- Murray Horton
My 2010 Report started off by expressing relief that the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake and subsequent aftershocks hadn’t killed anyone and that the whole disaster had had minimal impact on CAFCA. What a difference a year makes – and what a funny old year 2011 proved to be (and by that I mean funny peculiar, as opposed to funny ha ha). For a start Becky and I spent a significant proportion of it sleeping under our reassuringly solid dining table, which was definitely a first. So, before I commence my annual Report proper, I need to acknowledge the elephant in the room (and plenty of times it has literally felt like a particularly pissed off elephant has been trying to smash its way into the room, and wreck the house while it was at it). It’s the one topic that Cantabrians have been talking about since September 2010, some more obsessively than others, but that’s perfectly understandable (even if at the risk of boring our less seismically challenged compatriots). And it’s such a huge event that it has broken down all the usual social and class inhibitions in Christchurch, that most English of cities. The reality is now that I could approach any stranger, including expatriate Cantabrians and earthquake refugees, and engage them in conversation about the most personal details of their lives (such as “where do you live? How is your house? What zone are you in? What damage have you had to your house, contents and/or land? Where were you when it happened?”). Normally these sorts of conversations between total strangers would never happen and anyone asking such questions would be told to mind his or her business. Not now – I’ve had hundreds of them, solicited and unsolicited. Most memorably, one was on a flight during my 2011 CAFCA national speaking tour, when I found myself seated next to a very respectably dressed and plummily spoken gentleman who introduced himself to me as the Dean of one of the faculties at the University of Canterbury. We discussed all of the above questions in great detail, plus a good deal more, and by the time we parted company at the airport, we were on first name terms. This is one detail of “the new normal” that Christchurch faces for the indefinite future.
Life In The World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle
This subject (which remains ongoing and which the experts say will continue for decades - probably outliving me in the process - primarily because geological time and human time are two very different things) could very easily take up this entire Report, so I will (try to) confine my discussion of it to the impact on me personally and CAFCA. The simplest way to do that is to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
Was I injured? No.
Did I know anyone who was killed on February 22nd? Yes, but I only met him for the first time that day. His name was Rhys Brookbanks and he was a reporter for Canterbury Television (CTV). He left a message on my answerphone that morning inviting me in for an interview. We agreed on 10.15 and I duly went to the central city CTV Building (my first visit there for three years). We did the interview – which, of course, never screened – and then we sat around chatting in the first floor boardroom where it was conducted. So I learned a bit about him, that he was in his mid 20s, what he’d done at university and the fact that he’d only just started at CTV. I estimate I left there at about 10.45 and went to a central city bank to do the CAFCA banking (there was a CAFCA meeting scheduled for that night, in a committee member’s Lyttelton home. Needless to say it didn’t happen). Rhys Brookbanks was among the 115 people killed in that building when it collapsed in the 12.51 p.m. earthquake (out of total of 185 people killed in Christchurch). The cameraman who filmed the interview survived, because he wasn’t in the building at the time.
Where was I when it happened? I work from home, so on February 22nd, after coming home from doing that interview and the banking, I was doing CAFCA work on my computer in the office. Ironically I was compiling the list of non-paying members to be removed from the mailing list. And that has been where I have experienced the great majority of the most violent of the many thousands of aftershocks. For example, during the December 23 swarm of big quakes, I was (ironically) writing a CAFCA press release about the criminal role of insurance transnationals in stalling the rebuild of Christchurch. Once the house stopped rolling around and I noted that power and Internet were still on and nothing had been damaged, I continued writing and distributing it. Most memorably, during the biggest of the June 13 quakes Becky and I were at a central city carpet shop (very close to where the CTV building had stood) selecting a replacement for our quake-damaged carpet. I was in the carpark and had to hang onto the car while the ground convulsed beneath my feet – she was in the shop with stuff falling down and the staff ducking for cover. Once it stopped shaking we instructed the salesman to conclude the sale, we picked the carpet we wanted and joined the bumper to bumper traffic of people rushing home (that carpet has since been laid and we’ve been reimbursed for it by the Earthquake Commission).
Did we have any land damage or liquefaction? No, not on our property or in our immediate neighbourhood. We don’t have any demolished, abandoned or outwardly damaged houses in our street. But it’s a different story just a couple of streets away. Our street didn’t escape unscathed – everyone, us included, lost chimneys and the most spectacular damage was the total collapse, in one piece, of a big concrete block wall in front of a row of new townhouses across the road from our place. Fortunately, nobody was standing in front of it. Our whole part of town has been green zoned since that zoning system was instituted.
Did we lose any services? Yes, we had no power, water or sewerage for five days. On subsequent occasions we lost water for a few hours after the June quakes, plus we had a couple of sudden power blackouts (one of which led to the hasty relocation of a Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa Committee meeting to the home of a colleague who had power. As we drove we watched the lights go out as we passed by). But February 2011 was the main event. We dug the mandatory hole in the back yard – which Becky chided me was only a “short drop” - but never actually used it. It’s remarkable how long you can hang on when you set your mind (or bowels) to it. Becky proved very adept at harvesting rainwater from our downpipes. She reckons Filipinos are used to natural disasters on an annual basis (mostly floods caused by typhoons) and have had plenty of practice at routinely coping without water, power or sewerage (although not all at once, usually). And I’ll never again sneer at her habit of stockpiling toilet paper. Special thanks to the Boyd sisters, Lynda and Jenny, who brought us a boot full of water bottles (survival hint – have a bath in your house; it’s a great storage repository for water). Thanks to our local butcher who stored all our freezer contents in his shop freezer, so we didn’t lose any food. He also supplied a barrel of fresh water outside his shop every day for people to help themselves – that’s the first time I’ve ever had to carry buckets of water home. I felt empathy with African women, except, of course, that I didn’t have to do it every day, or walk for many kilometres or carry it on my head. Thanks to our local café who gave me, free of charge, three big slices of carrot cake when I called in on the afternoon of the killer quake (as they had no power or water they were going to have to chuck them out). We lived on that, plus canned food cooked on our gas stove, for several days. Thanks to the Filipino friends who delivered us a food parcel of Filipino food and groceries. And thanks to all the other friends who invited us to use their power, water, toilet, washing machine or computer; who invited us for a meal; or who rang us from around the country and around the world to check that we were OK (our good old landline worked throughout; cordless phones are useless without power, as are cellphones because you need power to charge them).
Thanks To The Workers & Volunteers
And while I’m on the subject – many thanks to the Press for continuing to publish and deliver during those most unprecedented of circumstances (namely the fatal collapse of its Cathedral Square building). It was amazing to find a paper on the drive on February 23 after a sleepless night which was one uninterrupted earthquake, interspersed with huge aftershocks smashing into the house (as Led Zeppelin sang, so many years ago: “You shook me, babe, all night long”. Oh yes, you did, you bastard. That was the only night when I fleetingly thought of leaving town). And also, many thanks to the City Council and Orion workers and contractors who slogged their guts out to restore water, power and sewerage, fix the roads and collect the rubbish. Hats off to the workers (and to the thousands of volunteers, the students, the farmers, the nameless heroes who shovelled the silt and who have continued to do so every time it has been shaken to the surface).
Were our house and the CAFCA office damaged? Yes to both. Lots of superficial cracks to interior plaster walls and ceilings, lots of cracks to our exterior roughcast walls. The only structural job that had to be done was the removal and replacement of one interior wall, necessitated by the removal of the brick chimney and back to back fireplaces. That meant we lost our logburner, which was replaced by a free heat pump. We were told, unofficially, that the damage to our place totalled $30,000 (which is defined as moderate and therefore fell into the range which is the responsibility of Fletchers to fix, as contractor to the Earthquake Commission).
2012 marks 30 years since I bought this plain but strong old house. When I did so I gave no thought whatsoever to the composition or strength of the land beneath it; I bought a rundown old house in gritty old Addington (which has, ironically, now become trendy and overcrowded with relocated businesses and offices from the central city) because $25,000 was all that I could afford on a Railways labourer’s wage. If I’d had the money I would have bought in much more salubrious Avonside, the last suburb in which I rented. That particular street was grievously damaged in the September 2010 quake and only made worse ever since. In 2012 it has been rezoned from orange to red, meaning that the entire street and all the houses on it (including one belonging to good friends) will be bulldozed and abandoned, with all the residents having to relocate. Never has the expression “touch wood” been more appropriate. Our single storey wooden house, with a lightweight steel roof, and on piles, has rolled with all of the many thousands of punches landed on it by Mother Earth, and come out of it with just a whole lot of superficial cracks to show for it. Becky is disappointed that the quakes have singularly failed to eradicate our picturesque old eyesore of a semi-derelict back shed. It’s probably one of the few heritage buildings left standing in Christchurch. It’s certainly done better than the Cathedral.
House Fixed; No Further Damage
Has the house and office been fixed? Yes, in June and July 2011. We had to empty the front of the house of everything (from curtains to furniture and all office contents), store all that in the garage, and live in our dining room for two months of winter (sleeping on makeshift mattresses on the floor) while the repairs were done. As we had, voluntarily, spent three months in 1998 also living in a construction site while the back of the house was renovated – meaning that we had no kitchen, bathroom, toilet or laundry – we had had experience of what to expect. We have no idea why our place was among the first to be fixed. We had not been nagging the Commission about it; the place was perfectly liveable and weathertight, with only superficial damage. We had expected to wait years for it to be repaired, as tens of thousands of others have to.
Did we have any looters? Yes, one hopeful one who turned up while we were living in the back of the house (I was working on Watchdog when he came peering in the window). He told me he thought it looked empty from the street (the front of it was) so he came round the back, where he encountered me and hastily concocted a bullshit story before leaving the scene of the intended crime. That reinforced to us the wisdom of living in the house while it was repaired.
Has there been any further damage in later quakes? No, the repairs have stood up well, the guys did a very good job and we have no complaints about the workmanship. The house looks much better and is stronger now than before (for instance, the repairs included painting the exterior roughcast, something I’d never done). We have a handful of cracks remaining to be fixed, which are the subject of a separate claim (unresolved at the time of writing).
So, is the house and office back to normal now? Largely but not entirely. For many, many months we bought bottled water because we couldn’t stand the taste of chlorine in the tap water. But now we can drink Christchurch’s beautiful artesian water once again. We haven’t put anything back on the walls, not even my Chairman Mao clock (they all fell off on February 22nd); no ornaments are back up (apart from anything else, we no longer have any mantelpieces); nor any lightshades. The latter were the most spectacular victims – in several places entire light fittings were ripped out of the ceiling and smashed to the floor. I didn’t see it happen, but surmise it was caused by the house being thrust up and smashed down by the unprecedented vertical seismic wave that hit the whole city like a giant uppercut. But we got off lightly and had so few contents damaged that we forgot to claim on them. Because of the continuing quakes (the December ones toppled a few minor things again) we’re in no hurry to put things back where they were. In many cases we will have to find them first (the joy of packing and storing nearly all your stuff). But the office was fully restored, as a matter of high priority. I have floor to ceiling shelves of file boxes, none of which have ever fallen out (due, no doubt, to the sheer weight of paper, and the fact that they’re packed in so tightly).
Colleagues Much More Badly Affected
Were other members of the CAFCA Committee adversely affected? Yes, some much more so than us. Lynda Boyd lives in Auckland but was in Christchurch on February 22nd on business for the union for which she then worked. She was in a central city hotel when it happened and got mildly injured by falling debris. She and her mother Cass Daley (Watchdog’s Webperson) were both caught up in the central city chaos that day, as constant aftershocks tore open the street around them, immersing them kneedeep in liquefaction and sewerage as they tried to walk through town. On December 23rd they were upstairs in a mall and Lynda hit the deck again. James Ayers lives in the eastern suburbs, which is the worst affected area. Although not in the condemned suburban red zone, his house and land have suffered significant damage. Furthermore, he earned his living from a rented central city shop which, although still standing, has been cordoned off inside the red zone since February 22nd and remains so at the time of writing. Quentin Findlay lived in a hillside rented flat next to an old quarry – his contents got knocked flying and then, months later, his flat was suddenly red stickered and he had to get out forthwith, because of the danger of rock fall (Quentin resigned from the Committee not long after the February quake). Both Jeremy Agar and Warren Brewer live in Lyttelton, which bore the brunt of that killer quake and an untold number of the subsequent aftershocks. Jeremy had just renovated his house, which was then damaged by the quake, including some structural damage. He was lucky not to be killed or injured. When the quake struck he was just sitting down to lunch, equidistant between his grandfather clock and a windowpane. The former fell over and smashed into the floor in front of him; the latter came out of its frame and would have sliced through his neck if he’d been any further back. The December 23rd quake knocked him to the ground while he was walking on the beach. He has had his roof fixed as an emergency repair. Leigh Cookson, Watchdog’s Layout Editor, had liquefaction underneath her house and lost some basic services for a long time. Her house is one of the thousands which will have to be lifted in order for the foundations to be fixed, as part of the repairs. The December quakes have done more damage, twisting her house on its foundations, with the resultant pressure causing several windows to explode in the middle of the night.
