Could be worse

May 31st, 2012 at 7:48 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is the latest international envoy to represent the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

Mugabe gained the recognition despite a poor international reputation in which he is accused of ethnic cleansing, rigging elections and leading Zimbabwe’s ruined economy.

University of Zimbabwe politics professor John Makumbe was surprised by the accolade.

“I think it’s ridiculous because Zimbabwe is one of the countries least used by tourists,” said Makumbe.

“Tourism is at its lowest level because of the political and economic crises it’s gone through. Tourists really wish Victoria Falls was in another country, like South Africa.

It could be worse. At least he wasn’t appointed to a UN human rights tribunal.

Gulf War No III

March 19th, 2011 at 10:13 am by David Farrar

The UN may just have authorised the third gulf war. I think the UN made the right call to stop Gaddafi using his air force against the opposition. If he re-established control over all of Libya, hundreds or even thousands of Libyans may have been executed.

But there is no guarantee this won’t happen anyway. It’s one thing to defend unarmed protesters, but a bit different when it is an effective civil war.

If the no fly zone is not effective, then pressure will go on, for more active intervention – and at that point you have a full war.

Gaddafi would lose that fight very quickly, but the aftermath could turn out to be more akin to Iraq than Egypt.

UN votes that executing gays is okay

November 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The enemies of freedom continue to make gains at the UN. This is the problem when so many of the members are countries with little regard for human rights.

Pink paper reports:

The United Nations has removed a plea for lesbians, gays and bisexuals not to be executed in a narrow vote.

For the last 10 years sexual orientation has been included in a list of discriminatory grounds for executions – gay rights activists say the vote to remove that listing is “dangerous and disturbing.”

The UN resolution urges countries to protect the right to life of all people, calling on them to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. Sexual orientation was previously listed as one of these forms of discrimination, alongside ethnicity, religious belief and linguistic minorities.

Others protected by the resolution were human rights defenders (like journalists, lawyers and demonstrators), street children and members of indigenous communities.

So pretty much everyone except gays have the right to life.

But now sexual orientation has been taken out of the list. The amendment was supported by Benin in Africa on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly. It passed on a narrow vote of 79 for, 70 against , 17 abstentions and 26 absent.

Some of those voting to remove sexual orientation were countries where gays are known to be or thought to be executed or summarily killed including Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq.

No doubt many of them are members of the Human Rights Council.

Iran almost got elected to the Women’s Rights Commission – it took a dedicated campaign from the US to shame enough other countries to vote against Iran.

We do need a UN which all countries belong to. But its scope should be limited. We need another body to complement it – some sort of league of democratic nations. There should be quite tough criteria for admission, the ability to be expelled, and benefits for joining (such as free trade between members).

Key is not campaigning to have Helen made Secretary-General

October 28th, 2010 at 5:54 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Mr Key was today on his way to Vietnam, where he will attend the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, but his bilateral meetings with world leaders outside the summit will draw most attention, one of those with Mr Ban.

The two were likely to discuss a possible bid by former prime minister Helen Clark for the secretary-general role when Mr Ban’s term ended in 2015.

Miss Clark heads the UN Development Programme.

Climate change, New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and the Pacific Islands Forum, to be held in Auckland next year, would also be discussed.

I can only imagine that NZPA’s reporter interviewed themselves. I can’t imagine there is any way John Key will be chatting to Mr Ban about how to make Helen his successor for four reasons.

  1. First of all Ban is still in his first term in the job and has yet to gain re-appointment to a second term. There is no way you talk to someone not yet reappointed about their possible successor.
  2. Secondly his first term ends at the end of 2011 and his second term would end at the end of 2016 – so no idea where 2015 comes from. Clark’s term ends in 2013 incidentally. Anyway you don’t talk job succession six years before there is a vacancy.
  3. Helen does not speak French, and that is an unofficial requirement for the job.
  4. Also NZ belongs to the Western Europe and Others regional grouping. The job is rotated amongst the regions and the next region due is the Eastern European group.

So Helen will not be the next UN Secretary-General, and media who say she might be do not understand the UN system. She is from the wrong region (not fixable) and does not speak French (she could learn if she thought she had a chance).Also there will probably not be a vacancy until 2017.

Further, it is my personal view she does not have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. I think she was qualified to be UNDP Administrator, but Secretary-General is a very different ball game.

UN to appoint outer space ambassador

October 1st, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

No this is not a a joke. The Telegraph reports:

A space ambassador could be appointed by the United Nations to act as the first point of contact for aliens trying to communicate with Earth.

Good to see they are focused on the vital issues.

Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, is set to be tasked with co-ordinating humanity’s response if and when extraterrestrials make contact.

Mrs Othman is currently head of the UN’s little known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa).

The 58-year-old is expected to tell delegates that the proposal has been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other starts, which is thought to make the discovery of extraterrestrial life more probable than ever before.

Aliens who landed on earth and asked: “Take me to your leader” would be directed to Mrs Othman. …

She will set out the details of her proposed new role at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire next week.

Well, there’s one cost saving I can identify. I wonder how many staff it has grown to over the years.

Price on DRIP

April 28th, 2010 at 10:26 am by David Farrar

Steven Price has a useful piece on the UN DRIP, and what impact it could have in NZ law.

