Open Forum – Tuesday

28 March 2017

Facebook: NZ politics/media+

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. 

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.

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.

UK & Europe – the Brexit process

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

NZDF news conference

 

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating held a news conference this afternoon to answer questions about the allegations relating to the SAS in operations in Afghanistan.

Stacey Kirk at Stuff lived blogged and has a lot of details, but she also summarises:

Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating has made the following points on Operation Burnham.

  • Operation Burnham was not carried out in the two villages detailed in the book Hit & Run, Keating says.
  • Operation Burnham was conducted some 2km south of the two villages detailed in the book.
  • There may have been civilian casualities, but nothing was proven and the names of the people who were killed in Hit & Run were not present where the SAS was operating.
  • “Revenge was never a driver – we are a professional force,” said Keating.

More detail:

So that was a very detailed, and hence confusing, press conference.

The short of it appears to be that the NZ SAS and Defence Force were carrying out an operation – Operation Burnham – following intelligence received after the death of Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell at the hands of insurgents.

The operation took place, some 2km south of the villages where authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson claim it took place in their book Hit & Run.

While Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating acknowledges some civilian deaths may have occurred, they weren’t the villagers detailed in the book.

US Apache Gunships were firing at targeted points on the edge of a village where the operation was taking place.

It was realised that some of those rounds were falling short of the target, and going into a building.

But Keating says insurgents were known to have been present inside that building anyway, although there may have been civilians in there as well. (That’s where the possibility of civilian deaths may have occurred).

Keating suggested those civilians could have been being used as human shields by Taliban insurgents.

As soon as it was realised there was a problem with the sight on one of those Apache gunships, that helicopter was called off.

Video exists of the battle, which is classified, but has been seen by Keating. He seemed open to finding out whether some of it could be released – though that comes down to the other ISAF coalition partners.

Today was the first time he acknowledged that there could have been civilian deaths, in line with statement that came out with the ISAF investigation in 2011.

Previously, the defence force said the claims of civilian deaths were “unfounded”.

Unfounded and “may have occurred” are two different things, after all.

But Keating was very clear that the performance of the SAS and NZDF troops on the ground was “exemplary”.

NZ ground forces only fired two bullets in the operation, which killed a single insurgent.

Keating was unable to give names of the insurgents that were killed, but it appears that previous claims that we did not get the specific insurgents that were the subject of the intelligence gathered beforehand, still stand.

A Military legal advisor was with the commander for the entire operation, and found no cause for concern.

The SAS suffered one injury, and another fact for you: the ISAF coalition forces announced their arrival to the battle sight by loud-haler, for benefit of any civilians present, but somewhat giving away the element of surprise.

Details: NZDF hits back at Hit and Run claims


Toby Manhire at The Spinoff compares thee claims of Stephenson and Hager versus NZDF and details common ground and differences:

Hit and Run: What are crucial differences in authors’ vs Defence Force version of events?


More on Maori and Labour

A generally good post at The Standard by ‘weka’ on Marama Fox on working with a Labour/Green government

This refers to comments made by Maori party list MP Fox:

You know what, they’re all trying to get to the power seat too, and if Labour and Greens are successful then we’ll be looking to do a deal with them, because it’s obvious to me that under Labour Māori are tossed aside all the time and you can have a look at the Point England development to see that.”

“I think it is better to be at the table making decisions or at last being the social conscience of a government who may be disconnected from its community or don’t know how to address those things. And Labour want the same thing, that’s why they’re trying to win the seats of government. So if they are successful, then we’ll happily work with them. And yes, It is better to be at the table at the decision-making end, and have as much influence as we’re able to ensure that we can correct the disparities that currently exist.

Weka comments:

What will happen if Labour needs the Māori Party to form government? Some on the left see the Māori Party’s relationship with National as a betrayal that can never be forgiven, and speak in the most scathing terms despite National being able to govern irrespective of where the Māori Party stands.

Myself, I think Māori are entitled to their own politics, and it behooves the rest of us to pay more attention to what those mean on Māori terms.

I certainly don’t like everything the Māori Party has done, but I think we need to look more deeply here, especially as the left may end up needing this alliance to form government. But more than that, the Māori Party have many policies that align well with both Labour and the Greens, including in critical areas like climate change and water.

We should be building relationships here for that alone not just because of the vagaries of MMP.

It does seem odd that Labour seems intent on trashing any relationship with the Maori and Mana parties.

