Thursday 28 October 2010

Mana Campaign Introduction by Matt McCarten

The Unite Union has announced its endorsement of its General Secretary Matt McCarten to contest the Mana by-Election. McCarten is required to contest the election as an independent.

The Unite Union has been at the forefront of campaigning for low income workers in New Zealand over several years.

This government over the last year has launched attacks on workers that include the right for any worker to be sacked without notice or reason on the whim of an employer. In addition they are restricting the rights of workers by restricting union access to their members. The sale of holiday entitlements is only the start of claw backs for vulnerable workers. The cravenness of John Key to the US owners of the Hobbit films to even change our employment laws says it all.

Unite launched a campaign over a year ago to win $15 an hour minimum for every worker. 200,000 New Zealanders have signed our petition. Unite intends to make raising wages a central issue for the by-Election and will seek the support of all the candidates.

This government has no economic plan and just hopes that somehow the international markets will come to our rescue. They won’t.

By-elections are democratic processes where not only will they elect a new MP but they have an opportunity to send a message to parliament. Unite intends to do that.

We have been supportive of Labour’s long overdue realisation that the new right agenda implemented by their party and carried on by National have been a disaster for New Zealand. But we have been disappointed at their timidity over what the alternatives could be.

My candidature will give the people of Mana strong alternatives that roll back the failed ideology of the past 25 years.

We intend to run on three main platforms and seek a mandate from the voters of Mana:

#1 $15ph Min Wage NOW. 
Raising wages is central to the campaign. The practical way to close the wage gap with Australia is by legislating for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If I win we will see that as a mandate to have a Royal Commission set up to enquire into what income a worker on 40 hours would need to live with dignity. Once established then appropriate economic and employment policy would be needed to ensure this happens. During the next 3 weeks we will seek to have a majority of the people of Mana to sign our petition to raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately. The cabinet currently is reviewing the minimum wage and we want a strong message sent to them from the voters of Mana.

#2. Jobs. 
The free market won’t reduce unemployment. Government intervention is required to do that. Mana like every other electorate has about 3000 official unemployed. The dignity of meaningful work is an economic good in itself. To employ 3000 on $15 an hour in fulltime work costs less than $100m a year net. After giving over $1.6 billion of our money to South Canterbury Finance it’s clear it’s not about have we got the money, it’s about priorities. I want a strong message sent that no one gets the dole. The government will invest in jobs. In Mana we could put two teachers’ aides into very classrooms creating almost 1000 jobs. We could get the Wananga to train 500 young unemployed in basic building skills and set them up to repair and upgrade run down state houses. We can get another 500 into home help for senior citizens and the sick. It’s not science; it’s whether we have the will.

#3. Taxes. 
The burden of paying the bills has dramatically shifted to the from the asset wealthy and high incomes to the middle and low income New Zealanders. GST is one of those taxes. Labour weak response is disappointing. I will release an alternative tax policy in the campaign to start the discussion off. Frankly GST has to go and an alternative like the Financial Transaction Tax (now enjoying popular support overseas as the Robin Hood tax) is fairer and more efficient.

I will also release policy discussion papers during the campaign on economic planning that includes foreign investment and immigration; and workers’ rights to start a discussion for areas that are clearly failing.

I intend to run a strong aggressive campaign and put the two main candidates under some pressure to work for their votes and ask them to respond to the above three platforms. Whilst I will target National (as the villains of course) Labour also has to engage in meaningful debate rather than generalisations.

The Other Candidates: All the candidates are fine people and are to be congratulated for offering themselves. But this by election isn’t about them or me. It’s about the people of Mana and the rest of New Zealand. I intend to engage in serious debate and persuade the people of Mana to send a big message to parliament to elect me as their representative to parliament on the 20th of November.

McCarten contests Mana by-election

Matt for Mana! Its time for a New Left

by Joe Carolan
from Socialist Aotearoa

In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now standing as a member of the Independent Left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low paid and unemployed workers in Mana.

Support for Matt has come in from many members of other trade unions, as well as most of the organisations of the socialist left, who worked hard together in last year's Campaign for a Living Wage Referendum push. That Campaign got over 200,000 signatures of support to raise the minimum wage in New Zealand to $15ph NOW, and then two thirds of the average industrial wage subsequently. It was also successful in getting the independent left out into the housing estates, markets and workplaces, co operating in struggle together.

Labour has had this seat since the 1930s and has done little to alleviate the poverty there. The escalating attacks on the working class in New Zealand requires the serious left to look for political as well as industrial solutions. The Labour Party just won't cut it. Under the leadership of Phil Goof, they'll be lucky to clear 35% in next years election. In the War of the Hobbit, they can't even decide which side they're on. They're a centrist, liberal party who lost the last election because they ignored their working class base - the kind of people who live in Mana.