Starting to get the idea that this has been overblown a bit? Right. It doesn’t provide “rights of veto” over legislation. It doesn’t put Maori on a path to self-determination or separatism. It will not influence all future law and policy practice.

Here’s what it might do. Lawyers may occasionally use it to suggest that a particular statute or statutory power should be interpreted consistently with it, but only where:

1. the statute is genuinely ambiguous, AND

2. the declaration is highly relevant to the issue, AND

3. the lawyer is able to slide around the problem that the declaration is not based on any government promises , and so does not technically raise the presumption of consistency with international obligations; AND

4. the lawyer also overlooks the government’s cautious statement to the UN about the boundaries of its support for the declaration; AND

5. there is a favourable wind.

I think that describes it fairly nicely between those who say there will be absolutely no effect at all, and those saying it is going to have a massive effect.

It’s likely to form but one strand of an argument made up of many others, or it’s likely to lose. Hardly “an invitation to existing courts to expand an existing breach into a chasm”, as Laws would have it.

If it is there, people will try to argue it from time to time. Winning is another issue.

Editorials 22 April 2010

April 22nd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dominion Post praises Nick Smith:

Machiavellian, arrogant, hot-headed. ACC Minister Nick Smith has been called all those things and more. And by his friends. He has a reputation for throwing tantrums and flying off the handle when things don’t go his way.

Don’t worry – the praise is coming.

But Dr Smith is also a passionate advocate of his constituents’ interests and a minister who takes his responsibilities seriously. For that, taxpayers have reason to be grateful. It is because he keeps his ear to the ground and takes an active interest in his portfolios that a potential fraud has been uncovered within ACC. The corporation said this week that it had sacked a staff member – known to be its property manager Malcolm Mason – and referred “matters of concern” to the Serious Fraud Office.

Those matters relate to property transactions involving ACC in several different parts of the country and that appear to go back some time. However, it was not until Dr Smith queried the rent ACC was paying for its new offices in Nelson that anyone within the corporation thought to compare the prices it was paying for office space with the going rates. Dr Smith did so because local retailers were worried that the $346,320 a year ACC was paying to rent its Nelson premises set too high a benchmark and because other locals feared ACC was not getting value for money.

The advantage of a Minister also being a well connected local MP.

Dr Smith signalled his unhappiness by refusing to open the building. Contrast his attitude with that of Labour’s former internal affairs minister, George Hawkins, who ignored newspaper reports and industry concerns about the leaky building crisis for more than 12 months about 10 years ago because officials had not formally advised him there was a problem.

“One would expect that, if there was a problem, the people set up to deal with that would inform their minister,” he said at the time. “They did not.”

If Dr Smith had taken the same approach, ACC would still be unaware it was paying twice the going rate for office accommodation in Nelson and would not have uncovered irregularities in other parts of the country.

Irascible? Yes. Economical with the truth? Sometimes. But also an example to other ministers of what the public expects. The job of ministers is not simply to sign pieces of paper put in front of them by officials, open new buildings, bandy unpleasantries across the floor of the House and enjoy their generous salaries and perks. It is to actively represent the interests of voters.

Dr Smith has done so. He deserves to be congratulated.

On this issue, few would disagree.

The ODT focuses on the UN declaration:

The latest manifestation is the sudden – it has been described as “secret” – accession on Tuesday to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a statement delivered by Maori Party co-leader and Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples to the United Nations in New York.

It has been met with tension, and what might be described as a tantrum, by the third party in the coalition Government’s bed: Act New Zealand.

Leader Rodney Hide has responded to the news with a display seldom seen even within the somewhat elastic emotional parameters of coalition politics. …

Mr Key and senior National Party figures will be gambling that this gesture towards the Maori Party will further enhance the mana of the latter, cement more tightly the political allegiance between the two parties, and deflate the more demanding ambitions of radical Maori – personified in Parliament in the character and rhetoric of Hone Harawira – while, in practice, giving nothing at all away.

They appear to have decided that the subtlety of principle should be subjugated to the symbolic glue of pragmatism.

It may make political sense, but while National retreats to the safety of descriptors such as “aspirational” and “non-binding”, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, on this matter, it speaks with a forked tongue.

Editorials 21 April 2010

April 21st, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Three editorials on the UN Declaration. First the Herald:

When the previous Labour Government was confronted with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, it quailed.

The potential political backlash, rather than the practical outcome of signing a non-binding document, was uppermost in its mind.

At its behest, New Zealand joined a group of only four UN members opposed to the declaration. It was a nonsensical state of affairs for a country whose record on indigenous rights is far superior to the vast majority of those who had signed up. …

If New Zealand does certain things differently to the ideal scenario alluded to by the declaration, that is of no great practical consequence. The focus should be on its record on indigenous relations, which places it in the international vanguard.

The work of the Waitangi Tribunal, which since 1975 has served as an effective sounding board for iwi to relate their stories of land loss, has been an integral part of that.

New Zealand has always spoken from a position of strength on matters of indigenous rights because it comes closer than most to meeting the aspirations espoused in the UN declaration.

Signing that document was, as Dr Sharples suggests, a small step but one that has symbolic value domestically and internationally.

