Jacinda Ardern leaves the building: It’s show time Winston

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has left. Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is about to take charge. With media claiming the Government is in strife the onus is on Mr Peters to show who is boss and bring a bunch of loose cannons under control. And himself.

I think Mr Peters will be okay, if he can keep his tongue in check. He has been Acting Prime Minister in the past. The challenge will be keeping control of a bunch of Cabinet Ministers who seem to intent on stamping their mark, which would be fine, except the manner in which they appear to want achieve this is not so fine.

Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Development is one. His attacks on Fonterra, whilst probably accurate in terms of the allegations made, are unbecoming of a Minister of the Crown. Mr Jones, who joined the New Zealand First party last year and was given a high party list ranking for the 2017 General Election has drawn the ire of many in the party.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is another. Mr Peters joined Mr Jones in attacking Fonterra, saying that Mr Jones’ comments are seriously accurate. Mr Peters might be the long serving serving Member of Parliament and have critical experience, but his volatility dealing with the media and naturally suspicious nature may make him a long term liability.

A third is Minister of Housing, Phil Twyford who was blindsided by the meth house scandal. He struggled to answer in a straight manner question posed by journalists about whether there would be compensation for those who were kicked out because the state houses they were in were thought to be contaminated.

And then there is Eugenie Sage, Minister for Environment. Ms Sage who had been unblemished until now, made a mistake in permitting a Chinese water bottling company to take land for developing a plant. Aside from being completely contrary to Green Party policy and principles, it has aroused significant anger among grass root Greens. Ms Sage will have also disappointed many people who thought that she was above the neoliberal politics of National and Labour. They would have been expecting her to decline the right to take land, just as she declined the application develop an open cast mine on the West Coast.

Six weeks is a long time in politics. All politicians know that one day they might be feted and celebrated for their stance on something and then the next possibly felled by an ambitious rival, they are suddenly on the outer. It might be hard enough as a Member of Parliament, but when one is a Minister of the Crown, the expectation of total transparency and the exercising of self discipline by the public is absolute. And with an Opposition still stinging from the election defeat and unified in their attempts to destroy this Government and put doubt in New Zealanders minds about this Government, any major failure in the six weeks that Mr Peters is Acting Prime Minister could have a long term repercussions for the Government of Jacinda Ardern.

Public perceptions of e-waste in New Zealand

Between 72,000 and 85,000 tons of electronic waste accumulate in New Zealand each year. Electronic waste has many valuable minerals in its composition such as gold and copper, which can be found in commercial quantities and have considerable value.

Only about 1% of the e-waste that accumulates each year is ever properly recycled, dismantled or salvaged. The potential environmental risks are considerable – toxic elements such as lead and mercury whose poisonous effects are well known, along other not so well known but similarly toxic elements such as cadmium, can leach into groundwater, contaminate the soil and release harmful dust. All of these have potential vectors into the human body by swallowing, inhalation or touch.

However there is a growing awareness that this is not sustainable and risks causing lasting damage to New Zealand’s reputation. But also there is much wastage in gold, copper and other valuable minerals by the failure to extract them. Gold and copper are estimated to be dumped in e-waste at quantities of 600 kilogrammes and 600 tons respectively. There will be a market for that much of those two minerals.

As part of the academic requirements for my Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management, I am required to conduct original research. Knowing what I have mentioned above has inspired me to do mine in e-waste. My research question is:

What are the public perceptions of electronic waste in New Zealand, with a view to starting a public discourse on the issue.

To this end I am doing a survey examining peoples understanding of electronic waste as an issue, asking for their views on it and whether thei council is doing enough

If you live in New Zealand and are keen to participate, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at robertglennie000@gmail.com to find out more – you will be given a survey in MS Word format to do. It is not a long one. Likewise if you have experience working with e-waste either in a planning, handling or other role, I would be very happy to hear what your thoughts are.


