National policy bollocks

National have ramped up their stupid policy announcements a few notches, dog whistling and pandering to a demographic, but likely to really annoy a lot of centre votes. They are certainly leaning a long way away from where I would be prepared to vote for them.

If unemployed people don’t find work within a few months Simon Bridges says they should lose their benefit. That’s nuts. the people who need it the most wouldn’t get help.

Gang members would have to prove none of their income came from illegal sources or they wouldn’t get a benefit is more nuts. For a start, how would aa gang member be defined? Would they have to prove they are a gang member? It just doesn’t make sense – and Bridges, a former lawyer and prosecutor, should know about the stupidity of requiring negative proof.

Why not make tradespeople prove that all their income is properly taxed? All business people? Also nuts, but National won’t threaten them.

Bridges seems to think there are enough Trump like voters in New Zealand. But we have MMP here. He is trashing the wide support that National have had over the past decade.

Do both Rio Tinto and the Government want Tiwai smelter closed?

There is no doubt that if the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point was closed it would have a massive negative impact on Invercargill and Southland. But owners Rio Tinto are considering shutting the smelter down.

And it’s possible the Government would be happy to let this happen. The Greens have never liked big industry, Labour may be able to use the large amount of power used by the smelter to be diverted into electrifying transport, and NZ First’s regional development handouts seem to be stacked northward.

Stuff: Rio Tinto ‘not bluffing’ about threat to shut Tiwai Point smelter

A Rio Tinto “closure team” will arrive at the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter near Bluff next week to assess what needs to be done if a decision is made to close the site.

NZAS chief executive Stew Hamilton confirmed members of the Rio Tinto closure team would travel to Tiwai next week and be at the smelter for four days.

The work would be ongoing in the coming months, he said.

The team would be tasked with commencing the detailed work needed to assess what was required to be done, should a decision be made for NZAS to close following the conclusion of Rio Tinto’s strategic review.

The closure review work would cover a range of issues which would need to be considered when preparing for a site closure, including regulatory matters and logistics and scheduling.

Last week, Hamilton said an update of the strategic review would be given in February or March.

Hamilton said the financial position of the smelter was serious, hence the option of closure.

“It’s the first time Rio Tinto has announced a strategic review for the site and that means they are actually going to formally go through the process of assessing all the options including curtailment and closure.”

It was “hard to know” how likely closure was, but it was one of the options, he said.

“We have been losing money for some time and we need to make a fundamental improvement in the financial status of the smelter.”

Options ranged from operating at the status quo, which would require cheaper power, to closure of the plant, he said.

Energy Minister Megan Woods  ruled out taxpayer help to keep the Bluff smelter open.

Thomas Coughlan (Stuff): MPs turn up the heat as Rio Tinto Tiwai Point closure consensus grows

There’s a barely perceptible consensus emerging within Parliament that Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter should close.

No-one wants to say it in public – what politician would want to stick their neck out for job losses? – but for their own reasons, politicians from most parties think the smelter’s days are numbered.

The reasons are complex. Some of a free-market persuasion see Tiwai as a business on life support, kept alive as a result of a sweetheart deal from Meridian Energy and propped up by a $30 million cash payment from the government in 2013.

Others say the smelter should close for environmental and social reasons.

It consumes 13 per cent of New Zealand’s entire electricity supply. Almost all of its electricity is sourced from a hydro dam in Lake Manapouri that was built for the purpose of supplying the smelter. This allows Tiwai to claim it produces the greenest aluminium in the world, but it also means that an enormous amount of clean hydro-energy is tied up supplying the smelter. Freeing up the 13 per cent capacity and feeding it into the grid would mean we could probably afford to reduce our reliance on the Huntly coal generator.

This coal-fired power plant is kept online to accommodate for peaking periods and dry seasons, when the hydro lakes that generate the majority of our electricity are stretched.

In fact, the strongest arguments for closing Tiwai aren’t actually about closing Tiwai at all – they’re about significantly reducing our reliance on Huntly.

But Manapouri and Huntly are a long way apart.

Someone, either the government or consumers, would also have to step up to pay the cost of getting the electricity from Manapouri to the rest of the country. It’s already hooked up to the national grid, but Treasury estimated in 2012 that an additional $200m will need to be invested to upgrade the lines.

That doesn’t sound much in the whole scheme of things.

But the cost to Southland would be huge.

Southland would be particularly hard hit. Nearly 1000 jobs would go and investors who bought shares in the power companies partially privatised by the previous government would be burnt badly.

Labour and Greens tried hard to burn the partial privatisation of the power companies, arguably reducing the value to the Government in the sales.

