Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

11 pictures showing the fall of the USSR

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

All Day has 11 pictures showing the fall of the USSR. It was the most significant geopolitical event since WWII. Worth checking out.

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Will Hong Kong protests end in deaths?

September 29th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hong Kong police have fired volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests and baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings against illegal demonstrations.

Chaos had engulfed the city’s Admiralty district as chanting protesters converged on police barricades surrounding other demonstrators, who had earlier launched a “new era” of civil disobedience to pressure Beijing into granting full democracy.

Student and pro-democracy leaders late on Sunday urged supporters to retreat due to safety concerns amid speculation police could fire rubber bullets as tensions escalated.

Some supporters peeled away although thousands remained. Chan Kin-man, one of the co-founders of the Occupy Central movement, said its leaders would remain until they got arrested.

Police, in lines five deep in places and wearing helmets and gas masks, used pepper spray against activists and shot tear gas into the air. The crowds fled several hundred yards, scattering their umbrellas and hurling abuse at police “cowards”.

The demonstrators regrouped and returned however, and by early evening tens of thousands of protesters were thronging streets, including outside the prominent Pacific Place shopping mall that leads towards the Central financial district.

“If today I don’t stand out, I will hate myself in future,” said taxi driver Edward Yeung, 55, as he swore at police on the frontline. “Even if I get a criminal record it will be a glorious one.”

A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a formula known as “one country, two systems” that guaranteed a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China. Universal suffrage was set as an eventual goal.

But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city’s next leader, prompting threats from activists to shut down Central in what is being seen as the most tenacious civil disobedience action since Britain pulled out. China wants to limit elections to a handful of candidates loyal to Beijing.

 

I hope the protesters win, and China backs down. Of course such a back down has to be in a way they can save face,

But if they crack down, instead of back down, I think Hong Kong will suffer from it – many will decide that it is just becoming part of China, rather than having some autonomy, and they could migrate to Taiwain, Singapore and other places.

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New Australian spy powers

September 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Australia’s spy agency could soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet after new anti-terrorism laws passed the Senate on Thursday night.

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 last night with bipartisan support from Labor. …

The new bill also allows ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations have condemned.

They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor.

The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer.

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Brandis confirmed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be able to use just one warrant to access numerous devices on a network.

The warrant would be issued by the director-general of ASIO or his deputy.

“There is no arbitrary or artificial limit on the number of devices,” Senator Brandis told the Senate. …

A third bill enabling the collection of internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement and spy agencies will be introduced later this year.

These changes in Australia show how benign the law is in NZ, by comparison. Some differences:

  • Mass surveillance allowed in Australia, but not in NZ (confirmed does not happen by the IGIS and Provacy Commissioner)
  • Law changes rushed through Parliament in a few days, as opposed to NZ which had a public submission process
  • Warrants can be issued by ASIO themselves with no need for warrant to be signed by a Minister and a judicial officer
  • Metadata collection and storing to be legalised in Australia, but not legal in NZ

So the NZ law is relatively narrow, and has checks and balances built in. The Australian law is not.

After concerns were raised by Labor and Senator Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.

Well that’s something!

“The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence,” Palmer United Party Senator Glen Lazarus said, speaking out against Senator Ludlam’s amendment.

Oh dear.I’m glad I am in NZ.

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This is a good time to abolish the SIS and GCSB!

September 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Green Party policy is to:

We would therefore institute a select committee enquiry into whether the SIS should be abolished and its responsibilities returned to the police. …

we will abolish the GCSB and close its two signals intelligence bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana immediately.

Meanwhile in Australia:

A TEEN terror suspect under investigation for making threats against Prime Minister Tony Abbott was shot dead by police last night after stabbing a Victorian police officer and a federal police agent.

The injured officers, both from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team, are in hospital in a stable condition. …

Senior intelligence sources confirmed that the terrorism suspect had been among a number of people whose passports were recently cancelled.

It is believed that the man was well known to police, and had displayed Islamic State flags in the local Dandenong shopping centre.

And globally:

A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday, in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS, U.S.-led coalition.

If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” an ISIS spokesman says.

Note the reference to “any other disbeliever”.

