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Gordon Campbell on our inability to stand up to Australia

Gordon Campbell on our apparent inability to stand up to Australia

If you fight your bullies, the TV series Freaks and Geeks suggested, it can be painful at the time… but you earn respect and they will tend to leave you alone afterwards. Alas, and only days before the first meeting between our Prime Minister John Key and the new Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull, this country is showing no sign of standing up for itself. Quite the reverse. We seem to be rolling over, and making gestures of appeasement.

It's been that way for quite some time. Since 2001, New Zealanders resident in Australia, who have been paying taxes and contributing to their economy, still do not qualify the same range welfare and/or healthcare assistance as we offer to Australians in need over here.

It has gotten worse. Late last year, Australia passed laws that enable New Zealanders convicted of offences carrying more than a year’s imprisonment to be deported back here – regardless of how long those individuals and their families have lived in Australia, and regardless of whether the families uprooted by this decision have any meaningful links with this country. Reportedly, many of the individuals affected have been given little or no notice before being packed off to detention camps like Christmas Island – far from friends, family and from legal representation, pending deportation. One New Zealander has already committed suicide as a result of this policy.

The justification for this brutal treatment? Incredibly, these New Zealanders and their children are being lumped together with Islamic State as a threat to Australian society. (So much for being Anzac brothers.) In Australia, the immigration crackdown was supposed to enable would-be jihadis (and their funders and recruitment agents) who held dual citizenship to be deported from Australia. It would be entirely possible for the Australians to distinguish between terrorists and their accomplices on one hand, and New Zealanders resident in Australia with their families on the other. To date, the Aussies have shown no interest in doing so.

So far, Key has plaintively evoked the old, threadbare spirit of Anzac and had what he called a “blunt” talk with Australian deputy leader Julie Bishop. Rather than backtrack, the Australians have committed only to keeping us better informed about who they intend to deport, so that we can plan for their arrival.

And the diplomatic cringe? NZ deputy PM Bill English came out a few days ago and said there was no evidence that the 1,000 Kiwis being kept in what has been described (by others) as concentration camp conditions on Christmas Island and elsewhere, are being mistreated.

Mr English's comments come after the suicide of a 23-year-old New Zealand-born man, who was held in a high-security prison while waiting to be deported to New Zealand. Mr English told TV3 today that the government would act if it had concerns over any individual cases.

"That's the first duty of the government - to ensure that they are treated properly - and there isn't evidence of shocking treatment or appalling treatment," he said. He said Australia had always had used deportation, it had just lowered the threshold.

"They are not breaking their law, as far as we can see. And to change the situation fundamentally, we have to persuade them to change their law and the Prime Minister is making a judgment about what might be the most effective way to achieve that."

That’s telling them, Bill. Come the weekend meeting with Turnbull, Key will need to show that this gentle, pussyfooting approach has won genuine concessions – something at least, beyond the trans-Tasman bully telling us beforehand how and when he intends to bully us. You have to ask… why were so many of us still cheering for their team to beat England at the RWC? Truly, every sadist needs a masochist.

Paula Rebstock, Cash Magnet

Talking of masochism… Paula Rebstock’s work from April to November on the current investigation into how Child Youth and Family is being ultra handsomely rewarded, to the tune of $2,000 a day. Her fee is double the maximum stipulated rate for work of this sort. Some irony… many of those families at risk are living incredibly stressful lives in poverty, while those advising on how they should be treated are being showered with gold.

The astonishing thing is that Rebstock is being paid $2,000 a day for what is apparently, a part time job.

Ms Rebstock holds numerous other paid leadership roles, including the chair of ACC's board and the deputy chair of KiwiRail's board.

Nice part-time work, if you can get it. (How does Part-Time Paula divide up her working day?) Moreover, what she is doing doesn’t exactly involve finding a cure for cancer. Already, the government has given every indication that it has all but pre-determined the outcomes of the Rebstock review. One need only read the review’s terms of reference to get a pretty good idea that Rebstock and her team will recommend for instance, that some of CYF’s functions – probably starting with fostering – should be outsourced to private providers, so that those at risk will have more “individual” options and a greater potential for “choice”. Ka-ching! Easy money for some, more hoops to jump through for far less, for others.

“Kiss” and foreplay

When does inspiration become something darker? Last week, while tracking through some great 1960s/70s soul music by several great but little known women singers – eg Wendy Rene, Debbie Taylor and the Miami soul singer Helene Smith – I found this track lurking on the flipside of Smith’s version of Otis Redding’s “Pain In My Heart.” The flipside was called “You Got To Be A Man” ... Have a listen, and tell me which subsequent megahit by Prince that this 1967 recording resembles, a bit too closely for comfort :

Talking of Otis Redding… this 1967 recording called “Come Back To Your Lover” is a perfect copy of Otis’ style, and of the Stax sound. The incredible thing is that the group responsible – the Falling Stones – came from Suriname, a little country at the top of South America. Apparently, the Falling Stones guys learned the music from records borrowed from a nearby US military base.

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