Socialists will campaign hard for Matt and for the people of Mana in the next month- for decent state housing, for affordable public transport, for a living wage, full employment and a planned economy. The Free Market economics that people like Phil Goof unleashed inthe 1980s have failed New Zealand. It's time for a New Left. Matt for Mana!

Monday 25 October 2010

New-left rallies its forces to take on the new-right

By Matt McCarten
from Herald on Sunday

After two years it seemed the left was never going to get a break. I’m stoked to announce we have got it at last.

Two weekends ago we had our first good news when the mayoral front-runners in our five major cities lost. The wins were significant politically in Auckland and Wellington.

Who would have thought a small grey man called Brown could arouse so much enthusiasm? Mind you, if the right relies on a grey man called John Key to keep their party in the stratosphere I guess we can swoon for Brown.

And just when the left were still hugging each other in delight, the Labour Party for the first time since who knows when got excited about being left-wing again.

Friday 22 October 2010

Kia Ora Gaza: The Big Day – entry into Gaza!

From Kia Ora Gaza

Day 34: 21 October 2010

Talal of Kuwait waits at Al-Arish wharf for the "go" signal to Gaza
  • Times: All times given are those of Egypt and Gaza. Their clock is 11 hours behind New Zealand time.
  • Messages: The contents of this bulletin are real time texts from our Kiwi volunteers on their way to Gaza. Texts have been edited for readability.
  • Writers: Roger Fowler and Chris van Ryn.
The boys from Canada about to set out from Al-Arish wharf to Gaza

12.25pm: Chris
Arrived at Al-Arish wharf compound. Very heavy security. Armed guards are everywhere, looking ominous. All running smoothly so far.

12.53pm: Roger
Met up with Hone off the ship. Got passports back. Preparing vehicles to move off wharf soon under watchful eyes of over 50 armed riot police. 

1.12pm: Roger
Vehicles are flying Palestinian flags and the flags of the 30 countries which have sent volunteers. Jubilation. This is it. We’re off. The first Kiwis out the wharf gate are Chris and Hone.

1.14pm: Chris
I’ve left the compound. We’re lining up on the roadside, waiting for others. About every 10 convoy van there’s an armed police vehicle.

1.56pm:  Roger
Pat and Julie’s van is out the gate. I’m right behind. We’re pulling up to wait for others so we go as one long convoy. There’s no room for Mousa in my van, so he’s going in a UK vehicle. The sun is scorching.

2.04pm:  Roger
We’re moving off in single file. Gaza, here we come!

A crew from Italy show their excitement as they get ready for the short drive from Al-Arish to Gaza

3.06pm:  Roger
We’ve got an armed military and police escort in Nissan utes. 10 kilometres to go to Rafah Gate.

3.34pm:  Chris
Convoyers are entering customs at Rafah Gate.

3.39pm:  Roger
A “farewell, come back soon” sign is over the entrance to Gaza. Armed personnel vehicles are parked on the roadside and in nearby barren fields. There’s lots of barbed wire. Two long queues are waiting to go through the gate.

3.48pm:  Roger
More truck loads of riot police are at the ready, carrying automatic shotguns, although there’s no tension. Some police wave to convoyers. TV crews are arriving.

The convoy queues up at Rafah Gate, the only land entrance into Gaza not controlled by the Israeli military

3.54pm:  Chris
We’re through the gate! We’re in Gaza! Our heartfelt thanks to all our supporters back home in Aotearoa! Without you all we would not be here.

3.58pm:  Roger
Red Cresent youths arrive and pose for photos alongside convoy vehicles. A relaxed atmosphere.

4pm:  Chris
We’ve parked our vehicles just past the border, and are being guided to seats for a media rally.

4.23pm:  Chris
There’s a festival mood. Everyone is hugging each other, and there’s lots of joyful tears.

Convoyers mix with Gazans just over the border from Egypt

4.38pm:  Chris
Viva Palestina director Kevin Ovenden is giving a speech. We come from 30 different countries with $7 million worth of aid, he says. It’s the biggest convoy so far. In a first for any land convoy, we have entered Gaza in broad daylight. Politically the siege of Gaza is breaking down, but it’s not yet broken. If the wall of the prison is breaking, we must all push it down, Kevin declares. “I promise you that we will come back again and again and again, until all Palestinians can go home in peace and dignity.” He thanks the people of France, Turkey, Syria and across the Arab world who helped the convoy. Palestine is now an international issue. 

