Shane Jones signals NZ First attack on immigration

It’s not a surprise to see NZ First target immigration coming in to an election campaign. NZ First had planned to launch their campaign this weekend, but that has been delayed a weekafter what seemed like urgent but minor surgery this week for Winston Peters – see Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters takes medical leave (Peters also had hospital treatment and a week off work last year).

Shane Jones was interviewed on The Nation, but ‘hinted’ at tough immigration policy, presumably leving the big announcements to Peters once he is back on deck.

Newshub: Shane Jones hints at controversial New Zealand First immigration policies despite COVID-19 border closure

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, Jones said he believes employers have “a duty” to train New Zealand workers before immigrants.

He promised New Zealand First does not intend to make it easy for language schools while acknowledging the border closure will make their business difficult regardless.

“We’ve had the COVID experience – the borders have closed and it’s hard to see when and how they will open,” he said.

“I can say New Zealand First has no agenda of making it easy for language schools which have brought migrants into New Zealand with low skill, low values and had a very disruptive and negative impact on our labour market.”

Host Simon Shepard said the border closure has removed the immigration debate from the election conversation – a claim which Jones debated.

“I’ve every confidence our leader, our Caucus and our party will have very profound things to say about immigration,” he said.

“Just watch this space – we will have sensible things to say about immigration and it may come to pass that not everyone will enjoy what we have to say,” he continued.

“We’ve got to speak about the fact that in our population of five million we cannot rely on unfettered immigration at a time when our infrastructure is creaking.”

His comments follow a February interview with Newshub Nation where Jones blasted the Government’s immigration policy, saying too many people “from New Delhi” are being allowed to settle in New Zealand.

“I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he said about academic institutions.

Jones defended his comments despite the Prime Minister calling them “loose and wrong”.

NZ First are in for a tough battle this election, with recent poll results around 2%.

In their favour is the disproportionate amount of free publicity the media are likely to give them.

1 News: Battle for Northland seat between Matt King and Shane Jones shaping up as a must win for NZ First

Its candidate Shane Jones is trying to snatch the seat off National MP Matt King in a bid to help keep the Winston Peters-led party in Parliament.

But National’s Matt King says it’ll take more than political stunts to win the seat.

“They won’t be fooled by the game these guys are playing,” he told 1 NEWS.

The MP alleges that the Provincial Growth Fund is being used to curry favour, with Northland securing nearly $600 million.

However, Mr Jones says it’s not Northland “feeling the love”.

“All the provinces have felt the provincial love and that’s because we were elected to drive provincial development.”

PGP handouts have been somewhat overshadowed by much bigger Covid subsidies and handouts, and some PGP funds have been shifted tor Covid recovery.

List MP Willow-Jean Prime is standing for Labour again.

Labour have so far given no indication they will help NZ First in Northland. If they stick to this approach it will be difficult for Jones, who has never won an electorate.

Like Peters, Jones is a boundary pushing attention seeker.

Newshub: Shane Jones stops putting up billboards in Kerikeri after council admits error in allowing it

National MP Matt King, the current MP for Northland, accused his New Zealand First opponent earlier this week of putting up “illegal” election advertising in Kerikeri.

King argued the ‘Jones for Jobs’ billboards broke the Electoral Commission’s rules that election hoardings cannot be put up until July 18.

The Electoral Commission had a different take, explaining how it’s fine for hoardings to be up before July 18 if the local council allows it.

“Election advertising may be published at any time, except on election day. This means election hoardings can be put up at any time, subject to the rules the local council has in place.”

Newshub went to the Far North District Council – the authority overseeing the town of Kerikeri – and CEO Shaun Clarke said there were no rules against it.

“There are no active bylaws or policies which would restrict early hoardings on private land in the Far North District.”

But Clarke has contacted Newshub to say he got it wrong and that there is a rule stating election signs can be erected “no sooner than 8 weeks prior to, and then removed no later than the close of day before polling day”.

Those rules are similar to most if not all local bodies for election hoardings. The CEO should have known that.

Otago University Law Professor Andrew Geddis confirmed there is no nationwide law to say you can only put up election billboards in a specified period before the election.

Outside of that period it’s up to local councils.

“If the CEO doesn’t know his own bylaws, that’s a worry,” Geddis said.

I hope it was only ignorance of his own bylaws.

Jones should have also been well aware of the by laws, he’s been a politician for a long time and has contested several electorates, including Northland in 2008. He unsuccessfully contested Whangerei in 2017, coming third, over ten thousand votes behind current MP Shane Reti.

Peters won Northland in a by-election in 2015 when Labour told their voters to support him (and most did), but lost to King inn the 2017 general election to King by 1,389 votes.

 

 

ACT policy targeting gangs and their proceeds

David Seymour has announced ACT Party policy that targets the criminal proceeds of gangs.

Newshub: Gangs targeted in ACT Party proposal, pledges to ‘hit them where it hurts’

Party leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation the policy was simple.

