Friday, April 18, 2014

National’s gambling problem

I was at a conference last year just outside Sydney that was hosted in a sports club. I never quite
worked out whether any sport was played there, but what was clear was there was a hell of a lot of
gambling going on. Pokie machines took up a huge section of the ground floor, and in a few months’
time, the extension would be finished, accommodating hundreds more. It had a couple of TABs
onsite: indoors and outdoors so you can carry on smoking while you gamble. Nice friendly family
feel too: they even have free bingo for the kids on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so the younger
generation don’t have to miss out. Lots of people from the local community go there because all
that gambling subsidises the bars and the food - we paid something like $10 a head for a three
course meal with drinks. It’s a great community asset, just so long as you don’t think about the faces
of the people glued to the slot machines, gambling away their wages and their lives for hours on
end, the children who won’t be fed or whose piggy banks will be raided to cover the latest gambling
debt, the hurt it will do to that community. Oh, but it always exceeds its legislated requirement
to give money to charity, so that surely makes it all ok. It’s times like this when you realise the
importance of organisations like the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Until I started writing this piece, I assumed that most people don’t need convincing that gambling is
a nasty, destructive addiction. However, reading Eric Crampton in the National Business Review, it’s
clear that there’s at least a section of the right wing that, like with most problems, treat gambling
addiction as a moral failing evident in other people, but one that shouldn’t prevent decent folk from
having their fun. I take it that Eric hasn’t had a gambling addict in his family.
So here’s how the right wing logic goes: gambling is fine, it’s just that some weak-willed people
don’t know when to stop. Of course, the charities that deal with the resulting mess feel strongly
about it, but they should just get on with picking up the pieces, and leave lobbying government to
the gambling industry who can afford to pay for corporate boxes at the rugby world cup. That’s fine,
because the gambling industry uses its own money for lobbying. Well, ok, it’s not actually its own
money – it’s the money it took off the gambling addicts who that charity is now trying to help. In
fact, National had a chance to pass legislation to make the casinos pay back gambled money that
had been stolen, like in the recent case of the $150,000 stolen from the early childhood centre, but
that wouldn’t be fair would it?

There are a number of really disturbing features about the news that the Problem Gambling
Foundation is going to lose most of its contracts. Firstly and most importantly is the impact on
people – the people who work there, the people they work with, and the relationships that they
have built. Each time National puts out contracts ‘to the market’ they destroy all of that intangible
value that they have forgotten to count, and the market might win, but the people always lose.
Who knows what impact moving services to a particular kind of religious organisation will have on
whether people will seek help? I know I would feel uncomfortable referring people to the Salvation
Army. The Problem Gambling Foundation keeps the Asian service, but where do you go if you’re not
a Christian and not Asian?

The concentration of services with larger providers is something the National government is
really keen on. They claim it’s about streamlining administration costs, which is usually nonsense
(think how much money has been saved in merging eight councils into the Supercity) – really it’s
a great way of reducing dissent when you make cuts. You give an organisation a heap of different
contracts with government, and then you start squeezing them, cutting funding, taking away
certain programmes. By then, the organisation has such a vested interest in staying friendly with
government that it can’t protest for fear of losing other contracts. The process of how decisions like the one to take away contracts from the Problem Gambling Foundation is really murky. Notice how quick Peter Dunne is to distance himself from how any decisions are made. The rhetoric about putting contracts out to tender is to increase transparency, while in fact everyone shrouds themselves in ‘commercial confidentiality’ and no one ever knows how or why the contracts get awarded. But what is clear is that no politician wants to be seen as responsible. Surely the Minister in charge should know why the contract was taken from one group and given to another. Isn’t that what Ministers are supposed to get paid for?

 Of course, we know that the main driving force behind taking away the contract is how successful the problem Gambling Foundation has been at engaging communities in challenging gambling and pushing for sinking lid policies on pokies, all of which annoys John Key’s rich casino mates.
The really significant long term and insidious impact of decisions like this is the attack on advocacy.
Government is trying to shut down civil society and prevent anyone from speaking out about
anything for fear of retribution or losing their contract or their job. We saw that last year when John
Key threatened the Human Rights Commission over their report on the GCSB legislation, when Judith Collins took away funding for law reform from Community Law Centres, and with the increased level of threats by the Department of Internal Affairs to remove organisations’ charitable status if they engage in advocacy. The Taxpayer’s union is loving it, and will continue to champion the removal of our democratic rights all the way to election day.

