As I only look at TVNZ's and TV3's awful breakfast shows sporadically I completely missed Paul Henry's latest offensive remarks this week.

This time the victim of Henry's 'witty banter' was British singing sensation Susan Boyle.

Henry thought it would be really entertaining if he referred to Boyle as a 'retard.'

He described her as being 'starved of oxygen at birth'. Gosh, that's so incredibly funny and insightful. Who knew that Paul Henry was Oscar Wilde in disguise?

Of course this is yet another dismal example of Henry and his best friend - his ego - showing off for the cameras. Henry thinks he's 'entertaining' - everyone else just thinks he's a right wing prat. Except for fellow right wing loony Lindsay Perigo. He adores him.

Paul Henry really thinks he's brilliantly clever and funny. He actually thinks his jokes are the product of a mind superior to us mere mortals - except, maybe, Stephen Hawking. But I'm sure Henry has got a few witty comments stored up for Professor Hawking as well.

Paul Henry wants people to appreciate his brilliance. He wants to be surrounded by fans who can bask in his intellectual brightness and benefit from his wisdom.

Have you noticed how he is constantly encouraging Pippa Wetzell, his simpering co-host, to join in the fun and laugh at his cleverness? It's not exactly Morecambe and Wise or The Two Ronnies - more Melody Rules.

If he gets no response from Wetzell, Henry will share his cleverness with whoever's reading the news that morning. I'd have more sympathy for Peter Williams and Alison Mau if they stopped encouraging him by pretending to laugh at his jokes. Or do they seriously think he's funny?

Henry's need for adoration is so manic that you will often find him calling out to the unseen people behind the cameras. If I was one of the camera guy's I'd be giving him the two-finger salute.

Henry is the kind of bore who'll corner you in the corridor or in the staff cafeteria and regale you with his latest 'funny story'. You are trapped and time crawls to a stop and you lose the will to live.

You're only chance of escape is that you see him before he sees you. I understand certain TVNZ staffers warn each other via cellphone when Henry enters the building.

Henry is that kind of guy. He's constantly wondering why the room empties out when he walks in. He never actually works out that its him everyone is running away from. I mean, how can anyone not one want to be around TVNZ's brightest and most talented star? How can anyone not want to hear his latest funny joke about the intellectually handicapped and/ or some bloody lefty/ commie/ pinko/ environmentalist/lesbian?

Of course on the set of Breakfast he has a captive audience - Pippa, Peter, Alison, the production staff. They have no choice but to listen to him because that's what they are paid to do.

At least Tamati Coffey gets to give his weather reports from outside the studio, away from Henry. Unfortunately for him he still has to endure being talked at by the guy.

Paul Henry. What a man. What a hero. What a wanker.

F**K You Paul Henry


With Phil Goff and the Labour Party unable to make any real headway in the opinion polls, the venal politics of the Maori Party were just sitting there waiting to be hit.

And Battlin' Phil Goff came out of the red corner this week and delivered a few swift and calculated punches that, while they not have won him the fight, have succeeded in raising Goff's profile in the media.

Goff, of course, took aim at the cosy and cynical deal between the Maori Party and National Party that saw some 35,0000 acres of public land given to the Maori corporate elite and some $25-50 million handed over to that same elite to secure the passage of the Government’s shonky Emissions Trading Scheme.

This deal will only benefit, as Goff pointed out, the Maori tribal elite and, once again, the Maori working class are left out in the cold - although Maori Party cheerleaders like Willie Jackson would lead you to believe otherwise.

What Phil Goff didn't say though is that the Maori corporate elite - represented in Parliament by the Maori Party, emerged under policies first adopted by the Labour Government of which he was a influential part. It was the fourth Labour Government that began the process of co-opting the newly-emerging Maori elite into the capitalist infrastructure.

We should remember that this Maori elite did not simply pop up under John Key. Indeed the state orchestrated 'bi-culturalism' and the Waitangi settlements process of the last twenty five years or so has created a small but wealthy and influential Maori elite which boasts assets worth some $25 billion - while at the same time the neoliberal economic policies that both Labour and National routinely support have produced high levels of unemployment and poverty and gutted public welfare, education and health services.

And, in 2009, the Maori working class is, like its Pakeha brothers and sisters, on the receiving of a capitalist crisis that it has no responsibility for.

But Goff is not owning up to the failure of neoliberalism. And he never will. He is still a right wing politician after all. His Orewa speech is simply a bid to attract back the Labour support that shifted to John Key at the last election.

With Labour and National's economic policies barely distinguishable from each other (the differences are more emphasis than substance) Goff's attack on the Maori Party and its relationship with National does provide him with a point of difference. And it will, temporarily at least, gave him and Labour a bounce in the opinion polls.

This is not, however, as Labour cheerleader Chris Trotter laughably claims, Goff 'returning his party to its socialist and egalitarian roots'. This is the same Chris Trotter who, just a few short weeks ago, was castigating Goff for denying Labour's social democratic history. Indeed he was calling for Goff to be replaced!

Chris Trotter's puffery can't hide the fact this is just a calculated sidestep from a Labour leader still committed to the neoliberalism that has dominated the Labour Party for a quarter of a century. It's a bit of the old shimmy- shammy from Goff, a bit of ducking and weaving - but, all the while, Goff has not moved politically.

At a 'Drinking Liberally' event at Auckland University this week Goff was probed about Labour's commitment to neoliberalism and the free market.

Goff, while decrying the duplicity of the Maori Party, engaged in some dubious political footwork himself.

According to Goff the only alternative to the free market are 'command economies' and 'show me a command economy that has ever worked.' There you go - 'socialist economics equals command economy' according to Goff.

Can anyone have confidence in a Labour Party leader who arrogantly dismisses socialist economics as a hankering to build a New Zealand equivalent of the North Korean economy - which was one of Richard Prebble's favourite lines, incidentally.

But the man who is 'returning his party to its socialist and egalitarian roots' went on to say that 'the market is the best mechanism to distribute goods' and 'Labour saved capitalism'.

