Helen Kelly on euthanasia

January 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Helen Kelly writes:

I have made my submission to the Health Select Committee which is considering the issue of assisted dying following the brave stand by Lecretia Seales. It’s weird to make a submission like that when you are actually dying – very relevant and confronting. It makes you ask: “What do I want for my death?”

It’s an important question that all of us should ask at some stage.

I could let myself die now. I could refuse treatment quite lawfully and die rather quickly. Instead I am trying to live, which is actually what most terminally ill people want – we don’t actually want to die – but if we have to then we want to do it peacefully and some of us may want tools to help when it is not going to happen naturally. …

While there is lots of awful physical stuff going on, the time I have been given to deal with the social stuff is precious and important to me and I think to others. Dying slowly, I think has a big advantage. But at some point that “party” will have to end and the tough social and physical bit will need to be addressed.

What do I want? Why can’t I continue to choose treatments that allow me to consider my own priorities? If I am at the point where those priorities can no longer be maintained and all I have left is the painful dying bit, why can’t I have the option of assisted dying, given the alternative is to turn up the morphine and hope? A natural death is out of the question.

No one wants to die. But when death is inevitable, people like Helen Kelly should be able to choose to reduce any suffering in the final days.

I hope the Committee looks at this through the eyes of a dying person and their family.  No family wants anyone to suffer and many people would not want to go on living in a state where they are unable to live a reasonable life with genuine choices. It’s time for New Zealand to make this option available in a regulated fashion. 

I agree with Helen Kelly on this.

Kelly calls for a cannabis referendum

January 11th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Terminally ill former trade unions boss Helen Kelly wants a referendum on whether cannabis should be legalised, and says she is talking to MPs about making it happen.

Kelly, who has lung cancer, has been taking cannabis oil sourced from the black market to relieve her pain and believes it is “absolutely ludicrous” New Zealand’s laws have forced her to do so.

“If we can have a referendum on the New Zealand flag, then we can have a referendum on this issue,” she said on Saturday. …

Kelly said she had talked with some MPs about getting something on the ballot in 2017, and they were on board with the idea.

The issue of whether or not cannabis should be decriminalised could also be addressed, she said.

My only issue would be the timing. I’d like to see the results of the legalisation in Colorado and Washington states, before we make a decision. Evidence based decision making. But generally I favour it being legalised and treated as a health, not criminal, issue.

NZ Initiative agrees with Helen Kelly

October 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Jenesa Jeram writes:

Helen Kelly has not always agreed with The New Zealand Initiative on regulatory issues, but on the issue of medical marijuana, we certainly agree with her.
The outgoing Council of Trade Unions president is wanting to use medical marijuana for her own terminal illness. In the absence of medical approval, Kelly has used the black market to obtain the drug.
She acknowledges the therapeutic properties, but also the risks: “It just seems absolutely insane that I’ve got no idea what I’m taking, how much I should take or how it’s manufactured – it’s crazy.”
Kelly is not wrong. Because the drug is outside the realm of government safety and regulation, the quality and potency will be unpredictable.
Another less acknowledged consequence of prohibition is that the evidence-base is equally inconsistent.
A simple Google search will tell you there is not a lot of credible or accessible information out there. There is even less if you confine your search to neutral sources.
If I was a desperate mother wanting to know whether medical marijuana would be an option for my sick child, I would not know what sources to trust. Or even how to apply.
The evidence of effectiveness is mixed, and only one patient’s application so far – Alex Renton’s – followed the correct process.
Effective or not, prohibition does the evidence base no favours, by limiting the research and evidence required to support safe consumption.
Clinical trials have been illegal in many of the countries New Zealand would look to for regulatory guidance (though random-control trials are now underway in Israel and the United States). Anecdotal evidence and case studies would be equally thin in this context.
The current case-by-case process may also hide medical professionals’ support for the product, who must apply on behalf of their patient. It is certainly conceivable that doctors would be unwilling to recommend a medication without robust evidence.
Additionally, it is also possible that medical professionals would want to avoid the reputational effects of being the only doctor in town associated with a controversial substance. Not all doctors want to be thrust into the political sphere.
Sometimes though, banning risky behaviour just makes the risk even more risky. So in a rare move of supporting more regulation, I say lift the prohibition and apply the appropriate safety rules.

I agree.

Cannabis should be a health not a legal issue

October 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Terminally ill Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly is pleading with the Government to improve access to medicinal cannabis, as she confesses she is “a little bit scared” of dying.

Kelly, who has lung cancer, said on Monday she had exhausted all legal pain relief and had resorted to the black market to obtain cannabis oil. But she did not like putting people in an awkward position to help her.

“I’ve tried [cannabis oil]. I’m not promoting it as a curative, but as a pain relief it’s incredibly effective for me and it doesn’t make me feel sick, which morphine does.”

She took the drug at night to make sure being stoned would not disrupt her day.

“It just seems absolutely insane that I’ve got no idea what I’m taking, how much I should take or how it’s manufactured – it’s crazy.”

There were plenty of other countries accepting that medicinal cannabis was useful for pain relief and New Zealand needed to “stop being a fishing village”.

