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March 30, 2007

Preachers of Hate

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION
HELEN HOODWINKED BY PREACHERS OF HATE

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S TENTACLES REACH NEW ZEALAND’S FIVE MAIN CENTRES IN MASSIVE BORDER SECURITY BREACH

Some of the world’s most extreme Islamic preachers, and organizations
linked to terrorist groups, have spent seven years infiltrating New Zealand’s moderate Muslim community – running training camps and “intensive” courses – and the Government never realized. IAN WISHART has the extraordinary story that’s left local Muslim leaders shocked and embarrassed, and raised major questions
not just about our border security, but whether al Qa’ida has been actively recruiting on the ground in New Zealand


A massive breach in New Zealand’s national security has been discovered by Investigate magazine, with revelations that senior Islamic “preachers of hate”, some with links to al Qa’ida, have been able to come and go from New Zealand with no one in the media, the Government or even the security services apparently aware of who they were.

Among the roll-call of dishonour that’s left the head of New Zealand’s Muslim community reeling and pledging major changes within mosque vetting procedures: two firebrand clerics named as “unindicted co-conspirators” in New York’s infamous
1993 Day of Terror case, when Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Centre the first time and a dozen other men planned to explode ammonium nitrate car bombs at other major New York landmarks.

Additionally, Investigate’s inquiries have shown that a large number of the organizations listed as international affiliates of New Zealand’s mosques have been named by the United Nations, intelligence and law enforcement agencies as supporters, fundraisers and sometimes active participants in al Qa’ida terror plots. Yet members of these organizations have been able to come to New Zealand unobstructed, supply “educational and spiritual” literature to Muslim youth here and run training camps, as recently as last July.

Undercover video footage taken by Britain’s BBC television of training camps run by the same organization overseas has shown children being trained to become suicide bombers.

The President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Javed Khan, was doubly shocked to find out about the backgrounds of the extreme Wahhabi Islam visitors, because his organization had personally invited them here to help encourage local Muslims in their faith.

For seven years, preachers, whose works include book urging followers to kill Jews, Christians, pagans and Hindus, have been holding “workshops” in mosques and university student halls up and down New Zealand, yet no one from the Government, Security Intelligence Service or police ever lifted a finger to ring Javed Khan and ask why moderate NZ Muslims were inviting the world’s most extremist clerics here.

While Khan and senior figures in New Zealand’s Islamic community are now urgently reviewing their policies and links to overseas Islamic groups, there’s also growing concern about why, if the Government really regards the NZ Muslim community as friends, it never even bothered to have a quiet word in their ear. Worse, if the Government didn’t know about the backgrounds of the extremists visiting New Zealand, what implications does that have for national security?

For most New Zealanders, the story of modern Islam and the government’s walk-on-eggshells approach to it, begins with September 11:

IN THE BEGINNING
As the smoke from the gaping holes that had been New York’s twin towers still swirled in an acrid mist across Manhattan, choking rescue workers with the fumes from 3,000 vapourised human bodies and thousands of tonnes of vapourised buildings, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister when the Islamic terror campaign struck, Jim Anderton, raced to get a press release out.

“Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton is urging New Zealanders not to associate New Zealand’s Muslim community or Afghan refugees with acts of terrorism in the United States yesterday.

“One of the great things about New Zealand is our tolerance and the absence of political and religious extremism in New Zealand. I call on New Zealanders to remember that and not blame or associate people in New Zealand with the terrorism in the US on the basis of national origins.

“It is reprehensible to link the terrorist attacks in the US to refugees in New Zealand, let alone to New Zealand’s Muslim community. Even if Islamic extremists are ultimately shown to be responsible for the terrorist activity, refugees to New Zealand are by definition trying to get away from persecution by extremist regimes and they can hardly be blamed for that,” concluded Anderton.

Leaving aside a possibility that clearly hadn’t occurred to the Deputy Prime Minister – that refugees may simply be extremists from a losing faction fleeing persecution by the extremists of the winning side – the message of tolerance towards Islam became almost a national hymn throughout the West.

A year later, just after the Bali bombings that claimed a further 202 lives at the hands of Islamic extremists, the Labour Government was once again calling for tolerance towards the real victims of terror – Muslims themselves.

“I chose to [meet] with the Muslim community,” declared Ethnic Affairs minister Chris Carter in December 2002, “because Muslims everywhere have had a very difficult twelve months. The New York and Bali terrorism attacks have focused unwelcome attention on what is a fundamentally peaceful religion.”

Among issues raised by Muslims for the government to consider, said Carter, were:
“The fact that Arabic was not taught as part of the school curriculum, despite it being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, [and] a lack of family counseling services that were sensitive to the cultural differences of the Muslim community.”

On a number of occasions, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark has told the country that Islam is a religion of peace. One of the most recent of these declarations accompanied the history-making visit of the PM to the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) annual conference at the South Auckland Mosque on May 28 last year.

In a copy of the FIANZ newsletter sent to Investigate, Clark – who’d previously refused to say “Grace” at a state banquet for the Queen, broke royal protocol by wearing trousers, and had a run in with Maoridom over her place on the marae as a woman – is photographed wearing the Islamic hijab – a sign to Muslim men of her secondary status as a woman and submission to Islam’s requirements.

“In her address,” says the FIANZ document, “she acknowledged
and thanked FIANZ and the Muslim community at large for maintaining calm and building better relationships with others subsequent to attacks on Auckland masjids (mosques) after the London bombings.

“Speaking on the diverse New Zealand people she said that migration over many years has resulted in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society.

“Speaking of various initiatives by her Government she mentioned the special ‘Building Bridges’ programme by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, police recruitment of ethnic people, and the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Building Cohesion in Society’.

“Looking to the future she mentioned three priorities for Muslim kiwis: Modernisation and transformation of the economy;
Building stronger family, young and old; Building a unique national identity of our diverse country.

“In all three, the Muslim community has a part to play…Quranic classes are necessary for a sense of identity.”

You would think such an important and history-making speech by the Prime Minister would be on the government’s website. It is not. No news release about the visit was sent out electronically to media, nor is there a report in Auckland’s journal of record, the New Zealand Herald. Instead, the only printed report of this visit is that contained
in the FIANZ newsletter, which concludes:

“We need to build a distinctive New Zealand with one identity built on each of us being sincere in who and what we are, where we come from, what our hosting home and culture are. Openness and dialogue are important to go ahead as a nation.”

Elsewhere in the same FIANZ newsletter, the familiar refrains are echoed – “Islam means peace”, it declares in an article on outreach to the wider New Zealand community for Islam Awareness Week. Few New Zealanders would know, however, that the correct Arabic translation of Islam is “submission”, not peace. To a Muslim, peace only comes through submission to Allah, but the phrase gets shortened to “Islam means peace” for Western consumption.

It is little PR shortcuts like this that make Islam an easier sell to young westerners: Islam is seen as the underdog, misunderstood and bullied by the West. But this is a carefully crafted façade largely driven worldwide by Saudi extremists and Saudi money.

According to independent estimates, the Saudi Arabian regime has spent somewhere in the region of NZ$110 billion exporting Wahhabi Islam – the variety of Islam followed by terrorist group al Qa’ida – worldwide. That money, itself the proceeds of petro-dollars, has been used to train Muslims in extremist Saudi universities
and send them overseas as missionaries to train local Muslims in the most fundamentalist strains of Islam.

To put this in perspective, bear in mind that 15 of the 19 hijackers killed in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi Arabian. Nearly all had been Saudi-trained.

The tone of Saudi extremist Islam was recognized early by New Zealand, as the Prime Minister herself noted on 21 September 2001 when she followed President Bush’s lead in separating moderates from extremists.

“President Bush made it clear that the teachings of the Islamic faith are good and must be distinguished from the terrorists who have blasphemed that faith and tried to hijack it.

“I call on New Zealanders to make that distinction too. Our country also contains people of many faiths, and all those faiths and those of peaceful intent who follow them must be respected.”

Clark did not explicitly state what al Qa’ida’s blasphemy was, but the group’s aims are on the record as being consistent with Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Islam: the submission of the entire world to Islam, as is predicted in the Qu’ran and which Muhammed instructed his followers to achieve; the introduction of Shari’a law worldwide; and a return to what Wahhabists see as fundamental Islamic values, such as women being forced to wear veils, and pagans, atheists and gays being stoned to death.

Implicitly in the Prime Minister’s statement, these are the extremist blasphemies New Zealand was joining the US in fighting against.

“President Bush has said that he sees this as an international effort. New Zealand is in it for the long haul too. What the United States is asking the whole world to address is a radical terrorist network which has shown its capability to deliver co-ordinated acts of hideous violence. New Zealand supports the United States’ determination to root out al Qa’ida and other terrorist groups worldwide. This will be a lengthy campaign,” declared Clark.
Yet despite the tough talk, the New Zealand government appears to have been asleep at their posts as Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia quietly infiltrated the very same mosques Labour had been praising as moderate.

BILAL PHILIPS “The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture…an enemy Islam” – Bilal Philips

In the very same 2006 FIANZ newsletter featuring Helen in the hijab is another, seemingly innocuous, article recording the July 06 visit of “Islamic scholar” Dr Bilal Philips. It wasn’t a random visit. Philips was expressly invited here by FIANZ as a warm-up act for Islam Awareness Week.

“During his visit to New Zealand,” says the report, “Dr Bilal held lectures in Dunedin, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland…He received his BA degree from the Islamic University of Madina and his MA in Aqeedah (Islamic philosophy) from the King Saud University in Riyadh.”

Madina is to Islam what Medellin is to Colombian drug barons: the heart of the empire. For the record, and to give you an idea of the Wahhabi pedigree of Philips, the University at Madina is regarded as the most fundamentalist of all the Islamic study centres, and the King Saud University in Riyadh was also attended by Osama bin Laden.

“The theme for [Bilal’s] lectures was “Muslim Minorities living in Western Civilisations”, notes the FIANZ report. “There were full attendances in all the Centres he presented his lecture.

His lectures were very enlightening and educational.

“A recurring advice throughout his lecture is for the Muslim community in New Zealand to join together to pursue an Islamic way of life in education, housing and commerce.”

The newsletter records that Philips visited the Federation’s offices to hold discussions with local Muslim leaders Hanif Ali and Sheikh Amir, as well as discussions with Muslim students at Victoria University and intensive workshops on how to spread Islam with “a group of enthusiastic brothers and sisters” at Auckland’s Avondale Islamic Centre.

“The visit of Dr Bilal was indeed very successful and FIANZ hope to continue in the tradition of welcoming respected overseas Islamic scholars/speakers to New Zealand to further enrich our community.”

OK. That’s how local Muslims saw Philips through their eyes. But what does Bilal Philips really talk about on his sellout lecture tours? We might never have known had Philips not shot to fame on a major investigative documentary screened on Britain’s Channel 4 last month by the Dispatches programme.

Neither TVNZ nor TV3 in New Zealand have run the programme yet, but it created huge waves in Britain and America because it exposed self-professed “moderate” Muslims at the UK’s biggest mosques preaching messages of hatred and jihad against the West as recently as just a few weeks ago. A Dispatches journalist went undercover for several months to secretly film lectures in the mosques given by Bilal Philips and others.

In one segment of the programme, Philips was covertly filmed telling Muslim men it was OK to marry 9 year old pre-pubescent girls, because the prophet Muhammad did it.

“The prophet Muhammad practically outlined the rules regarding marriage prior to puberty, with his practice he clarified what is permissible and that is why we shouldn’t have any issues about an older man marrying a younger woman, which is looked down upon by this [Western] society today, but we know that Prophet Muhammad practiced it, it wasn’t abuse or exploitation, it was marriage.”

Philips later argued to the media he was only re-stating the Qu’ranic position, but it is clear from his comments above he endorsed it.

But marrying pre-pubescent girls in the name of Islam wasn’t the only message Philips has preached. In 1991, as part of a Wahhabi infiltration of US military units stationed in Saudi Arabia for Gulf War 1, he led Islamic evangelism programmes – paid for by the Saudi government – that reportedly converted some 3,000 US soldiers to Islam, some of whom later joined Islamic jihad movements. This was first revealed in a Washington Post article on November 2, 2003, which quotes Bilal Philips.

“The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture led by the United States is an enemy of Islam.”

Remember: this is a man hailed at the time as a leader and a scholar by moderate New Zealand Muslim leaders, and who held sellout lectures and workshops for young Muslims up and down the country last year.

One spin-off from Bilal Philips’ efforts in 1991 however was that the Pentagon suddenly had to find Muslim chaplains to minister to its freshly converted Islamic US soldiers. “One architect of this initiative was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was indicted Oct. 23 on money-laundering charges for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Libya, which is designated by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terrorism,” reported the Post. An extra irony is that Alamoudi was an election campaign donor to both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, evincing a “bob each way” mentality.

The article goes on to say that the Pentagon is now “worried” about the loyalties of its Islamic troops.

“Some military officials believe that the al Qa’ida terrorist network is trying to recruit Muslim members of the U.S. armed services and contractors who work with them. Other officers have expressed fears that some Muslim soldiers, sailors and airmen might one day decline to take up arms against fellow Muslims.”

A news article listed on Wikipedia and sourced to Intelwire directly links Bilal Philips to known terrorists.

“An al Qa’ida operative sought to recruit US veterans as paramilitary trainers and combat volunteers in 1992 and 1993, at the explicit direction of a cleric [Philips] who converted thousands of Gulf War soldiers to Islam on behalf of the Saudi government,” begins the report.

“Clement Rodney Hampton-El was convicted of conspiring to blow up New York city landmarks in a 1993 terror plot linked to the World Trade Centre bombing in February of that year.”

As an al Qa’ida trained explosives expert with ties to the first World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef, Hampton-El (better known as “Dr Rashid”) gave evidence at his 1995 federal trial that he’d been summonsed to a meeting at the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1992 and told wealthy Saudis were bankrolling a project to recruit US soldiers as jihadists, and that he would be given a budget of US$150,000 for his role in the project. He testified that Bilal Philips then gave him a list of US Muslim soldiers to approach and worked with Hampton-El to achieve the goal.

Philips’ involvement is a matter of public record in the court documents (US vs Rahman, S5 93 Cr.18, August 2, 1995), yet he managed to slip through New Zealand immigration in July 2006 no problems at all.

But wait, there’s more. In the mid-90s, Bilal Philips was teaching at an Islamic school in Cotabato, the Philippines – home territory to the deadly Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and an al Qa’ida recruiting ground for the Pacific (see Investigate, Feb 05).

Osama bin Laden’s brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was documented by both US and Filipino authorities as funneling money to Abu Sayyaf via the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines – an organization listed on the website of FIANZ in New Zealand as one of its international affiliates.

“In May, 1993,” continues the Intelwire story, “Bilal Philips sent for Hampton-El, who was flown first to Saudi Arabia for a week, then to the Philippines for a week.

“In Manila, Hampton-El testified, he met with Philips at an Islamic conference… sponsored by wealthy Saudis and the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines. The Da’wah Council was one of Khalifa’s [Osama’s brother in law] charities.

“On his return to New York, Hampton-El told friends that he was planning to move to the Philippines and join an Islamic militant movement there. According to testimony and surveillance tapes presented at his trial…he visited training camps in the south of the country during the May 1993 trip. He also described visiting a terrorist safehouse with Bilal Philips.

“Bilal Philips, Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa were all named by the [US] government as unindicted co-conspirators in the Day of Terror trial,” reports Intelwire. For his part, Hampton-El is languishing in a maximum security penitentiary in the US where he won’t be eligible for parole until 2023.

So Bilal Philips is a very strange houseguest for moderate Muslims in New Zealand to be inviting over.

But it doesn’t stop there. The deeper Investigate dug into the moderate mosques in New Zealand, the messier it got. Of all the names of invited overseas scholars who’ve come here that it was possible for us to verify [due to variant English spellings of Arabic names], virtually none was a “moderate” – most were Wahhabi extremists and some, like Bilal Philips, have links directly to terrorists.

SHEIKH KHALID YASIN
In May 2005, another extremist Wahhabi preacher arrived in New Zealand as a guest of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Sheikh Khalid Yasin. Trained, again, in Saudi Arabia, this American convert to Islam is well known for a verbal jihad in his lectures.

And like Bilal Philips, Yasin also rocketed to stardom in Britain as a result of January’s TV documentary exposing preachers of hate. In Yasin’s case, the TV crew found DVDs on sale at “moderate” mosques in London where Yasin says women are worthless.

“This whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness…There’s no such thing.”

He also claims AIDS is a western conspiracy.

“Missionaries from the World Health Organisation and Christian groups went into Africa and inoculated people for diphtheria, malaria, yellow fever, and they put in the medicine the AIDS virus, which is a conspiracy.”

But despite being welcomed by moderate Muslims in New Zealand, Yasin had a tougher time being interviewed by Nine Network’s Sunday programme in Australia, which dragged out yet more video clips of his lectures from around the world.

“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend,” he told believers at one rally – which doesn’t gel with the gestures of friendship from the same local Muslim leaders who invited him to New Zealand.

“If you prefer the clothing of the kafirs [infidels] over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that’s on most of those clothings [sic] is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians.”

“How do you feel about the fact that the Government is saying we should set up some new rules to make sure that no potential terrorists are developed or cultivated. And also we want to see inside the mosque and places so we can see before something happens. How do you feel about that? Because that’s what’s being talked about. Now, if they didn’t say exactly that, I’m telling you that’s what it means!”

Naturally, young Australian Muslims digesting the questions he phrased it felt threatened, victimized and angry. Yet Yasin’s messages of hate are a very good reason for the Islamic community to be transparent.

Despite Arab TV network al Jazeera broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s admission that he ordered the 9/11 attacks, Sheikh Yasin – who has lectured extensively in NZ mosques and universities – shows himself to be a 9/11 denier.

“There has been no evidence that has surfaced, no bona fide irrevocable, irrefutable evidence that has been surfaced that showed that there is a group called al Qa’ida that did the September 11 bombings.”

He told Sunday’s Sarah Ferguson that “sophisticated entities” blew up the twin towers.

“Sophisticated entities means entities who themselves were governmentally instructed, equipped, motivated. We now know that the way the World Trade Centre fell, the way those buildings fell – they fell from internal explosive charges, the same way it’s done in a construction site.”

Yasin calls for homosexuals and lesbians to be put on trial for immorality, “and if they are tried, convicted, they are punishable by death”.

In his Sunday interview, and in his lectures to Muslim students in Australia, he preaches the message that Muslims everywhere are victimized. When Sunday raised the case of the Islamic bookshop in Sydney caught selling a how-to book on suicide bombing, Yasin simply denied it.

“There is no books [sic] in no Muslim bookstore that says how to become a suicide bomber. This witch-hunt against Muslims is what we are against. I have not been able to find one single incident.”

SIRAJ WAHHAJ
Another Muslim scholar brought out to New Zealand in 2001 – just months before 9/11, was American convert Siraj Wahhaj, invited here by FIANZ. Wahhaj was once hailed as a “moderate” in the US, and became the first American Muslim to deliver the daily prayer in the US Congress, in 1991, as a recognition of his “moderate” views. But like Bilal Philips before him, Siraj Wahhaj was leading a double life: teacher’s pet moderate Muslim on the outside for the benefit of politicians and the media, die-hard radical extremist on the inside. Wikipedia records that Wahhaj was named by the US Department of Justice as another of several “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments” including the World Trade Centre in 1993.

As Salon magazine reported on September 26, 2001, Wahhaj had a close relationship with an Islamic terrorist, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman, inviting him to speak at Wahhaj’s Brooklyn mosque and even testifying as a character witness for Rahman in court.

Wahhaj, who like Philips slipped into New Zealand without opposition by the SIS, police or border security, is also quoted in Salon as calling the original Gulf War 1 – against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait – “one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history”, and “part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that’s Islam.”

Comparing the fall of Soviet Russia to the current crisis in the West, Wahhaj warned America too will be crushed unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda”.

Journalist Daniel Pipes, in The Danger Within, details a 1992 address Wahhaj gave to an audience of New Jersey Muslims.

“If only Muslims were more clever politically, he told his New Jersey listeners, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. ‘If we were united and strong, we’d elect our own Emir [leader] and give allegiance to him…Take my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us’.”

So that was Siraj Wahhaj’s agenda just a year after reading the opening prayer in the same US parliament he was hoping to overthrow, and he is welcomed as an esteemed speaker by moderate Muslims in New Zealand.

The website MilitantIslamMonitor.org has compiled its own research on Wahhaj.

“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend”

“Wahhaj extolled the joys of martyrdom in this Jihad website entry, ‘No one who dies and goes to Paradise is going to want to come back to this world, except a Martyr, a person who gave their life for Islam, for Allah, they will want to come back to the earth and die ten more times in the way of Allah, because of the great gifts Allah has given them in Paradise’.

“Wahhaj often writes and speaks on the subject of martyrdom in Islam. Some of his works are entitled: ‘Are you ready to die?’ ‘The blessing of Death’ ‘The easy way to Paradise – how to get there’.

“In addition to martyrdom Wahhaj is a proponent of polygamy and has produced many tapes on the subject.”

While the latter topic might fit Labour Party policy in New Zealand, it is doubtful Wahhaj’s commitment to military jihad would.

For his part, Wahhaj has told American media they’ve misunderstood him, that “Islam is a religion of peace”, and that he really is a moderate.

ISLAMIC YOUTH TRAINING CAMPS
In addition to general visits and lecture tours by people like Bilal Philips, the Muslim community has been seeking specialist input for the spiritual training of young Muslim men in New Zealand. The FIANZ Annual Report for June 2000 through May 2001 records one such “North Island” camp, held at the Kauaeranga Forest Education Camp on the Coromandel Peninsula between 12 and 14 January 2001.

“The theme of the camp was ‘The Khilafah and man’s role as Khalifah’.”

While the words may not mean anything to the average reader, the “Khilafah” is the Arabic word for the restoration of the Caliphate – worldwide Muslim rule under one Caliph. The last Caliphate fell with the collapse of the Ottoman empire in Turkey after World War One, and extremist Muslims blame the West for this. A “Khalifah” is the future leader of Islam worldwide, the one who will unite the planet under one crescent.

“In accordance with Islam, it is the duty of the Muslims worldwide to elect a Khalifah. Such an appointment is seen as a duty (fard) similar to all other duties within Islam. The duty is seen as inevitable, and any divergence from the path is considered a grave sin, and therefore any neglect of this duty will be punished accordingly. The establishment of a Khilafah is seen as vital, because without it Islam cannot possibly be applied,” notes one Islamic scholar on the point.

Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible for the Bali bombings, is trying to establish a Khilafah state ruled by Muslims that covers Australia, through Indonesia and South East Asia, which is one of the reasons Prime Minister Helen Clark outlawed Jemaah Islamiyah in 2002.

“Jemaah Islamiyah is an extremist Islamic organization…its stated goal is to create an Islamic state…the organization has established links to al Qa’ida, based on a shared ideology and cooperation in relation to terrorist activities and training,” said Helen Clark.

Meanwhile, the FIANZ annual report detailing the NZ youth camp continues:

“Sixty brothers, aged between 15 and 25, attended…to improve and encourage youth practice of Islam and also to foster a greater awareness of one another amongst New Zealand Muslim students.”

Nor were South Island Muslim students left out. They had their own camp near Mosgiel in mid April 2001.

“The theme of the camp was ‘Islam is the Solution’. Approximately 100 brothers and sisters attended.”

There was another big training camp only weeks later, from 3 to 10 July 2001, arranged in association with Auckland’s Al-Manar Muslim Trust (affiliated to Mt Roskill’s Masjid-e-Umar mosque), which hosted 40 young Muslims from around the country.

“Three Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia supervised it,” notes an Al-Manar briefing on its website. “The camp was very successful, the youths and their families expressed their gratitude for such an activity, where the principles of Islam, strengthening the brotherhood ties and the development of the youths’ skills were the main purposes of the camp.

“At the closing ceremony of the camp, which was held in a very beautiful area in the north of New Zealand, prizes were given to the participants by Dr Anwar Ghani, the president of…FIANZ.”

Similar camps have been held every year since, many of them with invited Saudi-trained preachers like Yahya Ibrahim, who inspired the youth at the 2004 Muslim Youth Camp held at Tui Ridge Park in Rotorua.

YAHYA IBRAHIM
A Canadian of Egyptian descent who currently lives in Australia, Ibrahim hit the headlines just over a year ago when US Homeland Security officials barred his entry to the United States on unspecified grounds. Ibrahim had been scheduled to speak at an Islamic rally in Texas, and had been seen by some as a “moderate”. Others, however, are not so sure. Fluent in Arabic, he specializes in translating the works of some of Saudi Arabia’s most extreme Wahhabi preachers into English. Among them, three books by Sheikh Abdurahman al Sudais, whose views and television broadcasts across the Middle East urge Muslims to kill “Jews and worshippers of the Cross” as well as “Hindus”. It would be fair to say Sudais is an equal opportunities genocidal maniac.

Another of Ibrahim’s translations is Explaining the Hadith of Battling The Jews, a book often used by the terrorist group Hamas to justify suicide bombings and other attacks on Israel. The translation includes verses like “…the decrepit nation in which the scattered Jews of the world were gathered unrightfully and in oppression – the State of Israel – shall cease and be erased from existence.

“It is abundantly clear that the big battle is inevitably coming and that the Word of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) will be victorious without a doubt.”

In another of his translations it is written, “Allah has cursed the Jews in the Qu’ran on numerous occasions, informing us of his anger towards them…the enemies of the Prophets – especially the Jews – shall not be given inheritance of the earth during
their worldly life and they shall face a grievous everlasting punishment in the Eternal Fire in the next life.”

In one of his own lectures, available on the internet, titled “How kuffars [infidels] try to take the light out of Islam”, Ibrahim himself tells Muslims they can have nothing in common with Western society, Christians or Jews, that all are “evil” – hardly the message of moderation when Prime Minister Helen Clark talked of the “peaceful intent” of Muslims.

Then there’s the comments of Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter in January 2003, a full year before the New Zealand Muslim community invited Yahya Ibrahim here to train Muslim youth in January 2004.

“New Zealand’s Muslim community should be applauded for their declaration of peace and goodwill today,” Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter stated.
“Ten Muslim groups from all over the country have signed a declaration to all New Zealanders affirming their commitment to peace and stability, and to being an integral part of our nation.”

The signed declaration Carter refers to was issued in the name of FIANZ, but it was FIANZ a year later that brought in Ibrahim.

One of Ibrahim’s taped lectures begins with a statement that the Qu’ran warns all Muslims who their “enemies will be”, and he then launches into a stinging attack on liberal western society, atheists, Jews and Christians. Further on in the tape, Ibrahim launches into homosexuals.

“When we look around and see the society that we are living in, we see people who are committing fornication and Allah punishes them by giving them a disease like AIDS. We look again and we see the murders, we look again we see the drug addictions, we look again and we see the prostitution, we look again and we see the disbelief in the laws of Allah: there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! These words stand for everything against that, stand against drugs and prostitution and disbelief. These words stand against all of that.”

It is hard to reconcile the teachings of Yahya Ibrahim to kiwi Muslims on a youth camp, and his translation works heralding a coming world battle where Islam will reign victorious, with the stated declaration that Muslims are happy to be part of a New Zealand liberal society lead by a very liberal Labour government.

As Canadian commentator David Ouellette remarked after Ibrahim was banned from the United States a year ago, “In Australia, Ibrahim is widely considered as a ‘bridge builder’ between Muslims and non-Muslims. Yet, publicly available information on Ibrahim appears to point to the profile of a hardcore activist of the Wahhabi strain working to spread in the West the hateful, terror-inspiring Salafi ideology, the likes of whom should not be welcome in free societies fighting Islamic extremism.”

FUNKY COLD MADINA: SAUDIS IN NZ
You could put down a visit by one of the men above as just an aberration, a mistake made by innocent Muslim leaders in New Zealand. But taken as a whole – given that the visits involved packed lecture sessions up and down the country, youth training camps in some cases, and that all of them are extremist Salafi/Wahhabi firebrands – it does raise questions about what kind of Islamic society in New Zealand local Muslims are aiming for.

Take Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, mentioned earlier as a Saudi-backed organizer of the youth camps. On its website, Al-Manar says one of its prime objectives is the introduction of Shari’a in New Zealand – at least among Muslims.

“One of the main objectives of the Al-Manar Trust is to expand the knowledge [of] Islamic Share’ah principles between Muslims in New Zealand.

“To achieve that goal, Al-Manar Trust has organized the following Share’ah educational courses in co-operation with Saudi Arabian universities: The first educational session – in co-operation with the International Islamic Youth Association.

“The courses were run by eight lecturers [who] came to New Zealand from the University of Imam Mohammed Bin Saud in Riyadh. There were 300 participants in the courses.

“The second educational session – after the major success of the first session, another session was held in co-operation with Al-Haramain Charity Association, between 11 July till 21st of July 2001.

“Over 250 attended the lectures given by Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia.”

Take a moment to join some dots here. Early in the article under the “Youth Camps” heading you’ll recall Al-Manar Trust organized a national Muslim youth training camp from the 3rd to the 10th of July 2001, supervised by three Saudi sheikhs. Lo and behold, on 11 July a group of Saudi sheikhs from Al-Haramain charity begin conducting intensive lectures for adult Muslims. By a process of elimination it seems highly likely it was Al-Haramain involved in the youth camp as well. Which makes the next piece of information we’re about to give you highly relevant.

It is true that New Zealand Muslims used to overwhelmingly be moderate, but in the last few years the balance has started to tip – only the media and politicians haven’t noticed it. The first public inkling of trouble came in late 2003 when genuine moderates in Christchurch warned the Government that extremist Saudi’s linked to the Al Haramain terrorist organization were infiltrating the local mosque.

“An Islamic ‘charity’ involved in fundraising for al Qa’ida and the southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to set up a front organization in New Zealand, and may get approval to do so,” Investigate reported in November 2003.

“Al Haramain operates in more than 60 countries worldwide, and its attempts to get a toehold in New Zealand hit the headlines last month when a group of Muslim community leaders sent a letter to the New Zealand government, warning that the Saudi-backed Al Haramain would bring chaos and disaster to New Zealand if their application is approved.

“That application includes setting up an Islamic school to teach Wahhabi Islam – the radical branch of the religion – and establishing an ‘Islamic bank’ in New Zealand.

“While daily news media have played down Al Haramain’s links to terrorism, Investigate has now confirmed an extensive relationship between the ‘charity’ and al Qa’ida. Those links include Al Haramain’s involvement in a series of al Qa’ida suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this year [2003] – the Saudi government shut down ten offices…as a direct response after discovering it was funding Osama bin Laden’s organization.

“Additionally, a senior figure in Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah arrested three months ago [in 2003], Omar al Faruq, has told investigators that his organization has received extensive funding and moneylaundering services from Al Haramain.”

The website for the Wellington mosque, iman.co.nz, noted in a 2003 news release (still on the web) that two senior figures from Al Haramain, Sheikhs Abdul Majeed Ghaith al Ghaith and Menea al Dakeel, toured NZ mosques in May 2003.

Despite being warned of the threat, Labour’s then Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff dismissed the fears of the Islamic moderates in Christchurch, saying the government was “leaning towards the view that it’s mainly an internal conflict in the Muslim community in Christchurch that they need to sort out among themselves,” and describing Al Haramain as “largely a distinguished and peaceful charitable organization focusing on the education and welfare of the Muslim community around the world.”

What neither Goff nor Investigate knew in late 2003 was that Al-Haramain didn’t have a toehold, but a stranglehold on NZ Islam and had been indoctrinating local Muslims for at least two years.

Within months of making arguably one of the most ignorant comments of his career, Phil Goff could only watch from the sidelines in 2004 as the United Nations froze the worldwide assets of Al Haramain because of its strong links to al Qa’ida and other terror groups, whilst masquerading as a distinguished and peaceful charity.

The damage to the Christchurch mosque, however, had already been done. Although the UN move kept Al Haramain officially out of the picture, the Saudi financiers of terror and Wahhabi Islam simply fronted up with some other Muslim ‘charities’ to help New Zealand’s Muslim community and their mosques.

The resulting tension has split the Muslim community in Christchurch into different factions.

Disquiet was also voiced in the New Zealand Herald last year by local Muslim leader Abdullah Drury, who warned that 30 years of making the Muslim community a mainstream part of New Zealand was disappearing out the door because the huge influx of recent immigrants under Labour has changed the balance of power. Where once Muslims had a sense of their NZ identity, Drury says the new leaders’ “hearts, minds, rationale and prejudices are still firmly rooted in their home countries.

More than one North Island critic has stated that some Canterbury Muslims think they’re still living in Africa or the Middle East.

“Why are things falling apart now?” asks Drury. “The most significant contribution stems from the massive and poorly planned influx of immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s. Nobody in the local Muslim community
ever anticipated or planned this.”

From 13,000 Muslims in 1996, there are now almost 37,000, and the Islamic community has jumped 50% under Labour.

Says Drury:

“The pioneering Muslim families who established Islam in this country have been effectively overwhelmed: swept out of office by the superior numbers of the new faces, or entrenching themselves and encouraging newcomers to set up their own Islamic prayer arrangements.

“There was also a substantial change in composition. In the 1970s most Muslims in New Zealand were…mostly from societies with long traditions of interaction with white Anglo-Saxon culture and customs: Indians, Fiji Indians or Pakistanis.

“Now, there is a substantial bloc, often Arab or African, with considerably poorer education than their predecessors, with vastly different language skills and cultures to those this country has traditionally absorbed.

“This,” warns Drury, “has exacerbated community differences along ethnic, linguistic or cultural lines inside mosques from Christchurch to Auckland…very quickly [the Arab/African faction] use their disproportionately larger numbers to vote in their own leaders. Consequently, a fair number of mosques in New Zealand are currently being administered or dominated by people and groups who have arrived in this country within the last 10 years, some substantially less.”

And if that’s a warning from a moderate Muslim worth listening to, consider this: the new leaders in New Zealand’s mosques have strong ties to Wahhabism.

The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) website notes the Islamic organisations and educational institutions it is now affiliated to. The majority of those links, checked out by Investigate, track back to extremist organizations with known involvement in either exporting Wahhabism or terrorism.

As the FIANZ annual report from 2001 notes:

“Over July-August-September 2000 New Zealand was blessed, or more accurately blitzed, by several visits by various groups of scholars from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“The first such group came from the Al Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University of Riyadh between 25 July and 12 August. They were led by Dr Abdul Aziz al-Omari.”

Try this as an interesting exercise: Google al-Omari’s name and you’ll find it’s the exact match for a 29 year old Saudi hijacker killed on one of the planes that hit the twin towers a year after this NZ visit. Although unlikely to be the same person, you’ll find both Omari’s attended the same university.

The FIANZ report continues:

“Sheikh al-Omari ran an 11 day Islamic Seminar at the new Blockhouse Bay mosque. This group then split into three parties who traveled the country giving lectures and conducting brief courses in Aqidah, Fiqh and methods of Da’wah [spreading Islam].

“Between 23-25 August Dr Abdul Aziz al Shaum and Dr Mohammed al-Sawai al-Omari, also from the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, conducted a similar whirlwind tour of New Zealand, visiting Muslim communities in Auckland through to Dunedin in a matter of days.”

The question of precisely why Saudi Arabian clerics from some of the most extreme, terror-linked Universities in the world, were sweeping through New Zealand every year remains unanswered. But they kept on coming.

“Over 25-28 August, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the South Pacific Da’wah Council organized a Da’wah training course in Auckland featuring Dr Abdullah al-Malki, Dr Sayeed al-Ghamdi, Dr Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Jarri and Brother Abdul Rahman al-Fifi of the King Khalid University in Riyadh.

“Drs al-Malki and al-Ghamdi then went on to visit Muslims in Christchurch, Dunedin
and Wellington over 29 August-1 September. The other two scholars made corresponding visits to Hamilton and Palmerston North over the same period.”
Sayeed al-Ghamdi’s name is similar to another of the 9/11 hijackers, although the two are not the same.

But what of some of the organizations mentioned here?

THE WORLD ASSEMBLY OF MUSLIM YOUTH
Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this charity (WAMY) is involved in education programmes for Muslim youth, including training camps, in New Zealand.

“The Muslim Association of Canterbury (MAC) received an air cargo from WAMY, Saudi Arabia, that was intended to cover an Intensive Islamic course run by WAMY,” records a Christchurch mosque newsletter for August 2002, a year after 9/11.

“On 16 July [2003],” a MAC report says, “four scholars from WAMY in Saudi Arabia visited the mosque and conducted a 10 day Intensive Islamic course. More than 300 brothers and sisters attended the course. There was a special scholar for the children.”

The World Assemby of Muslim Youth is also listed as a special affiliate of FIANZ. But what does it really do?

Left wing American journalist Greg Palast, no friend of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, nonetheless highlighted the ongoing involvement of WAMY in the US as a failure of national security:

“On November 9, 2001,” wrote Palast in a 2004 dispatch carried by Scoop in New Zealand, “when you could still choke on the dust in the air near Ground Zero, BBC Television received a call in London from a top-level US intelligence agent. He was not happy. Shortly after George W. Bush took office, he told us reluctantly, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the FBI ‘were told to back off the Saudis’.

“We knew that. In the newsroom, we had a document already in hand, marked ‘SECRET’ across the top and ‘199-I’ – meaning this was a national security matter.
“The secret memo released agents to hunt down two members of the bin Laden family operating a ‘suspected terrorist organisation’ in the USA.”

The “suspected terrorist organization”, it transpired, was WAMY.

“Called the World Assembly of Muslim Youth,” writes Palast, “the group sponsors soccer teams and summer camps in Florida. BBC obtained a video of one camp activity, a speech exhorting kids on the heroism of suicide bombings and hostage
takings. While WAMY draws membership with wholesome activities, it has also acted as a cover or front, say the Dutch, Indian and Bosnian governments, for the recruitment of jihadi killers.

“Certainly, it was worth asking the bin Laden boys a few questions,” says Palast, “but the FBI agents couldn’t, until it was too late.”

Remember, WAMY has been actively involved in Muslim youth camps in New Zealand right up until now.

But, as Palast points out, the “back off the Saudis” instruction meant the US headquarters of WAMY, in Virginia, wasn’t raided by the FBI until May 2004, long after the bin Ladens had fled, presumably taking with them all incriminating information.

Although a squad of 50 agents reportedly surrounded and sealed off the WAMY office, they “seized mostly empty files and a lot of soccer balls,” wrote Palast.

Over on Wikipedia, the encyclopedia acknowledges WAMY’s claim to be nothing more than a football-mad bunch of Muslim boy-scouts, but then refers to evidence about WAMY that’s emerged from some of the Guantanamo detainee hearings:

“The terrorists that plotted the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing kept literature handed out by WAMY. Here are some samples: ‘The Jews are enemies of the faithful, God and the angels. Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors’.

“Here are some examples of what specifically to teach the children: ‘In 1989 Abdul-Hadi Nemin carried out his own heroic operation while on bus #405 of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line; he charged at the bus driver, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great!], twirled the steering wheel toward the cliff and caused the bus to take a big fall. As a result of his courageous act, 14 Israelis were killed and 27 were injured’.”

This was the kind of “boy scout” training WAMY was caught teaching to Muslim youth. WAMY had been run by Omar bin Laden and Abdullah bin Laden.
The Muslim youth group has also been named in a major United Nations report,
“Terrorism Financing: Roots and trends of Saudi terrorism financing”, prepared for the UN Security Council in December 2002. The report states that WAMY, Al Haramain and the Muslim World League – another ‘charity’ supporting New Zealand’s mosques – are all major fundraising arms for al Qa’ida and other terrorist entities.

It is interesting, too, how these ‘charities’ are able to fly a dozen preachers all the way from Saudi Arabia to New Zealand just to run a youth camp or a few lectures. The Al-Manar Trust in Auckland acknowledged as much in its newsletter.

“Al-Manar Trust was able to build a very friendly relationship with Islamic associations overseas. Some of these associations have provided Al-Manar Trust with valuable books and resources.”

One of its goals, it says, is building an “Islamic nation” here.

“The youth activities organized by Al-Manar Trust include [a] weekly lecture for Muslim youths, sports activities and camping. The activities’ aim is to reinforce the Islamic principles and to strengthen the brotherhood ties between them. Al-Manar Trust is very keen to continue providing these activities to our youth because we believe in the youths’ important role in building the future in our Islamic nation.

“Protecting our youth from the influence of the western society that they live in is a very important factor in achieving our goal.”

In other words, forget warm fuzzy talk from the government about common ground: whatever the Muslim leaders are saying publicly, privately some appear to be creating a state within a state, a kind of Islamic apartheid which will grow in significance as Islamic immigration grows, helped by theology and resources from Saudi Arabia’s extremist, terror-linked “charities”.

Al-Manar has already used that expertise and resource to begin Islamification outreach programmes “at New Zealand universities and visiting prisons”. The Trust says it recognizes “the importance of introducing Islam and its principles to the New Zealand society. Therefore, the Trust intends to provide the public and university libraries with a set of Islamic books, which are simple, easy to understand and very comprehensive. There is a lot of potential to spread the word of Allah in New Zealand. New Zealand is a very peaceful country where Islam has no enemies
and the people are kind, simple and keen to read.”

Among the resources Al-Manar has, it boasts its library “has the full set of Dr Tarek Sweedan cassettes”. Sweedan, or under one of the many alternative English spellings of his Arabic name, Tareq Sweidan, hosted a TV show in the United Arab Emirates two years ago where he urged Muslims to find gay men and kill them:

“Anyone caught committing sodomy – kill both the sodomiser and the sodomised. The clerics determined how the homosexual should be killed. They said he should be stoned to death. Some clerics said he should be thrown off a mountain. This is an abominable act in human life, and so the punishment is severe.

“If moral values sink to this level, Man becomes lower than a beast. Therefore the punishment was extremely severe, and the position of Islam was clear and courageous. There should be no lenience in this case, and governments and countries must enforce the law strictly against anyone committing such an abomination.”

New Zealand has certainly seen its fair share of stoned gay men in recent years, but the stoning Sweidan contemplates would be a vastly different kind of experience.
Over at CooperativeResearch.org, Tareq Sweidan was named, along with Abdullah bin Laden of WAMY, of being involved in a US finance company allegedly raising money for terror.

Under the heading, “Prisoner’s Library”, the Al-Manar newsletter says:

“We have noted that the prisoners are the largest group in New Zealand to accept Islam as their faith…We believe there is a lot of potential work that can be undertaken in that area, such as a small Islamic library in each prison. Therefore we need support
from Muslims around the world to help us by providing the Islamic books, particularly the translation of the meanings of our Holy Qura’an and translation of various hadith.”

The Sunday Star-Times published details of the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association converting Maori prisoners to Islam three years ago, although the AMMA claimed its comments had been deliberately sensationalized by the newspaper. Nonetheless, a young Muslim woman calling herself ‘Penelope’ posted a message on the NZMuslim.net bulletin board warning of the dangers of prison outreach:

“These converts are Maori gang members – drug traffickers, drinkers, wife beaters, thieves, rapists – you name it, they are the dregs of NZ society. The interviewer got it right – they are drawn to Islam because they perceive Osama Bin Laden as a hero, beheading videos as light entertainment and jihad as their cause against Christian/Judaic non-Maori New Zealanders. I think it is only fair to warn you that these despicable criminals are not interested in Islam as a religion – they are only interested in submission and power for themselves and their gangs and they will use the name of Islam to hide behind whilst continuing their evil and illegal practices.

“FIANZ is doing the Muslim community in NZ no favours by financially supporting this “missionary of Islam” in his conversion of uneducated thugs. Do you really want these people in your community representing your religion? The sooner all NZ Muslims and the Muslim councils of NZ advise FIANZ to withdraw any support from this man the better, or you will all be tarred with the same brush. NZ does not need an Islamic Black Power or Islamic Mongrel Mob gangs – these men will never change their ways, drug-dealing and death are part of their lives – even their own people live in fear of them.

“It is the responsibility of FIANZ to stop financing this madman before it is too late and he and his converts degrade the good name of Muslims in NZ.

“Do not be flattered that these criminals are converting to Islam – they see Islam as a way to oppress and terrorise the good and lawful people of this land and Islam will eventually take the blame! Every decent Kiwi is certainly ashamed of them.

“And don’t think it won’t happen, because if this man continues bringing these undesirables to Islam – it will!”

THE CALL OF THE WILD ONES
Naturally, we wanted to put all of these issues to FIANZ and its President, Javed Khan. To his credit, Khan just about fell off his chair in shock when Investigate began running through the list of people and organizations with terror links that FIANZ had brought out here.

We began by raising the visit of Bilal Philips just six months ago, a man whose photo is in the latest FIANZ newsletter. Javed Khan was unaware of Philips’ videotaped comments about marrying nine year old girls, and was stunned to hear about his involvement in the Day of Terror trial.

“No, I was not aware of any of that!”

Khalid Yasin, who’s been to New Zealand on numerous occasions, was another whose statements took Khan utterly by surprise. When we told him of Yasin’s claim that Muslims were not permitted to have non-Muslim friends, for example, Khan was audibly disappointed.

“Oh, gosh.”

We took Javed Khan through the many statements of Siraj Wahhaj, from his comments on martyrdom to his wish to overthrow the US government, to his involvement in the Day of Terror case and his desire for polygamy.

“No, I was not aware of any of this, to be quite honest,” admitted Khan.

On the links between World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and al Qa’ida, Khan told Investigate, “I am aware that at one stage WAMY was blacklisted by the US, as an organization which was affiliated with al Qa’ida or had some sympathy
with al Qa’ida. But that blacklisting I understand has been lifted because after further investigation they found this allegation was not founded on any sort of concrete evidence.”

When we pressed Khan’s memory further on the point, he told us that a letter had come from WAMY rejecting the US allegations. But in fact, there has been no lifting of the blacklist. Although WAMY continues to operate in 55 countries, including
New Zealand, and works closely with the Western charity Oxfam, its literature for children’s camps in other countries has been found to include incitement to hate crimes and jihad against Jews, and at least one of the 9/11 hijackers was on its payroll. Osama bin Laden’s nephew remains the organisation’s Treasurer at head office in Saudi Arabia.

WAMY organised a big youth camp here in New Zealand only seven months ago.
Javed Khan says New Zealand’s Islamic federations had initially cut ties with WAMY when it was blacklisted, “but they wrote to us, saying that this was a totally false allegation and WAMY was not involved in any of those activities. And we have been involved for quite some time with WAMY – they helped us out, well previously they used to but not now, after the United States started to take control of funds going out. But our youth camps were very well organized and we wouldn’t have anyone coming talking to us promoting hostage taking or suicide bombing. To my knowledge no one has ever come and taught anything like that to our youth.”

But the problem, as we pointed out to Khan, was not necessarily what the al Qa’ida linked groups and preachers actually said while they were in New Zealand, so much as the mana that would rub off on them in students’ eyes because of the fact they’d been invited by the New Zealand mosques. In other words, by being welcomed as esteemed leaders, wasn’t FIANZ unwittingly encouraging NZ youth to search out more of their lectures and material online and start buying into the global jihad?

“It could happen, yeah, I agree it is possible.

“But now I think we have become much wiser. What we have decided to do, before inviting any overseas speakers in the future, is that we will vet what they are saying, their websites, all those things, well in advance of extending any invitation for them to come here.

“We were a bit lax and we took people on face value in the past, but after coming to know about all this, and there was some talk internally about one of our speakers, we have decided that we have to be extremely careful before inviting anybody to come here to New Zealand. We have become much wiser as parents and we will really investigate into the backgrounds of any people who want to come here and decline somebody who has the sayings and doings that you have described.”

We asked Khan about Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, which had worked closely with WAMY on the youth camps and whose library was carrying the “stone the gays to death” Tareq Sweidan cassettes.

“That would be a concern to me, yeah,” says Khan, although he adds that the guys who run Al-Manar are “pretty moderate sort of people, although they are from an Arab background, but I have pretty regular discussions with them.” On the issue of comments like building an “Islamic nation”, Khan laughs, putting it down to a poor command of the English language. “I’m sure they mean ‘Islamic community’.”

But if the New Zealand mosques are moderate, we ask, why are there so many ties to Wahhabi organizations linked to terror?

Khan ponders the question for a moment, and says he hears what we’re saying in regards to some of those organizations.

“But you’ve got to remember we’ve had associations with some of these organizations since FIANZ was formed (in 1979), before al Qa’ida even existed. The extreme teachings that are advocated, or that any of these people are advocating, are not taken any heed of as far as we are concerned.

“Look,” he says, “we don’t have those firebrand-type teachers or speakers [based] here, like demagogues, who go out telling people ‘this is what you need to be doing…committing suicide is becoming a martyr’ – we don’t have anybody like that who does things like that, and if we find anybody doing that we’ll deal to it pretty quickly.

And yet…and yet, we ask Khan, the reality is that for seven turbulent years FIANZ has been inviting in men who are the rock stars of international Wahhabism – latterday Pied Pipers – without even realising what songs they’re singing. It hardly inspires confidence in FIANZ’s ability to diagnose the problem.

And precisely how do moderates teach young Muslims to view the wider New Zealand culture, given its current climate of extreme liberalism?

“Everybody has a TV, youngsters these days are not fools. We advocate that you abide by the law of the country in which you live. If the law of the country legalizes homosexuality then you have to respect that law, although it is against the teachings of Islam. But you have to accept that that’s the law, and whatever is legal you cannot go against in that country. Now that has been coming out very strongly, the imams have been telling their congregations that we are living in a country with its own set of laws and you have to live by the laws of this country.”

Whether that message is strong enough to combat the allure of the “rock stars” remains to be seen. Khan says that although there have been strong historical ties to Saudi organizations, that source of money has dried up recently and local Muslims are having to dig into their own pockets to pay mosque expenses.

He insists that the community is moderate but, as we remind him, the parents of the kids who blew up the London Underground were moderates: their children were not.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Massey University, Peter Lineham, is one who believes the New Zealand government is aware of a growing extremism in the young but was hoping no one would notice.

“The complexity of Islam is that very often we see the face of the woman from Hamilton, who is a very moderate Muslim, but certainly there are other voices in Islam. You need to bear in mind that the Government is pretty nervous about the potential for radical Muslims – within the international Western security
framework there’s a great deal of nervousness about terrorist links with Islam but they deliberately won’t talk about it.

“I think this is why they’re promoting things like religious dialogue, because their attitude is that religious dialogue, and the proposed religious harmony agreement coming out later in the year – I think the hope is that documents like this will convince Muslims to not align themselves with the radical side of Islam.

“I suspect that these are things that the Government is very concerned about but doesn’t want to draw attention because it figures that there will be a negative reaction from the Islamic community that perceives itself being attacked. And so they therefore try and work with moderate Islamic leaders. If you look at the people associated with these religious harmony dialogues like the one coming up in Hamilton next month, they’re clearly trying to build and strengthen the moderates. They’re following the British line on this.”

The problem, as Lineham himself acknowledges, is that the British are failing to make a dent in the uptake of extremist Islam, despite six years of bowing, scraping, and praise for “tolerance”.

In July last year, to mark the first anniversary of the London Tube Bombings, the Times newspaper in Britain published a national opinion poll of British Muslims. There are one million Muslims living in London. Of those polled, 7 percent agreed suicide attacks on civilians in the UK are justifiable.

That’s 70,000 Muslims in London who support mass murder in the name of Islam. The figure rose to 16% (160,000) who supported suicide attacks against military targets in Britain – that’s roughly one in every six Muslims!

No similar poll has ever been commissioned in New Zealand, but if seven percent of Kiwi Muslims supported suicide bombings here, that’s still a hefty 2,600 people – some of whom might just be prepared to volunteer for martyrdom, especially
after listening to some of the hardline preaching in NZ’s mosques that nobody realised was going on.

As Mark Steyn notes in his book America Alone, another poll of British Muslims found 60% want to live under shari’a law in England! Ask the 300 who attend the intensive Islamic courses each year in New Zealand, and you’d probably get a near-100% agreement.

With a few more years’ percolation, and immigration growth in double digits every year, imagine the sort of headache New Zealand could end up with.

Religious studies professor Peter Lineham remains cynical about the Government’s current reliance on “Interfaith dialogue” to promote greater understanding and tolerance.

“The problem with interfaith discussions, as I see it,” says Lineham, “is that the interfaith attracts the people who are interested in interfaith discussions and they’re not necessarily a fair representation of their faith communities. The Christians who’ve been involved have very rarely been representative of the whole of the Christian community. I do think that the Christian community in NZ does have to find some way of living with people from other religions, but for those of us who are Christians the concern is that we can’t do that in a way that reduces our allegiance to our faith. And unfortunately, the leaders of the interfaith discussions do seem to have a more relativist approach to their faith.”

In the meantime, the big question is whether the seven year security breach – that allowed some of the most extremist Wahhabi clerics on the planet to hold seminars and training camps in New Zealand – has had an impact on the hundreds of young Muslims who attended. As terror analysts like Rohan Gunaratna point out, al Qa’ida works by shoulder-tapping people quietly, and setting up small localized cells that no one, not even their parents, knows about.

The people who listen to Islam’s firebrands will not become suicide bombers overnight, if ever, but the more exposure they get to messages of hate over the long term, the less these people will feel they belong to New Zealand society.

How can they belong when the Qu’ran, in verse after verse quoted by Bilal Philips and others, repeatedly tells ordinary Muslims not to mix with infidels, not to become part of their society, and to remain a nation apart?

And how can a good Muslim sit back and twiddle their thumbs when the same Qu’ran then instructs him that the entire world must submit to Islam in order for the Mahdi to return and usher in the end times? The Qu’ran says that infidels are actually born Muslims who rejected the faith and must be brought back to it. That’s why they call Western converts to Islam, “reverts”.

So those twin tensions exist: reject the infidel world, then conquer the infidel world for Allah, and in doing so earn a place in Paradise. That is precisely the message being preached by people who have been welcomed in NZ’s mosques.

To an extent, of course, this is a one-dimensional portrait of the problem. There are young kiwi Muslims who do have Western friends while maintaining their own faith and managing to pray five times a day. They enjoy McDonalds and they wear the hijab. They have been born here, they’ve grown up here. New Zealand is indeed home.

If young Muslims can maintain that balance and perspective, and if other New Zealanders in turn can tolerate those differences, then a comfortable balance may yet be found. But that will become a harder task if the local mosques don’t start rejecting
Wahhabi preachers and literature. It will become a harder task if Muslim children only go to Muslim schools and don’t mix with other cultures. It will become a harder task if Muslim teenagers are told on camps by people like Khalid Yasin, “There is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend.”

Already, on NZ Muslim websites in New Zealand, you can read messages where people say they no longer have a nationality – their nationality is Muslim. Unlike Christians, who were instructed to tolerate Roman control, Muslims are told in the Qu’ran they are not allowed to live by Rome’s rules – they either make Rome submit, or leave themselves.

A pretty similar warning has been issued by the Australian government, with both John Howard and his deputy Peter Costello warning hardline Muslims that if they want to live under Shari’a, they’ll have to leave Australia.

One final question that arises out of this story: where is the SIS, where is border control? How did several men with known links to terrorism and al Qa’ida walk repeatedly through immigration gates at New Zealand airports? Are the intelligence agencies taking the view that it’s better to watch from a distance than ban outright, or are the agencies as totally unaware as the Prime Minister seems to be?

In the meantime, the photographic image of New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister – a woman who has built her entire career on feminism and women’s rights – voluntarily wearing in her own country what millions of women around the world see as one of the ultimate symbols of oppression of women – that image will echo in the minds of many in the months to come as people weigh up whether Labour has allowed a massive breach of New Zealand’s national security.

As this issue was going to press, the Government issued a news release welcoming a decision by Saudi Arabia to send more a further 350 of its own students to study in New Zealand, “as part of an expanded scholarships programme for Asia and Oceania”.

“This represents a strong endorsement by Saudi Arabia of the quality of our teachers and the excellence of our learning environments,” boasted Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen.

“There has been steady growth in students from the Gulf States studying in New Zealand institutions since 2001. More than 500 Gulf students are currently enrolled in New Zealand institutions, many from Saudi Arabia and Oman.”

It does beg the question however: if Saudi Arabia loathes Western culture so much, why is it really boosting the number of its students in New Zealand to more than 700?

Posted by Ian Wishart at 02:05 AM | Comments (7)

March 29, 2007

Stunning Revelations: The untold story of deaths by Taser

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With New Zealand three months into a year long trial of Taser stun guns, there's growing controversy here and overseas about whether Tasers are as safe as claimed, and whether the company itself has cut corners. SILJA TALVI backgrounds the anti-Taser mood:

TASER International Inc. maintains that its stun-guns are "changing the world and saving lives everyday." There is no question that they changed Jack Wilson's life. On Aug. 4, in Lafayette, Colo., policemen on a stakeout approached Jack's son Ryan as he entered a field of a dozen young marijuana plants. When Ryan took off running, officer John Harris pursued the 22-year-old for a half-mile and then shot him once with an X-26 Taser. Ryan fell to the ground and began to convulse. The officer attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but Ryan died.

According to his family and friends, Ryan was in very good physical shape. The county coroner found no evidence of alcohol or drugs in his system and ruled that Ryan's death could be attributed to the Taser shock, physical exertion from the chase and the fact that one of his heart arteries was unusually small.

In October, an internal investigation cleared Officer Harris of any wrongdoing and concluded that he had used appropriate force.

Wilson says that while his son had had brushes with the law as a juvenile and struggled financially, he was a gentle and sensitive young man who always looked out for his disabled younger brother's welfare, and was trying to better his job prospects by becoming a plumber's apprentice.

"Ryan was not a defiant kid," says his father. "I don't understand why the cop would chase him for a half-mile, and then 'Tase' him while he had an elevated heart rate. If [the officer] hadn't done that, we know that he would still be alive today."

Ryan is one of nearly 200 people who have died in the last five years after being shot by a Taser stun gun. In June, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would review these deaths.

Over the same period, Taser has developed a near-monopoly in the market for non-lethal weaponry. Increasingly, law enforcement officials use such weapons to subdue society's most vulnerable members: prisoners, drug addicts and the mentally ill, along with "passive resisters," like the protesters demonstrating against Florida Governor Jeb Bush's attendance of a Rick Santorum fundraiser in Pittsburgh on Oct. 9. (See sidebar, "Passive Resisters.")

Taser has built this monopoly through influence peddling, savvy public relations and by hiring former law enforcement and military officers--including one-time Homeland Security chief hopeful, Bernard Kerik. And now that questions are being raised about the safety of Taser weaponry, the company is fighting back with legal and marketing campaigns.

Birth of a Taser

In 1974, a NASA scientist named Jack Cover invented the first stun gun, which he named the TASER, or "Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle," after Tom Swift, a fictional young inventor who was the hero of a series of early 20th century adventure novels. Because it relied on gunpowder, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms classified Tasers as registered firearms.

That changed in the early '90s. According to Taser's corporate creation story, co-founder Rick Smith became interested in the device after friends of his "were brutally murdered by an angry motorist." Smith contacted Cover in the hopes of bringing the Taser as a self-defense weapon to a larger market. In 1993, with money from Smith's brother Tom, they created Air Taser Inc., which would later become Taser International Inc. When Tasers were re-engineered to work with a nitrogen propellant rather than gunpowder, the weapon was no longer categorized as a firearm. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department adopted the guns, but they were not widely embraced by other departments.

Taser's fortunes improved in 1998, after the company embarked on a new development program, named "Project Stealth." The goal was to streamline stun gun design and deliver enough voltage to stop "extremely combative, violent individuals," especially those who couldn't be controlled by non-lethal chemicals like mace.

Out of Project Stealth, the Advanced Taser was born. When the weapon premiered in 2000--a model eventually redesigned as the M-26--the company brought on a cadre of active and retired military and law enforcement personnel to vouch for the weapon's efficacy. The new spokespersons ranged from Arizona SWAT members to a former Chief Instructor of hand-to-hand combat for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Taser began to showcase the Advanced Taser at technology-related conventions throughout North America and Europe, billing it as a non-lethal weapon that could take down even the toughest adversary. Soon to be among those "dangerous" opponents were the protesters assembling in Philadelphia for the 2000 Republican National Convention.

By the following year, 750 law enforcement agencies had either tested or deployed the weapon. Today, more than 9,500 law enforcement, correctional and military agencies in 43 countries use Taser weaponry. In the past eight years, more than 184,000 Tasers have been sold to law enforcement agencies, with another 115,000 to citizens in the 43 states where it is legal to possess a stun gun.

When the electricity hits Taser's stun guns are designed to shoot a maximum of 50,000 volts into a person's body through two compressed nitrogen-fueled probes, thereby disrupting the target's electromuscular system. The probes are connected to the Taser gun by insulated wires, and can deliver repeat shocks in quick succession. The probes can pierce clothing and skin from a distance or be directly applied to a person's body--a process known as "dry stunning"--for an ostensibly less-incapacitating, cattle-prod effect.

"The impetus for Tasers came from the often community-led search for 'less-than-lethal' police weapons," explains Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department and author of Breaking Rank. "[There were] too many questionable or bad police shootings, and cops saying, correctly, that there are many ambiguous situations where a moment's hesitation could lead to their own deaths or the death of an innocent other."

According to Taser's promotional materials, its stun guns are designed to "temporarily override the nervous system [and take] over muscular control." People who have experienced the effect of a Taser typically liken it to a debilitating, full-body seizure, complete with mental disorientation and loss of control over bodily functions.

Many Taser-associated deaths have been written up by coroners as being attributable to "excited delirium," a condition that includes frenzied or aggressive behavior, rapid heart rate and aggravating factors related to an acute mental state and/or drug-related psychosis. When such suspects are stunned, especially while already being held down or hogtied, deaths seem to occur after a period of "sudden tranquility," as Taser explains in its CD-ROM training material entitled, "Sudden Custody Death: Who's Right and Who's Wrong." In that same material, the company warns officers to "try to minimize the appearance of mishandling suspects."

Taser did not respond to requests for an interview. But its press and business-related statements have consistently echoed the company's official position: "TASER devices use proprietary technology to quickly incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves." Another brochure, specifically designed for law enforcement, clearly states that the X26 has "no after effects."

Ryan Wilson's family can attest otherwise, as can many others.

Casualties and Cruelties

In the span of three months--July, August and September--Wilson's Taser-related death was only one among several. Larry Noles, 52, died after being stunned three times on his body (and finally on his neck) after walking around naked and "behaving erratically." An autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in his system. Mark L. Lee, 30, was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor and having a seizure when a Rochester, N.Y., police officer stunned him. In Cookeville, Ala., 31-year-old Jason Dockery was stunned because police maintain he was being combative while on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Family members believe he was having an aneurysm. And Nickolos Cyrus, a 29-year-old man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was shocked 12 times with a Taser stun gun after a Mukwonago, Wis., police officer caught him trespassing on a home under construction. An inquest jury has already ruled that the officer who shot Cyrus--who was delusional and naked from the waist down when he was stunned--was within his rights to act as he did.

Although the company spins it otherwise, Taser-associated deaths are definitely on the rise. In 2001, Amnesty International documented three Taser-associated deaths. The number has steadily increased each year, peaking at 61 in 2005. So far almost 50 deaths have occurred in 2006, for an approximate total of 200 deaths in the last five years.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have also drawn attention to the use of Tasers on captive populations in hospitals, jails and prisons.

