A.P.E.C. Security Bill of Parliament largely unnecessary

One of the Bills of Parliament currently sitting before the Select Committee is the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (A.P.E.C. 2021) Bill. The purpose of this Bill of Parliament as shown in the Explanatory Note in the legislation is to:

The policy objectives of this Bill are to—

  • support safe and secure APEC 2021 events for all world leaders, attendees, and the general public; and

  • assist in mitigating security risks that could result in harm to individuals or property or the disruption or cancellation of APEC 2021 events; and

  • assist in facilitating the timely and efficient operation of APEC 2021.

To be absolutely clear, it is not that I oppose the need to have security at these events. We will be hosting the Presidents of China, America, possibly Russia, the Philippines and a host of other nations with whom our relations are in varying states. They as visitors will want to be absolutely sure that their delegations are going to be safe and not disrupted. We as a nation want to be equally sure that we are not going to have a national embarrassment, or international incident occur because we were too slack on security.

However given that they will have their own perceptions on what constitutes a security risk, I believe that the New Zealand Police should brief them on what they can and cannot do, and turn away anyone who refuses to comply. If the foreign powers want to bring in equipment that breaks the firearms legislation currently before the House of Representatives, I believe this would create unnecessary tensions . Instead, if we have such stock available, they should be

Further more I expect that the personnel accountable to the likes of the Filipino, Russian and Chinese delegations – among others – will likely have less tolerance for protestors, given their poor regard for human rights.

Because of that I find myself in the relatively rare position of supporting Green M.P. Golriz Ghahraman’s comments that New Zealand’s existing laws should be sufficient for the task at hand.

I propose the following amendments:

  1. A clause that requires all actions regarding detention, confiscation, search and other such overt actions that under other circumstances could be considered intrusive, to be in compliance with – as appropriate – the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the New Zealand Human Rights Act, 1986
  2. New Zealand Police shall act as a go between between any protestors or other persons making a statement and any foreign protection forces; New Zealand Police shall have the final say on what happens

During the 1999 A.P.E.C. Conference there was a State Banquet in Christchurch involving United States President Bill Clinton, the then President of China Jiang Zemin and former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. Prior to the State Banquet a couple of Christchurch Boys High School students protested against Chinese repression of Tibet. Because of the proximity to the Banquet, and the extreme adversity of Chinese officials to public protests, the Chinese President refused to attend until the protestors were dispersed. Eventually New Zealand Police were requested to move the protestors along, which sparked controversy, but which I think in hindsight was probably the right thing to do, as Chinese security officials would not have taken so kindly.

Australian bush fires raise questions about bush fire safety in New Zealand

As we continue to watch the bush fire crisis in Australia and marvel at the work being done to save the various animals, it is important we check on our own preparedness in New Zealand for bush fires. As climate change takes hold some provinces are going to get drier and become more prone to them, and the Australian bush fires have mos probably shown that if anything, we are not ready.

Whilst arson has contributed some fires to the tally of active events around Australia, they do not account for the biggest or the most damaging. They would not have necessarily gotten established without the help prolonged drought conditions that have afflicted much of the east or the prolonged high temperatures – Australia has been increasingly afflicted by heatwaves that have pushed temperatures frequently into the mid-high 40 degree celsius range.

Once established, bush fires can take on a life of their own. They can create their own weather, which some of the current ones are doing. Pyrocumulus is cumulus cloud created by up drafts from the fires dragging particulate high enough that water vapour starts condensing around it. Pyrocumulonimbus are cumulonimbus clouds that are created by the same phenomena, and like any cumulonimbus they can create lightning. This is happening right now. The pyronado is a tornadic feature spawned by a localised rapidly rotating up drafts caused by the fires. Short lived and unpredictable they can move rapidly.

Bush fires do not affect just their immediate area. Fanned by strong winds the real front is actually not the fire/s, but an area several hundred metres in front in of them where burning embers are landing. If you are in that area, it is time to leave, and leave quickly. If you have another plan, that is the time it needs to be actioned.