The Herald editorial notes:

What should New Zealand do? Does this country have malcontents who would embrace even ascetic religious fundamentalism for the sake of a cause? Have any been with Isis and returned? Should this country, too, offer special forces to assist Iraqi troops on the ground? That depends on whether the new Iraqi Government is better than the last, and whether US air support alone might be effective, as it was in protecting Kurdistan. The decision must not be influenced by the possibility of terrorism at home. As Australia has shown, good intelligence can keep us safe.

This is worth reflecting on.

That doesn’t mean that the GCSB should be allowed to do what it wants. Absolutely not. I am against mass surveillance of New Zealanders (which does not occur in NZ). But be aware the Greens are not just against mass surveillance – their official policy is to abolish the GCSB entirely – and look at abolishing the SIS also. They take an unbalanced view on these issues, and that view has dangers as our closest neighbour comes under attack.

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More concern in Australia

September 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

ARMED Australian Federal Police officers will take back command and control of Parliament House in Canberra after fresh revelations suspected terrorists were planning a potential attack on the nation’s capital and the country’s highest office.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning confirmed the Daily Telegraph report that intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” involving a potential random attack on Parliament House, with fears among national security and intelligence agencies that the Prime Minister and other senior government officials were prime targets.

The “chatter” about Parliament House had been intercepted and they now held fears the building had already been “scoped out” for pre-planning of a “Mumbai” style attack involving automatic weapons.

The chatter, intercepted by spy, police and counterterrorism agencies, ­revealing talk about access to Parliament House was confirmed by two senior intelligence officials. It is believed the chatter also involved possible reprisal attacks against ASIO.

In response, senior security sources have identified the most vulnerable entry point to parliament was the entrance to the ministerial wing, which could be infiltrated by “taking out” two unarmed parliamentary security officers who represent the only sentry point to prevent instant access to the PM’s own courtyard.

From there a potential terrorist would have a direct line of sight into the PM’s office, they confirmed.

It is understood several armed AFP officers have been redeployed to Parliament House. Over the next few days their numbers will be dramatically increased to secure the building, which under current arrangements is among the least secure official buildings in the country.

This is a pity. We want people to be able to visit Parliaments as bastions of democracy, and not see them as armed fortifications.

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Russia now moves against the Internet

September 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Kremlin is considering radical plans to unplug Russia from the global internet in the event of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at home, Russian officials hinted on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin will convene a meeting of his security council on Monday. It will discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens from the web “in an emergency”, the Vedomosti newspaper reported. The goal would be to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty in cyberspace. The proposals could also bring the domain .ru under state control, it suggested.

Russian TV and most of the country’s newspapers are under the Kremlin’s thumb. But unlike in China, the Russian internet has so far remained a comparatively open place for discussion, albeit one contested by state-sponsored bloggers and Putin fans.

According to Vedomosti, Russia plans to introduce the new measures early next year. The Kremlin has been wrestling for some time with how to reduce Russia’s dependency on American technology and digital infrastructure, amid fears that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. It has mooted building a “national internet”, which would in effect be a domestic intranet. These proposals go further, expanding the government’s control over ordinary Russian internet users and their digital habits.

The most ominous element, he added, was the security council’s apparent proposal to take control over .ru, as well as the domains .su (for Soviet Union) and .рф (Russian Federation in Cyrillic). These domains currently belong to a non-government organisation, the coordination centre of the national domain, rather than to government. Many are currently hosted abroad.

There comes a point at which Russia goes from merely being an authoritarian country to a dictatorship. It’s sad to see Russia continue to slide backwards.

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Scotland vote breakdown

September 20th, 2014 at 7:32 am by David Farrar

Scotland

This is a breakdown of the Scottish independence referendum vote by council. It is sorted from largest to smallest.

Only four of the 32 councils voted for independence. They represented 22.1% of the Scottish electorate.

The largest area, Glasgow, did vote for independence. Edinburgh voted more strongly against.

10 of the 32 areas voted No by 60% or more. The highest yes vote was 57.3%.

It will be interesting now to see what extra powers are devolved to Scotland, and whether this leads to an English assembly or parliament. The more that gets devolved to Scotland, the more unacceptable it will be to have Scottish MPs in Westminster voting on laws that affect England only. David Cameron has announced he will propose a change along these lines, but will have to get the agreement of Labour or the Lib Dems.

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Scotland votes No

September 19th, 2014 at 5:23 pm by David Farrar

While I intellectually was a supporter of yes, I am emotionally pleased the the great United Kingdom remains intact. More importantly it was a decision made be residents of Scotland, for Scotland. A massive turnout – over 90% in some areas.

