The Watchdog

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Press Release: Rt Hon Winston Peters ‘Brash Move on ACT a Jackup – Peters’

27 April 2011

I agree with Winston Peter’s analysis 100%.

National KNOW they will not get the numbers to govern alone (Botany by-election results, in my considered opinion, helped to confirm that asset sales are NOT popular with the NZ voting public, including (former?) National Party supporters).

They need coalition allies – they believe that ACT in it’s current form cannot retain Epsom with Rodney Hide as Leader, nor make the 5%  party vote threshold.

So – in the true form of corporate ‘democracy’ – according to the ‘golden rule’ – ie: ‘those who have the gold make the rules’ – Brash ‘I’ve got the ca$h’ – without even being a member of the ACT Party – is saying ‘pick me – pick me as Leader – or I’ll start a new party’.

Whose ‘gold’ is behind this National Party takeover of ACT?

(Not that there is much difference between National and ACT when both their personnel and policies are effectively so interchangeable? )

All tends to prove my view that under  NZ ‘democracy’ we get the government that the majority of big business want us to have, through corporate media manipulation(and anonymous  political donations)?

Penny Bright

Brash Move on ACT a Jackup – Peters

Tuesday, 26 April 2011, 12:50 pm
Press Release: Rt Hon Winston Peters

Rt. Hon Winston Peters

Leader NZ First
April 26th 2011
Brash Move on ACT a Jackup – Peters

New Zealand First says it is obvious that Don Brash’s move to take over the ACT party is a sneaky plan by National and ACT interests to form a new government that will asset strip the country, keep wages low and attack superannuation.

Rt. Hon Winston Peters pointed out today that the only reason for reviving a political corpse like ACT would be for National to use it as an expendable backstop for passing unpalatable social and economic legislation after the next election.

“The moves being made by former National leader Don Brash are about as subtle as a kango hammer on a piece of old concrete. Mr Hide is unelectable so National has put up its own man for Epsom, but under the ACT party flag”.

“When the takeover happens, ACT under Mr Brash will target topics such as racial issues where National does not go because of its deal with the Maori Party. We believe the “Kiwi not Iwi” billboards will be dusted off – as well as other inflammatory propaganda.”

Mr Peters said however, the most scary issue would be the harsh policies of the joint leadership of New Zealand by John Key and Don Brash.

“The economic revolution of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson would be revived with publicly owned assets flogged off and a complete takeover by foreign interests.

“As well, wages and conditions for workers would be slashed further and a full scale assault would be started on the welfare system and superannuation. There would be an exodus of Kiwis to Australia if they could afford the airfare.

“You only have to look at the interests standing behind Don Brash and their enormous financial resources to see what is going on,” said Mr Peters.



April 26, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Human rights | Leave a comment

NZ ACT Party ’20 Point Plan’ – since 2008 – how much has the ACT Party tail wagged the National Party ‘dog’?

Of particular interest to National Party supporters from Epsom – who voted for Rodney Hide (ACT) in 2008:

NZ ACT Party ’20 Point Plan’ – since the 2008 election – how much has the ACT Party coalition  ‘tail’ wagged the National Party coalition  ‘dog’?



This is ACT ‘s 20 Point Plan from the 2008 election.

If we implement all of these policies then over time you would be $500 per week better off.

This is your chance to play Finance Minister. In the right hand column you can make the kind of choices this country needs. Vote yes or no to each policy. You may not like them all but every time you vote no, make sure to check how much growth and and weekly pay that decision costs. Growth is what allows us to pay for better medicines, great teachers and more roads and is essential if we want to catch up to Australia.

Click here for more information on each of these policies.

Click here to view this page in Chinese.

ACT Policy Countries where similar policy works well Benefit Boosts NZ annual growth by… Boosts NZ average weekly pay by… Vote YES or NO
1 Government waste. Cut state spending to Australian levels Australia Lower inflation. Lower interest rates. More money left with those who earn it 1/2% $50.00
2 Taxation. Cut and flatten rates Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania More incentive for people with initiative to create wealth and jobs 3/8% $37.50
3 Local government. Limit to core activities Ireland Lower rates. Keep money for other things 1/4% $25.00
4 Public service: 1/4% $25.00
Close departments we don’t need Australia (Labor) Millions saved for things we do need
Reduce bureaucracy Australia (Labor) Good state servants freed up for more productive jobs
Return bureaucracy to non-political role Hong Kong Unbiased advice
Limit Cabinet to 12 ministers Better decisions sooner. Fewer baubles of office
Limit Parliament to 100 MPs. The many countries with fewer MPs per capital than NZ include… Japan, Netherlands, France, Israel, Spain, Belgium Millions saved for things we need
5 Red tape. Get rid of all nutty regulations The state no longer wastes productive people’s time on pointless form-filling 1/4% $25.00
Appoint Minister of Regulatory Reforms Australia (Labor) Firms cut free of red tape can focus on creating more wealth and more jobs
Pass Regulatory Responsibility Act – to set checklist for good lawmaking Politicians must consider national interest, so they can’t easily pass laws for cynical political reasons
6 Resource management. Reform the Resource Management Act US (Houston) Good projects start and finish sooner 1/4% $25.00
7 Education. Create competitive market. Award a full education scholarship to every child to be spent at the public or private schools of the parents’ choice Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, UK Conservative policy Kids learn more, faster. (State funds parents. Parents choose schools. Schools reward good teachers. Good teachers drive education – to please parents, not bureaucrats) 1/4% $25.00
8 Healthcare. Create competitive market. Give every New Zealander health insurance Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden (Stockholm) Hospitals cure more patients, sooner. (State gives health policies to all. Patients choose hospitals. Doctors, not bureaucrats, drive healthcare) 1/4% $25.00
9 Accident Compensation. Create competitive market – as used to work well here Most wealthy nations, New Zealand 1998-1999 Accident victims back at work sooner 1/4% $25.00
10 Welfare. Create competitive markets for sickness, invalid, and unemployment insurance US (Democrats), Switzerland, Australia Welfare recipients back at work sooner. More generous support for those who can’t work 1/8% $12.50
11 Immigration. Welcome more good quality immigrants Australia, US Industries get the skilled workers they need 1/4% $25.00
12 Labour. Allow freedom of contract to make it easier to trial new workers and replace poor performers UK, Ireland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, US Business runs better with right staff. Workers and company earn more. Contract protects both parties 1/2% $50.00
13 Privatisation. Sell state businesses where private firms can serve customers better Practically all except Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea Happier customers. Lower prices. More product variety and choice 1/4% $25.00
14 Infrastructure. Build better networks (e.g. roads, water, electricity) Better service for less money 1/4% $25.00
Replace user charges with tolls that reward off-peak use Australia, Norway (Oslo), US, Singapore, France Smoothing demand reduces bottlenecks. No need to pay for more capacity
15 Tariffs. Cut remaining tariffs on imports Hong Kong, Singapore Cheaper imports. Exporters who can’t compete switch to fields where they can 1/8% $12.50
Strengthen bonds with the US Australia, Chile, Canada, Mexico US Free Trade Agreement would earn NZ $1b+ a year. More Kiwis exposed to US Entrepreneurial skills
16 Housing. Free up more land for homes US (Houston) Cheaper sections. More people achieve Kiwi dream of owning home 1/8% $12.50
17 Law and order: 1/8% $12.50
Bring back private prisons – now best practice overseas UK (Labour Party), US, Australia More secure, more humane, cheaper prisons
Let private firms free up cops for ‘zero tolerance’ policing New York Young taggers don’t progress to worse crimes. People feel safer
Speed up courts (e.g. night courts) to reduce unfair delays US (New York, California), Singapore, Canada More decisions sooner
18 Climate change. Adopt saner policies. Low carbon tax better than carbon trading US, Canada (British Columbia), Australia Don’t hurt Kiwi families needlessly. (Nations that cause 75% of emissions must lead) 3/8% $37.50
19 Constitutional framework. Strengthen Makes democracy more democratic 1/8% $12.50
Adopt taxpayer Bill of Rights Hong Kong, US (20 states e.g. Colorado) State spending capped. Taxes kept low
Pass Regulatory Responsibility Act – to get checklist for good lawmaking Hard to make bad laws like Electoral Finance Act
Return to Privy Council UK, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, Bermuda Free access to best judicial minds from a population of 58 million
Hold referendum on MMP voting system People get long-overdue say on how they like MMP
20 Families at risk. Appoint mentors to teach parenting and life skills Sweden, Norway, Denmark, US (Philadelphia) Less family violence. Fewer damaged children. Thriving families less drain on taxpayers 1/8% $12.50
Total boost to New Zealand’s growth rate and average weekly pay 5% $500.00

Click here for more information on each of these policies.

Click here to view this page in Chinese.

These are ACT’s policies from the 2008 election.

Click here to view ACT’s 20 Point Plan.

  • Accident Compensation

    Action: Create competitive market – as used to work well here.

    Benefit: Accident victims back sooner.

    Read More »

  • Agriculture
  • Climate Change

    Action: Adopt saner policies. Low carbon tax better than carbon trading.

    Benefit: Don’t hurt Kiwi families needlessly. (nations that cause 75% of emissions must lead.

    Read More »

  • Constitutional Framework

    Action: Strengthen. Adopt Tax Payers Bill of Rights. Pass Regulatory Responsibilty Act. Return to privy council. Hold referendum of MMP voting system.

    Benefit: Makes democracy more democratic. States spending capped, taxes kept low. Hard to make bad laws like the EFA. Free access to best judicial minds from a population of 58 million. People get long-overdue say on how they like MMP.

  • Education

    Action: Create a competitive market.

    Benefit: Kids learn faster. State funds parents, parents choose schools. Schools reward good teachers. Good teachers drive education – to please parents not bureaucrats.

