Anzac services Islamic prayer dropped after threats of violence

It hasn’t taken long for the ugliness of intolerance to come back to normal nasty levels.

A report that one Anzac service in New Zealand would include an Islamic prayer raised some genuine concerns, but also initiated a barrage of anger and threats that has resulted in a change of plan with the Islamic prayer deemed too risky.

It’s very sad to see threats of violence dictating what can and can’t be done, especially involving Anzc Day which has become New Zealand’s primary focus on the need for peace.

I think this is as bad as the threats of violence that have been used to try to stop international speakers from\m speaking at events in New Zealand.

What if there were threats of violence to try to eliminate Christian prayers from Anzac services?

What next – a ban on wearing anything on your head at a dawn service?

New Zealand appeared to have changed a lot after the Christchurch mosque massacres, and in some ways we have, but it has also stirred up discord that shows that we have a lot of work to do still to move towards a more tolerant and decent society.

Keith Locke on SIS apology for labelling him a threat

Keith Locke was a Green MP from 1999 to 2011, having been a long time political activist. One of his aims in Parliament was to be a civil liberties watchdog, so it is ironic that he was the target of SIS attention.

Locke has recently revealed that he received an apology from the SIS for calling him a threat.

The Spinoff: Spy chief’s apology to me reveals scandalous truth about the SIS

The revelation in 2009 that Green MP Keith Locke had been spied on since age 11 caused an uproar and prompted an inquiry into SIS surveillance. Now, he writes, the SIS has been forced to apologise for calling him ‘a threat’ in internal documents.

Last April I received a letter from Rebecca Kitteridge, the director of the Security Intelligence Service, apologising for the way I was referred to in internal SIS documents. She wrote that I had been described as a “threat” in speaking notes for a Joint Induction Programme run by the SIS and the Government Communications Security Bureau since 2013.

AN EXTRACT FROM SIS DIRECTOR REBECCA KITTERIDGE’S LETTER TO KEITH LOCKE, DATED 16 APRIL 2018

In the SIS documents I was identified as an “internal” threat because I “wish[ed] to see the NZSIS & GCSB abolished or greatly modified”. The documents labelled this a “syndrome”.

In her apology, Kitteridge said “the talking point suggests wrongly that being a vocal critic of the agencies means you are a ‘threat’ or a ‘syndrome’. In fact, people who criticise the agencies publicly are exercising their right to freedom of expression and protest, which are rights we uphold, and are enshrined in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.”

I haven’t gone public on this until now, but given the recent news about several other state agencies spying on people, I decided that what happened to me should be in the public domain.

In his December report, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes described the state spying on critics of deep-sea oil drilling, like Greenpeace, “an affront to democracy”. Like Kitteridge in her letter of apology to me, Hughes said that it was “never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights, including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest.”

Most disturbingly, many civil servants in the cases Hughes identified must have known about this illegal, anti-democratic surveillance without blowing a whistle on it.

In my case, many SIS and GCSB officers must have heard me being identified as a “threat” without challenging it. How else could the disparaging reference to me have stayed in the officer training material for ten years. Kitteridge told me the “threat” label was carried over into the Joint Induction Programme speaking note from a “Protective Security Advice presentation (believed to have been developed in about 2008)” and “a historical security aide-memoire (believed to have been developed in 2012).”

To make matters worse, the ten year period when I was deemed to be a “threat” includes the last three years (2008-2011) of my 12 years as an Member of Parliament.

It seemed pretty clear that the SIS had breached to MOU requirements for political neutrality, by treating a sitting MP and his views as a “threat”, so I wrote to the current Speaker, Trevor Mallard, about it. He didn’t think the MOU had “been breached in any way.”

Mallard side-stepped my contention that the SIS had acted in a politically biased manner, but did admit that “certain materials being used by the security agencies contained inappropriate expressions of opinion regarding your conduct, including during a time that you were a member of Parliament.”

He said he met regularly with the SIS Director “and will continue to ensure that she is aware of the need for security agencies to respect the role and independence of Parliament.”

I have to disagree with the Speaker that it was just a matter of the SIS using “inappropriate” language. For a spy agency to describe someone as a “threat” is serious. It identifies them as a target for some form of monitoring or surveillance, and this is what has happened to me over many years.

My file illustrates the main function of the SIS over the years, which hasn’t been to track down criminals (which the Police do quite well) but to spy on political dissenters.

This is a serious issue in what is supposed to be an open democracy.

 

 

Trump threatens countries who don’t negotiate ‘fair trade’ deals with tariffs

The United States negotiated a wide ranging trade deal with eleven Pacific rim countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Donald Trump withdrew the US as son as he became president. The eleven remaining countries went on to ratify the agreement without the US. Since then Trump has reconsidered – Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership – but hasn’t done anything more than pontificate.