I’ll do a fuller analysis tomorrow.

At this stage with 31 of 32 councils reporting. yes is at 44.6% and no at 55.4% so not that close. The margin is around 380,000 votes.

Three out of 31 voted yes, with the highest yes being 57.4% in Dundee City.

28 have voted no, with the highest being 67.2% in the Orkney Islands.

The closest result is Inverclyde with 27,243 yes and 27,329 no.

Not a fan of Alex Salmond. His challenge now is to be humble and lead a constructive negotiation for more devolution.

David Cameron will be relieved. He did not want to be the PM who presided over the dissolution of the United Kingdom, and it may have cost him his job if yes had won.

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A clear victory

September 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Political parties bound for the opposition benches and those who failed to make the Fiji Parliament want the vote count suspended.

As of last night, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party had taken a commanding lead – securing more than 60 per cent of valid votes – and will almost certainly form the next Government. Its closest rival, Sodelpa, was just under 27 per cent, and would not be in a position to beat Fiji First with about 400,000 of the 520,000 votes counted.

But Sodelpa, One Fiji, National Federation Party, People’s Democratic Parties and the Fiji Labour Party said they would not accept the results and alleged vote rigging.

“We will not accept the outcome based on the evidence available which points to a co-ordinated and systematic effort to defraud the citizens of Fiji of a free and fair election,” the parties said.

This is nonsense, coming from the losers. The international observers have said it was a fair and free election. The opposition parties should focus on being an effective opposition that can hold the Government to account – rather than disputing the election result, which is clear cut.

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Beheadings planned in Sydney!

September 18th, 2014 at 2:32 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

HORRIFIC details have emerged of a plot to behead an Australian and upload it to social media in a deliberate attack against the country.

While the claims remain unconfirmed, Channel Seven reports one the men charged in this morning’s raids in Sydney planned to kidnap a random Australian, execute them by beheading in a public place, possibly Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, and film the act and post on social media.

Further reports have emerged terrorists planned to drape the victim in an Islamic State flag.

The man, charged for serious terrorism related offences, is due in a Sydney court later today.

Beyond appalling.  And how was this stopped:

The operation is understood to have been given the green light after months of surveillance of Australians believed to be linked to extremist terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

People may want to reflect on this. We’re not talking about the Middle East. We’re not talking New York. We’re not talking London. We’re talking Sydney.

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Bainimarama well ahead

September 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

fij

Results from Fiji Times. A huge mandate to Bainimarama – as expected.

The challenge will be to see how he rules as Prime Minister. If he can get democratic government working again, that will be a good thing. That has to include though a free media.

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Putin’s propaganda

September 17th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

At the NATO summit in Wales last week, General Philip Breedlove, the military alliance’s top commander, made a bold declaration. Russia, he said, is waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

It was something of an underestimation. The new Russia doesn’t just deal in the petty disinformation, forgeries, lies, leaks, and cyber-sabotage usually associated with information warfare. It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action. Take Novorossiya, the name Vladimir Putin has given to the huge wedge of southeastern Ukraine he might, or might not, consider annexing. The term is plucked from tsarist history, when it represented a different geographical space. Nobody who lives in that part of the world today ever thought of themselves as living in Novorossiya and bearing allegiance to it—at least until several months ago. Now, Novorossiya is being imagined into being: Russian media are showing maps of its ‘geography,’ while Kremlin-backed politicians are writing its ‘history’ into school textbooks. There’s a flagand even a news agency (in English and Russian). There are several Twitterfeeds. It’s like something out of a Borges story—except for the very real casualties of the war conducted in its name.

It’s like a George Orwell novel.

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Why I’d vote yes for Scottish Independence

September 17th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I don’t have enough Scottish ancestry or residency to vote, but if I could vote I’d vote for Scotland to be an independent country. Here’s why.

Scotland already is a country

Scotland is not a region or a territory. It is a country that has existed for over 1,000 years. For 300 or so it has been in a union with other countries, but it is a country. You can’t compare it to Tasmania or Florida.

Scotland is not British

British culture is essentially English culture. Scotland has a culture and heritage very different to that of England, and the UK. They have less in common than arguably Australia and New Zealand.

They have a different political culture

Scottish political culture is very different to England. It is far more left wing. They’re never going to be happy having decisions for them made elsewhere. Their political culture instincts are vastly different. Could you imagine how Canada would go if it was in a union with the US? It would not be happy.

