Thursday, 30 September 2010

JB Hi-Fi workers strike to protest low wages and GST rise

Unite Campaigns Organiser Joe Carolan said that while “Taxes that hit low paid workers hardest are going up, for the last three years JB Hi-Fi workers have had no pay increases whatsoever. We need a Living Wage, not new taxes on the working poor.  Thats why we say $15ph, not 15% GST.

“Our Delegates representing several JB stores throughout Auckland will be striking from 1pm tomorrow Friday, and picketing JB Hi-Fi HQ opposite St Lukes Mall at 2pm.

“We say abolish GST, and replace it with a ‘Robin Hood tax’ on big financial transactions like the ones JB Hi-Fi's management make every day.

“After protesting the price rise, workers will be taking their demand for a Living Wage to JB Hi-Fi's HQ, accompanied by a seven metre tall rat.”

More info:
Joe Carolan
campaigns Officer
Unite Union
029 44 55 702

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Kiwi captain: ‘We need a bit more help from folks at home’

The Kia Ora Gaza team is now in Istanbul, Turkey. 
Read the latest reports at

Roger Fowler (left), captain of our Kiwi Team on the Gaza aid convoy, makes new friends in Lyon, France

By Roger Fowler
Captain of the Kiwi Team to Gaza
27 September 2010

Passing me in the passageway of our ferry to Greece, Viva Palestina project director Nicci Enchmarch speaks two simple sentences which echo in my mind.

Pointing towards the stern of the ship, she says: “I can’t go back there. It reminds me of the Mavi.”

Smiling without humour, Nicci walks on. For the first time I can see the trauma she has suffered after experiencing the Israeli military assault on the humanitarian ship Mavi Marmara which killed nine of her fellow aid volunteers.

I turn and catch up with Nicci. I want to know something. I ask: “Why on earth would you come back again?”

“Because every day people in Gaza go through the same and more,” she replies. “We must stay focused, reminding ourselves of the trauma these people suffer every day.”

Countless thousands of Gaza’s civilians have been killed and maimed by the Israeli military. 80,000 homes have been destroyed. Basic infrastructure, like water, sewage and power, is crumbling or collapsed. Devastated hospitals cannot get vital medicines and equipment.

Israel is still blockading all exports from Gaza, stopping the free movement of its people, and restricting or banning imports essential to healthcare and rebuilding. Israel’s bombs and missiles rain down on Gaza so often that the world media hardly notices. A ruinous collective punishment has been imposed on even the babies of Gaza.

Staffing our Gaza aid convoy are volunteers from five continents who represent the best instincts of people the world over.

Our Kia Ora Gaza team represent all “fair go” Kiwis. Many of you have already donated to our $100,000 Gaza Appeal.

Now our Kiwi volunteers need a little more of your help. We still have $10,000 to go to reach our $100,000 fundraising target.

This last $10,000 is vital to cover unbudgeted costs on the road. And to get a little bit in the bank to meet emergencies as we close in on Gaza.

The Kiwi Team is playing a major role in making our humanitarian mission a success. But we need a bit more help from folks at home to bankroll our work in the field.

Together we can help Gaza. Please donate now.

Viva Palestina project director Nicci Enchmarch with Kiwi Team captain Roger Fowler (left) and his deputy Chris van Ryn

Monday, 27 September 2010

Labour’s new GST policy step in right direction

Tax Justice media release
27 September 2010

“Labour is taking a step in the right direction if they're going to campaign for the removal of GST from fresh fruit and vegetables,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

“The fact that Labour is re-thinking its GST policy, after previously rejecting any changes to GST prior to the 2008 General Election, is testimony to how strongly grassroots people feel about this issue,” says Gunson. “The weight of public opinion can't be ignored.”

“For most Kiwis it’s immoral that food should be made more expensive by a tax,” says Gunson. “Especially at a time when food prices are going through roof and people are really struggling.”

“So Labour’s announcement is welcomed, because it puts another dent in the sanctity of GST, which proponents of this regressive tax have tried so hard to maintain,” says Gunson.

“The Tax Justice campaign, launched in May this year, will continue to fight for the removal off GST from food,” says Gunson. “And to ensure enough government revenue for public services we’re advocating that financial speculation be taxed instead. This hugely damaging economic activity is currently untaxed, which is a gross injustice.”

The focus of the Tax Justice campaign is a petition calling on parliament to: 1) Remove GST from food; and 2) Tax financial speculation.

“Taking GST off food would deliver a bigger tax cut than most of us will be getting from the National government on 1st October,” says Gunson.

“Thanks to National’s GST increase, a family spending $200 a week on food after 1st October will be paying GST of $26.09,” says Gunson. “Take the GST off and you’ve got a substantial tax cut, which would offer some relief at the supermarket for many New Zealanders,” says Gunson.

To protest the GST increase, Tax Justice supporters will be collecting signatures around the country on Friday 1st October and Saturday 2nd October.

“We expect to get a very positive response,” says Gunson. “And we’d welcome Labour Party members giving us a hand.”

Over 12,000 signatures have been collected for the Tax Justice petition. Over 2,600 people like the ‘No GST on food’ Facebook page.

See also these recent media releases:

John Key's other New Zealand flag: "The Land of 15% GST" (23 September).

Tax cuts will be wiped out by food price bubble (26 September 2010).

For more information on the campaign go to

Tax cuts will be wiped out by food price bubble

Speculation by big banks, hedge funds and other financial parasites is forcing up food prices.
Tax Justice media release
26 September 2010

“There’s concern worldwide that another global food crisis is upon us,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator. “The price of food is set to go through the roof, like it did in 2008.”

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research chief economist Shamubeel Eaqub predicts food price inflation in New Zealand to hit 10 per cent by the end of the year, which will wipe out National’s meager tax cuts for low and middle income earners. (See Rising prices to offset October tax cuts)

In response to the food crisis the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation held an emergency meeting last week in Rome. Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on food, says the high food prices can only be explained by the emergence of a “speculative bubble”. (See UN warned of major new food crisis at emergency meeting in Rome)

“The statements coming from the UN about the food price bubble are of extreme concern,” says Gunson. “The UN is pointing the finger at the banks, hedge funds and other speculators who are behind the soaring food commodity prices.”

“The last time food prices were caught up in a bubble there were food riots around the world,” says Gunson. “And the number of people suffering from malnutrition globally spiked from 800 million to one billion.” (See The Food Crisis and Food Security: Towards a New World Food Order?)

“We felt the pain here in 2008, too. And we’re still coping with high food prices,” says Gunson.

“That’s because food prices at the supermarket haven’t fallen back to their pre-bubble levels. It’s the nature of the market for supermarket chains and other food producers and distributors to want to hold prices high to maximise profits.”

“New Zealanders need urgent relief from food stress,” says Gunson. “Removing GST from food, as the Tax Justice campaign is advocating, would be a good start.”

“And then we need to do our bit to stamp out speculation, on food and everything else,” says Gunson.

“These global greedies are manipulating the world economy for their own ends, while the rest of us suffer the fallout.”

“Making profits from an activity that impoverishes others – or worse – is a crime against humanity,” says Gunson.

As well as pushing for the removal of GST from food, the Tax Justice campaign is calling for financial speculation to be taxed. Speculators operating in the New Zealand economy currently pay no tax on their wheeling and dealing.

“Compare speculators paying zero tax to people having to pay tax on food and you see that there’s a core injustice at the heart of New Zealand’s tax system,” says Gunson.

