- Murray Horton
A re-reading of my 2002 Report makes me tired. I had a very active year, including involvement in three national speaking tours (one each for CAFCA, Anti-Bases Campaign and Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa), and a whole welter of pretty high profile media work. 2003 has been more low key than that, by deliberate choice there havent been any speaking tours, by CAFCA or any of the other groups Im involved with but theres still been plenty happening. And CAFCA has quite possibly had more media coverage than the previous year, spread more evenly.
The unglamorous basics of my work dont change very much, so great chunks of my 2002 report and those of earlier years can be repeated verbatim. I am CAFCA secretary, and it is routine administrative work that takes up a lot of my time. That is the pitfall of having just one fulltime worker. The great majority of our correspondence (and a whole lot of other work) is now done by e-mail or via the Internet. CAFCAs existence in cyberspace has become every bit as important as that in the real world. About 50% of our members have supplied us with their e-mail addresses, so they hear from us more often than the other half. I hasten to add that the other 50% are not missing out, they still get exactly the same material, but in hard copy only. But more and more of our communications are done by e-mail now. We used to operate a phone tree for our Christchurch members and split it up amongst the committee. It used to take me two or three nights to ring my share (and have a chat in the process). Now one keystroke instantly sends our information to several hundred members simultaneously. Its considerably less personal but much more time-efficient.
I have also set up e-mail lists for a whole variety of other categories of people, such as political parties, unions, media, activists, etc, etc, plus CAFCA runs the Taking Control list and has joined various electronic discussion lists, so that is the reason why some of you receive the same message several times over. I apologise for the duplication and point out that is why God created the Delete key. We are very lucky indeed to have two computer whizzes on call and free of charge namely Bill Rosenberg and my wife Becky to sort out the inevitable disasters and to update the software as necessary. For example, more and more of the material on the CAFCA Website is in PDF Acrobat format. Being on the Internet costs CAFCA hundreds of dollars per year, and thats at rock bottom mates rates, with unlimited volume. We owe Plain Communications a big vote of thanks for their very generous support.
Because we have recently conducted our annual membership renewal, a disproportionate amount of time has been spent updating the membership list and banking the loot. Not that I'm complaining. Membership fees and donations are the backbone of our finances. Unlike so many other small groups we don't have to ask for loans or grants, and we are financially self-sufficient. We dont carry non-payers, simply because we cant afford to. We send out one reminder to the overdue and we give them one last chance - we contact all of those with e-mail addresses and give them one last chance to pay up (and, in the case of overdue Christchurch members without e-mail addresses, we ring them up). Quite a few do then pay up. Every year we purge our mailing list, this year it was 60+ people. I must say that my ruthless approach to payment has got people well trained I have been handed CAFCA subs, unsolicited, at Elsie Lockes funeral, private parties (including my own 50th) and all manner of public meetings.
For several years we have kept an eye out to see if having Watchdog freely and fully available online is costing us members and money. We have decided that the advantages outweigh any disadvantages. A handful of our members and allied organisations have asked to be online members only. As it still costs us money to produce the online Watchdog, we charge them the same as everybody else. Cyberspace has brought us into contact with a whole world of people whom we wouldnt otherwise reach, so theres no going back.
At the time of writing, it is four weeks since we mailed out the Membership Due slips for the great majority of our members. In that time, I have banked $5,115, which is a very good response (and theres another several hundred dollars waiting to be banked). Thanks for your generosity, many of you have sent donations both large and small. Our strength is our independence from all funding agencies, the State, or anybody else that can pull strings, call tunes, or cut us off without a penny. Our financial base is our membership. We have zero debt, we pay all our bills in full and on time, we have very low overheads none of CAFCAs money goes on wages or office rental, power, rates, etc, etc. We run a lean and efficient operation. It means that we can also finance things such as the wonderful May 2003 event in Auckland, at which the 2002 Roger Award winners were announced. We are Christchurch-based, but we have a national reach, in terms of members, money and influence.
Membership is just below 500 (for several years it was steady at 500-550, so there has been a slight decline). But we continue to pick up new members and quite a few of our members pay for others to join. This year we were invited by New Internationalist to include a flyer with its April issue. CAFCA doesnt actually have a basic recruitment flyer, so I had to write one especially. It proved to be extremely successful, which very soon covered our costs and went on to get us several dozen new members (they were still paying to join up as recently as last week). So, many thanks to our good friends at NI. This was a rare invitation it was last issued to us in 1987, when we also picked up a goodly swag of new members (several of whom are still with us). By contrast, we tried, as an experiment, to put a small paid ad in the Listeners "Noticeboard". Net result one new member and we definitely didnt cover our costs. We think that something like that needs to run for a few weeks to have any effect and were not prepared to spend members money on advertising (the NI flyer cost us nothing apart from copying).
