I have spent the last week and a bit at home, New Zealand. During that time I spent four days in Auckland catching up with friends and five days on the road with two Australians visiting Waitomo, Taupo and Rotorua.

During the last six months I have been trying to fit into Australian culture but it has been a long and hard process to do so. Returning home I expected to have changed enough that I wouldn’t quite fit back into New Zealand culture either. However, within half a day of being back I felt as if I had never left – finally there were people who could understand my accent, my mannerisms, and accept me just as I am.

Being back home has left me questioning where my true home exactly is. I am a born and breed fully blooded sixth-generation Kiwi. I am not European, I am Pacifica, I am Pakeha, and I am proud of my New Zealand heritage.

There is a far too cliché saying that states “home is where the heart is”. For me, the last six months have been an interesting journey into the heart. For the first three months of living in Sydney I was immensely lonely. Not knowing anyone crushes the human spirit. Of course making friends is a solution to loneliness that challenge is simpler on paper than it is in reality. After six months I have begun to build a number of friendships in Sydney, however, it will be many years until the number of friendships will even get a chance of rivalling those I have in Auckland.

So where is the heart now? I feel like it is in the middle of the Tasman Sea, torn between two different countries, and buried under a sea of emotion. A few weeks ago I had someone attempt to convince me that emotion was a bad thing and that showing your emotions was a sign of weakness. However, I see emotion as a strength, it gives us feeling, lets us know when things are going well, and when they are not. Emotions can be soul destroying though; especially when you let the downward emotions overrule the confidence ones.

It is with a bit of sad emotion that over the next sixth months I see myself fishing this heart out of the sea and continuing the westward shift towards Australia being my home – at least in the short term. While New Zealand will always be my whakapapa (origin), Australia by virtue of work is now my residence, and it is within that context that in order to move forward in my life I need to work in. I may be a stranger in a foreign land, but when in Rome you must do as the Romans do, however you must never forget your past, where you came from and who you are.

Who is the bigger idiot?

In the red corner we have TV3’s rip off of a PS3 ad from the United States

In the blue corner we have a bunch of Canadians Longboarding down State Highway One at the Bombay Hills

I must admit the longboarding looks pretty cool, and these guys are “professionals”, still State Highway One is a nuts place to do it. With the TV3 ad it is a nice mock/copy but without any homage to the original it makes them look really bad. It is the same as the Telecom ad a few years ago in which everyone around the Telecom office sang, but this was a copy of a viral video from the states. Maybe the same ad agency did both ads?

Political flip-flop, back down, and massive coup for the Greens with a caveat

This morning’s announcement that the National Government will not mine any land in Schedule 4 conservation land is a massive win for the Greens, Greenpeace, and environmentalists in NZ. The end result is even better than a simple back down because the government will now “automatically designate all Schedule 4-equivalent lands, such as national parks and marine reserves, as having equally untouchable status, effectively creating a massive expansion of highly protected conservation lands.”

Deputy Prime Minister, Gerry Brownlee, is arguing that in response to 37,552 submissions on the proposal the back down is listening to the people, however, I think it is more than likely they are listening to the polls. The timing of this announcement makes you wonder if the government is trying to smokescreen and divert attention away from the controversy that is surrounding their announcement of changes to the Employment Relations Act.

Interestingly enough at the end of the announcement, Brownlee, makes the assertion that in areas of non-conservation “New Zealanders have given the minerals sector a clear mandate to go and explore that land, and where appropriate, within the constraints of the resource consent process, utilise its mineral resources for everyone’s benefit”. This is complete rubbish, poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of New Zealanders do not want mining, it is a dirty and old technology and is not the solution to moving the country forward. The future is in education and the information section not in destroying the natural environment for a quick buck.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Spins NTEU Dispute in Amateur Hour Viral Video

This afternoon the Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, Professor Fred Hilmer emailed all students with his latest spin on the ongoing dispute between UNSW and the NTEU over pay and work conditions.

Until now I have been sitting on the fence in the dispute. Having been only studying at the university for six months I did not have enough information to form a complete opinion. However, given the actions of the Vice-Chancellor over the last few days I have now come down in full support of the union.

In the email and the accompanying video the Vice-Chancellor fails to address one of the major issues in the dispute, long term casual contracts for research staff. At the moment staff can be at the university for ten years or longer and never have a contract that provides them employment for more than a year. There are very few companies that I know that keep staff on perpetual fixed term contracts. Always having the threat of not having a job is not going to make a workforce very happy.

