English on Pike River video

Bill English has responded to questions raised over the release of the video showing a robot getting 1.5 km into the Pike River mine.

RNZ: PM: No Pike River re-entry despite footage

Families of the 29 miners who remains have been trapped in the mine since it exploded in 2010 say this proves what they have always known – that re-entry is possible.

Re-entry has always been possible, the safety and need is what has been at issue.

The footage, released by Newshub, shows the workers – who were wearing breathing gear – inside the drift of the mine, three months after the final explosion.

What Newshub showed was misleading. The robot video was shown 1.5 km inside the mine entry shaft, but the workers were near the mine entrance (in the first 100 metres).

But speaking to Morning Report, Prime Minister Bill English said he would not reconsider entering the Pike River mine, despite the new footage.

On the face of it, the footage did not change anything about the assessment of the safety of the area, he said.

He said the video footage was available to the people who did a safety assessment for Solid Energy.

“The assessment has to be made by the people who are in control of the workplace and the employees.

“It’s their judgment in the end about whether it is safe because if people go in there and they die because of an explosion it is absolutely clear who would be responsible,” he said.

He said he told the families in January that politicans were not the ones who could make the decision about whether to send anyone in.

News media shouldn’t be making or forcing decisions either.

Police also said that the people in the video were not in the drift, but were actually in the portal, Mr English said.

“I’m sure the experts and the police will be able to work through what it means or doesn’t mean.

“We are working with the familes on the un-manned entry.”

Two robots have been taken into the mine and both failed, so another robot attempt has obvious risks of failure.

Neoliberalism, 1999, and ‘brat pack’ revisited

I don’t remember neoliberalism being a thing until the last few years, but it was talked about last century (when I only had a superficial interest in politics).

In 1999 Colin James wrote about how New Zealand had “energetically espoused neoliberalism” in the 1980s but bu the late nineties was “still far short of neoliberals’ high-wage, high-performing ideal”.

Here are exerts from an address to the University of Maryland in 1999 – The New Zealand economy and politics: the revolution and the future” (edited):


Just as a vigorous flowering of the arts in the 1980s signalled New Zealand’s true emergence as an independent (decolonialised) nation, it energetically espoused neoliberalism, the third radical policy shift in its 160 years of Anglo-Celtic rule.

This third “New Zealand model”, which attracted considerable international interest from economists, businesspeople and such diverse politicians as the government of Mongolia, the Japanese House of Councillors and Vice-President Al Gore, is now embedded in policy.

But, while the economy is undoubtedly more flexible and robust, it is (for various historical and contemporary reasons) still far short of neoliberals’ high-wage, high-performing ideal and it has left most citizens political “outsiders”, at odds with the “insiders” in the business, bureaucratic and political establishments and this has destabilised politics.

Indeed, the story of New Zealand’s century can be written as one of models we think the world might envy and emulate: the social policy innovations of the 1890s, the world’s first comprehensive welfare state in the 1930s and 1940s and the world’s most determined application of the neoliberal economic model in the 1980s and 1990s.

We then embraced neoliberalism. The pre-1984 administration (an awkward marriage of conservatism and populism) had tiptoed into these waters with some minor liberalisations in the late 1970s.

But after the second oil shock in 1979 it retreated into controls on wages, prices, rents, directors’ fees and interest rates in a desperate attempt to plug the gaping holes in the dyke through which the tides of international economic change were by then pouring.

The incoming Labour administration of 1984 did not have an option of more regulation. The limits had been reached and there was a financial crisis. It had no option but to pick up the 1970s deregulatory ideas.

This was clearly evident to any halfway attentive observer of the party’s public pronouncements and internal debates before the 1984 election. But no one guessed beforehand how far and how fast these heirs to welfarism would drive deregulation.

In seven years this administration and the National party government which replaced it in 1990 transformed the economic policy framework from one of the most regulated in the OECD to one of the most deregulated.

The main objectives of this radical economic policy shift were to lay bare price signals and so shift investment and labour from low-yielding to high-yielding, internationally competitive activities, to make economic governance “transparent” and thus reduce transaction costs. The ultimate aim was to enhance consumer choice and welfare.