“If the police find illegal firearms and illegal activity by a gang, then they can take their assets because, at the moment, gangs are getting around the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act by having a large number of small operations,” Seymour told host Simon Shepherd. “We’re saying that if you have a firearm and you are dealing drugs and you are a gang, then the Crown can take your assets because, ultimately, these guys don’t care about going to jail.”

Gangs were using money and assets to recruit people and keep “feeding the disease”, he said.

Seymour said under the current Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, police had to prove at least $30,000 worth of assets were involved before a seizure.

“What we’re saying is that if you’re a gang that’s breaking the law and you’ve got an illegal firearm onsite – we’re going for your assets straight away.

“This is a practical policy – it’s achievable and it would make a difference. Will it solve the whole problem? No. Will it get us going in the right direction with practical steps? Yes.”

ACT will hit the gangs where it hurts

“ACT will target the gangs by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour and Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities.

“Over the past two and a half years, the number of gang members has increased by a third.

“There’s been a 54 percent increase in the number of gang members being charged with firearms offences. That’s at least one gang member a day being charged with firearms offences.

“We’ve seen a clear escalation in behaviour from the gangs, with regular shootings using illegal firearms.

“The current approach to dealing with gangs and illegal firearms hasn’t worked.

“Neither the Government’s new gun legislation, nor the buyback, has made a difference to the number of illegal firearms in circulation.

“Locking people up gets them off the street, but the gangs don’t care if young prospects are sent to jail and just carry on operating in our communities.

“We need to get smarter. That means hitting the gangs where it hurts.

“If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful, gang-run operation, we’ll seize their assets.

ACT will amend the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (the Act) so that if a Police search finds:

  • an illegal operation (e.g. drug manufacturing for supply or money laundering), and
  • the unlawful possession of a firearm, and
  • a person who is either a gang member or is closely affiliated,

it can apply to the courts for an order to seize the operation’s assets.

Currently, Police must meet a number of tests before it can apply to the courts to seize assets under the Act.

That includes proving a link between illicit money and the purchasing of assets, and proof of drug manufacturing or money laundering at a value of more than $30,000.

Police often wait until the suspected value is much higher as an offence is then easier to prove.

“Under our proposal, if an illegal firearm is found in the possession of a known gang member at a property where an illegal operation is taking place, authorities will not be required to meet the current tests. The discovery of an illegal firearm can be used to fast-track the seizure of assets,” says Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“ACT is going to go after the gangs and their guns by hitting them where it hurts.

“In the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch, the Government targeted the wrong group of New Zealanders by scapegoating law-abiding firearms owners. It should be going after the gangs.

“One illegal firearm in the hands of a gang is one too many. If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful operation run by a gang, we’ll seize their assets.

“Under our proposal, gangs will either need to shut up shop, disarm, or have their assets seized.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities. ACT’s plan to get smarter in dealing with the gangs is a step towards safer communities.”

ACT have been improving in polls, getting between 1.8% and 3.5% with the last from Colmar Brunton at 3.1%, and if the get this sort of result in the election Seymour will have several MPs in with him. If National keep bungling then ACT may pick up even more support.

Seymour will also be on Q+A this morning and plans to announce more policy.

 

Open Forum Sunday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Trump gives friend Stone clemency to keep him out of prison

This is not a surprise, but the President of the United States granting clemency to a friend Roger Stone just before he was due too start a prison sentence is very controversial. Trump is in effect overruling a jury decision and a court sentence, as well as condoning witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

As with many things Trump sees the prosecution of Stone as an attack on himself.

Fox News: Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence, days before prison term set to begin

Roger Stone told Fox News he is ‘praying’ for Trump to intervene ahead of his prison sentence.

Stone was set to report to prison on July 14 to serve 40 months. He was sentenced in February to more than three years in prison after being convicted in November 2019 on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

The White House announced Friday that President Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the “unjust sentence” of Roger Stone, just days before the longtime political operative was slated to report to prison to serve more than three years for charges stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In a lengthy statement released late Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had made the decision to commute Stone’s sentence “in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial.”

“Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency,” McEnany said in a statement Friday night. “There was never any collusion between the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration, with Russia.  Such collusion was never anything other than a fantasy of partisans unable to accept the result of the 2016 election.  The collusion delusion spawned endless and farcical investigations, conducted at great taxpayer expense, looking for evidence that did not exist.”

McEnany added that Mueller’s office “resorted to process-based charges leveled at high-profile people in an attempt to manufacture the false impression of criminality lurking below the surface.”

“These charges were the product of recklessness borne of frustration and malice,” she said.

McEnany touted Stone’s career in politics, noting that he worked for nearly 50 years as a consultant for high-profile Republican politicians, including former President Ronald Reagan, Sen. Bob Dole and others, while noting that Stone is also known for “his outspoken support for President Donald J. Trump and opposition to Hillary Clinton.”

McEnany went on to blast Mueller’s prosecutors for the fashion in which they arrested Stone, noting he is a “67 year old man with numerous medical conditions, who had never been convicted of another crime, and that they used “dozens of FBI agents with automatic weapons and tactical equipment, armored vehicles, and an amphibious unit to execute a pre-dawn raid of his home, where he was with his wife of many years.”