I don’t support use of cannabis being a criminal offence, so I also support it being available for medical purposes.

In the US, 22 states allow cannabis for medical reasons and four states (plus DC) have legalised the use and sale of cannabis in all situations. There’s been no evidence of increased ham.

Many NZ views on Corbyn

September 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Spinoff has views of the election of socialist Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour Leader by a couple of dozen people. Some interesting comments:

Jim Anderton

Jeremy Corbyn represents a return to the politics of inclusion, egalitarianism and the principles of social and economic justice required of a fair society. The outrageous and ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, with the resulting crisis of rising child poverty and social dislocation, is increasingly seen as simply unacceptable to more and more people throughout the world.

Hopefully Jeremy has better luck with his caucus than Jim did with his.

Jacinda Ardern

I wonder whether the question might be, what can the UK Labour Party learn from the NZ experience?

What can they learn? How to lose three elections in a row, and have your vote share drop every time!

James Shaw

I am unconvinced that the generally accepted wisdom – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable – will hold out in reality. The Obama ’08 campaign, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others, show that many people are desperate for hope and change in the face of growing inequality and a sense that their own and their children’s futures are being sold down the river.

Oh dear. Not sure Obama would like the comparison to Syriza. And how is Syriza working out for Greece?

Helen Kelly

I think he will do very well and create new space for alternative policies including fiscal policies. I think the party will swing behind him and if they can organise those that recently joined, they will have a new invigorated movement come the next election.

Comrade Kelly predicts glorious triumph.


Lung cancer hits non smokers also

February 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Helen Kelly has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In an email to trade union colleagues last night, Kelly said she would be undergoing additional tests to determine the prognosis.

Hopefully it has been detected at Stage 1 where the prognosis is a lot better than at later stages. If you get diagnosed at Stage 1 the one year survival rate is 70% while at Stage 4 it is 15%.

I hope Helen is able to have successful treatment, and continue her strong advocacy for many years to come.

Family confirmed Kelly was not a smoker and had never smoked.

Around 15% of people with lung cancer have never smoked. This is why it is important even  non smokers get a check up of they have symptoms such as a persistent cough.

There is a an excellent publication on lung cancer at Pfizer, for those who want more information. Curia did some of the research for it.



A boost for Collins

November 13th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

CTU President Helen Kelly said on Q+A:

I’m leaving the country if Judith Collins becomes Prime Minister

That has to be a huge boost to Judith!

CTU v Whale

March 16th, 2012 at 9:01 am by David Farrar

Pat Brittenden used to be on NewstalkZB and is now a host on Radio Rhema. He blogs:

Let me start by saying this, I am not anti union. If you look at my record I have supported Union’s causes more times than I have criticized them as can be seen in a post I wrote about the NZEI and National Standards 18 months ago. The interactions and opinions I share now about the Unions and the Ports are solely based on this issue and not a a past of blindly supporting either the Left or Right of this, or any other conversations, about Unions past, present or future.

I wrote a post last week about an interview I did with Garry Parsloe from the Maritime Union but as most talkbacks listeners will be aware this conversation has continued on. Prior to this conversation I had no position on who I believed was right in the debate, and to be honest to this date I would still say that I don’t believe there are any innocent parties here, I don’t believe either side truly bargained in good faith and through obstinate belligerence from both sides we are now at an impasse. For me though the case set before the public now has demonstrated that the Ports in this case are ‘closer’ to being correct that the Unions without the ‘rose tinted glasses’ idea that they have done no wrong.

And now to the specific issue:

Subsequent to yesterdays show we received a call to my producers cell phone from Helen Kelly from the CTU.

Couple of things about the answer phone message. If there has been a slandering of a Port worker I would of course retract and apologise, but from listening to the audio I don’t believe there has been. For me to ‘give [Cameron Slater] space’ on the station being a concern for Helen Kelly is ironic as we have had on Garry Parsloe so many times the news room jokes about giving him his own slot. The opinions and spokespeople for the union position have had far more airtime on my network than the counter view which you heard via Cameron Slater and for Ms. Kelly to say we needed to‘rectify’ the situation implies that we have done something wrong, which I don’t believe we have. I also got the feeling that there were threatening undertones when Ms. Kelly informed us that ‘[we] were liable for that as well’.

Pat has a recording of the phone call at his site.

Coffin meet nail

June 26th, 2011 at 9:23 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

At a dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant in Washington, Thompson approached Kelly, Street and the business leader.

Thompson is alleged to have made lewd comments at the social event about the relationship Kelly had with Prime Minister John Key, who has been married to wife Bronagh since both were teenagers.

Late last night, the Prime Minister’s office dismissed Thompson’s allegations as “totally ridiculous”.

The source said the comments were made without any basis other than Helen Kelly and John Key’s “good working relationship”.

“He asked her what the relationship was between her and John Key. There was sexual innuendo. Then he said he asked John Key, the last time he saw him. He said he asked if he [Key] fancied Helen.”

The source said Kelly was visibly upset by the comments. She said to Thompson: “That’s disgusting.”

I think I’m speechless. I can’t decide what is stupider for the head of the Auckland Employers Association.