    Read More »

  • Employment

    Action: Allow freedom of contract to make it easier to trial new workers and replace poor performers.

    Benefit: Businesses run better with the right staff. Workers and company earn more. Contract protects both parties.

    Read More »

  • Families at Risk

    Action: Appoint mentors to teach parenting and life skills.

    Benefit: Less family violence. Fewer damaged children. Thriving families less drain on the taxpayers.

    Read More »

  • Government Asset Ownership

    Action: Sell state businesses where private firms can serve customers better.

    Benefit: Happier customers. Lower prices. More product variety and choice.

    Read More »

  • Government Expenditure

    Action: Cut state spending to Australian levels.

    Benefit: Lower inflation. Lower interest rates. More money left for people who earn it.

    Read More »

  • Health

    Action: Create competitive market.

    Benefit: Hospitals cure more patients, sooner. (State gives health policies to all. Paitents choose hospitals. Doctors, not bureaucrats drive healthcare.

    Read More »

  • Housing

    Action: Free up more land for homes.

    Benefit: Cheaper sections. More people achieve Kiwi dream of owning home.

    Read More »

  • Immigration

    Action: Welcome more good quality immigrants.

    Benefit: Industries get the skilled workers they need.

    Read More »

  • Infrastructure

    Action: Build better networks (eg. roads, water, electricity). Replace users charges with tolls which reward off-peak use.

    Benefit: Smoothing demand reduces bottleneck. No need to pay for more capacity. Better service for less money.

    Read More »

  • Law and Order

    Action: Bring back private prisons – now best practice overseas. Let private firms free up cops for ‘Zero Tolerance’ policing. Speed up courts (eg. night courts) to reduce unfair delays.

    Benefit: More secure, more humane, cheaper prisons. Young taggers don’t progress to worse crimes. People feel safer. More decisions sooner.

    Read More »

  • Local Government

    Action: Limit to core activities.

    Benefit: Lower rates. Keep money for other things.

    Read More »

  • National Security
  • Public Service

    Action: Close departments we don’t need. Reduce bureaucracy. Return bureaucracy to non-political role. Limit cabinet to 12. Limit parliament to 100 MPs.

    Benefit: Millions saved for things we do need, good states servants freed up for more productive jobs, unbiased advice, better decisions sooner and fewer baubles of office.

  • Red Tape and Regulation

    Action: Get rid of nutty regulations. Appoint Minister of Regulatory Reform. Pass Regulatory Responsibility Act – to set checklist for good lawmaking.

    Benefit: The state no longer wastes productive people’s time on pointless form filling. Firms cut free of red tape can focus on creating more wealth and more jobs. Politicians must consider national interest, so can’t easily pass laws for cynical political reasons.

    Read More »

  • Resource Management

    Action: Reform the Resource Management Act.

    Benefit: Good projects start and finish sooner.

    Read More »

  • Risk Insurance
  • Superannuation
  • Tariffs

    Action: Cut remaining tariffs on imports. Strengthen bonds with the US.

    Benefit: Cheaper imports, exporters who can’t compete switch to fields where they can. US free trade deal would earn NZ $1b+ a year. More Kiwis exposed to US entrepreneurial skills.

  • Taxation

    Action: Cut and flatten rates.

    Benefit: More incentive for people with initiative to create wealth and jobs.

    Read More »

  • Welfare

    Action: Create competitive market for sickness, invalid, and unemployment insurance.

    Benefit: Welfare recipients are back at work sooner. More generous support for those who can’t work.

    Read More »

Click here to view ACT’s 20 Point Plan.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘A MUST READ’ BACKGROUNDER! Paul Buchanan: Postscript on ‘Operation 8’ (The Tuhoe ‘terrorising’ raids)

24 April 2011

“Surveillance was conducted by means of a hub and spoke network analysis in order to establish a terrorist conspiracy wheel. The police bugged the communications of one mentally unhinged individual with anti-social tendencies and a compulsion to boast. They then ran through the list of people he communicated with, tapped into their phones and computers, zeroed in on political activists, ran cross-searches on their contacts, and used human and technical intelligence collection to confirm their collective presence in the Ureweras at various points in time over the last twelve months.”

Paul Buchanan: Postscript on Operation 8
Monday, 19 November 2007, 3:27 pm
Opinion: Paul G. Buchanan

Postscript on Operation 8

Paul G. Buchanan

The dust has largely settled after the police whirlwind that was Operation 8. Yet some questions remain about the operation itself, and there are political repercussions that need addressing.

With regards to the way in which Operation 8 was planned and conducted, questions remain about the catalyst or precipitant. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition stated that they were informed of the operation one week before the raids took place, yet Police Commissioner Broad claims to have ordered the action in response to information he received less than 48 hours before the raids commenced. It is possible that a general brief to the political leadership could be followed by a contingent tactical response, so the discrepancy can be reconciled. But the interrogatory remains as to what, exactly, precipitated the police action, and when, precisely, did the Prime Minister, as Minister of Security and Intelligence, know that a counter-terrorist operation was underway?
Related Stories on Scoop

* Scoop Video: PM’s Press. Conf. November 12 2007 12/11/2007
* A Primer On Operation Eight – Further Developments 12/11/2007
* Paul Buchanan: A Comment On Terrorist Conspiracy 05/11/2007
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On the same note, questions must asked as to what role the Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) played in this affair. CTAG is a senior level interagency group responsible to the Minister of Security and Intelligence that draws on the resources and perspectives of MFAT, Treasury, Immigration, Defense, the Police, SIS, GCSB and External Assessments Bureau (EAB) to conduct national-level threat assessments and security risk analysis. Although primarily focused on the international security environment and the externally derived threats coming from it, CTAG is also responsible for internal threat assessment and for coordinating the response to potential terrorism in New Zealand. Security risk assessments generally focus on worst-case scenarios, both in terms of the threat as well as the fallout from countering it. Such scenarios involve the political, cultural, economic and security implications of armed intervention. CTAG presumably brings together designated liaison officers to trouble-shoot and brainstorm the nature of threats, the sequence of possible events and range of plausible outcomes when countering them, capitalizing on the heterogeneous perspectives they bring to the table. This would be particularly important in the case of Operation 8 given the first invocation of anti-terrorist legislation against domestic targets rather than the foreign entities that are the priority interest. Given that, was the CTAG involved in the decision to launch Operation 8, and if so, at what stage of the game? It would be of serious concern if the police had acted on their own accord without consulting CTAG. It would be of even worse concern if they did.

Surveillance was conducted by means of a hub and spoke network analysis in order to establish a terrorist conspiracy wheel. The police bugged the communications of one mentally unhinged individual with anti-social tendencies and a compulsion to boast. They then ran through the list of people he communicated with, tapped into their phones and computers, zeroed in on political activists, ran cross-searches on their contacts, and used human and technical intelligence collection to confirm their collective presence in the Ureweras at various points in time over the last twelve months. Infiltrators—there is speculation that police counter-narcotics undercover agents or SAS troops using the opportunity to do some reconnaissance exercising—monitored the comings and goings from a handful of what were locally known as hunting camps or cannabis patch guard posts, deploying video surveillance technology to record the presence of those who stayed at them. The electronic dragnet, authorized by warrants issued under the Terrorism Suppression Act, identified a core of six people who supposedly combined violent anti-status quo rhetoric with a penchant for firearms and explosives. The others were considered incidental to the main plotting of the purported hardcore. Human intelligence collection confirmed the bush connection between both groups, although it remains to be seen if it can confirm that all received training in military firearms operation and guerrilla warfare tactics.

For the Solicitor-General, the evidence wheel was too rickety to sustain charges of a terrorist conspiracy. There was no legal traction, to say nothing of political mileage to be gained from prosecution on terrorism charges against this particular group of people. It would be hard to find a jury that would convict them of terrorism-related offenses, and that would have negative political consequences for the government. Evidence collected under warrants issued under provisions of the TSA will be largely inadmissible in court when the accused face charges under the Firearms Act. Perhaps that is why snippets of the communications intercepts were leaked to the media “in the public interest,” although the real motives (and sources) for the leaks are probably a bit more varied.

Other loose ends are worth noting. Under the TSA local connections with foreign terrorist groups are outlawed. It is known that at least one of those arrested visited Zapatista-controlled areas of Chiapas, Mexico in the last year. Tame Iti was deported from Fiji just weeks before his arrest and apparently visited Iran (a member of the so-called “axis of evil”) in early 2007. Could it be that these foreign connections influenced the invocation of the TSA to secure surveillance warrants? If so, the judges who issued the warrants demonstrated unfamiliarity with the law, as the TSA refers only to contacts with officially designated (by the UN and traditional security partners) terrorist groups. Tame Iti may have connections with George Speight and other indigenous Fijian coup plotters, but none of them have been designated as international terrorists (or, for that matter, has the authoritarian regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama). The same is true of the Zapatista movement, which even the Mexican government recognizes as more an indigenous social movement than an irregular army. Iti’s visit to Iran was apparently for business, not terror, and he did not associate with elements of the Revolutionary Guard that the US has tried to brand as a terrorist organisation. Thus even if these international linkages are proven, they do not fall within the purview of the TSA because they were not with officially designated terrorist organizations. Given the recently passed amendment to the TSA that allows the Prime Minister rather than the High Court to designate terrorist groups, it is now easier for the government to target political dissidents under the guise of fighting terrorism, but even that unhealthy temptation cannot be applied retroactively to the people arrested in Operation 8.

The charges under the Firearms Act are also of interest. One individual was charged with being in possession of two .22 caliber cartridges. Reports have it that a handful of firearms were seized in the raid, of which only one had potentially military-type configuration. A couple hundred rounds of ammunition, mostly .22 caliber, were also seized. So far, no AK-47 or modified automatic weapons have been produced by way of evidence against the accused. Nor have the purported “grenade launchers” ostensibly used at the training camps. If that is the level of proof that the police have with regards to Firearms Act violations, their case is on thin ice.