In fact, the first field tests relating to the efficacy of the "Advanced Taser" model in North America were conducted on incarcerated men. In December 1999, the weapon was used, with "success," against a Clackamas County (Ore.) Jail inmate. The following year, the first-ever Canadian use of an Advanced Taser was by the Victoria Police, on an inmate in psychiatric lockdown. Since that time, Taser deployment in jails and prisons has become increasingly commonplace, raising concerns about violations of 8th Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

This summer, the ACLU of Colorado filed a class action suit on behalf of prisoners in the Garfield County Jail, where jail staff have allegedly used Tasers and electroshock belts, restraint chairs, pepper spray and pepperball guns as methods of torture. According to Mark Silverstein, legal director for ACLU of Colorado, inmates have told him that Tasers are pulled out and "displayed" by officers on a daily basis, either as a form of intimidation and threat compliance, or to shock the inmates for disobeying orders.

A recent report from the ACLU's National Prison Project (NPP), "Abandoned and Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina," concerns the plight of the estimated 6,500 New Orleans prisoners left to fend for themselves in the days after the monumental New Orleans flood. The NPP's Tom Jawetz says that the organization has been looking into abuses at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) since 1999, but that the incidents that took place in jails and prisons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were unprecedented.

Take the case of New Orleans resident Ivy Gisclair. Held at OPP for unpaid parking tickets, Gisclair was about to be released on his own recognizance when Hurricane Katrina hit. After languishing with thousands of other prisoners in a flooded jail, Gisclair was sent to the Bossier Parish Maximum Security Prison. Once there, Gisclair apparently had the nerve to inquire about being held past his release date. Gisclair has testified that he was then restrained and stunned repeatedly with a Taser, before being thrown, naked and unconscious, into solitary confinement.

"I can't imagine any justification for that," says Jawetz. "[Prison guards] were kicking, beating and 'Tasing' him until he lost consciousness. A line was crossed that should never have been crossed."

In March, Reuben Heath, a handcuffed and subdued Montana inmate, was shocked while lying prone in his bed. The deputy involved--a one-time candidate for sheriff--now faces felony charges.

Gisclair and Heath are among the inmates who have survived in-custody incidents involving the abuse of Tasers. Others haven't been as fortunate. This year alone, those who have died in custody in the aftermath of being stunned by Tasers include Arapahoe County Jail (Colorado) inmate Raul Gallegos-Reyes, 34, who was strapped to a restraint chair and stunned; Jerry Preyer, 45, who suffered from a severe mental illness in an Escambia County, Fla., jail and was shocked twice by a Taser; and Karl Marshall, 32, who died in Kansas City police custody two hours after he was stunned with PCP and crack cocaine in his system.

Appropriate uses "We are seeing far too many cases where Tasers are not being used for their intended purposes," says Sheley Secrest, president of NAACP Seattle. "And many of these cases don't end up getting reported or properly investigated because people are so humiliated by the experience."

Former U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, a long-time SWAT specialist and vice president of Blacks in Government, says that if stun guns are going to be used by law enforcement, training on their use should be extensive, and that the weapons should also be placed high up on what police officers call the "use-of-force continuum."

Fogg isn't alone in calling for such measures. In October 2005, the Police Executive Research Forum, an influential police research and advocacy group, recommended that law enforcement only be allowed to use Tasers on people aggressively resisting arrest. The organization also recommended that law enforcement officers needed to step back and evaluate the condition of suspects after they had been shocked once. Similar recommendations were included in an April 2005 report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. That report also urged police departments to evaluate whether certain vulnerable groups--including the mentally ill--should be excluded altogether from being shot with Tasers.

Although Fogg's organization has called for an outright ban of Tasers until further research can be conducted, Fogg says that he knows responsible members of law enforcement are perfectly capable of using the weapons effectively. Officers who are willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the community, he emphasizes, must be given the tools and training to be able to minimize harm to themselves and to others.

Fogg, who also serves on the board of Amnesty International USA, says that too many members of law enforcement seem to be using them as compliance mechanisms. "It's something along the lines of, 'If I don't like you, I can torture you,' " he says.

Some law enforcement agencies have already implemented careful use policies, including the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, which selectively hands out Tasers to carefully trained deputies. The department also prohibits use of Tasers on subjects already "under control." According to Sheriff Michael Hennessey, deputies are not allowed to use stun guns in response to minor ineffectual threats, as a form of punishment, or on juveniles or pregnant women. Within the department, stun guns are purposely set to turn off after five seconds. Additionally, every use of the weapon in a jail facility must be videotaped.

"I authorize Tasers to be used on people who are at high risk of hurting themselves or deputies," Sheriff Hennessey emphasizes. "Without options like these, the inmate and the deputies are much more likely to get seriously hurt."

But when stun guns are used on people who don't fit that criteria, Secrest says, the public should be asking serious questions about the efficacy of Taser use, particularly because of the emotional trauma related to Taser-related take-downs.

"When a person comes into our office after they've been [Tased], it's not as much the physical pain they talk about as much as the humiliation, the disrespect," she says. "The people [who are stunned by these guns] talk about not being able to move, and thinking that they were going to die."

As for actual Taser-associated deaths, Secrest believes that they should be investigated just as thoroughly as deaths involving firearms. Instead, Taser injuries and deaths are typically justified because officers report that the suspect was resisting an arrest.

"That's the magic word: 'resisted,'" says Secrest. "Any kind of police oversight investigation tends to end right there."

Capitalizing on 9/11

Despite these concerns, Taser International Inc. has thrived. The 9/11 terrorist attacks sent the company's profits soaring. Many domestic and international airlines--as well a variety of major law enforcement agencies--were eager to acquire a new arsenal of weapons. Homeland Security money flooded into both state and federal-level departments, many of which were gung-ho to acquire a new arsenal of high-tech gadgets.

In 2002, Taser brought on former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik as the company's director. Kerik had attained popularity in the wake of 9/11 as a law-and-order-minded hero; the company had seemingly picked one of the best spokespersons imaginable.

With Kerik's help, company's profits grew to $68 million in 2004, up from just under $7 million in 2001, and stockholders were able to cash in, including the Smith family, who raked in $91.5 million in just one fiscal quarter in 2004.

Unbeknownst to most stockholders, however, sales have been helped along by police officers who have received payments and/or stock options from Taser to serve as instructors and trainers. (The exact number of officers on the payroll is unknown because the company declines to identify active-duty officers who have received stock options.)

The recruitment of law enforcement has been crucial to fostering market penetration. For instance, Sgt. Jim Halsted of the Chandler, Ariz., Police Department, joined Taser President Rick Smith in making a presentation to the Chandler city council in March 2003. He made the case for arming the entire police patrol squad with M-26 Tasers. According to the Associated Press, Halsted said, "No deaths are attributed to the M-26 at all."

The council approved a $193,000 deal later that day.

As it turned out, Halsted was already being rewarded with Taser stock options as a member of the company's "Master Instructor Board." Two months after the sale, Halsted became Taser's Southwest regional sales manager.

In addition, Taser has developed a potent gimmick to sell its futuristic line of weapons. In 2003, Taser premiered the X-26. According to Taser's promotional materials, the X-26 features an enhanced dataport to help "save officer's careers from false allegations" by recording discharge date and time, number and length and date of discharges, and the optional ability to record the event with the Taser webcam. The X-26 also boasts a more powerful incapacitation rating of 105 "Muscular Disruption Units", up from 100 MDU's for the M-26.

The X-26 is apparently far more pleasing to the eye. As Taser spokesperson Steve Tuttle told a law enforcement trade journal, "It's a much sexier-looking product."

Lawsuits jolt Taser

As increasing numbers of police departments obtained Taser stun guns, the weapons started to be deployed against civilians with greater frequency.

Many of the civilian Taser-associated incidents have resulted in lawsuits, most of which have either been dismissed or settled out of court. But there have been a few exceptions.

In late September, Kevin Alexander, 29, was awarded $82,500 to settle an excessive force federal lawsuit after being shocked 17 times with a Taser by a New Orleans Parish police officer. The department's explanation: the shocks were intended to make him cough up drugs he had allegedly swallowed.

One recently settled Colorado case involved Christopher Nielsen, 37, who was "acting strangely" and was not responsive to police orders after he crashed his car. For his disobedience, he was stunned five times. When it was revealed that Nielsen was suffering from seizures, the county settled the case for $90,000.

An Akron, Ohio, man also recently accepted a $35,000 city settlement. One day in May 2005, he had gone into diabetic shock and police found him slumped over his steering wheel. Two officers proceeded to physically beat, Mace and Taser him after he did not respond to orders to get out of the car.

Taser's lack of response to the misuse of the company's weapons is troubling. The company relentlessly puts a positive spin on Taser use, most recently with a "The Truth is Undeniable" Web ad campaign, which contrasts mock courtroom scenes with the fictionalized, violent antics of civilians that prompt police to stungun them.

The campaign involves print ads, direct mail DVDs and online commercials that "draw attention to a rampant problem in this country: false allegations against law enforcement officers," according to Steve Ward, Taser's vice president of marketing.

"We're going to win"

The lawsuits have scared off some investors, making Taser's stock extremely volatile over the years. But press coverage of the company this past summer largely centered around Taser's "successes" in the courtroom. In addition to settling a $21.8 million shareholder lawsuit revolving around allegations that the company had exaggerated the safety of their product (they admitted no wrongdoing), Taser has triumphed in more than 20 liability dismissals and judgments in favor of the company. And the company's finances are on the upswing: Third-quarter 2006 revenues increased nearly 60 percent.

Regardless, CEO Rick Smith claims his company is target of a witchhunt. "We're waiting for people to dunk me in water and see if I float," is how he put it during a March 2005 debate with William Schulz, the executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Last year, with 40 new lawsuits filed against it, Taser dedicated $7 million in its budget to defending the company's reputation and "brand equity." The company has also gone on the offense, hiring two full-time, in-house litigators.

At one point, Taser hinted that it might sue Amnesty International for taking a critical position regarding Taser-associated injuries and deaths. In November 2004 Smith announced that the company's legal team had begun a "comprehensive review of AI's disparaging and unsupported public statements [to] advise me as to various means to protect our company's good name."

In one of the company's brashest legal maneuvers to date, Taser sued Gannett Newspapers for libel in 2005. The lawsuit alleged USA Today "sensationalized" the power of Taser guns by inaccurately reporting that the electrical output of the gun was more than 100 times that of the electric chair. This past January, a judge threw the case out, saying that the error in the article was not malicious, and that the story was protected by the First Amendment.

The company remains unwavering and aggressively protective, even as Taser-associated deaths mount each month. As Smith told the Associated Press in February, "If you're coming to sue Taser, bring your game face, strap it on and let's go. We're gonna win."

From Jack Wilson's standpoint, citizens are the real losers. His son Ryan lost his life in a situation that could have been handled any number of other ways, and no amount of legal posturing can bring Ryan back.

"I still can't believe my son is gone," he says. "The fact is that these Tasers can be lethal. No matter how they're categorized, Tasers shouldn't be treated as toys."

Thanks to the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund for research support, and to David Burnett for research assistance.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 03:03 PM | Comments (1)

March 25, 2007

Book Reviews: March 07 issue

In association with The Nile
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MY FAVOURITE BOOK

And other stories, by Michael Morrissey

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TIGERS IN RED WEATHER by Ruth Padel, $29.99

I began this column seven years ago and in that time I have reviewed 370 books. In the main, they have been books I either enjoyed or admired though occasionally some were read out of cultural duty. From memory, the only two I have done “hatchet” jobs on are The Beach by Alex Garland and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown Alas my negative reviews probably did nothing to deter sales and to date I have not received any aggrieved letters from the authors, presumably (especially in Brown's case) guffawing all the way to the bank.

It is my happy task to report that this month's lead book Tigers in Red Weather is one of the most outstanding books yet consumed during this on-going delicious seven year literary feast. As an example of naturalist writing, it often attains the heights of fine poetry and indeed the title is a quote from that brilliant poet Wallace Stevens, who along with Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot, must be considered one of the greatest American poets of the last century.

A sample of Padel's sumptuous yet precise prose:

“Brown water drops fall like cappuccino from his belly on split-end grass. A racket-tailed drongo calls, the mimic of the Indian jungle, a black glossy bird with tail-feathers like two black lollipops. A sentinel langur monkey barks from a sal tree over the pool. Both have seen the movement of a tiger, a predator, jumping. The tigress's whiskers twitch in irritation. Alarm calls cross the species barrier: they are the jungle's lingui franca. Everyone wants to know when a predator is near. Grey langurs, the silky silvery monkeys of the India forest, large as Labradors, are the eyes of the jungle, packing the trees with black judgmental faces.”

Padel, a great-great grandaughter of Darwin, takes us on a world tiger tour. Among the 14 countries or islands that still have wild tigers, she has visited three of the most dangerous and remote – Eastern Siberia, Bhutan and Sumatra – though she has been to nearly all of them. The Siberian, Bhutan and Sumatra chapters are especially fascinating both because of the remoteness of location, extraordinary fauna and flora and in the particular case of Sumatra, the fabulously rich mythology about the tiger, absolutely central to that large island's culture.

The preservation of the tiger in the wild is not merely a matter of liking a large and beautiful animal - it is a symbol of the entire conservation mode of thought. Because the tiger is the top predator, a healthy tiger means a healthy jungle. The Mahabharata, that epic Hindu poem, made exactly the same point in 400 BC: “The tiger perishes without the forest and the forest perishes without its tigers.”

Tiger preservation is not “merely” a matter of conservation ideology, it is a small war. In India, which remains the country with the largest number of wild tigers (current estimate 3000), fifty guards are killed every year by poachers, another 100 mutilated. Because of poor funds, the guards often have old-style .303 style rifles whereas the poachers have modern weapons. It's an uneven contest dangerously loaded against the felines and two of India's prominent tiger defenders have opposing views of the tiger's future. The somewhat black-tigery Valmik Thapar, author of 14 books on tigers, is a pessimist (though he will fight for its right to live in the jungle while there is breath in his body), while biologist Ullas Karanth is optimistic. Only the future will show which view is the more accurate.

Unfortunately, the villain in the world scene is China. Most of the world's illegally poached tigers wind up in the markets of the world's most populous nation. I used to cherish the idea that the proven to work Viagra would defeat the mistaken traditional Chinese medicine notion that the tiger penis was useful as an aphrodisiac but alas the tiger is also valued for its bones not to mention its magnificent skin. The current situation has become desperate and tiger skins are openly sold for approximately $13,000 dollars.

Padel admits that the tiger itself will not become extinct because there are many thousands in zoos or in private ownership (4000 in Texas alone!) who will presumably continue to breed and be placed in other zoos and reserves though not of course back into the wild.

The tiger has twice before been saved from extinction – in the 1930s in Siberia and in India in 1973. It is therefore possible to do so again though the odds currently look horribly bad. Governments have to treat it as a top priority and at the local level the welfare of peoples who lived in, around and, indeed, with tigers must always be fully taken into account. If this happens – and it is still possible - the tiger's roar will still be frightening those langur monkeys and every living thing within a five kilometre radius in the years to come.

Needless to say there are no wild tigers in New Zealand though a friend told me a specimen was once released in the South Island for hunting purposes and later died of the cold (factoid?). Meanwhile two fine Sumatran specimens can be see at the Auckland Zoo – Oz (male) and Molek (female). Mating and breeding is intended but it takes time for the two giant felines to get acquainted. Once you have seen these animals, even through the filter of protective glass, I defy you not to wish for their survival at large. Let us all hope that Tigers in Red Weather brings about a benign change in the climate for tigrine survival.


THE DISCOVERY OF THE HOBBIT by Mike Morwood and Penny Van Oosterzer, Random House Australia, $40

Late 2004 saw the announcement of a scientific and paleoanthropological bombshell – real-life hobbits! The “hobbits” were the remains of very small hominids – about a metre tall - found in the Liang Bua cave on Flores Island in Indonesia, by a joint Australian-Indonesian team led by New Zealander Mike Morwood and Indonesian Raden Pandji Soejono. As outlined by Morwood, the tiny humans hunted giant rats, pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons until 13,000 years ago. In other words, human beings far smaller than previously imagined - no larger than leprechauns - co-existed with normal-sized humans on this remote island. Needless to say, the world has been agog ever since.

If your first reaction is to think this is either a forgotten chapter from Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World or the most brilliant scientific hoax in human history, I'm not surprised. (More about scepticism presently.) Science has had to admit the existence of meteorites (once not believed in) and more recently giant rogue waves, so why not tiny humans? Once upon a time gorillas and Komodo dragons weren't believed in either.

The climactic discovery of the first hobbit occurs about a third way into the book - prior to that point, the authors give a sober outline of various background aspects – methods of excavation and dating, plate tectonics, the Wallace line, the twin theories of human origin and so forth. This effectively sets the scene for the (literally) earth-shattering discovery of the first hominid bones. The announcement provoked a media explosion of nuclear proportions - 200 enquiries a day for the first week, 98,000 websites and articles in 7000 newspapers plus a lead feature in National Geographic, world circulation ten million copies.

So far so good. Now the plot thickens. While Morwood was in Australia, his Indonesian colleague handed over the hominid remains to Professor Leuku Jacob, “the undisputed king of paleoanthropology in Indonesia.” The bones were eventually returned but according to Morwood, moulds had been taken in a way that caused serious damage to the remains. Further, Jacob spearheaded a counterclaim that the hominids, rather than being a new species of homo sapiens, were in fact pygmies suffering from microcephalis – a pathological explanation of the unusually small skulls. Morwood and his colleagues staunchly maintain that the teeth and the pelvis shape and other healthy characteristics plus long term existence on Flores suggest that the hominids were not microcephalic but another kind of human. The unusually small cranial capacity – only 380 cc – is also way below what was thought to be the size for human intelligence to be feasible. Morwood says the skull formation indicates “enlarged frontal and temporal lobes” – precisely those areas concerned with cognition and planning”. Plus the presence of stone artefacts - how could retarded folk have made them?

Unlike the notorious Piltdown man hoax of 1912, and the controversial Tasaday tribe “discovered” in 1971, no one is accusing Morwood of fakery - simply mistaken interpretation of fossil evidence. What would appear to weigh against the sceptic case of Jacob and his supporters is that at least 13 sets of bones have been found all indicating a uniformly small stature plus evidence of hunting skills. In general, the world has accepted Morwood's claims. If future excavations yield still more tiny hominids, Morwood's case will only be strengthened. In the meantime, I would love to speculate that evidence of a race of giants might come to light – though this seems rather less likely. Watch this space.


THE BOOK OF GENERAL IGNORANCE by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, Faber and Faber, $35

What Edison invention do English speakers use every day? This is one of hundreds of comparable 'trick' questions contained in this snappy little tome. Some of the obvious answers might be the electric light or the phonograph. According to the irritatingly well-informed authors, the correct answer is “Hullo” which they assert was originally used to express surprise but Edison decided a nice loud Hullo! was the best way to kick start an immediately audible phone conversation.

In other words, this book works hard and, in the main, succeeds in revealing unexpected answers, unusual facts, while simultaneously puncturing widespread but erroneous beliefs. My guess is that in some cases the correct answer (that is, if it is correct) will not always be accepted.

I found it hard to swallow that the largest thing the largest living animal on the planet (ie a blue whale) can swallow is a grapefruit. It was sad to read that St Bernard's dogs did not carry brandy barrels around their necks though I do remember brandy being kept in the home as a means of reviving the weak and the swoony. (Perhaps it was the bite of the taste in which case whiskey would have done just as well. Note: James Bond's favourite drink was not the vodka martini but whiskey – mentioned 101 times!) Apparently, the brandy barrel was added “for interest” by an artist in an 1831 painting. So there!

Some items that either surprised, flabbergasted or I found hard to believe – alcohol does not kill brain cells though it does make new cells grow less quickly; Hitler was not a vegetarian though his doctors recommended it as a cure for flatulence (in fact, he ate Bavarian sausage, game pie and stuffed pigeon); feminists did not burn their bras but did throw them in the trash can (the burning detail was added by a journalist); practitioners of Voodoo do not stick pins in dolls.

Among such a litany of myth-busting, it was a relief to read that plaster of Paris really does come from Paris, that cats can fall great heights without injury and that the monicker “poms” is an abbreviation for pomegranates.

Too bad about those people who believe you can see the Great Wall of China from the moon - you can barely make out continents. However, from space – 100 kilometres up - you can make out all sort of objects – motorways, railways, cities, buildings etc.

The only fact I would dispute is the assertion that “from the fourth century BC almost no one anywhere, has believed the earth was flat.” A goodly number of Christian thinkers stated that the earth was flat - these include Lactantius, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chryostom, Severian, Diodorus of Tarsus and the improbably named Cosmas Indicopleustes. However, it is true that Columbus and his men did NOT think the earth was flat as is often stated - this notion sprung from Washington Irving's popular semi-fictional book about Columbus, published in 1828.

According to one website I visited, Zhang Heng (inventor of the seismograph) was the first to introduce the notion of a round earth into Chinese thought but not until the 2nd century AD – 600 hundred years after the author's date for the widespread acceptance of the roundness of the earth. As late as the early 17the century, the popular belief in China was that the earth was flat.

I have saved two knockout drop-jaw facts till last - the biggest man-made thing on earth is not the Great Wall of China but the Fresh Kills rubbish dump on Staten Island New York and a chicken survived without its head for two years - the axe missed the jugular and it was fed with an eye-dropper. Please don't try this at home.

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AVA GARDNER by Lee Server, Bloomsbury, $59.99

Being hailed as the world's most beautiful woman is enough to swell anyone's head but according to this exhaustive biography it left Ava's down to earth personality more or less intact. In the words of one of MGM's early stars John Gilbert, “Very matter-of-fact about everything, nothing drippy or saccharine about her at all, a real no-nonsense kind of girl”.

When the young Carolina star-to-be arrived at MGM's headquarters, it was the largest dream factory on earth - 117 acres of offices, cottages, laboratories, barnlike soundstages big enough to house zeppelins, plus an artificial lake, a stretch of railroad track, a street of New York tenements, a castle and a patch of African jungle. It had 4000 employees, though just 100 of those were contracted actors, among them the diminutive though perfectly formed Mickey Rooney who, like so many, was instantly smitten with the young Ava. Rooney wound up proposing marriage to Ava 25 times before she said yes. Rooney and Gardner showed spirited determination in defying film mogul Louis B Mayer's decree that they should not get hitched. The marriage went well for a while until Ava, possibly with justification (though Rooney swore otherwise), felt he was being unfaithful.

Ava Gardner had a warm but stormy personality as Howard Hughes, oil tycoon and aviator, discovered. The eccentric billionaire had tried to bribe his way into her affections with expensive gifts but she resisted. An intrusive control-freak, Hughes had her followed and even bugged her room. When he discovered she had a lover (not him) he became inflamed with jealousy and attacked her. Giving as good and more than she received, Ava hit Hughes with a large bronze bell. She was given a steak for her black eye, while the world's richest man was driven off in an ambulance.

Ava's tempestuous life was of course just beginning. A volatile person, alcohol proved a bad mix that helped accelerate natural storms to hurricane or even tornado status. Ava herself could be candid about her faults: “Yes, I am very beautiful but morally I stink”. Such an admission of course never frightened off any new suitors of which there was always a ready supply. After Rooney, she married intellectual musician Artie Shaw and her third marriage to crooner Frank Sinatra assisted in boosting both careers to iconic status.

In an acutely perceptive passage, Server describes the two personalities as very much alike in temperament, tastes, sympathies, neuroses”. Both had taciturn fathers and outgoing mothers, and both hated racial prejudice. According to Server – no reason to doubt his analysis – “both were independent-minded, hotheaded, selfish, possessive, suspicious - traits intensified by the alcohol of which they were equally fond; they were both generous, open, affectionate, sensitive, funny.” And, of course, both very voraciously promiscuous - a trait that does not lend itself to happiness. Though their marriage predictably ended after bitter quarreling, their bond lasted until Gardner's death at the relatively early age of 67.

Beside Hughes, Sinatra and Rooney, many other rich and/or famous individuals passed through Ava's meteoric career, among them Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Fidel Castro, Robert Graves, Adlai Stevenson, George C. Scott, Man Ray, John Houston, New Zealand plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe and champion bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin (and yes, Ava did try her hand at bullfighting).

Server's sardonic-cynical-American style is not always to my taste but he gives an exhaustive treatment of Gardner's roller-coaster life plus a very full analysis of some of her important films such as the memorable The Killers which launched Burt Lancaster's glittering career. The question sometimes asked of such glamorous stars is – but can they really act? In Gardner 's case, having watched several of her classic films, I can say the answer has to be a resounding yes. Despite her many faults, Gardner seems to have been one of those uniquely charming individuals who wind up being forgiven by everyone - even those she hurt the most.

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THE FAINTER by Damien Wilkins, Victoria University Press, $30

I have enjoyed and been impressed by Damien Wilkins's earlier novels The Miserables and Little Masters but regrettably The Fainter, his fifth novel, is a lesser work. Billed as a comedy of manners, it has the drawing room concentration of the genre but little of its dance. By tradition, the comedy of manners is associated with a style of English theatre from the 17th century (eg William Wycherley, William Congreve), which was given a new lease of life by Oscar Wilde. In more recent times, the notion has been linked to Joe Orton, Noel Coward, Marcel Proust and many others. It has been said to find its comic effect in the contrast between codes of expected mannerly behaviour and the ironically concealed motives of self interest shown by the characters. The comic effects of The Fainter are marginal and its sense of theatre weak.

The novel's character is Luke, a youthful diplomat evidently on the rise – he is a junior legal adviser on Environmental law to the New Zealand wing of the Permanent Mission at the United Nations. One night he witnesses a murder in the streets of New York but it's never altogether clear what he sees and that makes his onlooker role curiously passive. Seemingly, this event is central to the book but its dramatic follow through is oddly muted. Like Luke himself, it seems to have fallen asleep on the job i.e. fainted Generally, Luke is more passive than a central character can afford to be.

As the novel's focus shifts to Luke's stay with his sister's farming family in South Canterbury a more straightforward conflict ensues – that between the bookish fellow with soft hands surrounded by more mannish types who farm, pilot glider craft and so forth. The dialogue tends more to the banal and lifelike rather than the witty but there is one glorious burst when it is suggested that Kerry O'Keefe, Luke's retired boss turned amateur military historian, has gone over to the “dark side.” “Bestiality?” 'The National Party.” Ouch! Generally there is more interest in the mild frisson of his on-going bruising at the hand of Alec, who ironically is rescued by Luke from choking, than Luke's lack-lustre interest in Sheila, Alec's wife.

There are intriguing bits of political consciousness and know-how scattered slyly through the text and some focus on the way the late David Lange's oratory and political style impacted on an impressionable Luke. Alas, Luke is no Lange in the making neither in political clout or wit. Here and there are traces of the old Wilkins' magic but on the whole it is a curiously dull and unfocused performance. The atmosphere of the text is disconcertingly cosy and complacent. Perhaps the author needs to be parachuted into a more dangerous zone for a few weeks.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Northern Queensland: March 07 issue

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The Back of Beyond

Ecotourism adventures abound in northern Australia's Queensland, writes Tim Johnson

CAPE TRIBULATION, Australia - It might have been the primeval forest noises. Or perhaps it was the tree-climbing kangaroos. It also could have been the cassowary, a flightless bird as tall as a grown man.

As we hiked out of one of the world's oldest rainforests, our older daughter put into words what we'd been sensing for several days.

"I feel like I'm visiting Jurassic Park," she said.

The northeast region of Australia - far northern Queensland - comprises an extraordinary variety of habitats. Over a few days, you can snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, hike through rainforest and visit the nearby tablelands rimming the dry Outback.

My family is currently based in Beijing, where the weather is chilly in winter, so the idea of a year-end holiday to sunny Australia seemed comforting: no struggles with a foreign language, a chance to visit some Australian friends, and plenty of familiar stores and food.

What we didn't fully expect was the stunning diversity of environments we'd see in northern Queensland, and the never-seen-before wildlife. The vacation began on the right foot with a few days in Sydney, where we soaked up the city's hilly charm, cruising in the harbor and walking the coastal trail south of Bondi Beach.

Then it was on to encounters with red-legged pademelons, bandicoots, Papuan frogmouths, assassin bugs and even a Wompoo fruit-dove, with its hallucinogenic colors.

The domestic flight landed in Cairns (pronounced "cans" in the local inflection), where you can rent a car, take a deep breath and drive north. A bright yellow dashboard sticker reminded us that the Australians drive, like the British, on the left side of the road.

Driving was a breeze. Using the turn signals was another matter. I repeatedly activated the windshield wipers when I meant to turn, drawing howls from the girls, aged 15 and 9.

An hour's drive north of Cairns is Port Douglas, a resort town that was our temporary base for explorations. To the west, cloud-shrouded mountains loomed; to the east, we gazed on the Coral Sea and the longest barrier reef in the world.

The vacation was loosely planned, and we made quick alterations. Australia was a little pricier than we expected on a $350-a-day budget for our family of four, so instead of eating out constantly we made use of the kitchenette in our rental unit. To our delight, we found that many hotels offered "self-contained units" with kitchens. Nearly all offered communal areas with facilities to barbecue, a national pastime.

Australia's northern beaches are awash in "stingers" - jellyfish - during the summer months, so the next day we headed north to Mossman River Gorge, a rainforest park. The girls delighted in the swinging bridge over a creek that cascaded over boulders, and the tangle of vines and giant ferns amid lush trees.

Walking around the Port Douglas marina in the evening, we made reservations to board the Aristocat, a double-decker catamaran, for a snorkeling visit to the outer reef, a highlight of any trip to Australia.

Among the 60 or 70 visitors the next day was a large contingent of young Japanese divers, and a smattering of Europeans and North Americans. We all donned stinger suits - lighter than wetsuits - to neutralize any encounters with jellyfish, and slid into the water.

Below were giant clams, sea cucumbers, white-tipped reef sharks, barracuda, butterfly fish and a rainbow array of other tropical fish and coral polyps.

As often happens, our girls enjoyed the wondrous sea life but they were equally amused by the sideshows on the boat: the handful of retching, seasick passengers and the group cheers that the Japanese divers gave before entering the water.

Without knowing much about the interior high plateau, known locally as the tablelands, we piled into the car the next day and climbed a thousand feet through the rainforest and into dry rolling plains and farmland. Huge termite mounds poked out of the earth. Pioneering towns with names such as Mareeba and Yungaburra dotted the map. At a fruit stand, we bought mangoes after considering the litchi nuts, passion fruit and other tropical delights.

Late that afternoon, after we'd found a simple rental cabin, my wife exclaimed as we drove along a country road: "Stop! There's a cassowary!"

Sure enough, one of the huge birds emerged from woods at the shoulder of the road. A cousin of the ostrich, the cassowary has a bulbous helmet on its head and a long blue neck, and sometimes stands more than 6 feet tall. It can be aggressive. Signs in national parks warn that the birds' sharp, powerful talons can do terrible damage to a man with a single kick to the abdomen.

Days later we learned that Australia's endangered cassowary population is only around 1,500. Wild dogs, the loss of its habitat and speeding cars have taken a toll.

A day later at the Granite Gorge, a private nature park with rock outcroppings amid scattered gum trees, we spotted our first rock wallabies, which are smaller than kangaroos but look similar. Our 9-year-old jumped with excitement when given a bag of feed and told she could lure wild wallabies from their shady lairs and hand-feed them. Hours later, sweating profusely in the midday sun, she could barely be pulled away.

A special treat awaited us that night back in the rainforest: a tour with Dr. David Rentz, an entomologist, who led us on a night walk around our cabin grounds in Kuranda. Illuminating his way by headlamp, Rentz pointed out huge nests of orange-footed scrub fowl, glow-in-the-dark fungus and assassin bugs ("They pierce other bugs with that mouth part and suck their juices out"). He also deployed an ultrasonic device that allowed us to listen to insect and bat sounds that usually are beyond the range of human hearing.

"See that?" he asked. Two eyes stared from the brush. "That's a bandicoot."

A marsupial about the size of a possum, the bandicoot scampered off. Moments later, a group of wallabies, known as red-legged pademelons, emerged from the bush.

We meandered a day later to the crocodile-infested Daintree National Park and splurged to stay at the Red Mill House, a bird lovers' bed-and-breakfast with binoculars and bird books scattered on the verandahs. Owners Andrew and Trish Forsyth handed us a bird checklist, and we quickly ticked off rainbow lorikeets, kookaburras, figbirds and gerygones, all hitherto unknown to us. Some 500 species of birds inhabit or migrate through the northwest Queensland region.

At dawn during a boat excursion, we spotted an owl lookalike known as the Papuan Frogmouth, as well as snakes, butterflies and a tiny crocodile. Like most visitors, we were fixated on the crocodiles, staring at TV newscasts and reading aloud newspaper reports of multiple crocodile attacks on humans that occurred during our holiday.

Crocodile meat was on the menu at the Papaya Cafe in the Daintree Village, with this description: "ground crocodile meat and water chestnuts in crisp wonton wrappers, served with chili plum sauce." The waitress told us more about croc meat.

"It's got the texture of pork, the color of fish and the taste of chicken," she said.

We gave it a pass.

The next day, we came across a mountain lookout with a cluster of tourists pointing into a canopy of trees where two tree kangaroos nibbled on leaves. Only later, as other guides came by, did we learn that such a sighting is rare.

We'd come to expect rare things in Australia.

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IF YOU GO:
All figures given are in Aust. dollars.

AIR TRAVEL IN AUSTRALIA: We made domestic travel arrangements through www.flightcentre.com.au, which has cut-rate airfares.

WHERE TO STAY: Australia offers a huge variety of lodging, from ubiquitous and cheap backpacker hostels to hotels, motels and full resorts. We made some arrangements through www.hotel.com.au, which includes reviews of hotels from users. In Port Douglas, we liked the Mango Tree Holiday Apartments (www.mango-tree-port-douglas.com), where we paid about $175 a night for a two-room apartment. In Daintree Village, the Red Mill House (www.redmillhouse.com.au) is a delightful small B&B surrounded by towering trees. We had two adjoining rooms for which we paid $225 per night, including a hearty breakfast. In the tablelands, we found furnished cabins for $90 to $115 a night. They were generally at parks for recreational-vehicle users.

RENTAL CARS: The Cairns airport has a number of rental car companies, including all major global brands. We rented a Toyota Corolla from Hertz with unlimited mileage, negotiating a weekly rate of $299 without a reservation.

TRIPS TO GREAT BARRIER REEF: Port Douglas has a number of companies that offer high-speed catamarans for snorkeling and scuba trips to the outer reefs. We took a trip by Aristocat (www.aristocat.com.au) that cost $500 for two adults and two children, including all snorkeling gear and lunch. Calypso (www.calypsocharters.com.au) and Poseidon (www.poseidon-cruises.com.au) have trips at similar prices.

GUIDED NATURE EXCURSIONS: The highlights of our trip were outings with naturalists. In the Kuranda area, northwest of Port Douglas, Dr. David C. Rentz, an insect expert with a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, led three of us on a two-hour night hike. Cost: $60. He can be reached at orthop1(at)tpg.com.au. In Daintree Village, we hooked up with Mangrove Adventures, led by Dan Irby, an Oklahoman with long years of experience in Queensland. Irby's Web site is www.mangroveadventures.com.au. He offered us a two-hour boating trip for four people for $199.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2007

PACIFIC JIHAD: TERRORISTS IN NZ INVESTIGATE: OCT 00

Is the tide of Islamic fundamentalism now washing at our own door? One of the world’s most-wanted terrorists has visited New Zealand without being arrested by security authorities here, despite his involvement in attacks that have killed or injured more than 900 people. BEN VIDGEN and IAN WISHART report:

New Zealand security agencies were placed on high alert prior to the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland after the discovery that Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Nidal was in the country. Security sources spoken to by Investigate confirm the terrorist was "sprung" by a former Israeli security official who was part of a group of Israeli tourists in Queenstown.

And direct confirmation has also come from a Nelson doctor, Neal McCullum, whose Israeli friend was directly involved.

"Our friend, who speaks fluent Arabic, had been in the cafeteria [in Queenstown] when she had overheard some men talking in Arabic and had been disturbed at the nature of their conversation.

"She then approached a member of the tour she was with, a man who’d previously worked in security for El Al [the Israeli national airline], and described what she’d heard."

The security expert observed the group of men for a moment, and then identified one of them as Abu Nidal, the reputed head of the Abu Nidal Organisation. However, the former El Al guard had no desire to become involved in any international intrigue in New Zealand and was reluctant to report it. Dr McCullum says he strongly urged the female Israeli tourist to at least contact New Zealand security agencies, and report the Abu Nidal sighting to the Security Intelligence Service.

The SIS quickly picked up on Nidal’s trail, as he hadn’t yet left New Zealand, and "I was told it was the biggest joint operation involving the SIS, the police and the Army," says McCullum, now living in the lower North Island.

So what happened next? Nothing. Nidal was placed under extensive surveillance but wasn’t touched, "apparently because he was travelling on a diplomatic passport."

But there may be another reason why one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists went unmolested in New Zealand: some intelligence sources claim Nidal was secretly working for the Israelis, stirring up trouble in certain areas that Israel could then use as an excuse for a military strike on Palestine targets.

Before dismissing the idea that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency could be so devious as to deliberately help an Arab terrorist group in order to further its own agenda, consider this: when investigators probed the collapse of the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International in 1991, they found not only evidence that Mossad was banking with BCCI, but also that payments had been made from the Mossad accounts to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers rebels and the Abu Nidal Organisation.

Of course, it is not beyond the realms of probability that Nidal, whose real name is Sabri al-Banna, was being played for a sucker by Mossad.

In an interview with British author David Yallop, Nidal professes a hatred for Israel that seems entirely plausible:

"My family was the richest in Palestine. My father was the richest man. He owned over six thousand acres. His lands reached from south of Jaffa to the Gaza Strip. All that land.

"And all that land was confiscated by the Jews. You tell me. How much of my own land should I accept from the thieving Israeli government in return for giving them this peace?

"Where our orchards were, immigrant Jews now live. The home that I grew up in is now a District Court for the Israeli Army. What should I accept in return for giving these people peace? The ground floor?"

And yet, even Yallop floats the possibility that Nidal was working for Israel.

He recounts an interview with Abu Iyad, the Palestinian terrorist responsible for planning the attack on the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

"Our discussion moved to how Abu Nidal’s organisation had been penetrated for many years by Mossad," writes Yallop. "Penetrated to such a degree that Abu Iyad, the head of the PLO intelligence and counter-intelligence, with all that implies, told me of his conviction that frequently the targets selected by Abu Nidal have been chosen by Mossad.

"He cited an example of Mossad targeting: Arafat’s PLO representative in London, Said Hammami. ‘At the time of Said Hammami’s murder in January 1978 he was in the middle of very secret negotiations with members of the Israeli government’."

The negotiations, the PLO intelligence chief told Yallop, would have seen a ceasefire in the Palestinian conflict and a recognition of Israel’s right to exist. This scenario was anathema to extremists on both sides who wanted no compromise.

" ‘A long time before Said’s murder he was warned by British Special Branch that he was on Mossad’s hit list. They told him their information came from the CIA. Said was also told by British security that the British Government had warned the Israeli Embassy that all known Mossad agents would be kicked out of Britain if the Israelis started getting the guns out’," Abu Iyad told Yallop.

"The implication was clear," Yallop reports: "Prevented by the British from doing the job themselves, Mossad had whistled up Abu Nidal."

Indeed, despite its public hatred for Israel, most of the Abu Nidal organisation’s attacks have been on the PLO and other Arab terror groups. Some time after his interview with Yallop, Abu Iyad was himself murdered in Tunis - by the Abu Nidal group. In the shifting world of intelligence and Maxwell Smart, enemies today may be friends tomorrow and enemies again by Friday.

An example of Israel’s duplicity is found in testimony by former Mossad agent Ari Ben-Menashe, who reports that Israel, not the Palestinians, was really behind the 1985 hijacking of the cruise liner Achille Lauro.

"That was, in fact, an Israeli ‘black’ propaganda operation to show what a deadly, cutthroat bunch the Palestinians were," he says.

A Palestinian working as a double-agent for Mossad was ordered to suggest "that it was time for the Palestinians to make an attack and do something cruel, although no specifics were laid out.

"Radi [the double agent] passed orders on to [terrorist leader] Abu’l Abbas, who, to follow such orders, was receiving millions from Israeli intelligence officers posing as Sicilian dons.

"Abbas then gathered a team to attack the cruise ship. The team was told to make it bad, to show the world what lay in store for other unsuspecting citizens if Palestinian demands were not met.

"As the world knows," says Ben-Menashe, "the group picked on an elderly American Jewish man in a wheelchair, killed him, and threw his body overboard. They made their point, but for Israel it was the best kind of anti-Palestinian propaganda."

Nor should such skulduggery come as a surprise if you recall the Iran/Contra scandal.

But New Zealand’s decision not to apprehend Abu Nidal may have been pragmatic as well as diplomatic: the repercussions of arresting a leading terrorist would be horrendous for a country not militarily or psychologically prepared for dealing with attacks on its interests overseas.

The fact that one of the world’s leading guerilla commanders could slip into New Zealand, apparently unnoticed by our security teams until a chance tip-off, speaks volumes about our ability to defend ourselves against the wrath of Islamic extremists: it is simply not something New Zealand is ready for.

Nor would it have been easy for New Zealand authorities to arrest Abu Nidal: unless Arabic-speaking witnesses could testify that they heard him planning a crime, whilst in New Zealand, it might still have been difficult capture him even with the legal support of extradition treaties.

Which raises questions over last month’s New
Zealand Herald exposé on an alleged plot
by somebody to blow up Sydney’s Lucas
Heights nuclear reactor during the Olympic Games. "The plot may have been hatched by Afghani sympathisers of Osama bin Laden, the Western world’s most wanted terrorist - a suggestion that is believed to have raised alarm in official circles," reported the Herald in a frontpage "world exclusive" later picked up by major news outlets around the world. "Weekend Herald sources revealed that members of what appears to be a clandestine cell of Afghan refugees in Auckland continue to maintain direct telephone links with suspected terrorist organisations in their strife-torn homeland, including the Mujahadeen, a fundamentalist Muslim volunteer group.

"Detectives in Auckland stumbled on the apparent reactor conspiracy during an investigation into people smuggling by organised crime syndicates. They conducted a series of house raids in March and found evidence suggesting a conspiracy to attack Lucas Heights:

"The lounge of a Mt Albert home was converted into a virtual command centre, complete with conference table and maps.

"A Sydney street map was found with the site of the 1950s era reactor and access routes to it highlighted.

"Entries in a notebook outlined police security tactics, standards and chains of command for the Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1990.

"[There were] signs of a clandestine cell of refugees granted New Zealand residency."

Although four people have been charged with immigration offences, there is not enough evidence to charge anyone with anything more serious - not because the plot itself is not serious but because information on who might be involved is extremely scant.

The paper’s report, by investigative journalist John Andrews, was instantly downplayed by New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton.

Anderton, who sits on the security, intelligence and external relations Cabinet committee, conveniently didn’t bother to explain how a group of Islamic freedom fighters had come into possession of highly restricted New Zealand Police security material, telling the media the story was a beat-up and if there was a real security threat "I would know about it".

While other news media presumed Anderton and the Labour Government’s dismissal of the story was more aimed at avoiding any backlash against the Afghani community in this country, it is also possible that the Government was mindful of New Zealand’s trade interests in the Middle East and anxious not to publicly offend Islamic trading partners by appearing to pay too much attention to the issue.

But despite having little money, police records indicate the 20 or so Afghanis under investigation had recently travelled through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines - the latter two countries are both currently dealing with outbreaks of Islamic fundamentalist violence aimed at overthrowing the incumbent governments.

New Zealand intelligence also indicates some of the "cell" members have been photographed carrying AK-47 assault rifles, and that some of the refugees given residency in New Zealand have fought in world hotspots such as Chechyna, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

And what of Osama bin Laden? Officially, he is the most-wanted terrorist on the face of the planet, and it probably isn’t totally a US overreaction. Some of the pictures in this article come from an anonymous website run by Osama bin Laden supporters in London.

Both there, and in published news reports in the mainstream media, bin Laden calls for a new crusade against Western infidels.

"This war will not only be between the people of the two sacred mosques and the Americans," bin Laden told a British TV crew in 1997, "but it will be between the Islamic world and the Americans and their allies, because this war is a new crusade."

In 1998, the Washington Post reported bin Laden’s issuance of a "fatwa", or religious decree, which states: "These crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger and Muslims."

Of all of the fundamentalists, bin Laden has shown the greatest propensity for causing maximum loss of life. In short, he has a yen for the spectacular.

In February of 1993 the World Trade Centre in New York was torn apart by a massive explosion. Several Muslim extremists linked to Osama bin Laden were later convicted.

But although the blast caused massive damage, it would have been much worse if it had gone according to plan. The US Court heard that the group had prepared cyanide nerve gas that was supposed to detonate with the bomb and spread across central New York, killing some fifty thousand nearby residents and workers within minutes. Fortunately, the heat generated in the blast was so intense that it incinerated the cyanide gas before it left the building.

Two years later, US investigators caught wind of a plot by bin Laden supporters to plant bombs on 12 airliners over the Pacific Ocean, set to explode almost simultaneously.

Although the plan was foiled, those responsible remain at large.

In 1998, bin Laden’s most devastating strike to date was made against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania - more than 5,000 people were killed or injured.

What makes bin Laden difficult to deal with is the fact that he is an extremely wealthy Arab businessman who is choosing to put his money into efforts that previously required financing from Governments like Iraq or Libya.

Although the US has imposed sanctions on Afghanistan and launched retaliatory missile strikes on suspected bin Laden bases there, it is more difficult for Western intelligence to infiltrate an organisation with few ties to any state.

The FBI is also aware that bin Laden’s organisation, al Qaeda, may now have access to nuclear weapons, stating that the group has "made efforts to obtain the components of chemical [and] nuclear weapons.]

To make matters worse, that nuclear weaponry is reportedly less than ten centimetres in length, but capable of generating a blast equivalent to ten tonnes of TNT. Explosive sniffer dogs at airports are not trained to sniff Plutonium.

Earlier this year - predating the NZ Police discovery of the Sydney reactor plot - the FBI issued a worldwide security alert that bin Laden was planning a possible attack on the Olympic Games. Which makes Deputy Prime Minister Anderton and Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s rush to dismiss the signficance of the threat even more inexplicable. What were they expecting, a signed note from bin Laden saying "I’m coming to get you"?

The move to play it down may have far more to do with maintaining public confidence in the safety of major events like the Games, and not creating panic, than simple naivete on the parts of either Anderton or Howard.

As previously reported by Investigate, a massive explosive device was discovered at Auckland’s Sheraton Hotel during the 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, apparently aimed at British Prime Minister John Major.

The device was defused without any public reference by Police or the New Zealand Government to its existence. Nor were the news media aware of it.

Despite John Howard’s public utterances however, and refusal to close down the Lucas Heights reactor for the duration of the Games, Australia is beefing up security around it, which they wouldn’t do if they weren’t taking the issue much more seriously than they have indicated to the news media.

Four Blackhawk helicopter gunships are being stationed in proximity to the reactor.

The United States meanwhile is continuing to post a NZ$10 million reward for information leading to the capture and conviction "in any country" of Osama bin Laden or any of his associates pictured above, all of whom are wanted on charges relating to the embassy and World Trade Centre bombings. Full details of the fugitives and the rewards have been posted on a US Government website by the Diplomatic Security Service, at www.heroes.net, which could make for a lucrative payday for somebody.

Given that it is possible that some of bin Laden’s men have been in New Zealand this year, it highlights the fact that the world is getting smaller everyday.

Intriguingly, the FBI reports that a notebook belonging to one of the wanted men contains the names and addresses of three Fijians, and the FBI is warning that bin Laden has built up an "extensive" South Pacific network.

Nor should the emergence of international terrorism on our doorstep come as a genuine surprise to thinking New Zealanders. The Security Intelligence Service is, after all, on record as saying it has twice thwarted attempts by foreign buyers to obtain nuclear weapons material from New Zealanders acting as "middlemen" in the deals.

The country’s "sleepy hollow" image provides a perfect cover for those involved in international intrigue, who want to discuss their global plans as far away from the CIA as possible.

Former NZ Special Air Service commander Alan Brosnan, now an instructor for the US State Department’s Anti-terrorism Programme, says the FBI warning’s about bin Laden’s Pacific plans should be taken seriously.

"He certainly has the motive, and the means, to pull off such an operation."

The New Zealand Special Air Service has already had a taste of what we could be in for - NZ troopers were deployed in a secret mission against the Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Philippines, who also have ties to Osama bin Laden.

One of the SAS soldiers reminded Investigate that NZ and Australia are not far away from the action any more.

References to Islamic extremists in this article do not refer to members of New Zealand’s Muslim community


Posted by Ian Wishart at 02:16 AM | Comments (1)

MOON SHOT OR LONG SHOT? INVESTIGATE: JAN 03

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"That’s one small step for man....one giant leap for conspiracy theorists": did we really land on the Moon? HAMISH CARNACHAN investigates the controversial argument over whether NASA faked it, or whether the people pushing the theory are, themselves, loose moon units...

Houston, the Eagle has landed" - famous words that spelt out one of the defining moments of the twentieth century. ‘Eagle’, the Apollo 11 landing module, had gently touched down on the Moon’s surface and the United States’ National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) had finally achieved what many thought was impossible. For the very first time, a craft carrying humans had visited a world other than our own planet.

On a clear morning in mid-July 1969 NASA’s landmark mission began. Columbia, the command module atop a massive Saturn V rocket, successfully rose off pad 39a, thundered towards the heavens billowing a cotton-wool vapour trail and disappeared beyond the stratosphere.

The voyage to the Moon ran smoothly and on the distant side of the Moon, Eagle prepared to disengage from its mother ship.

Neil Armstrong’s voice soon crackled across the airwaves and into the headsets of the anxious technicians awaiting news back at Houston’s Mission Control. The broadcast carried the news of the successful separation: "The Eagle has wings".

The pivotal phase of the mission was underway, but when the engine on the lander was fired to begin the descent it was like triggering a signal for the drama to commence.

At 14,000 metres an alarm sounded – the computer was becoming overloaded with data – but Mission Control gave the all clear to "continue powered descent".

Moments later another siren screeched a warning. The computer readout suggested Eagle was approaching touchdown too fast. Mission Control scrambled to analyse and again snubbed the signal to abort – descent velocity was fine.

At 6400 metres above the lunar surface, and with Eagle closing at a rate of 3700 metres per minute, the time to decide whether to land or abort was almost up when Armstrong glanced out of the window and saw that they were heading directly into a boulder field.

With a landing in rough terrain impossible he manually angled the craft away, hoping to find a smoother spot to touch down. A call came through from Mission Control: "30 seconds". Fuel was running dangerously low and there was a risk that Eagle would not have enough in reserve to ascend.

Finally Buzz Aldrin’s triumphant dispatch came through: "Contact light". A collective sigh of relief was let out followed by a monumental roar that rocked the mission centre. After years of meticulous planning and four days after the mission was launched, Man was finally on the Moon.

It was 20 July, 1969, a day that is fixed in the memories of everyone who saw the flickering, grainy black and white television images of Neil Armstrong stepping down from the Apollo 11 capsule onto the lunar surface.

Arguably it was the most monumental feat in modern history – perhaps recorded history – some have even called the Apollo 11 mission the pinnacle of Man’s pioneering adventures.

So many of the people who stood witness that day were left speechless and it was Armstrong’s now famous words, "One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind", which articulated what they could not say themselves.

Hundreds of kilograms of samples were brought back throughout Project Apollo, as were reams and reams of film and still-photo footage. These invaluable archives and the astronauts’ experiences not only gave us an indication of how the Moon was formed and how it could be exploited in the future, but they provide evidence that set the missions in irrefutable fact.

The famous first mission to the Moon, and the five others that were to follow, were, to a majority of people, "remarkable accomplishments". For many others at the time though, the achievements were too unfathomable, incomprehensible even. They simply did not believe it was possible to put a man on the Moon.

Though there have always been subcultures that strongly believe the landings were faked, today, more than 30 years on, there is a growing wave of disbelievers who are finding favourable platforms and forums to launch attacks against the Apollo missions.

The new breed of sceptic has laid down a fierce challenge to NASA, and the space agency is now finding it increasingly harder to rid itself of the rumours that it pulled "one giant con on Mankind".

Now the conspiracy theories have been elevated to a higher level of public awareness with international television screenings of a documentary that proposed NASA faked the whole affair.

"Conspiracy Theory: Did we land on the Moon?" as the program is titled, has aired twice in the United States and in numerous countries around the world including New Zealand, creating quite a stir. While some have written it off as a "personal attack against NASA" from its creators, millions of Americans and people of other nationalities now believe that the landings were staged in a studio at the conspicuously secretive Area 51 military base in the Nevada Desert.

One of the spin-offs of the film is that Internet conspiracy sites have since flourished and now provide an inexpensive global medium for sceptics to push their position. They seem to have made substantial headway, and the level of debate on the topic has become unprecedented.

In October this year, a Washington newspaper report suggested that the argument was getting ugly too. The Daily News ran a story alleging that one sceptic confronted 72 year old former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, poked him, verbally abused him and demanded that he swear on the Bible that he really walked on the Moon. Aldrin supposedly responded by punching Bart Sibrel in the face.

So what is behind this recent groundswell of contention? As more and more people noticeably start to query NASA’s moon landings is there actually some substance to their doubts? Do the Apollo missions really deserve the highest accolades or were they, as the sceptics claim, an elaborate hoax staged right here on Earth?

Sibrel, who was four years old when man first set foot on the Moon, is one of the growing numbers of detractors who have made it their own personal goal to prove that the landings were the biggest con job in history.

Central to the stance that sceptics like Sibrel have adopted is that the landings were staged to dupe the Soviet Union – it was the height of the Cold War and the United States had entered into an aggressive space race with their old foe.

On his website (moonmovie.com), Sibrel lists the grounds on which he has taken issue with what has generally been regarded as established fact, and claims to have found a credible source who worked for the space program during the 1960s to back these up.

"He asserted, most confidently, that the Apollo moon landings were, first, impossible and, second, falsified as a Cold War tactic to bluff the Soviet Union into thinking the United States had greater capability than it really did," states Sibrel.

"I discovered that the highest ranking official at NASA resigned, without explanation, just days before the first Apollo mission. All three crewmembers of the first historic flight also resigned shortly thereafter.

"Neil Armstrong, the most famous astronaut because of supposedly being the first man on the Moon, refused to even appear in a single still picture on the Moon! Aside from the initial press conference immediately following the event, in which he seems very disgruntled, he has not given a single interview on the subject, in print or on camera, to anyone ever!"

History notes that Sibrel is indeed correct in these claims. However, is it rational to argue, with absolute certainty, that a solitary testimony from a retired NASA employee and a handful of resignations are anything other than coincidence?

Well, Sibrel asserts that there is more evidence to back up his allegations and on his website he lists his ‘Top Ten’ reasons why the landings were a hoax and why Man has never set foot on the Moon.

Sceptics have literally cre-ated a field of study in the dissemination and scrutiny of NASA material and typical of their contentions are some of the following points, often shown as proof that there were no moon landings.

Richard Nixon, the king of cover-up, was the President at the time and sceptics query his potential antics that were never discovered. They argue that a successful manned mission to the Moon offered a spirit-lifting distraction for American citizens smarting over 50,000 deaths in the Vietnam War.

It is also argued that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the Cold War space-race. They had a five-to-one superiority over the States in terms of manned hours in space and were the first to achieve important milestones such as launching the first man-made satellite into Earth’s orbit, putting the first astronaut in space, putting the first astronaut in orbit around Earth, and completing the first space walk.

Detractors say this put America at a perceived military disadvantage in missile technology and because they were so far behind in technical capability they had no other alternative but to fake it.

There is the fact that passengers of a spacecraft that went beyond Earth’s orbit would likely have been subjected to the potentially lethal radiation of the Van Allen radiation belt. Questions are raised about the possibility of astronauts travelling through the field unscathed.

Sibrel suggests it is odd that "the Apollo missions were the only times ever that an astronaut, Soviet or American, left the safety of Earth’s orbit and ventured into the deadly hazards of space radiation."

Also peculiar, says Sibrel, is the astronauts’ silence on their mission.

"Neil Armstrong, the first man to supposedly walk on the Moon, refuses to give interviews to anyone on the subject. Collins also refuses to be interviewed. Aldrin, who granted an interview, threatened to sue us if we showed it [Sibrel’s own documentary, "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Moon"] to anyone."

Another significant point of conflict is held in the photographs and film taken on the Moon. On close inspection, analysts have discovered that there are numerous inconsistencies and oddities. For example, no stars are shown in any of the film and the shadows do not fall in the same direction. To some this suggests that the footage was shot in a studio under artificial lighting.

"Sunlight would cast shadows that would never intersect," argues Sibrel.

The Hasselblad cameras that were used by NASA on the missions had many crosshairs in each frame. Keen-eyed sceptics have noticed that in some shots the crosses disappear behind objects in the picture, providing further proof of foolery.

Perhaps even more bizarre are the pictures with identical backgrounds that are supposed to have been taken at different locations on different days. In two sequences from the Apollo 16 mission, this irregularity is clearly depicted.

But the biggest discrepancy and the "ultimate give away", according to the sceptics, is the footage that shows the American flag fluttering in the wind – an impossible phenomenon on the Moon simply because no wind can form in the vacuum of outer-space.

"The wind was probably caused by intense air-conditioning used to cool the astronauts in their lightened, un-circulated space suits. The cooling systems in the backpacks would have been removed to lighten the load not designed for Earth’s six times heavier gravity, otherwise they might have fallen over," suggests Sibrel.

Sibrel has spent many years and almost US$500,000 in a quest to prove his theory that the landings were faked. But aside from querying inconsistencies and highlighting unexplained oddities, he professes to have uncovered irrefutable evidence.

"In my research at NASA I uncovered, deep in the archives, one mislabelled reel from the Apollo 11, first mission, to the Moon. What is on the reel and on the label are completely different. I suspect an editor put the wrong label on the tape 33 years ago and no reporter ever had the motive to be as thorough as I. It contains an hour of rare, unedited, colour television footage that is dated by NASA’s own atomic clock three days into the flight.

"Identified on camera are Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins. They are doing multiple takes of a single shot of the mission, from which only about ten seconds was ever broadcast. Because I have uncovered the original unedited version, mistakenly not destroyed, the photography proves to be a clever forgery. Really! It means they did not walk on the Moon!"

In a book he released last year, amateur French astronomer and photographer Philippe Lheureux made international headlines when he made similar claims about NASA faking photographic footage.

But Lheureux puts a different spin on the hoax theory. In ‘Lumieres sur la Lune’ (Lights on the Moon) he suggests astronauts did get to the Moon but in order to prevent competitors from using sensitive scientific information in the genuine photos, NASA released bogus images.

The BBC quoted Lheuruex from French television: "In order not to give out scientific information they released photos taken during the training stages.

"That satisfied the American taxpayer and that left no real possibility for other countries to make scientific use of them."

Lheureux presents evidence from a photo of a lunar landing craft’s ‘foot’ because it is totally dust-free. The problem here, he says, is that according to Neil Armstrong large clouds of dust were displaced on landing.

Need more proof? How about props in space? According to the BBC report, Lheureux says that when one of the photos purportedly taken on the Moon is enlarged a letter ‘C’ can clearly be seen scribed on a rock "exactly like some cinema props".
Sibrel alleges that NASA continues to doctor their film footage to clean up obvious errors like those that Lheureux claims to have exposed.

"Newly retouched photographs correct errors from previously released versions. Why would they be updating 30-year-old pictures if they really went to the Moon?" asks Sibrel.

In the face of this barrage, NASA’s persisting silence does not seem to have helped quell any of the doubts either.

In response to Lheureux’s claims, the agency was reported to acknowledge that about 20 pictures of the thousands that were taken do take some explaining but on close examination they have a scientific explanation. NASA left its response at that.

In the past NASA has either relied on information sheets originally issued in 1977, or private citizens, concerned enough to mount their own campaigns to address some of the concerns in circulation.

But in late 2002 it seemed that the US space agency had finally got fed up with all the dissent. They commissioned James Oberg, a 22-year Mission Control veteran and prominent space-travel author, to work on a 30,000-word book to debunk the faked landing hypothesis and also examine how such theories become popular and spread.

The former chief historian at NASA, Roger Launius, conceived the idea to give schoolteachers a tool to help answer classroom queries because half the world’s population was not yet born the last time an astronaut reached the Moon.

"As time progresses, this gets less and less real to everybody. At some level, I think that may be what’s happening here," Launius told Washington’s Daily News.

However, days after they announced the funding for the book, NASA added fuel to the fire by pulling its financial backing. According to the worldwide news service, AFP, a NASA spokesman said the project had lost its focus because it was "being portrayed by the media as a PR campaign to debunk the hoaxers and that was never the intent".

Oberg has lost his promised US$15,000 contract for the work, but despite this setback he informs Investigate that he is forging ahead with the book, writing it "commercially".

Until Oberg completes the book though, the task of silencing the critics will be left to individuals like Dr. Phil Plait, a teacher of physics and astronomy at Sonoma State University in California. Plait, who has no links to NASA, invests his own resources in disseminating information he believes categorically disproves the conspiracy theories.

And just as the sceptics are using the Internet to spread their message, so too is Plait on his ‘Bad Astronomy’ website (www.badastronomy.com). In times when public opinion is so easily influenced by the Internet and "subjective" television programming, he says he created the site to add balance to a growing argument.

"Am I a bad astronomer?" asks Plait. "I don’t think so. I would say I am an average one. But on these web pages, I’m discussing astronomy that is bad."

A good part of this discussion is a detailed rebuttal of Fox television’s "Conspiracy Theory" documentary in which Plait assures that the rumours broadcast on the network are completely false, some laughably so.

"Sometimes, I think I have heard everything when it comes to bad astronomy. Then something comes along so strikingly nuts that I have to wonder what still lies ahead. In this case, the craziness involves people who think that the NASA Apollo missions were faked."

The "craziness" Plait refers to has grasped a sizeable chunk of the American population too. Although the documentary states that 20 percent of Americans now doubt that Man set foot on the Moon, the claim, like many of the others, is actually false. The real figure, sourced from a 1999 Gallup-poll, is closer to 6 percent.

Some call this slice of the population the "lunatic fringe" but, nonetheless, 6 percent of almost three hundred million, is still a significant body of outsiders. Still, Plait isn’t fazed by the foibles of his countrymen.

"There is no idea on God’s green Earth so dumb that you can’t get a big chunk of the American public to buy it. These are the same people who believe you can cut taxes but expand services, and who believe you can extract oil from the ground indefinitely without running out of it."

On his site he proposes that part of the problem creating the current wave of doubt is a lack of understanding of science. Plait doesn’t profess to have covered every claim by the conspiracy theorists, simply because there are so many, but he does answer many of the major "myths". He says some involve subtle, but comprehensible, physics, while lesser assertions are easily shown to be false.

For example, he readily acknowledges that the US flag is moving but says the explanation is entirely logical.