Trump has also attacked other trade agreements and trading arrangements, including with:

With all this chaos going on Trump has just issued another  threat:

Trump may succeed in bullying some countries into better deals for the US, but this ultimatum approach is not good for getting mutually beneficial and long lasting trade agreements.

And it is not good for international relations generally.

Playing the tough guy (except with Russia) may keep pleasing Trump’s dedicated base supporters,

And this is also having an impact on the US, with farm subsidies, already a major factor in trade issues, set to increase.

WSJ: Trump Administration to Offer About $12 Billion in Farm Aid to Ease Concerns Over Trade Disputes

The Trump administration on Tuesday is expected announce a plan to extend some $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers amid growing concerns that the U.S. agricultural sector could suffer from President Donald Trump’s escalating trade dispute with allies…

US agriculture has long been bolstered by subsidies and tariff protection – and still needs more aid to survive. Nuts.

WSJ: The Many Ways Trump’s Trade Disputes Are Affecting the Auto Industry

Auto-industry representatives are expected to argue during a U.S. Commerce Department hearing Thursday that President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on auto imports would cost jobs and increase car prices.

The White House in May asked the Commerce Department to investigate whether it could use a national-security law to impose tariffs of up to 25% on imported vehicles and car parts. Mr. Trump has argued trade barriers are needed to pressure manufacturers to build more goods in the U.S. and expand factory jobs.

WSJ editorial: Trump Rides a Harley—to Europe

Donald Trump’s trade war has been an abstraction for most Americans so far, but the retaliation has now begun in earnest and the casualties are starting to mount. The President’s beloved stock market took another header Monday on news of more restrictions on investment into the U.S., and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now down for 2018.

The rest of the world can’t avoid being affected by Trump’s trade interventions and tariffs, but at least they can trade amongst each other. In the meantime Trump is isolating the US, and burning a lot of diplomatic and good faith bridges.

Trump’s trade chaos could get very messy, and not just with trade wars.

Remarkable Trump threat against Russia – via Twitter

Donald Trump is well known for his controversial use of Twitter to communicate with the world, but this is one of his most remarkable – and worrying – tweets.

This has the potential to escalate into war between the superpowers, but the US has also been directly involved in the civil war in Syria, so has been effectively a partner with the Syrian regime.

This tweet appears to be in reaction to a Russian warning they had the technology to shoot down any missiles.

Reuters: Trump signals strikes against Syria, lays into Assad backer Russia

Trump was reacting to a warning from Russia that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria over the deadly assault on a rebel enclave near Damascus would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

His comments raised fears of direct conflict over Syria for the first time between the two world powers backing opposing sides in the seven-year-old civil war, which has aggravated instability across the Middle East.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Trump tweeted, referring to Moscow’s alliance with Assad.

In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said: “Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not towards the lawful government”.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said any U.S. missile salvo could be an attempt to destroy evidence of the reported gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma, for which Damascus and Moscow have denied any responsibility.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, striking a cautious tone hours after Trump’s threat of missile strikes, said the United States was assessing intelligence about the suspected attack.

Asked if he had seen enough evidence to blame Assad, Mattis said: “We’re still working on this.”

He did not elaborate but added that the U.S. military stood ready to provide military options, if appropriate. It was unclear whether his remarks reflected any unease about Trump’s apparent move toward military action.

In Moscow, the head of a Russian parliamentary defence committee, Vladimir Shamanov, said Russia was in direct contact with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff about the situation.

After Trump’s tweet, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said pro-government forces were emptying main airports and military air bases.

The US has already launched a previous (last year)  token missile strike against a Syrian airport, but with the Trump versus Russia and threats over the last few days this has the potential to blow up into something far more serious – and it could be made worse by Trump’s tweeting.

This follows on from recent claims by Trump that the US would be “coming out of Syria, like, very soon”.

Time: Why the Syrian Civil War Is Becoming Even More Complex

The situation in Syria only grows more complicated.

Donald Trump says he wants a U.S. troop drawdown; his advisors and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince (a U.S. ally) disagree. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani met last week in Ankara to plot a way forward—and all that was before the Assad regime launched a chemical attack in a rebel-occupied Damascus suburb over the weekend, killing at least 42 and drawing international cries of outrage, Trump’s among them.