So is the attempt to charge people with violations under the Firearms Act or Misuse of Explosives statutes (codified in the 1957 Explosives Act, 1974 Dangerous Good Act, and 1979 Toxic Substances Act, now all subsumed under the 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO)). It is alleged that some of the accused were in possession of bottles of kerosene or quantities of jellified petrol. So-called Molotov cocktails—be they based on petrol, kerosene or other combustible liquids–are not firearms or explosives. Firearms are ballistic devices that fire projectiles using inert material as propellants. Explosives are percussive, fragmentation or concussive devices that utilise rapid chemical reactions triggered in a number of ways to cause explosive releases of kinetic energy. Although they can be configured in combination with other materials so that they are effectively made into explosives, in and of themselves Molotov cocktails and homemade “napalm” are technically defined as incendiary devices that do not fall under the scope of either the Firearms Act or any laws dealing with explosives or hazardous materials.

In fact, under Schedule Seven (Part D section 223) of the 1996 HSNO ACT titled “Explosives,” there is no mention of combustible liquid incendiary devices. Even US criminal law excludes Molotov cocktails from the definition of explosive, mainly because the myriad innocent or peaceful uses for combustible liquids makes it near impossible to prove untoward intent prior to actual use for such purposes. Unless the incendiary devices found in the police raids show unmistakable proof of being configured in a way that would cause ballistic, percussive, concussive or fragmentary effect (which would take at least a modest amount of technical acumen), they cannot convincingly be covered under the Firearms, Explosives, Dangerous Good, Toxic Substances or HSNO Acts.

At best the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) can lay charges against those found with bottles of rag-stuffed petrol under the HSNO Act for improper storage of flammable liquids, but that could prove to be a discriminatory and selective application of the law given the amount of petrol stored in uncertified containers extant around the country. Perhaps the Crimes or Summary Offenses Acts have clauses the prohibit possession of improvised incendiary devices, but the same problems would apply with regard to proving that they were destined for more than common farm or household use. It would therefore seem that from what is known so far about them, even the weapons charges being laid against the so-called Urewera 16/17 are open to challenge.

The police allege that Molotov cocktails were found in a “ready to use” condition. That makes one wonder about the terrorist competence of the accused if such reports are true, since Molotovs are best constructed immediately prior to their use because of their volatility, and storing them around the house, garage or shed is an invitation to self-immolation and a visit from the Fire Brigade.

On a broader plane, the political repercussions of Operation 8 need to be considered. Besides what was mentioned earlier about possible government involvement in the planning and conduct of Operation 8 (so far denied), some interesting ramifications have risen from the event and its immediate sequels.

The issue of whether the police raids were timed to coincide with the debate about the amendments to the TSA or passage of the Electoral Finance Bill have been much discussed and need not occupy us at length here. It is incongruous that the second reading of the TSA amendment bill was passed on the day the Solicitor General pronounced the original act to be “incoherent,” and that the entire bill was passed a week later supposedly to uphold New Zealand’s international obligations in the face of its failure in the first instance of its use. As things stand, the Law Commission will have an opportunity to review the TSA in order to determine if it should remain on the books, and it may well be more interested in coherence rather than foreign relations when doing so.

The matter of electoral financing is one of money and voice rooted in class interest. A terrorism scare will not affect the debate on that score. However, should the TSA remain in force, it is conceivable—albeit a stretch at this juncture– that individuals and groups in violation of the EFB (if passed) could be branded as domestic “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” by the Prime Minister of the day. Ironically, many of those leading the charge against the EFB are also those most ardently in support of the TSA.

Some believe the police undertook the raids in order to divert attention from a series of internal scandals and crime-solving bungles that have diminished confidence in their professionalism and competence. If so, Operation 8 may not improve that perception even though polls show an apparent majority believe that their actions were justified. That may say more about the manufactured climate of fear surrounding the specter of “terrorism” than it does the realities of the situation at hand. Perhaps security agencies in a 9/11 era feel the need to justify their expanded budgets, personnel and purview by taking worst-case approaches to what otherwise would be relatively minor criminal matters. Anti-terrorism legislation in the form of the TSA gives them the tool to do just that.

The raids have seriously strained relations between Tuhoe and the police, and Maori have reason to ask about the way in which their grievances are addressed by the security services. Maori-Pakeha relations have been brought back into the centre stage of political debate, as has Tame Iti’s heretofore marginal sovereignty movement. The political Left has fractured over the incident, activists seeing the arrest of their mates as a brutish act of political intimidation, while more corporately-inclined socialists tending to believe that the Urewera 16/17 are to blame by virtue of the company they kept, the activities they conducted in the bush and the motives they may have had. The party Left—in this case the Greens—have been joined by the Maori Party in challenging the rationale behind the TSA as well as Operation 8, although their specific reasons differ (the Greens have principled opposition to terrorist legislation on human rights and freedom of speech grounds, whereas the Maori party appears to be more opportunistic and selectively ethnic in its opposition).As for the party Right, the National Party and United Future have remained largely silent about the affair , even with regards to the implications for civil liberties it clearly has. New Zealand First welcomes the TSA amendment’s passage and blames the activists for trying to destabilise society. Amongst the right parties, only ACT questioned (on civil rights grounds) the utility of the law and its invocation in the police raids.

The government has distanced itself from the police as the case begins to unravel away from a potential terrorism threat and towards firearms violations by a small group of blowhards and activists. Given the evidence produced so far, it certainly did not need terrorism trials to be conducted during the 2008 election campaign. Early distance on the issue and the subsequent (some might say convenient) refusal to lay charges under the TSA relieved it of that particular political burden. For the other parties, especially National and the Maori Party, the prospects for any potential relationship in a future government may well hinge on how they reposition their responses to the event. The Maori Party emerges as a swing vote strongly influenced by its activist wing, more than off-setting other possible minority coalition partners as a decisive factor in the upcoming balloting. How the two major parties court the Maori vote in light of the raids should make for interesting political theater.

Legal experts and lawyers will benefit from the case, and taxpayer dollars will be poured into a review of the TSA as well as the prosecution of the Urewera 16/17. The accused will suffer financial penalties as they mount legal defenses, and both the political right and left will posture and pose around the issue of domestic terrorism. Meanwhile, those who may be genuinely inclined towards acts of mass political violence in New Zealand will learn the lessons of secrecy and planning in order to escape detection and apprehension. As a result, countervailing domestic terrorist threats may well be more difficult to accomplish in the future for both practical as well as legal reasons stemming from Operation 8, even as concepts of civil liberties and permissible dissent are narrowed in accord with the security interests of foreign powers.


Paul G. Buchanan writes and comments about political issues.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Human rights | Leave a comment

Act now! Iwi fishing skipper detained on navy warship

Act now: Iwi fishing skipper detained on navy warship

23 April 2011

This action alert has four sections: what happened today, background information, what you can do, and where you can get more information. This message is available on-line at

What happened today

Elvis Teddy, skipper of the Te Whanau a Apanui tribal fishing boat San Pietro, was arrested at sea and detained on a navy warship while fishing in Te Whanau a Apanui ccustomary fishing grounds in the vicinity of the Orient Explorer, the deep sea oil survey ship ship currently conducting seismic testing in the Raukumara Basin on behalf of Brazilian oil company Petrobras. The arrest came the day after Maritime NZ withdrew the exclusion orders that police officers, assisted by the navy, issued to boats in the vicinity of the Orient Explorer last week.

This morning, Rikirangi Gage, CEO of Te Rununga o Te Whanau (Te Whanau a Apanui), radioed the Orient Explorer from the San Pietro as follows:

“This is the San Pietro calling the Orient Explorer. You are not welcome in our waters. Accordingly and as an expression of our mana in these waters and our deep concern for the adverse effects of deep sea drilling, we will be positioning the Te Whanau a Apanui vessel directly in your path, approximately one and a half nautical miles in front of you.

We will not be moving, we will be doing some fishing. We wish to reiterate that this is not a protest. We are defending tribal waters and our rights from reckless Government policies and the threat of deep sea drilling, which our hapu have not consented to and continue to oppose. We have a duty to uphold the mana of our hapu here in our territorial waters.” – the radio broadcast is available at

In response, two navy warships – HMNZS Taupo and HMNZS Hawea – sent inflatables with navy personnel and police officers to board the San Pietro and threatened to arrest all on board. Elvis Teddy was arrested, detained on one of the navy vessels, and taken to Tauranga while the others on board were left to crew the San Pietro.

Background information

On 1 June, the government awarded Brazilian oil company Petrobras a five-year exploration permit for oil and gas in the Raukumara Basin.

The first two stages of exploration involve seismic surveying – firing compressed air from the surface to the seabed, and measuring the acoustic waves bouncing back to the sonar array trailing 10 kilometres behind the Orient Express. Seismic surveying can have an adverse impact on marine life, especially marine mammals. The current surveying is taking place during the season of whale migration along the East Coast.

The permit includes permission for Petrobras to drill an exploratory well. The massive oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, which took three months to cap and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the ocean, was from an exploratory well at a depth of 1500 metres. In the Raukumara Basin, the proposed depths for drilling an exploratory well range from 1500 to 3000 metres.

The Raukumara Basin sits on a major and active fault line, and a simple search of geonet – – shows there are frequent earthquakes in the area. It is therefore particularly risky to place any sub-sea installation, such as an oil well, there.

Te Whanau a Apanui were not consulted about the exploration permit, nor did they give their consent for the seismic survey.

What you can do

Contact your local MP as soon as possible and express your concern about the exploration permit, the lack of consultation with Te Whanau a Apanui, the arrest of the skipper of a vessel exercising customary fishing rights, and the protection of the interests of a foreign oil company at the expense of the rights of the local iwi.