Tackling crime in New Zealand

We have seen the news on the television often enough – a dairy being held up by touths who make off with cash and cigarettes; methamphetamine making businesses busted; someone murdered. We have had our moment of rage at the offender – and possibly the justice system for other reasons – sympathized with the family of the victims. Some of us might have gone on to social media and vented. But having released our anger and shown appropriate sympathy, what do we as New Zealanders do next to tackle crime?

For a lot of people it ends there. They change the subject, or go find something constructive to do like help their kid with homework or put the washing on the line and why not?

But not for all. I am one. For me if it is the latest in a string of incidents, it might inspire me to write a blog article such as this one about tackling crime. Or if there is public law changes open for submission on something related to reducing criminal offending, I will look at the documents available at the Parliament submissions web page and see if it is something I am interested in making a submission to.

My reasoning is simple: to make New Zealand as good as it can be I need to have an active involvement in the available processes that allow public input into policy making.

I think New Zealanders are not where either National or Labour would want to place them on justice and criminal offending.I see a number of separate groupings of people in terms of the approach New Zealand should take in dealing with crime:

  1. There is a significant portion of the population that want tighter sentencing. They look to people like National leader Simon Bridges or Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar for leadership, expecting them to advocate for tougher sentencing laws. I am not in that group. This group would have supported the proposed large prison at Waikeria, southwest of Te Awamutu.
  2. There is another group built around Labour and the Greens, which advocate for reform. They want to see the number of prisoners decrease, which I think most New Zealanders probably do, but taking a softly-softly approach on prisoners by looking at their mental health and backgrounds. I am not in this group, though some of their ideas are good.
  3. I think I belong to a third group that wants to examine whether current “system” – prisons, justice, and Police – are working as they should. My impression is that the justice system is failing to make full use of the range of sentencing ordnance it has at its disposal; that a lot of crime would stop if we permitted medicinal cannabis and banned synthetic cannabis.

But how do we tackle crime? A lot of the existing crime in New Zealand is for a purpose – serious crimes such as stealing cigarettes to order for the black market or drug smuggling, manufacturing to pay bills and/or drug debts can be put down to filling a need. Vandalism, attacks on people might be for the thrill of attacking in a violent or destructive way.

An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach is only helpful in dealing with all those already in prison (9,000 plus) is the best way of describing the current mentality in terms of constructing prisons here.. It fails to deal with those who might be out of prison, are otherwise clean and are trying to deal with the next phase in life – re-establishing oneself as a person. This group are particularly vulnerable as they might have lost their social networks, will be out of a job and not be likely to have much if any money. They are also potentially the most dangerous because a failure to catch quickly means a reversion back to their criminal past might be more likely than people will admit.

Per the idea of an ambulance being best at the top of the cliff, the gains for society by identifying those with criminal pasts and seeking to address the issues that made them start committing crime in the first place is a major deal. Some might come from broken families where no respect for the law was instilled in people. Others might might have come from backgrounds involving narcotics and dabbled in it, found it too powerful to ignore and got dragged under.

Whatever the case, examining how such circumstances can lead to criminal offending and seeking to address them using research based policy is the way forward. If we stop deluding ourselves about how well the “system” works – or does not work.

Nicky Hager apology should give journalists confidence

Today the New Zealand Police apologized to researcher, author and Green Party member Nicky Hager for the raid that they conducted on his house following the release of the book Dirty Politics. The lengthy apology was accompanied by a substantial payout of a sum of money whose size is unknown.

Mr Hager’s book shot to prominence in the 2014 election. During that election a battle involving unprecedented filth was waged between political parties. The mud slinging involved the use of bloggers such as Cameron Slater, who is known for his Whale Oil blog and thought to be on good first name terms with the then Minister of Justice Judith Collins.

The scandals exposed in the book show some of the dirtiest linen in New Zealand politics as they were in the period when Mr Hager was writing the book. They range from a sex scandal involving former Mayor of Auckland Len Brown to attempts to make it look like former Labour M.P. and Leader David Cunliffe had advocated for Chinese immigrant and National Party donor Donghua Lua to be granted residency when no such activity had happened.