We have lost one regular source of income and its worthy of mention, because it marks the end of an era. Earlier this year the last media organisation to regularly buy CAFCAs monthly analyses of the Overseas Investment Commissions (OIC) approvals cancelled the order. This was an organisation that had bought them from us for more than a decade. In its heyday, in the 1990s, we were supplying several media outlets (and even one public relations firm, which we charged more) with the OICs decisions and our cross-referenced analyses and index. When I say "we" I actually mean Bill Rosenberg. Hes slogged his guts out on the OIC stuff from the outset going back to the beginning of the 90s for no pay, fitting it in around his family, his job, his union work and the considerable other demands on his time. Its the end of an era because when we started selling this stuff to the media, we were literally their only source of information about what was going on inside the OIC. The media - and weve dealt with some real funny customers over the years - didnt send us their money because they supported us or what we stand for (more often than not they ran the stuff with no attribution to CAFCA). It was because they recognised that they couldnt get it anywhere else. It came very cheap for them (it earned us several hundred dollars a year - $375 in the latest financial year) and was exhaustively and quite superbly written up by Bill. A very senior journalist with our oldest and last media client has regularly described Bill to me as "New Zealands best economic journalist". When we started on our dealings with the OIC, in the mid 1980s, our first five years (!) were spent trying to get anything at all out of them. Their secretiveness and our battle, using the Official Information Act, was the story and it was regularly given major media coverage. Once we started getting the information from them on a regular basis, we made it available to our members (free) and to the media, for a price. It made us some very good friends among journalists and those relationships have been long and mutually beneficial in a number of cases. In recent years the OIC has changed its own style and now makes its monthly Decisions freely available to those who request them. So, inevitably, our media customers no longer required our services. The OIC is now a much more open organisation and CAFCA claims full credit for that. But that secrecy was only ever a side issue to our concerns about the OIC. As for Bill, this forthcoming Watchdog (the December issue) will mark the first time in many a long year that hes written up the OIC stuff solely for it.
The CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income, is independent of both CAFCA and the Anti-Bases Campaign. It has dropped in recent years, and just keeps ticking along above discomfort level. I get paid the minimum wage ($8.50 per hour). It has nearly 30 pledgers. But we always need more pledgers and donors. The continued viability of the Organiser Account after 12 uninterrupted years is, frankly, remarkable, and my faith in human nature owes an awful lot to the generosity of the people who have paid me to do the work that I love for such a long time.
One final thing about money since my last Report CAFCA has fully joined Kiwibank (for entirely political reasons), as Foreign Control Watchdog Inc. already had. Weve kept our ANZ account open with a token amount in it, and will shortly review whether to completely close it (we decided not to). We have encountered some exasperating situations in our dealings with Kiwibank (such as being charged tax when we have tax exempt status), that we will ascribe, hopefully, to teething problems. For purely pragmatic reasons, we have no plans to move the Organiser Account from WestpacTrust for the foreseeable future.
My daily routines haven't changed - collecting and processing mail six days a week (including the daily deluge of e-mail); correspondence; reading and analysing publications for fortnightly committee meetings; banking; handling orders for CAFCA material; clipping papers and gathering material for our files and as research for articles (both from hard copy and much more from cyberspace). This stuff has to be done daily, otherwise it can easily get away on me, and become a major headache. After the annual membership renewal, I have to spend a lot of time updating the mailing list and banking the money. If I go away for even just a few days theres an awful lot of catching up to be done upon return. For example, I was away in Auckland for less than a day for my sisters funeral upon return I found urgent requests for two separate interviews from journalists on the same national weekly paper, which Bill had to do in my absence. I am the de facto treasurer; I am responsible for getting all office supplies and for getting any dysfunctional equipment repaired and maintained. I handle all dealings with printers, banks, Internet service providers, NZ Post, etc, etc. Then there are the spontaneous approachs from members, the public and the media for information or statements on a whole raft of subjects these can arise without any warning, requring an instant response and can be quite time consuming. For example, today I was contacted by an Auckland journalism student, writing for an Australian magazine, wanting information about, and CAFCAs opinions on, a common Australasian currency (which we last wrote about several years ago). But its simply part and parcel of the job.
Watchdogis our flagship, it is our point of contact with members and the world at large. We are very satisfied by it, and get a lot of positive feedback. We publish three issues per year in April, August and December (this years April issue was actually a May one, to accommodate the fact that the announcement of the Roger Award winner was the latest its ever been). We dont pursue shop sales, apart from a couple of Christchurch ones, because its a lot of hassle for very little return just getting paid when such piddly little sums are involved can be a very time consuming and frustrating exercise. Small publishers like us get sent to the bottom of their "to pay" list. And because Watchdog is never going to look or read like the multitude of magazines available (therein lies its charm). It is now the best looking and most extensively illustrated that its ever been. In the course of researching yet another obituary, for the next issue *, I had to look up a 1985 one (when we were still CAFCINZ). There is absolutely no comparison between the way Watchdog looked then to the way it looks today. * The obituary, of Mick Connelly, is elsewhere in this issue.