They need to be responsible for their own revenue

One of the reasons Scotland is so socialist leaning is because they don’t have to raise their own income. The UK does it for them. They just want more money spent on them. This is not surprising. By making Scotland responsible for paying its own way in the world, it will become more responsible and balanced.

It would be a great comparison of different economies

If Scotland leaves England/UK, then one will be able to see over a decade or two which economic system does better – a Scottish system with higher taxes and spending, or the UK one with comparatively smaller tax burden. This will be an instructive lesson for the world.

England may prosper

England (or the rest of the UK more properly) may end up doing well, after the initial shock. Many Scottish companies may move to London.

On a personal level I would regret the United Kingdom splitting. The UK has provided more good stuff to the world that arguably any other country. But fondness for the past is not a good enough reason to not vote for change in the future.

Now don’t get me wrong, I expect both Scotland and the UK will suffer economic damage in the short and even medium term if they split. This could be quite considerable. But in the long run I think Scotland will be better off responsible for its own economy.

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Abbott in Arnhem

September 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has moved into a tent in a far-flung stretch of Outback bushland to govern the nation for a week from a tiny Aboriginal community.

In an unprecedented move by an Australian leader, whose usual residence is a stately 1920s house in Canberra, Abbott has shifted the seat of government to the outskirts of Yirrkala, a remote Aboriginal township in Arnhem Land, northern Australia with a population of 843.

He will govern from a canvas tent – complete with secure phone and video lines for Cabinet meetings and calls to international leaders – and has brought with him some of the nation’s top civil servants, who are also staying in tents. …

The visit is also part of Abbott’s attempt to address the plight of the nation’s Aborigines, who have far higher rates of infant mortality, disease, imprisonment and poverty.

As an MP, Abbott frequently stayed in Aboriginal communities and he promised that if elected he would spend a week each year ruling from a remote indigenous township.

“For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as prime minister,” he said.

Abbott will also hold discussions this week on his plan for a nationwide referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the nation’s first peoples.

But he has indicated that any such symbolic gestures of reconciliation should be accompanied by moves to improve the economic well-being of Australia’s 700,000-odd Aborigines.

What a smart way to get the media to focus on the plight of Australia’s Aborigines, and to stay grounded in the community.

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Swedish housing controls

September 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Quartz reports:

Due to Stockholm’s infamously strict housing market, its citizens are having an incredibly hard time finding an apartment.

There are two main factors underlying this phenomenon. First, the city wait list for a new apartment is now 15 years on average, or 7.7 years in the Greater Stockholm region.

This is what happens when you have rent controls. No new supply.

n the last 10 years, 35,000 rental properties have been converted to condos with the result that the black market for getting a rental property is $29,000 per room. To be clear, that means paying someone $29,000 just for the right to rent that room.

So maybe all those strict housing controls are not such a great idea.

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The Australian National Terrorism Public Alert System

September 15th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia has four levels of alerts. They are:

  • low—terrorist attack is not expected
  • medium—terrorist attack could occur
  • high—terrorist attack is likely
  • extreme—terrorist attack is imminent or has occurred.

The alert level was changed last week to high for the first time since it started in 2003. The level is set on the recommendation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. It would not be set to high on a whim.

Some people think we live in a country with no security threats. They are wrong. The fact New Zealand citizens have been fighting alongside radical extremists in Syria is a deep cause for concern.

Also a reader e-mails:

There’s a lot of complaining going on about GCSB at the moment on the eve on the Internet Party function tonight.

My daughter is 7yo and attends a Jewish school in Melbourne.  As you may know, the Australian Terror threat index was increased to High last week.  This is due, in part, to intelligence gathering.  As such, our children and teachers are put through lockdown simulations in case there is an attack such as we have seen in France and Belgium.

I am totally comfortable, if not glad, that NZ is subscribing to an international task force that can alert and prevent such atrocities.  There is no easy answer.

My view on GCSB powers are the same as during the GCSB Bill, which is that we should have two separate entities – one for communications interceptions and foreign intelligence gathering – and another entity for cyber-security. They are both legitimate functions of government, but having both functions in the one entity does mean that there can be a concern that powers for one function (cyber-security) could be used for another (communications interception) so a rational reform would be to split GCSB into two entities.