This kind of places Goff's criticisms of the Maori Party into perspective. While attacking the Maori Party - who richly deserve to be caned - he is still not offering any alternative to the failed creed of neoliberalism.


One of Dave Henderson's favourite themes over the years has been on how business has been 'suffocated' by bureaucratic red tape. Hendo has portrayed himself as the champion of the small business owner fighting the evil interests of the state.

This exercise in myth-making reached its peak in Henderson's celluloid hymn to himself. The movie We're Here To Help portrayed Hendo as 'David' up against 'Goliath' played by the Inland Revenue Department. Ayn Rand would have loved it.

But, as is usually the case with 'Hendo', the practice never quite matches the theory.

The self-styled champion of business owners is notorious for not playing a straight bat to the business owners he claims to support.

Take Jodie Devine for instance.

Ms Devine is a self-employed interior plaster and is owed some $2000 for work she did for the Minx bar and restaurant - which is part of Hendo's rapidly vanishing business 'empire'.

She recently took to protesting outside the restaurant in an effort to publicise her fight with Hendo. She might of well been trying to 'embarrass ' him into paying up - a somewhat forlorn hope given Hendo's implacable indifference to the plight of everyone he owes money to.

It will come as no surprise that Hendo is up to his old tricks again. He is disputing the bill which will probably ensure that Ms Devine will be forced into not inexpensive legal procedures in an effort to get Hendo to pay the bill.

Is Davy-boy at fault at all? Of course not! Why admit any responsibility when you can just blame someone else? In this case that 'someone' is the local Christchurch media, namely The Press.

He has claimed that The Press was behind Ms Devine's protest!

Full of righteous indignation Hendo has described The Press as 'nasty and pernicious'. Of course this is the very same Hendo who had no problems with the positive stories that The Press ran about him in the days before the property bubble burst and the chickens came home to roost.

Hendo went on to say:

'That The Press is so desperate for a story that they cooperate in turning a simple civil dispute into something sensational is childish. Go trade your mindlessness and nastiness somewhere else.'

Hendo has never been slow in coming forward to preach 'individual responsibility' to welfare beneficiaries but apparently it doesn't apply to him.

This whole affair has been somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow for Jodie Devine as she previously regarded Henderson as a hero of hers. Unfortunately she bought into the myth rather than the reality.

Said Devine:

'He took on the IRD and I admired him for that. I thought he was awesome especially when they did that movie about him. I knew I was dumb.'


New Zealand's parliamentary politicians are a dull lot and, frankly, I find listening to them a bit of a chore. I'm always in danger of nodding off or, if they happen to be occupying my television screen, I rarely resist the urge to switch over to something else.

What is so staggeringly boring about them is that they are all pushing the same dreary neoliberal message. I can mostly predict what they are going to say before they say it. The same old faces saying the same old things. Everyday. Frankly I'd prefer being locked in a room and forced to watch endless repeats of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Sure, there are a few scuffles about what kind of neoliberal policies should be pursued but nobody questions the assumptions of neoliberalism itself.

I haven't, for example, heard so called Labour 'leftiies' Phil Twyford or Clare Curran calling for socialist policies. I have followed what both these MP's have been saying and writing this year and neither have come anywhere near to offering a socialist viewpoint. How on earth anyone can regard them as 'lefties' is beyond me. They are right wing social democrats at best.

When we come right down to it, both Twyford and Currie think that the 'free market' is as good as it gets - bar a bit of tweaking here and there. This is supposed to inspire us? I don't think so.

Can anyone remember when a New Zealand parliamentary MP had a big vision of a new way of doings things-and I don't mean new ways to claim for expenses.

I can't think of any MP with a vision that cuts across the prevailing neoliberal consensus. We've been lumbered with a set of grey middle-management types who get excited about moving amendments and ordering more paper clips. They are 'realistic' and 'pragmatic'. They are the next best thing to a sedative. They are truly politicians of our time.

I compare this dreariness to what is happening in Venezuela right now. A new society is being created! It's exciting! It's challenging! It stirs the emotions! Venezuelan politics are everything New Zealand politics are not.

President Hugo Chavez made a significant speech to the First Extraordinary Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) last Saturday night. Not surprisingly it was completely ignored by our media - and the local blogosphere as well.

Listening to a Chavez speech can demand endurance and this one was no exception - it was five hours long and finished shortly before midnight. But Chavez did have something substantial to say.

He commented that the global economic crisis should be viewed as an opportunity to accelerate the dismantling of the capitalist system and the construction of socialism.

Against this backdrop of a crisis-ridden global capitalism, Chavez called for a congress of left parties, organisations and social movements to form a Fifth Socialist International.

Some quick history. Marx set up the First International, Engels participated in the establishment of the Second International and Lenin founded the Third International. When the Third International simply became the foreign policy tool of Stalin, Leon Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938.

The Fourth International, as it stands today, is the only political current with a direct organisational link to the original Fourth International. It remains the largest Trotskyist current in the world today but while it boxes above its weight, it has only minimal influence on mainstream politics. It has influenced my political thinking over the years.

One of Chavez's central arguments for a Fifth International is that its predecessors have all been based in Europe, reflecting the class struggles that were occurring in Europe at the time.

Chavez argues that the epicentre of world revolution is now Latin America, and especially in Venezuela. He pointed to the presence at the Congress of fifty-five left parties from thirty-nine countries, which had signed a document called the Caracas Agreement (El Compromiso de Caracas), based on the idea of a worldwide fight against imperialism and capitalism, for socialism.

Said Chavez:

The epicentre of revolutionary struggle is in our America. And Venezuela is the epicentre of this battle. It is up to us to assume the role of the vanguard and we have to assume it, so that we realize and become aware of the huge responsibility we have on our shoulders,”

I call on this First Extraordinary Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela to include in its agenda for debate, the proposal to convene political parties and currents to create the Fifth Socialist International as a new organization that fits the time and the challenge in which we live, and that can become an instrument of unification and coordination of the struggle of peoples to save this planet.

Chavez launched a series of scathing attacks on western governments. He was particularly critical of western governments for bailing out the banks and the finance sectors. Chavez's message for the likes of Barack Obama and Gordon Brown was clear and unambiguous - the point is to destroy capitalism, not save it.