The biggest effect of closing the smelter would be on New Zealand’s emissions. Again according to Treasury, Huntly produces 20 per cent to 50 per cent of the generation sector’s total emissions – these would be slashed by closing the smelter.

Some would see that as a compelling reason to let Tiwai close. But:

Tiwai is itself a large emitter, but here’s the rub: it’s a much cleaner smelter than anyone else has got. Closing it would just mean a much dirtier smelter producing aluminium elsewhere. It’d make our emissions look good, but do little for climate change.

Similar claims were made with the oil and gas exploration ban – it could lead to importing more dirtier fossil fuels.

But New Zealand has to take a hit somewhere. We can’t keep saying our aluminium, like our agriculture, is dirty, but cleaner than everyone else’s.

he unforgiving truth is that extra generation will have to come from somewhere and 1000 jobs and $200m worth of power lines is a rather low cost for the “nuclear-free moment” this Government wants climate change to be.

But shutting Tiwai, oil and gas and downsizing dairy may just move the emissions problems to less clean and less efficient places in other countries.

There is another issue we need to face – if New Zealand wants to make a major change to electric transport, it needs more electricity. Or it needs our largest electricity user to shut down, freeing up a large amount of hydro energy.

And there’s another possible complication. Shutting the Huntly coal station, and moving to greater reliance on hydro electricity for transport, leaves us vulnerable to the weather.

Perhaps we can hope that climate change will make our rainfall more reliable, to keep the lakes and dams that power the country full.

Māori immigration and population

This story was on 1 News last night: Story of Polynesian voyagers who first discovered New Zealand told through animation

Long before Captain James Cook, great Polynesian voyagers first discovered New Zealand.

Now, after centuries of neglecting to tell the story of the great Pacific migration, Dunedin animator Ian Taylor is gifting the story to the nation.

Mr Taylor, the founder of Animation Research Ltd, has created a free tool that replicates the journey of revered navigator Tupaia.

“It’s incredible because I turn 70 next year and I’m only just learning this story now,” he said.

After studying the topic for decades, Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, from the University of Otago, said the topic has been ignored for too long.

“[The voyage was] incredibly complex, and that is the scientific knowledge of Pacific people, of some of those very skilled navigators,” she said.

“It hasn’t been incorporated in our history books, and that’s sad generally for world history, but it’s particularly sad for New Zealanders.”

The tool will be used in schools around the country.

It is incredible how little we were taught about Māori history at school half a century go, and since, so this is a good project

The New Zealand wars are getting more attention now too. RNZ – Te Pūtake o te Riri: Fierce welcome for Ardern and Māori ministers

Hundreds of Māori toa, warriors, have given Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Māori ministers a fierce welcome to Ōwae Marae in Waitara for the commemorations of the New Zealand Land Wars.

Te Pūtake o te Riri, He Rā Maumahara is a national initiative to commemorate the New Zealand land wars and raise awareness of the events that shaped the country’s modern history.

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the United Tribes of Aotearoa’s declaration of independence in 1831, Taranaki is this year’s focus after the inaugural event was held in Northland in 2018.

After a pōwhiri which ended with Ms Ardern being offered a white feather or raukura as a symbol of peace, the Prime Minister said she did not favour a national day of commemoration.

“Putting the teaching of New Zealand history into our schools, into our education system, for all our young people to learn, I think that is the most significant and important thing that we can do going forward.”

Key event organiser Ruakere Hond said the New Zealand Wars have always been about Waitara, where the first shots in the conflict were fired.

In their haka pōwhiri, the warriors paid homage to all their tūpuna who died in the New Zealand Wars around Aotearoa.

After the official welcome RNZ’s NZ Wars: Stories of Waitara series and panel discussions have been launched.

So good to get more of our own history better known.

It is believed (based on a broad range of evidence) that New Zealand’s first permanent settlements were established between 1200-1300.

NZ History:  Pacific voyaging and discovery

It was only around 3000 years ago that people began heading eastwards from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands further into the Pacific.

Great skill and courage was needed to sail across vast stretches of open sea. Between 1100 and 800 BCE these voyagers spread to Fiji and West Polynesia, including Tonga and Samoa.

Around 1000 years ago people began to inhabit the central East Polynesian archipelagos, settling the closest first.

New Zealand was the last significant land mass outside the Arctic and Antarctic to be settled.

Around the end of the first millennium CE Polynesians sailed east into what is now French Polynesia, before migrating to the Marquesas and Hawaii, Rapa Nui/Easter Island and New Zealand, the far corners of the ‘Polynesian triangle’.

The direction and timing of settlement

A broad range of evidence – including radiocarbon dating, analysis of pollen (which measures vegetation change) and volcanic ash, DNA evidence, genealogical dating and studies of animal extinction and decline – suggests that New Zealand’s first permanent settlements were established between 1250 and 1300.