There may, indeed, be no practical impact. That does not mean, however, that grasping this nettle was not worthwhile.

So Herald very supportive.

The Press:

The Maori Party chalked up another victory this week with the announcement that the Government will support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although this decision is largely symbolic, support for the declaration had been a long-standing goal of the party and a source of friction between it and the previous Labour-led administration.

From a political perspective, support for the declaration makes sense for both the Maori Party and National. The Maori Party can add this to a growing list of policy concessions by National, including retaining the Maori seats and flying the Maori flag on Waitangi Day. In addition, the hated foreshore and seabed law will be repealed and the Maori Party’s flagship Whanau Ora policy will be introduced.

For National, these concessions have the effect of tying the Maori Party closer to it and creating the prospect that a support relationship between the two could endure past this term. In particular, it creates a point of difference with Labour, which justified its position as one of just four nations to oppose the declaration in 2007 by saying that it was at odds with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal framework. …

There is a risk that the declaration could be the basis of future attacks on this nation’s human rights record. But New Zealand governments have shown themselves capable of shrugging off previous criticism from bodies such as the UN Commission on Human Rights.

It might be argued, as Labour has done, that there was little point in endorsing the declaration if it would have no practical effect. It is, however, a symbol of New Zealand’s support for indigenous peoples across the globe.

And it was always incongruous that the vast majority of nations, many of which have appalling human rights records compared with New Zealand, voted for the bill, and that this nation did not.

Two in favour.

The Dom Post:

Recognising blah blah blah, affirming waffle waffle waffle. As a contribution to the human rights canon, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples leaves something to be desired.

It reads like a 48-page wish list assembled by a committee, which is exactly what it is – a committee which debated the merits of additional clauses, full stops and commas for 22 years. Drafting began in 1985, but the final wording was not approved by the United Nations General Assembly until 2007.

Heh sounds typical.

However, its drawn-out conception is not a reason to oppose it. Nor is its verbosity. The declaration is a flawed document – an assemblage of truisms and platitudes that imposes no obligations on signatories but contains fishhooks for nations that try to honour it.

It is actually to the last government’s credit that it declined to endorse a document it knew it could not implement. Amid the verbiage are a handful of articles that confer rights on indigenous peoples that are denied to other citizens. They include the right to veto government decisions and reclaim ownership of traditional lands – a right that, in New Zealand’s case, could be interpreted as covering the entire country.

New Zealand does not need to pay lip service to unworkable statements to demonstrate its good intent. …

However, there is value in restating the special status of Maori as New Zealand’s indigenous people, acknowledging the importance of Maori culture, affirming the Treaty of Waitangi’s place as New Zealand’s founding document and acknowledging the historic injustices suffered by Maori.

The negotiations between the Maori Party and National have enabled the Government to do so in a way which does not expose it to accusations of bad faith.

New Zealand’s declaration of support explicitly reaffirms the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin the legal system and notes that those frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the UN declaration. In other words, New Zealand law takes precedence over the declaration.

A momentous occasion as the Maori Party has suggested? Perhaps not, but a welcome opportunity to remove a source of friction between Maori and the Government and to put New Zealand back in the international mainstream. Of the four countries that initially opposed the declaration – New Zealand, the United States, Australia and Canada – only the US now stands outside the declaration. Australia changed its position last year and Canada has said it will do so.

Luke warm, but broadly supportive.

The ODT focuses on volcanic fallout:

If there is a lesson to be learned – again – from the billowing clouds of volcanic ash in the skies over Europe, it is the latent power of nature.

In 1783, the eruption of the volcano Laki in Iceland lasted for about eight months.

The effects of the layers of dust it threw into the atmosphere have been linked, among other things, to the failure of crops in France, and subsequent famine.

The fallout, Dr Stephen Edwards of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London told the London Observer at the weekend, may have been one of a number of factors that led to the French Revolution. …

The interruption to normal service is costing the airline industry alone almost $NZ500 million a day, according to a conservative estimate by the International Air Transport Association.

The knock-on effects to a world economy just beginning to witness the signs of a fragile recovery from the recent recession, could be considerably amplified beyond the immediate consequences of cancelled flights.

Arguments over the UN declaration

April 21st, 2010 at 8:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says the Government’s support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is more than just symbolism and it will be used to further claims of self-determination by iwi.

And Act Party leader Rodney Hide launched a stinging attack in Parliament not just on the decision to back the declaration but on Prime Minister John Key, calling him “naive in the extreme” to suggest it would have no practical effect.

It is very clear that he declaration has not status in law, and it has no legal effect.

However I would not go quite so far as to say it will have no practical effect. I am sure Iwi and others will use in advocacy on various issues, and it may have some “moral” effect – just as other non binding UN declarations can have some moral effect on decision making.

The UN recently reviewed NZ’s human rights records and recommended we do not introduce tasers. Now that excited the Greens and they used that to argue that we should not fully introduce them, but the Government has happily ignored the UN on this issue.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the National-led Government was trying to marry together forces that were totally opposed to each other.

“What we are seeing is the impossibility of balancing out the interests between the Act Party, the Maori Party and the National Party.”

He denounced the secrecy surrounding the announcement and said the Maori Party had been “duped”.