Contact details for all MPs are at

Where you can get more information

You can get more information on the No Drilling site at the  Te Whanau a Apanui page at  and the Stop the Drilling on Our East Coast at Some photos from the Te Whanau a Apanui protest in Wellington on 20 April are at

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Peace Movement Aotearoa
the national networking peace organisation
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April 23, 2011 Posted by | Human rights, Internationally significant information | Leave a comment

Centre for Public Integrity: ‘BP’s Iris Cross starred in two disaster PR campaigns’

BP’s Iris Cross starred in two disaster PR campaigns

The Deepwater Horizon well lists into the Gulf of Mexico in April.  Photo courtesy of ABC26.

By Aaron Mehta 10:00 am, April 20, 2011

BP manager Iris Cross became the face of the oil giant’s public relations blitz after the oil spill a year ago. BP

Last fall, Iris Cross beamed into millions of homes, the friendly BP worker hailing from New Orleans who assured TV viewers that the oil giant won’t stop cleaning up the worst oil spill in U.S. history “until we make this right.”

She became the very public face of BP, a soothing contrast to former CEO Tony Heyward, whose PR gaffes cemented public opinion against the oil company.

This is not the first time Cross sought to soothe public anger from a BP disaster. One of her efforts in 2006 so angered a judge that BP was accused of jury tampering and threatened with fines and contempt charges.

Court records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity show that Cross and her boss admitted in testimony five years ago that they signed thousands of lettersto Texans aimed at polishing BP’s image — just days before jury selection was to begin in a civil trial over a 2005 BP refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured scores more.

The presiding judge, court transcripts show, derided the letter-writing campaign as a “stunt” clearly designed to influence jurors.

“We have a jury panel coming in today. And it would take an absolute idiot not to figure that out,” Galveston County, Texas Judge Susan E. Criss chided BP during a hearing Nov. 6, 2006 called to address the impact of the letters on jury selection.

“This is so far out of line,” Criss scolded.

BP declined to allow the Center to interview Iris Cross.

The tale of the 2006 BP public relations campaign was overshadowed by the devastation of the Texas City refinery and the subsequent litigation that forced BP to pay at least $2 billion to compensate victims and $137 million in federal fines.

But one of the lawyers in the case says the 2006 and 2010 PR efforts provide an unprecedented window into the multimillion dollar efforts BP uses to gloss over the human, environmental and economic damages caused by the two massive disasters.

“I wouldn’t let Charles Manson date my daughter because I don’t presume he’s rehabilitated and I’m not sure BP’s been rehabilitated either,” said Brent Coon, the lawyer who headed the civil suit against BP in the refinery case. “They had a corporate-wide culture that is deficient with respect to following the law and deficient with respect to safety.”

The TV ads describe Cross as working for “BP Community Outreach.” Her current resume lists her as “General Manager, External Relations” with BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, but she has a long history as a public relations professional.

Cross’s career began with oil company Amoco, where she had worked primarily in the public relations department from 1981 until the 1999 merger with BP. After the merger, she spent four years in BP’s Houston Westlake office as “director of community relations.” After taking two years off following a marriage, she returned to BP full time in June of 2005 as director of community relations for BP Texas City.

Her appearance in at least two commercials was part of a PR campaign designed to repair BP’s public image in the wake of the worst oil spill in American history. Between the start of the spill and the end of August, BP spent over $93 million on advertisements, three times what the oil giant spent in April through July 2009. It’s a number that outraged lawmakers.

“BP’s extensive advertising campaign that is solely focused on polishing its corporate image in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster is making people angry. As small businesses, fishermen, and mom and pop motels, hotels and restaurants struggle to make ends meet, they are bombarded by BP’s corporate marketing largess day after day,” Rep. Cathy Castor, D-Fla., said in September. “While BP certainly has the right to advertise, its approach has been insensitive to the taxpayers and business owners harmed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.”

It’s unclear exactly how much of that money was dedicated to ads featuring Cross, but they were regular features on TV throughout the late summer and early fall. “I was born in New Orleans. My family still lives here,” she says in one ad .

“BP is going to be here until the oil is gone, and the people and businesses are back to normal — until we make this right.”

Contentious hearing

At the center of the 2006 controversy was a set of letters sent out by BP days ahead of jury selection in the refinery trial. The letters were addressed to either “BP Retiree” or “BP Texas City Neighbor,” including local businesses and community leaders. Although the letters shared identical language, some batches of letters were signed by Iris Cross while others were signed by Neil Geary, her supervisor.

The one page letter sought to address “reports in the media about what happened at BP Texas City” and claimed that the company has “made substantial changes and improvements” at Texas City.

“We have made substantial changes and improvements at BP Texas City and are in action on a program of multiple recommendations contained in BP’s final accident investigation report and other sources” the letter said. “BP has acknowledged that it was aware of infrastructure and safety culture problems at the refinery prior to March 23, 2005 and we have been in action in response. BP is working to improve plant integrity, safety culture and process safety management at all BP-operated facilities in order to prevent such accidents in the future.”

Included with the letter was a “fact sheet” that addressed “key issues raised in media reports” and a copy of a company newsletter that Cross urged readers to share with their family.

The fact sheet claimed that “Maintenance spending [at Texas City] also was higher than the industry average per barrel of throughput,” while also noting BP acknowledges that while there were safety risks at Texas City, “it is not accurate to say that BP was not addressing these issues.” The fact sheet concluded that “BP will spendmore than $1 billion at Texas City over the next five years” on recommended changes with an eye towards increasing safety in the future.

The letters came to light when Judge Criss received a copy in the mail and quickly convened a hearing on Nov. 6, 2006. A combative Criss called BP to the courtroom for sending these letters out just ahead of the trial.

Representatives for BP acknowledged at the hearing that they were aware of the upcoming trial when they sent the letters out, but denied that they were attempting to influence the jury pool in any way.

At the November hearing, lawyers for BP argued that the letter was a “fact sheet,” not a mailing. The difference between a “fact sheet” and a “mailing” was important, because Criss had put a previous ban on advertising that “would be used to taint the jury pool.”

Criss defined such advertising as private communications to potential jurors where Coon and his lawyers would not be able to respond.

During the course of the hearing, Geary, the manager for public affairs at BP Texas City and Cross’ boss, told the judge that he organized the original letters. However, Geary denied that the letters were targeted, noting that while a lawyer fact-checked the letters before they were sent out, the recipients of the list were not reviewed by anyone at BP. Criss found that explanation dubious, noting that the letters were sent to the home addresses of two local judges.

“You are trying to convince me that you have not looked at this list of people you’re mailing to that you want to know your spin on your company and you did not review that list?”

“That’s absolutely correct,” replied Geary.

In both the November hearing and separate depositions, Geary and Cross cast the letters as having been born of confusion. “Do I know the author [of the letter]? No,” Cross said in her deposition, later confirming that she did not try to check the accuracy of the information she was sending out.

That argument held no water with Criss, who at the November hearing admonished them that “I told [BP], don’t come in here with this ‘one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing excuse.’”

It also didn’t hold up with Coon, the lawyer whose trial was set for jury selection. He contends that Geary and Cross were both trained PR professionals with knowledge of how to spin the situation. “They know what they’re doing, they know why they’re doing it, and it’s their job to do it,” says Coon.

Coon asserted that Geary may have perjured himself by downplaying the number of letters that were sent out. At the Nov. 6 hearing, Geary said the letters only went out to 900 people, just 775 of whom could be potential jurors. Then in early April, Cross came forward with knowledge of another 7,000 letters that had been sent out but not discussed in the Nov. 6 hearing. The judge said she was “concerned there is evidence of perjury” from Geary and allowed Coon to depose Geary once more.

A spokesman for BP declined to allow the Center to interview either Cross or Geary.

“The issue of the letters quickly expanded to include pretrial communications and publicity by both sides in that litigation,” said Scott Dean , BP’s general manager for press relations. “The court never ruled on the complaints by either side, and the matter was eventually dismissed by the agreement of both the plaintiffs and BP. In any event, pretrial communications and publicity by both parties did not interfere with the selection of any jury at any of the several trials in that litigation.”

At the end of the Nov. 6 hearing, Criss repeatedly told BP representatives “I don’t want your spin” and vowed to fine the company for every member of the jury pool who received one of these letters. She also left open the possibility of going “beyond fines” if BP attempted similar communications to potential jurors in the future.

Due to legal restrictions, Criss could not comment on many aspects of the case, but did tell the Center that “whatever I said was what I felt at the time. The transcripts can speak for themselves.”

Criss said she presided over 4,016 cases related to the explosion in a three and a half year period, and that after the November hearing, BP “didn’t repeat that stunt.” While she held the threat of more sanctions over BP’s head, in the end she decided not to impose fines for the letters, given how many cases BP had agreed to settle.

Paul Butler , a professor at the George Washington School of Law, told the Center that while he could not recall letters being sent out in a similar situation, he considered it common for companies to buy billboards or newspaper advertisements ahead of a trial. With large corporations, “especially those with PR issues, there’s almost an expectation that the corporation will try to get its point across.”

Proving jury tampering is extremely difficult, according to Butler, a former federal prosecutor specializing in public corruption. “Corporations have a First Amendment right to express themselves.…I would think what BP has done falls well within its First Amendment right of free expression, rather than the criminal laws’ rather strict construction of what it means to tamper with the jury.”

Gene Grabowski , senior vice president and chair of the crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications, likened letter campaigns, newspaper ads and billboards to what groups like Planned Parenthood do when they are under attack — directly communicating their point of view to the public.

“As long as there’s not a gag on publicity, as long as there isn’t a court ordered gag, it’s perfectly legitimate to share information on the background of a case,” he said. “We’ve seen it done and we have worked with clients to do that.”