These migrants, who sailed in double-hulled canoes from East Polynesia (specifically the Society Islands, the southern Cook Islands and the Austral Islands in French Polynesia), were the ancestors of the Māori people.

Sketch of Double-hulled voyaging canoe

British Library Board. Ref: 23920 f.48

This double canoe was sketched off the New Zealand coast in 1769 by Herman Spöring. It has a double spritsail rig and appears to be made from two canoes of different length and design lashed together. Archaeologist Atholl Anderson argues that the double spritsail was the most likely type of sailing rig used by the Polynesian voyagers who reached New Zealand in the 13th century.

It had earlier been believed there had been one one way ‘great migration’, with Aotearoa being discovered by chance. But it is now thought that there were many voyages, some of them in a return direction.

It makes sense that when Aotearoa was first discovered (by Kupe?) the discoverers returned to tell of the land they found, much more land than the islands they came from

Although it was once believed that the ancestors of Māori came to New Zealand in a single ‘great fleet’ of seven canoes, we now know that many canoes made the perilous voyage. Through stories passed down the generations, tribal groups trace their origins to the captains and crew of more than 40 legendary vessels, from the Kurahaupō at North Cape to the Uruao in the South Island.

If there was say an average of 50 people in each waka, times 40 that makes possibly about 2000 immigrants. There must have been many Polynesian people who immigrated here.

TEARA: Population

At the beginning of the last century New Zealand was occupied by a Maori population estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000, and by about 50 Europeans.

The actual size of the pre-European Maori population is uncertain. Captain Cook, whose first visit to New Zealand was in 1769, estimated that there were about 100,000 Maoris, but he did not visit some of the most populous inland centres, and his estimate was almost certainly low.

Can a population increase from the low thousands to hundreds of thousands in five hundred years?

Simon Chapple (NZH): How many Māori lived in Aotearoa when Captain Cook arrived?

An important question puzzling historians is how many Māori lived in Aotearoa at the time of Cook’s arrival. This question goes to the heart of the negative impacts of European contact on the size and health of the 19th-century Māori population, which subsequently bottomed out in the 1890s at just over 40,000 people.

The conventional wisdom is that there were about 100,000 Māori alive in 1769, living on 268,000sq km of temperate Aotearoa. This is a much lower population density (0.37 people per square kilometre) than densities achieved on tropical and much smaller Pacific Islands.

The Cook population estimate

It was published in a 1778 book written by Johann Forster, the naturalist on Cook’s second expedition of 1772-1775. Forster’s estimate is a guess, innocent of method. He suggests 100,000 Māori as a round figure at the lower end of likelihood. His direct observation of Māori was brief, in the lightly populated South Island, far from major northern Māori population centres.

Later visitors had greater direct knowledge of the populous coastal northern parts of New Zealand. They also made population estimates. Some were guesses like Forster’s. Others were based on a rough method. Their estimates range from 130,000 (by early British trader Joel Polack) to over 500,000 Māori (by French explorer Dumont D’Urville), both referring to the 1820s.

A second method takes the population figure from the first New Zealand-wide Māori population census of 1858, of about 60,000 people. It works this number backwards over 89 years to 1769, making assumptions about the rate of annual population decline between 1769 and 1858.

Still only a rough estimate.

The third method used to estimate a population of 100,000 Māori predicts the number forward from first arrival in New Zealand. Prediction requires a minimum of three parameters. These are the arrival date of Māori in New Zealand, the size of the founding population and the prehistoric population growth rate to 1769.

The current consensus is that voyagers from Eastern Polynesia arrived in New Zealand between 1230 and 1280 AD and then became known as Māori. However, even a 50-year difference in arrival dates can make a large difference to an end population prediction. Geneticists have estimated the plausible size of the Māori female founding population as between 50 to 230 women.

That implies far fewer immigrants than my 2000 stab.

The high population estimate is therefore nearly five times the size of the low estimate. Such a broad range is meaningless.

The third big unknown of the prediction method is the growth rate.

Indeed, historically recorded population growth rates for Pacific islands with small founding populations could be exceptionally high. For example, on tiny, resource-constrained Pitcairn Island, population growth averaged an astounding 3 per cent annually over 66 years between 1790 and 1856.

Arguments for rapid prehistoric population growth run up against other problems. Skeletal evidence seems to show that prehistoric Māori female fertility rates were too low; and mortality, indicated by a low average adult age at death, was too high to generate rapid population growth.

This low-fertility finding has always been puzzling, given high Māori fertility rates in the latter 19th century. Equally, archaeological findings of a low average adult age at death have been difficult to reconcile with numbers of elderly Māori observed in accounts of early explorers.