But foreign control is still not an easy subject to illustrate. As you may have noticed, graphics and even photos tend to get recycled a lot (particularly when used to break up that great indigestible lump of OIC material that provides up to half of every issue). Otherwise it really would just be page upon page of text. So, this is an appeal, if youve got cartoons, graphics or photos that you think are suitable for Watchdog, send them to us and well have a look at them. Several members have done so in the past but not all have been suitable.
Once again, thanks are due to Leigh Cookson, our layout artist. Its a very tedious and fiddly job and she just loves Bills copious use of tables and footnotes (everything changes format from Bill to me to Leigh and can have some peculiar outcomes. For example, in Bills article on news media ownership in the August issue, his 80+ footnotes changed from numbers to Roman numerals from him to me and had to be painstakingly reconverted back to numbers by Leigh). Since my last Report ARENA has moved office again (I helped them do so, in a flashback to my previous life of 11 years as a Railways household removalist. It was the Saturday before Christmas and was memorable for, among other things, a central city road rage fight between one of the shifters and an arsehole of a motorist, which left the car with a smashed window. But I digress). Leigh is now ensconced in the Trade Union Centre and that is where Watchdog is laid out. She deserves our heartfelt thanks for having now done this vital job for several years.
Watchdog remains the journal of record on foreign control. Mainstream media publicise it as such in their articles on subjects such as sales of rural land to foreigners. The guts of every issue remains Bill Rosenbergs meticulous chronicling and analysing of the monthly approvals by the Overseas Investment Commission. Plus Bill provides us with his excellent writing and analysis on other subjects, ranging from GATS and the WTO to war profiteers in Iraq and media ownership. Myself, Bill and Dennis Small are the main three regular writers. All three of us have our own distinctive styles and it is the mix of those which makes Watchdog unique. Plus Jeremy Agar is now a much appreciated regular book reviewer.
Watchdog prides itself on being a newsletter, publishing news and analysis that you wont find elsewhere. Pressure of other work means that I dont get as much Watchdog writing done as I would like (I do far more actual writing for the ABCs Peace Researcher or even Philippine Solidaritys Kapatiran). This year CAFCA has made a conscious decision to revisit our roots we grew out of the anti-imperialist, anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s. Hence the articles we have run on the war in Iraq and the "war on terror". Judging from the feedback weve had, these articles have been very well received. And we have the luxury of length both of articles, and of time (we followed the tawdry saga of Lilybank and Tommy Suharto for just short of a decade. It gave us the best and most consistent mainstream media exposure weve ever had).
Its not all depressing facts, table of figures, and heavy analysis. Watchdog prides itself on the personal touch, and readers respond very warmly to that. The obituaries (written by myself and others) always get a warm response. It came altogether too close to home when I had to write one for my own sister (June literally dropped dead, from a stroke) and I found that pretty gruelling. And Watchdog is absolutely value for money, on sheer weight alone - the three issues since the last AGM total 238 pages. 80 pages are the printers limit.
We are well established as an electronic publisher now both Foreign Control Watchdog and CAFCA have their own separate (but linked) Websites. Many thanks to Greg Waite for his hard work running the Watchdog site (from Australia, proof that we actively practise internationalism, which should never be confused with globalisation). It's a no frills site - all text, no illustrations. As editor, I am responsible for overseeing the site and have to prepare, proofread and edit every issue that goes online.
CAFCAs Website (maintained by Bill) features his encyclopaedic writeups of the Overseas Investment Commission Decisions, various of our Fact Sheets, briefing papers and submissions and a section on the Roger Award, including an online nomination form for the 2003 one. The Websites reach an audience far in excess of our actual membership and attract feedback from all around the country and the world. More and more we find that journalists are using them, and contacting us as a result of visiting the sites first (its not unusual to get an urgent e-mail from a reporter seeking my unlisted phone number, for an interview. Unlisted phone numbers have a number of advantages, which means that Im staying ex-directory, and those who need to call me already know the number). Several times in the past year the CAFCA site has been favourably publicised in the mainstream media. Bill has added a Search facility for both sites, which really makes things easy to find.
The Taking Contol Electronic List Server (named after the 1998 Taking Control: The Fightback Against Transnational Corporate Power Conference) is a very lively and informative electronic discussion group. About once a year we advertise for new members and they join in droves. One of my jobs is to administer that list, which can lead to controversy at times (Ive had to get heavy once or twice with members transgressing the rules). The list serves an invaluable role in disseminating information, advertising events and publications, and in ensuring lively discussion (too lively on one or two occasions) on a whole range of topics.
CAFCA material continues to crop up in all manner of publications, some of them very unlikely (Fish and Game comes to mind), because of the range of facts and analysis that we offer that they cant get anywhere else. We have regularly appeared in farmers publications such as Straight Furrow and Rural News. Bill has at least three hats this year CAFCA, ARENA and as President of the Association of University Staff. This has ensured that he regularly writes for, and appears in, a whole range of mainstream media publications.