Bob Leonard, who was the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account Treasurer (and thus my paymaster) from 1993-2010, and my Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) colleague and close friend since the early 80s, fared the worst – he and Barbara had to flee their badly damaged hillside home on February 22nd and they’ve been earthquake refugees in Wellington ever since (they won’t be back). The ABC Committee also lost Doug Craig, who had to get out of his eastern suburbs flat when the landlord decided to cut his losses, evict the tenants and sell the place a few months after the quake. Doug moved back to his hometown of Nelson but remains a distance member of the ABC Committee. Robyn Dann, the ABC Treasurer, owns a 1850s’ Woolston cottage across the street from the Heathcote River. The place has a lot of old bricks in it and those parts of the house have taken a pummelling. She and her daughter are allowed to live in it, pending a decision on repair or rebuild, but the bedrooms are too dangerous to sleep in, meaning that they’ve been living in the lounge and dining room for more than a year. That means Robyn can no longer host ABC meetings, which she had done for the past decade (our place is now the ABC meeting venue, until further notice). Warren Thomson, of the ABC Committee and Peace Researcher Co-Editor, worked in the central city at an English language school. That whole industry was virtually wiped out in seconds by the February quake (fortunately, Warren did not work in the language school in the CTV Building, whose students and staff comprised the biggest number of the 115 people killed in that building’s collapse). Warren had months of unemployment, followed by months of highly erratic part-time work as his school struggled to survive with a drastically reduced number of foreign students. At the time of writing his hillside house is being repaired.
Did, indeed does, it disrupt CAFCA’s ability to function properly? Yes, in as far as daily life has been disrupted and significant chunks of the city are inaccessible, have ceased to exist or have been relocated to less convenient suburbs. For example, doing the CAFCA banking and posting now takes longer because I have to travel further to do so (Kiwibank/NZ Post has opened up in a central city container in 2012 but doesn’t offer a full range of banking services). During the state of emergency immediately after the quake it was definitely a novelty to do routine tasks, such as photocopying and clearing our central city mail box, under the watchful eye of babyfaced soldiers at roadblocks complete with armoured cars. Warren Brewer, who replaced Bob Leonard as CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account Treasurer, had to spend an inordinate amount of time on tasks such as getting new signatories authorised, and replacing necessary financial data (because it is somewhere inside Bob’s trashed and vacated home, which awaits a decision as to when, or if, it will be repaired). But humans are very adaptable (otherwise we would have become extinct a very long time ago), so we simply adjust to “the new normal” and get on with it. So, fundamentally, the answer to that question is no – CAFCA has not been disrupted. We missed only one Committee meeting (the one scheduled for the night of February 22nd); we produced the requisite three issues of Watchdog on time (the December 2011 issue being the second biggest ever, and this one might even be bigger); we organised the Roger Award; my first national speaking tour since 2002 (and a very successful one it was, too); plus played a leading role in the New Zealand Is Not For Sale Campaign in opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. If anything we were much busier and more productive than in a “normal” year. I must also confess that being confronted by the fenced off Forbidden City rekindles the adventurer in me. My most memorable recent Sunday walk was when, by following my nose (and without having to climb any fences or kill any Army sentries) I found myself entirely alone – apart from some ducks – in Victoria Square in the heart of the central city red zone. It was fascinating to check out the familiar buildings (now grievously damaged), land and river as if I was the only person on Earth. No, I didn’t get arrested, nor did I see anyone who might have arrested me.
Ice And Fire, Just For Good Measure
It’s worth mentioning that thousands of earthquakes were not the only things to try the patience of Cantabrians in 2011. We had two record snowfalls within three weeks (during the first of those, Becky and I were still living in our dining room, sleeping on the floor – in my case, within centimetres of snow piled up to our back door step). Survival tip – if you feel like a coffee during a blizzard and everywhere is shut, go to the Hospital’s staff cafeteria which is also open to the public (they’re classified as an essential service, as doctors have to be fed, and are contractually bound to be open every day. The service is appalling and the surroundings depressing but you still get a coffee out of it. And it’s cheap).
And there was one potential disaster which was unique to our place, to the CAFCA office to be specific. Just days before Christmas 2010 we had brought home the December Watchdog from the printer and stacked up the boxes of it in the office. I went round to the nearest Post Shop (since permanently put out of business by the quakes) to mail the overseas and bulk copies. When I got back I became aware of an unfamiliar smell, which Becky quickly identified as that of burning. We established that, in my absence, our early 1990s’ vintage answering machine for our cordless phone had burnt out (it was extremely hot to the touch, as was its plug) but, fortunately, it had not actually caught fire. So the whole office and house, not to mention that issue of Watchdog, could have gone up in smoke. But wait, there’s more. Just days later, on the morning of Boxing Day 2010, Becky and I were on the computer, checking out retailers’ Websites for a replacement cordless answerphone, when the extremely violent Boxing Day quake struck and things started falling down in the office (that’s how I gauge the strength of the quakes – if things fall over I deem them worthy of being taken seriously). Did that put us off? Not a bar of it – we went straight to the city’s biggest mall, to an upstairs retailer, bought the phone and stayed up there for lunch. Watchdog was duly posted out to members the first work day after Christmas.
Finally, has all of this got on our nerves? Yes, of course (for one thing, regular interrupted sleep has a cumulative effect), but not so much that it has affected our ability to function as normally as possible and to get my work done. I don’t keep a diary (haven’t done since the 60s), so my fortnightly invoice to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account for my pay is the only continuous record of my daily doings. For this Report I looked up the invoice for the fortnight covering the February 22nd earthquake, which was when we had no power, water or sewerage for a chunk of that period. It records my work as per usual and, right at the bottom, all it says is: “Dealing with aftermath of earthquake; having to make numerous alternative arrangements”. I think that puts it into perspective. For both Becky and I, there has never been any question of quitting either our home or Christchurch. And the same goes for the rest of the CAFCA team – we’re a pigheaded bunch and we’re staying put. Mother Earth might be throwing the ultimate hissy fit, subjecting us all to a constant subterranean bombardment, but we’ll ride it out. My Filipino in-laws and friends routinely describe New Zealand as “orderly” (meaning “boring”). I’d like to reassure them that Christchurch is spectacularly disorderly at present and will be for the indefinite future. I think that’s enough on that subject.
The stuff I usually write about in my annual Report seems mundane by comparison but we’ve all had more than our fair share of excitement, not to mention sheer terror, since September 2010, so mundane will do nicely for the time being, thanks very much. 2011 saw a couple of changes to the Committee – namely the resignations of Quentin Findlay and Colleen Hughes, and their replacement by James Ayers and Paul Piesse respectively. In Colleen’s case, it was only temporary, as she has rejoined in 2012, thus continuing the Committee’s only family dynasty, which stretches back to the early 1990s when her father, the late Reg Duder, joined (you can read my obituary of Reg in Watchdog 117, April 2008, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/17/07.htm). Nor has Quentin been lost to CAFCA – he has written an article for this issue. Paul has joined us after retiring from a lifetime as a trade union official and Leftwing political activist – and he has his Security Intelligence Service (SIS) Personal File to prove it. Paul kindly supplied us with a copy of that several years ago. Three of us on the Committee – myself, Bill Rosenberg and Paul – have received our SIS files; plus, of course, they kept one on CAFCINZ/CAFCA itself for several decades from the mid 1970s until the late 90s. And, in early 2012, we have welcomed back, as a distance member, Dennis Small, who was a key member for a decade spanning the 1990s and into the early years of this century, when he permanently moved to Reefton. The other members are Jeremy Agar, John Ring, Lynda Boyd and Warren Brewer.
I am the Secretary/Organiser; Jeremy is Chairperson. As well as Dennis, Bill and Lynda (who live in Wellington and Auckland respectively) are “distance” members of the committee. The majority of us are aged 60 plus; Lynda, at 29, is the baby by a good 30+ years. At ten, it is the largest ever CAFCA committee but with three of them living outside Christchurch we never get all of them at a meeting. I’ve only seen Dennis on a couple of occasions in the past decade (one of them being in Ballantynes of all places; perhaps we should hold CAFCA meetings there). Lynda makes it to the occasional meeting when she’s back in her home town; Bill is strictly an electronic member. Although he has not attended a Committee meeting since 2009, we did bring him to Christchurch twice in 2011, to speak at a seminar and a public meeting (on the first occasion he managed to dodge the killer February quake by just a couple of days – it destroyed the central city hotel that he and Dianne stayed in. That was the same hotel which Lynda Boyd was caught in by the quake).
There is always a core of five or six at every meeting, sometimes even all seven Christchurch members. I am the sole paid staff but I’m certainly not the only one doing the work – for instance, Bill is the Webmaster (although he would like to ease out of that if a replacement can be found); Lynda administers our Facebook group. Warren does an excellent job of running both Watchblog and our Twitter account; Jeremy is Watchdog’s prolific Reviews Editor; James prolifically writes up and analyses all the monthly Decisions of the Overseas Investment Office for Watchdog: Dennis has been a very prolific Watchdog writer for the best part of 20 years. James and Warren and Paul take turns doing the numerous driving tasks (ranging from getting non-drivers John and I to every meeting to picking up hundreds of Watchdogs from the printer and getting them posted). So we work as a team and a very democratic one at that – all subjects are discussed by the Committee, no matter whether it is what piece of office equipment to buy or our policy on major political and economic issues of the day. Those meetings are lengthy but stimulating and out of them emerge new suggestions, fresh ideas, activities and campaigns.
When I say that CAFCA is a broad church, the Committee is an excellent microcosm of that, with members including activists and candidates in a couple of extra-Parliamentary parties, a grassroots local body politician and a born again Christian. We work well together and, even better, we all get on as friends as well as Committee colleagues. This is best seen at the three times a year Watchdog mailouts, held around our dining table (the same one Becky and I slept under for several months of 2011), when Committee members are joined for several hours by other members. These are great social occasions, capped off by a potluck lunch (the quality of which increases dramatically if Becky’s around).
In my 2010 Report I said that our membership was 440 (it was 449 in 2009). I’m pleased to report that, at the time of writing, it is 460 (the highest it has been since 2008, when it was also 460). So, this is the first time for several years that we’ve not only held steady but actually increased. Every year we purge non-payers from our membership (it needs to be noted that this is being written before the 2012 purge) and in 2011 the post-purge number dropped into the 420s. We keep picking up new members, one at a time. But in 2011 there was one additional factor which led to a boost in membership, namely my national speaking tour. Every time I’ve done one (this was the first since 2002) people have come to my public meetings, and either joined up on the spot or taken away our material and joined later. Not all of them stay with us but plenty do. It’s an old fashioned but well proven way of getting our message out directly to people and picking up both members and money. However, as I am CAFCA’s only worker, I can’t be doing such tours all the time or even very often, because they are very time consuming and while I’m away, work is piling up at home (I’ve politely resisted suggestions that I take a laptop on tour with me so that I can do the routine CAFCA work as I go. Sorry, but I need some downtime to recharge my batteries whilst spending weeks travelling the country by bus and speaking every night and day). We now routinely write to ex-members, inviting them to rejoin and some do.
Even though we have seen an increase in the last year, membership has been slowly dropping in recent years - it used to hover just under 500. There are several explanations for this turnover (or “churn” as the capitalists so poetically call it), ranging from death, old age and changed financial circumstances to people moving and not giving us their new address (the latter is a real factor with quake-disrupted Christchurch members). There are always some who decide that CAFCA is no longer a priority for them, which is fair enough. It is worth stressing that, for as long as we have existed (getting close to 40 years now) CAFCA has always made a point of having as members people who actually want to be members and who are prepared to pay the necessary annual amount. We would boast a much bigger “membership” (at a guess, in the thousands) if we had kept on our books even a fraction of those whose annual payments have lapsed over the years. That, however, would present an entirely misleading picture – our membership may be small but they’re paying members (not to mention the much larger number of non-members, well into the thousands, who either receive our material via one of the several e-mail lists that I operate or by directly accessing the CAFCA and/or Watchdog Websites or Watchblog or our Facebook group, where it is freely available).
