Oranga Tamariki a scapegoat for serious societal problems – our problems

As a number of people have said, Oranga Tamariki is damned if they do  take babies from mothers, but they are also damned if babies are left in the care of at risk families and are seriously harmed or killed.

It may be found that Oranga Tamariki can improve procedures around the ‘uplifting’ of babies – taking a baby from a mother should only be done if there are no other safe options for the baby, a last resort.

The ‘uplifting baby’ issue is an unfortunate symptom of serious societal problems.

A family lawyer writes:  The other side of the Oranga Tamariki baby uplift story

It’s hard watching, but it didn’t leave me wondering how Oranga Tamariki could be so cruel, or how the social worker could have made such an error of judgment, or why the family wasn’t given a chance to try, or how our legal system could allow such an injustice to happen.

I didn’t wonder, because I’m a family lawyer. Everyday I spend my 8.30 till 5  – but usually longer – dealing with the effects that drugs and alcohol, child abuse, domestic violence, neglect and poor choices have on our tamariki. I knew there’d be another side to that story, one the public won’t hear because everyone who could tell it is bound by court confidentiality.

New Zealand has the highest rates of reported domestic violence in the OECD, and Hawke’s Bay has the highest rates in New Zealand. Our rates of child abuse also leave us as an outlier among our OECD friends.

Domestic violence impacts either directly or indirectly on babies and children, and is a far bigger problem than uplifting babies (which is done to try to prevent harm).

Protection orders and domestic violence are the family lawyer’s bread and butter. There are few cases in which methamphetamine or violence isn’t an issue. We attempt to get parents to engage, and address the issues placing their children at risk. We fight every day for the children who do not get a say in their own welfare. Oranga Tamariki does this too.

The decision to uplift is never made by one person acting alone, or without professional consultation. It’s never made without genuine care and protection concerns.

Social workers and Oranga Tamariki almost certainly almost always have genuine care and protection concerns when mking decisions on the safety of babies.

Children must first come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki via a report of concern – schools, doctors, or people within the community are making these reports, which social workers are tasked with investigating. Attempts are made to engage with families. But if families refuse to engage, and concerns are substantiated, little choice is left for Oranga Tamariki.

In serious cases, a “without notice” application is made to the Family Court, for a decision on an uplift before the parents have a chance to be heard by the judge. An order without notice has to reach a very high threshold, so many things have to happen before that point.

I’d rather open the newspaper and read an article slamming Oranga Tamariki for getting it wrong than read yet again about a child being killed at the hands of the person tasked with keeping them safe. They’re the decisions Oranga Tamariki has to make on a daily basis – and they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

The current focus is on the procedures used by Oranga Tamariki in uplifting some babies, but…

The blame sits on all of our shoulders.

Oranga Tamariki has the job no-one else wants.

We should be asking ourselves what we can do to help address domestic violence, drugs and alcohol, and child abuse – regardless of a child’s bloodlines. If you are lucky enough to not be faced with these issues, you are privileged and you have a duty to use that privilege to help those without.

Drug reform? More supportive live-in facilities for new parents? More stopping violence education? Further Māori education? I don’t know the magic answer, but I urge you: instead of jumping on the  “Oranga Tamariki is wrong” bandwagon, have a think about how you can become an ally to improve our culture for the sake of our children.

A culture is created on the actions and intentions of a society. A society creates a culture, and a society can therefore recreate it.

It’s easy to sit back and criticise others, and too think that domestic violence, all violence in society, isn’t our problem, it’s something we can blame on others.

But uplifting babies, and babies being hurt and killed, is just one of the worst aspects of a sick society that we are all a part of.

Domestic violence can be physical, and it can also be verbal (thee two are usually associated).

Online violence is ‘just’ verbal – but there is a lot of verbal abuse on online forums, there are frequent personal attacks. There is a lot of vile and violent behaviour online. This can normalise abuse and violence, that can affect the use of violence in the physical world.

Confronting online abuse and violence must play a part in confronting societal abuse and violence – but it can be bloody difficult. Online abusers tend to react badly to having their behaviour challenged and criticised. They tend to attack anyone who questions their behaviour – I know this from ten years of experience confronting online abuse.

And when other people see this happening I’m sure it deters them from doing likewise and challenging abusive behaviour.

This also happens in the offline world.

It’s easier to lash out and blame social workers and Oranga Tamariki.

