The crowded mess on NZ’s populist Right

New Zealand’s New Conservatives promote conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 virus being bacteriological warfare by the Chinese Communist Party; Facebook attaches a warning label.
By BYRON CLARK. From Fightback‘s upcoming issue on Electoral Politics. To subscribe, please visit https://fightback.zoob.net/payment.html

The 2020 election has shown that New Zealand is not immune to the wave of right-wing populism that we’ve seen overseas. In June Fightback covered the entry of various far-right ideas and individuals into the New Conservative Party.[1] Newshub picked up the story in July.[2] Right Minds founder Dieuwe de Boer, who has described his movement as having overlapping goals with the content of the Christchurch shooters manifesto is standing for the party in the Botany electorate.[3] Deputy leader Elliot Ikilei talks about the superiority of Western culture, and has repeatedly denied that the shooter was a white supremacist.[4] (Leader Leighton Baker usually appears more moderate.)

The party is a rebranding of the old Conservative Party led by Colin Craig, which in 2014 came close to getting representation in parliament with 4% of the vote. In 2017 though, without Craig’s leadership -and without his substantial financial backing, their vote plummeted to 0.2%, just over 6,000 votes. In the intervening years, however, they have built a sizable following on social media, especially Facebook, and typically poll at around 1%.

While their zero net migration policy dates back to the Craig era, New Conservative courted a particularly xenophobic base through their involvement in the campaign against the UN Migration Compact which had been started by far-right groups in Europe.[5] That campaign had been worryingly successful, with mainstream right-wing parties adopting opposition to the compact as policy. When the man who carried out the mass shooting in Christchurch was revealed to have had “here’s your migration compact!” written on one of his guns, National and ACT backtracked on their opposition. This resulted in a minor scandal after National removed a petition against the compact from their website in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, claimed it had been removed weeks earlier, and when that was shown to be false, scapegoated a former press secretary who then leader Simon Bridges described as an “emotional junior staffer”.[6] The New Conservatives however have dug in their heels on the issue.

The party has fomented a panic about transgender “ideology” being taught in schools,[7] and has a policy to put solo mothers in “residential accommodation with a suitably trained/experienced couple as hosts.”[8] Despite their ideal New Zealand sounding like The Republic of Gilead from Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the New Conservatives avoid referring to themselves as an explicitly Christian party.

In March 2019 Ikilei told The Spinoff that “Despite not being a Christian party, we are the only party who has universal values that Christians hold to.”[9] However, as Ikilei gave that interview, Destiny Church, the evangelical ministry led by Brian Tamaki, was also launching a party. They had done so before, with the Destiny Party gaining 0.6% of the vote in 2005. The new party, today called Vision New Zealand after the electoral commission rejected the name ‘Coalition New Zealand’, is led by Hannah Tamaki (wife of Brian).

Vision has come out with numerous alt-right friendly statements, with Tamaki calling for a 97% cut to immigration numbers,[10] suggesting that rather than accepting refugees New Zealand should pay them not to come here[11] and vowing to ban the construction of new “mosques, temples and other foreign buildings of worship” if elected.[12] Her husband Brian had previously claimed that broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer across the country during a remembrance service in for the Christchurch mosque shooting would turn New Zealand into an Islamic state,[13] and in a sponsored Facebook post stated “we can not accept the proliferation of Islam in our country”.

Despite Vision’s obvious links to Destiny Church, Tamaki, much like the leaders of New Conservative, has claimed that her political vehicle is not a Christian party. This makes it possible for the newly registered ONE party to somewhat accurately make the claim that they are the only Christian Party running in the 2020 election.

ONE offers, according to their website, “a fresh wave of political forerunners who uphold not only the Christian values, but the Christ that we value”.[14] To hammer the point home, the party launched at the site of the first Christian service held in New Zealand.[15]

On immigration, ONE stops short of the dramatic cuts proposed by Vision and the New Conservatives (though they would slash the annual refugee intake from 1500 to just 350). Aspects of the policy appear to have been written with Muslim immigrants in mind, appealing to those concerned about potential ‘Sharia law’ with the position that “Immigrants entering New Zealand cannot advocate or practice alternative law courts contrary to New Zealand law courts”.[16]

Surprisingly for a party their size, one of their ten policies is on Israel (there is no detailed policy on relations with any other country).[17] ONE would like to see New Zealand establish an embassy in Jerusalem and apologise to Israel for New Zealand’s sponsoring of UN Resolution 2334, which states that Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied territories constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law. These views are shared by the New Conservatives, who list New Zealand–Israel relations as one of their eight policy pillars.[18] Presumably in both cases the policy and the priority given to it results from the influence of Christian Zionism in these groups.[19]

For the New Conservatives, this policy upset the anti-Semitic supporters they had picked up by speaking at rallies attended by the far-right. “Jews are a threat to the Goyim, that’s their name for non-Jews, it means ‘Cattle’.” wrote one commenter on the Facebook post announcing the policy.[20] “I was a huge supporter until this. This is your true colours laid bare. Total Ziocon shills.” wrote another.[21]

The Outdoors Party

The Outdoors Party was formed in 2015, so will be contesting their second election this year. In 2017, they won 1,620 votes, just over half of the 3,005 gained by the single issue Ban1080 party. With that party gone, The Outdoors Party has picked up the issue and plans to ride a wave of opposition to the use of “1080” poison for pest control to parliament.[22] (They have yet to register in any polls)

The party also seeks a moratorium on the roll out of fifth generation mobile technology (5G).[23] Fears about the technology, including conspiracy theories linking it to the Covid-19 pandemic, have become widespread, resulting in a number of arson attacks on communications infrastructure.[24] In a statement on the arsons, party co-leader Sue Grey was quoted as saying “The New Zealand Outdoors Party understands the frustrations felt by New Zealanders as unwanted new cell towers have emerged like pimples around New Zealand, without consultation or consent from local residents or councils”.[25] (The mobile towers that have been set alight were not 5G towers.)

The party made headlines in June, but perhaps not for the reasons they would like. At a rally where supporters were encouraged to share thoughts by writing in chalk on the pavement, a woman (not involved with the rally) rubbed out the phrase “it’s okay to be white” a slogan that began as a trolling campaign on 4chan and was soon adopted by white supremacists.[26] An Outdoors Party supporter chased the young woman, who is Asian, yelling “You are racist! You are racist against us New Zealanders, now get out! Look at you rubbing out all of our words – go back to your own country!”[27]

In March the party had absorbed another small right-wing populist group, The Real New Zealand Party, with founder David Moffet being appointed to their board. “When it became apparent that the Real NZ Party was not going to reach the 500 member threshold to form a party, it engaged in discussions with the NZ Outdoors Party. It quickly became evident that they are a great bunch of people with almost identical aspirations to ours.” he said in a press release.[28]

Moffet, a former New Zealand Rugby CEO, had previously been on the board of the New Conservative Party (it’s unclear why he left to form his own party). Stuff reported that he was motivated to get involved in politics by the campaign against the UN Migration Compact. Moffet claimed that the pact would lead to “plane loads” of violent rapists from East Africa arriving in New Zealand and that a “boatload” of 200 Indians was on its way.[29]

“I don’t think they are refugees.” Moffet told Stuff in January 2019:

…immigrants is not the right word. I don’t want to use the word invaders because I don’t want this to be right in everybody’s faces. But they are seeking to land in a welfare country such as New Zealand and they are doing it illegally…what the people smugglers tell them [is] if you get to Australia or New Zealand… they’ll give you a house, they’ll give you medical, free schooling, free everything else.

