BEAUTIFUL GREEN WORLD

 The myths of green capitalism. By the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTCHURCH

British designer and  television presenter Kevin McCloud says that local people are being shut out of the Christchurch rebuild process.

Rebuilding Christchurch brings an opportunity most cities never get: to breathe new life into the Central City, to recreate Christchurch as a world leading exemplar of sustainable, modern living. Since I was brought on board as a judge in the upcoming Breathe design competition, I’ve been carefully following plans for the city’s redevelopment and the resulting conversations it has sparked.

In this open letter to Christchurch, I’d like to offer my perspective on the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan. In particular, I’d like to address Rod Oram’s concern (Press opinion 5 August 2012) that “Nothing in the plan distinguishes Christchurch from the pack.”

So what’s missing? When you look around other world leading cities, there are a few things not fully explored in the Central Recovery Plan, the most important of which is a serious dose of people power. The Plan is ambitious but, given human nature and the natural course of events, the resulting rebuilt city will inevitably have several degrees of compromise built into it. The path to achieving the very best possible is to involve the people who will populate the place and make it their own and to help them evince an even more powerful ambition..

I recently read Ta-one Tupu Ora, a New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities publication edited by Keriata Stuart and Michelle Thompson-Fawcett. This book brings together themes of indigenous knowledge, Ma-ori urban design principles, micro-urbanism, the development of Ma-ori land, papaka-inga and puts together a case for why and how ma-tauranga Ma-ori (traditional knowledge) can be part of better urban development. I was struck at the similarity in approach of the Ma-ori urban design principles for papaka-inga development and some of the principles of One Planet Living (as developed by World Wildlife Fund and BioRegional), for example, Health and Happiness, Culture and Community, and Land Use and Wildlife. One Planet Living is an acceptable, proven and westernised set of guiding principles towards sustainability - even the London Olympics adopted it into their sustainability strategy.

However, One Planet Living does not set out a route to achieve its objectives. So colleagues of mine have worked with the British government to establish guidelines for inclusive design consultation that have eventually made their way into a very progressive and new National Planning Policy Framework. The table of Ma-ori principles has the potential to amplify and enrich that process of consultation and I believe it could form a matrix for Canterbury’s public consultation processes that might lead projects towards One Planet Living objectives or something even richer: a sustainability roadmap unique to Christchurch.

I'm particularly concerned to see the following phrase in the Central Recovery Plan:

“Except in relation to urban design matters in the Core, the Christchurch City Council will continue as central Christchurch's principal planning authority..”

This suggests an over-arching hidden hand controlling design and development in the Core. So it also suggests emasculation of any local say or community involvement at a time when community consultation and empowerment in the implementation of the Plan could produce a truly rounded and properly sustainable outcome. I appreciate that the Central Recovery Plan incorporates a huge amount of existing consultation but, here in the UK, we are moving towards an inclusive design process that is not just about consultation but involves residents and key non-professional and cultural stakeholders in every step of the design process. While this is a difficult concept, true social sustainability happens through sharing.

Food gets a mention in the Central Recovery Plan, but there is little mention of how the city might accommodate food growing within its confines, or how local food networks might operate or be plugged into the city's transport strategy. In my company Hab's developments, we’re focussing on fruity streets, edible hedgerows, orchard car parks and even green, food-producing perimeter fencing! Is there capacity in the Plan for this and for shared food growing in community greenhouses, polytunnels and kitchen gardens? An urban farm – or at least larger food growing areas in public parks – will be an essential part of any resilient city of the future and will help re-establish connection with place, natural resources and locally distinctive and viable food products and crops.

It's good to see the suggestion of independent energy production and I believe the Christchurch Agency for Energy has an important role to play in demonstrating how energy production could be different. However, in a sustainability plan, you'd expect to see a proposal for the way energy production plugs into the surrounding landscape and resources, be they biomass, wind, wave, solar or tidal. Energy crop production has a particularly complementary role to local and regional food production, so the Plan should address how that dynamic could be balanced.

