LINE 7 COLLAPSE: NDU SET TO DO NOTHING AGAIN


Another clothing manufacturer has gone belly-up.

This time its Line 7 who have called in the receivers and the jobs of more than 100 staff in retail shops and the head office in Auckland jobs are at risk.

Unfortunately many of the Line 7 workers are represented by the hopeless National Distribution Union (NDU).

It failed to fight for workers who lost their jobs at Pacific Brands and its only response to the mass redundancies at Lane Walker Rudkin was to organise a few cake stalls.

So the Line 7 workers shouldn't hold their breaths waiting for the NDU to actually organise some real resistance.

In fact, at a time when some kind of real leadership is desperately required, the only response of the NDU president Robert Reid was to say today that he is 'worried' for 'the future of Line 7 workers.'

Yeah, great. Tell us something we don't know.

So what are you and the NDU going to do about it, Robert? Or are you going to do bugger all - as usual?

John Key and the National Government must be delighted that the union movement is 'led' by people like Reid - they can be counted on not to make a fuss.

CHEWING GUM FOR THE EYES


A quick scan through TVNZ's peaktime television schedules is a good indication of just how bad so-called public broadcasting is in this country.

This week, among other things, TV1 is broadcasting Badger or Bust (reality series in which a UK business consultant tries to turn around Britain's worst sales teams), The Force (reality series about Australian police officers), Stars In Their Eyes ( a straight carbon copy of the original English version, hosted by Simon Barnett, a high profile opponent of the anti-smacking legislation ) and Criminal Minds (yet another crime show about serial killers).

Over on TV2 we have Motorway Patrol (reality series about Auckland traffic cops, Police Ten 7 (reality series) and The Bachelor (reality series)

Meanwhile the token current affairs content is confined to the mediocre Q+A on Sunday morning and the tabloid-orientated Sunday on Sunday night.

It was the Labour Government of 1984-90 that pushed public broadcasting down the slide into the quagmire of dumbed-down commercialism, where intelligence was rejected in favour of the laddish antics of Mathew Ridge and Marc Ellis.

It deregulated broadcasting in New Zealand which included no limits on foreign ownership of media companies, no limits on cross-ownership; and no local content quotas - although no formal quotas had existed before this anyway.

TVNZ became a state-owned enterprise and had the neoliberal 'business model' imposed on it.

It ushered in the era of 15 minutes of commercials per hour, the downgrading of news and current affairs in favour of reality shows and quality drama either ignored or relegated to off-peak hours late at night. Serious documentaries were given the elbow because they didn't deliver the ratings and the crucial advertising dollars.

It was an age when the six o'clock news became increasingly stupid, where analysis was replaced by spectacle.

It was an age when anyone over forty wasn't deemed 'sexy' enough for television and where all the female hosts seemed to have peroxide blonde hair.

In 1999 the Labour Party, led by Helen Clark, was again voted into office.

Despite being the party that had ushered in the era of 'crass commercialism', it declared a war on that very same 'crass commercialism'.

The best option would have been to have transformed TVNZ into a non-commercial public broadcasting organisation again. However this was contrary to Labour's neoliberal ideology and instead it introduced the 'Public Service Charter' in 2003.

It was a ludicrously flawed concept in which TVNZ was expected to not only meet public service obligations but deliver profits as well. TVNZ became a bizarre hybrid that spectacularly failed to deliver.

There was no visible change in either the TV1 and TV2 schedules. The channels were still awash in reality shows, the news service still remained third-rate, serious documentary content was still nowhere to be seen.

Even someone as capable as Ian Fraser couldn't make the set-up work.The frustrated TVNZ CEO resigned in 2005 but not before delivering a paper to the Clark Government where he proposed turning TV1 into a non-commercial public broadcaster similar to the ABC in Australia or the BBC in the United Kingdom.

Fraser's parting shot was continuing commercial pressures had resulted in a schedule ‘profoundly incompatible with any recognisable model of public broadcasting’.

The Minister of Broadcasting rejected Fraser's proposal that TV1 should become non-commercial. Steve Maharey, another neoliberal acolyte, was largely responsibly for the disastrous hybrid model that was imposed on TVNZ.

The National Government have now scrapped the Public Service Charter, arguing that it has simply not worked.

But it is not the charter that is the real problem - it is the whole structure and operational model of TVNZ

Getting rid of the charter doesn't solve TVNZ's problems but it is a convenient scapegoat for a Government that has no love for public broadcasting anyway.

National is also pursuing a neoliberal broadcasting agenda - one that has not been properly scrutinised, not surprisingly, by the corporate media - or by TVNZ itself.

Without even a charter to guide it, TVNZ will simply pursue ratings and revenue. We can expect 'non-commercial' content to be ghettoised on the digital channels, TVNZ 6 and 7.

TVNZ 6 and 7 are presently the only non-commercial channels available but even that status is under threat.

The Minister of Broadcasting Jonathan Coleman says they well have to become self-funding once the public funding runs out in 2012. That means advertising and the pressure to deliver the ratings that advertisers demand.

Labour's spokesman on broadcasting is Brendon Burns.

Burns said recently: "If you look at our environment, it is the most unregulated broadcasting sector in the Western World. We have no real regulation of broadcasting, no `anti-syphoning' legislation, no cross-media ownership laws and no requirement for New Zealand content.'

Burns is presently working on Labour's broadcasting policy .

Will Labour call for the re-establishment of public service broadcasting? Given its neoliberal outlook, the odds are against it.


ALLIANCE PARTY BROADCASTING POLICY INCLUDES:

'Public ownership of significant broadcasting organisations in both radio and television.'

'Establishment of a fully funded public television channel free of both commercials and commercial influence.'

GREEN PARTY BROADCASTING POLICY INCLUDES:
'Support TVNZ Channel One becoming a commercial free, New Zealand focussed channel.'

SIDESHOW BOB ATTACKS COMMUNITY GROUPS


The Christchurch City Council had no problems finding $17 million to give to failed property developer Dave Henderson for five over-valued buildings. Nor did it have any trouble coughing up more than $2 milion for the loss-making 'Ellerslie Garden Show' - which amounted to little more than the naming rights.