Today the Police to their credit issued an apology, a payment to cover damages and assist him with legal costs – he is not allowed to name the figure. They also went over the numerous failings on their part pursuing the matter:

  • Failed to tell the judge that Mr Hager is a journalist
  • ¬†Failed to allow Mr Hager to claim journalistic privilege
  • Told people Hager was suspected of committing fraud with no basis for the allegations
  • Obtained 10 months of Mr Hagers banking information
  • Obtained a search warrant despite Mr Hager not being suspected of any criminal activity

Not surprisingly former Minister of Police Anne Tolley washed her hands of it, declaring the matter to be . Current Minister of Police Stuart Nash also washed his hands of the issue saying that it was between Mr Hager and others and not for him to comment on.

Interestingly it missed documents linked to Edward Snowden. Mr Hager collaborated with The Intercept and media organizations to get stories based on files obtained by Mr Snowden published in 2015. They included damning revelations about individual nations spying activities, which included New Zealand spying on south Pacific neighbours.

No further action on this is likely to take place. Mr Hager has received a payout and an apology. The then Minister of Police washed her hands of the story (and would probably have denied – and might not have had any – any involvement. All in all, a dirty phase of New Zealand politics which showed how destructive personal attacks on political foes can negatively impact the political landscape and why New Zealand should strive to avoid this kind of nonsense.

New Zealand journalists out of all of this should have some confidence now that their rights as such will be better protected in the future. Whilst unlikely to happen, one could also hope that Cameron Slater refrains from such ugly and improper discourse in the future.

Group of 7 farce bad for all Western nations

First there was the shock. United States President Donald Trump pulling rank on the Group of 7 declaration. Then came the exchange between Mr Trump and his Canadian counterpart Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A nasty exchange that would have left the other delegates shocked. And did.

No one in the west won when Mr Trump refused to support the G7 declaration. Whilst the declaration is largely ceremonial it has the purpose of detailing what principles the summit upholds. So when one nation or another throws a hissy fit – which is what Mr Trump did – and walks away without supporting it, not only does that nation undermine the G7, but it undermines the entire western world.

But there were winners. Every dictator quietly hoping for discord and division in the west over the G7 summit farce would have been smiling at the news that Mr Trump had had a show down with the hosts, Canada. The photo that has been circulating of Mr Trump sitting in a chair at a table with various leaders standing around glaring at him tells us more about the scale of the disbelief better than a 1,000 word essay could have. The only person supporting Mr Trump was – not surprisingly – John Bolton, the hard line National Security Advisor who has never had much time for diplomacy, irrespective of what it achieves.

Contrary to the discourse coming out of the White House, Mr Trump has no intention of anything that could amount to fair or otherwise reasonable trade terms. His “America first” doctrine, smacks of the dangerous hardline nationalist sentiment that past dictatorships have displayed with disastrous results. Its brutalist nature must, when it reared its head in the ugly exchange between Canada and the United States, must have left Mr Trudeau wondering if he had been struck by a base ball.

When the words from Pink Floyd’s song “Pigs” more adequately describe Mr Trump than a media editorial, it is a hugely damning indictment on the depths which his Presidency has plumbed. When the western world needs leadership and unity, it is instead having discord and distrust sown by the most powerful person in the free world.

Nations like New Zealand do not need this. Even more powerful nations like Australia and Canada, long time friends and allies of the United States, despite having quite different leaders at the moment must be nervous about what Mr Trump has done and what it might mean for them. Mr Trudeau will be wishing that this was just a bad dream and that when the sun comes up, all will be hunky dory.

Sorry mate. Ain’t gonna happen. Mr Trump on one hand knows exactly what he is doing in that he is keeping good the promises he made to his strident supporters who hope for a second coming of a declining super power that was once respected and admired throughout the free world. On the other though he has not a clue about the damage that is being inflicted on America internationally by his politics. And that damage is harming America’s relationship with all of its allies and friends, including New Zealand.