Transport is also touched on but not ambitiously explored. There is no mention of trams and little on reducing car use. Christchurch is a flat city in which bicycle use could be revolutionary. Car clubs, car sharing, bike clubs and electric bike clubs might become the norm. The river might not simply become a bike and pedestrian route but also a busy piece of waterway infrastructure bringing food into the city and removing its waste out to the surrounding productive landscape. How much of the city centre might be pedestrianised and how much of its public realm organised as 'shared space' between all users? As an example of what can be done, the city of Freiburg in Germany has produced its own Charter for Sustainable Urbanism which sets out twelve principles for ‘sustainable urbanism’, drawing together ideas of diversity, tolerance, walkability, good public transport, high quality design and more.

One of the least attractive words that keeps popping up in the CRP is zoning. Clearly there needs to be organisation and clustering of activities to some degree, and the idea of the city centre is essential. However, it is possible to produce the same clustering results by organising the architecture and the public realm hierarchically, with different building heights and massing for different areas. This, of course, results in some bleeding: residents move into buildings designed primarily for offices and vice-versa; people build houses in between the low-rise offices; artisans and shop owners live above their work-place. Of course all this is absolutely desirable - it's what makes Shoreditch in London or central Paris or the CBD of Melbourne energetic and vibrant places. It's all down to the accidental, the seeding of places with lots of mixed uses and the creation of the connective tissue of sustainability. The problem with zoning is that it so often works as a straightjacket. And it’s another reason why local say and community involvement are so important.

Finally, what of other One Planet Living objectives such as zero carbon and zero waste? Could Christchurch become a zero carbon and zero waste city by 2050? Freiburg has set a target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2030, and being climate neutral by 2050. Malmo (Sweden) is aiming to be powered by 100% renewable energy by the year 2030 and boast the first carbon neutral neighbourhood in Europe. BedZED (UK) is a large-scale carbon neutral or zero fossil energy development, aiming to meet all its energy demands from renewable energy generated on site. Could Christchurch become another such exemplar of 21st century sustainability? That would certainly attract the world's attention to Christchurch and turn the Central Recovery Plan into a true vision for the future.

My hope is that you, the people who live in and love Christchurch, are able to find the voice to explore and drive through the best possible ideas. And, in so doing, perhaps it'll be possible to convey to the world a story and a setting for one of the most exciting urban design projects of the 21st century.

US THIRD PARTY PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE



Despite being ignored by the corporate media and the US political etsablishment, there are alternatives to the machine politics of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Organised by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, this Oct 23 debate features the major third party candidates. It was broadcast on RT (Sky 96 in New Zealand) and moderated by broadcaster and journalist Larry King.

DERAILING THE DOUBLEDIPPERS

Not all Christchurch City councillors are in favour of being paid twice. Glen Livingstone, Yani Johanson and Jimmy Chen have made a stand against double dipping.

In October of last year an attempt was  made to  stop councillors picking up directors' fees for sitting on council-controlled organisations.

It was proposed that the council adopt the draft Christchurch City Council Policy on the Appointment and Renumeration of Directors

The motion was moved by Barry Corbett and seconded by Helen Broughton, both allies of Sideshow Bob.

Glen Livingstone moved an amendment :

That Councillors appointed to Directorships, do not receive Director’s fees, for the reason that staff appointed to Directorships would not receive Director’s fees, reflecting their being appointed as part of their service to the city.

This amendment was seconded by Jimmy Chen but was lost by 3 votes to 9:

For (3): Councillors Chen, Johanson and Livingstone
Against (9): Councillors Broughton, Buck, Button, Carter, Corbett, Gough, Keown, Reid and the Mayor.

Sue Wells was not in attendance at the meeting but since she is one the chief  beneficiaries of the present double dipping, she would of also voted against the amendment.

It's also worth noting that Aaron Keown   voted against Glen Livingstone's amendment. This is the same Aaron Keown who said during his  election campaign that he wanted to  'rein in excessive council spending.' It was one of his five main policy planks.

Apparently reining in excessive council spending doesn't  apply to councillors themselves.

TONY'S ONE FINGER SALUTE

Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt has given the people of Christchurch the one finger salute - and so has Sideshow Bob.

The arrogance of  the Christchurch City Council CEO is truly breathtaking.

Last year Tony Marryatt  was  told  in no uncertain terms by the good people of Christchurch, that his  $68,000 pay increase  was completely unacceptable. A 4000-strong protest  underlined the fact that the people of Christchurch have had enough of the high handed antics of Tony Marryatt, Sideshow Bob and his chums on council.