Still, Butler noted that corporations know what they’re doing by advertising ahead of trials. “Obviously all of those ads that we’ve all seen since the oil spill have been designed to influence public opinion about BP,” he said. “Certainly the people who created those ads knew litigation was a likely possibility and that some of those people who would see those ads are potential jurors.”

Hundreds of lawsuits related to the oil spill have been filed against BP, ranging from local businesses impacted by the spill to the families of the 11 men killed when the Deepwater Horizon rigexploded one year ago. The Justice Department has also filed a civil suit against BP and other companies involved in the spill. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, set up by BP as required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, has received around 857,000 claims from more than 500,000 individuals. Of those, $3.8 billion has been paid to 300,000 claims.

Oil spill PR efforts echo Texas City

When he first saw Cross on the TV screen in the aftermath of the oil spill, Coon wasn’t surprised. “BP is not very creative. They don’t learn from past lessons. They just have a playbook and don’t deviate very much from it,” he said.

BP’s Texas City refinery, one of the largest in Texas, exploded on March 23, 2005, killing 15 workers and injuring scores more. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hit the company with the largest fine in agency history, and the explosion also resulted in a series of lawsuits from the victims of the blast.

Coon, who managed a significant number of the Texas City cases, called BP’s public relations team a well-trained organization befitting a multibillion-dollar company — one that is willing to go to great lengths to protect its profits, including hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on plaintiff lawyers and investigate victims of the Texas City explosion.

He pointed to an email sent from Patricia Wright, at the time the company’s vice president of communications for North America, mere hours after the explosion.

“Media coverage has been very heavy — looks like injuries and loss of life are heavy as well … Expect a lot of follow up coverage tomorrow. Then I believe it will essentially go away — due to the holiday weekend. Dc (sic) is taking care of the federal folks and Glenn is handling the state officials.”

The email concludes that “This is a very big story in the US right now — but the Terri Schiavo story is huge as well.” The “Schiavo” reference is to the case of Terri Schiavo , a brain-dead woman who drew major national attention when her husband attempted to take her off life support.

Although Texas City was the signature BP-related disaster until last year’s oil spill, the company has had a checkered past when it comes to safety. A 2010 Center report found that BP was responsible for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors over the past three years, and a government report on the Gulf spill declared that “BP’s safety lapses have been chronic.”

In February BP announced plans to sell the Texas City refinery.

April 23, 2011 Posted by | Centre for Public Integrity, Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where are National’s ‘SUPPORT ASSET SALES! VOTE NATIONAL!” signs? Anywhere??

In my considered opinion, ASSET SALES are THE election issue, in which the differences in stated policy between National and Labour are most clearly defined.
It appears that corporate interests, represented by National, were really hopeful that masterfully-packaged ‘Mr Popular’ corporate raider John Key, would be able to pull it off.
That somehow, masterfully-packaged ‘Mr Popular’ corporate raider John Key, would be able to invoke some form of collective frontal lobotomy in the voting public en masse, who would forget that while the ‘Rogernomic$ reforms’ were GREAT for big business, they weren’t quite so great for the public majority.
Especially when it comes to monthly power bills.
Somehow – masterfully-packaged ‘Mr Popular’ corporate raider John Key, would  enable the public majority to forget the ‘bad old days’ when under the ‘inefficient’ Electricity Department and Power Boards – you could afford to have your heater on in winter, and a soak your tired, aching  bodies in a lovely hot bath?  :(
Somehow – masterfully-packaged ‘Mr Popular’ corporate raider John Key, would be able to persuade the same ‘Mums and Dads’ who are struggling every month to pay their crippling  – ‘more efficient’ power bills, that they would be able to invest in these  ‘partially privatised’ power companies.
Unfortunately – the Botany by-election, proved that ‘partial privatisation’ /asset sales appears NOT to be a vote winner for National.
‘What to do?’ cried the ‘spin doctors’.
Plan “B” – just as happened with the (successful) corporate media campaign against Winston Peters and NZ First before the 2008 election, to discredit and undermine them in order to help ensure they did not reach the 5% party vote threshold.
Plan “B” 2011 – a concerted and unrelenting corporate media campaign, to undermine the main political party (Labour) which has stated policy of opposing ‘partial privatisation’ /asset sales, and potentially could stop this corporate agenda.
What corporate media campaigns to undermine Labour have we seen since the Botany by-election?
The Darren Hughes matter.
Phil Goff’s handling of the Darren Hughes matter.
Damian O’Connor’s undisciplined comments over the Labour list selection process.
The National Party PNth candidate’s ‘beat up’ over the Labour party intersection picket opposing asset sales.
Use of ‘opinion polls’ to help steer public opinion away from Labour/ Phil Goff.
The current ‘beat up’ over the VERY effective Labour Party  ‘STOP ASSET SALES’ signs campaign.
Whatever next?!
There will be more!
I’d actually take right wing opposition and ‘pickiness’ over the ‘STOP ASSET SALES’ signs campaign, as a cack-handed compliment.
If it wasn’t being effective – why would they bother?
Don’t buy into it folks!

On 26 January 2011, in his ‘State of the Nation’ speech – John announced National’s policy of support for ‘partial privatisation’ of some SOE’s particularly electricity.
(‘Partial privatisation’ is like ‘partial pregnancy’ – there is no such thing).
Read John Key’s full speech.

PM: Nats to sell parts of state assets
Kerr treated for cancer
Key’s state-of-the-nation speech in full
Key set to boost nation’s savings

Be part of the news. Send pics, video and tips to nzherald.
PM: Nats to sell parts of state assets
By Claire Trevett

2:36 PM Wednesday Jan 26, 2011

Prime Minister John Key has announced plans to sell off parts of state assets and cut back on the rate of Government spending.
Mr Key delivered his state-of-the nation address at Henderson’s Trust Stadium this morning to a group of about 380 people, mostly from the business community.
Click here for the full text of Mr Key’s speech.
He said National was looking to sell off parts of major power companies Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy along with coal company Solid Energy using the mixed-ownership model under which Air New Zealand operated.
“In each case, the government would retain majority ownership and control, and the freed-up capital would be used to purchase other public assets, thereby reducing the government’s need to borrow,” Mr Key said.
“I am convinced that Air New Zealand would not be run as well nor provide as good a service to customers if it was owned 100 per cent by the Government.”
National had also asked Treasury to look into reducing Government shareholding in the national carrier, Mr Key said.
“No other SOEs are being considered and no decisions have been made,” Mr Key said.
“Our final policy will be decided prior to this year’s election and we will seeking a mandate from the electorate before proceeding with any change,” he said.
Any sell-off would be subject to conditions including Government retaining a 50 per cent stake in the company, New Zealand investors claiming a place at the “front of the queue” when it comes to shareholding and any freed capital going back into public assets, said Mr Key.
New Zealand State Owned Entities (SOEs) not caught up in today’s proposal include Metservice, New Zealand Post, Kiwirail and Ontrack, Landcorp and Crown Fibre Holdings.
SOEs are directed to operate successfully as a business and earn profit on par with private commercial companies.
Many former SOEs were privatised by Labour and National through the 1980s and 1990s, including Telecom and State Insurance.
Opportunities for ‘mum and dad’ investors
Speaking to media after his speech, Mr Key said he was confident there would be significant interest in buying shares in currently state owned companies, by New Zealand “mums and dads” as well as institutions with investment portfolios such as the Super Fund and ACC.
“There is a lot of New Zealand investment that’s looking for a home. I don’t think the issue is about whether we can find New Zealand-based capital.”
He said foreign investors would be able to buy in, but he had sought Treasury advice to make sure the first opportunity to buy in was directed at New Zealanders.
There were various ways of ensuring New Zealanders did get the best opportunity to buy, including a discount for “mum and dad” investors. Another possibility was collecting interest in the shares, which he expected would be oversubscribed, allowing greater flexibility to decide who bought the shares.
New Zealand was “severely at risk” that foreign lenders would stop lending to New Zealand or charge higher interest rates.
“We can’t underestimate what Standard and Poors are saying. They are saying they would downgrade New Zealand, putting up the price of interest rates, unless we get on top of debt.”
He said if New Zealand was borrowing less, it meant there was more to invest in other areas.
‘Hocking off the family silver’
The announcement of planned asset sales was met with condemnation by Labour SOEs spokesman Clayton Cosgrove.
He accused National of planning to “hock off the family silver to foreign pixies”.
“They’ve done it before. It didn’t work then though we were promised we would be better off. And it won’t work now. It’s a dumb idea.”
“These enterprises have a combined value of $11.75 billion, and earn Kiwis $700 million a year.
“If John Key’s economic plan consists of hocking off the family silver to the foreign pixies from whom he’s also borrowing $120 million a week to give tax cuts to the rich, then he’s living in a fantasy land.”
Labour Party Finance spokesman David Cunliffe said the mixed ownership model favoured by National would relinquish Government control of state assets while giving little in return.
Minority shareholder rights would dilute public influence in running the companies, while compliance costs of public listing would still be incurred, he said.
“Arguably ‘mixed ownership’ is the worst of both worlds, and certainly not the best.”
Putting the proposal to sell off parts of SOEs in a speech themed around saving and investing was misleading, said Mr Cunliffe.
“Dressing it up as a savings plan is at best a bad joke. Since when did flogging off assets amount to saving and investing?
“John Key says he is singing the saving song today, but the substance is the same old agenda of irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and flogging the family silver to pay for them.”
Cuts in Government spending
Mr Key said the asset sales would come alongside an up-to-$300 million cut in new spending assigned to this year’s budget – from $1.1 billion to $800 to $900m.
Mr Key said both moves were necessary to boost New Zealand’s economic performance and deliver jobs, higher incomes and better living standards.
“The way for New Zealand to get ahead is to sell more to the rest of the world. That means making some changes.”
Mr Key said the reduced spending would allow New Zealand to record a meaningful surplus one year earlier than projected, in the 2014-2015 financial year.
“The government simply has to get its finances in order if New Zealand is to achieve a long term improvement in its economic prospects.
“I have therefore challenged my Ministers to balance the books more quickly.
“Government spending will continue to increase each year in dollar terms but at a slower pace than the rest of the economy.”
$300m a week borrowing
Mr Key said the Government was still having to borrow an average of $300 million a week “to pay the bills”.
That has raised the national debt level to 85 percent of GDP, putting New Zealand on par with Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain, he said.
“That is very uneasy company indeed.
“We recognise that New Zealand’s level of foreign debt is our biggest vulnerability,” he said.
“In the worst of the recession, running a budget deficit was the right thing to do, as it gave much-needed support to the economy.
“Now, as the economy recovers, borrowing $300 million a week is unaffordable and is holding the economy back.
If debt remained at those levels, Standard and Poor’s would downgrade New Zealand’s credit rating, Mr Key said.
“This year the theme of the Budget will be savings and investment.”
Electricity prices won’t rise, says Key
Mr Key said he did not believe New Zealanders would face higher electricity prices as a result of private shareholders demanding greater profits from electricity companies.
He said the government had reformed the electricity industry and put controls on, including reducing cost increases of electricity generation.
He believed the companies would be more successful with some private capital. The government was “cash strapped” and could not invest in them to the same extent, restricting their growth.
He said while his critics would claim he was selling off the family silver, he believed the most important thing for New Zealanders was making sure the country didn’t go broke.
“I think the public will respect us for taking the tough decisions, but the right decisions for New Zealand. We’re really saying to New Zealanders, look, sometimes mum and dad change the mix of their assets. The car might be too big and they get a smaller thing. We’re looking to do a similar thing, but overall growing the size of New Zealand’s balance sheet.”
Labour’s promises were too extravagant and would mean they had to borrow, taking New Zealand down the same road as Ireland and Spain.
By Claire Trevett | Email Claire
On the SAME day 26 January 2011- our dear friend (not) Roger Kerr from the NZ Business Round Table, (whose members did SO well out of the ‘Rogernomic$ reforms) – came out in support of ‘partial privatisation’, as did other business leaders.
Business leaders support partial privatisation of state assets