Huge bursts of applause from the large crowd punctuates Kevin’s speech. About 15 TV crews are filming the event.

Flags from many countries fly inside Gaza, showing the broad international support for a free Palestine

5.24pm:  Chris
I’ve just met a young man whose pregnant sister died in 2007 because she couldn’t get medical attention for ten days.We’re soon heading off to Gaza City where I’ve been told crowds are waiting for us.

5.32pm:  Chris
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, to shake hands with people on the streets of Gaza. But I’m still on hold until we hand over our aid. Then I can relax and say, “Job done!”

5.35pm:  Chris
It’s evening and the light is dimming. There’s flashing lights and sirens all around me as we move off to Gaza City. What a sight. What a noise.

5.47pm:  Chris
As we head to the city, Hone is sitting on top of the ambulance roof. He’s waving a Palestinian flag. Emotions are running high. One convoyer was in tears, and has now swapped her driving role and is resting in her vehicle. It’s all a bit much.

Inside Gaza: the emotion of the moment

6.19pm:  Chris
As we head slowly to Gaza City, the wall is around me. In front of the wall is a fence. It feels like I’m going into prison. It’s a shock. The bastards!

7.03pm:  Chris
Thousands of people cram the streets of Gaza City. They are ecstatic. “Welcome! Welcome!” they shout. Kids are pushing forward onto the road. I have to drive carefully to avoid hitting anyone in the crush. People on motorbikes are yelling, “Thank you! Thank you for coming to Gaza!” Everyone wants to touch me.

Now the crowd is chanting and clapping. They’re in a frenzy. We’re driving at a crawling pace. There’s too many people to go any faster. I must be careful, have to stop txting for a while.

8.46pm:  Chris
We’re driving through a narrow corridor of cheering people. They often jump in front of us. Some kids are banging drums. Soldiers are everywhere, we’re very well protected. I just saw a bombed out building.

The convoy heads into Gaza City

10.33pm:  Roger
I’ve just done an interview with Radio New Zealand. It’s been crazy here. We were mobbed all the way in Gaza City. Now going to our hotel by bus.

10.56:  Chris
We’re holed up for the night in a hotel. It’s pretty horrible, but a bed at least. Saw more bombed out buildings. I did a long interview, about 15 minutes, with Kim at Morning Report.

11.27:  Chris
Have just done an interview with Keith Slater of TV3.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Thousands stand up for workers’ rights

There’s comprahensive coverage of yesterday’s trade union protests against the government’s attacks on workers’ rights at the CTU’s Fairness at Work facebook page. Here’s a brief and enthusiastic summary from that site:
Awesome! By lunchtime more than 15,000 workers had attended stopwork meetings and rallies. 7,000 packed the TelstraClear Stadium in Auckland and 4,000 piled into Parliament Grounds. 1500 rallied in Hamilton, 800 in Hastings and 750 in Nelson. Thousands more are expected in events throughout the afternoon in many centres!! Woop Woop!
I can’t give my own report, because there was no rally here in Christchurch, but I hope you will leave your thoughts and comments about the protests in your area in the comments section.

- David

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Aid convoy departs for Egypt’s gate into Gaza

Kia Ora Gaza
Media release
20 October 2010

This morning, at 0500 hours NZT, in the Syrian port of Latakia, Roger Fowler’s ambulance was loaded onto the ship Strofades IV bound for Egypt.

“What a fantastic feeling!” said Roger, who’s captain of the six-person Kiwi Team on the international Gaza aid convoy being led by UK charity Viva Palestina. “There’s great jubilation all round me as convoyers begin the last leg of our long journey to Gaza.”

The epic month-long aid mission involves 400 volunteers from 30 countries driving 150 vehicles from England, North Africa and the Arab East all the way to Gaza, where they will deliver NZ$7 million worth of humanitarian supplies.

The Strofades IV is taking all convoy vehicles and 30 of the volunteers, including Roger’s son Hone Fowler, also a member of the Kia Ora Gaza contingent.

Their ship will travel the same waters as the Mavi Marmara whose Gaza-bound humanitarian voyage last May was halted by attacking Israeli commandos, leaving nine aid volunteers dead and 50 more wounded.

Tonight the other 370 convoyers will depart Syria by chartered aircraft. They are flying to Egypt’s port of Al-Arish to reunite with the ship carrying their aid vehicles and 30 comrades.

From Al-Arish it’s just a 19 kilometre drive across Egyptian territory to Rafah, the only land gateway into Gaza not controlled by the Israeli military.

