Government inaction letting our children down

They are our country’s future. They are our mokopuna, or children, the ones who delight and terrorise their parents and make grandparents proud. But you would not know it from how we treat them, how a few of our number show the most utter and degrading contempt and yet have the brazen gall to appeal sentences for child abuse and negligence that they 100% deserved.

Over the years numerous Governments departments have conducted inquiries into aspects of child abuse concerning them. Reports to Parliament have been commissioned. Calls have been made by many for a Royal Commission of Inquiry, which some seem to think will somehow be the magical break through needed to address one of the darkest, most shocking aspects of life in New Zealand with an appalling rate of incidents.

The United Nations has sent officials to investigate our abuse. Amnesty International and other organizations have made submissions on it in the United Nations Periodic Review. Both have been rightfully scathing.

But rather than waste money on an inquiry by the Government that will achieve stuff all, I have a better idea. I am going to suggest that the answer is actually implementing the recommendations of past inquiries. How many inquiries have we had and how many had their recommendations implemented? Will it save lives? I do not know. But I know that doing nothing will certainly not save lives.

So, here is a report that Parliament published in 2013. If you look at the key recommendations that start on page 4 of section 1.6A you will notice that there is a suggestion that at least some of the findings be implemented within 12 months of the report being published. I have no idea how many have been, but on the basis of actually doing something constructive instead of another report, perhaps implementing them as far as possible would be a good start.

Here is the page for another inquiry that was done by the Police in 2009. It covers the Police handling of child abuse cases, procedures and policies. A range of recommendations were made to the Police for areas that they could improve their handling in that can be found in this Police media release.

The biggest problem with the abuses is simply getting politicians to act. Simply getting Ministers and the Government they represent on the day to own the problem and actively try to do something about it is easier said than done – “oh, we need another report, another inquiry done – we need to be certain of the nature of the problem”.

No. No you don’t need another report. You don’t need another inquiry. It would just waste time, money and effort that could actually be invested in dealing with the problem.

Or am I just talking too much common sense here?



Political schisms and dodgy candidates in America: a N.Z. perspective

Never has America been quite so divided. Never has the Republican National Convention just finished or the Democrat National Convention just about to start (Wednesday N.Z. time)been the subject of such intense, blatant hostility towards the presumptive nominee. Both Donald John Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton carry immense personal baggage that colours their past and means that they come into the race on anything but a blank political canvass.

Like a bunch of people on a crumbling cliff face, arguing over who is responsible for the cliff crumbling, whilst others watch on in a mix of fascination and disgust U.S. politicians have made an art form out of conquer and divide politics. Exploiting a shot electoral system, amassing huge funds and systemically shutting out third party candidates are all in a days work. I cannot help but wonder what people like Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight David Eisenhower would think of the United States now if they could see the current candidates and the political environment that they are operating in.

Mr Trump, a billionaire celebrity businessman whose empire and assets include the Trump Tower in New York, and “Trump University” has courted controversy from day one. Few initially believed he was serious about being nominated for the President of the United States. His firebrand politics of deriding Muslims, disabled people and women alike has caught the imagination of a core group of Republicans and (shockingly)a few Democrats.

Perhaps it is saying something that there were still former candidates such as Ted Cruz who refused to endorse Mr Trump, suggesting deep bitterness in the Republican Party. This party, which once gave the world relatively sane Presidents like General Eisenhower, Messrs Ford and Nixon must now look completely anathema to moderate Republicans – which I do sincerely believe still exist, but perhaps too embarrassed to say so.

Mrs Clinton’s baggage is well documented. Whilst First Lady of the United States, she stood by her husband Bill Clinton as the Republicans launched impeachment proceedings over his sexual dalliances with Monica Lewinsky. She then watched as he lied under oath. When President Barak Obama took office in 2009 she was Secretary of State, during which time Osama bin Laden was assassinated. The following year an attack on Benghazi saw several U.S. civilians get killed, and she was widely ridiculed for her handling of the case. More recently allegations that she deliberately misused her personal e-mail to conduct affairs of the State have come forth, though an F.B.I. investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.

