mine was flooded with methane gas about three weeks ago.

He says miners had bored through 'high flow methane holes' without any risk assessment conducted or procedure on how to manage gas flow from the hole in place.

The Australian says that PRC has not yet implemented a gas drainage drilling regime that can relieve the pressure when there is a a build up of gas by drilling a hole in the coal seam.

His comments have been backed up by a world-renowned New Zealand mining safety expert who said the explosion at Pike River should never have happened.

'In developed countries like the United States and New Zealand we shouldn't be having these kinds of accidents," the New Zealand expert told the New Zealand Herald.

The New Zealand Herald has quoted Gerry Morris of Greymouth, a former writer for Coal magazine, who says he has 'heard regularly' from contractors at the mine 'over the last two or three years that this mine is unsafe, there’s far too much gas, there’s going to be a disaster here one day'.

It now appears that PRC has been under pressure to increase its revenue and extract coal faster. PRC recorded cumulative net losses after tax for the period July 2006 to June 2010 amounting to $54.1 million.

A picture is emerging of an under-pressure mining compnay that may of compromised operational safety standards in order to generate more revenue.

GEOLOGIST WARNED OF GAS EXPLOSIONS



A West Coast geologist warned about the threat of explosions from gas in the Pike River mine more than three years ago.

And a second mining expert says initial investigations of the mine were inhibited because of its location in Paparoa National Park.

Western Exploration director Murry Cave said in May 2007 there were several geological risks at the underground site.

They included:

A pit bottom with deep, highly gassy coals and the associated risk of "outburst", or gas or water-pressure- forced explosions, outwards at the coalface.

The presence of an active fault that needed to be crossed underground with a zone of considerable and sustained ground stresses.

A degree of uncertainty about the difficulties in accessing the resource due to geological structure, plus the risk of environmental damage from subsidence and "acid mine drainage".

Cave also pointed to explosions at Solid Energy's shortlived Mt Davy mine, which was shut down in 1998 after three miners were killed in two separate accidents.

"Mt Davy was forced to close after only a few years when it was concluded that the mine could not be safely operated due to the risk of outburst following the deaths of a number of miners resulting from outbursts," he said then.

Cave told The Press yesterday that coal in the Pike River mine was at the "higher end of the scale" for its gaseousness.

Each tonne of coal contained about 10 cubic metres of gas.

From 2000 to 2004 Cave was an adviser on the Pike River mine to the landowner, the Department of Conservation, as part of resource consent and access issues.

University of Canterbury engineering and mining geologist David Bell said the Hawera Fault zone running through the mine shaft allowed pockets of methane gas to build up. (The Press)

NEW LEFT PROJECT


Although I did hope against hope that Matt McCarten might achieve an unexpected victory in the Mana electorate, in truth it was always going to be a steep hill for Matt to climb to overhaul Labour's 6000 majority.

In the end he got a little over 800 votes which left of us all feeling a little flat.

Matt campaigned well, offered a real alternative to the more of the same neoliberal dross on offer from Labour and National, but still ended up trailing the Green's Jan Logie by some 600 votes.

As an independent candidate with limited resources, Matt was always going to have his work cut for him especially with Labour and National pouring not inconsiderable financial and organisational resources into the electorate.

Matt's campaign would certainly of benefited if it had received some of the resources that the CTU bureaucracy channelled into the mediocre Kris Fa'afoi's campaign. All Matt received from the CTU was some cheap insults from the EPMU's Andrew Little.

It didn't help Matt that some of his campaign workers got into some stuff that was unhelpful - and which was pounced on by a media that is unsympathetic to the left at the best of times.

The skirmish with John Key in a Porirua shopping mall should have been avoided. Similarly leaving out election material on the day of the election allowed the Service and Food Workers Union, another Labour Party ally, to promptly fire off a media release and lay a complaint.

I do recall that during his time in NewLabour and the Alliance, McCarten always emphasised the importance of focus and discipline during an election campaign. Perhaps some of his activists need to take on board the lesson that you are not any less committed to the cause if you simply avoid situations that will not play out well on the six o'clock news bulletins.