A number of other man made factors have hindered the Australian response to their bush fire emergency. They include but are not limited to:

  • Specialist planes that can pick up water and dump it on fires were considered by the Australian government and then the idea was scratched
  • The Rural Fire Service went through a period of having an alleged bad culture among its members and management that caused significant numbers of firefighters to walk away
  • Some brigades are using heavily out dated equipment, including trucks that are not up to the modern requirements of firefighting
  • Federal Government has been slow to acknowledge the need for monetary compensation for firefighters who gave up their regular jobs to help with the fire fighting

The bush fires in Australia invariably raise questions about protecting New Zealanders from scrub fires, which are a regular occurrence during summer. In provinces like Canterbury, Otago, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough these can start and spread rapidly. In inland areas sometimes only helicopter access is available to those fighting the fires. Whilst we probably do not need water bombing aircraft, helicopters with the capacity to do that would be useful.

City, District and Regional Councils may or may not have factored bush fires into their hazard planning strategies. If not these will now need to be revisited under comparative urgency, lest they experience the problems Christchurch has had following its 2017 Port Hills fire, where a sudden change in wind direction and flammable material meant that fire fighters lost control of a fire they thought was contained. 11 houses were lost.

This also raises questions about the types of vegetation we should be planting. Clearly around urban areas and in hilly terrain where firefighting might be difficult, eucalyptus and other highly flammable vegetation potentially becomes dangerous.

Dear Australia

Dear Australia

We, you and New Zealand, are two old friends much like family. Two countries with over 100 years of knowing each other in ways not many countries get to know their neighbours. Through two world wars, where we stood side by side in the grimmest of conditions – the baking sun of Gallipoli; the hellish muddy quagmire of Ypres; in North Africa in World War 2. Through peace time we have stood side by side – in your bush fires of 2009 and now; in the aftermath of the Christchurch quakes and the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. There aren’t too many times you will see Aussie police get a standing ovation in a New Zealand airport, but you got that when you arrived to help Christchurch. And maybe in the next few days you will get to see N.Z. Defence Force assets and realise we’ve come to help.

These last couple of months have been rather grim for you haven’t they? Months of watching a bushfire monstrosity form before your very eyes in a country well known for being dry, but also covered in highly flammable vegetation has been pretty horrendous to watch.

You have been ruthlessly challenged by the very worst of firestorm behaviour. You have had to watch fires so big that they created their own weather – the updraughts cause by the heat of the fires has been strong enough to create its own weather including pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus clouds. The latter have, as cumulonimbus’ are prone to doing, generated lightning. Some fires have generated firestorm conditions where they generate their own inflow winds that are strong enough to move vehicles about, similar to the firestorms in Tokyo, Dresden and Hamburg created by military bombing in World War 2.

These conditions, combined with the handiwork of a small band of arseholes, has spawned a monster showing no sign of losing its rapacious appetite for destruction.

For myself and my fellow New Zealanders this has been horrible to watch on television, a topic threading itself through all sorts of other conversations among friends and colleagues, family and strangers. Whereas we have seen bush fires in the past in Australia and felt sympathy for the families affected, the sheer scale of what is happening this time, drags in a whole lot of other emotions such as horror (the suffering of people and animals), pain (mental anguish at the devastation to lives), despair (when will this end), frustration.

We have had our moments when we haven’t seen eye to eye – defence, refugees, climate change and treatment of New Zealanders – but all of this pales into relative insignificance when we look at the headlines, day in day out. And when it becomes one of the big stories overseas, even – if only briefly – interrupting Fox News’ non-stop coverage of impeachment proceedings, Iran and the election, you realise it is one of the stories of the year. A sad indictment that Australia’s most horrible peacetime moment since the Black Saturday bush fires of 2009 is what it takes to focus media attention.

So, not surprisingly it was almost with relief that I heard New Zealand Minister of Defence Ron Mark announce the deployment of New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force assets in Australia to assist. In that most Aussie and Kiwi way of being brothers and sisters in arms during war, we are also brothers and sisters in peace fighting the very menace that causes our skies to go all sorts of brilliant orange and red.