The actions of the Vice-Chancellor of UNSW over the last week in relation to the result bans have not sought to provide a quick resolution to the industrial dispute, instead they have sought to deliberately make it worse. Locking senior academics out of the university is a really petty move and will only cause the ill feeling between the academic staff and the university administration to increase.

If UNSW really want this dispute to go away they need to lift their lockout of staff and they need to focus on the issues that really matter rather than spinning amateur videos to students to try and win hearts and minds. The problem with trying to win hearts and minds is students are very thicked skinned and we can see right through the bullshit.

P.S. Next time you make a video to distribute to students from the Vice-Chancellor at least make sure the website address is right. myunsw.edu.au does not exist. It is my.unsw.edu.au

Dear students

You would be aware of the National Tertiary Education Union bans on the transmission of exam results and student assessment for semester one.

While only a small percentage of staff is taking part in this industrial action, we are concerned about the impact this action is having on students who have not yet received their results and we are working to minimize any disruption. I would appreciate you taking the time to watch this two minute video so I can let you know what measures the University has put in place.  I’ve also taken the opportunity to give you all a brief background on some of the issues involved in this dispute.

Yours sincerely

Professor Fred Hilmer
President and Vice-Chancellor

NZ Police: To arm or not arm

Yesterday saw the shooting of two police officers as they attempted an unplanned drug raid in Christchurch, very luckily both officers survived and are expected to make a full recovery. Naturally this has renewed calls for the arming of front-line police officers in New Zealand.

This morning I had a brief discussion with some of my colleagues regarding the Australian police force and how they operate. There are some very clear differences: all front-line police officers carry guns, all front line officers carry Tasers, all front-line officers carry pepper spray.

I still remember the controversy around the introduction of pepper spray around a decade ago in NZ and then the more recent introduction of the Taser (something I have been sceptical of). I certainly do not believe that all front-line officers in NZ should be armed at all times, I can only see a sea of controversy erupting as a result of this: crazy nut-cases taunting police into suicide by cop, cops drawing their weapons in inappropriate circumstances (as seen a number of times with the Taser in both NZ and Australia), and the threat criminals feel by an armed police force and subsequently increasing their own “protection” with even more guns and weapons.

However, the latest shooting follows on from the Napier Siege of last year where an officer was killed and the 2008 killing of an officer working undercover. In all three cases there is a common link, unarmed officers confronting criminals with drugs. This is where the NZ police need to get a lot smarter.

Gone is the day where you can send in two unarmed cops to do a drug bust and the respect for authority will just see criminals roll over. If NZ police are going to do any form of drug raid or operate in areas where people are taking drugs there is a very clear need for them to be armed. Going into a gun fight with pepper spray is never going to work out.

SMH Satire on Asylum Seekers

Citing the Christian ethos of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and clothing the naked, just as long as they’ve got the appropriate documentation, Abbott said anyone who had fled a war zone or escaped from a torture chamber without travel papers could jolly well pelt themselves with their own eggs (which no doubt would come from ducks, knowing how weird these foreigners are).

So funny yet it would not surprise me if Abbott actually said something along these lines.

Sources say Abbott had initially insisted that boat arrivals must hold Australian passports. However, it was soon realised that the only people processed under this scheme would be Australian citizens returning from holidays aboard cruise ships and those are the last sort of characters we want to encourage into the country.

Rumours that the Prime Minister is planning to keep out undesirables by processing cruise-ship passengers offshore – to ascertain whether any of them had danced to the chicken dance, giggled while ordering cocktails with rude names or played bingo while on the high seas – could not be confirmed.

The full article is here.

Rainbow Warrior bombing 25 years on

Today marks 25 years since French Secret Service agents, allies of New Zealand, committed the first and only act of terrorism ever in New Zealand’s history when they bombed Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship while it was docked in Auckland killing one person; an act of war committed by an ally against a pacifist organisation.

I was born two years after the bombing, however, the bombing not only changed New Zealand history it also had an important role in shaping my political views. When I was at primary school during the 1990s the French resumed nuclear testing at Mururoa and during that time Greenpeace sent their replacement Rainbow Warrior II ship from Auckland to protest the testing. My connection to the two ships comes through primary school friends, the father of one of my friends was onboard the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed in Auckland harbour in 1985 and parents of other friends were onboard the Rainbow Warrior II and other ships when they were detained by the French in 1995.

So 25 years on where are we? Once France had finished “testing” aka bombing the shit out of an island in the middle of nowhere because apparently no one would care they signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, since then France has not detonated another Nuclear Weapon. However, Pakistan has, India has, North Korea has. The work of Greenpeace has slowed the Nuclear Winter but I don’t think we are out of the autumn yet.