"The flag had a stiffening rod on the upper side so it would stand out from the staff. When the astronauts moved the pole, the free corner lagged behind by simple inertia. The flag actually flops unnaturally quickly because there is no air resistance to impede it."

As far as the absence of stars in the footage goes, claimed by sceptics to be indicative of filming inside a studio, Plait reasons that basic photography clears this contention.

He says that because the Apollo astronauts all landed on the ‘day’ side of the Moon, and all the film they shot from orbit were over the ‘day’ side, the exposure settings were all set for daylight.

"Set your camera to 1/125 at f/8 (a setting typical of the slower films in use in 1969). Aim it at the night sky and shoot pictures. Tell me how many stars you see. Aim your camcorder at the sky and see how many stars you can film.

"Even with the eye you’d have difficulty seeing stars from the daytime lunar surface unless you stood in a shadow and shielded yourself from any light reflected from the ground, for the same reason you can’t see stars from a brightly lit parking lot at night."

But sceptics also assert that con-verging shadows in numerous pictures provide further evidence that the landings were staged inside, under artificial lighting. As Plait has already indicated, this is one of those issues that requires a little scientific understanding.

"Shadows lie on parallel lines pointing away from the Sun. Because of perspective, they will appear to radiate away from the point on the horizon directly under the Sun. It’s simply incredible that people who claimed to have backgrounds in photography and engineering would not know this.

"A brief look around outdoors on a sunny day will show that shadows of nearby objects do not line up with more distant ones, or even point directly away from the Sun. The reason is that you don’t line up the base of the object with its shadow. You draw a line from a point on the edge of the shadow through the object that casts that part of the shadow. So it’s simply ridiculous to draw lines from the base of the lunar module through its shadow. To see if the shadows were consistent, you’d have to draw lines from objects on the lunar module to their corresponding shadows. These lines should converge on the Sun."

One sequence in the program that Plait appears to take pride in ripping apart quite convincingly shows that two scenes supposedly filmed on different days at different locations were actually filmed at the same spot.

"Maybe this proves the missions were filmed on Earth on a set. Or maybe it merely shows that whoever edited the film mixed up the footage," says Plait who suggests the logical explanation would make no sense at all to a conspiracy theorist.

Another couple of photos show that crosshairs etched on the camera lens appear to be behind objects in the foreground. There’s no question about it - the crosshairs do disappear at the edge of the objects. One in particular appears to be in front of the American flag but behind an astronaut’s arm.

"If you’re going to stage the landings on Earth, why put crosshairs on the camera at all? If we assume the photos were shot with the calibrated cameras that would have gone to the Moon, and NASA went to the time and trouble to build stage sets and have people in spacesuits act out the landings, why not just shoot the scenes you need? Cutting and pasting makes no sense at all - nobody would have missed the apparently doctored shots if they weren’t made."

Plait says somebody editing out distracting crosshairs for press release makes perfect sense, or another feasible explanation is that areas of brighter light in the picture may simply have hidden the marks.

French cynic Lheureux claims the absence of dust on the foot of the Eagle landing craft proves some pictures were faked. "Not so" in this case says Plait – it is merely a case of confusing lunar dust with household dust.

"Household dust is mostly organic (a lot of it is dead skin). It has a low density and floats easily in the air. Lunar dust is powdered rock, much higher in density and with no air to support it. There are no dust bunnies [eddies] on the Moon.

"Kick any dry, bare ground surface on Earth and you will kick up rock dust. Kick the Moon and you will kick up lunar dust. Both kinds of dust are powdered rock, different origins but with somewhat similar properties. Rock dust is pretty cohesive once it packs down. One reader sent in a picture of the lunar rover churning up dust and asked how this could happen if there is no dust on the Moon. Same way an ATV in a gravel pit kicks up dust. Nobody ever said there is "no dust" on the Moon, just no fluffy, easily mobilized dust.

"Once the lunar lander rockets blew away the near-surface dust, what’s left? Larger particles too big to move easily."

The ability of NASA astronauts surviving passage through the extreme radiation of the phenomenon known as the Van Allen radiation belt takes some explaining and Plait offers detailed analysis on his website.

In very simple terms, because they passed through the belt at such a rapid speed, the astronauts spent less than 15 minutes in the danger zone. Plait calculates that exposure over that amount of time would have been about 1 percent of a fatal radiation dose – perhaps not completely safe but entirely survivable.

Finally, it is well known that America was losing the space race to the Soviet Union. In one of the most famous speeches of his presidential career, John F. Kennedy acknowledged this and pledged support and billions of dollars of funding to match the Russian’s strides in space: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth."

Of course history tells us that Kennedy did not survive to see his vision fulfilled and it was the infamous Richard Nixon who was in power when NASA finally accomplished the goal. But for some sceptics it would not have been above Nixon to pull a lunar landing scam.

However, why would the President have gone to the trouble of preparing a contingency speech to be read to the watching world if the mission failed and the astronauts died?

In 1999 the BBC reported that a memo found in America’s national archives revealed the extent of emergency planning for the first mission by NASA and the Whitehouse.

Radio transmissions would supposedly have been terminated, leaving the space travellers to die or commit suicide in silence. Nixon’s speech would have opened: "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace."

Is this irrefutable evidence that Man did reach the Moon, or another prop in an elaborate hoax?

Perhaps the AFP news service is correct when it suggests that by staying silent, NASA merely feeds the hoax rumours; by denying, it encourages charges over an establishment cover-up – the agency appears to be in a no win situation.

Sceptics like Bart Sibrel point to a human condition called "cognitive dissonance", a condition when someone has a long held belief so deeply rooted in their psyche that they cannot see anything else, even if visible facts present themselves that prove contrary to their belief.

"The pride inducing moon landings can certainly cloud some people from seeing the distasteful truth," he states.

Meanwhile, Plait will not reply to queries that do not firstly address his own: What evidence would it take (available now on Earth) to prove we really went to the Moon? He suggests cognitive dissonance should work both ways.

"I have found it to be a great general-purpose cut-through-the-crap question to determine whether somebody is interested in serious intellectual inquiry or just playing mind games," says Plait.

With such resolute opponents facing off, which side of the story are we supposed to believe? Will we ever really know, with absolute certainty, whether Man reached the Moon or not?

Well, the answer may be closer than many think. European scientific astronomers have announced that they will use the latest, and most powerful, telescope ever made to search for equipment NASA astronauts left on the Moon.

It is hoped that the Very Large Telescope (VLT), capable of imaging a human hair from 16 kilometres away, will provide visual confirmation of one or more of the six lunar modules that landed on the Moon.

Across the Atlantic, Californian company TransOrbital plans to mount a search for further proof. Trailblazer will be the first commercial probe to orbit over one of the Apollo landing sites and take photos of gear left behind by NASA. The launch of Trailblazer has been tentatively scheduled for August 2003.

Certainly such technological developments will have set alarm bells ringing already.

"Sceptics, you may have a problem."

nasaearthrise2.jpeg

conspiracy theory problem no. 1: in 1969 there were no computerised photo-editing programmes. forging photographs was strictly a cut and paste job. if we never got to the moon, who took these pictures on kodak extachrome film. this is not fuzzy broadcast video, this is hard copy colour film, with a small earth in the background. who got far enough out in space to take a picture of a small earth and a large moon? to put it in perspective, more computing grunt is required to create this magazine than was used in the apollo programme

nasaflaghi.jpeg

conspiracy theory problem no 2: if it had been filmed in a studio, multiple light sources would be required to evenly fill such a large background, yet only one source exists in this photo. additionally, if the light source were man-made then it would have to be so close that shadows would be seen radiating in different directions

nasaschirra.jpg

conspiracy theory problem no. 3: if we faked the first trip to the moon because we couldn’t do it, why compound the risk of discovery by faking several more moon landings in quick succession? why not quit while they’re ahead? why fake the apollo 13 crisis?

nasafltcontrol.jpeg

conspiracy theory problem no. 4: hundreds of thousands of people worked on the apollo flights, each performing detailed technical tasks, each expecting certain data on the screens in front of them. to fabricate that data and fool all the people involved would probably be a larger technical problem than actually getting to the moon in the first place

nasalunmod2.jpeg

conspiracy theory problem no. 5: contrary to the claims in the documentary that it was only test flown once, and crashed, three lunar module prototypes were test flown on earth more than 160 times

Posted by Ian Wishart at 02:03 AM | Comments (1)

BIAS: does the media play fair? INVESTIGATE: JAN 03

IAN WISHART hunts for subtle slants in our daily news coverage

Back in the late 1980s, as AIDS hysteria swept New Zealand and the world, and virtually every second newspaper headline screamed warnings that "on current estimates" AIDS will have killed every person in New Zealand by the year 2005, a journalist who shall remain nameless awoke one morning, took a huge whiff of the steaming vapour from a cup of the finest Arabica beans, and went in search of the most politically-incorrect story of the decade: proof that AIDS wasn’t going to be the decimator of all human life as we knew it.

For sure, it wasn’t going to be easy. The media were constantly bombarding the public with figures showing a burgeoning number of heterosexual women coming down with HIV. But the journalist wasn’t convinced. He knew there was some serious spin on the story, generated largely by health workers sympathetic to the plight of the gay community and concerned that public interest in finding a cure would wane if "straights" - heterosexuals - felt they were not at risk. No references to "the gay plague" here, thank you very much.

But the journalist had some nagging doubts. Having been a party to some of the scare stories, he’d seen by now a lot of hot air but very little substance. Yes, there were big increases in the number of women developing HIV, and even men catching it from infected women, but was there more to it?

As we now all know, there was. But this journalist was the first in New Zealand to write a story laying out the hard evidence as to why AIDS would not make the jump from the homosexual or I/V drug-using communities to heterosexuals. The evidence lay in some new research showing that HIV was only being transmitted from women to men if both partners had open sores or pre-existing sexually transmitted diseases. And even then, it was something like a 1 in 300 chance of catching the virus.

The journalist interviewed a string of medical experts both in New Zealand and overseas, confirming his data and suspicions, then presented it as a freelance article to Auckland’s Metro magazine.

Editor Warwick Roger, not noted for his political correctness, nonetheless sent the feature back with a letter saying he wasn’t interested, that it wasn’t the kind of article that Metro would run. It wasn’t "an Auckland story".

Nor would the Listener accept it. Six months later, however, Metro did run it. They assigned their own journalist but came up with exactly the same story, and trumpeted to the nation about their findings.

Yeah well, at least the truth finally emerged. But how much can the ordinary person trust the news media in this country? How many stories don’t get run because of an attitudinal block that has nothing to do with the facts of the story?

Investigate’s coverage of the Intelligent Design debate is one example of an issue finally getting some exposure despite a mental block in the liberal media, but if you turn your television on almost any night there are subtle examples of bias in news coverage.

Take the immigration debate. In the last week of November and first week of December, we ran the video recorders over One News and 3 News. One of the biggest news stories in this time concerned Winston Peters’ comments on immigration.

On One’s Late Edition, anchor Peter Williams opened with this:

"Winston Peters is unrepentant in the wake of a new poll which suggests many New Zealanders think he’s increasing division in the community."

Let’s pause there for a moment and search for liberal-loaded newspeak. We’re told Peters is "unrepentant". Unrepentant for what? Who elected One News to be judge and jury on what politicians should be repentant for? If One News wants to editorialise, it should broadcast editorials and state clearly that’s what they are.

But it gets better. Late Edition then tells us there’s a new poll suggesting many New Zealanders think he’s increasing division in the community.

"The One News Colmar-Brunton poll," continues Williams, "shows the majority believe his comments on Asian immigration raise tensions."

"Auckland," begins the reporter, "is home to one in three people born in another country. It’s often portrayed as the start of what will be an increasingly changing face of New Zealand. Changes Winston Peters warns will lead to a divided and mutually exclusive society.

"But in a One News Colmar-Brunton poll, it’s Winston Peters who’s being called divisive. Seventy-one percent of those polled say his views increase tension between Asian immigrants and the rest of New Zealand. Only 23% disagree."

The facts were presented as if Moses had just held up stone tablets and read from them, and on the face of it they appeared damning of Peters.

But, again, was it really that simple? Once again, no.

You see, opinion polling is an art form. I know. I worked in the industry for a year. The answer you get in a poll is almost 100% dependent on what question you ask and how you tilt it. In a truly objective poll, questions are phrased as neutrally as possible so as not to skew the results. But in polls designed by news organisations, the questions are often far more obtuse.

The value of this One News poll on immigration was about to be defined by whether or not its questions were horribly biased. Let’s take a look:

Question 1: "Winston Peters’ views and statements increase tension and division between Asian immigrants and the rest of New Zealand... Agree...Disagree...Don’t Know."

As you can see, it’s not a question. It’s a political statement and it could have been drafted by the Prime Minister’s office for all the objectivity it displayed.

One News is telling survey respondents that Peters is being divisive. In polling terms, One News has loaded the dice for what some may believe are political reasons. By making a firm statement portraying a negative image, One News is inviting respondents to see it that way before they’ve even opened their mouths to respond.

Question 2: "Asian immigration is a good thing. It makes the country more multicultural and the economy stronger...Agree...Disagree...Don’t know."

Again, a political statement rather than a polling question. One News is telling those surveyed that they should believe immigration is a good thing. The final ‘question’ in the poll asked whether the Government should stop any further Asian immigration (given that we’ve now established Peters is being unkind to Asians and that Asian immigration is good for our economy and good for multiculturalism), to which 71% disagreed and said the Government should not stop Asian immigration.

Having set up their straw-man, One News then tries to set him alight.

"The Government," continues the report, "says the poll is proof Winston Peters has read it wrong."

"I think this is a very telling poll indeed," Labour’s Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel is quoted as saying.

The liberal prejudice running through the report - that Peters is being divisive and causing tension by daring to comment on the issue, that he should shut up because immigration is a good thing and multiculturalism is a good thing - these are the prejudices of staff in the news organisation, not scientifically-tested facts.

Ironically, the reporter and producers who worked on the story, and the person who dreamt up the poll ‘questions’, may not even realise they have the biases - the attitudes are so ingrained they are accepted as "the way it is".

But One News hadn’t finished the hatchet-job. Anchor Peter Williams came back after the break to interview sociologist Paul Spoonley from Massey University.

"Is Winston Peters’ reading of the issue all wrong? Is he the one actually out of touch with what New Zealand is thinking? Are you surprised Paul that New Zealanders, at least according to this poll, appear to have a pretty liberal attitude towards Asian immigration?"

"No, not really," replied Spoonley. "I think what they’re beginning to realise is that our economic future is very much with Asia, and we’re beginning to accept that Asians coming here is part of that future."

What One News never declared in their coverage was that Paul Spoonley has been highly critical of NZ First leader Winston Peters on his immigration stand in the past, and that Spoonley is funded by the United Nations to help the UN plan for immigration.

"Embracing cultural diversity and demonstrating a tolerance of others is surely one of the most significant challenges of this period of our history," Spoonley told an audience in 1996, before getting stuck into people whipping up hysteria about migrants.

"Some national politicians, notably Winston Peters of the New Zealand First party, have articulated these concerns. These politics reflect the beliefs held by significant numbers that ‘at the economic level, the nation-state is threatened by globalisation; at the cultural level (so it is thought), it is threatened by immigration’. Racist politics are one result.

"Peters has always denied any racist intent…but, inevitably, his rhetoric is seen as an endorsement of certain racist views in the wider community. It is reinforced by an increased and declared interest by the New Zealand police in the involvement of Asians in various criminal activities, and especially the possibility that Triad gangs are operating in New Zealand.

"This is an irony because one of the post-war myths was that Chinese migrants were law-abiding and had a strong work ethic. In fact, the statistics for those charged with drug offences in 1965 show that 103 of the 113 involved were Chinese. Few knew about the statistics and the popular mythology that prevailed in a post-war era meant that Chinese were viewed benignly. But with the racialisation of Asian migrants in the 1990s, the mythology has been discarded and one of the stereotypes which sustains this racialisation of Asian involvement is organised crime. It contributes to the generally negative perceptions held towards Asians by New Zealanders.

"These negative and hostile reactions have been articulated in a variety of ways. In its most extreme form, they result in racist and neo-fascist politics as expressed by skinhead and motorbike gangs…The most significant expression of the anti-Asian sentiments are provided by New Zealand First, and specifically its leader Winston Peters, whose statements encapsulate the guarded racism of middle (and typically elderly) New Zealand."

In other words, Paul Spoonley is hardly an "independent" academic in the immigration debate. Politically, from his speeches at least, he appears to be a globalist and is certainly happy to take funding from UNESCO whilst pushing multiculturalism as a cure-all for the world. In addition, he’s not a Peters fan.

Meanwhile, across on 3 News they were running this:

"Proof today that Winston Peters has been mining a very popular prejudice. A TV3/NFO poll has surveyed feelings about levels of immigration, and Asian migrants stand out.

"Asians were the only ethnic grouping to attract a majority disapproval rating among those surveyed.

"53% said they felt too many Asians were coming here."

Different TV channels, different polling companies, and diametrically-opposed poll results. TV1 saying 71% favour Asian immigration. TV3 saying 53% disapprove of Asian immigration. Both polls had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4%.

Even so, TV3 still labelled Peters’ comments as prejudiced. Who says so? How can one possibly "pre-judge" the immigration issue? Surely it’s a simple question of whether New Zealanders want new immigrants or not, end of story. How can there be a moral side to this that one could pass pre-judgement on?

Yet both news organisations pitched the story as if to say that people who questioned immigration levels were "prejudiced".

For the record, as those who’ve listened to me on Radio Pacific will know, I’m in favour of even higher immigration levels than we currently have - maybe 100 to 150,000 a year. But that doesn’t mean that I would label opponents of immigration as "prejudiced" or "racist".

But news bias in New Zealand doesn’t stop at immigration. Try the fluoride debate.

Health is an area that few of the mainstream news outlets cover objec-tively, probably because the health system is state-run, collegial and orthodox in its approach. Dissent in our health system is not tolerated. Subsequently, journalists charged with covering health stories often end up ‘captured’ by so-called health ‘experts’ who, provided they front up in a white coat, could go on camera and declare the Moon was made of green cheese and they’d still be taken seriously.

"The region with the worst rates of dental decay among its children has voted not to add fluoride to its water," began another One News report during our survey period. "The people of Whangarei have voted against joining the 60% of the country that already has fluoridated tap water.."

Again, the bias inherent in the introduction was almost overwhelming. The reporter was linking tooth decay to the absence of fluoride, and implying that voters were idiots for not seeing the link.

While the reporter’s moralistic and disapproving tone was clear, she did strive for some balance by quoting a man described on screen as a "fluoride opponent":

"Definitely a victory for common sense here," said Lawrie Brett, fluoride opponent. "As a category A poison we just don’t want it in the system."

What One News failed to make clear is that Lawrie Brett is a dentist. Not just any old tree-hugging greenie. He’s a dentist who opposed fluoridation.

Instead, One News moved from quoting "fluoride opponent" to some comments from "health authorities", with all the implicit bias that such a title carries.

"Health authorities though say after almost 50 years there are no proven illnesses from adding [fluoride to drinking water]."

Of course, had One News bothered to do an internet search, the reporter could have called up any one of 461,000 pages of information on the alleged harm caused by fluoride, a known toxic chemical.

Which is illustrative perhaps of one of the most dangerous biases of all in our media - a blind belief that authority figures tell the truth.

Contrast One News’ reliance on pro-fluoride "health authorities" with this comment from renowned US cancer researcher Dr Ludwik Gross back in 1957:

"The plain fact that fluorine is an insidious poison, harmful, toxic and cumulative in its effects, even when ingested in minimal amount, will remain unchanged no matter how many times it will be repeated in print that fluoridation of water supply is ‘safe’."

Is NZ television lending itself to Government propaganda?

"Fluoride does occur naturally in water," reported the journalist earnestly. But again, had she moved beyond the assumption she would have found that only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in water, which has never been used for fluoridation.

Bias is inherent in New Zealand’s daily media not because of a grand conspiracy but because of a lack of general knowledge, a willingness to be politically-correct and a reluctance to challenge powerful figures.

Here’s a challenge: start watching the news and reading the papers and looking for the hidden socio-liberal biases. You’ll be surprised how many you find.



Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:38 AM | Comments (0)

SUMMER BREEZE INVESTIGATE: JAN 03

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Ask anyone about the summers of their childhood and the stories are likely to be similar - long lazy days at sleepy coastal towns. But now those sleepy hollows are becoming mega-resorts, and HAMISH CARNACHAN wonders if paradise is being lost forever

It’s a migration of monumental proportions. Lured by a mysterious, seemingly magnetic, pull of azure oceans and a bizarre ritual of basting in the sun on golden sands, New Zealanders leave the city centres and rural outposts in their droves during an annual summer exodus.

Warm seasonal weather, longer days, restless nights, and pohutukawas bursting into bloom seem to trigger this strange propensity to drift in a coastal direction at the same time year after year. When the signs are right, tools are downed, computers terminated and homes fortified.

The traditional migratory paths become clogged and congested with cars snaking like bison across an African savannah. Irritable bulls driving the family group to their traditional summer stomping grounds jostle for position, cursing and bellowing at each other, often coming to blows with the heat-induced aggression.

Of course many do stay behind, particularly the elderly that are too weak to travel, but also a handful of the younger generation in their late teens or early twenties. These youngsters will remain and invariably search out a mate in their year-round environs.

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However, the masses will still assume their yearly movement, returning to familiar haunts like salmon to a spawning stream. This pattern has been witnessed for many decades now but as the population has exploded the numbers of leavers have swelled exponentially too.

As time and the summer travellers march on, so too does progress, and many of these migratory environs are starting to bear the weight of modification. On an increasing scale it seems that the traditional kiwi holiday is evolving to accommodate the changing lifestyles of New Zealand’s seasonal wanderers.

In many places, multi-storey apartments and ‘holiday homes’ of palatial proportions have usurped the temporary canvas and caravan cities that once dotted the shorelines of our favourite summer retreats.

The traditional fish and chips shop now has to compete with cafés that have popped up to cater to the migrants’ more extravagant culinary expectations, and the staple summer diet of beers and bangers on the barbeque have been exchanged for champers and gourmet paninis.

Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty is a prime example of a traditional holiday hotspot that has undergone such a transforma-tion. Local resident Graham Barnett first started spending time at Mount Maunganui in the early 1950s. Then, in his late teens, he was drawn to the beach, the surf, the sun, and of course, the girls. He says Mount Maunganui beach became a focal point of his life, he was a fit young man, a strong swimmer, and loved the beach lifestyle, so the natural progression was to sign up with the Mount Maunganui Surf Lifesaving Club.

Barnett still classes himself as a strong swimmer, which isn’t all that surprising considering he remains an active member of the surf lifesaving scene. In fact, he’s coming up to 50 years service at the club and, as the longest serving member, he can still be found patrolling the beach a couple of days each week.

Having spent most of his adult life at ‘The Mount’, as the locals like to call it, Barnett has had a first hand account of the development that has taken hold of this once quiet beachside retreat. He says he isn’t surprised by the change but holds fond memories of the place before it became the popular destination it is now.

"It’s always been a nice place to be so I guess progress was always going to catch up with us at some point or another," says Barnett.

"Back in the fifties Christmas was still pretty busy and there were plenty of people around – not by today’s standard though."

Barnett remembers an almost hour long trek from Tauranga to Mount Maunganui beach, an unsealed loop route that skirted the southern end of the harbour. Nowadays, with the recently completed harbour-bridge causeway, the trip takes less than 10 minutes.

"The Mount used to be a little place but obviously as access opened up more and more people started to visit or move in. Before that though, there weren’t many houses and you were classed as living in the sticks if you were any further out than the rugby club [approximately 2km south of the main beach]. Papamoa [approximately 10km south of the main beach] seemed an eternity away and we used to call it Shanty Town because it was just a handful of run-down baches.

"Really, when you look at the change that’s gone on, the Mount has gone from a sleepy little holiday spot to Surfers Paradise."

His reference to the popular destination on Australia’s Gold Coast is an allusion to the numerous apartment blocks that now dominate the beachfront properties at Mount Maunganui.

Luxury condominiums now stand in place of the scattered and simple baches that Barnett recalls, and developers eagerly eye up the few that remain as potentially lucrative investments.

As a recent example, a two-bedroom Lockwood bach and its 811sq m section at Mount Maunganui, which initially sold for $1.8m, is understood to have gone for between $2.1m and $2.2m in the second sale just three weeks later. The site can be developed with seven new apartments or town houses.

Tauranga real estate agent Gill Beadle says dramatic increases in property prices at Mount Maunganui, highlighted in this case, have only eventuated within the last five years. He attributes the rise to population increase.

"We’ve seen tremendous population growth over the last 10 years and subsequently subdivision started to take off in the nineties. Also, we saw Auckland money starting to come south, which was a change because traditionally it went into northern beach locations.

"You can really put it down to supply and demand. With the influx of people the demand for property on the Mount peninsula has soared and therefore so have the prices."

Beadle insists holiday homes still make up a substantial slice of the Mount Maunganui property market but says that that share is competing against development and an aging population looking to retire in the area.

"Development of property into apartments will continue because there’s a demand and this trend has really been driven by the Auckland apartment scene. I don’t think the Mount will ever end up like the Gold Coast because the council has restrictions to ensure there’s not too much height but the change has been noticeable. It’s gone from one windswept café 10 years ago to struggling to get a seat in one of the six down there today."

Mount Maunganui may not be the Gold Coast but at an average of $450,000 for an apartment it is certainly starting to become somewhat of an exclusive destination, generally out of reach of most kiwi holidaymakers.

Beadle says the locals are not happy with the extent of the development but, understandably, they love what it’s doing to their property prices.

Locals aren’t too happy about the influx of visitors each summer either. Each year you can expect reports of mayhem descending on Mount Maunganui as drunken youths take the New Year’s festivities too far.

"It’s crazy at that time of year," says Barnett. "We didn’t have all the fools in fast cars in the early days. That was the best time. We had three dance halls going every night and there was hardly ever any aggro.

"Now the young idiots want to party all night and sleep all day. One of the biggest problems is broken bottles on the beach. It costs a hell of a lot to employ people to keep the place tidy over Christmas and it’s the local ratepayers who have to foot the bill."

Drunken youths are not the only gripe though…

"We’re getting like Coronation Street. We used to have plenty of room around but now with these apartments and houses and all the cars it’s causing big problems."

When Barnett first ventured out to Mount Maunganui beach all those years ago space was never an issue. He recalls never having trouble finding a camping ground. Today, however, an Internet search for campgrounds in the area turns up only one result, Mount Camp Ground, which, by the way, is also now a company-owned and operated investment.

"In the early days you could just park up and camp on the beach or even pitch a tent and party on one of the vacant lots," says Barnett.

It seems the traditional kiwi camping holiday at Mount Maunganui is now as hard to come by as those vacant house sites.

Of course there are still locales to escape from the hustle and bustle of city living. But small holiday centres whose mainstay was once steeped in this now nostalgic notion of getting back to nature and living simply are few and far between today.

Any such places within a few hours drive of a major civic centre seem to have been taken over, consumed by coastal development that has, over recent years, moved as swiftly as the masses pack up and migrate in summer. For example, there is the Coromandel Peninsula. Traditional summer escapes like Tairua, Whangamata and Pauanui have been developed to such an extent that they are now, essentially, satellite townships of Hamilton and Auckland.

The Thames-Coromandel District Council’s (TCDC) area manager for Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata, Peter Mickleson, says the improved access to the peninsula has boosted the appeal of the area and has had a marked effect on the social fabric of holidaymakers.

"The people who come here now tend to have a very high disposable income, particularly holiday home owners. I think because there are now better roads and access is easier it’s a more attractive prospect to buy those holiday homes," says Mickleson.

The TCDC has a policy in its district plan to limit development of the existing settlements to their present boundaries but Mickleson says subdivision is now commonplace.

"There’s a lot of development happening here. We probably get about 10 to 12 subdivision applications a month just for Whangamata. It’s all basically infill so it’s the quarter acre getting chopped into two or three or four; the old bach being remodelled into a modern home; that type of thing."

The majority of these new homes stand vacant for most of the year but when summer arrives so too do the holidaymakers – en masse. Whangamata swells from a permanent population of about 4500 to almost bursting point at 40,000 people over this period. Mickleson admits that this stretches local amenities and infrastructure to the limit.

"Our water supply systems and our waste disposal systems are designed for 4500 people. It can cope with peaks to an extent but, for instance, if we have a very dry summer then we do run out of water," he says.

Unlike Mount Maunganui, which has the backup facilities and services of Tauranga, a sizeable city, places like Whangamata, Pauanui and Tairua are essentially still isolated.

Mickleson says the population influx over the summer months means these towns have now been forced to a crossroad in their future development options.

"It creates a dilemma within the community in that do you build a water supply system to cater for 40,000 people that gets used for three weeks of the year and is paid for by 4500 permanent residents, or do you build a system that caters to permanent residents and is stretched to capacity during peak times?"

And when the locals are expected to foot the bill for an influx of "outsiders" it can create tension says Mickleson. On the other hand, he acknowledges that the visitors actually support the permanent residents – most of the retailers’ profits are made over the summer season. He says an important part of small-town living is being able to juggle the costs and benefits of the seasonal influx.

"We get about 200,000 visitors to the peninsula over the summer period. Now there are motels and hotels etcetera that can cater for about 30,000 of those so all the rest are actually staying with people who have homes. So we have to say to the homeowners that you are part of the problem causing strain on infrastructure.

"It’s just part of kiwi culture that if your mate’s got a bach you go and stay with them I guess. It does create a strain but we always cope in the end."

For anyone who has visited the townships on the Coromandel Peninsula it is appar-ent that they are at very different stages of development to Mount Maunganui. But, is it feasible that they be heading down that same path? Mickleson says there is always that risk but it depends on whether that’s necessarily good or bad.

"There are a lot of people who probably think Mount Maunganui is great and should be more developed and others who will say it’s gone too far. But at the end of the day it’s for the community to decide how much is too much. To a great degree, the district plan is steering development into those areas that the community has agreed there should be development and is trying to protect those other areas," he says.

"The other thing is changing trends in New Zealand. The days when you went to your holiday home and spent the whole time mowing the lawn and trimming the trees are gone. Today the sections are smaller because people don’t want to be spending their holiday maintaining the property. I suppose people are busier than they used to be."

So a different way of life may be behind the changing face of the New Zealand holiday and the changing character of the traditional destination. But what about those who don’t have friends with baches or have the money to buy a holiday home?

Because the popularity of these places such as Whangamata and Pauanui (the latter being coined a "playground for the wealthy elite") has driven up land value at a substantial rate, they too are becoming out of reach as holiday destinations for most families.

Camping grounds here are scarce because, like Mount Maunganui, the land is now an attractive prospect for development. And who could blame the camp-ground owners for selling out? It doesn’t take the greatest busi-ness mind to weigh up the fi-nancial benefits of accepting the developer’s cheque when he comes knocking. Especially when the only alternative is to slog it out and wait for business that only provides any substantial rewards over an eight-week season each year. Prime real estate with low returns doesn’t justify holding onto that land.

Currently in Whangamata there are three camping grounds although one has recently been sold. Mickleson says he is not sure what is going to happen with the property but predicts that in time, as land value increases, the owners will come under pressure to sell to developers.

"I think land prices will eventually squeeze out the ones in the prime locations. The one that recently sold was closest to the beach but there are campgrounds further away that may never come under that pressure. Again, I think it will come down to demand. I guess there will always be demand from people who want to go and pitch a tent in a campground but I think there’s less demand now than there was 20 years ago."

That may be the case on the Coromandel Peninsula, but if you head east across the Firth of Thames and then veer north to the coastal limit of the Hauraki Gulf you should be able to find the tiny township of Mangawhai where tenting is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance.

Mangawhai is a quiet little seaside resort nestled between the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the east coast and gently rolling farmland. About 1000 residents live here permanently but the population swells at summertime as the holidaymakers move in.

Lorraine Hartley, the owner and operator of Mangawhai Riverside Caravan Park, has lived here for eight years and has noticed "dramatic changes" over that short period. She says property, including farmland, has been "extensively" broken up into smaller blocks to be developed into holiday homes and the range of shops has flourished.

"When I first came here there was a small block of shops up at Mangawhai Heads and a very small block in the village. It’s been a gradual thing but they’ve almost doubled in size within the last four or five years," recalls Hartley.

Today, visitors can stumble across anything from boutique clothing outlets to legal advice at the local shopping centre. In addition to the four campgrounds there are also a range of other accommodation alternatives including luxury apartment rentals and bed and breakfast venues.

Hartley says that although she has noticed an increase in the number of visitors throughout the year and suggests that the mass migration at Christmas has changed from what it once was, most of the businesses still depend on the summer break.

But for all the devel-opment that has hit Mangawhai over re-cent years and all that the town now has on offer, Hartley says the traditional camping holiday is making a comeback because people still enjoy living simply.

"In the last two or three years I’ve had lots of people coming in with brand new tents saying, ‘We want to go back to doing what we used to do as kids and give our own children that experience too’," says Hartley.

"The other thing we’ve found is that Aucklanders who don’t want to get into the business of buying land and building houses are bringing caravans onto the park and they leave them here all year round. That’s the bulk of my business today.

"We have another side of business developing too though. That’s the [temporary] home park. We’ve redeveloped some sites to give more space and clients purchase their own unit, which can be up to two or three bedrooms, and they locate these on the large sites. They’re almost like a semi-permanent home and it adds a new dimension to camping."

So it seems you can still find a good old kiwi campsite – if you look hard enough – they’ve merely taken on new character just like the places and the vacations we remember from our childhoods.

However it also seems that there is no longer anything that can simply be categorised as a ‘traditional kiwi’ holiday. Times have changed and so have the lifestyles and the needs of the summer migrants.

Time has caught up with many of our holiday hotspots too, and ‘progress’ has followed it there, at varying degrees though, as you can see through the different stages of development.

But at least some things about summer will always stay the same: sandwiches will always be crunchy at the beach; some item of utmost importance will always be left at home; kids will always be carsick; holidays will never be long enough; and the mass migration will always be observed year after year after year…

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:33 AM | Comments (0)

LOST IN THE MATRIX INVESTIGATE: JUN 03

From Donald Duck to Donald Dark, is a new breed of cartoon a threat to our childrens’ mental health? IAN WISHART brings together research from around the world that suggests violent cartoons and interactive games are turning kids into killers...

Once upon a time there were cartoon shows. You remember them, Mickey and Donald, Roadrunner and Wylie Coyote, even Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Bright, bold and usually hilarious, those early Warner Brothers and Walt Disney hit shows had generations of kids cackling over their Cornies on a Saturday morning. Sure, they were violent, but in a harmless, toony sort of way. Back in those days, a burglary in Auckland was front page news, murders were running as low as three or four per year, and wagging school was an occasional "treat", not an occupational choice. Youth suicide was virtually unheard of. In 1972, the suicide rate for 15 to 24 year old males was just 9 per 100,000 of them. Today it runs as high as 39 deaths per 100,000 in that age group.

For a long time, media watchdog groups have claimed a link between television violence and aggression in teenagers and adults. Now the international studies are lining up thick and fast - not only is there a link, but some experts believe television has declared psychological warfare on children and is literally training children to kill, as you’ll see shortly.

But first, a clue to the problem can be found in the spin surrounding it. For years, New Zealand TV executives have denied any link between TV violence and violence in society. "We reflect society, we don’t lead it," has been the industry position for more than two decades.

However, while both TVNZ and TV3 have endeavoured to comply with a viewing watershed of 8.30pm before screening adult material, a much bigger problem has slipped below the radar for most people: the huge increase in violence and the occult in childrens’ programmes, screened directly in childrens’ viewing hours.

Donald Duck has given way to Beast Wars, Digimon and the latest craze hitting New Zealand, Yu-Gi-Oh. What most of the groundbreaking new childrens’ cartoon shows have in common are two things: Japanese animation and extremely dark, violent, occult and brooding themes.

Yu-Gi-Oh has already hit the news headlines in New Zealand after alleged counterfeit playing cards associated with the programme as merchandise were seized at Auckland by customs agents at the request of the authorised importer..

How dark is Yu-Gi-Oh? Well, for a start, it is unashamedly religious programming aimed at children, although admittedly no religion you ever grew up with. Instead, 41 year old Kazuki Takahashi, the show’s creator, wanted to revive "ancient Egyptian mysticism" as the underlying force in his programme.

The show follows the adventures of a young boy named Yugi:

"When Yugi was growing up, his Grandfather gave him an ancient Egyptian artifact called the "Millenium Puzzle" to try and figure out. It is said that whosoever manages to solve this puzzle will be granted dark and mysterious powers. Yugi eventually was able to solve the Millenium Puzzle, and when he did, something amazing happened!

"When the Millennium Puzzle activates, Yugi is filled with its magical energies and becomes Yami Yugi, his much more powerful alter ego. Not only is Yami Yugi a master dueler, but he is full of confidence and courage."

In what must have been a merchandiser’s dream, Takahashi uses the artistic device of a magical card game that is played by Yugi and his friends, and, pf course, by tens of millions of children around the world who purchase the cards in bookshops and toystores.

"Duel Monsters is a card-battling game in which players pit different mystical creatures against one another in wild, magical duels! Packed with awesome monsters and mighty spell-cards, Yugi and his friends are totally obsessed with the game.

"But there’s more to this card game than meets the eye! Legend has it five thousand years ago, ancient Egyptian Pharaoahs used to play a magical game very similar to Duel Monsters. This ancient game involved magical ceremonies, which were used to foresee the future and ultimately, decide one’s destiny. They called it the Shadow Game, and the main difference back then was that the monsters were all real! With so many magical spells and ferocious creatures on the earth, it wasn’t long before the game got out of hand and threatened to destroy the entire world! Fortunately, a brave Pharaoh stepped in and averted this cataclysm with the help of seven powerful magical totems.

"Now, in present times, the game has been revived in the form of playing cards..."

And you can pretty much guess the rest. Yu-Gi-Oh has become an international obssession for kids everywhere.

Central to the show, and the card game, are the dark haunting characters and artwork typical of the Japanese comic style known as "Anime" (pronounced AH-nee-may). So popular has anime become in the US that several universities now offer lecture courses on the style and its origins. Wrote the Seattle Times recently:

"Anime often tackles such themes as death and betrayal, and the stories sometimes are so intense that they are edited for children in the United States.

"The animations are shown as television series or feature-length movies in Japan, where adults are as likely as children to be the core audience.

"The academic movement in the United States reflects the fact that so many students had already become anime aficionados on their own. As elsewhere in the country, the University of Washington and most colleges around the state have student-run anime clubs.

"While parents sometimes decry anime for its violence and gory graphics, anime fans argue that those more intense animations are geared toward adults, not kids.

"The craze borders on obsession for some. At Washington State University, a handful of students gather weekly to learn conversational Japanese simply to understand anime better. And diehards watch anime with subtitles instead of dubbed versions because they feel the dialects and the voice inflections get lost in translation."

So if shows like Yu-Gi-Oh are part of the staple television diet in Japan, perhaps there are some clues there as to the long term effects on society. Correspondent Michael Zielenziger reports Japanese youth culture is in deep depression:

TOKYO - Kenji has seldom left his bedroom in five years. On a good day, when he forces himself, he can almost get to the front door of his mother’s small Tokyo apartment before fear overtakes him.

"It requires a lot of courage just to go downstairs and get the mail," said the 34-year-old shut-in, who is thin as a twig and nearly as fragile. "I have two personalities: One who doesn’t want to go out and one who does. They are fighting with each other constantly."

Kenji’s self-imposed confinement is surprisingly common in Japan today, after a decade of economic and social decline that has produced many worrisome effects. At least 1 million young Japanese adults, the vast majority men, imprison themselves in their rooms for months or even years at a time, according to Tamaki Saito, the first therapist to write a book on the subject. They sleep during the daytime and pace their rooms at night, hardly ever leaving except for a quick run to the 7-Eleven, if they can manage that.

Counsellors and psychiatrists say Kenji’s reclusiveness, known in Japan as "hikikomori," is an illness that exists only in Japan and was unknown even there until a decade ago. Hikikomori sufferers shut themselves off from siblings and friends, even parents, whom they sometimes attack in violent outbursts.

Kenji’s behaviour is a symptom of Japan’s decline. A growing number of professional counsellors and other experts worry that the nation itself is becoming a lot like Kenji: isolated, apprehensive and unable to interact with the outside word.

"I fear that Japan, as a nation itself, is becoming hikikomori," says psychiatrist Satoru Saito, who treats shut-ins and counsels families in his Tokyo clinic. "It is a nation that does not like to communicate. So what these young adults are doing is a mirror of what they see around them in adult society."

Japan’s trains still run on time, its streets are safe and most people live comfortably. Handguns are illegal, drug problems do not permeate schools or streets, and random violence is virtually unknown.

Still, deep pessimism has infected many aspects of Japanese society:

- Japanese are killing themselves in record numbers, more than 31,000 per year, three times the number who die in traffic accidents. Their suicide rate is the highest among industrialized nations and is steadily climbing. The rate among workers in their 30s has risen nearly 45 percent since 1996.

- Japan’s birthrate is among the lowest in the industrial world and still declining, because young women are avoiding marriage and refusing to bear children. By 2005, Japan’s population will begin to shrink, a trend that demographers say will be nearly impossible to reverse. The labour force, likewise, will dwindle drastically.

- Alcohol consumption is declining across the globe, but not here. Though alcoholism is rampant and accepted as a release from work and social pressure, it is almost never discussed by opinion leaders or at the workplace.

- Japanese workers are increasingly dissatisfied with their lives, stressed out and depressed, and modern antidepressants have become legal only recently. A survey of 43 nations by the Pew Research Centre, released this month, found that Japanese are far more pessimistic about themselves and their children’s future than the people of any other relatively prosperous nation.

- The demise of Japan’s extended family structure is causing unprecedented strains. While divorce rates are low, couples are growing apart, living in sexless marriages, often in separate bedrooms. Stressed-out mothers force their children to study and go to "cram school" in order to pass competitive entrance exams to high school and college, while absentee fathers spend their time and energy at work.

"Whether it’s hikikomori, alcoholism or sexless couples, these are all different manifestations of the same problem," says Masahiro Yamada, a prominent sociologist. "These are all symptomatic of the social and psychological deadlock of Japanese society.

"When you look around at Japanese society, you see that more and more people have just given up."

Men such as Kenji appear desperate to fit into society. Yet when they pursue even modest individuality, they generate friction that leaves them burned out or too weak to cope.

Though Kenji seldom leaves home, he agreed to speak about his condition after twice begging off, tearfully explaining on the telephone, "I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just can’t come." When he finally did agree to talk, he said it was the first time in five years that he had left his apartment or spoken to anyone except his mother.

After just two trips outside their apartment, he became angry and "unstable," his mother said. He since has retreated to his room again, and his mother refuses to let him come to the phone, speak to outsiders or be photographed.

Kenji once was a mischievous child who loved playing third base. But he remembers being suddenly "frozen out" by classmates at his Tokyo grade school at age 12, when they inexplicably stopped talking to him.

"First it was just the boys, but within a week it was the girls, too," he says. "I thought it would pass after the winter school vacation, but it didn’t change at all. Since I wasn’t a student who studied hard, without having any friends I couldn’t find a reason to go to school. It was too painful."

Today, some 20 years later, he talks about those events as if they had happened yesterday.

Articulate and thoughtful, now he spends his days reading newspapers, watching TV and thinking.

Psychiatrists describe hikikomori as a syndrome in which young adults, usually men in their 20s and 30s, shut themselves off from the world, away from friends, school or work, for six months or more. These individuals do not suffer from other known psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, autism or panic disorder. Hikikomori is different from agoraphobia, which occurs in the United States, whose victims fear leaving home to visit an unsettled social environment but can mix with friends or relatives in their homes.

Stress and fatigue also trigger the social isolation. Dai Hasebe dropped out of junior high school after his parents enrolled him in a juku designed to help him pass the competitive high school entrance exams. In elementary school, the 12-year-old hadn’t gotten home until after 10 at night.

"After a while, I just got tired," says Hasebe, now 19, who has spent most of the past six years secluded in his parent’s three-room Tokyo apartment. "There was no particular incident," such as bullying or a harsh conversation with a teacher, that made him stop going to school, he said. "I was just relieved not to have a schedule."

Hasebe now wears shoulder-length hair and a moustache and whiles away each afternoon building scale models in his bedroom. He constructs Japanese Zero fighter planes and French helicopters, draws precise diagrams of military equipment and designed a sort of 21st-century fantasy gladiator, a silvery pterodactyl with a rocket launcher that stands sentry in the entryway of his family’s home. Hasebe hardly eats; his pants barely stay on his hips even when they’re tightly belted.

Dr. Kosuke Yamazaki, a professor of child psychiatry at the Tokai University School of Medicine, thinks hikikomori patients’ frustration is the leading cause of domestic violence in Japan, as lonely, isolated and troubled adult children lash out in a cry for help. "They behave like brutal tyrants," he said.

Many of his patients often expressed fear that they would kill their parents by accident. "They say they have a personality that sometimes rages out of control."

Masahisa Okuyama, whose son suffers from hikikomori, founded the KHJ support network, which now has 31 chapters across Japan. Its name is formed from the initials in Japanese for obsessive neurosis, persecution mania and personality disorder.

"Parents are also victims of this disease," explains Okuyama, a former advertising executive, who was beaten by his 27-year-old shut-in son. He abandoned the family’s suburban home for a small apartment out of fear that his son would kill him.

"He hates me, but the relationship between parent and child is so strong," Okuyama says. "He can kill me or I could kill him. Let’s face it, we’ve been dissolved as a family."

More than half the parents in one suburban group of 120 affected families say they’ve been attacked by their children. One woman pulled up her sleeve and revealed an ugly black-and-blue mark, the result of being assaulted by her son. Another woman sleeps in her car for fear that her son will beat her.

Around one table, a group of 11 parents discussed how best to reach out to their children. Most cooked dinner for their children and left food outside their bedroom doors. Some said their children left their rooms only when their parents went to bed. With tinges of guilt, many admitted that they found it difficult to communicate with their children when they were younger.

Kenji desperately wanted to find a way to rejoin society. "I sometimes look back and say, `How did I become like this?’" he said.

"When you are raised by a wolf you grow up a wolf," Kenji said. "You can’t go back into normal society. That’s how I feel. Teachers tell you, `You are free to grow up and become what you want.’ But adults can’t show us any example where that’s true."

While it would certainly be unfair to blame all of Japan’s growing social chaos on its dark, occult-obssessed youth television, it would also be a mistake to ignore its impact. And lest New Zealanders get too comfortable, it is worth remembering that New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is nearly four times higher than Japan’s.

Is Yu-Gi-Oh going to make it any better? Not if the names of some of its game cards are an indicator. The programme screens at 4.30pm in New Zealand, making it "prime time" accessible to all children. And according to international reports, children are lapping up television’s new obsession with the occult like there’s no tomorrow:

It was a report in the Times of London that first illustrated the extent of the problem. Journal-ist Daniel McGrory discovered the huge range of pagan TV programmes for kids was encouraging many to begin exploring paganism, and even satanism, by searching websites on the internet.

"Teachers’ groups are worried that nobody is monitoring the effect this fascination with the occult is having on its teenage followers. There are no official figures in Britain for victims driven to suicide, but experts have no doubt that some young people have suffered from the malign influence of satanic cults.

"It took 15 suicides in two years before the authorities in Saxony demanded an investigation. Here, teachers’ unions and experts say that the authorities do not take the menace seriously enough. They warn of the dangers to teenagers of dabbling unsupervised with sinister websites. Some of these describe in lurid detail how they should drink blood or carry out blood-letting to seal their pact with Satan. They also encourage impressionable teenagers to join in "chat rooms" to express how miserable they are," wrote McGrory.

"Parents are advised not to rely on Internet filters to prevent their children from accessing sites featuring satanism and witchcraft.

"For many young people interest was aroused, innocently enough, through television programmes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which a teenage girl does battle with all manner of satanic forces.

"In a recent survey of 2,600 children aged 11 to 16, more than half said that they were interested in the occult. The worry is that more than 15 per cent of those questioned by Mori said that they were worried about what they had discovered on the Web.

"The Association of Teachers and Lecturers wants schools to introduce classes advising young people of the risks of delving into the occult on the Internet. Peter Smith, the general secretary, said: "This goes beyond reading a Harry Potter story. This represents an extremely worrying trend among young people. Parents and teachers should educate children and young people about the dangers of dabbling in the occult before they become too deeply involved."

"Experts believe that there are now more than 1,000 cults operating in Britain and that their popularity has spread through the Internet. They are becoming adept at snaring young professionals through so-called self-help websites—for stopping smoking, losing weight, meeting a partner or playing the stock market.

"Ian Haworth, general secretary of the London-based Cult Information Centre, tours schools to dispel the idea that only vunerable youngsters fall prey to satanic cults. He says that recruiters are also active at college and university campuses, distributing free magazines that offer links to scores of Internet sites. "There is no doubt the Internet means that many more youngsters can dip into areas of the occult without realising what they are letting themselves into," he said.

In the case of Buffy, copycat psychosis appears to be the order of the day. In one celebrated case last year, a British teenager was arrested after becoming convinced that he, too, was a vampire, and beheading his elderly neighbour before drinking her blood. A young German couple were similarly found guilty of the ritual vampire murder of a man - they drank blood from his corpse before having sex in a coffin they’d purchased for the occasion.

Similar strong followings for Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch are also making an impact. Britain’s Pagan Federation recently reported it was receiving more than a hundred calls a month from children and teenagers wanting to know more about joining an occult group.

Pagan Federation spokesman Andy Norfolk told journalists youngsters’ questions had become "much more mature" than those of the "how do I cast a spell?" variety, and tended to deal with "the religious aspects of witchcraft."

"We don’t get asked how to become a witch, but rather we get asked what a young witch should do.

"Many of those who write seem to have already found their spiritual path and wish to learn more."

Although the Pagan Federation denies actively recruiting children, it has appointed a "youth affairs" officer who also happens to be a school teacher, and its adult members have published a series of books for children, some available in New Zealand, with titles like The Young Witches’ Handbook, which includes spells for passing school exams or attracting a lover, or Spells for Teenage Witches, "a self-help book for young people".

In the US meanwhile, prominent newspapers like the Miami Herald have begun to investigate the rapidly plunging standards of broadcast television:

MIAMI - Fifty years ago, when a married Lucille Ball was having a baby on I Love Lucy, network censors wouldn’t allow use of the word "pregnant." This past year, on Friends, Rachel had a baby resulting from a one-night stand - and on the day it was due tried to speed up the delivery via a quickie sexual encounter with her male roommate.

Forty years ago, Ozzie and Harriet never had a scene of any kind take place in the Nelsons’ bedroom. This year, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a fistfight between Buffy and a vampire turned into roughhouse sex so violent that it literally knocked the house down around them.

Thirty years ago, network officials told singer Helen Reddy they would cancel her show unless she started wearing a bra. This year, contestants on Fear Factor were ordered to strip naked on camera to stay in the game.

Twenty years ago, an outraged NBC censor vetoed a Saturday Night Live sketch where Bill Murray and Gilda Radner’s nerdy characters put on a dopey high school nativity pageant: "You can’t give noogies to the Virgin Mary!" This year, Cameron Diaz hosted SNL and sang dirty children’s songs that purported to be about hirsute shellfish and rain-soaked kitty-cats.

It’s not puritan paranoia: This is not your father’s broadcast television. TV, once expected to be a polite guest in our living rooms, has turned into more of drunken party-crasher. Sex, violence and language that in earlier days would have triggered FCC threats and congressional investigations is now routine. Says show-biz historian and critic Michael Medved of TV standards: "I’m not sure I would use the word SHIFTING. I think the word COLLAPSING might be more appropriate."

You think he exaggerates?

Every week the CBS crime show CSI features mutilated corpses that would gag a maggot. Televised urination has become so routine that when FX’s The Shield had a cop whizzing on a suspect, producer Shawn Ryan bragged that "we shot it in a very tasteful way, as p——— scenes go."

That’s the sort of comment that outrages Laura Mahaney, vice president of the conservative Parents Television Council, which is lobbying advertisers to boycott The Shield. "What you’ve seen is a run to the bottom of the barrel, where the networks are seeing who can put the filthiest stuff on the fastest. You never would have seen references to oral sex or inferences of oral sex even five years ago. Now you do all the time, even on shows at 8 p.m ... It’s like a freight train run amok."

Whether you share Mahaney’s disgust, it’s hard to argue with her facts. A brief, chaste lesbian kiss on the 10 p.m. L.A. Law scandalized the country in 1991; this season, when lesbian witches on the 8 p.m. Buffy the Vampire Slayer levitated because the oral sex was especially good, it passed almost unnoticed.

Producers, network executives and other TV experts say there are several reasons television’s standards, which were relatively static for its first 40 years, have changed so dramatically over the past decade, but prime among them would have to be a disappearance of the will to fight the flood anymore.

Adds Medved: "There’s always been this sort of push-pull between Broadcasting Standards people and producers. Obviously people in the creative community want to test to see what they can do. There’s almost an element of gamesmanship to it. But what’s been happening in the past few years is that the creative people push, but on the other side, no one pushes back."

Critics argue it’s because the very people hired to be censors have themselves grown up on a sex and vio-lence TV diet and become inured to it, blind to what now surrounds them.

But while levitating nude witches engaging in oral sex on Buffy doesn’t make them bat an eyelid, those same TV censors are quick to leap on anything seen as non politically-correct. In the US, black comedian Arsenio Hall got a big laugh after cracking a black joke on the Tonight show, while one of David Letterman’s scriptwriters found herself censored for trying to tell a similar one-liner. An example in New Zealand this year was the ongoing furore over whether two Christian videos should be banned.

In a column for National Radio’s Mediawatch programme, commentator Karl du Fresne picked up the story:

"Those videos expressed views that were understandably unpopular with gay activists. One was that the gay activist lobby was demanding not just equal rights, but special rights; the other was that homosexuality was a factor in the spread of HIV and Aids.

"Neither of these, you might think, qualifies as an outrageous or even exceptional proposition. Yet the videos ended up before the Chief Censor, who considered them so potentially injurious to the public good that he imposed an R16 restriction. Not satisfied with that, a gay activist group appealed to the Film and Literature Board of Review, which declared the videos objectionable in anyone’s hands."

A court fight ensued, and eventually the Court of Appeal ruled that the videos should be cleared for release, but the Film Review Board then asked the Government to consider outlawing what it calls "hate speech".

In March, while most of New Zealand’s attention was on the Iraq crisis, a parliamentary select committe chaired by MP Diane Yates, released its own report on the issue, "and oddly enough," writes Du Fresne, "the main thrust is that the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act should be modified to encompass hate speech.

"That would mean politically incorrect opinions such as those expressed in the Living Word videos could be banned without the pesky Court of Appeal getting in the way. And the Chief Censor wouldn¹t have to bother himself with nitpicking, high-flown notions about freedom of expression.

"Interestingly enough, nowhere in the report is any attempt made to define "hate speech". It’s one of those wondrously loaded phrases, like "social justice", that can mean whatever the user wants it to mean. In the context of the committee’s report, it seems to mean anything that might offend a minority group.

"Presumably it would be left to the Chief Censor to define hate speech, and in so doing to determine what New Zealanders are allowed to say, see and hear. This places unprecedented and dangerous power in the hands of a bureaucrat and casts him in the role of a commissar in Soviet Russia. It also tugs the censorship laws in an entirely new direction, and one that I suspect Parliament never intended when it passed the Act in 1993."

Amid the irony that the chief target of censors may soon be the so-called "morals cam-paigners", rather than programme-makers, dark entertainment like Yu-Gi-Oh continues unchallenged to prep the pre-teen market with violent occultism while Buffy and Charmed do the trick for their older siblings.

One very harsh critic of the high-violence, high occult kids shows is Lt. Colonel David Grossman, a military pschologist who used to study methods of brainwashing US soldiers to make them better killing machines. Now he tours the US like a voice in the wilderness, warning that today’s television content and violent role-playing computer games are on a par with the best military technology in training kids to murder.

Grossman has studied social and crime trends in a range of countries, including New Zealand, and his diagnosis is grim.

"To understand the why behind outbreaks of this "virus of violence," we need to understand first the magnitude of the problem. The per capita murder rate doubled in the US between 1957—when the FBI started keeping track of the data - and 1992. A fuller picture of the problem, however, is indicated by the rate people are attempting to kill one another - the aggravated assault rate. That rate in America has gone from around 60 per 100,000 in 1957 to over 440 per 100,000 by the middle of this decade. As bad as this is, it would be much worse were it not for two major factors.

"First is the increase in the imprisonment rate of violent offenders. The prison population in America nearly quadrupled between 1975 and 1992. According to criminologist John J. DiIulio, "dozens of credible empirical analyses…leave no doubt that the increased use of prisons averted millions of serious crimes." If it were not for our tremendous imprisonment rate (the highest of any industrialized nation), the aggravated assault rate and the murder rate would undoubtedly be even higher.

"The second factor keeping the murder rate from being any worse is medical technology. According to the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, a wound that would have killed nine out of ten soldiers in World War II, nine out of ten could have survived in Vietnam. Thus, by a very conservative estimate, if we had 1940-level medical technology today, the murder rate would be ten times higher than it is.

"The magnitude of the problem has been held down by the development of sophisticated lifesaving skills and techniques, such as helicopter medevacs, 911 operators, paramedics, cpr, trauma centers, and medicines.

"However, the crime rate is still at a phenomenally high level, and this is true worldwide. In Canada, according to their Center for Justice, per capita assaults increased almost fivefold between 1964 and 1993, attempted murder increased nearly sevenfold, and murders doubled. Similar trends can be seen in other countries in the per capita violent crime rates reported to Interpol between 1977 and 1993.

"In Australia and New Zealand, the assault rate increased approximately fourfold, and the murder rate nearly doubled in both nations. The assault rate tripled in Sweden, and approximately doubled in Belgium, Denmark, England-Wales, France, Hungary, Netherlands, and Scotland, while all these nations had an associated (but smaller) increase in murder.

"This virus of violence is occurring worldwide. The explanation for it has to be some new factor that is occurring in all of these countries. There are many factors involved, and none should be discounted: for example, the prevalence of guns in our society. But violence is rising in many nations with draconian gun laws. And though we should never downplay child abuse, poverty, or racism, there is only one new variable present in each of these countries, bearing the exact same fruit: media violence presented as entertainment for children."

Grossman’s identification of media violence as a catalyst for child violence is bourne out by confirmation that the two teenagers who committed the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado were addicted to the computer game Doom. It is worth noting that at the time Grossman was making these comments, back in 1998, the Columbine massacre had not yet happened. Grossman says the reason modern media violence is insidious is because it indoctrinates, glorifies and desensitises mass murder.

But haven’t we always had killing? Haven’t soldiers always gone into far more brutal battles than video can match? "Dur-ing World War II, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. S. L. A. Marshall had a team of researchers study what soldiers did in battle. For the first time in history, they asked individual soldiers what they did in battle. They discovered that only 15 to 20 percent of the individual riflemen could bring themselves to fire at an exposed enemy soldier," explains Grossman.

"That is the reality of the battlefield. Only a small percentage of soldiers are able and willing to participate. Men are willing to die, they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their nation; but they are not willing to kill. It is a phenomenal insight into human nature; but when the military became aware of that, they systematically went about the process of trying to fix this "problem."

"From the military perspective, a 15 percent firing rate among riflemen is like a 15 percent literacy rate among librarians. And fix it the military did. By the Korean War, around 55 percent of the soldiers were willing to fire to kill. And by Vietnam, the rate rose to over 90 percent.

"The method in this madness: Desensitization. How the military increases the killing rate of soldiers in combat is instructive, because our culture today is doing the same thing to our children. The training methods militaries use are brutalization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and role modeling. I will explain these in the military context and show how these same factors are contributing to the phenomenal increase of violence in our culture.

"Brutalization and desensitization are what happens at boot camp. From the moment you step off the bus you are physically and verbally abused: countless pushups, endless hours at attention or running with heavy loads, while carefully trained professionals take turns screaming at you. Your head is shaved, you are herded together naked and dressed alike, losing all individuality. This brutalization is designed to break down your existing mores and norms and to accept a new set of values that embrace destruction, violence, and death as a way of life. In the end, you are desensitized to violence and accept it as a normal and essential survival skill in your brutal new world.

"Something very similar to this desensitization toward violence is happening to our children through violence in the media—but instead of 18-year-olds, it begins at the age of 18 months when a child is first able to discern what is happening on television. At that age, a child can watch something happening on television and mimic that action. But it isn’t until children are six or seven years old that the part of the brain kicks in that lets them understand where information comes from. Even though young children have some understanding of what it means to pretend, they are developmentally unable to distinguish clearly between fantasy and reality.

"When young children see somebody shot, stabbed, raped, brutalized, degraded, or murdered on TV, to them it is as though it were actually happening. To have a child of three, four, or five watch a "splatter" movie, learning to relate to a character for the first 90 minutes and then in the last 30 minutes watch helplessly as that new friend is hunted and brutally murdered is the moral and psychological equivalent of introducing your child to a friend, letting her play with that friend, and then butchering that friend in front of your child’s eyes. And this happens to our children hundreds upon hundreds of times.

"Sure, they are told: "Hey, it’s all for fun. Look, this isn’t real, it’s just TV." And they nod their little heads and say okay. But they can’t tell the difference. Can you remember a point in your life or in your children’s lives when dreams, reality, and television were all jumbled together? That’s what it is like to be at that level of psychological development. That’s what the media are doing to them.

"The Journal of the American Medical Association published the definitive epidemiological study on the impact of TV violence. The research demonstrated what happened in numerous nations after television made its appearance as compared to nations and regions without TV. The two nations or regions being compared are demographically and ethnically identical; only one variable is different: the presence of television. In every nation, region, or city with television, there is an immediate explosion of violence on the playground, and within 15 years there is a doubling of the murder rate. Why 15 years? That is how long it takes for the brutalization of a three- to five-year-old to reach the "prime crime age." That is how long it takes for you to reap what you have sown when you brutalize and desensitize a three-year-old.

"Today the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer and tobacco. Hundreds of sound scientific studies demonstrate the social impact of brutalization by the media. The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that "the introduction of television in the 1950’s caused a subsequent doubling of the homicide rate, i.e., long-term childhood exposure to television is a causal factor behind approximately one half of the homicides committed in the United States, or approximately 10,000 homicides annually." The article went on to say that "…if, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults" (June 10, 1992).

"Classical conditioning is like the famous case of Pavlov’s dogs you learned about in Psychology 101: The dogs learned to associate the ringing of the bell with food, and, once conditioned, the dogs could not hear the bell without salivating.

"The Japanese were masters at using classical conditioning with their soldiers. Early in World War II, Chinese prisoners were placed in a ditch on their knees with their hands bound behind them. And one by one, a select few Japanese soldiers would go into the ditch and bayonet "their" prisoner to death. This is a horrific way to kill another human being. Up on the bank, countless other young soldiers would cheer them on in their violence. Comparatively few soldiers actually killed in these situations, but by making the others watch and cheer, the Japanese were able to use these kinds of atrocities to classically condition a very large audience to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. Immediately afterwards, the soldiers who had been spectators were treated to sake, the best meal they had had in months, and to so-called comfort girls. The result? They learned to associate committing violent acts with pleasure.