On the subject of rural land sales to foreigners, we dont have to do or say anything. I havent put out a press release on that subject for longer than I can remember. The media regularly comes to us. For example, when the OIC released its annual statistics (and before I had seen them), I was rung by newspapers from Whangarei to Invercargill wanting comment on land sales in their regions. North Island journalists contact us about coastal land sales; South Islanders about high country station sales. Our fame has even spread overseas I was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times * (New Zealand is very fashionable in the US right now, with one billionaire landowner describing us as being like California in the gold rush). Weve been in national publications from the Listener to the Independent, not to mention community papers and on access radio. Nor do we get hidden in the back pages in the past few months I, and CAFCA, have been on the front pages of the Press and the Northern Advocate. There was a further flurry of interest in November, when the Government announced its pending review of the Overseas Investment Act (see cover story). In the space of one day, I did interviews with TV3, Radio Pacific and Radio New Zealand. On the same day, Bill was on Radio NZs Nine To Noon With Linda Clark, and he was contacted by papers including the New Zealand Herald, Press, Sunday Star Times, and the Independent, plus journalists from international media agencies such as Agence France Presse. Obviously the journalists know where to come when they want to talk to experts on the subject, and ones with a clearly articulated viewpoint quite different to the official line. It also helps that weve been consistent for decades, through all the twists and turns of political ideology and economic fashions. * That very lengthy LA Times article was published in October and created a considerable stir throughout the country, being quoted or reproduced in several NZ papers.
Of course, land sales are only one small part of a much bigger picture and the transnational-owned media is much less willing to run what we say about transnational corporations. They havent given very much publicity at all to the Roger Award for the past few years, after the initial novelty value. I was actually rung once (some years ago) by a journalist for a major provincial paper to say that his chief reporter had spiked his story on that years Roger, which featured the owner of that paper amongst its winners. This year I have put out a couple of CAFCA press releases, about Tranz Rail and Comalco neither got run. But theres more than one way to skin a fat cat I recycled the releases as letters to the editor and voila!
Work With Other Groups
I am co-employed by the Anti-Bases Campaign, which takes up less of my time than CAFCA. The busiest part of my ABC work occurred in January when ABC held its first Waihopai spybase protest in two years. Wed taken a break the previous year to organise the national speaking tour by the former Canadian spy, Mike Frost (see my 2002 Report for details). ABC has been protesting at Waihopai since 1988 and Id have to rate this years effort as one of the most successful ever. By a coincidence of timing it happened during the huge global upsurge of protest against the impending American invasion of Iraq. So, for the first time ever, we held a specifically anti-war protest, in central Blenheim and at the base itself, stressing our key point that Waihopai is New Zealands biggest and most important contribution to all of Americas wars. It was phenomenally successful, drawing out 200+ locals on a march through what is a very conservative provincial city. We got the front page lead and the billboard in the local paper, the Marlborough Express, which went on to describe the march as the biggest in Blenheim since the 1981 Springbok Tour protests.
For the first time ever we had local speakers, both in town and at the base I particularly want to single out John Craighead, the Marlborough District Councillor, who agreed to speak at our Blenheim rally, at very short notice (we invited him, a total stranger to us, after reading his earlier comments in the Express) and he made a major effort to get as many locals as possible out on the street with us. At even shorter notice, we were joined by Denis Doherty and Hannah Middleton, the two leading figures of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, who flew to New Zealand for just a few days, especially to join us at Waihopai. They both spoke and added a whole international dimension to the protest (they were amazed that we could get right up to the gate of "our" spybase the huge US spybase at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, is surrounded by kilometres of no-go areas and is guarded by a variety of police and security forces, who use violence against any protesters. Denis and Hannah were speechless so were we actually when the cops came to our camp as we were packing up and voluntarily undertook to dispose of our rubbish for us. Maybe they wanted to test it for forensics). People came from all around New Zealand to take part. This year, due to an unfortunate clash, Green MPs werent able to join us. But plenty of flaxroots Greens were there, and the Alliance (which is now an extra-Parliamentary party) contributed a speaker from Auckland and plenty of participants. The Blenheim march really was unique in the subsequent ferment of the Iraq War, peace groups sprang up in all sorts of provincial cities and small towns. But not in Blenheim.
My Waihopai work is primarily organisational, handling all aspects (right down to booking the portaloos) and ensuring that it happens. This year, I had a much smaller media role than previously. My colleague, Bob Leonard, was the real hero at Waihopai this year. He performed so many roles that he could win an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. There was his usual starring role as Uncle Sam, which he throws himself into with ferocious relish; he was a featured speaker and MC; he did a lot of media interviews (being driven mad in the process by one of those newfangled cellphones); he was our photographer; and he was the sole driver of our rental van, up and back, from Christchurch. All this, the day after he had a tooth pulled in emergency dental surgery and was told by his dentist to go nowhere and do nothing strenuous over the weekend! I shared a tent with Bob that weekend and witnessed how he suffered. ABC will be back at Waihopai in January 2004.
