Writers for Fightback
Information released in late February, on the Hobbit labour dispute and the SkyCity convention centre deal, lays the National government’s priorities bare. In both cases, the government prioritised the needs of business owners over all other concerns.
On February 19th, the office of the deputy auditor-general released a report on the controversial SkyCity deal. SkyCity was given the contract for an international convention centre, in exchange for a law allowing 500 more pokies in its casino.
This report placed the blame on civil servants, rather than the government per se. However, in an opinion piece published the following week, prominent bourgeois commentator Rod Oram highlighted the “whitewash” and contradictions in this report.
Oram notes that SkyCity extensively lobbied the government to reject alternative options, such as a publicly owned convention centre. Before the government opened up an Expression Of Interest (EOI) in 2010, SkyCity had already been working with the government for a year, and had met with government representatives including the Prime Minister.
Oram notes the message this sends to businesses, “If you want to build a convention centre, school, road, hospital, prison or any other form of infrastructure, don’t bother with the appropriate processes… deal directly with the prime minister.”
It’s also telling that the government neglected the option of a publicly owned convention centre, and instead prioritised gambling profiteers. While community organisations focus on helping individuals with gambling addictions, those who profit from casinos remain untouched. The only challenge to SkyCity has come from wage claims by Unite members, a struggle which must be defended and extended.
More recently, information released on the Hobbit labour dispute exposed more lies used to justify profiteering. On February 26th, documents released under the Official Information Act covered the relationship between New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson and the government during the Hobbit labour dispute of 2010.
Actors from Aotearoa/NZ were claiming rights such as residuals, which are royalties for ongoing screenings and are internationally recognised. In fact they were supported both by Australian union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Actors Equity in the UK. Although Peter Jackson threatened moving production to the UK or Eastern Europe, the documents reveal that New Line never planned to move production.
Ultimately the government amended existing labour laws to serve New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson, turning actors into independent contractors. This reflects an increasing move towards turning workers, who have no property and no control over hiring and firing, into “independent contractors” with no right to organise.
Whichever party is in power, capitalist governments serve capitalists, at the expense of workers’ rights and democracy. If we don’t show solidarity with actors in the film industry, or workers at SkyCity, we cannot begin to build an alternative. Transformation of these institutions can only come through democratic organisations of the people.