CAFCA is in an extremely healthy financial situation (the 2010/11 Accounts were sent to you with the August 2011 Watchdog). We have a cheque account to pay our bills and three term deposits, all with Kiwibank. At the time of writing those four accounts between them hold more than $57,000 (and that doesn’t include money in the Watchdog account). This is $10,000 more than in 2010, despite CAFCA having shouldered major and unusual expenses in 2011, such as the cost of my national speaking tour and a lot of the costs of the New Zealand Is Not For Sale Campaign. That being the case, it would have been a major achievement if we had finished 2011 with that same $47,000 in the bank, let alone an additional $10,000. The latter can be explained in two words – Ron Resnick, a Nelson member who died in 2010 and left CAFCA $9,350.60, which we received in 2011, the single biggest donation we’ve ever received (you can read the obituaries of him by me and Ted Howard in Watchdog 125, December 2010, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/25/12.htm). But, even allowing for the Resnick factor, it was a remarkable achievement to finish 2011 in a significantly better financial position than 2010.
CAFCA members are both extremely loyal and generous, with many including donations of various sizes with their annual membership payment. In fact, members were more generous than usual in 2011. Your guess is as good as mine. John Key’s tax cuts? (I’ve received tax refunds in the past couple of years, for the first time since I ceased to be a wage earner in the early 1990s. Perhaps I’d better start voting National, out of gratitude). Or, maybe sympathy because of the earthquake factor? Christchurch has become the country’s charity of choice since the February quake – perhaps CAFCA members decided to target that a bit more specifically. Who knows? All I know is that we are truly grateful for the continued outstanding generosity of our members. We haven’t had to put up our membership fees for years now and have no plans to do so. I mentioned in my 2010 Report that we had stockpiled a year’s worth of postage paid envelopes to cushion the impact of postage rates going up (after printing, postage is the biggest cost for Watchdog). In 2011 we finished that stockpile, so we are now paying the full price of postage ($1.80 per copy – not many years ago it was $1). For the record, it cost $3,049.15 to produce the December 2011 issue. Despite this savage 80% increase in an unavoidable cost (we have no plans to switch to an online only publication) we have been able to easily absorb it without having to charge members more. But if New Zealand Post keeps increasing its prices (like all postal services worldwide it is fighting a losing battle against e-mail and other electronic means of communications) we may have to review that.
I say this is every annual Report but it remains true - being in such a financially healthy situation means that we are completely financially independent; we don’t have to compromise ourselves by going cap in hand to any funding agencies (I spend precisely none of my time writing funding applications). We are beholden to nobody except our own members and supporters; we can, and do, say what we think without fear or favour and without worrying about biting the hand that feeds us. It enables us to finance regular campaigns like the Roger Award, including paying to fly me and the Chief Judge, Christine Dann, to speak at the Auckland event which was held to announce the winner in April 2011. And that was the launching pad for my national speaking tour, all of which was paid for by CAFCA. I didn’t solicit for money for the tour costs when speaking at public meetings. One of the funniest incidents on that tour happened in Thames (first time I’ve ever spoken there) when former Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons could contain herself no longer and, as the meeting was breaking up, proclaimed in her most authoritative “Mr Speaker!” voice: “Murray has been living on the smell of an oily rag for years and is having to do this tour by bus” (actually, that was my choice as, in the absence of my first choice of a functional passenger rail network, I find bus travel to be the most relaxing means of intercity public transport). A literal hat was produced and the suitably shamed audience filled it with money which was duly presented to me (after costs were deducted by the local organiser, who hadn’t expected to recoup anything).
Unlike in 2010, we didn’t make any major equipment purchases in 2011, so we had just the normal running costs of running a small office. They can be high enough as it is. And, fortunately, no equipment was damaged or broken by the quakes. Just once, during the killer February quake, our brand new monitor fell onto the keyboard. Both lived to tell the story (including this story). But 2011 was unique in the 20 years that I’ve been working from a home office, namely that it had to be 100% emptied (right down to curtains and carpet) in order to be repaired along with the rest of the quake-damaged rooms at the front of the house. The office wasn’t affected when we voluntarily renovated the back of the house in 1998. But it certainly was this time – a bare minimum of equipment and files was temporarily relocated into the dining room (returning me to the part of the house from which I‘d first worked when I started doing this, in 1991). One great plus was that it meant that I could watch TV while at the computer – a distraction I don’t have in the office. Everything else, including nearly all my files, went into temporary storage in the garage for two months of winter (not an ideal situation for old paper, particularly when Christchurch had one of its coldest days in 90 years). To even get near any of those files during those two months I had to inelegantly clamber over stacked furniture and appliances, treading all over one of our sturdy old TVs (survival tip – forget about flat screen TVs, they just fall over and smash in quakes. But neither of our two heavy old clunkers moved a millimetre, even when things were falling off the top of them. And they both go perfectly despite thousands of quakes, months in the garage in midwinter and me standing on them). As part of that shifting and storage process I had to make snap decisions, and not very informed ones, about what to keep and what to chuck. The result was that quite a lot of historic old stuff got dumped. In my defence, I did offer it to the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Library – to this day, they’ve never returned my call. Everything was fully restored to its rightful place many months ago now but I unapologetically operate what I call a full office policy. My shelves are full, so when I need to add a new file box, I chuck out an old one. It’s one way of staying sane and not becoming buried in paper.
The CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income and has done so since 1991, continues to be in good shape. Indeed it’s in the best shape for years. At the time of writing the Westpac cheque account from which I am paid holds more than $9,000, which is much more than usual (and before anyone writes in to criticise us for banking with Westpac, I point out that we have explained the how and the why many times before. Suffice to say that it wasn’t Westpac when we started). Plus there is $16,127.55 in the Organiser Account’s term deposit with Kiwibank, where the bulk of the money is kept, invested for 12 months at 4.5%. That matures in November 2012.
The healthy bank balances can be explained in two words – Ron Resnick, who, as I’ve already explained, died in 2010 and left CAFCA and the Organiser Account $9,350.60 each, which we received in 2011, the single biggest donations that either have ever received. The Resnick bequest enabled my hourly rate to be increased to $16 (from $15) and to transfer $5,000 into the term deposit from the cheque account ($4,000 had previously been transferred the other way to boost the latter). I mentioned in my 2010 Report that, due to human oversight, the cheque account had dropped too low and CAFCA and ABC had to lend $1,500 each to the Organiser Account (rather than break the Organiser Account term deposit). That $3,000 was duly repaid in early 2011, before we received – or knew about – the Resnick bequest.
Most of the income now comes from regular pledges as opposed to donations, to the order of two thirds to one third. As of the time of writing there are 60+ pledgers (as opposed to 49 in 2010), including those who pledge annually, twice yearly and quarterly. Several people have started pledging in recent months. So that is a significant increase and, I think, the highest ever number. But I don’t want to give the impression that donations have diminished into insignificance – one national organisation makes an annual $1,000 donation; some individuals donate hundreds of dollars at a time. As I say every year (20 years so far) my heartfelt thanks to all of you who keep supporting my work, and therefore that of CAFCA and ABC, by your generosity. I (quite literally) couldn’t do it without you. However, the sums have been done and it has been calculated that we need to raise more income to avoid eating into the reserves again, particularly as I have had a $1 per hour pay rise, the first for a while. So, more effort will be put into fundraising in 2012. The importance of the Organiser Account cannot be overstated – by having such a dedicated account, it frees up both CAFCA and ABC from having to devote any time or resources to fundraising for my pay, and they can concentrate on spending their money on campaigning, etc.
The February 22nd earthquake meant that long time Organiser Account Treasurer Bob Leonard and his wife Barbara had to immediately evacuate their severely damaged hill suburb home and permanently move to Wellington. I would just like to reiterate my personal thanks to Bob, who was a close friend and colleague for the best part of 30 years. Not only was he my oldest and closest ABC and Peace Researcher colleague but, as Organiser Treasurer, he was also my paymaster from 1993-2011 inclusive. Bob was also an active CAFCA member for decades, attending the AGM virtually every year (he presented that Organiser Account Annual Reports at AGMs right up until 2010) and regularly helping out at Watchdog mailouts. These were definitely not the circumstances in which we expected to have to farewell him. The major consolation was that in 2010, which turned out to be our last year together as friends and colleagues, we spent even more time together than ever and a lot of it was socialising, not just work.
CAFCA Committee member Warren Brewer stepped in and replaced Bob as Treasurer of the Account (which means that the Organiser Account has gone from being an agenda item at every ABC Committee meeting to now being one at every CAFCA Committee meeting). Warren took over in unprecedented circumstances and was hampered by a lack of basic data (rendered inaccessible in Bob’s home by earthquake damage and by Bob’s abrupt departure). Throughout 2011 Warren had to spend a considerable amount of time on Organiser Account business, getting signatories replaced and reconstructing data. And he’s instituted some other administrative changes – for instance, I now get paid by a fortnightly automatic payment into my bank account rather than by a fortnightly cheque issued at a meeting. Many thanks to Warren for taking this on and for making such a good job of it.
Watchdog is CAFCA’s face and voice to the world. It now looks the best it ever has and, starting from the December 2011 issue, our Layout Editor, Leigh Cookson, electronically sends it to the printers as a PDF, meaning that they don’t have to do any more scanning, resizing and general fiddling around with the graphics. They can just print it from that, with no more hard copy master required, and it gets printed even quicker than before. 100% of the illustrations for each issue are now sourced digitally, which makes for easier layout and printing, and for better quality graphics and photos. Where I do only have a hard copy I scan it to turn it into a digital image. Ian Dalziel does a graphic, free of charge, for the cover of each issue and they’re uniformly bloody good. Although he is scratching his head for new ways to depict Key and English, who are invariably our cover boys (including for this issue). Once again, many thanks to Leigh, who has made a damned good job of the layout since the late 1990s.
Watchdog’s great strength is its team of writers. James Ayers does an excellent and comprehensive job of writing up and analysing the Overseas Investment Office’s monthly Decisions, which fills a decent chunk of each issue. Particular thanks are due to James because of the extraordinarily trying circumstances under which he had to work in 2011 – as I’ve already mentioned, the February quake badly damaged his home and deprived him of his livelihood, with his central city shop being fenced off inside the red zone until now. For some time after that quake, the family was out of their house and moving around, staying with relatives. In the midst of all that, James’ father-in-law suddenly died of a heart attack. When they were able to move back into their badly damaged home, they were without basic services for a very long time - for example, they weren’t able to use their toilet until nearly year’s end, having to use a portaloo on the street right through winter. Despite all that James was able to write up his full quota of Decisions. He usually does four months’ worth per issue – for the first issue after that quake, he was only able to do two months (quite understandably; I was grateful he could do any). But for the next two issues he did five months worth in each, to catch up. As one of my old Railways’ workmates used to say: “His blood is worth bottling!” Plus he joined the Committee in 2011 and plays a very active role on it. He explained to me his determination to keep to his Watchdog commitments as” I just want to do something normal”. I understand exactly how he feels.
Jeremy Agar continues his prodigious output as our Reviews Editor, reviewing both books and films (a role he also plays for the Anti-Bases Campaign’s Peace Researcher). In most cases, major publishers have no hesitation in sending review copies of their books to Watchdog when we ask them to do – even when they know that Jeremy is going to put the boot in (I’m thinking of a biography of Geoffrey Palmer that he reviewed in 2011; on the positive side, it was a guaranteed cure for insomnia). Jeremy lives in Lyttelton and when he first contacted us, back in the late 1990s (having retired home after 30 years as a teacher in Toronto) he was very keen to write about the Lyttelton Port Company. I explained that as it is Christchurch City Council-owned, it was not a relevant subject for Watchdog (and it remains Council-owned, despite the Council’s attempt to flog it off last decade. CAFCA played its part in stopping that). But, finally, in the December 2011 issue, Jeremy got his chance to write about the Lyttelton Port Company, in the context of his article about the Productivity Commission, the new name for Rogernomics. He performed a valuable service in alerting people to the dangers posed by this obscure body (you are forgiven if you’ve never heard of it). Jeremy spoke on the subject at the public meeting that CAFCA held in November on the real election issues (which didn’t include anything to do with cups of tea) and did his first ever TV interview, on that subject, with CTV. Fortunately his visit to CTV was considerably less traumatic than my February 22nd one and his interview actually made it to air and everybody involved came out of it alive. As I said, Jeremy lives in Lyttelton, which has been hit very hard by the quakes and his own home has been damaged, including some structural damage. He has been kept very busy with the ongoing quakes crisis in his role as a member of the local community board. As with James I am grateful that he was able to produce so much high quality writing for Watchdog despite all that.
