Joe Hendren

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Consistency - Whale Oil style

The right wing blogger Whale Oil has been throwing that H word around a lot today, accusing all in sundry of 'utter hypocrisy' for saying one thing now and another thing at another time.

Yet only last week Whale Oil celebrated the resignation of Porirua City Councillor Hemi Matenga as 'One less Labour Trougher'. "Bring shame and humiliation down upon their heads until they resign". "Good riddance, now pursue him for his salary for non-performance"

Matenga missed four consecutive council meetings, and subsequently resigned from the council.

But what did Whale Oil say only a few months back, when Eden-Albert Community Board member Ryan Hicks missed four meetings and had to be sacked from the Board?

"The left are want to bang on about equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and trans­parency in democ­racy but when it comes to feather-bedding for their own they are a lit­tle more quiet about all that. Rocky from the Stan­dard aka Rochelle Rees has just been appointed by the City-Vision major­ity on the Eden-Albert Com­mu­nity Board to replace an elected C&R rep­re­sen­ta­tive (Ryan Hicks) who failed to turn up for 4 con­sec­u­tive meet­ings. Whilst on the sur­face this looks like a mat­ter of replac­ing an AWOL rep­re­sen­ta­tive, in fact Ryan Hicks appears to have been hounded from the role by the nasty spite­ful City Vision mem­bers on the Com­mu­nity Board, mak­ing life unbear­able for Mr Hicks at meet­ings, so much so that he no longer came to the meetings."

The board member in question happened to be from the right wing Citizens and Ratepayers ticket, the National party in local drag.

At the time Citizens and Ratepayers HQ bought out the smears in an attempt to deflect from the fact they selected a representative who was simply not doing his job. CityRat boss John Slater (and Dad of a Whale) told the central leader "City Vision has treated him quite shabbily. He has been poorly treated and it's simply disgraceful"*. Somehow I suspect the Slaters believe this sort of compassion for missing meetings should only apply to the blue team, as there is a big difference between this and calling for 'shame and humiliation'.

In constructing his little conspiracy theory, Whale Oil also neglected to mention Rees was the next highest polling candidate in Eden Albert- making her the logical replacement in a situation where a by-election was not going to be held. A much clearer example of a gerrymander was in Maungakiekie. Following his election as local MP, CityRat Pesta Sam Lotu-liga opted to stay on the City Council, double dipping in other words, just long enough to avoid a by-election in the council seat. He then got his mates to vote that the seat stayed vacant (the next highest polling candidate was Labour's Rosie Brown). Essentially Lotu-liga cheated his constituents from being fully represented at council for the sake of the political convenience of the CityRats. While trying to juggle both jobs, Lotu-liga missed Council meetings too.

Whale Oil accusing anyone of being a hypocrite or a party hack are claims as hollow as an echo chamber.

* Central Leader (4/11/09), "Member of board sacked"

PS: I have thrown out a few old newspapers tonight - this shows it always pays to read them again!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rodney Hide attempts to protect Telecom from democracy

This week Act leader Rodney Hide demonstrated how the Regulatory Responsibility Bill and any of its bastard offspring in terms of 'regulatory principles' are really about protecting big capital from democracy.

Hide rode to Telecom's defence, attacking the decision of Communications Minister Steven Joyce to fund the roll-out of high-speed broadband in rural areas by redirecting tens of millions of dollars Telecom received from its rivals under the Telecommunications Services Obligations*. Hide moaned this impaired Telecom's property rights. In order words regulation was going to cost them money.

"Mr Hide, who is also Regulatory Reform Minister, branded the plans a breach of National's own regulations policy and a "sad indictment" on the Government. He released a strongly-worded letter to Telecommunications Minister Steven Joyce that signals one of the biggest fallouts between ACT and National since the parties agreed to govern together."

"I'm very displeased and the reason I'm displeased is not only is it poor law-making, it also sends a signal to any investors into New Zealand that their investment isn't safe, and therefore it makes it tougher to get the sort of infrastructure and the sort of investment we need to grow the economy," he said.

Essentially Rodney is demanding that when government is considering legislation or regulation the squeals of needs of business and property holders should be treated as a special case. Bullshit. Large corporations are currently able to use the same mechanisms available to the rest of us to voice their concerns, such as writing to Ministers and making submissions to select committees. In fact there is already good evidence large business are already able to have a disproportionate voice through these channels, in particular in terms of access to Ministers.

An analyst at the multinational banker J P Morgan, Laurent Horrat went straight for the hyperbole when he declared that Telecom is becoming "a worst case scenario worldwide for the effect of government regulation on an incumbent telco". "I understand the policy objectives, but if you take the list of things Telecom is faced with, there aren't any incumbent telcos facing such an extensive list." Horrant also captured the pure sense of entitlement transnational corporates believe they deserve. "Typically in regulatory discussion between government and incumbent telcos there tends to be a give and take. I can see a lot of the take, I can't see a lot of the give here," said Horrut.

Horrut has a horribly short memory. Telecom has been on the take ever since it was privatised,
  • running down the assets of the company to pay out high dividends to overseas shareholders
  • paying its CEOs ridicious salaries for their efforts to avoid regulation.
  • charging high prices for slow broadband well below international standards.
  • fighting and suppressing competition whenever it had the chance to occur.
  • worldwide there would not be many telco's who 'had it so good' for so long. If Telecom had been regulated earlier there would not be this impression of regulation happening all at once.
For years representatives of the 'markets', of which Horrut is only the modern equivalent, warned any attempt to regulate Telecom in favour of telecommunications users would crash the sharemarket given that Telecom was the largest listed company (it no longer is). This is oddly reminiscent of the claims the US banks were 'too big to fail' - well if that the case then this is an excellent argument for breaking such companies up and introducing regulations to ensure nothing gets 'too big to fail' in the first place. Its also a good argument for keeping key infrastructure in public ownership.