The Maori Party have always made it clear they are prepared to work with any government to further their aims. This is a sensible approach to MMP politics.

So this is a good post from Weka, until  this plonked on the bottom:

Moderator Note – Considered and respectful commentary and critique are welcome here. If you want to make claims of fact about any NZ political party here please back them up as you comment. If you want to gratuitously bash any party other than National, go somewhere else to do it.

This is an illustration of the Standard moderation that damages their credibility.

Weka is inviting “considered and respectful commentary and critique” and warns not to “gratuitously bash any party” – fair enough – but then makes a mockery of her imposed standards by adding “other than National”.

Strict moderation might be fine if it was evenly applied, but Weka warns off any bashing of her views or preferred parties while effectively encourages gratuitous bashing of National.

In practice this is often how Standard moderation works, coming down hard on any perceived attack or criticism of their views or parties but encouraging open slather against parties they dislike and commenters they deem to be right wing or right wing party supporters.

The left is sadly lacking a blog that allows fair debate and discussion.

Coincidental NZDF report on Afghanistan

NZ Herald has obtained a Defence Force draft report on their deployment in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

A damning NZ Defence Force report on our largest commitment to Afghanistan is hugely critical of politicians and senior commanders, along with many other aspects of our decade-long deployment to the country.

But it was shelved after being deemed “insufficiently accurate”, a decision made by a commander who oversaw one of New Zealand’s six-month deployments to the country.

The fate of the draft report on the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s deployment to Bamiyan contrasts with comments by a military source familiar with its production, who said there was never any feedback of deep inaccuracies.

Instead, the NZ Herald was told, there was concern inside Defence headquarters about the media getting hold of it.

Key findings include:

  • The report is critical of a lack of a “cohesive campaign plan” and that decisions made in Wellington were impacting on the freedom of commanders to command in the field.
  • It says our team endured poor facilities and substandard equipment; some personnel had to buy their own boots as those supplied “failed to cope with rough conditions”.
  • There were also issues with weapons, including faulty rifle equipment and too-few infra-red sights.

More details: Our faulty war: the Afghanistan report they fought to keep secret

A draft report claimed to contain inaccuracies but highlighting problems corroborated by other sources.

What about the timing of the publication of this?

The Herald obtained the report through the Official Information Act after a three-year struggle and the intervention of Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

In releasing the report to the Herald, Commander Joint Forces NZ Major General Tim Gall said in a letter it had too many inaccuracies to be relied on.

The Herald article  has a link to the letter: MAJOR-GENERAL TIM GALL LETTER (p. 1)

NZDFlettertoFisher

That’s dated 5 December 2016.

Investigative journalism can take time, but the timing of this being published, within a week of the launch of Hager and Stephenson’s book, is interesting. It is one of a several reports by Fisher related to the Defence Force in Afghanistan.

 

Winston Peters ‘a dangerous old man’

On Friday in a speech at a business breakfast in Waipu – transcript here – Winston Peters said under WHAT NZ FIRST WILL DO:

  • To battle this problem New Zealand First will lower the age of criminal responsibility.
  • We will change social welfare to demand parental accountability.
  • We are not going to spend taxpayers’ money on parents who won’t keep their side of the deal.
  • We will make sure there are far more police – 1800 more as soon as they can be trained.
    After all, the last time we had a chance we trained 1000 front line police in three years flat.
  • We will return this country to what other generations knew: That crime doesn’t pay.
  • We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.

Anti crime, which presumably means anti-violent crime, but pro smacking.

Peters/NZ First also put out a media release titled ‘We Will Return NZ To: Crime Doesn’t Pay’

To battle widespread criminal behaviour by young people socially DNA-ed for destruction as seen in Kaikohe last weekend, New Zealand First will, among other measures, repeal the anti-smacking law.

“We live in a ‘PC age’ where there are more rules on the teachers and the police than young offenders and their parents,” said Mr Peters in a speech at Waipu this morning.

“We no longer hold these little ‘tow-rag’ offenders responsible for their actions.

“Instead we hear 100 different reasons why it’s not their fault.

“That’s rubbish.

“They’re old enough to know exactly what they’re doing.

“They know they will get away with it and that there will be no repercussions.

”Meanwhile, the old parties in parliament want the age of criminal responsibility raised.

“Many of these politicians have no idea how the other half live and don’t venture into the real world.