So what do we do? First up is a call for the funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation to be
reinstated immediately. I’d like to see them lead a protest outside Sky City to save their service and
their workers’ jobs. Second, we have to keep up the pressure against Sky City and their dodgy deals
with government. Thirdly, we have to keep speaking out, to challenge the government all the time
and everywhere so they know they can’t shut down all dissent. And most importantly, we have to
work as hard as we can to bring this government down.

Nicola, S.A

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Got Love for the Underdog

Boots Riley talks about working class resistance and radical parties in American history to a packed gathering of Mana in South Auckland.

by Nico, SA

Tuesday the 15th saw Revolutionary hip hop music come to Mangere by way of Oakland California. Boots Riley of the Coup and the street sweeper social club, along with his guitarist Grego Simmons put on an acoustic show for the Mana movement at the historic Metro theatre in Mangere.  Listen HERE

Packed with Mana supporters and fans of Boot's music and politics, Boots Riley talked about his experiences as part of Occupy Oakland and the lessons learned in that movement. He talked candidly about how when you are trying to build a mass movement, you need to work with other people who aren't revolutionaries. But that this can be plagued with infighting and disagreements if people stick to their little ideological cliques and refuse to work with those who hold different politics to you.

As comfortable answering questions as spitting verses on the mike, Boots engaged with the questions and comments from the awestruck crowd with ease and left us wanting more. He reflected on his early experiences as an organiser, trying to rally people around vague concepts such as fight racism and how little traction he got with that until he witnessed an extraordinary situation that changed his perspective on organising and politics. Two white police officers were beating on these two 8 year old black kids they claimed were selling drugs. Their mother saw the police doing this to her children and came out  and tried to stop them, they turned on her and started beating her as well. Hundreds of members of the community came out and surrounded the police in anger. The cops got scared and drew their guns and fired into the air dispersing the crowd rapidly at first. But someone started chanting out a few words that would give the crowd back their resolve. 'Fight the power, fight the power'. This was 1989, and the number one song on the radio at the time was Public enemy's son; 'Fight the Power'. A young Boots remembers that with that cry the crowd went back and they took the guns away from the cops and turned the car over. They took the Mother and her children away to safety and to hospital. With that action, they saved their lives, and took a step that hadn't been taken before. That's when he realised that hip hop, or any music could be a rallying cry, and cause unity of thought or unity of action. That's what started him on his musical journey.

He has a lot of hope for the struggle in the USA. Within the USA there's a  history of a radical militant tradition tied to labour organising. A lot of the social programs that they have in the USA exist because the government was scared there was going to be a revolution. He sees the primary contradiction in capitalism as exploitation. It happens at the point of labour, that's where we give the ruling class their power. But also where the working class has theirs.

We need to change the way we do things and get over the old rhetoric, we need to demand and not ask. These were some of the powerful ideas that Boots spoke about. For him to be speaking at an event put on by Mana was a powerful and uniting night. It reminded us of the different ways of doing politics. This was a Mana fundraiser based on Koha entrance. People gave what they could to a revolutionary event put on in a community Mana is active in. This highlights the differences between the Maori party and the Mana movement starkly. In contrast, the Maori party put on a fundraising dinner that cost $5000 to attend a dinner with john Key.

Boot's got his message across, both in his discussion as well as through his music. his first song was an accapella number titled I got love for the underdog. His ability to mix his politics with his music was felt by all and left people with a lot of interesting thoughts like his lyrics '5billion ways to kill a CEO', and 'a woman should know her place, it's on the front lines', and 'Always wear clean draws, coz life may go the wrong way'.

Boots Riley brought the punk and funk as much as he could to an acoustic show. But the messages of solidarity with others fighting the same fight, and continuing the struggle was what really rang through. Because in life, it's made up of imperfect people, and if you want to build a mass movement, you're going to have to work with them.

