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How Odd of Todd, how Ill of Bill

Three quick questions over the Barclay/English affair.

First up; who else knew?

Was the then PM, John Key aware? The money paid to the abused worker came from a budget under his control. In March last year, Key said:

“From time to time, when you get a change of MP, you will get changes to staff, because the style’s a bit different, so I don’t have any other details other than that.”

This statement was made a month after Bill English texted a National Party electorate worker saying he knew Barclay had made the recordings. If Key genuinely did not know the details, why did English hide them from him?

Secondly; what is this crap about Todd Barclay being bound by confidentiality?

The ending of the employment relationship is a matter between an employer and an employee. Barclay is neither. He simply should not have been involved in the resolution of the employment dispute, which ended in a larger than usual payment to the abused worker.

The termination agreement and final settlement, a copy of which is presumably lodged with the Mediation Service, is between Parliamentary Services and their former worker, electorate agent Glenys Dickson. It should not and probably cannot bind a third party, even one directly involved in the dispute.

If he’s not a party to the settlement, and it does contain a confidentiality clause, how does he even know what things he cannot talk about? Who broke confidentiality to tell him?

Frankly, the settlement has nothing to do with Todd Barclay in a legal sense and he is simply hiding from the truth yet again.

But then, this is a man who took money from the tobacco industry. His lack of a moral compass is what made him an ideal candidate to be a National Party MP in the first place.

The real surprise is that Bill English would try and cover up for him. Sure, he watched John Key bullshit for 8 years, but English must have known that he doesn’t have Key’s evasive skills.

The third question is relatively simple; will Bill English lead National into this year’s election or will the prospect of him snatching defeat from the jaws of victory scare his caucus into getting the knives out?



The Last Days of May

The Last Days of May


It’s looking increasingly likely that embattled UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, will have to stand down.

The public, including many Conservative voters, appear disgusted with her decision to do a deal with the Neanderthals of the DUP, whose bigoted, backward looking and regressive nature is legendary. The DUP election manifesto has been wittily described as “basically just the bible, with fortnightly bin collections”.

May looks particularly weak and hypocritical for relying on the DUP because her party and the right wing press have, for months, made hay out of calling Jeremy Corbyn a terrorist enabler. Even the briefest of google searches shows that the DUP are far closer to actual active terrorists than any other political party in the UK. They are a loathsome, reactionary force for repression.

And they are the only thing keeping the Tories in power.

To compound matters, Theresa May has made a complete hash of the response to the tragic Grenfell Towers fire. Instead of going to the site personally, she sent her stunt double, Andrea Leadsom, instead. Predictably, Leadsom, who also sat in for May in the election TV debates, was howled down by survivors and supporters.

May has just finished a trainwreck of an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight. It may be the last straw.

However, the problem remains that the Tory party is paralysed with fear. Dump May and replace her with who? Nobody with any political nous is going to want the job. Boris Johnson will bide his time and take over in the rebuilding phase. He is not going to want to lead them into the next election because it is going to be a thumping of historic proportions.

And meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn continues to lead Britain from the opposition benches.

Labour’s time is coming and the UK will be much the better for the change.

May will go soon, but it’s her party Britain needs to be shot of.

Death of A Deportee

In December 2015, I interviewed a young Aussie who had been deported from his home to New Zealand, the country of his birth. A 501er, as they are known in the Lucky Country.

In the article, I referred to him as Doug for privacy reasons. His real name was Matt and he killed himself last night.

I liked Matt. He was obviously upset and bewildered by his deportation to a country he’d never been to before. He missed his family and he missed his kid. He was naturally guarded about some aspects of his life, but he was open and honest with me about the situation he found himself in.

I know his Kiwi relatives did all they could to help him, but it was never going to be enough. Stuck in a small town, with no honest job prospects, Matt predictably found other ways to make money. A facebook photo a few weeks after he was dumped here in NZ showed him grinning among piles of cash.  I had a feeling then that it wasn’t going to end well for Matt. Jail or worse?

Turned out it was worse. Matt was increasingly depressed about his situation and started to steal from family and friends. He was kicked out of accommodation several times. He found work in Wellington but, as I understand it, that ended with him writing off his employer’s car. He was back to zero, in a city where he knew no one.

Matt was certainly no angel. He was a criminal in Australia and it appears he broke the law to survive here in NZ too. But he didn’t deserve to die alone and miserable. His child doesn’t deserve to grow up without his father.