However the Council has problems finding money for community groups.

Mayor Sideshow Bob and his supporters on council - including Barry Corbett, Sue Wells and David Cox - have approved cuts to community funding totalling $1.5 million.

The community grants fund a wide range of organisations including cultural groups, welfare groups and health organisations.

An amendment by Cr Yani Johanson to retain current community grant funding failed by 12 votes to two yesterday. Johanson and Cr Chrissie Williams were the only two to vote for the amendment.

Johanson pointed out that there is growing demand for community services and, in these adverse economic times, such cuts were unacceptable.

Sideshow Bob defended the cuts saying that they were intended to keep rates down. If you believe this then you will believe any old nonsense.

This is the same Sideshow Bob who schemed to give Henderson $17 million and coughed up over $2 million for an over-hyped Auckland garden show.

Clearly playing to the gallery, Sideshow has tried to portray himself as some kind of crusader for the good citizens of Christchurch.

"We should minimise the amount that we take and leave as much as we can in the pockets of people who pay rates. This is deliberately targeted at giving them a break," said Parker, the man who didn't want to give council tenants a break when he tried to whack their rents up a massive 24 percent.

Councillors David Cox and Barry Corbett both said many of the community grants were in areas they 'felt' should be funded by central government.

'Felt?' What does that mean exactly?

And who give Cox and Corbett the right to decide what and what shouldn't be funded by local councils anyway? Has there been a massive change in council policy or are Corbett and Cox just making things up as they go along? Or are they just being arrogant right wing bastards?

Of course, the suggestion that this sort of expenditure isn't a local council concern will be music to the ears of neoliberal zealot Rodney Hide, the Minister for Local Government.

He wants to see local councils concentrate on the 'cores services'. Corbett and Cox are clearly in Hide's camp. Voters should remember that when Cox and Corbett advertise themselves as 'politically independent' at the next council election.

Welfare campaigner and Council of Social Services executive officer Sharon Torstonson said the cuts were "very shortsighted".

She said community funding helped unemployed people stay connected with their community and find new employment in a recession.

'They are not seeing that we can be partners in supporting the community through the recession. Central government has cut funding and now the council is cutting funding as well. It will damage the wellbeing of the city,' she told The Press.

THE FUTURE IS A BIG MAC


The National Government's new 'bright idea' to try to deal with the growing unemployment queue is to stick some unfortunate beneficiaries in minimum-wage jobs at McDonald's.

Under the deal WINZ will supply McDonald's with cheap labour - reportedly 7000 staff in service roles in the 30 more fast food outlets it intends to open over the next five years.

Preposterously McDonald's say that some of the jobs are "positions which provide a career path'. Yes, you will 'graduate' from serving quarter pounders to making coffees in McCafe.

While the National Governments seeks to offload some of the jobless on Ronald McDonald, it has announced today that there is no money available to fund extra places at the polytechnics.

According to Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics executive director Dave Guerin, between 6000 and 8000 students will be turned away because of the Government caps on expenditure.

Yes, New Zealanders will get shut out of polytechnic courses - but they can go and flip burgers instead.

On the National Party website we read:

'The National Party seeks a safe, prosperous and successful New Zealand that creates opportunities for all New Zealanders to reach their personal goals and dreams.'

Yeah, right.

NATIONAL AND LABOUR HAVE NO ANSWERS TO SKYROCKETING UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES


The unemployment figures have been skyrocketing for some months but it hit the media yesterday with 'news' that a thousand jobs were being lost every week. Given that not everybody signs up for the dole its likely that more than 2000 people are being sacked each week.

We're on track for well over 200,000 jobless by next year. The unemployment rate has trebled in the past twelve months and it is likely to accelerate as the economic crisis deepens. Perhaps these figures will finally lay to rest the corporate media's fixation with looking for an 'economic recovery'. There won't be one.

We should also remember that the underemployment rate is also escalating. These figures were also uniformly large throughout the term of the Labour Government but they have also accelerated since the economic squeeze has tightened.

There were some 473,500 working part time in the March quarter and nearly 100,000 of these workers (21.1 percent) wanted more hours. This compares with 16.5 percent for the December 2008 quarter.

The ludicrous Jobs Summit has, predictably, done nothing to stem the tide of redundancies.

Key's assertion in Parliament yesterday the Jobs Summit "has and will create thousands of jobs" was so much baloney that I find it hard to believe Key was being serious. Perhaps it was just empty bravado in the face of an economic disaster.

The much vaunted 'nine day fortnight' has supposedly 'saved' 345 jobs. It has done nothing of the sort. It has simply temporarily delayed the redundancies for six months. For Laila Harre of the National Distribution Union to claim the 'nine day fortnight' as some kind of union victory was abysmal. Then again, this was the same union 'leader' who organised a few cake stalls for the nearly two hundred sacked Lane Walker Rudkin workers and then abandoned them.

Of course Phil Goff and Labour have tried to make made political capital out of the grim figures - as have Labour cheerleaders like 'Bomber' on Tumeke! and all the Labour faithful who write for The Standard. This lot put their brains in neutral when they start writing about Labour.

Goff has hammered the deficiencies of the Job Summit, despite the fact that he complained long and loud that he didn't get an invitation.

Goff and Labour though have no answers to the economic crisis and the skyrocketing jobless figures.

What is required is a radical new economic approach but from Labour its still more of the same neoliberal brown stuff they dumped on the country during its nine years in office. Its still chained to the failed and discredited market economy.

The house is burning but all Labour has to offer in its economic policy arsenal is a little water pistol.

If John Key is 'asleep at the wheel,' then Phil Goff is having a snooze in the back seat.

Similarly there is no alternative coming out of the CTU and its union affiliates.

It's to their shame that they supported the Jobs Summit and continue to promote the 'nine day working fortnight', like a dodgy second cars salesman trying to offload a car with a stuffed motor.

Despite the growing economic crisis the trade union hierarchy have sat on their hands and refused to implement an industrial campaign to defend jobs. While workers overseas are taking over work sites threatened with closure, our union officials are providing no leadership at all.