The U.S. has about 2,000 troops deployed in Syria and has already spent nearly $30 billion waging war there—it’s requested an additional $13 billion for fiscal year 2018. The Pentagon wants to keep U.S. forces in Syria indefinitely (as did Rex Tillerson’sState Department), but Trump’s recent remarks at an infrastructure speech in Ohio that “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon” threw the U.S. security establishment for a loop. Meanwhile, Trump’s military advisors argue that pulling out of Syria now will only give ISIS the oxygen it needs to re-expand.

Last week, the White House walked back Trump’s pullout comment. But reports over the weekend that Assad deployed chemical attacks to break the rebels’ hold of Douma, a suburb of the country’s capital, drew Trump’s fury: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay,” Trump tweeted, before adding that Obama shoulders part of the blame for not living up to his own declared red lines in Syria. Trump is not wrong in that regard. The real question is what the U.S. does next.

And what Russia does next or in response to any US military action.

Corbyn threatens banks

Big banks billed the plebs, businesses and countries, but provide essential finance for them all to do and get what they want.

Better banks or no banks?

There will be discussion on this at The Standard: Corbyn vs bankers

Taxpayers’ Union denies white feathers

Jordan Williams has emphatically denied the Taxpayers’ Union having anything to do with emailing white feathers or sticking them on councillors doors.

It’s not the sort of story someone is likely to dream up, so there’s some explaining to be done – in the first instance by The Spinoff who made the claim on a story.

The Spinoff has been threatened with defamation action.

Taxpayers’ Union: SPINOFF ARTICLE ON “WHITE FEATHERS” TOTALLY WRONG

The Taxpayers’ Union, its founders Jordan Williams and David Farrar, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and its spokesperson Jo Holmes, totally reject the allegation made on the Spinoff website today that they have sent ‘white feathers’ (either physically or electronically) to Auckland Councillors or have acted in any unethical way in relation to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance “Ratepayer Protection Pledge” signed by approximately a dozen Auckland Councillors, prior to last year’s elections.

The Spinoff’s publisher and the article’s author have been sent a letter putting them on notice of the defamatory allegation, and unless an apology and full retraction is received prior to 5pm today, advice in relation to filing defamation proceedings will be sought.

Fair enough asking for a retraction and apology, but that’s very heavy handed.

So it’s up to The Spinoff to substantiate or retract.

UPDATE:

UPDATE 2:

The Spinoff has added at the top of their story:

NB: An earlier version of this story attributed the distribution of white feathers to The Taxpayers’ Union, a charge the organisation has since vigourously denied. The Spinoff has since been told that the feathers were in fact distributed anonymously, and accepts that The Taxpayers’ Union had no role in the distribution of the feathers. The story has now been updated to reflect this. The Spinoff apologises to the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams, David Farrar and Jo Holmes for the error.

And they have updated their story:

First, how nasty can council politics get? Right now, it’s this nasty: councillors who didn’t vote for public consultation on the rates rises have been sent a white feather – as a mark of their “cowardice”.

The Spinoff understands white feathers were anonymously emailed to nine councillors in the form of a certificate, though at least two are said to have received a real feather at their homes.

The strategy comes straight from the playbook of the Tea Party in the US: they don’t bother much with left-leaning politicians, except to abuse them, but prefer to target the centre-right. And it’s predominantly centre-right aligned councillors who are alleged to have received these feathers.

There must be some reason why Simon Wilson at The Spinoff linked the Taxpayers’ Union to the feathers, either in error or he was incorrectly informed. I think an explanation is in order here.

‘Serious domestic terrorism threat’

It is being reported that ‘a serious domestic terrorism threat’ activated New Zealand’s top security systems at some time in the past two years.

NZ Herald: Terror threat to New Zealand revealed in security handbook

Concrete evidence has emerged that there has been an actual attempt to carry out a terrorist attack on New Zealand soil.

The National Security System is New Zealand’s highest-level response to the most serious threats against our country. It is led by a committee chaired by the Prime Minister and brings together key officials from intelligence services, police, the military and other departments – depending on the threat – to co-ordinate a response.

It is activated in cases where there is a risk to “the security or safety of New Zealanders or people in New Zealand”, our sovereignty, the economy and environment or “the effective functioning of the community”.

The existence of the threat came from the newly released National Security System handbook. It stated the system – which triggers a special set of protocols – had been activated for a “threat of a domestic terrorist incident”.

The Handbook details:

Examples of National Security System activations:

  • Threat of 1080 contamination of infant formula; 
  • Ebola viral disease readiness and possible Ebola case;
  • Neurological complications and birth defects possibly associated with Zika virus; 
  • Threat of a domestic terrorist incident; 
  • TS Rena grounding on Astrolabe Reef 2011; 
  • Darfield Earthquake 2010 and Christchurch Earthquake 2011.