Holding up a copy of Lenin's State and Revolution (can you imagine Phil Twyford or Clare Currie doing that?) Chavez said that he completely accepted Lenin's view that the bourgeois state had to be destroyed and replaced with a socialist one.

He said that Venezuela had not yet succeeded in destroying the bourgeois state but it was still moving in that direction and remained committed to that goal. As part of that commitment Chavez announced that a further seven banks would be nationalised. Wouldn't it be nice if that happened here?

He argued that by 2019, 'Venezuela must be a socialist country with socialist values' based on the 'social ownership of the means of production.'

In order to achieve this he said that 'it was necessary to increase the consciousness of the working class as a fundamental part of Bolivarian socialism', and 'to consolidate the alliance between the party and working class.'

'The consciousness of the working class is key to the building of socialism", he said.

Interestingly he was extremely critical of the union bureaucracy.

Referring to sectors of the trade union movement Chavez said: “The elitist class culture even reaches into popular sectors, some of whom wear red t-shirts and say they are Bolivarian,” but 'defend the interests of private property.' I don't think Hugo Chavez would have much in common with Helen Kelly or Andrew Little.

He called for the revival of revolutionary trade unionism to put an end to 'those sectors that aim to neutralize and put a brake on the revolutionary movement.'

Hugo Chavez's words are writ large and speak of a world to win. They also remind us of just how lifeless and timid mainstream politics are in this country.


The Avon Loop is a small central Christchurch suburb that congregates around a large 'bend' in the Avon River.

It is picturesque area of the city which retains many houses and cottages built in the late nineteenth century.

It is an area which has retained its strong community spirit. Historically, its a community that has embraced 'alternative' living and 'alternative' politics. The famous Piko Wholefoods Cooperative, for example, is still going strong after all these years.

Donna Alfrey is a longtime resident of the area and has recently set up a website not only for the Avon loop community but for other local Christchurch communities as well.

She writes:

The site will cover community news and events , projects within the community, a wish list where we can add ideas that we would like to see happen in our communities and what we would like the councillors to take notice of, stories, photos and views on our heritage,a chance to vote on issues concerning the community, promotion of the Avon Loop Cottage, finding our local groups and the last page is to add your views and stories about the Christchurch City councillors (the good the bad and the unhelpful) and the council in general.

The website is in its 'embryonic' stage and Donna is keen to receive local contributions.

She can be contacted at


I've been saying for some time now - for most of the year in fact - that Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council supporters have a lukewarm and unenthusiastic 'commitment'  to the Christchurch City Council's important social role.

The most obvious example of this was Sideshow Bob's attempt to put council rents up a massive 24 percent  - which would of severely impacted on some of Christchurch's  poorest people.

Similarly Sideshow  Bob has taken an axe to community  funding - while, at the same time, handing out a  large amount of dosh to his mate,  failed property developer Dave Henderson and spending some $5 million on the 'naming rights'  to a garden show.

Bob's latest madness is his desire to wreck the Arts Centre by plonking  a $24 million architectural monstrosity smack in the middle of it.

While Sideshow Bob likes to flaunt himself in  front of the cameras -as he did recently on TV3's Sunrise, extolling the 'attractions'  of Christchurch - out in the real  world  more  community organisations are suffering 'the Bob experience'. It's a pity that TV3's Carly Flynn ddin't do some real journalism for a change and investigate what is really happening in Christchurch - rather than allowing Sideshow to spin his PR garbage.

The latest development is that the city's eleven  early childhood centres  have been advised by  the Christchurch City  Council that their leases  will be renegotiated and 'possibly' set at a 'market rate'.  This would mean that the leases would effectively double.

Yes, no one is safe from the Parker-Marryatt 'axis of evil'. Also flying the flag for the 'free market' are  Bob's  other council supporters including  the very modest and certainly not patronising Sue Wells - who  has recently returned from a ratepayer funded jaunt to France - and silly old duffer Barry Corbett.

The council intends to make a final  decision on the leases in May next year. The leases  expire on  June 30.

Presently the council guarantees  an  annual grant to non-profit early childhood centres operating on  council owned land.

In plain terms the childhood centre pays the rental. In the case of the Redwood Early Childhood Centre, for example, it is $32,000. This money would normally be refunded via a council grant.

The problem now is that the centres will have to apply to the council's  'Strengthening Communities Fund'  which has some $7.7 million in its pot. However the fund is oversubscribed while,  at the same time, the council has failed to increase the size of the fund.

Some of  the $18 million given to  Dave Henderson would have been better  employed going into this fund. Or some of the $ 5 million spent on a garden show. Or the $24 million that Bob wants to waste wrecking the Arts Centre.

While the early childhood centres have enjoyed a level of stability under the present scheme, the new system means the centres have no idea whether they can even  keep their doors open.

 A  community disaster  threatens because there is no guarantee  that the childchood centres will even get funding for one year, never mind the multi-year funding they have benefited from in the past.

The council says it is looking at five year leases  for the centres - but the chances that the centres will receive a guarantee of five years council funding is extremely  remote under the unsympathetic regime of Sideshow Bob.

Laughably, the council says that the childhood centres do have 'financial alternatives'.   Oh yeah? What the council is really saying is that the centres  will have to reduce costs by sacking staff and reducing services. This will, of course, have  an adverse impact on the families - many of them from lower socio-economic backgrounds - who use the centres.

This is not a 'financial alternative' and is simply another case of the council failing to meet its  responsibilities to the community that it claims to represent.

Joseph Ransfield is the chairman of the Redwood Childhood Centre's ' management committee  and a man who clearly  knows what Sideshow Bob and his council chums are all about.

'The city council are losing the community spirit.' he told the local media  this week. 'They're going to user pays.'


I don't go to the movies as much as I used to. The exorbitant ticket prices put me off and I'm happy enough watching DVDs.

But I left my couch and forked out the cash to see Capitalism: A Love Story. As its a documentary this movie lends itself to the DVD  and the small screen, but I like Michael Moore, flaws and all, and I wanted to see the movie in the theatre.