Speaking of the media, a special mention must be made of TV3's Patrick Gower. Last seem blaming the workers and the unions for The Hobbit debacle , his distaste for McCarten was particularly evident. He didn't miss an opportunity to paint an unflattering picture of Matt's campaign.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it should also be said that Matt still managed to pull in over 800 votes in the space of three weeks in an electorate, if the extremely low turnout is anything to go by, is rightfully cynical and disillusioned with mainstream parliamentary politics.

But this was a campaign that was never just about votes.

It was also about inserting a genuine left wing voice into the campaign and not allowing Labour, by default. to masquerade as a left wing party.

This is a party that no longer resides in the left wing current and it is a party that has lost the right to speak on behalf of ordinary people.

Labour were left in the uncomfortable position of arguing that a vote for Matt would 'split' the left wing vote while, at the same, pushing a candidate that was offering nothing but more of the neoliberal-inspired policies that we are all painfully familiar with.

The rank hypoctisy was there for all to see and now Labour's 6000 majority has shrunk to just over a 1000.

As political science lecturer Bryce Edwards has observed:

Matt McCarten’s very existence has always been deeply embarrassing for Labour – he embodies everything that the Labour Party lacks: a working class orientation, socialist principles, campaign competency, and leftwing charisma. More than that, he’s a reminder for many Labour MPs and activists that they’re not actually involved in a leftwing, working class party.

Perhaps the principle achievement of Matt's campaign is that exposed Labour as the right wing party that it really is and walked the first steps in building a new left wing alternative in this country.

Ye, it has been tried before with varying degrees of success, but building a new broad party to the left of Labour is an essential step towards the rebirth of a serious anti-capitalist worker’s movement.

THE MEDIA GOES GOO GOO



It was wall to wall coverage of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton last night.

It led both TV1 and TV3's six 'o'clock news bulletins and if that wasn't enough both Close Up and Campbell Live devoted a big chunk of their twenty something minutes going goo goo over the latest trivial news surrounding a spoiled and ridiculous family.

I switched on the radio about thirty minutes later only to discover that Radio Live's Karyn Hay was playing the same William and Kate interview that had just been broadcast on TV1 and TV3! Time for the Sex Pistols 'God Save The Queen', I thought to myself.

Watching this media circus unfold, I was reminded of observations that writer and columnist Christopher Hitchens made some years ago. He was talking about the treatment of the Windsors by the newspapers but his comments, I think, apply equally well to the media in general. He wrote:

The 'royal' theme operates with the intensity of Gresham's law ..., encouraging laziness and sentimentality and salacity by making it too easy to fill page upon page with brainless twaddle, and encouraging contempt for the readership that makes itself such an easy target.


It seems that our media is a long way from of growing out of is infantilism and sheer stupidly when it comes to Britain's wealthiest state beneficiaries.

The New Zealand media has already decided that 'we' can't get enough of Kate and William when, in reality, many of us couldn't give a toss. They are irrelevant to our lives.

Hilary, Mike, Wendy and Simon co might want to doth their caps to their imagined 'superiors' but please don't assume that the rest of us want to be dragged into this tawdry spectacle as well.

REARMING THE LEFT


It's been encouraging to see the forces of the left swing in behind Matt McCarten's election campaign in the Mana electorate. The level of solidarity has been inspiring and one that, of course, has been completely ignored by the mainstream media and most of the blogosphere.

Groups like Socialist Aotearoa, the Workers Party and the Alliance have all lent their support to Matt's campaign. This has included the Alliance withdrawing its candidate and members of the Workers Party supplying food and moral support to some of McCarten's activists occupying an empty state house in Cannon's Creek.

They were both subsequently arrested along with two of Matt's people.

As McCarten commented : 'The State will let working class people wait on housing lists for seven years. Occupy an empty house and they’ll arrest you in seven minutes.'

It is in McCarten's campaign that we can see the emergence of a new New Zealand left, one that isn't beholden to the political expediencies of the politically bankrupt Labour Party and its allies in the trade union bureaucracy.

As Joe Carolan wrote recently in the Australian Green Left Weekly:' Labour has had this seat (Mana) since the 1930s and has done little to alleviate the poverty there. The escalating attacks on the working class in New Zealand requires the serious left to look for political as well as industrial solutions. The Labour Party just won't cut it. '

This emerging left has been around in some shape or form for several years but McCarten's campaign has brought it into sharper focus - which, I think, was always his intention.