However, recent literature on using skeletal remains to estimate either female fertility or adult age at death is sceptical that this evidence can determine either variable in a manner approaching acceptable reliability. So high growth paths cannot be ruled out.

All of this is very vague.

Because of resulting uncertainties in the three key parameters and the 500-year-plus forecast horizon, the plausible population range for Māori in 1769 is so broad as to make any estimate meaningless.

Perhaps one reason why not much pre-European history was taught is that not much was known or recorded in a form that could be taught, especially nationally.

It wouldn’t have helped that European immigrants were more interested in their own history, pre-immigration and post immigration. And most teachers, and most pupils, were of European origin.

While there is a lot more Māori history that can and should be taught (and available to those who want to inform themselves), there also seems too be a lot of research required to fond out more about the early history of Aotearoa.

Government and farmers agree to primary sector emissions plan

The Government and farming leaders have agreed on a partnership that my be a workable solution to farm emission issues. It gives farmers  few years to come up with solutions themselves, ot else the Government will step in and act.

Beehive:  World-first plan for farmers to reduce emissions

The Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to a world-first partnership to reduce primary sector emissions in one of the most significant developments on climate action in New Zealand’s history.

Today farming leaders and the Government announced a plan to join forces to develop practical and cost-effective ways to measure and price emissions at the farm level by 2025, so that 100 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions will be on the path downwards.

The 5-year joint action plan includes:

  • Improved tools for estimating and benchmarking emissions on farms
  • Integrated farm plans that include a climate module
  • Investment in research, development and commercialisation
  • Increased farm advisory capacity and capability
  • Incentives for early adopters
  • Recognition of on-farm mitigation such as small plantings, riparian areas and natural cover

The Government recognises partnering with Māori will be critical to the success of this joint action plan.

In addition, Cabinet has also agreed that in 2022 the independent Climate Change Commission will check in on the progress made and if commitments aren’t being met, the Government can bring the sector into the ETS at processor level before 2025.

“I’m proud that we have a world-first agreement as part of our plan to tackle the long-term challenge of climate change and we’ve done that by reaching an historic consensus with our primary sector,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“For too long politicians have passed the buck and caused uncertainty for everyone while the need for climate action was clear.

“This plan provides the primary sector with certainty and puts us shoulder-to-shoulder on a path to reduce emissions, with ongoing support to help with the plan such as the $229 million Sustainable Land Use investment.

“This will reduce emissions by giving farmers the autonomy to plan to do so and reward those who do,” she said.

“Our decision to put in place a sector-led plan to reduce emissions at the farm gate shows we’ve listened to farmers,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

Major reforms to the ETS have also been announced to make it fit for purpose, with a cap on industrial energy and transport emissions, and forester incentives simplified.

“This will help keep our planet safe for future generations. With the world changing at break-neck speed, these changes will drive us towards a low emissions country,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“Changes also align the purpose of the ETS with the Zero Carbon Act and the Paris Agreement, so that New Zealand doing its bit to limit global warming to 1.5C,” he said.

“Farmers understand that a changing climate affects them and many are already making changes on-farm to meet that challenge and to enhance our reputation for safe and sustainable food production while maintaining our competitiveness in international markets,” Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said.

“The agreement with sector leaders shows the value of collaboration and provides certainty for farmers, but the hard work begins now to develop the tools and systems to account for on-farm emissions in 2025.

“The Government will back that with investment in research, extension services and advice for farmers,” Damien O’Connor said.

Today’s agreement delivers on commitments in the Coalition and Confidence and Supply Agreements and is the latest step in the Government’s plan that has seen it take more action on climate change in the past two years than the previous 30 years.

Government’s actions to date on climate change

  • The Zero Carbon Bill to get us to zero net emissions by 2050
  • Making clean and electric cars more available
  • Planting 1 billion trees
  • Stopped the permitting of new offshore oil and gas exploration
  • Setting up a $100 million green investment fund
  • Making renewable energy like windfarms and solar easier to build

There has been some criticism that this lets farmers off the hook, and some of that criticism has been directed at Climate Change Minister and Green leader James haw.

NZ Herald: PM Jacinda Ardern dismisses claims Government has backed down on its ETS promises

The Government moved quickly today to dismiss criticisms that its plans to make New Zealand’s rural sector greener was a backdown from a key election promise.

Backdown? or a pragmatic solution to a difficult problem?

Instead, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Climate Change Minister James Shaw and a host of farming and agricultural sector leaders today talked up the importance of the new scheme and the “world-first” Government-industry partnership.

“We could have forced the sector into a pricing regime that it was completely allergic to,” Shaw told media this morning.