“Egypt agreed to unlock their back door to Gaza after a tense ten-day standoff with the convoy,” said Grant Morgan, an Auckland-based organiser of Kia Ora Gaza. “It’s a great triumph for our humanitarian mission, and a huge defeat for Israel’s inhuman siege of Gaza’s suffering citizens. Our convoy is about to bust the blockade.”

All going well, the convoy could be entering Gaza this Friday. Already the 1.5 million residents of Gaza are getting ready to cheer them into their besieged Palestinian enclave.

“How do you feel?” a Syrian TV reporter asked Chris van Ryn, vice-captain of the Kiwi Team, as he watched his ambulance being loaded onto the Strofades IV.

“Victorious!” replied Chris. “This is a victory for the Palestinians. And we will overcome every obstacle as we have done over the past weeks. We will not surrender, and we will drive our aid vehicles into Gaza.”

D E A R   S U P P O R T E R S

A very big Thank You to everyone who has donated to our Gaza Appeal. Your support is sustaining our Kiwi Team as the international aid convoy gets close to Gaza.

We are still in need of contingency funds. To see how to donate, go to

Our website also carries daily updates on convoy progress.

Grant Morgan

Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
021 2544 515

Government Committee calls 90 day law offensive – but only when applied to John Key

Media Release from the National Distribution Union
October 20, 2010
Embargoed until 1pm, October 20

The National Distribution Union is disgusted with a letter sent to one of its retail worker members by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee.

General Secretary Robert Reid says the letter from the committee described her submission as “offensive” but all it did was suggest that the same rules apply to the Prime Minister as to workers.

The “offending” words that the retail worker wrote in her submission were:

“Can we put John Key on a 90 day trial and sack him after the 89th day?”

The letter back to her from the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee of Parliament stated:

“The committee considered your submission at a meeting on 6 October 2010 and decided that your added comments were offensive and therefore did not formally receive your submission.  The committee is therefore returning your submission which is attached.”

“This says it all,” Robert Reid says.

“The Government is perfectly happy to pass a law that will put all workers, other than MPs, on a 90 day trial period, but is offended if one of those workers suggests the same law apply to the Prime Minister.

France in revolt shows our power

By Charlie Kimber in Paris

The fightback in France against attacks on pensions has shown magnificent resistance. 

Workers are fighting President Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempts to make them pay more for their pension and to work to 67 before they get a guaranteed full pension. 

It is the main symbol of the rich trying to make workers pay for the crisis.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Tax Justice will be an election issue in 2011

Tax Justice media release
18 October 2010

“Tax all forms of income equally no matter how that income is earned” — that was the wording contained in a remit at the Labour Party conference over the weekend (see Quiet comeback for tax on wealth, NZ Herald, 18 Oct).

“Taxing all forms of income is something the Tax Justice campaign endorses,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

“We want to see financial speculation taxed. It’s currently not,” says Gunson. “Rich individuals and corporates who speculate on price shifts in a range of New Zealand markets are not paying tax at the point where their profits are accumulated.”

Mr Gunson highlights the example of the Kiwi dollar, which is one of the most traded currencies in the world due to unrestrained speculation by global hedge funds and the like. But the speculators pay no tax on any profits they make to the New Zealand government.

“The introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax would allow the government to source much needed tax revenue from the world’s mega-rich,” says Gunson. “They’ll hardly miss it, but the extra tax received will make a difference to the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. For starters, we could offer relief at the supermarket by removing GST from food.”

“We expect the twin demands of the Tax Justice campaign – GST off food and a tax on financial speculation – to be big issues in election year,” says Gunson. “We’ve been getting a lot of support on the street from Labour supporters who agree with what we’re saying.”

The Tax Justice campaign is collecting signatures for a petition calling on GST to be removed from all food and financial speculation to be taxed. 20,000 New Zealanders have so far signed the petition.

For more information on the campaign go to

For comment, contact:

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082

Monday 18 October 2010

History-making aid convoy about to bust Gaza siege

Viva Palestina founder George Galloway announces the Gaza convoy is sailing to Egypt on 18 October despite Cairo blacklisting himself and 16 other volunteers. He is speaking to a crush of international media and 400 convoyers in Latakia, the main port of Syria.

Kia Ora Gaza media release
18 October 2010

Today the international aid convoy to Gaza, whose three columns have driven from England, North Africa and the Arab East to link up in Syria, leaves land and takes to the waters of the Mediterranean.

These are the same waters where, four months ago, Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza aid vessel Mavi Marmara, leaving nine civilian aid workers shot to death and dozens more wounded.

The convoy’s destination is the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, just a 19 kilometre drive to Rafah Gate, the only land entrance to Gaza not under the control of Israel.