Uplifting babies and interfering in families can be a very emotional issue – but so is domestic abuse and violence, for many more babies and children.

Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, violence – these are the core problems that lead to many other societal problems.

Societal problems need society solutions. Blaming others is not a solution. We all have to take some responsibility. Society is made up of many attitudes and actions, which we all contribute to.

I’m not a violent person, but I feel a responsibility to do something about violent and abusive behaviour.  I think we should all be thinking about how we can make our society safer for babies, for children, for all of us.

The famaiy lawyer says:

I don’t know the magic answer, but I urge you: instead of jumping on the  “Oranga Tamariki is wrong” bandwagon, have a think about how you can become an ally to improve our culture for the sake of our children.

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.

Put “words into action and truly support women”

A thread on Twitter begins:

That’s quite a confrontational and alienating start. What follows is some advice to men, with some questionable comments added (I note that advice to women from men on this issue is unlikely to go down well):

In light of all the not all men idiots still breathing and talking shit, here’s a few ways that you can truly put your idiotic words into action and truly support women who are fearing for their lives right now.

Walk women to their cars and wait for them to drive off before leaving. Same applies to if you’re dropping them home. Wait until they are safely inside. If somebody is inside their car you will see and be able to help.

Wait with women for their taxis/ubers/transport home. Say hello and introduce yourself to the driver, note the number plate, and thank the driver for getting your friend home safely. Tell your friend to message you as soon as they are safely home.

If possible, drop your friends home in your uber/taxi/car. If money is an issue for them and they’re taking public transport, pay for them to get home.

When you see any women looking uncomfortable in a situation with a man, step in. Introduce yourself and say “hi, I’m xyz, is this man bothering you?” and follow up with “are you sure?” if she says no uncomfortably. Alert a staff member if you are in a bar.

If you ever see a woman being harassed by a man in any situation, also step in. introduce yourself, and say “would you like me to wait with you until he is gone?” and also call the police. If it looks like a couple’s fight, make sure the woman is aware there are witnesses & help.

This sort of thing can be tricky to deal with. Sometimes women don’t want others interfering. It risks escalating the situation for the women. It could also put the man who intervenes at risk. I know this from experience.

If a woman is visibly intoxicated leaving a bar with a man, tell security to check on them and also ask if she’s okay. if the man is defensive and aggressive and won’t let her speak, chances are he doesn’t know her, and is planning to assault her. Do not let them leave together.

If you see a male friend who won’t leave a woman alone, go over and say “sorry I’ll let him stop bothering you now” then take him away and explain that she is not interested and he needs to learn to take no for an answer, because women know what they want & don’t need convincing.

I’ve done that, and also done a number of other things that have been suggested.

If your male friends are discussing women in a degrading manner, or describing sexual situations where it is definitely murky as to whether or not she was coerced or consented willingly, ask “did she agree to that?” or “don’t speak about women like that”.

It’s tragic work christmas party season now, and it is very important to make sure the women of your office feel safe. If they look uncomfortable, save them. Don’t let any men abuse their power to assault women. Don’t let men grope women and justify it with ‘banter’.

Generally I agree – but male employees can also be in power imbalance situations with concerns about their careers.

At parties where drinks are flowing and people might not be pouring their own, watch who is pouring them and if they’re putting anything in them. Drink spiking is very common in Auckland and it is very easily done as well. If unsure, tip it over accidentally.

That could potentially raise ire and provoke violence.

Do not touch any women without their permission. Do not approach women from behind if they’re outside and alone. Do not yell at women. Do not chase them. Do not berate them. DO RESPECT THEM.

The presence of another male is intimidating to predators because a: they know that you will not be as easily physically overpowered as a woman, and b: there is now a witness to their indecency. Use your presence to protect women – stand between them with 111 on your dial screen.

Do not centre yourselves in conversations about violence against women. Accept that your part of humanity is responsible for the majority of violence on women. If you have not perpetrated violence you should not feel guilty. If you feel guilty, deliver yourself to the authorities.

Actually it can be pretty difficult.

All men being held responsible for the actions of some is contentious

Men need to realise you are a part of the global system of oppression which is violently killing women every day and work to better yourself and your peers to create a world where women do not fear your existence. Pretty easy to do if you aren’t a piece of shit.

I can understand people being angry, but being angry at all men is unlikely to help the situation.

They are worthwhile causes.