Faced with such opposition Marryatt was forced to decline the increase.  Sideshow Bob never conceded that the rise was wrong and would only go as far as to say that the issue had been a 'PR disaster'. How Bob thought he could 'sell' such a obscene pay increase to an already overpaid bureaucrat  is anyone's guess. 

But that was then and this is now.  Marryatt has, effectively, given the people of Christchurch the one finger salute.

He told The Press this week that he would not rule out reclaiming the $68,000 that he received last year.

To add insult to injury, Sideshow Bob has  backed 'Tony'. He has told The Press that it was up to Marryatt what he does with his pay increase.

No  Bob - it isn't up to Marryatt  to decide what he does with his pay increase. He - and you - have been told by the people  of Christchurch that Marryatt  accepting another $68,000  is unacceptable. The people have spoken. It is as simple as that.

Faced with the choice of backing the people of Christchurch or the financially  corpulent Tony Marryatt, Bob has backed his mate. 

Instead Bob has attacked Labour's local government spokesperson for having the temerity to criticise Marryatt.

Annette King has said that Marryatt should drop any thought of accepting the  pay increase.

Said King:  'To suggest that  he is somehow 'owed a huge pay increase - more than twice the national rate of married superannuation - when hundreds of ratepayers  continue to struggle with post-earthquake financial pressures, is beyond stupid.'

Parker's response has been to suggest that King is 'poking her head' into the pay issue. It wouldn't of gone unnoticed by many people that Sideshow Bob's hostility toward  Labour  is in stark contrast to the sycophancy he regularly  displays toward the National Party.

To add insult to injury, Marryatt still hasn't paid back the $26,000 he has already received.

To suggest that he hasn't paid it back because councillors had not proved they could work together is evidence of an CEO  who actually thinks he's entitled to comment on the performance of council. This is completely unacceptable and for Sideshow Bob  to actually defend Marryatt  is reprehensible and does the people of Christchurch an injustice.

Of course Marryatt is simply continuing  the unprincipled and autocratic behaviour that he displayed while he was  CEO of the Hamilton City Council.

In his book Making A Stand, former  Hamilton mayor David Braithwaite commented that Marryatt  '.... thought the mayoralty and its smooth functioning were in his gift and not in the gift of the electors of the city... He was, he said, the best chief executive officer in New Zealand. Clearly in Tony Marryatt's view, he was the city's king-maker and infinitely more important than people who had merely been elected to their positions by the public. Council employees were at his direction, so why not the mayor and council as well?'

MEET THE DOUBLEDIPPERS

 While the people of Christchurch are doing it hard, Sideshow Bob and several of his councillors are 
picking up even more money on top of already extravagant salary packages. 

Christchurch City Holdings Limited  (CCHL) has just released its 2012 Annual  Report. It reveals that , in a city struggling to regain its feet, Sideshow Bob and three councillors are continuing to  prosper  at the expense of the good people of Christchurch.

Despite the fact  that they are all on unacceptably extravagant  six-figure salary packages, the four are pocketing even  more money for sitting on the board of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd.

Tim Carter picked up an additional $39, 356 while Parker pocketed another $37, 691. Corbett and Wells took home another $37, 554.

Sideshow recently accepted a $2,500 pay rise which put him on a basic salary of $171,00. Combined with his CCHL directors fees he is on nearly $210,00 a year - plus expenses. And he still wanted the people of Christchurch to pay for his wife's travel expenses.

He told The Press in July that  he didn't sit around  thinking about his income. Obviously Bob doesn't have to worry about paying for the groceries.

A former councillor,  Gail Sheriff, said in 2010 that her work as a director of CCHL  took no more than five to ten hours a month.

There were ten meetings in the year ended 30 June 2012.  Sideshow managed to attend just six of them.

Former  mayoral  candidate  Jim Anderton wanted to bring a halt to  this particular gravy train.

He intended to  request all councillors to forgo directorship fees for sitting on council-controlled organisations, because they are already well paid.  He wanted the money saved then diverted to struggling community groups.

In response, Sue Wells fatuously claimed that   her  CCHL 'job' was 'outside my duties as a councillor.'  ignoring the obvious  fact she's only a director because she's a councillor.  Or was she claiming she is doing a  second job on council time - like the work she used to do for Canterbury Television, for instance.

Hopefully those radio commercials that Barry Corbett occasionally voices aren't being done on council time..