Instead the union response to the unemployment figures has been to 'suggest' that the government invest in 'home insulation and environmental work' while offering the jobless some more 'assistance'.

The trade union hierarchy - and none of them are under threat of losing their well-paid jobs - have meekly surrendered to the demands of capital and allowed it to dump the burden of this economic crisis on the shoulders of workers. While socialists have been saying that 'we will not pay for your crisis' the Labour Party and the trade union top brass have flown the white flag.

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE HACK CIRCLE - AND BARRY MANILOW



The Hack Circle was the nickname given to an amphitheatre in central Christchurch .

It was built in 1989 as part of Cashel Mall developments and, for a time, was a favourite hacky sack venue.

As the hacky sack fad receded, it became a popular hangout for a wide cross-section of Christchurch youth, including goths, emos and heavy metal fans. Overall though, it was just a place where youth gathered after making the trip into the city from the suburbs.

In 2006 the Christchurch police claimed it was a venue for 'criminal activity' including robbery and the 'trafficking' of cannabis. But the police were also forced to admit it was a small minority of youth who caused any problems – the vast majority didn't cause any trouble at all.

The real underlying objection to the Hack Circle though was that certain political and business interests just didn't like goths and emos and the like making the Cashel Mall look 'untidy'.

While the business establishment were happy enough with the well-heeled sipping their wines and lattes on the 'Oxford Strip ' of upmarket bars and restaurants, working class youth hanging out with their friends was another matter entirely.

Politically-influential property developer Antony Gough, for example, pushed for stronger police presence in the area claiming that the people who hung out in the hack circle were 'just scary'.

Well, they were different – but scary? The class snobbery of the Christchurch establishment had come into view for all to see.

With business interests making their views abundantly clear, it came as no surprise that the Christchurch City Council voted to demolish the amphitheatre.

On December 14 2006 the city council voted 7-6 to go ahead with plans to build a road through the pedestrian mall, which would spell the end for the hack circle,

Gloria Sharplin, a spokesperson for a protest the occurred at the mall in August 2007 , told The Press newspaper "Young people are being made to feel unwelcome. The hack circle and the fountain are not great places, but it is all you have when you have no money. They can't shut us up and just drive us out of the city

The Christchurch City appointed a business group to manage the area.

This was the Central City Business Association/City Mall Business Steering Committee chaired by Antony Gough.

It also included some of Sideshow Bob's other political mates including Melbourne based property investor Michael Ogilvie-Lee, who was a significant financial backer of Bob's 2007 mayoral election campaign.

Also on the committee was one Dave Henderson - the struggling property developer is not unfamiliar to readers of this blog. Henderson, a man who has pontificated a lot about reviving the central city, had no qualms with demolishing the amphitheatre.

The destruction of the amphitheatre began in February 2008. The suspicion that the council and its business allies just wanted to get rid of it no matter what was confirmed when the mall was simply renovated. No road was built.

Fast forward to today.

The council is now seeking to obliterate all references to the Hack Circle. According to a council press release, it wants to give the amphitheatre a new 'proper name' and is seeking suggestions from the public.

Once again, the council is bowing to the demands of business who say “they believe that the use of the term ‘hack’ lowers the tone of the area and is not in keeping with the image they wish to portray.'

And what image would that be exactly? Drunken patrons pouring out of the 'Oxford Strip' bars on Oxford Terrace or from the South of Lichfield (SOL) bars on the weekends?

Gough owns properties on the 'Oxford Strip' while Henderson's Property Ventures owns the SOL bars.

The Christchurch City Council have set up a 'naming' committee. No appointments have been made as yet but it will include two councillors, two community board members, a representative from the Central City Business Association, and the Council’s General Manager of Public Affairs, Alison Mackenzie.

Conspicuously missing from the committee is a representative of Christchurch youth, who have, once again, been shabbily treated by the Christchurch City Council.

Councillor Yani Johanson moved a motion at a council meeting to get a youth representative appointed to the naming committee.

That motion was defeated, 7 votes to 3.

The usual reactionary lot voted against the motion - Councillors Button, Corbett, Cox, Shearing, Wall, Withers and Sideshow Bob.

In a press release Johanson said:

"I moved a motion that was unsuccessful to get a youth representative appointed to this panel. As you may be aware city mall has been a contentious issue with many young people in the city. I am disappointed that Council has resolved to have a business representative but no young person. I believe that the Council should be inclusive in its approach and involve young people in the decision making on issues that have a significant impact on them. I think there has been lots of negative stereotyping of young people in regards to City Mall and sadly there is a feeling amongst some that Council is kicking them out in favour of retail business. The reality is that this is a public space and that young people should have as much right to enjoy it as anyone else. As such I can see no valid reason why a youth representative could not of been included on this panel."

The Central City Business Association appears intent on pursuing its war against Christchurch youth.

In March this year it came up with the bizarre idea of pumping the music of Barry Manilow through the Cashel Mall in order to 'pacify' the small number of youth who might be causing trouble.

"The intention is to change the environment in a positive way ... so nobody feels threatened or intimidated," Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale told The Associated Press. "I did not say Barry Manilow is a weapon of mass destruction."

This bizarre idea managed to make its way into the overseas media including NBC, Yahoo News, the Shanghai Daily and the Independent.

This is probably not the kind of publicity the Christchurch Central City Business Association is looking for.

CRACKDOWN IN TEHRAN



Warning: Some content may disturb. Discretion is advised.

TWITTER HYPE


I've been reading some of the news coming out of Iran via Twitter. It’s compelling stuff and it explodes the notion that Twitter is purely a gigantic exercise in narcissism

With the Iranian regime cracking down on the mainstream corporate media Iranian protesters are using internet sites like Twitter to get information out to the world - and to organise protests.

Opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, for example, has been using his public profile page on Facebook to coordinate protest activity.

The Revolutionary Guard in Iran is taking it seriously. Last week it was reported the Revolutionary Guard warned that protesters using internet sites like Twitter would be subject to retribution. But. then again, anyone doing anything contrary to the wishes of the Iranian government is probably open to retribution.