It is no secret the ACT Party and Maori Party disagree on many issues. But one doesn’t need them to agree, just as Winston and Jim Anderton didn’t agree on much (apart from the fact they both should have been Prime Minister).

The travel plans were kept secret – and the announcement made yesterday at 4.45am in New York.

Mr Key defended the secrecy yesterday, saying he hadn’t wanted to steal Dr Sharples’ thunder.

The intention was to make this a big thing for Dr Sharples, and it is a significant win for him. However Ministers should not be doing secret overseas trips, unless to dangerous war zones.

I also regard it as bad political management that ACT found out through the media. Under “no surprises” they should have been told in confidence.

A big win for the Maori Party

April 20th, 2010 at 6:13 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National has bowed to Maori Party wishes and agreed to support the highly contentious United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples despite the previous Labour Government issuing dire warnings that the document is fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal systems. …

The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, being able to maintain their own languages, being able to protect their natural and cultural heritage and manage their own affairs.

Dr Sharples, one of the Maori Party’s co-leaders, said this morning’s announcement restored the mana and moral authority of Maori to speak in international forums on justice, rights and peace matters.

But National appears to have given its backing to the declaration on condition a proviso is attached saying that progressing Maori rights occurs within New Zealand’s “current legal and constitutional frameworks”.

Which appears to me to be a sensible proviso.

National’s concerns appear to have been dealt with by the attachment of the rider to New Zealand’s statement of support. This proviso reaffirms “the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system” and notes that those existing frameworks define “the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration”.

Dr Sharples said the Labour Government’s position had called into question Labour’s commitment to Crown-Maori relations and undermined New Zealand’s credibility on human rights issues.

There will be some anguish amongst Labour’s Maori MPs that National and the Maori Party found a workable solution to this issue, which their party did not.

Personally I’m not someone wildly concerned about non binding UN declarations, and whether or not we say we support them or not. But if it is important to a “coalition” partner, then I’d much rather have something like this given to them as a “win”, than something which I have serious objections to.

So far, there have been five major “wins” for the Maori Party. None of them have caused me great disquiet. They are:

  1. Repeal of Foreshore & Seabed Act – have long supported this on the basis of not taking away the right to go to court of any person or group
  2. Dropping of opposition to Maori Seats in Parliament. I support the Royal Commission’s recommendation to abolish them (and in exchange have a lower party vote threshold for Maori parties) but National was never going to get the numbers to repeal the seats unilaterally anyway, and in exchange the Maori Party dropped their efforts to entrench them.  It’s a freezing of the status quo.
  3. Whanua Ora – the principle of it is something I have long supported, and is linked to the Family Start programme started in the 1990s. I have concerns over how well it will be implemented, but all in favour of devolving resources to the private sector, to help get better outcomes for disadvantaged families.
  4. UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Does not change legal rights under NZ law, but symbolically important to Maori.
  5. A Maori Flag flies on Waitangi Day alongside NZ Flag. As the day celebrates a treaty between the Government and Maori, think flying both flags is a fine idea.

Now if the Government had agreed to legislate special Maori seats on the Auckland Council, that would have gone down badly with me.  I think it would have entrenched the notion of race based seats as being a good form of Government, that should be spread to all levels of Government.

The deal with the Maori Party over the ETS was a fairly shabby one, which I don’t think one can defend on particularly principled grounds. However I note that was a horse trade over getting a law passed, not directly liked to the confidence and supply agreement. In other words would probably have occurred even if there was no National/Maori Party agreement.

The very nature of MMP and minority Government requires larger parties to agree to some things they would probably not have otherwise done. My test is how “bad” one considers those concessions to be.

While I have a fundamentally different world view to the Maori Party on many issues, I don’t regard any of the above five concessions as particularly “bad” – some in fact I would support National having done regardless of the Maori Party’s wishes.

And I compare that to the demands of NZ First under both National and Labour. Winston demanded weakening of monetary policy, making superannuation more unsustainable, huge increases in funding for his pet portfolios, appointments for his mates, protectionism etc etc – a lot of stuff that I regarded as fundamentally bad for NZ’s future.

UN calls for no tasers

March 29th, 2010 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The Government is rejecting a call from the United Nations human rights committee to strip police of Tasers.

Justice Minister Simon Power has also hit back at suggestions by the international body that our criminal justice system discriminates against Maori.

The committee, which is made up of academics and judges, monitors countries that have signed up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It issued its final observations on New Zealand after a process that included years of reporting, as well as testimony from Mr Power.

The committee said New Zealand should “consider relinquishing” the use of Tasers because the weapons could cause life-threatening injuries and severe pain.

As does a gun.

Green Party human rights spokesman Keith Locke supported getting rid of Tasers. “The Government should take heed of this esteemed international body.”

Yes Keith. Far better that criminals armed with baseball bats be shot to death like Stephen Wallace was, rather than tasered.

Media criticises Clark for lack of openess

October 20th, 2009 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

There was a fascinating radio interview at 7.40 am on National Radio today. It was from a specialist newspaper that reports on the UN, and complaining about the refusal of Helen Clark to do press conferences, how Clark and Heather Simpson try to handpick journalists for interviews and a general lack of accountability.

You can listen to the interview here.

