Golriz Ghahraman cops more criticism for inaccurate claims

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has attracted attention in the past for making questionable claims. She was in the firing line again today over this tweet:

That states: Golriz Ghahraman is the Green Party’s defence spokesperson

I think it’s questionable that she ‘holds the Defence portfolio’. She seems unclear on proper Parliamentary job descriptions.

Oxford: portfolio – the position and duties of a Minister or Secretary of State.

She is Green spokesperson for Defence. She isn’t a minister, nor an associate minister.

And she isn’t the first woman to be defence spokesperson.

Ghahraman has responded to this:

No woman has held the portfolio as full spokesperson (as far as the Parliamentary Library records confirm. Associates aren’t full spokes persons. I had no idea it was a thing before being contacted about it tbh. But there you go).

But again, she isn’t a minister or an associate minister. She can’t even claim to be shadow minister 9not a common term in New Zealand) – that is Opposition MP Mark Mitchell (National’s Spokesperson for defence).

And she isn’t the first female spokesperson for defence either – @GraemeEdgeler :

No-one is disputing Heather was Associate Minister of Defence. Golriz was disputing that Heather Roy was ACT’s (full) defence spokesperson. Golriz is wrong. There is a single 2005 press release from ACT listing Heather as ACT’s Defence Spokesman. That resolves the claim.

Ghahraman is getting a reputation for not being a particularly solid MP. She is floundering online.

Budget “a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government”

It is notable that this refers to ‘Coalition Government’ – Greens are not a part of the coalition. While NZ First and Grant Robertson have tried to talk up the Defence budget it has been described as “money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees”.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark talked up the budget allocation for the Defence Force.

Enhancing Defence Force capability

New Zealand’s Defence Force can continue making meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping efforts, and respond effectively to events like natural disasters, as a result of Budget 2018 funding, says Defence Minister Ron Mark.

Budget 2018 provides a $367.7 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, underpinned by an extra $324.1 million for the New Zealand Defence Forces’ operating budget. In addition, Budget 2018 provides $42.3 million in new capital funding for modernisation.

“The extra funding is going to go a long way towards helping the Defence Force meet increasing demand across a range of tasks,” Ron Mark says.

“The funding announced today is also a huge win for conservation, the environment and fisheries protection.

Alongside the increase of $324.1 million in the Defence Force operating budget, Budget 2018 also sees:

  • $41.3 million additional capital investment for the first tranche of investment under the Defence Estate Regeneration Programme Plan
  • an additional $22.6 million operating funding over the next four years and $1.0 million capital funding for the Defence Force to deliver the enhanced Limited Service Volunteer programme (supported by a related investment of $4.2 million over the next four years for the Ministry of Social Development to administer the programme)
  • as announced earlier, $1.1 million in grants to the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association (RSA) and No Duff Charitable Trust over the next four years to support the services they provide to veterans – $250,000 for the RSA and $25,000 for No Duff Charitable Trust annually (This initiative was announced before Budget Day.)
  • $6.3 million in 2018/19 for the repatriation of the remains of service personnel and their dependents for those buried overseas since 1955
  • $13.6 million over the next four years set aside for new capabilities.

“This is a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government. It recognises the value it provides New Zealand and its meaningful contributions to peace and security around the world,” says Ron Mark.

Defence got a few mentions in the budget speeches in parliament on Thursday.

Grant Robertson:

New Zealand’s Defence Force will be able to make more meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping, and better respond to natural disasters, with a $345 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, including, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, funding to expand the Limited Service Volunteer programme for young people under 25.

It didn’t rate a mention from Simon Bridges

Winston Peters:

Can I just say it was clear as daylight that the National Party had been hiding the costing—$20 billion, for example, when it comes to the Defence Force, was a fiscal risk. It wasn’t even budgeted for. Then he had a frigate that was overrun by, and costing, $148 million, and they kept it quiet from the public from July last year all the way to election day.

We’ve got, for example, the things that also matter in defence. That’s a substantial boost in a critical area, which means that our defence capacity in the Pacific—so desperately needed by so many Pacific Islands and by the Pacific itself—can now show up responsibly.

That’s it.

However on his ‘National Security’ blog Simon Ewing Jarvie is quite scathing.

Politics, Defence & Budget 2018

The political fate of New Zealand’s Defence rests in two simple questions. The first is how important defence is in the scheme of the current government’s political priorities and the second is how much influence the current Defence Minister has.

Take a look at past behaviour of Government parties as an indicator of the future. Labour’s choices have often seen a reduction in combat capability – think air combat force for example. NZ First talks tough but, when in coalition with National, vetoed the acquisition of the second two ANZAC frigates. At least the Greens are up front in their disarmament desires.

