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SNAP! #22 out NOW!

SNAP! #22 out NOW!

- 5% not enough - Rates to their mates - Carnival Compromised - Black GST Campaign starts

and more...

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Rates To Their Mates

A council report into the proposed V8 "supercar" race for Wellington says that Council support for the race will cost individual ratepayers $22 each and businesses $208. Many businesses might expect to recoup this money during the event, with some expecting to make quite large profits. Wellington citizens, however, can only expect to be further charged if they choose to attend the event, or, as many Wellingtonians did during street races several years ago, have to pay to get away from town that weekend.

Despite this mayor Kerry Prendergast is still promoting the race. A number of councilors grumble that the user should pay when it comes to public transport or libraries, but have decided that this car race is an event that deserves to be supported with public money. Prendergast is promising the event will bring in hefty financial returns. Business owners can expect to scoop up all these – and the council is channeling citizens' money straight to them.

< center> Carnival Compromised

This year's "non-political" Cuba Street Carnival moved a step closer to blatant commercialism and away from the community event it once was. The parade featured SUVs emblazoned with ZM logos, road closures that were set up by Fulton-Hogan, the contractor responsible for the current gutting of the Te Aro community, and just to highlight the crassness of the whole thing, ZM announcer Polly Gillespie declared that the James Smith's Xmas parade should emulate the carnival and have "more breasts."

It is time the carnival organisers understood that succumbing to business and council pressures, commercialising the parade with corporate logos and cutting out community groups is hardly "non-political." In fact the appearance of Mark Blumsky, ex-mayor and supporter of Kerry Prendergast, was further proof of the very political nature of the event. It is time to reclaim the carnival for the community.

Black GST Campaign

While the international media focuses on the street fighting in Sydney, they are ignoring the attempts by the Howard government to remove the historic Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, as well as the announcement today that Aboriginal people have charged the Australian government with genocide at the UN.

Michael Anderson told the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination that the Australian state had "A consistent pattern of policies and departmental strategies that have led to a high mortality rate, and the creation of a condition of life that will destroy the [aboriginal people] in whole or in part."

A collective of indigenous people are likely to force the media to focus on indigenous rights in 2005 with the Black GST campaign building up a head of steam. The campaign is centred around the 'Stolenwealth Games' in Melbourne 2006. GST stands for 'Genocide to be stopped, Sovereignty to be restored and Treaty to be made.'

As long-time indigenous rights activist Gary Foley said at a recent Melbourne Rally for Indigenous Rights, "To the same old issue that indigenous people die like flies in custody - genocide. Unabated." The theme of the demonstrations will be 'The Whole World's Watching.' With state attacks on Australian indigenous communities continuing, it won't be a moment too soon.

5% Not Good Enough

This week the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), along with an alliance of 32 other unions, announced its new "5 in '05" campaign “ claiming that unionised workers across the board were going to take nothing less than a 5% pay rise this year. This demand seems surprisingly militant, especially coming from a Labour Party dominated union during an election year, but it is hardly going to make any bosses shake in fear.

For starters, the 5% pay rise is pathetic. In the last 5 years, the economy has grown by about 20% but wages have only edged up to just below 10%. This means that the rich versus poor gap is the biggest it has been in New Zealand for at least 30 years, and that this gap is increasing. If the EPMU were serious about doing something about poverty in New Zealand the bare minimum they should be demanding is 20%, a pay rise that was recently won by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

The Employment Relations Act (ERA) is one of the most repressive acts of its kind in the Western world. It makes threats of strikes and union action a joke as most forms of industrial action have been illegal since 1991. The EPMU describes the ERA as fair and balanced and has made no attempt to challenge it.

Further, while the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is "backing" the 5 in '05 campaign, it has made no attempt to ratify the campaign with its members and seek united industrial action. Instead, action has been "left up to individual affiliates," an approach that has failed to get action to back demands in the past.

The EMPU-led alliance seems more concerned with ensuring that workers are being productive and that the economy is booming, rather than fighting for higher wages, better workplace conditions or overcoming the paralysis the union movement currently endures due to the Employment Relations Act. An across-the-board demand of at least 20% backed up by a commitment to action by the CTU and its affiliates is a necessary first step to halt the increasing poverty in New Zealand, make an improvement in workers' lives and build a stronger union movement.

People Poisoned Daily

For nearly 20 years people have been fighting for compensation for health problems caused by chemicals from the Dow Agrosciences plant (formerly Ivon Watkins Dow) in Taranaki. Unfortunately the PR machine has been trying to deny that the problem exists for even longer. The Ivon Watkins plant was set up in 1944 near New Plymouth to manufacture herbicides and pesticides. From 1964 the US based Dow Chemical Company begun to purchase shares, and by 1973 they were majority shareholders.

The Dow plant was the only place in New Zealand to manufacture the chemicals 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. On their own they are carcinogenic pesticides, mixed together however they make Agent Orange. Denials that Dow produced Agent Orange have been meet with evidence that the chemicals were shipped via South America before being mixed for use during the Vietnam War. According to official US reports, 9 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed on Vietnam.

It is estimated that Ivon Watkins Dow might have produced 500 000 gallons for military use. The effects of these chemicals are well known, people can see the suffering of Vietnamese people, war veterans and production workers. The list of health problems associated with these chemicals includes birth defects, cancer and diabetes.

This is not just an issue for those directly effected by the chemicals – everyone has been exposed. The chemicals were used in vast quantities in agriculture and forestry, contaminating food and water supplies throughout Aotearoa and many other countries. This is another example of people getting rich while the planet and ordinary people suffer the consequences.

Several groups have come together to bring this issue back into public light including Greenpeace, former Dow workers, war veterans and local Maori. The Hohou te Rongo 'People Poisoned Daily Tour '05 is under way in the lower North Island with protests and meetings. There will be a meeting in Wellington at Turnbull House, March 8 at 6pm. Check www.peoplepoisoned.net for details.


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