Many men do put words into action, and have been for a long time. Obviously more can and should be done to confront and reduce societal violence. I think that is best done cooperatively and positively.

I’m sure many women don’t like being lectured about keeping themselves safe. Most women (and men) are already aware of prudence and caution required in different situations.

I understand anger and emotion in situations like this, but lecturing and blaming and shaming all men is, i think, more of a problem than a solution.

The gender debate continued – transphobia

Marianne Elliot, who describers herself as a ‘feminist trail-lover’, sparked more gender debate on Twitter yesterday.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about transphobia, and the way that fear can be created & exploited for the purpose of oppression.

I recently went to the Museum of African American History and the Holocaust museum in DC. Both tell this story.

I think the fear is very real for many people. In the same way that many Americans were genuinely afraid that desegregation would lead to white women being raped by black men, I think many cis-women are genuinely afraid of transwomen.

That fear is built on a foundation of intentional misinformation driven by hatred, then spread through fear and ignorance. When we’re afraid, we lose our capacity to be rational and all we want is to be kept safe.

We know this pattern. It lead to the Holocaust. And Apartheid.

Cis-women have a good reasons to be afraid. We have many centuries of experience of being violently harmed by cis-men. We’ve also had to fight, long and hard, for everything from spaces safe from violence to medical recognition of and respect for the way our bodies actually work.

This is group generalisation. It would be better to to refer to some cis-women, and some cis-men. and to point out that many cis-men have also been the victims of violence. In wars they can be significant victims.

I have no problem understanding how those experiences make some cis-women susceptible to fear transwomen. But I also believe that fear is the result of an intentional misdirection.

I don’t know if I’m expressing this very well, but I think the point I want to make is that the work of undoing the harm done by hatred-fueled misinformation about transwomen may fall on cis-women who see it for what it is.

We may be the only ones who can fully understand the experiences that lead to the genuine though profoundly misplaced fears of other cis-women, and therefore the only ones who can engage empathetically with those fears to help dispel them.


I thought carefully about those examples, and anticipated that response. But my view is that the same strategy is being employed, for the same purpose. Misinformation motivated by hatred, used to create genuine fear, for the purpose of dehumanising a group of people.

It’s a strategy that works because fear is powerful, and because many of us have good reason to be afraid. If the comparison to fears about desegregation makes people uncomfortable, I’d argue that’s a discomfort worth sitting with for a while.

Comparing women, who might have been raped, or suffered csa, to the apartheid south africa as a rhetorical device

1) completely fails to understand how power relationships work between males and female

2) is hyperbolic

3) is massively unhelpful


The fact that this person can go down this train of thought, as if she is having a new and original thought, is actually staggering to me. But it’s a pretty good instance of the blunt analogy that makes the idea we’re genocidal lunatics so intuitively appealing to left/liberals.

The basic model is right, lots of violence in the world has been created by the fact that humans have an implacable fondness for projecting their fear onto others and then being horrendously fucking violent to them.

But then there is the fact that sometimes one group of people is scared of another group of people because those people *are* actually doing something violent and dominating to them.

Reading the situation right is always about seeing the power relationships, and the direction of domination, correctly.

Here we might also remember that there is no historical instance in which female people, as a class, othered male people, as a class, in order to make them the object of mass violence.

Because women have never had the power to do that, and really, it’s never been our style.

This is what pisses me right off about this. This whole analogy depends on analogising women, with men. And it depends specifically, on analogising left-wing feminist women, with right-wing racist patriarchal men.

And it depends on making that analogy stick, despite the fact, as this particular person almost lets herself remember, that women are, overwhelmingly, the objects, not the subjects of violence. That they have good reason to want to protect themselves from the the class of people who are, overwhelmingly, the subjects of violence. And that when we do so, we are not projecting and we are not fear-mongering. We are not spreading baseless hatred to illegitimately other another group of people so that we can dominate or exploit or colonise or scapegoat them.

We are women. We are an oppressed class of people who are naming our reality. And you – progressives – are refusing to grant us witness.

An exchange between Jones and Elliot followed:

Marianne Elliot: I don’t want to refuse the reality of women’s oppression by men. That is my personal experience as well. But I want to name that, and then ask whether the threat is trans-women or a culture that continues to enable violence against women (including trans-women). I say the latter.