Moore now has a substantial body of work behind him, stretching back some twenty years or so to his first film Roger and Me. Capitalism: A Love Story is his fifth documentary. His films are among the top grossing non-fiction movies.

For those of us who have staked out our politics beyond what remains of the social democratic left (can you really tell the difference between a right wing and left wing social democrat? ), it is extraordinary difficult to get our views into the mainstream media and the general  public debate.

A good case in  point is TVNZ 7's  Focus on the Economy which is screening throughout this month. Were any socialists invited  on to the channel to offer the socialist perspective on the crisis of global capitalism? No they weren't. For socialists and the radical left this censorship by omission is an all too familiar experience.

So, that said, it is quite an achievement by  Michael Moore to have succeeded in  inserting his political views into a media and society dominated by lies and disinformation. Given the amount of invective he regularly receives from the right, it is not a situation that sits well with the cheerleaders of the status quo. So all power to him, I say.

It is extraordinary that a movie so critical of capitalism can open in over a thousand theatres in the 'land of free enterprise'.  Hey, the guy has even been on Oprah!

One of Moore's strengths and one of his trademarks - and perhaps one of the reasons why he remains popular- is that he never forgets  that there are real people behind the grim statistics.

While statistics can be breezily reported by the media somewhere in between the sports news and the latest story about Angelina Jolie and then summarily  disposed of, Moore goes beyond the numbers and brings to the big screen the lives of ordinary working people that are under the heel of capitalism  - the best economic system  the world can ever have, according to Labour leader Phil Goff.

Barely  half an hour or so into the movie, Moore shows an ordinary American family  being evicted from their house by police - who turn up in numbers you would expect to attend a bank robbery or small riot. They have been evicted by the bank.

In Detroit ( and what is happening to Detroit right now is truly disturbing) a carpenter is boarding up the house of a angry and frightened family who have lived there for over forty years. They are more victims of Wall Street and their political allies on Capitol Hill.

There are more stories and like this and the pictures expose the ugly reality of American capitalism. Moore, recalling Roger and Me, makes the point that much of the United States has become like Flint, Michigan.

Moore doesn't pull his punches. He mosly lets the pictures tell their story and doesn't sugarcoat the uncomfortable message.

But having done all the ground work,  Moore does not  offer a anti-capitalist alternative. Rather he seems to have wandered down a No Exit called Barack Obama Street.

While attacking the sharks of Wall Street he then turns around and supports a President  who has bailed out those very same sharks - while at the same time doing very little for  the ordinary working people we see  in Moore's movie. That glaring contradiction haunts this movie.

Moore's alternative to the ravages of capitalism is  something he vaguely calls 'democracy' - which is hardly a call to man the barricades.

In an interview with Democracy Now Moore commented: "The wealthiest 1% [of Americans] have more financial wealth than the bottom 95% combined. When...1% essentially not only own all the wealth, but own Congress, call the shots, are we really telling the truth when we call this a democracy? You and I have no say in how this economy is run."

Indeed - but Moore doesn't articulate a socialist alternative. Instead he ends up in Camp Barack Obama. Its an almighty fudge from someone not willing  to reach a socialist conclusion. We need to remind ourselves that Moore supported Obama's bid for the presidency and continues to support him now despite the Wall Street bailouts.

In an interview I heard with Moore some years ago he remarked that liberals often annoyed him  more than right wingers. He explained that what bugged him about liberals is that they claimed they wanted to  change the world but, when it came down it, they didn't actually want to 'rock the boat' to achieve that laudable goal.

I think that Moore's criticism can be turned on himself. He wants, he says, to eliminate capitalism but continues to support the ultimate defender of capitalism - the Obama administration.


With unemployment continuing to rise and more heavy downward pressure being applied on wage levels, you would think Labour would be actually enjoying some new and desperately needed popularity. But it isn't.

And its only got itself to blame.

The problem, as it has always been, is that Labour 'going forward' (to use horrible 'managerial speak') isn't offering much more than National. You can have National's blue Cortina or Labour's red Cortina. But its still a Cortina - and the engine is still stuffed.

Despite all the talk from Labour apologists about  'revival'', 'reassessment and 'regrouping', Labour are still  campaigning  on the same set of  economic policies that lost it the last election. Brilliant!

No matter how many times The Standard or Chris Trotter tell us that National are worse than Labour, nobody actually believes them. And why should they  after nine long years of Labour's neoliberalism - the same policies that both The Standard and Trotter chose to largely defend. The political inconsistency is apparent to all.

When it came down to it the Labour leader couldn't find it in  himself to apologise  for Labour's dismal economic policies. Rather Goff  jumped on board the right wing bandwagon about Labour's so-called  nanny state policies - and apologised for the party's  'nanny statism' instead!

That Goff is backed by the Combined Trades Union bureaucracy  is a sad commentary on the state of union politics.

So, as we head toward the end of 2009, Labour are in exactly the same political position they were at the beginning of the year. Labour remains a politically bankrupt party still peddling the snake oil of neoliberalism Guess what? No-one is buying.

On The Standard a few days ago someone was complaining that there was no 'fightback' from Labour. Given that The Standard rarely criticises Labour the comments were surprising in themselves but the writer kind of missed the point anyway.

How can Labour launch any kind of fightback when it has no platform  to  launch a fightback from? Barely distinguishable from National, its  simply  farcical  to campaign on the basis that John Key and National  are up to no good.

It's not good enough for Labour   to decry National's neoliberal policies  while promoting  exactly the same sort of policies itself.

This though appears to be of little consequence to Phil Goff. He thinks that there's no credible alternative to the free market. In Labour there is no place  even for traditional social democratic politics - and 'socialism' is a dirty word.


It won't come as a surprise to learn that I'm not one of those who think that city councils should stick to the 'core' services - as the Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide thinks they should. Local councils have a social role to play well beyond the upkeep of roads and drains.

Here in Christchurch Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council supporters - the conservative 'independent' councillors ( some who have links to the National Party) - have shown a suspect and unenthusiastic commitment to that social role.