So have some love for the underdog and fight!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vanguard, not Mudguard- the Future of the Mana Movement.

I'm opposed to Mana joining any capitalist government. Now, does that sound likely in the near future? Well, some people in the left are starting to use the phrase "Labour-Greens-Mana Government" a little bit too loosely, before such a concept has been floated, never mind voted on, by the grassroots of the Movement. Mana has only been around for three years, yet we have helped push politics to the Left in Auckland. Whether fighting the evictions in Glen Innes, supporting young McDonald's workers on strike in Manurewa, stopping the motorway from destroying thousands of homes in Mangere or helping organise the Aotearoa is Not for Sale street movement against privatisation and asset sales, Mana's power lies in it being a street fighting force, an independent movement that gathers all those forces who want resistance and radical system change. The experience of the local elections in Auckland shows that where we tie electoral campaigning with people power, like we did in Mangere, we became a left wing alternative to the Labour party, gaining thousands of votes and coming a credible second. If the Greens liberally use the word "smart", then we should reclaim the adjective "socialist". Mana unapologetically puts forward solid socialist demands. Full employment and jobs for all, starting with a massive programme building quality, healthy State Housing. Free public transport in major cities to end gridlock and alleviate climate change. Free Education for All, from Playcentre to University, and abolish the naked intergenerational theft that is artifically created student debt. Free broadband on demand with no data caps, and defending the digital commons from the corporates and the spooks. Feeding all the children of the nation at school so that poverty statistics are no excuse for hunger. All to be funded by freeing up some of the $22 billion accrued by ACC, and of course, taxing the rich until they squeak. I think Mana is winning an argument on the Left. Why else would David Cunliffe invite my good comrade Matt McCarten to be his Chief of Staff? When Matt stood as a left wing independent in the Mana by election, down in Porirua, his arguments for a Living Wage and a $15 minimum wage were seen as too radical. A year later, it was Labour policy for the general election. His appointment by Cunliffe was surprising, but shows that people within Labour are eager to build a serious movement to defeat John Key, and fight for some tangible reforms that working people need. However, I believe we should maintain our independence and our Tino Rangatiratanga. Before I came to Aotearoa, I played an active role in building large social movements, in particular against capitalist globalisation and against war with Iraq. The radical left expanded in many countries during these years, and many socialists helped to create New Left Parties across Europe. Six socialist members of the Scottish Parliament were elected.  In Ireland, five socialist TDs were elected to the Dail. IN Germany, the radical left Die Linke party led the street resistance to both Christian and Social Democratic attacks on workers. But most impressive of all were the Italian comrades of Refondazione Comunista, who grew to a mass party of 300,000 cadre, who led the Battle of Genoa against the globalisation of the G8, hosted the 60,000 delegate strong conference of the European Social Forum, which organised a million strong march against war at its end, and agreed on the date of 15th Feb 2003 as the day to mobilise against the war. On that day, an estimated 40 million people marched across the cities of the World.

Refondazione Comunista attracted millions of votes, and saw scores of their MPs elected. Italian politics saw Berlusconi shake and quiver, and the argument for Refondazione to join an alternative Government was deafening. They did. And like the Alliance in New Zealand, they were ripped apart within the space of a year, not only by a huge sell out that saw them support sending troops to Afghanistan, but also by their attempts to demobilise the movement from below against neoliberalism and the system. Within the space of 18 months, they had destroyed the hard work of decades, and the Italian left still suffers from their destruction. A radical left wing party that is captured in a coalition with Social democracy signs its own suicide note. Social democratic parties profess reforms, but they are committed to managing the capitalist system, not replacing it. You cannot do both. Mana will be more effective as an independent, left wing force outside government, pushing Labour and the Greens leftward where successful, organising resistance against any cutbacks and attacks where necessary. It should not sacrifice this Tino for the sake of being a 2 or 3 MP strong mudguard. We should be in the vanguard instead.

-Joe Carolan,

Socialist Aotearoa and Mana (Owairaka)

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Opinion- Dave Phillips. the Socialist Wharfie.