It may well be that the old sectarian divisions have been put to rest against the backdrop of a local and global crisis, a long wave of recession, and the realisation that there are massive political struggles ahead. This will include a long and bitter struggle against a do-nothing trade union bureaucracy.

Matt's campaign has brought into focus the reality that the Labour Party and the CTU hierarchy are no friends of the left and the working class - however much its cheerleaders in the media try to peddle this particular fiction.

Labour Party President and aspiring MP Andrew Little, in his capacity as the national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), was quick to swing the resources of the EPMU behind's Labour's dreary candidate Kris Fa'afoi.

'Clearly we need to get out there and mobilise our support.' he told the NZ Herald.

I think that when he said 'we' Little actually meant 'I' because there has been no consultation with EPMU members as to whether they actually support Fa'afoi. Just like the EPMU's affiliation to the Labour Party, the EPMU's support for Fa'afoi has not been a subject for wider discussion.

Little also took the time to belittle McCarten's campaign.

Little, a union 'leader' who has betrayed numerous industrial struggles, described Matt's campaign as 'entertaining'- as if he was some kind of cheap vaudeville act. People should remember that the dismal and gutless Andrew Little is the future of the Labour Party.

McCarten has been in the national media about the issues of poverty and inequality - issues apparently not on Kris Fa'afoi's radar - and Little has nothing to offer but cheap insults. What a disgrace.

HENDO NARROWLY AVOIDS BANKRUPTCY



The Hendo Files have remained closed these last several months mainly because, as I have previously said, the story was becoming somewhat repetitive. There's only so many angles you can take on yet another creditor tussling with slippery Dave in the High Court.

It's worth noting though that our libertarian hero narrowly avoided bankruptcy yesterday. The judge agreed to allow Hendo to try to implement a repayment scheme which appears to involve the receiver of South Canterbury Finance finding a buyer for Hotel So. Which doesn't appear likely.

Justice Christiansen saId that he doubted that the repayment scheme had much of a chance but adjourned the hearing until November 29.

Justice Christiansen said that the gross debts filed against Hendo's companies was $165 million.

The bankruptcy petition is brought by Canterbury Mortgage Trust (CMT) which is supported by Equitable Property and Finance, South Canterbury Finance, Bank of New Zealand, Strategic Finance and Havenleigh Global Services Ltd.

PHIL'S MAN


The candidacy of Kris Fa'afoi is a big fat clue to the future direction of the Labour Party under Phil Goff.

Despite all the hype about a change of political direction by Labour, Kris Fa'afoi is actually all we've come to expect from Labour MP's - and less.

Despite Phil's claim that Labour has given up on neoliberalism, I haven't actually heard Kris condemning neoliberalism and the free market. He hasn't been pounding the streets of Porirua declaring his allegiance to the working class while waving a copy of Capital in the air.

While Matt McCarten has been busy exposing the lack of housing available in Porirua. Fa'afoi has been busy remembering his lines and making sure his tie isn't crooked. He's that kind of candidate I'm afraid. I'm sure Fa'afoi would be enjoying the campaign a whole lot more if it wasn't for all the politics getting in the way all the time.

Fa'afoi has yet to offer an original thought or idea. Do you think Kris has pondered on the failure of social democracy? No, neither do I.

Today though Kris had something to say on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report. Unfortunately he just repeated Labour's promise to take the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. I know that there are even Labour Party members who think this is the kind of policy you have when you don't have any real policies, but Fa'afoi really thinks its a point of difference between Labour and National.

The New Zealand economy is a basket case and in need of major structural reforms that are not beholden to the needs of capital and all Labour and Kris have to offer are slightly cheaper lettuces?

What a nonsense.

But it was a nonsense that Fa'afoi was foisted on the Mana electorate in the first place. He has no history of political activism. No one has seen him out on the streets protesting. As a journalist he's never made any dissenting posts on a blog somewhere.

No, Fa'afoi was selected by Labour HQ because, in the words of Sir Humphrey Appleton, he's 'a sound man'.