It sounds like the UN media is less compliant than some of the NZ media has been. Some extracts from the interview with Matthew Lee the founder and editor of the Inner City Press that focuses on the UN:

In the six months she has been in office there have been a number of UNDP issues that have arisen and repeatedly, I would say half a dozen times, myself and other journalist have asked that she comes and do a press conference, an actual Q&A and take questions and it is yet to happen.

He points out she is the third most senior official at the UN, and not a single press conference in six months.

It has become somewhat striking, a total failure to answer questions about the agency as they arise. … Once requests were made for Helen Clark to do a press conference there were a flurry of calls from her two spokespeople at the UNDP to specific media outlets saying do you want a one on one. One of them responded and said Okay here’s the journalist who will do it. But UNDP responded No No we prefer this other journalist who works for you. That’s a degree of micro-management of press coverage that is almost unheard of in the UN.

But very familiar to people back in New Zealand. And many in the media went along with it, or they risked losing access.

If she is the third highest official in the UN, she needs to come and take questions because everyone else does. The Secretary-General does it on a monthly basis, the head of peacekeeping every two weeks.

Almost funny that Helen’s managed to actually lower the standards at the UN!

He also goes on to say how the only briefing anyone in the UNDP has given for some months has been about relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.

Geoff Robinson: Are you the only journalist, is yours the only organisation raising this as an issue?

Lee: No, No … In July an issue arose about a hiring, a kind of nepotism hiring took place in UNDP. Inner City Press had the exclusive but after that it was covered by the Times of London, Reuters and even newspapers in Italy. All four of these publications wanted answers from UNDP and none of them got them. I sent e-mails to her long time staffer, Heather Simpson, to make sure we got her answer as to why this nepotism scandal was not a problem. There was never any response at all.

Heather’s job is to block media, not facilitate them!

But here is what is really interesting. All the media listen to Morning Report. Yet this quite stunning and significant interview has not been reported anywhere else at all!

Not PC on Israel

October 1st, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Not PC has a good blog on the Israeli PM’s speech to the UN.

Netanyahu challenged the delegates to see the Iranian leadership for what it is. He challenged them too over Gaza.

For years, Arab and Middle-Eastern countries have berated Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, but refused entry for Palestinian refugees to their own countries. They prefer to hate Israel rather than help their neighbours – hatred which the UN has supported. And for years, the United Nations has stood by in silence while aggressor after aggressor has attacked Israel, and stood up in condemnation only when Israel has fought back to defend its very life.

The United Nations stood by with its eyes closed while Iran armed Hezbollah guerrillas with rockets, which they poured into Israel from the North over the heads of mute UN observers.

It stood in silence for years as Palestinians smuggled Iranian-supplied rockets into Gaza, and said nothing as Palestinian guerrillas (backed by their government) fired the rockets into Israel from bases located in schools, in hospitals, in mosques, and from the middle of densely packed housing.

And some extracts from the speech itself:

Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants.  Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee.  There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people.  The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews.   Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself.  Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered.  Is this too a lie?

I get very nervous when the someone who denies the Holocaust occured, pledges to wipe out Israel and is developing nuclear weapons.

One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration.  Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own.  My wife’s grandparents, her father’s two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis.  Is that also a lie?

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium.  To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you.  You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

Thank God, the NZ delegation walked out.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame?  Have you no decency?  A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace!  What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews.  You’re wrong.  History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.


In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza.  It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis.  We didn’t get peace.  Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv.   Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent. Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond.

And the worst thing about what happened, is it destroyed the incentive for Israel to give up more land. I support Israel giving up land for peace. But Israel gave up land and in return got more rocket attacks, from closer to their major population centres! Is it any wonder peace is so hard, when doing the right thing results in more violence, not less.

But how should we have responded?  Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country’s civilian population.  It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties.   Israel chose to respond differently.  Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians – Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas.  We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy’s civilian population from harm’s way.   Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel.

I’m not saying Israel was blameless with its response, but he is correct that they have gone to greater lengths than any other country to minimise civilian deaths. They are inevitable when you respond, but not responding isn’t much of an option.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals.  What a perversion of truth!  What a perversion of justice!

Oh I have no doubt today, that today’s UN Human Rights Council would condemn both Roosevelt and Churchill.

NZ and the UN Security Council

September 27th, 2009 at 7:26 am by David Farrar

Some parts of the UN are an embarrassing disgrace, such as the UN Human Rights Council. NZ was campaigning for a seat on that, and fortunately we abandoned that for Obama to allow the US to rejoin.

The UN Security Council is one of the few parts that really is worthwhile, and I think New Zealand will have a fair chance of gaining a place. We were successful the last time we stood.

True Trans-Tasman Mateship

September 24th, 2009 at 1:57 pm by David Farrar

AAP report:

Mr Rudd joked that as the US is absorbed with its own policy debate on health reform he had had his own experience of “socialised hygiene”.

“I woke up this morning at the appropriate hour before some further breakfast organised for me by staff and then, only to encounter a queue, a line of people outside my bathroom, led by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Foreign Minister of NZ and most of our diplomatic staff,” Mr Rudd told a lunch in New York on Wednesday (NY time).

“So, if Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg is here, I would say this is an extreme way to treat our Kiwi cousins,” Mr Rudd said.