Dr Jane Clare Jones: The threat is male people. We have no reason to believe that male people stop committing male pattern violence when they identify as women, and we actually have enough evidence to falsify the claim that they don’t – although we don’t have good enough data. We should probably get good enough data before we experiment with women’s safety don’t you think? The point is this. Women, under these circumstances, have good reason to say ‘no.’

Many many women are saying no. You are supporting an political movement that is attempting to demonise women, and to use that demonisation to mobilise pressure, violence and threats to intimidate and coerce women who are saying no.

That is, to underline, you are supporting a movement that is using violence to coerce women who are saying no. What does that sound like to you?

Marianne Elliot: I agree that we need data before we experiment with women’s safety, and I include trans-women in that. We need to find a non-coercive way forward that protects all women, including trans-women.

Dr Jane Clare Jones: Sure we do. But asking for data will get you called a transphobe lickity-split.

No one on my side wishes harm on trans women. It’s pure propaganda. We do, however, think they are male, and we think that matters, and we want this whole thing done properly. If the data shows that they exhibit male pattern violence, then we have every right to not want to grant them access to our intimate spaces in large numbers under any form of self-ID arrangement. Most of us think the solution in third spaces. ideally I think, organised by gender, so that women can make the choice if they want to use a sex segregated or a gender segregated space. But you cannot remove sex-segregated space from women without their consent, and over against their explicit protest, and claim that is just. It’s not going to go anywhere good, and it will create an incredible amount of resentment which will do nothing for the possibility of harmonious co-existence between women and trans women.

Marianne Elliot: Thanks for taking the time to engage. And without calling me awful names as most of the people who came over here after you RT’d me did. I appreciate that.

Dr Jane Clare Jones: Name calling won’t move us forward.

But I had a look. I don’t see a lot of name-calling to be honest. I see pretty trenchant criticism. Women are very very angry, for good reason. And they are particularly angry with other women who are complicit in propagating the discourse you were rehearsing in that thread.

I hope you will chew over what I’ve said. Good night (well, here anyway).

Marianne Elliot: I’ll definitely chew. Chewing is what I do.

This is a complex issue that looks like continuing for some time.

I’m concerned to see statements like “the threat is male people”. Certainly some male people constitute the biggest threat through violence. But dumping on all ‘male people’ is unfair on the many men who oppose and despise violence.

And I think grouping all males as one threat is counter productive to addressing male violence, because it alienates the  males who aren’t violent and oppose violence – which I think is probably a large majority of males.

Perhaps a solution here is for men who oppose violence to take a much stronger and more prominent role in opposing violence.

Addressing male violence involves everyone

There are many reasons for violence, and women and even girls can be violent and can provoke violence, but there;s no doubt that most violence and in particular the most damaging violence is from men, and boys learn from that.

Australian Dr Michael Salter, Associate Professor of Criminology at Western Sydney University, has written in the Sydney Morning herald about the complexities of preventing violence.

A few years ago, I was speaking to an Aboriginal educator about his work with men’s groups. I asked him how he got men to engage with the issue of violence against women. He said that he started every workshop by asking the men, “What kind of father do you want to be? What kind of husband? What kind of man do you want to be?”

He went on to make a comment that has always stayed with me. I return to it again and again in my anti-violence work. He said, “I’ve seen the hardest, hardest, most brutal-looking men reduced to tears in that very moment because everybody, I think, wants to be good.”

Almost everybody wants to be good, to be better.

No boy grows up aspiring to hurt the people he cares about. We all want to live in families and communities characterised by security, warmth and trust.

However, violence destroys these relationships.

Violence is not a strategy in which men win and women lose. With violence, everybody loses.

The reason men and boys need to help prevent violence against women is very simple. For as long as this violence persists, it will continue to eat away at the relationships that sustain us and make our lives

To end violence against women, we need to work with people where they are at: in communities and institutions where change is needed, and even wanted, but hasn’t yet taken place.

This is challenging work, because it means engaging respectfully with diverse groups who have a range of views about gender relations and equality. However, it is by bringing men and boys into the conversation that we can understand what they want out of their lives, show how violence is an obstacle to achieving those dreams, and find non-violent solutions.

Men and boys ‘into the conversation’, individually and as groups, is important. Especially men and boys who are having problems with violence – and also women and girls who are subjected to violence, and are mixed in with violent lifestyles.

The best way that men can help prevent gendered violence is to collaborate with women to build families and communities we are proud to be a part of: where violence and inequality has no place, and everyone wins.