The first few months of 2003 were the busiest for ABC in years. Bob presented our submissions to Select Committees on a couple of Bills (he did it by videolink and phone). These were two more in the package of repressive security laws being rushed through by the Government in the hysterical "war on terror" atmosphere that has prevailed since the September 11, 2001 atrocities in the US. I travelled to Wellington and spoke at a seminar organised by the Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM), which was a first for ABC. PIRM also invited Bob to write an article for its Pacific Ecologist magazine. In my 2002 Report I said that Bob and I had both made complaints to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security about our well-founded belief that the Government Communications Security Bureau (the NZ spy agency which runs Waihopai) is spying on us. Bobs was rejected, in 2002; mine took nearly a year longer for the Inspector-General to remember where he put his rubber stamp. I am responsible for our international links, such as with anti-bases groups, and have been doing that as recently as the past week (as the Bush Administration forges on, invading countries and building new US bases all over the place, there is a corresponding global anti-bases movement developing to oppose it). And I do the ABCs regular media work, such as it is.
ABC was involved in all the anti-war protests earlier this year, joining thousands of others on the streets of central Christchurch and at the US Air Force base at the airport, which had been neglected by the protest movement for years. Bob was our speaker on several occasions, both in town and at the base; we made special banners and I wrote a leaflet especially to distribute to those taking part. It was wonderful to see the rebirth of a major anti-war movement, both globally and in New Zealand (thanks Dubya, youre our best recruiting sergeant), with a whole new generation of young people organising and energising it. Thats the best thing to have happened in years.
My regular ABC work is as editor of Peace Researcher. It used to be a co-editorship but Bob resigned in 2002, after nearly 20 years as editor. So now Im flying solo. Ive made some changes (such as the printer) but otherwise I strive to maintain the high standard that Bob set. I can only commit to get out two issues a year (a far cry from PRs original frequency) and even that is proving a struggle. Its a job that involves me doing much more actual writing than for Watchdog. PR is a much smaller undertaking than Watchdog, with a smaller mailing list. The two publications used to have different emphases but there is much more overlap now, what with the Iraq War and the "war on terror". As with Watchdog, PR is online and Yani Johanson does an excellent job as ABCs Webmaster. Check out www.converge.org.nz/abc. Unlike the CAFCA/Watchdog sites, it has lots of photos.
Theres no shortage of mundane things to be attended in my ABC capacity, either. Just today I had to ring Defence Headquarters in Wellington. Believe it or not, its pays a sub for three copies of each PR, for the Defence Library. But despite my having written to them more than a year ago to give them our new Kiwibank account details, the military had taken no notice and paid the money into a closed account at our former bank. So we have to start again.
I am on the committee of GATT Watchdog and I regularly write for its newsletter, The Big Picture. Aziz Choudry, the "face of GW" has been living in Canada for a year now, but his place as speaker and frontperson has been taken by Leigh Cookson, and she has made a very good fist of it. Aziz continues to represent GW at various international conferences, etc.
I am not involved with ARENA (apart from helping with the odd mailout) but Bill is, and has spoken all over the country on its behalf, written for newspapers, and contributed to various ARENA publications. He is now recognised as one of the countrys leading spokespeople for the movement against corporate globalisation and is regularly approached by journalists, or by groups with speaking invitations, in that capacity.
My other involvement is with the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa, a tiny group which basically keeps ticking over but we can manage to run a national speaking every few years (the last one was in 2002). We are planning to bring out a leading human rights activist in late 2004. Apart from that it has been a very lowkey year for PSNA. I am the editor of its newsletter Kapatiran (Solidarity), which comes third behind Watchdog and Peace Researcher in my editorial priorities. But, at the time of writing, I have not managed to get out an issue since January it will happen, its just a matter of finding time (it came out in November). Its been a year when PSNA has sorted out all sorts of administrative matters we have three regular pledgers (dating back more than a decade to when it was run from Auckland with Keith Locke as its paid national coordinator). It took months to get them to transfer to our new Kiwibank account (meaning that PSNA has now closed all accounts held with transnational banks. ABC did the same, in the previous year). I had to personally escort one pledger to the bank to do it. This particular exercise has convinced me to never try to get the 30 pledgers to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account to transfer banks. Pragmatism (were talking about my income here) triumphs over political principle. Plus PSNA has also taken the leap into cyberspace, including putting Kapatiran online. My wife, Becky, has set up a handsome looking site. Check out www.converge.org.nz/psna .
I have been the Organiser for nearly 12 years now, which is an extremely long time for a job funded entirely by the regular pledges and donations of CAFCA and ABC members and supporters. It is remarkable and I didnt envisage it holding out this long when I embarked on it as a 40 year old redundant Railways labourer, back in 1991. Once again, I take the opportunity to thank you for your generosity. The Organiser Account is just keeping its head above water, but theres nothing new about that. My pay is $340 per week gross, which is the minimum wage. Some pledgers have left; others have joined, we can always do with more. This continuing financial support is a most gratifying vote of confidence in the work that we, and I, do. I particularly thank all the donors (some who have given thousands of dollars over the years), because it is the donations which make a vital difference.