“The National government and the opposition Labour Party are either ignorant of the problem, or they’re happy for this shocking injustice to continue.”

The Tax Justice campaign is in the early stages of founding a nationwide network of supporters and activists. “We’re building up for a determined campaign,” says Gunson, “that will force the politicians to listen.”

Since the Tax Justice campaign was launched a few months ago 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for GST to be removed from food and financial speculation to be taxed. “Our experience is that wherever the Tax Justice petition is taken it’s proven very popular,” says Gunson.

On 1-2 October, Tax Justice supporters are going to be out in force around the country collecting signatures to protest the National government increasing GST to 15%.

For more information on the campaign go to

For comment, contact

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082

Victor Billot
Tax Justice media spokesperson
021-482 219

Saturday, 25 September 2010

UN report exposes BBC bias against Palestine

by Grant Morgan  
Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
23 September 2010

A panel of experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council has slammed Israel for raiding a Gaza aid flotilla last May, saying its military forces killed and tortured humanitarian volunteers in breach of international law.

“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers,” the UN panel declared, “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.”

The three UN human rights experts who found the Israeli raid “clearly unlawful” are:
  • Former UN war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva.
  • Trinidad judge Karl Hudson-Phillips.
  • Malaysian women’s rights advocate Mary Shanthi Dairiam.
The findings of these internationally respected human rights experts contradicts the thrust of a recent BBC Panorama story titled ‘Death in the Med’. 

This BBC story, filmed in partnership with the secretive Israeli commandos who stormed the flotilla, suggested that the civilian aid workers were the aggressors, not the victims of an unlawful and brutal action by overwhelming military forces.

In effect, the UN report exposes untruthful bias in the BBC story.

And here are two further exposures of the pro-Israeli propaganda themes in the Panorama film:

Expose Panorama bias (click to read)

Kia Ora Gaza - Breaking the siege of Palestine

The Kia Ora Gaza team and the entire Viva Palestina 5 convoy continues its way through Europe. Daily reports are featuring on the Kia Ora Gaza website.

I thought the following summary by Omar Hameed as Socialist Aotearoa was particularly pertinent.

It’s sickening to watch the Delhi Commonwealth games descends into utter shambles and absurdity with pampered athletes moaning about their (obviously unclean) accomodation in a country where the population of people living in slums is set to be 93.06 million next year.

23 times the population of Aotearoa living in
houses without access to drinking water, toilets or drainage and yet the major story is that the building dust hasn’t been cleaned out of the bathrooms. For many Indians it would be nice just to have a bathroom.

On the other hand one Kiwi team we should be all cheering for is the Kia Ora Gaza crew, trekking their way across Europe on the way to break the siege of Palestine. With nearly $90k of their $100k target raised these activists have strengthened and demonstrated the support for the Palestinian people in this country.

As Chris Van Ryn, one of the activists on board the convoy described life on the road,
It’s hard. It’s stressful. It’s uncomfortable.

And it’s so worth doing.

We’re here to do a job, not have a party. Our focus is to supply aid to suffering people in Gaza and break the globally condemned Israeli siege. That’s the thread binding our convoy together. For a month we put aside our own needs for the much greater needs of oppressed Palestinians.

The closer we get to Gaza, the stronger our feeling for the one-and-a-half million people imprisoned on that small strip of land. We feel their plight.
Hundreds of determined people being supported by thousands of ordinary people around the world, united in their determination to rebuild international co-operation and solidarity between people through hard work and shared physical hardship. You won't find it at the Commonwealth games but you will find it with the courageous volunteers on the road to Palestine. This is one team to keep an eye on this spring.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Dear supporter of justice for grassroots people

23 September 2010

Tax Justice petition stalls like this one are planned around the country on Friday 1st October and Saturday 2nd October.

On 1st October GST will rise to 15%. To protest the increase of this most regressive tax, a Double Day of nationwide signature collecting for the Tax Justice petition is being organised on 1-2 October.

We're being ambitious and going for 10,000 signatures in two days, to go on top of the 12,000 signatures we've collected since the campaign was launched.

The Tax Justice petition requests parliament to 1) Remove GST from food; and 2) Tax financial speculation. These two demands address the fundamental injustice in New Zealand's tax system. Food, a necessity of life, is taxed, while financial speculation, which is hugely damaging to the economy and the lives of grassroots people, goes untaxed.


Contact me straight away if you can help collect signatures in your area on Friday 1st October and Saturday 2nd October. Email Vaughan, or ph/txt 021-0415 082.

Or just take it upon yourself to print off copies of the petition and get your friends, family and workmates to sign. To download the Tax Justice petition click here.

If you do collect signatures on 1-2 October, please email or txt me your tally by Sunday 3 October, so that your efforts can be added to the national total that will be presented to the media.

Your assistance will help keep the twin demands of the Tax Justice campaign in the public eye. The more signatures we get the more attention the media will have to give the campaign and our demands.

Political opportunities will likely flow from increased media exposure and the growing army of signatories and active supporters. Those opportunities could be converted by left forces into broad and popular opposition to the attacks on grassroots people being made by John Key's National government.

For more information on the Tax Justice campaign go to

Join the campaign on Facebook, go!/pages/No-GST-on-food/119541161411953?ref=ts 2,461 people already have.

We value any feedback on the campaign and where it's going. Contact us if you have some ideas.

In solidarity,

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082

“John Key’s other New Zealand flag”

Tax Justice media release
23 September 2010

Last year, prime minister John Key got a lot of media attention for his pen drawing of what he thought a new national flag for New Zealand should look like. He drew a silver fern.

“John Key should have drawn something that better reflected what his government had in store for grassroots New Zealanders,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

“Because on 1st October a long black cloud will descend on the lives of many New Zealanders when GST goes up to 15%.”

“The GST hike will disproportionately effect low and middle income earners who spend all their income each week on the basics,” says Gunson.

“Once you factor in inflation and stagnant wages, the GST increase will wipeout the meager tax cuts most people get from the National government’s tax changes,” says Gunson.

“While high income earners who save and invest a higher proportion of their incomes, and therefore don’t incur GST, will effectively be paying a lower rate of tax.”

“The injustice is then compounded, because it’s the same people who pay less GST as a proportion of their income who get by far the most from National’s income tax cuts,” says Gunson.

On paper the calculations look like this: someone earning $15 an hour will be $4.13 better off from the tax changes, while someone earning four times as much – $106,080 annually – will have $43.08 more in their pay packet. Your average CEO earning $265,200 will be richer by a whopping $153.92 a week (Source: Bill Rosenberg, Council of Trade Unions economist and policy director).

“As a result of National’s tax changes the rich will have more money to save and invest, allowing them to get richer, thus increasing the already terrible wealth divide in New Zealand,” says Gunson.

The Tax Justice campaign is proposing a fair alternative. The focus of the campaign is petition requesting parliament to:

1) Remove GST from food; and
2) Tax financial speculation.

“Taking GST off food would deliver a tax cut that wouldn’t be unfairly tilted in favour of the rich,” says Gunson. “A family spending $200 a week on food after 1st October will be paying GST of $26.09. Take the GST off food and you’ve got a tax cut more substantial than most of us are going to get from National’s tax changes.”

To protest the GST increase, Tax Justice supporters will be collecting signatures around the country on Friday 1st October and Saturday 2nd October.

“We expect to get a very positive response,” says Gunson. “We will significantly add to the 12,000 signatures we’ve already collected.”

Go to for more Tax Justice media releases and articles on the campaign.