Fa'afoi can be counted on to turn up on time, not knock the furniture, say his lines and then go home. In short, he'll always agree with Phil Goff.

If I had any sympathy for Kris Fa'afoi I would say it is tragic that his most signal political achievement ever will be to win the Mana seat which Labour holds with a vast majority. Mana has a larger majority than Lianne Dalziel in Christchurch East, Trevor Mallard in Hutt South and Jim Anderton in Wigram.

But I don't have any sympathy for Fa'afoi so I'll say thst it will, in fact, be a fittingly empty and pathetic achievement. What's more it'll be downright embarrassing for Labour if it sees its majority slashed.

And maybe Matt McCarten could cause a remarkable upset...

THE TIDE IS TURNING


The corporate media coverage of the student protests in London yesterday was inadequate but are we not surprised? Are we are not surprised the mainstream media focused on the sensational, the convenient images of student protesters jostling with the police?

The focus was on the so-called 'violence' of some students. This 'violence' amounted to a few broken windows at the Conservative Party head office and the police getting into a fluster because they didn't expect over 50,000 students to march and consequently didn't have enough officers on duty.

But the British Establishment were quick to pounce on the fracas, declaring it to be the work of 'anarchists'. Whenever there are militant protests - whether it be London or Seattle - its always the work of 'anarchists' or, just for a bit of variety, 'Trotskyists'.

London Mayor and all round Tory Git Boris Johnson could be heard condemning the 'anarchists'. 'It's not the British way' pronounced Tory Git, erasing from history Britain's long and proud radical and revolutionary tradition

Let us recall Robert Owen, Charles Kingsley, Anna Wheeler, William Morris and, of course, Marx and Engels - not to mention the Chartists and the Tolpuddle martyrs, the Levellers and the Diggers.

It was this same radical and revolutionary tradition that gave rise to Tom Paine and The Rights of Man.

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, also has little regard for British history. Porter is a rather obnoxious young man, who is clearly upset that the activities of some of his fellow students might have jeopardised his chances of ever becoming a Labour MP.

Porter could be heard snivelling about the 'disgusting' activities of a few 'anarchists'. 'Anarchists' is basically just shorthand for 'dirty people who never shower and are not like us'.

Porter was all over the British national media but instead of using it as a platform to attack the savage austerity measures of the Con-Lib Dem government, he tried to demonise some of his fellow students.

in my book a few broken windows pales into comparison against cuts to welfare, education and health services, the vicious attacks on the poor and vulnerable

While you would not have got this impression from either TV1 or TV3's dismal six o'clock coverage of the protest, this was a tremendous and significant demonstration by young people who have previously been labelled by the media as 'politically apathetic'.

The tide is turning.

THE BATTLE FOR MANA


'There’s a real battle on in Mana over the next two weeks. A big vote for Matt will be a message to the big parties that working class people will no longer accept low pay, unfair taxes, poverty and homelessness. Now’s the time for all activists, union members and socialists to come and help us.'

Joe Carolan discovers there's widespread support for Mana candidate Matt McCarten out on the streets.



In the working class streets of Porirua, hundreds of workers and residents are already backing the demands raised by Matt McCarten’s campaign for tax justice, full employment and a living wage.

Dino, a member of the Maritime Union, living in Calliope Crescent, was on on the picket lines in Napier in 2007 defending jobs and conditions. “There’s no excuse for unemployment in this country- there’s heaps of work that needs doing round here- look at the state of disrepair of some of the state houses. None of the major parties have any solutions for the blight of unemployment- that’s why Matt’s demand for 3000 jobs in Mana is electric. I’m definitely thinking of switching from Labour on this one'.

Jennie from Castor Crescent is a young Maori woman who has finished a course in childcare, but can’t find any work. “There’s a lot of young working mothers here stretched trying to manage jobs and family at the same time. If there were crèches and childcare here in the community, not only would it be a big help for these mums, but it would create hundreds of jobs for childcare workers like me. It’s impossible to survive on benefits- I’m voting for Matt.'

Grandfather Sonny invited campaigners into his home to sit down with his sons. 'I’ve supported the unions all my life. But the rot started in Labour with that Roger Douglas. Lange and his mob brought in GST first- I’ve never forgotten that. It’s good to now see a union man like Matt saying we should get rid of it completely. That will help working people buy more food for their kids.'