“Besides repealing the anti-smacking law, which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children, New Zealand First will lower the age of criminal responsibility; change social welfare to demand parental accountability and will make sure there are far more police on the frontline – 1800 more as soon as they can be trained.

“We will return this country to what other generations knew: That crime doesn’t pay,” said Mr Peters.

Calling young people toe-rags and encouraging the bash may appeal to populist votes but it is unlikely to solve youth crime.

Does Peters have any evidence to support his claim the the anti-smacking law “doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children”? He has habit of making unsubstantiated claims.

Sue Bradford has called Peters a ‘dangerous old man’:

Winston Peters has been labelled a “dangerous old man” who’s “really past his prime”, after vowing to repeal the so-called anti-smacking law.

Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the law, told The AM Show on Monday she was “horrified” by his recent comments.

“What he’s advocating is the return of the legalising of assault on our children, which is the last thing our kids need and the last thing the kids of Northland need.”

Ms Bradford said: “He’s talking about this on the back of the incident up in Kaikohe recently with the young people rampaging.

“Those kids probably see far too much violence I’d suggest in their lives already, far too much poverty, unemployment, a lack of opportunities for their families in their part of the country.”

The 2007 law change removed the defence of “reasonable force” in cases where parents and caregivers were being prosecuted for assault on children.

“It’s helped massively to change the idea that actually parents and other adults responsible for children are legally entitled to use physical punishment on their kids, that sometimes led to quite serious assaults,” said Ms Bradford.

Repealing the law would send the wrong message, she believes.

“We’ve got ‘it’s not okay’ campaigns about beating our partners, our wives, but on the other hand, children don’t matter?”

Conservative lobby group Family First says there have been massive increases in child abuse in the decade since the law began, but Ms Bradford says repealing the anti-smacking law won’t fix that.

“As the truly dreadful levels of family violence in this country continue, they cannot be laid to this law. No law can stop that.”

Massive increases in child abuse in the decade since the law began? That seems like a massive exaggeration, and I’d be surprised if they have evidence of a direct connection between the law change and levels of violence against children.

Family First have always strongly opposed the law change. They have put out a media release in support of Peters: NZ First Repeal Of Anti-Smacking Law Welcomed

This makes some claims about violence levels.

Police statistics show there has been a 136% increase in physical abuse, 43% increase in sexual abuse, 45% increase in neglect or ill-treatment of children, and 71 child abuse deaths since the law was passed in 2007. CYF have had more than 1 million notifications of abuse and there has been a 42% increase in physical abuse found by CYF since 2007.

But that does nothing to prove cause and effect. There are alternative claims that a greater awareness of violence against children has led to greater levels of reporting of abuse, which may be a positive effect rather than a negative effect.

In the past excessive smacking (more than a tap on the bum) and bashing tended to get swept under legal and social carpets.

I think that it’s very difficult to prove the effects of the law change on offending rates.

I believe that any moves to encourage less violence, and less smacking while encouraging effective alternatives, has to end up being better for children in general in the long run.

Peters may get some votes from his support of smacking law repeal, but I think it will come to nothing more than that.

I think it is very unlikely that there will be enough votes in Parliament to just repeal the smacking law. The old version was seriously flawed.

The only chance of change is if someone comes up with an improvement to the also flawed current law – but at least it signals that violence against children should be reduced.

No indication from Peters whether he would add smacking law repeal to his list of coalition bottom lines.

Harawira slams Maori Party land bill

Hone Harawira has shown that the agreement between the Mana and Maori parties to co-operate over electorate campaigns to improve each party’s chances of election success doesn’t extend to agreement over policies.

RNZ: Mana attacks Māori Party over ‘poisonous’ land bill

The Māori Party has spearheaded a new bill proposing major changes to the governance and administration of the 27,000 titles of Māori land in New Zealand, which equate to 6 percent of the country’s total land mass.

But its new ally, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has called the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill “a poisonous and destructive cancer”.

“I think it opens our lands up to be bought by foreigners. It is an extremely bad piece of legislation.”

Mr Harawira said some Mana supporters have made clear they would not back the Māori Party over this bill – and he did not blame them.

“It wasn’t written with Māori interests in mind but Māori land alienation.

“It’s ugly and its crude because it’s an attempt to open up the last remaining vestiges of Māori land that are held by Māori.

Iwi leader Kerensa Johnson also warned the Māori Party that unless changes were made, it would not have their support.

There will always be differences within Maori over policies.

