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Future Lefts - Democracy Dies in the Pacific

Future Lefts

Tuesday 18th July, 2000

`Democracy dies in the Pacific'


Editorial: Fiji's pain will never go away
"Rebels" alive, continue to exhibit stupidity
Business confidence returning
University branch celebrates forty years
News - the Newsiest News in Newstown

Web site of the week


Editorial: Fiji's pain will never go away

It's a bit surreal, watching a country destroy itself on the world stage care of an avaricious and sleazy media. The death-throes of democracy in Fiji finally came to their conclusion earlier this week when the Fijian military finally stabbed the duly appointed President (Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara) in the back, and replaced him with Ratu Josea Iloilo. It appears however that the new President is not an extremist such as Speight hoped - comments he made at his inauguration ceremony include:

"My leadership as President will be one that is dedicated to promoting national unity and one that is committed to encouraging moderation, inclusiveness and consideration and compassion to all in our country irrespective of their culture, race, gender and geographical location.

"We are one country, one people. Everyone deserves to be shown equal consideration," he said.

This new President then appointed a Government which appears to have made the terrorist Speight rather upset. The President named a 20 member government which included Ratu Timoci Silatolu, who is the Assistant Health minister in a cabinet headed by interim prime minister Laisenia Qarase. Silatolu, the former Fijian Association Party backbencher, was involved in the conspiracy against the People's Coalition Government and planned the May 19 takeover with rebel leader George Speight.

Other members of the Government include some members of the former Chaudhry Government. There is also one Indo-Fijian, who was in the opposition previously. Speight has rejected the interim Government, saying that it is not racist enough for him basically, and implying that because it is not solely composed of Fijian nationalists, it isn't suitable.

International reaction to the victory of the coup was swift. Australia has slammed Fiji with sanctions including cuts in joint defence operations, including ship and troop visits, favourable garment and other import agreements to be reviewed, banning of sporting team (but Olympic representation is allowed) and a cut in aid were announced by the federal government. New Zealand is holding fire on announcing a firm response, with Cabinet having delegated power to determine a response to the Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Probably the most upsetting thing for me about this entire range of events is seeing democracy being trashed the way it has in Fiji. It doesn't _matter_ that the new President is making positive noises about restoring some kind of balance. The simple fact is that the people of Fiji, who elected a government last year, have had that choice overridden by a violent maniac who it appears will stop at nothing to impose apartheid, no matter what the cost.

It's hard to underestimate the likely impact this will have on Fijian politics. It took a full ten years for formal democracy to be restored in the wake of the 1987 coups (whose leader, ironically enough, now chairs the Great Council of Chiefs that just replaced Mara with a new president). This time will take at least as long, and what has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that in Fiji, if you disagree with the Government, you take it over and get your way at gunpoint.

Isn't that an inspiring thought for us in the South Pacific to reflect on?

Support is now coming from all sorts of quarters for an enduring boycott of Fiji. Shockingly, Daniel Silva, secretary of the Importer's institute and no friend of the Left, came out with a release on Sunday supporting sanctions. "the Fijian military has now capitulated to the terrorists, provided them with immunity from prosecution and will probably install some of them in the illegitimate government.

"The military's failure to carry out its duty and its cowardice will turn Fiji into the Haiti of the South Pacific," he continued.

"The sad reality is that the Indo-Fijians who, in the main, own and operate the clothing factories that employ 11,000 people will have no realistic option but to abandon their investments.

"Compared to the reality they face now, sanctions can't hurt. But they will send a powerful message to the Fijian 'government'."

And that, of course, is the point. Short of going in guns blazing (which would simply make the entire situation worse) all we can do is make it very, very clear to the tiny mob who have gotten so far that it ends, now. I support a total embargo of Fiji, opening our borders to any Indo-Fijians who would like to come here, and maintaining no contact whatsoever until proper democratic Government is restored again.

Talk about a banana republic!