“It took a tense ten-day battle of wills to get Cairo to grant safe passage across Egypt and into Gaza, but the convoy finally got the green light,” said Grant Morgan, co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza, which has a six-person Kiwi Team among the 400 convoyers driving 150 aid-packed vehicles.

“This is a history-making convoy because Egypt’s back door to Gaza has been well and truly pushed open by the convoy’s huge size, sheer determination and international support,” Mr Morgan continued.

“It’s a fantastic victory, and all Kiwis who care about a fair go for all will be proud that our own Kia Ora Gaza team is part of this humanitarian breakthrough.”

At the last minute, Cairo blacklisted 17 convoyers from entering Egypt, including George Galloway, the founder of Viva Palestina which organised the month-long epic journey across three continents.

“Not even Cairo’s blacklisting of 17 aid volunteers can take the shine off the convoy’s huge triumph,” said Mr Morgan. “The guts and grit of the convoyers, together with growing global support, has broken Israel’s inhuman siege of Gaza. It’s a big step forward for humanity.”

The convoy could be entering Gaza by Wednesday 20th October.

“Convoyers are sure to be greeted by cheering throngs of Gazans. They badly need the convoy’s chemotherapy drugs, X-ray machines and other life-saving supplies. Even more, these suffering but resilient people appreciate the international solidarity which is helping them to bust the brutal blockade,” said Mr Morgan.

Keep up to date with the Viva Palestina convoy at

Sunday 17 October 2010

“Power to the People”: The Lost John Lennon Interview

John Lennon would have been 70 on October 9, here’s an 1971 interview with him and the much maligned Yoko Ono by British socialists Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, which was republished five years ago on Counterpunch.

By Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn

Editors’ Note: It was twenty-five years ago today  that John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota building on Central Park West in New York City [This article was posted on CounterPunch on 8 December 2005, Lennon was killed in 1980]. We doubt many CounterPunchers have read the following 1971 interview with Lennon done by CounterPunchers Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn. It’s a lot more interesting that the interminable Q and A with Lennon done by Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner. Tariq and Robin allowed Lennon to talk and spurred him on when he showed signs of flagging. Lennon recounts about how he and George Harrison bucked their handlers and went on record against the Vietnam War, discusses class politics in an engaging manner, defends country and western music and the blues, suggests Dylan’s best songs stem from revolutionary Irish and Scottish ballads and dissects his three versions of “Revolution”. The interview ran in The Red Mole, a Trotskyist sheet put out by the British arm of the Fourth International. As you’ll see, those were different days. The interview is included in Tariq Ali’s Streetfighting Years, recently published by Verso. AC / JSC

Tariq Ali: Your latest record and your recent public statements, especially the interviews in Rolling Stone magazine, suggest that your views are becoming increasingly radical and political. When did this start to happen?

John Lennon: I’ve always been politically minded, you know, and against the status quo. It’s pretty basic when you’re brought up, like I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise the army as something that takes everybody away and leaves them dead somewhere.

I mean, it’s just a basic working class thing, though it begins to wear off when you get older, get a family and get swallowed up in the system.

In my case I’ve never not been political, though religion tended to overshadow it in my acid days; that would be around ‘65 or ‘66. And that religion was directly the result of all that superstar shit--religion was an outlet for my repression. I thought, ‘Well, there’s something else to life, isn’t there? This isn’t it, surely?’

But I was always political in a way, you know. In the two books I wrote, even though they were written in a sort of Joycean gobbledegook, there’s many knocks at religion and there is a play about a worker and a capitalist. I’ve been satirising the system since my childhood. I used to write magazines in school and hand them around.

I was very conscious of class, they would say with a chip on my shoulder, because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class repression coming down on us--it was a fucking fact but in the hurricane Beatle world it got left out, I got farther away from reality for a time.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Gaza aid convoy permitted to enter Egypt

Aid volunteers in Latakia are glued to Aljazeera as the television network announces that Cairo has granted immediate permission for the international convoy to enter Egypt and proceed safely to Gaza

By Julie Webb-Pullman
Member of the Kiwi Team to Gaza
From Kia Ora Gaza
14 October 2010

A few hours ago the Egyptian Government gave permission for the international aid convoy to enter Egypt, and deliver its humanitarian aid to Gaza, although Viva Palestina founder George Galloway has been told to keep out.

The convoy is comprised of over 400 people from 30 countries, and is carrying more than US$5 million of medical and educational supplies in some 150 vehicles, mainly ambulances. The supplies include desperately-needed chemotherapy drugs for children with cancer.

Convoy leaders say they expect to leave the Syrian port of Latakia in the next 24 to 36 hours, sailing for the Egyptian port of Al-Arish.

