Wellington event: VUW Not For Sale

The Aotearoa Not for Sale hikoi is arriving in Wellington on May 4th and we’re going to meet up on campus and after a few speeches, march down as VUW students to join with the hikoi as a whole.
BRING POTS AND PANS/NOISEMAKERS.

11:30am May 4th, Hunter Courtyard

Photos: Hikoi and meatworkers solidarity

The hikoi is showing that tangata whenua are in the forefront of the struggle against asset sales and privatisation. One aspect of the hikoi is the unity between the locked-out meatworkers (employed by Talleys-AFFCO) and others who are opposed to asset-sales and privatisation. This was apparent in the north, where workers employed at the Moerewa plant joined in large numbers. Then again in the Waikato workers from the Horotiu plant have played an important role and received support and acknowledgement from the hikoi. The Talleys-AFFCO workers are now in the ninth week of the lockout.

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29/04/12 MWU members rallying

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28/04/12 Frankton market the day before the hikoi got to Hamilton. Our mate from a locked-out family, Gareth from Mighty River People’s Power (and MANA), and Becky Broad, Workers Party national organiser (and MANA).

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29/04/12 Collecting the koha.

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29/04/12 Meatworkers presence at Garden Place, Hamilton.

Copyright as theft

1980s campaign against home-taping

In the March issue of The Spark an article about Kim Dotcom (available online at http://bit.ly/x2nFKF) ended with the words “Discussing ways in which content creators can be remunerated fairly for their work, and also about how the boundaries between creative work and other forms of labour can be broken down are beyond the scope of this article, but they are discussions worth having.” This article by Joel Cosgrove takes a look at some of those issues. For further background reading see ‘Copyright – A Marxist perspective’ at http://bit.ly/jh9MhU or in the June 2011 issue of The Spark.

Copyright is a cultural battleground. While there is something new in the scale and the breadth of this “issue” at its heart it is just a continuation of a struggle between capitalists and consumers that has extended from sheet music, radio, to records, VHS tapes, CDs and the humble MP3.

Part of the problem is that within capitalism, property and possessions are framed around what people can purchase as opposed to what people actually need. We are all familiar with this situation, most of the time, most people knowingly unknow this. We see things in front of us and for a number of reasons find it easier to put it aside than face the consequences of calling out the emperors’ new clothes. [Read more...]

Workers Party leaflet: Aotearoa Not For Sale – to local or foreign capitalists!

Workers Party members are actively supporting the “Aotearoa is not for sale” hīkoi. Indeed, we believe we need to go further than just keeping assets in public hands, we want to push forward for workers’ and users’ control of those assets.

Whilst a number of political parties have pledged their support for the campaign, we must be on guard that the campaign does not become side tracked by an excessively Parliamentary focus. The ongoing struggle of the Auckland wharfies against casualisation (the first step towards privatisation) shows the most effective way to oppose the government’s asset sales plan. The last thing capitalist investors want to deal with is a bolshy workforce. The campaign by Glen Innes residents against state housing sell-offs is another inspiring example.

We must also guard against the strong element of xenophobia around “foreign ownership”, particularly against Chinese ownership of NZ assets. We in the Workers Party are socialists and internationalists, and regard the arguments about “foreign ownership” as a dangerous distraction that threatens to undermine our struggle against privatisation. The problem is private capitalist ownership of public utilities, whether those capitalists are New Zealanders or “foreigners”.

Furthermore, there is a particularly nasty history of anti-Chinese racism in New Zealand, which dates to the development of immigration controls in this country. Immigration controls originated from a “White New Zealand Policy” that was initially concerned with keeping out Chinese people.

(For more information, see our pamphlet on Open Borders)

We support the actions of Ngāti Rereahu who occupied one of the Crafar farms in February, demanding the return of their ancestral whenua. But we would have supported the action regardless whether the land was in NZ private, “foreign” or Crown ownership.

Aotearoa+Not+for+Sale+leaflet

Rising prices and privatisation: the need for people’s power

Ian Anderson

Rising power prices have made headlines in recent weeks, with hikes of up to 10% beginning on April Fool’s Day. These increases hit low-income workers the hardest, with prices rising 48% for domestic users between 2000 and 2010 – compared to only 9% for commercial users.

Power prices are also topical due to the government’s plans to further privatise power generation, already corporatised by the Fourth Labour Government. National plans to sell 49% of Mighty River Power to private investors, although some commentary suggests that the law will actually allow more shares to be sold, providing the extra shares do not carry voting rights. Bill English has flagged further privatisation of Genesis and Meridian Energy.

National’s plans are generating tensions with iwi, both with investors and flaxroots Maori. Hapu say their rights to use and protect waterways are eroded by sale to power companies, while iwi investors are concerned that they will lose out. Cabinet has indicated that Treaty grievances will not apply to private shareholders, and that if any shares are required for a Treaty settlement, the Crown will have to buy them at market rates. Surveys say 88% of Maori oppose asset sales, compared to 75% of the general population.

