On a Monday April 28 an attempt will be made to overturn Sideshow's Bob's plan to increase Christchurch council rents by a massive twenty-four percent.
This decision has generated a great deal of community anger but the vote at council level will be close.
So far, five councillors say they will be voting to replace the twenty-four percent increased with a more modest five percent while it appears a definite four councillors will vote against the motion.
At the March 24 council meeting the vote was 9-4 in favour of the massive rent hike.
Some councillors now they believe they were not presented with enough information and that the decision was steamrolled by Sideshow Bob and his council supporters, who prevented alternative proposals. being presented to the council.
One councillor who thinks sticking council tenants with a twenty four percent increase is just dandy is Councillor Susan Wells.
Although she told the March 24 council meeting that she was 'struggling' with a twenty four percent she still voted for it.
Clearly she has got over her 'struggle' because she will not support the proposal to decrease the increase to five percent.
Councillor Wells, who is on a salary of some $83,000, is the councillor who famously told the Christchurch Star that if ratepayers wanted to talk to her they could talk to her in the supermarket or while she was gardening.
Wells is not known for being a hardworking councillor. She, along with fellow Spreydon councillor Barry 'What's wrong with killing taggers?' Corbett, is extremely unpopular in her ward.
Deputy Mayor Norm Withers has come out against Mayor Parker saying that 'not enough information' was provided for the original decision. He is in favour of a five percent increase. Well done, Norm!
Sideshow Bob argued that the increase was needed to cover repair and maintain council properties.
This argument is nonsense.
Christchurch City Council Holdings (CCHL) fully owns City Care, which is responsible for maintaining council flats.
However CCHL is forecasting a massive $38 million dividend for the year commencing the 1 July - the very day rents are set to rise.
Sideshow Bob and his cronies say that this dividend helps to keep rates down.
But as Wigram MP and cabinet minister Jim Anderton has pointed out:
“What is happening is that the council is charging higher rents for the most vulnerable people in order to help keep rates for everyone else down. The higher rents mean council’s own maintenance company can charge more and contribute to increased profits for its holding company and keep rates down.’
It appears...that the council has moved from breaking even on housing after recovering its costs and cost of capital, to making a profit. The community should at least have been given a chance to contest those decisions.”
Interestingly, none other than property developer Dave Henderson (and Parker supporter)has recently been offering his opinion on council housing. He's arguing for 'business' involvement in council housing - eg people like him.
One of Sideshow Bob's first mayoral acts was to 'buy' the Ellerslie Garden show. It was a decision that got a heap of national media coverage - and Sideshow is always keen to get his face on TV or in the newspapers.
But why spend big money - reportedly $2 million - on a Auckland garden show? Why not just create you're own and save all that money?
The details of this 'purchase' were withheld from public view. Sideshow claimed this was because of 'commercial sensitivity'. Commercial sensitivity for who? Sideshow Bob and his merry band of councillors? It seems that Sideshow thinks that Christchurch ratepayer's don't need to be told what he is spending their money on.
But local radio station NewstalkZB has been doggedly pursuing this matter. It made a bid for the details to be made public under the provisions of the Official Informations Act.
Much to Sideshow's disappointment, the Ombudsman agreed with NewstalkZB and said that there was no reason for the purchase details to kept confidential. In other words, Sideshow Bob has been making things up again.
The Ombudsman ordered the Christchurch City Council to release the details by 24 April - which was yesterday. This is approximately four months after Sideshow announced the puchase of the Ellerslie Garden Show.
However, at the time of writing, the details have still not been released - we await developments.
It was somewhat ironic that, a few days after the Minister of Broadcasting Trevor Mallard had made some barbed comments about Television New Zealand not meeting 'Charter obligations', TVNZ unveiled Stars In Their Eyes (TV1, Tuesday, 8.30pm).
A carbon copy of the British version (TVNZ have bought the rights) it featured a group of Kiwi's imitating (I use the term loosely), among others, Shakira (the eventual winner of this episode), Freddie Mercury, Meatloaf and Robbie Williams.
It was quite stunning really: none of the contestants sounded - or even looked - like the pop artists they were pretending to be.