This became the third “New Zealand model”. It attracted great interest from economists (and the august London Economist magazine), business leaders, bureaucrats and politicians all the way up to the government of Mongolia, the Japanese House of Councillors and Vice-president Al Gore. Special interest was shown in the innovative and largely home-grown state sector management reforms. Former politicians (including two of the main architects of the reform, Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson) and senior public servants travelled the globe, running seminars and advising governments. We were the showcase of the new neoliberal orthodoxy – and, for two years in the mid-1990s when growth was 5%-6% we were touted as the living proof of the merits of the free market and rational policymaking.

This new orthodoxy is now embedded in policy. The argument in this month’s election is about refining the new policy environment, not rejecting it.

But far more than economic policy was changed. Every other policy area came under radical assault.

• Environment and resources policy was re-based on “sustainability”. New Zealand is still the only country to have done this.

• Foreign policy was shaken free of its client status to the United States. New Zealand adopted a “nuclear-free” policy against nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Applied to warships and warplanes, this effectively ditched the Anzus (Australia, New Zealand and United States) treaty.

• The Treaty of Waitangi, under which sovereignty was ceded to the British Crown in 1840, was rescued from the legal “nullity” to which a colonial court had consigned it in 1877, elevated in rhetoric to “the founding document of the nation” and given some legislative recognition, including the establishment of a process for redress of breaches of the treaty by successive governments. Nearly 800 claims are before the tribunal.

• The electoral system was changed and parliamentary processes reformed. Freedom of information legislation passed in the early 1980s was given very liberal interpretation, such that the New Zealand government is now perhaps the most open in the world.

• Targeting to need and user part-charges were introduced into social policy, together with some decentralisation of education administration and part-commercialisation of the publicly-funded health system.

Taken with the economic policy reform, this amounted a policy revolution, almost all of it carried out very rapidly between 1984 and 1992.

Why such an upheaval? To some extent New Zealand was simply doing what everybody else was doing: the neoliberal tide was flowing throughout the Anglo-Celtic world, green values were gaining ground, the cold war was loosening the bloc mentality, indigenous peoples were demanding recognition and redress in many countries and winning it in some, electoral systems were in contempt and/or turmoil and the welfare state everywhere was in review.

Also, in common with other Anglo-Celtic countries, New Zealand had been through a values revolution in the 1960s as young people won moral and social freedoms and these people were moving into positions of influence by the 1980s.

But why so far and so fast in New Zealand?

  • In the economy we started from farther behind, with an economy more tightly controlled than any other in the OECD. Just to match early-1970s orthodoxy, let alone join the move to the emerging neoliberal orthodoxy, required a giant leap. In 1982, for example, the Minister of Finance could and did freeze or set all prices, wages, fees, rents and interest rates by decree.

One of the first points most New Zealanders make is that the economy has failed to live up to the neoliberals’ star billing. We do not have a high-wage, high-energy economy.

We are constantly reminded that Australia has done far better during the 1990s: with the exception of the two New Zealand boom years in the mid-1990s, Australian economic growth was consistently higher than New Zealand’s; notably, while New Zealand reeled from the Asian crisis and drought, Australia sustained 4%-plus growth.

If pain is supposed to lead to gain, most New Zealanders feel they are still waiting.

Even so, New Zealand did not ride through the crisis as comfortably as Australia, which awarded itself the accolade of miracle economy. Even though, according to a widespread consensus among economists, we are now heading into a period of firm growth of between 3% and 4% over the next three years, there are some serious structural issues.

If the pain has not yet led to the gain neoliberal reformers promised, it is at least partly, and arguably mostly, because of these structural issues.

  • New Zealand is still largely a “quarry” economy, living off the land and the sea.
  • The trade and services deficits are contributing to a dangerously high balance of payments deficit, likely to exceed 8% of GDP sometime in 2000 and put us at serious risk of being dumped by foreign portfolio and fixed interest investors.
  • We are becoming a “branch” economy and a “nursery” economy. An increasing number of foreign companies run the operation in New Zealand as a branch from Australia or Singapore.
  • We have not adjusted to our diminished economic status.
  • And there is a political and social fallout from the new economy. As in all countries which have adopted the neoliberal reforms, incomes have become more unequal: a “significant” increase in inequality of after-tax disposable income was confirmed in a Statistics Department report in February on income changes in the 15 years since economic reforms began in 1984.