"The Japanese found these kinds of techniques to be extraordinarily effective at quickly enabling very large numbers of soldiers to commit atrocities in the years to come. Operant conditioning teaches you to kill, but classical conditioning is a subtle but powerful mechanism that teaches you to like it."

Operant conditioning, for the record, is rote learning to kill. Stimulus, reaction. Stimulus, reaction. In airforce training, it is flight simulator computer games - missile lock, fire. Training to operate purely on instinct and adrenalin. Something, says Grossman, that interactive computer games do so well with today’s kids.

So what sort of traction is the issue getting in New Zealand? We invited TVNZ chief executive Ian Fraser to comment, but there’s been no response. However, a working party is due to report back to the Government this September on whether children’s television is too violent.

Investigate approached the Broadcasting Standards Authority for comment on whether our programme standards covered protecting children from the occult.

"We’ve never really thought about it. No one’s ever complained," reported the BSA. Maybe no one’s ever realised they could.

additional reporting: Glenn Garvin, Michael Zielenziger, KRT


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:28 AM | Comments (3)

RESCUING 111 INVESTIGATE: JUN 03

Leaked documents suggest the collapse of the police emergency communications system is imminent, and as HAMISH CARNACHAN reports, public lives may already be at risk...

Picture this: A police officer gets an urgent dispatch to a violent domestic involving a woman and her enraged partner. He speeds to the address, lights flashing, siren wailing, and arrives on the scene - a run-down house slap-bang in the middle of a nasty neighbourhood. Onlookers start to crowd around the patrol car, some start taunting the officer with obscenities, and unrestrained rogue dogs start barking menacingly. Even above the commotion outside vehicle the officer can hear the battle raging inside the house. He picks up the radio to call for back-up only to met with a staccato retort from a flustered call centre operator. "Standby units." Seconds turn to minutes and there’s still no reply from the operator. What does he do? Does he risk getting injured going in alone, or does he wait until the dispatcher is free to send help?

It may be hard to believe, but this is a dilemma that many of New Zealand’s frontline police officers are forced to face on a daily basis. And while the police have had a pretty tough time of time it lately, what, with questionable time delays in response to burglary callouts and then a high-speed pursuit ending in civilian casualties, this investigation suggests things are whole lot worse.

Backed up by leaked documents and testimony from within the ranks of the New Zealand Police Force, Investigate details a - frankly - shocking series of allegations which raise grave concerns about the efficiency of the current police communications system, and highlights the futile battle frontline officers are fighting to get the tools they need to do their job properly – keep the public safe.

The internal police reports, sent to Investigate by an officer working in the Bay of Plenty Police District, spell out a clear warning that the situation is so bad it is only a matter of time before lives are lost as a result. While blame is pointed squarely at low staffing levels in the Northern Communications centre, which covers the upper half of the North Island, and the resulting overloaded system, we discover the issue is by no means isolated to this region alone.

The reports we reveal here are not one-off inci-dents either. A few phone calls to random police stations around the country opened up a Pandora’s box of dissatisfaction, criticism, and widespread misgivings about the current communications system. And alarmingly, given the sober nature of the declarations, this is an issue that has plagued the police for years because, argue some critics, the bureaucrats who hold police purse strings are more interested in accountability than officer safety. Hung-over from the excessive budget blowouts of the 1990s, concerns are being raised that the culture of police spending has gone from one extreme to the other.

Although it happened more than four years ago, fresh in the mind of most officers is the fate of Constable Murray Stretch, who in 1999 was brutally bludgeoned to death in Mangakino whilst trying to apprehend a burglar on his own. As these reports reveal, there is a growing fear that a similar tragedy is imminent.

In one of our leaked internal reports, filed by a Bay of Plenty Senior Sergeant to one of his superiors, he complains that poor staffing levels are leaving officers unable to attend callouts and isolated in the field – a situation police are becoming increasingly wary of given the violent nature of today’s crime and criminals.

He writes, "This…is submitted to bring to your attention the dangerous situation of linking channels. Channels were linked through the period when I was working until 2300 hrs. The one female operator was running Whakatane, Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupo areas. We were fortunate that it was a quiet night yet [at one stage] she was running burglars in Tauranga and Rotorua, then a robbery in Taupo.

"Prior to these jobs occurring I came across youths fighting on the street. Attempts to get through to inform comms [communications] what was happening was met with ‘standby units’. I couldn’t even get through to Opotiki base to let the member there know what I was doing. I was met with a choice of sitting in the car for 10 minutes, watching these guys smacking each other around whilst waiting to get through, or going to sort it out. I did the latter and as anticipated was able to deal with it myself. My concern is what if the outcome was different?"

The Bay of Plenty officer goes on to state in his report that it was the third consecutive day in which police lines of communication had been clogged for "hours on end".

"As I type this," notes the Senior Sergeant, "the operator has told everyone to standby, that she has six jobs coming through. She is talking at 100 miles an hour to keep up and co-ordinate cordons. Staff could not do [personal and vehicle background checks, or inspect the occupants] etc due to the jobs coming in.

"My concerns are:

· The safety of staff on the street that cannot get on the air due to heavy airtime traffic (even on a relatively quiet night).

· The welfare of the operator. This report is in no way critical of her. She was doing an excellent job in the circumstances and I wonder how long she could keep it up without burning out.

· Criticism has been levelled at staff not …letting comms know where they are. Having spoken to my staff and then experiencing it myself whilst working swing shifts, I can see they can’t get through. It is difficult on a normal night but impossible when linked.

"Whilst I appreciate how difficult it is when we are short staffed, we cannot allow this situation to continue with the linking occurring on an ever frequent basis. One day it may cost the life of a colleague."

Another report leaked to Investigate, from the same area of operations, raises concerns about "an identifiable hazard under the Health and Safety legislation", and concludes with near identical concerns about officer safety.

"I wish to bring to your attention the fact that Whakatane/Tauranga are experiencing more and more occasions of our radio channels being linked with Rotorua/Tauranga, to the detriment of our work capabilities and safety.

"It is only a matter of when, not if, an officer is injured because he cannot get on the radio for help or backup."

Again, this officer raises the issue that police staff are failing to call in background checks because the "problem of [long communication delays] has become that common".

And perhaps most surprising, as the report reveals, is the fact that the communications centre is failing to inform frontline officers of future problems. On this occasion, it failed to arrange any advance measures to tackle low staffing levels despite knowing about pending shortages five weeks in advance.

"They also advised me that the channels were having to be linked between the hours of 0300-0700hrs for seven days… Around 0800hrs in the morning is the time when we experience the drunks coming out of the nightclubs and violence erupts quickly and from nowhere. Very unnerving when working by yourself and you cannot call on the radio because all the channels are linked."

These findings come in the wake of another complaint, from Palmerston North police, detailing similar concerns about the Central Communications centre, situated in Wellington and covering the lower half of the North Island. The unnamed officer was recently quoted in the Herald saying, the situation was putting lives at risk and "ultimately it’s the public getting stuffed by it and they don’t even know. The reason cops are standing off a bit is because we’re not getting any backup. They can’t get on the radio".

Phone calls to police stations in the South Island reveal similar discontent with the Southern Communications centre based in Christchurch. One disgruntled South Island officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the Christchurch call centre is invariably clogged as staff simultaneously juggle police communications, triple one emergency calls and dispatches.

"We only have one channel for the greater part of the top of the South Island. When we have a major incident we want to be able to split off to another channel so we can resolve it, not have all this interference. I can’t do that from my end – it’s got to be done through Southern comms [responsible for the entire South Island]. That’s part of the problem. They’ve regionalised the communications whereas once we dealt with it ourselves."

It was eight years ago that police communications were centralised into Southern, Central and Northern command units, re-placing regional networks in which each of the 12 police districts ran their own operations room. The process took place in conjunction with the failed $100 million Incis project to upgrade the police force’s mainframe Wanganui computer in the 1990s. This centralised Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system was supposed to be linked into Wanganui when Incis came on line.

As we now know, Incis was a monumental failure that never eventuated. Its only legacy is the piecemeal national communications set-up now in place - established from the outset to be heavily dependant on the technology Incis was supposed provide. As Police Associations president Greg O’Connor explains, when the plug was pulled on Incis in the late 1990s, the rationale for CAD disappeared.

"While Incis was being built a national comms centre was also being built. The problem was, it was a technology led programme from the start. The Deputy Commissioner [of Police] said to me at the time that the rest of the country should have the same service as Auckland. That was a prophetic statement at the time because Auckland had lousy service."

According to O’Connor, another issue with the CAD system adopted by the New Zealand Police was that it had originally been developed for Melbourne – solely for a metropolitan area where everyone has a street address. This, he says, created "massive problems when we grabbed it and tried to make it work for the whole country" because of computer recognition difficulties with rural locations.

Additionally, O’Connor says the system has always been under-resourced and during the planning process "no one really defined the role of the new comms centres – there’s confusion around what their task is supposed to be".

That point is backed up by a police study, released in 2001, on the ‘Strategic Evaluation of the New Zealand Police Position Concerning the Use of Force When Responding to Potentially Violent Situations’ – in short the ‘Shuey Report’, named after one of the authors, the Assistant Commissioner of the Victorian Police.

One of the recommendations highlights that "urgent decisions be made and formally announced to districts concerning the command role (or otherwise) of the three communications centres during the course of operational deployments".

The review also found that "the three communication centres have been in place for over four years and the vexing question of their incident command/control role has yet to be resolved… Many anecdotal incidents were also raised by those interviewed, sufficient to reinforce this concern".

And yet, despite O’Connor’s certainty that "police managers are well aware of the problems", two years on it seems there still hasn’t been any action taken to address these apparent deficiencies.

"Most of the district commanders I’m sure would go back to the old system if they could," he says. "The biggest complaints I get are from provincial towns where one dispatcher is expected to cover three areas. Nobody that works in a city that used to have their own comms centre believes they’ve now got it any better."

As far as O’Connor is concerned, the lack of redress in this area can be directly linked back to the budget blow-out over the Incis project – a monster that regularly returns to haunt the police with "crippling accountability".

"The police have got a poor reputation with their investment in technology and the New Zealand Police will pay for Incis for a long time. I think police spending under the current regime is a lot tighter today. Under this commissioner, police spending has now got credibility back."

But, while that might be heart warming for the bean counters in Wellington, frontline officers have been left out in the cold, still worried for their lives and the lives of the public. So does O’Connor accept their concerns? The answer is a predictable "yes" but he also warns "that with the treasury people having so much influence in running the police" it is going to be detrimental to the force as a whole.

As the leaked reports show, it is already having a detrimental affect on frontline officers’ field capabilities. Yet, according to most police who spoke to Investigate, a solution to the situation of overloaded communications centres would not require a substantial investment. They suggest that providing frontline officers with a secure radio frequency, which can’t be decoded by criminals monitoring police channels as is the case at present, and mobile data terminals, to quickly run background checks, would certainly ease pressure on the three central communications networks.

Unfortunately, despite a $4billion surplus, Budget 2004 was somewhat parsimonious with the latest round of funding for police, and the communications issue has once again been overlooked for a spot on the Government’s list of top ‘priorities’ for the sector.

In a recent speech at the opening of a new police station on Great Barrier Island the Police Minister, George Hawkins, proclaimed that while there are many ways the government can spend money on police "the most satisfying is investing in police property".

"A solid and committed police capital works programme ensures staff enjoy comfortable, satisfying conditions in which to carry out the work they do. I am pleased to say that the current Government is investing around $12million per year on the refurbishment and rebuilding of stations nationwide."

It’s statements like these that have some critics fuming. They say suggesting officers’ comfort is a higher priority than safety shows that the Minister is about as in touch with policing issues as he was with housing when the leaky building crisis surfaced – or sank.

But regardless of what his detractors imply, it appears Hawkins has no idea of the communications problems police are facing. He informs Investigate that there are "no known issues that require attention" and that "police are not aware of any major issues involving the communications centres".

"Police are confident in the knowledge that the Comcens [communication centres], which are a mission critical function of policing, are working efficiently, effectively and producing the required outcomes," he says. "Police have deployed sufficient resources to these areas to achieve the required outcomes."

Although Hawkins was the MP who initiated a select committee inquiry into INCIS in 1999, these latest assurances might seem a little flimsy given there is little sign that apparently persistent problems are being rectified. Four years ago he openly criticised police under the National Party for failing to pull the plug on the doomed project.

He was quoted in the Herald saying, "I think by 1997 the police had realised this was a nightmare, but instead of doing something they fluffed up their pillows and rolled over."

In a more recent finger-pointing exercise he notes that police infrastructure and morale has "been gutted under the previous National-led government". And, in the same March 2003 briefing paper, the Minister again goes on to express confidence that under Labour the "police have the resources necessary to focus on crime prevention and resolution throughout New Zealand".

Clearly he isn’t getting his information from the same sources. Back on the communications issue he tells Investigate that the centres have "ongoing programmes to improve business and technology process and practices".

He also asserts that "performance targets are being met and customer surveys both internal and external have not highlighted any major issues", which seems to fly in the face of the Shuey report findings.

And yet this examination isn’t the first time the national communications network has been called into question. Sadly, overloaded systems have already been blamed for deaths in the past, and many questions still remain unanswered.

In 2001 a 12-year-old boy whose father lay dying after a diving accident near Whangarei had his emergency call diverted to Wellington’s Central Communications Centre because the northern call centre was overloaded. The diver’s death prompted concern that re-routing calls was causing life-threatening delays in access to emergency services.

Investigate’s latest revelations show the persistence of a serious problem that has continually failed to be addressed. Perhaps, too, they may shed some light on the recent search and rescue operation off the coast of Oamaru. Five men were left stranded in the water for hours, even after activating a rescue beacon when their boat was swamped. Two were subsequently rescued, one body was retrieved and the other two remain missing.

While the episode is currently under investigation by the Search and Rescue Council, reviews of internal processes by the National Rescue Coordination Centre and police are also being examined. Communication discrepancies were initially blamed for the delay, but the report, which is expected to be complete in six weeks, should shed more light on such claims.

Meanwhile, O’Connor, like the officers who filed the leaked reports, makes a clear point that the systematic failures in no way reflect the level of commitment that communications centre staff put into an "incredibly demanding job". He says they are doing the "absolute best they can" given the limitations of the tool they’re expected to work with.

"It’s when things aren’t working that we talk about them. Most of the time it does work but Murphy’s Law says it will always fail at the worst possible time."

So does that mean lives are potentially being put at risk?

"Yes, but lives are always at risk when police are out there dealing with criminals. It’s an inherently dangerous occupation. Policing is about risk minimisation though and you do that by using the best technology available so that every officer has contact with their home base. Anything that reduces that communication with home base increases the risk."


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:25 AM | Comments (1)

ELECTRIC DREAMERS INVESTIGATE: JUN 03

You know the drill: cold shower threats every two years, government warnings of a "1 in 60 year drought" every 18 months - are solar and wind power really the answer to our power prayers? HAMISH CARNACHAN reports

In terms of history repeating itself, it’s hard to find a more perpetual example than New Zealand’s power crisis woes. The last time the situation was so bad that Auckland ex-perienced near-crippling power blackouts the rest of the country was merely amused. However, it was still somewhat mind-boggling to comprehend the situation unfolding in the City of Sails, the supposed ‘powerhouse’ of the New Zealand economy.

Here was one of those stories you tend to associate with third-world countries, either crippled by poverty or tearing themselves apart through civil war, as you skim over the ‘news in brief’ column in the world section of the national newspaper. But when "crisis" is plastered all over the front page, it’s generally a lot closer to home.

Nationwide, similar sentiments of exasperation were expressed: "It’s not the sort of thing that happens here – we learn from our mistakes." Apparently not. That was a little over four years ago but today New Zealanders again find themselves having to pull together, in the mould of some monumental wartime effort, to try and avoid another winter of seemingly imminent power cuts.

Should we be surprised? Not really, say some critics, the signals have been there for some time, perhaps the most significant of which was recent news that the Maui gasfield, that provides nearly 80 percent of the country’s natural gas, is due to run out in just four years’ time: 2007.

Most of us would have had no idea of the significance surrounding the announcement of the looming, but inevitable, demise of Maui. However, a matter of weeks ago, when it was coupled with "dry winter" forecasts and warnings of very low hydro-lake levels, alarm bells started ringing – for the second time in three years.

Although news of the Maui gasfield running dry was followed by an apparent consolation - the Pohokura field, we found out, is due to come online in 2005 - there is a problem in that the replacement is only a third the size of Maui. Additionally, energy boffins expect the gas will be considerably more expensive. While Pohokura will almost certainly leave a massive shortfall in energy supply, greater concern surrounds the hydroelectric schemes, which are the major source of power in New Zealand.

The impending power crisis is now the most significant we have had to face in what has been a well publicised, chequered history of power demand and supply, and many people have been left to ponder the question: "Where to from here?" Well, government has finally set a course, but it remains to be seen whether they are steering us in the right direction.

While some commentators continue to argue that we would be all right but for the lack of rain, that clearly is not a solution. Power generation in New Zealand has been in a sorry state of flux for quite some time despite warnings of a situation similar to what we now find ourselves in having been heralded, and signalled, well before the rock-bottom blackouts that hit the Auckland central business district in 1998 – remember the 1992 power crisis?

In more recent times, two years ago, Energy Minister Pete Hodgson was touting the same magic figure of 10 percent power savings we are again being told will help us avoid cold showers and missing out on our favourite TV soap operas this winter. Conservation measures worked in 2001 – just – but how much longer are New Zealanders expected to tread this well-worn winter path? Have we learnt nothing from the past?

Believe it or not, this is a question that has been posed in Parliament, yet invariably discourse degenerates into a finger-pointing exercise with blame being passed around like a light bulb hot out of a live socket.

Hodgson has stated publicly that there are no more rivers to dam for hydroelectric power schemes and, bound by the Kyoto Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it seems unlikely that the Government will endorse the increased use of coal, gas or oil-fired power generation favoured by the electricity industry as a means of meeting escalating energy demands.

The government’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) paints a vivid picture of this voracious appetite for energy consumption. Its figures show that between 1996 and 2001 energy demand increased by roughly 1.5 percent per annum (others put it as high as 5 percent) from 425 petajoules (PJ) to 458 PJ. To put that in some sort of context, 30 PJ translates to the annual energy consumption of 840 000 households or 30 times the total annual energy consumption of a town the size of Nelson.

When viewed in such light, it is not too hard to see that demand has clearly outstripped regional growth but, perhaps more concerning is the fact that while the trend shows no sign of abating, generating capacity has been static for the past two decades.

Unfortunately, history suggests the solution is not equally as simple, otherwise New Zealand would not be seen by some as the only ‘first-world’ country to neglect what our counterparts view as an essential service worthy of continual monitoring and upkeep.

Prior to the problems stemming from demand outstripping capacity, hydroelectric power generation had been a faithful servant to New Zealanders, and could explain why we are one of the few countries in the world to use water for most of our power. It provided households with a reliable and comparatively cheaper source of electric energy than that offered in other countries. And aside from the initial damage to river systems and valleys during dam construction, it is still accepted as a ‘clean’ method of energy production. Now though, it appears evident that we have been guilty of storing all our eggs in the one basket.

According to Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, our single-minded reliance on hydroelectric power generation is one of central parts of the present crisis. She suspects that the valleys flooded for the hydro system were too narrow and steep, resulting in inadequate storage.

"If it doesn’t keep raining we soon run out. If it does, we spill water over the dams."

Relying on the weather gods is futile (at best) in a place like New Zealand, but by today’s standards the majority of the country’s dams are probably inefficient too. Clyde, the most significant and recently commissioned hydro dam, was built 20 years ago, before the advanced technology now utilised in overseas hydro schemes had been developed. Modern dams in Wales have been fitted with reversible pump/turbines that use off-peak electricity to recycle water from the lower reservoir back to the top to use again – the system is ideal for coping with periods of reduced flow.

Technology aside though, critics also suggest the problems link back to legislation set in place three decades ago. In 1973 the Labour government of the day signed a contract to use up the Maui gas deposits over the following 30 years, in order to secure the fuel at the cheapest possible unit price. Says Fitzsimons: "This meant we could only get through the contract amount by using it very wastefully. We built up a huge dependence on gas and no planning was ever done to replace it when it ran out, as it is now doing."

Over the same period, successive governments have deregulated the electricity sector into what is (arguably) a competitive market. However, as Fitzsimons points out, Ministers from Doug Kidd to John Luxton to Max Bradford to Pete Hodgson have set in place and perpetuated a market structure where no one is responsible for the security of supply. Left in the wake of sweeping market ‘reforms’ have been the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (ECNZ), the Electricity Department, and their associated planning and forecasting authorities. Even the Minister of Energy no longer has a Ministry – the portfolio has a department located somewhere in the murky depths of the all-encompassing Ministry of Economic Development.

Now a quest for renewable and sustainable power-generating alternatives seems to be the Government’s chosen answer to tackle the issue of developing a consistent power supply.

While energy production via ‘alternative’ measures has been in parliamentary pipelines for years, past considerations have resulted in little more than a lot of wasted hot air. Like the recently embarrassing Beehive episode, the lights have been on but no one has been home.

That was, at least, until October last year when Cabinet confirmed a ‘renewable energy target’ stipulated in the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS). Currently New Zealand generates 133 PJ a year from renewable sources. The goal of the strategy is to produce an extra 30 PJ of renewable energy by 2012 – equivalent to the energy produced by an additional 3.5 Benmore dams or 60 Tararua wind farms.

One might be forgiven for thinking the Government had a sense of the impending gloom, however, the Energy Minister’s address given at a conference on the topic two weeks before Cabinet’s announcement, suggests otherwise. While Hodgson acknowledged the probable demand/supply shortfalls by stating, "New Zealand will need significant new generation capacity by about 2005 if we are to adequately cover the risk of a dry year", he assured the audience that "there is no suggestion New Zealand’s electricity system will be unable to meet business-as-usual demand about three years from now".

At the time of his "Energy: the way forward" speech, modelling by Transpower (the national grid operator) suggested 2005 as the point at which the current system might have difficulty meeting demand in a seriously dry year. But through his work with Canterbury University’s Centre for Advanced Engineering, energy consultant Bryan Leyland had come to a markedly different conclusion. He suggested that Transpower was being too optimistic and warned that in 2003 and 2004 the country would have serious problems.

"This is not particularly surprising," quipped the Energy Minister in response, "as Bryan has been releasing his forecasts every two years for nearly a decade now and they always ring alarm bells." Perhaps it could be construed as a little surprising then that no one has paid Leyland due attention.

Local industries, which have recently been forced to periodically shut down their processing plants because of soaring electricity spot prices, will review Hodgson’s statements with bitter irony considering they come from, in a roundabout sort of way, the Ministry of Economic Development.

At the very least, the Minster’s remarks, made only six months before this current crisis, now serve to highlight the seriously flimsy nature of the country’s electricity sector. So, in an attempt to firm it up, a number of renewable energy alternatives have subsequently been earmarked as the preferred ‘way forward’.

For industrial process heat, both geothermal and wood waste com-bustion can compete well with fossil fuels, especially for large high-load plants. The NEECS highlights this as an area of "significant opportunity" for the wood processing industry and of high potential for increasing New Zealand’s overall use of renewable energy sources.

The United States has realised the potential for geothermal energy for years now. The US Department of Energy (like most OECD countries America still has one) has sponsored an initiative called ‘GeoPowering the West’ since the early 1990s. Basically, the scheme is a commitment to dramatically increase the use of geothermal energy in the western United States and aims to have seven million homes using the energy by 2010.

Washington has already invested considerable amounts of capital into the scheme. It views geothermal energy not solely as a reliable source of heat and power for the growing American West, but as a major economic opportunity too – US$500m in new income has been estimated for western landowners over 20 years.

But also favoured in New Zealand are wind farms. In early March, the Government approved two new projects: Trustpower’s proposed 36 megawatt (MW) extension of its existing 32MW Tararua wind farm and a new 40-80MW wind farm proposed by Meridian Energy. These are expected to roughly triple New Zealand’s current wind generation capacity of just under 40MW.

Meridian Energy proclaims that its wind turbine project will be the country’s most productive wind farm, generating enough electricity for 32 300 homes. The scheme won’t come cheap though, at an estimated cost of $100m, and it will be at least two years before power is flowing into the national grid.

In much the same way that we are behind the US in terms of developing our geothermal energy resources, New Zealand is also well behind European nations in terms of generating power from wind, despite these recent initiatives. Last year, Europe increased its wind-power capacity by more than 35 percent and now wind farms deliver enough energy to support 10 million households. Additional offshore wind farms are also in the pipeline - nearly a hundred such ventures are currently being planned to come into operation before 2015.

European electricity suppliers are investing heavily in wind power, which they view as a mature industry with a growing potential to make a significant impact on the energy scene. European wind farms have 17,000MW installed, and Germany tops the list, housing half of Europe’s wind-power capacity.

The Dutch company DNV has just commissioned 80 wind turbines, each with a 2MW capacity, in Denmark at a cost of EURO 250 million, and plans to invest several million EURO per year in wind-power projects over the coming years. It accepts the "considerable investment" needed to implement such schemes because Europe, like New Zealand, is bound by environmental emission standards and both the EU and OECD are moving towards including the cost of pollution in the overall price of electricity. Renewable energy sources are therefore expected to become more competitive when this legislation is set in place.

Additionally, an EU directive, which recently became law, stipulates that 22 percent of the Union’s electricity consumption should be generated by renewable energy sources by 2010. Such stringent environmental legislation has encouraged some rather lateral thinking when it comes to alternative energy production and European nations have subsequently become world-leaders in the field.

German company Farmatic is one such example. It has developed into a market leader for the industrial conversion of biomass and manure into regenerative energy. In Devon, England, the first farm incorporating the company’s technology has recently commenced operating. The plant, which cost £7.7m, uses effluent from 30 local farms to generate 2MW of electricity – enough power to supply 900 households. Waste heat, a by-product of the process, can be routed to local buildings for heating, and the solid waste is safe to spread on fields as fertiliser. Biogas produced by Farmatic’s bio-power plants can alternatively be refined into fuel to power motor vehicles.

It seems almost reminiscent of a certain beer commercial (currently screening on television) in which a group of Kiwi lads utilise the services of a four-legged methane factory and a length of hose to fire their barbeque. Comical? Certainly. Nonsense? Not necessarily.

With more than five million head of cattle in New Zealand some commentators suggest the answer to our power crisis is right under our nose. Dairy farmers, already copping high electricity bills (around $10,000 each year for a 400 cow dairy farm) and set to be hit with emission taxes dictated by the Kyoto Agreement, would look at their farting Friesians in a different light if the Farmatic alternative was given serious consideration.

And New Zealand is ideally situated for what experts at the Scottish engineering company, Wavegen, refer to as the largest untapped energy resource on the planet – waves. Oceans cover approximately 75 percent of the world’s surface and according to Wavegen represent "a vast natural energy resource in the form of waves". In the United Kingdom alone, it has been estimated that the recoverable wave energy resource exceeds total UK electricity demand, and the World Energy Council estimates that 2TW of energy – the equivalent of twice the world’s total electricity production - could be harvested from the world’s oceans.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it may be. Critics argue that the turbines used to generate the electricity are notoriously expensive and only economically viable in isolated areas, far from conventional power supply. Then again, calling New Zealand’s current power supply anything close to "conventional" would be bold.

There is little detail of research into the feasibility of wave generated power in New Zealand because, Fitzsimons suspects, "international work in the area shows it is much less developed commercially than wind or biomass and not likely to contribute much in the short term".

"[However] biogas is particularly well suited to New Zealand but it would be a terrible waste to burn it in power stations which waste at least half, and often more, of the energy value in the fuel. [It would be] better to use it as direct fuel instead of electricity.

"Its suitability to New Zealand is that you can make it from a wide range of agricultural and forestry wastes."

In the 1970s biogas initiatives were investigated in New Zealand and several large industry players incorporated the technology into their processing practices. The Alliance freezing works near Invercargill made biogas in a one million gallon digester and used the fuel to replace 17 tonnes of coal that would otherwise have been burned each day in its wool drying plant. Tirau dairy factory digested whey and other milk wastes to produce fuel to help run the plant. However, because of the historically low cost of natural gas, biogas has not generally been seen as an economic alternative – until now perhaps.

While the alternative energy production ‘breakthroughs’ in Europe have occurred relatively recently, they are the result of a decade-long concerted drive to develop new initiatives – even though some of these countries utilise highly efficient nuclear power. Clearly New Zealand’s resolute stance on nuclear energy is not about to be changed any time soon, but the enterprise being shown overseas underlines the neglect with which successive governments have treated the alternative energy sector.

Sadly, we need not have got ourselves into this situation, argues Fitzsimons.

"Over the 30 years I have been involved in energy policy debate the opportunity has been there to take a different path. Any time during that period we could have done it. We still can, but the longer we leave it the more cold showers we will have to put up with," she says.

"The answer is not large-scale generation anymore. That’s a thing of the past. The answer is many smaller developments built close to where the load is to reduce line losses. Wind and wood suits this very well. We also have to stop thinking how to generate electricity and think how to provide the service electricity does in other ways. Solar water heaters don’t generate power but they do heat water and save power. Insulation will keep your home warmer so you need less electricity. There are hundreds of these examples."

There may be hundreds of examples but the Government’s Energy Wise Home Grants scheme, part of the energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies, focuses on two key areas: insulating the homes of low-income families and encouraging the use of solar water heating.

"Hot water heating accounts for 45 percent of a home’s power use, which means there is significant potential for savings," says the Energy Minister in a briefing paper. "The grants scheme will help develop the market for solar water heaters, which will enable us to utilise more of this renewable resource to meet household energy needs."

In addition to the $1.2m allocated to projects that will insulate the homes of low-income families, the Government has committed $200,000 to the Solar Hot Water Grants scheme - in the next year it plans to install 400 solar water heaters.

But are such relatively minor investments going to pull the country from the clutches of chilling winter power crises? For many, the level of funding is a pitiful response relative to the scale of the problem. Fitzsimons suggests the Government could be doing a lot more. Instead, she says, it is being left up to industry.

And while the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy has set in place a target of a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency in the public sector by 2006, even Hodgson admits the goal is "ambitious" – hardly encouraging when we are being threatened with blackouts if we fail to reach what has almost become an annual 10 percent power savings threshold.

Time for the million dollar question then: Can the New Zealand public expect that recent renewable energy developments and initiatives, and proposed renewable energy targets, will realistically meet future power demands?

"This is highly dependent on the future growth in the economy and as such, no concrete answer is available," admits Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority spokesman John Boyd. "However, recent energy use projections, by EECA and MED [Ministry of Economic Development], indicate that if both the NEECA targets are achieved, total consumed energy will have increased by a total of 30PJ. Thus the growth in the economy, and the resultant increased power supply demand, could be entirely accommodated by renewable [sources]."

But with the NEECA target nine winters away and the proposed power-generating alternatives due to be phased in over the same period, what happens in the interim, particularly if we have more dry spells and less natural gas?

Boyd won’t comment on the prospect of winter power crises in the near future, but he says a number of actions of the renewable energy programme have already been initiated. According to EECA these include:

· Regulatory barriers – a work project to investigate and address legislative barriers to renewable energy development, undertaken in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment.

· Industry development – ongoing support of the renewable energy industry associations (including the development action plans for future priorities) to encourage the uptake of renewable energy covering wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydrological.

· Biomass – an investigation into the opportunities for biomass through liaison with forestry and other relevant sectors.

"The project’s mechanism," adds Boyd, "which is part of the Government’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, includes the introduction of a carbon emissions charge from 2007 and opportunities for carbon credits to help ensure the economic viability of proposals. The Minister of Energy has recently awarded carbon credits to two proposed new wind farms."

Under investigation it still appears a little thin on substance because, say some critics, these strategies are more closely aligned to meeting Kyoto commitments than sourcing a reliable power supply for the New Zealand public.

Fitzsimons doesn’t buy into such attacks. She says take the Kyoto Agreement out of the equation and investments in alternative power generation still pay off. The Green Party co-leader may have a point. Presumably Meridian would not be building a large wind plant if it were not going to pay dividends – the company’s shareholders simply wouldn’t agree to it.

Yet, despite the extent of the power supply problems in New Zealand, it is still questionable whether the Government’s renewable energy strategies represent a response to the issue as serious as that taken by members of the European Union, or even the United States. While the US is often, many would argue justly, vilified for excessive energy wastage, Washington is investing billions into the research and development of renewable energy resources.

There is little doubt that alternative energy-generating infrastructure does consume significant capital investment. But if New Zealand wants an uninterrupted supply of power we are going to have to fork out for it. The wind of change is blowing but at the moment it seems little more than a breeze - it could take some time to fill in on our shores too so don’t dust off the electric blanket just yet.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

THE LIFESTYLE BLOCK BOOM INVESTIGATE: JUN 03

Is it the call of the wild, or something even more primal? HAMISH CARNACHAN investigates a growing phenomenon in population drift:

They call it downshifting. A word evocative, per-haps, of a steel blue Porsche 911 whipping through the mountain passes of the Southern Alps, just open space as far as the eye can see across the Canterbury plains below out to the ocean beyond, and on the roadside drifts of snow that the distant winter sun has tried but failed to claw from the alpine landscape. Downshifting, a word that spins you up in its vortex and virtually screams "escape", "freedom", "lifestyle".

If it wasn’t dreamt up by some marketing spinwizard, it should have been. Because these days they’re talking about "downshifting" in relation to lifestyle choices – kicking the big smoke bye-bye, and staking out that ten-acre block in the country you’d fantasised about owning ever since those lazy summers of your childhood.

Fed up with all that city-living entails, an alternative existence is rapidly luring an ever-increasing swathe of intransigent townies away from suburbia. Throughout the country, former city slickers are finding their field of dreams lies not amidst the corporate high rises but out in the paddocks, beyond the confines of the cityscape. They’re ditching the constraints, the hustle and bustle, of metropolitan life for the privileges country solitude can offer, and they’re finding it often at a cost considerably less than in most parts of suburbia.

These people are heading for the prospects of a better life for their families, fresh air, open spaces, bigger properties that tend to hold the pledge of swimming pools, tennis courts, and large gardens with plenty of land leftover for free-range children, and grazing horses or a small flock of sheep.

And yet, the delights of grassroots New Zealand culture are often only a stone’s throw away from the city centres. Venture out of the suburbs of any major city and you’ll come across delightful locales like Amberley on the outskirts of Christchurch, Brighton to the south of Dunedin, and Clevedon just out of Auckland.

Situated on the city fringe where suburbia melts into the rolling rural landscape, these are places where the locals live a hybridised existence influenced by their environs - close enough to commute to the city for work, far enough removed to enjoy the solitude of country life. This is the region of the "weekend farmer".

The houses, generally a mix of neatly renovated colonial homesteads and sophisticated new developments, are mostly large, with gardens immaculate. Mud splattered BMWs and Mercedes fight for parking space in the garage with late model utes and farm bikes. Timberland shoes and Red-band gumboots stand side-by-side lining the front-door foyer. Here is eclectic yet idyllic lifestyle as peaceful as any.

With more high-density housing encroaching on personal space, escalating property prices, and ever-increasing traffic congestion, pollution, crime and violence, more and more people are leaving the city in search of the ‘good life’, and who can blame them? But while rural life is the stuff many people’s dreams are made of, is the grass necessarily greener on the other side, and what of this phenomenon of lifestyle block sprawl?

For Terry and Beatrice Nuthall, leaving the city behind was everything they had dreamed of. They found their slice of paradise on a 10 acre block in the Kumeu region, another lifestyle stronghold, northwest of Auckland. With their three children having flown the nest, Terry and Bea purchased ‘Falconhurst’, an idyllic property bordered by mature macrocarpa trees and nestled amongst orchards, vineyards and a myriad of other agricultural endeavours.

The property is only a half hour drive from central Auckland – five minutes from Kumeu town centre – but it seems a world away from the city. The secluded solitude of Falconhurst is a lifestyle block at its quintessential best. A stream meanders through the middle of the section, past a generous homestead with flowing gardens and immaculately groomed lawns, protected from a small holding of stock by split-post fencing stained to match the architraves of the house.

But while the couple don’t typify the young families of ‘2.7 children and a dog’ that are heading for the hills, their motives for moving were the same – a more leisurely lifestyle. Terry says that aspect of the purchase was the greatest success and he is enthusiastic about encouraging others to pursue their dream if this is where it lies. "Get out of the dirty, cramped, car-polluted city I say."

He still marvels at some of the charms of country life that simply cannot be equalled in the city too.

"They’re simple things like when you go out you don’t have to worry about locking everything up. You make lasting friendships out of the close networking that goes on in the rural community. We even used to trade openly because people around you are all doing different and interesting things on their land. And one thing you really notice is how the locals seem to pull together to help each other out – how often does that happen in the city? I remember once I got the tractor stuck. I left it overnight and the next morning it was sitting there in the driveway."

The Nuthalls bought their property in 1997 for $800,000, which is at the higher end of the market. Still, they admit making a profit when they were forced to sell earlier this year for health reasons. Subsequently, they have retrenched to the city and though they both dearly miss what they left behind, Terry has words of advice for newcomers to lifestyle block living.

"People need to move to a lifestyle block well before they retire because there’s a lot of work involved – much more than they think. Also, the cashflow is a surprising drain. We spent around $20,000 a year on maintaining the property and machinery. You can run out of water and have to buy it in, there’s fencing material and metal for the drive, it’s never ending really," he says.

"Still, for us the positives always far outweighed the negatives."

Today there are a host of resources to help landowners come to terms with the requirements of their new investment. Lifestyle block farmers even have their own association – The New Zealand Association of Smallfarmers – formed nearly 30 years ago. It has 15 branches throughout the country and claims to represent the interests of more than 60 000 smallholders. If that network can’t provide enough information and advice then there are magazines on the subject and a multitude of websites on the Internet.

One of the most popular websites is www.lifestyleblock.co.nz, set up and operated by Kay Swann, a farmer from Brighton just south of Dunedin. In fact, Kay’s site is the second most popular agricultural website in New Zealand. She puts the interest down to the activity of the site’s discussion group where tips and hints are fired back and forth over cyber-space. The insatiable appetite for information on the subject gives some indication of how popular lifestyle farming has become.

Kay emigrated to New Zealand from England 12 years ago and lived in the Waikato until purchasing her 14 acre lifestyle block and moving south last year. She now runs a small herd of cattle on her land, breeding them for the gourmet veal market "more as a hobby" than anything else.

"You never going to make a lot of money," she says. "I think most people get a lifestyle block because they want more room for their families, their kids, their dogs, maybe a couple of ponies.

"There seems to have been a change in people’s values. They’re seeing that there’s more to life beyond the city. Also, with the advances in the Internet and technology these days, people are a bit more flexible - they don’t have to be living right on the office doorstep."

Like Kay, many of her close neighbours are from Europe and the United States. "They’ve come out here following a dream", she says, one that is too costly back in their native countries.

And they, like many Kiwi dreamers, are often unaware of the issues that affect lifestyle block owners here. She says that water supply is becoming a problem in some areas because the increasing development of farmland into smaller lots is draining bore water levels.

"The lifestyle people don’t have the network of support that the farmers do. People find it hard to get hay and when we have a drought, like we have had down here, we can’t organise to get feed from the North Island like they do.

"Conventional farmers often get tired of constantly being asked for help and advice. They also tend to think that people living on lifestyle blocks don’t look after their animals and cause a lot of animal welfare issues. I think that’s mainly through ignorance but the two don’t tend to blend. That’s why you find the lifestyle blocks grouped together in the same areas."

Kay also suspects the dream often overshadows the practicality of small farm ownership.

"Most people go into it not really understanding what’s required. People have a rosy picture of the country and they’re not really aware of the negative side of it. You have farmers’ dogs barking at all hours, the smell of silage, low flying crop-dusters – it’s not always as peaceful as they imagine.

"There are statistics that show the average length of time people stay on a lifestyle block is five years. The main reason they leave is because they weren’t aware of how much work and responsibility is involved, or one partner gets fed up with it and tells the other, ‘This is you dream – not mine’."

However, many still seem willingly to give it a shot. The latest statistics from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) show the lifestyle block sector is one of the star performers in the property market with both values and sales volumes consistently experiencing strong and healthy growth.

Three years ago 503 lifestyle properties were sold nationwide for a median price of $185,000. The five regions with the highest prices were all in the top half of the North Island. Bay of Plenty properties were the most expensive, followed by Auckland, Northland, Waikato and Gisborne.

In March this year, 716 blocks sold for an average price of just under $250,000, but the figures show the market has moved. Auckland is on top, followed by Marlborough, Otago, Waikato and Wellington. If you had a purchased a section in the Auckland region in March 2000, at the average price of $252,000, and sold it in March this year you would have made yourself close to a cool $100,000 profit. And today you’ll be forced to fork out $314,000 on average for a section on which to set up a boutique vineyard in Marlborough.

The rural spokesperson for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, Murray Cleland, says the level of sales is currently limited only "by a distinct shortage of listings".

In areas such as West Melton, Canterbury, where traditionally there have been an abundance of ‘bareland’ blocks priced from $100,000 upwards, the Bayleys property group say it is now difficult to find such a section for sale. Prices of $150,000, and over, are reportedly commonplace today. Bayelys says strong demand from migrants, particularly from the United Kingdom and Europe, is one of the drivers of this market.

While the market has shifted further south in recent years, Auckland hasn’t slipped below second place on the standings. One of the strongest performing markets in this region is the area northwest of the city. Sales Manager at Bayleys North West Auckland Margaret Curnow says she has noticed a steady increase in the demand for lifestyle properties in the region over the past four or five years.

While she says that demand is predominantly being driven by families seeking a life in the country, "more and more people who work out this way, particularly in the growing Albany business area, want to avoid hours of travel."

Most of the lifestyle blocks being sold in this area are subdivisions of larger chunks of land and concerning for some is the fact that, as Curnow admits, "most people we work with just mow it."

"What they want," she says, "is country life and space without the work."

Some farmers in the ‘right’ locations, like northwest Auckland, are finding the property market more alluring than fluctuating meat and wool prices. So, with subdivision becoming more profitable than traditional land use in some areas, what effect is this having on the productivity of the conventional farming sector?

Well, there’s not a great deal known about the phenomenon, which is part of the reason why the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is about to commission an extensive study on the subject.

One MAF spokesperson says at present no one even knows exactly how many lifestyle units there are in New Zealand – it is approximated to be between 90,000 -110,000.

"We’ve done a number of broad consensus studies on commercial properties but we don’t have a handle on lifestyle blocks."

He says the study, which is expected to be out in June next year, should help clarify the economic impact small farms are having on the economy, if any, as well as what use the land is being put into and what previous land use the blocks have been formed from.

Five years ago a similar study was conducted, but that was done on a regional, not a national, basis. MAF carried out the survey, in conjunction with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to look at productivity and land use on lifestyle blocks in the western Bay of Plenty region.

What they discovered was that "for every pony paddock put up, a glasshouse was built too", suggesting that there was probably no net loss of productivity.

Phil Journeaux, one of the authors of the study, says it was hard to assess the effect on overall productivity because of the many variables.

"The land had come out of sheep and beef farm property and gone into a myriad of uses. Initially our findings showed a 2–3 percent increase in productivity but when we scrutinised our methods and went back over some of the issues we discovered a 2-3 percent decrease.

"The other thing the study showed was that the smaller blocks, less than 2 hectares, tended to go into glorified gardens with a couple of cattle and few sheep. Quite clearly, those cases would contribute to a productivity drop."

But, as MAF sources points out, often productivity is increased on small farm lots because, in the case of glasshouse horticulture for example, it is a more economic form of land use with outputs significantly greater than traditional grazing. Still, they caution about drawing national parallels from the Bay of Plenty study because some regions are better suited to a certain type of land use than others, each of which vary in efficiency.

While the jury is out until next year on whether or not the increasing demand for lifestyle blocks is affecting mainstream agriculture, there are more tangible concerns. Some farmers, whose properties border the expanding lifestyle belt, say inflated land valuations, which are being fuelled by a growing demand for rural property, are hiking up their rates.

One farmer in the Coatesville-Riverhead area northwest of Auckland is reported to have had his rates increase by more than 100 percent in a year. The owner suspects a valuation based on his property’s potential for subdivision is behind the massive rates rise. Though that was for a 40-hectare property, similar increases have reportedly whacked lifestyle block owners too. Federated Farmers fear that such an escalation in council rates charges means farmers will have less money available to invest back into productivity and income returns.

Environment Waikato Regional Council has even warned that existing farms in the district need protection from the encroachment of lifestyle blocks. Contrary to Kay Swann’s comments about the negative impacts of conventional farming on small farm owners, Councillor Neil Clarke says he has sympathy for farmers when lifestyle blocks are established close by.

"There needs to be some form of indemnity for people buying lifestyle blocks close to farms. They could sign a document noting that they understand the nature of rural living, just as coastal property owners signed waivers when they lived in coastal hazard zones."

But Murray Cleland of the Real Estate Institute believes the increasing popularity of lifestyle blocks is having a positive effect on the rural economy. He says it has contributed to an influx of people and capitol into local businesses, both services and retail, and "adds a lot of colour to the New Zealand rural experience".

It will be some time before we truly understand what effect the lifestyle block explosion, currently carving up tracts of prime agricultural landscape, is having on the backbone of the nation’s economy. However, now, and in the immediate future, it seems certain that the irresistible prospect of the ‘good life’ will show no sign of losing its appeal to those who can afford it. It’s just a question of whether the transition to a country life is really all that it’s made out to be.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

HUNTING ACCIDENTS INVESTIGATE: JUL 03

They act before they think, almost pre-programmed to shoot on reflex -HAMISH CARNACHAN investigates the campaign to stop hunters killing each other in the bush

On Easter Sunday a young Hamilton man, out deer- stalking in the Kaimanawa Ranges, shouldered his rifle, placed the crosshairs over what he thought was the hindquarters of a deer, and squeezed the trigger. It took barely a split second for the high-powered projectile to travel the 20 metres to its target. But, in a blink of an eye that one bullet took one life, shattered the lives of many, hammering home in the harshest possible way the tenuous grasp of an individual’s existence.

Christopher Martin Davies had made the most fundamental error a hunter can make, a basic error of judgement that was to have catastrophic and lasting consequences far beyond the simplicity of that lethal act – he failed to correctly identify his target.

The tawny-coloured object Davies thought was a sika deer meandering through the scrub turned out to be a fellow deerstalker. By the time he had made that critical assessment though, it was too late for Taupo father Mark Leathwick. The hunter had become the hunted. Davies’ fateful shot slammed into Leathwick’s head killing him instantly, and making media headlines almost as quickly.

This tragic episode was to be the latest in a string of hunting related accidents over the month of April, and the third fatal shooting in as many weeks in the central North Island. Nine days prior to the death of Leathwick, Hamish Harland was shot dead by family friend and hunting partner David Webster Alker in Tongariro National Park, which followed the death of Mangawhai resident Peter McIntyre who was shot in the Urewera National Park at the start of the month. Over the same period, two South Island men were also hospitalised after being accidentally shot in separate hunting incidents – more would fall in the following days. And, only late last month, a 19-year-old man was killed by a member of his own party while hunting wallabies in South Canterbury.

These victims are among the more than 30 000 Kiwi hunters who will enter the bush this year to participate in what is normally one of the safest forms of outdoor recreation. But instead or returning with a trophy or yarn about the one that got away, they unwittingly join a list of casualties that many say could have been avoided.

Now, after one of the worst starts to the season on record, the public, police and shooting organisations are all hunting for answers: Why are good keen men continuing to kill each other in pursuit of leisure? How do you mistake a man for a deer? And, with three more families grieving the loss of loved ones, what can be done to prevent further tragedy and heartbreak?

On average, since 1979 there has been one accidental shooting of a hunter by another hunter every nine months. Over the past two years, Inspector Joe Green has studied every one of these cases. While his report is currently being peer reviewed and is not scheduled for public release until mid-July, he was willing to share some of his findings with Investigate.

Though he likes to emphasize that the number of hunting fatalities remains relatively low compared with other recreational pursuits, Green’s research still highlights some worrying aspects - in almost every case there has been a failure to correctly identify the target shot.

What makes this concerning to many, and "downright puzzling" to Green, is the fact that these hunters appear to have forgotten the very basics of firearms ownership and indeed arms-control law. One of the golden rules in the ‘Firearms code’ – the manual which all prospective gun owners must study to pass the licensing test – is ‘clearly identify your target’.

Every year there are reported cases of accidental gun discharges causing injury, and occasionally death, but Green says by far the most common cause of death in the incidents he studied has been one person shooting another person. There are a number of factors behind why this occurs but in most cases he points out that it is because "shooters seem to shoot at shape, sound or colour", breaking the simple rule which has resulted in at least two of the fatalities this year.

No one can doubt that when a hunter shoots another hunter it is a ter-rible mistake, but the question persists: Why do they forget such a basic rule? It’s the equivalent of a driver completely forgetting that they have to stop for a red light (which is quite different to purposely running the signal).

An important factor, according to Green, is a little-known phenomenon he refers to as "buck fever", which he describes as "a psychological state whereby the hunter’s desire to shoot their quarry is so strong that it overrides all rational thinking".

Speak to any hunter and they will invariably detail the concentration, often required for hours on end or even days, which goes into stalking a deer. Nerves are taut, the atmosphere intense, it’s all part of the primal thrill of the hunt. Green says when a hunter is "wound up" during the chase any unnatural distraction can draw a snapshot, in some cases with tragic consequences.

Bob Badland, who heads the Firearms Safety division of the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, also accepts that buck fever has played a large part in the fatal shootings but suggests that identifying the issue is a lot easier than combating it.

"I’ve been to coroners’ hearings and the shooter always describes it very slowly when they recall the incident but when it actually happens, it is in an instant," says Badland. "It’s almost a tunnel vision, but we don’t know how to prevent it kicking in."

And the president of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, Trevor Dyke, is in collusion too.

"How are you supposed to stop an irrational action affecting a sane person?" he asks. "The eye sees something and in a flash the brain fills in the missing pieces. We’re always bringing home the message about the importance of identifying your target so what more can you do?"

But it’s somewhat surprising then that there is not even a semblance of discussion about such a vital issue anywhere on the association’s website. Dyke argues that’s because "they’ve had technical problems" but hastens to note that he has written a column on the topic for the upcoming issue of Hunting and Wildlife – a quarterly magazine produced for association members.

However, he says there has been a noticeable lack of warning in other media prior to "the roar" – the deer-mating season.

"Usually press packs put together by the police and other organisation are sent out to all the [outdoor orientated] magazines. It didn’t happen this year."

Badland disagrees. The Mountain Safety Council’s Firearm Safety section, funded by the police, is tasked with that job and he says every year the message is "churned out regardless".

"We spend a good portion of our budget targeting hunters – we have the safety message on every item we produce."

In fact, the Mountain Safety Council has some 15 firearms safety publications, and another one due for release soon. It even has plans for "something a little different" – a wallet-sized hologram card with an image of a hunter superimposed over that of a deer. It’s imagery with a clear message, ‘Shoot; don’t shoot’, but whether or not it will make any more difference than the other safety resources seems dubious. Though it’s not to say he is giving up, even Badland has his doubts.

"We just have to keep trying to get the point across."

The Mountain Safety Council also runs various hunter education courses in an effort to hammer the point home. One such module is the Hunter National Training Scheme (HUNTS), a programme operated by the Deerstalkers Association. For a fee of around $140, new hunters are tutored in the basic knowledge and skills required for shooting in the New Zealand outdoors.

Of the hunters involved in accidentally shooting another person, Green discovered that all but one of them had not completed any hunting-specific training. So would making such courses a requirement of the gun-licensing regime have any effect on the number of accidental shootings?

He says it’s something he has pondered in the past, but still has serious reservations about making it compulsory. There are around 240 000 firearms licence holders in New Zealand and because only a small proportion of them are deerstalkers, Green believes the training would be wasted on most.

"The best way to encourage people to do it is to make it more accessible by lowering the cost."

Then maybe compulsory gun club membership and requirements to regularly attend refresher courses in firearms safety is an option? Perhaps not. The mere mention of increased legislation has gun owners up in arms – figuratively speaking.

"We’re already heavily regulated," cries Dyke. "I can’t see how much more tightening-up you can do. At any rate, if they were forced to join a club you’d probably find $5 overnight deals springing up all over the place, actually achieving nothing other than a means of getting around a law."

Even Badland agrees that stringent regulation wouldn’t be the magic bullet.

"Hunters hate it when this happens because it brings the spotlight down on arms control issues but regulation is not the answer. Look at the number of murder victims that have been shot – legislation hasn’t stopped that."

Presently, anyone who wants to take a firearm onto the conservation estate can pick up a permit from the Department of Conservation (DOC). Unlike privately owned hunting blocks, where hunter density is strictly kept low, there is no limit to the number of permits issued by DOC. In fact, under the Pest Management Strategy, DOC has set a clear mandate to destroy unwanted organisms, like deer, and actively encourage hunters to help carry out that task. Consequently though, questions are starting to be raised about whether the number of deerstalkers in some areas is getting dangerously high.

Dyke recalls one expedition into the bush near Taupo where there were more than 30 hunters in a block of only a few hectares.

"Your chances of bumping into another hunter in conditions like that are pretty high, we did and the other guy had no idea we were there."

Over the period of March to June this year approximately 1000 hunters entered the Taupo/Tongariro estate, which comprises an area of 220 000 hectares. Clearly that’s plenty of space for each deerstalker - if they were separated into individual blocks. They’re not though and that is the perceived problem with the current permitting regime.

Is hunter density the issue? Again, it seems it isn’t specifically the case, and again this highlights the fact that there may not be any simple solution. In some of the most heavily hunted areas of Marlborough, where no permit is required, there has never been a fatal shooting. Likewise, Stewart Island doesn’t have a problem despite the fact that, with its world-renowned whitetail deer herd, some hunters say more guns pass through the area than anywhere else on Earth.

But, as Dyke suggests, "Hunters being hunters, they like to shoot in twos and threes and fours." And Green’s studies highlight that nearly 65 percent of the time the deceased and the shooter are from the same party.

"In most cases they decided to split up into agreed areas but one of them has ended up straying into their companion’s zone," says Green.

Still, whether it’s a mate or a stranger, they’ve failed to abide by that same golden rule. That’s why Badland is critical of DOC and raises the issue of "landowner responsibility". He says aside from a sentence in fine print on the back of the hunting permits, the department does little to promote the safety message.

"What the hell are the Department of Conservation doing? They don’t put a lot of publicity out there but it’s people being shot on their land. They expect us to do their job for them."

It’s not like Badland’s section can afford to go it alone on promoting the safety issue either. While the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council "is funded by ever decreasing lottery grants", the firearms division is funded solely by the New Zealand Police. Badland is expected to fire the safety message, among other tasks, at nearly a quarter of a million gun license holders with only $140,000 a year.

"We do the best we can", says Badland, but he is concerned at rumours that DOC plans to scrap the permitting system altogether. If that happens, hunting on conservation estate becomes a self-regulatory practice and that, he says, raises further serious concerns about safety.

Though there are numerous and varied recreational user groups that enjoy leisure activities in the wilderness, it is still hunter safety that is the greatest concern. The statistics show that hunters shoot hunters. Experts suspect this is because they move carefully through the bush like their prey and even sound the same - hunters will often mimic the roar of a stag to entice it closer. Davies was reportedly following the sound of a sika stag just before he saw movement and snapped a shot off at Leathwick. The general consensus among deerstalkers is that it was the victim who was calling.

Laws similar to those in the United States, requiring hunters to wear portions of highly visible clothing, have been floated here as a possible means of preventing hunters being shot in this way. But both Leathwick and Harland were wearing brightly coloured clothing, specifically to avoid being mistaken as deer. In a bitter irony, Davies bullet even went straight through Leathwick’s "blaze orange" cap. Harland had the same ‘protective’ colouring across the top half of his bush jacket.

In the US almost all hunters (only excluding those targeting turkey) have been required by state law to wear "blaze orange" during firearm deer seasons since 1987. But while the number of overall hunting fatalities has decreased, Green says the latest research from Virginia shows that the legislative requirements have had no impact on the number of deer hunters accidentally shot. And that’s diplomatic compared to what some critics believe - they suggest the rate has actually risen.

"I think high visibility orange might be a protective factor in some instances, but in others cases it might even be a contributing factor," says Green. By that he means a highly visible flash of colour could actually attract a hunters attention and draw a hasty shot.

As part of his research into hunting related fatalities, Green has also carried out experiments with different shades of brightly coloured clothing in the bush. He concludes that in various levels of light, and different environments, bright orange might not always be the most suitable colour – from a distance it can appear to be a reddish hue. That just happens to be the same colour as the hide of a red deer – the most numerous and widely dispersed species in New Zealand. Scary given that almost all hunter protective clothing uses "blaze orange". Now there are a whole host of hunters tearing around in the forest thinking they’re safe, yet they could inadvertently be wearing a ‘bulls-eye’.

"We’re still encouraging hunters to wear bright colours, but we’re telling them to make sure that what they wear contrasts with the environment they’re hunting in."

Green believes that a shade of light blue, like that worn by United Nations troops, is likely to provide the most obvious distinction in the forest. This is precisely why Badland hopes a Coroner "won’t rush in" and force New Zealand to follow America’s lead, at least until more studies have been carried out.

Research into ‘protective’ colours and alternative identification techniques are ongoing – with some unusual collaboration too. Badland says the police and the Mountain Safety Council are investigating work currently being carried out by the Land Transport Safety Authority and the military.

Overseas, armed forces are endeavouring to develop effective personal identification devices to prevent loss of life through ‘friendly fire’, much like a warning alert sounded if a shooter targets their own troops. Meanwhile, road transport agencies are working on ‘glow in the day’ signs. Both initiatives could potentially be applied to hunters says Badland.

"How many road signs do you reckon you passed on your way to work this morning that you didn’t notice or understand the message?" he asks. "We have to keep pushing the safety message to hunters, like the police keep pushing their road safety campaign. But, like drivers on the road, it’s still up to the person in control to make that vital decision. If we can make the signs any less confusing then it’s got to make them safer."

Despite the publicity given to hunting accidents, hunting is still among the safest outdoor recreation sports. It’s a fact that everyone who spoke to Investigate has hurriedly pointed out in one way or another. There’s no doubt that the motoring industry, with all its advances in safety, would love to have hunting’s accident rate. Dyke says the number of shootings this season have just been "a glitch" and others, well they say that basically you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than be shot.

But, as Badland says, "At the end of the day it will happen again and we’ll ask ourselves the same question – what more can be done?" And that means, again, some unfortunate family is still going to have to make sense of a senseless tragedy - that their loved one has become another "statistic" to a split-second error.

As for the shooters in the latest tragedies, Davies and Alker have both been jailed for nine months. The men were sentenced in the Taupo District Court on 20 May after each admitted carelessly using a firearm causing death. Judge Chris McGuire also ordered Davies and Alker to pay $5000 each in reparation to the victims’ families. Davies is likely to appeal his sentence, but Alker has ruled out that option - he has publicly stated that after shooting his best mate he now carries a life sentence.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

GRIPE JUICE: LIQUOR TAX FALLOUT INVESTIGATE: JUL 03

Imagine trying to cut the road toll by making it illegal to ride a bicycle. Then imagine trying to reduce teen alcohol consumption by putting a hefty new tax on port and sherry. Little wonder, as HAMISH CARNACHAN discovers, that the wine industry is becoming a whine industry as opposition to the tax grows

Bloodied, battered and intoxicated teenagers line the waiting room, which by 2am looks more like an army field hospital than an accident and emergency centre. Some temporarily tend to their own injuries with gauze dressings thrust at them by overworked nurses, others, passed out on a friend’s shoulder, will stay comfortably comatose until a frantic doctor finally gets a chance to wake them and examine their wounds.

It’s not too hard to find the fallout of youth binge drinking - venture out to any emergency ward late Friday or Saturday night and you’ll discover the bloody aftermath. Some will be less fortunate of course – they’ll end up in hospital proper with injuries more serious than superficial scrapes and cuts – but most will make it safely home and have nothing to nurse but a nasty hangover.

Still, the social and economic cost of such excesses is something to cause concern - a host of studies and statistics say so. But is hiking up the price of liquor the best way of tackling the matter and was the secrecy surrounding the Government’s latest move, the implementation of the so-called "teen-tax", warranted?

Well, the Government felt that way when, much like medical staff working late into the night, the legislative practitioners hurried an emergency operation through Parliament in an effort to stem the social haemorrhaging – or so they say.

In his capacity as acting Minister of Customs, Jim Anderton spearheaded the procedure to pass the Customs and Excise (Alcoholic Beverages) Amendment Bill. This has effectively increased the excise duty that the government charges on beverages containing more than 14 percent, but no more than 23 percent, of alcohol-by-volume.

Prior to Parliament ramming through the new law, unannounced, some ‘light spirits’ in the 14 to 23 percent alcohol-by-volume range were not charged for their actual content of alcohol. The Government argues that many manufacturers were using the loophole to sell products at the higher percentage end of the bracket whilst still benefiting from an arbitrarily low tax rate.

The new tax increase, says Anderton, is "to promote safer communities by discouraging underage teenagers and children from misusing alcohol".

Essentially, the ‘light spirits’ Anderton is hoping to target with his new law are the diluted versions of high-alcohol liquor like whiskey, gin and vodka – beverages the minister says are the biggest cause of grief for youths.

"The products that mainly fall into this category are the very cheap light spirits often used by young people," he says. "This is an important piece of legislation to address a serious challenge being faced by far too many New Zealand families.

"The drinking habits of too many young New Zealanders are of great concern. Recent surveys have shown an increase in the level of heavy drinking amongst the young. This trend is both dangerous and unacceptable to our society."

Last year the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) commissioned Brian Easton to report on the impact of excise tax on alcohol. A central finding was that alcohol is one of a handful of products where the costs of production do not accurately reflect the overall costs to society of consumption.

"The excess social costs are substantial," states Easton. "The most comprehensive estimate suggests that alcohol misuse reduces effective GDP by 4 percent, may well reduce the effective size of the unmeasured (informal) economy by a similar amount, and has also reduced the welfare of New Zealanders via additional mortality and morbidity by 2 percent and the population of New Zealand by 0.8 percent.

"The excess social costs may be thought of as the economists’ equivalent of harm, in which case the objective of alcohol policy in economic terms is to reduce social costs. Reducing the gap between the prices on which individuals base their alcohol consumption decisions and the social cost to the economy will reduce harm, because individuals are less likely to partake of potentially harmful consumption."

Higher prices for alcohol are considered to impact on different consumers in different ways. While evidence suggests such moves have negligible influence on moderate, heavy and chronic drinkers, teenagers tend to reduce their drinking in the face of higher prices.

"It seems likely that there is less drinking in extended drinking sessions as the price rises," reports Easton.

Fair enough, one might conclude. So what’s got so many in the hospitality and liquor industries gagging then?

Quite simply, they are furious with the "haste and secrecy" surrounding the law change, and are questioning the Government’s social conscience in light of what they say is a fundamentally flawed notion. They are also critical that the move is as watered-down as the products the legislation is supposed to target - nothing more than another tax grab dressed up for public consumption.