Lucas from Waihora Crescent is sick of low pay in New Zealand. 'I’m already voting for Matt, bro. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a great idea- people need enough to live on, otherwise everyone is going to end up moving to Australia. It’s great to see a staunch candidate sticking up for us at last.'

Caroline and her partner are currently living in a garage in Champion Street. They’re on the waiting list for a state house. Meanwhile, there are over 30 empty houses in Cannon’s Creek counted by door knockers. Without families living in these houses, they are broken into, the windows are smashed, the copper fittings in the plumbing are ripped out and the walls kicked in.

Activists are going to house Caroline’s family in one house, and set up a community crèche in another, and local unemployed electricians and carpenters are going to repair the damage. The People’s House will create an example of what full employment serving the community in Mana could look like.

There’s a real battle on in Mana over the next two weeks. A big vote for Matt will be a message to the big parties that working class people will no longer accept low pay, unfair taxes, poverty and homelessness. Now’s the time for all activists, union members and socialists to come and help us.

Joe Carolan is the campaign organiser for the Unite Union.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT..


Congratulations to the Minister of Broadcasting Jonathan Coleman for some first class buffoonery.

In Parliament last night Coleman was introducing the taxation bill for the Revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

The Clerk of the House announced the bill's first reading, but Coleman began talking about a completely piece of legislation altogether. But he completely failed to pick up his embarassing blunder.

Coleman serenely carried on reading out his entire 10-minute speech on the wrong bill.

For all round stupidity this must come close to beating Coleman's 2006 performance when he managed to get himself knocked unconscious.

Coleman accepted an invitation to watch U2 from British American Tobacco’s corporate box at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium. Smoke from Coleman’s cigar led to an 'altercation' which saw Coleman knocked out.

YET ANOTHER RATINGS DISASTER FOR KIWI FM


Kiwi FM continues to perform miserably in the ratings, raising again questions about why this failed station continues to occupy the three valuable FM frequencies originally reserved for a non commercial youth radio network (YRN).

Unfortunately no one is answering those questions. Kiwi FM continues to stagnate in a radio backwater, broadcasting to a handful of people and wasting everyone's time.

The former Labour Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey disgracefully gifted the three FM frequencies to Mediaworks, New Zealand's largest broadcasting operation.

The latest radio ratings (released on October 8) show that the station that plays only New Zealand 'alternative' music continues to attract a tiny audience. In the all important Auckland market the station attracted just 0.3 percent of the total radio audience. A mere 15,000 or so people listed to the station at some point during the week. Even the fundamentalist Christian station Radio Rhema gets better ratings than that.

Mediaworks Brent Impey lobbied Maharey to prevent the establishment of the YRN . Impey was worried that a non-commercial youth radio network would pull audience away from the Mediaworks stable of commercial music stations such as The Rock and More FM.

Despite saying that said that FM frequencies should never be given by the Government to anyone for free that didn't prevent Impey from snatching the three frequencies away from the YRN.

And as I said in a previous post:

What is also clear is that Maharey sideswiped his own Government's advisory group. The group, made up of representatives from student radio, access radio and some other media-savvy young people, was asked to consider the network among other options for enhancing radio services for youth.

The group strongly recommended a non-commercial youth radio network and the recommendation was backed by , among others, access radio and Mai FM.


Maharey promised to review the performance of Kiwi FM after a year but never did.

He also claimed that the deal with Mediaworks would not jeopardise the future of the YRN. Maharey was clearly being economical with the truth because Kiwi FM effectively torpedoed the YRN.

So its another ratings disaster for Kiwi FM - another ratings disaster in a string of ratings disasters. Do its DJs suffer from regular existentialist trauma, wondering if anybody is actually listening to them?

The station has little public appeal and virtually zero appeal for advertisers. Indeed the only reason the station survives is through generating government grants for New Zealand music promotion.

The failure of Kiwi FM is now attracting academic interest

The Aotearoa Centre of Journalism, Media and Democracy held a conference at the Auckland University of Technology in September.

One of the papers presented at the conference focused on Kiwi FM.