Two notable examples in recent times have been the attempt by Sideshow Bob and his council chums to put council rents up a massive 24 percent - which was squashed by the High Court. I think Sideshow Bob - backed by his right hand man Tony Marryatt - has an agenda to sell off some, if not all, of the council's housing stock.

Similarly the cutbacks to community funding also demonstrated that here is a Mayor with a dubious commitment to the community he purports to represent.

The claim that cutbacks had to be made in these tough times is entirely fatuous when we consider what Sideshow Bob has been spending ratepayers money on.

This includes $5 million for the naming rights to an Auckland garden show and $18 million for five-over valued buildings from besieged property developer and Sideshow Bob supporter, Dave Henderson.

The latest proposed addition to the list of dubious budgetary items is the intention to spend some $25 million on a music school in the Christchurch Arts Centre - one of the city's most valued cultural and tourist sites.

The formal council vote was 7-6 in favour, with the casting vote of Sideshow Bob tilting the balance in favour of the new building.

Mike Wall, Barry Corbett, Ngaire Button, Gail Sheriff, Claudia Reid, Bob Shearing and Mayor Bob Parker voted in favour of the deal, while Helen Broughton, Norm Withers, David Cox, Yani Johanson, Sally Buck and Chrissie Williams voted against it.

Councillors Withers, Cox and Buck initially voted in favour of the scheme in July.

It's been a favourite refrain of Sideshow Bob and his council supporters that they 'listen to the what the community is saying'. The reality though is that they pretend to listen and then do what they want anyway.

Such was the case with the proposed new University of Canterbury music school.

Public consultation on the proposal attracted 475 opposing submissions and only 31 in support.

It has also included excluding the public on a council workshop on the music school - but allowing university Vice Chancellor, Rod Carr, to attend.

Councillor Yani Johanson walked out of the workshop, describing it as 'undemocratic'.

Under the proposed deal, the Arts Centre would lease the site to the council, which would borrow money to build the music centre. The university would sign a long-term lease that would cover the council's borrowing and lease expenses. The council would borrow $24.3m to cover the cost of constructing the building and 38 car parks, a 20-year pre-payment of the land lease to the Arts Centre Trust Board, working capital and 40 extra car parks for council use.

It will effectively turn public land into private land.

Withers, Broughton, Williams and Cox said central government, not the council, should fund a university building.

The building will dwarf the historically important buildings of the Arts Centre -which the Arts Centre Trust is, by legislation, required to protect.

Celebrated architect Peter Beaven has accused the council of 'fundamentally poor heritage practice.'

He says the stone buildings of the Arts Centre are of national and international importance and that the uniqueness of the Arts Centre would be destroyed by 'building a modern insertion'.

John Wilson, a local Christchurch historian and heritage advocate says that ' there are too many examples in Christchurch of developments close to historic buildings leaving those buildings intact but compromising their heritage value'.

He also points out that heritage is not just bricks and mortar.

'The traditions of easy public access and varied activities that have grown up at the Arts Centre through the forty year since the University vacated the site are now part of the city's heritage and should be jealously protected.'

The proposed new building will be part of a block mostly off limits to the general public'

Opponents of the proposed new building will fight Sideshow Bob and his supporters through the resource consent process and will lodge other appeals as and when required.

It will likely mean that the whole scheme will be lost in a legal maze for years to come.

Sideshow Bob may of well bitten off more than he can chew this time. His opponents are well organised and not without financial resources.

Save Our Arts Centre


How things change.

Back in 2004 an uncritical media were trumpeting Dave Henderson's purchase of the former Inland Revenue offices in Cashel Street Christchurch - and his decision to rename the seven storey building 'Henderson House'.

This is how the New Zealand Herald reported it:

You know the story about the razor. The guy liked it so much, he bought the company. Dave 'Hendo' Henderson has a twist on that. He hated the company - in this case the Inland Revenue Department - so much, he bought its building. Driven to bankruptcy by the tax department, Henderson survived to become its landlord, evictor and nemesis.

He ended a five-year fight with the taxman as a millionaire, not only able to prove the bill for a phantom $1 million tax debt was wrong, but also that it owed him $65,000.

It's a classic David and Goliath tale which has already become a best-selling book and now Kiwi film producer John Barnett is poised to make a movie out of it.

Ordinarily, that would be enough delicious revenge for one man. But for Henderson, the sweetest victory came in the form of the seven floors of steel and prefabricated concrete at 165 Cashel St in Christchurch.

"Henderson House," the property magnate exclaims and the tall silver lettering on the building twinkles back over the road at him.

Hendo's 'fight' with the taxman saw the Minister of Local Government Rodney 'Holiday' Hide coming out in support of our libertarian hero.Indeed Hide wrote the introduction to Hendo's book on his 'battle' with the IRD. We're Here to Help was, of course, eventually made into a mediocre movie by South Pacific Pictures.

This is what Hide wrote in the introduction:

'You should read this book. You could be the next. Our Inland Revenue Department is out of control. No one in authority cares or wants to do anything about it. Their only concern is that the money keeps rolling in and that the stories stay out of the papers.

Our politicians and bureaucrats now view businessmen as villains, crooks as victims, and lazy losers as heroes. Our government's values are anti-capitalist and anti-enterprise. The values of our politicians and our civil service must be changed radically if New Zealand is to succeed as a productive and free nation.

We need more people standing up and telling our politicians and bureaucrats that they have had enough.'

Well, Rodney is right. People 'have had enough'. They've had enough of so called 'entrepreneurs' like Henderson. Hide's hero has lost tens of millions of dollars of other people's money and caused a whole load of distress for people who have had dealings with him. All the while Hendo has continued to insist that none of it is his fault.

And now the Inland Revenue is back on Hendo's case.

The IRD is seeking to liquidate more of Hendo's troubled companies. The IRD, fed up with his uncooperative behaviour, told the High Court a week or so ago that he had has simply ignored court schedules and failed to file required documents with the court.

The IRD commented in the High Court that proceedings had been disrupted by 'serial delays and prevarications'.

Keren Clark QC told the court that Henderson's companies' tax liabilities continued to grow, and the sooner an independent inquiry was under way the better.

