Tag Archives: John Banks

Dotcom’s bid doesn’t compute

21 Jan

By Matt McCarten

(Reprinted from the Herald on Sunday, 20 January, 2014)

I’m a democrat so I will always support any political initiative that gets citizens involved in the running of society.

I wrote in this column some months ago that Kim Dotcom would launch his own party. He has the profile, charisma, money and motivation. He also has a ready-made potential constituency. His claim of having 15,000 internet followers signing up to attend his launch party is impressive. Dotcom is a media showman and will be treated seriously by the fourth estate – initially anyway.

Bob Jones was the last non-politician to successfully form a political party to unseat a prime minister. Dotcom wants to do the same. The difference is that in 1984 Robert Muldoon had had three terms and was tired and deeply unpopular. Jones’ call for free-markets against Muldoon’s “state socialism” was a siren call that gained him 12 per cent of the vote, ending National’s reign. None of those factors apply today.

Cynicism suggests Dotcom’s motivation is more about ego and self-interest.

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I spy cause for serious concern

18 Aug

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday, August 18, 2013

The GCSB bill is due to be passed into law on Tuesday by a single vote.

The conventional wisdom is that opposition to the changes is a beltway issue, which means those in Parliament (and the press gallery) are the only ones who care about it.

After all, most people want the State to have the tools to protect its citizens from harm. That’s what John Key is hoping will carry that day.

But there’s something sinister about how our PM has managed changes he wants for spooks who spy on us. Here’s my unease:

1. Extending State spying powers has always been by political consensus. Labour’s David Shearer and NZ First’s Winston Peters have both said they were prepared to compromise. Their suggested amendments seemed reasonable. But Key is having none of it. Why?

2. The Law Society, the Privacy Commissioner, many respected jurists, and even a former GCSB boss oppose it publicly. When New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond says anyone who supports the bill has no right to turn up to Anzac events, then the penny must drop for mainstream Kiwis.

3. Key can now only get it through by Peter Dunne casting the determinative vote. The hypocrisy of Dunne supporting spies getting access to citizen’s emails, although he claimed personal privacy when refusing to give up his emails after he was accused of leaking classified documents, is contemptible. John Banks has already sold his party’s libertarian principles and supports the bill. Key now endorses the Act leader for Epsom at the next election. Join the grubby dots. No doubt Dunne will get endorsed for Ohariu once the vote goes through.

4. What happened to Kim Dotcom can happen to anyone. The raid on his house and the incompetence and covering up afterwards should be disturbing to every New Zealander. The bill gives more power. The GCSB spy system is linked into the US and UK spy network so foreign spooks will, in my view, be able to access our citizens’ information, too.

5. It seems a week doesn’t goes by without confidential personal information on individuals being leaked by a government department by incompetence. We have even had Cabinet ministers and ministry bosses happy to expose personal details of clients or employees when it serves their purposes. The temptation to use personal information against individuals will always be there.

6. There’s something scary about a politician deciding who gets spied on. When I was a teenager the then-PM Robert Muldoon released a list of his political opponents he said were being investigated by the Secret Intelligence Service. The smear was deliberate. Will a future leader use such information for political ends? You bet.

When civil society is potentially threatened, citizens need to register their concern. Tomorrow at 7pm opponents are meeting at the Auckland Town Hall. Sometimes it’s important to send a message.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

So dumb… and they’re in charge

17 Jun

By Matt McCarten Sunday Jun 16, 2013

Peter Dunne. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Peter Dunne

Sometimes I despair at the stupidity of some of the people who run our country.

Peter Dunne built his reputation over three decades as someone smart and reliable. I was once told by a wise old union boss that the only thing anyone could ever hope for was respect from your opponents and love from your family.

The tragic self-immolation of Dunne destroyed in a twinkle his life work’s reputation. As his downfall was triggered by a too-close relationship with a female journalist, the support of his family may also now be at risk.

Like Act’s John Banks, Dunne is relegated to being a lone mocked creature shuffling around the corridors of Parliament, limping through to the next election on the taxpayers’ dime before his now-sullied political career is ignobly extinguished.

All political careers end in failure, just not as humiliating as these two. But these two aren’t alone.

What was going through Minister of Police Anne Tolley’s brain this week when she defended the front-runner to be the next police commissioner over his comments that he believed a dead cop’s integrity was beyond reproach – even though that same man was found to have planted evidence against an innocent man?