The excellent article in this issue on just how much land is foreign-owned (as opposed to the misleadingly soothing official version) marks the first time that Bill Rosenberg has written anything especially for Watchdog since he moved to Wellington to become the NZ Council of Trade Unions’ Economist and Policy Director in 2009 – but every issue of Watchdog since then has included an article by Bill, ones that he has written for other publications (quite often mainstream papers) or conference papers and speeches that he has delivered. The only difference is that they are all under his CTU by-line, not his CAFCA one. Bill is incredibly busy in his CTU job and I greatly appreciate the fact that we still get articles from him for every issue. Likewise, Dennis Small writes for every issue and at length. Indeed, at such length that we recently spread one of his articles over two issues (this one and the last one) for the first time in Watchdog’s history. That followed the precedent set by my other publication, the Anti-Bases Campaign’s Peace Researcher, which published an article by Dennis over its two issues in 2011. Dennis is like Jeremy in that he is an essayist and his articles have attracted their own fan club of appreciative readers.
Writers: An Embarrassment Of Riches
Liz Gordon and John Minto both write something for every issue (and have done for 2-3 years now), which is very much appreciated. Their articles have the great virtue of being very short, which makes them ideal for breaking up the great long pieces by James, Jeremy and Dennis (not to mention me). And look at the calibre of people who write for us on a one off basis – Victor Billot, Kate Dewes, Wayne Hope, Jane Kelsey, Fiona Farrell, Maire Leadbeater, and Bryan Gould being some of them. Brian Easton and Jeanette Fitzsimons have written articles for this issue. We regularly solicit articles from unions – in 2011 we ran articles from the Maritime Union, Rail and Maritime Transport Union and the Service and Food Workers Union. You will notice that we never run articles from MPs or officials of any party. The reason is simple – CAFCA is independent of all parties (Parliamentary or extra-Parliamentary) and reserves the right to criticise all of them (and we do). We take this seriously. In one 2011 issue we declined to publish an article from one of our regular writers because it was promoting a particular party (the fact that it was the party that I voted for in 2011 didn’t tempt me to make an exception. Clue – it wasn’t ACT). We asked that writer to send us something else, which was duly published.
I am the Editor, which I find both immensely satisfying but also extremely time consuming. I have been so successful in getting other people to write for us (which I then have to edit and put together) that I have less and less time for actual writing of my own. But then, that’s the role of the Editor. Even my trademark obituaries have been delegated to other writers in recent years (but, don’t worry, we don’t plan to outsource them to China). However I always commit to write the lead article in every issue, which serves as the editorial. 2011 was an extremely busy year for me in my roles as both organiser and activist (with earthquake disruptions thrown in for good measure), so writing at all, let alone at length, tended to go onto the backburner. But I did write the 16 page speech that I delivered around the country on my New Zealand Is Not Sale speaking tour and made good use of bits of that in several Watchdog issues (and am still making good use of it in other writings, such as in an opinion piece published in the Press in February 2012). I put a lot of work into that and it serves as an excellent template.
It’s A Big Bugger
It is fortunate that Watchdog has the luxury of size, because it’s a big bugger (we realise that its size is offputting to some people, but we firmly believe that it is that rarity which combines both quantity and quality). The three issues in 2011 were 72, 84 and 108 pages respectively, so it’s a good thing that our printers no longer have the 80 page limit imposed by their previous equipment. That 72 page issue, the smallest issue for many years, was the April issue and thus the first one after the killer quake. It was the issue most disrupted by that disaster – as I’ve already mentioned, James Ayers was only able to write up two months’ worth of OIO Decisions, which is half his usual quota (he made up the backlog by the December issue).
Since 2009 I’ve no longer had to worry about having to cut things out or hold them over until next time (a frequent occurrence in the past) but it still has to go the printers in multiples of four pages, so there can still be an issues of having to cut or add something to get it to fit that format. December 2011 was the second issue to crack the magic 100 page barrier. The first was the December 2010 issue, which remains our biggest ever, at 112 pages. December 2011 was well on track to easily overtake that but various steps were taken to stop it completely blowing out – Leigh Cookson, our Layout Editor (who truly does a remarkable job in converting a great big indigestible blob of raw copy into the finished product) reduced the type size by half a point; I deleted the pages of references from the encyclopaedic article on news media ownership, only including them with the online edition; I cut Dennis Small’s article in half and published it over two issues (Part 2 is in this one and now he tells me that there will be a Part 3, which will appear in the August issue); and I held back this Report until this issue – which was an easy decision to make because I hadn’t even started writing it by the time the December issue was due. So a pattern is emerging of our December issues being whoppers. One explanation is that, at the beginning of each year, I write to a range of people asking if they’ll contribute an article to one of our three issues in the forthcoming year. Most say they will oblige for the December, presumably because it is the furthest away. Come the December deadline I’m swamped with all this copy promised nearly a year earlier. Still, better too much than too little. And this issue is on track to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ever.
The other member of the Watchdog team to be thanked is Cass Daley, who is in charge of the Website. That’s a big job in itself. Cass went beyond the call of duty in 2011. Her mother turned 100 and died a few months later. As is always the case with a sick and/or dying parent, this takes up a lot of the family’s time and emotional energy (I speak from experience). I was astonished to be informed by Cass that she was working on the online December 2011 issue on her laptop whilst maintaining sleepless overnight vigils at her mother’s deathbed.
Watchdog has a much bigger readership in cyberspace than it does in hard copy and it attracts a lot of feedback, some of it unexpected. For example: the online obituaries, some of them years old. In recent months I’ve been approached by a researcher who’d read my 2007 obituary of Wolfgang Rosenberg and wanted a copy of a family memoir by Wolf’s late brother, which was cited in that, for her research on expatriate Germans in New Zealand (I put her in touch with Bill, who was able to oblige). Some such approaches are poignant. Right in the middle of the Christmas 2011 earthquakes drama I was approached by a woman who was looking for her birth father, whom she reckoned was the subject of an early Noughties’ Watchdog obituary. She included photos of herself and her kids in case I could spot a resemblance. I couldn’t help her but put her in touch with an old friend (a CAFCINZ founder) who could and who reckoned she was right. A more recent obituary, of Jim Delahunty, led to me being approached by a historian who wanted access to a source cited in it, namely two file boxes of declassified US Embassy cables recording the Americans’ analysis of many aspects of NZ in the 1945-60 period (long before Wikileaks). He is writing a biography of a former national head of the Public Service Association and wanted any US Embassy cables on that subject. As none of that has been digitalised and is inaccessible electronically, his researcher had to do things the old school way – come to our place and physically go through every piece of paper in those file boxes.
Finally there is the treasure trove which is the Historic Watchdog site http://www.historicalwatchdog.blogspot.co.nz/. I regularly use it and I recommend it, as it is full of absolutely fascinating material. For example, elsewhere in this issue Jeremy Agar reviews the latest book by Michael Lewis. It refers to his 1990 classic “Liar’s Poker”. You will find that reviewed by Bill Rosenberg on page 65 of Watchdog 70, August 1992, under the heading “Investment Bankers Are Subhuman After All”. Click on http://historicalwatchdog.blogspot.com/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-august-1992.html and scroll down to page 65. You will find it unlike anything Bill has ever written for Watchdog before or since. It’s a classic. But be warned, it contains lots (and I mean lots) of language that is not usually found in a family publication such as ours.
Along with Watchdog, CAFCA’s other old faithful (at least, since 1997) is the annual Roger Award, organised in partnership with GATT Watchdog. As you know the 2010 Award was won by Warner Brothers, despite being a first time nominee (in racing terms, it was “the bolter” of the field). The Judges’ Statement says that: ''The ‘Hobbit’ affair was an extraordinary example of transnational capital interfering in local politics, and overtly influencing the actions of the NZ government (which richly deserves its Accomplice Award). It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander, and deliberately set out to do that… such interference in New Zealand politics sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand government and transnational corporations”. It won because of its interference in NZ politics and governance and treatment of employees and contractors.
BUPA (which is the second biggest retirement home chain in NZ) came second “primarily because of its poor treatment of both its staff and its clients” (one of whom, a 100 year old woman, died after suffering considerably for several months from misdiagnosed and untreated scabies). A couple of months later, in the course of my national speaking tour, I had the pleasure of visiting the 89 year old nominator in her BUPA retirement home. She didn’t mince words in her nomination, referring to “factory farming of the elderly” and she was delighted to learn of BUPA’s “success”. Imperial Tobacco came third, not only for selling a product which kills and addicts its users, but because of its role in setting up a fake citizens’ organisation to lobby for its product, a tactic which the judges described as “despicable and deceitful”.
John Key and his Government won the Accomplice Award for their ignoble role in the whole Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “It has apparently given rise to a whole new men’s fashion garment in Hollywood – Warners of Wellington trousers. They have an arrow printed on the seat, and the words ‘kiss here’”. The judges announced a special Quisling Award for Sir Peter Jackson (to be awarded to the individual New Zealander who does the most to facilitate foreign control of New Zealand), once again for his role in the Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “Sir Peter Jackson – you are fully worthy of joining that other blackened knight, that other exemplar in selling out your country to foreign corporations, the one for whom this award is named – Sir Roger Douglas”. So, a triple sweep for the movie industry – the Roger, the Accomplice and the Quisling. Says it all really, doesn’t it.
Bugs Bunny Accepts The Prize
The winner was announced at an April 2011 event in Auckland, in front of a small but very enthusiastic audience (special thanks to Lynda Boyd, the Committee member who lives in Auckland, for organising it). The speakers were myself, on behalf of the organisers (my speech is online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/2010Horton.pdf), and Chief Judge Christine Dann, who announced the winners. Musical entertainment was provided by veteran Auckland activist Roger Fowler (who vowed to me that he will change his first name before accepting another such invitation) and there was a surprise appearance by Bugs Bunny (played by former Committee member Joe Hendren, who has lived in Auckland for years): “I would like to accept this award on behalf of Warner Brothers as recognition for our longstanding union-busting efforts... As for workers’ rights – all Warner Brothers have to say is – ‘That’s all folks’!”. You can view a short clip of the event, featuring myself, Christine and Bugs, plus an interview with me recorded the next day, at http://www.youtube.com. As always the event was great fun, and got some good mainstream media coverage (including the National Business Review branding us “the looney Left”, surprise, surprise). And, also as always, one finalist (Vodafone this time) got in touch with me just before the event to dispute why it was nominated and to stress what a good corporate citizen it is. That just goes to show how on target the Roger Award is, it makes the transnational miscreants squirm. Long may they do so! That alone makes worth my while. I love everything about the Roger Award, it’s such great fun but one with a deadly serious purpose and it is a highly effective weapon.
Christine Dann resigned, both as Chief Judge and a judge, being replaced as Chief Judge by Joce Jesson for the 2011 Award. We also had to replace Sue Bradford because she and we, the organisers, mutually agreed that she could no longer continue if she was going to be a Mana Party candidate at the 2011 election (the Roger Award is independent of all parties and we had not invited Sue to become a judge until after she’d resigned as a Green MP). The two new judges are Paul Maunder and Sam Mahon, which means that for the first time in several years we have a majority of South Island judges (the other Mainlander being Paul Corliss; Joce Jesson and Wayne Hope are both Aucklanders). An awful lot of totally unpaid work goes into the judging and report writing for the Roger Award and I want to single out Sue Newberry, of Sydney University, who does the annual Financial Analysis of the winner. Her effort on Warner Brothers for the 2010 Judges’ Report was her most political yet, as opposed to the usual forensic accountancy angle. Sue e-mailed me: “I must say, one of the things I enjoy about my report for the Roger Award is that it always lays down a challenge to me to think about how to approach the analysis. This year (2011) will be no exception”. You can read Sue’s 2011 Financial Analysis in the Roger Award Judges’ Report which accompanies this issue.
We are grateful for the invaluable help of the Greens who (for a not insignificant fee) were prepared, once again, to include nomination forms in a mailout of their Party newsletter Te Awa to several thousand members. That enables us to reach many more people than our own membership and we always get a good response from Green members. The Roger was also publicised by several other organisations and unions, to whom we are truly grateful. We received a wider than usual range of nominations for the 2011 Roger and there are always ineligible ones (Fonterra being the main subject of those). Every year we receive at least one completely off the wall ineligible nomination and in 2011 it was for the Catholic Church. It’s worth quoting in full: “They meet every single criteria! The opposition to birth control condemns millions to poverty and starvation. A history of crimes against humanity on a scale beyond enumeration or adequate description. The sexual abuse of children. In effect – they are corporate anti-Christs. The very ‘Beast’ of Revelations.Tthe ‘scarlet whore of Babylon’, etc, etc”. I’m not sure that my devoutly Catholic mother-in-law would go along with that.