It is clear that Defence is not a high priority for this Government. That’s concerning because there are some important decisions to be made about platform replacement. Good ministers can get money for their portfolios. Putting aside this year’s abysmal budget result, how is Ron Mark placed in the machinery of Government?

First, the general view is that Ron, Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aren’t exactly drinking buddies so there’s not likely to be any favours done for Defence in that department. The relationship between NZ First and Greens is toxic at the best of times and Defence is right in the middle of that.

I can’t see Ron Mark and Golriz Ghahraman (Green’s Defence Spokesperson) nutting out an accord over a herbal tea anytime soon.

So that brings it back to how Ron is able to leverage NZ First’s support for the Government. Unfortunately, Ron Mark’s star, within his own party, appears to be waning. Were it not, Peters wouldn’t have stood back and let Fletcher Tabuteau roll Mark as Deputy Leader. NZ First got heaps of concessions out of Labour in Budget 2018 but they weren’t going to die in a ditch for Ron Mark or Defence. It’s unlikely that anything is going to change there.

For all the bold election campaign statements by NZ First, Ron Mark got money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees.

He highlights a lowlight:

$148 million over four years is listed as a new initiative. It is actually the value of the cost overrun for the ANZAC frigate upgrade so it’s not generating any capability that wasn’t already signed up to.

Not only is this not new spending, it’s actually caused a degradation in other Defence capability development. That’s because as part of their ‘kiss and make up’ exercise, the MOD agreed to reduce the specs on the new littoral operations vessel from a purpose-built military specification to a commercially available hydrographic and dive support vessel to ‘save’ a similar amount of money. In December, Mark attacked the previous Government over the frigates saying “it means the lives of men and women were now being compromised”. How can he possibly reconcile that with sending sailors into threat zones in a vessel not designed for self-defence and survivability? You can’t paint it grey and call it a warship.

Grey lipstick on a war pig.

The bulk of the money allocated for acquisition to MOD is for the construction of the new maritime sustainment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa. Apart from a few legacy projects, there is nothing for the big ticket items listed in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Finally, but very important, is personnel costs. These are currently about $1b of the cost of running defence. Is there, in effect, a pay freeze? Or, will the operating funds have to be used to retain ‘he tangata’. NZ First campaigned on this and has delivered nothing.

Don’t forget, also, about the ‘drag’ that capital charge and depreciation is having on NZDF’s funds.

 

 

 

 

 

Q+A: is our defence future fit?

Greens are generally against defence spending, Andrew Little has said that Labour will reduce spending on defence, and our fleet of defence helicopters has just been grounded after an engine failure in one of them.

And is Gerry Brownlee soon to shift to Minister of Foreign Affairs? He could do that and retain Defence, at least until the election.


Worried about developments in North Korea? Not particularly worried.

Whether New Zealand got involved would have to be a decision made if that time arises.

North Korea has an “evil regime”. [That’s what North Korea says about the US.]

No comment on whether he will be named the new Foreign Minister tomorrow. It is not for him to announce it.

On Hit & Run – Brownlee is comfortable with how it was handled. Five days to react? It takes time to investigate sudden outlandish accusations. He thinks there is no need for further investigation.

There’s something new on this from David Fisher: Hit & Run: NZDF never carried out investigation into civilian deaths

Most people who noticed Hit & Run have moved on and forgotten it.

Highlights from UK Conservative conference

A UK report from Missy:


Well, today was the last day of the Conservative Conference and Theresa May gave her keynote speech – which I will get to in a separate post. First a few highlights from yesterday which saw the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary both give their speeches.

Home Secretary:

The Home Secretary announced that they will not be looking to making any kind of free movement deal with Canada, Australia, and NZ, thought to be fair this has only ever been pushed as an idea here from lobby groups, but for the Home Secretary to announce it won’t happen shows that those lobbying are obviously being heard.

The Conservatives will bring in new laws to make it easier to deport EU citizens that commit crimes in the UK. This was one of the main issues of the referendum, and one of the issues that the Remain campaign did not address fully for the electorate. I think it is approximately 10% of serious sex offenders in prison in the UK are from the EU, and at present under EU laws it is very difficult for the UK to deport them, the laws that the Government are looking to introduce will apparently make it easier for this to happen.

On Immigration, the Government have outlined their post-Brexit immigration policy of being a work permit based scheme, as opposed to a points based scheme. Theresa May has previously indicated she does not agree with points based immigration systems as they tend to still allow immigrants in who have no jobs, under the proposals from the Government, immigrants will only be able to come if they have a job prior to applying to emigrate – this is similar to what all non EU citizens currently have to do now, so will mean no change to NZers, but will be a big change for the EU citizens.

The Home Secretary also announced that Companies in Britain would have to register how many foreign worker they have working for them, and show why they had to employ a foreign worker rather than a British worker. This has gained a backlash, and already today the Conservatives were back pedalling on it a bit, so I won’t be surprised if this dies a quiet death.

