Sunday, 28 September 2008

RAM and GST-off-food in Wellington's Dominion Post

The GST off food campaign was given two pages in Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper on Saturday 27 September. RAM activists are quoted extensively alongside critics. Is the cure for rising prices as simple as g s t? by Hank Schouten from Dominion Post 27 September 2008 THE PAIN inflicted on households by a steep rise in food costs has prompted a call for GST to be taken off food. During the past year, prices have shot up 13 per cent and some staples have soared. Butter is up 87 per cent, cheese climbed 44 per cent and bread now costs 17 per cent more than it did 12 months ago. Households are also burdened by high petrol and power prices. The newly formed broad-left Residents Action Movement (RAM) is now calling for the goods and services tax (GST) to be lifted on food.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

It's official, we're losing climate change battle

from Carbon News 25 September 2008 The world is losing the battle against climate change, with global carbon emissions rising sharply last year, a hard-hitting scientific paper due out today will show. Dr Michael Raupach, co-chair of the Global Carbon Project, told Carbon News today that mankind needs to move to the equivalent of a war footing if it is to have any chance of combating the major consequences of climate change. “I don't like the analogy, but a lot of people have said we need to treat this as if we need to go to a war footing," he said from France. The Global Carbon Project report, to be released in Washington today, shows that carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans have grown four times faster since 2000 than they did during the 1990s ­ despite international attempts to curb emissions. In 2007, world carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.5 per cent. New Zealand's carbon dioxide emissions have been growing at 0.82 per cent a year since 2000, but the report does not look at methane, New Zealand's largest greenhouse gas. Raupach, an Australian-based carbon-cycle scientist, says that while the growth is not surprising, it is alarming. "I am personally worried that climate change and the resultant pressures of humans on the Earth's systems are pushing us into a state from which we won't be able to recover without crashing, as civilisations do," he said. The report, which officially confirms China as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is a wake-up call to countries that think they are adequately addressing climate change by introducing emissions trading scheme, he says. "Emissions trading schemes take time to take effect, because first you have to have the economic impact, then you have to have the technological change. The average life of a family car is 10 to 15 years, and the average life of a power station is 30 to 40 years." Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons told Carbon News that she agrees with Raupach's call for a war footing. "This is a more critical threat to the future of humans than we have had yet," she said. Story copyright © Carbon News 2008 See also Emissions rising much faster than IPCC forecasts

Crisis of Capitalism and the Left

by Emir Sader from Monthly Review 20 September 2008 A new crisis of capitalism, in the style of 1929. The theories of casino capitalism are confirmed. The US government contradicts itself again and heavily intervenes, demonstrating that its confidence in the market isn't as great as its propaganda displayed. Neoliberal capitalism spills its guts, and the theories of the Left – Keynesian or anti-capitalist – critical of neoliberalism are corroborated. Our theories about the anti-social and perhaps terminal character of capitalism borne out, we leftists smile, rubbing our hands, eager for social and political consequences of crises.

Timebomb ticking away under Arctic

As the Arctic warms the permafrost melts letting methane gas escape into the atmosphere, which accelerates global warming still further.
by Steve Connor
from NZ Herald 24 September 2008 The first evidence that millions of tonnes of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.
Details of preliminary findings suggest that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats. Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Financial crisis: working people will pay

by Dick Nichols from Green Left Weekly 20 September 2008 “Will my superannuation [pension] fund be next?” “Are my savings safe?” As working people in the developed economies watch the assets of one financial institution after another vaporise into nothingness, tens of millions are asking these dreadful questions.

The making of the free-market meltdown

from US Socialist Worker 24 September 2008 "Rather than nationalize the banks' losses, the government could nationalize the banks – period. Letting the free market run its course has created the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Why should the same people who created this catastrophe be allowed to continue to run the financial system, and pull down hundreds of millions in executive compensation? ...with the credibility of the free-market ideologues destroyed by the crisis and the pressing need for relief for working people, there's an opportunity to demand the far-reaching reforms that will benefit the majority who are suffering in this recession."
- Lee Sustar
Read the full interview with Lee Sustar on the financial crisis gripping the US and the world.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Victory for democracy achieved by RAM and the citizens of Whangarei