The mood is upbeat in Latakia’s former refugee camp which has been home to convoyers for the past 12 days while awaiting Egyptian approval. Groups are gathering to discuss developments, watch the news, celebrate with a game of football, and text their organisations back home.

The convoy will pass through the waters in which Israel’s military attacked the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara on 31 May, killing nine Turkish citizens and wounding many more humanitarian volunteers. As we reach this site, convoyers will throw flowers into the sea, before continuing on our way.

Although there is concern about how the Israeli government might respond, especially among the 30 people who were also on the Mavi Marmara, most convoyers are confident their passage will be peaceful. 

“I expect that the Israelis will shadow us in a boat to intimidate us, but the military option is off the table, in my opinion,” said Kia Ora Gaza convoyer Pat O’Dea.

Organisers are hopeful there will be no last minute problems, and that the aid will reach Gaza by next week.

Israel’s never-ending assault

Writer Mike Marqusee, author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew, explains why Israel’s concessions on its Gaza blockade fall short of righting the wrongs.

Gazans left homelesss without materials to rebuild following Israel's 2008-09 assault 
Gazans left homelesss without materials to rebuild following Israel's 2008-09 assault

The primary aim of the Gaza aid missions has been to alert the world to the criminality of the blockade, and in this, it has succeeded--though the price has been heavy: Nine killed (mostly with shots directly to the head and neck) and 700 others violently abducted, detained and abused.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and others have seized on the Israelis’ gesture as an excuse to issue them a renewed license to proceed with their assault on Palestinian lives and rights.

Monday 11 October 2010

CTU releases Alternative Economic Strategy

Council of Trade Unions media release
11 October 2010

The Council of Trade Unions has released an alternative economic strategy.

Peter Conway, CTU Secretary, said that this strategy has been developed over the last 12 months through discussion and debate among union members.

“It responds to the long run economic problems facing New Zealand as well as the impact of the global financial crisis. The economy is failing to meet the needs of people and the environment and it is a time for serious consideration of alternatives. This is a union contribution to that process.”

Bill Rosenberg, CTU Economist said that the Alternative Economic Strategy is based on six principles: Fairness; Participation; Security; Improving Living Standards; Sustainability; and Sovereignty.

It is framed around three pillars: Sustainable economic development; Decent work and a good life, and; Voice: real participation in decisions in the workplace, economy and community.”

Bill Rosenberg said: “The strategy includes over 100 specific policy recommendations across many areas including economic development, education, financial stability, globalisation, the environment, employment, social security, housing, retirement, inequality, worker participation and the media.”

Specific policies include:

- An infrastructure plan including a human infrastructure fund to give longer term certainty for tertiary education and workplace training and buying back Telecom's physical network at a price reflecting its short life and long neglect.

- Stabilise the exchange rate through broader Reserve Bank objectives, international capital controls, an international financial transactions tax and pegging the exchange rate.

- Lift wages through industry bargaining, higher productivity and a boost to the minimum wage.

- A tax-free band and/or tax rebate for people on incomes under $35,000, tax rates of 38 percent on income above $100,000 and 45 percent on income above $150,000  (three times the average wage) and a capital gains or assets tax exempting the primary home.

- A strategic approach to economic development focusing on certain sectors such as ICT and high level processing of agricultural products, and themes such as environmentally beneficial and high productivity. Provide support to firms which are prepared to work within this strategy and principles of decent work.

- “Flexicurity” providing security of employment alongside flexibility for firms including retaining 90% of prior income for up to 12 months unemployment, conditional on commitment to acquiring new skills and job searching, funded through compulsory employer levies and taxation. Active support to acquire new skills and find new jobs including relocation assistance.

- Consider Kiwisaver enhancements after an appropriate inquiry of
         * Compulsory employer contributions of 6% phased in over 4 years
         * Compulsory employee contribution 2%; Government top-up 2%
         * Government contribution for those not in paid work

The full Alternative Economic Strategy document can be downloaded from:

A one page summary is also available at

Saturday 9 October 2010

Venezuela's Choice

Venezuelan election commentary is still in flux - reactions are still trickling in. Still, so far available analyses are mostly failing to address the election's most important implications. 
Yes, the Bolivarian Revolution is still in the saddle. 
Yes, Chavez is vastly more popular - despite being in office ten years - than Obama, now in office for two years. 
Yes the PSUV has retained more support and influence than, for example, the Democrats in the U.S.
One could continue in that vein, but viewing the election as if it is a one off experience that is lost or won depending on the ballot count from electoral district to electoral district measuring assembly seats won by Chavistas and the opposition, so that the Chavistas can say - hooray, we won - or viewing it in comparison to what goes on in the U.S. or other typically top down and politically bankrupt societies, so again the Chavistas can say, hooray, we are doing better, is highly simplistic. 

