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Former NZ PM Jim Bolger said Telecom sale was a mistake…

Jim Bolger. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Jim Bolger. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The sale of Telecom in 1990 was a mistake and New Zealand Governments have generally proved themselves inept at privatisation, says former Prime Minister and departing NZ Post chairman Jim Bolger.

Telecom was split off from the NZ Post Office in 1987 and sold by the Labour Government for $4.25 billion shortly before Bolger’s Government was elected in 1990.

Although Telecom’s recent history as a listed company has been somewhat chequered, NZ Post is now facing severe and inevitable decline in its core business.

“With glorious hindsight you could say we hung on to the wrong bit,” Bolger said yesterday.

However, he added that at the time the deal was done, the postal business was the “right bit” to retain.

Bolger said his comment was based on the fact that “digital technology applies much more easily to banking and to telecommunications that it does to the delivery of hard copy letters”.


Civil Liberties in peril Down Under…



CreditSam Island

Australia and New Zealand are not among the usual suspects when it comes to state suppression of civil liberties. But both countries, stung by Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last year about their intelligence-gathering efforts, have been cracking down on the press: Australia has passed sweeping secrecy laws, while police officers in New Zealand recently raided the home of a reporter who had published information regarding a government scandal.

There has been little international outcry, and Washington is hardly likely to be upset: The two countries harbor the only major intelligence gathering facilities for the National Security Agency in the Southern Hemisphere, and, along with Britain, Canada and the United States, are members of the intelligence-sharing arrangement known as the “Five Eyes.”

In New Zealand, the journalist targeted in the raid is the country’s top investigative reporter, Nicky Hager, who has been working with Mr. Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Hager has “long been a pain in the establishment’s neck,” a former prime minister of New Zealand, David Lange, once said, admiringly.

In 1996 Mr. Hager published his book “Secret Power,” which revealed the relationship between the N.S.A. and New Zealand. Mr. Lange said that he learned more about what the N.S.A. was doing in his country from reading Mr. Hager’s reporting than he did as prime minister.

Across the Tasman Sea, the Australian government recently amended the country’s national security laws so that journalists and whistle-blowers who publish details of “special intelligence operations” may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The measures are part of a groundswell of terrorism hysteria. September brought the largest counterterrorism raids in Australian history, in which some 800 state and federal police officers raided homes in several Sydney suburbs with large Muslim populations, acting on what officials said was an intercepted phone call about possible activity by allies of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

For all the forces deployed in the raids, only one person was arrested and charged with a terrorism-related crime; in a court appearance in mid-November, his lawyer said the telephone conversation had been mistranslated.

The press has added to the hysteria, spreading a story that Islamic State followers were plotting a public beheading in a square in downtown Sydney — a claim no public official has made, and a claim for which there is virtually no evidence.

A week after the raids, the ruling center-right Liberal Party proposed the national security amendments aimed at the press and leaks; the opposition Labor Party supported them, and the changes passed with little debate.

Tellingly, one of the few votes against the bill came from a former intelligence official. “This is disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful,” said Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of Parliament from Tasmania. Mr. Wilkie had resigned from the country’s intelligence service in early 2003 in protest against the lack of evidence in the claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destructio

But it seems the Australian government is motivated by more than just terrorism fears. A year ago, based on information provided by Mr. Snowden, The Guardian Australia newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Company, the public broadcaster, reported that Australian intelligence hadbugged the mobile telephones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, his wife and eight of his top aides.

This was far more serious than just an embarrassment to the Australian government. It caused a serious rupture in diplomatic relations — Indonesia recalled its ambassador, and he didn’t return for six months. Indonesia looms large in Australia’s foreign policy constellation, along with the United States, and its major trading partners China and Japan. Cooperation with Indonesia is considered vital in the fight against human trafficking and terrorism.

In New Zealand, the fallout from Mr. Snowden’s leaks has been domestic. At a conference in Auckland in September, Mr. Snowden said, via a video hookup from Moscow, that the New Zealand government and the National Security Agency of the United States were engaged in vast domestic surveillance.

The country’s prime minister, John Key, vigorously denied the charges, but then backtracked after Mr. Snowden released supporting documents, saying that he “may well be right.” Mr. Key added, “I don’t run the N.S.A.”

It came as no surprise to many when, last month, five detectives and a computer engineer raided the home of Mr. Hager, the journalist who has been working with Mr. Snowden. Over a 10-hour period, they took computers, phones, papers, an iPod and a camera.

The raid may also have arisen out of Mr. Hager’s most recent book, “Dirty Politics,” in which he revealed that officials in the prime minister’s center-right National Party government had been supplying derogatory information about opposition politicians to a right-wing blogger. The justice minister was forced to resign.