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Finny on Five Eyes

September 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post from Charles Finny:

On 3 September 1939 a Labour Government in New Zealand declared war on Germany in support of the UK and others following Adolph Hitler’s decision to invade Poland.  Until the war ended in 1945 New Zealand made enormous sacrifices and as we all know, and as happened in World War I a disproportionately large number of New Zealanders were killed and wounded.  From 1941, the war became as much a war in the Pacific as a war in Europe. 

One of the developments of this war was signals intelligence and cryptography.  New Zealand and New Zealanders played as big a role in these areas as we did in the wider conflict.  Because of this, and because of the staunchness of our commitment we found ourselves part of what is now known as the “five eyes agreement”.  As technology has developed we have received the same signals intelligence as the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.  And our own communications have been protected by the highest grade encryption technologies developed in association with these other four countries.  For a pipsqueak little country of only a few million people located in a distant corner of the globe we have been in an incredibly privileged position.

The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard David Cunliffe saying about GCSB today.  What we now call GCSB is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

David Cunliffe is now trying to buddy buddy up to Kim Dotcom and his hired speakers. If Dotcom’s allegations are correct (which of course they are not), then this happened under the Cabinet David Cunliffe sat in. Is he saying Helen Clark lied to New Zealand? or is he just desperately trying to win back some votes on the left?

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Ian Paisley dies

September 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Rev. Ian Paisley, the divisive Protestant firebrand who devoted his life to thwarting compromise with Catholics in Northern Ireland only to become a pivotal peacemaker in his twilight years, died Friday in Belfast, his wife said. He was 88.

Paisley was Northern Ireland’s most polarizing politician throughout its three decades of civil strife, during which the evangelist’s blistering oratory was often blamed for fueling the bloodshed that claimed 3,700 lives.

I blame the people who did the killings.

When the Democratic Unionists increased their Assembly strength in March 2007 elections, Paisley insisted he wouldn’t start talking face-to-face with Sinn Fein, never mind form a Cabinet with them.

Yet within a few weeks, Paisley appeared alongside Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams live on TV to declare that their two parties had buried the hatchet.

“We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future,” Paisley said in that address, the first time he ever shared a platform with Sinn Fein.

In the coming year, Paisley forced commentators to re-acess his legacy. Had he mellowed, or had he simply demanded the impossible and held his ground until his enemies delivered it?

To the surprise of many, Paisley embraced his new role as Northern Ireland’s first minister with a relaxed demeanor, most strikingly when working alongside his government co-leader, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness. The two men said they formed a genuine, mutually respectful relationship. Joking together at events, they were dubbed “The Chuckle Brothers” by a disbelieving local press.

It was the most unlikely of coalitions.

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Australian copyright reform fails

September 13th, 2014 at 7:01 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

“Unanimous” opposition to the Australian government’s proposed copyright law changes will force it back to the drawing board to tackle online piracy, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

Representatives from both sides of the online piracy debate – including the telecommunications companies and rights holders – have warned the changes to copyright law outlined in the government’s discussion paper on online piracy are too broad and could have negative unintended consequences. 

Turnbull hosted a lively public forum in Sydney on Tuesday night that included panellists from the film and television sectors, internet service providers and consumer groups.

The government has proposed creating a new legal framework – known as “extended authorisation liability” – to make internet service providers more accountable for their customers’ illicit downloading.

A stupid idea.

Australian Performing Rights Association CEO Brett Cottle said that despite the availability of affordable online music streaming services such as Spotify an estimated 3 to 3.5 million Australians use torrent services at least once a month to download music without authorisation. 

But a study commissioned by Spotify, released on Tuesday, found music piracy had declined by 20 per cent in Australia thanks largely to the availability of legal streamings services. 

Good – heading in the right direction.

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A Tory voting Yes for Scotland to become independent

September 10th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Moray Macdonald writes:

I’m voting ‘yes’ because I’m a Tory, not in spite of it. …

It is time to come out of the closet. I’m voting Yes and as a result, for the first time in years, I am excited about the future of centre-right politics in Scotland.

This might seem a surprising move for a former Director of the Scottish Conservative party and Tory candidate for Westminster, but I have to be honest, it wasn’t even a difficult decision.

Devolution has highlighted just how different Scotland is. Even the Westminster establishment, ever obsessed with the needs of London and her hinterlands, has noticed that there is no longer a demos in the United Kingdom. The desperate offer of extra powers to Holyrood acknowledges how poorly our needs are served by their politics.