Thursday 7 October 2010

Venezuela: Left wins, but right makes gains

by Federico Fuentes
from Green Left Weekly
2 October 2010

Venezuela’s September 26 National Assembly elections gave an interesting insight into the state of class struggle in a country sharply polarised by the revolutionary changes led by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The significance lies in the vote occurring after 11 years of the Chavez-led Bolivarian revolution, which has resulted in big improvements in the living standards of the poor majority.

This process has divided Venezuelan society along class lines. This has been reflected in the right-wing opposition’s repeated attempts to overthrow the elected Chavez government by any means necessary — and the poor taking to the streets to defeat these US-backed attempts.

The opposition boycotted the 2005 National Assembly elections, but this time waged a ferocious campaign, with US funding, that included media lies and economic sabotage. The opposition aimed to break the powerful relationship between Chavez and the people.

Sunday 3 October 2010

New Zealanders flock to sign Tax Justice petition

Like the new Tax Justice cartoon (see below) people were queuing up to sign the petition at the Otara Markets in Auckland on Saturday 2 October. 565 signatures were collected in a few hours.
Tax Justice media release
3 October 2010

10,000 signatures for a petition calling on parliament to remove GST from food and tax financial speculation have been collected since GST went up to 15% on Friday.

“Tax Justice 10,000 was a big success,” says Vaughan Gunson, coordinator of the campaign.

From Friday to Sunday, petition stalls were organised in Kerikeri, Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Oamaru and Dunedin. Plus volunteers in these and other centres collected signatures from friends, family and workmates.

To view a photo essay of “Tax Justice 10,000” go to

“A comment we kept hearing from people was that National’s tax cuts were rubbish,” says Gunson. “The people flocking to sign our petition weren’t buying the government’s claim that they were going to be better off.” (A view confirmed by an opinion poll commissioned this week by Herald on Sunday, see

“People are angry at the rising cost of living, which the GST increase is only making worse,” says Gunson. “The pain people are feeling at the supermarket is only going to get worse over the coming months, when food price inflation from the speculative boom in food commodity prices filters through to the checkout.”

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research chief economist Shamubeel Eaqub predicts food price inflation 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.

The Tax Justice campaign has now collected over 20,000 signatures since the petition was launched a few months ago. Mr Gunson says this is only the beginning. “We’re buoyed by what we’ve achieved over the last few days and looking forward to working with other organisations who support this campaign.”

“We thank Maori Party MP Rahui Katene for putting forward her private members bill to remove GST from healthy food, which both Labour and Green MPs supported,” says Gunson.

“And we welcome Labour’s new GST policy of removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables. This is a step in the right direction,” says Gunson.

“That one of the parties of government is breaking with its previous defence of New Zealand’s GST regime as “untouchable” is hugely significant. It’s a boost to our arguments and recognition of the groundswell of public opinion against GST on food.”

For comment, contact

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082


Victor Billot
Tax Justice media spokesperson
021-482 219

Friday 1 October 2010

Tax Justice campaign hits the streets, unveils new cartoon

Tax Justice media release
1 October 2010

Tax Justice activists will be hitting the streets over the next few days collecting signatures for a parliamentary petition that calls for GST to be removed from food and a tax placed on financial speculation.

Tax Justice media spokesperson Victor Billot says “The level of interest in the campaign has sky rocketed in the last few days as people start to consider the impact of the GST hike on their already stretched weekly budgets.”

He says people are concerned and angry that income tax cuts are going to the already wealthy, while for most of us the tax cuts will be wiped out by the GST going up to 15% and the coming spike in food prices (see Tax Justice media release, 26 September, Tax cuts will be wiped out by food price bubble)

Members of the public can support the campaign by signing the petition and circulating it to friends, family and workmates. Copies of the petition can be downloaded from

“We’d like people to help us reach our target of 10,000 signatures in two days,” says Mr Billot. “If we can get that many signatures in such a short space of time, it’s because grassroots people are passionate about wanting changes to New Zealand’s current unfair tax system.”

The Facebook page for the campaign has grown rapidly over the last few days, increasing to nearly 4,000 supporters, with no sign of slowing down. See appendix below for a selection of comments made by supporters of the ‘No GST on Food’ Facebook page over the last 24 hours.

Mr Billot says Labour’s new policy to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables is a step in the right direction, but GST should be taken off all food. This would deliver a universal tax cut bigger than most people will be getting from the 1st October tax changes.

The Tax Justice petition is raising doable solutions to the current imbalances in the tax system.