“But, ultimately that would have been unsustainable.”

Fonterra’s chief executive Miles Hurrell said the announcement was a “significant step forward” and was a much better option than “imposing a broad-based tax”.

Ardern and Shaw talked up the importance of the plan and why the Government needed to work with the agricultural sector, and not against it.

Not long after the plan was announced, the Government came under fire from Greenpeace who labelled it a “major sell-out”.

“An emissions trading scheme without the [agriculture] sector in it is a joke and won’t be able to combat the climate emergency – the greatest threat humanity has ever faced,” the organisation said.

Ex-Green leader Russel Norman now leads Greenpeace in New Zealand. Norman has never had the experience of working in Government, he has only had to promote minor party policies, many of them idealistic and without popular support.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog:  I hear the Greens are unhappy with James

I’m hearing there is a significant group within the  who are very unhappy with agriculture being exempted from the ETS until 2025, and possibly forever.

They’re also unhappy the Greens are supporting the anti-terrorist legislation, and the foreign land sales Green Ministers have okayed.

Green activists probably wouldn’t be happy unless they had full control of Government policies, but they are a long way off having the level of support needed for that.

Sky City convention centre fire

The Sky City convention centre was due to be opened later next year, but that looks unlikely now after a major fire started on the building site yesterday. There are still flames and smoke this morning, with the rood allowed to burn in the hopes of saving most of the building.

This morning:

Flames engulfed the top of the building just after 1pm this afternoon – starting on the seventh floor before spreading to the sixth. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Bitumen and insulation is on fire and there are also concerns about gas cylinders in the area.

Hundreds of people were also evacuated from the precinct, including the Sky Tower, because of the smoke earlier in the afternoon.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Lately this evening that firefighters will abandon efforts on the roof of the Convention Centre but their strategy is to stop the blaze from spreading to the fifth level.

Fire and Emergency’s Thomas Harre said it’s been difficult for firefighters to get inside the building and to the top because the fire started in the roof cavity.

The orange glow of flames from the burning centre is clearly visible this evening, and thick black smoke continues to billow from the building.

Fire and Emergency said people may be able to see flames as the crews let some areas burn.

It said this was nothing to be concerned about and was a way to provide access for firefighters to the inside of the building.

Its spokesperson, Dave Woon, said it was “a very, very difficult fire to extinguish”.

RNZ this morning:

SkyCity fire still burning, PM to visit today

Firefighters worked into the night, abandoning the roof, and focusing their efforts instead on preventing further spread to the lower levels.

Dozens of fire units were on the scene, with additional help even arriving from the Hamilton Fire and Emergency branch.

Smoke continued to billow from the building into the CBD precinct yesterday, affecting workers and residents nearby. Those in the area have been warned to either avoid the blocks around SkyCity if possible or take precautions to avoid breathing in the fumes.

SkyCity evacuated its entire Auckland precinct, because of smoke from the fire, with people forced to leave the Sky Tower, casino, all SkyCity hotels and restaurants and corporate offices.

1 News – Live updates: Firefighters continue to battle SkyCity inferno; TVNZ building evacuated

6.37am: The current official health advisory is to stay well way from the fire and out of the trail of smoke, stay indoors and keep windows closed. Shut down external ventilation if smoke is being drawn into your building. See your doctor if smoke has caused shortness of breath or worsening of asthma symptoms.

6.35am: FENZ are reminding people to stay away from the Auckland CBD. 23 fire engines are responding to the fire, including one aerial appliance from Hamilton. An additional 20 units and 16 specialist support vehicles are attending also.

6.31am: Firefighters say an older structure would likely have collapsed under such conditions, but that the Convention Centre is still technically “structurally sound”.

Phil Goff is saying that he now wonders whether it could put back completion years. The convention centre was to be used for an APEC meeting in 2021, that looks at risk now.

US House condemn Trump over Syria, Pence in Turkey

MSN: House condemns Trump’s Syria withdrawal

In a stinging bipartisan rebuke, the House on Wednesday condemned President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

Voting 354 to 60, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution opposing the move, which set the stage for Turkey’s military assault against Kurdish forces in Syria that the U.S. partnered with to beat back Islamic State terrorists.

“What kind of message does this send to the world? How can America be trusted to keep its word when we betray one of our close partners?” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) asked on the House floor. “Congress must speak out against this disgrace.”

The top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, said he understood Trump’s “legitimate concerns” about committing troops overseas, but said the president’s Syria pullout had damaged U.S. interests in the region.

“I, too, want to wind down our overseas conflicts and bring our troops home,” McCaul said. “But leaving [northeast] Syria now does not resolve the problem that brought us there in the first place. It only creates more.”