For comment, contact:

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
(09)433 8897
021-0415 082

Victor Billot
Tax Justice media spokesperson
021-482 219

Savings? That’s a laugh

By Peter de Waal

On 27 April this year the 6pm TV3 News reported:

  60% earn under 40,000 per annum

  88.1% earn less than 70,000 per annum

  6.8% earn 70,000 – 100,000 per annum

  5.1% earn over 100,000 per annum

The average rent for a two bedroom house in Auckland is $400/a week or $20,800 a year. For the “average” worker (see above) earning $45,000 per annum before tax, $20,800 a year represents 46% of gross income in rent alone.

Once you deduct income tax at 33%, and the extra 10% tax paid for your Student Loan on top of that (the uneducated seldom earn $45,000 per annum) what’s left for food, power, phone, car payments, etc?

International guidelines say any rental or mortgage payments over 33% of gross family income constitute true poverty and hardship. Who can raise a family, pay the vastly inflated rents or mortgage and have any money left over at the end of the week on figures like those?

Most people’s earnings are 25-50% of what they were 25 years ago in inflation-adjusted terms. So it’s a bit rich for Mike Heath – the wealthy banker from Rabo Direct, to chide workers for “failing to save” when people like him have spent the last 25 years grinding down wage and salary earners incomes in order to save the capitalist system from itself.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Persecution of Roma worsens in Europe

By Tony Iltis
From Green Left Weekly
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Romani people face off riot police during a rally in Montreuil, France. The French government deported hundreds of Roma in August for ‘threatening public order’. 
In scenes reminiscent of the Nazi German occupation, French police rounded up almost 1000 Romani people (sometimes called Gypsies) in August and deported them to Romania and Bulgaria. 

The mass deportations were foreshadowed by President Nicolas Sarkozy in July in a series of inflammatory speeches in which he accused Romani people of being in an “unacceptable situation of lawlessness” linked to “illicit trafficking, deeply unworthy living conditions and exploitation of children for begging, prostitution or crime”.

Romani camps across France were bulldozed and Roma with Romanian or Bulgarian citizenship were given a choice of “voluntary repatriation” (with a payment of 300 euros to each adult and 100 euros for each child) or being deported for “threatening public order”.

On August 31, an administrative court in Lille blocked the deportation of seven Roma, casting doubt on the legality of the “threatening public order” pretext. Romania and Bulgaria have been European Union members since 2007, giving their citizens the right of free movement between EU countries. 

The legality of the deportations has also been questioned by EU and United Nations human rights agencies, as well as Amnesty International.

The Roma are Europe’s largest minority, estimated at between 5 million and 9 million. They have historically faced appalling treatment — subjected to slavery, mass deportations, exclusion and violent pogroms. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

New aid convoy sets off for Gaza

Here’s some international media coverage of the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza, which of course includes Kia Ora Gaza. Daily updates from the Kiwi Team are now appearing on their website. Theyre currently in Paris.

From Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 01:29 GMT

Organisers say the Viva Palestina 5 is the biggest aid convoy ever bound for the Gaza Strip [File: GALLO/GETTY]

A new convoy of vehicles has set off from the UK carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, more than three months after nine people were killed in another attempt to break an Israeli blockade on the Strip.

The Viva Palestina 5 convoy, which departed from London on Saturday, will be joined by participants from a number of countries before it eventually attempts to cross the Rafah border from Egypt into the besieged Palestinian territory.

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from London, said organisers of the trip say the attempt is the biggest and most international aid convoy ever bound for Gaza.

“By the time the convoy reaches the Strip it will have grown from 15 vehicles to 150 - picking up support across Europe and the Arab world,” she said.

“Most of the journey will be over land, but the aid will be transferred to ships for transportation between Syria and Egypt.

“The aid workers hope to deliver their supplies through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza early next month.”

Deadly raid remembered

Members of the convoy have planned to hold a remembrance ceremony as they pass the spot where Israeli troops conducted a deadly raid on another aid flotilla destined for Gaza on May 31.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists - eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen - were killed when Israeli troops boarded the Mavi Marmara ship.

Israel has insisted its commandos resorted to force after they were attacked on the deck of the boat, but activists on board say the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed.

Organisers of the Viva Palestina convoy said the actions of the Israeli army against the flotilla brought a change in international opinion against the seige on Gaza.

“Far from deterring people from seeking to bring that siege to an end, the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla is spurring on even more people to bring humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and to end the blockade,” the group said in a statement on its website.

“As a result Viva Palestina is launching ‘Viva Palestina 5 - a global lifeline to Gaza’ … in conjunction with convoys leaving from Casablanca and Doha and timed to coordinate with a larger and even more international flotilla aiming to reach Gaza by sea at the same time as the land convoys reach by land.”

Gaza closed off

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after the Palestinian group Hamas movement took control of the territory.

Gaza has been closed to virtually all supplies, and Palestinians inside the territory have had to deal with food shortages, lengthy power cuts and no cooking gas.

Israel has since eased its land border restrictions with the territory to allow through more civilian goods.

But construction materials remain heavily restricted, Gazans have very limited freedom of movement, and Israel still enforces a naval blockade on the territory.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Action for Christchurch East: post earthquake residents rally

From Angela Wasley
Avonside resident

Hi all,

Action for Christchurch East is a group founded by concerned and frustrated Christchurch residents and volunteers keen to assist with the effects of the September 2010 earthquake.

Due to the unknown status of some neighbourhoods and lack of answers and necessary support for homeowners and residents in the eastern suburbs.

Although we recognise that resources are stretched and everything seems to be full steam ahead with the assessment of grounds and buildings as per the local councils ability, there are many who do not qualify for help from local government agencies or earthquake fund due to massive waiting lists for structural assessements and overloading of current systems.

There are many areas still without sewerage or drainage, some also no water or power.

Post earthquake ‘Tour of Shame’: 2 down, 2 to go

The threat of a picket and bad publicity was enough to pressure brand-conscious Subway to lean on it’s biggest Christchurch franchisee and get them to “do the right thing” and pay their staff for time lost in the wake of the earthquake.

Reading cinema too, called for negotiations with Unite, so we didn’t picket them either. Although their change of heart was late enough that the leaflets (below) had already been printed.

That left Garden City Bowls (pictured) and ISS First Security. Will one picket be enough? Or will we have to come back on bowling night?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

‘Pass with care’ – A short photo essay on the imagery of local body elections

By Grant Brookes

It could be Anytown. NZ. For the last month, the city’s been awash with billboards of politicians and would-be politicians. Median strips, grass verges and traffic islands are a sea of wooden frames and images.

They all look the same. Smiling photos of men wearing ties. Women in expensive outfits. “Vote Jim for experience”, “vote Jane for change”.

The same handful of words combine into slightly different slogans – “caring for”, “listening to”, “working had for”, “you”, “the community”. But the faces tell the real story. It’s all about “me”, the candidate. Me, me, me.

‘Visual pollution’

I’ve door-knocked along this stretch of road at election time. I found locals were angry. As one man told me on the doorstep, they come into our neighbourhood and put up their signs without asking us. “It’s visual pollution”, he said, bitterly.

The business politicians have got the money to do it and the law on their side. They don’t need to ask. The people who say they “care” and “listen” are really invaders. An occupying army, marching in columns one in front of the other, who impose themselves on the locals and put their stamp all over the land.


But this is not Anytown. It’s Lower Hutt, home to a new grassroots coalition called VAN – Valley Action Network. In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s the group I belong to.