In a statement to Fox News, Stone’s attorney Grant Smith said: “Mr. Stone is incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy.”

Fox News:  Biden campaign: Trump abused authority by commuting Roger Stone’s sentence

“President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo said.

Earlier Friday, an appeals court denied Stone’s request to delay reporting for his sentence, saying he must report for prison on Tuesday.

“In sum, Stone is not legally eligible for further postponement of his reporting date under 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c), which is the only basis on which he seeks relief from this court. We therefore deny his motion,” the court wrote in its order.

The president’s commutation, though, nullifies that order.

Trump, for weeks, has signaled he could be open to granting Stone clemency — tweeting last month that Stone was “a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history. He can sleep well at night!”

This will no doubt be both strongly praised and strongly condemned.

I think the US political and judicial systems are hopelessly intertwined, and this granting of clemency by the President is a farce.

 

Where’s the plan for Southland post-smelter?

Grant Robertson on the shutdown of Tiwai Point and loss of thousands of jobs – ‘too bad, move on’.

Jacinda Ardern on the shutdown:

While Tinto have just announced they will close their Tiwai Point aluminium smelter next year this was a well signalled possibility. The Government response (acceptance of the decision) suggested they were well aware this announcement was coming.

Grant Robertson said Government will support the people and economy of Southland:

The Government will support the Southland economy in the wake of multinational mining company Rio Tinto’s decision to follow through with its long signalled closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

“This day has unfortunately been on the cards for some time now, but nevertheless the final decision is a blow to Southland and all those who work at the smelter,” Grant Robertson said.

Stuff: Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt ‘absolutely shattered’ by news of Tiwai Aluminium Smelter closure

Labour list MP Liz Craig, who is based in Invercargill also said she was devastated by the closure news and said her thoughts were with the workers, families, and businesses affected.

Craig acknowledged it will have a huge impact on the Southland economy.

She spoke with prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning about the impact this will have on Southland.

“I am pleased that [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson has already signalled the Government will support the Southland community in our transition, in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing.’’

Craig has invited Adern and Robertson to visit in Invercargill to discuss how the Government might help support those affected, grow local jobs, and create a sustainable Southland economy.

Ardern visited the smelter when they reopened a fourth potline in December 2018 – that was good news. Will she frobt up when the news is bad? So far she has left it to Robertson, who seems quite relaxed about.

Bernard Hickey: Newsroom: Why is Labour letting Tiwai Pt shut now?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson seemed much more philosophical and accepting of the news when he spoke a couple of hours later. It became clear that both the Government and Rio Tinto had called each others’ bluffs, leaving Southlanders incredulous.

“This is a blow for the people of Southland and I feel for them, but we need to look to the future,” Robertson said.

“There is a certain sense of inevitability about today’s announcement. Rio Tinto have been trying to sell Tiwai Point for about 10 years now,” he said.

The Government is spending $62b to cushion the impact of Covid-19 on the rest of the economy, including handing out over $12 billion to small to medium enterprises to keep often near-minimum wage jobs going for a few weeks.

But it appears unwilling to consider spending a few tens of millions to keep at least 2,600 highly paid jobs going in a region with few other alternatives for such high-wage jobs.

Robertson talked airily on Thursday about the prospects for agriculture and aquaculture, but in reality those jobs will be much lower wage and have yet to be invented.

He has talked repeatedly about his personal desire to avoid the mistakes made during the 1990-91 recession when manufacturing jobs were gutted in the regions and little was done to soften the blow.

The risk for the Government and those remaining high-wage jobs in the regions in the next three months is that the announcement of closures of Tiwai Point (2,600 jobs), Marsden Point (3,500 jobs) and the Glenbrook Steel Mill (3,900 jobs) could potentially all come in the next six months.

The worst recession since 1990-91 could easily be just as damaging for the regions as that one.

So far the Government response has basically been ‘too bad, move on’.

ODT editorial: Post-smelter plan must be readied

Southland does not need woolly promises of help and platitudinous pep talks. It needs a concrete plan to meet and then beat the economic and social destruction left when New Zealand Aluminium Smelters’ closes Tiwai Point.

The looming costs are hinted at in the figures most often pitched as reasons to move heaven and earth to keep the smelter online. Previous estimates suggest it accounts for more than 6% of the region’s GDP, and well over $400million to the region’s economy.

That cash keeps people in work and businesses in profit. It helps people pay their mortgages and their grocery bills, helps them support local schools and pay their sports club subscriptions, and keeps them working in and contributing to the South.

These people, families and communities do not have long to consider the effect of losing the smelter. NZAS will terminate its electricity contract with Meridian Energy in August 2021, when the wind-down is complete.

They have little time to decide what to do next and an uncertain time in which to do it. They need no reminding we face a prolonged pandemic-induced recession, and that finding good work and a strong income may be difficult.

But there has been plenty of time to prepare for the inevitability that Tiwai would be shut down.