We may be on the verge of passing political power to this next generation. The National party has promoted four young ministers aged 34-40 to high prominence in its cabinet: the most prominent, Bill English (38), is the Treasurer and the acknowledged heir to the leadership.

These four ministers, known colloquially as the “brat pack”, take the economic policy framework as given, not as something that must constantly be fought for and protected as do longer-lived ministers who went through the revolutionary phase. They have therefore a less doctrinal attitude to policy – an appropriate attitude as the neoliberal intellectual wave breaks and the debate moves on.

For the “brat pack” deregulation and asset sales are deemed desirable but not, as with the revolutionaries, because they conform to the “right” doctrine. The “brat pack” judges policy initiatives case by case by whether they will produce desirable outcomes (lower costs to business and greater international competitiveness).

Social policy reform is deemed necessary not just to hold spending but to improve the quality of delivery of social services to a public that demands the same quality from its public services as from its private sector services.

Moreover, the “brat pack” accepts that substantial cuts in the 25% of GDP that goes on social services and social security are politically impossible and in any case are necessary for social order.


One of those brats is now Prime Minister leading us into the 2017 election.

Bill English delivered the first real increase in benefit payments since before the neo-liberal changes in starting in the 1980s.

And his Government has just agreed to a substantial increase in wages for mainly female rest home workers.

It seems that a neoliberal revolution has never been fully happened, and adjustments tend to be moving further towards social necessities and away from economic ideals.

National u-turns

National seem to working through a few u-turns as election year progresses.

Bringing soldiers’ remains back to New Zealand was announced on Monday:  Military personnel remains to be brought home

The families of New Zealand military personnel, and their dependants, buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 in Singapore and Malaysia will be offered the opportunity to repatriate their loved ones.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett says this decision comes as a result of recommendations by the Veterans’ Advisory Board and the advocacy of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association and families affected, and has thanked them for their important contributions.

“Following the efforts by families to have their loved ones brought home, the Government last year asked the Veterans’ Advisory Board to look into New Zealand’s repatriation policy. The Board identified a number of inconsistencies, and the Government has listened.

“New Zealand had an inconsistent policy of repatriation between 1955 and 1971. Families could opt to meet repatriation costs themselves, but not all could afford to do so. Other civil servants were also repatriated. We want to restore fairness for those families affected.”

Mr Bennett says the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will also look at extending the offer to the families of New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955 and 1971 in American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and all countries involved have been contacted.

The NZDF will oversee the repatriation process, including consultation with the families, and the planning and subsequent return of any bodies.

“The decision on whether or not to bring the bodies home will be the families’ to make,” Mr Bennett says.

“If they choose not to repatriate, the graves will continue to be cared for under current agreements. We will support the families through this process.”

And today Government u-turn on country of origin labelling

The National Party will support a Green MPs bill requiring country of origin labelling on single ingredient food such as fruit and meat in a u-turn Prime Minister Bill English said was due to consumer preferences.

Steffan Browning’s Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill will have its first reading in Parliament soon and is set to go to select committee after National agreed to support it.

It will require mandatory country of origin labelling for fresh single ingredient foods such as meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts as well as oils and flour.

That was a shift from National’s original decision to oppose it. English said there had been “quite a bit of discussion” in National’s caucus about it.

“It’s just reflecting pretty strong consumer preferences.”

And it probably reflects the desire of national to get back into Government.

English said National would decide after the select committee process whether to continue to support it into law. About 80 per cent of single ingredient foods were already labelled with the country of origin. “It is about whether it is feasible or desirable to require the rest of them to label.”

He said the initial decision to oppose it was because National was always sceptical about new regulation, especially if it felt most people’s needs were being met by the current regulation. There was also some concern about whether it would impact on trade agreements.

Browning said it was “fantastic news” for consumers if it went ahead and could help boost sales of New Zealand produce and meat.

I think that we should be accurately informed about country of origin of foods available for purchase.

Little & Peters should see SAS video

Vernon Small points out that basically Prime Minister Bill English has said ‘trust me because I trust Tim Keating’ as his reasoning for not having an inquiry into the SAS attack in Afghanistan that was publicised by Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit & Run.

Stuff: English’s Monday performance shows just how much National lost when Key quit

In the Hit and Run case, in contrast, English has been over-cautious in keeping the military sweet, leaving too many questions unanswered.

Add to that his extraordinary claim that Keating was “independent” and was not part of the operation.