Matt described Aussie Immigration and Border Control Minister Peter Dutton as evil. I’m reminded of the old saying that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Opinion might divided on whether John Key was ever a ‘good man’, but he certainly did nothing to help Matt or the dozens of other Aussie criminals dumped here because of an accident of birth.

Shame on Dutton. Shame on Key. Shame on the rest of us for staying silent about the gross unfairness of this situation.


The original interview is reproduced below:

In a world awash with people transiting from one country to another, it’s rare to meet someone who has moved involuntarily, under the threat of being shipped from his urban incarceration to a far worse prison island thousands of miles away.

We are sadly familiar with news of migrant families who risk everything to get to a better life.

We are less exposed to the reality of people who have no reasonable option but to leave their families behind, to never again see their home, to lose everything they own, and not even get to hug their child one last time.

But that’s the situation faced by of New Zealand’s newest immigrants. I’m not going to identify him. I’ll call him Doug for the purposes of this post. Doug’s home is Australia, but his passport says he’s a Kiwi. He’s been in New Zealand for a few days, his first time back here since his parents took him across the Tasman as a toddler a couple of decades ago.

He left New Zealand in short pants, and returned in handcuffs, with nothing much more than a bag of clothes and his strong Ocker accent. Doug’s a 501er. A deportee.

Does he want to be here?

Does he fuck.

Doug respects his Kiwi heritage, but his life is in Australia. His mum, his siblings, his son. They’re there, he’s here.

And it’s not bloody fair, mate.

I meet Doug at his rellie’s suburban home in a provincial city. He’s bright, clear eyed and thoughtful. He chain smokes rollies throughout the interview. Afterwards, as I leave, I see him in the backyard, sitting in the sun on a wooden stool, smoking yet another ciggie and texting on a budget cellphone. Not texting anyone here in NZ, obviously. All the Kiwis he knows are in the house behind me.

Curiously, one of the things Doug was given on arrival was a guide on how to deal with the media. There were a couple of journos at the airport, but he gave them the flick. I’m glad he chose to speak to me. I’ve edited some answers to avoid specific identifying details, and while Doug was open and honest with me, I’ve chosen to omit some of the more harrowing aspects of how the process has left him emotionally. All I’ll say is that he’s doing it tough.

I start by asking Doug about his life in Australia.

TRP: Where’s home?

Doug: Sydney, out west. Never even left the state, really. Never been up the east coast or anything.

Were you working?

Yep, owned a business, employed 4 subbies. We supplied goods and services to retailers.

But you ended up in jail. How long for?

I was sentenced to two months, but when I was due for parole, I was told that they were going to send me to NZ and when I said I’d appeal, they said I’d have to serve the parole inside. So they locked me up for the length of the parole period. Another six months.

What happened to the business?

It’s gone. It crumbled. I couldn’t run it from jail and couldn’t sell it from there either. No cellphones, no internet. I was moved around from centre to centre. I couldn’t keep up.

You’ve had some previous issues?

Yep. Look, I grew up in the Western suburbs. It wasn’t easy. It’s tough. I made mistakes, but I paid for them, cleaned up, got it together. I’ve rented a bit, but mostly lived with mum.

Doug and I talk more about his life in Australia. About league, about cricket, about growing up in the vast western suburbs of Sydney. He’s open about going off track as a young man. But he says he’s clean and he looks it. He looks me straight in the eye when he answers questions. No bullshit.

He’s a physically strong young man, fit and quietly powerful in his manner. Not threatening, but self-assured. But that strength disappeared when we talk about his family.

All his siblings are there. His mum. His son. Doug’s boy lives with his ex. She’s since remarried and when I ask him if she’d bring their son to visit him here in NZ, the façade crumbles. It’s obvious that it’s not going to happen. I look at him and wished I hadn’t asked.

TRP: When did you realise you were going to be deported?

Doug: Well, I got some warnings that it might happen in the past, but it didn’t seem real. I wasn’t a rapist or a murderer, y’know? I’m not a threat to national security! And I was over my younger stuff. I just didn’t think it would happen to me.

What’s the mood of the Kiwis in the detention facility?

Frustrated, desperate. It’s not too bad in some ways, better than jail. There’s no work, but there are activities. Family access is better, too. Much better than jail. But it’s hard taking civil action in there. It’s difficult to organise. There’s a lot of depression. The asylum seekers too.

A week ago, in the detention centre, you were given a choice; Christmas Island or NZ. That’s right?

They got a few of us Kiwis together then one by one put papers in front of us. They told us if we didn’t volunteer to be deported to NZ, we’d be off to Christmas Island then and there. I had enough, I signed. I read the papers after I signed.