She said the defendants' breaches of their obligations to pay tax and to adhere to the court timetable were flagrant, serious and an abuse of process.

Do you think that Rodney Hide will come to Hendo's aid this time round? I somehow doubt it.


Why are so many people shocked by the views that Maori Party MP Hone Harawira voiced in a private email?

Yes, Harawira has apologised for the expletives but he didn't apologise for the views he expressed - because they are the views that he has always held. Any apology for these long-held views would be transparently insincere and would be viewed exactly that way by the public.

Harawira's intemperate comments about Phil Goff simply inflamed the issue - but they too have their roots in his long-held political views.

They are views that also held by the Maori Party.

Remember what Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said in 2000? She compared the experience of Maoris under British colonisation to that of Jews in the Holocaust. This earned her a rebuke from Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Harawira, in a couple of interviews I heard yesterday, argued that he was just expressing views - albeit in colourful and unsophisticated language - that had been promulgated in articles, reports, and academic work 'for the last twenty years'.

To a certain extent this is true. We can go back to Donna Awatere's 1984 book Maori Sovereignty where she argued that all Pakehas had benefited from the confiscation and alienation of Maori land - and thus provoking a whole decade of liberal guilt tripping.

Awatere's views became part of an influential nationalist ideology throughout the 1980s.

It was an ideology that revolved around asserting Maori identity and culture. It implied that such an approach would bring about political and economic justice. for all Maori.

This ideology, because it did not identify the true nexus of political and economic power within New Zealand society, was easily integrated by both Labour and National Government's via the Waitangi grievance process and a deliberate policy of biculturalism.

What resulted was the emergence and expansion of a Maori middle class within the private sector, the state, the media.

But Maori nationalism has patently failed the Maori working class, who like their Pakeha counterparts, have been on the receiving end of the neoliberal economic policies of both Labour and National.

But Hone Harawira just doesn't get this. His comment on Campbell Live that he sees himself as occupying the parliamentary role formerly occupied by Sue Bradford is absurd.

Bradford, despite her inconsistencies , has not been blind to the politics of class and the power structures that exist within capitalist societies like New Zealand. The same can't be said for Harawira. His attempt to set himself up as a champion of the working class is nonsense.

In fact his politics have lead to a disastrous dead end. Harawira's view that Maori are oppressed by Pakeha simply serves to drive a wedge between the Maori and Pakeha working class.

The rub is through is that Harawira, like the Maori Party, is not anti-capitalist. In fact it has been convincingly argued that activists like Harawira and his colleagues in the Maori Party have been most active for changes that have benefited the already prosperous Maori middle class.

Despite what Harawira claims, the interests of Maori are not all the same. While he is living it up in Paris and Hawaii, courtesy of the taxpayer, working class Maori are signing up for the dole in increasing numbers or working in poorly paid jobs in South Auckland factories.

His views are not surprising and they are wrong. They have always been wrong.

True emancipation for Maori will not occur without the fundamental transformation of capitalism and that's something that neither Harawira or the Maori Party support.


Just a short few days ago we were being told that the American economy had 'turned a corner' and was now in 'recovery'.

The basis for this 'good news' story was that the United States gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

But the latest unemployment figures demonstrate again just what lies at the centre of this so-called 'recovery'.

The official unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percent to 10.2 percent in October.

And the unemployment rate doesn't include people without jobs who have stopped looking, or those who have settled for part-time jobs. Counting those people, the unemployment rate would be 17.5 percent.

TVNZ business reporter Corin Dann, always keen to downplay any news that doesn't reflect well on the free market, told us this morning that the rise in US unemployment had 'slowed'.

He is clearly making it up as he goes along because the 0.4 pet rise was far higher than what had been expected by economists. They had expected 0.1 percent and some 175,000 additional job losses. The real figure was approximately 558,000 job losses. This is not evidence that the rate of unemployment is slowing.

Corin Dann may also like to note that on the back of these figures, economists have now revised upwards their estimates for unemployment next year.

This is only the second time official unemployment in the United States has reached double digits since the end of World War II. It is the highest level since 1983.

What our mainstream media didn't report is that a second survey,released a day before the new unemployment figures came out, show that American workers are getting paid less for doing more work.

The US Labour Department figures showed that productivity had increased by 9.5 percent in the third quarter of this year.

Over the past six months productivity has increased at the highest rate since 1961.

The sharp rise in productivity is due to the fact that workers are being forced to do more for less. Many employers are laying off part of their workforce and simply making those who still retain a job do the work of those made redundant.

Of course, the increase in unemployment has put pressure on wage rates which have been declining throughout the year.

If we look beyond the federal figures an even more grimmer picture emerges of just how the crisis of capitalism has been dumped on the shoulders of ordinary people - while the corporate sector has received the handouts from the Obama administration.

The noted economist Richard Wolff has wrote on the devastating policies being implemented within various states. These include

27 states have reduced health benefits for low-income children and families;
25 states are cutting aid to K-12 schools and other educational programs;
34 states have cut assistance to state colleges and universities;
26 states have instituted hiring freezes;
13 states have announced layoffs; and
22 states have reduced state workers' wages.

He comments that state budgets will worsen further in the coming years which will mean more cuts in services, more redundancies, more wage cuts.

Writes Wolff:

'Just when the mass of Americans need more help and support from their state governments, our economic system provides them with less. This raises the human and fiscal costs of the crisis. '

He goes on to say:

'If the states represent a fiscal train wreck, then the nation's cities and towns represent another train not far behind and hurtling toward the wreck.'


Phil Ward writes that the major capitalist powers are blocking the road to a global climate treaty … and preparing to blame China for the failure.

Any hopes that the December Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen will produce a treaty on greenhouse gas emission reductions are fading rapidly. Janos Pasztor, director of the UN Climate Change Support Team, admitted on 27 October that there was no agreement on targets for industrialized countries, or on funding to help developing countries limit their emissions. Neither was there any indication that the US Congress would agree President Obama’s proposals for emissions abatement.