There is little time to prepare for a post-smelter future but successive Governments have had the best part of a decade to ensure there was a plan to cope with, and then fill the gap left when Rio Tinto pulled the plug on its regionally and nationally significant operation at Tiwai Point.

Treasury, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Ministry of Social Development officials have had plenty of time, regardless of which parties were in Government, to forge all manner of strategies for a post-smelter future. They, and a succession of politicians, have had years to prepare for the inevitable.

As such, Southlanders have every right to expect Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson to outline robust, detailed plans when they take up Labour Invercargill List MP Liz Craig’s invitation to visit Invercargill and ‘‘discuss how the Government might help us support those affected, grow local jobs and create a sustainable future for the Southland economy’’.

If not, Southlanders have every right to feel let down by a multi-national company and by the governments that saw this coming.

Robertson seems untroubled by the problems faced by Southland.

What about Ardern? I can’t find any response from her on the shutdown announcement. Nothing since her good news PR money handout announcement on Thursday – NZ Herald: Government to bail out councils with $761m water services investment:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a $761 million investment to help councils upgrade “run down” water services across the country.

In a politically charged piece of symbolism, Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta chose the site of the water bore found to be the source of the fatal Havelock North campylobacter outbreak in 2016 to make the announcement on Wednesday.

“Investing in water infrastructure is about investing in the health of New Zealanders.”

Southlanders are New Zealanders. They received very bad news this week. Ardern was nowhere to be seen.

 

DNA links between Polynesians and South American Indians

DNA has proven a genetic link between Polynesia and South America, but who did the long distance voyaging? A study suggests that people from South America sailed to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and back, but local historian Scott Hamilton suggests Polynesians are more likely to have sailed to South America and back.

New Scientist: Polynesians and Native Americans met 800 years ago after epic voyage

Polynesians and Native Americans met and had children together around AD 1200, according to a study of modern Polynesian peoples’ DNA. But the encounter didn’t take place on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the island closest to South America, as has long been suggested. Instead, the Polynesians in question were from islands hundreds of kilometres further away.

The Pacific islands of Polynesia were some of the last places to be settled by humans. Beginning about 5000 years ago, people sailed east from South-East Asia into the Pacific, and found hundreds of islands including Samoa and the Marquesas. The easternmost island, Rapa Nui, was the last to be settled.

This story is supported by genetic, archaeological and linguistic evidence linking Polynesian people with South-East Asians. But some anthropologists have long argued that Polynesians might also have some Native American ancestry, pointing to other factors, such as crops.

“There is the sweet potato in Polynesia, even though it was domesticated in, and is native to, the Americas,” says Alexander Ioannidis at Stanford University in California. It has also been claimed that the famous statues on Rapa Nui resemble ancient Peruvian statues.

Geneticists have found evidence of Native American genes in Polynesian people, but the results are disputed. Now Ioannidis and his colleagues have sequenced the full genomes of 354 Polynesian people from 17 islands, as well as 453 Native Americans from 15 groups from the Pacific coast.

They found small amounts of Native American DNA in Polynesians from the eastern islands: not just Rapa Nui, but also the Palliser islands, the Marquesas and Mangareva. We don’t know exactly which islanders were the point of contact, says the team, but they were almost certainly from one of the more westerly of the group. Later settlers carried the genes to the easterly islands, including Rapa Nui.

The big question now is: who made the journey? Did Polynesians sail east to South America and back, or did Native Americans stray west? Either fits the data, says Ioannidis.

Also from Nature: Native South Americans were early inhabitants of Polynesia

The early peopling of Polynesia attracted worldwide interest in 1947, when the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl set sail on the Kon-Tiki expedition to test his migration theory. The crew left Peru on a wooden raft, and after 101 days and a voyage of more than 7,000 kilometres, they reached Polynesian shores, thus demonstrating the possibility of early travel from South America to these Pacific islands.

Heyerdahl challenged the scientific community’s view that evidence pointed instead to the peopling of Polynesia by people travelling east from Asia, and his idea that Polynesia was initially populated by South Americans was generally criticized by scholars.

The same scientific community nevertheless discussed cultural contacts between the two regions, because a South American plant, the sweet potato, has a long history of cultivation in eastern Polynesia. The idea that Polynesians voyaged to South America and introduced the plant on their return to Polynesia became the accepted explanation for this.

The DNA evidence.

A key discovery came from their analysis of people from Rapa Nui — a signature could be assigned to Native South American populations from northern coastal regions of South America, and this component was independent of other large historical, or more-recent, admixture events.

A surprising finding is that this signal was also identified in other eastern Polynesian populations, for example in populations in Mangareva, in North Marquesas and South Marquesas, and in Palliser in the Tuamotu Islands.

Figure 1

These other islands lie farther from South America than does Rapa Nui, although for people sailing from South America they are destinations that would be aided by favourable trade winds and currents.

The authors made the notable discovery that an initial admixture event between Native South Americans and Polynesians took place in eastern islands of Polynesia around AD 1150–1230. The exception to this South American admixture timeframe is Rapa Nui, which had a later admixture, dated to around AD 1380.