RAM - Residents Action Movement Media release 23 September 2008 "Despite threats from the Whangarei District Council the People's Procession to Parliament scored a great victory for democracy today," said Grant Morgan, RAM chair and national organiser of the People's Procession. "Thanks to RAM, for refusing to buckle to a local politician trying to ban our democratic voice, and to the citizens of Whangarei." "One thousand signatures were gathered today in just 2 ½ hours. There was not a single negative comment directed at our GST-off-food petition stall, with one exception, which was the message delivered by the council from one of its managers," said Grant Morgan. "WDC regulatory services manager Grant Couchman told me the council was disappointed that RAM went ahead despite being told not to." "I told Mr Couchman that we'd have to be mutually disappointed, because RAM was disappointed at the council's ban on democracy in the central city." "Mr Couchman also told me that RAM could be prosecuted under the Whangarei council bylaw that bans so called political activities in the central city. He told me that RAM could face a $20,000 fine." "I told Mr Couchman that if they were going to take any action they should hit me," said Grant Morgan. "I am questioning whether the Whangarei District Council bylaw contravenes the Human Rights Act, which guarantees freedom of democracy and political expression." "The Whangarei Mayor likes to be called Stan the Man. After his council's over-the-top attempt to intimidate RAM and ban us from putting up a GST-off-food petition stall in the central city, I think it would be more appropriate to call him Stan the Ban," said Grant Morgan. Martin Kaipo, RAM's Whangarei candidate in the upcoming General Election, attended the petition stall in the central city. He believes "the Whangarei District Council's storm cloud was blown away by a fresh breeze: the people of Whangarei." "It was an excellent day," said Martin Kaipo."The people proudly came out in support of RAM and the GST-off-food petition." "On behalf of RAM I thank the thousand Whangarei citizens who rallied to our cause and signed the GST-off-food petition," said Grant Morgan. "And I thank the retailers in the nearby shops who gave their support to the petition stall." "The people have spoken, many came up to our table and said the mayor's not going to chase us away from here. This is our place."

Sunday, 21 September 2008

People's Procession starts in Kaitaia

Signing the GST-off-food petition at the Kaitaia Markets
Grant Morgan, RAM chair and national organiser of the People's Procession to Parliament

Hone Harawira, Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau, signing the GST-off-food petition at the Kaitaia Markets

Friday, 19 September 2008

Venezuela: New mission, laws to extend popular power

by Federico Fuentes, Caracas from Green Left Weekly 6 September 2008 The August 24 announcment by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to officially launch the social mission April 13, and the decreeing of 26 new and reformed laws on July 29, represent a further push to empower the poor communities. Moreover, these moves represent a new offensive as part of Chavez's stated aim of building "socialism of the 21st century" and eradicating poverty by giving power to the people.

Britain's worst polluters set for windfall of millions

by David Adam from 12 September 2008 A flagship European scheme designed to fight global warming is set to hand hundreds of millions of pounds to some of Britain's most polluting companies, with little or no benefit to the environment, an investigation by the Guardian has revealed. Dozens of multinational firms stand to benefit from the windfall, which comes from the over-allocation of carbon permits under the European emissions trading scheme.

RAM asks CTU for democratic debate & vote on 'pollution market'

Residents Action Movement Media release 5 September 2008 Over the last four years, RAM (Residents Action Movement) has been campaigning for free and frequent public transport in main centres. "Free and frequent trains and buses, funded by a switch of government money from highways and car tunnels, is a boldly realistic policy in an era of global warming, peak oil and traffic jams," said Roger Fowler, RAM's transport speaker. "This one policy change would do far more to tackle carbon emissions than the entire Emissions Trading Scheme being driven by the Labour, Green and NZ First parties. And it would keep more money in the pockets of workers." "It is very disappointing to see the Green politicians supporting Labour's drive to pass the ETS legislation," says Elliott Blade, RAM's environmental co-speaker and parliamentary candidate for Maungakiekie. "This law will establish a pollution market in New Zealand where corporations make money out of global warming while life-threatening emissions keep on rising." Like RAM, the Maori Party has come out strongly against the ETS. Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell told Parliament on 2 September that, in addition to Treaty of Waitangi concerns over the ETS, the Maori Party opposes the scheme because:
  • It would not be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It is "not transparent".
  • "Polluters do not pay", but instead receive massive subsidies that amount to "corporate welfare".
  • Therefore the stated aim of economic incentives to cut emissions is "defeated".
"The Maori Party's exposure of the ETS makes them the foremost ecological party in the current Parliament," says Michelle Ducat, environmental co-speaker for RAM. "The mantle of ecological guardian has slipped from the shoulders of the Green Party onto the Maori Party." Meanwhile the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has come out with qualified support for the ETS. On 2 September, CTU economist Peter Conway said that climate change policy should "not rely too substantially on market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading". However, Mr Conway flagged CTU support for the ETS "compromise" reached between Labour, NZ First and the Greens, including the one-off electricity rebate to all households in 2010 and the one-off cash payment to beneficiaries, seniors and low-wage workers. While admitting that "this bill is not perfect", Mr Conway claimed "the risks of not taking concrete steps outweigh any disadvantages". RAM has serious concerns about the CTU's stance on the politics of global warming and how the ETS will impact on workers. "The CTU is giving shame-faced support to a pollution market which will reward polluters for trading in greenhouse gas emissions. This is not an effective challenge to global warming. The government needs to urgently legislate mandatory targets directing corporate polluters to clean up their act," said Oliver Woods, co-leader of RAM's candidates group and parliamentary candidate for Auckland Central. "The one-off payments under the new-look ETS will go nowhere near to compensating workers for unfair cost increases heaped on them so that corporations can profit from trading in pollution," noted Grant Brookes, co-leader of RAM's candidates group and parliamentary candidate for Wellington Central. "By backing the ETS, the CTU seems to be acting against the best interests of its own members." "Already some unionists are questioning whether the CTU's stance has more to do with backing Labour in an election year rather than protecting workers and the environment. The best way for the CTU to answer these questions would be to allow all sides of the debate to be presented to their 350,000 members and ask them to reach a collective decision," said Mr Brookes. RAM is calling on the CTU to widely circulate the Maori Party's views on the ETS. "The Maori Party is the only party in Parliament criticising the concept of a pollution market," says Grant Morgan, chair of RAM. "National and Act support a pollution market, merely wanting it to deliver even more corporate welfare to the polluters than the current ETS." "On behalf of RAM, I have requested the CTU leadership to publicise the Maori Party and RAM's criticisms of the ETS within their affiliate unions so more than one side of the story is heard by workers," said Mr Morgan. "I have also requested the CTU to promote a broad debate inside its affiliated unions in a lead-up to a democratic vote by workers about whether or not they should support a pollution market."