Why not go to Christmas Island?

Well, we knew a bit about it from guys who’d been in and out of there and from the news. We had TV and some internet access in the detention centre. It wasn’t a good option. My mum made me promise I’d go to NZ if they threatened me with Christmas Island.

We talk for a while about the residency appeal process. Despite John Key’s assurance that the deportees could easily appeal from here, there’s a snag.

First they have to pay back the Australian Federal Government the cost of the flight home.

Not just their flight, but return fares for the two cops who accompany each deportee on the plane. The best part of three grand before they can even get started. That minor detail must have gone down Key’s memory hole.

And the appeal process is deemed to have started when he was first moved to an immigration detention centre.

All the work done on his behalf and all the letters he sent himself from prison didn’t count. He sent dozens of letters fighting for his residency. Immigration claim they only received one. He lost two months of the appeal process without even knowing it.

TRP: When you were given the choice of Christmas Island or voluntary deportation, did you have access to a lawyer?

Doug: No, it was sign or else. No lawyer. I did have help in my residency appeal, but no legal aid. It’s thousands to fight deportation and get residency, $5 -10 thousand minimum. But I think I had nearly got the appeal granted and my residency sorted and maybe that’s why they moved on me in the detention centre.

Did you have reasonable choices?

Not really. It wasn’t so bad in the detention centre because we had better communication, cellphones, but not smartphones, and I could meet the immigration case officer.  But I don’t think that would be the case on Christmas Island. The process is designed to break you down. And it did. I was falling apart. So I signed the papers.

Did your family see you off at the airport?

No, they weren’t allowed. I was handcuffed from the centre to the airport and put on the plane. They only took the cuffs off on board. I guess they didn’t want to scare the stewardesses.

Despite John Key’s assurances that leaving Australia is a good option, there is no extra support immediately available. Effectively, it’s just like he’s just been released from a Kiwi prison, but he’s committed no crime here. There is no immediate help for the extraordinary psychological strain he is dealing with. No ongoing counselling, no guidance to orientate him to his new life.

TRP: What did you know about deportation to NZ?

Doug: I saw Key on TV saying it was a good idea to go. He said we could fight it from NZ and we’d be free.

But you’re not free. You have conditions put on you haven’t you? You’re kind of on parole here, aren’t you?

Yep. It’s parole. The guys from Corrections have been good, I think they are sorting a benefit out, but the town I’m in is pretty small. It’s like a farm! And there’s no work. I’ll probably have to move to Wellington or Auckland. I want to work.

How were the police when you arrived?

Good. Really good! The police and the parole people were really helpful. It was funny, really. The police and the corrections guys had the new laws with them at the airport and they had to keep reading them to work out what they were supposed to do. It’s all new to them too.

John Key said you could fight it from NZ. Now that you’re here, do you think that’s realistic?

No, not really. Your chances drop, because you’re no longer a priority. You’re gone.

I met Doug in the provincial city he has been relocated to. He’s being put up by relatives. They’ve never met before, but they are the only people in New Zealand whose names he knows. It’s been weird for them, too. They were vetted by Corrections and their home given the once over. It’s not like they asked to be in this situation, but they’re determined to help.

TRP: What about the locals? Have you been asked why you’re here?

Doug: Actually, a taxi driver asked if I was one of the deported and I also got asked in a coffee shop. I told them I was a tourist.

What would you say to the Australian Government?

Lighten up! Relax the laws, its hurting people who aren’t really a risk. I understand for murderers and serious crims, but … But Turnbull is pretty firm and the immigration minister, Dutton, he’s evil.

What would you say to the NZ Government?

There’s not a lot NZ can do. It’s nothing to do with New Zealand. That meeting (Key and Turnbull) did nothing.

What can ordinary Kiwi’s do?

Not much. In Oz there’s a facebook page, iwi, which has some good stuff and there was Kelvin.

Kelvin Davis? The MP?

Yep. I heard he went to Christmas Island. But there’s not much Kiwis can do, really.
Doug does have the support of his relatives here in NZ. But he’s staying with people he’s never previously met. They’re his blood, but they’re strangers, too. I’m struck by just how wonderful it is that they would take him in. They’re not judging him, they’re not prying into his life. They’re just there for him because it’s the right thing to do.

But they’re not counsellors, and it’s pretty clear that being exiled from all he knows is taking a toll on Doug. He’s bewildered by what’s happened, unsure of what his future will be and he is desperately missing his family.