High Media Profile
CAFCA gets very good media coverage, not only in connection with the Roger Award but in general, far in excess of what could reasonably be expected of a small organisation such as ours. I don’t keep a diary (and haven’t done since 1969), so I rely on my fortnightly invoices for my pay to jog my memory of what I’ve actually done throughout the year. A flip through it reveals that in 2011 that I did a lot of media interviews. There was a heavy concentration of them during my April-June national speaking tour (done in three separate bites) and I’ll report on that tour a bit further on. But, apart from that, there was a steady stream of media approaches and inquiries on a whole range of subjects. Because CAFCA has great credibility in this field, more often than not we don’t have to do anything to attract the media’s attention – they come to us. My fortnightly invoices reveal that I was rung and/or interviewed by media outlets ranging from farmers’ papers to Maori and community radio stations, plus the mainstream daily papers and weekly and major radio networks. The fact that we get such consistently good coverage in Maori media is significant, because we are a South Island pakeha organisation. That goes to prove that both our facts and our message are relevant to all New Zealanders. Of all people, Maori don’t need the concept of colonisation explained to them. I was so engrossed in one recent unscheduled live Maori radio interview that I didn’t register that a decent size aftershock had struck in the course of it. It was only after I’d hung up the phone that I paused to think about what that sudden noise had been and why the furniture had suddenly started shaking and the cat had looked somewhat disconcerted, waiting for her cue from me on whether to panic. I had just kept on talking.
Sometimes my mainstream newspaper appearances can have funny sequels. A recent Sunday Star-Times feature described me as “beady eyed” (I think the writer meant “eagle eyed”). That led to me being rung by a former All Black of my acquaintance (we usually confine ourselves to talking rugby whenever we meet, which is a safer topic that we can agree on). He had taken the reference literally and rang to spring to my defence, saying that I don’t look beady eyed at all. I played along with him saying that, on the contrary, my Dear Old Dad had always told me that my eyes stuck out like dogs’ balls, so maybe they’re shrinking with old age. The caller then gave me his opinions on a wide range of non-rugby subjects, most of which I didn’t agree with, but he was kind enough to say that he considered both Winston Peters and me to be “nationalists”. I don’t want to be lumped in with Peters but in the context I’ll take it as a compliment.
I didn’t do any network TV interviews in 2011 but did do a number of regional and community TV interviews (in the course of the speaking tour) – I’m not including in that my very nearly fatal visit to the CTV Building on February 22nd. Mainstream journalists ring or e-mail with all manner of inquiries, some of which lead to interviews and articles; some don’t because I can’t help them; and in some cases I’m just plain wrong. Recently a senior Wellington journo rang to ask if I could confirm that the James F. Cameron approved by the Overseas Investment Office in December 2011 to buy farm land in Wairarapa was the same James Cameron who made “Avatar”, “Titanic”, etc, etc. I replied that I considered it highly unlikely that a Hollywood mogul would be coming to live permanently in NZ, let alone Wairarapa – and was immediately proved wrong. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
But with regard to the proactive aspect of CAFCA’s media work, I fell off the pace in 2011 – I actually only wrote and distributed two press releases in the whole year, which was far below the average for preceding years. By that I mean press releases commenting on something, as opposed to announcing something (such as the Roger Award winner). I’m not sure what the explanation is, perhaps I could blame quake brain (both of those releases were about earthquake-related issues; as I’ve already said, I was actually writing one when the December 23rd swarm of big quakes struck. I carried on regardless). Or it might just be that I was even busier than usual in 2011 with things ranging from processing all the orders for postcards generated by the New Zealand Is Not Sale Campaign, to having to pack, store and then reassemble all the contents of the CAFCA office when it was repaired. I’ve told my colleagues that my wish list includes a press secretary to write our press releases. It remains to be seen whether anything comes of that. But 2012 has seen me get my mojo back and write and distribute more press releases in the first few months than in all of 2011. What’s more they achieved a good strike rate (i.e. the percentage of them which actually led to media coverage and/or interviews) and inspired me further to write my first opinion piece for the Press in several years (in response to a typically vacuous pro-foreign investment editorial. The editorial was on a Saturday; I approached them on the Sunday offering an article; they accepted that night, giving me a Monday afternoon deadline – I got it written on that public holiday and it was published on the Tuesday. Not bad, if I say so myself). 2012 is proving to be a much more fruitful year than 2011 with regards to media work but I’ll leave that for my 2012 Report.
CAFCA is not dependent on the media to get our message to the world. I’ve already mentioned the Watchdog Website, which is maintained by Cass Daley. Bill Rosenberg has been in charge of the CAFCA site since it was established in the 90s and it plays a vital role in putting us in touch with a much, much larger audience than just out actual members. He would like to ease out of that if a replacement can be found (his job as CTU Economist and Policy Director keeps him extremely busy) and we are seeing what we can do about that. Warren Brewer has set up the excellent Watchblog site (check it out at http://www.watchblogaotearoa.blogspot.co.nz/) and has also set up a CAFCA Twitter account https://twitter.com/#!/NZN4S and Lynda Boyd is in charge of our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=117427631610589&ref=ts. I don’t use either Twitter or Facebook, so I can’t comment on them, but it is important that we get our message out by all means, including social media. And some of it is still done the real old school way, namely by speaking at public meetings. In addition to my national speaking tour, I also spoke at a number of Christchurch things – at two public meetings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA); I also spoke on that subject at the WEA; and I was privileged to be amongst those invited to speak at the Green Party’s Christchurch farewell for retiring MP Keith Locke (I’m not, and never have been, a member of any political party but was delighted to be asked to pay tribute to Keith, a colleague for many years and a good friend).
Relations With Political Parties
Mention of that speaking invitation from the Greens, and of that Party’s help in distributing Roger Award nomination forms virtually every year, brings me to the subject of CAFCA’s relationship with political parties. We are independent of all parties, endorse none of them and reserve the right to criticise all of them (a right which we vigorously exercise). Not only our membership but also the Committee reflects a range of party affiliations and support – for example, two of the Committee are very active in the Alliance and one in the Democrats, both of which have been extra-Parliamentary parties since 2002. But it’s no surprise that of the Parliamentary parties we have the best relationship with the Greens (even though they do persist in charging us a fee of several hundred dollars to include the Roger Award nomination forms with their Party newsletter).
CAFCA has had a productive working relationship with the Greens for the best part of 20 years, going back to the days of Jeanette Fitzsimons and the late Rod Donald as its founding Co-Leaders. In 2011, the Greens worked alongside CAFCA in campaigning against the proposed TPPA; helped to distribute Roger Award nomination forms in their Party newsletter; and played a big role in my April-June New Zealand Is Not For Sale national speaking tour, by organising my public meetings in various centres and Green activists (including one MP) hosting me in several cases. CAFCA’s opinions and expertise are solicited by the Green leadership – when Russel Norman visited Christchurch in early 2012 he asked to meet me to discuss the issues of asset sales and land sales to foreigners, among other things.
Of the new Green MPs, two (Eugenie Sage and Steffan Browning) are longstanding good friends – in Steffan’s case he has been the indispensable contact man in Blenheim for years for not only CAFCA, but the Anti-Bases Campaign and the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (particularly for ABC’s long running campaign to close the Waihopai spybase). Steffan reminds me of Rod, in that he regularly rings me to ask for facts and and/or advice, including immediately before delivering his maiden speech. He also regularly comes to see me when he’s in Christchurch. Jeanette retired from Parliament several years ago but she is still very active (she wrote us an article for this issue, and I’ve mentioned her splendid fundraising effort at the Thames public meeting during my speaking tour).
Nor are the Greens the only MPs with whom we have a good working relationship. I attended a wedding in early 2012 (the first one of those I’d been to in years) and found myself socialising both with a former Labour MP (Tim Barnett, who was the most responsive to CAFCA’s message of any Labour MP in the 1999-08 Clark government) and a new one, namely Megan Woods, with whom CAFCA had worked during her unsuccessful 2007 bid for the Christchurch Mayoralty (for our sins we got Bob Parker instead). That same weekend I attended a friend’s 60th birthday party and at a gathering full of Greens, including one MP, I was sought out by a Labour supporter to be told that I would be cited in the maiden speech of a newly elected Labour MP in one of the Maori seats. That is interesting, because I’ve never had any contact with that particular MP. I’ve also known Labour MP Lianne Dalziel for years, dating back to her days as a Christchurch union secretary and she has occasionally sought CAFCA’s views on various subjects in recent years. But it needs to be made clear that, unlike with the Greens, any relationship we have with Labour is with the odd individual MP, rather than with the Party per se. Labour is still too wedded to the foreign investment/free trade mantra, not to mention the single minded focus on seeking political power as an end in itself, to want to associate with the likes of CAFCA. The feeling is mutual, and has been for decades. Mana is the Left’s new kid in Parliament. As per yet, we don’t have any relationship with the Party but I have no doubt that we will. We’ve had a long term good working relationship with some of the party’s highest profile figures, such as Sue Bradford and John Minto (who has been a regular writer for Watchdog for years).
New Zealand First is back but we haven’t changed our opinion of Winston Peters – he is Old National and a nationalist, but a reactionary nationalist (by contrast we define ourselves as a progressive nationalist, not to mention Leftwing, organisation. Peters would eat his suit before allowing himself to be labelled Leftwing). To sum up, we wouldn’t trust him as far as we could throw him. I refer you to my cover story “Winston’s Petered Out” in Watchdog 84, May 1997, http://historicalwatchdog.blogspot.com/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-may-1997.html for a detailed critique of Peters after he opted to go with National at the first MMP election (having said the opposite throughout the campaign). Nothing has changed, in our view. That’s not to say that we can’t or won’t work with New Zealand First and its MPs on an issue by issue basis, if the situation arises. But, as the last time we did any actual work with that Party was back in the mid 90s, before Peters went with National, the odds are not high that we’ll have anything to do with each other.
NZ Not For Sale Campaign
As foreshadowed in my 2010 Report the New Zealand Not For Sale Campaign (NZNFSC) and my speaking tour (also entitled New Zealand Is Not For Sale) were major projects in 2011. NZNFSC marks the first time that CAFCA has taken a leading role in a campaign on a proposed free trade agreement, as opposed to a supporting role in a network or coalition. NZNFSC is a network, a loose coalition of groups including CAFCA, set up in 2010 to fight the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between nine countries but, most importantly, the means to bring into effect a US/NZ Free Trade Agreement, which both National and Labour have long proclaimed to be the Holy Grail of trade deals for NZ. Every issue of Watchdog throughout 2011 and into 2012 (including this one) has given a detailed analysis of various objectionable and dangerous aspects of the TPPA, so I won’t repeat that here but concentrate on the campaign as such. Putting together the network was a project in itself (it even has its own patron, namely Bryan Gould). You can find full details of who is in it and a whole lot more, about both the issue and the campaign, at the New Zealand Not For Sale Website http://www.nznotforsale.org/, which was set up and administered by Warren Brewer (in addition to running Watchblog).
NZNFSC ran a number of activities in 2011. In February there was a well attended all day seminar, with Jane Kelsey and Bill Rosenberg and me as the speakers. This was timed to coincide with the very high powered US/NZ Partnership Forum which was being held in Christchurch at that time, attended by leading political and business figures from both countries, as part of the propaganda push for the TPPA. Our seminar was very good in as far as it went (it ended up as an informational gathering, rather than an action-oriented or organisational one). And it was totally overshadowed by the killer February 22nd earthquake just two days later, which saw the US delegates to their Forum having to be urgently evacuated from the city. Our seminar was held in the Community Law Centre which, due to renovations, was jampacked with the 50+ people who participated, with only one exit – I would not have liked to have been in that building during the quake. It is still standing in the central city red zone but virtually all its neighbours have been demolished, including the Trade Union Centre (the site of many a CAFCA activity over the years). My potentially fatal interview at the CTV Building on the morning of February 22nd was in connection with our seminar and the US/NZ Partnership Forum. The reporter, Rhys Brookbanks, suggested that we do our interview against the backdrop of the Forum’s venue (the former AMI Stadium). I told him that there would be nothing to see there and so we did it in CTV’s first floor boardroom. As I’ve already mentioned, a couple of hours after I left that building it collapsed and burned, killing 115 people, including him (AMI Stadium was also written off, and will have to be at least partly demolished, but nobody was killed there). CAFCA also organised a public meeting in early November to highlight the real election issues. I spoke at it about the TPPA and, once again, we brought Bill down from Wellington (he spoke about privatisation; our Chairperson Jeremy Agar, spoke about the obscure but dangerous Productivity Commission, and Mike Peters of Addington Action spoke about the politics of his group’s brilliant grassroots response to the earthquake crisis in my neighbourhood). It was an excellent meeting but had a very small turnout. It clashed with Christchurch’s only Key/Goff debate, which drew a crowd of hundreds. Whether any of them would have come to our meeting (which had been announced first) if there hadn’t been that clash is a moot point.