  1. Asking John Key if he fancied the President of the CTU
  2. Telling the CTU President that he had asked the PM if he fancied her
  3. Doing (2) in front of a Labour MP

EMA president Graham Mountfort said Thompson would be asked to explain himself to the board and was no longer allowed to speak with the media.

“He won’t be an advocate for us in the future.”

I note the Wellington EMA went to the trouble of specifically e-mailing all their members disassociating themselves from the comments of their Auckland counterpart.

A horrendous own goal

June 24th, 2011 at 11:14 am by David Farrar

The original comments by Alasdair Thompson were unwise and stupid (and I will detail why further down) but his dual performances on TV3 are the stuff legends, or nightmares, are made of.

Watch his interview with Rachel Morton and then with Mihi Forbes.  I don’t think I have ever seen such sheer awfulness before. Lew at Kiwipolitico has done an initial list of 10 things the EMA did wrong.

This has gone from just being an issue about Alasdair to an issue about the EMA Northern. I can imagine employers all over Auckland quietly removing from their office walls their certificate of membership before anyone notices it. They’d be embarrassed to be associated with the last 24 hours.

This may have been the most effective brand destruction we have seen since Wellington Airport tried to rename Wellington into Wellywood, or the CTU declared war on hobbits.

Before we come back to the interviews let’s focus on the substance of the issue, as a couple of people think this is just about political correctness – far from it.The issue is why do women on average get paid less than men.

Now I do not think the gap between the average hourly rate for men and women is due to discrimination. Sure there may be the odd employer who is an old bigot (and they generally are old) and actually thinks women are inferior. But they are dying out.

Part of the gap is because men and women tend towards different jobs. More men are police officers and more women are teachers for example and police officers get paid more on average. But that doesn’t explain all the difference as there is a gap within professions also. On average male lawyers get paid more than female lawyers and male teachers more than female teachers.

There are a couple of factors at play here. One is historic – until 20 years ago men far outnumbered women at university in the high paying professions such as law, medicine etc. So most of the senior ranks are still men. Fortunately at entry level the numbers are now more balanced, so over time the gender mix may get more balanced at the senior or higher paying levels.

The other factor (which Alasdair correctly pointed out) is that more woman than men take a break from the workforce to be the primary caregiver, and when they return are more likely to be part-time so prospects for advancement are not so good as the person who has stayed working full-time throughout.

Even this doesn’t fully explain the gender gap, as there has been a recent study that even early on in a profession, men are being paid more than women. Now one has to be careful about a study over a profession, rather than just one employer, as differences between employers may account for the gap. However if one accepts the study at face value, a possible answer is that generally younger men are more assertive than younger women in pushing for pay rises and generally in salary negotiations.

So I tend to reject the thesis that women get paid less because evil employers discriminate against women and think they are inferior.

The possible factors I have laid out above are all about individual choice. You may choose to enter a less well remunerated profession, because it isn’t just about the money. You may choose to take a break from the work-force. You may choose not to be aggressive in your pay negotiations and take whatever is initially offered. These are all individual choices. Sure there are issues around societal expectations, but that is a debate for another day.

But here is why what Alasdair Thompson said is so stupid and counter-productive. he listed something women have no choice over (having a menstrual cycle) and cited it as a reason why women get paid less. He basically said that women are less productive because they are women. It undermined all his other (generally sound) arguments.

This reinforced every prejudice unions and others have about employers – and worse this comes from the head of EMA Northern.

And I can only imagine how women feel, to have to put up with having a menstrual cycle is I suspect bad enough by itself, so to have some employer bigwig come out and say oh yeah and your monthly cycle is also why you get paid less would be beyond infuriating.

It is possible of course that some women do have a high use of sick leave due to their menstrual cycle. But I do not believe, and have not seen a shred of evidence in support, the notion that the prevalence of this is significant enough to actually affect average pay rates.

Now the original comments by Alasdair were survivable. All he had to do was to say something along the lines of “A couple of employers had anecdotally mentioned to me this was an issue for them, but I was quite wrong to link it to average pay rates between genders as it is not a factor, and I apologise for mentioning it in the interview”.

But instead we got the Tv3 interviews where he could not have made a worse impression of himself. If Helen Kelly could invent a wicked caricature of an employers boss, she couldn’t have done better than what we saw. Rambling justifications, instructions to the cameraman as if he was the producer, demanding no interruptions, walking out, patronising the female reporters, constantly referring to his own staff members in a way which I found demeaning, standing over Mihi Forbes and angrily remonstrating with her, calling her a liar, demanding previous footage be declared off the record retrospectively and the list just goes on.

I don’t know how professional media trainers like Brian Edwards, Judy Callaghan, Bill Ralston and Janet Wilson even managed to watch a few minutes of the video without their heads exploding in despair that someone could come across so badly in what is meant to be a damage control setting.

EMA Northern need to consider what they have to do to repair the damage. My only advice is that it does not involve Alasdair doing another round of TV interviews.

Pike River

May 23rd, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Dickison in the NZ Herald reports:

The Pike River mining disaster being cited by a union boss as an example of an anti-worker culture is “churlish”, says the Prime Minister.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told the Labour Party Congress yesterday that Pike River had “failed in its fundamental duty to provide a safe workplace” yet was initially protected from scrutiny by the state.