LONDON CALLING

This weekend a huge march and rally is being  held in London to protest against the Com-Lib government and its austerity policies. The protest has been organised by the Trade Union Congress, representing most of Britain's unionised workers. Here in New Zealand, the Combined Trades Union has woken from its slumbers to call for help for New Zealand manufacturers - instead of the workers it purports to represent. According to blogger Martyn Bradbury this is 'socialism' in action!

This Saturday, October 20,  a huge  march and rally will be held in London  to protest against the Com-Lib Government and its savage austerity policies.

A Future That Works' has  been organised by the Trade union Congress (TUC),  the umbrella organisation representing most of Britain’s 6.4 million unionised workers. The protest and rally has  the active  support of a wide range of organisations all  around the country. It is expected  to be one of the biggest trade union  demonstrations that Britain has ever seen.

While many are disappointed  that the TUC have taken nearly  18 months to organise a follow up to   the “March for the Alternative” protest  in March 2011, when half a million people were on the streets of London,  this protest will  allow the British people  as one  writer puts it to   'show our anger and our indignation at how our country is being wrecked, and our people punished, for other people’s crimes — the near-fatal crashing of the global economy in 2008, through bankers’ greed on a mind-boggling scale, aided and abetted by the politicians with their mania for deregulation, and the alleged economist experts who almost all failed to notice what was going on.'

The organisers have stated, “We are approaching a mix of trades unionists and public figures to speak about how austerity isn’t working, the need to invest in jobs and growth and to defend quality public services.”

Wouldn't it be great if the Combined Trades Union (CTU) decided to use its resources to organise  something similar here?  Wouldn't it be great if the  CTU finally decided to OPPOSE this government and its policies?  Wouldn't it great if the CTU abandoned 'modern unionism' and rediscovered its fighting spirit? Wouldn't it be great if the CTU put people first instead of playing footsie with the government and business?

I'm sure that it could count on the support of a  broad range of political and community organisations, united in their opposition to the Key Government and its continued attacks on ordinary people.

But perhaps, unfortunately,  I'm being just too hopeful.

After all, we've seen nothing from  the CTU of late other than  its embarrassing  support  for the ludicrous nationalist  campaign to 'save' New Zealand manufacturers,  a campaign organised by the conservative and Labour Party dominated, Engineering  Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).

I don't recall the EPMU actually asking its membership if it supported this half-baked  campaign but, given the lack of democracy within the union movement, I'm not surprised.  All this campaign is designed to do is channel support to David Shearer  and his box of neoliberal policies.

And, yet,  we have seen  Labour  Party  cheerleaders like Martyn Bradbury laughingly  trying to pass  this campaign off  as somehow 'socialist'!

Of last weekend's 'Jobs Summit'  that launched this  silly campaign, he wrote:  'I've never seen a room seething with such socialism. If this meeting had been held in the 1930's we would have all been arrested. ' This must be one of the most absurd comments  I've read in recent times.

What's 'socialist'  about  the CTU cuddling  up to manufacturers while  ordinary people - workers, schoolchildren, students, the old, the ill, the homeless, the unemployed and the disabled - remain under the cosh of the government's austerity policies?

So when you see the television images of the people marching in the streets of London, think also about why it isn't being done here. Think too  about why we should continue to put up with a CTU that won't fight for the interests of the people it claims to represent.  Think too about why the level of debate is so infantile that  a union  campaign to help New Zealand manufacturers can be described as 'socialist'.

THE RISE OF THE MACHINES

The European Union wins the Nobel Peace Prize for waging a war of austerity against the people of Europe. Max Keiser of  The Keiser Report shares his opinion. The Keiser Report can be seen in New Zeaalnd on RT, Sky 96.


FEEL THE NOISE

A new wave of protests  have kicked off around the world.

October 13 marked the beginning of  protests all around the world, in hundreds of cities, under the banner of “Global Noise'. The protests, against debt and social injustice, will continue all this week.

According to the website for Global Noise, local organizers and participants define the focus of each protest themselves.


The result is a turbulent cacophony of issues and slogans: “Don't owe, won't pay” in Spain, “Fuck the Troika” in Portugal, a clear message against war from Istanbul, and a protest in front of the annual IMF/Worldbank meeting in Tokyo.