NZNFSC had two main projects throughout 2011, as part of the ongoing battle to get the TPPA issue into the public consciousness and onto the political agenda in election year. Firstly, we solicited signatures for the Statement of Sovereignty, which we circulated both in hard copy and electronically. This was not a petition as such but, semantics aside, such exercises are an excellent campaigning tool. Originally we set the deliberately chosen date of July 4th as the deadline, but as it gained more momentum, we extended it until early November. Altogether it gathered a total of signatures in the low thousands and, thanks to Mary Ellen O’Connor of both CAFCA and the Wellington TPP Action group, there was a lively public activity held in the capital to deliver it to Government House (it was our deliberate decision to try and present to the Governor-General, not any Minister, MP or official, as the TPPA is a proposed international treaty between sovereign nations, not just a piece of domestic legislation). Our second main project was publicising and distributing a postcard for people to send to either the PM or an MP of their choice, stating the sender’s opposition to the TPPA and declaring that s/he would not vote for an MP or candidate who supports it. We sent out thousands of those (for a period of months a disproportionate amount of my time was spent dealing with the logistics of getting orders printed and posted). CAFCA had been involved with a previous highly successful, even controversial, postcard campaign, during the 2008 election year, so we knew that such a project would be highly worthwhile. And so it proved to be.
A major part of my NZNFSC work, combined with that of CAFCA, was my New Zealand Is Not For Sale national speaking tour, which took place between April and June 2011, in three separate bites. You can read my speech at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Miscellaneous/NZNotForSale20.pdf. The TPPA was the focus, tied in with CAFCA’s concerns about asset sales, privatisation, land sales and foreign control. It’s a long speech, up to 90 minutes even when delivered at what one exasperated listener described as my “machinegun speed”. I got into the habit of giving audiences the chance to decide if they wanted the full version or an edited one of no more than an hour. The great majority went for the full Monty. At some meetings I initiated participatory democracy by pausing at each major topic and asking the audience to vote on whether they wanted me to include that or skip it. Once again, the vast majority went for the lot. I’m a very low tech speaker, with no props, not even my legendary “scroll of control” this time (it’s years out of date), so I’m grateful to Tim Howard, my Whangarei organiser and host, who created a simple Powerpoint of the key points of my speech. That was created while I was actually on the road, so I was able to use it throughout the rest of the tour. You can access it at http://www.nznotforsale.org/resources/
I spoke in: Waiheke, Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Thames, Whakatane, Gisborne, Havelock North, Taradale, Palmerston North, Whanganui, Paekakariki, Wellington, Petone, Dunedin, Blenheim, Nelson and Takaka – it was the first time I’d spoken in several of those places. It was my first CAFCA speaking tour since 2002, also an election year (in the interim I’d accompanied several touring Filipino speakers around all or part of the country, in 2004, 2007 and 2010, which also involved me doing some speaking, but that was in my Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa capacity, not CAFCA).
I’ve always found CAFCA speaking tours immensely satisfying (my previous ones were in 1993, 1999 and 2002). Extremely tiring but immensely satisfying. It’s always great to get around this beautiful country (and to get paid to do so), meeting our members and supporters, drumming up new members, and putting CAFCA’s facts and views directly to the people and media in those cities and towns. Despite it having been nine years since I last went on the road for CAFCA, the response was very gratifying. This tour, as an experiment, we paid for an ad in the local papers, mainstream and/or community ones, wherever I went. It paid dividends because it meant that bona fide members of the public, not just “the converted”, learnt that my meetings were on and came to them. Some joined CAFCA as a result.
Good Crowds & Media Coverage
I got good crowds wherever I went (Nelson and Takaka were the biggest; followed by Wellington and Auckland) and very good media coverage. I did any number of radio, newspaper and local TV interviews. I was also the subject of a critical editorial, with the Gisborne Herald blasting my “anti-American, anti-business rant” (which led to several members writing to the paper in protest). So I must have touched a raw nerve in that particular part of the country. I arrived in Gisborne after dark, went straight to address the public meeting and left again first thing the next morning. My fleeting presence was obviously still just long enough to piss off the local opinion moulders. Money can’t buy publicity like that.
The sheer breadth of support for CAFCA and our message was demonstrated by the people and groups involved in organising and hosting my visits – they ranged from Green MPs to a particularly feisty order of nuns (I was the only man staying in the convent that night; they told me they love reading Watchdog “because of the language”); from old friends and veteran colleagues to total strangers. It’s difficult to pick out one highlight from all of that but I will mention my unscheduled appearance before a gathering of grassroots Maori community workers at a marae in the countryside outside Whanganui (unscheduled in that I didn’t know about it until I was met off the bus and told that was where I was being taken). It turned out to be a very rewarding meeting, both for me and, I hope, for the audience.
Logistically I’d learned from previous experience. In 1993 I spent three weeks on the road and did everything by surface transport (too long and too tiring). This time I spent a maximum of two weeks on the road (around the North Island); did the long journeys by plane and the rest of it by bus (I got an extremely economical bus pass, whereby you buy X number of hours and can go where you like, good for a year). I find surface transport is ideal for relaxing between engagements and for seeing the country (although I regularly ended up fielding calls on the buses from journalists and others). I would have preferred to do it by train but there are bugger all passenger trains left. The travel all went smoothly except for my flight to Dunedin. To the mortification of my hosts it proved to the second consecutive time that my flight from Christchurch was thwarted by norwest gales (it had also happened when I was accompanying a Filipino speaker around the country in 2007). This time it led to my flight being diverted to Queenstown, the first time I’ve ever flown into there, and the airline putting us on a bus for a scenic drive through Central Otago. That was very beautiful but it meant that I arrived in Dunedin something like five or six hours late and my lunchtime talk at Otago University had had to be cancelled (the only meeting on my whole national tour which couldn’t take place). I eventually got some of the fare back from travel insurance but that particular meeting could not be rescheduled during my whistlestop southern visit.
Nor was it all work – I managed to get at least one free day per week spent away and was able to catch up with friends and relatives, and just generally relax. Even on work days (which included weekends in the North Island tour) I managed to get other things done. For example, in Wellington I was privileged to attend the world premiere of the fascinating documentary “Operation 8”, about the so-called Urewera terrorism raids (you can read Jeremy Agar’s review of it in Watchdog 127, August 2011, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/27/11.htm). I particularly valued that because it was at a time when virtually all of Christchurch’s cinemas had been destroyed or were closed because of the quakes. From that premiere I was immediately driven straight out to my Paekakariki venue where the audience was patiently waiting, and I launched straight into my speech with no further ado.
And once again I pay tribute to Becky who was left in our quake damaged house, enduring aftershocks, while I was running around the country. One of the big jolts in April just about threw her off her feet and cut power to the house for several hours (along with tens of thousands of others). She also had to deal with the men from the Earthquake Commission, Fletchers and the builder and painter who turned up while I was away, all set to commence the repairs (we actually had to tell them to wait until a time that better suited us).
Reorientation Of TPPA Campaign
Following the election NZNFSC paused for a breather and a stocktake. In 2012 we decided to basically reinvent ourselves as a clearing house, a network rather than a campaign, and to broaden our focus to include the related issue of asset sales. A major reason for this reorientation was because our network was far from alone in this campaign. I’ve already mentioned the Wellington group; and the indefatigable Jane Kelsey, the country’s undisputed expert on the TPPA, was instrumental in getting TPP Action Watch set up on a national basis, with its own very regular electronic newsletter (you can check it out at www.tppwatch.org). This is a particularly active network, and is part of the international network which is fighting the TPPA in the various countries which are involved in negotiating it. The campaign against the TPPA will continue to be a major battle throughout 2012. President Obama originally announced that the US wanted it all negotiated and signed by late 2011.That proved to be wishful thinking, as is so often the case with these so called “free trade” agreements. Now the Yanks want it wrapped up before their election in late 2012. There is a whole schedule of international negotiating meetings planned throughout this year, accompanied by counter-activities by the international network fighting it. It remains to be seen if 2012 is any more of a realistic deadline than 2011 proved to be. Not if we have anything to do with it.
These were the special projects with which I, and CAFCA, was involved during election year. That is, they were over and above our normal work, which always includes hardy perennials like land sales to foreigners and the resurrected issue of public asset sales. I’m mindful of the fact that I’m writing my 2011 Report in 2012 and 2012 has already seen a lot happening in both of those areas, with CAFCA and me right in the thick of the battle. So I think it’s more appropriate that I leave those for my 2012 Report.
Waihopai Spybase Protest
The other group for whom I am paid to work is, of course, the Anti-Bases Campaign. My 2010 Report contained much more ABC content than usual, because that was an incredibly busy year for ABC, specifically in relation to our Wellington activities in solidarity with the trial of the Waihopai Domebusters (who were acquitted by a jury in less than two hours). 2011 was nothing like as busy. As mentioned in my 2010 Report the State is suing the three Domebusters personally for the alleged $1.2 million damage they did to one of the spybase’s radomes when they deflated it in 2008, right down to the cost of the beer and pies consumed by the workers. The words “pettiness” and “sore loser” come to mind. This civil case started in Wellington in 2011 (delayed by the minor detail of Christchurch’s killer quake having destroyed the building housing the lead defence lawyer, with attendant disruption) and the judge – the State made sure there was no jury involved this time – ruled in favour of the prosecution. The Domebusters are appealing this, with no date having been set at the time of writing. Unlike at the 2010 criminal trial, ABC did not organise any Wellington solidarity activities, nor did I attend the civil hearing. The Domebusters themselves remain uncowed – Father Peter Murnane was the featured speaker at ABC’s 2011 Waihopai spybase protest; and Adrian Leason (who brought five of his seven kids with him) did likewise at the 2012 one. This saga still has quite a ways to go.
The January 2011 Waihopai spybase protest was written up in Peace Researcher by ABC Committee member Doug Craig. “2011 was significant for two reasons. First, it marked the return of one of the Domebuster/Ploughshares Three, Father Peter Murnane, to Marlborough, the first time since the March 2010 Wellington trial and acquittal (see Peace Researcher 40, July 2010, http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/prcont40.html, for several articles giving a full account of that trial). Second, it also marked the last visit of MP Keith Locke, the Greens’ spokesperson on foreign affairs before his retirement from Parliament at the November 2011 election. Keith has been involved in a number of protest visits to Waihopai and attended Waihopai camps from the time before he became an MP in 1999.
“These high profile activists were joined by another 40 or so protestors from Auckland, Wellington, Motueka, Coromandel, West Coast, Blenheim, and of course, from Christchurch – home of Anti-Bases Campaign and Peace Researcher. This year we were without the commanding presence of Bob Leonard as Uncle Sam, as he and his family have suffered a number of misfortunes including extensive earthquake damage to their Christchurch house. Murray Horton as organiser and protest spokesperson, brought the whole event together with his usual panache and efficiency, and was joined again by John Minto from Global Peace and Justice Auckland. ABC brought its own new loudhailer to broadcast its message to those lurking behind the electronic gates at the Waihopai spy base.
“The camp was again at the picturesque Department of Conservation camping ground at Whites Bay. Unfortunately, the scenery was mostly hidden in driving rain and wind as a southerly beat its way up the island. In the brief non-drizzly intervals, we erected tents, rolled out mattresses, unpacked cooking gear and greeted old and new friends from other places. Two Canadian visitors also joined us for a peek into the secret life of NZ-US spying. With experience, we were able to pitch the tents in quick time and put up our new large gazebo for cooking and congregating. A small but cosy gathering. The Earth itself even made us welcome with a small 4.4 undersea earthquake off Picton, felt as an uneasy roll under the main tent. Those of us from Christchurch smiled and went back to sleep.
“On the Saturday morning we gathered at Seymour Square for the start of the weekend’s activities. Banners were brought out and placards displayed. Some wore masks to recreate the secrecy of the faceless Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) officials who monitor our email and text traffic; others held signs saying ‘Big Brother is listening to your calls and reading your emails’ and ‘Peace and Justice for all’. A small Police presence watched from across the road. There was some debate about marching down the middle of the street or keeping to the footpath but, as veteran protestors, we avoided overt confrontation and kept to footpaths except where the many shop signs blocked easy passage. Blenheim people seemed interested but non-committal and there was an absence of much anti-protestor banter - possibly because of the deteriorating weather. By the time we arrived for the speeches at the main rotunda, it was again raining.