Whatever the motivation, the raid, like the Australian anti-whistle-blower laws and President Obama’s anti-leak investigations, is certain to have a chilling effect. Of course, such steps are always explained as a result of a careful balancing between national security and civil liberties. What is becoming increasingly clear is that political self-interest — which serves no one except the powers that be — is just as important a factor.

Raymond Bonner is a former New York Times reporter and the author, most recently, of “Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong.”

John Key allegedly used the GCSB for his own political ends before the 2014 elections

English: John Key, leader of the New Zealand N...

English: John Key, leader of the New Zealand National Party Македонски: Џон Ки, лидер на Новозеландската национална партија. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Key used GCSB for political ends prior to 2014 election – claims the Greens Party…

New documents released to the Green Party show that Prime Minister John Key used New Zealand’s intelligence services for the National Party’s political ends a few days out from the 2014 election, the Green Party said today.

Documents released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act show that Prime Minister John Key pressured the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) into releasing previously classified documents just days out from the election.

“The Prime Minister has arrogantly used the GCSB in order to assist the National Party’s elections chances,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“John Key knew that investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were going to provide information damaging to his Government.

“In order to counter this damage John Key made certain that the GCSB declassified and released documents in an effort to provide damage control to both himself and the National Party.

“This is a Prime Minister who was using the security services for political purposes.

“When he was looking at declassifying these documents he was looking at them as the head of the National Party not as the Minister responsible for the GCSB.

“John Key asking for these documents to be declassified at this particular time was in the National Party’s interest,” Dr Norman said.

“What John Key has done is abuse his power as the Minister responsible for our intelligence services in the middle of an election campaign.

“It is clear from the documents released under the OIA to the Green Party that the pre-election release of declassified intelligence material was not done proactively by the GCSB but entirely on behalf of John Key.

“The timing of the release of the documents was purely to assist the National Party in their election campaign.

“This is a classic abuse of power,” Dr Norman said.

“New Zealanders deserve better from their Government. People have the right to know what their Government is planning to do in regards to their privacy.

“The public actually have a right to this information. It should not be selectively withheld and then dumped for purely political ends.”

Link to the Green Party’s OIA:

© Scoop Media

And so it all begins for Andrew Little: Parliament and all the bulldust…

Andrew Little's first test will be when he questions the Prime Minister in parliament.© Nick Perry/AP Photo Andrew Little‘s first test will be when he questions the Prime Minister in parliament.When parliament sits on Tuesday, Andrew Little will be eyeballing John Key across the floor of the debating chamber, NZ Newswire political columnist Peter Wilson writes.

Little will ask the first question, the leader of the opposition to the prime minister.

It’s where the rubber hits the road, the benches will be packed, and if Little makes a mess of it he’ll be off to a very bad start.

He almost certainly won’t, because he’ll have prepared carefully. It’s just as equally certain he won’t get the best of Key, because he’s good and he’ll be sharp.

Their interchanges will be intently watched by both sides.

What goes on in the chamber isn’t usually of much interest to anyone outside of it, because the big announcements are made at press conferences.

But for MPs it’s vital. It’s called “winning the house” and has a huge impact on caucus morale.

David Shearer was hopeless at it, which was one of the reasons he was dumped.

David Cunliffe was much better but never really had Key on the back foot.

Andrew Little was a backbencher until Tuesday this week. He’s a second term MP, he hasn’t had much chance to ask any questions.

When he takes the hot seat he should have his front bench sorted out and sitting alongside him.

He’s been talking to his MPs for the last few days, asking them what they want and telling them what they’ll get.

So far he hasn’t given anything away.

He’s said Grant Robertson, the caucus favourite in the leadership election, will have an important role.

Deputy leader, possibly, although Little has previously said he thinks a woman should have that role.

Finance spokesman is another possibility. Robertson hasn’t previously held a senior financial portfolio but he’s a highly competent and experienced MP.

Little is in a bind over the finance portfolio. Outside of leader and deputy it’s the most important front bench position and David Parker had made it his own.

But having received a thrashing – his own words – in the leadership election, Parker says he doesn’t want it any longer. He isn’t interested in being deputy either.

“I’ve been doing a fair bit of the heavy lifting, I’m happy to take a step back,” was his first reaction to the election result.

Little should try to persuade him to change his mind, if he hasn’t tried already.

Parker produced an alternative budget for the general election campaign which was generally regarded as being exceptionally comprehensive and well-presented.

The only Labour MP with anything like his ability is David Cunliffe, who has previously held the portfolio.

Cunliffe says he’ll do anything Little asks of him, and he would jump at it.