3:15 PM Wednesday Jan 26, 2011Business leaders are optimistic that a government signal of plans to sell shares in several state-owned enterprises, while keeping a control of them, will be acceptable to voters.
Prime Minister John Key said the Government has asked Treasury for advice on extending Air New Zealand’s mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy.
Advice has also been sought on reducing the Crown’s 74.69 percent shareholding in Air New Zealand, while still maintaining a majority stake.
Business leaders today talked about the difference between partial privatisations and the privatisation of state business in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Key said his Government was “interested in what works, not in following any particular ideology”.
With broad public support and constructive participation by other political parties the policy had the potential to achieve widespread acceptance, Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly said.
Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr said New Zealand governments were spooked by the issue of privatisation.
The roundtable has argued that there are myths about the 30 or so privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s and the country has moved in an opposite policy direction by buying back rail and Air NZ and starting Kiwibank.
He said the Government move was a step in the right direction but there were issues with partial ownership.
“All the economic research indicates that privately owned business on average outperform publicly owned ones. But partially owned state-owned enterprises can still be subject to political interference and the results are not as clear,” he said.
Employment and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson said it was the opposite of selling the family silver.
“This is about realising the value from part of certain state assets and using the funds released to invest in even more valuable state assets.”
O’Reilly said that allowing New Zealanders to invest directly in a changed mix of state-owned assets was a policy that was both progressive and moderate.
“Broadening the pool of investment opportunities for New Zealand families is a key step towards a more vibrant economy.
“Greater involvement by more stakeholders also fosters accountability and better performance.”
Meridian Energy today noted the Prime Minister’s speech in a note to the NZX under the code for listed debt instruments.
“As with any company Meridian will continue to be guided by its shareholders expectations for the company,” Meridian said.
Solid Energy chairman John Palmer last year raised the issue of partial privatisation but was criticised by Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee for over-stepping the mark.
Palmer, who is also chairman of Air NZ, argued that Solid Energy’s situation was vastly different to the emotional discussion surrounding Kiwibank, and he talked about the merits of Air NZ’s ownership structure. The airline is listed on the sharemarket.
The National government has made it clear that it will not sell state assets in its first term and will signal any intention in election policy.
Palmer said there should be majority ownership of Solid Energy because it had some key national assets. The sale of new shares in the coal miner did not require the sale of the Government’s existing stake but would dilute it.
The Crown’s commercial portfolio contains almost $95 billion of assets, of which $55b is in commercially focused companies and $40b in investment funds, according to Treasury.

On the same day – 26 January 2011, other business leaders come out in support of ‘partial privatisation’ of state assets.

NZPA | Wednesday January 26, 2011 | 10 comments

Business supports partial privatisation of state assets

Phil O’Reilly

Business leaders are optimistic that a government signal of plans to sell shares in several state-owned enterprises, while keeping a control of them, will be acceptable to voters.
Prime Minister John Key said the Government has asked Treasury for advice on extending Air New Zealand’s mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy.
Advice has also been sought on reducing the Crown’s 74.69 percent shareholding in Air New Zealand, while still maintaining a majority stake.
Business leaders today talked about the difference between partial privatisations and the privatisation of state business in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Key said his Government was “interested in what works, not in following any particular ideology”.

In contrast – Phil Goff slammed ‘partial privatisation’ as a ‘dumb idea’.

Partial asset sales a dumb idea, says Labour
Published: 1:01PM Wednesday January 26, 2011 Source: ONE News
Source: ONE News

Watch Video

Key points to partial asset sales (3:32)

Key points to partial asset sales watch
Key talks asset sales, savings and cost cutting (8:09)
John Key’s full speech: ‘Our economic challenge’ – video (23:40)

Labour says hocking off the family silver to “foreign pixies” has been tried before and failed, and “won’t work now”.
Responding to a speech by Prime Minister John Key today in which he indicated the government is looking at partial asset sales, Labour’s SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said talk of the partial privatisation of New Zealand’s biggest power companies shows Key’s lack of vision.
“They’ve done it before. It didn’t work then though we were promised we would be better off. And it won’t work now,” said Cosgrove. “It’s a dumb idea.”
Cosgrove said the enterprises have a combined value of $11.75 billion and earn Kiwis $700 million a year.
“If John Key’s economic plan consists of hocking off the family silver to the foreign pixies from whom he’s also borrowing $120 million a week to give tax cuts to the rich, then he’s living in a fantasy land.”
Key said in his State of the Nation speech today that the mixed-ownership model under which Air New Zealand operates – where the government owns most of the company but there is a minority of outside equity – gives the best of both worlds.
The government has asked Treasury for advice on the viability of extending the mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy, Key said.
But Labour Party leader Phil Goff believes New Zealanders will face higher power prices and cuts to essential services like schools and hospitals under Key’s plan.
“This isn’t an economic plan. It’s a recipe for disaster. Hocking off our assets to foreign buyers and slashing spending is vintage National,” he said.
“Mums and dads don’t have spare cash floating around to buy up shares,” Goff said.
He said low and middle income New Zealanders have been stung by the GST hike and now will face cuts to health and education while “paying through the nose to heat their homes once National sells off our power companies to foreign investors”.
The Green Party said Key’s announcement indicates a swing to the right which will damage the economy long-term and hurt ordinary New Zealanders.
“The gloves are coming off. John Key’s speech…signals National’s plan to privatise state assets in the next term,” said co-leader Russel Norman.
“Selling state assets to foreign corporations, which will inevitably happen under this plan, will drive up the current account deficit, send profits overseas and drive up costs for Kiwis.
“Our current budget deficit has been created by the government’s tax cuts and poor quality spending. John Key is now using his mismanagement of the economy as an excuse to sell public assets and cut important social and environmental spending,” added Norman.
Norman said New Zealand needs state assets to drive innovation and investment.
“If the government wants to create opportunities for Kiwi investors then it should look into State Owned Enterprises issuing investment bonds. This is a much better option than selling off the assets.”
More problems than answers
The Council of Trade Unions says partial privatisation plans will do little to address debt problems and will cause more problems than they solve.
“Inevitably we will see more of the bad behaviour of the private electricity companies and the commercially focussed SOEs intensify, with more price rises, reluctance to invest in new generating capacity, and reluctance to invest in a secure supply,” CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said.
“The partial sale would hardly dent the government’s debt but at a significant cost to the effectiveness of New Zealand’s infrastructure. Most of the shares will end up overseas owned, increasing New Zealand’s overseas liabilities. It just moves public debt to private debt.”
And Rosenberg said the announcement of a further cut in the government operating allowance is small in terms of debt levels but will put pressure on government services like health and education.
“If we want to provide investment opportunities to the public, Kiwi infrastructure bonds could be offered that the government uses for development purposes.”
Exciting news
The Employers & Manufacturers Association said trading up state assets “into even more valuable assets” is exciting news.
“This is the opposite of selling the family silver,” said chief executive, Alasdair Thompson.
“This is about realising the value from part of certain state assets and using the funds released to invest in even more valuable state assets.”
Thompson said the association is calling for an Investment Development Fund dedicated to infrastructure into which proceeds from asset sales would be channelled for Kiwis to invest in.
“This would allow us to develop our country using much more of our own money instead of borrowing it from foreigners,” he said.
Realistic policy
BusinessNZ is welcoming the focus on investment in the Prime Minister’s state of the nation speech.
Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said allowing New Zealanders to invest directly in a changed mix of state owned assets is a policy that is both progressive and moderate.
“Broadening the pool of investment opportunities for New Zealand families is a key step towards a more vibrant economy.
“Greater involvement by more stakeholders also fosters accountability and better performance.”
O’Reilly said the timeframe for the policy is measured and gives a good amount of time for public discussion.
“With broad public support and constructive participation by other political parties this policy has the potential to achieve widespread acceptance,” O’Reilly said.
Campaigning on opposition to asset sales works for Phil Goff and Labour in the Botany by-election, while support for ‘partial privatisation’ / assets sales appeared to be an electoral disaster for John Key / National, as over 9000 (former?) National Party voters stay home.
Interesting how the NZ Herald’s CHIEF Political Reporter’s analysis of the only poll that really matters – an ELECTION result – in this case the recent Botany by-election, plus the election result itself, somewhat differs from these latest ‘opinion’ polls?
Botany byelection loss holds silver lining for Labour Party
By John Armstrong
5:30 AM Monday Mar 7, 2011
At last, Phil Goff has something to smile about.
Exactly why the Labour leader is smiling might not seem immediately obvious given that National’s Jami-Lee Ross won Saturday’s Botany byelection in a canter, securing almost double the number of votes of his Labour counterpart.
The answer is that everything is relative in politics. Labour did better than it hoped. National did not fare as well as it would have expected.
Of course, as arguably proven in the 2008 general election, the way ‘democracy’ works in NZ, is that the public majority get the Government that the majority of big business want us to have – and this is achieved through corporate media manipulation.
Big business want ‘partial privatisation’ of state assets, especially electricity SOEs.
John Key /National support  ‘partial privatisation’ of state assets, especially electricity SOEs.
Phil Goff/Labour think ‘ ‘partial privatisation’ of state assets, especially electricity SOEs.
is a ‘dumb idea’.
Arguably the Botany by-election result proves this?
(Over 9000 former? National party voters – DON’T.
Did ‘the polls’ predict this?
Corporate media campaign begins to try and undermine Labour and Labour’s leader, Phil Goff……………..
‘Polls’ like the one commented on today, arguably are used to keep the anti-Labour Party ‘beat-up’ going.
I predict a lot more ‘beat ups’ to come.
It seems that asset sales, especially of electricity assets, is HUGELY unpopular, and despite (shonky?) John Key’s best efforts to make this political ‘goat sh*t’ smell like honey – significant numbers of voters haven’t had a collective frontal lobotomy.
We have learned that what groups like the NZ Business Round Table are advocating, isn’t usually in the best interests of the majority of the NZ public.
Big business interests support ‘partial privatisation’, John Key/ National supports ‘partial privatisation’ (oops! the ‘mixed ownership’ model’.
Phil Goff/Labour thinks ‘partial privatisation is a ‘dumb idea’ – apparently so too do significant numbers of the general public.
Big business /National carry out a concerted corporate media campaign to help undermine Phil Goff/ Labour?
Darren Hughes / Phil Goff’s ‘handling’ of the Darren Hughes matter / Damien O’Connor’s ‘undisciplined’ comments/ the PNth intersection anti-asset sale picket ‘beat up’ …. etc.
I confidently predict that there will be constant ‘picking’ / ‘beat ups’ all through this election campaign, to attempt to undermine support for the main political party – Labour – which opposes what the majority of big business openly want – more privatisation of key public assets.
Where did we see this before?
Oh yes, before the 2008 election with the campaign to discredit and undermine Winston Peters and NZ First, so that they wouldn’t make the 5% party vote threshold.
The aim?
For National to get enough votes to govern alone.
Want to see the FACTS and EVIDENCE that I have researched to support my considered opinion?
DON’T BUY INTO THE CORPORATE MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO UNDERMINE PHIL GOFF AND LABOUR – is my opinion, and you can see by the evidence that I have provided – that it is ‘considered’.