While Hide and his cohorts love to talk about the magic of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', in reality Smith would have been the first to demand that Telecom's monopolistic outrages be bought to an end, and thats if Smith even accepted Telecom's existence as a 'joint stock' company in the first place.

If superannuation and Kiwisaver funds of New Zealanders happen to hold significant Telecom shares this only means that financial advisors and superannuation trustees need to be held to account for making poor investment decisions. Funnily enough this is a poorly regulated area too. Its not as if they were not warned the Telecom dividend machine was likely to be switched off. In 2007 Christopher Niesche called on Telecom to stop being a company obsessed with holding back the tide of regulation at any cost and become a company seeking growth.

A key reason why a select committee recommended against the Regulatory Responsibility Bill was that it increased the litigation risks associated with adopted the principles of the LAC guidelines and the regulatory impact statement requirements into legislation. The threat of litigation from litigious corporations like Telecom and Infratil, who then might start demanding compensation for government actions in the public interest. One hopes this and Hide's clash with Joyce will demonstrate to National why they should kill the Hide/Douglas Bill when it comes back into the House. Hide admits he is yet to secure National party support for the bill.

Telecom have always attempted to blame the threat of regulation for everything. Is it a co-incidence that Telecom's market friends are screeching about regulation at the same time Telecom's XT network is also screeching to a halt? Are they attempting to create the impression the slump in the share price had nothing to do with Telecom's own incompetence at running a mobile network?

I say call their bluff. Given the extent of Telecom's pillage since privatisation, perhaps a just outcome would be leaving to go it into receivership so the core network could be bought back into public ownership for a song. Regulation of the industry could then happen without Telecom's meddling, and access to the network could be rented out to telecommunications providers on the terms set by the representatives of the people. Ok receivership is a pipe dream - but a fun one. I actually suspect Telecom are overstating the extent of their poverty in any case.

David Cunliffe as communications minister in the previous government did a great thing when he broke the cycle by ignoring Telecom's protests and unbundled the local loop. Cunliffe stood up to Telecom where his Labour predecessors in the portfolio appeared to cower at Telecom's feared wrath. Another part of breaking the cycle is to ignore the protests made on behalf of 'foreign investors' - these are exactly the kind of foreign investors which bled Telecom dry in the 1990s. Real investment is welcome, but rent seeking ideologically driven cowboys are not. One could also ask why Hide, as a government minister is effectively encouraging a capital strike of the speculators.

In the wake of the collapse of the finance institutions in the United States which started the Global Financial Crisis and the examples of multinational corporations in our own backyard attempting to bully governments at the expense of the people, it is time whether it is asked whether corporations really ought to have more influence on government than everyone else.

And to cap it all off this week the Government appointed former Telecom boss Rod Deane to undertake a review of defence spending. Was he Hide's pick, or a payoff for all those donations Deane gave the National party?

* Used to be called the Kiwishare

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Its the wrong ICC - Howard as President of the International Cricket Council is a joke

In a move that stinks of pure cronyism and 'jobs for the boys', Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket have nominated former Australian Prime Minister John Howard to become President of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2012.

The only ICC John Howard should be sent to is the International Criminal Court for sending troops to the illegal war on Iraq.

As Peter Roebuck says, the International Cricket Council is "no place for this inexpert right arm slow" and the actions of Cricket Australia in promoting Howard as their candidate is "as pitiful as it is disrespectful". "Plain and simple, he is not qualified for the job".

To be fair to New Zealand Cricket they resisted backing the Howard appointment for some months, but the Australians just would not let it go. New Zealand Cricket put forward former banker and cricket administrator Sir John Anderson for the job, and by all accounts he is a constructive and credible candidate, as well as being an existing ICC board member. That said, even the appointment of Anderson would not be free of the stench of cronyism. Anderson is the former CEO of the National Bank, which just so happened to be New Zealand Cricket's major sponsor for many years.

Under a protocol adopted by all cricketing nations a few years ago, it is Australasia's turn to choose the next President of the ICC, and Australia and New Zealand were expected to chose a candidate by the end of 2009. "Instead they kept arguing and were obliged to ask the ICC to extend the deadline by two months. Inevitably the other nations chuckled. Administrative bickering was supposed to be a subcontinental custom."

Cricket Australia appears to believe Howard can act to curb on the growing Indian dominance in the administration of the game, something Roebuck says is "much resented" in Australia. But how can such a divisive figure, and at times a divisive figure on race issues at that be an effective leader when cultural understanding. credibility and diplomacy are key parts of the job? While Howard did recant on his infamous 1988 remarks about curbing Asian immigration, modern South Africa may be interested to know Howard did everything he could to undermine the anti-apartheid movement, even going as far as to tell then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser he had it wrong when Fraser told the 1981 Springbok rugby team, on route to New Zealand, that they could not refuel their plane in Australia. Afghanistan also plays cricket - not only did Howard invade their country he endangered the lives of the Tampa boat people in a cynical election motivated stunt.

Watch this and weep - the same man had the gall to accuse of Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan of being a chucker.

So while the Australian cricketers are here I hope there might be a few homemade banners* around the ground highlighting what a joke the Howard appointment is. There is a facebook group opposed to Howard's appointment here.

If John Howard does go to the ICC, there may be grounds for a plea bargain if he testifies against George Bush and Tony Blair. What a shame both ICCs are unlikely to function as they should.

* I mean banners with some wit, like those seen before the banner competition become sponsored by corporates and became all about pretty pictures and bland messages. There was a particularly good example spotted at the 20/20 this week, "Tsunami covers more of New Zealand than XT"

Edit: Fixed broken link.

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