Moffett’s imagined boatload of Indians never arrived; in fact, no asylum seekers have reached New Zealand by boat. When asylum seekers do arrive in New Zealand by plane, they are not given houses, medical care and schooling. They are detained in prisons. “You know the last 20 years of policy and action on this issue is actually pretty shameful.” Amnesty International’s Anneliese Johnson told The New Zealand Herald in January. “I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that we have asylum seekers currently in our prisons in New Zealand.”[30]

The New Zealand Public Party

A late comer is the New Zealand Public Party, led by Billy Te Kahika Jr, son of a famous blues-rock guitarist and a noted musician himself.[31] Te Kahika started the party after his Facebook live videos claiming that the public wasn’t being given the true facts about the coronavirus gained a large audience. The government’s support for the goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is also a concern for him. “Where this is all going is Jacinda wants to sign us up to the UN programme Agenda 2030 and that’s a complete destruction of Kiwi freedoms and democracy.” he told Waatea News.[32]

These goals, which relate to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice, were agreed upon by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. Its predecessor, Agenda 21, which came out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is a popular target of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

“The demonization of Agenda 21 began among extremist groups like the John Birch Society” reads an article on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a US based organisation that tracks extremist groups. “The Birch Society and an array of other radical-right groups see Agenda 21 and virtually all other global efforts as part of a nefarious plan on the part of global elites to form a socialistic one-world government, or “New World Order.”“[33] This “Bircher” rhetoric is echoed by the NZ Public Party: “It does not matter which of the two main colours you vote for” reads their website. “They are both in bed with the UN, despite the fact that YOU, the public, never voted for this”.[34]

Right-wing unity?

Billy Te Kahika made overtures to the other right-populist parties to merge with his NZ Public Party. An arrangement with Vision New Zealand looked close to happening. “Our proposal to Vision was simple & consistent with what we had discussed with members and other parties” wrote Te Kahika in a statement posted to Facebook by the party. “1. Merge with NZPP and rebrand to NZPP. 2. Hannah could be Deputy Leader 3. We would take all of and respect their candidates.”[35]

But in a “last-minute meeting” Vision had apparently decided Hannah Tamaki would remain leader with Te Kahika as deputy. Te Kahika rejected this arrangement. “This would have destroyed all that NZPP stood for and built. We were astounded at the lack of integrity and forthrightness of a ‘Christian’ organisation.”

An attempt to merge with the Outdoors Party also failed, according to Waatea News.[36] A statement published on the Outdoors Party Facebook page claims “There is almost mass hysteria on facebook begging us to join with Billy Te Kahika and the Public Party.” and lists eleven questions they want answered before any possible merger. Among them:

We understand Michael Stace (formerly known as Michael Leon) who proposed the Reset NZ Party is involved in marketing Billy. We need clarification as to why he changed his name and an explanation about his “Master Mason” title and his work for and any ongoing relationship with the Freemasons so our team can better understand and implications this may have.[37]

It seems promoting UN Agenda 2030 conspiracy theories isn’t enough to get other conspiracy theorists on side if your organisation has a Masonic connection. “I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m not going to be voting for the New Zealand Public Party” states Damien de Ment, an American expat who has become New Zealand’s biggest promoter of the Qanon conspiracy on YouTube.

I have too many concerns, too many red flags have come up in the last couple of weeks. For instance, party manager Michael Stace, his background in Free Masonry (sic) – he was the director of communications and marketing for the Free Masons of New Zealand, that’s a pretty big title for an organisation that has tentacles in a lot of places”.[38]

De Ment is voting for the New Conservatives, he explains:

They may not be jawboning the whole truth movement that I’m very passionate about, ya’ know, crimes against humanity, Qanon, taking down the cabal and the deep state, but I promise you, Elliot and Leighton know that these – this paradigm exists, that these conspiracies are absolutely real, but they have to run an effective campaign to get as many votes as they can and appeal to a wider audience. So you may be frustrated right now that they’re not talking about these truth topics as much as the New Zealand Public Party, but I don’t see how the New Zealand Public Party right now is benefiting the political landscape if they’re not even registered yet.

On YouTube, still the video platform of choice for voters who have rejected the “mainstream media”, the differences between the various minor parties are debated and defended. “Billy’s a really charismatic guy, I like him.” says Elliot Ikilei, appearing on The Vinny Eastwood Show. “From the very first time we had lunch it was really cool. I like the way he thinks about – in terms of specific agenda items and the UN.”[39]

Eastwood is a New Zealander, but his show is broadcast on American Freedom Radio (as well as on YouTube), AFR shows cover all the usual topics for conspiracy theory enthusiasts – chemtrails, UFOs, the New World Order etc. When I visit for researching this article, their website tells me that there have been over 21,000 other visits from New Zealand this month.

“When it was discussed about the idea of a merger” continues Ikilei “or at least the model that was put forward, we politely declined.” The New Conservative Party believes joining with the New Zealand Public Party would have resulted in them doing most of the work, but Billy Te Kahika getting the publicity. This episode of the show is sponsored, somewhat ironically, by The New Zealand Public Party, who seem to know where to find a receptive audience.

Te Kahika: a polarising figure

Aside from petty sectarianism and clashing egos, a significant divide on the populist fringe is race. To some Pākehā social media personalities Billy Te Kahika appeared to come out of nowhere with a large following, but conspiratorial ideas have been gaining a foothold among Māori for some time. That a Māori populist leader would emerge parallel to but independent from the likes of New Conservative, who favour abolishing the Māori seats in parliament and call institutional racism a “well debunked myth”[40] is not wholly surprising.

“Amid this pandemic, the conspiracy theories are like a virus on social media…Māori are really susceptible, it seems to me, to these kinds of really bad information and fake news” That was how Bay of Plenty regional councillor Toi Iti put it in a livestreamed korero with Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey in April. “It’s driving me crazy, is it driving you crazy Tamati?”

“It is driving me crazy” replied Coffey “it’s driving me crazy, in fact I was asked about it this morning, the whole 5G thing…I don’t believe in chemtrails, but I know plenty of my whānau that have brought into it, and subscribe to the Facebook pages and get updates regularly.”[41]

Karaitiana Taiuru, a Māori cultural adviser in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) area, and a doctoral student at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, told The Spinoff that Māori communities are vulnerable to believing these kinds of ideas because of widespread, generational mistrust in the government.[42]

For Terry Opines, a far-right YouTuber who is supporting the New Conservatives, Te Kahika’s connection to te ao Māori is a big red flag:

I want some real questions answered, like who’s funding him, is he being funded by Iwi? And why is he so closely associated with Mark Solomon? The former leader of Ngai Tahu, is he funding him? and given the fact that his business interests have focused explicitly on Māori interests as opposed to New Zealanders in general we must ask this question, is he a separatist?

These questions were asked in one of what are now several exposé style videos on Te Kahika. [43]

Lee Williams, the man behind another local far-right YouTube channel; ‘Cross The Rubicon’ spoke of the backlash he received for sharing Opines’ video “I got a backlash for backing up Terry’s video and sharing Terry’s video…a lot of people got on to me calling me a racist, racist against Māori – and some of these people have been my subscribers in the past”.[44]

Williams has posted numerous videos where he scaremongers about immigration, particularly of Muslims. He was visited twice by police following the attacks on Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic centre, and has used that incident to further his popularity on YouTube, today he has over 13,000 subscribers. The Māori share of that audience were evidently on board when he spoke about foreigners, but have now changed their opinion of him.

“I’m getting so much push back from my last video with concerns of Billy TK’s NZPP.” Williams wrote in a text post on YouTube. “Some real venom showed here calling me racist and Māori hater. It’s like I’ve asked questions of someone from the left, and the cultural Marxists have come out to do what they do.”[45]

Where next for the populist right?