The Scottish Conservatives despair of the left-wing consensus in Holyrood and yet they embrace a cosy and increasingly alien political elite that guarantees its permanency. True Conservatives should embrace the opportunity to bring real political decisions closer to home. Only a Yes vote will make our politicians truly answerable to us, for it is only when Holyrood and Victoria Quay have to account for the money taken from the pockets of the Scottish people will right-of-centre politics have a chance to flourish in Scotland.

I think Moray is right. I doubt the Tories will ever be the largest party in Scotland, but part of the reason they do so badly is Scotland blames England for their lack of money. Once Scotland has to pay its own way, and starts racking up huge deficits and debt, then the Tories will do better in Scotland.

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Israel being boofheads

September 9th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Israel is refusing to accept New Zealand’s ambassador because he will also have contact with Palestinian officials.

While Israel insists it is upholding a long-established protocol, diplomats in Wellington say New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel has had contact with Palestine since 2008 with no issue being raised.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has confirmed that Israeli officials had advised in recent days that they would “not accept as ambassador a person who was also a representative to the Palestinian Authority”.

Prime Minister John Key said he had received a “10-second” briefing on the matter, but he confirmed that it was his understanding that ambassador to Israel has historically handled relations with Palestine.

“My understanding of the position is the Israeli’s are saying whoever is accredited to Israel. They won’t accept if they are also accredited to Palestine.

“Historically the case has been whoever we accredited for Israel we also accredited for Palestine.”

I’m pro-Israel in many areas, but they are over-reaching on this one. It is not for them to dictate who our Ambassador can also be accredited to. If they keep their stance up, then we should simply not accredit anyone to Israel.

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The Fiji election

September 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The latest polls give the mercurial Bainimarama a popularity rating of 60 to 86 per cent, and suggest Fiji First will win the most seats – possibly even a clear majority – in the new, 50-member Parliament.

But not everyone believes the polls, and one unknown is the scale of a possible backlash by indigenous Fijians. They comprise about 57 per cent of Fiji’s 850,000 population, and are furious about Bainimarama’s abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs, a group of revered tribal leaders, and his insistence that the formerly influential Methodist Church stay out of politics.

Another factor which might be skewing the polls, is the reluctance of some voters to divulge their true intentions.

I expect Bainimarama will win the election, and become Prime Minister. What will be more interesting is how he does as PM, without the restrictions on media and political activity that have been in place. And if he becomes unpopular and faces losing at say the election after this one, will he accept that?

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Greenpeace whoops

September 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Greenpeace USA has apologised after discovering an image in a promotional calendar was shot by Alain Mafart – one of the French agents who bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985.

Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira, of the Netherlands, died in an explosion. The attack has been described as the only act of international terrorism on New Zealand soil.

Greenpeace USA said on its website that publisher Workman Publishing had sourced an image from a nature photographer, Alain Mafart-Renodier, during production of the 2015 calendar.

“It was later discovered that Mafart-Renodier is … Alain Mafart, one of the French military operatives who was involved in the bombing of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand in 1985.

You’d think someone at Greenpeace would recall the name, when checking the calendar!

I regard the early release of Mafart and Prieur to Hao Atoll as the most disgraceful foreign policy decision of the 4th Labour Government. They should have served their ten year terms of imprisonment, and not been sent to a pacific island on an extended holiday.

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The Australian Citizenship Test

August 29th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia has a 20 question citizenship test, which you have to pass (at least 75% needed) to gain citizenship. I think NZ should do the same. It is a good way of ensuring new citizens understand the country they are joining.

News.com.au has published a practice test, which is copied below:

SECTION ONE: AUSTRALIA AND ITS PEOPLE

1. What do we remember on Anzac Day?

a. The landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli, Turkey

b. The arrival of the first free settlers from Great Britain

c. The landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove

2. What are the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag?

a. Black, red and yellow

b. Green, white and black

c. Blue, white and green

3. Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?