The earliest genetic signal of Native Southern Americans found by the authors in Polynesia was from people of the Southern Marquesas islands, and the authors argue that Colombians mixed with Polynesians there around AD 1150. This date is so early that it could even suggest South Americans reached there before Polynesians arrived, which would make Heyerdahl partly right if it were the case that South Americans first settled at least the area of eastern Polynesia that has signs of early admixture.

The authors also raise other possible contact scenarios: for example, that Polynesian populations made voyages to South America and then returned to Polynesia along with South American people, or that people returned to Polynesia who carried Native South American genetic heritage. Ioannidis et al. suggest that further genetic studies will be needed to address such alternative hypotheses.

Scott Hamilton supports the latter. Via twitter:

Heyerdahl claimed Polynesians came from the Americas, that they were ‘Red Indians in the Pacific’. An array of evidence shows that Polynesia was settled from the west rather than the east. But tantalising evidence of some Polynesian-American contacts persists.

Image

Researchers like NZ’s Lisa Matisoo-Smith have found Polynesian chicken bones in Chile. The kumara is South American. Coastal American peoples like the Mapuche & the Chumash have Polynesian-style aquatechnology & words to match. Now DNA evidence of a link’s turned up.

New Scientist magazine has reported on DNA testing done by a group of Mexican researchers. The tests found a small but significant amount of indigenous American DNA in Eastern Polynesian peoples. But the researchers & New Scientist seem to me to misinterpret their data.

Image

Without any explanation of their reasoning, the DNA scientists & New Scientist’s journalists claim that the new data proves that indigenous Americans sailed to Polynesia. It seems to me vastly more likely that Polynesians reached the Americas, & returned with Americans.

The reed boats South American peoples used on Lake Titicaca & other relatively gentle areas of water seem unsuited to the Pacific. & there is no trace of the influence of American aquatechnology on Polynesian cultures. By contast, Polynesian sewn plank canoes were Americanised.

Image

It seems to me that the genetic scientists are unaware of the research that Matisoo-Smith & others have amassed about Polynesian journeys to the Americas. DNA data is fascinating; but it still needs careful, historically informed interpretation. This book’s a place to start.

Image

As with just about all science, this is a work in progress.

 

Open Forum Saturday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Facebook suspends ‘disinformation network’ linked to Brazilian president

Facebook has suspended accounts they say have been using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” to spread misinformation by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons (who are also politicians).

Reuters: Facebook suspends disinformation network tied to staff of Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Facebook on Wednesday suspended a network of social media accounts it said were used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it had found links to the staff of two Brazilian lawmakers, as well as the president and his sons, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the accounts were removed for using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” which violated the company’s rules.

He said there was no evidence the politicians themselves had operated the accounts.

“What we can prove is that employees of those offices are engaged on our platforms in this type of behaviour,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement on the company’s blog.

The allegations by Facebook add to a burgeoning political crisis in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s sons and supporters have been accused of running a coordinated online campaign to smear the president’s opponents.

The accusations have spurred a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation into so-called “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, which led to police raids in May on the homes and offices of Bolsonaro allies.

Bolsonaro, who is also under mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has said the court’s investigation is unconstitutional and risks establishing censorship in Brazil by policing what people can say online.

Sounds similar to Donald Trump.

Facebook said it has also suspended three other networks on Wednesday, including one it attributed to Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Facebook has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to better police how political groups use its platform. Hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott aimed at forcing the company to block hate speech on its site, and multiple employees walked out last month over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to challenge inflammatory posts Trump.

Gleicher said his team had identified and suspended more than 80 accounts on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, as part of the Brazilian network. The accounts had amassed 1.8 million followers, he said, and some dated back to 2018.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, who spent a week analysing the activity identified by Facebook, said they had found five current and former political staffers who registered and operated the accounts.

Some of those accounts posed as fake Brazilians and news outlets to spread “hyper-partisan views” supporting Bolsonaro and attacking his critics, said researcher Luiza Bandeira. Their targets included opposition lawmakers, former ministers and members of Brazil’s Supreme Court.

More recently, the accounts also amplified Bolsonaro’s claims that the risks of the coronavirus pandemic are exaggerated. The disease has killed more than 66,000 people in Brazil and Bolsonaro himself tested positive this week.

“We have known for a long time that when people disagree with Bolsonaro they are targeted by this machine that uses online disinformation to mock and discredit them,” said Bandeira.

Also sounds similar to how Trump operates.

And from Al Jazeera: Bolsonaro taking dubious drug after testing positive for COVID-19

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to tout an unproven anti-malarial drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus after testing positive for COVID-19.

After months of downplaying the virus’s severity, the 65-year-old far-right leader announced on Tuesday he had been diagnosed with the highly infectious respiratory disease but already felt better thanks to hydroxychloroquine.

Hours later, the former army captain shared a video of himself gulping down what he said was his third dose.

“I trust hydroxychloroquine,” Bolsonaro said, smiling. “And you?”

On Wednesday, he was again extolling the drug’s benefits and claimed his political opponents were rooting against it.