It was written by Auckland University of Technology radio lecturer Matt Mollgaard. The paper focuses on Kiwi FM to show how 'disinterested international equity is not able to protect and enhance unique national media systems.'

Mediaworks is owned by the Australian private equity company Ironbridge.

TIME FOR REAL CHANGE


You don't need a university degree in economics to know that the New Zealand economy is a cot case.

You might be a victim of the failed free market. You might have been laid off. You might have had the bank foreclose on your home. You might have the debt collectors chasing you. You might be wondering just how you are going to pay for that grocery bill. Maybe you've been forced to go to a food bank like hundreds of other New Zealanders.

If your situation isn't so precarious then you will have seen the growing number of empty shops with the large 'for lease' signs on their windows. You might have been tempted by the hugely discounted consumer products available in the stores that are still in business.

After thirty years of neoliberal policies implemented and promoted by both National and Labour, this is the state of the nation. It ain't Nirvana but it's looking a helluva like a Wasteland.

But we don't have to reply purely on anecdotal evidence. The hard data confirms that all the desperate talk about an 'economic recovery' has been a Big Lie.

Last week it was revealed that the deficit had blown out by $2.2 billion since the May Budget forecasts. The corporate media, seemingly unable to concede that there is no economic recovery, referred to their recovery as 'sluggish'. In the past two years or so the 'economic recovery' has been variously described as 'tentative', 'patchy', 'slow', 'uneven' and 'fragile'. These are some of the platitudes that immediately spring to mind but I'm sure there have been more.

Oh and someone said that the economic recovery was going to be 'aggressive'. That was Prime Minister John Key in September last year, He predicted a big economic upswing for early this year.

Last week Key had another crack at economic prediction. He claimed the economy was 'on track to grow' but added '... a number of countries are going through significant austerity packages ... it's a difficult international environment." Key certainly sounds a less sure of himself doesn't he?

That might because the Minister of Finance's response to the blowout is even more spending cuts. According to Bill English we need more 'ongoing fiscal discipline'. And he ominously added '.. in many ways, restraint in the public sector is only just starting.'

This is will only lead to more economic contraction and more job losses. And we can only shudder at what 'restraint' will mean for the welfare system.

English has continually berated the last Labour government for stoking the economy via government spending and an overheated property market. Labour, argues English, postponed the basic economic adjustments needed to end the recession and renew economic growth, employment, and income.

So English is now 'rebalancing' (his words) the economy. He is desperately trying to revive a neoliberal economic model that has just about collapsed. Under the present economic paradigm Treasury is optimistically forecasting a growth rate of 1.9% a year up until 2014. This would not even provide enough new jobs for the new job seekers entering the market each year.

We've ended up with a low growth, low wage economy along with mass unemployment and underemployment.

A traditional social democratic Labour Party might be expected to offer a Keynesian-strategy of running bigger deficits - pumping the economy- in order to provide a fiscal boost. But this is a Labour Party that has so thoroughly embraced neoliberalism that even Keynesianism is alien to it these days.

While Phil Goff evoked Labour's 'old values' at its recent annual conference there is no evidence that Labour is planning to offer anything more than an argument that it can better manage the capitalist economy. This will be the view that will be promoted by the usual suspects in the media, including the blogosphere.

Missing entirely from this debate is any recognition that capitalism itself is the problem and the solution is an alternative system that isn't beholden to the demands of capitalism.

We seem trapped in an economic paradigm where the level of debate has been reduced to the banal level of arguing that National is 'worse' than Labour.

It's time to move on from the failed orthodoxy and start talking about a real people-centred economic alternative.

VOTERS TURN AGAINST OBAMA FOR FAILING TO DELIVER


The alarm bells were, of course, were ringing for Barack Obama long before the Republican Party took over Congress this week.

An Associated Press survey in August, for example, revealed that more than half of Americans disapproved of his handling of the economy. 61 per cent said the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same on Obama's watch. This was, by far, his worst result since he came to office.

A massive 81 per cent of Americans described the state of the economy poor or very poor, Obama's repeated claims that the American economy was gradually recovering were simply not believed.

And why should they have been?

