Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 9 September 2005
9 September 2005 (#221)

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

Unions Launch Campaign Blitz

The nation’s unions have launched a final campaign blitz to get their Sisterhood mates across the electoral finish line. Remember, a full 24 of the current government caucus are former union officials.

Brochures, newspaper ads, you name it, the trade unions have launched a series of frenzied assaults on the National Party (the PPTA alone has spent $373,000 on print advertising between May and July according to the official audit of advertising spending), mostly tagged with an instruction to vote Labour. All of which is fair enough in a free country, except for a few minor complications.

First, the unions’ anti-National spend-up is payback for the generous support received from the Sisterhood in recent years. New industrial legislation has been introduced to provide unions, as Helen Clark told the 2003 CTU conference, "a stronger basis for recruitment." That’s code for putting the legislative screws on workers to join a union.

In the state sector the Sisterhood has even gone to the point of naked bribery. Employees who are unionists receive a cash bonus and those who refuse to join do not.

Then there’s the $2 million a year slush fund – the Employment Relations Education Contestable Fund – which is used to funnel payments of taxpayers’ cash into union coffers. So the nation’s unions have a great deal to be grateful for. And now it’s payback time.

Outside the Law

The Electoral Act is clear on the rules for the publishing of campaign materials. There are limits on what parties and candidates can spend. And those limits would be meaningless if you could simply invite a few mates to pay for an ad or a brochure. So the law requires that material asking people to vote for a political party or candidate must be authorised by that party or candidate, and then included in their return of expenses.

But much of the union material is clearly in breach of the law, asking readers to vote Labour, but not carrying any authorisation from the Labour Party. That means the unions involved have committed an offence. And the public spirited persons at the worldwide headquarters of have drawn the matter to the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate.

The Double Standard

So how come, we hear you ask, the nation’s media have been so fixated by two brochures which are legal (they don’t tell people who to vote for) from the Exclusive Brethren, yet so uninterested in the torrent of illegal material emanating from the trade unions?

Well, the answer is simple. Amongst the most aggressively anti-National of the nation’s unions is the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (who, incidentally, have received a cool half million dollars of taxpayers’ cash under the Sisterhood). The EPMU is, of course, formally affiliated to the Labour Party (and gave $80 000 in 1999 and $70 000 in campaign donations). The boss of the EPMU declared "war" on the National Party at last year’s union conference. And he clearly meant it, having lavishly employed union funds in that pursuit ever since.

How very very inappropriate it is therefore that the Labour Party affiliated, vehemently anti-National EPMU is the union to which the nation’s journalists belong. And in state radio, they have even elevated the EPMU delegate (the hopelessly left wing and biased Brent Edwards) to the position of head of the Election Unit. What clearer message could they possibly send?

The Plunket Suspension

The suspension of Moaning Report presenter, Sean Plunket, after a fairly standard interview with Greens leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons is a clear indication of just how far the Sisterhood sycophants at RNZ will bend to accommodate the needs of the current government and their coalition partners in waiting. The worldwide headquarters has obtained a transcript of the exchange. The humble member for East Coast Bays reports that he would be delighted to have been treated so gently on most of his appearances on the programme.

But the Greens complained. So the Sisterhood lackeys leapt into gear. Plunket was summonsed to a meeting with the Head of News, well-known lefty Don Rood. And the suspension was imposed. RNZ boss Peter Cavanagh is known to believe that a return of the Sisterhood on Saturday week would be very much to his advantage. And the Plunket suspension is a clear illustration that Labour Radio is in full campaign mode.

Taxpayer-Funded Labour Campaign Meeting

Another union trick to secure taxpayer-funded Labour Party campaigning came to light this week with the revelation that Christchurch Hospital staff were invited to meet with Service Workers Union Secretary (and number 43 on Labour’s list) Darien Fenton. Headed “Paid Stop Work Meeting”, the flyer invited staff to meet Ms Fenton to discuss “the public hospital campaign and its relationship to upcoming elections”. In other words, a taxpayer-funded Labour Party meeting.

The flyer then proceeds to explain yet again that “It is a paid stop work meeting” and that “if you would normally be working you are entitled to stop your work and attend”. “Your supervisor/manager has been informed of the stop work meeting and should arrange any necessary cover.”

And just to ensure that no personal inconvenience stands in the way of a vote for the Labour Party, the flyer advises: “Please arrange to have your break before or after the meeting”.

Education Flunkies Attempt Whitewash

On the topic of Sisterhood lackeys just get a load of this: a week out from the general election, the Acting CEO of the NZ Qualifications Authority Karen Sewell (formerly one of the nation’s least successful principals) and the CEO of the Ministry of Education have jointly signed a letter to parents of years 11, 12 and 13 students. The purpose: to reassure them that the NCEA problems of last year “will not be repeated”, and that there will be “greater consistency in future”. We now have “a cohesive qualifications system which is fair and acknowledges what students can do” and “will benefit them as individuals and the country as a whole”.

Unbelievable. Two senior public servants attempting to wash the government’s dirty linen in relation to one of the most damaging political issues of the year. And on the eve of an election. How ever do they expect to be taken seriously again?

Next Week

In order to avoid upsetting the Chief Electoral Officer by accidentally communicating with voters on Election Day, the worldwide headquarters of will be quiet next Friday. If enough people tick the right box, we’ll be back the following week.

Thanks for your interest and support.


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