"Rebels" alive, continue to exhibit stupidity

Two commentaries today by the "Prebble's Rebels" continue to demonstrate the sheer lack of intellectual muscle that adorns (or doesn't!) that particular band of fellow-travellers these days. The first was a remarkably unintelligent piece by someone called Mike Heine, which decided against all the odds that Matt Robson is the "worst Minister in the Government"

Heine arrives at this rather startling conclusion by means of a logical process which few can understand, outside parties of the far right. This, of course, is their fetish with punitive as opposed to restorative methods of justice. In particular, Mike relies on the old chestnut that the referendum result from last year (that indeterminate question which basically let anyone who was dissatisfied with the justice system vote yes) means we should lock people up on bread and water.

Indeed, the most amusing quote from this particular piece was "The question has to be asked, what do we achieve by normalising the life of people who spent their time ruining the lives of innocent people?" Apart from its breathtaking crassness, it simply indicates that Mike can't think. Future Lefts suggests to Mr. Heine that he actually finds out about what restorative justice is, and why it might be a bit more intelligent to make sure people leave prison unlikely to reoffend, than it is to teach them how to be ever-better criminals.

The other witty remark was one that came from Stuart Wilson, who is apparently the "president" of the "Auckland Prebbles Rebels" (God knows who they are, Stuart appears to be the only one on campus at UoA anyhow), continuing ACT's long campaign to privatise the student loans system.

Future Lefts pretty much despairs at comments like those in the release. Instead of making what is a perfectly valid complaint about WINZ service levels at the start of this year, the Rebels continue to propose that a commercial loan could provide credit to students at cheaper interest rates (than zero, we ask?) and that it would provide better service.

We happen to agree with the latter. No commercial bank would allow customers to try again and again to get through to get a loan. However, they miss the obvious point. People are free to go to commercial lenders to fund their study. They always have been. If they want to pay higher interest and have to provide security, that is.

Nobody can argue with any coherence that the Government should try and set up a "level playing field" in the provision of student loans. Costs would inevitably be higher, because profit would have to be allowed for. Either the Government would have to guarantee the loans (leading to moral hazard on the part of the lenders, which the Govt can regulate by owning the lender as it now does) or students would have to provide security - which would entirely defeat the equity reasons to have a state run loans system in the first place.

The "Rebels" have always been a bit funny. They had been rather quiet of late. With the quality of their recent contributions to the debate, we fully understand why, and suggest with all friendliness that they go back to sleep.


Business confidence returning

The long slide in business confidence is at last at an end. Months of anti-democratic attacks on fully-mandated Government policy, and the incessant carping of the more right-wing business lobbies, had brought the economy to a dangerous state of the jitters. However, the corner has been turned, and things are beginning to look up.

My source is of course the most recent NZIER survey report. While it showed a large fall in confidence, this is largely an historical legacy. The following commentary from Deutsche Bank makes this clear:

"We see this survey as evidence that business confidence is gradually recovering from its lows in late May and early June. While sentiment in this survey - sampled mainly during the third week of June - was as negative as during the 1998 recession, it was not as negative as in the monthly NBNZ survey, which had been sampled 1-2 weeks earlier. Taking average historical differences between the two surveys into account, the QSBO confidence level corresponds to a level of around -30 in the NBNZ survey. While still weak, that is a significant improvement from the -56 recorded by the NBNZ in early June.

"We expect confidence to keep improving further as buoyant activity in the export sector gradually filters through to the domestic sector. Furthermore, while the business community may never become comfortable with the policies of the left-of-centre Government, the excessive negativism is likely to gradually disappear.

"The turning point in business confidence over the past month appears to have coincided with a slight recovery in consumer confidence, as indicated by responses to the question about the economic outlook in the latest Colmar-Brunton poll of households.

"Improving confidence data confirms our view that the weakness in the economic is temporary, with reasonable growth prospects for coming years. It appears that this view is shared by the RBNZ.

"Given the RBNZ's positive outlook on growth, the inflation related data in this confidence survey will have provided little reason for comfort. While capacity utilisation has fallen somewhat, it is still above the average level recorded over the past decade. Furthermore, cost pressure remains high and is likely to be passed through as soon as trading activity improves.

"In summary, given gradually recovering business confidence, high capacity utilisation, and continued strong cost pressure, we see this survey as confirmation that there is a considerable risk that the forthcoming inflation spike will translate into more generalised CPI inflation next year. That suggests that further increases in the overnight cash rate should be expected, beginning with a 25 bps move on 16 August.

The above is extracted from http://ww.scoop.co.nz.