He was in essence saying “trust me, because I trust Keating”.

I don’t think that’s good enough, and neither does Small.

So where to now on this?

If Labour leader Andrew Little wanted to put English’s assurances to the test, he should ask to see the classified video.

As the leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition there could surely be no objection to a similar briefing to that given to English and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, especially if other non-elected Government officials have been privy to the footage. If English wanted to buttress his position, he should invite Little to view it.

As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Little – and presumably Winston Peters – ought to have the appropriate clearances.

It might help achieve the kind of “reconciliation” between the conflicting accounts that former defence minister Wayne Mapp said were possible.

That is a very good suggestion. Our Defence Force should be trusted not just by the Government but by the whole Intelligence and Security Committee, and to do that they need to see the same evidence that English has seen.

The Defence Force line is that they they use coordinates not village names, but it should not be beyond their ability to establish that the villages named in the book are in the area they identified.

You can see why they might be reluctant. Having achieved headlines saying Hager and Stephenson had the wrong location for the villages, they will fight to the last spin doctor standing to avoid a headline that reads: “Defence Force confirms its attack was on the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik identified in Hit and Run“.

In the larger scheme of things it may seem a minor point.

But it is that default to “spin” and a reliance on cute semantics that undermines English’s case – and his reliance on the Defence Force.

English hasn’t handled this decisively or convincingly. Everything can’t be revealed about our SAS and Defence Force as Hager and Stephenson want, but the public should have confidence in our military, and that requires more than the perception of one-sided spin.

I also agree with Small on the Key difference, our last PM is likely to have come up a better and more convincing way of dealing with and to the allegations.

I think the whole Intelligence and Security Committee, including Little and Peters, should see the evidence that English has based his decision on.

But English looks too dithery to deal decisively with this.

Medical cannabis regime ‘anything but compassionate’

Prime Minister Bill English has been criticised after he claimed that there is already a compassionate legal route for patients to get medical cannabis products.

It is difficult and slow for most patients trying to obtain medical cannabis products legally, and many resort to breaking the law. Doctors have claimed possibly half of their patients are self medicating with cannabis products.

RadioLive: That’s a ‘no’ to doctors prescribing medical cannabis – Bill English on The AM Show

Fear of creating a ‘marijuana industry’ is stopping Prime Minister Bill English from allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical reasons.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Mr English said there’s already a “compassionate” and legal route for patients to get cannabis products – if they need them.

“The minister’s just changed the rules so that’s a little bit easier, with the Ministry of Health now approving it instead of each one going to the minister.

“As far as we can see, that’s going to work pretty well and we don’t want to take it any further.”

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ asks English “where is the compassion?”

On Duncan Garner’s Radio show Monday morning, our Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction with the current special approvals scheme.

Just 2 days before an Oncologist on the TV3 show “The Nation” suggested that about half his Cancer patients were using Cannabis. It would be safe to assume that none of them were using legal options as they were not cost effective. Sativex contains perhaps $180 dollars equivalent of Raw Cannabis, for the cost of over $1000

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun:

“Currently perhaps 1 per 100,000 people are accessing Medical Cannabis legally. If a doctor is accepting widespread Cannabis use in his patient population, with no effort put into trying to help them go legal then the patients are at the mercy of police discretion.

“The police have shown no ability to think of the public interest and discretion around Cannabis based offences for patients.

“Just this weekend they seized a Tetraplegic’s Personal Cannabis supply, how does that make the community safer? How does the community feel about that?

”The current system simply isn’t working and is anything but compassionate.

“MCANZ doesn’t advocate for terminal patients, as they generally die before the product is in their hands, as has happened to a toddler last year who died the week he was scheduled to start on Sativex”

Le Brun says that MCANZ would like a domestic market developed for Cannabis based medicines, believing they can be produced to a high standard without the need for expensive clinical trials.

“Cannabis based products are relatively simple, It’s just another Essential Oil.

“The Current regime ensures that only expensive products will be acceptable, and that means patients will continue to break the law with the support of their specialists, and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens.”

It drives people who are suffering severely and in some cases dying to break the law. Helen Kelly was a prominent example, being open about illegally using cannabis products as she died of cancer.

The domestic market in Canada is considered by MCANZ to be the closest model to ideal, where products are prescribed by GPs, and the cost per mg of active ingredients are 80% less of what is paid in New Zealand currently.