We’re not politicians. We’re trade unionists, environmentalists and community activists. We decided early on that although we were standing for election, we weren’t going to start acting like  politicians. We resolved in 2007 that our billboards would only go on up on fences, where people told us they wanted them. And they wouldn’t even have a picture of the candidate. Our billboards were not about personalities. They were about the issues facing grassroots Hutt residents.

Staring back

“We don’t really notice them”. That's what a person in this house told me, when I asked her what she thought of all the billboards on the council land opposite her house, in the background. Two doors down, another person told me exactly the same thing.

Political scientists spend whole careers puzzling over dwindling voter participation rates in elections. But there’s no puzzle. The billboards of the politicians aren’t saying anything meaningful to the residents of this suburb, which ranks with the “most deprived” in the country according the Ministry of Health. The residents know they’re being sold lies. Switching off is a healthy option.

But these people chose another healthy option. Staring back from their fence are VAN billboards, with loud messages for the “caring”, “listening” “hardworking” Hutt City Councillors on the grass behind.

They still can’t get it right

Driving round Lower Hutt this month, there do appear to be a few more billboards on fences. “Do you think they’re learning from us?”, another VAN activist asked me.

I think they did notice the impact of our 2007 billboard campaign, when it was obvious that we were the ones with roots in the community, we were the ones who respected the local people enough to ask their permission to put up billboards.

But this is what happens when it’s the landlord – not the tenant – who’s in charge of what goes on the fence.

“For sale”, says the sign. Alongside, current and former figures from the National Party, the conservative Christian wing of United Future and the Labour Party rub shoulders. Their fence billboards usually sit on the side of commercial buildings, vacant properties, and large blocks of flats (as in this photo). Speaks volumes. Fake community roots.

‘Pass with care’

This is my favourite image of all. Staring back at the flashly-dressed councillors in the background is another message on a fence. To begin with, the Samoan family in the house weren’t going to let us put a billboard up. “I used to do it for the Alliance Party”, said the matriarch of the house. “But this lot”, she said, waving towards the ones over the road, “I have nothing to do with any of them”.

But for me it’s the traffic sign on the back of the parked truck, and the pointing arrow, that tops the image off. “Pass with care”, indeed.

Door-knocking just down the road, I came across another response to the billboards.

“They're just more people I don’t know”, said one woman. “They could be another David Garrett”, she added, referring to the disgraced and disgraceful ACT MP.

Funny she mentioned that. Did she know, I asked her, that the man in the yellow billboard (a current councillor) was a leading light in the ACT Party? The architect of their Treaty Policy, in fact.

Of course she didn’t know that. How could she know that our council is stuffed with ACT and National Party hacks, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and business lobbyists, or that many of the challengers are local figures in the Labour Party? The billboards tell us nothing at all about what they really stand for.

I liked the “pass with care” image so much, I took another one.

For more info on VAN – Valley Action Network, visit:

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

Today was, as I’m sure you all know, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so to celebrate, here’s one of David Rovics’s many pirate songs, this one’s for kids:

John Minto: A simple question from a taxpayer

By John Minto
from Frontline

The Christchurch earthquake has (quite rightly) knocked several important issues from the front pages and off the TV news. Now that the worst appears to be over, it's time to revisit those issues - the most pressing of which is the biggest corporate bailout in New Zealand history.

There are many questions demanding answers after taxpayers forked out $1.7 billion to buy debt-laden South Canterbury Finance. For example, last week I was sent information suggesting one individual bought $17 million in SCF bonds at 20 per cent of their face value as the company, in its dying days, desperately tried to raise funds to stay afloat. It seems this money was invested in the names of various entities rather than in one person's name and because SCF went into receivership the government deposit guarantee scheme means this individual will be paid out at the full 100 per cent value of the bonds. A bit of arithmetic shows a payout at $85 million - or $68 million profit, courtesy of taxpayers, after just a few weeks.

My question to Finance Minister Bill English is simple. Is this just water cooler gossip or is it true?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Kia Ora Gaza departure from TVNZ’s Te Karare Maori news

Kia Ora Gaza: Kiwi Team has arrived safely in London

Kia Ora Gaza newscast
16 September 2010


Our Kiwi Team to Gaza has arrived safely in London. Tomorrow the six of them will pick up their aid vehicles.

You can send your best wishes to Roger Fowler (captain), Chris van Ryn (vice-captain), Julie Webb-Pullman, Pat O’Dea, Mousa Taher and Hone Fowler.

Just email your goodwill messages to and they will be forwarded to our team.


The best TV coverage of our Kiwi Team’s departure on Tuesday comes from TVNZ’s Te Karare Maori news programme. Click here:


Kia Ora Gaza is now on the last lap of our fundraising marathon. Big thanks to all the generous people who have donated.

Over the last two months we’ve raised $85,000 of our $100,000 target.

We urgently need that last $15,000, or more, in order to build an Emergency Reserve Fund.


Our Emergency Reserve Fund will help our brave Kiwi volunteers get out of almost certain dangers and difficulties on their hazardous road to Gaza.

Please donate NOW to our Emergency Reserve Fund. Go to to see how to donate.


What happens if, through the generosity of Kiwis like yourself, a surplus is left over in our Kia Ora Gaza account?

That surplus will stay safely in our bank account until the following Gaza aid mission, when it will be used to kickstart that next humanitarian convoy. All your donations will find their way to Gaza to help its suffering citizens.

Kia Ora Gaza is a Charitable Trust registered under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. All our accounts are audited by a professional auditor (donating his services free) who is independent of our Board of Trustees.


This coming Tuesday Kia Ora Gaza is holding a public meeting at Auckland University.

Here we plan to hold a skype linkup with our six-person Kiwi Team, who will by then be three days into their historic mission to Gaza. While this skype linkup is not certain, because of technical difficulties, we will do our best to make it happen.

Aucklanders are invited to our meeting:  start 5pm on Tuesday, 21 September, at the Cap n’ Gown Lounge, adjacent to the university quad.

For more precise directions, email Michael Lai at

I hope to see you Tuesday,

Grant Morgan

Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
021 2544 515

‘Tour of shame’ to target unscrupulous employers in earthquake hit city


On Sunday 19th Sept Unite Union will be conducting lightning pickets across the city of Christchurch to name and shame the unscrupulous employers that have put profit before the welfare of their staff during the aftermath of the 7.1 earthquake.

“Just like the people of Christchurch, most companies have behaved amazingly well, whilst there are those individuals who have chosen to act appallingly during this uncertain time.”  Said Matt Jones, Christchurch Unite Organiser

“Subway, Garden City Bowl, First Security and Reading Cinema can expect a loud and noisy picket outside their premises this weekend. John Key put the responsibility firmly on the shoulders of larger businesses to look after their staff, the mentioned companies made the decision to ignore this advice and will now reap the consequences.” said Mr Jones.

Staff have worked under duress, were refused leave, denied payment during site closures - forcing them to use annual leave to cover the shortfall, whilst offers of counselling services were few and far between. This has all been in the name of saving money and making a quick buck.

“Companies trading in fast food, retail, hotels, education, security and cinemas have risen to the challenge, it is a real shame that members of Unite Union and the wider community have been let down by just a handful of nasty employers.” Said Matt Jones.

The pickets begin from midday Sunday at the Subway between Subway corner of Barbadoes St and Cashel St where the tour will continue across the city.


Matt Jones | Christchurch & Nelson organiser

Email: matthew(at)

John Minto: Key teaches class-quake lessons

By John Minto
from Frontline

It took three days but it was a welcome announcement from Prime Minister John Key that the government will meet some wage costs for Christchurch workers in small businesses (less than 20 employees) who are unable to work because of the earthquake.