“We need a residual force in place,” he added. “The consequences of this decision have already unfolded before our very eyes.”

The resolution is non-binding and doesn’t condemn Trump by name. It calls on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to halt Turkey’s military campaign in Syria and urges humanitarian support to displaced Syrian Kurds and calls on the U.S. to ensure Turkey “acts with restraint and respects existing agreements related to Syria.”

The resolution also urges the Trump administration to outline “a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Reuters: Pence to urge Turkey to halt Syria offensive as threat of further sanctions loom

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will urge Turkey on Thursday to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, a day after President Donald Trump threatened heavy sanctions over the operation.

Turkey’s week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Trump defended his move on Wednesday and called it “strategically brilliant”.

Trump is one of very few who have praised how he has handled this.

Pence will meet Erdogan around 1130 GMT, while Pompeo and other officials are expected to hold talks with counterparts. A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, met National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday and said he conveyed Turkey’s position.

On Wednesday, Trump said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a “successful meeting”, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise. Kalin said that Turkey’s foreign ministry was preparing to retaliate to the U.S. sanctions.

Erdogan has dismissed the sanctions and rejected a global chorus of calls to halt the offensive, which Turkey says will create a “safe zone” extending 20 miles (32 km) into northeast Syria to ensure the return of millions of Syrian refugees and clear the area of Kurdish fighters Ankara views as terrorists.

Trump’s decision to withhold protection from Syrian Kurds upended five years of U.S. policy.

It has also created a land-rush between Turkey and Russia – now the undisputed foreign powers in the area – to partition the Kurdish areas that were formerly under U.S protection.

Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, has called the offensive “unacceptable” and said it must be limited in time and scale. In a rare criticism of Turkish policy on Syria, Moscow said Turkish troops had the right to temporarily go up to a maximum of 10 km into Syria, under a 1998 agreement between Damascus and Ankara.

Syrian troops, accompanied by Russian forces, have meanwhile entered Kobani, a strategic border city and a potential flashpoint for a wider conflict, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war.

The White House tried to talk tough (-ish):

The White House, fighting the domestic political damage and perhaps trying to demonstrate the president’s efforts to stop the offensive, released a Trump letter to Erdogan from Oct. 9 that said: “Don’t be a tough guy” and “Don’t be a fool!”

But Erdogan is acting unmoved.

Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk, quoting sources, said Turkey had rejected Trump’s appeal to reach a deal to avoid conflict, saying the letter was “thrown in the trash”.

Think: Trump’s letter to Turkey’s Erdogan shows the U.S. is struggling to keep up with Ankara

President Donald Trump’s letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him not to go after an enemy Kurdish military group in neighboring Syria as U.S. troops depart the war-torn country, indicates that the U.S. president wants to corner his Turkish counterpart. But Erdogan, who has run Turkey for nearly two decades, may well be smarter than to let himself be trapped.

So far, the Turkish president shows no sign of stopping his relentless advance despite the threat of American sanctions Trump delivered in his missive, made public Wednesday but penned last week. Erdogan has calculated that even if the sanctions come, they won’t be sufficient to disrupt the Turkish military strategy; he figures that what Trump wants most is to bring U.S. troops home, and he won’t do much more to prevent the offensive against the Kurds.

The BBC is just reporting: Turkey to suspend Syria offensive, US says

Turkey agrees to pause operation in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw – US Vice-President Mike Pence

Court insists that Peters provide answers

Winston Peters is finding out that he can’t avoid answering questions in a legal proceeding – unlike his frequent fobbing off of media questions.

He has been ordered to pay “modest costs” for failing to adequately answer questions.

Peters was paid a single person rate since 2010 while living in a de facto relationship, until his partner claimed Superannuation in 2017.

Court documents have confirmed that MSD  sent Peters a letter in 2014 asking him to check the details he had supplied. Peters says that he doesn’t recall receiving the letter. He failed to answer whether he had contacted MSD after receiving the letter.

This came out in a High Court hearing last Friday.

Newsroom – Judge to Peters: Answer the questions

Court documents have confirmed New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was sent a letter by officials four years into his seven-year overpayment of national superannuation asking him to check details he had supplied, including that he was ‘single’.

He continued to receive the higher rate of superannuation for ‘single, shared accommodation’ rather than his actual ‘de facto relationship’ for three further years.

In answer to questions by Crown lawyers in a case brought by the Deputy Prime Minister to prove departments and two former ministers breached his privacy by sharing in 2017 information on his overpayment, Peters says he does not recall receiving the letter “but I do not doubt I would have received it”.

Peters had to repay around $18,000 to the ministry after the overpayment came to light months before the 2017 election, when his partner applied for her own superannuation. An unknown whistleblower alerted media but Peters announced the overpayment himself before the news could break.

