Backtracking on fishing boat camera’s is a cop out

Minister of Fisheries, Stuart Nash is having second thoughts about installing cameras on fishing boats following criticism from the industry. His change of heart comes after a letter accusing him of reacting to hysteria is made known to the public.

This is a cop out. The fisheries industry is simply scared that the many claims of bad practices, maltreatment of staff and non-compliance with regulations around reporting catches will be found out and that they will be made to clean their act up.

It is also disappointing that a party that traditionally supports human rights is back tracking on a measure that will help stamp out the illegal practices that are known to be going on. It will help put some credibility back into an industry whose reputation is going to be tarnished by this if the minister drops the surveillance camera programme.

New Zealand cannot afford to let its reputation as the “Wild West” of the high seas continue. It erodes the confidence that international and domestic customers can have that our fish are caught properly and in compliance with best environment, labour and regulatory practices.

We are a first world country, not a third world country. We have obligations under international and domestic law that need to be upheld and which other nations can subject New Zealand to scrutiny on. Each time the United Nations send a special rapporteur over or the periodic report show casing progress and answering criticisms is delivered to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, this is something that we can be potentially challenged on.

New Zealand needs to understand that people are starting to become aware of issues with supply chains and their role at the end of those chains as consumers. This is why for example there were concerns a few years ago about live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia, a country not known for having a strong animal rights record. The concerns that the sheep would die en route and that the carcasses would be a health hazard by the time they reached a Saudi port were credible.

The same awareness is becoming true of fisheries both inside and outside of New Zealand. It is exacerbated by the fact that our fisheries have boats operating in them crewed by non-New Zealanders. They have reported on numerous occasions mistreatment, non-compliance with records and other problems. The ships captains and executive officers have been known to be hostile towards third party observers being on board.


Developing welcoming communities for refugees in New Zealand

New Zealand has a proud history of being a compassionate nation, a believer of giving people a fair go. With an unprecedented number of people having been made refugees by international or internal strife, some countries are shying away from accepting them. Some are becoming openly hostile. But that does not mean New Zealand should be like them.

Introducing the “I Welcome” pledge, whose aim is to pledge to help settle refugees in New Zealand. The I Welcome pledge is an Amnesty International New Zealand initiative that targets decision makers – district, city and regional councillors as well as Members of Parliament – and get them to help get refugees setled. It aims to help them with basic things that might be foreign to them such as establishing a bank account; getting a General Practitioner, helping them build a curriculum vitae, catching public transport and so on.

When a refugee arrives, they are likely to be bewildered, confused, wary. Such different ways and customs, expectations and  hopes. Whereas many of them might have lived day to day wondering where their next meal is going to come from, here it is different. Here they will be wondering how to make the most of these strange yet welcome new opportunities and getting around everyday challenges. That is where people who have taken the I Welcome pledge come in.

You might have knowledge on writing C.V.’s or be familiar with the workings of the local public transport system. Maybe you are a nurse or G.P.; have cultural experience or familiarity with the countries that refugees are coming from. If you have knowledge and/or skills, or simply want to help, but am not sure how, take the pledge.

I am not suggesting and nor is anyone else that we take all known refugees – not least because New Zealand does not have room for well over ,50 million refugees from all corners of the world. But there is no reason on Earth why New Zealand cannot double its refugee quota from the current pathetic 750 per annum.

By taking the simple I Welcome pledge you are committing to helping vulnerable people getting settled in New Zealand. The experience Amnesty has with refugees suggests that they will be hugely grateful for the opportunities and assistance, desperate not to make mistakes and very willing to learn.

Lauren Southern entitled to her views even if toxic

Conservative activist Lauren Southern and a fellow Canadian named Stefan Molyneux are planning to visit New Zealand on a speaking tour. They were scheduled to speak in Auckland at the Bruce Mason Centre on 03 August 2018.

However Auckland Council heard about their planned live talk and cancelled their show, kicking off a storm about whether freedom of speech extends to the right wing of politics.

Ms Southern has been excluded from Britain for her participation in the delivery of xenophobic fliers to letter boxes. When she tried to get a visa into New Zealand, it was on these grounds that she was originally denied. That is, until a letter from Immigration Border Operations told her that she would no longer need a Special Direction which had been originally recommended by I.B.O.

Australia meanwhile has decided to admit Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux forthwith.

Let me be clear. Ms Southern’s views are toxic. They do not represent what most New Zealanders believe and her distribution of inflammatory fliers, shows an intent to incite fear and potential hatred. However, as the distribution of the fliers did not happen in New Zealand, the grounds to block her entry are not sufficient

For example this video talks about migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. In it you hear Ms Southern’s contempt for asylum seekers and the process of becoming one being described. She displays considerable ignorance for the reasons causing so many to leave – these struggling, barely functional nations are the result of European imperialism having failed and the former colonial powers having bailed out, leaving their former colonies in a weakened state with poorly functioning court systems, rampant corruption and greedy corporates doing deals with politicians to get around any environmental and labour laws that might exist. Nigeria is a classic example.

However like you and I she has a right to have an opinion and express it. Freedom of speech is something that was gravely endangered by Nazi-era Germany, Fascist-era Italy and Imperial Japan in World War 2. Canadian and New Zealand soldiers, sailors and airmen died in their thousands trying to defend it. However toxic Ms Southern’s views are – AND they are – she has a right to them.