Sounds good. It is difficult to achieve, because intergenerational violence has been a problem for a very long time, and learning less violence, and more equal relationships, will take time to turn things around. This involves men and boys, and women and girls, learning how to deal with violence better, and how to avoid and prevent violence – the things that cause and provoke violence as well as violent acts themselves.

It’s complicated, but we need to get much better at dealing with and preventing violence.

Q+A: Justice Minister “what we are doing isn’t working”

Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Andrew Little: after 30 years of tough on crime policy, the reoffending rate has stayed the same, “it’s not making us safe”

“We have to change the public debate on what we do with criminals”.

“If we are doing it right there will be more people leaving prison who have been helped and don’t reoffend.”

“It is not right that we’ve had a 30% increase in our prison population in the last 5 years.”

“No we haven’t got agreement from NZ First to get rid of 3 strikes law.”

Andrew Little: can’t rule out the possibility of systemic racism in the justice system

“Just the humanity of it means we have to do something different”.

“What we are doing right now isn’t working”.

I doubt anyone will argue that New Zealand’s incarceration rate is a problem, and that deterrents and reoffending rates and rehabilitation need to be seriously reviewed.

What is missing from the interview highlights (from @NZQandA) are solutions. That’s the tricky bit.

A review of the judicial system is under way. Hopefully that will come up with some good suggestions.

One problem is that a substantial up front investment will probably be required.

The growing number of prisoners has to be dealt with, and that is costly.

But much more resources are required for prevention and rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners after they are released. If these are done much better it should lead to lowering imprisonment rates, eventually.

Many prisoners are the result of long term problems, often intergenerational. Poor upbringings, lack of education and low skills making well paid employment difficult to get all contribute to resorting to crime.

Drug laws have worked poorly and contribute to a lot of crime.

Violence is a huge problem, it is a deeply entrenched issue in New Zealand society. It will be very challenging confronting and addressing this successfully, but it is an investment in effort and money that benefit us all if it works for the better.


From #MeToo to #WhatNext?

The #MeToo campaign has done well to raise the profile of the insidious history of sexual abuse, but Jacinda Ardern has made a good point – how to translate the initial impetus into ongoing action in New Zealand,

The Spinoff: ‘We need to say, OK, what next?’ Jacinda Ardern on the impact of #MeToo

The New Zealand prime minister has called for the energy of the #MeToo movement to be translated into action. Speaking to the Spinoff as part of a new podcast series in collaboration with the Auckland Museum, Jacinda Ardern said that the sharing of stories risk equating “to nothing in real terms” if there is no resulting change.

“What we need to do is then say, OK, well what next?” Ardern told Noelle McCarthy in the first of the podcast series Venus Envy. “You don’t want a movement, really, of women continually feeling like they need to tell stories that then equate to nothing in real terms. And so that’s the question that I’m interested in asking: what next?”

The challenge was to change the view around what was acceptable behaviour, she said.

“That to me comes back to that respect question, of how we treat one another, of conversations around consent and healthy relationships.”

These were “things we should be talking about in our schools, in safe places, where we learn and kind of our social norms, before people are entering into the workplace”.

The solutions to the issues raised in recent months needed to have both a cultural and policy dimension, she said.

“When you’ve got a country where you have such high rates of violence against women, you want to remove every barrier so a woman can make a choice, have a choice about her future. And, so long as we have women over-represented in low-paid work, or unsupported as carers, the choice is removed.”

Ardern is diverting onto a largely separate issue there.

There continues to be alarming levels of abuse and violence against women, but that’s not all. It is also a major problem for children, and men also victims, both directly and indirectly.

The anti-violence, anti-abuse and anti-discrimination  messages need to be repeated over and over if New Zealand society is to become a decent society for most citizens. At the moment we are falling well short of a decent society.

And this decency needs to also become far more apparent in our discussions and debates, in Parliament, in the mainstream media and in social media.

This is not a political issue apart from needing more politicians to speak up and act. It is largely a social issue, which means all of our society should be acknowledging the problems and contributing to finding better ways of interacting and better ways of behaving towards each other.

Many murders maim Mexican election

Mexico is having an election this weekend for positions ranging from president to local mayors.

Corruption and violence are major issues, both argued in campaigns and evident with over 100 election related murders claimed. If candidates can’t be bought off they are knocked off.