Mr Billot says that the idea of a Financial Transactions Tax or "Robin Hood Tax" is becoming increasingly popular around the world.

“A small percentage tax on financial transactions which would easily pay for GST off food, thus allowing the tax burden to be shifted off ordinary people and on to large financial institutions.”

To coincide with our Double Day of signature collecting, 1-2 October, we’re unveiling our new Tax Justice cartoon. The cartoon will be used widely in publicity in the coming weeks and months. It is available to be reproduced in print and digital publications.

For more comment, contact

Victor Billot
Tax Justice media spokesperson
021-482 219

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082


A selection of comments made in the last 24 hours on the ‘No GST on Food’ Facebook page:

- damn straight NO GST on food! we pay enough taxes and shit that goes to government...they go on about how nzealandrz eat too much bad food! well drop the pricing on the healthy food........on all food FULL STOP! this must change.

- totally immoral that a basic human need is taxed. can't believe kiwi's lay back and take it.

- I agree that the gst should be dropped from certain foods, or the children and the elderly will suffer. If Australia can do it why cant we?

- It’s all about robbing the poor to feed the rich!! .. gezz im sorry john key does your 6 figure salary not cover all your costs !!

-We pay tax on our income why pay more tax on everything else we shouldnt have to pay tax after they take it out of our wages thats enuff

-No GST on food is a good start even better abolish GST altogether. Let the rich pay a tax on money speculation. It wouldn't hurt them and will help the workers a lot.

-the bastard that invented GST should be shot

-Why is it that everything just keeps going up except wonder people are going over 2 auz 2 live.we need food, so I hope this no gst on food comes through 4 us all.

-I'm really worried about our food bill from tomorrow. It's bad enough already!

-What’s the saying, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. They need to give and take in some areas. Think NO GST on food would be a good start.

-The Richer get Richer and the Poor get Poorer.....Where’s Robin Hood whenya need him lol Seriously I know that Tax has been around for a Long time but why not increase it on Luxury items and leave the everyday living costs alone

-they complain about obesity being a huge problem...maybe if food was cheaper to buy then fastfood then we wont have the problem...NOO NOO NOO to GST on food

- Unfortunately the with the tax changes and gst hikes the poorer will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

-I support no GST on food. We are told taking GST off of food items is too complicated. I say rubbish to that reasoning. Everything has a UPC code or label and computer software could do it quite easily. Other countries do it, so why is it so hard for New Zealand? Let's all stand together and say, "enough is enough".

-The fact we have GST on food is quite disgraceful. We in NZ need to rise up as a ground swell to have this tax removed. We cannot think of ourselves as a nation of people who care about each others' welfare while we make the most basic need more expensive than necessary. Come on people, get with the play and object.

Claiming GST is universally applied today is the biggest lie

Tax Justice media release
28 September 2010

“John Key has accused the Labour Party of lying in their pamphlet on National’s GST hike, but Mr Key is hardly squeaky clean,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

“John Key and the National-led government have been spinning untruths about GST,” says Gunson. “Chief among them is the claim that the “beauty” of New Zealand’s GST regime is that it’s universally applied.”

Peter Dunne, Revenue Minister in the National-led government, said in July that “it’s not New Zealand’s policy to have a non-universal GST.” (See Key rules out GST-free food, 21 July 2010.)

“This is not true,” says Gunson. “GST is not applied universally today. The major exemption is for financial services.”

Inland Revenue lists the following financial services as exempted from GST: dealings with money; certain dealings with securities; provision of credit and loans; provision of life insurance; provision of non-deliverable futures contracts and financial options; the payment and collection of interest, principal and dividends; and issuing securities such as stocks and shares.

“The main users of these financial services are rich investors, speculators, banks and other wealthy corporates,” says Gunson.

“Why is it okay for them to get off paying GST, when grassroots people struggling to make ends meet have to pay tax on food?” asks Gunson. “John Key needs to fess up to the people of New Zealand and admit that our tax system has a rotten core.”

“We’re forced to stomach GST on food, while something as destructive to the economy as financial speculation goes untaxed.”

The Tax Justice campaign is promoting a doable solution to New Zealand’s unjust tax system. Over the last few months over 12,000 New Zealanders have signed a petition calling on parliament to:

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

“The tax revenue the government’s receives from GST on food could easily be replaced by introducing a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT),” says Gunson. “A small percentage tax on financial transactions would net billions from rich speculators and wealthy corporates, who are today enjoying a free ride from GST. We need to move quickly on this now.”

“The issue of tax justice for grassroots Kiwis is not going away. We’re confident the campaign is going to get bigger and bigger.”