One common theme running through all the #GlobalNoise events is the targeting of political and financial elites who are held responsible for destroying local communities and the planet, adding impetus  to the ongoing wave of anti-austerity protests in Europe and around the world. At the same time #GlobalNoise is a symbol of hope and unity, building on a wide variety of struggles for global justice and solidarity, confident  that a new and better world can be created.

As one activist put it: 'If the politicians think we are going to go away, then they should think again. We will not have our message watered down in meaningless elections that only enforce the rule of the financial elites. This is a fight we will not lose.'

BOB IGNORES SKYROCKETING RENTS

Bloodsucking landlords continue to exploit the aftermath of  the Christchurch earthquake.  Rents have  continued to skyrocket  but Mayor Sideshow Bob has kept his mouth shut and done nothing.

We know that Christchurch is being failed by Sideshow Bob and his council supporters including Sue Wells, Barry  Corbett and Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button.  They have been stooges for the National Government and failed to defend the interests of local people.

While Sideshow Bob is scuffling with protesters in council meetings, the good people of Christchurch are doing it hard.

Christchurch landlords are filling their pockets demanding extortionate rents for, in many cases, sub-standard housing.

Latest figures from Trade Me show that on average rents have increased by 25 per cent in the past year as demand soars by 38 per cent and the number of houses available to rent drops by 21 per cent. An average house now costs approximately $430 a week to rent - up nearly a $100 from the same time last year.

These rents are simply driving more and more people into deeper poverty.

While the Government  dominates the rebuild of the central city, it has left people in the  suburbs vulnerable to the vampires of 'the market'.

The Government has refused to act in the rental market and Sideshow Bob has stayed mute. Decent, affordable housing is a human right, but it is a human right that is apparently of low priority to Sideshow Bob.

It is abundantly clear that 'the market' is failing to provide affordable housing and landlords are being allowed to  simply price-gouge.

For the increasing number of households living in ‘rent poverty’, paying large proportions of their income in rent, forced into overcrowded flats and suffering from financial hardship, something urgently needs to be done

Sideshow Bob should be demanding rent control but he'll continue to betray the people of Christchurch and continue to say absolutely nothing. 

CLARKE & DAWE - QUANTITATIVE EASING


NEVER FEAR, QUANTITATIVE EASING IS HERE!

Russel Norman and his chums want the state to save capitalism from itself.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has often waxed lyrical  on 'the power of the market' ( his words) and dreams longingly  of  his environmentally friendly  capitalism.  But he now seems to have come to the   conclusion that 'the market' isn't as powerful as he thought it was  and that it is in desperate need of  a helping hand.  So the former socialist  has called for some 'quantitative  easing'  as a way of dragging the New Zealand economy out of the quagmire. 

And Friday's 'Jobs Summit' called by the Engineering,  Printing and Manufacturing  Union is another  recognition that the neoliberal orthodoxy isn't working. The  Jobs Summit will supposedly address the slump in manufacturing and the continuing job losses

Said EPMU national secretary Bill Newson: "The summit is a sign of the emerging consensus that the Government needs to take a more active role in the economy. No-one who has seen the mass redundancies of recent months, or the numbers of Kiwis heading to Australia, can be unaware of the deepening jobs crisis in this country and the need for a new approach."

Well, it won't exactly  be a new approach. What we will get are  some repainted and spruced up  'Keynesian lite' policies and past off as something else.

With the failure of monetarism to arrest both the financial crisis and the current trade depression Keynes has come back into fashion around the world.

However I'm not sure if one of participants in the 'Jobs Summit',  Labour's finance spokesperson David Parker, has suddenly discarded neoliberalism. After all, just last year, he told some business suits that neither  telecommunications and electricity generation were  considered by Labour to be 'infrastructure assets'  that ought to run in the New Zealand interest' and he has accepted that austerity measures are required.

But some of the participants at the Jobs Summit , such as New Zealand  Manufacturers and Exporters Association  chief executive John Walley , have been plugging Keynesian lite for some time, including at  the dear old Fabian Society - a think tank closely  connected  to the Labour Party.

Last year Walley presented to the Fabian Society a paper called 'Fresh Ideas for a Productive Economy' . In that paper  he called for action on the exchange rate, a capital gains tax and more investment in research and development.

We can expect these ideas to surface at the 'Jobs Summit'.