In a couple of days time she will appear before the Democrat National Convention in an environment as highly charged as the R.N.C. was. Her appearance comes as Wikileaks drops another 20,000 e-mails showing how Mrs Clinton’s campaign and the D.N.C. were plotting to destroy her challenger Bernie Sanders. In a campaign already marred by scandals what would another allegation of cheating be?

But whilst the world watches with a barely disguised cocktail of fascination and utter revulsion the coming scrap between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton on that crumbling cliff face, it is worthwhile noting the third party candidates. Despite their best efforts, never have American third party politicians been more excluded, more systematically shut out of the Presidential race than those who have attempted to race in 2016. The primary third/fourth party candidates for 2016 are the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson who was Governor of New Mexico in the 1990’s, and Jill Stein for the Green Party of America. In 2012 their  parties collected  a paltry 1.35% of the vote.

From halfway around the world, I definitely identify with the morbidly fascinated – but utterly revulsed – spectators wondering how much dirtier an already colourfully dirty race can get. In this sad spectacle unfolding against a social backdrop of willful scare/hate mongering the schisms and the dodgy candidates fighting on the edge of the precipice I doubt a Hollywood script writer could come up with anything realistically better.


U.S. Navy ship to visit New Zealand

The recent announcement of a United States Navy warship visit to New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75 Anniversary has delighted many, but dismayed others. And as the old arguments about the nuclear legislation surface once more it is time to look at the facts.

Let me be clear. The United States Navy has always been welcome in New Zealand waters, just so long as the ship/s entering our waters are not carrying nuclear weapons and are not partially or fully dependent on nuclear propulsion. Two key sections in the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Control, and Disarmament Act, 1987 (Section 9: Nuclear weapons, and Section 11: Nuclear propulsion) set this down explicitly. I have never had any problems with non-nuclear powered or armed warships visiting New Zealand. France has regularly sent over ships, as have Australia. Numerous countries are sending warships to participate in the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Royal New Zealand Navy in December.

The United States by its own policy removed nuclear weapons from surface ships except for aircraft carriers in 1994. Submarines and aircraft carriers still carry nuclear weapons. Nuclear propulsion is now limited to aircraft carriers and submarines in the United States Navy.

The degree to which this will affect New Zealand/American military relations is unclear. New Zealand is not part of the A.N.Z.U.S. military alliance, despite our initials still appearing in the name. The annual meetings of the nations in A.N.Z.U.S. is now just Australia and the United States.

There has been a significant thawing of relations though with New Zealand ships now allowed to visit United States Navy and Coast Guard bases. New Zealand has also permitted United States marines to train here and has been a regular participant in the RIMPAC exercises which are held annually.

However I do not wish to see New Zealand rejoin A.N.Z.U.S. The treaty was established to contain the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War and is now obsolete. New Zealand’s security environment is also not the same as that of the United States. Whereas the United States one is global, the primary threats to New Zealand are likely to originate in the South Pacific because of the weak legal systems of the island nations, their reliance on foreign aid and internal instability. The bulk of our effort and focus should be firmly on the South Pacific.

The Dragon or the Bald Eagle: a flightless birds choice

New Zealand is used to walking a tight rope between China and the United States. A lurch into one camp or the other will draw ire from either Washington or Beijing as well as alarm that the country that made a name for itself with anti-nuclear legislation, and trying to stand up against Apartheid despite a divisive rugby tour, seems to have lost its moral spine. But as the demands of the two super powers start to encroach on our sovereignty, the time is coming for either a very difficult choice, or a brave new third way.

For decades as an emerging market and now as a super power, China’s influence in New Zealand affairs has – for better or for worse – grown exponentially. It’s economic footprint is truly global, requiring resources from all over the world – oil from Nigeria, the Middle East and Sudan; rare earth minerals for electronics from mines all over Africa, and increasingly South America and central Asia. From New Zealand it sources coal, timber and dairy products. In return New Zealand imports vast quantities of Chinese made electronics, steel and other goods.