Williams reneged on his opposition to Te Kahika after meeting with him at his motel room in Christchurch. On the 15th of July he posted a video titled “For the greater good of this nation we should join together”:

For the greater good of New Zealand sacrifices have to be made by the leaders of the smaller parties [he wrote in the description]… Put your differences, and egos aside to be stronger as one United force. The most important thing now, with two months to go to the election is getting this UN, CCP, WHO, Soros, Gates backed puppet out of power. Jacinda has to go![46]

William’s rhetoric is detached from reality, as the combined vote for these five parties is at best 2%, but commenters on his video turn the detachment dial up to 11: “Māori and European nationalists must join to defeat the radical left who will destroy New Zealand’s traditions and way of life…2020 is the most important election NZ has ever faced.”

On July 26, Billy Te Kahika announced an alliance with Jami-Lee Ross, parliament’s only independent MP. Ross was elected on the National Party ticket and is expected not to retain his electorate seat. Te Kahika will stand in the Māori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, where his Christian ministry is based. A win is unlikely but not necessarily impossible.

Ross told media that the goal was to form a “centrist version” of the Alliance, a left-of-Labour grouping that existed in the 1990s and 2000s. The New Conservatives and the Outdoors Party reiterated their disinterest in this idea. Geoff Simmons from the Opportunities Party, a populist party that unlike the aforementioned could fairly be called centrist, was even less keen: “no way would I ever stand on a stage and shake hands with those snake oil salesmen.” he told The Spinoff.[47]

Social Credit, who were part of the original Alliance, have been approached, as has the Heartland New Zealand Party led by former Franklin District mayor Mark Ball. Vision New Zealand appear to have burnt their bridges. Even if some sort of alliance is cobbled together in the weeks leading up to the election, it looks like there will be multiple parties competing for the same target audience of right leaning conspiracy theorists.

Most voters will go to the polls and wonder who all these parties are. Those who sympathise with these group’s views will make a decision as to which one will get their tick, or in some cases cast a vote for National or ACT out of concern a minor party vote would be ineffective.

By the time the 2023 election rolls around, it’s unlikely the exact same parties will be there. Conservative Christianity has always had a small political presence in New Zealand, so it’s probable that at least one party will be around to represent those voters. With the decline of New Zealand First, the traditional choice for voters motivated by xenophobia, it’s possible New Conservative could fill that niche – perhaps while also being the choice for Christian fundamentalist voters.

Diewue de Boer, who straddles both those demographics, has indicated he is in this for the long haul. “I hope to learn lots from this campaign season, contribute as much as I can, and look forward to being part of conservative politics in the coming decades” he wrote in the introduction to his speech at the New Conservative campaign launch.[48]

As social media platforms do more to prevent the spread of misinformation – Twitter recently removed 7,000 accounts associated with the Qanon conspiracy, for example[49] – the growth of these movements will slow. Research has shown that as a tactic to limit the spread of disinformation, deplatforming works.[50] Nonetheless, conspiracy theories and far-right beliefs existed prior to the rise of social media, so deplatforming won’t make them disappear entirely. Applying a false information label to content shared by the New Conservatives (as Facebook did last April) might deter a few potential supporters, but not those already convinced that fact-checking is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy.

The hard-right in New Zealand is inspired and motivated by events overseas: Brexit in the UK, the election of Donald Trump in the US and the success of various ideologically similar parties in Europe – Hungary in particular- so to some extent what happens in this country will depend on what happens elsewhere.

The perfect storm of factors that led to five different right-wing populist parties – or even more, depending on how loosely one defines right-wing populist – gaining enough members to be on the ballot (even if only the largest of them managed to register in polls) is likely to be confined to 2020, but the views these groups espouse will continue to be a part of New Zealand’s political landscape. The question is whether they will return to the margins, or inch closer to the mainstream. Dr M. R. X. Dentith, a philosopher and conspiracy theory expert, told Newsroom that we shouldn’t ignore these movements because of their small size.

Part of the problem with the growth of the alt-right in Europe and the US, for a long period of time we said these people are minor parts of the population, they’re always going to be around, but they’re not particularly big and they’re not particularly popular. We can ignore them in political debates…

And that allowed them to grow in the background with no one paying any attention to them to the point where they actually emerged as a big problem. Actually, if we had dealt with this years ago, this wouldn’t be an issue now.[51]


[1]              https://fightback.org.nz/2020/06/12/how-the-far-right-found-a-home-in-the-new-conservative-party/

[2]              https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2020/07/new-conservatives-defend-western-culture-as-greatest-in-the-world-warn-nz-sliding-toward-socialism.html

[3]              https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-shooting/111387889/radical-losers-and-lone-wolves-what-drives-the-altright

[4]              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUwlWlRQzeU

[5]              https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/31-12-2019/summer-reissue-the-furious-world-of-new-zealands-far-right-nationalists/; https://www.politico.eu/article/united-nations-migration-pact-how-got-trolled/

[6]              https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/emotional-junior-staffer-national-worker-who-deleted-petition-not-so-junior

[7]              https://fightback.org.nz/2019/08/23/a-report-from-the-new-conservative-meeting-in-christchurch/

[8]              https://www.newconservative.org.nz/welfare-policy

[9]              https://thespinoff.co.nz/the-bulletin/23-05-2019/the-bulletin-christian-and-conservative-party-field-gets-crowded

[10]             https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/05/hannah-tamaki-calls-for-97-percent-immigration-cut.html

[11]             https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/10/hannah-tamaki-wants-to-pay-refugees-not-to-come-to-new-zealand.html

[12]             https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/11/hannah-tamaki-s-vision-nz-says-it-will-ban-the-construction-of-mosques-temples-and-other-foreign-buildings.html

[13]             https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12241008

[14]             https://oneparty.net/faq/

[15]             https://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=12340560

[16]             https://oneparty.net/priorities/immigration/

[17]             https://oneparty.net/priorities/israel/

[18]             https://www.newconservative.org.nz/nz-israel-position-statement

[19]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/18-08-2020/a-revelation-in-marton-the-spinoff-meets-new-zealands-newest-christian-party/

[20]             https://www.facebook.com/NewConservativeNZ/posts/2368235069919483?
comment_id=2368617633214560

[21]             https://www.facebook.com/NewConservativeNZ/posts/2368235069919483?
comment_id=2368640313212292

[22]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/11-01-2020/outdoors-party-reckons-it-can-ride-an-anti-1080-wave-to-parliament-in-2020/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1080_usage_in_New_Zealand

[23]             https://www.outdoorsparty.co.nz/nz-outdoors-party-policy-on-5g/

[24]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/18-05-2020/how-5g-and-covid-19-mixed-to-make-a-toxic-conspiracy-cocktail/

[25]             https://suegrey.co.nz/index.php/2020/05/18/cell-towers-burning-off-democracy/

[26]             https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/its-okay-to-be-white

[27]             https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/06/race-relations-commissioner-blasts-appalling-racist-abuse-towards-young-woman-at-outdoors-party-rally.html

[28]             https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2003/S00246/former-rugby-ceo-david-moffett-joins-the-nz-outdoors-party-as-executive-director.htm

[29]             https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/110099964/former-nz-rugby-boss-david-moffett-now-tackling-populist-politics

[30]             https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12339908

[31]             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_TK

[32]             https://www.waateanews.com/waateanews/x_news/MjQ5NjI/Paakiwaha/COVID-19-gives-Billy-TK-the-UN-red-flag-blues

[33]             https://www.splcenter.org/20140331/agenda-21-un-sustainability-and-right-wing-conspiracy-theory

[34]             https://www.nzpublicparty.org.nz/un-agenda-21-and-agenda-2030

[35]             https://bit.ly/32HVYnM

[36]             https://www.waateanews.com/waateanews/x_news/MjUwMTc/Public-Party-praying-for-electoral-lifeline