April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Howick by-election campaign | Leave a comment

MARCH FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.Sunday, May 1, 2pm, QEII Square, Downtown, Queen St, Auckland: ‘JOHN KEY IS NOT WORKING FOR NEW ZEALAND!’

Sunday, May 1, 2pm, QEII Square, Downtown, Queen St, Auckland

A new Coalition of community groups, churches and unions has been formed. Our slogan is Social Justice (meeting occured on the 29th March 2011).

Our aim is to challenge the policies of John Key and the National/Act/Maori party Government.

We believe they are bankrupt and are not serving the interests of the majority of New Zealanders.

We are organising a MASS MOBILISATION of ordinary Kiwis on SUNDAY 1ST MAY.

Also more action when National announces the BUDGET on 19th May 2011. From Cairo to London ordinary people are challenging the Free Market perscription from government cuts to privatisation/asset sales. New Zealanders are angry about GST, milk prices and secret Trade deals.. About cuts to Early Childhood education and privatisation of electricity.

Meredydd Barrar, spokesperson says, “Enough is enough. Recent government announcements about cuts and a Budget that will certainly condemn the majority of New Zealanders to relative poverty is not acceptable. Children and struggling families as well as students looking to further their higher education will be penalised. There is a latent anger in New Zealnd at the moment. We aim to translate it into action. Nationals policies of cut backs and austerity measures will increase the gap between rich and poor which is already the 6th highest in the OECD.

We believe this is unacceptable and uncivilised. New Zealanders deserve better than this bankrput economic philosophy that only seems to make bankers, corporates and speculators richer”. For more info call CSJ on 098366389; 0212106720 or email capwaitakere

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Fighting water privatisation in NZ, Human rights | Leave a comment

WORLD WATER WARRIORS: Veolia Environnement’s Profits Shrink as Communities Across the Globe Remunicipalize Water Contracts and Company Fails to Secure Long-Term Leases

Veolia Environnement’s Profits Shrink as Communities Across the Globe Remunicipalize Water Contracts and Company Fails to Secure Long-Term Leases

Water Justice Advocates Speak Out on Company’s Long Record of Service Failures 

Washington, D.C.—Despite revenues of $46.5 billion in 2010, Veolia Environnement, the world’s largest water and sewer service provider, suffered an 11 percent drop in its water division’s adjusted operating income from the previous year, finds analysis released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World’s Largest Water Service Corporation shows how public backlash against Veolia’s attempts to dominate the water services market has undermined the company’s revenues.

Providing drinking water service to 95 million customers and wastewater service to 68 million in 66 countries, Veolia has struggled over recent years to maintain its profit levels and realize its privatization vision. From 2005 to 2009, the company’s new contracts with public authorities shrank in duration and scope—the major new deals it signed in 2009 were 97 percent less valuable than those it signed in 2005.

The company has directed over half of its growth activities over the next three years to expand its presence in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, customers across the globe suffer water shortages, skyrocketing rates and irregular billing practices under Veolia Environnement’s service. Some communities, such as Paris, France have ended their relationships with Veolia early, realizing the potential cost savings under public operation.

“In many ways, Paris’s move to reassume public control of its water system from Veolia can be seen as a harbinger of the company’s future problems,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “A year after taking back its water system, the city is projecting $50 million in annual savings. You know things are bad for Veolia when even its hometown has rejected its services.”

These and other issues were highlighted today at a press conference convened by consumer and water justice advocates. Speakers at the event included Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch; Danielle Mitterand, president of the Fondation France Libertés; Anne Le Strat, president of the Eaux de Paris and AquaPublicaEuropea; Jean Luc Touly, regional councilor, member of the National Water Committee, trade unionist of Veolia IDF; and William Bourdon, Président de SHERPA.

“Water management has to separate itself from the commercial sphere. It is a common good and cannot become the oil of the 21st century,” said Jean Luc Touly. “Water as a common good is a source of peace, not profit.”

Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World’s Largest Water Service Corporation is available here:

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.


Kate Fried
Senior Communications Manager
Food & Water Watch
1616 P Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 683-4905
(202) 683-2906 – Fax

April 21, 2011 Posted by | WORLD WATER WARRIORS | Leave a comment

[Water News] Veolia rethinks US contract ops

21 April 2011
From: Mary Grant <>
Date: April 20, 2011 10:19:23 AM EDT
Subject: [Water News] Veolia rethinks US contract ops
Because of public opposition, Veolia Water North America is shifting its water privatization strategy again. This time to narrow contracts (for example, metering contracts, deals to manage capital improvement plans; and management but not operation contracts).
In the late 1990s, it targeted big cities.
In the early to mid 2000s, after public opposition and major failures, it shifted its sights to smaller and medium-sized communities.
In the late 2000s, it shift back to larger cities hoping to take advantage of the fiscal crisis.
Now, because of continued public resistance to privatization, it is pursuing smaller-scope contracts with large cities.
This is a victory — the company apparently no longer thinks its viable to target leases and long-term contracts of entire water and sewer systems in the United States.
Note 1: This differs sharply from the company’s global water strategy, which is still focused on getting long-term concessions (per its latest presentation to investors); but, as our new report notes, the company hasn’t been very successful at getting these types of deals anywhere in the world, so it may eventually refocus its international water efforts on these more circumscribed contracts.
Note 2: Veolia is also focused on industrial market – oil, gas, automotive clients. This month, it got a contract with Southern Pacific Resources to treat produced water in Northern Alberta’s dirty tar sands.

Veolia rethinks US contract ops

Small community contracts aren’t giving the French giant the kind of growth it needs in the US market. Is the solution to target bigger cities with a new kind of more restricted, performance-based contract?

Veolia Water North America is looking towards new contracting models as a means of squeezing more growth out of the US outsourced municipal operations sector. GWI’s annual survey of the top six contract operations companies shows that the total value of the market grew by 4.6% to $1.69 billion in 2010. This figure includes the impact of American Water’s acquisition of EMC; without it the growth rate would have been in the region of 1%. With growth of just 1.7% acheived in 2009, it is clear that the contract operations market is struggling to keep ahead of inflation.