The question and answer over the March 2014 letter asking him to check what he had told MSD in 2010 is included in a new judgment in the case, dealing with a Crown request for the court to order Peters to give answers.

Chief High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning has now ordered Peters to supply answers by Friday to several questions he had not adequately addressed.

He also ordered Peters to pay “modest” costs over this round of the case.

While the judge did not make Peters give further answers over his filling out and initialling of the original superannuation application from 2010, or specify for how many years before then he had been in his de facto relationship, he did order more information from the MP.

For example, the judge found Peters’ answer to the Crown lawyers’ question of “As at March 18, 2014, were you living with Ms Janet Trotman in a de facto relationship?” was “general in the extreme” and “is to be answered”.

He also had failed to answer the Crown’s question on whether he had contacted MSD after the 2014 letter.

Further, Peters had not answered if he told MSD officials at their office in Ellerslie on July 26, 2017, that his claim on his original superannuation application that he was ‘single’ was incorrect. “The question is to be answered,” the judge said.

Peters had not answered a question over whether at that meeting “you agreed that you were not and had never been, entitled to receive National Superannuation at the rate you had been receiving it (the ‘single, sharing accommodation’) rate.” The Judge said he must now answer.

The NZ First leader had also not answered a direct question of “who disclosed the issue of the overpayment of New Zealand Superannuation to you to the media?” Justice Venning said: “The question requires an answer. If the answer is the plaintiff does not know, then that should be recorded. The question is to be answered.”

This is in preparation for a full hearing due to start on 4 November.

Defendants are:

  • the former Minister of State Services, Paula Bennett
  • the former Minister of Social Development, Anne Tolley
  • the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes
  • the Attorney General on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development
  • the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle.

Peters was embarrassed by the overpayment and repaid it in 2017. His court action is airing it all again, and he is at risk of further embarrassment.

He filed court proceedings against Bennett and Tolley just before beginning coalition negotiations with National following the 2017 election.

Court decisions currently available publicly:

The Government’s “nine years of neglect” meme a bad excuse for under performance

Government ministers keep using the term ‘nine years of neglect’ to attack the last Government (and by association the Opposition), and also as an excuse for not delivering on their own promises.

With a far larger than expected surplus causing some embarrassment due to the lack of urgent action on issues that Labour had claimed needed urgent attention 9before they took over government) this line of attack may continue at least until next year’s pre-budget and budget announcements lead into the election campaign.

The Prime Minister started the year by telling New Zealand that 2019 would be the “year of delivery” but there is another phrase that has become much more synonymous with this Government.

“Nine years of neglect.”

It has become the Government’s go-to defence when its back is against the wall on any given issue.

From Parliament’s question time yesterday Jacinda Ardern showed in her first answer to Question 1 that she is leading the attack/excuse.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly our Government’s $300 million investment in Taranaki Base Hospital announced last week. The Government is investing record amounts into infrastructure, including $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health services, which, of course, after nine years of neglect is much needed.

Question 2:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The accounts show the coalition Government continues to increase investment in areas that were neglected by the previous Government. Capital investment—including in new hospital buildings, classrooms, roads and rail, and the super fund—was up 13.7 percent over the year. In dollar terms, capital investment in the 2019 year was more than $6.7 billion, building on the $5.9 billion we invested in 2018. This compares with just $3.7 billion in 2017, before we came to office. Our high levels of capital spending demonstrate this Government’s commitment to investing in turning around the infrastructure deficit we inherited after nine years of neglect.

Clark has used the term a lot to make excuses for his slowness to address health issues. Again in question 3:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

And:

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think New Zealanders are paying too much tax?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

Again in question 9:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: In that case, why does he continue to blame the previous Government when he believes he has put in sufficient funding to make DHBs viable?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I’ve said many times before, it will take more than two Budgets to make up for nine long years of neglect. They ran the health system into the ground, and it will take us a wee while to put that right.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When is he going to take responsibility for the clinical and financial performance of the health sector on his watch rather than blame the previous Government?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ll take responsibility when I’ve finished cleaning up that Government’s mess.

At the rate Clark is going it will take a long time. Actually growing health needs are likely to continue to struggle against government funding limitations for a long time.

Nanaia Mahut joined the chorus:

Hon Jacqui Dean: How much does she expect rates to rise, in order for councils to fund all of the work she has just described?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That’s a matter that I can’t be entirely responsible for. The setting of rates is a matter for local councils to determine, and they are mindful that, in balancing the impact on ratepayers with the priority that their people have within their communities, they must balance the books based on what the revenue is that they get from rates. But can I say this: when we came into Government, it was very clear that the local government sector had been left to languish for nine years and the issues of affordability on councils had been neglected. That’s why we embarked on a Productivity Commission report that is looking to provide some solutions, and we’re considering that report and will respond in due course to the cost pressures facing councils.