[37]             https://www.facebook.com/nzoutdoorsparty/posts/3390632597661581

[38]             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyL0jLqvskY

[39]             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGlnVrwtkuI

[40]             https://www.facebook.com/NewConservativeNZ/photos/a.552878204788521/3080786001997716/

[41]             https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=553179278654470

[42]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/14-07-2020/why-Māori-communities-are-more-vulnerable-to-5g-conspiracies/

[43]             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L113FB319_o

[44]             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yoMxSs3oVQ

[45]             https://www.youtube.com/post/UgynPk8_11oi5CJD3JF4AaABCQ

[46]             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTfiPO0mQNQ

[47]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/26-07-2020/jami-lee-ross-billy-te-kahika-and-the-rebel-alliance-of-election-2020/

[48]             https://www.rightminds.nz/articles/doing-what-works-my-speech-new-conservative-2020-campaign-launch

[49]             https://www.euronews.com/2020/07/22/qanon-twitter-bans-7-000-accounts-linked-to-conspiracy-theory-group-thecube

[50]             https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2019/10/04/deplatforming-works-lets-get-on-with-it/

[51]             https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/26-07-2020/jami-lee-ross-billy-te-kahika-and-the-rebel-alliance-of-election-2020/

How the far-right found a home in the New Conservative Party

by BYRON CLARK

Candidates | newconservative

“We’ve got some awesome candidates that are stepping up for us,” announces New Conservative Party deputy leader Elliot Ikilei in a video posted to their Facebook page on March 27, 2020. “This is going to be one person over here. Now he is a little bit over there, a little bit over to the far-right…” (Ikilei moves to his left.) “So here we are, and this is a great man, this is a man who many of you will know, and we are so excited to have him on board! Now I’m just going to give it over to him. Sir! What is your name, and tell us a little about yourself?”

“My name is Dieuwe de Boer, and I am a candidate for the New Conservative Party.” announces de Boer. “I’m rather infamous at this point, for my conservative political commentary,” he says to giggles from Ikilei. The joke about de Boer’s infamy, and the earlier double entendre about his location on the far-right, is in reference to an article published by RNZ in January which described him as a “far-right activist”, when reporting on a police raid of his home over a suspected illegal firearm.

Not everyone saw the humour in that headline. Max Shierlaw complained to the Media Council about the use of the term “far-right”. He noted that de Boer was a Christian, a conservative, and a family man who supports gun ownership; these things did not, in Shierlaw’s opinion, make him a “far-right activist”, a term he argued was more properly used for neo-Nazis and racists, which de Boer is not. The Media Council did not uphold the complaint, noting in their response:

It is RNZ’s view that Mr de Boer’s statements put him somewhere on the far-right continuum and the Council agrees that, while ‘far-right’ is an inexact term, it was not an unreasonable description. While not everyone who opposes immigration has far-right views, Mr de Boer has also been openly critical of Islam, saying it was ‘fundamentally incompatible with western values and culture’, has expressed support for nationalism and had supported visiting speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, whose views have consistently been described as far-right. It was also telling that Mr de Boer himself had been quoted as saying that ‘far right’ might not be a bad description of his views.

“All of that makes far-right a rather meaningless and harmless slur.” commented de Boer in an article on his Right Minds website. He’s not necessarily wrong; the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish NGO based in the United States which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, describes the term as “more vague than extreme right or radical right”, the terms they use to describe violent hate groups that exist outside of mainstream conservatism.

While begrudgingly accepting that the far-right label is going to stick, in that same article de Boer announces that his barrister had issued a cease and desist letter for what he describes as “a series of libellous tweets” about him, including one noting that he “regularly appears on Australian hate-monger Tim ‘Pinochet did nothing wrong’ Wilms’s podcast”. Dieuwe de Boer is indeed a regular guest on the podcast in question, The Unshackled, appearing in a weekly “trans-Tasman talk” segment. The slogan quoted in the tweet, “Pinochet did nothing wrong” is one that appears on a t-shirt that Wilms has worn in YouTube videos.

Augusto Pinochet was military dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990, and is known for his  persecution of leftists, socialists, and other political critics. In particular his regime is remembered for death flights, a method of extrajudicial killing where dissidents were thrown to their deaths from helicopters. The phrase “free helicopter rides” has become a meme on the alt-right, a dog whistle to those who know the meaning, and a seemingly nonsensical joke to those who don’t.

Wilms’ t-shirt belays another meme to those in the know: the letters RWDS printed across the sleeve stand for Right-Wing Death Squads. While originally coined to describe paramilitaries in Colombia in the 1980’s, the term has been adopted by the modern alt-right. Searching for the phrase will bring up a SoundCloud track by that name featuring a picture of an armed man in silhouette in front of a Black Sun, the symbol featured on the cover of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto. One SoundCloud user comments: “Remember lads: Subscribe to PewDiePie”, quoting the shooter’s livestream and echoing another meme appropriated by the alt-right.

Of course, there are several degrees of separation between de Boer and these commenters; he can easily distance himself from them, and even from Wilms. “I am not responsible for Tim’s wardrobe.” he writes, before going on to say, “Tim’s views are generally not too different from mine”.

The Right-Wing Death Squads meme is noted in another of de Boer’s articles. Reporting on a protest he attended in Auckland’s Aotea Square where the right clashed with anti-fascist activists, he writes:

On our side there was someone in a t-shirt that said “Right Wing Death Squad” with a helicopter on it. No one on the other side knew the meaning of the joke, and it is unlikely that everyone reading this would get the joke too, which is why I think it is a terrible one.

He notes that this protestor can’t be labelled a white supremacist because while he would occasionally “yell something in German and talk about physical removal of leftists”, he was ethnically Chinese.

The Unshackled podcast and YouTube channel was previously a joint effort between Wilms and Sydney man Sukith Fernando, but Fernando was dropped from the project after it became widely known he was a Holocaust denier following an article published by Honi Soit, the student paper at the University of Sydney where Fernando was studying at the time. Fernando repeatedly claimed that he “didn’t know” whether the Holocaust happened when confronted by liberal students on campus. He had been part of a ‘Holocaust Revisionism’ Facebook group and had commented “Wow Hitler really did nothing wrong” under a video questioning the holocaust that was posted on his page.

The Unshackled has on numerous occasions provided a platform for one of Australia’s most notorious far-right extremists, Blair Cottrell. Cottrell is the founder of the United Patriots Front (UPF), and later the Lads Society. As reported by ABC News, the man who perpetrated mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques in March 2019 had been an admirer of Cottrell, frequently commenting on his Facebook live streams, referring to him as “Emperor” and donating to the UPF.

Tom Sewell, president of the Lads Society, had – prior to the shooting – tried to recruit the man who was later to perpetrate the Christchurch mass shooting to join a group looking to create a society of only white people. The man, who at this point was about to move to New Zealand, declined. “The difference between my organisation, myself and [the shooter], is simply that we believe, certainly at this stage, that there is a peaceful solution for us to create the society we want to live in,” Sewell told Newshub“If we are not given that opportunity, well, time will tell. I’m not going to give you any explicit threat but it’s pretty fucking obvious what’s going to happen.”

Again, de Boer maintains a degree of separation from these figures, but he has spoken openly about the overlap between the content of the Christchurch mass shooter’s manifesto and his movement. “The overlapping views obviously are that we favour nationalism and have an opposition to the United Nations,” de Boer told Stuff. “We want stronger controls on immigration. We haven’t talked much about replacement, but I would definitely highlight that Western nations in general have low birth rates.”