Key's payment plan expects to help around 10,000 workers meaning an initial cost of $15 million. It sounds a lot but it's a piddle in the pool compared to the eye-popping sums we are likely to hear before the end of the week when the government announces its first comprehensive rebuilding plans.

The government will provide $350 a week for the next four weeks and John Key hopes employers will top up the pay to each worker's usual rate when they are unable to work. In general terms (and yes there will be exceptions) companies are more easily able to withstand the financial shock of four weeks without work than are families which struggle to make ends meet in our chronic low-pay economy.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

World Bank: ‘Speculation in food behind price increases’

from Spectrezine
15 September 2010

A recent World Bank report reveals that speculation was a major cause of the huge increase in food prices during 2007 and 2008. While banks raked in huge profits, hundreds of millions of people, most but by no means all of them in developing countries, suffered hunger as a result of rising prices.

Jean Ziegler, special rapporteur for food rights for the UN, called the food crisis at the time 'silent mass murder', saying that it was entirely attributable to human activity.

As Dutch Socialist Party MP and development spokesman Ewout Irrgang says, “Human activity could also put an end to the hunger casino. Re-regulation of agriculture is therefore vital. Speculators must be banished from the food market. This could be achieved, for example, by a ban on speculative financial instruments in food commodities where there is no over-riding interest, or through limits on the amounts that speculators can gamble on food prices. Also worthy of consideration are the introduction of a tax to put a brake on speculative financial operations, and the regulation of the futures market.”

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Kia Ora Gaza team leave Auckland

From Kia Ora Gaza website

It’s very early on Tuesday morning, 14 September. While Auckland awakes, our Kiwi Team are at the airport booking in for their flight to the other side of the world. All except Hone Fowler, who’s already in London where the international aid convoy to Gaza will leave on 18 September. From left: team members Julie Webb-Pullman and Pat O’Dea, Kia Ora Gaza co-organiser Grant Morgan, team captain Roger Fowler, Kia Ora Gaza co-organiser Ismail Waja, vice-captain Chris van Ryn and team member Mousa Taher. “They’re such a great team to represent Aotearoa,” said Ngati Whatua representative Steve Phillips. “Ka mau te wehi!” (amazing, fantastic).

Students from Mangere East School’s combined culture clubs gave a special sendoff performance for the Kiwi Team. Here they get up close to Kia Ora Gaza’s famous truck logo, which will be plastered on the side of our three aid vehicles heading towards Gaza.

Chris van Ryn engages a large crowd of supporters with stirring words of social justice leavened with a bit of humour. Looking on are (from left) Pat O’Dea, Julie Webb-Pullman and Roger Fowler.

Roger Fowler sings the official Kia Ora Gaza song ‘Movin’ On’, our anthem of solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza. The song also pays tribute to the nine civilian aid workers on the last humanitarian flotilla shot to death by Israeli commandos on the open sea in the dead of night. Roger is flanked by the other four departing members of our Kiwi Team.

Te Tai Tonga, a highly rated kapahaka group from South Auckland, give a floor-shaking performance which delights the crowd of Kia Ora Gaza supporters and curious passersby alike. Their final haka came close to generating a seismic wave.

All good things must come to an end. Loud applause for Te Tai Tonga’s standout performance heralds the move by our Kiwi Team towards the departure gates. They’re off to London to join an international convoy which will swell to over 1,000 volunteers driving 500 or more vehicles in the biggest aid convoy since the Second World War. The rest is history!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Christchurch earthquake and the battle for ‘sustainable’

The following is from Australian blog Climate Change Social Change. As a Christchurch resident, I think the claim that “up to half the buildings in the region need repairing”, is an exaggeration, although I assume they’re simply repeating what they read in the mainstream media.
- David

Thankully, no lives were lost in the September 5 earthquake that hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. But it has caused vast damage, up to half the buildings in the region need repairing.

As I watched the evening news report about the disaster, I was struck by a comment a local resident made to reporters. Half jokingly, he said the good news was that the rebuilding effort would help pull New Zealand out of recession.

Without realising, he pointed to a key feature of the present economic system. Capitalism thrives on crisis and destruction. Half of Christchurch is wrecked, but that translates into more jobs, more economic activity and, most of all, more growth.

It reminded me of something the famous economist John Maynard Keynes once said about the way capitalism works.

He said it made more sense to employ people to dig holes then cover them up again than to allow economic growth to stagnate.

The point is that capitalist growth does not have to serve any social need or useful purpose. Capital must expand. Profits must rise. That’s all that matters.

And if the growth machine falters, it’s thrown into crisis — a recession.

Capitalism’s growth drive is what makes it so radically unsustainable. To survive, it needs ever-higher resource use. It needs an obedient workforce, on the lowest wages it can get away with. And it needs those same workers to be high consumers. It has to convince us to buy more and more stuff.

A healthy, expanding capitalist system is unhealthy for people and the planet. The ecological crisis shows us that.

Indeed, the climate emergency has reached truly dire proportions. A 2008 paper by climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows predicted the planet was headed for a minimum 4°C of warming this century, even if sizeable emissions cuts were made. If temperatures do reach this high it would trigger runaway global warming.

The growth economy is also a waste economy: it has to treat the Earth as a giant trash can.
Just one example: a study by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation estimated there was about six times more plastic waste, by mass, in the Pacific Ocean than zooplankton.

A floating rubbish heap, roughly twice the size of Texas, spans an area of the north Pacific.

It’s not that most people don’t care. They do. Concern about these issues has probably never been higher.

But corporate interests exploit and distort this concern. They try to convince us we can consume our way to a sustainable world.

Sustainability is repackaged and sold back to us as merchandise. Most of us are aware that companies use greenwashing to sell their products. But the reason they keep doing it is because it works. Being “green” is a good marketing strategy.

We are in a struggle over the very meaning of “sustainable”. It’s been co-opted. Green capitalism allows industry to give the impression it is changing, even as it continues with business as usual.

At the same time, a relentless cultural message has been hammered home, telling us high individual consumption is the real problem.

So we are left with two ideas, which sum up the philosophy of green capitalism. Bad consumer choices are supposed to be the source of the crisis, while good consumer choices are said to be the path to salvation.

To an extent, this message has tainted the mainstream environment movement. We can see this with events such as Earth Hour, which suggest businesses and individuals have an equal responsibility to ride bicycles more often, have shorter showers and recycle milk cartons.

Now don’t get me wrong. We should try to reduce our personal waste and impact where we can. In this sense, we should “practice what we preach”.

But alone, it won’t solve even 1% of our environmental problems. We can’t treat the ecological crisis as independent from the economic system that gave rise to it.

The idea that consumers cause environmental problems obscures the fact that production is dominated by huge corporations. They are the ones pushing unsustainable growth. Collectively, they spend billions on advertising to create new consumer “needs”. They are the vested interests standing in the way of real sustainable change.

The free market won’t allow us to buy the things we really need. We need solar thermal power stations and wind farms. We need a redesign of our entire food system. But the system will not deliver these things in the short time we have left.

And capitalism doesn’t allow most of the world’s people to fulfil their basic needs at all. It excludes them. It leaves 1 billion people without enough food simply because it’s not profitable to have them eat.

To return to the New Zealand earthquake, another remarkable thing is it was slightly stronger than the earthquake that hit Haiti in January. But in Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations, at least 230,000 people died.

The difference between the two earthquakes is the difference between a natural disaster and an unnatural disaster.