"The revolution may not be televised in Iran but it may well be tweeted," is how one Twitter user said last week. This remark was splashed all around the corporate media this week.

We supposedly have a 'Twitter Revolution' according to publications like The Nation and the Washington Times.

I think this is overstating the case for the importance of Twitter.

What is happening in Iran today is not a 'Twitter revolution'. This is a grassroots movement for change, and we downplay its importance by labelling it a 'revolution' somehow being coordinated through a website based in the United States.

Certainly Twitter is a useful organisational tool but it’s not the only tool in the toolbox.

Other organisational tools of the cyberspace and technological variety range from sites like Facebook to the mobile phone and email. Indeed common sense tells us that the first thing that anyone does if they want to organise an event is to send a text message to everybody in their address book via their mobile phone. But we’re not calling it ‘Iran’s Mobile Phone revolution’ are we?

Focusing on the role Twitter is playing in the events unfolding in Iran deflects attention away from the largest protests seen in Iran since the 1970s.

It also arrogantly ignores the fact that all the political forces in Iran – government and opposition – have huge on-the-ground networks they can tap into at anytime. These networks are far more important than anything Twitter and other social networking websites can provide.

Twitter is a useful tool, especially in a situation where a government is trying to shutdown dissenting voices, but it is not the ‘leader’ of a movement for change.

Don’t believe the hype.


NB A good 'Tweeter' to check out is Tehran Bureau. The Iranian authorities shut down his website some days ago but he has since been posting short messages on Twitter.

MORE WOE FOR HENDO


Another day, another company liquidation notice.

Besieged property developer Dave Henderson collects company liquidation notices like some people collect stamps.

Three more of then appeared in yesterday’s Christchurch Press.

Cordner Hill Law are seeking to wind up three of Hendo's debt-ridden companies; Property Ventures, Anthem Vineyards and Naval Limited. The application will be heard in the High Court later this month.

Given the fact that libertarian Dave is fighting off creditors on all fronts, its highly unlikely he'll be in any position to buy back the five properties he flogged off to the Christchurch City Council for an exorbitant $17 million.

This dodgy deal was pushed through by Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council supporters like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett = along with council CEO Tony Marryatt

Hendo’s financial woes, of course, throw a big spanner in the works of Mayor Sideshow Bob's 'central city revitalisation' plan.

As Councillor Chrissie Williams has said the plans rely 'too heavily on Henderson's involvement' and Hendo's days as a property developer are surely numbered.

SIDESHOW BOB MOVES HOUSE


Mayor Sideshow Bob has moved out of his plush central Christchurch apartment.

It wasn't exactly a planned move. Sideshow Bob and Mrs Sideshow Bob were forced to find a new abode when the neighbours in their apartment complex complained about their pet cats.

The apartment tower expressly forbids pets but Sideshow Bob moved his cats in anyway. Having broken the rules, Bob had no choice but to shift.

This time he has come down from his plush apartment in the sky to ground level.

He's moved into a more 'industrial' abode. Grunge is the word.

This is the only residence on a street that is entirely commercial. Up until about two months ago, this building was also being used for commercial purposes. Did Bob have to get some special zone changes applied to his new residence?

Before moving in, Sideshow Bob had a bloody eight feet wall erected, along with a fetching bloody big steel gate. It's hardly 'House and Garden' - more 'Mongrel Mob HQ'.

But less than week after the wall went up it was tagged in pink spray paint.

The very next morning an entire truckload of council workers arrived on the scene to remove the offending tags. If only the ordinary citizens of Christchurch got such a prompt service when their residences get tagged.

After complaining long and loud about boy racers targeting his last home, it's somewhat puzzling why Bob has decided to move into a place that is a short walk from Moorhouse Avenue - a favourite haunt of the boy racers.

AN UNBALANCED BREAKFAST


It's hardly news that TV1's Paul Henry doesn't like liberals or left wingers. If he was living a bygone age Henry would be the kind of right winger who would be describing his political opponents as 'not being real New Zealanders'.

In 2009 though Henry just gives his political mates cosy rides when he interviews them and makes snide remarks about the appearance of people whose politics he doesn't particularly care for.

So it was some satisfaction that I read that the Broadcasting Standards Authority have upheld a complaint against the Breakfast show which he presently co-hosts with Alison Mau - who is is filling in while the really hopeless Pippa Wetzell is on maternity leave.

On December 18 last year Garth McVicar of the very right wing Sensible Sentencing Trust appeared on Breakfast.

From the BSA ruling we read:

[1] A segment during Breakfast, broadcast on TV One at 7.10am on Thursday 18 December 2008, included an interview with Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust. The interview focused on the previous day’s sentencing of a man to 21 months imprisonment for illegally selling his large gun collection on the black market.

[2] The Breakfast presenter sought the Sensible Sentencing Trust’s view on the man’s sentence. Mr McVicar said it was too lenient, and that the judge had “got it wrong”. During the interview, the presenter and Mr McVicar discussed sentencing laws in general and whether judges in New Zealand were giving criminals appropriate sentences. They also discussed several specific cases and whether the sentences imposed were adequate.

[3]At the end of the interview, the presenter stated:

So what do you think - was [the man’s] 21-month sentence long enough? Was it enough of a deterrent? Let us know what you think.

[4]After inviting viewers to give their opinion on the man’s sentence, the programme’s other presenter said:

Now, he’s a good man that Garth. Are you still there Garth? Happy Christmas to you by the way. You’ve had, I think, a very successful year for the Sensible Sentencing Trust too, and he works so very hard for it. So have a good Christmas and New Year Garth.

The two presenters are, of course, Henry and Wetzell. They are both very chummy with McVicar to the point of sycophancy.

A formal complaint was laid against the item. The complainant, Roger Brooking, said that the item was unbalanced because it allowed McVicar to “repeatedly air his right wing populist views about law and order, generally criticise judges for being lenient on criminals and expound his belief that this fails to send a message of deterrence to other criminals in the community”.

Brooking went on to say that no attempt was made to present the opposing view of the law and order debate.