While the Alcohol Advisory Committee-commissioned report places a clear emphasis on the social costs of alcohol, it is acknowledged that any measure of the toll the youth bracket imparts on the economy would be far from objective – it’s simply too tough to accurately calculate. If anything, health advocates argue that alcohol consumption should be reduced across the board, not forced upon any one group. The hospitality industry agrees.

"In many ways that’s what light spirits achieve by providing a lower alcohol spirit option," says Hospitality Association Chief Executive Bruce Robertson. "Light spirits provide an option for spirit drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake in the same way that low alcohol beers do for beer drinkers."

Calculating excise can be quite a complex business. Prior to Anderton’s changes, there were seven steps on the scale, depending on the beverage’s alcohol content. In the report, a graph of alcohol content against tax per litre shows a clear drop at the 23 percent mark – a point where the Government decided kids were getting "the best bang for their buck".

"The Bill puts into effect the recommendation in the Easton report relating to the excise duty on light spirits," explains Anderton in a statement released after the new law had been passed. "The change means that alcoholic beverages in the 14 to 23 percent alcohol range can be taxed according to their actual alcohol content, rather than all being levied as though they contain 18 percent alcohol by volume. The changes also mean that the products will be taxed at the higher rate – the same rate that full-strength spirits are taxed at. This will remove the tax advantage that the light spirits currently receive."

However, among other recommendations, Easton’s report suggests a decrease in the tax on higher alcohol spirits and yet the Government has chosen not to implement that. It’s this "selective" reckoning that has inspired talk of a tax grab.

Robertson acknowledges that the tax regime for alcohol is far from perfect and lacking in logic, but he says the Government has reached "new levels of absurdity" with this latest move.

In an article for Food and Beverage magazine Robertson highlights two key influences which, when combined, formed the trigger for the tax hike.

"The first was the formation, following the last election, of a Ministerial Taskforce on drugs and alcohol lead by Progressive Coalition Leader Jim Anderton…This taskforce has therefore been looking as to how they can and can be seen to be making progress to reduce problems associated with young people and alcohol and drugs.

"The other player has been the distilled spirits industry dominated by the overseas brand owners who have been perturbed to see the erosion of their market from ‘ready to drinks’ [RTDs] and the emergence of a light spirits category…one of their strategic objectives has been to remove or significantly dent the light spirits category. So it seems that submissions from this sector to ALAC have argued that as an effective harm minimisation measure light spirits should be taxed at a higher rate.

"The only real winners from these tax changes are the Government with greater revenue and the international full strength brand owners anticipating greater sales. The losers are all those involved in producing products between 14 and 23 percent, and in particular the consumers who enjoyed these products."

Figures suggest that revenue from excise duty on alcohol does not even cover the costs incurred by the public health sector in dealing with alcohol associated injuries and harm. Does that mean Robertson and others have a point when they suggest the new regime is merely a scheme to line government coffers? Probably not – on current consumption levels the new duty will only net treasury about $18 million. And if Anderton’s prediction is correct, an associated decrease in the drinking of light spirits will result in even less revenue being generated. He repeats that the aim is to reduce young drinkers’ demand for these alcoholic beverages.

"This will mean that young people will not be able to afford as much alcohol as they currently do. Their $10 pocket money won’t be able to buy them a bottle of gin. They’ll drink less alcohol, get less drunk, and cause less harm."

But caught in the crossfire are the producers and consumers of wine-based products – such as sherry and port. While distilled spirits, particularly light spirits, can be produced at low cost, the same cannot be said of fortified wines. Unfortunately for the latter, they fall within the magic 14 to 23 percent alcohol range and are now subject to the same excise duty.

Many small winemakers have made considerable investments in sherry and port production and because these types of wine typically need time to mature, wineries have substantial stocks on hand.

New Zealand Winegrowers, the industry body for the country’s winemakers and grape growers, says the change in the excise regime will have a striking impact in the market, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for winemakers to sell the stock they have on hand.

"The financial impact of this could be disastrous, especially for smaller companies," says Chairman Peter Hubscher.

Henderson-based Pleasant Valley Wines, the oldest family-owned winery in New Zealand, has been making port and sherry for over 100 years. Owner Stephan Yelas says that while the company has just celebrated a milestone in terms of its centenary, it is the end of an era because they are pulling the plug on fortified wine production.

"We’ll just run stocks out now because we can’t see any money left in it. There’s no margin for profit any longer," he says.

New Zealand makes 1.2 million litres of port and sherry each year. While that only amounts to about 2 percent of the country’s total wine production, a string of family businesses in the Henderson area, many of which have been established for a long period of time, base their income on fortified wines.

Pleasant Valley will survive through the sale of its mainstay table wines, but Yelas agrees with Hubscher that other companies in the region, particularly the boutique wineries that focus primarily on port and sherry production, are likely to find the new excise duty very tough for business.

Yelas says he found out about the new excise duty like everyone else - "on the news." So was he annoyed when he heard? He says not as angry as the customers, who it turns out are "100 percent the older pensioners".

Indeed, the biggest market for sherry and port in New Zealand is the older generation. And that is why many critics say the new legislation simply defies logic, given that it is supposed to target youth drinking. One cynical commentator wrote that it is rather like attacking the high teenage pregnancy rate by taxing Viagra, or restricting boy racers by increasing the duty on diesel.

Hubscher says the elderly are bound to find the price increase of approximately $5 to $6 per bottle very hard to swallow, especially since most of them are on fixed incomes.

"This inflicts unnecessary hardship on people who have been contributing to our country for many decades and who are not part of the problem the new law purports to address," he says.

One suggestion in the Easton report states: "In order to maintain realistic minimum levels for the price of alcohol, either the base excise duty rate for all alcohol has to be raised, or a differential between spirits needs to be introduced. This reports recommends the latter option."

Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan says essentially this proposes that light spirits should be taxed higher than other alcoholic beverages that fall within the 14 to 23 percent alcohol range. He says this would have made more sense than the adopted approach.

"There’s a fundamental difference between fermented beverages and distilled beverages," says Gregan. "That’s been recognised in past excise regimes. To be consistent, that logic needed to be carried through here. They haven’t though and by incorporating fortified wines they’ve blurred the line between distilled and fermented beverages."

Anderton’s rationale is that "this is necessary to ensure that these products [fortified wines] do not become an alternative source of low-priced, higher alcohol content beverages…"

Gregan thinks that is absurd. "Kids don’t drink fortified wines. The whole marketing profile and flavour profile is wrong."

And this isn’t the only reason Winegrowers is disgruntled. While the Government claims to have pushed the Bill through Parliament under such urgency so as to prevent one company gaining an unfair advantage over its competitor, Hubscher says the complete lack of discussion was a clear breach of a promise made by Anderton three months earlier.

"To make matters worse, this ill-conceived policy was rushed through without consultation – consultation the industry was promised in writing on more than one occasion by Jim Anderton in February of this year. It is a serious injustice that this promise was not kept," says Hubscher.

Investigate asked Winegrowers for a copy of Anderton’s letters but the request was declined on the basis that "it’s not in the public domain". However, we did find the following excerpt on Winegrowers’ website in which Anderton advises: "If we are to find the solutions to the problems we are exploring then it is crucial that these should be ones upon which as many as possible of the stakeholders can reach agreement. If we don’t take this approach then I doubt that we will succeed in our endeavours."

It is important to note that while the Government has adopted approaches outlined in his report, calling Easton the villain, as some commentators have alluded to, may not be the most objective reaction. Featured in the paper are recommendations and examples to "assist public discussion". In fact, he highlights it as an imperative.

"That it is a political judgement suggests the need for a wide public debate on the appropriate excise duty rate," writes Easton.

But since Anderton’s February correspondence, Winegrowers says it has had no consultation with the Government about the matter.

"We are fully supportive of the Government’s commitment to resolve the issue of excessive drinking by young people," says Hubscher. "We also agree with Mr Anderton’s letter that consultation with stakeholders is central to successful policy outcomes. Like him, we believe that the new regime will fail in its objectives because he has not taken key stakeholders with him on this issue.

"The policy will put some small winemakers out of business. It will make no contribution to solving the youth drinking problem."

By using less juice or less soft drink in the mix, young drinkers will get much the same effect as before, says Hubscher, and he predicts that the producers of light spirits will simply change their products to have 13.9 percent alcohol to bypass the new rules.

Independent Liquor, New Zealand’s largest light spirits producer, has done exactly that. It has reformulated its range of drinks to have an alcohol content of 13.9 percent in a move reported to have been "unashamedly aimed at beating" the teen-tax.

And if concern about the social impact of youth drinking is the real issue, why has the Government not attacked teenagers’ "drink of preference" – the sickly-sweet, brightly coloured, lolly-water beverages referred to as alco-pops or RTDs?

"Light spirits are of greater concern at the moment than alco-pops as the price of light spirits currently allows young people to purchase a greater quantity of alcohol for a less amount of money," is Anderton’s reply.

There’s a clear consensus, spoken on talkback radio and voiced in the odd editorial – the new tax will prompt a short-term reduction in youth binge drinking but it is not a long-term solution.

"Government should be addressing the question ‘why do young people or indeed any New Zealanders binge drink?’" says Robertson. "Instead they have a simplistic view that the price they pay for alcohol is their major driver to binge and it will be fixed by increasing the price, and that’s simply not the case."

Groups opposing liquor advertising aimed at young people report that it is the commercials that have lead to more teen binge drinking. Given that the Herald recently revealed that liquor companies received "mate’s rates" from government-owned Television New Zealand, to encourage intense advertising, it is hardly surprising that people are struggling to understand the logic behind the latest move.

Robertson is one of many who argue that the Government would be concentrating on more fundamental questions if social interest was the priority. Others see it as a little contradictory that a ‘conscience vote’ in Parliament led to the lowering of the drinking age in the first place, and some say the lack of consultation was a flouting of the democratic process.

However, it is hard to argue with the underlying principle, or indeed the statistics, that teenage binge drinking is a serious concern, not just for the healthy development of that cohort, but also for society as whole. And yet, it is an issue that most agree necessitates action that actually hits the mark - a more measured response than the impromptu measures carried through a sleepy Parliament that night. Instead, says Robertson, "Government has used a sledge hammer and missed the target."

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

BOOMTOWN BRATS INVESTIGATE: AUG 03

Tthe rest of new zealand is paying for auckland’s new transport network through petrol taxes, but now aucklanders are getting uppity about paying their share of a rates increase. HAMISH CARNACHAN asks whether aucklanders are becoming BILLION DOLLAR BOOMTOWN BRATS...

It’s the fresh face of the new metropolis – shiny, colourful, and clean – a showpiece, of sorts, for where Auckland is heading, and also where it has been. Af-ter a long and difficult gestation, the Britomart is open for busi-ness after more than $200 mil-lion dollars, and the derailing of at least one mayoralty.

And this is just the start of grand plans that are afoot for Auckland. Plans, the authorities tell us, that are needed "to meet the changing face of the city", but plans that are likely to come at a cost to the entire country and are already causing widespread dissent.

The opening of Britomart is only the first completion in a concerted campaign of infrastructure development that will see massive amounts of money being spent in the nation’s largest city over the next 10 years. So what are these projects and where is the city heading? And as local body bureaucrats butt heads over where they want to take Auckland, is the much talked about ‘integrated transport network’ ever likely to leave the station?

To answer these questions we need to descend into the depths of Auckland’s new transport hub, to a place one enthusiastic commentator termed – "the genesis of the city’s future".

It certainly is a futuristic space. A stainless steel lattice sparkles floor to ceiling, reflecting a delicate array of pastel lighting flanking the tracks that snake their way into the underground enclosure. From the main platform you can see the light at the end of the tunnel linking the trains in the depot with the outside world and their ultimate destinations. But the end to Auckland’s transport woes, which Britomart was sold to the public as, is still a long way out of sight.

The trains have been revamped but these metallic pythons have merely shed their skin. They are almost 50 years old and outdated when it comes to meeting modern crash safety standards. The new depot looks impeccable, but at the end of the day it is just that, a depot – a glorified railway yard.

Presently, the place seems to be more congested with sightseers and the curious than true commuters. It’s little wonder either. Digital displays flash and blink, but only herald false promises - the trains still run exceptionally late. And beyond the clean confines of the space-aged station the rail network is a shambles of line faults and graffiti covered shacks.

But, as Auckland City mayor John Banks hastily points out, Britomart, the largest transport and heritage project ever undertaken by a local authority in the history of New Zealand, "is not the end – it is only the beginning."

Quite a turnaround from a man who was once an outspoken critic of the project, calling it that "temple at the bottom of Queen Street" and slating the council for signing it off days before he was elected. Now, he sees it working in with his campaign promise of decisive action on Auckland’s congested roads – something the Ferrari-driver says Aucklanders identify as their number one concern.

The greater Auckland area is New Zealand’s fastest growing region, with a population set to reach 1.65 million by 2021, an in-crease of almost half a million people. Auckland City’s own population is set to reach 530,000 by 2021. Another significant increase given that the latest Census figures put the number of people residing in Auckland at 388,000.

Banks says to compete with major regional hubs like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, Auckland must focus on the pressures associated with such growth and that means developing a modern transport network.

"With enormous population pressures comes the need for substantial infrastructure development in the areas of roading, public transport, wastewater and sewage," says Banks in crusading manner. "This represents $9 billion over the next 10 years. For this city the biggest investment with the greatest urgency and best return is transport."

And by his own admission, transport is exactly what Banks has built his mayoralty around: "A simple vision of completing the region’s integrated transport network by 2010."

Lines drawn on paper in planning committees might look "simple", but ratepayer scrutiny and funding shortfalls may threaten the certainty of the schemes.

Almost $300 million will be spent on the notorious Spaghetti Junction and Grafton Gully motorway logjam and, despite vocal opposition from environmentalists and residents, plans for the promised Eastern Corridor motorway are "moving forward" according to Banks. State Highway 20 – the Western Corridor through Mount Roskill which forms a "critical part of the triple bypass" – is also moving ahead. And that is just a start.

"But it’s not just about building roads," says Banks. "It is about giving Auckland a modern, integrated transport network, which embraces the triple bypass with affordable public transport."

Indeed, Banks’ council is working with other agencies on an array of plans optimistically expected to be functional within 10 years. These include:

· New and refurbished trains by 2006

· Investigating a rapid transit corridor through the central city, from Britomart to Newmarket, for completion by 2006 - $700 million.

· Creating a North Shore bus way from the Harbour Bridge to Albany at a cost of $200 million.

· Upgrading ferry terminals and suburban railway stations and double tracking of the western line by 2008.

Most Aucklanders would argue that it is long overdue, but when it comes to footing the bill it seems few are prepared to fork out for the proposals, which come with a hefty price tag. It is estimated that $2.5 billion will be needed over the 10-year period.

Some ratepayer groups from within the wider Auckland region have made headlines after urging residents to drip-feed rates payments while they mount a legal challenge against the latest hike. The new Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rates have smacked some residents with rises of over 600 percent to recover the costs of the region’s transport upgrades.

Only time will tell if the rating furore means the ARC will be scrutinised more closely in terms of the value for money it provides on transport and other services, but Transit New Zealand’s latest agenda of national roading projects may throw another spanner in the works. The draft schedule released in January listed Auckland as having 18 of the 20 most urgently listed projects. In a recently revised list only three have survived, some suggest because of the angry reception from the rest of country over a perceived inequity.

Even Transit’s first schedule would have left a massive funding shortfall for Auckland so the region’s mayors are lobbying central government for a national 10c-per-litre petrol tax. Although the proposed tax would be distributed regionally (by population) this scheme has not gone down well with the rest of the country either.

But fair or not, Auckland’s traffic congestion is imparting a huge toll on both the regional and national economy – to the tune of around $1 billion a year is the general consensus. It is a cost the Government is clearly concerned about. Finance Minister Michael Cullen has said a range of funding options are being considered to get the city moving and the Government is investigating burrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to help solve the region’s transport woes.

Banks can understand that any national levy will not be popular, but according to him the cost to the economy is reason enough for the rest of the country to help fix the problem.

"Auckland is responsible for a third of the country’s economic wealth," he says. "As the nation’s engine-room Auckland needs to do better if this country is to achieve our potential on the world stage. At the heart of the problem is the fact that Auckland’s economic infrastructure has been left unattended to for far too long. "When we complete the region’s motorway network the wins will be significant."

And yet Banks admits that there is "not a hope" of completing the network proposals without adequate finance, so where does the vision of an integrated and modern system stand in light of funding troubles - derailed or still on track? "The region’s mayors are collectively committed to completing our transport network and the Government is committed to giving us the tools to finance the $2.4 billion funding shortfall.

"We are working with the Government on specifics and we are working on timeframes. It is my commitment to have all the money bolted down by the end of the third quarter of this year. We are quietly confident the Government will deliver what we need to fix Auckland’s problems."

Will local government deliver though? No amount of money will fix the local-body bickering that some critics, Banks included, say continues to stall the transport system upgrades and has plagued the Britomart project since its inception.

While the Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited [ARTNL] provides public transport infrastructure like stations and railway lines, the ARC provides the transport services. Local councils have no authority to do anything about the graffiti covered stations or the abysmal scheduling. Banks and Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey say the set-up is simply dysfunctional.

"The more the nightmare goes on with transport and rail the more people will realise it’s not working," says Harvey. "It’s not working because of the infrastructure around us [the region’s mayors]. We’re not getting the delivery because ARTNL and the ARC cannot agree to agree."

Banks says all the mayors want ARTNL to take control and run the rail network in and out of Britomart but key players in the ARC pursuing "their own agendas" refuse to relinquish control.

An international consulting company has delivered the region an ambitious draft, aiming to increase train patronage in Auckland from the present 2.24 million journeys a year to 25 million by 2015. Banks says the ARC has yet to approve the plan.

"We have confidence that they [ARTNL] can run it to a world-class standard, but I don’t have any confidence in the long-term transport in Auckland run by the ARC," says Banks. "I have no confidence that they can deliver and they need one hell of a shake-up – they’ve performed hopelessly."

Banks adds that, "fortunately", ARTNL has recently received $22 million of funding from Infrastructure Auckland. That money is to go towards improving signature stations throughout the greater Auckland area, yet it seems that much sorting out lies ahead if passenger rail is to transform the face of transport in and around the region.

That’s what has got residents so riled – as with Britomart there is a massive amount of spending but at the moment it all appears to be superficial. Furthermore, North Shore and Rodney District ratepayers say they are paying for a rail network that doesn’t even service their area. The ARC’s response is that the residents benefit from other public transport projects.

But Harvey was similarly unimpressed, albeit for slightly different reasons, after his first jaunt into the "super station". In the Herald he wrote of the experience: "I wanted more than what was delivered. I am bitterly unhappy that a great opportunity for a city as dazzling and stylish as Auckland has been lost…" In line with Waitakere’s "eco-city" mandate, he has been an outspoken advocate of light rail.

A spokesman from Harvey’s office says the decision to pursue heavy rail was a "major setback" for Waitakere because diesel-engine trains create excessive noise and particle pollution, in addition to other shortcomings.

"Light rail also offers a safer capacity to run trains on lighter rail through town centres – to shopping complexes and entertainment venues," says the spokesman.

Having lost the vote on light rail as an option for the region, Waitakere City Council is lobbying ARTNL for electrification and double tracking of the northwest line to improve the speed and reliability of the service.

Banks’ predecessor was also in favour of light rail but the mayor mocks that proposal as having "about as much support as Christine Fletcher had on election-day".

"Not only was it going to be very expensive but it was also slightly wacky," says Banks. "A $1.8 billion light rail network across the grid-locked streets of Auckland would have brought the city traffic to a standstill. We have committed to heavy rail, electrification and extending services."

They may not see eye to eye on the rail network, but Banks and Harvey have a shared consensus on the future of the Whenuapai Airbase when the Air Force moves to Ohakea sometime within the next five years. After the Government announced the closure of the military air facility, Harvey and his counterparts at North Shore (George Wood) and Rodney (John Law) collectively put the hand up to say they wanted the land to establish a second commercial airport. The Auckland City mayor sees merit in the proposal too.

"I am totally committed to maintaining the open space at Whenuapai for future public use, including an airport," says Banks. "I don’t want to see it carved up into state housing – I don’t want to see a fine open space like that transformed into an urban ghetto. Not that I’m against state housing, but we have so little open space left in this city we need to preserve what we’ve got."

The Whenuapai Airbase was Auckland’s main airport from 1954 to 1965, before the international airport opened in Mangere. While the runway at the site would not be able to handle anything much larger than a Boeing 737, Harvey and his associates say most of the infrastructure is already in place to cater for domestic and smaller transtasman and Pacific flights.

The standing joke in the city is that it can take longer to drive to Auckland Airport from the North Shore than it takes to fly to Wellington. Harvey is not laughing though, he’s deadly serious.

"Many Aucklanders have had the frustration of having to leave home for any flight from Mangere hours and hours before the actual departure time, simply because there is so much traffic congestion on the road slowing us all up."

He says a second airport at Whenuapai will offer travellers a faster alternative. Which makes sense if funding can be found for roading plans in the area - new motorway construction proposals, from the northwest of Harvey’s city to the North Shore, run right past the site.

But cutting down commuting time is not the only benefit supporters envisage for a second airport. Late last year Harvey informed a Waitakere City Development Committee of the significance of the airbase as a "strategic asset". He said its current military operations contribute approximately $60 million to the local and sub-regional economies of the northwest of the greater Auckland area.

Housing Minister Steve Maharey has said the Housing Corporation is negotiating to buy some of the land at the now defunct Hobsonville airbase – waterfront property that locals say is "prime real estate" - for state housing. It’s little wonder then that the mayors are so keen to get their hands on the land at Whenuapai rather than see it similarly carved up into lots by Housing New Zealand as is proposed for the site across the road.

Harvey says the region, as a whole, cannot afford to lose tens of millions of dollars generated by the airbase without it being replaced.

"While the eventual departure of the air force is a significant loss to the economy, it also represents a great opportunity to bring new life into the area," he says. "The development of a commercial airport at Whenuapai makes sense at so many levels, and Waitakere City looks forward to pursuing this option with both regional and central government support."

However, shortly after the mayors announced their plan, Michael Cullen said it was unlikely such dreams would get off the ground. Cullen even found an unlikely ally in National Party Helensville MP and Associate Spokesman for Transport and Commerce John Key.

Key published a statement on his website which says: "Living close to an airport sounds like a good idea – unless you are one of the unfortunate homeowners on the flight path, or the project ends up a financial lemon, in which case it could leave a sour taste in ratepayers’ mouths."

He goes on to suggest that "perhaps Whenuapai Airbase can – and will – be converted into Auckland’s second airport", but he warns ratepayers of the potential price.

According to Key’s figures, it will cost around $30 million to patch the "worn-out cement slab" runway at Whenuapai – Auckland Airport intends to spend $70 million on its second runway, which is due to be completed in 2006.

"Don’t forget to factor in the other requirements for a modern, commercial airport – efficient terminals, fuel storage, car parks and shops," adds Key.

Auckland Airport’s 2002 financial figures show its gross income for 2001 was $201 million. A little over a quarter of that was generated by 71,000 plane landings, with the balance made up of parking fees and terminal and commercial property leases.

Key believes that at one-fifth the size of Auckland Airport, Whenuapai is unlikely to be able to reap the same handsome rewards.

"These space constraints will dictate smaller airlines and charter flights, resulting in lower landing fees and fewer passengers for its shops. That spells out a greatly reduced income.

"Whenuapai, as a commercial airport, would create some jobs but not many unless it can challenge Auckland Airport head on and that is unlikely.

"Whenuapai is worth preserving but only as a military airfield, not some second-rate, loss-making commercial folly destined to bleed dry the local ratepayers."

Any commercial airport at Whenuapai would also need new resource consents for noise, aesthetic and emission pollution, and would likely face strong opposition from neighbouring residents. Although Auckland Airport is situated in an area classified as ‘industrial’, work on the northern runway faced significant delays while submissions were worked through.

Investigate offered Harvey a chance to discuss Key’s claims but the mayor said he was running late for a meeting and could only offer the following brief statement: "John Key believes that the airport is absolutely essential. He’s double dealing here. He is terrified of being fired by his electorate because some people are concerned about the proposal."

Harvey is confident his hopes haven’t been dashed yet. "It’s very much alive and well, the process has just been slowed somewhat." A spokesman for the mayor is able to confirm that budget airline Virgin Blue is interested in using Whenuapai as its centre of operations and Infratil, a commercial operator, has a written agreement with Waitakere City Council to run the airport if the Government does approve the venture.

Harvey’s office says the Beehive was expected to announce what will happen to the airbase at the end of July but, because of the debate generated, the decision has been stalled. The outcome is not anticipated until the end of August now.

Whether the region requires another airport or not is clearly a contentious issue, but the result of putting the brakes on Auckland’s infrastructure needs is more clear-cut. One only needs to look to Los Angeles as an example of where we might be headed. The Auckland skyline is crowded with cranes and the region is still experiencing a construction boom. More investment, more jobs, more progress all indicate greater demand is going to be placed on resources already under immense strain.

Auckland already has the second greatest urban sprawl (per capita) in the world, next to LA, and the population of the region continues to expand rapidly. In 20 years’ time the number of cars in Auckland is expected to double - commuting times only seem set to increase.

Residents can gripe about increased rates and in the end the majority will decide if the mayors’ vision for the city is 20/20. But perhaps Aucklanders have to come to terms with the fact that there is a cost associated with living in a large cosmopolitan city because, as Banks suggests, "Doing nothing is no longer an option."

If fixing Auckland’s economic infrastructure is really the key to unlocking the city’s potential and delivering benefits to the nation, New Zealanders can either embrace the new city and support its development or gamble that the purveyors of gloom have got it wrong.

The first strokes of the surgeon’s scalpel have touched the face of Auckland but anyone who has ever been caught in a clogged arterial jam understands it will take a lot more than a cosmetic makeover to get the city moving again.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)

WILD GEESE: THE WMD HUNT INVESTIGATE: AUG 03

Did the Weapons of Mass Destruction ever exist, or was it just a ruse? JIM LANDERS, IAN WISHART & WILLIAM SHERMAN examine the evidence, the allegations and the fallout from Gulf War 2

In the months before the war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued a rationale for toppling Saddam Hussein that was compelling to a majority in Con-gress and with the American people. Iraq had defied the will of the United Nations for 12 years. Iraq had biological and chemical weapons. It was seeking nuclear weapons. Mr. Hussein was a supporter of terrorism, and – after Sept. 11, 2001 – the United States could not "wait for a mushroom cloud" to appear before acting to eliminate a threat to American security.

Some of those assumptions now are being challenged. Searchers have found no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At least some of the intelligence used to justify war has proved false.

The most compelling evidence to come forward regarding Iraq’s nuclear ambitions is from an Iraqi scientist who says the program was dormant but ready to re-emerge once U.N. sanctions against Iraq were lifted.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan has again defended the administration’s rationale for war. He cites Bush’s Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati, where the president said Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons and was seeking nuclear weapons.

"The case was very solid about the threat that was presented, particularly in light of Sept. 11," McClellan says.

Gregory Treverton, a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council during the Clinton administration, says Bush came up with "a quite stunning doctrine" by mixing two rationales: the need to disarm Iraq and to pre-empt the possibility that it might attack U.S. interests or allies.

"For all its technical wizardry, the U.S. intelligence community still lacks the ability to locate, target and take out some opponents’ weapons of mass destruction capability with any precision.

"Taking out a foe’s WMD [weapons of mass destruction] means, as it did in Iraq, taking out the foe."

Vice President Dick Cheney led the Bush administration’s efforts to explain the doctrine of hitting your enemy before he hits you. In a speech last August in Nashville, he emphasized Iraq’s nuclear weapons program to argue that Iraq posed a threat to U.S. national security.

Cheney said using U.N. inspectors to block Iraq’s weapons programs "would provide no assurance whatsoever," and he argued instead for regime change to stop Hussein from giving such weapons to al-Qa’ida.

"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network or a murderous dictator or the two working together constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined," said Cheney. "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action."

Less than a week before the war, Cheney added: "We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons, and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization."

WEAK INTELLIGENCE

The key to a decision to go to war was intelligence. So far, critics maintain, the record of intelligence used by both Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify war is not good.

Greg Thielmann, a retired State Department official who evaluated weapons intelligence for Secretary of State Colin Powell until last September, said "Iraq posed no imminent threat to either its neighbours or to the United States."

"Cheney’s argument was basically for pre-emptive war and regime change rather than for disarmament," Thielmann wrote in an e-mail response to questions. "If the U.N. would have been able to resolve the open WMD questions – and it was making progress – Cheney would have still favored pre-emption and regime change.

"But the American people wouldn’t accept that as justification for war, so he needed to scare them with a bogus nuclear weapons charge and anger them with a spurious al-Qaeda link. It worked."

Needless to say, Cheney’s spokeswoman dismisses Thielmann’s remarks as "nonsense."

"We’re confident that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," says Jennifer Millerwise, the vice president’s press secretary. "He even has a history of using them."

The intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program includes several strands of information. President Bush cited Hussein’s published exhortations to scientists he called his "nuclear mujaheddin" to get on with the mission.

NUCLEAR QUESTIONS

Before going back into Iraq this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency was concerned about satellite photos showing new construction at sites used in the past for nuclear weapons programs.

In 1998 and 1999, Iraq attempted to purchase from Germany 120 highly sophisticated electrical switches as spares for six lithotriptor machines used to treat kidney stones with ultrasonic waves.

Kelly Motz of Iraq Watch, a nonproliferation group, said the switches also could be used to trigger the precise detonations needed to initiate the explosion of a nuclear bomb.

The two incidents most often cited by the Bush administration and the British in arguing Iraq was still pursuing a bomb concerned Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium in Africa, and its purchase of sophisticated aluminium tubing to use in uranium enrichmnt centrifuges.

Powell stressed the acquisition of such tubes as evidence of Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in his address to the U.N. Security Council last February.

Thielmann and the IAEA have said the tubes were most likely for Iraq’s artillery rockets and were not well-suited for uranium enrichment.

Powell noted the disagreement at the United Nations but would not let Iraq off the hook, saying the tubes could be adapted for centrifuge use and were banned by U.N. sanctions.

CIA Director George Tenet last month said the agency got fragmentary reports late in 2001 and early in 2002 that Mr. Hussein was trying to acquire raw uranium in Africa.

At the CIA’s request, former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon Joseph Wilson traveled to Niger to investigate. He found nothing to confirm the reports.

The British government, meanwhile, also received reports that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Africa. It has not divulged its source for this information.

Bush referred to the British finding in his State of the Union address. Last month, Bush conceded the reference to Niger should not have been in the speech, and Tenet has taken responsibility for not having the reference removed.

FORGED DOCUMENTS

Last March, the International Atomic Energy Agency said documents it received from the CIA detailing Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium in Niger were forgeries.

Britain is standing by its report. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has noted that the CIA had received other reports of Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium involving Somalia and the Congo.

Tenet said the CIA’s belief that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program rested on six assumptions that did not include the reports concerning efforts to acquire uranium in Africa.

The most compelling evidence that Iraq was still interested in acquiring nuclear weapons emerged last month, when Dr. Mahdi Shukur Ubaydi, a top Iraqi nuclear scientist, came forward with blueprints and components for uranium enrichment he had buried in his yard.

The CIA says Dr. Ubaydi had kept his information from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors when they questioned him. He said the items were part of "a secret, high-level plan to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program once sanctions ended."

Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials argued before the war that Iraq had already reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

The Army and Marine Corps assumed in their battle plans that Iraq would use such weapons against U.S. troops. It was one of the reasons speed of attack had such a high premium in Gen. Tommy Franks’ war plan.

PLANS, NOT STOCKPILES

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, was in Baghdad last month with other panel members and met with David Kay, head of the U.S. military’s weapons search effort.

"They are confident that they will find the WMD programs, and I believe them," she says. "But they’re less confident that they will find stockpiles."

Harman says it now appears that Hussein kept intact cadres of scientists who had worked on weapons’ programs and limited production capabilities but perhaps no stocks of the weapons themselves.

That would undermine some of the assumptions of Western intelligence agencies.

Tony Blair, in the forward to a British white paper on Iraq’s weapons programs, declared Hussein’s military planning "allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."

Bush argued his case for action on Oct. 7 in Cincinnati.

"Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today – and we do – does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" - JIM LANDERS

There is a saying in the Arab world that Saddam Hussein was reportedly fond of quoting: "My en-emy’s enemy is my friend." During the first Gulf War back in 91, Saddam made it clear - firstly - that he had no friends, and secondly that given that particular twist of fate he had a wide range of enemies he could manipulate to suit his purposes on any given occasion.

Saddam’s shifting allegiances during his political career are legendary, and testimony to his willingness to use anyone or any organisation that he feels could assist his interests.

That background is worth bearing in mind as investigators try to sift through the wreckage of Iraq, looking for what appear to be non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

As the United States first prepared for conflict with Iraq a year ago, it gave three main reasons in support of a pre-emptive strike against Baghdad. Firstly, claimed President George W. Bush, Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Secondly, claimed Vice President Dick Cheney as recently as March 16, Iraq was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons", and further that Iraq had "reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Thirdly, the US and Britain both warned that Saddam Hussein’s regime posed a clear and present danger to world security because of its links to terrorist organisations like al Qa’ida and its ability to provide weapons of mass destruction to such groups.

So how accurate were those claims?

IRAQ’S BIOCHEMICAL WEAPONS

Leaving aside the daily media fixation with the lack of evidence discovered post-war, the real question isn’t so much "Did WMD ever exist?", as it is "What happened to Iraq’s WMD?".

As previously reported, Iraq’s WMD programme goes back prior to Saddam Hussein’s takeover in 1979, with the purchase of billions of dollars in weapons systems and technology from France and Germany. Hussein also converted the country’s civilian nuclear programme to a military one, and hired former Nazi scientists who’d designed the poison gas systems for Auschwitz to work on chemical weapons for use against Israel.

Iraq manufactured and deployed nerve gas agents against invading Iranian troops in the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, and against Iraqi civilians in the Kurdistan province, killing thousands.

Despite continuing criticism of the lack of evidence, Iraq’s possession of biological or chemical weapons still appears highly likely if not certain. The reasoning for such a claim is simple:

The chemicals are simple to make, using ordinary agricultural products. Additionally, US forces and media discovered hundreds of brand new chemical warfare protection suits that had been issued to Iraqi troops - suits that would not have been necessary unless the possibility existed of chemical warfare.

While a strong argument can be made that no weapons have been found and therefore they cannot exist, at the time of going to print the US still hasn’t found Osama bin Laden after two years of searching, but that does not prove that he doesn’t exist.

IRAQ’S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS

The second claim centred on Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons programme. Iraq had been working on atomic bombs right up to the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The real question was not whether Iraq had lost the urge to obtain "the bomb", but whether it had lost the ability.

Hans Blix, the Swede placed in charge of the UN Weapons Inspection process last year, had previously been in charge of the International Atomic Energy Agency throughout the period that Iraq had been using its IAEA-inspected facilities to secretly manufacture nuclear weapons. In other words, say critics, Blix was a hopeless inspector first time around and unlikely to have improved this time.

But Anglo-American claims about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities this year appear to have been based on forged documentation suggesting Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country, Niger.

While anti-war protestors immediately tried to pin the forgeries on the Bush administration, it now appears Britain and the US were the victims of a French practical joke.

Niger, a former French colony, runs its uranium mining operations in association with a French Government agency. According to UK press reports, the original tip-off about Niger and Iraq came to Britain’s MI6 directly from the French secret service, the DGSE.

Was it a deliberate attempt by the French to mislead the British about Iraq? As previously reported in Investigate, Iraq’s initial nuclear weapons programme was based entirely on French military and nuclear technology and assistance.

Reeling from the backlash over the Niger claims, the White House has released portions of a classified document in attempt to show why speechwriters included a now-disputed line in President Bush's State of the Union address relating to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The line reads: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

In the latest round of intelligence agency backside-covering that’s followed this controversy, the CIA has admitted it didn’t want the reference to Niger included in presidential briefings because it wasn’t convinced of the veracity of the reports. The agency has however maintained that evidence does exist about Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium elsewhere in Africa.

To that end, the US has released portions of the previously classified document summarizing six intelligence agencies' views and findings, called the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate [NIE], concluded there was "compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program."

Questions remain unanswered however about how much the White House knew and when. US national security adviser Condaleeza Rice denies concerns were raised about the uranium reference.

"If there was a concern about the underlying intelligence there, the president was unaware of that concern and as was I," she said in a July 11 press briefing.

But, as WorldNetDaily.com reports, documents emerged last week that cast doubt on her explanation.

"According to a memo sent to Rice on Oct. 6, the CIA warned her the uranium charge suffered from a "weakness in evidence." CIA Director George Tenet also tried to wave Rice's deputy Steve Hadley off the charge in several phone calls. On Oct. 7, Bush dropped the allegation from a speech he delivered on Iraq in Cincinnati. Three months later, it reappeared in his State of the Union speech.

"Rice has yet to explain the inconsistency presented by the memo," reports WorldNetDaily.

"She also has maintained that the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, on Iraq – a 90-page Top Secret report prepared by the U.S. intelligence community, and sent to the White House on Oct. 2 – did not raise doubts about the uranium evidence.

"If there were doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president or to me," Rice said on July 11.

"And in a June 8 ABC News interview, she said, "The intelligence community did not know at that time or at levels that got to us that there were serious questions about this report."

"But her remarks are at odds with the facts. The six intelligence agencies that prepared the NIE, which was sent to Rice's office, had so little faith in the veracity of the uranium reports that they voted unanimously to leave it out of the NIE's conclusions, or "key judgments," which were recently declassified. WorldNetDaily obtained a copy of them from the NSC.

"In fact, they are conspicuously absent from the list of evidence supporting the key judgment that "Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program."

The NIE report in fact says:

"Most agencies believe that Saddam's personal interest in and Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors – as well as Iraq's attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools – provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is under way, but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)"

In other words, although Iraq had clear intent to develop nuclear weapons, it probably had not done so by the time war was declared.

It should be noted however that with nuclear material readily available - as both Iran and North Korea have illustrated - it may well only have been a matter of time before Baghdad re-entered the atomic arms race.

IRAQ’S LINKS TO AL QA’IDA

Another purported justification for war was on the alleged links between Iraq and al Qa’ida.

When the World Trade Centre was blown up in 2001, the Bush administration initially rubbished suggestions of a link to Iraq.

For a start, most of those responsible were Saudi Arabian, and there was little evidence linking Saddam Hussein with Islamic extremists like al Qa’ida.

Some, however, are not so sure. Gilbert Merritt, a US federal judge working to help establish a new justice system in Iraq, claims to have been given documents indicating a direct relationship between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden. Nor is Merritt a Bush-nominated "hawk" - he is in fact a "Democrat and a man of unimpeachable integrity", according to US media reports. Merritt told of one document he was given in June:

"The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is "responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.’’

"The document shows that it was written over the signature of Uday Saddam Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein. The story of how the document came about is as follows.

"Saddam gave Uday authority to control all press and media outlets in Iraq. Uday was the publisher of the Babylon Daily Political Newspaper.

"On the front page of the paper’s four-page edition for Nov. 14, 2002, there was a picture of Osama bin Laden speaking, next to which was a picture of Saddam and his ‘’Revolutionary Council,’’ together with stories about Israeli tanks attacking a group of Palestinians.

"On the back page was a story headlined ‘’List of Honor.’’ In a box below the headline was ‘’A list of men we publish for the public.’’ The lead sentence refers to a list of ‘’regime persons’’ with their names and positions.

"The list has 600 names and titles in three columns. It contains, for example, the names of the important officials who are members of Saddam’s family, such as Uday, and then other high officials, including the 55 American ‘’deck of cards’’ Iraqi officials, some of whom have been apprehended.

"Halfway down the middle column is written: "Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.’’

Circumstantial evidence, yes. Smoking Gun? Not quite, but it should be a warning to doubters that the burden of proof for both sides is significant.

Some investigations have previously tied Iraqi intelligence agents to the 1993 attempt by Ramsi Yousef to blow up the World Trade Centre (also in collusion with al Qa’ida) and the 1995 plot to hijack 11 aircraft over the Pacific - that plot coming to light after Yousef’s arrest in the Philippines.

But where the anti-war movement may yet gain the strongest traction is over the status of Iraq’s oilfields. US journalist Paul Sperry, in a new book called Crude Politics: How Bush’s Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism, argues that although not the overarching motivation, the oil lobby has manipulated events to take maximum advantage of the situation.

Sperry cites a report to a White House energy task force back in April 2001, which ‘recommended considering a "military" option in dealing with Iraq, which the report charged was using oil exports as a "weapon" by turning its spigot on and off to "manipulate oil markets".’

As if such price fluctuations and speculations are not already inherently part of the global oil market, fuelled in a large part by Western financial markets trading in oil futures.

"The report advised the Bush administration," says Sperry in a WorldNetDaily report last month, "to - at a minimum - bring UN weapons inspectors back to Iraq and then, ‘once an arms control program is in place, the United States could consider reducing restrictions on oil investment inside Iraq’ to gain greater control over the reserves and ‘inject’ more stability into world oil markets."

JudicialWatch, an organisation dedicated to acting as a public watchdog on major issues in the US, has also recently obtained pertinent documents in the case, including a map of the Iraqi oil fields presented to the Energy task force. - IAN WISHART

In the hunt for Saddam Hussein’s billions, investigators have identi-fied five networks of more than 100 companies used to launder money skimmed from Iraqi oil sales. Saddam’s gangster regime set up shell companies in Switzerland, Jordan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Panama, according to investigators.

Those company networks and their banking affiliations were used to enrich the former Iraqi strongman, his sons Uday and Qusay, and other family members.

"Ultimately, the money was stolen from the Iraqi people," says Taylor Griffin, spokesman for the Treasury Department, which is heading the government’s laundering probe along with U.S. Customs, the Secret Service and various intelligence agencies.

Last month, investigators isolated US$1.2 billion in previously unknown assets outside Iraq. The assets include cash, real estate and diamonds held in the names of the companies controlled by Saddam.

With names like Jaraco SA and Dynatrade SA, the companies used major banks in Switzerland, France, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to conduct transactions, according to investigators.

The intricate web was managed at the top by about 20 of Saddam’s relatives and friends, who spent most of their time outside Iraq.

The mastermind of this vast criminal enterprise was believed to be Saddam’s half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti. Now in American custody, he could provide a road map to Saddam’s hidden wealth.

Hasan, the Five of Clubs in the U.S. deck of most-wanted Iraqis, was Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva for 10 years, ending in 1998.

During that time, he helped set up and manage a money-laundering network that was among the most sophisticated in the world, say investigators.

A second manager was Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, according to a Treasury Department source. Aziz, also in U.S. custody, traveled widely under diplomatic immunity.

Estimates of the hidden loot range as high as US$40 billion, but Saddam’s personal trove "is in the single-digit billions, not more than 10," according to investigator John Fawcett.

"I’m kind of conservative in calculating his wealth," says Fawcett, who has focused on Saddam’s finances for more than three years, most recently on behalf of Kreindler & Kreindler, a Park Avenue law firm.

The firm is trying pinpoint the links between Saddam’s assets and financing of al-Qaida. Once identified, those assets could be seized, recovered in court proceedings and distributed to families of those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We think Saddam’s laundered money was used in part to provide financial support to al-Qaida, and we’re looking at billions of dollars hidden in financial institutions and companies," says lawyer James Kreindler.

One clue as to the size of Saddam’s laundered legacy was found last month - US$780 million in makeshift vaults in a palace compound and another cache of $112 million found in dog kennels on the grounds.

The cash was in $100 bills, and in the dog kennels there were 200 aluminum boxes with $4 million in each box, all sealed with tags reading Bank of Jordan.

Customs and Secret Service agents in Baghdad are tracing the serial numbers to learn the origin of the bulk cash shipments, said Customs spokesman Dean Boyd.

The serial numbers on the bills will reveal which U.S. bank first received the cash from the Federal Reserve. From there, it may be possible to trace how the money got to Saddam’s palace.

"We’ve also uncovered a lot of documents on Saddam’s financial apparatus," Boyd says. For more than 20 years, Saddam skimmed 5 percent of just about everything that moved in and out of Iraq.

"Kickbacks were everywhere," claims Fawcett.

Sulfur and fertilizer exports and imports of tobacco and alcoholic beverages were among the items subject to the rakeoff, according to the British Foreign Office and the Coalition for International Justice.

The rakeoff in 2000 alone included monthly imports of 300 million cigarettes, 38,000 bottles of whiskey, 230,000 cans of beer, 120,000 bottles of vodka and almost 19,000 bottles of wine, according to Peter Hain, a British foreign office official.

Saddam also fleeced pilgrims to Iraqi Shiite shrines in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, making them travel in buses owned by the Al-Hoda company, controlled by Uday Hussein, and stay in designated hotels.

A nine-day pilgrimage costs at least $900, much of which went to Saddam’s family, according to the coalition.

But the principal source of the regime’s skimmed revenue was oil exports, including more than US$6.6 billion from the United Nations-sponsored oil-for-food program, General Accounting Office investigators found.

That program involved a direct exchange of exported Iraqi oil for food and medicine. It was part of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent the diversion of oil proceeds to weapons.

In the last five years, the regime managed to duck the U.N. sanctions with a large-scale smuggling operation involving shipments through Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Persian Gulf countries.

During March 2002, Iraq smuggled out between 325,000 and 480,000 barrels a day, according to the General Accounting Office.

Barges, tankers, pipelines and trucks were used to get the oil out past U.N. inspectors’ scrutiny, and at one point, an estimated 45,000 Turkish truckers were on the roads, loaded up with oil, the agency said.

Until the sanctions were imposed, Iraqi oil exports were not monitored, and all were subject to the 5 percent kickback. In the early years of Saddam’s 25-year reign, Iraq exported as much as 3.2 million barrels per day.

The kickback-laundering system is essentially quite simple. Oil buyers, whether companies or countries, bought Iraqi oil from Saddam-controlled trading companies located outside the country.

The trading companies would forward 95 percent of the money to the Iraqi oil ministry and send Saddam’s 5 percent to shell companies outside Iraq, investigators said.

Directors of those shell companies would deposit the 5 percent in company bank accounts, and the money was effectively laundered. Swiss and French lawyers did the paperwork.

Gold, artworks, hotels, construction and metal fabrication concerns, money market accounts, commodity trading companies and publishing are among Saddam’s laundered investments.

Kroll Associates, a private investigative company, and the International Campaign to Indict Iraqi War Criminals, a U.S.-funded organization based in England, have identified other key figures in the financial network.

Hussam Rassam, a 67-year-old Iraqi businessman who established residency in Switzerland in 1987, was the administrator of the Saddam family pension fund, valued at $41.6 billion in 1990, according to a Kroll report.

Hussam "was appointed (administrator) in 1989 after the execution of his predecessor for skimming funds," said the report.

A telephone call to Hussam’s home in the Swiss Canton of Vaud was answered by a French-speaking woman who told a reporter, "Mr. Hussam isn’t here."

Whether Saddam and his sons are alive remains an open question, but it’s unlikely they could ever again enjoy their over-the-top opulent lifestyles.

Previously frozen Iraqi assets include $20 million in the Cayman Islands, $85 million in the Bahamas and $14 million in Japan.

"What’s the total, and where is it all?" asks Griffin. "I wish I knew." - WILLIAM SHERMAN


Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

WHO KILLED CITYJET? INVESTIGATE: MARCH 00

What you’re about to read is the aviation equivalent of a game of Cluedo. On the floor is the corpse of an airline. In the wings, so to speak, is a cast of potential suspects, anyone of whom had a motive to get rid of the victim. As in any good murder mystery, there are twists and turns. The reader is asked not to form any final opinions on the guilt or innocence of any suspect – all will be revealed at the end. IAN WISHART reports:

The names drop off the tongue with dismal regular
ity: Skybus, Kiwi Airlines, Central Pacific Airlines,
K2000 Airlines and CityJet. All of them tried and failed to take on the major players in the airline industry. All of them met a nasty end.

But the mystery over the collapse of commuter airline City Jet is deepening with the release of new information implicating the Civil Aviation Authority in a dirty tricks campaign against the airline, and raising questions about whether Civil Aviation itself needs to be officially investigated.

Information obtained by Investigate shows the CAA began investigating CityJet just as CityJet was pulling out of a planned merger with a rival commuter airline owned by a member of the CAA board.

The story begins early in 1999. At that stage a company then known as Tranzglobal Holdings Ltd was operating an air freight service using small aircraft. Tranzglobal’s owners were former Boeing 737 pilot Steve Mosen, and entrepreneur Paul Webb – also a pilot.

Their small freight airline had been operating without problems or interference for almost five years.

Webb and Mosen came up with the idea of applying for a licence to carry passengers as well as freight, which would put them in direct competition with another regional passenger/freight airline: Origin Pacific Airways, owned by former Air Nelson boss Robert Inglis. Inglis was, and is, a board member of CAA.

There is nothing sinister in this. There is no evidence to suggest any undue influence was brought to bear over the CAA. But Inglis’ solicitor is the first to admit that the events that follow have left his client taking some publicity heat.

"There’s never been any secret that he’s on the board," says Origin lawyer Michael Smith. "There’s never been any secret that there’s a perceived conflict of interest. The question is whether there was any undue influence, and the answer to that is ‘no’.

"He is a competitor of CityJet, no one is denying that."

But rather than competition, Paul Webb saw an opportunity to work closely with Origin, perhaps even a buyout of CityJet by the bigger player. Unbeknownst to Webb, however, the CAA was taking an interest.

A confidential briefing paper prepared by CAA Director Kevin Ward for the then Transport Minister Maurice Williamson on April 30 last year, notes:

"CityJet Ltd, previously known as Tranzglobal Holdings Ltd, operates a night freight service up and down the country using Bandeirante aircraft. This week the media reported that CityJet plans to commence a low-fare passenger operation across Cook Strait.

"The CAA has some concerns about the CityJet operation, and we are awaiting information from an outside source before deciding whether or not any regulatory intervention is necessary."

It was during this period, at the end of April, that CityJet was locked in discussions with Origin Pacific Airways.

"That was the time we were negotiating the merger," recalls Webb. "That week was when the merger was supposed to be complete, and it was probably about the 7th of May that the deal fell over. I agreed to merge, but Steve wouldn’t do it."

During the cross-checking of facts for this story,
Origin’s lawyer described suggestions of merger discussions as "far-fetched".

"Look, from my background as a lawyer to it, it sounds like utter nonsense to me. That comment that you put to me just sounds totally and absolutely untrue. It just sounds so untrue as to not even be worth discussing, frankly!"

Despite his skepticism, Smith agreed to put
Investigate’s questions to Origin CEO Robert Inglis.

"Webb approached Origin to discuss the two airlines working together," Smith said in a statement later, "and Robert was happy to talk about it, but ultimately it went nowhere because Mosen wasn’t interested. The implication in your question that Origin was looking at buying CityJet is not correct."

Inglis did confirm, through his lawyer, that these discussions took place before CityJet’s passenger operations started.

While the deal was falling over, CAA was commencing a maintenance investigation.

"It has since been independently confirmed that there appear to be some shortcomings in the company’s aircraft maintenance organisation," wrote Ward to the Minister on Friday May 7.

"Consequently the CAA is today conducting a special purpose audit of CityJet’s internal maintenance procedures.

"Early next week CityJet maintenance records held by the company’s maintenance contractor will be inspected.

"As far as CityJet is aware, the reason for this audit is the company’s move into passenger operations. Our concerns have not been expressed to CityJet."

The documents provided to Investigate have not previously been made available to CityJet. The airline’s reaction when it heard the last comment? Anger.

"They have a legal obligation to express any concerns to the party with whom they have the concerns – immediately, in the interests of safety! That’s what their own rules say," snarls Webb.

CityJet was not doing its own maintenance at that time. Instead, its planes were serviced by a very well known company in the aviation industry: Airwork NZ Ltd.

Airwork had the contract to operate Auckland’s police helicopter and traffic plane fleet, and it was Airwork’s aircraft that tragically collided over Auckland’s rush hour traffic in the mid-1990s, killing everybody on board the police helicopter Eagle and the traffic plane. Motorists and pedestrians below were lucky to escape serious injury when burning wreckage dropped onto the motorway and central city.

Airwork also has the contract to operate NZ Post’s airmail planes, and leases passenger airliners to both Origin Pacific Airways and also Air New Zealand.

One of Airwork’s executives has served on the board of the Civil Aviation Authority. He was not a board member during the CityJet period, however.

In an industry where relationships are still forged on a handshake between men over beers at a flying club or officers mess, CityJet was beginning to ruffle feathers.

Firstly, its passenger service launch coincided with the snaffling of a major freight contract to ship New Zealand salmon nationwide. It was a million dollar contract that Origin Pacific Airways had been seeking.

Secondly, CityJet was aggressively looking for postal freight business as well, putting it in competition with Airwork, the company maintaining CityJet’s aircraft.

Webb says Airwork was the mystery "outside source" referred to in the CAA government briefing of April 30 1999, suggesting that CityJet’s maintenance procedures needed to be investigated.

"They were definitely out there stirring the pot," claims Webb. "We always knew that Airwork were involved in that."

At the mention of Airwork’s name in regard to the tip off, CAA director Kevin Ward is quick to point out that he wasn’t the one who released the name of the tipster, which had been blacked out in the documents released to Investigate so as to protect CAA’s "sources".

"That would prejudice any possibility that people would do that in the future."

Despite the tip, and a massive hunt for discrepancies by Civil Aviation, there was nothing of a major ongoing nature discovered. Indeed, CAA praised CityJet for its willingness to get stuck in and correct the few problems that had been identified.

"Between the time of the company’s receipt of the CAA request on Wednesday and the representatives’ arrival at the meeting on Friday the company began urgent remedial work to clear the findings.

"As a result of the meeting CityJet has undertaken to complete clearance of all the findings without delay and to replace their maintenance controller. Company representatives have been very cooperative and positive in their efforts to meet our safety requirements, and I expect that the company will commence its Cook Strait air service as previously planned," wrote Ward to the Minister on 21 May 1999.

"CAA officials at the meeting were left in no doubt that CityJet has ambitious plans for its future, and seems to have sufficient financial backing to put them into effect."

CityJet certainly lived up to early expectations:
Holmes gushed over the new darlings of the air
ways, and other media rushed to report on the new cut-price airline. Business increased rapidly.

But Civil Aviation was keeping a watchful eye on the newcomer, including putting its officials on CityJet flights. When a journalist sitting next to a CAA inspector felt airsick on one flight across Cook Strait, instead of reaching for a bag the CAA reached for the rule book and turned it into an official incident.

"The company has again come to our notice as the result of several aircraft occurrences which can be attributed to less than professional performance by CityJet pilots," the CAA told the Minister on 16 July.

"The CAA will be carefully monitoring the company and I will advise you if there are further unsatisfactory developments."

Paul Webb was stunned.

"It was like they were lining us up for a carefully orchestrated campaign. We got a letter outlining the areas of concern and it was absolute crap. One of them was this reporter feeling sick.

"Well, feelings are not an objective assessment on your ability to conduct flights in a safe manner. The reporter may well have been on the booze all night, I don’t know and nor does CAA. He may have a very low tolerance to flying across Cook Strait. That is not an objective way to assess.

"The question should be: was the flight conducted within the required parameters as set down by the law in the Civil Aviation Act? Yes. That flight was fine."

As anyone who’s ever flown knows: sometimes you hit turbulence. It goes with the territory.

"Another of the problems they raised was that a strap wasn’t locked, and the CAA guy was about to take intervention but the pilot ‘noticed at the last minute’ and strapped the strap before they took off – well that’s just part of his normal pre-flight check.

"They were all just nonsensical. We responded to that letter in July."

Curiously, Civil Aviation told the Government on 6 August that "Further information has since come to light and a CAA safety investigation of CityJet flight operations has begun."

There is no indication of what "information" had come to light, but Civil Aviation was throwing everything it had at CityJet: a Spot Check of General Operations, a Routine Audit of Security, Surveillance of General Operations and a Spot Check of Flight Operations.

Apparently nothing was found, because no findings were issued to CityJet at the time, according to the official files.

A Spot Check of General Operations and Surveillance of General Operations continued during September 1999, but it was CityJet, not Civil Aviation, which made the discovery that ultimately caused the airline’s downfall.

When pilots flew "sectors" they were required to enter details in a flight log and file it with the company’s head office. According to Webb, those "draft" logs were faxed through to Airwork each day for maintenance scheduling purposes. A data entry clerk at CityJet then typed the information into the airline’s own maintenance computer and corrected any obvious typing mistakes as she went. In early September, the clerk came to Webb with a query.

"She came to us and said ‘How can you fly from Wellington to Blenheim in five minutes?’ "We said ‘Well, you can’t. That can’t be right’, and we had a look at it."

Aircraft maintenance relies on the number of flying hours the plane has logged up between service checks.

Flights are normally measured between "off blocks" – which is when the aircraft wheels are first released from the wheel chocks and it begins taxiing to the runway for departure – and "on blocks" which is when it comes to rest at its destination terminal. But within that parameter is also the actual flight time.

Let’s assume the flight departs Auckland Airport at 1pm and arrives at Wellington at 2pm. The actual flight time in the air might be only 50 minutes, which means the airliner taxied for five minutes at either end on average.

According to Webb, he discovered the CityJet pilots had adopted a practice allegedly used by Air New Zealand Boeing 737-200 pilots. Like CityJet’s Bandeirantes, the 737-200’s didn’t have automatic taxi-time recorders, so pilots had to estimate their taxi time for each flight.

"They just applied a standard 10 minute taxi time at each end of the flight. Steve Mosen was a pilot on the 737-200. He and a couple of other Air New Zealand pilots were responsible for establishing CityJet’s operating procedures, and part of those procedures was to record a standard taxi time when we flew. Those procedures came about because those pilots were 737-200 pilots."

But the practice could be dangerous. If a pilot logs 20 minutes of taxi time and only a 40 minute flight, when in reality the flight time was 50 minutes, maintenance might be deferred on the aircraft beyond safe tolerances because of the under-recorded flight time.

"The effect of doing this," confirms Webb, "when the reality of the time might be eight minutes out and four minutes in, shortens the flight time. And this is the time you use for maintenance recording. As a cumulative effect you can cook the books, as such."

Webb quickly realised, in assessing the "five minute" Wellington-Blenheim flight, that the pilot had logged 10 minutes of taxi time either side, leaving an unrealistic flight time on his draft log.

The horrible implication began to dawn on CityJet management, and they immediately alerted the authorities.

"On or about the 16th of September, we issued Airwork and the CAA with an internal finding identifying the fact that we had that under-recording procedure."

Webb personally drafted a seven page report and fired it off to Airwork’s maintenance team and Civil Aviation headquarters.

"So we were the people that tipped Civil Aviation off."

Not that that’s how Civil Aviation broke the news to the Government. Instead, it claimed the victory in discovering this scandal for itself and its anonymous tipster.

"A recent CAA audit meeting with [name deleted by CAA] on other matters revealed that [name deleted] has also discovered grossly under-recorded flight times on various sectors," wrote Kevin Ward in a "special" briefing dated 29 September.

"Such a practice has serious longer term implications for aircraft safety because the servicing and replacement of components is delayed beyond their normal ‘lifed’ hours of operation."

Incidentally, Ward denies that the current regulations allowing rival airlines to dob each other in to CAA is an example of industry politics at work. He maintains public safety is best served by allowing the industry to set the dogs on each other - despite the fact that smaller players may be crushed under the subsequent red tape, and he insists that CAA investigations are not swayed.

CityJet, meanwhile, scoffs at CAA’s grandstanding on the flight-time "discovery".

"Airwork sent us a fax, on or about 24 September, stating that they would be forwarding a copy to CAA, and that fax underlined their concerns about under-reporting of flight times. And we only got that fax after they’d received our report, as if they were trying to play ‘policeman’.

"I mean, we advised them, then they send as a letter saying ‘this is bloody grossly unbelievable…cc CAA’."

To add insult to injury, CityJet had already made corrections on its logs for the plane involved in the five minute flight, to compensate for the under-recording, before the CAA and Airwork had begun making noise about the issue.

Rightly or wrongly, Webb is convinced his airline had really begun to annoy the bigger players like Airwork.

"We were infringing on their postal work. They’ve got the postal joint venture with New Zealand Post, and here we are: a couple of young bucks already doing a postal run every week and trying vigorously to get more postal work. They’re also Origin Pacific’s joint venture partner, and here we were not merging and thumping Origin on all the passenger routes."

By this stage the working relationship between
CityJet and Airwork was almost non-existent, and
CityJet was already well advanced in plans to open its own engineering base at Ardmore – ironically right next door to Airwork. Something had to give and, a week later during the first week of October, Airwork pulled out of CityJet’s maintenance contract – effectively immediately.

CityJet presented its revised flight logs for the Cessna Caravan at the centre of the Blenheim investigation, but was unaware that the CAA was preparing to ground the rest of its fleet. Again, Webb alleges the company was not informed of this by CAA, in breach of Civil Aviation’s own rules.

Instead, the first Webb and Mosen knew of it was while they were in Sydney negotiating to purchase some more aircraft.

"We had a conversation with somebody at Civil Aviation about midday on a Thursday – 14 October I think it was – we had a conversation with a chap there about this new aircraft that we were buying. Three of them.

"Then about four hours later we got a phone call from our office to say that Kevin Ward had sent a fax suspending our air worthiness certificate.

"We spoke to Kevin Ward for about three hours from Sydney that night, and attempted to urge him to reinstate the certificate and back down on his attack. He couldn’t do that."

Indeed, Ward had already spelt out to the Government that there was no turning back. In his special "No Surprises" briefing to Transport Minister Maurice Williamson, he wrote:

"The pattern and extent of under-recording suggests that under recording may have been a deliberate and consistent company policy over an extended period of time."

Of course, Webb says CAA and Airwork already knew this, because CityJet had told them.

"Sampling of aircraft flight logs," continued Ward, "against flight times recorded by the Airways Corporation for the four CityJet Bandeirante aircraft during the month of August 1999 shows an average 30 percent under-recording.

"Some aircraft parts, such as the main wing spars, have a finite life which could be reached long before the records indicate, with catastrophic consequences.

"To prevent any possible safety occurrence and to allow the CAA to conduct further investigation I am suspending the certificates of airworthiness of the remaining aircraft operated by CityJet today."

By 9.30am the next morning, Webb and Mosen were in the Wellington office of Civil Aviation, putting their case. Eventually, they struck a deal: CityJet would urgently review the logs on its flights and make the necessary time corrections, and once that was done the planes could go back in the air. But CAA would begin an on-site inspection of CityJet.

Within a week the aircraft were back in service.

Despite the dire comments made by Civil Aviation earlier, director Kevin Ward told the Government that the CAA was happy with a correction of only "an additional nine minutes for each sector flown by the aircraft" which tallies almost perfectly with the amount that Webb had estimated they must be out.

"As CityJet has completed rectification work on three of the four aircraft the Director has re-instated their airworthiness certificates and they have been returned to service."

CAA sent in a project team led by Richard Cox and Murray Breeze. It was the task of these two men to get an inside view of CityJet’s operations. The airline called in its barrister, Matthew Muir, to help them work out the ground rules for the investigation.