And highlight those birth rates he has. A 2017 article on Right Mindsis headed with a line graph showing the declining birth rate in New Zealand since the 1960s. Despite saying that Right Minds haven’t talked much about replacement, this article heavily implies that something akin to the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, after which the Christchurch mass shooter named his manifesto, is going on. “Every single one of our childless liberal leaders wants to import more immigrants to be the children they don’t have” writes de Boer. “Perhaps these parties should remove their gender quotas, official or otherwise, and replace them with some offspring quotas.”

Coming into the New Conservative fold

Initially de Boer was less than enthusiastic about the New Conservatives. In a June 2018 article he describes them as “boring” and lambasts them as “more green than the Greens” for missing an opportunity “to stand out here to and straight up call out the global warming lie”. In reference to an income splitting policy he asks rhetorically “does that mean a Muslim man can split income between all four of his wives and pay no tax?”, and concludes that the party has “run-of-the-mill socialist policies, much like every mainstream party in New Zealand.” By eighteen months later he had completely changed his attitude.

I got a message from deputy leader Elliot Ikilei, who told me that he had read my critically dismissive review, he thought I had some good points, and he wanted to meet up to talk about it. That one simple olive branch changed my life and I know he’s extended many more like it to others. Perhaps enough to alter the course of this nation.

Rather than ignoring the fringe blogging of a young man who said his party was not pushing climate change denial hard enough while dismissing every mainstream party as “socialist” and throwing in some barely hidden Islamophobia, Ikilei had specifically sought out de Boer. It may be that the politics of New Conservative are not as different from Right Minds as de Boer originally thought. His article endorsing the party praises Ikilei for saying that western culture is superior to all other cultures: “That’s a line you won’t hear from any politician”.

Other figures from New Zealand’s far-right have also been drawn to the New Conservatives. Canterbury man Lee Williams, whose YouTube channel boasts over twelve thousand subscribers, posted a video on July 19th 2019  calling for the small “right of centre” parties opposed to the United Nations Compact on Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (commonly known as the UN Migration Pact) to unite together. Underneath the video, one commenter writes: “A party has been formed”, “New Conservative Party (NZ) Good people here. Check it out.” Williams replies, “I’m in touch with Elliot”.

A few weeks later, he was in Auckland to speak at a Free Speech rally, along with Elliot Ikilei and others. Speakers were introduced by Dieuwe de Boer. In his speech, Williams begins “Well here we are, the white supremacists of New Zealand, according to Patrick Gower and the lying New Zealand mainstream media!”, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

Williams is referencing a Newshub piece that reported on members of the far-right attending a protest against the UN Migration Pact in Christchurch. Newshub reports that at that rally the notorious while supremacist Phillip Arps had called for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters to be hanged. Arps has served a prison sentence for sharing the livestream video of the mass shooting at Al Noor Masjid, and had left pigs’ heads at the same mosque in 2016.

Williams was not mentioned in the piece, but has reason to gripe about the story. He was the one speaking at the rally when Arps, who had been standing beside him waving a New Zealand flag, yelled out “Hang him! Publicly hang him!” when Williams mentions Peters. In his speech, Williams states that “Europe and its people are being replaced”, referencing the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, a phrase that New Zealanders would become familiar with a few weeks after that rally when it was used as the title of the Christchurch mass shooter’s manifesto.

It’s likely that the content of that speech, and other videos such as one uploaded two weeks later where Williams claims “these [Muslim] wives are just knocking out babies with baby factories, you know, and vastly outnumbered the birth-rate of native populations – this is in every country in Western Europe”, were the impetus for police visiting him on two occasions after the Christchurch shooting.

After attending a public meeting in Christchurch in August, Williams made a video announcing his endorsement of the New Conservatives.

Anybody who’s informed and they watch what’s happening in Western Europe and they know what’s happened in the United States with the Democrats, Donald Trump if you – if you support Donald Trump, if you’re on one of the secret supporters of New Zealand then I would say you’d probably like New Conservatives. If you’re pro-Brexit, if you’re pro-freedom of speech, if you’re anti-mass migration, anti-United Nations Global Compact on migration, then the New Conservatives is for you.

When a commenter asks if the New Conservatives are “of a similar persuasion to A-M Waters and the ‘For Britain’ party in [the] UK?”’ Williams replies: “yes similar”. The For Britain Party was founded by the anti-Islam activist Anne-Marie Waters after she was defeated in the UK Independence Party leadership election in 2017. Their platform includes reducing Muslim immigration to the UK to near zero.

The New Conservatives have a zero net migration policy that doesn’t single out any particular ethnic group or religion. But the comments from their Botany candidate are not the only time the party has been associated themselves with that kind of ideology. On April 2nd 2019, the New Conservative Facebook page shared a video promoting Douglas Murray’s 2017 book The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam,describing it as “a powerful understanding as to why our culture is suffering,” and noted: “We absolutely agree.” The book claims that Europe is under threat from Muslim immigration and higher birth rates, and is popular on the far-right.

Much like Ikilei’s olive branch to de Boer, the party didn’t ignore the endorsement of a fringe YouTube personality who believes – among other things – that the United Nations is run by an “unholy alliance” of Islam and “cultural Marxists”, and that there is a deliberate plot to emasculate western men to weaken white majority countries. Instead, they shared Williams’ video on their Facebook page with the comment: “we are so humbled and encouraged to see critical thinkers jumping onboard.”

In a video uploaded to his channel in September 2019, Williams and an unnamed friend, who also attended that same meeting in August, call on people to vote for the New Conservatives, describing them as “the closest we’ve got to a Salvini or a Viktor Orbán”, referring to far-right politicians in Italy and Hungary. Lee Williams is wrong about a lot of things, but in that instance, he’s probably correct.

Report on Black and Indigenous Lives Matter: Ferguson protests Wellington

Black Lives Matter protest Wellington

Black Lives Matter protest Wellington

In Wellington at the symbolic time of 12:01pm a protest march was held in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, USA.

A collection of between 50-60 (mostly high-school students) gathered to show their support and outrage at the ongoing police violence in the US.

A number of people got up to speak before the march on what had happened and what was ongoing in the US. A number of speakers noted the importance of dealing with police violence and structural racism in the justice system, drawing out the problems of a prison system where around 50% or the male prison population and 60% of the female prison population are Maori, with Maori being 6-7 times more likely to be convicted of a crime as a Pakeha also charged with the same offence.

The group marched towards the US embassy. Police in attendance forcibly moved the marchers off the street and into the crowded sidewalks, claiming that there was no ‘approved traffic management plan’. Organizers had attempted to organize this in advance but had been told they needed to provide 6-8 weeks notice beforehand. What this was in effect was the authorities trying to bully the young organizers from asserting their legal right to march. The behaviour of the police extended beyond that “the cops were at the back of the march making whip cracking noises and making jokes about being slave drivers, it was gross and totally not cool on a march against racism and police violence” said march attendee Chase Fox.

Once the march had reached the US Embassy a four and a half minute ‘die-in’ was staged in memory of all those who have died due to police violence. A number of people spoke. Mentioning that the Ferguson police force, which was overwhelmingly white already, has had most of their non-white officers quit. As well as the need for those involved to learn our own history of police brutality in Aotearoa, referencing the murder of Stephen Wallace, the Dawn Raids in the 70’s and the invasion of Rua Kenena’s community at Maungapohatu in 1916.

Coalition governments and real change

LabourMike Treen, General Secretary of UNITE Union. (Reprinted from The Daily Blog, originally published in 2013).

Can a party that wants fundamental changes in society be a minor part of a coalition government?
My conclusion is no, after having been a participant in the Alliance Party’s implosion after attempting to do so from 1999-2002 as part of the Labour-led government. But that does not mean that a minor party can’t be an effective player in parliament for reforms while continuing to build a movement outside of parliament as well for real change.