But there is a steep price to pay for investing so much as we have in China. The country has an appalling human rights record, is mired in endemic corruption that has led to a massive crackdown which is targetting all of the wrong people – human rights activists, lawyers, dissidents, artists, academics – which the West, including New Zealand  is largely turning a blind eye to. The current furore over trade because New Zealand decided to investigate the quality of the massive glut of steel being imported from China is likely to be forgotten in the next few months as New Zealand officials rush about trying to mend fences so that the difficult tango with Beijing can continue.

Before it does, other issues may pose a challenge such as China’s ignorance of the Hague ruling on the hotly contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Here the risk of an accidental military confrontation has increased significantly since an artificial island with a harbour and airfield was constructed. New Zealand politicians would much rather stay out of this increasingly antagonistic spat, but may soon have to decide who to support.

Following World War 2, a war in which New Zealand’s survival against Japan owed much to the United States, New Zealand’s geopolitical orientation was fundamentally altered. Britain was too busy rebuilding after a hugely damaging and costly war to have much time for its colonies. With wartime allies now becoming Cold War foes, and substantial opportunities for trade with Uncle Sam just starting to be realized, it was realized that for the foreseeable future investing in America was the way to go. Until the anti-nuclear legislation was passed in 1985, New Zealand and the United States maintained good relations. Since 2001, things have slowly begun to thaw with the odd setback here and there – notably over the Iraq War – but the nature has changed with corporate interests increasingly trying to exert their influence.

The United States however has major challenges facing it. For the last generation it has been slowly declining in global respect. This decline is not because of a reduction in military spending, but because wastage in the political system combined with a changing geopolitical environment, . Increasingly America has sought to influence other nations by enticing them with free trade agreements that more and more look like corporate dictates, given their sheer complexity (since when was 6,000 pages necessary for a genuine F.T.A.). It has also tried to entice nations into joining its increasingly muddled “War on Terrorism”, where two of its major “allies” are accused of funding and arming Daesh.

But perhaps New Zealand does not need to support either. In the past I have alluded to a “third way”, where New Zealand grows a spine and puts its own interests first. Perhaps it is time to revisit that.

China’s hissy fit and why New Zealand should stand firm

In the last few days it has come to my attention that China has threatened New Zealand with a “trade war” as punishment for making inquiries about imports of Chinese steel, after concerns were raised. As the Government goes into damage control over the fallout from a potentially massive scandal with one of New Zealand’s biggest trading partners, one has to wonder at the appropriateness of the bullying behaviour of the People’s Republic.

The behaviour displayed by China can only be described as an immature hissy fit – throwing a tantrum just because New Zealand officials became concerned about the quantity and quality of the glut of Chinese steel pouring into New Zealand, is irresponsible and stupid. China accuses New Zealand of being part of a suspected United States led drive to target Chinese steel production, an accusation that given the depth and complexity of our current arrangements with China I find frankly incredible.

Yes, we might be the smaller player in this delicate tango between the Kiwi and the Dragon, but given what the steel is being used for – reinforcing in bridges, and other key infrastructure items, being sure that it is up to New Zealand standards is a legal requirement. If this is too much for China to handle, all I can say is stiff cheese. If China wishes to get stroppy over this, New Zealand should exercise its weight in the World Trade Organization. It might hurt, but it is going to hurt a damn sight more if a bridge or other piece of infrastructure fails because the Chinese steel in it could not do the job it was supposed to.

I fail to see how and why other export sectors should suffer just because China could not give us quality steel, thus forcing New Zealand authorities to do the due diligence that they should have done anyway. However, this seems to be the case, with Zespri, which specialises in the sale of kiwi fruit and other companies have been warned by Chinese officials.

This row over steel also reinforces why New Zealand must take the lead in the area of economic development South Pacific. The small nations of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa have seen first hand the consequences of conditional Chinese aid, where the countries have to utilize Chinese labour and resources, which do not benefit their economies. This becomes more urgent given Australia seems to be more interested in cozying up to the United States. These small nations need any help they can get and do not have the resources or political clout to successfully stand up to China. It is within our best interests as well as those of the small island nations who are our closest and in some respects truest neighbours to look after them.


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