Look after yourself Australia. These are painful times. And much as I am disappointed with the cricket, it does not even register when I see what my Australian friends are suffering.

Kia Kaha!

A turbulent end to a turbulent year (and decade): the World

At the start of 2010, after a decade of post-11 September turmoil, many around the world might have been hoping for a more settled decade where some of the damage was undone. Ten years later, that hope seems more remote than ever before. We look back at the turbulent decade around the world that was the 2010’s.

2010: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Labour Party were swept from office by the Conservatives, who with the Nick Clegg led Liberal Democrats formed a centre-right government. In France. Towards the end of the year random sparks in the gun powder barrel of north Africa – the self immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia in late December – would be the catalyst for the 2011 Arab Spring. WikiLeaks releases 250,000 classified documents from American diplomats; its founder Julian Assange goes into exile in Ecuador until 2019. South Africa hosted the 2010 F.I.F.A. World Cup, which was won by Spain.

2011: Festering protests in Tunisia, Libya and other Middle East and African countries boiled over into full scale revolts topping governments in the former countries and rocking regimes in several others. Syria began a bloody down-hill slide into an even bloodier civil war that continues to this day. Whilst their African neighbours revolted on the streets, rebellion against the Euro was building in Europe where Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy found themselves struggling to justify continuance of the Euro, with Greece threatening to go full drachma on everyone. But it might be a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan that triggered a tsunami that killed 15,000 people along the east coast and crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant causing at least one reactor to explode and two more to suffer crippling damage.

2012: Against the backdrop of worsening situation in Syria, the rise of Daesh in the Middle East, the London Olympics – once looked down upon as going to fail – was a true bright spot where several well known athletes were discovered by the world. The Euro currency crisis continued with Greece and France both changing Governments as a result. The cruise liner Costa Concordia sinks off the coast of Italy, with the captain, Franscesco Schettino’s negligence being the primary cause in a sinking that took 32 people to the bottom. Two major massacres in the United States blighted that nation’s year with one happening at a theatre and another at an elementary school.

2013: The year opened with a bang over Chelyabinsk in Russia when a meteorite exploded over the Russian city injuring hundreds and damaging 4,300 buildings. In April the United Nations adopted the Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the sale of conventional weapons. In early June, Edward Snowden, a former C.I.A. operative disclosed documents suggesting a massive surveillance programme of media is planned; he flees the country and is granted asylum in Russia. The same month after months of bickering former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd challenges incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a leadership ballot. Mr Rudd wins and Ms Gillard retires from politics; Mr Rudd would be defeated in September at an Australian general election by Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott.

2014: The year started with an outbreak of Ebola in Africa that would go on to kill over 11,000 people and hospitalize thousands more. It would last until 2016. In March, in defiance of a United Nations referendum on the sovereignty of the Crimea, Russia annexes the critical Ukrainian territory, immediately triggering sanctions and other diplomatic actions against Russia. In a grim year for Malaysian Airlines MH370 and MH17 crash in separate incidents – the latter being linked to a Russian missile battery deployed in Ukraine, which Russia denies. Justice was served in August on two senior Khmer Rouge commanders who are found guilty of committing crimes against humanity in the K.R.’s bloody reign. Germany swept to victory over hosts Brazil in a 7-1 thrashing at the F.I.F.A. World Cup Semi-Final and won the Final against Argentina a week later.

2015: British Prime Minister David Cameron introduced the legislation enabling a referendum on whether Britain should exit the European Union after the Conservatives were returned to office in the election. The Cricket World Cup is hosted by New Zealand and Australia, with the hosts meeting in the Final. Australia won.  In a year pock-marked by terrorism committed by Islamic militants, major events occur in France, Kuwait, Tunisia, Kenya and Afghanistan. German car maker Volkswagen was accused of having rigged diesel emission tests for 11 million vehicles world wide, resulting in a U.S.$2.8 billion fine. In a hope for disarmament Iran and the United Nations Permanent 5 plus Germany reach an agreement to allow an Iranian nuclear programme if it gives up the elements essential for weapons development, which Israel immediately denounces. The Paris COP15 Climate Change summit resulted in all countries committing to reducing carbon emissions for the first time. Donald Trump, to much derision, announces his candidacy on a Republican ticket for President of the United States.