He added that there was considerable evidence that stiffer prison sentences do not act as a deterrent to offending and that this view should of been presented as well.

Brooking also strongly objected to McVicar being portrayed by Henry and Wetzell as the source of all wisdom when it came to law and order issues.

The conclusion of it all is that the BSA upheld Roger Brooking's complaint that Breakfast had not provided balanced coverage of an important issue.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that TVNZ's PR person is one Andi Brotherson. She used to handle the media affairs for the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

NO MORE CAKE!


The National Distribution Union's (NDU) hopeless response to the mass redundancies at Lane Walker Rudkin appears to have come to a grinding halt.

Instead of flexing its industrial muscle, the NDU thought that organising a few cake stalls would be more preferable.

According to NDU national secretary Laila Harre, who must take a lot of the blame for this debacle, the cake stalls 'would help the workers help each other.' Perhaps she thought they could swap recipes.

A Facebook site was set up to coordinate the cake stalls but there's been no action the site for over two weeks. No news has been posted since May 24.

It appears that the NDU have decided that the sacked workers don't need any more help 'to help each other'.

These workers have received none of the redundancy and holiday money owed them.

Of course the NDU also completely failed to defend the jobs of the approximately 90 clothing workers who were sacked when Pacific Brands closed its New Zealand operations in March this year.

At the time NDU president Robert Reid made it clear that the NDU would cooperate with the closure.

No union campaign was waged to defend the threatened jobs and the NDU's only demand was that redundancy entitlements be put in trust.

Yes, workers pay their union dues and end up being abandoned by their union 'representatives' when the going gets tough. Not much of a deal, is it?

The NDU officialdom are, unfortunately, part of a wider problem. The CTU and its affiliates, despite the rocketing unemployment figures, have offered no resistance to the growing number of redundancies.

And it's only the socialist left who are speaking out about the dismal performance of the union hierarchy.

There has been a distinct lack of criticism from the politically bankrupt Labour Party and its declining number of followers.

No surprises there.

A TALE OF TWO DEPRESSIONS

Some politicians and their cheerleaders in the corporate media have been claiming recently that the world economy can look forward to a 'recovery' in the not too distant future.

Depending on who you listen to that recovery has been 'penciled in' for later this year, early next year or late 2010.

At a meeting in Italy of G8 nations last week, the assembled finance ministers said stock markets were rising, interest rates more stable, and consumer confidence was returning.

However, US Treasury chief Tim Geithner also said that it was too early to wind down economic stimulus packages.

He said they should remain in place until a global recovery was 'under way'.

In other words the ordinary taxpayer is still expected to bail out the banks, the corporations and the finance companies.

And the jobless figures continue to escalate.

What is really going on?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the work of economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin H. O’Rourke. Their research showed that world industrial production, trade, and stock markets are dropping faster now than during the time of the Great Depression of 1929-30.

The two economist have just updated their research.

They conclude that while there has been a slight improvement in the world economy, today's capitalist crisis remains as least as bad as that of the Great Depression.

Eichengreen and O'Rourke write that world industrial production continues to track closely the 1930s fall, with no clear signs of the so-called business 'green shoots' that some politicians and commentators claim have emerged in recent times.

They go on to say:

'World stock markets have rebounded a bit since March, and world trade has stabilised, but these are still following paths far below the ones they followed in the Great Depression.'

In short this economic crisis remains as deep and as damaging as the Great Depression of 1929-30 and any claims of a 'recovery' aren't based on any hard evidence at all.

Here are the new updated charts:







SERVER SPACE


Tony Milne of the I See Red blog has responded to my post 'The Standard: Toeing the Party Line'.

In that post I wrote:

Interestingly, The Standard was sharing server space with the websites for former Labour MP Tim Barnett, Young Labour and Rainbow Labour. As well Tony Milne, a well known Labour Party activist, also has his website on the same server paid for by the Labour Party.

Tony says that his website is not hosted by the Labour Party but a friend in the Labour Party. He comments:

To the best of my knowledge my website has never been hosted by the Labour Party (not that that would be a bad thing!). My website is hosted by a friend in the Labour Party and Tim Barnett's was hosted by the same person.

A regular reader of this blog did a little research (thanks). 'Declarity comments:

A quick lookup shows:

www.tonymilne.org.nz. 3569 IN CNAME
3600 IN SOA labour1.labour.geek.nz.
hostmaster.labour.geek.nz.

Perhaps Tony could tell us who the friend is?

THE STANDARD: TOEING THE PARTY LINE


In January 2008 the National Party-aligned Kiwiblog reported that The Standard blog was being hosted on server space paid for by the Labour Party.

Kiwiblog went on to argue that The Standard's expenses could well be considered party advertising under the rules set down by the Electoral Finance Act.

This post provoked nearly five hundred responses.

One of the first responses came from a regular Standard contributor. 'Tane' wrote:

We set The Standard up as an independent left-wing blog in August last year. As you probably remember by about November our traffic had got so large our server was crashing every day, sometimes for hours at a time. We put out a call and at the end of last year someone from Labour emailed us and offered us some temporary server space until we worked something out.

It’s not the ideal solution I admit, but as a temporary measure it sure beats having your site down for hours at a time during peak hours. We’ll probably have some new hosting sorted some time within the next month.


He also added:

'Blogs are exempt from needing authorisation under the EFA.'


'Tane' is Neal Jones. He is the Communications Advisor for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU)

Interestingly, The Standard was sharing server space with the websites for former Labour MP Tim Barnett, Young Labour and Rainbow Labour. As well Tony Milne, a well known Labour Party activist, also has his website on the same server paid for by the Labour Party.

The Standard moved its website offshore in July this year.

What stuck in the claw of The Standard's critics, admittedly many of them being National Party supporters, was that The Standard had presented itself as an 'independent left wing blog' when it clearly had close ties to the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy. Questions were also raised about who was paying for the blog's substantial traffic bandwith.