a. The national anthem

b. Australia’s national flower

c. Commonwealth Coat of Arms

SECTION TWO: AUSTRALIA’S DEMOCRATIC BELIEFS, RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES

4. Which of these statements about Australia’s system of government is correct?

a. The Queen of Australia chooses people to form the Australian Parliament

b. The government is elected by the people

c. The Prime Minister chooses our Members of Parliament

5. Which of these is an example of freedom of speech?

a. People can peacefully protest against government decisions

b. Men and women are treated equally in a court of law

c. Australians are free to not follow a religion

6. Which of these statements about government in Australia is correct?

a. The government does not allow some religions

b. Government in Australia is secular

c. Religious laws are passed by parliament

7. Which of these is an example of equality in Australia?

a. Everyone follows the same religion

b. Men and women have the same rights

c. Everyone belongs to the same political party

8. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To attend local council meetings

b. To vote in elections

c. To have a current Australian passport

9. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To do local community service

b. To carry a passport at all times

c. To serve on a jury if called to do so

10. Which of these statements about passports is correct?

a. Australian citizens can apply for an Australian passport

b. Permanent residents can hold an Australian passport

c. Australian citizens need a passport and visa to return to Australia

SECTION THREE: GOVERNMENT AND THE LAW IN AUSTRALIA 

11. Which of these statements about voting in Australian elections is correct?

a. People are free and safe to vote for any candidate

b. Voting is by a show of hands

c. People must write their name on their vote

12. What happened in Australia on 1 January 1901?

a. The Australian Constitution was changed by a referendum

b. The Australian Constitution came into effect

c. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was formed

13. What is the name of the legal document that sets out the rules for the government of Australia?

a. The Australian Federation

b. The Australian Commonwealth

c. The Australian Constitution

14. What is a referendum?

a. A vote to change the government

b. A vote to change the Australian Constitution

c. A vote to change the Prime Minister

15. Which arm of government has the power to interpret and apply laws?

a. Legislative

b. Executive

c. Judicial

16. Which of these is a role of the Governor-General?

a. The appointment of state premiers

b. The signing of Bills passed by the Australian Parliament

c. The appointment of the Head of State

17. Which of these statements about state governments is correct?

a. All states have the same constitution

b. Each state has its own constitution

c. The states have no constitution

18. What is the name given to the party or coalition of parties with the second largest number of members in the House of Representatives?

a. The Government

b. The Opposition

c. The Senate

19. What is the name of a proposal to make a law in parliament?

a. Royal Assent

b. Bill

c. Debate

20. Who maintains peace and order in Australia?

a. Public servants

b. Police

c. Lawyers

I got 19 out of 20 correct. Did not know the colours of the Aboriginal flag.

Many of the questions could be used in NZ also.

The answers are over the break.

(more…)

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Huhne says growth is not the planet’s enemy

August 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Former UK Energy Secretary and ardent environmentalist Chris Huhne writes at The Guardian:

Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point.

Technology is a solution to many environmental issues. Fibre for example will allow more people to work from home.

From the middle ages, living standards just edged up at a snail’s pace, and we did little damage to the planet, because growing forests absorbed carbon from wood burning. The population was small. We led lives that were, in Hobbes’ phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”. Then we started burning coal on a large scale in the 18th century, and the industrial revolution made the graph look like a hockey stick: suddenly incomes were doubling in decades, following centuries of stability. After allowing for inflation, real GDP in England and Wales doubled from 1830 to 1864, again by 1898, and again by 1951, despite two world wars.

Gross domestic product is a measure of activity, not welfare. But there is plenty of evidence of real progress. If life is better than death, this surge of growth was more good news. Male life expectancy at birth in England and Wales in 1841 was just 40 years. By 1950, it was 66. On the latest figures for 2012, it is now 79 for men and 83 for women.

This unprecedented prosperity and welfare was inextricably linked to the burning of fossil fuels, and therefore to the beginning of carbon emissions and global warming. And we are paying with the steady rise in carbon and temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels.

This is why so many green thinkers have rightly been suspicious of economic growth: the curve of rising living standards has been tracked by the curve of rising energy use from coal, oil and gas. The simple answer was green puritanism: change our lifestyle. Don the hair-shirt. Stop consuming more. Stop growth – and therefore stop pollution.

Precisely, what many have argued.

The good news is that we can increasingly see a future where technology does most of the change for us. Readers of the Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics will find an extraordinary table in the new edition: the two-century link between growth and energy has broken. The UK economy has doubled in real terms since 1985, but total energy consumption is exactly the same as it was in that year. Indeed, energy consumption has fallen since 1970 while the economy has nearly trebled in size.

I wonder what the figures for NZ are?

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