The National Security System can be activated for more than one issue at any one time.

That is the only reference to it in the handbook.

From the Inspector General of intelligence and Security annual report:

During the reporting year, the Director notified me that she had issued an authorisation for urgent surveillance without a warrant under s 4ID(1) of the NZSIS Act. Notification was made immediately, as required by s 4IE(1)(b). The authorisation was the first since the late 2014 enactment of s 4ID, which permits surveillance without warrant for up to 24 hours in cases of urgency.

I am required to investigate such authorisations if the Minister or the Commissioner of Security Warrants directs the surveillance to stop; if the authorisation is not followed by an application for a surveillance warrant; or if an application is made but declined.

In this instance, the Minister and Commissioner did not direct surveillance to stop and, within the 24 hour period, received and granted an application for a surveillance warrant. For that reason, I was not required to carry out a specific investigation but my office did review the authorisation and supporting material as part of our regular review of warrants and authorisations. We provided some comment on how the authorisation could have been framed more clearly, but did not consider there to be any material concern.

The Herald claims:

The urgency of the request showed the need for information trumped the legal process, meaning it could be linked to an imminent domestic terrorist attack.

We are unlikely to find out any details.

No further information on the nature of the threat was forthcoming from Prime Minister John Key and NZ Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which co-ordinates responses, also would not supply details.

A spokesman for Key’s office said: “As the Prime Minister has said, New Zealand is not immune from the threat of terrorism, although the threat to New Zealand remains low.

“Our intelligence agencies play an important role in identifying, monitoring and reacting to any domestic threats in order to keep New Zealanders safe, both at home and abroad.

“The Government has increased their resources to allow them to better carry out their duties as well as increased the level of transparency and oversight to ensure they are doing so appropriately.”

What we do know is that no acts of domestic terrorism have been reported. The risk in New Zealand is relatively low. Perhaps our security systems are doing there job and keeping them at zero, for now at least.

Another response to Chinese trade allegations

David has responded in comments to Key on Chinese trade allegations:

Irresponsible idiots in the media doing the Dirty Politics with ETu union organiser now all over the media calling for tariffs to protect his workers which is perfectly fair but having the media try to kick off a trade war is bloody stupid.

This story has now been denied by pretty much everyone, the only exception is McLay saying he will have officials make a call which is code for shutting up idiot reporters given McLay has just spent a week in China at a trade meeting.

If this am ETu beat up via the media then yes, it is irresponsible.

I’ve had a quick look for “ETu union organiser now all over the media” and can’t find any sign of it.

Links to anything of this nature would help make a case for alleged union irresponsibility.

Key on Chinese trade allegations

John Key has played down allegations that China is threatening retaliation against New Zealand over an investigation into the quality of steel imported from China – see China allegedly threatens NZ on trade.

Stuff: John Key downplays retaliation suggestions over potential China steel import sanctions

Prime Minister John Key has downplayed fears of a trade war from China if sanctions are slapped on its steel, saying he has received “no indication” the world superpower is upset with New Zealand.

Highly-placed sources have confirmed China is applying pressure in an attempt to sway regulators at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) away from imposing anti-dumping or countervailing duties – which are imposed when goods are subsidised – on cheap imported Chinese steel.

Speaking shortly after his arrival in Indonesia for a three-day trade trip, Key sought to pour cold water on the idea of any Chinese retaliation.

While he could not confirm whether MBIE had received a complaint about steel dumping, due to the confidentiality of the complaints regime, the Government had received “no indications” of Chinese concerns about possible anti-dumping duties, or potential retribution.

“Even if there was a complaint, and even if it was investigated, whether a country like China would take retaliatory action against New Zealand, I don’t believe that’s the case that they would.”

“There’ll be lots and lots of ways of them looking to resolve issues if there were any, but it wouldn’t be through the sort of things that we’ve seen reported.”

Key said there was no “substantiated source” confirming that China would take action against New Zealand exports, only speculation.

“People can have their own version or view … of what they think might happen, but our exports are flowing across the border into China.

“I regularly see the Chinese leadership, the Chinese ambassador has my phone number if he wants to pick it up and make a phone call – none of those things have happened.”

However it appears that the allegations have been taken seriously

Kiwi trade officials have been asked to “seek assurances” from the Chinese embassy about the country’s stance on competition issues, as local exporters worry about a backlash.

McClay had asked officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to speak to the Chinese embassy on Monday morning and “seek assurances” about the country’s position on competition issues.

McClay said he had no concerns about imported Chinese steel coming into New Zealand.

“We’re a trading nation, we sell a lot of things to China and other parts of the world, and we import a lot of things from them as well, so in as far as our trade relationships are concerned, with China it’s very strong.”