Many other countries are making medical cannabis far easier and cheaper to get – and legally.

See also:

Newshub: Half of cancer patients using cannabis, say doctors

Dr Falkov says 40 to 60 percent of his patients are using medicinal cannabis, and it may have benefits beyond pain relief.

“Essentially most patients use it firstly because they hope it’ll work and improve their cancer control rates, and that’s a very important thing that’s been missed in this debate about medical cannabis. It may well increase cancer control rates.

“Secondly, they’re using it for pain, and thirdly they’re using it basically for appetite stimulation, and a lot of them are using it for anxiety and nausea and vomiting.

“What I’d really like to see is not widespread legalisation of every form of cannabis, but allowing doctors to actually ask patients about their cannabis use; record what they take; evaluate the effectiveness of various products and actually be allowed to use cannabis in research protocols with cancers that are subject to normal ethical approval; going through ethics committees, and subject to normal clinical trial constraints.

“All I’d like really is for cannabis to be treated like any other medication.”

Stuff: Mother in panic over tetraplegic son’s missing carers

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ: website

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ is a Registered charity, run by a group of passionate, rational like-minded people with a personal stake in the need for Medical Cannabis in New Zealand. Our ambition first and foremost is to “Put Patients before Politics” and help others get access to Medical Cannabis in New Zealand through legal means. Our ambition is to facilitate and promote the re-introduction of Medicinal Cannabis products – as prescription medicines in NZ. We aim to provide a community for patients and their carers, to promote education of both the general public and especially the medical fraternity, and work towards MC products being more widely available, without the stigma attached currently.

 

 

Little v English on Operation Burnham

In Question Time in Parliament today:

Question 1 – Andrew Little to the Prime Minister

Based on the advice he has received from the Defense Force and the Minister of Defence, does he know if any civilians were killed in Operation Burnham; if so, how many?

Draft transcript:


Operation Burnham—Allegations of Civilians Killed by New Zealand Troops, Ministerial Involvement, and Potential Inquiry

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Based on the advice he has received from the Defence Force and the Minister of Defence, does he know if any civilians were killed in Operation Burnham; if so, how many?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): As I have said a number of times, it is possible that civilian casualties occurred during Operation Burnham. Allegations of civilian casualties have not, however, been substantiated. This has been on the public record since 2010.

Andrew Little: Did the Prime Minister personally authorise all individual operations in Afghanistan; if not, why did his predecessor need to personally authorise Operation Burnham?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The general procedure would be that the Government, in its capacity of civilian control of the armed forces, would set policy, including objectives of a deployment and rules that apply—for instance, rules of engagement about whether New Zealand troops are inside the wire or outside the wire, like in Taji, for instance—and then it is up to the Defence Force command to make operational decisions. When those are significant, one would expect that the Minister of Defence and/or the Prime Minister would be aware of them.

Andrew Little: Why did his predecessor need to personally authorise Operation Burnham?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We would have to go back and have a look at what the technical aspects of the decisions were, but given that there had been loss of life in Afghanistan—that is, the loss of a New Zealand soldier and the possibility of more—it would unusual if the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence were not aware of the operation.

Andrew Little: Having seen some of the video footage from the operation, can he confirm whether the SAS or coalition forces received incoming fire from enemy combatants during the raid, or was there no return fire?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said yesterday, I do not intend to comment in detail on the video footage, other than to say that it confirms the facts as outlined by the Chief of Defence Force last week, and confirms, importantly, that New Zealand and coalition troops behaved consistent with the rules of engagement.

Andrew Little: Did either the New Zealand SAS or coalition forces cause the deaths of civilians during the raid?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has been rehearsed many times, because of allegations that there were civilian casualties, an investigation was mounted quite shortly after the operation by the coalition forces. They were unable to substantiate civilian deaths. Further allegations have been made in the recently published book. It turns out that the recently published book talked about a series of events in a place where the New Zealand troops did not go. So that book does not substantiate civilian casualties. If there was substantial evidence of it, then of course we would be interested in what, if any, role New Zealand troops played in those deaths.

Andrew Little: How did 3-year-old Fatima die on the day of the raid?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: If one is to follow the narrative in the book, then the 3-year-old must have been in a different village, because the New Zealand troops did not go to the village talked about in the book.