The shockingly sudden death of my sister, in February, focused my mind on intimations of mortality and all those cliches about never knowing when your numbers up, etc, etc. However, touch wood, I remain in fighting fettle and look forward to continuing to be so for several years. The only thing worth reporting about my personal health is that I became the only bloke that I know to be sent to have a mammogram (to the intense amusement of everybody I told, and to the great curiosity of hospital staff) but that whole episode was most definitely comic rather than tragic.
The other thing worth mentioning is that, for the first time in nearly 35 years, I have changed my personal appearance. Earlier this year I cut my hair and shaved off my beard. It was done for three reasons because Id got sick of it; my beard had gone white and I dont think Im old enough yet for the fullblown Gandalf look; and my wife has nagged me about it from Day One (now she complains about stubble and the bullfrog double chin that was previously concealed. You cant win). Its great fun to hide in plain sight - I had the experience of strolling around the crowd at an anti-war rally and being met with blank stares when I greeted old friends. Rod Donald has told me that he has particular difficulty with my new persona. The Press will need to update its file photo of me (bearded and scowling). I must say, however, that I find shaving (which I last did as a schoolboy) a bloody tedious waste of time. And, motivated by my sisters funeral, I even bought a suit and tie. My 85 year old father reckons he can now die happy.
Every now and then I get reminded of how long Ive been a political activist in Christchurch. To give just one example a perfectly mundane phone call to a lawyer (a total stranger) about a fencing matter ended with her telling me that Id got her into deep trouble with the local National Party decades ago. Why? Because she had invited me to her parents home to speak to her branch of the Young Nationals on behalf of the Progressive Youth Movement (the dreaded PYM). She was hauled into the Party office and told to never do that again. Whatever I said must have worked she told me that shes now a Green. Incidentally, despite my elephantine memory and a check with ancient diaries, I have no recollection of ever having spoken to the National Party. Its alarming to consider what else I might have forgotten.
Campaigns And Events
For the 2002 Roger Award, we shared the various jobs with GATT Watchdog we were responsible for all matters to do with the judges and getting their report written up; GW was responsible for distributing the nomination forms, publicity and media work. The event was held in Auckland, in May (the latest yet). I flew up especially for it. The previous years event had been held outdoors in downtown Auckland, but steady rain drove this one indoors (and the hall proved to be an authentic Auckland leaky building).
Christchurch hosted the first three Roger events, then it moved north to Wellington for the 2000 Award, and Auckland for the last two. These latter three events have been models of entertainment, political theatre and professionalism. They just keep getting bigger and better. Speaking as an attendee (and participant) of all three North Island events, theyve been a bloody lot of fun.
Anywhere from 70-100 people had a great time at the latest one. The event organisers deserve the deepest thanks from all those who attended and from both CAFCA and GATT Watchdog. Its a nerve wracking and thankless job putting together such a high quality programme on a shoestring (CAFCA put up the grand sum of $500). The whole evening was themed around transnational corporations in general and the Roger in particular (the organisers had learned from the previous years event, which was too long and more loosely focused).
Every single one of the entertainers did it for love (or, more properly, hate of the TNCs). Michele ACourt, actor and comedian, did an excellent job as the MC. She got a laugh from the Aucklanders by saying that Sukhi Turner, one of the Award judges and Mayor of Dunedin, couldnt be there because it wasnt cold enough (never mind, it was wet enough, inside and out). Following a Maori welcome (a first for the Roger event), the wonderfully named Rectify The Anomaly bush band (that name would be perfect for a Viagra ad), including event organisers, George Baxter and Jim Gladwin, got the evening off to a ripsnorting start. Some of the singing was exquisitely beautiful, bringing tears to the eyes; other songs directed popular wrath at Big Business.
The evening also featured two performances. The GE Free Street Theatre did a splendid skit (in honour of Novartis being one of the finalists). My favourite character was the villainous capitalist whose one line, oft repeated, was "Ha, ha, ha, Im so evil". He was too, the bastard. And the Cell Collective specially produced a wonderful video for the evening, giving the finalists a unique, cinematic, once over not so lightly. Nobody who saw it will ever forget the Carter Holt Harvey character literally talking shit.
I spoke, on behalf of the Award organisers. It seemed to be well received, although a number in the audience seemed to have gone into shock at seeing me sans hair and beard for the first time ever (I struggled to recognise myself at first, too). John Minto, one of the judges, delivered the verdict with all the moral zeal of the lapsed Catholic. Im sure Judge John was the Inquisitor General in a past life. He said that most award ceremonies start at the bottom and work to the top. "But the Roger Award starts at the bottom and works down". He referred to the finalists as "scumbags" and to Fay Richwhite (who did rather nicely out of their purchase and sale of Tranz Rail) as "boils on the backside of humanity". Its the second consecutive year that John has performed this task and hes a natural at it (Ranginui Walker, the other Auckland judge, was present because he was wearing a cap, Michele ACourt apologised for mistaking him for Tiger Woods). This was the sixth Roger Award event and they just keep on getting stronger. We must be doing something right.