It is her right to freedom of speech that is causing division. Auckland Council might have believed it was acting in the country’s best interests by denying her a council venue. However all that they have achieved is to give her huge publicity, that not surprisingly Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux are exploiting. Whereas she might have attracted a few hecklers at a meeting had the council permitted her a venue and not gone public about it, now a meeting would attract many more on both sides of the divide and probably need a police attendance just to maintain the order.

Doubling the refugee quota in New Zealand; other nations close their borders

Yesterday the New Zealand Parliament came together in a rare, but commendable move. How rare on foreign politics is it to see Labour, National and New Zealand First all singing from the same song sheet?

They were addressing queries from the media on what they thought of the United States moves to separate children from their parents at the United States border. None of them agreed with it, recognizing the cruelty, acknowledging it is not something they would want to see happen here.

So, to be clear, a refugee is a person who:

“is outside of their country and is unable and or unwilling to return or avail themselves of its protection, on account of a well grounded fear of persecution on reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion” – Article 1A, Paragraph 1 Convention relating to the status of Refugees, 1951

And an asylum seeker is a person who:

An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection. In countries with individualised procedures, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which he or she has submitted it. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.

Meanwhile, as has been well highlighted in the media, the United States is closing its border to asylum seekers. Whilst U.S. President Donald Trump will say that the United States needs security, he and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions are deliberately ignoring some salient facts:

  1. It is okay to turn up at the border and ask for asylum.
  2. People fleeing the circumstances in their countries of origin that are making most of these people flee are not likely to have time for lengthy, drawn out immigration processes due to the high level of danger in their country
  3. If the people fleeing are doing so because they are considered an enemy of the state or a target of organized crime groups which can be extremely ruthless, any evidence of attempted asylum may get them killed

Many of the problems caused in Honduras and other countries in terms of organized crime and political instability can be traced back to past U.S. interference in their domestic politics. So, in some respects this is sort of the price that America must pay for past transgressions by the C.I.A. and F.B.I.

New Zealand should have no trouble doubling its quota immediately. 1,500 is a quite modest number to take per year, even for a nation of our size. If we look at the refugees and asylum seeker numbers in some of the smaller Middle East countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, whose security is much less certain than our own, they have many times more – as of September 2015 1.9 million refugees were in Turkey; 1.1 million in Lebanon; 630,000 in Jordan and 250,000 in Iraq.

The benefits of having refugees in New Zealand is significant. Contrary to the misguided beliefs of some, refugees feel that they have been given a second chance, and so the motivation to return the compassion is great. For example New Zealand took refugees from the Tampa freighter in 2001 when Australia in a moment of election cowardice refused them. Within a matter of years they became contributing tax paying residents owning small businesses, becoming lawyers, tradesmen and so forth.

If these refugees can be of use, so, I am sure, can many many others.

New Zealand fisheries shame

The tuna that you eat might look good and taste good. But is the story of how it got to your plate nearly as good?

Not likely, as a Stuff investigation (see story of Tunago 61)into employment practices on ships fishing in New Zealand waters has found out. It would appear that even a decade after even more tragic events took place on the high seas off the east coast of the South Island that much is still to be learnt by the companies fishing in New Zealand waters.

In the early part of this decade trawlers operating out of Lyttelton were found to have almost slave like working conditions on board. The range of criminal offences ranged from sexual and physical assault to dishonesty about what was caught and how much, as well as dumping excess and non-compliance with an arrest order that was supposed to have one trawler tied up at port.

The trawlers involved were F.C.V.’s which were operated by Sajo Oyang Corporation from South Korea. They were under the command of Korean officers and often had an Indonesian crew. The captain of Oyang 75 was charged with a range of offences that took place on the ship that was under his command. During the trial period his ship put to sea in breach of the arrest order that was held against it. Fortunately a Royal New Zealand Navy ship was on exercises off the coast, spotted the ship and rearrested it.

Less fortunate was Oyang 70 which sank in stormy weather in the Southern Ocean taking three crew to the bottom with three more found dead in their life-jackets. An inquiry into what happened on Oyang 70 would find appalling work conditions contrary to what the crew who survived had been led to believe they would get.

At the time of the 2013 findings, a Bill of Parliament was before the House of Representatives to consider the necessity of flagging all fishing vessels with the New Zealand flag. Under maritime law, this would have made the crews of these ships immediately answerable to New Zealand authorities. The Bill of Parliament became an Act of Parliament in 2014.

I had hoped that the Foreign Chartered Vessel scandal of slave ships working the high seas off the coast of New Zealand was in a bygone era. However two articles of late have me second guessing myself

And then there is this. An investigation by Stuff into the tragic case of Tunago 61 and the deaths of two Indonesians on Fu Tzu Chiun, a long liner trawler that sailed from Taiwan, set against a grim backdrop of near certain slavery going on ships that have sailed from non-New Zealand ports, but which operate in New Zealand waters.

So, just ask yourself again:

Is that lovely tuna you are tucking into – or any other fish caugh commercially in New Zealand waters – the result of legitimate fishing activities, or the work of modern day slaves?