"At that meeting," recalls Webb, "CityJet felt very much ‘singled out’ on this issue of flight time recording practices. In the presence of my lawyer I tabled the allegation that Air New Zealand had been using this identical procedure for 22 years on their 737-200 fleet.

"I requested of Cox that he should look into this and come back to me, because it was something I was concerned about. I was more than happy for him to look in and show him, but I still wanted to know why it was CityJet and not Air New Zealand being knocked over."

Later in the week, when he still hadn’t had an answer on that point, Webb asked Cox what was going on with the check on Air New Zealand. He got his answer the very next morning, Thursday 28 October according to Webb.

"Cox and Murray arrived that morning, and Cox said he wanted to see Steve Mosen and I on our own. The lawyer hadn’t arrived at that time. We went into the boardroom and as we went in my barrister arrived but didn’t come in.

"And we sat there and listened to the fact that for the better of the industry we had to remain quiet about Air New Zealand, that he had had long and detailed conversations up until midnight last night with the deputy director of Civil Aviation concerning the Air New Zealand issue and the victimisation of CityJet being singled out.

"He told us that in the interests of the aviation industry and the interests of moving forward, the investigation would be concluded that afternoon. He would walk around as if he was doing things all day but really wouldn’t be doing anything.

"He told us we would have a signed letter from Kevin Ward that afternoon.

"I’d written a very detailed and accurate report into the flight time issue, about 13 or 14 pages on how it had happened, why it happened and why it wouldn’t happen again, and the effects and corrections that had been put in place, and he said that I would get a letter that afternoon from Kevin Ward confirming acceptance of that report.

"That would be the end of the matter. Civil Aviation would leave us alone and all parties could move forward."

Mosen and Webb were blown away. Could a so-called public safety agency like Civil Aviation simply choose to ignore what it earlier claimed was a "catastrophic" problem, simply "in the interests of the aviation industry" – whatever that meant?

Naturally, CityJet was pleased to find itself off the hook. But it was also naturally suspicious.

"I was aware of the implications of what we had just been party to," says Webb, "and I was quite concerned that if Civil Aviation can pull strings like that then they can also do it in reverse and bring our business to an ultimate end, very quickly.

"So I very carefully documented everything that happened throughout that ‘off-the-record’ meeting. Two people interrupted us, and I had them file a report. I didn’t tell them why, I just asked them to record what they saw, what time it was and what day.

"At about 10am I delivered to my solicitor and also my accountant a copy of all my notes, including notes from the people that interrupted us. And the significance of delivering it to the solicitor and the accountant by that time was that by 3pm that afternoon we got our letter from Kevin Ward in accordance with our agreement.

"We had been told at that meeting what our ‘findings’ would be. Cox went through and detailed what our three findings would be that afternoon and told us what the corrective actions would be. I recorded those, obviously, and gave them to the solicitor."

For his part, Richard Cox tells a very different story.

When we informed him of Webb’s allegations about ceasing the investigation for the good of the industry, Cox was adamant in his response:

"I totally deny that."

Cox admits CityJet told him about Air New Zealand using the same flight under-recording method: "That’s correct, that’s what they told me", but he denies looking into it.

"I didn’t make any inquiries."

Was he aware that any inquiries were made by CAA?

"No, I’m unaware of that."

But CityJet’s barrister, Matthew Muir, confirms he was briefed by Paul Webb that morning on the points raised at the meeting, and that written briefing included the information above. Muir says Webb was extremely concerned, and careful to document everything.

Sure enough, at 3pm, Ward’s letter came through detailing the three findings that CityJet now already knew about. They were:

1. A finding of administrative error in regard to the under-recorded flight times

2. A finding that middle management in the company had poorly defined roles and had failed to maintain a proper flight operations set-up

3. And a finding that CityJet had lost administrative control of its Wellington-based flight crews

Civil Aviation accepted, as earlier indicated, Webb’s report into the flight times, and CityJet moved swiftly to rectify the other two matters. In the latter case, it closed the Wellington operations base and relocated the crews to Auckland.

Webb refers to the Wellington crews as "mutineers". It is clear that CityJet management did not enjoy the warmest of relationships with their pilots.

"They were always shit-bagging us," he grunts.

"We got those three findings, but one thing that did happen which surprised us was that the Deputy Director told us that the investigation would continue, and this was quite contrary to what Richard Cox had told us."

It was this fairly major discrepancy that brought Webb to a decision: from here on he planned to tape all of his conversations with Richard Cox.

"The conclusion at that meeting – this is after a full week of thorough investigation of how the company operates – was that both the Deputy Director Steve Douglas and Richard Cox confirmed that they were totally impressed with the company, the way we operated and our professional approach.

"They told us there were no issues, but that the investigation would continue – it would be an ‘in the field’ investigation."

Webb, one of the founders of CityJet Airlines and a fifty percent shareholder, had had enough. He quit.

"I was totally and utterly gutted. Just truly gutted. I just felt that we were not in control of our own destiny. Our lawyer summed it up quite nicely by saying ‘nothing is ever as it seems’."

CAA spokesman Martyn Gosling, a former journalist, told the media that the CAA had escalated its investigation of CityJet and come up with "19 minor discrepancies".

Although he officially stepped down, Webb continued to lend assistance to Mosen and the lawyer when necessary. On Monday, November 8, Mosen and the barrister were called down to Civil Aviation in Wellington to hear some bad news. But fortunately, Webb phoned Richard Cox first and taped the conversation.

Cox told Webb that he’d been pleasantly surprised with the safety, attitude of management, and safety system that CityJet had in place, but despite all that, trouble was coming. He informed Webb that CityJet was about to have its passenger licence suspended while its entire fleet of 54 pilots were tested for competency.

"My very strong recommendation," Cox warned Webb on the tape, "is you don’t fight too much. Now, I mean, you’re fully aware that there has been a lot of political pressure."

Webb: "Oh, there’s a lot of people that don’t want us to be operating."

Cox: "That’s right, and they’d find an easy way of doing it, that is, bank accounts and so on and so on, right?"

Webb: "Right. So you’re saying that from a political point of view there are people within the CAA and others that want to see us finished and the best way through this is to lie down and take it, as opposed to jump up and spit the dummy and fight with them?"

Cox: "Oh, definitely! I mean, go ahead. I mean, if you want to spit the dummy that’s fine but I really don’t recommend that, I really don’t."

Cox then told Webb that he’d fought really hard within CAA to let the airline keep its flight licence – the implication being that CAA might pull it altogether if CityJet didn’t take its punishment lying down.

Investigate asked the CAA under the Official Information Act what Cox meant when he talked of "political pressure", and the response from Civil Aviation was "industry commercial politics". To further nail down how exactly "industry commercial politics" could possibly have a bearing on an independent and objective Civil Aviation investigation, we approached Cox directly.

Investigate: "The industry politics that CAA says was at the centre of that, how does that fit in – was there any contact between Origin Pacific and the CAA in regard to this matter?

Cox: "Well, Ian, you know I can’t answer that. I cannot answer that."

Investigate: "Was there any contact from Airwork with CAA that was instigated by Airwork?"

Cox: "Once again, I am unable to answer that."

But even more important than the industry politics, Cox’s taped conversation with Paul Webb on the morning of November 8 revealed something far more significant: as far as Cox was concerned his investigation of CityJet had turned up no safety issues of note.

"If I firmly believe that an operator is no good then I will turn over every stone for as long as I want until they are on the ground. End of story!

"But I don’t put CityJet into that category, and I can assure you that if CityJet gets grounded then I will release you something that I have already written and put into my document management system, where I recommend strongly to the contrary. Because I won’t have any part of it, and I’ve already told my bosses that!

"I don’t want any part of [a Civil Aviation grounding] because at this stage I have found nothing to support that."

The document Cox says he wrote has not been released.

Cox then repeated to Webb his comment about the commercial politics.

"Particularly with the pressures that have been in this particular case anyway, you’ve obviously stood on some dicks on the way up…obviously trodden on a few dicks somewhere along the line. They normally support the operator more than the CAA, in this case it went the other way."

Webb claims it got to the point where Cox, the main investigator, was going back to CAA and reporting that he’d found nothing serious, only to be told "go back and look under the rocks a little harder." Webb is convinced that somebody within CAA was determined to take CityJet down, and would stop at nothing to do so.

When Steve Mosen and Matthew Muir heard the tape, they knew what they were in for when they went to meet the CAA in Wellington that afternoon.

Despite the chief investigator confirming he had found nothing to warrant shutting CityJet down, and in fact was lobbying strongly against it, Director Kevin Ward had a different view.

"Flights by CAA investigators on randomly-selected passenger flights with the airline have raised concerns regarding pilot competency and technical knowledge of aircraft systems.

"Following a lengthy meeting with CityJet management today, I have decided to impose several conditions on the air operator certificate held by the company.

"Passenger operations by the airline are prohibited for up to 14 days, pending completion of the ongoing investigation.

"Within the next 14 days, all company pilots, including training and management pilots, must undergo a written test of aircraft technical knowledge conducted by Aviation Services Ltd.

"Within the next 30 days those pilots must undergo a flight test with an independent flight examiner to demonstrate their piloting proficiency in the aircraft. CityJet can continue its freight operations in the meantime."

Civil Aviation was sounding the death knell for CityJet Airlines, and if CAA management didn’t know it then they should have. Banning passenger services, after earlier grounding then clearing the CityJet fleet, was sending a clear message to the public: don’t fly with these people.

Getting all the pilots to re-sit flight exams is akin to getting professional drivers to re-sit their drivers licence tests.

The ultimate slap in the face for CityJet was that its pilots all passed their written exams, and the flight tests had been half completed without incident when the whole programme was suspended: CityJet’s bankers had appointed a receiver.

Whether or not that was what Richard Cox was referring to when he warned of pressure being brought to bear through "bank accounts" will never be known for sure, but what is known is that the same finance company that placed CityJet into receivership was, according to Webb, also an advisor to Origin Pacific.

Significantly, the receivership was not caused by CityJet failing to pay its bills because of the grounding. All finance payments on the airline’s aircraft were paid up to date. Instead, the finance company justified calling in the receivers on the strength of the CAA’s allegations about under-recording the flight time.

"The company said the allegations may have technically breached their debenture, because it may have put their security in jeopardy as a result of insurance not being valid," says Webb. The finance company took that action even though CityJet’s insurance underwriters had already been appraised of the issue on September 28 and had written to the airline confirming that insurance would continue as normal.

In the days following the grounding but before the receivership, Steve Mosen was still trying to rescue parts of his now terminally-ill business.

"At that time," recalls Webb, "discussions were being undertaken with Origin as well to possibly take over some of the aircraft. The finance company had meetings with Steve and Origin in Nelson during this time, and at periods throughout the meeting Steve was asked to leave the room so that the finance company and Origin could discuss matters."

Origin Pacific Airways confirms discussions were being held with Mosen, but says events overtook the discussions and nothing further happened.

Except, of course, that Origin was able to offer CityJet’s now-stranded freight customers space on Origin’s planes. Best of all, Origin snapped up the million dollar salmon contract it had been after for so long.

For his part, CAA investigator Richard Cox isn’t talking.

"I’m between a rock and a hard place, OK? And to keep it in a professional direction, those questions will have to be answered by the CAA. They have all my reports, and all notes attached to the file."

Nor would Cox comment on another unexplained anomaly: In the middle of last year the CAA audited Airwork and made an astounding 47 findings against the company. Why was Airwork – a company run by a former CAA board member - still flying when Cityjet had been grounded with only three findings against it?

Cox confirmed that although he knew of the Airwork audit, he was not involved in it. He made three findings against CityJet, and remains unaware of any other findings applicable to the small airline.

So if Cox couldn’t talk, would CAA Director Kevin Ward?

Civil Aviation has previously refused to comment in detail on the content of the Cox tapes, but that policy changed when we put the full gamut of these allegations to them.

One of the first issues to be sorted out was the perceived conflict of interest involving Origin Pacific, whose chief executive sits on the CAA board.

Kevin Ward confirms that Origin’s seat on the Board would have made it privy to his moves against CityJet.

"There was information from me to the Board, because when they meet every month I give them a situation report on all the interesting things that are going on, but there is no instructions or directions from the Board to me in those matters, it’s purely just a matter of me keeping them informed."

Asked if the information passed to board members could be commercially advantageous, Ward thought about it for a moment.

"I don’t believe so, because we’re simply reporting actions that have already been taken. It’s not as if we’re giving advance notice of anything."

Ward says there was no contact from Origin to CAA in regard to CityJet, despite any ambiguity thrown up by the Cox tapes.

"The extent of the fierce competition between those operators is well known in the industry, and I asked Mr Cox directly what he was talking about in the wake of those tapes being released, and that’s what he told me, and gave enough background for me to believe that that was indeed what they were talking about."

But what about Cox’s assertion that if CityJet tried to fight the CAA’s grounding decision there might be some industry backlash? Doesn’t that mean that industry commercial politics clearly has a bearing on the CAA investigation?

"There’s been no link in real life between the two things. The CAA does things according to the powers that we have and the breaches of the rules that we observe. And we do that strictly to due process. The links that appeared through those taped conversations – I don’t think they bore any resemblance to what the CAA was doing at all."

Ward was then asked which specific "industry commercial" players Cox was talking about in the tapes.

"I don’t think I can be drawn on that, because the discussions I had with him are in the context of employer/employee discussions on a sensitive matter, and they were undertaken under an understanding that it was a confidential matter between us in the nature of the employment relationship."

But what about the major discrepancy between the CAA’s main investigator telling CityJet he’d found nothing of note and had opposed the CAA move to shut down passenger services, and the ongoing tone of Ward’s statements coming down like a tonne of bricks on the airline?

"It was correct that at various stages during the investigation, the investigation team was actually quite comfortable with the things that they were finding. And they’d reported that to us on more than one occasion, and I’d had that summarised to me by the team and by the Divisional Assistant Director. So it was no surprise to me that he [Cox] had a progress report in our computer system that essentially said ‘we found bits and pieces but there’s no overwhelming concern at the moment.’ But that did turn around when they got into other subject areas with the company."

Despite Ward’s explanation, it is hard to believe that the CAA found something earth-shatteringly new in the space of four hours, especially when Cox’s comments indicated he clearly knew what CAA was planning to do that day and that he, as a senior safety investigator, disagreed with it.

The CAA’s grand gesture, the coup de grace, of making all the pilots take new flying exams, proved to be a waste of time: they passed. The pilots were competent, and had been all the way through. But the damage had been done.

And again, a big question: why didn’t Civil Aviation apply the blowtorch to Airwork, a company with a mid-air collision to its name, when it made forty seven findings against Airwork last year? Why wasn’t that publicly released to the news media?

"We don’t discuss companies’ audit reports publicly. We believe, and I think we’re right, that if we were to do that then companies would get in the business of hiding stuff from us when we do audits. We only start to release material when we’re taking an action that is in the wider public interest.

"When we’re in a normal working relationship with a company, and they are prepared to put things right voluntarily, then we don’t discuss that."

What Ward didn’t volunteer was that one of CAA’s top Quality Assessors, Ray Goh, had resigned in August last year to take up a senior position at Airwork.

The CityJet file released to Investigate by CAA clearly shows the airline was being fully cooperative, and Ward himself had noted this at one point. Only three findings had been made against CityJet.

Ward still attempts to justify his public announcement that CityJet’s passenger services would be suspended while he tested their pilots.

"What we had was a situation where we decided there was a risk that needed to be managed, and we removed that risk from the public arena by taking the company out of the passenger flying business."

And yet, CAA’s information on that score must have been wrong. The pilots passed. Clearly the pilots were not a risk to passenger safety.

Ward now concedes it was effectively a delaying tactic.

"It wasn’t something that the rest of the investigation hinged on, it was just risk management for the continuing parts of the operation. If people passed or failed that test it didn’t make any difference to the ongoing investigation."

And while Richard Cox denied making any further inquiry into whether Air New Zealand pilots had been under-recording flight times, Kevin Ward was less reticent.

"I recall that explanation being given to me, and there was a follow-up inquiry by us. We did investigate it using people with an airline background to make contact with Air New Zealand and some other airlines to see what their common practice was.

"My recollection was that the recording systems for the sorts of operations that we were talking about in the major airlines are quite different. For example they have automated systems that record in the computerised flight data systems when the aircraft took off and landed – they actually have sensors attached to the undercarriage and there is extremely accurate data available to be able to distinguish flight time, which is the key thing.

"It wasn’t comparable with the aircraft the CityJet were using at all."

If that is the information Civil Aviation gleaned from their inquiries, it is incorrect. In discussions with Air New Zealand Boeing 737 pilots, Investigate has confirmed that no automated system exists on the 737-200s and, as CityJet alleges, pilots must manually calculate taxi times for each trip.

One pilot said that the CityJet incident caused a shakeup on the issue inside Air New Zealand, and a new practice has been put in place since then to ensure taxi times are recorded accurately. It appears Air New Zealand management had been unaware of the potential problem, and were keen to get it rectified.

News that this taxi-time recording procedure had been used came as a surprise to Kevin Ward, but he refused to be distracted on a point by point autopsy of the CityJet investigation.

"There was a veritable litany of problems with the company, and individual ones by themselves wouldn’t have been major issues and the company showed a willingness to put individual things right as they were pointed out. But as it turned out it was just a neverending stream of issues and it simply boiled down to the fact that the company was out of control.

"The senior people in the company simply weren’t doing the job that was expected of them, and it simply wasn’t safe to let them continue."

Which brings us to another major development. An apparent CAA witch-hunt to drive Paul Webb and Steve Mosen out of the aviation industry for good.

After the collapse of CityJet, the CAA summoned
Webb and others to a series of interrogations in
the last week of November at CityJet’s Auckland headquarters. Webb, of course, had resigned from the company four weeks earlier and wasn’t on site. His interview with CAA was scheduled for November 24.

But Webb didn’t turn up. Instead, an hour earlier he’d been at his doctor’s surgery. His aviation medical fitness certificate had expired on November 20, and Webb hadn’t had a chance to see his doctor in the subsequent days.

But when he walked in, he was greeted oddly.

"Well, well, well. I’ve been expecting you," said the medic.

"Why?" queried a bemused Webb.

"I’ve had three phone calls from a Civil Aviation investigator. They claim to have an unconfirmed report that you failed to wear spectacles while flying and they intend to prosecute you for it.

"And I’ve been asked to conduct your medical, not to issue it to you, but to send your file to Wellington on completion of your examination."

Webb says he was dumbstruck.

"I thought it was lawlessness and a total abuse of power. But I played their silly little game. In fact, what I did was I had my doctor conduct my examination and send my file to Wellington.

"But he’s also A US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certifier, so to eliminate any possible doubt that there was a questionmark over my fitness to fly, I had him issue me an FAA medical on that very day. So there was no doubt that I was fit to fly.

"I didn’t attend the CAA interview because I was running late at my doctor, and once I could see what they were doing – they were out to shaft me – I wasn’t interested in discussing it with them."

CAA investigator Chris Green drew extremely negative inferences from Webb’s snubbing of the Authority.

"Paul Webb must be held responsible for all Operational/Chief Pilot matters arising during the period of his tenure. This is an example of deliberate negligent management."

The official report goes on to say:

"The following are the actions recommended by the Investigation Team:

"Fit and proper person assessments to be conducted with respect to:…Steve Mosen…Paul Webb."

Civil Aviation contacted his doctor again: was it true that Webb had an undeclared heart pacemaker?

Webb submitted himself for a further medical examination, and his doctor confirmed that no pacemaker existed. Which the CAA probably could have sussed out for themselves if they’d rung Webb on his digital cellphone – an item he couldn’t use if he had a pacemaker.

It took three weeks before Civil Aviation finally handed back Webb’s medical file and approved a new aviation medical fitness certificate. Armed with that, Paul Webb secured a job with Australia’s Impulse Airlines just before Christmas.

"I had been with the company for about one month, and I was doing very well. I got back after a flight north to Brisbane…and I was told the Chief Pilot wanted to see me.

"He was sitting with the Corporate Affairs director and the Flight Operations director. I thought ‘this is a pleasant surprise, I’m going to be commended on my performance’.

"I was sitting there and he said: ‘We’ve had a very interesting phone call from one Miss Kara Pugh from NZ Civil Aviation this morning.

" ‘She has made an allegation that you have skipped the country, that they are looking for you, that you have an undeclared heart condition which affects your ability to fly, and you haven’t declared various other medical problems either to us or to Civil Aviation, and we’d like to know a little bit more about that.

" ‘They’ve also asked for your log book, because they wish to see that, and they say that you’re under continuing investigation.

" ‘And in a very strange set of circumstances, ten minutes after the phone call from Civil Aviation, our Corporate Affairs director had a phone call from the Australian Financial Review claiming you were flying with undeclared health problems and also questioning our company on your financial background with the collapse of CityJet’."

In discussions with Investigate, Impulse Airlines’ Corporate Affairs director Simon Westaway confirmed the sequence of events laid down by Webb, and confirmed that his company had no choice but to terminate Webb’s employment on the basis of serious allegations made by a competent Civil Aviation authority.

At Civil Aviation, Kara Pugh admits calling Impulse but says she did not call the Australian news media. She is genuinely surprised to hear that Impulse received a call from the Australian press soon after she rang.

However, Pugh refuses to say who asked her to call Impulse with details of Webb’s alleged pacemaker. Nor can CAA substantiate its pacemaker claim, leaving it open to be sued for defamation.

We asked CAA Director Kevin Ward if he was concerned that someone within CAA may have become aware of Pugh’s phone call and leaked details to the media. We asked if he planned to investigate the allegation.

Ward: "I don’t know the details of all the ins and out of all that."

Investigate: "Isn’t that something that an investigation would find out, with respect?"

Ward: "Ah, it is something that I’d like to know more of the details of."

Investigate: "Are you at all worried that somebody on your staff might be doing that?"

Ward: "I would be worried if that was happening, yes, because that’s very much against the way the CAA works and would be against our policy and against the ethics that we work by. I don’t think it’s happened and if you could prove to me that it had I would be very keen to follow that up."

At the start of this article, we compared it to a game of the murder mystery, Cleudo. Now it’s time for our own verdict: who we believe killed CityJet.

Was it Miss Scarlett in the hallway with a blunt propellor?

Well, in a word, no. Origin Pacific Airways and Airwork both had a motive for wanting CityJet out of business: ordinary commercial competition of the kind that takes place in every city every day. But that doesn’t make them killers.

The evidence suggests neither entity shed any tears over CityJet’s demise, one even earned a million dollar contract out of it. The other clearly assisted Civil Aviation wherever it could.

But if Civil Aviation staff placed weight on the opinions of one of CityJet’s adversaries, there is no evidence to suggest that was anything more than an exercise of judgement. Encouraging airlines to dob in their competitors is the same behaviour the previous Government encouraged with its ‘dob in a beneficiary’ advertisements.

There are clear perceived conflicts of interest inherent in the current CAA structure, and those conflicts are causing major debate within the aviation industry. They may be a factor in CityJet’s fate, but we have found no evidence that they are the major factor. Those conflicts are not hidden, they are blatant, as all sides acknowledge.

Ultimately, it appears sheer bloody-mindedness on the part of the Civil Aviation Authority brought the airline down, despite recommendations from CAA safety investigator Richard Cox to leave them alone.

Kevin Ward is sticking to his claim that CityJet was out of control and unsafe. Whether he is right or wrong is irrelevant: the public are the losers as yet another independent airline bites the dust at the hands of regulatory authorities or bigger competitors.

Ironically, some observers believe the evidence shows it is Civil Aviation that is out of control, throwing red tape around purely because it can.

Perhaps the last word belongs to Paul Webb, the latest in a string of airline entrepreneurs to find their dreams dashed.

"To have three findings after the most exhaustive investigation, compared to Airwork’s 47, just stinks in my view.

"At one point in the investigation, there was some excitement that they had found four defects on one of our planes, ‘This is totally unacceptable’, we were told. And yet if you read the rules it’s perfectly acceptable. It is in accordance with what is called a minimum equipment list.

"If you have a four wheel drive car, and you plan to drive from Remuera into Auckland city and your 4WD isn’t working, then you can say to yourself that it’s perfectly safe to conduct the carriage of the vehicle to Auckland city and back without interfering with the safe operation of the vehicle.

"If your lights weren’t working you could still say that, provided you operated during daylight hours. That’s what aeroplanes do to ensure reliability. Otherwise every time a light bulb blew you would have to stop the plane and flights would become very unreliable.

"I was on a Qantas flight the other day, and I asked the Qantas captain, out of interest, how many defects they had on board the 747. He was carrying seven known deficiencies. It’s just the way it happens, and there they are painting this incredibly gross, unsafe picture to the public and themselves of something that isn’t unsafe.

"One of our planes was coming up from Wellington one night last April, and the pilot of an aircraft heading south fell asleep at the wheel and descended on to our aircraft. Our pilot noticed that his windscreen was filling up with these lights, so took evasive action immediately to avert a midair collision.

"The Air Traffic Control Service tucked it under the desk. Nothing ever happened. The pilot’s punishment was to write a lecture on the importance of adequate rest. There are so many inconsistencies.

"We were flying in the most dangerous conditions. Middle of the night, shitty little towns, shitty weather and unpressurised aeropplanes. Five and a half years of not having one incident speaks for itself."

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN INVESTIGATE: MARCH 00

Riady1029.jpeg

A major weakness has been discovered in New Zealand’s foreign intelligence analysis: trade officials invited a rich Asian businessman to invest here and meet the Prime Minister and top business leaders - apparently unaware that he has been publicly named by US intelligence agencies as a Chinese spy with organised crime connections. Now a photo of him meeting President Clinton at the APEC conference in Auckland is causing uproar in the US. IAN WISHART reports on the so-called "Bamboo Network":

It is a postage-stamp sized photo – a moment in time
captured on videotape at the APEC conference in
Auckland, beamed via satellite to the Fox TV news centre in Los Angeles, broadcast on Fox News across America, recorded on someone’s VCR, photographed off the screen, scanned into a computer and uploaded onto the Internet. What’s so special about the photo? Well, for a start it features Bill Clinton pressing the flesh of someone in the crowd at the APEC conference in Auckland last September, only this time it isn’t a cigar-lovin’ intern. Instead, the other face in the photo belongs to someone much more interesting: an Indonesian businessman with links to New Zealand, organised crime and Chinese Intelligence.

What’s also special about the photo? Well, the same week that Investigate began making inquiries to locate the original APEC video footage taken in New Zealand, the raw footage disappeared from TVNZ’s tape library and has not been seen since.

But it’s the man in the photo that this story is about. His name is James Riady, and to those in the know he currently heads the list of America’s Most Wanted – an alleged criminal on the run from US Justice. And that’s why the photo is at the centre of a political furore in the United States: why is President Clinton exchanging pleasantries in Auckland with a wanted man?

Funnily enough, it’s the same question asked in New Zealand back in June 1999, when Riady first turned up for a special meeting with Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.

It should have been just another unnoticed thread in the rich tapestry of New Zealand politics, but the Indonesian’s fleeting appearance in our corridors of power had all the subtle discretion of a glow-in-the-dark cat collar.

Riady heads the Lippo Group, one of Indonesia’s largest companies - but a company with heavy organised crime connections.

The New Zealand Government agency Tradenz extended the invitation for the June visit with a little-publicised announcement that Riady would receive a "red carpet" welcome in New Zealand. That welcome included a special meeting with Prime Minister Shipley, and a series of meetings with leading New Zealand business executives.

What’s extremely significant is that Riady, and his company, are at the centre of a major spying and bribery scandal that’s blown up around US President Bill Clinton.

Amazingly, New Zealand’s intelligence agencies had failed to brief Prime Minister Shipley on this point, despite a claim by to the contrary in Parliament. The closest the intelligence briefings – released to Investigate under the Official Information Act - get to the real Riady is this:

"Most important of all to the Riady family in business are relationships and networks."

As you’re about see, that comment is a dramatic understatement, and we’ll examine shortly how Lippo Group’s incursions into New Zealand and Australia could have security implications.

The latest twist in the Riady scandal comes in a letter from US Congressional investigator Dan Burton to Beth Nolan, legal Counsel to the President.

"Upon President Clinton’s return from his trip to New Zealand for the annual meeting of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)," writes Congressman Burton, "I was dismayed to read the following report from the Wall Street Journal on September 24, 1999:

" ‘TOGETHER AGAIN: James Riady, the Indonesian businessman central to Donorgate, used an economic summit in New Zealand last week to chat with Clinton. The White House won’t talk about it, but Indonesians say Riady didn’t discuss anything "sensitive" with the President.’

"If the report is true," continues Burton, "I am concerned that the President would meet with an individual who has continued to evade questioning by the Congress and the Department of Justice about his pivotal role in the campaign finance scandal that came to light just prior to the President’s re-election in 1996.

"As you are aware, Mr Riady was recently named by John Huang as the architect of a massive scheme of illegal conduit political contributions in the United States.

"I cannot understand what purpose would be served by the President meeting with Mr Riady except to urge him to cooperate with Federal investigators.

"From his home in Indonesia, Mr Riady appears to have orchestrated a complex scheme to launder over $4 million (NZ$8 million) in illegal political contributions to Clinton/Gore ’92, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, state Democratic parties, individual candidates, and non-profit groups in 1992 and 1996."

We’ll return to Burton’s letter shortly, but first a little background context. Here’s the story the New Zealand press gallery didn’t tell you about Riady, and the story the Government didn’t know either.

To put what follows in its proper context, it pays to
first examine James Riady, and his father Mochtar,
the way New Zealand officials see them.

"The Lippo Group is one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates in terms of market capitalisation with estimates of value putting it at having US$11 billion in assets.

"The vision of its founder Mochtar Riady is to transcend the institutional limitations placed upon organisations run in the traditional overseas Chinese pattern and adopt a modern publicly owned and professionally managed pattern of business.

"Mochtar has formed alliances and joint venture partnerships with world class multinational corporations and has high calibre professional management staff working for him.

"The Lippo empire rose out of the success of the Lippo Bank. Unlike just about all other banks in Indonesia its founder Mochtar Riady tended to shun the Suharto connections that for other conglomerates in Indonesia were the keys to success.

"He avoided lending to politically connected groups or to state enterprises and instead built his business on legitimate retail and trade finance."

Yes. Well.

The real story, shorn of its diplomatic awe, begins 22 years ago with a 1978 move by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, BCCI, to become established in the United States.

BCCI subsequently crashed in 1991 when a multi-territorial investigation revealed its connections to organised crime, arms smugglers and intelligence agencies. Investigators have since dubbed it "the Bank of Cocaine and Conmen International".

Formed by a Pakistani businessman and marketed as "an Arab bank", BCCI used a group of American investors as a front to purchase two US banking institutions - the National Bank of Georgia, and Financial General Bank in Washington DC. Because of foreign ownership restrictions, BCCI could not appear to be the real owner of the banks.

Assisting BCCI in this subterfuge was Jackson Stephens, an Arkansas stockbroker based in Little Rock. Stephens brought in three lawyers from Little Rock’s Rose Lawfirm: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vince Foster and Joseph Giroir.

The Clinton connection - as you’ll see - continued to grow, but in the meantime Hillary Clinton and her two law partners helped Stephens, via his company Systematics Inc, to transfer control of Financial General to BCCI.

Financial General’s Washington location meant many politicians and civil servants on Capitol Hill were account holders. The intelligence benefit to BCCI and those associated with the crime bank was enormous.

In 1983, Lippo Group began its own US invasion, choosing to do so in the apparent backwater of Little Rock, Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was Governor. Lippo Finance & Investment in Little Rock brought in a former aide to President Jimmy Carter, Vernon Weaver, to chair the company and Governor Clinton acted as a character reference for Lippo boss Mochtar Riady.

In 1984, Jackson Stephens joined forces with Lippo Group to purchase stock in Arkansas’ Worthen Bank, based in Little Rock. Their buy-in coincided with the establishment of a major cocaine importation operation at nearby Mena, Arkansas, and the laundering of US$100 million a month in drug money through the local banking system and ultimately BCCI.

BCCI investor Abdullah Taha Bakhish joined Riady as a co-owner of Worthen.

By 1985, things began to get hot for Bill Clinton, but Worthen Bank came to the rescue. Clinton had authorised Arkansas state pension funds to be deposited with Worthen by a brokerage firm, but the funds lost 15% of their value as a result of bad short-term investment decisions. Although Jack Stephens wrote out a $52 million Worthen cheque and saved Clinton’s hide, it paved the way for Lippo Group to take a larger role in Worthen. Over the next few months, the Riadys increased their holding to 40% of the bank.

James Riady was appointed to the board of directors, and helped engineer a buyout of the First National Bank of Mena, a town of 5,000 people whose only claim to fame was a secret CIA supply base for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and the aforementioned cocaine-smuggling operation.

Worthen Bank became politically close to the future US President, and Hillary Clinton’s Rose Lawfirm. Bill Clinton banked with Worthen and steered much of Arkansas’ state business its way. Much of Mena’s billion-dollar-a-year drug money went through Worthen accounts, then on to BCCI branches in Florida and Washington DC as part of the money laundering loop.

It is around this time that another character becomes integral to the plot: Lippo Group executive John Huang. Huang travelled to Arkansas to take up a role as James Riady’s right-hand man in Little Rock.

Mochtar Riady, meanwhile, also formed a joint venture operation with Jack Stephens in Asia. Together, they purchased the Seng Heng Bank in Macau – the former Portuguese island colony close to Hong Kong that’s controlled by Triad organised crime syndicates. Macau is effectively an Oriental Las Vegas, and gambling is a primary source of government revenue. Even the recent Chinese takeover of the territory seems unlikely to dent the criminal powerbase.

Systematics Inc, the Stephens-owned software company, supplied software to Macau’s Banco Nacional Ultramarino - the state bank of the colony.

Over the next five years, the Riadys consolidated their empire. Selling out of Worthen Bank in 1987 they moved from Little Rock to Los Angeles to establish Lippo Bank LA.

The Worthen experience bit them hard: the bank had lent $80 million to entities associated with either the Riadys or Stephens. In the end, an investment firm collapsed owing Worthen $100 million, and a subsequent investigation criticised Worthen for all the inside loans to its owners.

Lippo LA came unstuck as well, and investigators there launched a criminal investigation in 1990 after discovering that a 21 year old teller had made more than 900 suspicious wire transfers to the Lippo-owned Hong Kong Chinese Bank. Each transaction totalled just under the magic US$10,000 limit which had to be reported to money-laundering investigators.

Nearly all the transfers involved false names, and were initialled by a supervisor. Despite that, investigators could find no documents indicating Lippo Bank LA’s top management knew of the practice.

US banking regulators issued three "cease and desist" orders against Lippo LA up until 1997, on the basis of sloppy management and suspicious funds transfers.

In another joint venture with Jack Stephens, the Riadys purchased the Hong Kong branch of BCCI, with James Riady and Johnny Huang relocating to run Lippo Bank Hong Kong. When Senator Al Gore visited Asia in 1989, accompanied by Huang, the trip was paid for by a Buddhist organisation, Fo Kwang Shan.

In 1991, an entity known as China Resources Company Limited began purchasing shares in Lippo’s Hong Kong Chinese Bank. The price paid for the shares was fifteen percent below the market value. US intelligence agencies have since claimed China Resources Co is a front for Chinese military intelligence.

During his relationship with Worthen bank, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton passed several pieces of legislation favourable to Lippo’s US interests. The payoff? In 1992, with the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign on the ropes over the Gennifer Flowers affair and donations drying up, Lippo Group organised for Worthen Bank to pay the Clinton campaign fund a massive US$3.5 million bailout.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

In addition to the money channelled via the bank, James Riady and the Lippo Group were personally funding Clinton’s presidential campaign – a move that’s illegal under US laws restricting foreigners from making political donations.

In August, 1992, James Riady flew from Indonesia to Los Angeles to take part in a fundraiser for Clinton. Federal investigators piecing the jigsaw together allege Riady took a limousine ride with Governor Clinton, handing over US$100,000 and promising a further US$1 million.

So far, it appears Riady and Huang funnelled US$700,000 in illegal donations to the Clinton campaign, via Lippo Group employees and subsidiaries. Most did not live in the US.

One of the questions posed by US congressional investigators is "Why?". What did the Riadys hope to gain by funding Bill Clinton? They now believe James Riady and the Lippo Group were engineering a major espionage operation on behalf of the Chinese government, a deliberate attempt to bribe an American President, compromise US security and steal US secrets.

The operation, involving more than a hundred people, many of them Chinese, has been dubbed "the Bamboo Network" by investigators.

By January of 1993, with Clinton now President-elect, Huang and Riady arranged for another $100,000 to drop into the President’s coffers and, in February, Huang organised a meeting between Mochtar Riady and the President.

The elder Riady, whose business philosophy is quoted in New Zealand Government briefing papers as "Every network has to have its foundation laid on special, personal, human connections…what I am looking for is what my partners can offer in personal contacts and business connections", urged the new US President to reinstate China’s "most favoured nation" status. He also told Clinton to relax economic sanctions against China, imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Clinton, whose election campaign was significantly funded by the Riadys, obeyed. In June of 1993, China was given "most favoured nation" status. A week or two later, purely coincidentally, the Riadys make US$163 million in profit when China Resources Company Ltd increases its share price offer for Lippo’s Hong Kong Chinese Bank to a figure 50% above market value.

James Riady’s influence with Clinton was so great that on April 19, 1993, at the very moment the FBI was raiding the Branch Davidian religious complex at Waco Texas, killing scores of men, women and children in the process, Bill Clinton was chatting with James Riady in the Oval Office while a TV set in the background was carrying footage of the tragedy.

Clinton even had time during this national disaster to give Riady a tour of "the Situation Room" - a kind of "Bill fiddled while Waco burned" scene.

It is the beginning of a scandal that is seeing President Clinton dubbed "China’s first US President" by some commentators.

And despite the briefing papers from New Zealand trade officials who told Prime Minister Shipley that James Riady and the Lippo group shunned the cronyism surrounding Indonesia’s President Suharto, a US Congressional Investigation paints a very different picture.

"The Riady family was able to show off its close ties to President Clinton during the 1993 APEC summit in Seattle, Washington. Lippo organised a group of Indonesian businessmen to visit Little Rock, Arkansas, before the summit.

"A sister-state agreement between Arkansas and Indonesia was to be signed at a ceremony during the APEC summit, and James Riady planned to have President Clinton and President Suharto attend."

Despite reservations from White House staff, who told Riady that "the human rights controversy surrounding East Temor (sic) may be an impediment," the Congressional report notes that "Ultimately, during the 1993 APEC, President Clinton did meet with President Suharto, along with James Riady, over the objections of his staff."

Clinton met Suharto again during the G-7 summit in Tokyo in July 1993, and then sent a handwritten note to James Riady saying he’d enjoyed his visit with Suharto.

The briefing to New Zealand’s then-Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, says "The [Lippo] group is seen as not having ties with President Suharto’s family, hence it is regarded as clean and fits in with the spirit of reform."

At the full APEC summit in 1994, hosted by Indonesia, Clinton spent more time with the Riadys, stopping only to pose in a batik shirt alongside the New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, Jim Bolger.

In 1994, US Secretary for Commerce Ron Brown visited China carrying an "unprecedented" US$5.5 billion dollars worth of trade deals. Included in the package is a $1 billion deal for an Arkansas firm, politically linked to Clinton, to expand and manage Lippo’s 725 megawatt coal-burning power plant in China’s Fujian province.

In April 1994, Clinton’s appointee to the US Justice Department, Associate Attorney-General Web Hubbell, resigned from his post amid allegations of fraud relating to his involvement with the Rose Lawfirm and the Whitewater scandal.

After meeting Hillary Clinton in mid-June, Hubbell held further discussions with Indonesian businessmen James Riady and John Huang. White House records show the two Lippo executives visited the White House every day from June 21 to June 25, 1994.

Hubbell spent much of June 23 with Riady, and four days later the disgraced politician was paid US$100,000 by the Hong Kong Chinese Bank, ostensibly to put him on the Lippo Group payroll. The bank, as investigators now know, is majority-owned by Chinese military intelligence.

The payoff didn’t save Hubbell, who was subsequently jailed.

Asked at a news conference if it wasn’t more than a little suspicious that Hubbell ended up working for Lippo, President Clinton told reporters "To the best of my recollection, I didn’t know anything about his having that job until I read about it in the press. And I can’t imagine who could have ever arranged to do something improper like that and no one around here know about it."

But less than two weeks after Lippo’s payoff to Hubbell, the Clinton administration decided to appoint John Huang as the new Assistant Secretary of the US Commerce Department. Huang’s resignation from the official payroll of the Lippo Group was marked with a US$800,000 golden parachute.

Under US law it is illegal to export high-technology material from the US. This was to enable America to maintain a military and/or commercial edge over possibly hostile nations.

But armed with an interim top-secret security clearance, courtesy of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, Huang found himself suddenly in a position to authorise technology transfers to places like Indonesia and China. Incredibly, Huang’s security clearance was issued without the routine FBI and foreign security checks.

Investigators have discovered that, on 37 separate occasions, after attending CIA briefings on encryption technology, Johnny Huang left the building a short time later and went to Lippo’s offices, where he then made long distance phone and fax calls to overseas locations.

The New York Daily News has reported that US intelligence services subsequently determined that Huang was passing classified trade information to Lippo Group headquarters in Jakarta – his former bosses.

How did Huang end up as an Assistant Secretary with a top secret clearance in the US Commerce Department? The London Times quotes one source as saying it was Hillary Clinton’s idea.

"He was not Ron Brown’s guy, and his presence caused intense conflict. Huang was carrying water for the White House."

Huang made around 70 "water deliveries" to the White House. And all the time, China’s influence in Washington was growing too. During 1994 and 1995, the Clinton administration allowed AT&T to sell its secure communications system to the Chinese Army, in a deal known as "Hua Mei". In a dramatic backfire, the Chinese reconfigured the encryption technology and re-exported it to Iraq for use in air defence systems.

President Clinton also approved the sale of surveillance system technology to China, under the aegis of a cooperation agreement between Chinese police and the US Justice Department.

Which is where Congressman Dan Burton and his
letter come in. Burton heads the powerful Com
mittee on Government Reform in the US House of Representatives, and it’s his committee that’s investigating the Donorgate/Chinagate/Riady spying scandal.

Far bigger than Monica Lewinsky or other Clintonesque diversions, there is now real evidence that China, and subsequently Iraq, have gained access to US defence, industrial and commercial secrets as a result of Riady’s allegedly corrupting influence on Clinton.

"John Huang, Mr Riady’s political point-man in the US, kept in frequent contact with his former boss and his companies during his tenure at the Department of Commerce," writes Burton in his letter to the White House spelling out the evidence and demanding more answers.

"Mr Riady’s Oval Office meeting with President Clinton on September 13, 1995, led to Mr Huang’s hiring by the DNC where he promptly raised over US$3 million in illegal political contributions.

"After a week of meetings in the White House, James Riady paid former Justice Department official Webster Hubbell $100,000 at a time when Mr Hubbell’s cooperation in the Whitewater scandal was being sought by the Independent Counsel [Kenneth Starr]. Mr Hubbell has refused to reveal why Mr Riady paid him this money.

"Finally and most importantly, US intelligence agencies report that one of Mr Riady’s chief business partners, China Resources, is an intelligence gathering agency of the communist Chinese Government."

It is this revelation that poses a grave problem for the New Zealand Government. Intelligence briefings prepared for the then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and released to Investigate do not reveal any link between China Resources and Chinese Intelligence. Indeed, the New Zealand briefing reads as though it could have been prepared by Chinese Intelligence, judging by its innocuous contents:

"The Lippo Group has a strategic position in China and Hong Kong with substantial investments and relationships with powerful business and government people and organisations.

"It owns 49% of the Hong Kong Chinese Bank with the remaining 51% held by China Resources (Holdings) which is a wholly-owned enterprise of China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation."

Which raises the question: was the New Zealand Government sucked in to beginning a relationship with James Riady on the basis of flawed intelligence?

What is the ongoing implication of that if such flaws are not corrected?

And just how bad was the NZ intelligence?

While our Embassy in Jakarta waxed lyrical about
the sound business base of Lippo Group and
the Riadys, the Washington Post was more critical, pointing out that Lippo Group had to be bailed out of bankruptcy by Indonesia’s President Suharto in 1995 and there was a further $700 million restructuring in 1996.

The Post quotes an investment analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell’s Jakarta branch, Lin Che Wei, as describing Lippo Group as a "carefully balanced house of cards, held up partly by the Riadys’ practice of gobbling up shares of Lippo stock to drive up the price."

"Riady is a master of this kind of game," says Lin, "He understands what investors want - a rising share price."

And what about the briefing given to Prime Minister Shipley which, if you missed it earlier, we’ll repeat:

"Mochtar has formed alliances and joint venture partnerships with world class multinational corporations and has high calibre professional management staff working for him.

"The Lippo empire rose out of the success of the Lippo Bank. Unlike just about all other banks in Indonesia its founder Mochtar Riady tended to shun the Suharto connections that for other conglomerates in Indonesia were the keys to success.

"He avoided lending to politically connected groups or to state enterprises and instead built his business on legitimate retail and trade finance."

Contrast that with these excerpts from the Washington Post investigation:

"Mochtar Riady sent the President a four page letter, urging him...to support Suharto..."

"Clinton recalls that James Riady also tried to persuade him to meet Suharto..."

"James Riady arranged for...a Little Rock lawyer and longtime friend of Clinton to spend one and a half hours with Suharto in Jakarta...An official with Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said Riady insisted that [the lawyer] ‘had the ear of President Clinton. He said the meeting would give us special access to the White House’."

"The Riadys also promoted Hubbell at Suharto’s presidential palace as someone ‘influential with Bill Clinton’.

"After Hubbell resigned from the Justice Department amid allegations of fraud, James Riady arranged for him to tour Indonesia...Riady made sure that Hubbell, like [the lawyer] visited the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, where Indonesian security forces have been accused of widespread human rights abuses.

"Riady ‘said letting a friend of Clinton’s see Timor might help change US policy. So naturally we thought it was a good idea,’ the official said."

"In April 1993 James Riady escorted the Governor of Jakarta to the East Wing [of the White House] for a meeting on which the White House can provide no details..."

"And Riady accompanies...one of Suharto’s most influential advisers to the White House...joining them was John Huang...two months later the Indonesian Government arranged for a group of private companies to rescue Lippo during a financial crunch."

" ‘These trips helped Lippo improve their ties to the Suharto regime,’ said a former Lippo executive. ‘As a result, Suharto helped rescue them when they needed help’."

"In Jakarta, Lippo has approached the Suharto regime for almost everything from critical building permits to outright financial bailouts."

The Post reports that Riady is also involved in a string of joint ventures with Suharto’s half-brother.

We could go on, and on, about Riady’s close ties to the former Indonesian dictator, but you’ve probably absorbed the point that the message reaching our Government was a very different one from the reality.

Instead, Riady was welcomed to New Zealand with open arms by the National Government – a gesture in sharp contrast with the sentiments in the United States.

"From the above list of activities," writes Burton, " I find it inconceivable that the President of the United States would meet with James Riady for any reason. Mr Riady has thumbed his nose at the laws of the United States and Mr Clinton appears to have rewarded him.

"Doubtless, this meeting with the President will be used to personal advantage in Indonesia and China by Mr Riady. Therefore, I would like to request that the White House provide the following information and documents in regard to this matter:

A. Did President Clinton meet James Riady in New Zealand

B. Identify all individuals present during any contacts between President Clinton and James Riady in connection with the President’s travel to New Zealand.

C. Describe the substance of all contacts between President Clinton and James Riady in connection with the President’s travel to New Zealand.

D. Describe the substance of all contacts between White House officials and James Riady or his associates in connection with the President’s travel to New Zealand.

E. When did the White House first learn that James Riady would be in New Zealand during President Clinton’s trip for the APEC meeting?

1. How did the White House learn that James Riady would be in New Zealand during President Clinton’s travel there?

2. Identify all individuals involved in the request that President Clinton meet with James Riady during the President’s trip to New Zealand.

3. Was the fact that James Riady would be in New Zealand during President Clinton’s trip conveyed to the President? If so, when was this information conveyed to the President? Who conveyed this information to the President? Please describe the substance of all such communications.

4. Identify any White House officials who expressed concern over President Clinton meeting with James Riady. Please describe the substance of all such communications.

F. Provide all documents relating to James Riady, his companies, his employees, or his associates in connection with the President’s recent trip to New Zealand for the APEC meeting, including all documents relating to any meetings between President Clinton and James Riady.

G. Provide all recordings, either video or audio, of any contacts between President Clinton and James Riady, his associates, or his employees relating to the President’s trip to New Zealand for the APEC meeting.

"It is my sincere hope that if indeed President Clinton met with James Riady during his trip, that the President used the prestige of his office and his long term friendship with Mr Riady to convince Mr Riady to return to the United States and answer all of the questions posed by Congress and the Justice Department so the American public can finally learn the entire truth about Mr Riady’s role in tampering with our presidential elections.

"I am concerned, however, that the President would socialise with an individual who has mocked the laws of this country."

Intriguingly, the New Zealand media largely missed the unfolding scandal arising out of Clinton’s APEC visit. While local TV crews made much of Clinton’s meeting with the Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, and the apparent thaw in the US/China relationship, few in the New Zealand press gallery had any idea of the real issues at the heart of the problem.

The scandal over China’s spying became so bad that some in the US publicly accused China of deliberately blowing up a rocket carrying two US commercial satellites, purely to get access to the technology.

And what of James Riady: what can he want in New
Zealand? For a start, he owns property in
Auckland, which TradeNZ identified as the Port Tower hotel. We can find no evidence of such a hotel, but there is a Park Tower Hotel which was owned by "Asian interests" up until December. But apart from his personal business interests, Riady is taking a regional political perspective as well. He was appointed as a "Roving Presidential Envoy for Australasia" by former Indonesian President Habibie, is a member of Parliament, and is a member of Indonesia’s APEC Business Advisory Council.

He also clearly knows of a number of influential New Zealand business leaders.

Government briefing documents obtained by Investigate paint a picture of what Riady wanted to achieve on his June 1999 NZ visit, prior to his later controversial appearance at APEC.

For a start, New Zealand trade officials were told to play down his connection to Lippo Group and boost his diplomatic status, despite the fact that most of his delegation were either Lippo staff or Lippo customers. Indeed, the briefing supplied by the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta refers to Riady wanting to visit NZ "for private business purposes," and goes on to say:

"The headings to the [official] programme currently put at the forefront Riady’s position as Deputy Head of Lippo Group. We and Torry [Parantoro, Riady’s executive assistant] agreed that the emphasis should instead be given to his role as Special Envoy; this title should be transposed, upper-cased and put in bold to reflect that this is the primary hat under which he is visiting New Zealand.

"This is also the title that should be used in the first instance for formal introductions, except for his business meetings where he dons his Lippo Group hat.

"Parantoro showed us a fax he had received from the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington. This provided details of Sunday evening’s programme, including a list of journalists for the media interview and a guest list for the dinner hosted by the Indonesian Ambassador; we noted that [National MP] Pansy Wong was included, a pleasant surprise. Parantoro was pleased with the arrangements confirmed to date for the Monday [June 21], especially the call on the Prime Minister. We clarified that whereas Riady’s entourage would be able to participate in most of these calls, the meeting with the PM would be more restricted …Parantoro clearly expected this to be the case.

"We noted that we were waiting for confirmation for calls on Don McKinnon, Bill English, and Don Brash.

"Parantoro commented favourably on the agenda for Tuesday (we noted the likely addition of a call on Sir Selwyn Cushing, Brierley Investments.)

"We discussed with Parantoro opportunities to meet with the Business Roundtable and the ASEAN-NZ Business Council.

"Riady made a specific request that Doug Myers be informed of his visit and be included in his programme. However…Myers is currently in London and will not be returning to NZ until July."

The cost of Riady’s June visit was to have been met by New Zealand taxpayers, according to the documents.

"We suggested that it would be appropriate to fund all Riady’s expenses (including offering a first class airfare)."

Ultimately, however, the Indonesian businessman and alleged Chinese spy paid his own way.

The unanswered question remains open: are Riady’s activities in New Zealand and Australia purely commercial, or are they motivated also by espionage?

"In his role as the Special Presidential Envoy for Australasia," write NZ diplomats, "James Riady has been busy. On February 25 1999, Lippo Bank signed an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] with the Australian Trade Commission to promote the economic development of eastern Indonesia.

"Under the MOU, cooperation programmes between Indonesian and Australian businessmen will be conducted using the Bank Lippo’s networks. Australia will provide training and guidance for Bank Lippo employees.

"In October 1998 James made a visit to Australia to promote relations and dialogue between the two nations. There he met with Victorian chief minister Jeff Kennett, New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and addressed an Austrade seminar. He was also scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister, John Howard."

Nowhere in the intelligence briefing for the New Zealand Prime Minister is James Riady’s relationship with Bill Clinton, or alleged activity as a Chinese spy, disclosed.

Nick Arathimos, the TradeNZ official who organised the June 1999 visit, told Investigate he was aware of Riady’s background. When questioned over his involvement with BCCI and with a bank that was laundering drug cartel money through Arkansas, however, Arathimos was clearly taken by surprise, saying he was not aware of these allegations.

Yet, in answer to a question in Parliament on July 21, Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech said "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was fully aware of the issues surrounding his relationship with President Clinton. Furthermore the Ministry did not, and does not, consider that a visit by the President of Indonesia’s special envoy raised any issues of a security nature."

The then Opposition leader, Helen Clark, asked a follow-up question:

"Before the Prime Minister met Mr Riady, was she also aware of a draft report submitted by Republicans on a Senate committee in America that alleges Mr Riady and his father both have "a long term relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency". If so, would that have made a difference?"

"Obviously I do not know the answer to the detail in the question," replied Creech, "but what I can say is that this person visited New Zealand as a special envoy of the President of Indonesia, and it was in that capacity that the special envoy visited the Prime Minister."

"How big was the cheque?" interjected one Labour MP, implying Riady’s political donation largesse may have rubbed off on National prior to the election.

Is it possible that Lippo Group may be trying to place itself in a position to steal New Zealand trade secrets or technology on behalf of the Chinese or Indonesia? There is no evidence one way or the other, but given the company’s involvement with Chinese intelligence it would be naïve to assume Lippo would not be interested if an opportunity arose.

After news of Lippo’s Chinese espionage first broke in a Los Angeles Times story three years ago, ongoing investigations have revealed Chinese interests associated with the Riadys have allegedly stolen not only trade, but also critical defence information including nuclear secrets.

Chinese spies have also been uncovered in Canada.

Arrested and questioned by federal and congressional investigators, Riady’s right-hand-man Johnny Huang has coughed to his boss’ involvement, but pleaded the 5th Amendment – the right not to self-incriminate – nearly two thousand times since interrogation began.

Riady has refused to return to the US for questioning or to clear his name. Instead, he remains based at his Jakarta estate where he lives in a southern-US style plantation manor, three stories tall with massive "Greco-Roman columns", sited amidst a Lippo golf course. The home also has a helipad and a lake, and the entire property is ringed by a moat.

Is James Riady an appropriate person for the New Zealand Government to be promoting as someone to do business with? Despite the revelations, TradeNZ official Nick Arathimos claims yes, effectively saying he’s the best of a bad bunch in Indonesia.

"You can come up with a lot worse. His companies in Indonesia are among the better organised, relying less on cronyism with Suharto. James Riady will continue to be a key player in Indonesia because of his existing interests.

"If he were to invest in New Zealand, he would have to abide by our laws and regulations."

Which is just as well, because as many critics of our investment regime have pointed out, New Zealand is the laughing stock of the Western world for having some of the most lax controls on money-laundering and inside trading on the planet.

At the end of the day, however, one could question why we bothered to invite someone of Riady’s background to New Zealand in the first place. The argument that ‘he’s the best of a bad bunch’ could equally apply to one of the less violent members of Colombia’s Cali drug cartel.

If the intelligence briefing provided to Shipley was drawn only from trade diplomats, then somebody should probably be caned for not calling in the External Assessment Bureau, and if our foreign spy agency was consulted then the Government could probably save a few million dollars by sacking the spooks and simply purchasing a subscription to the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times.

As for the Riadys, Indonesians wouldn’t be surprised if it was a quest for world domination that they were really undertaking. The Lippo logo is everywhere in the troubled Asian powerhouse, with its interests in banks, factories and shops, hospitals and housing developments.

"In Jakarta," wrote the Washington Post, "locals joke that Lippo stands for Lama-Lama Indonesia Pun Punya Oe, meaning: In the long run, even Indonesia will be mine."

gbushjnr.jpeg

ABOVE: BCCI frontman Jackson Stephens has close ties to both Clinton and US Presidential hopeful George W Bush


Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007

PC THINK POLICE INVESTIGATE: APR 03

Political-correctness, just a mild nerdy aberration or the new face of socialist mind control? HAMISH CARNACHAN talks to British expert Frank Ellis

Cricket is a simple game. The object is to score more runs than your opposition. There is no grey area. The game has been around for centuries yet it has remained largely unchanged. The rules are clearly recorded in black and white in the hallowed halls of Lords, where the game originated. On the rare occasions that the laws are amended, it is generally to cover an ambiguity, like the underarm ball, and requires little more than the inclusion of a minor clause.

Part of the reason the sport has become ingrained in the New Zealand psyche is possibly because of its uncluttered simplicity – indeed, it must be so because history shows we’re not that good at it.

And the recent revival of cricket in this country may also have had something to do with the fact that sport is one topic people can still talk about candidly. Some subjects are simply no longer discussed in polite company today.

These days it seems you have to be particularly careful what you say and a growing list of issues can’t be discussed in certain circles. You can’t joke about the poor driving habits of immigrants; nor can you chat about Maori and crime or the preferential treatment of indigenous peoples; and associating sexual orientation with the spread of STDs is certainly a social faux pas.

The old laughs we used to enjoy about a short person being vertically challenged and the balding man being follicly-impaired are no longer tolerated either. None of the characters on Shortland Street smoke and those who enjoy the odd drink are portrayed as having an alcohol dependency problem.

It goes on. Nowadays, Pacific Islanders can refer to themselves as the product of a tropical palm tree but "Palagis" are vilified for coining the same turn of phrase. Seventh generation New Zealanders still can’t find a box to tick on their census form that they feel comfortable with – European/Pakeha? Manuhiri? Every government department is now subtitled with its Maori language equivalent, despite the fact that the number of fluent speakers registers nothing more than an insignificant blip on the demographic chart.

Even if you think you might be statistically correct, poking fun at minorities is clearly no longer tolerated in today’s New Zealand. That may not be such a bad thing, especially if you happen to be among those being ridiculed. But when seemingly legitimate public debate or concern is stifled for fear of being branded racist, homophobic, or even redneck, to name a few of the trendy new phrases, some commentators say a dangerous precedent is being set.

When New Zealand First leader Winston Peters late last year attacked the government’s immigration policy over migrants’ nationalities, Labour immediately labelled his party "racist". Then, Peters accused the government of being "mad" for allegedly allowing people into this country under a "homosexual family member" category. Again, Labour jumped on the defensive, saying he had moved from attacking foreigners, to bashing gays.

And the woeful plight of Maori in New Zealand society is a debate that has all but been snuffed out today too. Few dare to query, yet alone criticise, what statistics clearly show as Maori under-achievement. But now, even Maori who slate their own are condemned.

This was clearly illustrated in last month’s outburst when Dame Kiri Te Kanawa pointed out that Maori in Australia seemed to be doing a lot better than Maori in New Zealand, and suggested that a change in attitude might make a difference. The inference was that Maori in Australia are different because they have to work.

Back in New Zealand, Maori attacked her for being "out of touch", and said she had clearly been living overseas for too long. Even Labour advised that important Maori role models, such as Dame Kiri, should encourage, not criticise, Maori.

Peters, who most will acknowledge as one person not afraid of speaking his mind, said in a recently presented speech that New Zealand has now become the home of the politically correct (PC) state of mind – "one of the worst curses that can be inflicted on any nation."

Peters isn’t the only public figure to cry foul of a seemingly concerted push by the Labour Government to push New Zealand down a PC path. Newstalk ZB host Leighton Smith has been outspoken on the issue and talkback shows around the country run hot whenever the subject is broached.

Bill English has also taken a swing at PC. In his first political speech of the year the National Party leader asserted that, "the culture of cringing political correctness must end".

So what exactly is this PC business about and why are there a growing num-ber of vocal critics con-centrating their efforts on putting a halt to it? Quite simply, many see the political correctness movement as a serious danger. In fact, PC is worse than a curse, it is a cancer that slowly, but surely, eats away at society and all established societal values, warns a visiting expert on the subject.

Dr Frank Ellis, a lecturer in Russian studies at the University of Leeds in England, has written a number of essays on political correctness and has published widely on matters involving the Soviet Union and Marxism. His books include From Glasnost to the Internet: Russia’s New Infosphere, The MacPherson Report: Antiracist Hysteria and the Sovietisation of the United Kingdom, and he is currently writing a manuscript on Soviet war-literature.

Before taking up an academic career Ellis was a professional soldier serving in the parachute regiment in the Special Air Service. To some it may seem a peculiar transition to go from one of the world’s elite military units into academia, however, for Ellis, his army background made it a logical step.

During his last few years in the service he worked as a military analyst and Russian and German interpreter in West Berlin, working under the auspices of the Four Power Agreement – the WWII pact whereby France, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union administered Berlin.

Ellis’s brief during that time ranged from some "very sensitive" work to understanding the Soviet military stationed in East Germany, which would have provided the main armed force to attack NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in the event of a war. This role brought him into contact with a large number of senior Soviet officers and diplomats – an experience he describes as "fascinating".

Having the Russian speaking background, courtesy of the British army’s interpreter school, Ellis says he reached a stage in his life where he wanted to saturate himself in Russian. Essentially that meant a university application so after leaving the army he obtained his first degree and then went on to complete a doctorate.

Ellis first stumbled across the term ‘political correctness’ whilst he was building up what has become an extensive knowledge of socialist Russia. But before diving into this communist link, what exactly does the term PC mean?

"Political correctness is intended as a term of orthodoxy with regard to certain issues," Ellis explains. "It is inextricably linked with multiculturalism and a whole range of ‘isms that go with it such as feminism, antiracism, environmentalism, attitudes towards homosexuality and so on."

To that extent, Ellis suggests political correctness means adopting a position on any one of those issues that is consistent with the various orthodoxies on those subjects.

"For example, feminism has adopted over the years a hostile approach to the nuclear family. It regards the nuclear family as a prison, which ensnares and traps women, and does not allow them to develop their full potential. That would be a politically correct position to take on that issue. A politically incorrect position to take on that issue would be to say, ‘that’s complete nonsense – all societies everywhere have demonstrated marriage and the nuclear family and we are dealing with one of the fundamental building blocks of all societies wherever you find them," he says.

While the term PC has been around in our society for some years now, and political debate over it has been highlighted in the media over recent months, the earliest reference Ellis has been able to discover goes back more than 80 years - to the Soviet Union in 1921.

At that time the notion of political correctness became an important tool for Lenin who was trying to consolidate his control over his party, and used it to impose orthodoxy on almost every facet of society – education, politics, literature, law, ideology and even citizens’ reading habits.