Mike Smith, a former general secretary of the  Labour Party, is president of the Fabian Society. A couple of years ago he wrote that the Fabian's 'progressive policies' were  'just about different ideas to run the capitalist economy'.  And that's what this 'Job Summit' is all about - a propaganda exercise to promote Keynesian-inspired  policies . These are the same kind of   policies that failed to prevent the rise of unemployment and prices and led to the neoliberal policies that have dominated for over three decades.

Keynes  won't sole this crisis and indeed advocating 'quantitative easing' is an admission that capitalism has essentially run out of policy options.

It would be nice of if someone at the Jobs Summit championed the interests of ordinary people and  advocated some socialist solutions   - like a progressive tax system and the  expropriation of  the commanding heights of the economy to serve the needs of working people. Oh, and how about a complete rejection of austerity policies? 

 Of course, no one will.  The message that the 'Jobs Summit' will be pushing, albeit subtly, is that  the state must save capitalism from itself. 

FIONA AND THE MACHINES

You need more stuff!

Because I have no life, I took a look at the latest addition to the  New Zealand  television universe - The Shopping Channel.

When I tuned in, late on a Saturday night, Fiona McDonald was pushing a Kenworth food mixer (I think that's what it was). Fiona was talking at a machine gun rate, trying to convince her viewers that life was empty and desolate without a Kenworth food mixer.

I like bad TV and the most amusing bit  was when Fiona  couldn't get one of the blades off.  After a bit of a losing struggle I think someone in the control booth told her to move on to something else. She moved on.

Next up was an 'exciting' food grater.  Fiona seemed keen to play up her mother credentials and reminded us on several occasions that she had two young children. You can make  healthy salads for the children  with a food grater from The Shopping channel - a snip at only $139.99.  I thought this was rather expensive.

Fiona  decided it would be good idea to put a red pepper through the food grater.  I thought she was asking for trouble but it made for another piece of slightly amusing television. The grater machine  turned the red pepper to pulp. Fiona talked about making a soup.

Ha Ha. Poor Fiona.

I feel a bit guilty about taking the mickey  out of Fiona because I remember her from another time.

Fiona McDonald used to be the lead singer of the Headless Chickens back in the 1980s.  She also contributed her not inconsiderable vocal skills to several songs by the techno-pop outfit, the Strawpeople.   And she did some solo stuff as well.

But I guess there must be more  money in food mixers than pop music and I can only assume that Fiona is doing her latest gig within large ironic quotation marks. Surely she can't believe any of the bullshit she's spewing?

I've seen a few American shopping channels in my time and The Shopping Channel doesn't add anything new to the 'genre'. Its tacky and plastic albeit  without the big budgets and the big studios of the American shopping channels.

The Shopping Channel is actually a Canadian company which began broadcasting in Canada in 1987. It is a subsidiary of Rogers Media  which reported Cdn $1.5 billion in revenues in 2010. It publishes magazines and owns a myriad of Canadian radio and television channels. It also owns the Toronto Blue Jays, a professional Canadian baseball team.

In the same year that New Zealand loses TVNZ7,  its last outpost of public broadcasting,  we are given a shopping channel owned by yet another overseas-owned media conglomerate.  We didn't ask for it but 'the market' decided that we needed it.

The Shopping Channel peddles products made mostly in China by cheap labour to  a country where a quarter of its children are living in poverty. Yes, New Zealand  really needs The Shopping Channel....like a hole in the head.

THE INVISIBLE CTU

In the fight against the government's austerity policies, the leadership of the Combined Trades Union has nothing to offer but press releases and soundbites. Is it little wonder that the CTU lost over 8000 members between 2009 - 11?

This Friday there will be pickets  outside Work and Income offices throughout New Zealand, to protest the draconian welfare polices of the National  Government. Hopefully it is the beginning of a sustained fightback against the policies of austerity.

The organisers of the protests don't have a lot of material resources but what they lack  materially they make up for  in enthusiasm and determination.  The October 5 protests have already attracted  a lot of attention from the mainstream media so, in that respect, they have already  succeeded - they have  crashed   Paula Bennett's 'Bash A Beneficiary A  Day Party'. Sorry Ms Bennett - the victims of the government's austerity policies are not going to blamed by you for being jobless and poor.

While the October 5 protest's have attracted support   from some individual unions (such as Unite) the Combined Trades Union is, again, sitting on the sidelines and doing exactly nothing.