Perhaps “highly-placed sources” have tried to fight back against threats by leaking to media.

Regardless of whether the allegations of threats are true or not it is likely that China won’t be happy seeing this played out in public.

 

China allegedly threatens NZ on trade

The Sunday Star Times claims that “behind the scenes” China has threatened “retaliatory measures” against New Zealand trade if inquiries continue into the quality of Chinese supplied steel.

If accurate this is chilling. It puts a small country like us, dependent to a significant degree on trade with China, in a difficult and relatively powerless position.

China threatens reprisals on NZ dairy, wool and kiwifruit if government doesn’t back off cheap steel inquiry

China has threatened “retaliatory measures” against New Zealand trade, warning it will slow the flow of dairy, wool and kiwifruit imports.

The world’s biggest trading nation is angry at New Zealand inquiries into a glut of Chinese steel imports flooding the market; the Chinese believe New Zealand is part of a US-led alliance to target Chinese national interests.

New Zealand is angry that China should take such a combative approach, and is asking that it desist.

New Zealand ‘anger’ may be futile in a trade war between China and the US.

The quality of steel from China is becoming a concern.

Pacific Steel, the sister company of iron miner and processor NZ Steel, has lodged a confidential application, under local and World Trade Organisation rules, for an investigation into China dumping cut-price steel on the New Zealand market.

The local industry is struggling to compete with the glut of sometimes substandard Chinese metal, which is being used in major projects like the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection and bridges on the Waikato Expressway.

Competing with cheap imports from China has been a problem for New Zealand manufacturers for a long time, as has the quality of imported goods.

The durability of structural steel is is of much greater concern than the durability of track pants and onesies.

Right now, lawyers for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are deciding whether the investigation should proceed, which could result in punitive anti-dumping tariffs against China.

But somehow, China learned of the application – and it is taking retaliatory action.

In the past week, representatives of New Zealand’s biggest export industries have been called in by Chinese officials, and told to exert their influence to make sure the MBIE investigation does not go ahead.

To up the ante, they have been told China has begun consulting with its local food producers about imposing reprisal tariffs to slow down the access of New Zealand dairy, wool, kiwifruit and potentially meat to the 1.35 billion-strong Chinese consumer market.

Local producers are alarmed. 

So the should be – and not just local producers.

A trade war with China is definitely not in our interests,” says Andrew Hoggard, a Manawatu dairy farmer. “It’s about 20 per cent of our markets and we’re getting good market penetration with added value products in there.”

Highly-placed sources have confirmed China is applying pressure in an attempt to sway regulators away from imposing anti-dumping or countervailing duties – which are imposed when goods are subsidised – on imported Chinese steel. Zespri and Fonterra are said to have been heavied, and other exporters may have been.

But I don’t thing New Zealand can compromise on the quality of critical things like structural steel.

The world’s biggest trading nation believes the United States is leading an alliance of sycophantic nations, doing the US bidding by shutting down Chinese trade and trying to force its military out of the contested islands and atolls of the South China Sea.

China’s unusual tactics have caused government and industry to close ranks. The Ministry of Commerce of China (MOFCOM) has denied consulting on retaliatory tariffs. Fonterra spokesman Phil Turner and Zespri’s chief operating officer Simon Limmer both denied any knowledge of the Chinese industry consultation.

But trade expert Charles Finny, who has worked on China-New Zealand trade issues for decades, said sources in Government confirmed at least one major exporter had been told “the Chinese Government would like pressure to be applied to MBIE”.

I don’t think we have a choice – New Zealand has to stand firm on our procedures for dealing with potentially substandard imports of building materials.

If China takes retaliatory action in other markets then we just have to bear the brunt of that. We can’t allow another country – any other country – to dictate how we do things via threats.

It may adversely effect some of our trade but the alternative is worse.

UPDATE:  McClay to follow up on China retaliation claims (NZME)

Trade Minister Todd McClay says he will ask officials to contact the Chinese Embassy in Wellington to clarify China’s position on competition issues.

He was commenting about news reports that China could take retaliatory action against dairy and kiwifruit exports from New Zealand if a formal investigation into alleged steel dumping by China is launched by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

McClay said he would be asking his officials to contact China’s embassy.

“Certainly I would be asking officials to clarify the Chinese position in as far as any competition issue was concerned,” he said today from Townsville, en route to Indonesia with a trade delegation, where he is meeting up with Prime Minister John Key.

Retaliatory action was serious.

“Market economies don’t do that with each other. WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules don’t allow it,” McClay said.

“I will certainly be talking with my colleagues and the Prime Minister when we get to Indonesia.”