Today Greenpeace have blogged links to 4 videos on the Rainbow Warrior.

They have also posted a long blog remembering the ship, the life lost, and what the Rainbow Warrior achieved.

There is also the remaking of the song Anchor Me done for the 20th Anniversary

And who can forget French Letter (audio only, can’t find the video):

Finally a year and a half ago I blogged on why it is so important for Kiwis to never forget the Rainbow Warrior.

This is why Auckland will never be a “World-Class” city

Jon C at AKT reports that the platforms at the new Onehunga train station will only be 55m in length, whereas the new electric trains will be 70m long.

KiwiRail says the platforms are of a shorter length because of “constraints on keeping the line away from nearby apartments”, electric trains could run to Onehunga but people would only be able to travel in the front two of the three car trains.

Not only is Auckland 100 years behind most of the developed world in getting an electric rail system (remember that Britomart is the only underground diesel railway station in the world!) we can’t even get the size of the platforms right. This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Meanwhile in Sydney next week sees the commencement of the 4th Metrobus route from Bondi to Chatswood with 80,000 people per week capacity. The Metrobus system in Sydney has been a great success with bus running so frequently they don’t need timetables. In Auckland there has been the Link bus for a number of years working on this system, but how about seeing it on routes like the Northern Express, Dominion Road (ARTA are launching the “B.Line” here), Great South Road, New North Road, Great North Road.

There is a reason why “Public Transport” in Auckland has been called an oxymoron and this stuff up in the length of the train platforms is yet another example of it.

New Zealand should play no role in endorsing Australia’s racism

It is rather alarming that New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key is involved in discussions with the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard over the processing of asylum seekers: (from the NZ Herald)

Ms Gillard said she had also spoken to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key about the possibility of a regional processing centre for asylum seekers.

“John said to me that he would be open to considering this initiative constructively,” she said.

“East Timor and New Zealand are vital countries in this initiative, as they are already signatories to the refugee convention.

“And New Zealand, like Australia, is a key resettlement country.”

Currently the two major political parties in Australia are locked in a battle of who is the biggest bigot and racist. This is not a game that New Zealand wants to join. New Zealand prides itself on its multiculturalism.

Declining asylum applications from people of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka just because they are from those two countries is racist segregation in its most simple form. For any New Zealand politician to support the immigration policies of a country that is happy to endorse racism is political suicide. Crosby|Textor may have done well with John Key so far but this is one push poll that they will lose.

NSW Police Force Doublespeak on Tasers

”I believe the overwhelming evidence is that Taser are being used appropriately by NSW Police.” The trial showed numerous examples of the weapon’s usefulness. – Alan Clarke, Assistant Police Commissioner

How does this align with a report obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald that reports such inappropriate uses as:

  • Stunning a handcuffed child at a juvenile detention centre.
  • Stunning two suicidal people covered in fuel, which can be ignited by a Taser blast.
  • The repeated stunning of a compliant man who presented no threat and was surrounded by members of the riot squad.
  • There were cases of people being hit by a Taser as many as six times, and others where police appeared to use the weapon to make argumentative but non-threatening people comply with directions.
  • In one case a sergeant drew his Taser when he encountered two young men spray painting. He drew the weapon, he later said, because one of the vandals was carrying an extendable paint roller and he was ”unsure what their reaction would be to his presence”. He did not fire the weapon.
  • A mother was accidentally hit when police fired at her son in one incident and a police officer was accidentally stunned in another.
  • Police also pointed Tasers at groups of people, including protesters inside the Villawood Detention Centre, despite Tasers being acknowledged as an ”inappropriate” weapon for use against crowds.
  • Police also appeared habitually to misuse the weapon in its ”drive-stun” mode, in which the Taser is held against the target’s body and causes pain without incapacitation.

Although they are quite controversial Tasers are a much better alternative to lethal weapons in maintaining law and order. However, they are a weapon much like, if not more threatening and damaging than, a baton. If you substituted the word Taser for the word baton in the above examples then it is more than likely that police offers would be in court facing assault charges.

It is the role of the police to keep the peace, but they need to do so in a way that shows respect for people, all people, and not jump to conclusions about people and abuse the power entrusted in them. I doubt many people dispute that policing is a dangerous and sometimes life-threatening job, but there is never a justified reason to abuse power. Describing the misuse as “numerous examples of weapon’s usefulness” is some of the best doublespeak I have seen.