“Murray reminded us in his opening speech of the role of Waihopai in the secret intelligence relationship between US and NZ. He also referred to the Wikileaks NZ cables as ‘revealing the central role that this spybase plays’ in the network. Murray reinforced that the theme of the protest was ‘anti-war’, and that by protesting at the presence of the base we were protesting at a vital linkage in the Pentagon’s war fighting machine; the stream of intelligence that allows the targeting of smart bombs and missiles on targets that often turn out to be civilians. Wikileaks was also referred to in speeches by John Minto and MP Keith Locke.
Domebuster Returns To Scene Of Crime
“Father Murnane spoke about his role in the April 2008 Domebusters’ action where he and fellow Ploughshares peace activists, Sam Land and Adi Leason, used sickles to slash the base of one of the domes. The legal defence that saw their successful acquittal, hotly disputed by the Marlborough Express and sundry letter writers, was based on a ‘claim of right*’ – that is, a justly prima facie illegal action in order to prevent a greater morally wrong harmful action. Father Murnane said his actions were justified because ‘he was trying to raise awareness about the base’s involvement in helping the American war machine which he said had committed horrifying inhumane actions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan’ (Press, 25/1/11). The march then returned safely to Seymour Square for lunch and BBQ sausages. *The Government has since changed the law so that a claim of right defence cannot be used in any similar case. MH.
“In the afternoon, a convoy of vehicles travelled out 20 kms to the spybase to deliver a message to the base commander, and assorted GCSB personnel. Media were there to witness a small confrontation with a counter-protest lead by Greg Hine, a local contractor, and three others. They presented a mock invoice to Father Peter Murnane for damage to the dome, asking him to pay $1.1million to PM John Key. Apart from the fact that John Key does not own the base but merely has some limited oversight as Minister responsible for the GCSB*, the Domebusters are mounting a defence to the Crown’s civil court demand for such damages. Peace activists, of course, have been paying a share of the $50 million plus per annum that the GCSB costs the taxpayer for such illegal spying. *Former PM David Lange admitted that Nicky Hager’s book “Secret Power,” which detailed the role of the base, had revealed to him much more than he had received in information from GCSB officials. MH.
“Further speeches were made at the base by the main speakers and others and a protest letter formally delivered to the base commander. The gathering carried out its non-violent action and did not advance onto Defence Department land. To some old activists this may have seemed much less exciting that the midnight raids carrying homemade ladders in former protests, or the entering into the base itself in numbers on several occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, more than a decade ago, the Anti-Bases Campaign made a decision to prioritise non-arrestable actions.
“The weather held off for a time and we also heard from some visitors who voiced their objections to the presence of the base. A person, unknown to us, from the American War Resister’s League, was a surprise speaker but summed up the opposition to the way in which countries are held hostage to US war fighting goals. Uncle Sam (aka ABC member Alice Leney from Coromandel) finished off the protest, exhorting us to support him in world domination but adding a new twist in telling the base to ‘bugger off’.
“After an eventful night, full of singing and dancing, and small earthquake tremors, the camp was packed up. The water was too cold for much swimming. People disappeared off to airports, buses and ferries and left a small stalwart group to put away the gear for the trip home. It was a long trip along the coast and into driving torrential rain from Kaikoura on. We arrived back in Christchurch after 7pm. And next year we plan to do it all again”. And we did do it all again, in January 2012, but you’ll have to wait for my 2012 Report to read about that.
I’ve already detailed the serious impact that the earthquakes had on the ABC Committee, much more so than on the CAFCA Committee. ABC lost Bob Leonard, our founder and guiding light for decades, as well as long serving Peace Researcher Editor (and very close friend of mine for 30 years). Bob and Barbara fled their severely damaged hillside home immediately after the February quake and now live in Wellington. Veteran peace activist Doug Craig had only just joined the Committee in 2010 (but had been an ABC activist since the 80s) – by mid 2011 his living situation as a tenant in eastern Christchurch was no longer tenable and he permanently moved back to his hometown of Nelson (unlike Bob, he remains a Committee member, albeit from a distance). For the past decade Committee meetings had been held at Robyn Dann’s historic riverside Woolston cottage. It’s still standing but has been badly damaged, so we now host all ABC meetings at our place (which was the norm for the first dozen or so years of ABC’s life – it was founded in the late 80s). But the news is far from bad. Warren Thomson, another of ABC’s founders and the driving force of our Waihopai campaign in the 80s and 90s, returned to Christchurch in 2010 after 13 years teaching English in Bangkok, bringing with him his lovely wife, Noi. Good old Doug’s cunning plan to save ABC was to get Warren back on board and that is exactly what he succeeded in doing. I’m delighted to report that not only did Warren rejoin the Committee in 2011, and come with us to Waihopai in January 2012 (although he is not yet reacclimatised enough to join us in camping) but he also stepped up and resumed his previous life as Co-Editor of Peace Researcher (a role which he shared with Bob in the 90s).
I mentioned in my 2010 Report that I was struggling as PR Editor. It was not part of my job description when I started as CAFCA/ABC Organiser in 1991. I stepped in as Co-Editor with Bob when Warren went to Thailand in 1997, and then proceeded to become Editor when Bob stepped down in 2002 (having been Editor or Co-Editor since 1983). Because of the pressure of my other, primarily CAFCA, work, there was a real danger that PR would cease to function if it was left up to me alone as Editor. As it was, it ground to a halt and there was a year between issues (from July 2010 until July 2011). Once again, good old Doug not only twisted Warren’s ear to get stuck in again but he (Doug) took responsibility, with Warren, to get out that July 2011 issue (my role in that could be loosely described as Executive Editor). By the time of the November 2011 issue I was fully hands on again, and Warren and I are full speed ahead. After 14 years away from ABC and the whole issue, Warren is raring to go. It’s great to be working with him again. Although it’s our first time as Co-Editors, we’ve been colleagues and very close friends for 30 years (our adventures include having been arrested together; and him being my best man when I got married in Manila). I’m not exaggerating when I say that his coming back to PR has saved it, which is great, because PR is a damn good little newsletter. Actually it’s not so little any more – the November 2011 issue was the biggest ever, at 58 pages.
I enjoy writing for PR (when I can make the time to do so) because it enables me to write about topics that I don’t write about in Watchdog (such as the cases of the Domebusters and the so-called Urewera terrorists), the sort of stuff that I cut my teeth on when I first started as a political activist, long before I could bring myself to take an interest in boring old economics. Warren is a prolific writer and, in marked contrast to me, he writes short, snappy articles. Dennis Small, himself a former PR Editor, writes articles for it that are just as long and as fascinating as his regular contributions to Watchdog but on completely different subjects (that man must have too much time on his hands). Doug Craig, Maire Leadbeater and Kate Dewes were PR’s other writers in 2011; Jeremy Agar is Reviews Editor, as he is for Watchdog – there is a degree of overlap of his reviews but some of them are for PR only. The whole thing looks a million bucks, due to the meticulous work of our Layout Editor, my wife Becky, who has done it for a decade and who will go to exhaustive lengths to get it just right.
There was one change in the PR family in 2011 – Yani Johanson stepped down as ABC’s Webmaster after a decade, to be replaced by Cass Daley, who is also the Watchdog Webperson. Many thanks to Cass for taking it on. Yani is a very high profile Christchurch City Councillor (I reckon he’d make a bloody good Mayor in years to come – he’s still only in his 30s) and with the whole earthquakes crisis, he is just insanely busy and will be for the indefinite future. Yani also faced facts and stepped down from the Committee, which he’d been on since he came back to NZ in the late 90s (having spent his formative years in the US) and promptly got himself arrested at one of our Waihopai protests. He is so busy that we’ve hardly seen him at Committee meetings for years. But Yani is still one of us and, as with Bob and Warren, he is not only a colleague but a good friend. I was privileged to be invited to his wedding in early 2012 (I was the only ABC representative there) and that was a night to remember – one half of his family is American; his wife is Russian. It was a very multicultural kneesup.
The Committee has lost Bob and Yani and Doug (at least, in person) but it has regained Warren, and also we were delighted to accept Jenny Boyd’s offer to join. Jenny, who is the older sister of ABC/CAFCA Committees’ distance member Lynda Boyd (and they’re the daughters of Webperson Cass Daley) has been a Waihopai activist for years. So she brings both experience and enthusiasm to the Committee. Despite 2011 having been such a dire year for ABC, we came out of it in much better shape than we could have believed possible. ABC is much more a single issue campaign than CAFCA, with a specialist publication, so it always has been, and probably always will be, smaller than CAFCA. But, as with CAFCA, it punches way above its weight and always generates media coverage disproportionate to its size. The Committee is small but we are all very good friends, not just colleagues, which means that our activities are always fun. That makes a big difference when you’re fighting some of the biggest, meanest, most secretive and murderous forces running the world. We enjoy our work.
The other group for whom I work, but in an unpaid capacity, is the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa. 2011 was a very quiet year for PSNA. In my 2010 Report I detailed having organised the national speaking tour by Luis Jalandoni and his wife Coni Ledesma, exiled international leaders and peace negotiators of the National Democratic Front, the coalition which comprises the political wing of the underground armed struggle. I have written a detailed report on that tour, which is not online, but if any of you would like a copy, just write or e-mail me at the CAFCA address and I’ll happily send you one. Since their speaking tour PSNA has just basically ticked over. As is the case with the CAFCA and ABC Committees, the PSNA Committee members – myself, Becky, Leigh Cookson, Paul Watson and Trish Murray – have all suffered quake damage to our homes and workplaces to a greater or lesser degree. Not only is Paul’s house to be demolished, his whole Avonside street is to be bulldozed. Leigh’s house suffered double the amount of damage as ours did and is still awaiting repair; Trish works for Christian World Service, which was uprooted out of its central city building and is now at its third address in a year.
From 1993 until 2009 I was the Editor of Kapatiran (“Solidarity”), which was PSNA’s newsletter. It was a good little publication (Becky was the Layout Editor and Webperson). But once I became Editor of Peace Researcher as well as Watchdog, it became harder and harder to be able to produce a third newsletter as well. 2009 was the last time I got an issue out and at the beginning of 2012 I bit the bullet and announced that there won’t be any more. Nor will it appear online, because I don’t have time to write and edit the copy. I e-mailed members and supporters the copy that had been prepared for the next issue (which never appeared – some of it was two years old by that stage – and bowed out. I have since managed to publish in Peace Researcher a couple of Jeremy’s reviews intended for that illfated issue of Kapatiran).Sad, but it had lasted 16 years, which is no mean feat. Fortunately Auckland Philippines Solidarity and Migrante Aotearoa (which organises Philippine migrant workers in NZ) are now very active and kept up a steady stream of press releases to the Philippine media throughout the year. A number of these were issued in my name (although not written by me but by Amie Dural, an invaluable addition to the ranks of Filipino political activists now living in Auckland), meaning that I made several appearances in the Philippine media in 2011.
Personally, 2011 was a momentous year for me (and I don’t just mean because of the bloody earthquakes). I turned 60 – indeed I am now 61 – which means that I am now officially defined as elderly. I certainly don’t feel it. I’m not ready just yet to start wearing cardies and join the bowls club. It’s the age at which my mother died (when I was 21; I remember thinking that 60 seemed to be incredibly old, viewed from that distance). On the other hand my father made it to 86, so let’s see whose genes prevail. These days I only get to host a party every decade, so we weren’t going to let the 60th go by. I had booked a venue (a local café/gallery) for the March night time party which was going to be catered; Becky and I were up until the early hours of February 22nd printing and addressing the invitations (she had ingeniously adapted an early 1970s’ photo of CAFCINZ founders, including Bill and I, on a picket line). On that fateful morning I went into town and posted them – then I headed off to the CTV Building for my TV interview. You know the rest. For the best part of a fortnight we had no idea what had happened to those invitations in a mail box at the cordoned off central city NZ Post Box Lobby. I only realised that they had actually been delivered when I started receiving calls weeks later from people to RSVP. These were people without e-mail, because I had e-mailed as many on the guest list as possible to advise that things had changed, due to circumstances beyond our control. The venue was closed and abandoned (and remains so today, its situation complicated by its insurance company having promptly gone bust, overwhelmed by claims). Becky and I had quite a dialogue between us and with friends as to whether it was appropriate to go ahead with a party, just weeks after such a huge disaster, amidst all this death and destruction. The consensus was that it was more important than ever to celebrate life. We couldn’t muck around, as there was a time constraint, namely that I was leaving at the beginning of April for 2½ weeks on the road on the North Island leg of my speaking tour.