She noted how John Key had sat next to Pike River’s chief executive during the memorial service.

Mr Key said last night that Ms Kelly was being “churlish” – and dangerous, too, considering that a Royal Commission of Inquiry was ongoing.

“For Helen Kelly to make those comments until we know what actually happened in that mine is inappropriate in my view. It’s getting in the way of the royal commission.”

The memorial had been a time for everyone to grieve rather than to apportion blame, Mr Key said.

“That day may well come, depending on the results of the royal commission, but it wasn’t appropriate at the time when we held a memorial service.”

 It was a bizarre rant from Helen Kelly. She seemed upset that Pike River executives were not immediately tarred and feathered and made into national villians.

As the PM says, she doesn’t seem to realise the difference between a time to mourn and a time to find out what happened, and who is to blame.

BSA on Holmes & Hobbit Interview

April 6th, 2011 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

The BSA has rejected complaints from Pat Bolster and Anne Latimer over Paul Holmes interview of Helen Kelly over the Hobbit debacle.

I saw the interview, and Holmes was merely doing his job – applying the acid to a politician (and the CTU President is most definitely a politician). And the reality is, that Helen Kelly had shown appalling judgement around this issue with her comments over Peter Jackson etc.

But anyway I always wonder who actually complains to the BSA – is it just a concerned citizen, or a repeat complainer or political activists?

A quick bit of Google and it turns out Anne Latimer likes to campaign for Labour on the North Shore.

But even more interesting Pat Bolster is actually employed by the CTU!

I don’t know why Helen Kelly didn’t just complain herself, if she thought the interview was unfair – rather than have one of her staff do it, apparently as a member of the public.

Unions attacking Whittall

December 6th, 2010 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

Fresh from the PR triumph of attacking Sir Peter Jackson, the CTU continues its strategy of winning over the public by targeting Peter Whittall.

The Press reports:

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told a Canterbury Workers Educational Association function in Christchurch on Friday that Whittall should have apologised for the tragedy.

“He’s now been called a national hero, but he’s the CEO of that company and he hasn’t apologised,” she said.

“Even if the company did everything right, if it was me, I’d say: `I’m the employer. This has happened and I’m really sorry. I don’t know why, but I’m going to find out why’. But he hasn’t said that.”

Questions about what happened had not been asked, Kelly said.

“This is a very serious event. That mine was open for just over a year. There are 29 miners dead. We’ve got to be more mature about who we honour, how we think about things, what we demand. If that had been public Department of Conservation [land] we would have gone after them and said what had happened.

“But because it’s a company and because the CEO gets to sit next to the Prime Minister at the memorial service, the hard questions have not been asked.”

The CTU just don’t get it. Peter Whittall would not have insisted he be on the stage and one of the speakers at the memorial service. The PM would not have decided who the speakers are. I’m bet you that it was at the request of the miners families, that Whittall was on the stage as one of the speakers.

I’ve remarked on radio how unusual it is that the CEO of the mine where 29 people died has become a national hero. This must be very frustrating for the unions. But the reality is it is the way Whittall conducted himself that has won people over.

But he would know, that admiration for his post-explosion performance, will not protect him if it transpires that Pike River Coal has some culpability for what happened. Admiration for fronting up does not remove accountability and responsibility.

But this is why we have a Royal Commission – to establish the facts. I think it is unwise for various unions to already be trying to denigrate Whittall.

They have not been alone there. Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace facebooked soon after the tragedy a list of Pike River Directors, labelling them “the people who developed the mine that just killed 29 people”. An extra-ordinary rush to judgement.

We also had a Labour MP on day one of the explosion tweet about how the company must be asked the hard questions to prevent a cover-up and how the unions are key to this. This was before we even knew if anyone was dead.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) national secretary Andrew Little acknowledged Whittall had not sought hero status, but said failures on the part of mine managers or “the guys underground” could have caused the disaster.

“We need to reserve judgment until we get credible answers to questions about why it all happened.

“The company has been treated as somewhat heroic and in a way I think it’s somewhat undeserving.”

Little is correct in saying we need to reserve judgement. My admiration for Whittall’s response to the explosion in no way means that Pike River Coal should not be held accountable if the facts warrant it.

I think Andrew is wrong though in saying the company has been treated as somewhat heroic. Whittall has been, but he is not the company. People have empathised with the fact he knew every single miner killed – in fact had employed them all, and so obviously grieved for them.

In yesterday’s HoS, Matt McCarten had the same theme:

under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Unbelievably, the chief executive of this company becomes a media darling.

He did not become a “media darling” for what happened. He gained respect because he did what so many people say they want CEOs to do – he fronted up constantly, he did not spin, he did not lie, he told the truth. He was real.

If you have followed the media coverage you’d think the whole tragedy was just an unavoidable accident.

On the contrary, I think no such thing.

Save the Hobbit

October 24th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

If The Hobbit moves overseas, there will be a massive loss of jobs in NZ. The 2,500 for the Hobbit itself is only the start. All the other productions will stop coming here, and I imagine Weta would have a limited future.