University Branch celebrates forty years

Auckland University's Branch, Princes Street, this week celebrated its fortieth anniversary. In celebration, a lavish spread was put on for members past and present (and assorted other tag-alongs) at the University's O'Rourke Hall.

A jolly old time was had by all, due, in no small part, to the fact that the ratio of bottles of wine to people present was around 1.5:1. A number of luminaries spoke, including Bob Tizard, Bob Chapman, Michael Wallmansberger, Judith Tizard, Leila Boyle, Jonathan Hunt, Michael Collins, oh and yes, Helen Clark.

A survey of the faces around the tables showed quite clearly that Princes St has been a driving force in the Labour Party for a number of generations now. Formed in 1960 under the stewardship of Harold Moores, the branch has driven policy and stirred debate within the party, probably like no other. Princes St has provided a lot of the present leadership and that's just dandy.

The present state of the Branch does much to give hope that this proud heritage will be continued in the future. With over one hundred members now, a strong recruitment strategy and a vigorous policy formation process, Princes St is stronger than it has been for a very long time.

Here's to another forty years.


News: The newsiest news in Newstown

The once in a thousand year lunar eclipse of the weekend mystically propelled people to behave in strange, uncharacteristic, and down right inexplicable ways this week. George Speight for example, kept his word regarding the release of hostages after the signing of a deal with Fiji's former military authorities. More disturbingly, a number of people in New Zealand were affected so badly that National received forty percent support in a recent Colmar Brunton poll. Labour's support was solid on forty four percent.

Steve Maharey announced the first stage government's plans for benefit reform. Bringing a smile to our collective faces was the abolishment of the demeaning and ineffective work for the dole scheme. The most important details are as follows: ? replacing the community wage with an unemployment benefit and a separate non-work tested sickness benefit from 1 July 2001 (in the process reducing the number of benefit categories from seven [within the community wage] to a total of five within the two new benefits); ? embodying work-test obligations in an individual 'job seeker agreement' developed between the beneficiary and the Department of Work and Income from 1 July 2001; ? encouraging participation in community activity, voluntary work or suitable training; ? making unpaid community work a voluntary encouraged activity from 1 December 2000; ? replacing the complicated graduated sanction regime with a single sanction for serious non-compliance from 1 July 2001; ? repealing the provisions relating to the failed work-capacity assessment trial; and ? increasing the income thresholds for eligibility to disability allowance from 1 January 2001

Good news for students at the country's biggest tertiary institution. The University of Auckland Council voted the other day to accept the government's offer of a two point three percent funding increase in exchange for a freeze in fees for the 2001 academic year. Disappointingly however, the council voted on this important without the presence of any student reps. Despite vice-chancellor John Hood's protestations that he wanted students involved in the process, the meeting took place the very week before the results of the much put off elections for the student rep positions are announced.

On the dry, who gives a fig front, quarterly inflation figures were released this month. They showed the CPI to have risen by point seven percent in the three months to June. The rise, while being the biggest for a number of years, can largely be accounted for by recent hikes in petrol prices, the tobacco tax rise, and this years higher student fees. Even point seven percent, if annualised to two point eight percent, falls within the Reserve Banks target of nought to three percent.

Peace talks mediated by Bill Clinton between Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat kicked off at Camp David in the US this week. Reports of any progress are hazy at this stage, and it seems that the issues of Jerusalem's status, and the West Bank settlements will remain sticking points. Both leaders face opposition from extremist factions back home, particularly Barak, whose government is under siege from a hostile Parliament.


Web site of the Week: http://www.labourstart.org

Like the last union based web site we put here, this one is a great side for catching up on union news from around the world. It's more of a portal than a site which carries very much of its own content, so it is a good way to catch up with what is going on around the world from a workers perspective. It also profiles a favourite web site, and has other miscellaneous functions.


All submissions should be to the editor, Jordan Carter, at carters@ihug.co.nz, or the assistant editor, Michael Wood, at michael@semrits.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the contents is entirely the responsibility of the editor and the views expressed here don't constitute any official position of Young Labour. All contents copyright (c) 2000. Subscribe at younglabour-subscribe@listbot.com

Te Wairua Hou - The New Spirit - http://www.younglabour.org.nz The Future Is With Labour - http://www.labour.org.nz

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