Similar disasters befell radical left or Green parties in many countries. In most cases there existed a moderate centrist Labour or social democratic party that had strong support from working people but was committed to the existing system including the system of worldwide alliances with the US-led western imperial ambitions.

Pressure always comes on the smaller more radical party to oppose the more right wing parties and support the “lesser evil” of social democracy. Many working people who either have illusions that their traditional party will make real change, or simply accept – albeit unenthusiastically – the reality of lesser evilism, will also often want their party to ally with parties to their left rather than their right in the hope of more progressive policies emerging. It is always worth remembering that not all Labour governments are a lesser evil. It would be hard to argue that was true for the 1984-90 Labour government.

This was true in 1999 in New Zealand. There was genuine enthusiasm when Helen Clark extended the olive branch to the Alliance Party at its conference that year and what was effectively an alternative coalition in waiting won the election.
Alliance leader Jim Anderton was made deputy prime minister and three others got cabinet posts, but the party essentially disappeared from view into Labour’s embraces and its policies were seen as essentially the same. The government remained reasonably popular but the Alliance Party’s support collapsed in the polls. Technically the party retained the right to differentiate its own position from that of the larger partner while remaining in cabinet but this was rarely invoked. Then when the decision was made to send troops to Afghanistan it provoked a bitter internal fight, with the vast majority of the party rejecting the decision by Anderton and a majority of Alliance MP’s to support the government’s position. The Alliance was eliminated from parliament at the 2002 election and Anderton’s faction has simply been absorbed into the Labour Party.
The problem for a genuinely radical party is that it only has minority support and cannot impose any significant policy change on a party committed to the existing system. So long as that system is based on serving the 1%, only small and relatively minor progressive changes are achievable. That was the case for the Alliance, which achieved the establishment of Kiwibank and Paid Parental Leave and some labour law reforms, despite significant opposition from elements in the Labour Party at the time. But these changes weren’t enough to significantly change the position of working people in the country. They weren’t enough to give people hope that unemployment could be eliminated, inequality radically reduced, democratic control exerted over the key sectors of the economy.

If the Alliance had remained outside of cabinet it could probably have negotiated for all the changes it actually achieved, but remained free to agitate and mobilise people in the streets for the more radical changes that are needed to make a real improvement to the lives of working people.
The Greens will face a similar challenge if they can achieve a majority able to form a government with Labour after the next election. The Greens have already taken the first significant steps to becoming a “partner” in running the existing system rather than challenging it when they signed up to the ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme] as a mechanism to combat climate change. They know that the ETS, or any other market-based mechanism, cannot make any real impact in combating a threat to humanity that has arisen as a consequence of the free market system in the first place.
Protecting the environment and protecting the rights and living standards of the vast majority of people in the world requires the system of capitalism to be superseded. That requires a radical social and political movement that aspires to win a majority in the country – not simply assume the role of “junior partner” to a party that remains fundamentally committed to the current system.
The Mana Movement, which is in my view a system-challenging movement, may also face a similar problem if the election is close and Labour and the Greens (and NZ First?) require their vote to form a government. They too will be in a position to negotiate some reforms that benefit the people who support them, as part of a negotiated agreement to allow a Labour-led government to be formed. By doing so they will respect the fact that for now they are a minority party and the majority of the people they want to represent have voted for Labour or the Greens. That democratic choice can be respected.

At the same time Mana can retain their freedom of criticism and ability to organise at the grass roots for the generally timid reforms to go further, or against any reactionary policies that such a government will inevitably end up promoting. So long as these parties in government are trying to make a system “work” they can’t escape ultimately disappointing their own supporters, because for this system to work it will continue to produce economic crisis, unemployment and environmental destruction. Movements like Mana can then provide a progressive alternative for those people rather than have that disappointment captured by the right.

Elections and migrant-bashing: Full rights for migrant workers

Ni-Vanuatu migrant worker

Ni-Vanuatu migrant worker

Joe McClure, Fightback

Labour and National both have unpromising records when it comes to immigration policy. National, represented by Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse, has suffered a series of embarrassments this year. Groups of Filipino workers employed in Christchurch were found to be victims of exploitative company Tech5, which was keeping them in cramped conditions, taking $125 per person per week to “pay for the cost of their tools”, and coercing them into working for the company without complaint, or risk losing their visa and being returned to the Philippines. A recent raid on fruit picking operations in the Bay of Plenty found eight people working without visas, and more than 18 companies operating in breach of immigration requirements. In May, Woodhouse was found to have met with overseas investors and significant National party donors, including prominent Chinese businessman Donghua Liu, before deciding on their visa applications.

Labour has also been dogged by the case of Liu, when it was found that Labour leader David Cunliffe had intervened in his application, after Liu allegedly paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a Labour party fundraiser. Despite Cunliffe’s adamant claim that he never got involved with Liu’s visa application in 2014, it has been revealed that in 2003 he wrote a letter asking for Liu’s immigration application to be fast-tracked. Liu donated an undisclosed amount to Labour after the application was approved.

Labour’s hostility to immigrants (other than wealthy businessmen) was made clear in their election policy, where they announced they wanted to reduce immigration to avoid raising housing prices. Despite the party’s frequent attacks on National’s immigration stance, Deputy Labour Leader David Parker made it clear that the Labour party intend to control the number of immigrants arriving in New Zealand, reducing the number arriving without qualifications or skills of value to the New Zealand economy, and fast-tracking those instances where applicants can demonstrate that they can contribute to growing New Zealand’s GDP.

Labour party policy involves a points-based system, which ensures that immigrants are spread throughout the country rather than being concentrated in just one or two regions. In a concession to potential coalition partners such as the Green Party, Labour promised to ensure immigrants are paid no less than the minimum wage, provide training opportunities for upskilling immigrants, and increase the refugee quota from 750 per year to 1000. In contrast, the National party claims that the risk of refugees targeting New Zealand is growing, a claim echoed by NZ First leader Winston Peters.
Peters has announced his party’s position on immigration, involving increased security and a reduction in the number of student visas granted, in line with the party’s conservative ideology; however, the lack of detail in Peters’ statements prevent a clearer appraisal of his position.
In contrast, the Green Party, in their policy framework, include promises to increase the refugee quota to 1,000, with a focus on uniting families, ensuring that migrant workers are paid no less than local workers and employed in the same conditions, and will create opportunities for people on temporary visas to upskill so that they can apply for permanent residency.

Finally, MANA-Internet policy reflects a more open-borders position, in which skilled visitors from overseas can come and go from New Zealand as necessary. Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom has been a very prominent figure in immigration discussions, as his residency was granted under dubious conditions by Immigration NZ, and subsequent to this, an illegal search of his home was carried out, including the seizure of various items belonging to him.

Dotcom claims that former Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman pressured Immigration NZ to accept his residency application, as part of a deal with the US government, and to ensure he invested in the NZ economy. He further suggests that this was to make it easier for the US government to extradite him out of New Zealand, as he was accused of copyright fraud by various American media companies. According to reports released under the Official Information Act, Immigration NZ were aware of these accusations made against Dotcom, but felt that his economic contribution was more important than his legal situation.

As a result of these obfuscations and denials, Dotcom has demanded transparency in government processes, and a full review of the relevant diplomatic and intelligence agreements. MANA leader Hone Harawira has also taken up this view, as have his fellow candidates; John Minto demanded that Woodhouse explain why the NZ government was discriminating against Pacific people from Tonga and Samoa while putting out the welcome mat for anyone from Australia, irrespective of skills and criteria.