Differences between Maori parties is one way of debating the merits of policies – but Labour wants to represent all Maori electorates and cut the other parties out of Parliament.

Five months ago, Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell acknowledged the Māori Land Service was still being designed.

It is lack of details such as this that has Māori landowners concerned about making such sweeping changes.

Wakatū is asking Mr Flavell to rework the bill and slow down the process, but Mr Harawira wants it gone altogether. He said it was not a minor wound that could be fixed with cosmetic surgery.

Policy debate is healthy. Isn’t this one of the benefits of MMP giving multiple parties representing different constituencies a say?

Te Puni Kokiri: New Māori land law one step closer

Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill will give Māori land owners greater decision-making powers and better support for the management of Māori freehold land.

Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill passed its Second Reading in Parliament just before Christmas.

You can view the speeches in the House here.

Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill, which was introduced into Parliament in April 2016, will:

  • Give Māori land owners greater autonomy to make their own decisions
  • Provide a clearer more empowering decision-making framework
  • Strengthen protections against the alienation of Māori land
  • Lead to stronger-performing governance bodes
  • Improve the succession and dispute resolution processes and
  • Make better use of the Māori Land Court.

The new Bill also establishes a new Māori Land Service to support Māori land owners. A second nationwide round of Wānanga about the final design of this Service will be held in January 2017.

The Bill is expected to be enacted by 30 April 2017 and to come into effect by 1 October 2018.

Harawira isn’t in Parliament so won’t get to vote on it.

Labour MP Meka Whatiri seems to oppose the bill, saying it takes protections away from Maori:

I presume that means that the Labour Party also opposes the bill.

Trump handed Merkel £300bn Nato invoice

International diplomacy Trump style.

Independent: Donald Trump printed out made-up £300bn Nato invoice and handed it to Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel will reportedly ignore Donald Trump’s attempts to extricate £300bn from Germany for what he deems to be owed contributions to Nato.

The US President is said to have had an “invoice” printed out outlining the sum estimated by his aides as covering Germany’s unpaid contributions for defence.

Said to be presented during private talks in Washington, the move has been met with criticism from German and Nato officials.

While the figure presented to the Germans was not revealed by either side, Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations – including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia – currently do.

But the bill has been backdated even further to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below two per cent over the past 12 years, then added interest.

Estimates suggest the total came to £300bn, with official figures citing the shortfall to be around £250bn plus £50bn in interest added on.

The Times quoted a German government minister as saying the move was “outrageous”.

If this is true it doesn’t look like a good start to Trump’s relationship with Merkel and Germany.

He has already talked about billing Mexico for the construction of his wall.

Doing business and doing international relationships may not work the same way.

Why do dairies sell tobacco?

With a growing number of violent robberies of dairies in Auckland why do they sell Tobacco products? They are not the only target of thieves but the escalating price seems to be a major factor in precipitating the spate of attacks.

Tariana Turia wants to take it further:

More:

Dame Tariana Turia says New Zealand needs to stop selling cigarettes – “we should not be allowing it to be sold in our country”

“get rid of the cigarettes, get them out of the country, and allow our people to enjoy some good health”

Would removing cigarettes from dairies and service stations stop violent robberies? That’s unlikely, but it would probably reduce them significantly.

Would banning tobacco altogether be a solution (it would reduce tobacco consumption) or would it just create different problems? Like more cannabis use?

Chinese Premier visiting NZ

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New Zealand and was greeted by Prime Minister Bill English. The Premier is heading a trade deal and will be here for three days.

RNZ: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in NZ

He’s leading a business delegation that flew into Wellington on Sunday evening.

He and his wife Cheng Hong were greeted by Prime Minister Bill English and his wife Mary.

Several busses carrying Chinese people arrived outside the terminal, with people wearing red shirts and holding banners and both Chinese and New Zealand flags) to greet the Premier.

There were no obvious protesters.

Mr Li, the second highest ranking person in the Chinese hierarchy, will tonight attend a private dinner with the Prime Minister at Premier House.

Official talks with the government are due to be held tomorrow, and trade deals are expected to be the main focus.

The executive director of the New Zealand China Council, Stephen Jacobi, said the meeting was a great opportunity to demonstrate that both countries were serious about free trade.

Mr Jacobi said New Zealand’s representatives would need to focus on the remaining barriers for dairy and meat and horticulture exports, as well as e-commerce and investment.

The leader of China visiting New Zealand for trade talks is quite a big deal.