"You can see that where it comes from it has rather unpleasant origins in view of Lenin’s contribution to the twentieth century."

That is precisely why we should be concerned about PC appearing in our society, says Ellis, because it directly threatens civil liberties.

He made this connection in 1997 when the incoming British Labour Government set up an inquiry to look at how the police conducted their investigation into the murder of a black teenager in London in 1993. No convictions were ever brought for the crime and the Labour party argued that the police did not pursue the inquiry as sufficiently as they should have done because the victim was black.

The inquest, headed by retired Scottish Judge William MacPherson, concluded that the British police force, specifically the metropolitan police in London, was institutionally racist. Subsequently, some 70 recommendations were made in the report in order to change police operational activities.

"In my opinion, many of these recommendations are a direct assault on many British freedoms. One of the most draconian of these was the proposal to consider the prosecution of racist incidences otherwise done in a public place. That, really, is referring to the privacy of your own home and the only way that can be policed is by bugging people’s houses."

And herein lies the link to socialism, according to Ellis. A totalitarian state is one in which every aspect of social and political life is controlled by the state. Although the British government did not accept all the recommendations, Ellis concludes that the MacPherson report represented a form of "Sovietisation" of Britain – a step whereby too much power was being handed over to the government.

One of the recommendations in the report, which has since been ruled an operational requirement, redefines how the British police judge a "racist incident". It states that a racist incident is any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.

"Straight away, from that definition, you have a charter for lots of malicious people to make all kinds of false accusations. The most innocent, offhand, remark in the work place could be used as the basis of a police investigation into you. It’s quite threatening," says Ellis.

The MacPherson report also made reference to the importance of introducing multiculturalism into public sector institutions, bureaucracies and the police force. Underlying this push is the assumption that multiculturalism is desirable. Ellis says there are some good aspects of having a diverse society with different ethnic groups, but he believes that this theory does not stand up to critical scrutiny.

"Historically there is plenty of evidence that shows multicultural societies have certain fault lines in them and when the conditions are right they can tear themselves to pieces. The most recent examples are Yugoslavia and Rwanda. I think we’re entitled to be suspicious about claims that diversity is the same as good inner strength."

While few would suggest that New Zealand is anywhere near such internal turmoil, some argue that there is already a strong sense of inequality that stems from a view that Maori are receiving preferential treatment to non-Maori.

Ellis suggests divisiveness is a key product of a politically correct, multicultural environment.

That is what prompted Bill English to indicate, earlier in the year, that his party might withdraw its support for Maori seats in Parliament. This move is in line with National’s premise of one standard of citizenship for all New Zealanders, and the party’s opposition to policies that give Maori special treatment, creating segregation.

In the same speech, English criticised a "taniwha clause" in the Local Government Act legislating that every decision made by local councils has to take into account the special relationship Maori have with land, air, water and other ‘toanga’.

He said the Government was risking throwing away gains by continuing down the path of division.

From a foreign perspective, Ellis suggests that those behind the politically correct movement have given up Marxism and conceded the economic side to the capitalists. However, he says they now seek to advance their agenda by concentrating on the commanding heights of culture, essentially "the universities; the public sector bureaucracies; the social services; the judiciary and the legal system, and also the media."

"Over the last 20 years they’ve done this very successfully," he says.

Winston Peters would probably agree with Ellis on that stance. He recently attacked the University of Otago’s new policy, whereby students can write assessments and exams in Maori, as "absurd political correctness".

He called the university’s plan, intended to encourage the use of Maori language, a waste of time and money.

In his New Year speech English acknowledged that speaking out on issues, like those also raised by Peters, risked being labelled a racist or a Maori-basher by the beehive. According to Ellis, this is one of the most "insidious" aspects of political correctness – the way in which advocates pull out "hate words" to scare their critics. He says this ploy creates a "wall of silence" behind which they "advance their agenda".

Tariana Turia’s highly publicised "holocaust" reference to the treatment of Maori people by Pakeha colonisation would arguably make many people wonder if Ellis has hit the nail on the head.

But he goes further, saying proponents of political correctness turn the world into language and culture by controlling the words we use - by defining the limits of acceptability of the meanings of certain words and ideas that we use.

"The term institutional racism strikes me as being very nebulous and deeply threatening because calling someone a racist is like calling someone a witch in seventeenth century Massachusetts. It inspires fear and dread and loathing and otherwise sensible people collapse and wilt when you accuse them of being a racist. The onus is never on the accuser to prove it. The onus is always on the accused to show that he is not. It overturns the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

"Today there are various words to replace words that are now deemed unacceptable. People think there is something wrong with this – why it’s wrong to use this word in a way which we have always used it – but they are unable to articulate a response to why it is wrong. They are vulnerable to being outmanoeuvred by the people who concern themselves with this sort of thing in universities.

"Going back to the fear thing, human beings, even in western democracies don’t like standing out. Many people don’t like being made to feel as if they are the only person who holds certain views regarded as odd or strange. This is a measure of the achievement of these people in that views, which 20 years ago were regarded as quite normal and reasonable, are now regarded as bizarre and on the verge of making you a neo-Nazi."

Ellis says taking away freedom of speech is yet another example of how the PC set infringes on citizens’ civil rights and why political correctness should not be taken lightly, yet alone tolerated.

"All societies, that I have ever studied, that imposed censorship have ultimately collapsed. We are talking here about a form of intellectual censorship. Certain things need to be said sometimes and certain problems need to be faced up to. One of the problems we have to face up to in Britain is that immigration, legal and illegal is a major issue. It is causing terrible problems and is starting to cause a very extreme right-wing backlash.

"All societies and countries are occupied within certain physical infrastructure constraints. There is no doubt in my mind that Britain has reached those limits now. Our national health service simply cannot cope. The infrastructure in the southeast of England in London can’t cope. We have a massive housing crisis.

"Also there are problems in the way we do things. Not all cultures do things in the same way. Here you have a source for friction. How do you solve that friction? One way is to start killing your neighbours. The other way is to give extra power to the judiciary and the public sector bureaucracies to police our lives. So the more people you let in from different cultures or backgrounds, the more complicated a society becomes and the greater the need is for public sector bureaucracies to interfere in our lives."

The February 2003 issue of Investigate highlighted a growing concern about the Attorney General’s capacity to stack the bench of the new Supreme Court with judges sympathetic to Labour’s social and political agenda.

"Despite having failed to get any electoral endorsement from the public, [Margaret] Wilson nonetheless finds herself, as an un-elected MMP member, very much the power behind Clark’s throne," growls one commentator in the ‘Power Games’ article.

New Zealanders should take this as a warning that the ballot box is being bypassed, says Ellis. He also warns that when the PC proponents have stamped their mark on the judiciary, bureaucracies, the civil service, the universities, the public sector, and so on, then voting could almost be seen as a "meaningless gesture".

So how do supposedly ‘democratic’ societies relinquish power to their political leaders and let them get away with pushing their own agendas?

"When people are comfortable and prosperous they’re prepared to concede to feminists and all the rest of them – let them get on with their silly, stupid games. In times of economic hardship though, they are more likely to say, ‘I’m not letting my tax dollars go to fund whole-food feminist collectives, no chance. You want to play those games then you fund them with your own money and good luck to you.’ In times of economic downturn I think people are far more likely to object," says Ellis.

If he is right, then presumably, when the economy starts to falter, voters would put an end to what National calls "TPK (Te Puni Kokiri Maori development ministry) officials [driving] around the country writing out cheques at will…grants for break-dancing and family reunions".

To date almost 2500 grants, ranging in value from $500 to over $100,000, have been handed out under the Labour Government’s programme formerly known as Closing the Gaps. New Zealand also has numerous other policies that now parallel the Americans’ Affirmative Action dictum – a means of rectifying the wrongs of their past.

Ellis believes that if the PC movement is allowed to role on unchecked then race relations will collapse and he highlights the United States as an example of where racial tolerance, primarily between blacks and whites, is probably as bad now and perhaps even worse than it was during the 1960s.

For some time American universities have had strict quotas that set aside places for black students. Now though, several students are filing lawsuits against some higher education institutions because, though they have high enough marks, they are being denied a place in their chosen university because the quotas have been met for white students.

Affirmative Action was never supposed to be a permanent institution, but speaking from his experience of lecturing in the US, Ellis says it has now become deeply rooted in the American cultural sphere.

He says Affirmative Action is intellectually incoherent and fundamentally immoral - it persecutes talented, hardworking people and all admission processes for universities should be absolutely colour-blind.

In some instances it has backfired because, he says, particularly successful and hardworking black individuals are automatically suspected of being Affirmative Action beneficiaries.

This is exactly the type of divisiveness and inequality that some in this country, most vocally English and Peters, are trying to advise New Zealanders about. And though Ellis has an unapologetic right-wing (some would argue hard-line) stance, the warnings he brings from overseas appear to fly in the face of this government’s current direction.

Even the Governor General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, drifted into political territory in her last Waitangi Day speech. She advised New Zealanders not to try to become "one people…because we do not need to be".

"What we need to do is live together and play together as fellow human beings, recognising that we are a nation of a variety of races."

That is certainly a cordial notion but some critics wonder how we are supposed to "play together" when the playing field is not particularly even. Just ask Martin Crowe. He retired battered and bruised after commenting that not many Maori play cricket because they don’t have the temperament for the game. It was a bit naive of him to think he could play such a straight shot these days and not consider that the delivery would jag back so viciously.

Apparently, we were told in the ensuing row, it is the fault of the Pakeha for not making the game more attractive and accessible to Maori.

No, it just isn’t cricket anymore. Some say that Team PC have not only changed the rules, but they’ve doctored the ball too.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 02:04 AM | Comments (1)

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? INVESTIGATE: APR 03

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Vicious dog attacks have dominated domestic news coverage in New Zealand. Now Parliament is looking at new laws to leash and muzzle the country’s canines. HAMISH CARNACHAN spent a day in the dogbox with Animal Control Services

It’s a dogs life," some people reckon, yet I can’t help but notice the irony as I observe Animal Control Services field officer Barbara Slade approach this wretched mongrel. The large brindle dog, chained to the fence of a suburban Auckland property, is nothing more than a prisoner – one that has most probably committed no crime either.

The animal has water, and a scattering of shade, but that is all. The narrow alley between the house and the fence, and the 2-metre length of chain hanging from its neck, is this dog’s cell. The grass has been worn down to a dusty patch of bare earth by constant pacing and flies swarm over the piles of sun-hardened faeces. The dog has clearly become accustomed to the insects as they crawl freely over its face and around its ears.

Despite the initially ominous barking and the dog’s daunting size it quickly relaxes around Slade – the cordiality helped by her 12 years experience in dealing with strange dogs and, the field officers’ secret weapon, tasty treats.

A neighbour had called Animal Control Services the evening before to complain about the dog’s barking. It is midday when we arrive and though the animal’s owner isn’t home it gives Slade a good chance to cast an expert eye over the dog’s condition and behaviour.

Ten minutes later, a note and calling card are left in the letterbox and we are on our way to the next callout.

Despite the poor environment, the dog was apparently in reasonable health. There is no broken skin so the chance of fly-strike is slim and it is adequately nourished. But Animal Control Services will be back to this address. There is still the issue of the barking – "a common cause of boredom," I’m informed. Slade will offer the owner advice about exercising the pet and how to help it to stop annoying the neighbours.

As an avid dog-lover, Slade is clearly not happy with the animal’s treatment but there are no grounds for its removal. If its condition was bad enough, the SPCA would be called but this time it’s more a case of her feeling sorry for it. Besides, "I’ve seen them in a lot worse states," she laments.

There isn’t a great deal of time for Animal Control staff to get attached to individual cases anyway. With nine field officers covering the Auckland isthmus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I quickly discover they are constantly on the go.

Before mid-morning we have already patrolled a central-Auckland park, answered a call-out to a shoe-stealing dog in Onehunga, talked to the owners of another serial barker in the same suburb, and reunited a stray golden retriever with its somewhat desperate owner.

There is constant chatter over the RT (radio-telephone) in the bright red Animal Control van. Officers in another area are in hot pursuit of a roaming bullmastiff; across town there is a dog in traffic causing chaos; somewhere else another rogue dog is chasing buses and has harassed a pamphlet deliverer; an unregistered Staffordshire terrier has been collared in South Auckland.

The RT is another one of the few tools that Animal Control officers have in their arsenal. It is used as a safety measure and this is the reason for most of the incessant radio talk. The field officers are constantly informing the base operators of their movements. Before entering a property they call in their location and plan of action, then let the operator know when the job is done. The protocol is strict – it’s the officers’ lifeline in case anything goes wrong, which it does from time to time.

In February this year a Northland Animal Control officer was mauled and only escaped further injury because a police officer shot the attacking dog. Slade admits she has been bitten a number of times but shrugs it off as an "occupational hazard". She says sometimes it isn’t the animals you need to worry about, but the owners.

"I’ve been threatened by owners – eyeball to eyeball stuff – but they’re yelling at the uniform rather than me."

When she isn’t patrolling or investigating callouts from the public (or being abused by some of them), she is visiting kindergartens and schools across the city in an effort to educate children in how to deal with strange dogs, hopefully reducing attacks – a subject that seems to be in even greater demand of late.

It is, obviously, such a topical issue because of the recent spate of dog attacks throughout the country. And although there have been adults among the recent victims, it is the pictures of the brutally injured children that have touched our hearts.

The flurry of attacks started with Carolina Anderson on January 31. The dog ripped the skin from the seven-year-old’s face, down to the bone, and badly damaged her right eye.

Four days later a four-year-old Christchurch girl had her nostrils torn off by a jack russell terrier. Like Carolina, this little girl now faces years of reconstructive surgery.

A week after the Christchurch attack, a pitbull mauled a four-year-old in Lower Hutt, and the same day a five-year-old, Angel Daniels, was attacked by his aunt’s Staffordshire-terrier cross. Angel’s injuries were, quite simply, horrific and required 200 stitches.

Two more dog-attacks on preschoolers followed several days later.

And adding to the rapidly growing fright-factor are the reports that rampant packs of roaming dogs are stopping the mail getting through to homes in some parts of South Auckland.

A wave of shock and condemnation has since spread throughout New Zealand and in some instances there have been backlashes directly against dogs and their owners. So is this state of hysteria justified?

In New Zealand, A&E staff and general practitioners treat around 20 people each day for wounds inflicted by dogs and one person is hospitalised as a result of an attack. There is also a view that many other incidents go unreported.

While many experts doubt that there has been any dramatic increase in the overall number of dog attacks over the years, recent events have certainly lifted the profile. Now, man’s best friend has become public enemy number one and there is widespread debate over how best to tackle the problem.

Cruising through Auckland’s Cornwall Park, her eyes scanning the fields for errant canines, Slade says one thing the media has done is raise the awareness of dog owners’ responsibilities. Although we do two consecutive sweeps through the park, every dog we encounter is well tethered in its master’s grasp. "Dogs to be kept on a lead at all times," read the signs – people are taking more notice than ever.

"In parks, where you’ve got children and families, dogs running around off their leads are probably quite a concern for the general public. Owners are paying more attention to the rules now," says Slade.

The public have become more vigilant too, she notes, and will either inform the owner of their responsibility directly, or contact Animal Control. A $200 fine is usually enough to remind most owners of their obligations. Slade suspects the highly-visible Animal Control Services’ van patrolling the parks and suburbs not only reassures the public, but it also sets off the "ripple effect", particularly in trouble spots with a history of complaints.

"Better find your dog, mate. The catcher’s cruisin’ round after ‘im," imitates my guide.

But in today’s climate of fear even the most vigilant efforts of enforcement officers don’t seem to be enough. Dog control has become a political hot potato and added urgency has been put into the issue.

Carolina Anderson’s father has become the figurehead for those pushing for tighter dog control laws. Recently he used photos of his daughter’s horrific injuries to show MPs in Wellington the true face of dog attacks.

Subsequently, public pressure has prompted Local Government Minister Chris Carter to urgently review the 1996 Dog Control Act. In a statement released shortly after the attack on Carolina, Carter states: "It is simply unacceptable that young children are unable to enjoy the public amenities of a large metropolitan city like Auckland without fear of dog attack."

In the statement he says he is "unclear as to what steps [are] needed to prevent similar tragedies in future", but widespread consultation with interested parties, including councils, the New Zealand Veterinarian Association, the New Zealand Kennel Club, and animal enforcement contractors, has since taken place.

Though any decisions are yet to be finalised, changes to legislation are expected to include the banning of pitbulls, restrictions (possibly including mandatory muzzling) on other "dangerous" breeds, and giving local bodies greater power to enter private property and seize a dangerous dog.

Kenneth Muir, governing director and founder of Animal Control Services, contractors to the Auckland City Council, represented the New Zealand Institute of Animal Control Officers on a working party investigating possible law changes.

He is confident that the remedies will give animal control enforcers greater power to be "proactive rather than reactive". While he refuses to divulge any detailed information on the outcome of the meeting, Muir says, "It will give us some way forward to better protecting the public."

Yet, no matter what laws bureaucracy decides to draft, experts agree that effective dog control comes down to two basic principles: 1) understanding dogs, and 2) responsible ownership.

So why do dogs attack? At her kindergarten guest ap-pearance, Slade explains to 20 eager little faces that "they might attack out of fear, like if they’re approached too quickly or aggressively".

Dogs are also very territorial animals, and experts suspect that they may bite if they think they are protecting their area. But also, our four-legged friends are essentially domesticated wolves - genetically they are almost indistinguishable from their wild kin. The pack mentality is still rooted in every domestic dog and unless the animal’s owner acts as the hierarchical leader, it will assume the role – often with disastrous consequences.

There is a saying among dog control officers: Show me 10 bad dogs and I’ll show you nine bad owners. Many experts believe the problem lies with man betraying the friendship, not the commonly implied antithesis.

Slade says many people enter into dog ownership without knowing what is required of them.

"It’s not too dissimilar to having children – they require constant care and attention."

Muir agrees that like children, if they are not raised properly, dogs will go off the rails. He says there is no such thing as a ‘bad dog’ per se. Rather, they exhibit behaviours that can be directly attributed to a number of factors, for which owners must accept 100 percent responsibility.

"There’s no doubt that there are bad dogs but it is almost certainly a result of how they’ve been conditioned, how they’ve been managed, and their environment," he says.

According to Muir, most of the problem dogs that Animal Control Services deal with are those that have not been registered by their owners, an offence that carries a $400 instant fine under the 1996 Dog Control Act.

The company introduced New Zealand’s first ‘Dog Owner License Scheme’ and ‘the Good Dog Owner Campaign’ to encourage dog owners to take an interest in their responsibilities and to take part in the registration process. Predictably though, the scheme has failed in low socio-economic suburbs despite incentives such as reduced registration fees in return for attendance.

"We certainly have a lot more problems in those areas," admits Muir.

An estimated 40,000 unregistered and unwanted dogs are destroyed each year in New Zealand - that’s roughly 5 percent of the 766,000 dogs we share our homes with. Many of these animals cannot be traced to their owners because they are unregistered. Others are simply forfeited because the owners no longer want the responsibility or refuse to the pay fines.

While Animal Control officers can seize unregistered dogs if they are roaming the streets, they are not authorised to remove them from private property. Presently they can only issue (unenforceable) warning notices but under the proposed new legislation, Muir hints that this loophole is about to be tightened.

Additionally, it will provide officers with greater powers to remove ‘dangerous’ dogs from private residences. But besides some sectors of the public, "breed specific" control is something that does not sit well with many of interested parties.

In a statement released on the New Zealand Kennel Club’s website following the recent spate of attacks, the executive counsel clearly outlines its stance:

"Whereas we deplore savage dogs and their consequences, we are firmly of the opinion that the problem is owner related, and that education and enforcement will address the problem as opposed to increased legislation that will only serve to increase compliance costs to the already law abiding citizens."

The New Zealand Kennel Club’s policy position covers five principles:

1. The dog is a companion and working animal, it adds to the quality of life and also adds value to the country’s economy.

2. We deplore people who breed/train dogs to fight, and our club actively regulates against savage dogs.

3. Our focus is on the cause rather than the symptom.

4. We support owner licensing and more community education.

5. We do not support breed specific legislation.

Muir agrees that breed specific legislation won’t work. He says dogs should be "judged on their deed – not on their breed".

"Nobody believes that’s the answer to the problem. The major problem with such legislation is the cross breeding and proving a dog’s lineage. Nobody supports it because of the hassles associated with it," says Muir.

He is also quick to point out that similar laws have failed elsewhere in the world that they have been implemented.

A mass of dog attacks in Britain over a decade ago led to the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act, a move that essentially banned pitbull terriers. Has it lowered the incidence of dog attacks? Apparently it hasn’t, but perhaps the situation would be worse if nothing had been done.

In 2000, a six-year-old boy was killed by two pitbulls whilst playing outside at his Hamburg primary school. The attack has lead the German Government to introduce a breeding and importation ban on four breeds of fighting dogs: the American Staffordshire terrier; the Staffordshire; the pitbull; and the bull terrier.

There is now a "zero tolerance" stance on aggressive dogs – which many would argue makes sense – but "high risk dogs", and even their owners, are forced to undergo a character test. Many believe the "draconian" legislation will fail because unregistered owners and breeders will simply go underground. In the United States this is a major problem with a secretive, high-stakes, but highly illegal, dog-fighting movement.

Here, dog owners are barking mad over the proposed new laws because, they say, decent citizens are being punished for the actions of the irresponsible.

Animal Control Services has had a strong owner education focus since its inception almost 30 years ago and many believe that this is one of the best ways of dealing with the problem. Most groups also agree that a mandatory ownership licensing scheme, much like a driver’s license or vehicle registration, would prevent bad owners ever having their way with dogs.

There will be definite changes to existing dog control laws announced very soon. Generally, offences under the 1996 Dog Control Act carry a $1,500 maximum fine. There are exceptions, for instance a serious attack on a person or protected wildlife carries a maximum court fine of $5,000 and/or three months imprisonment.

The owners of the dog that attacked little Carolina received two months imprisonment and were ordered to pay $2,000 to the Anderson family. Muir is certain that the Government will increase penalties for the owners of dogs that cause serious injury.

"Personally, I think it should be $25,000 and five years in jail," he says.

We will have to wait and see if his wish comes true but for some, like the handful of injured children, the changes won’t have come soon enough. For others though, the lawmakers who want to fast track changes to dog control legislation are simply barking up the wrong tree.

In mid-February, Act leader Richard Prebble voted against making hasty legal amendments. It is not that he is against it though, he just reasons that: "rushed legislation is invariably bad."

To some it may seem quite ironic that the man called ‘Mad Dog’ is doing exactly what experts suggest people should do if they are ever attacked by a dog – stay still and don’t panic!

Is the Government being too reactionary to the public’s emotional outcry? If so, then dogs and dog owners could be in for the mauling. It’s supposed to be a dog’s life – yet, how many pooches would agree?

At the end of the day, it’s only when our canine companions attack that we fully understand that man’s best friend is not one of us.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:59 AM | Comments (2)

PROJECT BABYLON: WHO ARMED IRAQ? INVESTIGATE: APR 03

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Popular myth these days would have you believe Saddam Hussein is a creature of the CIA, a stooge of the West, armed to the teeth by America and set loose. The truth, as IAN WISHART reveals, is not quite so simple...

So now that the bullets are being fired, who can be fingered as Saddam Hussein’s suppliers of weapons of mass destruction? In a bitter irony, the answer is emerging: France and Germany, including some of the same European politicians who spoke so strongly against the US-led war. It is a story of massive campaign donations from Iraq to French and German politicians, along with multi-billion dollar arms and infrastructure deals. It is also the story of a forgotten era in modern world history – the Cold War.

While many civilians in the West have been able to level numerous allegations at America’s door over shady links to regimes like Iraq in the past, few of those allegations are set in their proper historical context.

Up until 1990, and throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties, world security was defined in a delicate superpower balancing act between the USA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The communist-based Soviet Union was determined to export its political system to as many countries in the world as it could, by force if necessary, and both superpowers were ultimately behind a range of secret and not-so-secret wars in a battle for control of territory and strategic resources like oil. The Middle East – unstable and home to a large chunk of that oil, as well as the key Suez canal transport pathway – had long been a pawn in the superpower game, with groups on both sides willing to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.

An aspect often forgotten in current times is that Soviet control of Middle East oilfields could have brought the West to its knees. By turning off the oil tap to the West, the USSR would have simultaneously reduced the West’s ability to go to war on the issue - without the oil to power the tanks, planes and ships, a US led battle force would have ground to a halt. Alternatively, all fuel in the West would have been diverted to the war effort leaving citizens without fuel for heating, transport or industry.

In other words, the stakes were extremely high.

What also makes a direct comparison between our current world and the Cold War period difficult is the bloodshed that could have resulted from a superpower clash: with the ability to nuke the entire planet dozens of times over, and mindful that it only took the assassination of a Grand Duke to begin World War I, strategists in both the US and USSR were loathe to directly intervene in "enemy" territory merely on human rights grounds.

It is only since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 that America and the West have been free to take humanitarian military action in previously unthinkable areas like Yugoslavia, a former communist satellite state.

So if that’s the historical matrix, where does the battle against Iraq have its roots?

The WMD (weapons of mass destruction) trail begins in 1975 when Saddam Hussein – at that stage still the Vice President of Iraq - joined forces with French Prime Minister (now President) Jacques Chirac in a deal to purchase French military equipment and armaments.

Hussein had, only weeks earlier, signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to purchase a nuclear reactor facility from the Russians, but the Soviet deal contained a catch: Russia was insisting on safeguards to ensure that fuel from the reactor could not be reprocessed to make nuclear weapons. Saddam was hoping he could get a better deal out of France.

Jacques Chirac sent an arms negotiation team to Iraq on March 12, 1975, who offered up to 72 of the then state-of-the-art Mirage jet fighters, as well as 40 German Dornier jets (West Germany, in 1975, was still under a United Nations ban on exporting weapons, imposed after WW II, and channelled their defence sales through France to undermine the UN sanction).

The French, for their part, were desperate to source cheap oil from Iraq in order to maintain their overall share of the world oil market. Saddam needed weapons and the ability to manufacture them under license in Iraq; France needed Iraqi oil. It was, noted commentators at the time, a marriage made in heaven.

In their desperation, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac also promised Saddam that France could build Iraq a nuclear reactor capable of breeding enough weapons-grade uranium to make three or four Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs a year. For public consumption however, France treated the reactor project as a civilian-use nuclear power station – a facade that first began to crumble only a few days after the deal was signed when Saddam Hussein told the Lebanese newspaper, Al Usbu al-Arabi, "The agreement with France is the first concrete step toward the production of the Arab atomic weapon."

As word leaked in the French media of Iraq’s intentions, some newspapers began satirising the name of the reactor, Osirak, as "O’Chirac". To save Chirac’s political sensibilities, Iraq changed the name of the reactor project to Tammuz.

Saddam’s personal relationship with Chirac was close. During numerous official and private visits, Chirac developed a taste for masgouf carp, a type of fish native to Iraqi rivers. Saddam arranged for 1.5 tonnes of masgouf to be flown to Paris as a gift to Chirac. In the French press, Jacques Chirac’s nickname was "Mr Iraq".

"Beyond Iraqi oil and the Mirage deal," writes US journalist Kenneth Timmerman in The Death Lobby: How The West Armed Iraq, France signed up to build "petrochemical plants, desalination plants, gas liquefaction complexes, housing projects, telecommunications systems, broadcasting networks, fertiliser plants, defence electronics factories, car assembly plants, a subway system, and a navy yard, not to mention Exocet, Milan, HOT, Magic, Martel, and Armat missiles; Alouette III, Gazelle, and Super-Puma helicopters; AMX 30-GCT howitzers; Tiger-G radar, and a nuclear reactor capable of making the bomb. It was a multibillion dollar relationship."

Under the nuclear contract, France not only agreed to build two reactors, Tammuz I and II, but also to train 600 Iraqi nuclear scientists at French universities. France had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, saying it regarded its right to export nuclear material as an "issue of national sovereignty" and that it did not regard itself as bound by the Treaty.

But it wasn’t just nuclear technology that Iraq was sourcing from France. The Paris-based Institut Merieux was contracted to build Iraq’s first biological weapons research facility, although officially it was listed as "an agricultural bacteriological laboratory". The purchase went through an Iraqi agency, the General Directorate of Veterinary Services.

A year later, in 1976, Saddam Hussein was pushing for chemical weapons manufacture as well. The French Prime Minister again helped out, opening doors for Iraq in the United States. Because of its reputation for supporting terrorism, Iraq was on the US banned list, but by going through France it was hoping to bypass US restrictions. The "personal friend" of M’sieur Chirac was introduced to a French engineering company with a subsidiary branch in the US. That branch called on a New York chemical equipment company, Pfaudler & Co, and told them Iraq needed to build a pesticide factory because "Iraqi farmers are unable to protect their crops from the ravages of desert locusts and other pests".

This seemed like a reasonable request, and Pfaudler sent staff to Iraq to begin work on the project. The US company pulled out of the deal several months later when it became apparent that Iraq wanted to manufacture 1,200 tonnes of Amiton, Demeton, Paraoxon and Parathion – highly toxic organic compounds that can be converted into nerve gas.

Why would France support a regime like Iraq? Apart from the "oil for guns" advantages, Chirac saw Saddam Hussein as a similar victim of superpower politics – caught between two military giants when Iraq really wanted to steer an independent course. France, also, saw itself as "independent", and had refused full membership of NATO out of a desire to maintain full control of its nuclear arsenal.

Ninety-three percent of Iraq’s weapons had been sourced from the Soviet Union up to this point, but the USSR was keeping Iraq on a tight leash. France, and other smaller arms manufacturers, offered no such fine print in their supply contracts – "you buy it, it’s yours" was the official line.

French media reports indicate there was some opposition within Chirac’s cabinet to the idea of giving Iraq nuclear weapons technology, but "when Andre Giraud, the head of the French nuclear energy committee, protested strongly, Chirac threatened to sack him if the deal was not completed according to the signed agreement. Indeed, the matter was considered to be of such importance that President Giscard d’Estaing took personal control of the affair in order to ensure it’s smooth passage."

When the Soviets got wind of Iraq’s planned switch, they firstly threatened to call in Iraq’s debts and, when that didn’t work, threatened to withhold spares or maintenance for Iraq’s existing Soviet-made military equipment. French officials, confronted at diplomatic cocktail parties by still-fuming Russians, just grinned widely and said nothing.

Annoyed by the American company’s decision to pull out of the "pesticides factory" deal, Iraq approached two British firms in late 1976, ICI Chemicals and Babcock and Wilcox. According to the Washington Post newspaper, ICI refused to become involved because it too was "suspicious of the sensitive nature of the materials and the potential for misuse". ICI tipped off British authorities, and it is widely accepted that the CIA was made aware of the Iraqi plans by early 1977. The CIA, however, was going through some painful Congressional investigations over its unauthorised international activities and reportedly wasn’t keen to conduct another Boy’s Own adventure in Baghdad.

Instead, Saddam Hussein tried his luck in East Germany. He dispatched scientist Dr Amer Hamoudi al-Saadi to Leipzig for discussions with Karl Heinz Lohs, the director of the Leipzig Institute for Poisonous Chemicals. According to Lohs in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel years later, al-Saadi pulled no punches.

"You Germans have great expertise in the killing of Jews with gas. This interests us in the same way...How [can] this knowledge...be used to destroy Israel?"

Germany was the first country in the world to use chemical weapons – nerve gas – in World War I and despite a 1925 Geneva Protocol banning their manufacture Germany kept working on and perfecting chemical weapons, using organophosphates.

Belgian and Swiss companies had already been contracted to begin construction of a "phosphate" processing plant at Al Qaim in Iraq. According to foreign workers interviewed later, Iraqi officials made sure that staff on the ground were not given a birdseye view of the project. Thus, an ostensibly civilian agricultural plant was constructed with Western involvement, without a realisation that the factory was part of a larger chemical weapons project.

Saddam Hussein continued to play cat and mouse with the Soviet Union, at one stage assuaging their superpower neighbour by purchasing NZ$6 billion worth of fighter aircraft, but at the same time warning the USSR not to meddle in internal Iraqi politics. Saddam even went so far as to cut off water and electricity to the Soviet embassy during one spat.

Across the border in Iran, though, Soviet KGB agents had been working to destabilise the ruthless pro-American regime of the Shah. Although the Western world saw Islamic fundamentalist students and the Ayatollah Khomeini behind the coup in Iran in 1979, it was the USSR who’d laid the groundwork in an effort both to rid the region of American influence but also to gain access to Iranian oil.

Not only was Iran lurching into Soviet orbit, Saddam also feared the flow-on effects of Islamic fundamentalism if it spilled across the border into Iraq’s majority Shiite community.

Having constructed its "pesticides" factory, Iraq began purchasing raw ma-terials for it in July 1983. The first shipment, 500 tonnes of thiodiglycol – an ingredient of mustard gas – was sourced through a Dutch company, which went on to supply many hundreds of tonnes more. The Dutch company acted as a ‘front’, ordering the chemicals in from the US. That particular deception wasn’t discovered by US authorities until 1986, three years after the first chemical weapons had been used by Iraqi forces against Iran. But US intelligence agencies had acted swiftly after the first gas attacks in December 1983, and a report to the US Government in early 1984 recommended the immediate imposition of export controls on chemicals that could be used in weapons. Iraq and Iran were the first on the banned list, but the warring nations went through so many middlemen that eventually the banned list included the entire world, save for 18 Western nations.

"During the [Iran/Iraq] war," writes Egyptian investigative journalist Adel Darwish in Unholy Babylon, "the United States, Britain and France tempered their strictures against Iraq and its production and use of chemical weapons because they were already preoccupied with confronting a more immediate threat – Ayatollah Khomeini and his fiery brand of Shia fundamentalism which was threatening to spread throughout the Islamic world."

Former Reagan-era National Security adviser Geoffrey Kemp explained to Darwish:

"The Ayatollah was calling us the Great Satan and trying to undermine governments throughout the Gulf States".

Iran, says Kemp, was seen at the time as a much greater threat to world peace than Iraq.

"It wasn’t that we wanted Iraq to win the war. We didn’t want Iraq to lose. We weren’t really that naive. We knew [Saddam] was an SOB, but he was our SOB."

Contrary to popular conspiracy theory, however, most of Iraq’s military assistance was not coming from the United States at all. Instead, throughout the war with Iran and right up to the 1991 Gulf War, the bulk of ordinary weapons, and WMD material, was coming from Europe – specifically France and Germany.

In October 1990 West German company Josef Kuhn was outed for supplying Iraq with biological weapons, two mykotoxins whose effects included skin irritation, blisters, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea and eventually death.

West German companies were also involved in building three chemical weapons plants codenamed Ieas, Meda and Ghasi, whose task was to produce a chemical agent that could penetrate gas masks and NBC (nuclear/bio/chem) protection suits. They were successful, by all reports. A quantity the size of a sugar cube is sufficient to kill 2,500 people.

Saddam Hussein’s quest to develop the first Arab nuclear bomb has come unstuck several times. While French nuclear en-gineers worked around the clock to bring the two nuclear reactors online, both Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and Russia’s KGB, had infiltrated the project. Both countries harboured extreme concerns about a nuclear-tipped Iraq. At the same time, the Iraqi facilities were being guarded by agents from the French security agency DST. Nonetheless, Mossad managed to slip past the French and obtain the data they needed.

There was another irony: despite the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, the Iranian secret service SAVAM continued to liase closely with Mossad over their common enemy, Iraq. SAVAM supplied Israel with aerial photos of the nuclear reactors, and Israel hatched a plan to bomb them.

On June 7, 1981, 16 Israeli F-15s and F16s launched a lightning raid, skimming just 10 metres above the ground virtually all the way from Israel to Iraq to avoid radar detection. Sixteen massive concrete-piercing bombs were dropped, and all hit their mark. The French nuclear reactors built for Iraq were rubble.

Undeterred, Iraq’s nuclear programme was resurrected with the aid of German advisers in 1987, and efforts were made to secretly procure the necessary components from companies around the world. Both the CIA and Britain’s MI6 were authorised to crack down on Iraq’s efforts, and more export bans were introduced.

The American bans were more successful than the British ones. Ministers in Britain’s Tory Government had shareholdings in companies who were trying to win Iraqi defence contracts under the table. The Opposition Labour party, now in Government under Tony Blair, attempted to expose as many of the secret deals as they got wind of.

Key nuclear components ended up coming from Germany, China, France and Pakistan. China, in particular, supplied seven tonnes of lithium hydride, a chemical essential to the nuclear weapons programme.

Western intelligence estimates in 1990, prior to the Gulf War, estimated that Iraq would have a functional nuclear weapon by 1997. One agency to disagree was America’s Defence Intelligence Agency, which warned Iraq was much further ahead than previously believed. In November 1990 the DIA warned that an atomic bomb in Baghdad may only be "two months" away. As events transpired, there is evidence the DIA was right.

In their book Brighter Than The Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein’s Nuclear Threat To The United States, Times of London jour-nalists Daniel McGrory and Shyam Bahtia interviewed defecting Iraqi nuclear scientists after the end of the 1991 Gulf War. They discovered Saddam Hussein almost had his nuclear bomb ready to drop on US troops, but the nuclear weapons plant and the weapon were destroyed – quite by accident - during the aerial blitz that began the war.

"Total fluke. Absolute fluke — so terrifying," McGrory told WorldNetDaily.com. "We came so close to seeing the doomsday bomb being created and that is what Saddam wanted. When Desert Shield began with Saddam already in Kuwait, we poured tens of thousand of troops and manpower into the Arabian desert, thinking, "Why is Saddam sitting there watching and waiting? Why doesn’t he do something?" Our fear was that, the day before the U.N. deadline, Saddam would — wily old fox that he is — pull back, and the allies would go wobbly and say, well, we don’t want to invade; there is no point now.

"The truth is, what he had done was to gather his scientists and say, "You work day and night and you deliver me the doomsday bomb. I will detonate it before the ground war, and that will show them." He was betting that if he proved he had a nuclear device the allies would not have taken him on in war.

"Ironically, the Pentagon played a war game before the invasion began and the one question fed into the computer was: "What would we do if Saddam possessed a nuclear weapon?" The computer chewed on it for a while and spit back, "Nothing!"

McGrory also details the way some of the 18,000 nuclear scientists and workers were kept in line by Saddam Hussein. One key scientist, Hussein Shahristani, resisted Saddam.

"He went to prison; he was tortured; he was made to watch a 7-year-old boy hanged from his wrists and then executed for the sin of writing on the blackboard "Saddam is a buffalo."

"Shahristani still refused to break. He spent eight and a half years in solitary. He was allowed one visit with his wife in the very early days and their newborn child. And he watched a Republican Guard snatch the child from his wife’s arms and hold a gun to the child’s head while he had a five-minute meeting with his wife. His captors asked, "Do you wish to persist with your refusal?" Begging his wife for forgiveness, he said, "Look, I can’t take part in this."

Shahristani, who now works to help Iraqi refugees, told a British news conference in December last year:

"My most vivid memory is hearing the screams of very young children being tortured in the neighboring torturing rooms.

"However, I was more fortunate than many of my fellow political prisoners in the country. I did not have holes drilled into my bones, as happened in the next torture room. I did not have my limbs cut off by an electric saw. I did not have my eyes gauged out.

"Women of my family were not brought in and raped in front of me, as happened to many of my colleagues. Torturers did not dissolve my hands in acid. I was not among the hundreds of political prisoners who were taken from prison as guinea-pigs to be used for chemical and biological tests.

"They only tortured me for 22 days and nights continuously by hanging me from my hands tied at the back and using a high voltage probe on the sensitive parts of my body and beating me mercilessly. They were very careful not to leave any permanent bodily marks on me because they hope they can break my will and I will agree to go back and work on their military nuclear program.

"In a way I was lucky to spend 11 years in solitary confinement because I did not have to see what was going on in the larger prison – the country of Iraq – in which 20 million people were kept captives. I did not have to witness the ceremonies in which mothers were ordered to watch public executions of their sons and then asked to pay the price of the bullets that were used in the executions.

"I did not have to watch people’s tongues being pulled out and cut off because they dared to criticize Saddam or one of his family members. I did not see young men’s foreheads branded and their ears cut off because they were late for a few days to report to their military duties. I did not see the beautiful southern Iraqi Marshes drained and the reeds burnt and the Marsh Arabs massacred and their old ways of life destroyed. I did not see the beheading of more than 130 women, who were beheaded in public squares in Iraq, and their heads put out for public display.

"In many ways I was fortunate to have survived it all to tell the stories of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are not here to tell their stories. These atrocities have been going on for over two decades while the international community have either silently watched it, or at times even tried to cover it up.

"Saddam is not a run-of-the-mill dictator; he is exceptional. Weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s hands are dangerous to the Iraqi people and to mankind."

As McGrory’s book notes, rape was also a tool of the regime.

"The man would arrest senior figures in the administration for no reason other than to get to their wives. In one case, a woman (she told us herself — she is now living in Scotland in absolute peril) was forced into a room where Saddam was staring at a file on his knee. He didn’t look up, just beckoned her over and she had to sit on his knee like some kind of recalcitrant child; she reports Saddam said, "Your husband has been a very naughty boy." And, with that, he raped her in the room, watched over by several guards.

"When another woman came in, she was so appalled with what he was about to do to her that she scratched her own face with her fingernails and blood began to pour down her face. Saddam is a fanatically fastidious man who hates any kind of dirt and when the blood dripped onto his suit, he pushed her away. Disgusted with what she had done, he said to the guards, "Take her outside and you deal with her." And four or five Republican Guards took her outside and raped her."

McGrory, like Darwish and Timmer-man, confirms the strong links between Europe – particularly Germany – and Iraq’s WMD programme.

"They have some appalling people. There are a couple of German scientists who were taken over to Iraq who actually worked for Hitler. They were still alive, these old boys, and they felt their worth was not really recognized in Germany. They were tempted by the fast buck and went over to Iraq. One man used to play Hitler’s speeches in his room and said quite openly, "The only other leader I would work for other than Adolf is Saddam Hussein; they are two of a kind." Well, they are.

"In fact, early on, Saddam used to carry around a copy of "Mein Kampf" like it was a Bible. His father had run off and left him, before he was born, and he was brought up by an uncle — a dreadful man — and this man taught Saddam from the time he could walk and talk that the Nazis were a great power. His uncle’s philosophy was that the Jews are lower than flies. And, when Saddam came to power, he allowed his uncle to publish his appalling rantings and insisted that everyone in Iraq should receive a copy of his thoughts."

McGrory also told WorldNetDaily of the vast personal fortune compiled by Hussein while his citizens starved under UN sanctions.

"It is thought to be in the region of US$100 billion. This could be one of the richest countries in the world. It oozes oil; it has fantastic agriculture; it has everything going for it and he has just wastefully, wastefully frittered it away along with his sons and relatives. The indulgences are shocking. The truth is, they whine about sanctions, saying they are hurting people, but you go to Baghdad and you see the fastest and finest cars. Uday at one stage had 34 cars."

But perhaps the last word on the threat that Saddam Hussein posed prior to US intervention should be left to Kenneth Joseph, one of a number of antiwar demonstrators who travelled to Iraq as would-be human shields.

Joseph’s group found the experience a real eye-opener, and his group managed to film 14 hours of uncensored video footage before they wereasked to leave Iraq with the rest of the human shields.

UPI news agency reported Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, as saying the trip "had shocked me back to reality."

Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn’t start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam’s bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

Copyright 2003 onwards


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)

WAR & PEACE: ESSAY 2 INVESTIGATE: MAR 03

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A 19 year old Iraqi exile in Britain, RANIA KASHI, tells her friends to welcome the war, not protest it

Dear All, I am writing this email after a lot of deliberation about whether I have the right to use my strange and unique position (within our group) to argue the case FOR an invasion in Iraq. But in the end I have decided that I have more to lose if I keep quiet.

Firstly, my parents, my family, are from Iraq. My parents fled from Iraq some 23 years ago leaving everything and everyone behind when at that point 17 of our relatives had been "disappeared" or imprisoned for no reason whatsoever. They sought refuge in Kuwait for 4 years, but once again were forced to flee with us (my brother and I) in tow when Saddam had the Kuwaitis deport the Iraqi men back to Iraq. On the border he had these returnees shot dead.

We were lucky; we made it safely to Britain. My father was lucky - his brother was caught trying to escape and tortured. So here I am, 19 years later, never having set foot in the country of my parents.

The anti-"war" feeling prevalent amongst people I speak to seems to me totally misjudged and misplaced. I have to be honest here and say that I feel it is based partly on a lot on misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq and partly on people’s desire to seem "politically rebellious" against the big, bad Americans. And let me say, that I also agree the American government is indeed big and bad; I have no illusions about their true intentions behind an attack on Iraq.

More than you or I, the Iraqis know the ignorant and truly atrocious attitude of the American government towards most of the world’s population. Iraqis felt the effect of this when America (and the rest of the West in fact) eagerly supported and supplied Saddam when he waged his war-of-attrition against Iran causing the death of 1 million Iraqis and Iranians and the disappearance of many more - there was no anti-war movement to help them.

They felt the effect of this attitude when America and the West ignored, supplied even, Saddam’s use of biological weapons on the people of Halabja, killing 5000 people in one day, and causing the deformed births of babies in the area to this day.

Iraqis know well the untrustworthy nature of the Western governments when the coalition gave Saddam permission, a few days after the end of the Gulf War, to massacre the uprising peoples of Iraq when they had wrested control from him in most cities of Iraq.

The people of Iraq echo our discontentment with America and the West’s policy in Iraq, for they know the realities of such a policy far better than any of us shall ever know.

I want to ask those who support the anti - "war" movement (apart from pacifists - that is a totally different situation) their motives and reasoning behind such support. You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion. I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq. I must ask you to consider the following questions:

1. Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis?

2. Out of a population of 20 million, 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their country during Saddam’s reign. Are you willing to ignore the real and present danger that caused so many people to leave their homes and families?

3. Saddam rules Iraq using fear - he regularly imprisons, executes and tortures the mass population for no reason whatsoever - this may be hard to believe and you may not even appreciate the extent of such barbaric acts, but believe me you will be hard pressed to find a family in Iraq who have not had a son/father/brother killed, imprisoned, tortured and/or "disappeared" due to Saddam’s regime. What has been stopping you from taking to the streets to protest against such blatant crimes against humanity in the past?

4. Saddam gassed thousands of political prisoners in one of his campaigns to "cleanse" prisons - why are you not protesting against this barbaric act?

5. An example of the dictator’s policy you are trying to save - Saddam has made a law to give excuse to any man to rape a female relative and then murder her in the name of adultery. Do you still want to march to keep him in power?

I remember when I was around 8 I went along with my father to a demonstration against the French embassy when the French were selling Saddam weapons. I know of the numerous occasions my father and many, many others haves attended various meetings, protests and exhibitions that call for the end of Saddam’s reign. I have attended the permanent rally against Saddam that has been held every Saturday in Trafalgar Square for the past 5 years. The Iraqi people have been protesting for YEARS against the war - the war that Saddam has waged against them. Where have you been?

Why is it now that you deem it appro-priate to voice your disillusions with America’s policy in Iraq, when it is actually right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of the horrors partly described in this email?

Whatever America’s real intentions behind an attack, the reality on the ground is that many Iraqis, inside and outside Iraq support invasive action, because they are the ones who have to live with the realities of continuing as things are while people in the West wring their hands over the rights and wrongs of dropping bombs on Iraq, when in fact the US & the UK have been continuously dropping bombs on Iraq for the past 12 years.

Of course it would be ideal if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force. That’s not on offer. The Iraqi people cannot wait until such a force materialises; they have been forced to take what they’re given. That such a force does not exist - cannot exist - in today’s world is a failing of the very people who do not want America to invade Iraq, yet are willing to let thousands of Iraqis to die in order to gain the higher moral ground.

Do not continue to punish the Iraqi people because you are "unhappy" with the amount of power the world is at fault for allowing America to wield. Do not use the Iraqi people as a pawn in your game for moral superiority - one loses that right when one allows a monster like Saddam to rule for 30 years without so much as protesting against his rule.

Some will accuse me of being a pessimist for accepting that the only way to get rid of Saddam is through force. I beg to differ; I believe I have boundless optimism for the FUTURE of Iraq, where Iraqis are able to rebuild their shattered country, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, communists - all peoples of any and all backgrounds are able to live in peace and safety and without fear of persecution. I beg you to imagine such an Iraq, such a democracy in the Middle East, and ask where in that do you see pessimism? Such an Iraq is what is being envisaged and sought by many millions of Iraqis; such an Iraq is where I hope I will be able to take my children.

If you want to make your disillusions heard then do speak out, put pressure on Blair, Bush & Co to keep to their promises of restoring democracy to Iraq. Make sure they do put back in financial aid what they have taken over the years, and make sure that they don’t betray the Iraqis again. March for democracy in Iraq. If you say that we can’t trust the Americans then make sure that you are a part of ensuring they do fulfil their promises to the Iraqis.

So I conclude by asking you to consider your REASONS for supporting the anti-"war" movement, and if you are going, the anti-"war" demo. If you still feel that what I have said does not sway you from this stance, then I can do no more.

In some ways I do admire the movement because it proves what people can achieve when they come together and speak out. Unfortunately for Iraq nobody spoke out earlier.

(*I use apostrophes with "war" because in truth it will be no war, but an invasion. A war presumes relatively equal forces battling against each, with resistance on both sides. A US-led force will encounter NO resistance from the Iraqi people or the army.)...
MORE DETAILS IN PRINT EDITION

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

GLOBALISATION, GM & THE PROPHETS OF BOOM INVESTIGATE: MAR 03

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NOTE: full article in print edition

With the moratorium on GM due to lift in just a few months, disturbing new evidence is emerging from overseas about GM’s failures, but no-one seems to be listening back here...as HAMISH CARNACHAN reports:

It was a bizarre display really. Larry had the complete and undivided atten-tion of everyone in the room. In fact, he literally had the assembled journalists and high profile guests eat-ing out of the palm of his hand – the one that wasn’t attached to the cordless microphone. Perhaps it was because they’d been buttered up with crayfish tails and expensive French champagne. Perhaps it was because they felt privileged to be in his company. Regardless, Larry had wooed the usually tenacious media into a pack of slumber-happy puppy dogs. They hung on his every word – not daring to interrupt, not daring to spoil the ‘atmosphere’ with anything Larry might consider to be a remotely penetrating query.

Comfortably perched on a simple stool, beard neatly cropped, dressed in a black turtleneck top and casual slacks, he could have been any middle-aged gentleman. But Larry was seated centre stage, slightly elevated above his captive audience, with a multitude of strategically placed stage lights illuminating the Oracle like he was some divine apparition.

This was Larry Ellison, the multi-billionaire, the founder of the Oracle IT company, the owner of the eye-catching super yacht Katana, America’s Cup syndicate boss, and the fifth richest man in the world. This was the guy everyone knows simply as Larry, simply because everyone knows of him.

And hovering in his halo of light, Larry made headlines. Asked where young New Zealanders should invest for future financial success, he blatantly ignored his own industrial empire - IT was a maturing sector. According to the Oracle, biotechnology was the new growth area.

There it was – the headline: ‘Larry says biotech the way forward’. The fact that Larry offered no analysis for this proclamation didn’t really matter – coming from such a wealthy man this was a prophecy; apparently this was news.

A decade ago if you’d asked someone if they knew anything about biotechnology you probably would have been greeted with a blank expression: "Bio-what?" Today though, it is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating areas of science. It’s what has given rise to nano-technology, stem-cell technology, and other potentially "life changing" applications that we have been promised lie ahead, in the not too distant future. However, within biotechnology’s innumerable layers is perhaps the most controversial scientific ‘advancement’ of our time – genetic engineering and modification.

Just like early investigations in the field of nuclear physics, every so often science brings to light a technology staggeringly useful but at the same time breathtakingly dangerous. And just like the proponents of nuclear power promised a solution to the world’s energy demands, biotechnologists, and the companies behind their research, have been quick to voice the potential of the undertakings in their field.

New Zealand’s media has been equally as swift in reporting these endeavours as it was in pouncing on Larry’s declaration. Every day you can read and listen to reports about this brewing revolution - promises about radical new ways to deliver drugs; solving some of the world’s most pressing medical problems; relieving the food shortage crisis faced by so many impoverished nations – to name a few of the grand claims. But as was the case with the rapid development of nuclear science, some still fear the price of proceeding down the path of genetic engineering is environmental disaster.

The Government’s Royal Commission of inquiry on genetic modification (GM), which began in June 2001 and was released 12 months later, has ultimately paved the way for the "conditional" release of genetically engineered organisms in October this year.

Since the commission’s recommendation to "proceed with caution", calls to maintain the moratorium have, by and large, fallen on deaf ears. Despite increasing concerns about the technology surfacing overseas, few such findings have filtered into the public arena here. The New Zealand media have been either oblivious or deliberately indifferent to alarming reports that would appear to bode ominously considering this country’s current stance.

The Royal Commission was supposed to have conducted "the most extensive" public consultation and investigation into genetic modification of any country. But as this science has progressed so rapidly, how up to date are those findings and how well has the public been informed?

Those who oppose the release of genetically modified and engineered organisms into the environment believe there has been a distinct bias in the media. Jon Carapiet of GE Free NZ believes the country’s news organisations are not playing it straight.

"Stories are missed or hidden in business pages like the Herald reporting on the GE cheese from AgResearch’s cloned cows. It could be due to convergence of interests: companies with links to media outlets and biotech industry - our captains of industry being chums with senior editors.

"I believe the media are falling down on covering both sides and encouraging genuine debate on GM and other things too."

One of the strongest arguments for lifting the moratorium on GM in New Zealand is that the country would fall behind other nations if the technology were not embraced. Pro-GE groups have used the "knowledge wave" idiom – a phrase coined by the collective think-tank that endorses enterprise and research to increase the country’s economic prosperity - to advance their case.

Carapiet believes that far from sitting on the fence, the New Zealand Herald has pursued a staunch editorial line supporting the "knowledge wave", and it appears the message has also rubbed off on the Government. Late last year Environment Minister Marian Hobbs stated that calls to maintain the moratorium overlook "the need to preserve opportunities in the age of biotechnology".

To cynics, such claims are akin to lemmings competing to be first off the cliff - head-strong and injudi-cious at a time when caution is called for.

To date, limited research and development has been carried out in containment, but from October the Government plans to lift the moratorium on applications for the commercial release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In the latest move, the Government has unveiled proposed legislative changes to the 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, and related acts, under which the release and research of GM organisms is regulated.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) controls the release of new plants and animals, including GMOs. Under the proposed amendments ERMA will have the power to approve the conditional release of GMOs into the field on a case-by-case basis.

Although the new changes also stipulate penalties for companies that deliberately flout the law, and also terms for applications to be denied on cultural, ethical and spiritual grounds, parties opposed to the lifting of the moratorium say this is the wrong direction and New Zealand’s marketing image will suffer as a result.

GE Free New Zealand’s vision for "contained and ethical applications" of the technology is part of the "best way to pursue the ‘knowledge wave’ because it maintains the country’s clean green marketing image", according to Carapiet.

"The advantage of not introducing conditional release is that moderating controls on gene technology may help develop industry practices and innovations focussed on ethical contained uses.

"The most cost effective and practicable approach - achieving the purpose at the least cost - is prevention of contamination by approving only contained applications for GM organisms."

The Sustainability Council of New Zealand is also strongly opposed to these latest moves. It accuses the Government of rushing to clear the way for release of GMOs into the environment before it has assessed the economic impact on the country.

"New Zealand’s clean green brand is worth hundreds of millions a year and GM release directly threatens those earnings," says Sustainability Council chairman, Sir Peter Elworthy.

"There is no GM release in sight that could begin to contribute at that level of earnings in the next few years. The economic studies Government has commissioned to look at the risks to the clean green brand and the economy have yet to be reported. Government is flying blind after having explicitly committed to proceed with caution.

"Why the rush? The only prominent contender for early GM release is a disease resistant potato. When ERMA assessed such potatoes for field trials, it literally could not identify any sure benefits for New Zealand. It’s easy to see why when the US Department of Agriculture expects plantings of GM potatoes to vanish in America – because even the fast food chains don’t want them."

The reason fast food franchises refuse to accept genetically modified crops is because consumers don’t want them – there is a growing demand for traditional and organic products. This trend was no more graphically illustrated than when McDonalds, the world’s biggest fast food company, switched to organic milk in its United Kingdom restaurants in February this year. So far it will only affect carton milk but the company plans to change to organic milk for its range of ice creams and thick shakes too.

Surprisingly, recent reports from overseas that show growing consumer resistance to GM food in New Zealand’s key export markets – Europe and east-Asia – have been given little or no media coverage in this country to date. GE Free New Zealand and the Sustainability Council say these "clear market signals" fly in the face of those who suggest lifting restrictions on the release of GM organisms is the way forward to an enriched and prosperous nation.

As New Zealand moves closer to easing restrictions on the technology some European nations are moving in the other direction. Not reported here (again) was the recent news that the Swiss Chamber of Agriculture, responsible for giving farmers a voice in Swiss politics, backed a new people’s initiative for a moratorium on GMOs. If supported by the Swiss government this will effectively stop genetically modified plants, plant tissues and seeds from being imported, or put into circulation for five years.

European commentators have called the move "a clear signal of a realignment towards the consumers’ choice". According to the most recent surveys, 70% of Swiss consumers desire GM-free food.

And the British Medical Association (BMA) recently made a submission to the Scottish Parliament for a moratorium on GMOs too. It calls for all genetically modified crop trials in Scotland to be stopped immediately as a "precautionary measure to safeguard public health".

The professional medical body, which represents more than 13,500 doctors in Scotland and more than 80 percent of British doctors, states that "insufficient care" has been taken over public health and concerns are "serious enough" to justify an immediate end to trials.

The BMA goes on to say that the "most worrying" issue is the potential danger posed by GM crops in creating antibiotic resistance in humans, which has the potential to lead to new diseases.

"We believe there is a greater need for more comprehensive risk assessments which include interactions between GMOs and the long term effects on health and the environment before field trials are taken any further," it concludes.

Don’t be surprised if you didn’t read about these rev-elations in your local paper, they probably weren’t reported, suggests Carapiet - which is incredibly surprising considering the monumental step this country is about to take. Yet, even more dire warnings have gone largely unnoticed.

Alarming results from official trials of GM crops are threatening the British Government’s plans for growing them commercially. The study, the result of six years of monitoring farm-scale trials, shows, for the first time, that genes from GM crops are spreading on a large scale into conventional plantings, and even with weeds, as a result of interbreeding.

The report shows that genes from GM oil seed rape (OSR), specifically engineered to be herbicide-tolerant, contaminated conventional crops as far as 200 metres away from the trial area. The GM crop also interbred with a weed, which further highlights concerns about the prospect of inadvertently developing "super weeds".

Additionally, it was found that seed dispersal of the genetically modified crop occurred when "some combine harvesters were not cleaned after the harvesting of the GM crop, and the crop harvested subsequently flushed out the GM rape seed onto the ground causing contamination of the field".

The Independent says, "the report is so devastating to the Government’s case for GM crops that ministers sought to bury it by slipping the first information on it out on the website of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Christmas Eve, the one day in the year when no newspapers are being prepared."

On numerous occasions the British Government has stated that the results of these trials would answer any question about whether or not GM crops posed a threat to the environment.

This report, it would seem, certainly adds firepower to the opponents of lifting the moratorium in New Zealand. Especially when the report concludes: "The results from these larger trials and crops indicate that commercial scale releases of GM OSR in the future could pollinate other crops…" That one line proves what they have been saying since this science reared its head – "coexistence of GE and non-GE agriculture is impossible" for all practical purposes.

A survey carried out by Reuters at the end of January provides further proof. The poll showed that almost half of United States farmers could not comply with rules requiring more record keeping to control GE contamination. And yet New Zealand’s biotech industry, Government and government regulators believe they can guarantee compliance by New Zealand farmers and prevent cross-contamination.

Last month it was announced that two US biotechnology experts had been asked by the US Embassy to come to New Zealand to counter "misinformation" surrounding genetically modified crops. But with more international news reports detailing that the proclaimed increase in yields and profits, and reduced agrochemical use, have not materialised for farmers in the US, critics are wondering who is actually peddling the propaganda. What’s more, with these experts having scheduled lectures for MPs and local officials, those on the side of a cautionary approach query how well-informed the decision makers have been.

The Environment Minister claims that ERMA "is there to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders [and presumably their environment] and before approving any application ERMA must decide that the benefits outweigh the risks".

Carapiet says this approach is fundamentally flawed. As far as GE Free New Zealand is concerned, so far the Authority has: failed to act in response to international warnings; failed to rapidly assess new data and integrate it into a formal risk management model; and ERMA does not appear to be able to consider and accept, or reject, this information with clear reasoning and scientifically-supported data.

But perhaps the prob-lem is that the science of gene-technology is so new, and develop-ing so rapidly, that not enough is yet known to assess risks and benefits. If that’s the case, is a "precautionary approach" going to offer enough protection?

"Exactly," says Carapiet. "The insurance industry calculate risk on data, but as this is a new field it is refusing cover. Instead of doing the same, ERMA estimates the risks and then try to manage them - the risk is carried by the public purse. Who actually benefits financially is not clearly analysed.

"The national interest of our clean green image has clear value but does not get considered properly in the ERMA process. [ERMA] consistently ignore the advice of their own Maori consultants, independent scientists and others like the BMA."

Defending ERMA, the Chief Executive, Dr. Bas Walker, argues that the Authority "generally" monitors developments occurring overseas, both in terms of decisions made and the publication of research results and other articles.

"When a particular application is put forward then a more intensive review of overseas information is carried out, but will, for obvious reasons, only be directly referenced if it is relevant to the particular application."

So with evidence emerging that we may be heading down a dangerous path, how does ERMA suggest New Zealand can handle the experience any better when the moratorium is lifted in a few months’ time, and why aren’t these warnings being heeded?

"Overseas events of course give signals that we are very conscious of and will form a part of the background to future decision-making," says Dr. Walker. "It is impossible to say in advance however, what applications will be received and how they will be decided. In that sense the question is not really one that can be answered, except in the general sense of saying that the Authority will continue to be careful in making decisions that are robust and provide a high standard of risk management."

"The Authority is taking a cautious approach, and it probably is stating the obvious to say that the Authority believes it is being appropriately cautious. In deciding on the degree of caution to be exercised, an important factor is uncertainty and especially the extent to which this might lead risks to be greater than expected. This is almost always a factor.

In this sense, risk assessments cannot be expected to produce precise answers, although they need to be accurate within the bounds of uncertainty."

But, the Australian Insurance Council has issued a clear warning that "there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the exact nature of the risks arising from genetically modified food", which has unforeseen risks for the insurance industry.

"Any farmer thinking of entering into such an arrangement should ensure there is a contractual agreement in force making it clear that all liability resulting from the tests is picked up by the relevant bio-technology company," declares the industry statement.

The Age quotes the council’s executive director as saying the risks were similar to those associated with asbestos, where companies faced enormous claims 20 to 30 years later.