Defence:

The biggest – and some will argue most important – announcement on defence relates to the vexatious cases being brought against serving, and former, members of the defence force. The Government will pass a law allowing them to suspend the European Convention of Human Rights for the military in all future conflicts. Unfortunately they are unable to make this a retrospective law, so all current claims will continue to be investigated. But it signals an intent to not leave the military open to being pursued in civilian courts, against civilian situations, for battlefield actions. This move has been welcomed by many in the defence area – both former and serving. Just to note the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU, it is a separate treaty that was set up prior to the EU.

What I have gained from the summaries on the speeches at the conference is that the Conservatives appear to be listening to, and acting on, the concerns of many of the population, and that regardless of what is happening behind closed doors they are publicly showing a united front – quite a contrast to Labour where many of their front benches included veiled and pointed comments about their leader.

Craig’s case outlined

The last witnesses for Jordan Williams gave evidence this morning, and this afternoon Colin Craig’s lawyer outlined their defence and then Craig began giving his evidence.

Again the Herald coverage is excellent – Colin Craig’s lawyer: ‘This trial is not about Rachel MacGregor’

Colin Craig’s lawyer has opened his case at the former Conservative Party leader’s High Court defamation trial, saying the case is not about Rachel MacGregor.

Stephen Mills QC says while Craig’s former press secretary’s evidence is relevant in parts – the trial and the issue at hand was not directly related to her, her relationship with Craig or her shock resignation.

Mills told the jury they needed to reflect on Williams and his actions, and whether he “acted with honesty and integrity”.

He said his client’s reputation was “reasonably shattered” by the “rumours” and “untrue statements about him” spread primarily by Williams.

“The defences that are being raised here are very standard for a defamation case – truth, what’s called honest opinion and privilege,” he said.

After Craig those who will take the stand:

  • Craig’s wife Helen
  • Family First director Bob McCoskerie
  • Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar
  • Former members of the Conservative Party
  • Martyn Bradbury
  • One of Craig’s staffers.
  • Others involved in the publication of the contentious pamphlet

Dirty Politics author Nicky Hagar would also give evidence about how blogs influence the mainstream media.

Dirty Politics looks like a significant part of Craig’s defence. Stuff perhaps nails the crux of it in Colin Craig says he thought of Rachel MacGregor as ‘like a sister’.

Mills highlighted how Williams had not only approached Conservative board members regarding Craig’s alleged sexual harassment of MacGregor, but he also forwarded poems Craig sent MacGregor to blog site Whale Oil. 

“You might want to reflect on, as the trial goes along, about whose interests were being served when Mr Williams gave that poem to Whale Oil,” Mills said. 

That is likely to be significant. Williams had denied any ‘Dirty Politics’ type attack.

In his evidence Craig said that he knew his affection for his then press secretary went “too far” but says he thought it was reciprocated.

Q+A – defence, Clinton and housing

Q+A today:

Today: ivs Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee – have we got our defence priorities right? Can we afford his $20 billion spend?

I think it’s generally accepted that we have to spend a certain amount on a credible defence, although the spend is about half what Australia spends and what the US suggests based on GDP.

Labour may quibble about some details but must agree broadly that we do a bare minimum.

NZ First want to double what we spend.

Greens probably prefer nothing was spent.

Major banks have moved to limit foreign buyers investment in the housing market-but who’s really driving up prices?

Three major banks have moved to limit foreign buyers from investing in the housing market – but who’s really driving up prices? Political editor Corin Dann looks at the data with Corelogic’s head of research Jonno Ingerson.

And:

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills will finish up his five year term at the end of the month. He talks to Greg Boyed about his time advocating for our most vulnerable kids.

Russell is always worthwhile to listen to.

Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills says we can change the state of the terrible child abuse in NZ. “It’s ok to intervene.”

Having been critical of Rino Tirikatene on twitter this seems more sensible:

How do we get vulnerable children out of poverty? Get the parents out of poverty. Easier said than done, but do-able.

And:

Our first woman PM Dame Jenny Shipley reflects on Hillary Clinton’s historic first

While Shipley was out first woman MP she was not elected, Helen Clark was New Zealand’s first elected woman MP.

So far Clinton is just the first woman to look like getting a nomination to stand for President of the USA.

 

Defence White Paper 2016

The defence White Paper was released today.

DefenceWhitePaper2016Factsheet

About the Defence White Paper 2016

The Defence White Paper 2016 was released on 8 June 2016. It sets out the Government’s expectations for Defence over the coming decades.