Even if targets are agreed, they will be wholly inadequate. Obama’s target for the US is to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The US target from Kyoto in 1997 (but never ratified) was a 7% reduction on 1990 levels by 2010. Between 1990 and 2007 US emissions increased by 16.8%, from 6.1 to 7.1 billion tonnes CO2eq. So even if there is an agreement, for the US it is weaker than Kyoto and does not take account of the “extra” greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of the failure to ratify and meet the earlier target.

The EU has not met its Kyoto target either. Its current plans are for a 20% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020, but up to half of these reductions can be offset by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), whereby the financing of “low carbon” schemes in the global south can be construed as reducing emissions at home. The CDM has been shown all over the world to be utterly corrupt and tramples on the rights of local people in developing.


Behind the likely Copenhagen debacle lies the growing rivalry between the major capitalist powers, exacerbated by the global financial crisis, and the increasing economic clout of China, with its rapidly growing economy and large financial surplus. Thus, the EU’s “commitments” on emissions reductions are conditional on there being a global deal that will prevent industries relocating to countries without carbon caps, while the US Congress is considering placing import tariffs on products from nations that do not have emissions reduction targets.

Both the Chinese and Indian governments have taken the same position adopted by the previous Bush Administration in the US. They will not reduce emissions, only the “carbon intensity” of their economies – the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output. Over the medium to long term such reductions happen naturally, and have done since before James Watt improved steam engine efficiency from 1% to 3% in the 1770s. Since 1978, China’s energy intensity has halved (and its consumption has tripled), so its target of another 20% intensity reduction in the next 5 years will probably be achieved. But it won’t mean a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


There is agreement among socialists that the imperialist countries should acknowledge their responsibility for over 70% of historic greenhouse gas emissions. They should make “reparations” to developing countries for creating non-carbon technologies, as well as real commitments to drastically cut their emissions by 2050. Issues remain about how such aid is to be given, since the donors are a mendacious ruling class whose interest lies in maintaining their imperialist power, and the recipients a mendacious ruling class whose members are mainly preoccupied with self-enrichment.

There has also been agreement that greenhouse gas emissions per capita should be equalized between all countries, while overall reductions (”Contraction and Convergence”) also occur. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 80-95% on 1990 levels by 2050. Using 90%, that means reducing emissions from 4.3 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) to 0.43 tonnes per person, even assuming there is no population increase in that time.

According to estimates from the World Resources Institute, only 40 out of 185 countries would be allowed to increase their greenhouse gas emissions, 30 of them in Africa and Bangladesh, the one with the largest population. The US would have to cut emissions by 98% and the UK by 95%. But most developing economies would have to cut their emissions as well: China by 90%, India by 62%, South Africa by 94%, Iran by 93% and Brazil by 73%. Cuba also emits much more than this IPCC maximum target for 2050 and would need a reduction of 80% from its current emissions of 2.19 tonnes per person.


It is quite likely that the US, other imperialist countries and the media will use the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit to attack China in particular. This does not mean that the current trajectory of China’s government, or that of other developing countries, should be immune from criticism from the left. Of course, supporters of the environmental and ecosocialist movement must concentrate on demanding that their own governments act against greenhouse gas emissions. But, just as we show solidarity with Chinese workers fighting the super-exploitation in the new industrial zones (mainly producing consumer goods for the “West”), or against the current state executions of Uighur protesters, we should also support those opposing environmental degradation and fighting for a carbon-free model of development.

There are currently thousands of environmental groups in China. Some have fought high profile campaigns, such as the ones against the Three Gorges Dam or the China River Diversion project. Others fight the increasing water and air pollution resulting from China’s profit-driven economic growth. Sooner or later they will question the form of that growth and start to propose social, economic and political alternatives that are sustainable, just and egalitarian. Such alternatives will be easier to implement in a country whose infrastructure is not yet entirely built on an unsustainable basis.

This article is taken from Climate and Capitalism. Phil Ward is a member of Socialist Resistance.


Rodney Hide is one of those gung ho right wing politicians who drones on about the so-called 'welfare culture' and the unemployment benefit being a 'lifestyle choice'.

But having regularly bashed the poor as 'welfare bludgers' Rodney has been well and truly exposed as a hypocrite.

Jet-setting Rodney thought it would be nice to escape the New Zealand winter so in July he and his girlfriend, Louis Crome, shot off for a wee holiday in sunny Hawaii. Hide sent us the bill for $10,000.

But after it was revealed he had taken Ms Crome with him to Europe and North America - and sent us the bill for $25,000 - Hide quietly paid back the $10,000 this week.

Maybe he thought the Hawaiian jaunt would go undetected but, unfortunately for 'Mr Perkbuster', its all over the media.

I wonder what's happened to all those air points Rodney has amassed? I hope he's not keeping them...


One of my favourite television shows is Seinfeld. On an episode I saw the other day, Jerry was seeking advice from George on how to beat a police lie detector test.

George's advice was simple: 'It's not a lie if you believe it.'

I've been wondering if that's what some of our journalists tell themselves when they write another ridiculous story about the 'economic recovery'. Are they truly lost in a fog of self-deception or am I giving them too much credit? Maybe they're just dumb / neoliberal cheerleaders/ friends of Paul Henry /all of the former.

Such is the ideological bias of the New Zealand media that it can report the largest rise in the official unemployment figures for fifteen years - largely without comment - and then quickly move on to another neoliberal good news story about a rise in 'business confidence'. This is, apparently, more 'evidence' that the economy is on the road to the recovery.

In light of the persistent exclamations of ‘an end’ to the recession, a ‘solution’ to the crisis, and a ‘recovery’ of the economy; we must remember that we are being told this by the very same people and institutions which told us, in years past, that there was ‘nothing to worry about,’ that ‘the fundamentals are fine,’ and that there was ‘no danger’ of an economic crisis.

Perhaps the mainstream hacks and the economic wizards of neoliberalism would like to explain why unemployment has now reached a fifteen year old high if the New Zealand economy has indeed 'turned the corner'.

The figures make for grim reading and suggest that the New Zealand neoliberal economy is in far serious shape than its defenders will admit to.

