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Sludge Report #28 – Slow Down!

Sludge Report #28 – Slow Down!

IN TODAY’S EDITION: TranzRail Shouldn’t Just Slow Down – It Should Be Stopped - Shipley Miscalculates Again - Logs In World Leaders Eyes – Diplomacy And Self- Realisation - Has Israeli PM Ehud Barak Been Reading Sludge?

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging and occasionally unhinged. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - to subscribe... feel free to email this on to your friends and enemies alike.

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Sludge Report #28

TranzRail Shouldn’t Just Slow Down – It Should Be Stopped

Sludge hears this morning that TranzRail is considering to suing the Marlborough District Council over the new speed limit imposed for it’s fast ferry in the Marlborough Sounds. Meanwhile in Auckland the Regional Council is continuing to negotiate with the Wisconsin based rail-road company - which keeps killing NZ rail workers - over granting access to under-utilised lines in Auckland.

Enough already! says Sludge. TranzRail doesn’t just need to slow down. It needs to be stopped altogether.

Sludge has experienced the wake of the Lynx in the Marlborough Sounds and reckons the boffins are probably right that eventually someone – probably a child – will be killed in an overturned dinghy. Furthermore even if the fast ferries take an extra half-hour they will still be substantially faster than the increasingly run-down conventional ferries operated by Tranzrail.

However, it is the Auckland issue that really gets Sludge’s goat.

Since when did TranzRail own these lines anyway?

The idea that NZ taxpayers and ratepayers should pay something in the region of $65 million to use rail lines that they already own – and which TranzRail never paid for - is completely insane, albeit a tragically typical consequence of the appallingly managed NZ Rail Privatisation process.

Sludge dimly recalls that TranzRail’s owners paid a little over $300 million for the assets of NZ Rail. And no, these did not include the rail lines built by NZ pioneers at enormous cost over more than 100 years. Rather TranzRail simply has a lease over these lines for which it pays $1 a year.

Proof of the fact that TranzRail never intended buy NZ’s rail lines - and thus cannot claim compensation for Aucklanders using them to get to work - can be seen in the fact that immediately before the sale, NZ Rail invested over $1 billion in electrifying the North Island main-trunk line.

Would the NZ government have sold exclusive monopoly rights to the use of an asset worth probably well into the several billion dollars area, for under $400 million?

Some years ago Sludge recalls being told by then railroad chief Ed Burkhardt that his company considered the decision by the then Labour Government (and the Railways Minister Richard Prebble) to invest so much in this before the sale could not possibly have been justified commercially. That said – as far as TranzRail was concerned – the fact it had been done was just fine and dandy, said Ed.

Sludge’s view is that if the lease contract says that ratepayers and taxpayers might have to pay $65 million to TranzRail for use of their own lines, then this contract should be torn up.

If the government and ARC agree to such a complete rip-off then we will be tacitly acknowledging that TranzRail has monopoly rights not only to the Auckland rail network, but to that of the entire country. Watch out Wellington and Christchurch.

Sludge’s view is that it was clearly not the intention of the government, when it sold TranzRail, for the company to have a monopoly on use of these lines.

And while it may be legally unfashionable to do so, if the only way to correct this injustice is through retrospective corrective legislation then so be it.


Shipley Miscalculates Again

Sludge - like seemingly all politics watchers in NZ - was gazumped yesterday with the National Party’s position on the Singapore Trade Agreement. By taking the position the party did with regard to the Treaty of Waitangi Clause in the agreement, Jenny Shipley effectively set herself up to be humilated.

What could have been a trophy victory for the ideals of the Free Trade champions in the National Party, will in the end will end up looking like an embarrassing mistake. A case of populist reflex getting the better of rational thought.

In adopting this position the National Party simultaneously:

- Took a position effectively defending the rights of Singaporean investors over the rights of NZ’s indigenous people;

- Took this position in spite of the fact that the Singaporean investors were quite happy to be encumbered with the wording in the provision as agreed;

- Took a position which seems completely at odds with their own decisions when negotiating the same treaty;

The question begged by all this is: Whose idea was this? Is this Jenny Shipley’s own political cunning? Or was she set up? Did she fall or was she pushed?


Logs In World Leaders' Eyes – Diplomacy and Self- Realisation

The speeches delivered by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit were in general pretty inspiring , and Sludge reckons that if they could be held to their promises then peace is likely to break out all around the globe almost immediately.

However, while many of the leaders remarked that it is vital that their words be turned into action, this will not be achieved without the addition of a completely new element into the diplomatic arsenal - self-realisation..

A case in point is US President Bill Clinton. Before the Summit he made a flying visit to Africa – where he failed to find peace for Rwanda and Burundi - and Egypt where he met with President Mubarak to discuss the Middle East Peace Process. So far so good.

Bill then flew into Colombia and undid all the good he might have accomplished in Africa. In effect he announced he was starting a new regional war by supplying billions of dollars of military aid to the government to finance a “War or Drugs” against the Socialist army of FARC.

Not only is this war not wanted by the people of Colombia – who have marched in recent days in their thousands for peace – but the contribution is viewed equally suspiciously by all of Colombia’s neighbours.

As has been observed before, it is not possible to be both a peacemaker and a warmonger at the same time. Ghandhi, for example, did not take a break from his struggle in India to travel overseas and voice his support for any wars. Nor did Martin Lurther King.

Unfortunately Bill Clinton is far from alone. Most of the other permanent members of the Security Council - and other UN big-hitters - have similar problems with apparent duplicity of purpose when it comes to the promotion of peace and the talking about it. China has problems in Tibet, the British in Iraq, Russia in Chechnya, India in Kashmir.

However the rhetoric clearly got the better of many of these leaders who loudly and roundly criticised Indonesia’s Abdurrahman Wahid for his failure to turn words into action in East Timor. Doesn’t Bill Clinton also talk peace but deliver mayhem? Doesn’t Vladimir Putin?

Thankfully advice on what ought to be from the man whose birthday the world leaders were gathered in New York to celebrate is clear and succinct.

Before one can remove the specks from other people’s eyes it is necessary to first remove the logs from your own.


Has Israeli PM Ehud Barak Been Reading Sludge?

Sludge is delighted to see that views expressed by Sludge in Sludge Report #24 – Jerusalem and Jeremiah ( ) - appear to have been adopted as the official Israeli negotiating line. Reporting the development in its latest edition, Time Magazine described the idea outlined in detail by Sludge - ceding the sovereignty of Jerusalem to God as a compromise - as ethereal. Speaking of the ethereal Sludge reccommends reading Israeli PM Ehud Barak's speech to the Millennium Summit. See...

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