Terms of Reference

The Defence White Paper was guided by Terms of Reference that were approved by Cabinet on 13 April 2015. You can view key information from the Terms of Reference by clicking on the link below:

Public consultation

The Defence White Paper public consultation process was undertaken from May to June 2015. Over 300 submissions were received and 12 public meetings held around New Zealand.

Through the consultation process, all New Zealanders were given the opportunity to provide their views on the appropriate roles of the armed forces; the capabilities they think are needed to fulfil these; and the environments in which they will be most likely to carry them out.

Thank you to everyone that either made a submission or attended one of the public meetings.

It was readily apparent that the public appreciated the role performed by the Defence Force in securing New Zealand and promoting our interests overseas. There was strong support for soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen of the Defence Force having the best equipment available to do the tasks required of them by the Government.

Strengthening relationships with Australia, the United States and other nations in the Asia-Pacific were seen as important priorities. Many submitters also saw the Defence Force as playing a key role in building the resilience of New Zealand and South Pacific states, and supporting the development of New Zealand youth.

More information

In 2014, the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force produced a formal Defence Assessment, a comprehensive review of the international strategic environment and its implications for New Zealand’s defence policy and capability. The Defence Assessment informed the strategic outlook described in the Defence White Paper.

A public version of the Defence Assessment can be viewed below.

Dotcom fails to delay extradion hearing

Dotcom’s extradition hearing will resume next week.

Kim Dotcom’s lawyers have failed to get his extradition hearing delayed and will begin their defence next week

Radio NZ: Dotcom’s bid to stop extradition hearing rejected

Kim Dotcom’s bid to stop his extradition hearing has been rejected and his lawyers will open his defence on Monday.

In a ruling released late this afternoon, Judge Nevin Dawson said he would not hear full arguments of the application to have the extradition hearing halted now and his full reasons will be released at the end of the hearing.

The defence will open their case on Monday.

Dotcom on Twitter:

Dick contradicts himself trying to defend torture programme

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is described by The Atlantic as “the de-facto leader of the national-security team” during the period that the CIA illegally detained people and tortured them.

Cheney had an interview on Fox News trying to defend what happened but Fox News Catches Dick Cheney Lying About Torture.

Early on, interviewer Bret Baier says, “The Feinstein report suggests that President Bush was not fully briefed on the program and deliberately kept in the dark by the CIA.”

Dick Cheney denies this.

“Not true,” he says. “Read his book. He talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was, in fact, an integral part of he program. He had to approve it before we went forward …. We did discuss the techniques. There was no effort on our part to keep him from that.” Cheney goes on to declare that “the men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program.”

According to Cheney Bush was an integral part of the program, had to approve it, discussed the techniques, and the CIA “did exactly what we wanted them to do”.

Later in the interview, Baier asks:

“At one point, this report describes interrogators pureeing food of one detainee and then serving it in his anus,” he says, “something the agency called ‘rectal rehydration.’ I mean, is that torture?”

Cheney replied.

“I can’t speak to that. I guess the question is, what are you prepared to do to get the truth about future attacks against the United States. Now, that was not one of the authorized or approved techniques. There were 12 of them, as I recall. They were all techniques we used in training on our own people.”

What is Cheney prepared to do to avoid the truth and to make excuses?

He claims they were fully briefed, the CIA did exactly what they wanted them to do. But that technique wasn’t authorized or approved.

Either way, he story doesn’t hold together. He can’t have it both ways. Either the CIA hid depraved, unapproved tactics, or Cheney was perfectly okay with subjecting prisoners to anal rape.

A harsh assessment but makes a valid point.

Bret Baier: Did the ends justify the means?

Dick Cheney: Absolutely.

Cheney is defending it. Still.

Cheney is told about a prisoner, Gul Rahman, who died after unimaginable brutality—beaten, kept awake for 48 hours, kept in total darkness for days, thrown into the Gestapo-pioneered cold bath treatment, and then chained to a wall and left to die of hypothermia. The factors in his death included “dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to ‘short chaining.”

Defending this sort of treatment.

This is Cheney’s response: “3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did, and I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details … I haven’t read the report … I keep coming back to the basic, fundamental proposition: how nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3000 Americans?”

A defiant defence of abhorrent treatment. And it gets worse.

But Gul Rahman had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 plot.

He had engaged in no plots to kill Americans. He was a guard to the Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, part of an organization that began by fighting the Soviets in occupied Afghanistan. It had alliances with al Qaeda at the time, but subsequently engaged in peace negotiations with the Karzai government.

His brother claims Rahman was even involved in rescuing Hamid Kharzai in 1994.

To equate him with individuals who committed mass murder of Americans or who were actively plotting against Americans is preposterous.

He was emphatically not a threat to the US. Yet we tortured him to death. And the man running the torture camp was promoted thereafter.

And the man in charge of the torture programme is unrepentant.

Did the ends justify the means? Absolutely not.