CNN: Mexico goes to the polls this weekend. 132 politicians have been killed since campaigning began, per one count

Even for a country numbed by escalating violence, the toll the campaign season in Mexico has exacted is horrifying.

In the nine months leading up to this weekend’s presidential election, 132 politicians have been killed. That’s according to Etellekt, a risk analysis and crisis management firm.

The group’s report, released Tuesday, found that 22 of Mexico’s 31 states have seen a political assassination since campaigning began in September.

Etellekt’s tally found 48 of the victims were candidates. The rest included party workers.

Forty eight murdered candidates. That is an horrific war on democracy.

Reuters:  A look at Mexico’s presidential contenders ahead of key election

The four main candidates have sparred over key issues of corruption, security and the economy.

The front runner is the left wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador…

… known as AMLO, enjoys a more than 20-point lead in most polls, running on an anti-corruption platform with his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party.

The former Mexico City mayor has capitalized on widespread anger over years of rampant corruption and violence, but has been vague on policy details. Seeking to corral support from economic nationalists, leftist liberals and social conservatives, he has pledged to combat inequality, improve pay and welfare spending, as well as run a tight budget.

He could usher in a Mexican government less accommodating toward the United States, where U.S. President Donald Trump has stoked trade tensions with Mexico and aggressively moved to curb immigration.

Trump has labelled illegal immigrants as dangerous criminals, but they are more likely to be trying to escape violence and corruption.

Ricardo Anaya…

His main proposals include increasing the minimum wage, raising public spending to reach 5 percent of gross domestic product by 2021, and forming an international commission to investigate the current government over corruption allegations.

He has also indicated he would take a firm line with Trump.

Jose Antonio Meade…

During the campaign he said he would expand the conditional cash transfer program “Prospera” to include 2 million more families. Has also vowed to extend social security to cover domestic workers.

Meade led a campaign to strip politicians of immunity but has been unwilling to criticize outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose PRI government has faced multiple corruption allegations.

Corruption is a common theme.

Known as “El Bronco,” Jaime Rodriguez …

…shocked voters in one of the televised debates when he advocated chopping off the hands of those who steal — including public servants.

… polls estimate he will get between 1 and 6 percent of the vote.

So a violent approach to justice doesn’t seem to be very popular.

Mexico has huge domestic problems, especially involving drugs, corruption and violence. Those who survive the election may struggle to make any real difference.

Violence in Gaza continues

The violence that flared with protests over the moving of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem continues in Gaza.

Reuters: Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Gaza border as Gaza buries dead

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian near the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday after thousands of Palestinians turned out for the funerals of dozens of protesters killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, local health officials said.

Sixty Palestinians were killed on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, including an eight-month-old baby that died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp near the border. More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas, local medics said.

Monday’s bloodshed took place as the United States opened its new embassy in contested Jerusalem. For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations for the return of Palestinian refugees to areas that are now part of Israel.

Israel rejects any right of return, fearing that it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.

Too bad about democracy.

Palestinian medical officials say 106 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them hit by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation.

BBC – Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

There have been angry exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian envoys at the UN, as the diplomatic fallout over deadly violence in Gaza gathered pace.

Some 58 Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops fired on protesters on Monday, with funerals held on Tuesday.

The Palestinian envoy spoke of a “crime against humanity”, while Israel accused the rulers of Gaza, Hamas, of taking their own people hostage.

BBC: May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

Theresa May has urged an independent inquiry into violence on the border between Israel and Gaza which left a reported 58 Palestinians dead.

The prime minister said the use of live rounds by Israeli forces was “deeply troubling” and urged greater restraint.

While Palestinians had a legitimate right to protest, she said, she was concerned about extremist infiltration and the role Hamas had played.

Both Hamas and Israel have been responsible for the flare up in violence – as has Donald Trump in his provocative moving of the US embassy.

Earlier, Labour’s Emily Thornberry condemned a “horrific massacre”.

Here in New Zealand: NZ condemns Israel’s actions along Gaza border

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the government, raised concerns directly to the ambassador in New Zealand.

The violence showed that the decision by the US to open the new embassy was counter to efforts to find a peaceful resolution in the region, she said.

“At the time when the United States announced they’d be moving their representation to Jerusalem we stated strongly that we did not think that would take us closer to peace, and it hasn’t,” Ms Ardern said.

New Zealand also voted on a United Nations resolution emphasising the view that there should be a two-state solution, she said.