Obama has presided over an economy wracked by high unemployment, home foreclosures, and stagnant production. This has put downward pressures on wages and levels of government assistance.

The devastated landscape that is the American economy is a far cry from the hope and optimism that surrounded Obama when he became President.

Obama's track record didn't actually justify this optimism but, hey, the liberal intelligentsia had got the President they wanted and George Bush had been tossed into the dustbin of history. So the sense of relief was palpable. And Obama had received the blessing of Oprah! Who could ask for more?

Fast forward to now.

His working class supporters have felt betrayed as they have sat and watched Obama throw trillions of dollars at Wall Street, and, at the same time reject any government public works program to create jobs and refuse to provide serious relief for the millions of long-term unemployed.

The American working class has long been effectively disenfranchised by 'the greatest democracy in the world' because it doesn't matter who they vote for - Democrats or Republicans - capital and the interests of corporate America always win. After all, it is corporate America that funds the massively expansive election campaigns of the two main parties.

So less than half of eligible voters voted in the midterm elections and of those who did vote many chose the Republicans simply out of frustration. They don't care for the Republicans and care even less for the lynch mob mentality of the Tea Party but they weren't going to give their vote to the guy who promised much but has delivered very little.

Film maker Michael Moore has expressed the opinion that the Democrats now face a challenge on the left.

Said Moore: "If President Obama continues this war, if he expands the war, if he doesn't put the clamp down on Wall Street and we go through another crash in these next two years — if he doesn't do the job he was elected to do, I can almost guarantee there will be a challenge from the left — a Naderesque-style challenge.'

Me, I'd be hoping for something more than this but if progressive politics are to be reasserted in the United States the grip of the two corporate machines has to be broken.

LOONY COMPLAINT GOES NOWHERE


A few weeks ago I reported that a local Christchurch activist, Donna Alfrey, faced being charged by the police for the dastardly crime of distributing flyers in the Hagley-Ferrymead ward.

One of the candidates was National Party supporter Tim Carter. At the time Tim was having a tantrum claiming that he had been the victim of 'lies and mistruths'.

Tim Carter works for the Carter Group which is one of the largest property owners in Christchurch and the Canterbury region. It is wholly owned by the Carter family.

The Carter group owns 2.3 hectares of land in the historic Avon Loop area of Christchurch and which is within walking distance of the central city. It's a charming area of Christchurch that I have enjoyed walking through on many occasions.

So far it has remained relatively unscathed from the vandalism that property developers have wreaked in other areas of Christchurch.

It is now under threat from the Carter Group who think the area is ripe for what Tim Carter calls 'residential intensification'.

His lunatic plans for the Avon Loop are opposed by the local residents and by heritage experts.

Local resident Donna Alfrey thought it would be a good idea if people in the Hagley=Ferrymead ward knew what Tim Carter and the Carter Group had in mind for her neighbourhood.

Someone though made a complaint under the Local Electoral Act and Alfrey was subsequently interviewed by the police. You'd think the police would have something better to do with their time but apparently not.

Donna faced a possible fine of $5000 for supposedly 'interfering with or influencing voters'. Remember - all she did was distribute a few flyers.

It was a totally absurd and spurious complaint and - surprise - the police have now said that they will no longer be pursuing a case against Donna Alfrey. Possibly because there was no case to pursue in the first place.

But it may well be that this complaint was just an attempt to intimidate Donna into not making a fuss.

Tim Carter was, unfortunately, elected to the Christchurch City Council and he will spend the next three years kissing Sideshow Bob's arse.

Given Tim Carter's extensive property interests and ambitions, we will be following his council activities very closely.

IS THE RATEPAYER PAYING FOR BOB'S MALAYSIAN JUNKET?



When faced with an heavy election defeat and before the earthquake struck, Sideshow Bob was promising to be more up front and above board about his mayoral activities.

But safely ensconced in the mayoral office, the man in the orange safety jacket has quickly returned to his old secretive ways.

Sideshow Bob, along with Mrs Sideshow Bob, left the country last week to 'to discuss a significant business opportunity for the city. '

However Communications manager Diane Keenan refused to divulge any more details.

In a press statement she said: that Bob ' is due to meet with a large international company to discuss a business opportunity for Christchurch. If this opportunity comes to fruition it will have significant economic benefits for the city, However, at this stage, I am unable to give further details due to commercial sensitivity.'