Meatloaf was a big guy in a frilly shirt and black trousers. He didn't look like Meatloaf and he certainly didn't sing like him.
Similarly 'Robbie Williams' was a guy in jeans and a t-shirt. He was singing a Robbie Williams song. He was a guy in jeans and a t-shirt singing a Robbie Williams song.
The host was fundamentalist Christian Simon Barnett, who seems to get wheeled out every so often for some TVNZ light entertainment fare. I was waiting for him to tell me why he thinks smacking his kids is okay.
Barnett, I think, will have some explaining to do to God for all the big fibs he kept telling throughout the show. To describe the awful acts as 'brilliant' and 'great' was certainly imaginative on his part.
Whose to blame for this rubbish?
I suppose you can blame the TVNZ decision-makers for giving a green light to Stars In Their Eyes, but the ultimate blame lies with Labour's broadcasting policy which has created an environment for shows like this to thrive while current affairs, documentaries, top class drama, etc have virtually disappeared off TVNZ's programming schedules.
The decision to create a TVNZ that has had to supposedly meet public service obligations while, at the same time, meeting commercial targets has created a wasteland on our screens of banal light entertainment, reality shows, quiz shows and a third rate news service.
SHOCK CAPITALISM : THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM Naomi Klein (Knopf) Naomi Klein is one of the more popular left wing observers. In fact she's a bit of a poster girl for the left - her books sell in large quantities and she's a sought after speaker. I would of reviewed Shock Capitalism earlier but the half a dozen copies available through the Canterbury Public Library have been constantly out of loan.
But I managed to get a copy recently and, I have to say, I was slightly disappointed. This book will go down well in the liberal milieu (there are actually still people in the Labour Party who think they are liberal) but those of us looking for something more socialist than liberal-left this book will not satisfy.
Naomi Klein is a good writer - no impenetrable and stodgy language here - and she displays a considerable talent for paring down large amounts of research material and getting to the root of the matter.
Klein's objective is to show how capitalism not only exploits disasters around the world but also creates them as well in order to benefit from them. From the CIA-backed overthrow of Allende in Chile to he invasion of Iraq, Klein describes how U.S.-led neo-liberal capitalism-inspired by Milton Friedman and his Chicago School disciples- have rolled back economic advances via torture, death squads, and severe IMF-led economic policies..
It’s not exactly a new thesis but one of the strengths of this book is that Klein includes more recent crisis, such as the United States invasion of Iraq and the 2004 Asian Tsunami, within this thesis.
But Klein’s argument can only be stretched so far, as some other writers have pointed out. For example, Klein’s argument cannot explain how Bill Clinton - in crisis-free America - was able to launch a series of attacks on the welfare state throughout the 1990s. The basic flaw with Klein’s book is that she paints a vivid picture of contemporary capitalism but largely fails to explain how we arrived at this point.
In fact Klein tends to reduce the rise of neo-liberal capitalism to the efforts of certain individuals - free market ideologues like Milton Friedman and Jeffrey Sachs, for example.
But why was neo-liberalism embraced by traditional social democracy? In New Zealand, how do we explain the emergence of a formerly social democratic Labour Party that has implemented and promotes free market policies - including free trade agreements with low wage countries?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on economics but from what I’ve read it seems that the 1973-74 global recession triggered a fundamental change in global capitalism. The writer Eric Hobsbawm described this as the end of the golden age of capitalism that had lasted since 1945. A social democratic consensus existed throughout this time but this recession created the conditions for the re-emergence of laizez-faire economics - that had previously been discredited by its failure to respond to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But with the sharp decline in profits, neo-liberalism, with its emphasis on cutting soil spending (taxes) and government regulation, offered an alternative to the regulated economy and strong welfare state.
Yet Klein completely ignores the 1973-74 recession.
Klein’s solution is a return to Keynes. While we must support immediate reforms that will benefit workers, the social democratic economic policies of the past - even if they could still be implemented - provide no long term solution. That is something that socialists will have to provide.
Klein doesn’t recognise that the problem is not free market capitalism but capitalism itself.
Barely six months into his mayoralty, Sideshow Bob Parker is making enemies all over the place - and of some of those are in high places.