But add onto that the lost tourism jobs and earnings. 1 in 10 tourists say the LOTR connection was a factor in choosing to come here. If Middle Earth moves to Ireland, we will lose much of that tourism.

The Herald on Sunday reports on the rallies you can go along to, to show your support for the film staying here. These are not anti-anyone rallies, but pro-Hobbit in NZ rallies.

12.30pm-2pm Monday

  • Auckland: Queen Elizabeth II Square (opposite Britomart)
  • Wellington: Civic Square
  • Christchurch: Cathedral Square
  • Hamilton: Garden Place
  • Matamata: The Gollum statue
  • Queenstown: The Village Green

I’m certainly attending the Wellington one. If you plan to attend, you can join the event on Facebook.

The HOS also covers the latest:

President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly told the Herald on Sunday she was not sorry for the dispute as it began as a simple request to negotiate conditions.

“I personally regret calling Peter Jackson a brat. That was not helpful,” said Kelly. “I shouldn’t have said that, because he is not a brat. He is clearly deeply hurt … and it’s not my style to usually get so personal.”

However, she believed most New Zealanders supported the right to collectively bargain.

God this Orewellian double-speak is getting annoying.A global boycott is not a simple request to negotiate. It is the last resort in such a negotiation – it is where you say we would rather this film never gets made at all, because the conditions on it are so bad. The irony being that the conditions are the best ever offered to NZ actors.

And secondly those actors who are members of the MEAA could always try and negotiate a collective contract on behalf of those members only.  What they were not allowed to do is negotiate on behalf of all the non members, and force them into becoming union members.

Back at the Armageddon Expo, Stargate Atlantis actor Torri Higginson told the crowd it would be “insane” if The Hobbit was not filmed in New Zealand. “If anyone knows him [Peter Jackson] tell him I’ll work for free,” said Higginson. “F*** the unions.”

I suspect many actors would work for free on the film. But Jackson will not only be paying good weekly rates, he is the first Producer to offer residuals to NZ actors. How the fuck the CTU ever decided to make him public enemy number one I don’t know.

The Hobbit v the CTU

October 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

More developments today. First the Dominion Post editorial:

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The full stupidity of the Actors’ Equity members who arranged an international boycott of The Hobbit is now apparent.

They used the nuclear bomb option in industrial negotiations. And nuclear bombs always have fall out.

What makes New Zealand unique in terms of film-making is that it is where Sir Peter lives and where, despite the blandishments of Hollywood, he has chosen to build his empire.

A film set is not like a meatworks or an old-fashioned cotton mill where workers are interchangeable. It is a place where individuals have a chance to make a difference and to be rewarded for their talents.

Members of the Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and its local offshoot, Actors’ Equity, who do not back themselves to shine are under no compulsion to offer their services to Sir Peter. If they prefer, they are at liberty to deliver one-person shows in empty provincial theatres. But they should not seek to deny others the opportunity to build film careers or to experience the excitement of working on a project that will be seen around the world.

I love the line about empty provincial theatres!

… the Government has no choice but to step in to try to repair the damage done by the actors’ union. It is not just the future of The Hobbit that is at stake, but the future of the industry that has grown up around Sir Peter. If that requires the Government to bump up the 15 per cent tax break already available to the producers of The Hobbit, Finance Minister Bill English should get out his chequebook.

The purity of the tax system be damned. The consequences of losing an industry that has revitalised Wellington do not bear thinking about.

Losing the film will lead to a massive loss of jobs, and the taxpayer will probably end up paying even more through lost tax income and higher welfare costs. Having said that, I would much prefer the tax break not be increased.

Some lunatics think that this was all manufactured so they could get a tax break. I’d really love to meet the evil geniuses that managed to infiltrate MEAA and get them to arrange a global boycott, just so that Warners can use it as an excuse to get a bigger tax break.

Perhaps the shortfall could be made up by cutting Creative New Zealand’s theatrical budget.

Is that on top of the $44,000 I already want to cut?

John Drinnan at the Herald looks at the media handling of it and notes:

To challenge a national icon you would think you would lay on a bit of charm – or just show some respect.

Kelly said: “There are still New Zealanders out there who believe that people have a right to negotiate.”

Maybe the handling of the Hobbit dispute will win the MEAA and CTU an activist award at the next Socialist International prizegiving.

But in this country they have turned a lot of people off.

Helen Kelly calling Sir Peter Jackson a spoilt brat was incredibly stupid. Peter Jackson has created more jobs for New Zealanders than possibly any other person. Once upon a time the CTU said they cared about jobs.

Tom Cardy in the Dom Post has the latest updates:

A furious Sir Peter Jackson will “fight as hard as he can” to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand – but is already listing key Kiwi staff to take if the two-part film goes overseas.

And the director hit back at Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly’s claims that he had set up the actors’ union to take the blame if the US$500 million (NZ$667m) movie is lost.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was the first time I really got very angry.”

Asked if it was fingers crossed that The Hobbit would remain, Jackson said: “I don’t know what to cross any more. I’ve just got to get some sleep. I haven’t had much sleep in the past few days.”