While Helen Kelly and co are quick to criticise  the Key government and its policies, that is all they prepared to do. If they are feeling unusually 'aggressive' they might stick a video on YouTube, otherwise it's the predictable press releases and media soundbites. Which, of course, the government duly ignores.

The CTU's policy is depressingly familiar.

It will again trot behind a politically bankrupt Labour Party in the hope it'll win the next election -  rather than fight this government right here, right now. 

It also  did that, of course, in the years leading up to the  2008 and actively suppressed strike action in order to give Phil Goff and Labour a clear run at the election.  It was a disastrous strategy and now ordinary people are paying the heavy price for the CTU's inertia. But the officials of the CTU remain in their well-paid jobs, seemingly unaccountable for their stupidity, laziness  and incompetence. A big problem is that these people are unaccountable because there is no real democracy within the trade union movement. It is little wonder that it is  dominated  by do-nothing bureaucrats.

It's an absolute indictment on the CTU top brass that at time when resistance is required to the government's  austerity polices, there has been so little industrial action.  Indeed strikes are at an all-time low.

So its again  been up to individual unions to engage in struggle for their members  but , by definition, they have been isolated and limited struggles  and which the Key government has been able to  absorb.

So the CTU  is  providing no answers and  no leadership for the mass of workers when such leadership is desperately needed. We are expected to believe that David 'raise the retirement age to 65' Shearer  is the answer - despite the fact  he has no intention of upsetting  the neoliberal applecart.

Having consistently  shafted workers in his role as national secretary  of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union we are supposed to give someone like Andrew Little the opportunity to do exactly the same thing in government? Gosh, we're do I sign up? That sounds just fantastic!

Electoralism is again failing ordinary New Zealanders.  Perhaps both the CTU and Labour should reflect on the fact that to win an election you have to show that you are prepared to take the fight to this government and that you are offering something more than yet another variation on the failed policies of  neoliberalism.  Lauding the virtues of the free market, as Labour often does, doesn't even hint that Labour has anything to offer people presently suffering under the Key government.

So when you see  ordinary people protesting on Friday  think also about  a union bureaucracy that isn't prepared to fight for the workers it claims to represent and stands idly while beneficiaries, who it claims it supports, continue to be bashed by this government.

MAFIA HOPEFULS

The British Labour Party is presently holding its annual conference in Manchester and the British left  aren't exactly enamoured by what they've seen and heard so far. Here's a pithy observation from Anna Chen,  one of the UK's more prominent bloggers. You can read her at Madam Miaow.


Despite  everything we know, Labour is still acting as the soft wing of the capitalist party and continuing the pantomime that the poor have to pay for the bankers' crisis while defending the rich who have never had it so good. They may be points up on the Tories in the polls but they're still running scared at their own conference.

Profits at a record high, luxury goods going through their vaulted roofs because there is no recession at the top, and still Labour perpetuates the myths of the Tory austerity agenda. The Sunday Times Rich List top 1,000 may reveal a worth of £440bn and record profits during the crisis since 2009 but Shadow(y) Chancellor Ed Balls still insists that hard times are set to be longer  than people hoped — not for the upper crust, of course, just for the rest of us who are having to recapitalise the banks.

Watching the Labour Conference 2012 is like seeing Mafia hopefuls making their bones before the next stage of their careers. So Balls can pledge to be "ruthless" with our public services, and the Scottish Labour Party leader can promise an "end to the something for nothing culture", like they'll even touch the royals and their subsidised business chums.

"WHERE WOULD YOU STICK A BIG CHOOK?"

NICKY, HAVE YOU SEEN A BIG PINEAPPLE?

Christchurch central MP Nicky Wagner hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of retaining her seat at the next election - but at least  she can count on the support of her old mate Sideshow Bob.  It 's apparently only a rumour that Bob has advised her to wear an orange safety jacket  during the election campaign...

Given the amount of anger that the Government has stirred up in Christchurch - the proposed closure and merger of various schools being the latest debacle - central Christchurch MP Nicky Wagner  is certain to lose her seat at the next election.  She only beat the incumbent, Labour's Brendon Burns, by 47  votes in 2011 after special votes broke an exact tie on election night.

But at least Ms Wagner can count on the support of Mayor Sideshow Bob. Here are Nicky and Bob sharing a happy moment together. Bob has just told her that Christchurch City Council CEO  Tony Marryatt  still hasn't returned his $23,000 worth of back pay...

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