Earlier, Tolley attacked my union for claiming her cops took discounted meals from fast-food chains at the same time as roughing up their employees on strike, even though television cameras filmed the “police discount” key on the cash registers.

And don’t even get me started on Hekia Parata.

Is there anything she touches that doesn’t turn into a disaster? She spends her time parroting inane sound bites while her personal and department senior staff seek the exit door.

Before you think I’m being too one-eyed, what did Phil Goff, Kris Faafoi, Annette King and Clayton Cosgrove think they were doing accepting free seats in SkyCity’s VIP box at the All Blacks’ game last week?

Nice for them to get their snouts in the trough while the people who vote for them pay for uncomfortable seats in the cold outside.

Attacking SkyCity for using its political influence to get itself a sweetheart deal is legitimate politics. But the hypocrisy of cosying up on SkyCity’s dime loses any advantage Labour had over John Key’s unpalatable deal-making with SkyCity. Did those MPs not understand that SkyCity didn’t invite them because it just happened to have four spare tickets?

SkyCity knows full well that if National loses the next election, its pokies-for-a-convention-centre deal is at risk. Therefore it makes good sense to be nice to a few Labour MPs.

The cliche is true, there really isn’t any such a thing as a free lunch. In the situation last Saturday, it’s not too hard to imagine, after a few beers, our worthy guests winking to their hosts not to worry about Labour’s public antics as it’s really only those pesky Greens who take anti-gambling seriously.

Despite National’s glee, I give David Shearer a pass as he wasn’t a guest and popped in for only a few minutes to talk to someone present without partaking of the hospitality.

However, Goff’s explanation that he accepted the free VIP tickets only so he could meet SkyCity honchos to tell them what he really thought about the SkyCity deal was just embarrassing. Maybe he planned on using the halftime break to turn on his hosts?

Maybe our politicians aren’t as dumb as we think. Maybe the problem is that they think we’re dumb.

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

Matt McCarten: Vector cheques powerful ploy just before the vote

16 Oct

Herald on Sunday 14/10/12

By Matt McCarten Email Matt
Voting papers have gone out to elect members of the AECT. Photo / Michael Craig

Voting papers have gone out to elect members of the AECT. Photo / Michael Craig

Evidence of what I regard as one of the country’s most dodgy pieces of electoral behaviour landed in Auckland isthmus and Manukau letterboxes this week.

The people behind this breathtaking cynicism were the five incumbents on what’s called the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust. Jenny Shipley, when Prime Minister, set it up after she abolished electricity boards. It owns $2 billion Vector power company shares. The trustees stand for election every three years. Their only job is to pay out Vector’s dividends.

The incumbent trustees are all up for re-election. And they have rigged the game. Two weeks before ballot papers were sent out they posted a cheque for $320 to every household where a voter lives. The cash handout came to $100 million.

Even more blatantly, they then ran a mass advertising campaign promoting themselves as the people responsible for this largesse. They got the trust to pick up the entire bill as part of $1 million spent on getting the grants out there.

When questioned, they said they were bound by the trust deed which dictated the timing of the payout and it was an unfortunate coincidence. Really?

That line fell over when the New Zealand Herald‘s David Fisher, a former chief reporter on this paper, exposed that the trustees themselves took a case to court so they could choose the timing of the payout. And they won that right.

I’m sure that had the judge realised the trustees intended to send cheques to voters just days before they voted there would have been a different decision.

If you are curious why the incumbents would go so to such lengths to protect their jobs you need to understand that all these trustees have been on a cushy number for six or nine years. They collect $63,000 to $90,000 a year to attend the occasional meeting. This year’s annual report was two pages long – twice as long as their previous report.

With all this extra time on their hands two of them get to appoint themselves to the Vector board to pick up another $100,000. Not a bad earner for a part-time job.

They’ve manipulated the system to keep their place at the trough by in effect getting the trust to pay for their election campaign. They send money to the electors just before the vote and then have the trust promote them as the givers. No challenger can beat that.

The cost of a campaign to 300,000 households is prohibitive. For example, both John Banks and Len Brown each had to stump up with close to $1 million for their mayoral campaigns. All the political parties, except National, raised less than $1 million for their national campaigns at the last election.