Right-wing commentators suggest that privatisation will drive down prices. However Tim Hunter, deputy business editor at Fairfax Media – hardly a communist – argues that power prices will only head upwards. Hunter asks, “which of these opposing forces will emerge victorious? The hunger for higher margins, or the restraint of competition?” To answer this, he points to two recent examples of increased competition; Powerswitch, a government initiative that successfully led to more consumers switching power companies, but had no overall impact on prices; and the deregulation of electricity in Victoria, which has led to 13 competing brands, 11 competing owners, and higher prices than New Zealand. Even as an investor who stands to benefit from privatisation, Hunter questions the prevailing myth about competition.

The Ombudsmen, independent parliamentary investigators, have also questioned the government narrative. During the election last year, the Ombudsmen found no evidence for National’s claim that assets would be 85-90% owned by Kiwi “mum and dad” investors, and of an anti-monopoly 10% cap on ownership by any one investor. More recently the Chief Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, criticised the government’s plan to remove the companies from Official Information Act requirements: “They will carry on the same operations as they do presently which have significant scope to impact on individuals and communities and the environment. It’s not just about commercial interests, the impact of these companies goes much wider than that and all of those interests ought to be protected.”

In fact, we could apply the Ombudsmen’s logic to all capitalist operations: margins are placed before externalities, profit before people. Most commercial operations are spared the accountability of Official Information Act requests, because their bottom line is more important. This corrupt saga underlines the importance of public ownership, control and oversight.

A hikoi opposing asset sales, under the slogan “Aotearoa is Not For Sale,” will leave Auckland’s Britomart on April the 28th and reach parliament on May the 4th.

ANZAC Day: What are we celebrating?

This article by Alastair Reith was originally published here in 2008.

Every year we are told that the young men whose lives were snuffed out at Gallipoli died gloriously for our freedom. We are told that the “liberties” we supposedly enjoy in New Zealand today exist only because of the sacrifice of these soldiers. The message is that the soldiers’ deaths were worth it, and that the cause they died for was just.

There is no nice way to say this: it’s all lies.

War about territory, not freedom

In 1914, war broke out between the major imperialist powers of the world. They divided up into two blocs. On one side, the Allies, primarily made up of France, Russia and the British Empire, as well as the smaller countries allied to them and their countless colonies throughout the world. The ruling classes of New Zealand and Australia took this side. On the other side, the Central Powers, primarily made up of Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, along with a number of smaller countries and the various colonies they controlled. [Read more...]

Seasonal exploitation by Kiwi capitalists

Yesterday marked 5 years of Vanuatu’s participation in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. The RSE scheme allows New Zealand employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries to bring in labour from the Pacific to fill seasonal jobs. Vanuatu is one of the biggest contributer countries to the scheme and RSE income is now the Melanesian nations second largest income earner. the Department of Labour’s National Manager, Recognised Seasonal Employment, Emily Fabling said in a press release “RSE has been an absolutely wonderful scheme for our horticulture and viticulture industries, in terms of ensuring they have the labour force they need at specific times of the year. And of course we are delighted at the benefits the scheme brings to Vanuatu and other Pacific nations.”

This view ignores some of the more brutal realities of the scheme, which has seen migrant workers mistreated and exploited in rural New Zealand. In 2009, Workers Party activist Byron Clark spoke to Lina Ericsson, a Swedish political scientist who conducted field work among N-Vanuatu workers in the Bay of Plenty.

You can listen to the interview here:

Queer The Night 2012

Everyone ready to Queer the Night?

The 18th of May is pink shirt day and we thought what better than for the Queer Avengers to raise awareness of queer bullying in our schools than to Queer up the Night again.

We’ve lost a number of people in our community this year due to homophobic or transphobic violence of one sort or another. Join with us again at 7pm on Friday, 11th of May to say that enough is enough.

See you in Waitangi Park, 7pm 11th of May.

-The Queer Avengers

Tonga’s new king: where next for the democracy movement?

New king Tupou VI greets NZ governor general

Byron Clark

Following the death of Tonga’s King Tupou V, his younger brother, Tupouto’a Lavaka, now known as Tupou VI, has been crowned king. Lavaka, considered to be more conservative than his brother, served as the country’s Prime Minister until his resignation in February 2006. While he gave no reason for his resignation, its generally accepted that it was prompted by the huge social unrest brought about by protests demanding increased democracy. The protests turned into riots that destroyed most of the central business district in the capital Nuku’alofa, and as a result delayed King Tupou V’s coronation until 2008. The Democracy movement can take credit for reforms under Tupou V that saw his powers diminished and the number of elected members of parliament raise from nine to seventeen in the thirty seat house. [Read more...]

Police brutality at Glen Innes

Glen Innes residents, Marion Peka and Aroha Robson, report on police brutality at a recent protest.

Residents of Glen Innes, and a coalition of other groups, have been resisting the demolition and gentrification of their community.

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