Political science lecturer Bryce Edwards got it right when he commented:

Since the cat seems to be out of the bag, I think that The Standard should just come clean about themselves and make an honest declaration on the blog. While I see nothing inherently wrong with a trade union putting resources into a political party that they support, some transparency is probably a good thing - especially since The Standard has been such a strong supporter of the Electoral Finance Act and its requirement for commercial blogs to make a declaration.

The Standard though has chosen not to declare its party and union affiliations. Instead it vaguely claims that its contributors '.. come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.'

As the blog's contributors all post anonymously, we have no way of knowing if they do actually 'come from a variety of backgrounds.'

Judging by the recent content of The Standard, I suspect that its claim of political diversity is well wide of the mark.

Rather than showing a commitment to the labour movement The Standard shows little more than a grindingly relentless commitment to the Labour Party and the Labour-supporting trade union hierarchy.

The blog is dominated by posts attacking John Key and his National-led government. Day after day we are 'treated' to a litany of complaints about the government.

The Standard has even sunk to the level of attacking Key for looking untidy and not shaving!

Of course the present government needs to be held to the account but the problem with The Standard is that rarely trains its guns on the Labour Party or the trade union hierarchy. You will have to search long and hard to find anything other than minor disagreements with Labour and union policy - and even these have largely vanished since Labour lost the election.

The Standard cannot claim to be 'independent' when it consistently avoids criticising Labour and the trade union top brass.

Labour suffered a massive electoral defeat yet, under Goff, is still intent to continue down the neoliberal road to nowhere.

One would have thought that The Standard would have begun a debate about economic policy but, no, it is intent on toeing the party line.

Having supported Labour's neoliberal policies while it was in government it is no position to attack National for its neoliberalism and, like the parliamentary party, can only nitpick. The Standard is like some petulant schoolboy at the back of the class.

Similarly the meek surrender of the trade union hierarchy to the neoliberal offensive is resolutely ignored by this so-called mouthpiece of the labour movement. The fact that thousands of workers are losing their jobs and the CTU and its affiliates have not launched any kind of industrial fightback appears to be of no consequence to the The Standard bloggers. This is simply unacceptable.

The Standard might think its doing right by its political masters but at a time when truly independent and critical journalism is urgently required, the blog is nowhere to be seen. The Standard may of not yet arrived at that point when it can be considered to be nothing more than Labour Party propaganda but it is moving rapidly in that dismal direction.

THE SAME OLD SAME OLD


The only people who appear to be really that interested in the Mt Albert by-election are the Mt Albert electors (some of them anyway), the corporate media and Labour Party supporters - desperate to somehow boost the flagging fortunes of their politically bankrupt and directionless party.

The rest of us are nonplussed by the whole deal.

It'll be a victory for Labour. No surprises there. Mt Albert is, of course, Helen Clark's old stomping ground and Labour was never in any danger of losing this seat. All it needed was a candidate who turned up on time, didn't knock the furniture, said his lines and then went home. Hell, even Wendy Petrie could of done it!

The less than exciting David Shearer is the lucky candidate though. He doesn't exactly inspire does he? I have the overwhelming desire to switch channels whenever he appears on my televison screen. He's got nothing new to say because it's all been approved by Big Phil.

Shearer is Phil Goff's man and, not surprisingly, he's a grey machine politician who won't rock the Labour boat. He certainly won't be seeking to alter Labour's neoliberal course to nowhere. Indeed, if you listen carefully, you will hear him saying that the 'free market' is a good thing.

Yes, that's what the country desperately needs - another neoliberal politician to join all the other neoliberal politicians in Parliament.

As it is, Labour's victory was doubly ensured when National's candidate stunningly derailed her own campaign. Melissa Lee made a number of high profile gaffes but admitting in an interview that she didn't expect to win the Mt Albert seat was as about as bad as it gets.

Of course those excitable boys and girls otherwise known as pro-Labour bloggers will try to argue that the Labour victory is a rejection of the National-led government and a validation of Labour's policies. You just know that The Standard is getting ready to deliver the prepared script delivered to it from Labour HQ.

But, in reality, it's simply a changing of the guards in Mt Albert. Helen Clark passes the Mt Albert baton to Dave Shearer. A kind of routine administrative procedure is just about to occur. It's little wonder that most of us think the Mt Albert by-election is an almighty non-event.

A non-event leading to a hollow victory for Labour.

Meanwhile, the economic recession continues to deepen into something far more serious...

COMEDY CENTRAL





Well, here's Wendy Petrie and her now (in)famous fist pump.

What's interesting is that TVNZ have had messages splashed across the video clip including one from TVNZ mouthpiece, Andi Brotherston.

Not for the first time, TVNZ is just being ridiculous.

NOT NECESSARILY SO


In recent weeks I've criticised the National Distribution Union for its hopeless response to the sacking of over 180 Lane Walker Rudkin workers. Steadfastly refusing to flex its industrial muscle, the response of the NDU hierarchy has been cowardly.

The NDU national secretary, Liala Harre, began a 'campaign' of cake stalls designed to raise money so, claimed Harre, 'workers could help each other'.

Judging by the Facebook site set up to 'co-ordinate' the cakes, it appears that the cake stall campaign has died a quick death. There has been no further entries on the site since May 24. In cookery terms, this unappetising campaign has gone flat.

Since more LWR redundancies are on the cards the NDU better have something more substantial to offer the LWR workers than more cup cakes and muffins.

As part of the May Day celebrations at Blackball this year, Paul Watson was asked to give a speech. Watson is the southern secretary of the NDU.

Family matters prevented Watson giving his speech in person but it has been posted on the Life of Working People blog.

In a speech titled 'Has Capitalism Had It's Day?' Watson offers a few thoughts on formulating an alterative economic and political strategy to the current neoliberal consensus.

Watson writes:

We Need to Demand that

-Politicians accept that the current international financial system has failed and engage in a “real” debate about alternatives at a global , national and local level.

-Organise Regional community based “New Economy “ forums where alternative economic models are discussed and recommended and broad based community representatives are elected to participate in a National Hui whose purpose is input regional views into forming a new genuine political and economic change. This should occur irrespective whether the current government opposes it.

Some principles underpinning future economic models need good debate but could include ;

- People to have a real voice in their future

- The future has to be sustainable for people

- State ownership and control of strategic assets and our productive capacity should be given priority.