It was unlikely he would be able to take more than 150 Kiwi crew – compared with a minimum of 2500 he could employ here – but did not yet “have the heart” to choose who.

Sir Peter is an unlikely target for the CTU to try and make out as the super villain. Almost everyone who has worked for him raves about him, and I would speculate that he probably routinely votes Labour/Greens.  He is not some uncaring distant Rupert Murdock type. So he is speaking very honestly when he says it would be heart-breaking to choose just 5% of people to take overseas.

I understand from those a bit closer to the action that he is personally very hurt by what has happened, as he has spent so much of his life creating jobs and getting better pay for NZ workers. He could have become far far richer by moving to Hollywood.

Ms Kelly cited a belief Warner had already decided to move the films for bigger tax incentives and lower wages, and Jackson – a “spoilt brat” – was trying to set the union up to blame.

Yes Sir Peter masterminded the MEAA into an international boycott to move the film overseas, despite having already spent tens of millions on preparing for the films to be shot in NZ.

With all respect Helen Kelly’s belief should be given as much weight as the beliefs of Scientologists.

Jackson described her as clueless. “Why do people like Helen Kelly have to be driven by rhetoric and playing some kind of role where she’s always got to be the victim and everyone else is to blame?

“She has tried every possible conspiracy theory. I’m expecting to be told I was on the grassy knoll in Dallas any moment now.”

Can he prove he was not?

Outrageous Fortune star and Actors’ Equity committee member Robyn Malcolm said yesterday she could not believe a request for a discussion around conditions was enough to derail the project. “We’re not even the coffee budget. Nobody wants Cate Blanchett’s salary …”

Oh you silly person you. You did not “request” a discussion. You initiated a global boycott. Do you not know the difference? It is rather huge.

Incidentally how many people were aware that the taxpayers have sunk over $48 million into keeping Ms Malcolm and others employed on Outraegous Fortune?

I’m a fan of the show, but I prefer them to do what Shortland Street does – become self sufficient after the initial years.

Remember those stories about lynch mobs and needing Police escorts. Well this video shows the lovely Simon Whipp in action, refusing to even talk politely to a questioner – definitely a violent lynch mob.

And finally the Young Nats ask about why the Wellington Mayor is missing in action. It is incredible that the new Mayor of Wellington has not been out to the media saying how crucial it is that the Hobbit be filmed here, and demanding that any obstacles to it be removed. The only person who has been even quieter than Celia has been Phil Goff.

Fisking the CTU

October 21st, 2010 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has the statements from Peter Jackson and the CTU here.

I was going to fisk the CTU statement, but Russell Brown has done it far better than I could. And yes, that is not a typo.

I do want to first touch on one aspect, quoting the CTU:

Facts on Hobbit

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that it is important that some facts about the union stance on the Hobbit are placed before the public.

• The union is seeking basic terms and conditions such as hours, breaks, overtime payments etc.

• The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

This is both false and misleading.

First of all the union is not just “seeking” basic terms and conditions. It arranged a global boycott of the film. This is the nuclear bomb when it comes to negotiations.

And like any nuclear bomb, you can’t lob one into battle, and then say afterwards “Oh we’ll try and pretend we never did that and promise not to do it again”. The damage is done the moment it has happened.

The studios want certainty even more than lower cost. It may actually end up in a country where most actors are covered by a union. That is preferable to NZ, because they actually have certainty.

But a union with only 86 or so members that arranges a global boycott of a film is the opposite of stability. It signals run, run away from these lunatics.

Secondly let me quote from the global boycott:

Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the productions

Now re-read what the CTU says:

The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

What bullshit. The global boycott was explicitly got a collective agreement. This is not just spin or distortion – it is a total lie.

Now let me quote Russell Brown:

Instead, since its takeover by the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Equity has been so feckless that it failed to file reports for three years, until it was struck off the register of incorporated societies. New Zealand actors have a decent case for greater power and security in their industry. Their union – and the Australian union that was supposed to bring in a new era of professionalism – has failed them.

Eighteen months ago, Equity refused an offer from the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) to renegotiate the “Pink Book” code of conduct which covers actors’ pay and conditions and has been untouched since the MEAA moved in. Its precondition for any talks with Spada was that the existing system, which does generally work, be scrapped and replaced with collective agreements.

This shows the lies told by the CTU up even more. Not only did MEAA not seek an update to the industry standard, they flat out refused to negotiate such a thing.

There were other things wrong with the union’s strategy, if it can be called that. The way the first meeting in Wellington was run was a disgrace – while anyone who turned up and called themselves a performer was allowed to vote in Auckland, the rules were changed in Wellington after the vote had begun to exclude non-Equity members. One actor trying to read a statement from Jackson (who had been refused permission to address the meeting) was shouted down and couldn’t fnish.

Most notably, statements from organiser Frances Walsh clearly indicated it was seeking to negotiate a national agreement via The Hobbit (why else talk about wanting to negotiate rules on nudity in a film which features no nudity?) and Robyn Malcolm managed to say in successive sentences to John Campbell that they wanted “a fair deal for New Zealand actors working on the Hobbit”, but an agreement that was “not Hobbit-specific”. I’ve explained before why it would have been unethical for Jackson to put himself in that position.