A report ‘looking to provide some solutions’ at some time in the future, perhaps, is a common theme for this Government.

Later during: Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Kiritapu Allan: Barking at cars.

MARJA LUBECK: Really though—barking at cars, all of that. But New Zealanders aren’t as gullible as the National Party probably thinks they are. People know that the flow-on effects from the nine years of neglect and nine years of under-investment are going to take us a little while to fix up. It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around, but we have started to fix a lot of things. We have recently—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to call the member back to the bill, which is about school donations. The member has to somehow make the link.

MARJA LUBECK: So much good positive messaging…

Irony that Lubeck seems oblivious to.

It is a dirty meme, both a negative attack campaign, and an excuse for under performance, that is used by and obviously approved by Jacinda Ardern.

This sort of tactic isn’t new – National kept blaming the previous Clark/Labour-led government – but I think that voters would prefer to see more focus on doing things now rather than pointing fingers back into the past. And action.

Ardern promised that 2019 would be the Government’s “year of delivery”. It is becoming apparent that what she and her Ministers are intent on delivering is an ongoing excuse for not delivering anywhere as much as was promised.

It would be a very risky campaign strategy to claim that “It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around” as a reason to be re-elected for a second term.

All incoming governments inherit challenges as a result of previous policies and circumstances.  It isn’t new for Prime Ministers and Ministers to blame past governments, but Labour’s relentless repeating of a lame excuse is wearing increasingly thin.

Next election campaign voters will remember the three years of the incumbent government better than the previous nine years or the nine years before that.

Japan beat Scotland, top poll and into RWC quarter finals

The outstanding performance of Japan has been the biggest talking point of pool play in the Rugby World Cup. They have done it again, beating Scotland 28-21 in the final pool match.

Japan played very well again. There forwards matched Scotland’s most of the time, their tackling and defence was epic, but the difference was their back play. A number of times they passed wide and beat Scotland down the sidelines, with both Japanese wings featuring strongly. In contrast, when Scotland were chasing the game a number of times they passed wide, they had a numbers advantage, but they failed to take advantage.

So Japan top their pool, which means runner up Ireland will face the All Blacks in one quarter final, with Japan needing to step up again, this time against one of the tournament favourites South Africa.

Quarter finals (NZ times) – Saturday 19 October:

  • England v Australia at 8:15 pm
  • New Zealand v Ireland at 11;15 pm

Sunday 20 October:

  • Wales v France at 8:15 pm
  • Japan v South Africa at 11:15 pm

The early games are well timed for watching here in the evening, and streaming the following morning will be good for the late games.

 

Nicky Hager complaint upheld – SIS acted unlawfully

The Acting Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has upheld a complaint by Nicky Hager that the SIS unlawfully attempted to uncover his journalistic sources. This was in relation to Hager’s 2011 book Other People’s Wars.

The Police had been found to have unlawfully attempted to uncover Hager’s journalistic sources when investigating the hack of Cameron Slater after Hager published Dirty Politics.

In both cases the sources were not identified.

Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees, or supports or opposes, with what Hager has written about, illegally trying to out his sources (by both the SIS and the Police) should be a real concern.

At least by making successful complaints Hager has exposed the unlawful actions, which will put pressure on both the SIS and the Police to do things properly in the future.

Hager’s lawyer Felix Geiringer (@BarristerNZ) tweeted:

The full Report into a complaint by Nicky Hager against the NZSIS

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

For the reasons given I have found that NZSIS unlawfully provided investigative assistance to
NZDF in efforts to determine whether a specific NZDF officer had been a source for information
published in Mr Hager’s book Other People’s Wars. Specifically, NZSIS provided that assistance
despite a lack of grounds for reasonable suspicion that any activity had occurred that was a
matter of national “security” as that was defined in the governing legislation of NZSIS at the
time. I have been unable to find that the Service showed the kind of caution I consider proper,
for an intelligence agency in a free and democratic society, about launching any investigation
into a journalist’s sources.

Mr Hager’s complaint against NZSIS is therefore upheld.

To the extent that Mr Hager was the subject of NZSIS inquiries that I have found were not within
the lawful scope of NZSIS activity at the relevant time, I consider he was adversely affected by
the agency’s activities. The Service acquired two months of call metadata for Mr Hager’s home
telephone line. In the circumstances I think an apology from NZSIS to Mr Hager is an appropriate
remedy. I recommend accordingly.

There should be greater repercussions than a recommendation of an apology.