Capitalism is a system of unnatural disasters. It was never sustainable in the first place. It will be even less so in the future.

[Based on a speech delivered at the Green Left Weekly Sustainability Dinner, Sydney, September 11.]

Saturday, 11 September 2010

International backing grows for 'Robin Hood tax' on banks

EU ministers edge closer to financial transaction levy amid signs that International Monetary Fund is softening opposition to 'Robin Hood tax'

European Union finance ministers will step up talks on raising extra money from banks this week amid signs that the International Monetary Fund is softening its opposition to a "Robin Hood tax" on financial transactions.
Treasury sources said the chancellor, George Osborne, was prepared to back a financial activities tax on bank profits and pay at the Brussels meeting provided it was universally introduced, but was wary of a broader Robin Hood tax. Campaigners said last night, however, that a leaked IMF report showed growing international backing for a broader tax and urged Osborne to look at the revenue-raising potential of a levy of transactions.
David Hillman, a Robin Hood Campaign spokesman, said: "The rug has been pulled from under critics who claim that a Robin Hood tax would damage the wider economy or is unworkable. The IMF, EC and Leading Group of 60 nations have all said it is feasible. The main losers would be those who make lots of money from socially useless trades but the winners would be millions of people at home and abroad pushed into poverty by the economic crisis or whose public services are under threat."
An IMF paper, Taxing Financial Transactions: Issues and Evidence, said securities transactions taxes (STT) existed in many countries with little evidence that they distorted markets. It argued that a small levy on transactions might help to dampen the "herding behaviour" encouraged by computer-program trading. "Unilateral STTs, even if levied on fairly narrow bases, are certainly feasible as witnessed by their use in numerous developed countries. The fact that major financial centers such as the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa levy forms of STTs indicates that such taxes do not automatically drive out financial activity to an unacceptable extent," it said.
The paper added: "The impact on financial markets from a low-rate (less than 5 basis points), broad-based STT would likely be fairly modest, beyond its reduction of very short-term trading."
In its letter to Osborne, the Robin Hood campaign said a financial activities tax could, if combined with other measures, raise as much as £20bn a year in the UK. "We hope that the Ecofin meeting will provide a platform for taking this forward at the European level. Ultimately, we believe that a financial transaction tax has the greatest potential to raise revenue from the financial sector, as it offers a robust, simple to implement and fair mechanism."

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Campaign to remove GST from food continues

by Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator

By voting down Maori Party MP Rahui Katene’s bill to remove GST from healthy food (see below), National, ACT and United Future have shown themselves to be offside with grassroots sentiment. The majority of New Zealanders think it’s criminal that food, a necessity of life, is made more expensive by this hated tax.

The Tax Justice campaign is circulating a petition which calls on GST to be removed from food and for financial speculation to be taxed instead. 12,000 signatures have been collected since the campaign was launched in late May. And we’re just getting warmed up.

We’re planning to collect many more signatures so that out-of-touch politicians in parliament are forced to listen to the will of the people. That’s what democracy should be about.

On 1-2 October we’re planning a Double Day of nationwide signature collecting for the Tax Justice petition. With GST going up to 15% on 1 October we expect a tremendous response from people who are angry about the escalating cost of living.

It’s good news that the Maori Party wants to continue its opposition to GST on food. The more parties and grassroots organisations working together on this, the more chance we have of achieving success.


Take part in the nationwide Double Day of signature collecting for the Tax Justice petition on 1-2 October.

Contact Vaughan Gunson, the campaign coordinator, right now. Email or ph/txt 021-0415 082.

To download the Tax Justice petition click here.

House rejects bid to remove GST from healthy food

from Radio New Zealand News
9 September

The Maori Party’s attempt to have GST removed from healthy foods was defeated in Parliament on Wednesday night.

A member’s bill in the name of Rahui Katene was rejected by 64 votes to 56, being opposed by the National, ACT and United Future parties.

Ms Katene told Parliament GST hits lower-income earners disproportionately because they spend a higher proportion of their income on food.

She says food prices have risen more than 20% in the past three years but real incomes have risen only slightly.

The Labour Party supported the bill but says that if the Maori Party were serious about removing GST on healthy food, it would not have supported the Government’s Budget, which raised GST to 15%.

The National Party says defining what is healthy is too difficult.

Ms Katene and the other Maori Party MPs say the bill’s defeat is not the end of the issue.

Moana Jackson on new foreshore and seabed law

A further primer on the foreshore and seabed
the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill

Formatted printable version

8 September 2010

‘I once spoke of our people who have their mana attacked being like a beached whale struggling to live … what I say now is to remember how often the sea casts the whale on the shore’. - Te Ataria, 1889.

‘The question that must always be asked of legislation is not whether it is a legislative compromise or even whether it is practical, but whether it is just’. - Justice Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court, 1970.

  • Abstract

  • This Primer is part of material produced for hui within Ngati Kahungunu on the foreshore and seabed that began with the original proposals put forward on the issue by the last government in 2003.

    It addresses some of the main parts of the new Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill and asks questions about the new regime it establishes for the foreshore and seabed.

    It tries to provide some context for the Bill by considering the grounds that have compelled Maori to so forcefully and consistently voice concern about the issue over the last several years - it considers the attempts the people have made to avoid being ‘beached’ by the various Crown proposals since 2003.

    It also tries to apply the test for legislative legitimacy outlined by Justice Marshall and assesses whether the Bill is just.

    It regrettably concludes that it is not.

    It further concludes that the proposed Bill simply consolidates the main inequities of the 2004 Seabed and Foreshore Act that the Waitangi Tribunal found to be problematic in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held to be racially discriminatory.

    In that context the Prime Minister’s statement that the Bill will be a full and final settlement of the issue is simply inaccurate because rather than removing the injustice it actually compounds it.  
    - Moana Jackson

    Wednesday, 8 September 2010

    Why We Need To Tax Financial Speculation

    By Vaughan Gunson
    Tax Justice campaign coordinator
    from CAFCA’s “Foreign Control Watchdog”, August 2010

    The figures are mind blowing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the financial crisis cost the world $US11.9 trillion. The human cost is immeasurable. And it ain’t over. The international bailouts of banks and other financial institutions have seen trillions of dollars of private debt off-loaded onto governments. The financial crisis has not been fixed. The problem has just been shifted. The bailouts have created a “sovereign debt crisis”, which is breaking first in Europe. Governments worldwide are scrambling to get debt under control. The “fiscal stimulus” that accompanied the wave of banking bailouts has now passed over to “austerity measures”, which means cuts to public services and higher taxes for grassroots people. Those who had no part, no say, and no responsibility for the financial crisis are being made the victims, many times over.

    The leaders of a club of rich countries called the G20 (Group of 20) recently met in Toronto, Canada. The strategy of making us pay for the crisis was clear. G20 leaders issued a joint statement on 27/6/10 committing member countries to halving their budget deficits by 2013 [1]. As Toronto resident and anti-capitalist campaigner Naomi Klein wrote: “Faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill” [2]. This is what the world’s elite are trying to get away with, if we let them.

    Austerity Hits New Zealand

    The New Zealand economy nose-dived into recession in 2009 as the financial crisis quickly spread to the real economy. There have been widespread job losses and general job insecurity, as well as stagnant or declining wages relative to inflation. Many people are struggling under the burden of mortgage and credit card debt. Our Government has not bailed out banks like the US or Britain, but the impact of the crisis on the Government’s budget has been similar to overseas: declining tax revenue from falling economic activity, combined with increased spending demands, like unemployment benefits.