New Zealand employs numerous workers from around the Pacific each year to take part in fruit picking and other seasonal employment, and this creates a valuable opportunity for these people to work in the NZ environment, improving their English language fluency, as well as picking up skills that they can use both in New Zealand and in their home countries. However, these workers are often discriminated against, as in the example of the construction workers in Christchurch, and the MANA Movement is one of only a few parties that have promised to prevent this happening.
MANA has offered to migrant workers the same pay and conditions as local workers, without the risk of having their visas revoked, and enabling them to receive the same support as a New Zealander working in that job could expect. This is just one of the areas where Fightback stands alongside MANA, in affirming the rights of dispossessed workers, and demanding fair and reasonable treatment without discrimination, whether for migrant workers employed in New Zealand, or New Zealand-born workers.

New Zealand state’s quandary in the Asia-Pacific

Asia PacificJared Phillips (reprinted from socialistvoice.org.nz)

In May, the US government brought criminal charges against five Chinese military officials for hacking into the systems of US energy and steel companies. They stole trade secrets and conducted economic espionage.

The Chinese government retaliated by urging domestic banks to remove high-end servers made by IBM and replace them with locally-made servers. Technology companies operating in China are now being vetted and state-owned companies have been instructed to cut ties with US consulting firms. These developments are examples of increased tensions between the US and China.

US-China tensions dominate region
The Asia-Pacific region is one of the main arenas where US-China tensions play out. A new order is developing in East Asia after 40 years of relative stability. In many ways the world is moving from being ‘unipolar’ to ‘bipolar’ for the first time since the fall of the USSR in 1991.

China has seen huge economic growth over the past 30 years. It experienced 10% annual growth rates from 1985 to 2011. While China’s per capita GDP is far behind the US, its overall GDP is gaining ground. This gives China a significant amount of strategic and political weight on the world stage.
At the same time the position of the US in East Asia is in decline. Between 2000 and 2012, the US’s share of trade to East Asia fell from 19.5% to 9.5%. China’s share rose from 10% to 20% in the same period. In 2009 US President Obama announced the “Pivot to Asia” foreign policy, an attempt to check China’s emergence as a challenger to US dominance in the region.

Increased US-New Zealand military cooperation
In mid-2012 the NZ and US governments signed the Washington Declaration which set out to achieve regular high-level dialogue and enhanced cooperation between the two nations. In 2013 there was a meeting of Pacific Army Chiefs which was co-chaired by New Zealand and the US. Following this meeting the NZ Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman and US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel made a joint press release announcing further military cooperation.
Coleman said “Our defence relationship with the US is in great shape, and provides a strong platform for working closely together in the future”. In many ways US-NZ military relations are the strongest since the ANZUS relationship ended in 1984.

The closer co-operation is not merely a result of a set of National Party policies. It stems from the needs of New Zealand business interests. New Zealand plays the role of a mini-imperialist force in the region attached to the US.

The New Zealand government began patching up relations with the US in the early 2000s. The Labour Party sought to straddle the US-Franco tensions but ultimately sided with US imperialism by making commitments to the so-called “War on Terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq. Labour’s election adverts in 2002 sought to promote this relationship with images of then US Secretary of State Colin Powell with a voice-over message saying that we are “very, very good friends”.

Up until this year National has civilianised military roles and cut military spending. However for 2014 National has allocated an increase of $100 million to military spending. This is part of an additional $535 million being allocated over the next four years, and has essentially been a restructure based on the needs of the US in the Asia-Pacific region.

NZ and China’s strong economic links
The world economic crisis has not had such a dramatic effect on New Zealand as it has on other regions. This is because New Zealand’s economic integration is strongest with Australia and China, whose economies remained relatively stable for the first years of the crisis.

There are more New Zealand companies with overseas production engagements in China than any other country. In 2013 China became New Zealand’s biggest export destination. This was the first time in decades that the biggest destination was not Australia. New Zealand’s next strongest links are with Australia, and the Australian economy is also intimately linked with China.

The Chinese economy has grown by around 7.5% over the last year. This is a slowdown on the 10% growth China had experienced for decades before the crisis began to take effect. With the slowdown, Chinese corporate debt has increased by up to 260% in the period between 2008 and 2013. Local government debt has also increased.

China is facing a crisis of overcapacity and its main export markets are struggling with low growth. This further drives China’s need to conquer new markets and exploit cheap resources in the region.

TPPA an attempt to strengthen US influence
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) did not initially include the US but the US joined it and has sought to dominate the negotiations. From the US Government’s perspective, the agreement is an attempt to counter China’s emergence as a power in the region.

The agreement would serve the interests of big corporations and empower them against states. It would establish trade tribunals to regulate disputes between companies and states. This would equate to bringing neo-liberal economic policies into law. A corporation could sue a state for introducing laws that undermine profits and violate the TPPA. Such measures would hamper the ability of working people to fight for reforms.

In the negotiations the US have often used heavy-handed tactics and this has caused other countries to hesitate to sign. The National government is currently trying to turn its own stalling to an advantage by saying it will not sign without the support of the population. However National has engaged undemocratically in the negotiations and the Labour Party has not opposed them. The truth is that National is currently recoiling because aspects of the US’s corporate agenda are at odds with aspects of New Zealand’s corporate agenda. This is just one of the dilemmas NZ big business faces.

Pacific Islands
While the capitalist class is collaborating in order to advance its interests, the left and workers’ movements must also seek to build links between working people and the poor in the region. The Pacific Islands will be of particular importance.

The fight against climate change in New Zealand and other advanced economies must be intensified to help prevent further climate change displacement of the people on these islands. For those who have already been forced to flee, we must fight for their rights as refugees.

In some Pacific nations up to half the population rely on money sent from family members in New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere. It is imperative that socialists and the workers’ movement play a leading role supporting full equal rights for Pacific workers.

Future struggle
The situation in the Asia Pacific region is becoming more fraught. While the New Zealand ruling class has hedged its bets with US imperialism, the economy is also highly dependent the US’s main imperialist rival, China. On the face of it, New Zealand’s domestic situation appears relatively stable. However, an analysis of the regional situation reveals that there is much scope for destabilisation in the years ahead.

It is clear that economic and political rivalries will continue to sharpen in this part of the world. The only way this can be resolved in a positive way is if working people throughout the region unite their struggles and fight for an alternative to the system that pits nations and people against each other.
While democracy struggles in places like Fiji and Tonga must be supported, we should argue that only by transforming society along socialist lines will we really be able to address the issues ordinary people face. A socialist federation of the region would promote cooperation and the democratic sharing of resources. This is the alternative to oppression and imperialist aggression.

National and its right wing friends

billboard

National today appears to be seeing a level of popularity unheard of in the MMP era. But behind the polls, the reality is much more mundane. Most political polls exclude undecided voters and those planning not to cast a ballot, yet these groups can occasionally make up as many as 15% of respondents. At the last election, the number who didn’t vote was even higher. In 2011, just over a third of the population voted for National, a quarter didn’t vote at all.

The party has barely campaigned, beyond some tough-on-gangs murmuring, the meaningless #teamkey hashtag and and the usual billboards featuring the faces of its leader and candidates. National has very little to campaign on, much of government policy is a holdover from the previous Labour government, which in turn did little to reverse the neoliberal economic reforms of the 80s and the 90s.

The changes National has made are hardly vote winners- further erosions of work rights, including such basic rights as meal breaks, attacks on civil liberties though granting more powers to the GCSB, and opening up protected areas for mining and drilling. Added to that is the deeply unpopular asset sales program, which triggered a citizen initiated referendum. National has also made cuts in education, social welfare and ACC- the latter of which they reneged on somewhat after an effective campaign to restore funding for sexual abuse survivors.

National plans to win this election through inertia, hoping that enough people will be too disillusioned or disinterested to turn up at the polling booth. Its a reasonable strategy, when the past three decades have seen little difference between National-led and Labour-led governments, why bother when the outcome is going to be one of the two?