So that’s what we did – a week later than planned, at a different venue and at different time of day. It morphed into a BYO daytime affair on our back lawn, which made good use of the gazebo that ABC had bought for its annual Waihopai spybase protest camp. Mother Nature cooperated by laying on a lovely hot, sunny day and no aftershocks. Because of the dire water and sewerage situation we advised everyone to bring disposable dishes or be prepared to take their dishes home to wash. Everyone obliged. It was a great day, with about 50 friends attending. Bill Rosenberg and Russell Campbell (who’d made a special film starring me, set to “He’s A Rebel”) came down from Wellington; my former partner, and CAFCINZ founder, Christine Bird, came especially from Sydney. The incorrigible Christine Dann – one of a handful of people who can outtalk me – secretly arranged a surprise celebrity roast, inciting the likes of Bill and Bird, plus other old friends, to get up and tell stories about me (I tell you, that was nerve-wracking). Despite Becky’s insistence that “nobody will want to listen to a speech from you at a party”, I’d taken the precaution of writing one, which was just as well because the crowd demanded it. I’m biased but it was a bloody good party, and the social highlight of my year. It all worked out well. A week later Christine Dann and I were in Auckland, at CAFCA’s expense, both speaking at the 2010 Roger Award event – Christine was the Chief Judge. And from there I was off on my speaking tour.
All my friends are in the same age bracket, so in the past year I’ve been up to Wellington for Bill’s 60th and over to Port Levy on Banks Peninsula for Christine Dann’s (I resisted the temptation to reciprocate with the surprise celebrity roast). I was invited to speak at another old friend’s 60th. 2011 was a year of milestones – it was our 20th wedding anniversary; it marked my 20 years in this job (in a paid capacity; I’ve been doing it since CAFCINZ was founded in the 70s). 2012 marks 30 years of owning the house that is also my workplace. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?
Empty Niece Syndrome
The other major development on the home front concerned our oldest niece Katharine, who had lived with us since 2005 while we put her through the University of Canterbury. Alas, her visa ran out and despite our best efforts, it was an insoluble situation, so she had to go home in January 2011 (she left on the day of the first CAFCA meeting of the year. We had to be up at 3 a.m. to go to the airport; the meeting finished late that night, so it was a long, long day). She had got her degree in Japanese as a straight A student; then she had a year to find a job commensurate with her qualifications. That was the bit where things came unstuck. She never had any trouble getting jobs, albeit of the menial variety (including two years working in the illfated Hotel Grand Chancellor) and had to quit one such in order to leave the country – it was the “commensurate” bit that proved the problem. She remained stuck ten points short of the total needed by Immigration NZ to be able to apply to stay in the country. So, after 5 ½ years with us, she had to go.
It had been great fun to have her living with us. She was only 17 when she arrived and 23 when she left, so those were critical formative years. She and I got on like a house on fire. We spent a lot of time together; we went to a lot of movies together, either all three of us or just Katharine and me. To my great surprise this young Asian woman became an Anglophile, and we discovered that we shared the same peculiar sense of humour (which is not something that readily transcends cultural or language barriers). So she became a fanatical fan of British TV series and films, both drama and comedy, the more outrageous and offensive the better. There was nothing inscrutable about this Asian girl – when she used a gift token from me to buy a complete set of Blackadder, she immediately shut herself in the lounge to watch the whole thing right through and Becky and I could hear her roaring with laughter from the other end of the house (it’s that supersonic laughter from behind a closed door that I miss now). That Anglophilia has survived her return home – her most recent e-mails have been to rave about Sherlock Holmes.
She was with us for the first few months of earthquakes but was quite unperturbed by them. In fact, she was the one most in danger in our place. Her room was dominated by a brick chimney and old fireplace; her bed was positioned such that her head was between them and a wall (the whole lot has since been removed). In hindsight, it’s good that she had to go home a month before the killer quake (she could easily have been in town that day, as her favourite haunts were in the central city) and, all joking aside, three would definitely have been a crowd under our dining table where Becky and I slept for a number of months while the rest of the house was repaired.
She was wonderfully teaseable. She nearly believed her dear old uncle when I told some tourists that Halswell Quarry had been closed down because New Zealand now imports all our rocks from China. “That’s not true, is it?” And it cut both ways – nobody else has ever given me a gift wrapped doormat as a Christmas present. I’ve got one daily reminder of her. She had to leave behind her beloved bike, which we’d bought for her when she arrived. After she’d gone my bike was declared terminally rusted and unceremoniously dumped, so now I ride her one (the only new bike I’ve ever bought; my previous one was a stolen one dumped on our drive and never claimed from the Police). And what is she doing now? When she first went home she got the job that all bright young Third World graduates get – working in a call centre. Her boss told her: “You’ve got this job because Americans are too lazy and stupid to read the manual”. She had sufficient nous to get out of that fast and now she is teaching Japanese to Filipinos going to Japan. A job she loves and enjoys and which is actually putting her expensive New Zealand degree to use. “Commensurate”, in fact. She may come back to New Zealand some day. That’s up to her. She was a welcome addition to our home and our life during the years she was with us. It was a pleasure to have her.
And I didn’t have to suffer empty niece syndrome for long. Just weeks after her departure a starving pregnant stray cat turned up, desperately yowling. I resisted her blandishments (having sworn off cats after having outlived a whole family of them over a quarter of a century) until she gave birth in our grapevine. The Cats Protection League asked us to feed them until they could come and pick them all up; so we started but the two kittens died within 24 hours (having to bury them was heartbreaking); the killer quake struck a couple of days later; and the Cats Protection League had more immediate priorities in their eastern suburbs’ HQ. So, in the midst of all that chaos and desperate scrabble for survival, we discovered that we were cat owners again (if one can ever be said to “own” a cat; quite the reverse, I think). She was a great comfort to us in the worst of times. Thousands of aftershocks and snowstorms haven’t got rid of her, so she’s here for the duration now. She’s distinctly beastly, so that’s what we named her. I’ve gone from teasing the niece to annoying the cat, which is an altogether more risky business as she’s a typically temperamental female (and I’ve got the scars to prove it). Naturally, we are now inseparable.
Enjoy Life While You Can
The lesson I have taken from the whole quakes saga is to enjoy life while I can, because, as we Cantabrians can testify, it can all irrevocably change for the worse, in seconds, without warning. There is no rhyme or reason to it; simply staying alive quite often comes down to sheer luck. So I make sure that I get out for my daily walk around suddenly fashionable Addington, with a break at our local cafe for coffee and carrot cake (one friend asked if I regard that as part of my recommended daily intake of five servings of fruit and vegetables). We go to movies, although by necessity we’ve gone to Hoyts more than in the past, as all bar one of the city’s art house cinemas have been destroyed or closed (three cheers for Lang Masters and his Hollywood Cinema in Sumner). We’ve been to all sorts of cultural and sporting occasions in Hagley Park, both indoors and outdoors (our forefathers may have been stupid enough to build the city on a swamp but they were farsighted enough to create that marvellous park). Everything in Christchurch at present is in a container or a tent or a dome or in Hagley Park or, quite often, all of the above. I joined the national heart attack, otherwise known as the Rugby World Cup final. I couldn’t sit down for the last ten minutes – Becky couldn’t bring herself to watch the game at all. And we joined the national delirium that followed it; God help us, we attended the All Blacks’ Christchurch victory parade, Becky complete with All Blacks flag. I decided to go to a couple of daytime provincial rugby matches at Rugby Park and that was great. I hadn’t been there since I used to go to club games every Saturday afternoon as a kid in the 60s, in the days when you could routinely watch All Blacks playing for their clubs. When I went there in 2011 I realised with a shock that among the wizened old men in blazers and ties sitting a couple of rows away from me were some of those very same 1960s’ All Blacks legends. Like everything else the home of Canterbury rugby has now moved to Addington, which means that it’s now just walking distance from our place. I intend to go to a game or two there this year. Being a rugby union snob I have never previously set foot in Rugby League Park (other than to attend a concert, decades ago).
As I say every year in this Report my ancient past always catches up with me in one way or another. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when, right on cue in the middle of an Anti-Bases Campaign meeting, a couple of plain clothes cops turned up at the door wanting to talk to me. I told them I was busy, so they said they’d come back. As they headed back up the drive I shouted: “We’re not planning anything during the World Cup”. One of them shouted back: “That’s all we wanted to know” and I never saw or heard from them again. The idea had never crossed my mind, which shows you just how much I’ve mellowed from the young fellow who, in 1970, had helped saw down goalposts at what was then called Lancaster Park and proposed stealing the Ranfurly Shield and holding it hostage until that year’s All Black tour to apartheid South Africa was called off (we didn’t and it wasn’t). I was recently invited to give a talk entirely inspired by two articles I’d written when I was the 1974 Editor of Canta, the University of Canterbury student newspaper (the articles were part of a series that I wrote that year called “It Can’t Happen Here”, about New Zealand’s hidden history). It certainly wasn’t my idea and I no longer had any hard copy of my 38 year old typewritten articles (no word processors in those days), but the organiser was so keen that I give the talk that he arranged for them to be retyped and thus available as electronic documents. Even in the chaotic immediate post-quake environment, I was reminded of my past. We had to get a number of tradesmen around for emergency jobs. One such fellow, a total stranger, refused to accept any payment, telling me that he’d been following my political career for 40 years and asked me what I was doing now. I told him that I was writing the speech for my speaking tour and was up to the section about why it is both stupid and wrong to sell public assets. So we ended up standing in our driveway discussing the pros and cons of that issue before he headed off to his next job (having told me that he would add our bill to theirs). It’s a funny old world.
I usually conclude by saying that I look forward to the next year as being another actionpacked one. As I’m writing this several months into 2012, I already know that it is. CAFCA itself, and the issues we campaign on, have already been very high profile. I’ll leave the details for my 2012 Report but it is sufficient to say that on one major issue at least, namely the hardy perennial of land sales to foreigners, I genuinely believe that we have reached a turning point, and one which is in our favour. National is pushing the old proverbial uphill on this issue; the majority of their own supporters are against them. The political and economic bankruptcy of running the country as one big garage sale has become more and more obvious.
Asset sales are another political hot potato which is likely to leave the Tories with badly burnt fingers. There will be a battle across the entire spectrum of proposed privatisations, whether full or partial; declared or undeclared (such as charter schools). National is committed to throwing NZ open to transnational mining companies, including nasty environmental threats such as more coal mines, offshore oil drilling, and fracking. This has stirred up a hornet’s nest around the country The TPPA will be a major campaign this year, as the Americans try to get it sewn up before their November election. Now that National is into its second term, it has discarded its Mr Nice Guy mask and lurched to the hard Right. You’ve got to hand it to the Tories, they’re consistent – there’s no problem that can’t be solved by bashing beneficiaries. Don’t look at the foreign-owned banks taking $3 billion out of the country in profits; no, look over there at those dreadful solo mothers. They’re the real bludgers, apparently. It’s all their fault and they will be made to suffer. Some big employers have decided the time is right to try to break their unions, so we’re into some good old class warfare, complete with union bashing, enforced casualisation and none too subtle attempts to starve workers into submission. We’ve seen it all before, it’s called capitalism.
The Christchurch earthquake recovery is becoming more and more of a political battlefield, with the Government mindlessly leaving it up to “the market” to sort it all out, meaning that the insurance transnationals are holding the city, and the country, to ransom. This is nothing less than a capital strike and we all know what the political and media response would be if it was a labour strike. The grassroots unrest with Christchurch’s local government could have the unintended consequence of giving the Government the excuse it needs to sack the City Council, as it did to the Canterbury regional council, and thus remove all democracy from the city, giving the Government a free hand to privatise the city’s extensive portfolio of publicly-owned assets – all in the name of paying for the city’s multi-billion dollar rebuild. Meanwhile, landlords charge extortionate rents to anyone unlucky enough to be renting at present, including those who have to get out of their damaged homes for a short time while they are repaired. What’s this called, again? Yep, you guessed it, capitalism.
All this is taking place in the context of the capitalist world’s global financial crisis, one caused by outright criminality, and one which shows no sign of improving after several years. This has led to the global Occupy movement in protest against corporate greed (Occupy was pretty much a fizzer in NZ but public outrage on this issue has taken the form of thousands of ordinary Kiwis – not at all “the usual suspects” – protesting in Christchurch against the gargantuan salary increase for City Manager Tony Marryatt). Over and above all that is the existential threat posed by global climate change, a problem driven by the very same industries and transnational corporations with whom National is getting into bed. There is no shortage of things for CAFCA to get stuck into; the only issue is where to start and which one/s to target first. We’re spoilt for choice but undaunted by the prospect. We’ve been around for a long time and are not afraid of hard work or of getting our hands dirty. Bring it on, I say, let’s get stuck in.