- Economic activity should be orientated towards redistributing more wealth staying in this country and not siphoned off shore.

- Monetary institutions to have much greater regulation and accountability over financial transaction activity.

- Disbursement around economic recovery packages to sustain welfare provisions, employment, families and communities.


Of course we can argue about the merits and weaknesses of such proposals - Watson simply puts them forward as a starting point for discussion - but the immediate and obvious question is this: Why haven't we heard such proposals from the NDU itself - or the CTU for that matter?

The telling statement is in Watson's preamble where he comments that his views are entirely 'personal' and 'and not those necessarily held by the NDU.'

From where I'm sitting NONE of his views are held by the dreary NDU officialdom.

Watson's views about developing economic alternatives, of course, do not sit well with a trade union bureaucracy which remains uncritically loyal to the neoliberal and politically bankrupt Labour Party.

HIDE SEEKING TO AXE LOCAL COUNCIL SERVICES


Rodney Hide, left, shakes hands with his mate Dave Henderson at the launch of Hendo's Five Mile township near Queenstown in 2006. Five Mile was put into receivership in 2008 with debts totaling some $90 million.

The neoliberal zealot Rodney Hide is still peddling his failed creed.

The Minister of Local Government has been given approval by the Cabinet to, potentially, take the axe to local council services that he doesn't think are 'core services.'

Hide says that the core services are transport and water services and public health and safety, such as rubbish collection.

Which means Hide would like to take the axe to social, cultural and environmental spending by local councils. Here in Christchurch, for example, the council's large social housing stock would not be considered 'core' by Hide and would be privatised.

However the bright spot is that Hide's neoliberal lunacy is something that Prime Minister Key also finds less than attractive.

Although the Cabinet signed off on the review, Key said yesterday that he did not agree with Hide's definition of core services.

He said social policies were an important role for councils.

So Key might just be letting little Rodney let off steam before stopping him in tracks when he presents Cabinet with his ugly proposals.

Even so, a wary eye will have to be kept on little Rodney.

Last year the Christchurch City Council bailed out his mate and fellow neoliberal zealot Dave Henderson. It paid $17 million for five overvalued properties.

Does Hide regard this business bailout as a 'core ' council service?

WENDY'S COMICAL CAPERS


It's a bit late but I kind of feel I have to mark another outstanding example of media clowning.

Yes, its TV news presenter Wendy Petrie.

Petrie was in Christchurch outside the courtroom presenting TV1's David Bain coverage.

After announcing that a verdict had been reached, Ms Petrie went into clown mode when , thinking her live cross was over, turned to look at someone off camera, screwed up her face and pumped her fist.

In another live report, Petrie twice referred to Bain as 'guilty' on all five murder charges.

Back in the studio, Simon Dallow had to quickly correct her blunder.

Clearly overcome by the emotion of it all, Petrie also had tears rolling down her face at one stage.

Her clowning was a popular item on YouTube. It had over 30,000 hits up until this morning when it was unceremoniously pulled. Boo.

TVNZ spokesperson Andi Brotherston, who used to be the media person for the right wing Sensible Sentencing Trust, has denied that broadcaster threatened a media blogger to take down the video clip from YouTube, or it would get his channel pulled off the air.

The clip has been apparently 'geo-blocked' meaning YouTube viewers in New Zealand are unable to view it.

BLOGGING FOR THE LEFT


Socialist bloggers might be interested in checking out The Global Communist.

The people behind the site say its designed to bring together communist, socialist and anarchist blogs 'for ease of reference and reading'

The site provides links to interesting and useful blog posts and is presently updating from over fifty blogs from throughout the world - and the number is growing.

The site is refreshingly non-sectarian with a wide range of views available from both individual writers and from various political organisations.

If you want a blog included please post a message and a link with 'The Marxist Doctor' at his blog Confessions Of A Marxist.

BROWNED OFF


I was watching BBC World early this morning and happened to see the embattled British Prime Minister announce his new cabinet.

Gordon Brown looks very much like a Labour leader on his way out. His political crisis has been fuelled by the Westminster expenses scandal leading to a series of resignations, including four cabinet ministers. If that wasn't enough Labour has been absolutely smashed in the local body elections - it was somewhat of an understatement for Brown to describe the results as 'disappointing'.

Brown has even lost the support of that Labour stalwart The Guardian. It has declared that Gordon Brown's 'time is up.'

Of course that's all very well but The Guardian's rationale is that Brown must go in order to rescue British 'progressive politics' from a long stretch in the wilderness.

But replacing Brown would simply be rearranging the old deck chairs on the proverbial sinking ship. It won't make any difference in the end. And, what exactly is 'progressive' about the British Labour Party anyway? It's about as 'progressive' as the New Zealand Labour Party - ie it isn't.

It's not just Brown who is deeply unpopular but his entire party. The political chickens have come home to roost for Labour.

Like the former Labour Government here, the Labour Government of Gordon Brown - and of his predecessor Tony Blair- has been all about championing neoliberalism and the 'free market. 'Social democratic' in name only, it has been party of the corporates, the banks, the financiers.

The global economic meltdown though has left the ideology of neoliberalism in tatters and the acolytes of the free market have been revealed as nothing more than snake oil merchants.

And the response of Brown's Government has been to bailed out those responsible for the crisis - while ordinary people have been made to pay the price in the way of increasing unemployment and poverty.

When already wealthy Labour MPs and ministers were exposed billing the taxpayer for all manner of 'expenses', then Brown's fate was decided.

And what is progressive about the British Labour Party? The invasion of Iraq? Pandering to the interests of the corporate elite? Cutting welfare benefits? Allowing the rich to get richer and the poor get poorer?

The British Labour Party is disintegrating and no-one will shed a tear.

Like its counterpart here, British Labour is destined to become a neoliberal relic, politically bankrupt and directionless. For the British left this represents an opportunity to begin the journey to forge a genuine progressive movement that seeks to radically reshape British society. It's what the New Zealand left is seeking in this country as well.