A change in government could be quite significant this year though. Labour has previously shunned the Green Party, last time it was in government aligning with parties to its right- NZ First and current National partner Peter Dunne- but the Greens have grown their support over the past decade and can’t be ruled out. Of course, Labour has already stated it expects to rely on votes from National to pass legislation the Green Party would oppose on environmental grounds, so the presence of Green MP’s at the cabinet table is unlikely to be a shock to the system.

The major challenge to the status quo comes from Internet-MANA, while Labour has ruled out having them in government the electoral alliance between the MANA Movement and the Internet Party has been clear from the start that a vote for them is a vote to change the government. Last term Labour adopted MANA’s ‘feed the kids’ bill, voting on the bill has been delayed until after the election meaning a change in government will see it passed. MANA was the first party to call for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador following Israel’s latest bombing in Gaza, within a fortnight the Green Party had echoed the call, the issue is now on the agenda. Small but significant victories like this make giving a tick to Internet-MANA on election day a worthwhile action.

National evidently recognises this threat, as Internet-MANA is engaging previous non-voters with social media, the ‘party party’ events, and packed out meetings across the country. As a result John Key has been pouring scorn over Internet-MANA to a much greater degree than he has toward any other party. Recently Key made the the sexist statement that Kim Dotcom was a “sugar daddy” to Laila Harre. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sugar daddy as “a rich older man who lavishes gifts on a young woman in return for her company or sexual favours”.

Among the 35% or so of the voting age population that support the party, some are no doubt better off under a National led government, tax cuts for the rich are only a bad thing if you’re not rich, and a few people are. That said, National could not survive if it didn’t achieve a level of support from some of the working class. John Key’s image plays to a type of identity politics. While he refuses to appear in front of the no-holds-barred interviewers of Radio New Zealand, he is a regular guest on sports radio and talkback stations. Key has created an affinity with a number of male voters, the sort of people who praised him for his “not all men” response to Labour leader David Cunliffe’s speech on domestic violence at Women’s Refuge. He’s not losing any votes from that part of his base by standing by his “sugar daddy” comment either.

Identity politics is nothing new for National, under the leadership of Don Brash the party went from their worst election result in history to a near win in 2005 after a campaign full of rhetoric about Maori privilege, ‘one law for all’ and the infamous Iwi/Kiwi advertising campaign- implying that Labour was for Maori and National was for ‘everyone’ of course, the campaign was targeting just one ethnic group- Pakeha.

National would not go in for that rhetoric today, if for no other reason than the fact that it would seem hollow in light of its arrangement with the Maori Party, but the Maori Party is set to leave parliament (largely due to the stellar efforts of MANA’s Annette Sykes who is challenging Te Uraroa Flavell in Waiariki) and National has indicated it would like voters in Epsom to elect ACT’s David Seymour, and ACT has no qualms about playing the race card.

ACT

With the election of philosopher Jamie Whyte as leader, and the merger-in-all-but-name with the Libertarianz (former leaders now hold high list positions in ACT) the party once known as the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers looked set to become a doctrinaire libertarian party- with poll results to match: in one poll they were equalled by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, an organisation promoting the one libertarian policy the majority of the public actually agrees with.

Perhaps this is why Jamie Whytes conference speech was light on ideology and instead focused on anti-Maori populism. According to former ACT on Campus vice president Guy McCullum, Whyte told a small gathering of ACT supporters in Dunedin on the morning of 20 July that he was in search of a “stunt … because you know, the polls.”

That stunt came in the form of the bizarre allegation that Maori occupy a similar social position to the aristocracy in pre-revolutionary France. “ACT’s policies are about reminding you of scary burglars, zealous bureaucrats with a hidden green agenda, and resentful Maori…This is the imagery the vague words are designed to create. Liberals and libertarians are getting a rough deal from ACT” McCallum, who resigned from ACT following the speech, told Otago student magazine Critic.

ACT seems to be confused about what sort of party it is, libertarian, or conservative? perhaps the next parliamentary term will be the last one ACT is relevant, depending on the outcome in Epsom, they may become irrelevant even sooner. Unfortunately National has another right-appendage waiting in the wings.

The Conservatives

Colin Craig may be unsure about the historical validity of the moon landing, but he’s smart enough to see that ACT’s disarray, combined with the retirement of NZ First firebrand Winston Peters, which really can’t be that far away, opens up a space for his party. If not this year, then in 2017. As such, The Conservatives have joined in the attack on supposed Maori privilege, using the much more groan inducing slogan “one law to rule them all” and borrowed a number of NZ First policies.

Right now, the party is still a joke, but if given an Epsom-style deal in 2017 they may need to be taken seriously. For the mean time though, the best strategy is to keep laughing at them. If you need help, Colin Craig once did a glamour photo shoot which is easily found on Google Image Search.

New Zealand First

While finding anti-immigrant rhetoric not the draw card it once was, NZ First has spoken against “separatism” and ruled out working with any “race based” parties, meaning there are now three parties flogging that dead horse (actually four, if we count the tiny 1Law4All party which managed to register) NZ First has some progressive policies, but recent rhetoric has shown they are likely to support National, for example a bottom line is keeping the retirement age at 65, a policy where National is actually more progressive than Labour.

In 2011 some commentators argued that returning NZ First to parliament would mean a change in government, and a vote for them would be ‘strategic’ that was wrong then and its wrong again now. At best it would mean a centre left bloc in opposition with less Labour MP’s and more NZ First MPs (this is how Richard Prosser ended up getting a platform beyond conspiracy theory magazine Investigate to espouse his Islamophobia) at worst, it means keeping National in power with the help of a party elected in part by progressive voters.

The best outcome for anyone wanting a change in government would be for NZ First to drop below the 5% threshold, and the best option for bringing about a meaningful change is a party vote for Internet MANA.

Where Internet MANA came from

300 hotel workers strike in Fiji

 

300 workers strike in FijiOn December 31 close to three hundred workers at Sheraton Fiji, Sheraton Villas, and Westin Denarau Island Resort took industrial action. Workers held a spontaneous protest against the unilateral removal of their staff benefits. The strike was initiated by the land owning committee (LOC) after maternity leave and overtime pay entitlements were taken away.

“In fourtee n days we will go back to work… sort things out. All those temporary staff who were supposed to be permanent, they have to be made permanent and those who are owed maternity  leave and sick leave etcetera – they have to be paid,” LOC spokesperson Simione Masicola told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.  [Read more…]

NZ and Pacific nations still poles apart on labour mobility

Byron Clark

Regional Seasonal Employer scheme used by New Zealand vineyards

A worker on the Regional Seasonal Employer scheme used by New Zealand vineyards

On September 26th acting NZ High Commissioner Sarah Wong joined Barret Salato, Director of the Solomon Islands Labour Mobility Unit in Honiara to make an announcement about Solomon Islanders working in New Zealand. “In 2014 [The] Solomon Islands will be allocated 594 RSE places” read their joint statement.

RSE stands for Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme; the scheme allows workers from a number of Pacific countries to take seasonal jobs in New Zealand. These jobs are in the horticulture and viticulture industries, where the rural location and short term nature of the work makes them unappealing to New Zealand born workers, meaning there are frequently shortages of labour despite unemployment in urban areas.

“This is an outstanding result for Solomon Islands and represents an increase of more than 20% on the number of places allocated in 2013,” said Salato “The RSE scheme is employer driven, meaning the increase in available spaces has been a result of the performance of Solomon Islanders who worked in New Zealand last season. Their exceptional performance has been rewarded with Solomon Islands receiving an extra 120 places.” [Read more…]