Wigram MP and cabinet Minister Jim Anderton has added his political clout to the growing campaign against the Christchurch City Council's massive 24 percent rent rise for council tenants.
This increase was proposed and steered through council by Sideshow backed by cronies like Councillor Barry Corbett and the less-than-hard-working Councillor Susan Wells.
Anderton told the Christchurch Press that there was insufficient evidence for the rent rise and that many tenants would not be able to offset with the government accommodation supplement - which is what both Sideshow and Barry Corbett claimed.
Anderton went on to say that a 'a sudden across-the-board increase in rents of 24 percent is brutal' and that 'the increase would apply to some of the most vulnerable citizens in Christchurch'. He pointed out that perhaps a quarter of council tenants had some kind of disability.
Meanwhile a new pressure group, the Coalition for Fair Rents, has been formed. The group includes the Methodist Mission, the City Mission, (ironically, Barry Corbett was once its media officer), Age Concern and the Christchurch 2021 organisation which is an 'unofficial' Labour Party grouping. And what has been Sideshow Bob's response? It has been the usual arrogance and conceit.
From far away in Beijing Sideshow has even hinted that there is a political campaign being directed against him, co-ordinated by the Labour Party.
Of course, he said exactly the same thing during the mayoral campaign. It wasn't true then and its not true now.
What we are witnessing is a Mayor - backed by certain Christchurch business and property interests- attempting to steer the council down a neo-liberal road.
Sideshow is supported by people from within the council bureaucracy (Council CEO Tony Marryatt in particular) and backed by councillors who support Sideshow's reactionary politics, including Barry Corbett and Susan Wells.
However with the political opposition growing by the day, Parker's defence of the huge rent increase is looking increasingly untenable and there may well be one or two councillors reconsidering their support for the increase - especially since it could see them being voted out of office at the next election.
Meanwhile Sideshow has been making some astonishing comments on the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.
Sideshow has steadfastly refused to condemn the Chinese regime's violent oppression of the Tibetan people. Before he went to China Sideshow Bob claimed it was the role of the Prime Minister and the Labour Government to speak on such an issue.
Over in Beijing though Sideshow Bob appears to have had a change of heart. Now he's speaking out on behalf of the Chinese Stalinist regime.
''There is the feeling that the story is not a balanced story that is being told in the West', said a sympathetic Sideshow Bob. 'There is a sense in some ways they feel the Western media is being manipulated in a very clever and calculated way. There is a side to the story that also should be told to bring balance to the story.'
And what side of the story would that be then Bob? That the Chinese regime are justified in killing Tibetan protesters, Buddhist monks, sending political dissidents off to labour camps?
Oh, what about the fact that China executed more people (at least 470) in 2007 than any other country in the world? Is that the 'side of the story' that the bootlicking Sideshow Bob is talking about?
As for the media being manipulated, here's Sideshow defending a regime that censors the news everyday. What the hell is this idiot talking about?
Sideshow Bob Parker is a disgrace to the city of Christchurch. Councillors who support this man are also a disgrace. Unfortunately Christchurch is stuck with Sideshow Bob and his cronies until the next election in two years time..
The latest six monthly commercial radio ratings were released on Thursday and they provided more evidence that Kiwi FM simply isn’t working.
The station that is occupying the three FM frequencies supposedly reserved for a non-commercial youth radio network attracted a dismal 0.1% of the nationwide ratings – exactly the same as it got in the last ratings sweep.
But in the cumulative audience figures category it actually shed some 3,900 listeners, dropping from 23,900 to 20,000.
In the crucial Auckland market Kiwi FM dropped from 0.2% to 0.1%.
It all adds up to a station that New Zealand youth don’t want to listen to.
The former Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey said the station would be given a year to prove itself – yet nearly two years later this radio flop continues to occupy the three frequencies that should be home to a non-commercial youth radio network.
Maharey ignored the warnings from Neil Finn and others that Kiwi FM would be a disaster.
Interestingly there appears to be signs that more and more people are giving up commercial radio for the varied delights of internet radio – listeners are fed up with the diet of pop and pap that dominates commercial radio and are simply switching off.
While Christchurch Mayor Sideshow Bob and his good mate Councillor Barry ‘Baz’ Corbett get to know the murderous Stalinist bureaucrats in Beijing, the criticism of these two hollow men continues unabated.