We live and hope we never come across any individuals who make the life changing decision to become a scab. The scab grows up without the fibre to fight for the community or morals to stand for social justice .They are born with a total disregard for their fellow working man and woman.
How many good solid Union families have suffered at the hands of the scab when they slither alongside the bosses to smash picket lines and attempt to undo the work being done on behalf of the union membership and community? What for, some sycophantic self-gratification? There is no long term gain for them; they are a brainless tool in the box of the capitalist. 

The Scab has no boundaries; they will grovel, slither through shit and climb over every obstacle in their way to please their masters. The stigma they create for their scab families sticks forever like a contagious disease passed from one to the other, a burden carried by the innocent in their brood.
In the early and formative years of the trade union movement in New Zealand the Waterside Workers Union was always at the forefront in terms of industrial activism. The 1930’s through to the 1950’s it went up a notch culminating in the 151 day lockout of 1951.The union was defending the rights of the membership who even though they had been employed for 40 hours a week had to work in excess of 60 to earn a living wage now even 60 years later that sounds familiar. An overtime ban was called because union members felt they had suffered at the hands of bosses and ship owners for far too long.
The Tory Government of the day pulled out their snot covered horn, blew it and sent out the call for scab labour. From out of the sewers and cesspits they came, few in number but enough to give the Government of the time the ammo to take to the media and declare all is well on the waterfront we are servicing shipping at the ports. This was not the case, service delivery failure was rampant. We saw lines of blue clad thugs line the middle of Queen St to protect scabs signing up at the town hall and indeed in the streets bashing loyal members and defending the yellow filth on behalf of the government of the time.

Scabs were cattle herded into covered trucks in the mornings and driven on to the wharves through picket lines. This shows you the calibre of the filth, they didn’t even have the balls to show their faces yet the decision to shit on humanity came easily. Seemingly the way the scab operates doesn’t change with time as seen in one of our modern day disputes, the Napier dispute where the scabs where bussed in with heads covered or bowed out of sight of those on the picket lines defending their jobs. The power of organised union labour both locally and internationally prevailed and the scabs were driven off.

The lot of the solid wharfie was not made any easier by the sanitising and acceptance of scabs by the powers of the day starting with the Federation of Labour led by Finton Patrick Walsh, The labour Party lead by Walter Nash and of course the enemy of the working class Sid Holland of the Tory Party. By May 1951 with the endorsement of the above, the Scabs were running the new government implemented unions in all the main Ports in the country and making an absolute fist of it. The fact they had the audacity to use the proud name “Union” is disgusting in itself. This has taken many years to purge with a rebuilding of the relationship with the Labour Party and the now Council of trade unions, even though we tread slowly and carefully it is on-going. We can forgive but we won’t forget.

This is where the modern union movement fails miserably. Instead of promoting true activism in holding the line regarding the scab, unions today put up weak pickets and wave little banners. The scab should be stopped at the gate in their tracks. They should live everyday fearing a backlash and looking over their shoulders. The modern union needs to harden its approach to this treachery and dish out the contempt the scab deserves. The use of the term Scab is not derogatory, some diseases have names that we make no excuse for, and the scab deserves no less. To me the scab is the walking dead they do not exist.

60 years later and locked out again at the Auckland Port whilst scabs went through the pickets with a sense of impunity protected by the informational picket only laws which deny union members the right to protect their workplace. Union members were censured for calling them what they are. They even set up a union under the Labour Parties yellow union legislation went into negotiation, concluded in a matter of hours and sold of all the hard won conditions of our forebears.
The use of scabs is not confined to our shores, it is a worldwide epidemic fostered by global economic greed and the need of the few to grow their personal wealth. Globalisation along with the multi nationals have taken full advantage of their monetary positions to force into place legislation from the right-wing sector in many countries to enhance and legitimise the use of this filth, it happens worldwide. 

I can and never will be able to think, speak or give the reasoning of the scab it is morally beyond my comprehension but the words I use sum up the general perception of the scab. In the words of one of our unions poets “The stigma will remain passed from father to son, remember once tainted the damage is done” So in conclusion because the scab doesn’t deserve too long a recognition, to those that choose to ignore the scabs actions and seek to sit, confide and spend time with the scab you have the potential to be tainted with the stench he will take to his grave.