But offering it would be a big risk. Although Cunliffe says he won’t again challenge for the leadership, some of his opponents in caucus aren’t at all sure he’s given up for good.

There’s still an element of the old ABC (anyone but Cunliffe) Club within the caucus, MPs who would see a senior appointment as a divisive move by Little.

Setting aside Robertson and Cunliffe, there really isn’t much for Little to choose from.

The government is fascinated by all of this, and if Labour’s new finance spokesman is a soft target there will be some heavy hitting going on.

Government’s state housing claims wrong – states Labour’s Phil Twyford


Labour is challenging the Government’s claim that a third of state houses are either the wrong size or in the wrong place.

Housing spokesman Phil Twyford says Housing NZ’s annual report, released today, contradicts that.

“The annual report states 96 percent of state houses are in the right places to meet demand, and 89 percent have the right number of bedrooms,” he said.

“Ministers have been making up numbers to justify their plan to sell of thousands of state houses.”

Mr Twyford says Finance Minister Bill English and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett have been saying a third of state houses are in the wrong place or are the wrong size.

“Housing NZ’s own figures show this to be a nonsense,” he said.

“The Government has also been claiming it has built 320 houses in the last year – what they didn’t tell the public was that they sold off 800 over the same period.”

Mr Twyford says the Government is taking a “massive” $108 million dividend from Housing NZ this year.

“That’s cash that could be used to build desperately needed houses, and the government is putting it back into its own coffers.”

Mr English has said the dividend will be used for housing supplement payments.

Read more:–little-2014111915#ixzz3JasK0QJS


The Moa’s decline was quicker than earlier thought…

Chris Jacomb, a University of Otago archaeologist, examines a moa bone. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Chris Jacomb, a University of Otago archaeologist, examines a moa bone. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

The moa became extinct more swiftly than previously thought, little more than a century after the country’s first human inhabitants arrived, a new study involving University of Otago researchers concludes.The findings, just published in the journal Nature Communications, incorporate results of research by international teams involved in two major projects led, respectively, by Richard Holdaway, of Canterbury University, and Chris Jacomb, of Otago University.

The research, backed by Marsden Fund grants, concludes moa had become extinct before the mid-15th century, much earlier than the previous traditional view.

”It used to be thought that it took at least 500 years or more,” Mr Jacomb, of the Otago anthropology and archaeology department, said.

But the latest research, partly based on new high precision radiocarbon dates of moa egg shells, including in Otago, indicates moa was extinct little more than a century after Polynesians arrived in the 14th century.

Such extinction resulted inevitably from the hunting of the slow-breeding flightless birds.

Most of New Zealand’s early inhabitants would have been living in the South Island at the peak of hunting, and the moa’s disappearance later contributed to big decline in the human population there.

The study also highlights the relatively small size of the country’s overall human population when moa became extinct-2500 people at most.

This reality was likely to be of international scientific interest.

It had often been suggested that people could not have caused the extinction of ”megafauna” such as the mammoths of North America or giant marsupials in Australia because the human populations at the time of the extinctions had been too small, but that argument could no longer be used.

Moa extinction was also ”a really good example” of the issues being highlighted in concerns about environmental sustainability being highlighted this century, he said.

”It may be a little bit extreme. It’s striking because the animals are big and dramatic and probably [they were] gone in a hundred years.”

The researchers calculated that the Polynesians whose activities caused moa extinction had among the lowest human population densities on record internationally.

During the peak period of moa hunting, there were fewer than 1500 Polynesian settlers in New Zealand, or about 1 person per 100 square kilometres, one of the lowest population densities recorded for any pre-industrial society.

Moa were exterminated first in the more accessible eastern lowlands of the South Island, at the end of the 14th century, just 70-80 years after the first evidence for moa consumption.

Their total extinction most probably occurred within a decade either side of 1425AD, barely a century after the earliest well-dated site, at Wairau Bar near Blenheim, was settled by people from tropical East Polynesia, the researchers said. The last known birds lived in the mountains of northwest Nelson.

• An earlier scientific study, published last month, and involving researchers from Auckland University and Landcare Research, also highlighted the rapid decline of the moa, but suggested a slightly longer period of moa survival – less than 200 years.

Wellington men caught with hundreds of paua shellfish…

NZ Newswire
Paua shells© Getty Images Paua shellsThree Wellington men could face prison or large fines after they were caught with hundreds more paua than the legal limit.

Ministry of Primary Industries compliance officers found the trio’s stash of 876 shucked paua weighing over 81kg in three large packs on Wellington’s west coast south of Titahi Bay on Monday.

Under the recreational fishing limit, people are only allowed to take 10 paua per day.

After the paua had been seized and processed many were found to be under the 125mm legal size limit, MPI says.