Everything Doug knew, loved and relied on is gone from his life.

He’s a stranger in a strange land, a man alone.

TRP: Is this fair? The deportation?

Doug. No. Definitely not.

What do you want to do?

I want to go home.

UK Election: May’s Mandate Munted

Unelected Tory PM Theresa May called an early general election on April 18th, saying that she needed a mandate for Brexit. At the time, it was hailed as a masterstroke and it was assumed the Conservatives would romp to victory. But now … not so much.

Current polling suggests that her margin of victory will be slim to non-existent and the actual mandate for leaving Europe that her predecessor David Cameron unintentionally won in 2015 will evaporate.

Mark my words, this election is going to be a disaster for the right in England, even if May scrapes home. The rest of Britain will continue to vote for others, as they usually do.

UKIP will cease to be a force in British politics (and they’ve already lost nearly every council seat they previously held). Their only practical function will be to drain votes from the Tories. The current polls show UKIP’s vote halving from around 10%, with some going to the Conservatives. However, it appears that some of their working class support has reverted to Labour.

One irony of May’s situation is that support for her party has actually increased by 2% since April. It’s just that Labour has done much, much better.

Britain, outside England, will continue to reject Brexit, and there will be a significant softening of the right’s vote in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I expect the vote for the small local parties in NI and Wales to increase, though that may not deliver more seats. The antiquated and undemocratic ‘first past the post’ system is intended to deliver monolithic results and that smothers most smaller parties.

In Scotland, I believe Labour will make small gains against the Nationalists, though the overall seat distribution won’t markedly change. The SNP simply hasn’t delivered for Scotland yet, but there is still considerable goodwill toward Nicola Sturgeon. It would be asking a lot for Labour to turn that around.

What is going to happen overall is that the Tories will probably ‘win’ by 5-10 seats with the help of the Irish right parties and a resurgent Labour will pick up 10-15 seats, still well shy of becoming the Government.

A word of caution though; the polls aren’t always right.

The Conservatives currently have a working majority of 17 in the 650 seat parliament. Any result less than that will not only be a rejection of Theresa May, it will bring into question whether Brexit should be pursued at all.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he won’t stand down post-election and on these numbers, he’d be right to stay.  There’s almost certainly going to be a call for another referendum on Europe and Labour will have the luxury of watching the right tear itself apart over the matter.

Even if he loses, Jeremy Corbyn is going to be the big winner on June 8.

How to Waste Your Electorate Vote and Help National Win

Pubs are great places for a chat. Last night, in between games of darts, I talked with a mate about the coming election.  He told me he was going to party vote Labour but electorate vote the Greens because he liked their local candidate.

I told him he was an idiot.

Well, ok, I lied a bit there. I didn’t directly tell him he was an idiot. I softened my words … he’s a mate, after all. But I certainly thought it. To be clear, voting anything other than Labour in your electorate this election is idiotic.

I told him was not only wasting his electorate vote, he was actively helping the Nat’s win a seat.

His answer was that electorate seats don’t matter, it’s the party vote that decides the election.

He’s right … and he’s very, very wrong.

Electorate seats do matter.

Imagine you are beneficiary, with a desperate need for help. Imagine you’re a working person with a landlord who has refused to fix a blocked toilet for ten days. Imagine you’re in any number of situations where your local MP can help, guide and support you.

Then imagine a parliamentary office staffer saying “Ms Bennett will be with you shortly” or “Dr Smith will be right out”.

In those scenarios, you are going to get a pat on the head, a pep talk about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and then a gentle shove toward the street. Bennett will probably ask for a tip and Smith will mistake you for a river and piss on your leg.

You’re not going to get practical help from a Tory and one more avenue of assistance will have been shut to you.

Labour Party electorate MP’s, on the other hand, have an excellent record of working tirelessly for local constituents. I’ve seen some of the best of them at work and they, and their staff, are a marvel. They get things done, they know how to work the system and they have excellent networks with support agencies, councils and housing providers.

They make a huge difference in a world of indifference, even in opposition.

They care. They act. They help.

This election, please don’t waste your electorate vote. Tick Labour because only Labour can win electorate seats for the left.

If you do give that tick to Labour, whether we change the Government or not, you’ve voted for decency and humanity in your community. And if you are in Ohariu, you’ll get extra karma points for helping kick Peter Dunne to the curb, which helps us all.

If you are any kind of progressive, it’s a no brainer. Don’t help the Tories, help your neighbours.