The story explained:

Prime Minister John Key was forced to go cap in hand to the residence of the Australian Ambassador to the UN for a wash this morning (Wednesday NY time) after water to his hotel was cut off.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got more than he bargained for when he woke to find a queue of unwashed Kiwis waiting to use his bathroom.

In the true spirit of trans-Tasman cooperation Mr Rudd extended a cousinly hand to Mr Key in his hour of need.

Mr Rudd and his wife Therese Rein are staying at the residence of the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations near the UN building on the east side of Manhattan and were close at hand when the water was cut off at the hotel next door.

Dozens of people, including the New Zealand and other foreign delegations, along with members of the Australian diplomatic party and Mr Rudd’s staff were left without any water for several hours, as they woke up to get ready for another day at the UN.

I can see Rudd dining out on this for for quite a while!

Dim-Post Advice for Key

September 22nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dim-Post has a list of things John Key should not say to the UN General Assembly. My favourites:

  • Okey-dokey.
  • It is vital that we all work together to combat the terrible threat to our global climax.
  • Allah Akbar!
  • We open with Lot #1 – Fiordland! What am I bid for this lush temperate rainforest?
  • Ban Ki, Imma let you finish but I just want to say that Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the best Secretary General of ALL TIME!.


UN says no tasers

May 21st, 2009 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

The UN has said it is deeply concerned over the introduction of tazers into New Zealand.

This almost certainly means it is a sensible thing to do.

Using the same logic I note that the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists has criticised the Christine Rankin appointment. This almost certainly means it was in fact a good thing, if the psychotherapists are against it.

Going back to tasers, I wonder why the UN thinks it is better for Police to shoot criminals dead, rather than tazer them?

Poor Allan Dean

May 9th, 2009 at 4:22 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports that A UN Human Rights Committee has ruled that nasty old New Zealand has breached the rights of Allan Dean, by not giving Dean a parole hearing three years earlier than it did. New Zealand has been instructed to offer a remedy for this breach and report back to the UN within 180 days on what it has done – persumably how much money Dean has been given.

So the UN has agreed with Tony Ellis that Allan Dean’s rights have been infringed by giving him preventative detention with a ten year non parole period. So what is Allan Dean’s record:

  1. In 1959 indecently assaulted a youth in the dark
  2. In 1960 indecently assaulted a solider
  3. In 1964 indecently assaulted a 15 year old boy in a cinema
  4. In 1966 sentenced to jail and warned of preventative detention if he reoffended
  5. he then reoffended six months after being released
  6. In 1970 sentenced to eight year’s jail for three indecent assaults on boys aged under 16, and warned of preventative detention if he reoffended
  7. He then reoffended seven months after being released
  8. In 1993 sentenced to jail and warned of preventative detention if he reoffended.
  9. He reoffended three months later after being released
  10. In 1995 indecently assaulted a 13 year old boy in a cinema by fondling his crotch
  11. Admitted in 1995 that his offending was much more regular than his convictions indicated
  12. Finally given preventative detention in 1995

The ODT continues:

Mr Ellis said in a statement that the only effective remedy was compensation.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Simon Power said the committee’s report was being considered.

Yes let us give money to the paedophile, as the nice UN wants us to. And also let him out of jail to molest more children. I mean he only got three explicit warnings about preventative detention, before it was imposed. And hell the Courts rushed to judgement – they rushed to preventative detention after only 36 years of offending.

The Press on UN Racism Conference

April 23rd, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The hijacking by the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of a United Nations conference supposedly assembled to discuss racism should surprise no-one.

That something of the kind would occur was perfectly predictable beforehand. The last UN-sponsored conference on this subject was a fiasco, being used primarily as a platform for grandstanders to rant against the West in general and Israel in particular. All the preliminary talk that had gone on before the present one was fair warning that it would be a similar kind of occasion. As events have shown, New Zealand was wise to stay away from it. If it had not, it would certainly have had to join the more than 30 other nations attending that walked out when Ahmadinejad uttered his inflammatory remarks.

Indeed. But Labour continues to demand that we should have attended. Grant Robertson has done a third release complaining NZ did not attend.

Labour and the Greens have accused the Government of pulling out of the conference in order to appease its allies. This is stale and feeble nonsense.


The fact is that, like the other governments that chose not to attend, New Zealand made its own judgment, accurate as it turned out, that no good would come of the event. The New Zealand chief human rights commissioner, Ros Noonan, claims not to be able to find anything anti-semitic in the conference. If that is the case, she must have a severely blinkered view of the matter. Intense negotiations by the US, for instance, before the conference started, focused heavily on concerns about anti-semitism.

I just don’t understand why Labour are so keen for NZ to be forced to attend a conference where you have the Chief Holocaust Denier promate hatred and racism.

Labour supports so called UN Conference on Racism

April 21st, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on the welcome news that New Zealand would not be attending the so called UN Conference on Racism. The last conference was an appalling show of hatred with really two aims – to demonise Israel and make it illegal to criticise religions such as Islam.

Now I expcted the Greens to get upset about this, but surprised that Labour’s Grant Robertson also condemned the decision.