The three men have been charged with serious fisheries offences that carry a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, or a $250,000 fine.

MPI officers observed the group for some time before finding the stash and saw two of the men using a small motorised dingy in dangerous sea conditions to get paua they’d stashed earlier.

MPI’s Mike Green said he was disappointed to see people gathering paua on such a large scale and said it could take months if not years for the area to recover.

“Wellington is well known for its paua and in places there is a good and plentiful supply for all to enjoy.

“The actions of these individuals in this particular case go a long way to ruin that for everyone else.”

He urged anyone who saw suspicious fishing activity to get in touch with MPI.

The men are due to appear in Porirua District Court on November 11.

Our Lorde reflects on a fantastic year’s achievements…


The mind tends to boggle a bit when you think about the various things Lorde has achieved.

In a seemingly insubstantial amount of time, she’s not only conquered the charts and won two Grammy Awards, but she’s now gracing the cover of iconic magazines like Rolling Stone and Elle.

Just in the past month, there was the parody by “Weird Al” Yankovic; then she popped up on South Park, in not one episode, but two.

In just over a year, she’s gone from playing no shows at all to playing the biggest stages on Earth and festivals like Coachella and Lolapalooza.

At the end of the month, she’s bringing her world-conquering show back to New Zealand – back home, playing Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland.

David Farrier was at the very first show Ella Yelich-O’Connor ever played at a tiny bar in Auckland.

Now, a year later, he sat down with her in Los Angeles to ask how it’s all going.

Watch the full interview:  Lorde on Hunger Games, South Park and her career.


  • October 27: Christchurch – Horncastle Arena
  • October 29: Dunedin – Town Hall
  • October 31: Wellington – TSB Bank Arena
  • November 1: Auckland – Vector Arena

Others Are Watching

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CTU calls on police, Worksafe for Pike River re-entry…


There has been a call for police and WorkSafe New Zealand to take over the re-entry of Pike River mine.

The move has come from the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) as the families grow more concerned mine owner Solid Energy won’t go back in.

CTU has always backed the families in their fight to get back into the mine.

Now they have taken it to a new level, writing to police and WorkSafe NZ, requesting them to take over the re-entry to the mine where 29 men died.

“So this activity has been privatised to Solid [Energy],” says CTU president Helen Kelly. “They’ve mucked everybody around with this process and we are now calling on WorkSafe and the police to make their own assessments, and if they think it’s safe, make their own entry into the drift.”

Ms Kelly’s letter to police says: “We are unclear why, when the investigation into this accident is incomplete, the decisions on re-entry have been left to a private company.”

The Pike families believe Solid Energy is getting ready to announce it is abandoning re-entry to the mine’s drift, or tunnel, in spite of WorkSafe declaring it safe to go in.

The company’s concerns about structural instability inside the mine, the lack of a second egress, and potentially volatile gasses have appeared recently in the media.

It is information the families have been fighting to get and now they say the company has undertaken to give them the same material.

“We should have been provided with that information right from the beginning,” says Pike families’ spokeswoman Carol Rose. “We have been in fortnightly meetings with Solid Energy and they have known about these issues for some time but they’ve not been raised with the family group.”

Pike families have their own experts who believe re-entry is possible.  They are overseas and the families are now trying to get hold of them again to go over the new information Solid Energy is now providing.

As for the request for the police and WorkSafe to take over the re-entry, police are considering their response, and WorkSafe says it finished its investigation and it is not its job to undertake recovery activity.

Read more:

Former All Black’s son in Sevens Development squad

All Blacks Sevens captain DJ Forbes – Source: Getty Images
There are five fresh faces in the All Black Sevens development squad which includes the son of a former All Black.

Jordan Bunce, the son of Frank Bunce who played 55 Tests in the Black jersey, has been named in a 16 strong squad for next weekend’s Oceania tournament in Queensland.

Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens is looking forward to working with 20-year-old Bunce saying: “Jordan was great at National Sevens in Rotorua this year and he showed a great sevens skillset at trials”.

The tournament will be an opportunity for Tietjens to blood in new players and for players needing game time to contest for a spot in the All Blacks Sevens team to play the first leg of the 2014/2015 World Series tournaments on the Gold Coast.

“I’m quite excited about this group – we’ve got some real talent in there and the question will be whether they take their chance and step up to the challenge,” Tietjens said.

The squad is (*denotes new players): Jordan Bunce*,Tomasi Cama, Matt Clutterbuck*, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Tony Ensor*, DJ Forbes, Gillies Kaka, Tim Mikkelson, Lote Raikabula

Trinity Spooner-Neera, Sherwin Stowers, George Tilsley, Junior Tofa Vaa*, Sam Vaka* , Gareth William-Spiers