And this is the real game – to try and force all NZ productions to pay the same as The Hobbit.

By the time they’d settled for far less – and finally agreed to talk to Spada without showstopping preconditions — the damage had largely been done. Yes, if Ireland gets the gig, it will be because of its more-generous-than-the-others tax breaks. But the film was going to be made in New Zealand. The door for other countries was opened when MEAA executive Simon Whipp authorised the SAG member alert that brought the production to a halt by banning actors from working on it.

If Warners thinks the industrial relations environment in New Zealand has become too risky and unpredictable, it has some cause for thinking so.

Again, it is not about the lowest cost – it really is about stability. Remember there are two films to be produced – they don’t want to finish one, and then have an unstable union call another boycott or strike to ratchet up demands on the second film.

Some people have a conspiracy theory that it is all about the tax credit, and that this issue is just an excuse. They should consider how much money has already been spent by Jackson and Weta preparing for filing it here – Hobbiton re-established etc.

But it was telling that the CTU’s Helen Kelly said on Nightline last night that the Equity meeting had been called for members to discuss “what they wanted in terms of terms and conditions”.

You’re saying that after all this — you still don’t know what you want?


It’s also generally not a good sign for a union leader, as Kelly did, to refer to the 1000-plus working people who met and marched in Wellington last night, most of them members of their own guilds and unions, as being in a “lynch mob” mood.

So Helen managed to insult hundreds of union members.

None of the other screen guilds have spoken in support of Equity, and they have privately assured both Spada and the government that they are on the side of the producers in this case.

They are the real victims. I’ll be minorly affected in that the NZ economy will take a dive, and that means more debt to be serviced by us as taxpayers. But the 1000s of people who will end up out of work are the ones I really feel for. It’s one thing to lose your job when it is semi-inevitable – in a fading industry etc. But to work in what was a growing healthy industry with a bright future, and to lose your job because of the actions of a few dozen individuals would really piss you off.

Even if the film can be hauled back here – and that’s the state of play – this will have badly damaged relations in the industry. And if the film really is lost, it will damage a lot more than that – the trade union movement included.

This is the part puzzling me. Putting aside ideological differences I have always regarded Helen Kelly as a pretty smart operator, and someone who does try to do the right thing.

But her involvement with this dispute has been disastrous.

Almost everyone involved with this fracas has said that MEAA’s Simon Whipp is the problem – the NZ Actors involved are lightweights. So Whipp is the Aussie bad boy that everyone was blaming (and fairly).

But what Helen has done is change the focus of anger from being the head of an aussie union, to the head of the CTU. She is associating all NZ unions with Simon Whipp’s campaign, and as loath as I am to give advice to the NZ union movement on how to protect their reputation, I have to say that this is a spectacularly bad thing.

The CTU has put out a press release which is factually incorrect and made themselves the target. Why on Earth did they not just assist behind the scenes (where they have done some good I hear), rather than become the de facto spokesperson for the MEAA?

How will the CTU have credibility about protecting Kiwi jobs, if the movies do go overseas?

Oh, and finally, on a related note – I’ve heard nothing on this matter from the temporary and future Labour Party Leaders – surely some journalist has asked Phil Goff and Andrew Little if they support the CTU’s defence of the global boycott against the Hobbit?

Workers protest against union

October 21st, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Weta Workshop’s boss Sir Richard Taylor last night said the New Zealand film industry was “at some level of peril”.

He said a $670 million US-backed production of Tolkien classic The Hobbit could be produced elsewhere if a union boycott of the project was not lifted.

“We are deeply concerned it may [go overseas].

“Our industry is being put in a very dire place by very few people who have nothing to do with the film industry in New Zealand.”

It is worth remembering that MEAA represents only around 80 actors in NZ – less than 5% of the total acting workforce.

Up to 1500 workers marched from Weta’s Miramar studios into central Wellington to picket an Actors’ Equity meeting being held at St John’s Hall.

Their jobs are at direct risk. This Australian union doesn’t care about how many people may end up out of work.

The Equity meeting – which was to discuss unrelated matters – was cancelled after union bosses learned the march was on its way.

Equity spokeswoman Frances Walsh said the union had “no choice” but to call off the meeting “because we are not going to expose our performers to harm”.

What? Did she think Sir Richard was leading a lynch mob that would burn the church hall down? Or did they just not want to talk to all those people whose jobs are at risk?

The Dom Post reports that things look grim:

The Hobbit seems set to be taken offshore, with the film’s producers due in New Zealand to begin preparations next week.

Sir Peter Jackson and the producers have been in a standoff with actors unions who have boycotted the Lord of the Rings prequels as they have agitated for a collective agreement.

There has been speculation that production could be taken overseas. Other countries had offered a one-off deal that is double New Zealand’s 15 per cent tax rebate for films.

Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh said last night the lifting of the actors union’s blacklist “does nothing to help the film stay in New Zealand”.

“The damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done.”

The move has undermined Warner Brothers confidence in the industry “and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment”.

“Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

And remember it is not the fault of the unions:

Ms Kelly said union members would not be at fault if The Hobbit moved overseas. Instead, it was Warner Brothers seeking to gain greater tax breaks and lower wages.

Sure. Nothing to do with us at all. Helen sounds like the Vietnam commander – we had to destroy the village in order to to save it.

But Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said the crowd was “in a lynch-mob mood thanks to Richard Taylor, who has obviously wound them up like springs” and actors had to call the meeting off. “It was too dangerous.”

That nasty awful Sir Richard Taylor. How dare he organise a protest march. The CTU condemns people who organise protest marches and make fiery speeches to them. Such marches should be illegal – unless organised by the CTU of course.

I’ll make a prediction. If The Hobbit moves overseas, there will be another protest march. Not with 1,500 people in it, but 15,000 or more. And if you think you have seen anger already, you’ve seen nothing yet.

People should be angry when their jobs are at risk. NZ Actors should be angry that they will lose the chance to earn $5,000/week. Wellingtonians should be angry that a decade of investment into building a film industry here may all be wasted.

O’Reilly predicts public service strife

December 27th, 2009 at 10:50 am by David Farrar

The SST reports:

BUSINESS BOSS Phil O’Reilly is predicting 2010 will be a year of industrial strife and an “ugly” budget that will bump up the GST rate.

O’Reilly, the chief executive of Business NZ, said he expected “fireworks” from public sector unions as the government tightened the screws on spending, and Finance Minister Bill English has said total government spending cannot increase more than $1.1 billion in the May budget, a difficult task considering that public hospitals alone have been soaking up an extra $700 million a year in recent budgets. English has warned public servants such as teachers and nurses not to expect pay increases that are “out of line with realistic expectations”.

More than 50,000 primary and secondary teachers will negotiate a new pay deal with the government when their current agreement expires at the end of June.

“I think we will see quite a few sparks fly,” O’Reilly said. “Government departments are being told how much they can spend so you’re going to see an ugly budget from the perspective of government spending and that will impact people like the state sector unions, the teacher unions and so on. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of that was turned into industrial action.”

NZ Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said O’Reilly was being “hysterical” but warned that public sector workers would not tolerate zero pay increases or cuts in services.

“We are ready for that kind of a year but we hope commonsense will prevail.

I am all for common sense. Common sense is that the economy has grown only 0.4% in the last six months, so pay increases greater than the rate of economic growth are not common sense. Likewise borrowing more money to fund pay increases is not common sense when you are borrowing $240 million every week just to pay for current salaries.


December 20th, 2008 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

CTU President Helen Kelly has said:

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said all workers should be able to get similar increases.

She said some vulnerable workers struggled to get any increase at all.

“It would be great if all workers had the same bargaining power and influence as judges and were able to get pay increases like that,” she said.

Judges have no bargaining power at all. An independent tribunal sets their pay unilaterally.

So is Helen Kelly saying she would like all workers to lose their bargaining rights, and have a tribunal set pay for all workers?

McCarten lashes CTU

May 4th, 2008 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten has lashed the CTU for not supporting the junior doctors on strike – all but calling them scabs:

There is a sacred principle among trade unionists: when a group of workers is on strike you support them to the hilt. To side with the boss is the most serious of all crimes.

Working-class history is full of epic struggles that led to better wages and conditions. Crossing a picket line banished the offender to lifetime alienation as a “scab” with whom no working person of good character would associate. …

So last week I was gobsmacked to see the head of the trade union movement publicly attack the junior doctors’ two-day strike and their union leadership. It’s not as if CTU president Helen Kelly doesn’t know any better – her parents were staunch unionists.

This is harsh stuff from the head of UNITE Union about the head of the CTU, especially as UNITE is affiliated to the CTU. This may be the opening shot in replacing the Government friendly leadership with more aggressive leadership.

Kelly says she hopes the strike “doesn’t give unions a bad name” and the doctors’ union is not a “modern union”. This is because it focuses too much on getting better wages and conditions for its members and lacks professional advisers, “such as policy analysts, economists, lawyers and advocates”. Its crimes include not attending talk-fests with Ministry of Health and DHB officials and other unions to “work towards a better health system”.

She seems to think a modern union levies its members to employ “professional advisers” so they can have meetings with the ever-expanding health bureaucracy. Maybe the doctors are smarter than she thinks. I’m told that if all the DHB bureaucrats had to go into hospital there wouldn’t be enough beds available. I’m sure you need a talk-fest to see what the real problem is.

McCarten is right that there are more administrators than hospital beds.

The doctors’ union says it costs the taxpayer $100 million for locums. They say the $300-$500 an hour paid to locums during the strike, for the jobs that pay them $23 an hour, is more than their entire wage demand.

So instead of attacking the union, the president of the CTU should be demanding that Cunliffe stop lining up with the hospital bosses and make sure the doctors get a decent salary.

Otherwise, the doctors’ accusation that the CTU president seems more interested in looking after her mates in the Government than workers does seem to have a ring of truth to it.

Hasn’t a CTU official just been made a Labour candidate? Really what McCarten seems to be saying is that the CTU should put the interests of “labour” ahead of “Labour”.