Andrew Little: Why is he so opposed to an inquiry when Lieutenant General Tim Keating has said that he is open to one?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Having observed the Defence Force’s process and having viewed background material—including a small amount of classified material—I have come to the view that an inquiry into war crimes and misconduct is not required because there is no evidence that war crimes were committed, and the evidence is compelling that our troops conducted themselves professionally in accordance with the rules of engagement under legal supervision.

More response to Hit & Miss

Nicky Hager put in a big hit on the NZ Defence Force, but so far at least has missed out on getting the inquiry he wanted. He is convinced there has been a major cover up and he appears to be only prepared to accept total vindication of his accusations.

RNZ: PM trusting military’s word ‘a joke’ – Hager

…Mr Hager said it was “a joke” for Mr English to trust the military’s word.

The reality is that the Government has to have trust in it’s military.

“These are the people who are in trouble, so of course they don’t want an inquiry … No experienced minister should fall for that.”

He said the Prime Minister was being “irresponsible” by simply accepting the “selective information” he was shown.

There is no proof that English has fallen for anything, or that he has simply accepted selective information.

Mr English encouraged anyone with further information to come forward, saying the Defence Force would legally have to investigate it.

But Mr Hager said he “would not recommend” that his sources speak out while the military was “obviously in cover-up mode”.

“I hope they will come forward in the fullness of time, but that will be in a professional, independent context – not in the middle of a cover-up.”

No inquiry means that the public is left uncertain about the actions and word of the NZDF over the Afghan attack, but we are also left uncertain about how much solid evidence Hager has. His book raised a storm but lacked compelling evidence.

It is apparent that Hager knew he didn’t have compelling evidence, that is why he wants an inquiry so much, to find the evidence he thinks is being hidden.

Mr English said the footage of the raid backed up the Defence Force’s position. But he declined to release the video, saying it was “classified”.

“All the evidence is that coalition troops followed the rules of engagement to a degree of care that was pretty impressive,” he said.

Mr English described General Keating as independent, because he was not involved in the operation.

Mr Hager said that was “completely ludicrous”.

“Nobody would accept that from any other government agency and it’s actually an insult to the public to come up with that as an excuse.”

The Government relies on the word of public servants, and information that remains secret, all the time.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was “laughable” for the Prime Minister to call General Keating independent.

“We’re entitled to be reassured that there is nothing being kept from the New Zealand public and that we can have full confidence in our defence forces.”

An independent inquiry was the only solution, said Mr Little.

That just about seems word for word what Hager is saying.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said Mr English’s assurance was not enough to clear up the uncertainty.

“I’ve got no desire to disrespect the prime minister’s assessment. I respect his judgement. And he’s obviously seen information that other’s haven’t seen. But I think it’s probably important for public credibility to get some of that out into the public arena.”

I think that it would help a lot if some information was made public, but that can genuinely be difficult when military operations are involved.

Hager is obsessed with alleging a cover up, and claims that the public needs to know about it, but does the public actually care much about it?

And how much would an inquiry achieve anything useful?

Hager responds to no inquiry decision

Following Bill English’s decision to not hold an inquiry in the Afghan attack involving the SAS and allegations made in Hit & Run Nicky Hager has responded.

1 News (video): Nicky Hager hits back after Bill English rules out inquiry into SAS raid in Afghanistan

Bill English says of questionable claims from the book…

…”it’s pretty hard to take all that seriously. But if people have more substantial evidence that what’s in the book then we would want to see it, and the CDF will be obliged to investigate it”.

Hager:

The point about this is it’s not the Chief of Defence Force’s job to decide whether something happens. It’s the Government’s job, and it’s the public that cares about this. It’s actually asking the people who are trying to hide it and protect their reputations to make the decision, and that’s never going to work out right.

From what I’ve seen English (presumably in consultation with Ministers and Cabinet) made the decision.

I’m not sure that ‘the public’ cares about it that much, if at all. I don’t know what Hager bases that claim on.

The Daily Blog also has what appears to be a statement without any indication of where it was sourced:

“In the past two weeks since Hit and Run was published there have been calls for an independent inquiry from New Zealanders from all sides on the political spectrum. It is disappointing and concerning that Bill English has refused.”