“To those who cheer against hydroxychloroquine, but have no alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time,” Bolsonaro wrote on his Facebook page.

Natalia Pasternak, a research fellow at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro was setting a “bad example”.

That’s nothing new.

Meanwhile, Trump is complaining about court proceedings against him in the US.

He followed that with a string of tweet rants.

CNN: Trump loses battle on financial records, but Supreme Court ruling buys him time

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked House Democrats from accessing President Donald Trump’s financial records, but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor.

The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, all but ensuring that Trump’s financial documents, which he has long sought to protect, will not be handed over before the November presidential election.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the 7-2 opinion in the New York prosecutor case, and was joined by Trump’s two nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed dissenting opinions.

“(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause. Our dissenting colleagues agree,” the chief wrote, noting that the court is unanimous that there is no absolute immunity.

He added: “We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”

So no absolute immunity for the president, but Trump seems a bit unhappy about it:

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear…

No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed – investigated everything…

Won all against the Federal Government and the Democrats send everything to politically corrupt New York, which is falling apart with everyone leaving, to give it a second, third and fourth try. Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.

This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!

This is a now familiar ‘poor me but I’m still great’ spiel.

 

Tiwai smelter to shut down next year, Government accepting closure

This is one of those ‘shock but not a surprise announcements – Rio Tinto has announced that they won’t renew their power contract for the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and will shut down permanently.

Rio Tinto have claimed power prices have been too high for years, negotiated a deal with the Government in 2015 – see Key says Government won’t add to NZ$30 million of support given to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Pt open –  but have still been losing money as world power prices have declined.

The Government has said they will support the workers and businesses affected in Southland, but they won’t try to keep the smelter running.

RNZ: Rio Tinto announces plans to close Tiwai Point smelter

Rio Tinto has announced that it will wind down New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, best known as Tiwai Point smelter.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, the company said its strategic review had “shown the business is no longer viable given high energy costs and a challenging outlook for the aluminium industry.”

The company has given Meridian Energy notice to terminate its power contract, which ends in August next year. It expects the wind-down of operations will be done by then.

It said it had had discussions with interested parties but could not secure a power contract that would have kept the smelter competitive and profitable.

The smelter’s viability has been questioned for much of the past decade as it grappled with weak metal prices, power costs, and over capacity which has seen smelters closed around the world.

It employs about 1000 people directly and creates a further 1600 indirect jobs in Southland. The smelter is owned by Rio Tinto and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Co.

NZ Aluminium Smelters chief executive Stu Hamilton told Morning Report they were on a path to winding down operations.

“We don’t think there’s a deal that can be done that will deliver competitively-priced power to the smelter which is necessary for it to be sustainable.

“We do believe that nothing has been left on the table but if we’re mistaken then the window is still available for a deal to be put on the table but the window for that is closing fast now that we have terminated our electricity contract with Meridian.

It looks like they aren’t mistaken, the Government seems to be not interested in trying to rescue the situation. Their official response shows they intend to deal with the closure rather than try to prevent it: Government will support the people and economy of Southland

The Government will support the Southland economy in the wake of multinational mining company Rio Tinto’s decision to follow through with its long signalled closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

“This day has unfortunately been on the cards for some time now, but nevertheless the final decision is a blow to Southland and all those who work at the smelter,” Grant Robertson said.

“The smelter supports hundreds of jobs in Southland and the Government will work with the local community to support economic development in the region to help offset this loss.

“Rio Tinto has indicated it wants to work with the Government to support the community during the wind down of the smelter.

“As we have done in Taranaki, we will support a just transition to more job opportunities. We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.

“There is a degree of inevitability to the decision, as Tiwai has been on the market since 2011, and former Prime Minister Bill English told Rio Tinto in 2013 there would be no further taxpayer money provided.

“Since the smelter opened taxpayers have been subsidising Rio Tinto to keep it open, either directly or indirectly through cheaper power, and Emissions Trading Scheme allocations of over $48 million per year. The company has made the decision not to keep operating without further subsidies.”

Not only does the Government seem happy to see the smelter close, they are looking at what opportunities that may bring:

“Rio Tinto’s decision not to extend their generous power contract with Meridian will flow through to the rest of the market,” Megan Woods said.

“It is disappointing that Rio Tinto is deciding to close one of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium smelters, in favour of keeping open coal plants.”

“Eventually it will free up around 13 percent of total power generated in New Zealand which will relieve some pressure to build new generation. The increased supply will also have a positive impact on prices.

“I also want to make clear that the Government expects Rio Tinto to meet their obligations for clean-up of the site (an estimated $256 million) and do the right thing on the dross,” Megan Woods said.

RNZ: Tiwai smelter closure: A ‘tough day’ for Southland – Grant Robertson

“The message I have for the people of Southland today is the government stands alongside you and with you to start providing new job opportunities in the region.

“This is a very sad day for Southland but there are also opportunities attached to this.”

Not just a tough day, it could be a tough few years if not decade for Southland. It’s hard to see how ‘new opportunities’ will pick up the slack for two and a half thousand jobs, inevitable business losses and the wider family and community impacts.