2016: A year of political shocks reverberate around the world. People thought it was a joke when Britain announced a referendum to exit from the European Union. On 23 June 2016, the joke became reality much to the surprise of the international community. On 8 November 2016, an even bigger shock that produced a myriad of humorous headlines such as W(hy) T(rump) F(lourished), when Mr Trump swept to victory in the United States. The Rio de Janeiro Olympics made for an entertaining and useful diversion as the United Kingdom grappled with the fallout from the Brexit vote.

2017: Donald Trump assumes the White House and relations with other countries immediately begin to deteriorate. Theresa May becomes Prime Minister of Britain after David Cameron resigns – unsure of her mandate, she immediately calls an election; a deadly apartment block fire in Grenfell which exposes flammable cladding on a host of buildings shows her compassion to be sadly lacking. North Korea tests Mr Trump’s mettle, rattling off a series of nuclear weapon and missile tests culminating in a 200+ kiloton test in September. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe resigns after being placed under house arrest by the military – he dies in 2019.

2018: Concerns grow about China’s policy of buying out assets in other nations to grow their influence in those countries with Huawei being given government money to develop its 5G technology. Russia successfully hosts the F.I.F.A. World Cup, drawing considerable admiration. France wins the Final, leading to rioting in Paris. Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its human rights finally allows women to drive, but almost immediately detains several of the leading proponents. The Syrian Civil War continues – most of the rebel held areas have been lost, but Russian and Syrian forces continue to attack Idlib and the few remaining strongholds.

2019: In the year of Greta Thunberg, unprecedented student protest action against climate change draws derision from the political right, but announces a new force in global politics: the teenager. A terrorist attack in New Zealand draws international sympathy, and challenges the global tech companies to show leadership in cracking down on the transmission of hate content on their platforms. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sweeps to victory five months after taking over from Mrs May who had resigned after her Brexit plan stalled amid furious opposition in the House of Commons.

Happy New Decade to you all.

Halloween: The non New Zealand celebration

Yesterday was Halloween. I heard that it is to do with the harvest ending in October in the U.S.

In New Zealand Halloween is an imported occasion, not an indigenous one. In New Zealand that is April.

However, Rhonwyn Newson in 2017 suggested Halloween is here to stay and that we should embrace it. I disagree. Completely.

Coming just a few days after A.N.Z.A.C. Day and just as 2nd term begins, this is not so feasible for New Zealanders. We shall not blame Samuel Duncan Parnell and the 40 hour working week he sought for clashing with the wanton desires of others to get dressed as witches, grim reapers, axe wielding baddies and so forth. And even if New Zealanders were silly enough to, whether we are willing to acknowledge fringe activity or not, furthering what Mr Parnell was seeking to do, will have its benefits.

But I have to be honest. It has little to do with New Zealand culture. My family never grew up placing any importance on it. A few days after spending a long Labour Weekend whitebaiting, playing pool and playing Billionaire at an old homestead in Okains Bay, an expensive costume themed dress up that neither I or my brother to the best of my knowledge cared about, was the least of our interests.

And even though said pursuits have not happened at Okains Bay since 2007, they have gone some distance towards helping to determine my empathy (or complete lack thereof) with Halloween.

If we should put importance on anything it is developing New Zealand themed days. But if we do that, let us build on existing holidays and events. Matariki, which is the Maori New Year is the most relevant.

Let us make Matariki something big, worthy of fireworks and paegentry. Let us use it to acknowledge Maori/Maoridom and Maori issues outside the ones you see on the media.

he Maori New Year for example