    The policy “solution” that the John Key government is pursuing is no different from the dominant policy response by governments around the globe. Protect the rich and do everything possible to get the economy going again under much the same model as before. Increase taxes on grassroots people, while restricting their access to public services. National’s 2010 Budget saw direct cuts to Government spending, like early child care. And effective cuts, as funding increases for health and education failed to keep pace with inflation. More social spending cuts have been signalled. Many public sector employees are facing the axe as the budgets of Government departments are slashed.

    Amidst this austerity, National still delivered tax cuts to the rich and big corporates. This benevolence to the rich was funded by increasing the goods and services tax (GST) from 12.5% to 15%. It’s widely accepted that GST is a regressive tax which disproportionately impacts on grassroots people, who spend most of their weekly income on the basics. Many people in New Zealand and around the world smell a rat. The scale of the much reported banking bailouts, the ongoing impact of the crisis on our lives, as we worry about our jobs and paying off debt, has raised the question for many: is there something wrong here?

    The Speculators

    We need to understand what’s wrong so we can organise strategically to defend ourselves. Crucial to that understanding, is grasping the dominant role financial speculation has assumed in the world economy. Financial speculation is defined on Wikipedia as “the buying, holding, selling, and short-selling of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, collectibles, real estate, derivatives, or any valuable financial instrument to profit from fluctuations in its price, irrespective of its underlying value” [3]. Speculation has long been a part of the capitalist economy, with its damaging effects well documented, if often ignored.

    But what we’re seeing today is historically unprecedented. In 2008, the trade in derivatives [4]– the most speculative of financial transactions – was $US500 trillion, which was ten times the value of the entire world’s output of tangible products and services. Much of this speculative activity is computer automated, with “purchases” lasting minutes or even seconds. The rapid growth in commodity speculation over the last decade has led to such perverse phenomena as a barrel of oil being traded, on average, 27 times before it reaches the pumps.

    The reason for all this speculation is quite simple: the profits to be made from traditional investment in capitalist enterprises that produce something of value has been in decline since the post-war economic boom came to an end in the early 1970s. Today’s unprecedented levels of financial speculation represents the desire, on the part of the world’s elite, to continue reaping high profits, way more than the stagnant real economy will allow [5]. To achieve this, governments worldwide have removed all barriers to financial speculation and encouraged a supply of cheap credit by banks and other sanctioned lenders. A giant financial casino has been created, where everything that fluctuates in price has attracted the speculators [6].

    Just like in the real economy, where large companies grow to dominate industries, so it is in the world of financial speculation. The last two decades have seen the rise of giant investment funds, where investors – usually rich wealthy ones – pool their money together in the hope of achieving better returns from long term investments and short term speculation. Billion dollar pension funds and hedge funds, by the very size, can influence the markets. In 2008, it was estimated that pension funds globally controlled US$20 trillion in assets. Hedge funds, which are most often involved in pure speculation, managed around $US2.5 trillion immediately prior to the financial crisis[7]. In sum, financial speculation has grown to 60 times the level of the world’s combined gross domestic product (GDP)[8].

    Government-Banks-Speculator Nexus

    The governments of the world have acted as the “public facilitators” of global financial speculation. They’ve done so in partnership with the big banks, who are the “private facilitators” of speculation. The world’s big banks are either directly engaged in speculation, being at the epicentre of all financial activity and thus able to read trends and manipulate the markets, or they supply the credit with which others play in the casino. Thus the banks are the biggest speculators of them all. And they’ve got fatter and fatter. America’s six largest banks have combined assets totalling 63% of the United State’s gross domestic product. The extent of the banks’ ascendency is revealed by the fact that only 15 years ago the combined assets of the six biggest banks were 17% of GDP9.

    It’s an open secret that Wall Street banks have entered markets with the aim of generating a price bubble. After making their speculative profits they’ve exited the market, collapsing the bubble, before moving on to the next market. The housing bubble followed the bubble, then the oil price bubble. Next it was the food price bubble. These aren’t speculative bubbles caused by the random vagaries of the market, but orchestrated on high by powerful banking interests, with the blessing of Washington regulators.

    Grant Morgan, in his essay “Beware! The End is Nigh! Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future”, argues that financialisation is the central pillar of neo-liberalism, the economic agenda promoted by Big Business and imposed by governments around the world over the last three decades. He likens the massive expansion of the financial sector, with its easy credit and speculative bubbles, to a global Ponzi* scam, one protected by government laws, corporate politicians and state officials[10].

    [*A pyramid scheme whereby original investors are paid beguiling dividends from new advances. Bernie Madoff is the most high profile recent perpetrator. These scams are still called Ponzi schemes, after Charles Ponzi, who provoked the 1925 Florida real estate bubble. Ed.]

    Speculation has been hard-wired into the global economy. Those who control financial systems reap the rewards, but only by causing structural damage to the whole system. All reasonable logic says that this must end, that it’s unsustainable. But as global capitalism has bet everything on financialisation, there’s no possibility of turning back. The government-banks-speculator nexus, from the point of the view of the world’s elite, has to continue[11].

    Crimes Against Humanity

    Waves of global speculation have had an enormous impact on the world economy and the lives of the grassroots majority. The housing bubble pushed house prices through the roof and caused grassroots people to be burdened with historically high levels of debt. When the housing bubble in the US burst in 2007, the big financial players quickly went looking for a new market to speculate in. They turned to another necessity of life: food. World rice prices – a staple for much of the world’s population – increased by 320% between January 2007 and June 2008. The price for wheat went up 240%[12]. There was no reason for this other than the deliberate creation of a price bubble by powerful financial players able to shift billions into these markets, chiefly big American banks, with the rest following.

    That bubble burst as the financial crisis hit, but food prices haven’t come all the way back down. Once prices rise, other corporates in the food chain have an interest in keeping prices at the higher level. Food distributors and supermarket chains are quick to seize the opportunity to skim some extra profit. So we’re still paying more for rice and bread than we were in 2007. Governments, big and small, are facilitating this crime against humanity. In 2000, the United States government passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed non-grain producers to buy derivatives on the grain futures market. The intended beneficiaries of the law change: pension funds, hedge funds, and all sorts of other financial speculators, including big banks.

    Of course if you’re a big corporate bank you don’t want to actually physically own a whole lot of grain, to sell or do anything else with it. But what derivatives markets do is allow speculators to trade in pieces of paper (“promises to buy” in the future) instead. Jayati Ghosh, a respected Indian researcher and campaigner, explains: “[W]hat’s happened, really, in this decade, is that the possibility of speculation in food grain has been delinked from the physical holding of the commodity: you don’t need to hold a commodity anymore; you can hold pieces of paper, which are contracts on the price for the future”[13] .

    Speculative bubbles never last, but if you’re a big player able to manipulate prices through the sheer scale of your purchases, then you can make a killing. And it’s a killing field indeed, because grain, or any other basic food commodity that gets turned into a speculative bubble, means a global price spike, which causes the world’s poorest to starve. In 2007-08, the number of people suffering from malnutrition globally rose from 800 million to one billion. This was the direct result of financial speculation in food. Ghosh believes another food bubble is being manufactured. World food prices have been rising since April 2009, and not because of increasing demand or contracting supply, but speculation again in commodity futures markets.