So much for 'transparency'.

Sideshow is due back in Christchurch on November 4 and The Press speculated that he had gone to Brazil because that's where Peter Townsend, chief executive of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce happens to be at present.

However it turned out that Bob was in Malaysia where it was announced a low-cost Malaysian airline AirAsia X will soon start flying a long-haul route between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch.

Although Diane Keenan claimed that Bob was busy discussing a major 'business opportunity' for Christchurch the truth is something else entirely.

Although Bob is trying to claim the kudos for this deal he had, in fact, nothing to do with it.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult is quoted as saying in an industry publication that Christchurch Airport has been 'developing this opportunity over the past two years' and 'extensively lobbied AirAsia X for the service'.

Bob travelled to Kuala Lumpur to witness the signing of the agreement. Oh, and to hog the media spotlight again - as he did during the aftermath of the earthquake.

He also found some spare time to play the guitar (see photo).

And why was Mrs Sideshow Bob in Kuala Lumpur? Who knows. Perhaps she was there for the coffee and muffins.

And given that the agreement was signed on the evening of October 29 and Sideshow Bob and Mrs Sideshow Bob aren't due back in Christchurch until November 4, are they now having a wee holiday at the ratepayers expense?

MATT FOR MANA


If anyone doubted that the Labour Party's so-called 'left turn' is simply a branding exercise bereft of principle and substance, then just take a look at Labour's candidate in the Mana by election.

It's former TVNZ news reporter Kris Faafoi. He's decided that he'd like a change of career and a much bigger salary - along with the travel and accommodation perks of course.

Faafoi, if he wins, will replace the less than inspiring Willie Laban. She decided to cut short her parliamentary career and has taken up a new career opportunity, namely Pasfika assistant vice chancellor at Victoria University in Wellington. How nice for her.

If he wins, Faafoi will be joining other Labour time servers like Lianne Dalziel for instance. This month the woman who sat on her hands while the New Zealand finance sector collapsed, is 'celebrating' twenty years as an MP.

Faafoi has no history of political activism, no history of rocking the boat, no history of upsetting anyone. Nothing. Zilch.

No wonder he got the nod from his leader Phil Goff.

Faafoi will do what Goff tells him to do and that will mean doing his bit to prop up the neoliberal consensus while paying lip service to the need for 'progressive change'.

Faafoi will push Labour's agenda of business-friendly policies combined with a bit more 'progressive' rhetoric and a few crumbs for the working class.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to have yet another grey 'machine' politician joining all the other grey 'machine' politicians looking to further their 'careers'.

Mana could elect a genuine left wing MP. That MP could be Matt McCarten.

He has spent most of his adult life involved in left wing and trade union politics. He quit the Labour Party when Rogernomics began to take grip and you ran read more on Wikipedia if you are interested.

While I know some on the left (including myself) had disagreements with some of the methods he employed in the Alliance, there can be no doubting McCarten's commitment to left wing politics.

He has never wavered from his belief that New Zealand has simply been on the wrong political and economic track

In an era of retreat and downright surrender by what were perceived to be traditional working class organisations, McCarten has remained, well, staunch.

You know where you stand with McCarten which is rather refreshing in these days of spin.

While Matt would like to win Mana, the longer game is the formation of a new left wing party that can attract a mass membership. Such a party would be instrumental in allowing a new left wing politics and culture to develop in this country.

McCarten has spoken about this many times before and according to political science lecturer Bryce Edwards, who worked closely with him in the Alliance, building the Unite union has been the first step in the formation of such a party:

This has been his plan ever since the Alliance disintegrated. Building the Unite union has always been the first step in this larger project of resuscitating progressive politics in this country. McCarten has never wanted to just be a unionist for the sake of it, but has instead seen that building of the Unite union as part of a larger vision for changing society. He knows very well that you can’t do this without an organized force at the political level. And for McCarten, neither the Labour and Green parties are capable of this; when push comes to shove, despite their posturing, both parties are not really particularly leftwing at all.

After nearly thirty years of neoliberal tripe, a new left wing party cannot come about soon enough.

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