The union representing workers at the smelter says about 1000 people directly employed by the smelter would be affected, but the decision would also impact on a further estimated 1600 workers in the supply chains.

E tū union said staff were shocked and dismayed and never thought threats to close the plant would ever eventuate.

Negotiator specialist Joe Gallagher said it was not too late to get back around the table, strike a deal, and save jobs.

Sounds like it is too late.

There was a lot of other response.

Contact Says Smelter Closure Is ‘disappointing’

Contact Energy (“Contact”) CEO Mike Fuge said Rio Tinto’s intention to effectively close New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (“NZAS”) by giving 14 months’ notice on their electricity contract with Meridian Energy was “very disappointing”.

He said all commercial parties involved in dealing with NZAS, including Contact, had collectively delivered significant cost reductions for electricity. “We’ve all had a strong desire to help secure the financial sustainability of the unique low-carbon smelter at Tiwai, and retain the 1,000 high-paying jobs in Southland, plus the 1,600 contractor and supplier roles.

Contact’s ‘shovel-ready’ Tauhara geothermal power station remained New Zealand’s cheapest and most attractive option for new, renewable, baseload electricity generation, but Mr Fuge said the sensible option was to defer this investment. “Tauhara remains a fantastic project, however it is prudent to press pause for now. We need to factor in the impact of COVID-19 and the potential exit of NZAS and get a clearer picture of demand,” he said.

So that is one ‘shovel-ready’ project that may not happen now.

Rio Tinto Departure Makes Decarbonisation Projects ‘shovel Ready’

Rio Tinto’s smelter, which uses 13 percent of New Zealand’s electricity, is now due to close in August 2021. Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says the Tiwai closure will release a huge amount of low-carbon and affordable power back onto the grid.

“The Tiwai closure will mean cheaper power for New Zealand households. It also means there is more clean, renewable energy that can be used to power our cars and industries as we move to a zero carbon economy.

“This will cut climate emissions out of the transport and industrial sectors, while simultaneously helping to reduce New Zealand’s current account deficit by cutting the billions of dollars we spend on importing oil for the transport sector.

“With a ready supply of clean and affordable hydropower now being made available, the Government should create the conditions needed to increase the number of electric cars, buses and trains.”

Norman also says Rio Tinto’s departure blows any case for new coal, gas or oil development completely out of the water.

Rio Tinto Decision Following Strategic Review Of Tiwai Smelter

Mercury notes Rio Tinto’s announcement to wind-down operations at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (NZAS) with expected closure in August 2021.

Mercury reiterates previously made statements that it is relatively well placed to respond to the decision to close the smelter, with all of its renewable generation assets in the North Island close to load centres and largely free of major transmission constraints as a consequence of reduced South Island electricity demand.

Tiwai Closure Points To End Of Heavy Industry Under Ardern

“The closure of Tiwai Point signals the end of heavy industry under the Ardern Government,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Labour is squeezing the life out of the economy. For the past three years, it has made it much more difficult and costly for businesses like Tiwai Point to be productive.

“We have a Wellington-centric government of former student politicians that just doesn’t get how the economy works.

I doubt ACT would support a government subsidy of a foreign owned company.

New Zealand First Disappointed Rio Tinto Playing Games With Southlanders

Australian mining company Rio Tinto is playing games with the people of Southland, says New Zealand First List MP, Mark Patterson, following today’s announcement that Tiwai Point is to close.

“It is unconscionable that despite massive support from New Zealand, multi-billion dollar company Rio Tinto is bailing on Southlanders at the height of an economic crisis,” said Mr Patterson.

“New Zealand First has consistently warned that Rio Tinto would walk away, just as they did in Australia, when it no longer suited them. And with a 14 month timeframe, this looks like Rio Tinto is using local workers to play hard-ball with New Zealand power companies.

Patterson seems to be speaking to people who will be adversely affected by the closure while ignoring that NZ First are a part of the Government that is waving goodbye as Rio Tinto walks away.

The End Of Tiwai Pt Could Open Huge Opportunities For NZ

The announced closure of Tiwai Point is welcome news for the clean energy future of New Zealand, and presents huge opportunities in areas such as electrifying transport and developing new, high-tech industries, Coal Action Network Aotearoa said today.

Provided this is not a negotiating tactic, Tiwai’s shutdown should see the closing of the country’s only coal-fired power station at Huntly, which Meridian persuaded Genesis to keep it open as part of the deal it did with Rio Tinto in 2016.

Once the smelter is closed, New Zealand’s emissions will drop by upwards of 1.5 million tonnes a year, emissions the taxpayer has been subsidising NZ Aluminium Smelters for.

“We now have a massive opportunity to look at where and how we will use the renewable energy that will be freed up: we could electrify the South Island’s rail network, and make huge steps toward electric transport,” said CANA’s Rosemary Penwarden.

Union Calls For Just Transition For Workers As Smelter To Close

E tū union is calling for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers in the wake of Rio Tinto’s announcement it will be closing its smelter at Tiwai Point.