TOMORROW'S FISH AND CHIP PAPER


Minister involved in sordid incident! Maybe! Minister made improper suggestions! Apparently! Minister resigns! Police investigate! Prime Minister says he would have sacked him if he hadn't resigned! Golly! It's a scandal!

The corporate media are all over the Richard Worth saga, even though no-one really knows what the former Minister of Internal Affairs has or has not done.

On breakfast television this morning, TV1 and TV3 hauled their 'Top Guns' - Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner - into the studio to gave their solemn takes on the affair. For Espiner and Garner, a salacious politics plus sex scandal is manna from heaven. It beats having to do any serious investigative journalism into trivial matters like, oh, the meltdown of the New Zealand economy.

It's tabloid stuff. It'll be in The Truth soon and its all over talkback radio, the home of red baiting and beneficiary bashing.

With barely anything to differentiate the parliamentary parties from each other, the corporate media - which has been complicit in defending the neoliberal 'consensus' - is reduced to projecting personal scandals into the larger political sphere. As if it matters. At the conclusion of it all, some other career politician will simply replace Worth. The sideshow will be over - but we ordinary plebs will still be paying the price for an economic meltdown not of our making. Many of us will still be losing our jobs and struggling to pay the electricity bill.

The corporate media shows no enthusiasm to explode the discredited ideology that is neoliberalism but, boy, when a minister allegedly gets caught doing something unpleasant - although we don't know Worth actually broke the law yet - its all hands to the pumps.

Not surprisingly the pro-Labour bloggers, who like to think they have more intellectual weight that the corporate hacks, are going ga-ga over the Worth affair - because its a stick to beat over the head of a Prime Minister who has yet to take any major hits.

Unable to outflank the Government on economic policy - since they supported exactly the same kind of economic policies when Labour was in power - this kind of sleaze is grist to the mill for the likes of The Standard and Tumeke! If only they'd show the same enthusiasm and commitment to exposing the inadequacies of Labour. But they don't and won't.

Of course their leader has not wasted time to extract what mileage he can from Richard Worth's downfall.

Goff has revealed that Worth sent some inappropriate communications to a female Labour Party member, allegedly offering some cushy board appointments in return for sexual favours.

For Goff, the Worth affair is a godsend. Even more right wing than Helen Clark, he has kept Labour stuck in the neoliberal quagmire, a party going nowhere and increasingly irrelevant.

The Worth affair allows Goff to get some point of difference with National, albeit briefly, but its largely empty posturing on an issue that will eventually become tomorrow's fish and chip paper.

LET THEM EAT CAKE!


Spare a thought for the 186 redundant Lane Walker Rudkin workers, now out of the spotlight with the corporate media moving on to other more important matters - like the opening of the ski season and Susan Boyd.

As well as losing their jobs at a time when unemployment is rocketing, none of the workers have received the holiday and redundancy pay that is due them.

The National Distribution Union's (NDU) appeal to the Government and Westpac to help out the sacked workers has, predictably, fallen on deaf ears.

The NDU's response has been simply appalling.

Seemingly incapable of flexing any industrial muscle at all, its pathetic response has been to organise cake stalls to raise funds 'to help the workers help each other', - or so claims NDU national secretary Laila Harre. Harre herself is on a very high five figure salary.

On the Facebook site set up to coordinate the cake stalls, Harre -who thought up the hopeless idea - hails every dollar raised as if it's a great worker victory.

Harre writes: on May 18: 'Well done Christchurch - thanks to the supporters who weathered the gathering storm to raise $338 at the cake stall.'

Then on May 24 she writes : 'Thanks to bakers and buyers for helping raise nearly $700 in Auckland today - great support from the hikoi.'

'Nicholas' responds: '$735.20 to be precise, every little cent counts.'

I'm not sure if 'Nicholas' is lampooning the ludicrous cake stalls or is, disturbingly, being absolutely serious.

There have been no further entries on the Facebook site.

Meanwhile the Labour propaganda blog, otherwise known as The Standard, having initially embraced the cake stalls as 'a great idea' hasn't mentioned them since.

MORE HENDO HIJINKS


Failed property developer Dave Henderson is back in court today as another creditor seeks to wind up his company Property Ventures.

Meanwhile The Press is reporting that an innocent playcentre association is yet another financial victim of Hendo's.

It's also an issue that raises more questions about the Christchurch City Council's relationship with Henderson and its decision to buy his five central city properties.

One of the five properties that the council bought from libertarian Dave was Sydenham Square - for an extravagant $4 million.

The Canterbury Playcentre Association owns a corner of the Sydenham Square site and was in talks with Henderson to move into new premises.

However that deal collapsed.

Kathy Bouma of the Canterbury Playcentre Association says that Henderson promised to pay the legal and moving expenses. The association spent some $30,000 on legal fees before the deal collapsed.

Hendo has resorted to his familiar tactic of claiming ignorance. He says that he was unaware of the $30,000 bill.

But The Press has caught him out.

It has seen an invoice sent to Hendo in December 2007, detailing the legal fees.

Hendo wrote back twice confirming the receipt of the invoice and explaining why he would not pay it.

But our mate Dave told The Press:

"I know nothing of this expense. Can you please send me the breakdown for it? Given they haven't relocated and are now pulling out of the deal, what could the expense be for?"

Now the Canterbury Playcentre Association says it is no longer willing to sell the site which means the Christchurch City Council has more complications because the association site had been penciled in as the location of an access road.

It should be remembered that the decision to fork out some $17 million for the five Henderson properties was steamrollered through council by Mayor Sideshow Bob, aided by council CEO Tony Marryatt and councillors like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett.

The councillors were expected to make a decision on the buy-out with just three days notice.

The council also side-stepped the need to get the public's view by treating the purchases as separate deals, with none over the $5m mark that is one of the criteria under the council's policy guidelines for determining whether community consultation occurs.

The council did not obtain an independent valuation of the Sydenham site and instead relied on one provided by Henderson.

Justifying the deal Marryatt said the deal had been 'sweetened' by the inclusion of '$6 million of plans and resource consents' Henderson had for the Sydenham site.

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