The number of people unemployed rose by 12,000 to 150,000, the highest level since 1994. The number employed fell by 17,000 to the lowest level since the end of 2006.

Similarly under-employment has risen again.The number of people in part time or casual work who actually want fulltime jobs rose to 24.4 per cent (122,000 people), from 22.2 per cent three months ago and 16.5 per cent a year ago.

The National Government's 'stimulus package' - cycleways and the like- have done little to stem the tide of rising unemployment.

It's clear that John Key is a man without a plan other than to attack the living standards of ordinary New Zealanders. The National-led Government has no real plan to deal with the economic crisis other than through job losses, reduced hours and cuts. It's ordinary people who are paying the price for this crisis and they have been left defenceless by an increasingly right wing Labour Party and a gutless trade union bureaucracy.

The Key Government has managed to get away with it because its only 'opposition' (I use the term loosely) is a Labour Party that won't break with neoliberalism and a Combined Trades Union hierarchy that won't fight.

A vivid example of the political bankruptcy of the Labour Party was its abysmal response to the Minister of Employment signalling that she was about to launch an attack on DPB recipients and sickness beneficiaries.

Labour didn't oppose Paula Bennett's proposed plan to harass beneficiaries - just its timing (ie during a recession). So, according to Labour, its okay to boot beneficiaries - you just have to pick you're moment.

Because there is a political vacuum on the left, the National-led Government is not being confronted by the kind of aggressive political opposition that is sorely needed. More so its not being confronted by a organised opposition that is advocating a clear alternative to neoliberalism. And I don't mean an economic alternative that is a mix of neoliberalism and 'Keynesian lite' policies which seems to be the CTU's docile position these days.

It's clear that neoliberalism cannot provide New Zealanders with a secure economic future but its also abundantly clear that neither the Labour Party or the Combined Trades Union have anything to offer other than more platitudes and rhetoric.


It cannot be said that I am the world's greatest poetry fan but, as I've got older, I have become more interested in its 'reflective' nature.

Anyway, I have recently been reading the work of the American poet Carl Sandburg who I think is rather good.

I like this poem of his:

I Am the People, the Mob

I am the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is
done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
world's food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand
for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
makes me work and give up what I have. And I
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
drops for history to remember. Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the world
say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a
sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.



Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury opined on the Tumeke! blog a few days ago that TVNZ was rapidly turning into a local version of America's right wing Fox TV.

After watching Paul Henry's toadying interview with the right wing commentator Lindsay Mitchell on Breakfast this morning I cannot help but agree.

With the National-led Government signalling its about to engage in some beneficiary bashing, it looks like TVNZ have wheeled in behind the offensive - hence an appearance by Ms Mitchell on Breakfast to promote her anti-welfare views.

We won't call this an interview. Henry, who'd also like to see the neoliberal axe taken to the welfare state, spoon fed her some patsy questions and Mitchell - one of those commentators who still can't believe that neoliberal ideology has failed - delivered the usual anti-working class garbage we get from people of her ilk. Henry's task was to make this crazy woman appear reasonable.

This wasn't journalism - it was a straight commercial for the extreme views of the Business Roundtable's favourite right wing welfare commentator.Indeed they have published a number of her papers.

How crazy is Mitchell?

Well, Nationals' new anti-welfare campaign will be 'mild' compared to what Henry's chum wants.

In a paper she wrote on Maori and welfare and published by the Business Roundtable earlier this year, she argued that the DPB should be axed to 'discourage' young women from getting pregnant. She also argued that the unemployment benefit be replaced by private insurance. Mitchell was also on Breakfast to promote these views as well - and received the usual sympathetic 'interview'.


In the past few months an advisory group commissioned by the Government and made up of representatives from student radio, access radio and some brilliant young people was asked to consider the network among other options for enhancing radio services for youth.

This group has strongly recommended a commercial-free network. The BNET, access radio and Mai FM have also voiced their support.

Those of us who have championed this idea for many years have done so with the belief that it will enliven and empower young people and make New Zealand a more exciting place to live. If we let this opportunity slip away, it will not come again and we will never know what wonderful things might have unfolded.

The national frequency is available, it would cost about the same as Concert FM. All that is now required is for the Government to believe in young people and recognise the powerful and positive influence they might have on our culture with a radio service that belongs to them. Neil Finn, speech to Apra Silver Scroll Awards, 2002

The latest radio ratings are in and, predictably, Kiwi FM continues to rate poorly - and that's something of an understatement. It's actually rating abysmally - which is nothing new.

In the three cities in which it broadcasts it couldn't muster more than a 0.3% radio audience share. In Auckland it rated at 0.2% (same as the last survey) and in Wellington and Christchurch it rate at 0.3% ('up' from 0.2% in the previous survey).

This station is not in decline because it has never actually risen to any heights to decline from. It was a misconceived idea from the very beginning and one that effectively torpedoed the Neil Finn backed idea for a non commercial youth radio network.

This would of been a network that would treated young people as citizens rather than consumers to push product at and a network braodcasting programmes of relevance to New Zealand's young people.

Instead we are still stuck with Kiwi FM, the station that plays nothing but New Zealand music and which hardly anyone wants to listen to.

As Russell Baillie wrote in the NZ Herald back in 2006: 'The station was a brave and well-meaning idea. But it was one stuck in the past, to a time before New Zealand music went mainstream.'

We have the former Labour Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey to thank for this ridiculous situation.

Without warning Maharey came to the aid of MediaWorks which was planning to close Kiwi FM after just a year on air.

Maharey gave the commercial broadcaster the three valuable FM frequencies reserved for a youth radio network. How all this came about is a bit of mystery - especially since Labour had come up with the idea of an youth radio network in the first place - but its clear that MediaWorks Brent Impey lobbied Maharey hard. Impey was worried that a non-commercial youth radio network would pull audience away from the MediaWorks stable of stations such as The Rock and More FM.

Maharey defended his decision on the grounds that Kiwi FM would have a year to prove itself and then the situation would be reviewed.

Kiwi FM didn't prove itself but Maharey went back on his promise and never conducted any review.

And so Kiwi FM remains on air today and three valuable government owned frequencies are going to waste.


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