This fine letter in the Christchurch Press (9April 11) from John Miller of St Albans is particularly noteworthy:
Life is beginning to imitate art in our fair city. When The Simpson’s Sideshow Bob was elected mayor he assured his citizenry: ‘You need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalise criminals and rule you like a king.’
Bob Parker has chastised 2021’s Cr Willliams for doing her job and advocating for the people who elected her (April 9). Compare this to Bob’s unwillingness to criticise Barry Corbett, who earlier this year endorsed stabbing as a means to wipe out tagging. Sideshow didn’t chastise his political crony. He went into bat for him, claiming that Corbett ‘deeply regretted’ making the comments, despite never publicly apologising for them, and defended Corbett as an ‘extremely valuable councillor’.
It seems the ‘independent’ Right wing is sticking together. Something Sideshow Bob and Bazza can discuss as they junket around China at our expense.’
My letter of the week.
Meanwhile it is entirely rumour that Corbett has been taking advice from the Chinese police on how to deal with taggers….
How much is the newly-signed New Zealand - China Free Trade Agreement 'worth' to New Zealand?
Well, it depends on who you're listening to because no-one appears to know.
Television One News, for example, has quoted several figures in the space of a few days. One reporter, three days ago, quoted $270 million - that went up to $380 million the next day. And, today, Television One had another stab at it. Newsreader Peter Williams, on the Midday News, stated that the agreement 'could' be worth 'up to half a billion dollars'. At this rate Wendy Petrie will be telling us on Friday that the agreement is worth a billion dollars.
Meanwhile in other areas of the mainstream media other figures have been bandied about.
What all these figures have in common is that there is no explanation of how these figure were arrived at.
Even the Labour Government, while loudly trumpeting this agreement, has not provided any concrete details on the 'worth' of this free trade agreement.
In Parliament, Minister of Justice Annette King, answering a question on behalf of the Minister of Trade Phil Goff, stated that the agreement would be worth 'between $225 and $350 million - but also failed to explain how this figure was arrived at.
It seems that figures are being plucked out of the air and our corporate media, seemingly supportive of this deal, have not bothered to seek concrete answers.
There was one exception. Radio Live talkback host Michael Laws (someone who I rarely agree with on anything), said on his show that he had 'no idea' how the figures had been arrived at and went on to say that he thought they had 'just been made up.'
Perhaps figures are being made up because this agreement won't be good for ordinary New Zealanders (as opposed to New Zealand corporates).
Competing for business in a country where wage levels are dismally low can only put downward pressure on New Zealand's already low wage rates.
And as the Green Party co-leader Russell Norman has pointed out:
"This trade deal does not eliminate non-tariff barriers to fair trade - things like forced prison labour, child labour, sweatshop conditions, a ban on independent unions and poor environmental protections. These elements of authoritarian capitalism give Chinese business an unfair advantage over New Zealand businesses and will result in further job losses in New Zealand as tariffs fall.'
This free trade agreement might have benefits for Big Business (like Fonterra) but it will have an negative impact on ordinary New Zeaalnders. It is simply part of the WTO, IMF and World Bank attempt to create a single free market for goods and services around the world. Globalisation in terms of so-called free trade benefits international corporations at the expense of the rest of the international community.
More cheap imports from China will undermine manufacturing jobs in New Zealand and replace these with even more low paid jobs in the service and retail sectors (eg stacking the shelves at The Warehouse with cheap Chinese-made goods).
Despite this our dismal trade union 'leadership' - eager not to cause trouble for the Labour Government in an election year - have cravenly accepted this agreement.
Andrew Little, President of the Engineers, Printers and Metalworkers Union and a Labour Party member, has claimed that workers will be protected by this this agreement.
This is not so. The clauses on labour (as well as on the environment) are simple 'memorandums of understanding' and are completely unforceable.
Oh, and then there is the little matter of the authoritarian Stalinist regime violently suppressing the Tibetan people - as well as denying its own people basic democratic rights.
Christchurch Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker is in China to attend the signing of the disastrous New Zealand - China Free Trade Agreement. He's taken his wife as well and he's also been joined by the vile Councillor Barry 'Baz' Corbett. All up, this little jaunt is costing the Christchurch ratepayer some $20,000.