    Speculation In New Zealand

    While New Zealand’s finance sector is not big by world standards, the same banks-speculators-government nexus exists. Since 1984 a priority of both Labour and National governments has been deregulation of all parts of the financial industry. This has opened up New Zealand’s financial markets to international and local speculators, resulting in price volatility and inevitable cycles of boom and bust. One market that attracts high levels of speculation is the New Zealand currency market. The Kiwi dollar is the 11th most traded currency in the world. New Zealand certainly isn’t the 11th biggest economy in the world with a massive turn over of trade. Global speculators have created a market for the Kiwi dollar. It’s like a special game of roulette has been created in the South Pacific for the world’s high rollers.

    Despite its relatively small size the New Zealand stock market is also subject to plenty of speculative activity. The volume of shares traded is quite substantial. In June 2010, for example, daily turnover ranged between $50 million and $120 million. Like all stock markets around the world a large percentage of this trade is by speculators – mostly overseas ones – betting on share price fluctuations. Share purchases for long term investment are only a small fraction of regular trading activity.

    The John Key government wants to encourage more speculation in New Zealand. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that John Key made his fortune in the world of high finance. But it also reflects the fact that the Government, and the economy as it stands, is locked in tight to the model of hyper-financialisation which remains the source of so much profit for the rich. The Government has given the green light for NZX, the company that runs the New Zealand stock market, to create a derivatives market for milk. This market for “promises to buy” will see milk prices directly influenced by local and international speculators. Milk and milk products will therefore get caught up in any food price bubble[14].

    John Key has also floated the idea of turning New Zealand into a “financial hub”. The plan rests on enticing global investors to New Zealand with the promise of tax breaks. A recent Inland Revenue Department report entitled “Allowing a zero per cent tax rate for non-residents investing in a PIE [portfolio investment entity]” reveals what’s being considered. Under this proposal, overseas investors would be allowed to operate in this country and not pay New Zealand tax on their international investments. Perhaps the greatest wrong is the establishment of an Emissions Trading Scheme, or pollution market, as it should truthfully be known. The Government’s pollution market will be another opportunity for the speculators, which is precisely why the world’s big banks and other financial institutions are pushing carbon trading as a solution to climate change. It won’t be a solution, far from it, but it will be another market for them to profit from.

    Tax The Speculators!

    The scale of the bailouts, in the US and Europe in particular, has caused great anger amongst grassroots people worldwide, and this has led to some politicians proposing measures to try and reform the financial industry. The global crisis has not, however, reversed the “free licence” that governments have given to the world’s financial speculators. Their ability to grow their wealth and power remains intact. But they are potentially vulnerable, for the reason that the role the banks and other financial institutions have played in the crisis is becoming understood by many grassroots people. It’s therefore imperative that our side flames the fires of anger by further exposing the government-banks-speculator nexus, while at the same time putting forward solutions.

    That’s where the New Zealand campaign for tax justice launched by Socialist Worker and the Alliance Party comes in. The immediate focus of the campaign is a non-citizens’ initiated referendum petition which requests Parliament to 1) Remove GST from food; and 2) Tax financial speculation. These two demands address major injustices in New Zealand’s tax system. Grassroots people have to pay tax on one of life’s necessities, food, while financial speculation goes untaxed. Overseas speculators playing New Zealand’s financial markets do not pay a cent of tax on their market gains to the New Zealand government. Likewise, the rich in this country pay no tax on their wheeling and dealing. The main exemption from GST today is for “financial services”, which includes all the activities associated with financial speculation. Taxing financial speculation, as demanded by the Tax Justice petition, would be a progressive reform of a tax system that currently favours the wealthy[15].

    Build The Real Economy

    The first principle of progressive taxation is that you tax the rich more than poor. On this count taxing financial speculation is progressive. It’s only the very rich who speculate. The second principle of progressive taxation is that you tax things that society wants to discourage. Global financial speculation ruins more lives than smoking, and costs society astronomically more in dollar terms, so if any bad habit needed to be taxed, it’s financial speculation. The best way to make the speculators pay more tax is to hit them at the point where they accumulate their wealth, which is when they buy and sell. This can be done through what’s called a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), a small percentage tax (perhaps 1% or less) on financial transactions.

    Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, is all for a Financial Transaction Tax, so that “taxes on life’s essentials [like GST]” can be replaced “with a tax on socially destructive financial speculation”[16]. A Financial Transaction Tax would net billions, for example, from speculative trading in the Kiwi dollar alone. Not all of this trade occurs in New Zealand, but a sovereign country can place a tax or levy on the trade of its own currency taking place any where in the world17. A big positive of a FTT is that it would reduce the volume of short-term financial transactions, often computer automated, by large institutional speculators, big banks, pension funds, hedge funds, and the like. A small percentage tax at the point of purchase and sale would wipe out any profits the really big spenders are able to make from short term speculation.

    The main obstacle to taxing the speculators is political. The beneficiaries of the current environment of gung ho speculation will oppose any move to curb their profits and power. That’s what privileged elites have always done. They’ll put up arguments like: “it’s too difficult”, when it’s not. They’ll say it will cost “Kiwi jobs”. It won’t, because speculation only benefits the speculator, creating economic havoc in the process. The global financial meltdown of 2008 will forever be proof of this. The political arguments for taxing the speculators can be won. Following the global financial implosion, the time is right to popularise a tax which hits the most hated global purveyors of greed and exploitation. That’s the aim of the Tax Justice campaign (for more information go to

    In the longer term we need to wrest control of the economy off the speculators, banks, and those politicians wedded to hyper-financialised capitalism. We need to re-engineer the economy and direct energy and expertise into the sustainable production of real things, useful things, by useful people. Deciding the direction to go is not really the problem, there’s plenty of good ideas around that can guide us towards a more people-centred economy. The challenge is connecting with people on a mass scale, and achieving the necessary unity of action to begin that journey. A popular campaign for tax justice could be a spearhead for a wider movement that takes on the speculators and raises an alternative vision of an economy that works for us.

    End Notes

    1. Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour, “G20 nations commit to halving budget deficits by 2013”,, 28/6/10.

    2. Naomi Klein, “Let’s take no orders to slash and burn from this G20 club”, from, 29/6/10.

    3. See

    4. Derivatives are contractual promises to buy a commodity at an agreed price in the future. See

    5. One measure of the floundering real economy is under-utilisation of industry capacity, which was 70-80% prior to the financial crisis, and has worsened since.

    6. See the section on financialisation, “Follow the money”, in Grant Morgan’s essay, “Beware! The end is nigh! Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future”, Unity Journal, March 2010, pp16-27.

    7. See

    8. Barry Coates, “We could replace tax on essentials with one on destructive speculation”, Stuff News, 2/3/10.

    9. Grant Morgan, “Beware! The end is nigh! Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future”, Unity Journal, March 2010, pp.20-21.

    10. Grant Morgan, ibid. p.21

    11. But the point where it’s impossible for governments to be the “lender of last resort”, and bailout the system again, is fast approaching. The whole hyper-financialised world economy faces collapse as it comes up against real world economic and political limits.

    12. Jayati Ghowsh interview, The Real News Network,

    13. Jayati Ghowsh interview, ibid.

    14. Hamish Rutherford, ‘‘Serious interest’ in derivatives”, 18/4/10.

    15. He wasn’t speaking for all New Zealand’s mega-wealthy, but Trade Me founder Sam Morgan was telling the truth when he said he hardly pays any tax.

    16. Barry Coates, “We could replace tax on essentials with one on destructive speculation”, 2 /3/10.

    17. Barry Coates, ibid. Collecting this levy should be one of the functions of a Reserve Bank operating in the interests of the grassroots New Zealanders rather than the international financial institutions.