Electorate vote Labour. Don’t help National win anything this election.


Julian Assange; Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

The Swedish authorities have confirmed that time has run out to prosecute alleged right wing rapist Julian Assange and therefore the charges have been dropped. A jubilant Assange has appeared on the balcony of the Equadorean embassy in London and bizarrely claimed that this is a victory for freedom and, in an Orwellian misuse of language, a blow against the patriarchy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The message for the victims of sexual violence is clear. If men have other powerful men supporting them, there will be no justice. So shut up, women, you don’t count.

Assnage still faces jail time in the UK. For obvious reasons he can’t deny breaching his bail conditions and when he does scuttle out of his embassadorial bolt hole, he’ll be prosecuted for that crime. Well, unless he stays holed up for another few years, when the UK statute of limitations will take that problem away too.

Rich white men; refusing to take responsibility for their actions since forever.

I’ve never liked Assange. I always thought Wikileaks was a tool of oppression and so it has proven to be. Instead of attacking the real centre of global power, capitalism, Wikileaks has focussed on attacking the public service in its various forms. The much maligned state is actually the only hope for the worl’s huddled masses. The government, for all it’s faults, is the only safety net we have.

Bu focussing almost exclusively on deriding democratic institutions, Wikileaks has done the world a major disservice and indirectly helped the rise of the loony right.

Wikileaks is not a progressive force and Julian Assange remains a parasitic bludger. He may moan about not seeing sunlight but the choice was always his. He could have manned up and defended himself, but instead he has acted in a self serving and denialist way, trying to portray himself as the ‘real victim’.

Sure it’s been tough for him in his psuedo jail, with only a constant stream of dimwitted celebrities and Harrod’s hampers to console himself with. But he can look forward to the absolute freedom that only being rich and famous can bring some time soonish.

And then he can get on with his real job, serving the interests of international capitalism.


Will Winston Put NZ First?

One of the great conundrums of Kiwi politics is the Peters problem. Unless there is a massive drop in votes for National, Labour will need NZ First’s assistance to form the next government. And that support will almost certainly come at the expense of the Greens, who are likely to be sidelined as part of any coalition arrangement.

But can we trust Peters to go with Labour?

Well, the answer is an unequivocal no. Winston will do what’s best for Winston. He’s already let the country down once in a similar scenario.

In 1996, NZ First hinted broadly that they would look to bring the National Government down. After an arrogant and lengthy display of gamesmanship, Winston eventually announced he would instead prop the Nats up.

However, the circumstances are different these days. NZ First’s policies are so in tune with Labour’s they could have been spawned in the same think tanks. Winston Peters and Andrew Little seem to get along fine and I’m told the back benches of both parties have a useful working relationship in opposition.

I’m also firmly of the belief that Winston still wants revenge for National’s successful campaign in 2008 to remove NZ First from Parliament. I’m sure Winston would have loved to have been the one to end John Key’s political career, but that opportunity has gone. I reckon he’ll settle for burying Bill English instead.

So, should we help NZ First?

Well, no.


Andrew Little is a great deal maker and superb team builder . He’s shown that as a unionist and as a politician. However, if NZ First out poll the Greens, even marginally, he’ll have the upper hand in negotiations.

Don’t think it can’t happen, folks. Any deterioration of National’s vote is likely to head Winston’s way. NZF12%, Greens 11 is not an unlikely outcome. NZ First now have a core vote of around 8-9% and siphoning 2% from the Nats and 1% from Labour is entirely possible.

And, of course, the fundamental risk remains that Winston will go the Tory way. And even if he goes with Labour, sidelining the Greens will lead to a weaker Little led Government. Our damaged country really needs the Greens to be in a position to lead the rescue of our environment. Ministerial posts outside cabinet won’t really do that.

Winston told me recently that he didn’t trust the Greens.

“They’ll sell you down the river for a snail” was his withering summary.

If he sticks to that cynical approach, then coalition building is going to be mighty difficult for the left. My advice is don’t help NZ First and certainly don’t vote for them.

However, if you can influence a conservative voter to switch from National to NZ First, go for it. The worse National do, the better.

If the nightmare scenario of a Nat/NZ First government actually happens, lets just hope it end in tears when Winston gets sick of playing second fiddle in English’s orchestra.

One thing about Winston; he demands absolute loyalty from his MP’s and staff. However, he rarely feels that the same standard applies to himself when he’s in Government.

Whether he goes with Labour or the Tories, Winston wins.

The question is whether the rest of us lose.





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