“This is a significant employer and this company is at the heart of its community. A closure will affect the entire supply chain, including other local suppliers,” he says.

Joe says the Government needs to consider a similar approach to that used in Taranaki with the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap, to ensure a Just Transition takes place.

I wonder if the E tū union supports the Labour led government letting Tiwai close:  Affiliations – E tū is affiliated to the New Zealand Labour Party.

Infracom To Factor Tiwai Closure In Infrastructure Strategy

Today’s announcement of the potential closure of the Tiwai aluminium smelter by Rio Tinto has very significant implications for the economy and energy market. This will be a key consideration in Infracom’s thinking as it develops New Zealand’s 30 year Infrastructure Strategy.

Tiwai Point Closure – Expert Reaction

Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Co-director, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology:

“The closure of Tiwai Point is first and foremost a loss for the people of Southland who will be impacted by the loss of thousands of jobs at an awful time. However, it is not a huge surprise, on some level: Rio Tinto has threatened to pull out previously, repeatedly, in negotiating the cost of the electricity supply with Government, and the discussion about what New Zealand should do with the energy is not new.

Jeanette Fitzsimons (former Green Party leader) pointed out late last year that ETS subsidies for the smelter would total a billion dollars by 2030, and that we should consider better uses for the 13 per cent of our electricity supply, all of it renewable.

“Many of my colleagues at the MacDiarmid Institute are deeply passionate about this being the right time to invest in new tech to make the most of our renewable energy advantages in New Zealand – whether this is a form of energy storage, which could include green hydrogen generation, or something even more ambitious, such as using the energy for manufacture of other components needed for a zero carbon economy, such as solar panels – these options exist, but require a government-led business case to be developed.

Dr Anna Berka, Lecturer in Management, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Massey University:

“Rio Tinto has flagged potential closure for some years. The current crisis has clearly pushed it over the edge. Previous governments went far to make it comfortable here; it was granted some of the lowest electricity prices, reportedly below cost. In return, Rio Tinto has been obstructive to emissions pricing, and by all indications seems to have abused our resource consent process as well. As the largest consumer of electricity in the country, its closure will have ripple effects on the entire energy sector, resulting in temporary surplus capacity – and resulting in downwards pressure on market prices, as well as very likely reducing the viability of new generation capacity currently under development.

Professor Emeritus Ralph Sims, Sustainable Energy and Climate Mitigation, Massey University:

“Few countries have surplus power generation available to meet the present electricity demand as will be the case in New Zealand once the Tiwai Point smelter starts phasing out its high electricity-consuming aluminium potlines over the next year or two.

“We know there will be growing demand over the next decade or two for electricity, especially for electric vehicle charging and industrial and commercial heating by companies, schools etc., looking to displace coal with electricity.

“This will also further reduce the combustion of gas and coal used for power generation and therefore help lower the total carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.

“So, in a perfect world, closing Tiwai Point should theoretically result in greater shares of renewable electricity, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and cheaper electricity prices for all New Zealanders.

“However, it’s not that easy.

“So, will New Zealand electricity consumers reap the economic and environmental benefits of having cheaper hydro power suddenly becoming available once the smelter starts winding down?

“I have my doubts.”

Associate Professor Nirmal Nair, Department of Electrical, Computer and Software Engineering, University of Auckland:

“What the likely energy consequences are, which we as a country need to prepare for, is based on how this news is going to play out in the next two to 10 years or so.

“If the demand destruction of electricity load happens in the next two to three years, we will need to spend some dollars to strengthen the transmission assets there to port the electricity to North Island.”

Adjunct Professor Harvey Weake, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland:

“I guess the industry has been bracing for this announcement for some time. Given the plant is close to 50 years old, that is a pretty good innings for such a plant and without a major capital injection to maintain its competitiveness, it was just a matter of time. Newer plants are just more energy efficient.

“Short-term economic losses from the loss of Tiwai will be primarily through the loss of local fixed costs from that industry, but given it is foreign held, the impact to New Zealand’s economy will be pretty modest given it wasn’t projected to make significant profits anytime soon.”

Professor Sally Brooker, Department of Chemistry, University of Otago:

“New Zealand should make the most of that electricity for producing green products (e.g., hydrogen, ammonia, silica for PVs, and/or even keep making super green aluminium on a smaller scale as Jeanette Fitzsimmons suggested in an earlier Spinoff article), and use the Regional Development Fund or COVID-19 budget to develop the necessary plant at Tiwai. It is a great site to do so. And it would keep skilled jobs in Southland as, without the smelter, the region will be absolutely hammered by the job losses.

“New Zealand needs to be investing heavily in further developing green energy generation and use, as part of our current government spending/investment. We could be world leaders in going completely to green energy (including transport – electricity, green hydrogen etc), as the world looks to respond to global climate change. We start from such a strong position with our high percentage of green electricity.”

We will see over the next few days or weeks whether the Government was preparing for this and has plans for alternative use of the Manapouri power, and has alternative job and business opportunities for Southland. The Government must have known the closure of Tiwai was likely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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