Veolia Water North America CEO Laurent Auguste believes that the problem is that customers find it difficult to understand how private operators add value. “The challenge of water outsourcing and publicprivate partnerships in the US has been the lack of recognition of what the private sector can bring. Very often we go for the full outsourcing which is a black box. It does not give recognition of what we do,” he explains. He believes Veolia should slice up its proposition, to offer individual services where the value to the client is clear for all to see.
“We need a performance-based approach and that is what we are trying to promote. It is about being able to commit on performance and being rewarded for the actual performance. It is not about just being advisors and getting a fee but getting a share of the value that we can get for the client. That proposition should make it easier to engage the public sector.”
The first example of the new type of contract Veolia Water North America is looking to pursue is expected to be agreed within the next few weeks. The Chicagobased company will work alongside the existing utility staff to manage the capital programme and operations. There will be no staff transfer, but Veolia will get a share of the benefits if the cooperation exceeds its targets. “We are completely aligned with them. It is a different model which retains public control, while enabling the utility to tap into the dynamism of the private sector.
“I hope that this will be something that will enable use to launch a new approach to the market in North America.”
Until 2002 Veolia Water North America’s predecessor company, US Filter, maintained a large business development team targeting big cities. After the city of New Orleans rejected plans to outsource water and sewer services in 2002, the company downgraded its market development activities, tacitly accepting that there were not going to be any more big city outsourcing contracts. Instead the focus moved to smaller communities grappling with high operating costs. However these make for thin pickings and can require as much political work as big cities before they get the go-ahead. By taking on contracts with a narrower scope for larger cities, Auguste hopes to increase the growth rate.
“For mayors, it is difficult to say that ‘we will bring a private company to run our water, and transfer our staff’. There is also the misunderstanding about acquiring the water resources. We need to make it easier for mayors to go for the right deals. We do not always need to be the operator to share with them some of the best practices.”
Overall Auguste is confident that the experience of running water utilities all over the world in a competitive environment means that the Veolia can add value to any aspect of utility operations. The challenge is to package this expertise in such a way that US municipal water utilities can take advantage of them. “There are huge and growing needs and I am convinced that we are part of the solution. But how do we match the needs and the solution?” The Growing Blue inititiative (see opposite) is also part of the strategy of helping mayors think creatively about solutions to their water problems.
Mary Grant
Food & Water Watch
1616 P Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

Water-News mailing list

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting water privatisation in NZ, Internationally significant information | Leave a comment

TRUTHOUT!: ‘Deforming the Reform: A Case Study in Oversight Perseverance’

Deforming the Reform: A Case Study in Oversight Perseverance

Wednesday 20 April 2011
by: Dina Rasor, Truthout

I am continuing our series of solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD) with a look at how the government keeps track of companies that have engaged in misconduct when awarded lucrative government contracts. This is specifically a problem for the DoD, because when you look at the top 100 contractors, the majority with high numbers of misconduct are companies that work with the DoD. This is not surprising because procurement oversight in the DoD is weak, and many of the companies know that if they get caught doing something wrong, they can declare a national security need and will probably get a follow-on contract or other contracts in the future.

This Solutions column will look at how attempts to reform and add more transparency to government contracting by open government groups and the Congress resulted in weak, but promising, legislation. But then, the government, under pressure from the government contractors, has been further deforming and degrading this attempt at open government records. This is a common problem when reforms are introduced, get passed in a weakened form due to corporate lobbying and are further degraded as the reforms are implemented into the government bureaucracy because the government acquiesces to the pressure by government contractor lobbyists. The politicians can brag that they passed more government oversight for more open government to their constituents and the media, but after that parade moves on the good government groups have to fight to keep the reform alive from the long knives of industry.

A new federal contractor misconduct database, Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System or FAPIIS, was long in the making, but debuted on April 15. It is supposed to be a solution to require, by law, that government contracting personnel use this database to check for misconduct while they are making contract award decision and give the public a glimpse of past misconduct of companies that work with the government. (See this Solutions column for more information on debarring government contractors.) However, this solution is already greatly in need of its own reform, even on its public debut, in order to really help identify contractors that perpetually attempt to swindle the government.

Here is the history of this deformed reform:

A good government group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), realized in the early 2000s that the government didn’t have a good data base that listed government contractors’ misconduct. (For full disclosure, I founded POGO and still serve on their board of directors.) After issuing a report on the subject in 2002, POGO designed their own Federal Contractor Misconduct Database that listed the incidences of misconduct for the top 100 government contractors. The database was updated and revamped in 2007.

When you look at the POGO database, it becomes apparent that the top contractors involved in misconduct are many of the main DoD contractors. Lockheed Martin, a major defense contractor and my nemesis for many years in my DoD investigations, is the largest government contractor with $38 billion of government contracts in fiscal year 2009 and has the largest amount of incidents of misconduct – 57 since 1995.

However, POGO realized that their database was limited and not official, so, they, with the help of some other good government groups and sympathetic members of Congress, pushed for the government to create a comprehensive database of thousands of government contractors so government contracting personnel and the public could consult with the list to see which has been responsible or irresponsible with their government contracts. In October of 2008, President George W. Bush signed a bill that had a provision to start a federal database that was to use POGO’s database as an example. This legislation was shepherded by a diverse and bipartisan group of legislators: Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), Henry Waxman (D-California), Tom Davis (R-Virginia), Edolphus Towns (D-New York); Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Hillary Clinton (D-New York). It is interesting to note that the three major contenders for the 2008 presidential election, all signed on to help pass this bill.

Unfortunately, the deforming of the reform started when the bill was being debated. The government contractors, especially the DoD contractors, (see these two Solutions columns for more information on the power of DoD lobbies here and here) have powerful lobbies which, when they could not kill this new important database, managed to shoehorn in a provision that the database could not be made public. If only government personnel could see the database, there would be less public scrutiny to its faults and omissions … besides, if you take out any sensitive internal company data, why shouldn’t the public be able to see which contractors are messing with their tax dollars?

In a stealthy and surprise move, in July 2010, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) slipped in a provision in a supplemental appropriations act that required the new database be made public. The act passed before the corporate lobbyists could pull out the long knives, and President Obama signed the bill.

The oversight of the implementation of this database was not finished because of various pressures during the public comment stage and POGO had to watch the progress with great scrutiny.

So, last Friday, April 15, the FAPIIS database finally went public, nine years after POGO had created their site. Two provisions have made it less than it should be. One is that it will not have any misconduct incidents that happened before April 15 – yes, this April 15 – so the contractors start with a clean slate on the site. The POGO site goes back to 1995. It will take a while for the new misconduct data to appear, but I am pretty sure that Lockheed and other DoD contractors will, once again, make their way to the top. The other problem is that past performance reviews of contractors by the government won’t make it onto the web site. These two provisions were hat tips to the contractor lobby while the bill was winding through the Congress and into implementation stage by the government bureaucracy.

POGO has found factual flaws in the site and the software is very clunky.

However, the government may not be able to have the funding to fix it up because there is a budget push to cut federal money for government web sites. Rep. Daryl Issa (R-California) had pledged that these cuts would not shut down government accountability web sites. He may be successful, but this gives the industry another shot at trying to kill the site that shows their dirty laundry.

So, this is supposed to be a Solutions column, so where is the solution in this column?

This story is a cautionary tale to anyone who is trying to put in reform legislation. If you mean to have the reform be effective and consequential, you have to watch it diligently all the way through the legislative process but, much more importantly, you cannot declare a victory until it gets through the executive branch implementation without being deformed by lobbyists who didn’t get their way during the legislative process.

Getting this type of reform legislation through is a bit like guerilla warfare if the legislation is attacked and stripped of vital components. If Senator Sanders had not slipped in the provision to make the database public, it may have been many years before anyone could be convinced to take a stand and undo the law after it passed. The large imperial army of corporate lobbyists greatly outnumber the reformers, so the reformers need to be very relentless and resourceful.

The solution on how to successfully get effective reform is to not let your guard down through the whole process. I have seen members of Congress and even nonprofit groups accept greatly flawed reform legislation without persistently keeping it effective. Then, the deformed reform is even more deformed by the unwilling bureaucracy, and it is either not effective, or even worse, prettied up to look like reform, but actually helpful to the corporations. Then, the members of Congress and the reform groups declare a great victory. It becomes very hard to bring up the problem the reform was supposed to avoid because the sponsors of the bill will tell you that they “fixed” the problem.

The fight for the FAPIIS database is not over until it achieves its purpose of being a true and thorough tool to track contractor misconduct that the government and the public use to keep the same corporations from ripping us off over and over again.

So, POGO and the sympathetic members of Congress still have work to make the reform work while fighting off the people who are determined to deform it. It makes reformers sometimes feel like Sisyphus with the rock, but that is the burden in trying to fight and change the status quo. Fortitude.

I am interested in reading and perhaps publishing other stories about reforms that have been beaten up on their way to becoming effective law and methods that other reformers have used to get good reforms through the system. I believe that this area of solutions is perhaps even more important than coming up with the original legislation. If you have a story you would like to tell, send me an email at

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Dina Rasor
Dina Rasor is an investigator, journalist and author. Rasor has been fighting waste while working for transparency and accountability in government for three decades. In 1981 Rasor founded the Project on Military Procurement (now called the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO) to serve as a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog over military and related government spending. Rasor’s most recent book, “Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War,” chronicles first-hand accounts of the devastating consequences of privatized war support for troops and the overall war effort in Iraq. Click here to view a 2008 Truthout interview with Rasor. She also founded the Bauman & Rasor Group that helps whistleblowers file lawsuits under the Federal qui tam False Claims act and has been involved in cases which have returned over $100 million back to the U.S. Treasury.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information, Transparency in Govt spending, TRUTHOUT | Leave a comment