“This is a hotly contested issue within that peace process and as we’ve seen the results of the protest along the border of Gaza have been devastating.”

Ms Ardern was asked for her view on comments made by Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyadh Mansour, who said the Israeli action violated international law.

“It is the right of any nation to defend their border but this is a devastating, one-sided loss of life; we would condemn the violence that has occurred,” Ms Ardern said.

“And I think it’s plain to see the effects of this decision and the ramifications are wide reaching.”

That’s a fairly diplomatic response that acknowledges the complexities and the spread of blame for violence.

However the Greens have a more one-sided view:


It’s a bloody mess with both Israel and Hamas in part responsible for the escalation.


President Donald Trump has electrified the State of Israel with the embassy move. You have to see the excitement on the streets, especially Jerusalem, to understand the depth of gratitude. Flags are flying from every street light. Massive signs around the capital show the American and Israeli flags intertwined with giant thank yous to President Trump.

In a single week President Trump has not only established America’s embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, but also rid America of the shame of the Iran nuclear deal, which completely overlooked all of Iran’s sins. In doing so, he has created the potential for reining in the rogue regime in Tehran, curbing the ascendance of radical Islamists and advancing a foreign policy that recognizes evil and holds belligerent government accountable. Simultaneously, Trump has emerged as a great champion of the Jewish people and a protector of Israel.

A cynic could wonder whether the escalations against Iran and the Palestinians has been a deliberate plan by Israel, with Trump a willing partner.

It’s hard to see this turning out well. The violence in Gaza suggests it is more likely to get worse.

It’s worth looking back at a speech by Trump at Fort Dodge, Iowa: ““I would bomb the shit out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers.”

It looks like Trump has been sucked into the Middle East mire.




Tobacco retailer safety

With the continually rising price of tobacco and cigarettes, and a presumption (mine) that people inclined towards committing crime and those associated with them  also tend to be inclined towards smoking, the number of robberies related to tobacco have increased. These robberies are often violent, and dairy owners and staff  are often the victims.

Dairies can choose whether to stock tobacco products or not, but it is a major source of revenue for the small businesses. Who should be responsible for their safety?

Of course the police have a duty to protect any retailer of legal products from theft and violence – to an extent. They cant be at every dairy all the time.

ACT MP David Seymour is suggesting that the Government direct more of the substantial amount of tax and duties they get from tobacco into paying for retailer safety.

Another suggestion is to admit that escalating taxes and prices have created an unintended consequence, and lowering the taxes would alleviate the theft and violence problem but that is debatable.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at the problem, and comes up with what should have been an obvious answer – tobacco product suppliers should protect their retailers.

ODT: The smoking gun of tobacco taxes

Dairy owners are again starting to worry that the next person who enters their shop may be a thief who could turn violent as he or she demands cash and, increasingly, tobacco products.

A search of media outlets shows a pattern of increasing crime against sellers of tobacco products, as their price has escalated through increased excise taxes.

The New Zealand tobacco industry says it makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy in terms of government revenue, retail sales and employment. It pays more than $1.8 billion in total taxes each year.

Tobacco products make their largest financial contribution to the economy in the form of excise taxation. The industry also says tobacco is an important source of revenue for about 5000 New Zealand retailers, the vast majority of whom are small, independent retailers and dairies.

A debate has again broken out about who should pay for the protection of the retailers selling the tobacco products. Fewer outlets are now selling tobacco and communities celebrate the success, believing fewer people are smoking as outlets reduce.

However, aggressive cost-cutting has helped some of the largest tobacco companies retain their profits, despite falling sales.

One of the arguments being made to help protect dairy owners is to just stop selling tobacco, of course ignoring the fact tobacco is a legal product and a genuine part of a service dairy owners can offer their customers. Unless another high-margin product emerges to replace it, dairy owners will still sell tobacco.

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour is at the other end of the spectrum, saying after two violent robberies in less than a week, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.

The money collected by the Government each year in tobacco tax revenue is blood money, obtained by putting the lives of people at risk, he says.

But Mr Seymour is somewhat off the mark when he calls for the Government to direct 10% of tobacco tax revenue to protect vulnerable business owners.

Surely it is time for the tobacco companies themselves to start protecting the people they want to sell their products? Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $965 billion, generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $67.5 billion.

That’s a good point. If tobacco companies want to protect their sales and profits perhaps they should do more to protect their retailers.