“When the book came out Jon Stephenson and I emphasised that Bill English had no responsibility for the deeds done in 2010 and so was in a good position to offer aid to the Afghan villages and launch a proper inquiry. But he has joined the people trying to hide and dodge over what happened.”

“I believe this decision is the result of military pressure on the government: the tail wagging the dog. That is not good for the country.”

“Bill English is an experienced minister who knows the difference between being shown selective information by an interested party, as he has been by the defence force, and having an independent inquiry. This does not appear not a rational decision based on evidence; it is helping the military bureaucracy to avoid having to front up. It is the next step in the seven year cover up.”

“But, most of all, Bill English has just ensured that the issue will continue to boil and fester. It is not going to go away until it is properly addressed.”

Boil and fester until about September?

 

No ‘Hit & Run’ inquiry

At his post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon Bill English said there will be no inquiry into the SAS attack in Afghanistan in 2010.

So that means the objective of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson to use their book Hit & Run to pressure the Government into an inquiry and to get the SAS to reveal details about the attack has been unsuccessful. So far.

NZ Herald has some detail: No inquiry into SAS allegations in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Bill English revealed that decision at his regular post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, saying there was no basis for an inquiry.

It came after formal advice from Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

“After considering Mr Keating’s briefing…and viewing video footage of the operation I have included there is no basis for an inquiry.”

English said if new information changed this it would be reconsidered. He said the allegations had caused distress to NZDF staff and their families.

“I want to reassure those families that there is…a great deal of evidence that their family members acted consistently with the rules of engagement.”

The Prime Minister said there was the possibility that civilians were killed, but there was no evidence that had actually happened.

“In viewing this I was impressed by the restraint, the care and the repeated assurance that the operation was conducted in such a way that would minimise casualties and the destruction of their property.”

English said the video was classified and he would not enter a process where “all actions” of NZDF were “available for public viewing”.

“I trust the process,” English said, saying he had become more convinced after reviewing material that Keating’s conclusion was right.

He had not spoken to anybody outside the Defence Force in reaching that conclusion.

Asked if NZDF had effectively investigated itself, English said coalition forces and the Afghan Government had investigated the matter and the conclusions were confirmed by the investigation by Keating.

English said Keating was independent, as he was not involved in the operation.

“The CDF…has serious legal obligations around investigating war crimes. If there was any evidence that the NZDF were covering up…that would be an extremely serious matter.

“There’s not any real contest over the facts other than the book…which has got them wrong.”

English (National) opposes cannabis law change

Bill English has confirmed that he and National by association oppose cannabis law reform, speaking to Duncan Garner this morning on Newshub’s morning programme:

NZ doesn’t want ‘marijuana industry’ – English

“We don’t want an official marijuana industry. We’re not going to be legalising it.”

The headline says ‘NZ doesn’t want’ but I think the ‘we’ that English is referring to is the National led Government, which means the National Party opposes any law change.

English is less staunch in his position on medical cannabis.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Prime Minister Bill English said there’s already a “compassionate” and legal route for patients to get cannabis products – if they need them.

“The minister’s just changed the rules so that’s a little bit easier, with the Ministry of Health now approving it instead of each one going to the minister.

“As far as we can see, that’s going to work pretty well and we don’t want to take it any further.”

He fears increasing access to medical products based on cannabis will increase recreational use.

“We just think the long-term damage of large-scale use of marijuana is pretty bad.”

The ‘we’ again I think meaning ‘National’ – or at least a  majority of the National caucus. Younger National MPs like Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop are likely to have a more pragmatic and progressive view.

The minister that English refers to is not a National MP, it is Peter Dunne, who has pushed medical use as far as he probably can within the current laws. And…

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says he would welcome trials of other products here in New Zealand, but our market is too small.

“We need manufacturers with product to say ‘we would like to trial these formulations in New Zealand’, and the sad truth is that for many of those manufacturers they do not see New Zealand as a sufficiently large market to make it worthwhile,” he told The Nation.

“It’s the same story we have for clinical trials generally, but there’s no prohibition for sourcing cannabis for medical trials in New Zealand.”

That’s all he is able to do, promote possibilities under current law.

English and others in National won’t allow any law changes.

It will require either a change of Government or a change of generation in the National caucus to get any cannabis law changes.

Unless Dunne and David Seymour are able to negotiate a coalition deal with National that sorts out a mess of a cannabis situation