The transnational corporate media continue to largely ignore it (with some noble exceptions). For the 2003 Roger, our Auckland organisers asked to take a break and so, for the first time, it will be held in Dunedin, in February 2004, and CAFCA will again finance that (its our turn to be primarily responsible for it). It is going south because Dunedin is the only main centre not to have hosted it, and to honour the brave role that Sukhi Turner, Mayor of Dunedin, has played right from the very first year. Every time she agrees to do it again, she sets off a media frenzy among the "rightthinking" people of Otago, but she resolutely sticks to her guns. I want to thank all our judges for the 2003 Award, we have a Christchurch one for the first time (Jill Hawkey, head of Christian World Service, who is also the first Roger judge from the churches. God, I might get to Heaven yet).
I had another speaking engagement on that Auckland trip, to speak to the monthly forum of Global Peace and Justice Auckland, the countrys leading anti-war, anti-globalisation group. This is evidence of the links that we are building to this movement (and subsequently Bill has also spoken to another GPJA forum, on CAFCAs behalf, about media ownership). For the second consecutive year, I did a 30 minute interview with Alan Marston for a programme he presents on Auckland regional channel, Triangle TV (sharing the interview with my host and old friend, David Robie). Triangle seems to attract a good audience in Auckland plenty of people have told me that theyve seen it and the programmes get around the country. Our 2003 Roger Award event organiser in Dunedin told me that hed recently seen, on a regional channel, the Triangle programme featuring me and the 2001 Roger event. The gap between those two speaking engagements meant that I had to stay a few days in Auckland, my longest stay there in decades and the closest thing to a holiday Ive had in several years. I even managed to fit in a walk down memory lane (well, Gibraltar Crescent, Parnell, where Id slept on the floor at Mayor Shadbolts crashpad during the tumultuous days of 1969. And once more I walked the Ho Chi Minh Trail, from Parnell through to the Domain). Its always good to catch up with Auckland friends, whom I dont see often enough.
The other issue that has seen us very much in the spotlight in the past year has been that of the sale of rural land to foreigners. This is not a new one, and it is one where there is a broad spectrum of concern and opposition. I have already mentioned the regular media interviews I did throughout the year on this subject, with journalists from one end of the country to the other. In my 2002 Report I mentioned the large number of interviews I did, as a result of public interest in the Maori occupation of Young Nicks Head during the election campaign. That carried on into this year when the Los Angeles Times reporter rang me she did so because she thought that Id been a leading figure in that (I had to tell her that CAFCA played no part in it).
Bruce Ansley of the Listener continues to write excellent articles on the issue, drawing on CAFCAs material. There are even specialist sub-categories opening up - one journalist contacted me asking what is our policy on rural land sales to foreign celebrities? I replied that it is the same policy as that for sales to foreign nobodies. God help us, we even get the odd deluded soul contacting us from overseas seeking our help to buy land here (more recently, an aggrieved company in the UK asked us to do their private detective work tracking down who was "using their name in dealings with the OIC to buy NZ land"! But sometimes these apparent wild goose chases can yield interesting information). Our members include farmers who have foreign owners and forestry TNCs for neighbours, and who can see the adverse effects on themselves and their communities. We regularly receive inquiries and unsolicited information from our members and supporters, members of the public and even transnational corporation insiders. That demonstrates the level of public concern about this subject.
I get sought out by all kinds of people. For example, its been years since I did any specialist work on forestry (CAFCA published "Clearcut", my booklet on the subject, back in 1995). But this year I was interviewed by an Australian student working for the UNs Food and Agriculture Organisation. FAO is all gungho for global corporatisation and privatisation she wanted someone to forcefully put the opposite case. And my old friend Alister Barry (who is a 2003 Roger Award judge) came to pick my brains for the final film in his trilogy (what is it with Wellywood filmmakers and trilogies?) that has so far produced "Someone Elses Country" and "In A Land Of Plenty". I personally, and CAFCA, have been working with Alister and his colleagues at Vanguard Films for two decades now.
So much of our work is done in conjunction with other groups (such as on the whole free trade and globalisation area) that its increasingly harder to differentiate where our campaigns end theirs begin. Effectively it means that we have a bigger pool of people and expertise to work with. And networking continues to be our priority. At our annual strategy meeting, the committee decided that the major issues this year are Americas wars and American imperialism. As a result we decided to work more closely with activists from the Peace Action Network (PAN), which organically sprang up to organise Christchurchs anti-war marches, etc. Representatives of CAFCA, ABC and GATT Watchdog met with them to brainstorm some ideas and one positive thing that came out of that was PANs decision to hold a monthly forum. Leigh Cookson, of ARENA/GATT Watchdog, and myself, spoke at the August one, on globalisation and war.