Bob and Baz probably welcomed the trip to Beijing given their unpopularity in Christchurch.
Having putting council rents up a massive twenty-four percent Bob and Baz have been the subject of some unflattering letters in the local papers.
L Richards had this to say in the Christchurch Star (April 2): 'I trust that Mayor Parker, having pushed through this 'unavoidable' council decision in record time, will now do the decent thing and give up the mayoral Audi. It won't help us council tenants, but it might just give him and inkling of how we feel.'
Glen Livingstone, also in the Christchurch Star (April 2) invited Sideshow Bob 'to swap his apartment and recently increased remuneration, which will no doubt continue to increase, for a council flat and a fixed income.' And Corbett's insulting comment that the increase for tenants was a smaller proportion than he paid for his mortgage (Corbett;'s house is valued over $300,000) also came in for a load of flak.
Y.H. Gerard, for example, described Corbett's remarks as 'tactless in the extreme' and displayed 'his total ignorance of how these people have to count every cent in an effort to get by'. (The Press, April 3)
But Sideshow Bob and 'Baz' Corbett have now waltzed off to China - where the Stalinist regime are presently busily killing Tibetan protesters.
What did Sideshow and Corbett have to say on the issue?
Sideshow insisted that this explicitly political trip was, in fact, 'not about politics' at all.
Corbett, when questioned by the media, passed the buck to Sideshow.
'Those (questions) are best answered by Bob.' said Corbett and then parroted a few words about 'peace and understanding' that had clearly been drafted for Corbett by Sideshow Bob's office.
The Labour Goverment's justification for saying and doing nothing about the violent oppression of the Tibetan people has been about little more than naked commerce.
Prime Minister Helen Clark, while steadfastly refusing to condemn the Chinese regime, has been quick to argue that its better to ‘build bridges’ with the Stalinist bureaucrats (as opposed to apartheid South Africa when she argued it was better to 'isolate' the South African regime).
Similarly that’s the argument the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, has been trotting out.
Parker said today that he believed ‘more good’ could be achieved by engaging China than by isolating or lecturing the Chinese.
Of course what neither Clark or Parker explain is just exactly how ‘engaging’ with the Chinese Stalinists will be beneficial to the Tibetan and, indeed, the Chinese people.
Decades of oppression of the Tibetan people will not suddenly be lifted because the likes of Clark and Parker drink a few glasses of wine with their Chinese government hosts and see a few tourist spots.
Tibet is the poorest region in China, with one-third living below the official poverty line. The country's recent rapid economic growth has simply left most Tibetans further behind. For example, when the first rail link between Tibet and China was completed two years ago, it brought not prosperity but more Han Chinese, part of the government's attempt to dilute the Tibetan character of the region. Ten per cent of Tibetan herders have been forced off their land and into unemployment in the cities.
It is no wonder, then, that Tibetans want to throw off Chinese rule.
But there is another reason why the Chinese regime keep the iron heel firmly down on Tibet- there are other dissatisfied minorities in China and the success of any Tibetan uprising would only encourage these minorities to challenge the Stalinist regime in Beijing.
Also, and what has not been mentioned in the New Zealand mainstream media, is that for over five years there has been a rising tide of demonstrations, protests and riots in China.
Inflation has been rising fast and is currently the highest in 12 years – meanwhile wage levels remain dismally low, often at ‘sweatshop’ levels ( Chinese workers don't enjoy the protection of trade unions).
It is much better to blame these protests on what the Chinese regime call the "Dalai clique" than on the failure of Chinese capitalism to meet people's economic needs or their desire for self-determination.
The likes of Clark and Parker, like other western representatives, are simply pursuing objectives that they perceive to be in the best economic interests of New Zealand capitalism.
They want a stable trading relationship with China, the emerging world superpower, regardless of what is happening in Tibet and in China itself.
Shakespeare wrote: ‘God has given you one face, and you make yourself another’.
It’s a quote that aptly applies to Prime Minister Clark, Mayor Bob Parker and the 94 other New Zealand business ‘leaders’ attending the signing of the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement later this month.