Could you imagine, two weeks before election day, John Key (or Helen Clark in 2008) sending a cheque to every voter from the public purse and then taking out taxpayer-funded full-page advertisements giving themselves and their party the credit?

That’s what the politicians on the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust have done. Even the most ethically challenged politician would blush at the antics of the incumbents. They smugly assume they’ll get away with it because most of us wouldn’t have a clue how they’ve manipulated us.

When we got an unexpected cheque two weeks ago we would have been pleasantly surprised. We’d vaguely note the faces and names of the people who gave it to us. And low and behold a few days later we get a ballot with the same five people asking us for our vote so they can keep giving us money.

Only one in eight people voted last time. On this basis, the incumbents will be expecting to romp home. This is where you come in. In the ballot you will see just 12 candidates. It’s a straight contest between the incumbents, under the banner Communities and Residents, and the challengers, the Your Power Team.

Whoever wins, you’ll still get a cheque in the future.

If you haven’t yet received voting papers, contact the returning office on 0800 922 822. This isn’t about partisan politics.

Sometimes as citizens we must stand on principle. This is one of those times.

Vote all the incumbents out.

By Matt McCarten Email Matt

Matt McCarten: Fools in charge erode integrity of our society

1 Oct

Kim Dotcom


By Matt McCarten

6:30 AM Sunday Sep 30, 2012

The guys who run these outfits are supposedly paid twice the salary of our overpaid Cabinet ministers, we’re told, because they are so smart and competent.

I mean, how hard was it to check the arrest warrants were accurate, or at least lawful, before our state forces rammed Kim Dotcom’s gate in an armed raid backed by a couple of swooping combat helicopters?

It’s inconceivable how the agency that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on collecting information didn’t think to do a basic check whether it was lawful to spy on him.

All they needed to do was spend $3 to buy the Herald on Sunday and find out Dotcom was a permanent resident. Their oversight may well cause the entire case against Dotcom to collapse.

The top cop at the time of Dotcom’s arrest theatrically boasted he had signed an assurance that he would pick up the costs if it was found the police messed up. I wonder if he’d have been so cavalier if he had to pick them up personally, rather than the taxpayer.

The saga around Dotcom has destroyed the personal and professional reputation of a former Auckland mayor and current Government minister, has exposed our police as parodies of the Keystone Cops, made us wonder if our Crown solicitors are the C-pass law students who couldn’t get jobs in real law firms, and has made our so-called intelligence service seem anything but.

It also exposes the stunning lack of care by our Prime Minister, who is constitutionally charged to monitor our country’s secret police.

This week he admits to being completely in the dark over the shenanigans of our spies. I’m not sure what would be worse: if he was out of the loop or if he was fibbing about it.

No wonder he delayed admitting the GCSB mess-up until the day before Parliament rose for a two-week break.

John Key will hope the debacle will have blown over by the time Parliament reconvenes. Fat chance.

The fallout from this black comedy will give and give for months. In grown-up countries where senior civil servants and politicians are expected to take professional responsibility, the Police Commissioner and the head of the GCSB should have resigned.

John Banks should have gone months ago and we should have had his replacement sitting in Parliament after a prompt byelection in Epsom.

The fact we had our Deputy Prime Minister authorising the GCSB’s actions to be kept secret while his boss was overseas, without telling him when he got back, is astonishing.

The fact that Key didn’t know for months that the agency he is constitutionally required to oversee was acting illegally is mindboggling.

One of the great protections afforded in a civil society is that a nation’s spy agencies are not permitted to routinely spy on their citizens. Both our spy agencies – domestic and external – report directly to the Prime Minister. Our external spy agency is not permitted to spy on us under any circumstances.

These checks and balances are there for good reason. The rudimentary inquiry this week by the grandly titled Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence solves nothing.

Our current Prime Minister was asleep at the wheel and failed in one of his primary duties. Could you imagine for a second that Helen Clark would have been so careless?

Like many of our politicians, Key is a pleaser. Mixed with a bit of a Kiwi inferiority complex, it’s hard to not draw the conclusion he is one of those people who thinks his role is to revel in inside gossip of others and then deferentially sign off on anything the spymasters want.

Dotcom’s business practices may or may not have been illegal. But that’s no longer the point. The incompetence and misconduct of many of our institutions goes to the core of our society’s integrity.

Only a full and independent inquiry can now restore our country’s reputation.

By Matt McCarten | Email Matt

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