Monday, December 02, 2013


7pm Friday 6th December 2013
Unite Union, 6a Western Springs Road
organised by the Connolly Club of Auckland

A fearless, fiercely articulate Irish Republican firebrand, Bernadette Devlin became Britain’s youngest elected female MP at 21 in 1969. Her maiden speech was a stinging attack on the British in Ireland; and when Home Secretary Reginald Maudling claimed that the British army had fired in self-defence on Bloody Sunday she strode across the House of Commons and punched him. Veteran Irish producer Lelia Doolan, a significant mover and shaker herself, has worked for ten years to produce a rousing and thorough picture of this woman who was once recognisable throughout the Western world as the embodiment of politicised youth in revolt. She’s survived imprisonment, a near-miss assassination attempt and years of struggle within and on behalf of the Republican cause. She remains a committed activist and organiser. Doolan builds the film around her own interviews with an often wry, but enduringly passionate, Devlin. The wealth of archival footage should convince any newcomer to her remarkable story that she was once a riveting fixture on the nightly news and an unstoppable force for change.

Socialist Aotearoa's Joe Carolan talking about Bernadette, Free Derry the Civil Rights Movement and the Irish struggle on Bfm.

Weak, Feral, Scabs.

by Dave Phillips, Socialist Wharfie

The past three years have been one of the worst industrial climates created by greed that many of us will ever see. The expectation of massive returns and a pathological hate of the trade union movement and anyone that dares to join a real union has seen any potential relationship destroyed.
Until the removal of those in the halls of power at the port that embraced and developed the culture of hate we now see in our port, the road to recovery will not commence because the wounds cut too deep. Those that chose to cross-over will never be forgiven and will always be remembered for all time in history for what they truly are, the scab.

There is a saying “to err is human and to forgive is divine” -normally I do forgive, but when the choices that these people made in an attempt to destroy the community by their self-serving actions there will be no forgiveness from me and nor should there be by any trade unionist.

The basis of any working relationship is a simple concept. Trust, confidence and at the top respect. Our members at the port have had all of these trampled on, yet the port company management insists that they operate by their imposed core values and that is where it becomes a lost cause because they don’t live by them none of the above apply. Sadly they must get some sycophantic pleasure out of the belief that this style of management works.

Moral corruption and discrimination against real union members is rife with nepotism being granted to the bootlickers allowing a consistent stream of offspring of the scab to be put in holding patterns to commit the ultimate industrial crime if called upon.

The building of common ground in the workplace begins the moment someone is employed. Trust is the first bond that normally occurs with the employee knowing they can believe in what is being delivered normally the terms and conditions. All the employee wants to know is that the contract entered into is going to be honoured. Confidence is the next step with the expectation that concerns are taken seriously and not undermined by management thugs. All the employee asks for is personal value. Respect is always the last because it has to be earned and not expected because of one’s station in life.

It’s been over 100 years since the 1913 Great Strike and 63 years since the 1951 lockout yet the expectation of the capitalist remains exactly the same, profit at the expense of conscience and greed before humanity. When will they learn that in this modern era working-class and the trade union movement are not going to sit idly by and allow the intimidation tactics to have the impact it would have earlier in the last century. The scab is a weak feral that has no intestinal fortitude and that is why it fits within the framework of anti-union anti-worker work-sites, they are content to have the relationship of a lap dog with their owners without any real value.

We the union are a stubborn lot and demand the best from our employer. We will have a voice, we will not always be satisfied but you will get the expertise you pay for and the productivity if you are honourable. We will never forgive your scabs because it is against every moral we stand for, so don’t have any expectation of that. Maybe one day we might forgive you but believe us when we say we will never forget, you will never have our respect.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Working Class Heroes of the 1913 Great Strike

Socialist Historian and Playwright Dean Parker tells Unite Union's  2013 National Conference  about some of the working class men, women and childen who lived through the revolutionary moment of 1913 in New Zealand, one hundred years to the day after they clashed with the might of the State on the streets.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013