Now let us look at who else has decided to not attend this vile little conference. We have:

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. Germany
  4. Israel
  5. Italy
  6. Netherlands
  7. Poland
  8. Sweden
  9. United States

There may be more. But note that Obama and Kevin Rudd have both decided to stay away, and they are from sister parties to NZ Labour. Grant presumably thinks they are doing the wrong thing also.

So who will be attending? We know the Iranian President is attending. Denying the Holocaust is not racist it seems. But Libya will also be attending – in fact they are chairing the preparatory committee.

Now you would think the Chair of the preparatory committee would come from a country that excels in human rights and treatment of all citizens regardless of race, tribe or ethnicity.

But we know this about Libya:

Within Libya there is open racism and violence towards black Africans such as migrant workers. Physical attacks against them are commonplace and unpunished. Nigerians tell of Libyan parents encouraging their children to throw stones at them.

And worse:

The United Nations, the American Anti-Slavery Group, and the US State Department all agree that Libya is actively involved in trafficking black Africans in a slave trade that still prospers in Libya., Mali, Mauritania and Sudan.

But will there be one word of criticism of Libya at this conference they chair? Of course not.

Robertson claims that it is vital NZ has a voice at the table. No, not when the outcome is pre-determined (they have been negotiated texts for months) and it will bring shame to be associated with it.  By disassociating ourselves from the conference, we send out a far stronger message that we will not be associated with attempts to make it illegal to criticise certain religions.

UPDATE: It is off to a good start:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West of using the Holocaust as a “pretext” for aggression against Palestinians, prompting walkouts by every European Union country at a UN conference on racism.

Oh yes, we definitely should be there to hear from the Holocaust Denier in Chief – on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day no less.

Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction conference

April 19th, 2009 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

No I have not made this up.

Steve Chadwick has put out a PR:

Steve Chadwick leaves this weekend for a Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction conference in Beijing, China. Ms Chadwick had been invited for her former roles as both Minister of Women’s Affairs and Chair of NZPPD. …

“The purpose of this conference will be to address and review progress and existing challenges in mainstreaming gender issues in disaster risk reduction. At present there is an unequal balance in how disasters affect men and women” said Ms Chadwick.

Hell I never realised earthquakes were sexist and discriminated. Mind you those bushfires have always been a bit old fashioned so I’m not surprised they are imbalanced as to how they affect women.

Here’s some decisions from their last conference:

Refrain from funding of extractive industries, such as mining, logging and oil and natural gas extractions that exacerbate climate change, poverty and gender inequality.

We should stop logging because it causes gender inequality.

Anyway I’m not complaining about Steve attending the conference. Like Alf Grumble, I’m wondering who she pissed off to be forced to attend as punishment. Alf says:

Good grief. If two days exposure to thoughts on gender issues in disaster risk reduction is the price to be paid, you can not regard this as a junket. It’s obviously a stiff punishment, but for what?

Probably for using the word “wellness”.

Actually, talking about “wellness” should be a capital offence, but two days in Beijing banging on about genders and disasters with like-minded drones comes close to next best (or worst) on the severity scale.

I would have thought it constitutes inhumane punishment!

Dom Post on free speech

April 6th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A great editorial from the Dom Post:

Despots and dictators are expected to come up with reasons to limit free speech. The United Nations isn’t.

That is why it is abhorrent that the UN’s top human rights body has approved a proposal urging countries to pass laws to protect religion from criticism. Its Human Rights Council voted to accept a resolution proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference calling for a global fight against “defamation of religions”. It singles out Islam as a victim. “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism”, the resolution states.

The problem is the despots and dictators are all on the Human Rights Council. They see its job as to protect their rights to be despots and dictators.

It will have little practical impact in the West, because it will not be put into practice. However, it should not be ignored. Its critics which include a coalition of 186 secular, Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups rightly see it as an attempt to give legitimacy to the anti-blasphemy laws that theocratic Muslim regimes use to stifle dissent and persecute non-Muslims. It is born of the same philosophy that regarded it as appropriate to issue a fatwa in effect, a death sentence against author Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, which was ruled to be blasphemy against Islam.

It is terrible that any country has a law that makes it a criminal offence to change your religion, let alone one carrying the death penalty.

It also, as the coalition has pointed out, alters the very notion of human rights. Those rights are meant to protect individuals from harm. They are not meant to protect beliefs from critical inquiry. The resolution, if taken seriously, would damage freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion in any country that adopted it, and that is why protests against it should be loud and long. Too often the West has mumbled, shuffled and looked the other way when its core values are attacked. It needs to take the same pride in the principles that underpin its culture as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference does in its, and push them with the same vigour. Freedom of speech is worth fighting for, rather than surrendering to those more determined in their world view.

I could not agree more. This is why every newspaper in the world should have published the Danish cartoons, rather than cower behind threats of violence and trade sanctions.

Back home in New Zealand, I would love to see the Government appoint a “Free Speech Commissioner” to the Human Rights Commission. Their job would be to fight against censorship, support a free media etc etc.

Against that background, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has made the right call in withdrawing New Zealand’s bid for a place on the Human Rights Council, freeing up a spot for the US. As Mr McCully observed when he announced the decision, “by any objective measure, membership of the council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them”.

Even for a country with the diplomatic heft of the US, that is a big task. The council’s predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, dissolved because it had lost all credibility. The council is showing all the signs of going down the same shameful road.