Friday, 12 September 2008

Decentralisation and its discontents

by Ondine Green I think that one part of Vaughan Gunson's excellent article "A People's Constitution for Aotearoa?" deserves more looking at. That would be Vaughan's opposition of centralisation (bad) to decentralisation (good). Vaughan writes that his idea of a constitutional alternative for Aotearoa entails:
a state where sovereignty is devolved downwards to the people, to local communities, including indigenous people.
Certainly a new constitution has to be based on people power, on empowerment of the grassroots rather than an authority on high in Wellington (or Washington for that matter) doling out favours and punishment. Is centralised power altogether a bad thing?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

RAM elects co-leaders and candidates, runs People's Procession to Parliament

RAM - Residents Action Movement Media release 3 September 2008 The Residents Action Movement, better known as RAM, today elected Oliver Woods and Grant Brookes as co-leaders of their candidates group. Mr Woods, a 20-year-old university graduate in politics, was formerly deputy chair of the Labour Party's electorate committee in Epsom. Several weeks ago he was elected co-chair of the Student Representation Committee at Auckland University for 2009. Mr Woods, who speaks Spanish and Mandarin, is standing for RAM in the Auckland Central electorate. "I'm a social justice advocate," said Mr Woods. "Last year, I chaired public meetings during RAM's Voices of Peace campaign which put a stop to hate attacks on New Zealand's peaceful Muslims. Now I'm promoting RAM's campaign to axe the unjust GST tax from food." Mr Brookes, a 40-year-old university graduate in science and nursing, is a nurse at Wellington Hospital. He is the hospital's national delegate for the NZ Nurses Organisation, representing 1,500 health workers on the union's National Delegates Committee. Mr Brookes is RAM's candidate for the Wellington Central electorate. "I've spent 15 years campaigning for the grassroots," said Mr Brookes. "That's why I'm organising the Wellington leg of the People's Procession to Parliament, a two-week journey through North Island centres with RAM's GST-off-food petition." The People's Procession starts on 20 September in Kaitaia and finishes on 3 October at Parliament. Here the GST-off-food petition will be handed over to MP's from the Maori Party, the only party in the current parliament which supports the removal of tax from food. So far, the GST-off-food petition has been signed by 20,000 Kiwis. "I expect that number to rise considerably during the People's Procession to Parliament," said Grant Morgan, the procession's national organiser, who is also RAM chair. "RAM's campaign to remove GST from food is hugely popular at the grassroots. So many people were queuing to sign the petition outside supermarkets that I was asked by a TV journalist if RAM was holding food demonstrations." "RAM isn't just another electoral party. We are a people's movement which constantly campaigns around issues like GST off food while we also stand in elections. At our petition stalls, thousands of people have told RAM that they are worried about prices outstripping their income. They also say they're sick of being treated as invisible by Labour and National. Both these parties look after the rich. That's why we call them the LabNats," said Mr Morgan. RAM first arose in Greater Auckland as an organiser of the Rates Revolt against the regional council's massive home rate hikes in 2003. In the five years since its birth, RAM has campaigned for free and frequent public transport, for solidarity with low-paid workers and against hate attacks on New Zealand Muslims. RAM won 100,000 votes in Greater Auckland's 2007 council elections. In March 2008, RAM decided to go nationwide and to stand for Parliament as well as councils. In the six months since then, RAM has gained 3,000 members in the country's fastest political recruitment drive. Today RAM elected a list ticket of 26 candidates for the 2008 General Election. Eleven of them are also standing for electorate seats in Whangarei, Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington. RAM's party list rankings: Oliver Woods (Auckland Central) Grant Brookes (Wellington Central) Roger Fowler (Mangere) Elliott Blade (Maungakiekie) Michelle Ducat (list only) Martin Kaipo (Whangarei) Cordelia Black (list only) Stephen Cooper (North Shore) Daphne Lawless (New Lynn) TK Khan (Roskill) Grant Rogers (Rotorua) Don Archer (list only) Pat O'Dea (Papakura) Bronwen Beechey (list only) Robyn Hughes (list only) Rafe Copeland (Epsom) Michael Lai (list only) Curwen Rolinson (list only) Peter Hughes (list only) Dave Colyer (list only) Kyle Webster (list only) Sam Richardson (list only) Tom Pearce (list only) Len Parker (list only) Jonathan Williams (list only) Peter de Waal (list only)