The marches are all over (until Bushs next war, probably just in time for the 2004 US Presidential election campaign). But PAN is still going and we continue to work with it. Next week I will be attending a meeting to plan for protest action against the Labour Party Conference, which is being held in Christchurch, in November (the last time CAFCINZ protested at a Labour Party Conference here was when the 1980s Lange government was in power). Working with a new generation of young activists has been a breath of fresh air. The very militant protest at the Labour Party Conference, in November, was the first time in many a long year that the CAFCA banner had been carried through the streets. I spoke at the rally, outside the Convention Centre, on behalf of both CAFCA and ABC.
We continue to have a good working relationship with the Greens, both at the grassroots and Parliamentary level and, to a lesser extent, with whats left of the Alliance (or should that be, with whats Left of the Alliance?). But weve done less political lobbying than we did in the previous (election) year. And thats fine by me - CAFCA belongs out in the real world.
All this was on top of our usual CAFCA work, which is itself on top of humdrum administrative work. Our fortnightly committee meetings tend to be long (because were both thorough and democratic). My fellow committee members - Bill Rosenberg, Dennis Small, John Ring and Reg Duder - all work very hard. Liz Griffiths continues to do the thankless but absolutely vital job of bookkeeping. And remember, Im the only one who gets paid. There is one issue that we will need to confront our committee (all male) is middle aged or elderly. The oldest is 75; only one is younger than 50. This raises questions of health and energy levels this is tiring work when youre young and fit, let alone old and buggered. Everyone has other things going on their lives (very much so in my case, this year). For example, Bill is the national President of the Association of University Staff (and has just been re-elected for a second year). He is away in Wellington nearly every week, plus regular trips up and down the country, and overseas. Committee meetings have had to be fitted around his availablity in Christchurch in any given week and he has had less time for CAFCA work. So we need more and younger committee members. We have tried to recruit some, without success thus far, but things are looking a bit more hopeful on that front.
There are no big special projects lined up. The Roger Award goes from strength to strength with each passing year. Ever since we decided to hold the actual event outside Christchurch, that has given activists in other centres a sense of shared ownership of what is an invaluable campaign. The creativity unleashed by them in organising the Roger events has been wonderful.
We will continue to be an integral part of GATT Watchdog (and ARENA, in Bills case), and fight all the various manifestations of globalisation, such as the proposed expansion of the World Trade Organisations powers into areas such as investment (which is an attempt to resurrect the illfated Multilateral Agreement on Investment, from the late 90s). The September WTO Summit in Cancun collapsed because the developing world is no longer prepared to roll over and play dead every time the rich world (led by the Americans, and including NZ) snaps its fingers. Just last week our Christchurch members got a wonderful firsthand account of Cancun (complete with holiday snaps) from the indefatigable Jane Kelsey, who had been in the thick of the action there days earlier.
We live in interesting times, with the drive for corporate globalisation having got a flat tyre and the US Empire, having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, is finding the business of occupation and colonisation much harder going. Iraq is not Vietnam but let it boil for a bit longer and the comparison will be plainer to see. "Globalisation" = "corporate globalisation" = "imperialism" and that goes to the heart of our reason for being. We started as an anti-imperialist organisation, and we remain one today. The major global issue of the past year, and stretching into the future, is the resurgence of nakedly violent American imperialism and warmongering. There is nothing subtle about Bush and his gang of cowboys. To its credit, the Government decided to not follow America into Iraq but it has now sent military personnel to both that long suffering country, and into Afghanistan. This is the start down a slippery slope, and is markedly different from the peacekeeping roles that New Zealand played in both East Timor and Bougainville.
CAFCINZ started off by campaigning against US imperialism and US bases in NZ CAFCA moved away from that, largely leaving it up to the Anti-Bases Campaign. We dont have the luxury of that jobsharing role any more. This year, we put money into ABCs protest action at Waihopai (and into PANs new publication, ExPANd). CAFCA is, once again, involved in the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement. We cannot ignore the biggest issue facing the world.
Our core issue is foreign control, in all its manifestations. Governments come and go but the reality is that TNCs control the economy, so this is not a problem that will be solved through Parliamentary means. It needs grassroots organisations to educate and mobilise people to take back what has been stolen from us. That is the role of CAFCA. And we're more necessary than ever, because our issue is centre stage. It will be even more so now that the Government has announced a review of the Overseas Investment Act (see cover story). CAFCA will be campaigning on that, just as we have at every other legislative move to facilitate the giveway of this country and its resources.
Nor is foreign control only a single issue, as it permeates all aspects of people's daily lives. So there's no shortage of things to be done. The only problem is prioritising them. We intend to continue giving it our all, and we know that we can count on your continued active support. Morale is high, tempered with realism. We know what we're up against. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
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