Yes it was a good call, and yes Obama will probably fail also – but good on him for trying to save the Human Rights Council from indeed going down the same shameful path as its predecessor.

Yay – we are free

April 1st, 2009 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

I blogged two days ago that there was a potential huge win-win if NZ withdrew from the race for a place on the thoroughly discredited Human Rights Council, as the Obama administration was clean to re-engage with it, and reform it (I doubt anyone can but good on Obama for trying).

Murray McCully seemingly agrees, and has announced NZ is withdrawing to make room for the US.

New Zealand has decided not to pursue its candidature for election to the Human Rights Council in 2009, Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced today.

Mr McCully said the decision had been made to avoid four nations contesting three positions, following the United States’ indication that it would seek a Council seat.

This will gain us some serious kudos with the Obama Administration. They will repay the favour at some stage. So we gain a big IOU from the most powerful country on Earth, and best of all the concession is something we should have done anyway.

“The Human Rights Council has been widely criticised. It was our intention, in seeking election, to provide a force for change and improvement. However we believe that US membership of the Council will strengthen it, and make it more effective.

“That is in the interests of all those who, like New Zealand, want to see the Council respond robustly and effectively to human rights violations wherever they occur.

“Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the Council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them.

“This decision was not taken lightly but we see New Zealand’s standing aside as being in the best interests of the advancement of international human rights at this time.

The best interests of international human rights would be to kick all the dictatorships off the Council. But failing that, the US is going to be have a higher chance of sucess than a minnow like NZ. In some areas like the Security Council (and there I support our bid 1000%) we can play a very constructive role. But the Human Rights Council has far too many vested interests with countries actually wanting to use it to supress the right to criticise religions.

So for someone like me who saw our bid as misguided, this is an absolute win-win. But even if you are one of those optimists who thinks we could have done some good there, there is no doubt we gain far more kudos for letting the US back on and having Obama owe us one.

A potential huge win-win for NZ foreign policy

March 30th, 2009 at 7:07 pm by David Farrar

The Tailor of Panama Street blogs:

As we have posted before, New Zealand is currently running for a seat on the 57 member UN Human Rights Council.  Elections will be held in May and New Zealand is currently one of three candidates for three vacancies that will come in the Western European and Other Group (WEOG).  The other declared candidates are Norway and Belgium.

Now this is not a good thing. The HRC is just as bad as its predecessor that was abolished because it was a repulsive joke. The current Council is more into taking rights away than defending them. It is trying to make it compulsory for countries to ban virulent criticism of religion.

There are signs President Barack Obama may be about to reverse another George W. Bush policy and take a fresh look at the HRC.  Bush shunned the Council, arguing it was biased against Israel and ignored flagrant human rights abusers (indeed, many of its members fall into this categrory).   However, as part of a campaign to improve the US’s image in the world, Obama seems to be taking a more cautiously supportive line.  On 1 March, the US announced it was sending an observer to the Council’s current session, to “use the opportunity to strengthen old partnerships and forge new ones.”  Now, UN scuttlebutt suggests that the US might be looking to run for a spot on the Council in the May elections.

This is a golden opportunity.

So far, so good. There is no doubt that the Council can only benefit from having the US actively engaged. But with four candidates for three WEOG spots, someone is going to miss out.  The Progressive Realist suggests that the US has already sounded out the Belgians to see if they would step down to let Washington run unopposed. No word on this yet, but is it too cheeky to speculate whether New Zealand might offer to step aside for Washington? From Minister McCully’s point of view, wouldn’t this advance two foreign policy goals: improve relations with the new US administration and get out of the foreign affairs equivalent of a “polar bear hug”?

That would be a brillant move. It is the best of all worlds. We escape having to serve on the Council (imagine the shame as we have to explain vote after vote), the US rejoins it (the only country that can temper it a bit) and Uncle Barack and Aunt Hillary owe us a big favour.

Hopefully McCully will make the offer to withdraw to make room for the US to stand, when he meets Clinton.

Clark gets UNDP Administrator job

March 25th, 2009 at 10:24 am by David Farrar

The well informed Trans-Tasman has just told subscribers that Helen Clark has been appointed Administrator of the United Nationals Development Programme. The role, is the third most senior at the UN, and needs to be confirmed by the UN General Assembly.

Kiwiblog broke the news on 7 February that Clark was seeking the job, and that the NZ Government was backing her for it.

Congratulations go to Helen Clark for gaining the job. As I blogged back on 7 February I do think she will do a good job, and on balance supported her candidacy – not without reservations of course. And the fact she was successful does show she is highly respected for the contribution she can make to development issues.

Kudos should go to John Key and Murray McCully for their strong backing of Clark, and putting the NZ Government in full support of her bid. It is in New Zealand’s interest to have a NZer in the third most important role there and they look good for putting party politics to one side. Despite the many imperfections of the UN, we are better for its existence (parts of it could go though).

Incidentally I ran into Clark last night in the basement of the Beehive and noted to a Nat MP afterwards that she was looking pretty happy. I had heard a few days that she was the likely successful candidate, but not that she ws home and hosed.

Phil Goff should also be pleased. Once Helen leaves the country he may manage to make second place in the Preferred PM polls 🙂