Exactly who would pick up the tab in New Zealand in the event that something goes wrong is not yet known and Carapiet suggests ERMA is taking a high-stakes gamble. He highlights AgResearch’s studies into GE cattle at Ruakura research centre, in Hamilton, where the animals are essentially already in the field.

"A contained lab is not a field with a fence. Again ERMA scientists said we know little about insects as vectors for GE gene spread but ERMA approved [this research] without controls to keep insects out i.e. keep experiments inside. Erma seem determined not to learn. In my view they are not following the precautionary principles despite more and more evidence of problems."

Presently, the Government’s "safeguards" to pre-vent GMOs entering the environment is legislation that stipulates "no commercial release". But some wonder what the difference is between AgResearch’s paddock of Friesian’s, with synthetic donor genes sourced from humans, mice, cattle, sheep and goats, and the cattle in the field next door.

As recently as early February, nearly 400 pigs used in bioengineering experiments entered the food supply in the US when they were sold to a livestock dealer – a direct violation of stringent US Food and Drug Administration laws that states the animals should have been destroyed.

Aside from raising concerns about so-called "containment", concerns have recently arisen about how the GE cow trials were sold to ERMA and the New Zealand public.

When the research centre gained approval to proceed with its GE cattle experiments, AgResearch released a statement detailing "plans to produce cows which express milk containing an array of therapeutic proteins, potentially of use in medical treatments which may counter a range of genetic and rare disorders".

The media jumped on the story. What a fantastic development for suffers of cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and other rare complaints. Probably for the first time, it offers some semblance of hope.

But what went largely unnoticed were the revelations that these GE cows, still being promoted to the New Zealand public as offering miracle cures, also "alter dairy products for human consumption and increase profits of cheese manufacturers," says GE Free New Zealand.

Scientists from AgResearch claim in Nature Biotechnology journal that they have discovered their experiments "enhance milk composition and milk processing efficiency…" and that the results show that "it is feasible to substantially alter a major component of milk in high producing dairy cows by a transgenic approach and thus to improve the functional properties of dairy milk."

Carapiet says it’s no coincidence that the dairy giant Fonterra supported AgResearch’s application at the ERMA hearing last September. He adds that the latest statements, reported to the world by the BBC, not only have the potential to damage New Zealand’s trade and exports by signalling a change into biotech food, but also show that the public has been misled.

"There has been a noticeable media push describing the unproven medical use of GE, which is being used by the pro-GE lobby to influence the public into accepting genetic engineering in New Zealand," says Carapiet.

"Fonterra are keen on [biotechnology]. Remember they threatened to take $150 million research budget overseas if they didn’t get their way on GM experiments. Talk about economic blackmail! To some extent the ‘cover’ story of medicines has now been blown by the announcement about the cheap cheese GE cows from AgResearch. The truth is out but do people know?"

Dr. Walker disputes that ERMA was misled though, because, he says, the benefits were always seen as being primarily scientific in character - the generation of scientific knowledge and understanding.

"Ultimate commercial uses - whether in medical use or in food production - were regarded as quite speculative at the relatively early stage of the proposed work."

Yet, while no one would want to de-prive the sufferers of rare disorders a potential cure, the facts show that for all the talk, nothing beneficial has been delivered. Some critics suggest that these groups have been "led up the garden path" to canvas public support.

"There is definitely an attempt to confuse issues of GE food and GE medicine and to use serious illnesses as a justification for it, without looking at alternatives," says Carapiet. "Also, prevention of disease rarely gets looked at. Families of the sick children grab hope and so want the experiments to go on though there are never promised outcomes, just ‘maybes’. The biotech industry has done it consistently for some years. There is now a push to say, ‘you have to accept it all’."

Dame Susan Devoy’s resignation as patron of the Cystic Fibrosis Association thrust the divisive nature of this debate into the spotlight recently. Devoy was, more-or-less, forced to quit after members became increasingly angry with her opposition to genetic engineering through her role in the Sustainability Council.

The Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand acknowledge being pro-GM and GE in medical research but it does not have a policy or position on the use of the technology in food production. While the General Manager of CFANZ, Bruce Dunstan, says he accepts that its membership is likely to be divided on the food issue, clearly it could not tolerate the Sustainability Council’s approach.

"The food chain is not the business or concern of the Association. In the case of medical field trials, the benefit or potential benefit needs to outweigh the risk or potential risk," says Dunstan.

"Since the Cystic Fibrosis gene was discovered in 1989, gene therapy has been the major hope for a cure. Nothing has happened in almost 14 years to change this. CF families do everything possible to prolong life and improve the quality of life for any family member with CF. So do health professionals dealing with CF patients, and so does our Association. Why wouldn’t we all want everything possible done to find a cure? GE/GM offers our best hope for a cure."

But when pushed on how he knew the Association wasn’t being used as a pawn in the argument, and what GE or GM had delivered to sufferers, Dunstan couldn’t provide any answers.

Even Dr. Walker acknowledges that ERMA doesn’t investigate whether or not a claim, upon which an application may be granted, is legitimate or not. According to him, the issue of following through with claims has not arisen to any "appreciable degree" because benefits have usually been scientific in character.

"However, this will very clearly become more of an issue as projects move to a more commercial stage, so that commercial or economic benefits are more significant in decision-making," he assures.

Ah…promises, promises. Would anyone wantonly invest in a venture that has promised so much but delivered so little? Sure, biotechnology industries have a great deal of potential but it appears clear that potentially there is a great deal of risk. New Zealand is certainly on the verge of its biggest decision – a choice that will either make us millions, or bankrupt us of our environment and our way of life. Are we ready to make such a choice and will it be an educated decision?

But the most worrying factor is that somehow in New Zealand, whoever is pushing this, appears to have done a very good job at burying biotechnology’s failures – and there are plenty of these. On the face of what other countries have experienced, New Zealand seems woefully ill prepared to dive headfirst into this murky business.

In the Associated Press’ (AP) most recent report on the genomic revolution it says not only have there been few medical breakthroughs – but it has cost investors billions of dollars with few returns.

Goodness only knows where Larry gets his information on biotechnology from – maybe he’s been in the country too long. But who cares – he’s Larry. And as we’ve seen with Larry, what the big guy says is, unfortunately, all too often reported and digested as fact.

Perhaps we should remember Larry’s venture into the America’s Cup market. It proved to be a rather fruitless - not to mention incredibly costly - punt. He can afford to have the occasional slip-up though. Any investment entails some calculated risk but – say critics - is treading the GE tightrope a gamble New Zealand can afford to take?


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:38 AM | Comments (0)

DOES ABORTION CAUSES BREAST CANCER? INVESTIGATE: MAR 03

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One in four New Zealand women have an abortion in their lives. One in ten will develop breast cancer. Now doctors suspect our soaring abortion rate is causing our breast cancer epidemic, as IAN WISHART reports

It was the court case that helped define the so-called permissive generation. Now, 30 years after the US Supreme Court’s controversial 1973 decision in Roe vs Wade to legalise abor-tion on demand, the abortion issue is once again set to dominate world politics and social dis-cussion, but not with the same old arguments. The crunch is on its way as a result of ‘conver-gence’ – the coming together of a range of separate threads in the issue to form what some regard as strong-enough evidence to once again see abortion outlawed in the United States, and placed under serious pressure in countries like New Zealand and Britain.

Whether that’s a move forward to enlightenment, or backwards to repression, depends on your sociopolitical perspective, but both sides are once again preparing for a bitter fight where the winner takes all.

Among the new ‘threads’ up for examination is a mountain of growing scientific and medical evidence indicating abortions may be the cause of the West’s massive breast cancer epidemic. New Zealand has, per capita, one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world. Ironically, we’re also a world leader on abortions as well.

But the evidence of a link goes much further than similarities in the ratio of breast cancer in the community to abortions performed. Over the past few decades, nearly three dozen scientific studies have been carried out on women who’ve had abortions. But it’s only recently that medical experts have gone back over the studies and looked for common themes. What they found astounded them.

Of the 33 major studies on the effects of abortion, 27 have shown, on re-examination, strong evidence that women who’ve had abortions are up to 50% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who haven’t.

A study with rats echoed the massively increased risk of breast cancer.

The reason is actually quite simple: early in pregnancy, during the first trimester, hormones stimulate breast development in preparation for milk production. That development occurs in two phases, both of which have to complete or the woman runs a risk of breast cancer. In the first phase, the hormone estrogen makes breast cells multiply rapidly. This rapid increase in multiplying breast cells continues until about the 32nd week. At that point, in a normal pregnancy, fresh chemical messengers instruct the breast cells to convert from multiplying cells to milk production cells. Once a ‘multiplying’ cell has been converted to a ‘milk production’ cell, it doesn’t ever switch back. Its ability to multiply is forever turned off.

In computer terms, it is the breast equivalent of the infamous Microsoft Windows "blue screen of death", where the programme fails to shut down properly and sends the entire machine into a tailspin because it never got to finish its tasks.

This ‘switch-off’ is critical: only breast cells still capable of multiplying can turn into cancerous cells later in life. Milk producing cells cannot. And the problem for the 17,000 New Zealand women getting abortions every year is that termination of pregnancy interferes in this crucial process. When a baby is aborted, the woman’s breasts never get sent the chemical message to switch off the multiplication. They’re left with breasts that can literally become cancer timebombs.

After a normal full-term pregnancy, on the other hand, a woman actually has fewer multiplying cells in her breasts than she did before she even became pregnant. Pregnancy, and milk production, actually reduces the risk of breast cancer substantially.

One in ten New Zealand women will develop breast cancer in their lives, according to Breast Cancer Foundation figures, and roughly a quarter of those will die from it. With almost 700 deaths a year, and 2,300 new cases diagnosed each year, breast cancer is a major problem and projected to worsen. By contrast, cervical cancer kills only around 80 New Zealand women a year. Ironically, sexual politics surrounds the cervical cancer issue as well though, with few women being informed that more than 90% of cervical cancers are caused by sexually transmitted genital wart infections and are therefore "avoidable".

But back to breast can-cer: roughly one in four women will have an abortion during their lives, and one in ten women will go on to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer rates have risen in direct correlation to the rising tide of abortions.

While the data showing breast cancer may be a direct result of abortion continues to mount, there appears to be no reference to the issue on the Breast Cancer Foundation’s figures. The question is, why not?

Perhaps because the New Zealand Cancer Society claims there is no link. The Cancer Society makes a big push every year for public donations through its "Daffodil Day" street appeals, and funding from various organisations. But despite seeking public money, it is refusing to warn women that there may be a link between abortion and breast cancer. Society policy advisor Betty Marshall prepared a summary of facts on the issue for the Cancer Society’s staff, and that summary states "there is currently no conclusive link between induced abortion and increased risk of breast cancer."

Marshall quotes a World Health Organisation factsheet making similar claims, and the Cancer Society in New Zealand confidently tells inquirers not to worry, there is no link.

But in the United States the National Cancer Institute has been in the spotlight for making the same claims, and getting punished for it. The NCI stated on its website at one point: "The scientific rationale for an association between abortion and breast cancer is based on limited experimental data in rats and is not consistent with human data."

But of course, the human data is extensive, and the rat study is merely icing on the cake.

As a result of being caught out misleading the public and the threat of a Congressional investigation into the deception, the National Cancer Institute withdrew the false denials of the cancer/abortion link from its website.

But cancer institutes around the world, and abortion providers, are still trying to minimise the scientific findings, by publishing the findings of one Danish study that did not discover a link.

As they say, one swallow does not a summer make, and the remaining studies show comprehensive evidence that abortion can cause breast cancer. So much evidence, that some critics are openly suggesting that the cover-up by cancer institutes and abortion providers is equivalent to the "Big Tobacco" cover-ups exposed by movies like The Insider.

Indeed, while the first study to show a link between smoking and lung cancer was published in 1929, the National Cancer Institute didn’t issue its first warning about the tobacco/cancer link until 1957. It may take time for the cancer establishment to join the dots, but researchers are confident they eventually will.

Nor does the New Zealand Cancer Society’s "no link" position stack up in the wake of the very latest study. Only a month ago, in a major US obstetrics journal, Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, the University of Carolina’s John Thorp acknowledges the breast cancer/abortion evidence is overwhelming and recommends that it is time to inform the public about the link.

"We think, now, that clinicians are obliged to inform pregnant women that a decision to abort her first pregnancy may almost double her lifetime risk of breast cancer.

"A young woman with an unintended pregnancy clearly sacrifices the protective effect of a term delivery should she decide to abort and delay child-bearing," warns Thorp. His study was peer reviewed by abortion specialists who agree with his findings.

Thorp also found, as have others, that women undergoing abortions are more likely to suffer increased risk of future premature births – a cause of cerebral palsy – placenta previa, mood disorders and suicide.

Nor is Thorp a wet-behind-the-ears researcher. His qualifications list includes being the "Mcallister Distinguished Professor" of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US. Thorp is so concerned about the link between abortion and cancer that he warns his medical colleagues they could be opening themselves up to lawsuits if they fail to inform women seeking abortions about the dangers.

"Failure to provide this information is a direct threat to maternal autonomy, diminishing a woman’s ability to give informed consent."

Womens’ groups in the US are delighted that the medical profession is finally starting to break its silence.

"We are pleased," says Karen Malec, the president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, "that after nearly a half century, doctors are finally being encouraged to inform women about the existence of ongoing research exploring an independent link between abortion and breast cancer.

"However, women also have the right to know that there is overwhelming biological and epidemiological evidence supporting an independent relationship between abortion and the disease. Clearly it is beneficial to women when their doctors are pro-information.

"If physicians inform their patients about the delayed first term pregnancy effect associated with abortion, then perhaps they can help turn around the soaring rates of breast cancer."

Malec’s Coalition has posted many of the studies online on its website, http://abortionbreastcancer.com, to help stimulate informed discussion and consent.

According to another researcher, Chris Kahlenborn MD, the average increased risk of 50% for breast cancer if a woman has an abortion can get much higher once age of the mother and the fetus is taken into account.

If you’re under 18, he warns, your risk of developing breast cancer rises by 150%. If you’re under 18 and the fetus is more than nine weeks old when it is aborted, your chances of developing breast cancer later in life rise by a massive 800 percent.

But why, if the risks are so high, haven’t the dangers of abortion to mothers in terms of cancer been shouted from the rooftops like the smoking/lung cancer link?

"It is more than a media bias, it’s a total media blackout – especially the medical media," Dr Kahlenborn told US journalists last year. "But that’s no surprise, because the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are officially pro-abortion and pro-contraception...so it’s no surprise that you don’t hear from them."

New Zealand seems to have a similar problem. One of the leading researchers on the link between abortion and breast cancer, Dr Joel Brind, was invited to New Zealand for a public lecture on his findings. According to the newspaper Pro-Life Times, details of Brind’s research and his meeting schedule were mailed to Dr Pippa MacKay, who’d just been appointed chairwoman of the New Zealand Medical Association. MacKay is also associated with and performs some of the eight abortions a day (1,964 a year) carried out at the Lyndhurst Abortion Clinic in Christchurch, the city where Brind was to speak.

When meeting organisers followed up their letter with a phonecall to ask whether MacKay would be interested in attending the lecture, MacKay allegedly answered "I am very aware of it. I have a prior engagement and I am not interested."

What about a private meeting with Dr Brind?

MacKay’s response was equally terse: "As I pointed out, I’m not interested. I don’t want to talk with him."

MacKay’s attitude came into even sharper focus recently, when news broke on the front pages of several New Zealand daily papers that "Growing numbers of doctors and nurses are refusing to perform abortions on ethical grounds."

The Dominion Post quoted the Abortion Supervisory Committee and Ministry of Health as describing the problem as "extremely sensitive", and the Ministry suggested medical students might have to undergo "increased abortion education" so as to overcome their moral objections to terminating babies.

The Christchurch Press ran this story:

Some pregnant Christchurch women wanting terminations are being "sabotaged" by their GPs, says Ilam doctor Pippa MacKay. Dr MacKay, who performs abortions at Lyndhurst, said some women were turning up for a termination without having an examination or blood test. Some GPs were failing to book their patients in for abortions, while others would not treat them or tell them where to go for help.

"Some GPs say they will arrange things but don’t, and women come in at 12 to 13 weeks which is beyond time (for a first trimester abortion). Some GPs deliberately delay them.

"Women are making a decision which is obviously difficult and GPs are being destructive. If GPs are uncomfortable they have an ethical obligation to tell patients where they can get the service," Dr MacKay said.

She said she suspected the increase in foreign doctors was compounding the problem.

"We get a lot of doctors who are not from Western countries. They are Arabic or Egyptian where they may not approve of abortion. But this is New Zealand and the law is what it is. Women are entitled to have an abortion."

MacKay, of course, draws a large chunk of her income from carrying out taxpayer-funded abortion surgery, which raises an interesting irony: having just accused anti-abortion doctors of "sabotaging" the process by not referring women, can consultants and surgeons who are paid to perform abortions be expected to offer truly objective advice to women that MacKay herself admits are in a "difficult" situation?

On the presumption that turkeys don’t vote for an early Christmas, are those who make a living from the abortion industry likely to be interested in, or pass on to patients, the kind of research that shows abortions may cause an 800% increased risk of breast cancer?

When Investigate caught up with Pippa Mackay and told her we wanted to ask some questions about abortion and breast cancer, her initial response was pungent: "Oh, God!"

Asked about the findings of the Thorp study in January of a 50% increase in the likelihood of breast cancer following abortion, Mackay was initially dismissive.

"Look, I’m sure if that were really true, there’d be much more made of it and it wouldn’t be being done in a fringe way."

"Are you suggesting the Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey journal is a fringe publication?"

Pause... "Ah, no, not at all. Look, I haven’t read the Thorp study, I don’t really want to comment. I specialise in abortions, not cancer."

"Well, Thorp says the link is strong enough that all women seeking abortion should be warned in advance of a possible doubling in their risk of breast cancer, as part of informed consent procedures. As an abortion consultant, would you be happy to give that warning?"

"Um...if there...No, I don’t think I want to comment on this. I’m sick of being harrassed by anti-abortion types every time I make some sort of public comment. I don’t want to talk about it."

But MacKay’s position looks increasingly difficult to maintain in the light of the growing furore in the US. A New Jersey-based breast surgeon, Angela Lanfranchi, told New Zealand and US audiences last month of her own discovery of the link between teenage abortions and breast cancer.

"When I first heard about it," she told America’s Whistleblower magazine, I thought it was bunk. Then I changed the intake form in my office and asked [breast cancer] patients for their complete reproductive histories. I found a third of my 30 year olds having had abortions, and no history of breast cancer in the family.

"Over the past three or four years, I have spoken with many authorities and people in a position to be well informed. Some have been straightforward and said they know it is a risk factor but felt it was ‘too political’ to speak about.

"Others have been evasive...Some have been openly hostile...some initially hostile doctors debated it with me and have changed their minds. Some pro-choice doctors have come to agree it is true and do tell their patients about the risk. Some doctors who were initially skeptical have started obtaining a complete reproductive history on their patients and found, as I did, that cases of breast cancer in young women are associated with an abortion history.

"Women have a right to know. It’s wrong to keep this from them," says Lanfranchi.

But as we said at the start of this article, it’s not just the latest scientific evidence casting doubt on the safety of abortion, there are some other major developments also thrusting the issue into the headlines internationally.

While feminist groups around the world celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Roe vs Wade in January, notably absent from those celebrations were two key players. Jane Roe, the alias used by the young woman whose fight to have an abortion went all the way to victory in the US Supreme Court, has now become one of abortion’s most ardent opponents.

Roe, real name Norma McCorvey, originally said she needed an abortion because she’d been raped. She later revealed, after the case, that she’d lied. She wasn’t raped, and in fact placed the unwanted child out for adoption. In her 1994 autobiography, McCorvey told of a past that included dysfunctional parents, reform school, petty crime, alcoholism, an abusive husband, attempted suicide and lesbianism.

After winning her case McCorvey – in what some might say was a Providential intervention – ended up working at an abortion clinic. She is still haunted by images of her work. "Dead children in glass jars and freezer bags," is how she described one Dallas clinic.

And here’s another fateful ‘coincidence’: Jane Roe’s lawyer Sarah Weddington, the attorney who fought so hard for the right for women to have abortions, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It turns out Weddington had an abortion at the age of 21.

Weddington, however, insists Roe vs Wade was a victory for women’s rights around the world, despite the fact that her former client now believes it was the worst thing she ever did.

Weddington told Associated Press in January that the 30th anniversary of the case that built her career would be a "melancholy" one, largely because Republican domination of both Congress and Senate, and President Bush’s opportunity to appoint more conservative Supreme Court judges, meant Roe vs Wade could soon be overturned and abortion clinics closed down across America.

Likewise, Norma McCorvey sees ev-ery anniversary as a reminder of the mounting human death toll. "It’s 30 years of legalised abortion. It’s the 30th year of knowing that 3,500 children a day are going to be killed by abortion."

For what it’s worth, around 64 babies are killed every weekday throughout New Zealand, which on a per capita basis would equate to a US abortion rate of around 6,000 a day. Little wonder New Zealand is a world leader in the field.

Not surprisingly, it is "damned lies and statistics" that helped sell the "pro-choice" message to the US public back in the early 1970s. The co-founder of one of America’s largest pro-abortion pressure groups, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, recently confirmed to WorldNetDaily.com’s Whistleblower magazine that the public relations push to convince the people was built on fabricated survey results.

"We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal, enlightened, sophisticated one," says Bernard Nathanson, MD. "Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls.

"We announced to the media that we had taken polls, and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our programme of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the US. The actual figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was one million.

"Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000.

"These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law."

Dr Nathanson says another lie sold to a gullible public was that opening up abortion on demand would not create a huge upsurge in abortions, it would simply allow the abortions currently being performed illegally to be performed legitimately and safely.

"In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the US, and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1,500% since legalisation."

Nathanson, like MacKay, also made money from the newly-legalised abortion industry, setting up his own clinic in New York.

"At the end of the two years that I was the director, we had done 60,000 abortions. I myself, with my own hands, have done 5,000 abortions. I have supervised another 10,000 that residents have done under my direction. So I have 75,000 abortions in my life. Those are pretty good credentials to speak on the subject of abortion," he told Whistleblower.

Nathanson, like many others in the industry, now regards his actions as murder.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

THE CIVIL UNIONS BILL INVESTIGATE: April 04

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The Civil Union Bill is be-ing promoted as reasonable legislation, to rectify civil rules and regulations that allegedly discriminate against homosexuals and lesbians. Many New Zealanders, including senior politicians from other parties, are supportive, believing that the issue is about recognizing modern diversity and civil rights.
They would be probably unaware that overseas, particularly in Australia and America, certain gay activists and academics are telling gay communities that the real object is a social revolution to destroy the traditional family.

New social structures of marriage will enable sexual expression based on individuals, couples and groups. The latter is called "polyamory".

What’s polyamory? Well, that’s what this story is all about…as BERNARD MORAN reports:

How things change. Not too long ago, the idea of same-sex marriage seemed ridiculous. Now its proponents are on a roll across the western world, and it’s their adversaries, the "homophobic" defenders of traditional marriage, who are struggling to hold back the tide.

In retrospect, human rights legislation provided the essential platform for all that was to come. An end run can be taken around the mass of public disapproval, centuries of history and world-wide practice, through a successful appeal on the grounds of discrimination.

Especially when human rights legislation is amended by Parliament to ban discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

In April 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin arrived aboard a sealed train at Petrograd station. The epitome of the professional revolutionary, Lenin came armed with a political agenda Marxist Leninism, the will to carry it out, and a strategy to prevail over opposition.

Christchurch MP, Tim Barnett, the architect of the Civil Union Bill and legalised prostitution, arrived in New Zealand in 1991, armed with an agenda and strategy to advance gay rights.

His website profile (found on the web at www.timbarnett.org.nz) and interview in the gay paper Express (10th May, 2001), reveals a consummate, professional social revolutionary.

In his early 20s, Tim Barnett, involved with the British Labour party, worked as a voluntary sector manager, specializing in strategic and project development, marketing and media. From 1982-1989, he was co-organiser and then chairman of the National Association of Volunteer Bureaux.

His key appointment was as the founding Executive Director of the Stonewall (Lobby) Group 1989-1991.

To appreciate the expertise that Tim Barnett brings to the promotion of his Civil Union Bill, we need to take a closer look at what Stonewall represents. But first, here is how Stonewall got its name.

Robert Knight in his 1998 book, The Age of Consent: The Rise of Relativism and the corruption of Popular Culture (Spence Publishing Co, Dallas), writes on page 47:

"In 1969, the Stonewall rebellion signalled the beginning of the official Gay Liberation Movement. A New York bar catering to drag queens and ‘chicken hawks’ (homosexual men who seek underage male partners), the Stonewall Inn was also a haven for drug dealing. When the police began to question some of the patrons on June 27th, 1969, the bar patrons – many of them drag queens – responded by rioting.

"It was the first ‘mass resistance’ against the establishment by homosexuals, and it serves today as their sacred totem, with gay pride parades and numerous rites, held annually on the Stonewall anniversary. Few gay activists, most of whom deny that paedophilia plays any part in the homosexual ‘community’, acknowledge that Stonewall was known as a meeting place for paedophiles."

Investigate readers with PCs can key in www.stonewall.org.uk and see for themselves, how professional and effective Stonewall is in Britain.

Under a "Brief Overview of Stonewall", we read: "Stonewall was founded in 1989 by women and men who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act (more on that later). Their aim was to create a professional lobbying group that would prevent such attacks on lesbians, gay men and bisexuals ever occurring again – and to put the case for equality on the mainstream political agenda, by winning support within all political parties."

"Our lobbying work remains important today, but our activities have expanded considerably. We promote new research (for example on discrimination in the work place, homophobic violence and sex education) and have taken test legal cases that graphically challenge inequality (e.g. on the age of consent and lesbians and gays in the armed forces). We have also successfully mobilized thousands of individuals around the country to campaign on our behalf, most notably in the run up to the votes on the age of consent and Section 28 in Parliament."

Stonewall initiates policy development:

· "carrying out research, publishing briefings and working with government, trade unions, business, NGOs and policy institutions.."

· "Cultural and attitudinal change: challenging the underlying cultural and attitudinal values that allow discrimination to flourish. Changing cultures and attitudes to positively value diversity."

· "Lobbying for legal change: campaigning to ensure legislation is non-discriminatory and that the diversity and value of LGB (gay, lesbian and bi-sexual) life is appropriately recognized in our own laws."

Tim Barnett played a leading role in the bitter fight to repeal Section 28 of the 1982 British Education Act. A detailed account of the struggle was written by Stephen Green, head of the Conservative Party Family Association, in his book The Sexual Dead End (Broad View Books, London, 1992).

Section 28 forbade the promotion of homosexuality during sex education classes in United Kingdom schools.

Green describes (p 348-349) how "The Stonewall Group published a ‘Homosexuality Equality Bill’ based on a manifesto agreed by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the National Council for Civil Liberties. The central aim was the overturning of the idea that lesbian and gay sexuality is unlawful or immoral.

Draft legislation prepared for the Labour Party began by declaring: "That homosexual sex acts, whether between women or between men, are in no way inferior from the standpoint of public morality, or policy, or the public interest, to heterosexual sex acts."

"All three manifestos, the Labour, the Liberal Democrat and the Stonewall, believe that children should be taught in the classroom that homosexuality is equally as valid as heterosexuality."

The manifestos included a new offence of "incitement to hatred (or violence) on the grounds of sexual orientation." This measure would proscribe the ability of Christian churches and other religious faiths, to make public statements, or publicly oppose aspects of the homosexual agenda. More on this later.

Stonewall lobbied hard for the legal age for consent to be lowered to 16. Stephen Green commented that prosecutions would be unlikely for sex with 15 and 14 year-old boys, on the grounds that they would be considered borderline cases, because of the difficulty in proving that the accused knew the boys were underage.

Green writes that although Stonewall was then unsuccessful in repealing Section 28, its ability in public relations and marketing "Proud to be Gay", "transferred any stigma from homosexuals to the bigoted opposition. Homosexuals were no longer sick or perverted. What was sick, was the homophobic opposition to homosexuality."

Commenting on the homosexual agenda, Green wrote: "The homosexual movement simply measures all things, by the standard of whether or not, they promote homosexuality for the homosexual."

In 1991, Tim Barnett and his partner, the Very Reverend Jonathon Kirkpatrick arrived in New Zealand. The Reverend Kirkpatrick had been appointed Dean of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Dunedin.

By 1991, Barnett was working for the AIDS Foundation in Christchurch, then coordinator for the Christchurch Community Law Centre and enjoying rapid progress within the Labour Party: chair of Christchurch Central Electoral Committee, then regional representative on the NZ Council of the Party.

Selected as the Labour candidate for Christchurch Central in August 1995, he became an MP in October 1996. Tim Barnett was soon in positions of power consistent with his Stonewall experience and agenda: Labour Spokesperson on Human Rights, Private Secretary to the Ministry of Justice on human rights issues, Chair of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

For their 10th May, 2001 issue, the gay newspaper Express invited Tim Barnett to outline his objectives for the future. Here are his key points:

· "We will not have a queer-friendly government forever. I believe there is a real urgency to completing the equal-rights agenda, so that moving backwards becomes totally unthinkable and untenable, so that over ensuing generations, attitudes can finally come right."

· "We know much more than most about what Government could do and is doing, and we have the luxury of being full-time stirrers."

· "As queer politicians, our mission is to deliver equal rights under the law, and ensure that the Government machine is working for our community."

Under "unfinished business", Mr Barnett listed his agenda:

· "Recognition of our relationships, offering the same rights that marriage confers (I am currently working on a civil union model).

· "Access to marriage as an additional option to civil union."

· "Comprehensive action to make all our school environments safe for young people coming out as queer. That should include access to counselling, protection from discrimination by staff, or fellow students – and inclusion of relevant studies in the curriculum."

· "Recognition in law of the existence and absolute unacceptability of homophobia (and other forms of hate), as a motivating factor in criminal acts."

Prime Minister Helen Clark told the Express newspaper (21 June, 2001) that although she had not seen a draft of the bill, "I did encourage Tim to take up the issue."

Given the Prime Ministerial green light, Tim Barnett established an advisory group of mainly gay people to develop a concept that would allow homosexual partnerships to be officially registered, without altering the status of marriage.

The group’s proposal applies to heterosexual and gay couples, who would be able to have their relationship registered and acquire similar rights to married couples.

Tim Barnett’s case is cogently argued in a comprehensive backgrounder on his website (www.timbarnett.org.nz). He approaches the issue from a human rights angle:

"In New Zealand, same-sex couples cannot legally get married, or access the rights that come with marriage. When a couple get married, they automatically receive over 100 different statutory entitlements. Because same-sex couples cannot get married, they cannot access these entitlements. This is discrimination."

"Generally, New Zealand’s laws do not recognize the existence of same-sex couples. Same-sex partners are not ‘next of kin’ or ‘family’, according to most of our laws. This can have a devastating impact on people’s lives."

"There are countless stories from all around New Zealand, of people experiencing horrific situations and hardship because of the current relationship laws and their effects. For example, there are many distressing stories of people not being able to see their partner in hospital, because they are not considered to be ‘family’. Because of these effects, it is important that New Zealand’s laws are changed, so that they do recognize the existence of same-sex couples."

"Because same-sex couples cannot legally get married, they do not have the choice of publicly expressing their commitment. The legal effect of this is that same-sex couples are considered ‘legal strangers’, even if they have lived together for twenty or more years. The social effect is that bisexual, lesbian and gay people are treated like second-class citizens, and their relationships are denied the dignity of being socially recognized. This has negative effects upon individuals’ health, self-esteem and relationship stability."

Tim Barnett explains that civil unions will be another form of relationship recognition that exists alongside marriage. "But unlike marriage, civil unions will be available for all couples. Civil unions won’t be based on religion, or other traditional ideas about ‘couples’."

"Civil unions will be a modern relationship model for the 21st century, with a secular (non-religious) basis. What they will mean socially will depend on us – society. We have the challenge of being pioneers and developing social meanings and status around ‘civil unions’."

Married couples have over a hundred statutory entitlements, conferring legal benefits, protections and obligations. De facto couples have over thirty, while same-sex couples have only nine.

According to Tim Barnett, the Government’s approach is to change each law on a case-by-case basis, as it updates old laws. It is "tagging on" relationship recognition to law reform issues like guardianship, adoption and property division. "But this is an unrealistic, inefficient and messy way to give same-sex couples equal rights. There are many minor or trivial laws that they won’t bother to amend just to include same-sex couples."

"What we propose in the Civil Union Bill is to change all the statute books in one go, by saying that every time the words ‘spouse’, ‘wife’, ‘husband’, or ‘de facto couple’ appear, they should be read to include same-sex couples. This will make sure that all the laws comply with the Bill of Rights Act, and the Government isn’t in breach of our human rights in terms of equal treatment. This is an efficient one-step law change that means we won’t have to argue for same-sex inclusion, every time a law is debated in Parliament."

On adoption, Tim Barnett argues that there is no objective data to suggest that same-sex parents are any better or worse than different-sex parents. Most recent, reliable studies have stated that same-sex parents are just as likely to be good parents as different-sex couples are. Under the Bill of Rights Act, the Government would need to demonstrate, using objective data or reasons, how it could justify excluding same-sex couples from adopting. We don’t think that they could."

The problem with Tim Barnett’s "recent, reliable studies", is that most have been carried out by same-sex people and tend to be self-serving. He overlooks the wealth of evidence indicating that fathers and mothers play vital roles in rearing children. Adopted children deserve to have the experience of both a father and a mother.

Example: an in-depth research project carried out in the 1990s, on teenagers reared by lesbian women. They confided to the researchers that they loved their mothers and their partners, but were profoundly disturbed and distressed by their sexual activities. Out of loyalty to their "parents", the children internalized their distress and never spoke of it.

How will couples register their civil union? The only legal requirement will be to sign a register at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and be issued with a certificate.

If couples separate for more than two years, they will be able to dissolve their civil union. The same "divorce rules" will apply as for marriage, meaning that there will be a two-year stand down between separation and dissolution. The Property Relationship Act of 2001, will cover how property is divided between civil union couples, if they separate or one dies.

David Benson-Pope, the new Associate Minister of Justice will introduce the two pieces of legislation into the House. The Civil Unions Bill is modeled on the Marriage Act, but substitutes the words "civil unions" for marriage and covers homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships.

The second, the Legal Recognition of Relationships Bill, will seek to amend 1,000 provisions in some 120 different pieces of legislation. The terms "marriage", "husband" and "wife", will disappear from the statute books and ensure that civil unions will have identical benefits to those who are married.

The stated purpose is to ensure that discrimination based on marital status is eliminated in compliance with the Human Rights Act. A similar right is contained in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.

The question remains that once the areas of discrimination have been eliminated, what happens to the idea of marriage itself.

Maggie Gallagher is the editor of MarriageDebate com and the co-author of "The Case for Marriage". In her article "What Marriage is For", published in The Weekly Standard (4th August, 2003), she writes:

"The problem with endorsing gay marriage is not that it would allow a handful of people to choose alternative family forms, but that it would require society at large to gut marriage of its central presumption about family, in order to accommodate a few adults’ desires."

"The debate over same-sex marriage then, is not some sideline discussion. It is the marriage debate. Either we win – or lose the central meaning of marriage. Same-sex marriage would enshrine in law a public judgment that the desire of adults for families of choice, outweighs the need of children for mothers and fathers. It would give sanction and approval to the creation of motherless or fatherless family as a deliberately chosen ‘good’. It would mean that the law was neutral as to whether children had mothers and fathers. Motherless and fatherless families would be deemed just fine."

"Redefining marriage so that it suits gays and lesbians, requires fundamentally changing our legal, public, and social conception of what marriage is, in ways that threaten its core public purpose."

What lies beyond civil unions and same-sex marriage?

In America, some gay-rights advocates are predicting that civil unions and same-sex marriage, have the scope to completely redefine marriage and its meaning.

For example, Patti Ettelbrick, former leader of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund says: "Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so. Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex and sexuality, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society."

Michelangelo Signorile, homosexual activist and writer argues that the goal of homosexuality is to: "fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, to demand the right to marry, not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes, but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution. The most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake, is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely."

Gay commentator Andrew Sullivan, has said that the "openness" in many gay relationships would in reality fortify heterosexual marriages by allowing straight couples to see that adultery doesn’t necessarily destroy a marriage. Once gay "marriage" is allowed, the faithful nature of traditional unions will be transformed for the better.

Which brings us to the concept of polyamory. Once civil unions and marriage between same-sex couples are legalized, it could be argued that limiting the relationship to two people is discriminatory. Since the procreation and rearing of children by a mother and father, is no longer recognized by the state as a preferred relationship, or for the greater good of society, there is no reason apart from convention to limit the union to two people.

Stanley Kurtz, writing in the Weekly Standard (August 4th, 2003) "Beyond Gay Marriage: the road to polyamory", predicts that marriage will be transformed into a variety of relationship contracts, linking two, three, or more individuals, in every conceivable combination of male and female. Polyamory is about group marriage, and already in the United States, a network of grass-roots organizations advocating legal recognition, is being supported by a powerful faction of family law specialists.

"Influential legal bodies in both the United States and Canada, have presented radical programs of marital reform. Some of these proposals go so far as to suggest the abolition of marriage."

Kurtz says that the modern polyamory movement took off in the mid-nineties, partly because of the growth of the Internet, but also in parallel and inspired by the rising gay marriage movement.

"Unlike classic polygamy, which features one man and several women, polyamory comprises a bewildering variety of sexual combinations. There are triads of one women and two men, heterosexual group marriages, groups in which all members are bisexual, lesbian groups and so forth. (For details, see Deborah Anapol’s "Polyamory: the New Love Without Limits", or look up the word polyamory on Google.)"

The flagship magazine of the polyamory-rights movement is Loving More, which advocates using the gay rights movement as a model.

However, as Kurtz reveals, there is a fundamental problem that just doesn’t seem to go away, and it’s called "jealousy". Apparently, polyamory websites are filled with chatter about jealousy. Inevitably, group marriages based on modern principles of companionate love, without religious rules and restraints, are unstable and children will pay the price.

"Once monogamy is defined out of marriage, it will be next to impossible to educate a new generation in what it takes to keep companionate marriage intact. State-sanctioned polyamory would spell the effective end of marriage. And that is what polyamory"s new and surprisingly influential defenders are aiming for."

"State-sanctioned polyamory is now the cutting-edge issue among scholars of family law. Promoting polyamory is the ideal way to "radically reorder society’s view of the family" says Paula Ettelbrick, policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force."

Quoting from a series of law professors, Kurtz notes they believe that legal and social hostility to polygamy and polyamory are decreasing, and that the increased openness of homosexual partnerships is slowly collapsing the taboo against polygamy and polyamory.

Part of the agenda is to render the distinction between traditional marriage and polyamory as "morally neutral".

Canada is further down the track than the USA. In 1997, the Canadian Parliament established the Law Commission of Canada to serve Parliament and the Justice Ministry, as an advisory body on legal reform. In December 2001, the Commission submitted a report entitled "Beyond Conjugality", which hinted at recommending the abolition of marriage. The authors admitted that the Canadian public may not be yet ready for such a step.

Tim Barnett is on record in Express magazine (10th May, 2001) as seeking "recognition in law of the existence and absolute unacceptability of homophobia (and other forms of hate) as a motivating factor in some criminal acts." His passion paid off when the Government adopted ‘hate crime’ provisions into law two years ago.

Canada provides a salutary lesson on what this can lead to when "sexual orientation" becomes part of the Human Rights Act. In the November, 2003 issue of Catholic World Report, there is a feature by John-Henry Westen entitled: "Religious Persecution Next? A new ‘hate crime law’ bars Christians from speaking out against homosexuality."

The Catholic Bishops of Canada were so alarmed by the implications that they issued a public statement: "What troubles us is the possibility that someone who finds the expression of the Catholic Church on sexual conduct too blunt, or too harsh, will invoke the Criminal Code to silence the teaching."

In Ottawa, a leading Catholic priest told a press conference: "Canadians are now seeing their precious country rushing into an era of ruthless religious persecution. They are witnessing their religious rights eroding before their eyes, and see Bill C-250 as the launch pad for a full attack on Canadian religious belief and institutions."

Other priests announced they were willing to go to jail, to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Toronto’s Cardinal Ambrozic warned that with the passing of C-250: "religion will soon need to be protected from the state. You risk your life for an absolute. There are things greater than us, for which we must be ready to die."

Sylvia MackEachern, editor of the Catholic publication the Orator, in a radio interview condemned the new AIDS curriculum intended for Catholic schools. She found herself under investigation by the Ottawa-Carleton Police Hate Crime Unit, and was let off with a caution.

WorldNetDaily carried a report on November 13th, 2003, about the Anglican Bishop of Chester, the Rt.Rev. Peter Forster, who was investigated by the Cheshire police for committing a "hate crime". In an interview with the Chester Chronicle, the Bishop said:

"Some people who are primarily homosexual can re-orientate themselves. I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a specialist on the subject. That is in the area of psychiatric health."

The Times reported the Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy, issued a public rebuke to the Bishop: "All public leaders in Cheshire need to give clear leadership on the issue of diversity."

After consulting with the Crown Prosecution Service, Cheshire police decided that the Bishop hadn’t committed a crime, according to a strict interpretation of the current law.

But this incident does serve as a warning to New Zealand church leaders who might criticize school sex education programmes that treat homosexual activity as equally valid and desirable as heterosexuality.

Prime Minister Helen Clark was interviewed at length by Express (11th February, 2004) and responded to this question:

Is the government worried about the level of homophobia shown by groups of the religious right like the Maxim Institute in New Zealand?

"We legislated against hate crimes. You just have to keep working over a long period of time on several values in society that does not condone that sort of attitude. I understand that over a long period of time, there has been a fundamentalist programme that runs on TV2 on a Sunday morning which is absolutely disgraceful. It is a very small minority point of view – and I think through continuing to set the tone of tolerance, acceptance and diversity, you just have to further marginalize such people. Hopefully one day, nobody will think that way."

Dr Michael Bassett, Minister of Health in the Lange Government and a historian, was interviewed by Leighton Smith on 24th February, 2004. He made this comment about Helen Clark and her inner circle:

"Their formative thinking was in the 1970s, and they have never learnt anything since. They impose their views on the bureaucrats, and they are in politics to force their 1970s views on the populace – and you’d better believe it."

Pope John Paul 11, once observed: "When absolute moral values are abandoned, then democracy becomes a matter of power and will."

But there is a potential solution to the Civil Union standoff: "Next-of-Kin" status.

In the United States, David Reardon of the Elliot Institute, has produced a concept that addresses the legitimate concerns of gay couples, and at the same time defends the traditional status of marriage and family.

Reardon’s proposal would allow any unmarried individual, regardless of sexual lifestyle, to designate the person who should handle their personal affairs, make health decisions when they are incapacitated, and have presumptive rights of visitation and inheritance, etc.

He argues: "A morally legitimate response to the legitimate concerns of homosexuals and other single persons, would be to pass legislation that allows easy designation or registration of a person’s chosen "next of kin", to whom all rights of visitation, power of attorney, etc, would attach. This legal designation of "next of kin", would override default transfer of these rights and duties to the closest blood relation, and thereby allow persons to designate any friend, "roommate", or professional advisor to be their most trusted confidant and beneficiary."

"This ‘next of kin’ designation avoids any insinuation that there is a ‘marriage’, or even a publicly recognized ‘union’ of the individuals. Yet at the same time, it gives single persons the right to establish a ‘family’ connection in a manner that is closely analogous to adoption. One might characterize the ‘next of kin’ designation as the adoption of a brother or sister to whom the legal rights of next-of-kin attach. The law could also provide for ‘next of kin’ certificates and ‘kinship severed’ (divorce) certificates."

Reardon acknowledges that most social engineer and gay activists will hate this solution precisely because it does solve the legitimate concerns of single persons. But by carefully addressing the legitimate problems they do raise, supporters of the traditional family can get out of their purely defensive posture and reframe the debate in ways that advance and protect the legitimate rights of both singles and married persons.

"In a society where families are often broken and dispersed, the right to designate a non-blood relation as ‘next of kin’ is a legitimate concern. When gay activists complain that next of kin designations are not enough, the response should be that they are sufficient to address the legitimate needs of all unmarried persons."



Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

PAWNS IN A GAME, DEC 2004

She was 27 years old. Her Australian-born daughter was only two. They had already suffered much, but at the hands of a New Zealand Judge, a lawyer and an alleged paedophile and drug dealer, they were about to suffer a whole lot more. IAN WISHART has the incredible story of Sharon and Teena, and their fight to survive...

Rotorua is a great little town. A friendly tourist trap with its mud pools and geysers. But it has its secrets as well. Deep, dark secrets. As anyone who was close to a television set earlier this year will recall, the biggest police scandal in New Zealand’s history blew up in sleepy Rotorua of all places, involving allegations of sexual orgies, gang rape, cover-ups and corruption. Allegations so serious that the Government has called a Commission of Inquiry into the claims of several Rotorua women, including Louise Nicholas.

Investigate can throw another similar case into the ring – that of senior Rotorua police officer Evan Jordan (now deceased), whose previous claim to fame came from cheating death in a Zimbabwean air crash in 1990 and selling his video footage of the crash-landing to TV3 and the Readers Digest. What neither media organization realised at the time was that Jordan was a corrupt cop who had a habit of arresting attractive young women on various misdemeanor charges in Rotorua then arranging to drop the prosecutions in exchange for sexual favours. Although eventually prosecuted for rape in Rotorua in the mid nineties, he got off.

Indeed, the allegations that have surfaced this year about Rotorua raise questions about just how far back and how deep the corruption in that city’s law enforcement and justice systems goes. Might it, for example, go all the way back to Christmas, 1976, and the disappearance of Wellington mother of two Heidi Charles, holidaying in Rotorua with her family? Dropped off for a spot of Christmas shopping in the morning, the attractive young blonde never returned to her two boys or her husband. No trace of her was ever discovered. Rotorua police never upgraded her disappearance to homicide, nor did police searches find anything.

The question after all this time might better be phrased, “How hard did they really look?”

And it is the same question that surfaces unanswered in this investigation.

The story that follows contains material that is sometimes graphic. When it is, it is simply because it is relevant to the investigation and needs to be included. What follows is the result of hours of interviews with some of those involved. We now make it clear, for the sake of legal clarity, that this story is not about whether the child at the centre of it all was sexually abused by her father. You will read evidence indicating that this could be the case, but the point was never proven in Court.
And that’s actually what this story is about: did the Family Court and CYF systems fail the child by failing to properly investigate the sexual abuse allegations? In other words, we are not attempting to prove here that sexual abuse definitely took place. We are attempting to show that serious allegations of abuse were not properly investigated, in our view, and ignored by those with the statutory responsibility for protecting the child.
What we don’t understand is why:

When Sharon (all names of family members in this story have been changed), met Michael in Brisbane in July 1989, it seemed at first blush to be a match made in heaven. Both were 24-years-old: she, a vivacious young New Zealander looking to experience the world; he, a dashing Middle Easterner who was trying to forge a new life for himself in Australia after spending two years on secondment to a combat unit in a war-ravaged country. It was a whirlwind romance – the pair married in Brisbane eight weeks later, and Sharon was pregnant with baby Teena soon after.

But according to Sharon, the romantic whirlwind became a hurricane of horror during the pregnancy. Michael’s application for refugee status in Australia had been turned down, and increasingly she felt he was using her as a meal ticket.

“His whole attitude toward me changed, it was like he saw me as property, something he owned rather than someone he loved. By getting married to a Kiwi, he could get a New Zealand passport which meant he could live in Australia and travel internationally without a barrage of questions at every airport.”

Sharon and Michael were living in Australia with Michael’s mother, and she claims he was often violent toward her, becoming passionately angry and frequently threatening her with kitchen knives.

“He would hide behind doors with a knife, wait for me to come through and then leap out and hold the blade to my throat. It terrified me and he seemed to enjoy it.

“His mother just stood there, screaming hysterically at him, but it made no difference. He’d broken her arm once when they lived in London. He was bashing his girlfriend and his mother intervened to try and stop it, and he broke her arm. Michael was very, very violent, and had a Middle Eastern view on male dominance.”

One story Michael told to a number of people is how his father had shot dead one of his sons – Michael’s brother – one night when Michael was eight, because the younger boy, a six year old, was making too much noise. Whether the story is true or not is beyond our ability to prove. However, others remember Michael telling them.

Michael also seemed to be well-acquainted with violence outside the home: during a trip to Sydney soon after their marriage, Sharon says Michael was approached by men with organized crime connections wanting him to carry out a “hit” for $8,000. Sharon says she talked him out of doing the crime, and claims he gloated when a TV news story they were watching one evening showed the Vietnamese man hired to carry out the murder got caught.

“Michael was full of bravado, boasting about how if he’d done it he would have gotten away without being seen,” recalls Sharon.

While the story may seem far-fetched, Michael admitted being approached by the Mafia to the Family Court in New Zealand.

So what other bad habits did this former Middle Eastern gunman have? According to Sharon, he routinely slept with a knife under his pillow. Normal behaviour perhaps in a war zone – but not in Australia or New Zealand.

The colourful and violent background of Michael is only an entrée to this story however, which takes on a life of its own in mid-1992 while the young family was living in New Zealand.

For nearly a year, Michael, Sharon and baby Teena had been living with Sharon’s mother in Rotorua. Sharon’s mother had seen first-hand some of Michael’s behaviour, and had herself challenged him about the knife he kept close by. By March 1992, relations between the couple had become so tense that Sharon was “withholding sexual favours” – a freeze that was to become permanent. In June that year, Michael agreed to let his wife take Teena back to Australia so she could find work there and help pay off some of the family’s mounting debt. Sharon didn’t tell Michael she was planning to leave him at this point, but she maintains her husband was living life as if he was single anyway.
Too much Middle Eastern machismo and a liking for wild oats, she claimed.

By all accounts, and this would later become relevant as you’ll see, Michael had an exceedingly high sex drive, desiring sex several times a day and, again, becoming violent and moody if he didn’t get it. Then again, the moodiness could have been caused by the Middle Easterner’s long-standing cannabis habit – a habit that did nothing to ease the couple’s financial strains.

It was while she was working in Sydney that Sharon plotted her escape, but her plans hit a snag in August 1992 when she fell ill and was told she would need to be hospitalized. Sharon made a decision to make a same-day return flight to New Zealand and drop Teena into her mother’s care so she could return to Sydney for treatment without having to worry about childcare for her daughter. While Teena was in her grandmother’s care, Michael had what family would later describe as “liberal” access to his daughter.

Speaking now, twelve years after it happened, the events that followed remain a raw wound for Sharon. It is a rambling interview: so much to tell, so little time, if one can call a couple of weeks just a “little time”. But she’s right – trying to concertina years of trauma, enough to fill 10 Eastlight files of documents – into two weeks’ worth of interviews is traumatic in and of itself.

Sharon has nothing to gain from this. Her case in the Family Court ended years ago. She ultimately got the justice she was seeking. However, the story of what happened to Teena and Sharon, and the way they were treated by the judicial and child protection systems in Rotorua/Bay of Plenty raises such serious matters of public interest that Sharon feels compelled to lift the lid on it publicly for the first time.


November 1, 1992, was a Sunday. And as the Boeing 747 lined up for its final approach to Auckland’s Jean Batten Airport, Sharon could already feel the knots rising in her stomach – and they had nothing to do with the impending touchdown. Sharon had come to pick up her daughter, tell her husband their marriage was over, and return to Australia. Michael, however, already knew this. He’d sought an ex-parté court hearing to grant himself interim custody of Teena, and to prevent his estranged wife from taking the girl with her. Teena was less than two and a half years old at this point.

The first Sharon knew of the secret court hearing was when she was slapped with a court order on Monday November 2, telling her Australian-born Teena was to remain in New Zealand. The Court had also declared that Teena should remain in the custody of Sharon’s mother, whom she’d been staying with.

Mother and daughter had two short weeks together before Sharon returned to her job in Sydney mid-November, hoping to save up enough to provide for her daughter when she was next scheduled to return in February 1993. Sharon was hoping the custody issue would have been decided by then.
Unbeknownst to Sharon, however, the situation was about to take a sinister turn.

On Friday December 4, 1992, Michael had picked up Teena from her grandmother for a three hour access visit. The child returned off-colour, not settling until close to midnight. By morning, she was suffering an extreme bout of diarrhea.

Saturday 5 December: Teena is taken for another three hour session by her father. Soon after her return, Sharon’s mother notices Teena had what she thought were wet pants. On taking them off, she discovered a sticky substance that appeared to be semen, “stretching all the way from the back of the crutch up to the rear waistband.”
Sickened, and feeling her stomach churn, she rang her two sons to seek a second opinion. Their verdict on seeing the substance in the underpants: “It’s definitely semen, Mum. You have to take Teena to see a doctor, straight away.”

Placing the stained underpants in a plastic bag, Sharon’s mother and one of her sons drove the child to the local A&E clinic which, being a Saturday night, was full. When they eventually got in to see him, the doctor performed what will later be described as a “cursory” vaginal examination before saying, “No sign of vaginal trauma,” and telling them the discharge is probably related to the diarrhea.

“Take a look at the underpants, I’ve got them here,” volunteered the grandmother.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” the doctor twice indicated with a dismissive wave of his hand. He performed no rectal examination of baby Teena.

Unsatisfied, but lacking the hard evidence that she presumed the doctor’s visit would provide, the grandmother could only fire a warning shot across Michael’s bows when he returned on Sunday afternoon to pick up Teena for another visit. She told him she wasn’t happy at what she’d discovered in Teena’s pants, and that he’d better keep the child safe. Michael said nothing, but when he returned at 7pm the next evening he was secretly wearing a tape recorder. It was Monday, December 7.

The grandmother, meanwhile, rang her lawyer to seek advice. She told her to get in contact with the man who had the statutory responsibility of protecting Teena – lawyer John Chadwick, who’d been appointed Counsel for the Child (CFC) in the legal proceedings begun back in November. It is routine in Family Court cases for an independent lawyer to be appointed to represent the child’s interests. John Chadwick, a colourful local Rotorua barrister, is the husband of Labour MP Steve (Stephanie) Chadwick, the Chairwoman of Parliament’s Health Select Committee. Both have been active in Labour Party affairs, and were instrumental in setting up Rotorua’s first Women’s Refuge in 1996.

“Counsel for the Child will look after Teena,” the grandmother’s lawyer reassured. “He’ll instantly stop access while this is investigated. You need to bring this to his attention.”
Sharon’s mother arranged to see John Chadwick the next morning, but events were quickly turning to custard. When Michael turned up on Monday evening, Sharon’s brother Toby couldn’t hold back his anger and began punching Michael. As the police transcript would later reveal, it was a brutal encounter.

“I didn’t enter the house,” Michael told police. “Toby, my brother-in-law, came to the door. Toby snatched Teena off me; I put my head inside the house and said to my mother-in-law, “I’ll pick her up tomorrow”. Toby stepped outside the house and said to me, ‘You’ll be f***en lucky’.

“I replied, ‘What do you mean?’ Toby answered, ‘What did I see in her f***en pants the other day, mate? What did I see in Teena’s pants the other day? I saw something that only big boys f***en excrete, mate!’

“While he was saying this he was standing over me trying to intimidate me. I had no idea what he was talking about….then Toby punched me in the right hand side of my chest and said, ‘You should f*** off back to where you came from, boy, before I cut your f***en throat. I know what you’ve been doing.’

“I started walking backwards towards my car. Toby followed me and said, ‘I know what you’ve been f***en doing boy, if you get away with it I’m going to come back and f***en hammer you alright’. That’s when he punched me again, hitting me on the right shoulder this time.

“I got into my car and as I was getting into the driver’s seat he leaned in and shoved me so hard that I ended up on the other side of the car.”
Michael fled, but returned the next morning, Tuesday 8th, for his scheduled full day of access, and uplifted Teena.

It is here that Investigate makes the first serious allegation. On the basis of the evidence our magazine has uncovered, we believe John Chadwick, Counsel for the Child, not only failed to act in the best interests of baby Teena but deliberately acted in a way that was at least reckless and at worst may have been seriously harmful to her safety. We believe Chadwick neglected his duty not only as CFC, but as a lawyer and a human being. We believe Chadwick should immediately be suspended from acting as Counsel for Child in any other case, if not suspended from practice entirely, pending a full investigation of his behaviour in this one.
And here’s why we believe all this:

Unbeknownst to the grandmother, Michael hot-footed it first to his own lawyer, Jan Walker, with the tape recording of his mugging and the claims of sexual abuse being made by Toby during the assault.

Jan Walker is one half of the Rotorua lawfirm of Walker & Elliott. The New Zealand Law Society’s website notes that Jan Walker is exceptionally “well-connected to the current Government”, which is why the NZLS co-opted Walker to one of its main committees. Walker is indeed “well-connected”. This otherwise obscure Rotorua lawyer from a tiny legal practice was appointed Chairwoman of the Government’s Casino Control Authority. Nor is Walker’s partner any slouch. Claudia Elliott is “a staunch Labour Party activist” according to one source, “and a radical feminist”. Indeed, the lawfirm of Walker and Elliott has been truly blessed by the reigning sisterhood in the Beehive. Not only did Walker get a taxpayer-funded position, so did Elliott, as President of the Film and Literature Review Board, whose task it is to make censorship decisions. Investigate understands both lawyers are lesbian, and also staunch left wingers. This may seem irrelevant to a child protection case – and normally it would be – but for Sharon and Teena, it represents an important subtext. For while the husband was being represented by a very well-connected, liberal, Labour party lawfirm, and Counsel for the Child was himself “a staunch Labour party activist” and liberal, the wife was a Pentecostal Christian. And in a case where parents and their attitudes are examined in minute detail, it would only be a matter of time before the worldviews of these polar opposites collided.

Walker and Elliott recommended Michael see John Chadwick immediately. So by the time Sharon’s mother rang to allege sexual abuse on Tuesday 8th, John Chadwick was already primed.

“There’s no way Michael has to tolerate that sort of abuse from your family, and I want you to know the police have now been called and are out looking for your son,” he ranted.

“I’ve told Michael to disregard the Court order requiring Teena to remain in your care. I think it is better for Teena that she lives with her father, and I’ve told him not to return Teena to you.”

Sharon’s mother was flabbergasted. Here was the lawyer, appointed by the Family Court to protect her granddaughter, pointedly ignoring the references to sexual abuse and semen stains on the tape that Michael had played to him – in her view not even bothering to seriously investigate them or even pause for half a minute to consider them. Nor was he prepared to listen to the grandmother’s allegations.

“I’ve told Michael to take Teena to a doctor himself,” Chadwick said.
New Zealand’s child protection guidelines are adamant that the safety of the child is paramount in cases where sexual abuse is alleged. In all such cases, CYF investigators and the Court are required to take protective action first and sort out the truth of the claims second. It is hard to see how, after hearing that semen had allegedly been discovered in a child’s underpants, the Court-appointed Counsel for the Child could take the almost unprecedented step of actually removing the child from safe care – the grandmother – and placing her with the man who allegedly abused her. And this before any investigation had been carried out!

To further illustrate just how irregular this was, consider this: under the existing Court order dating back to early November, baby Teena was required by order of the Court to reside with her grandmother. Had Chadwick approached the Court to alter this order? No. Not yet.

It is even more unbelievable that Chadwick would allow the alleged sexual abuse perpetrator to control when and how a medical examination for sexual abuse was conducted. After all, leaving aside the issue of whether abuse actually took place, clearly the evidence could be tainted if an abuser was able to remove critical evidence by bathing. How could Chadwick control that? Obviously he couldn’t, and if he didn’t realise that, he’s incompetent. And if he did realise it was a risk then his actions run close, in Investigate’s opinion, to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

With the doctor not wanting to examine the underpants, and Counsel for the Child clearly not sympathetic, the grandmother made a decision she now regrets. She put the pants in the laundry.

Michael, meanwhile, had raced in to see CYF and tell his side of the story, as Chadwick had advised him to do.

It was after this, with events clearly escalating, that the grandmother finally called Sharon in Australia and told her of the sexual abuse. “You’d better come home straight away.” Why did she wait four days before telling her daughter? Sharon’s mother thought she could handle it herself, but John Chadwick’s stunning decision to change the Court order without authority left the grandmother with no choice but to advise Sharon, who promptly rang Chadwick from Sydney.

“The abuse allegations are rubbish!” Chadwick retorted. “Your husband is not a child molester.”

A frenzied Sharon naturally wanted to know what the lawyer and Labour Party activist was doing to investigate whether or not her daughter had, in fact, been abused. According to Sharon, Chadwick was evasive and vague, saying he’d referred the issue to CYF.

Documents contained in a massive complaint to the Law Society about Chadwick contain the full sequence of events.
It is clear that Chadwick had well and truly been placed on notice about semen in the underpants and the sexual abuse allegations by December 8. He made his decision to grant effective custody in favour of the alleged sexual abuser in full knowledge that sexual abuse allegations had just been made because he’d listened to the tape Michael had provided.

Despite the specific claims of seminal fluid being present, however, here is what Chadwick puts on the record for his file note to the Family Court on December 9 explaining why he had unilaterally altered the Court order in regard to custody:

“Last week the child was returned to the grandmother by the father after access. The child had a tummy complaint, had been wetting her pants and appeared to have diarrhea. Upon inspection the grandmother noticed a whitish substance in the underpants of the child, became suspicious about it, took the child to a doctor who made an examination and did not report anything back to worry about.”

The astute reader will notice that “seminal fluid” described by eyewitnesses was instead referred to here by Chadwick as a “whitish substance” in the context of diarrhea. And what about the visit to a Doctor by the father to have the child medically examined?

“As to the examination of the child I have consulted with a host of experts. Because of the uncertainty of the allegation it was deemed that the child should not be put through what might become a succession of medical examinations (thus compounding the trauma to the child) and instead the matter should be dealt with by way of the Care and Protection Unit as DSW which would proceed by way of a Social Worker being assigned to gather statements from the parties, such information being assessed and then a decision would be made as to whether a diagnostic interview would follow, and/or a medical examination.”

In other words, suddenly, there was to be no medical examination at all. No forensic test to see whether two and a half year old Teena had indeed been raped. Surely an experienced and independent family court lawyer would know the importance of forensic evidence in sexual abuse cases?

“The air needs to be cleared regarding the allegation and that is now being attended to,” Chadwick wrote in his backside-covering file note. “In arriving at that decision I have spoken to Dr McMenamin, Dr J Morreau, Maria Oliver (Manager of the Child Abuse Unit at Rotorua Hospital), Sue Henderson (Psychologist at DSW) and Kaye Fordham (head of the Unit at DSW)…the family are ganging up on the father and will resort to anything,” he added as a throwaway line.

It was, Sharon now claims, a set-up. When she told Chadwick she was heading back to New Zealand immediately, the lawyer took a new tack after hanging up the phone.

“This matter has degenerated, requiring Counsel for the Child to take action at short notice,” he diarised to the Court. “Essentially what I have done is sanctioned the removal of the child from the home of the grandmother into the day-to-day care of the Applicant father as of 8 December [the previous day].

“My immediate concern now is when the mother of the child returns on Saturday…I can already foresee the potential for a tug-of-war in which she is liable to retain the child and refuse to return her to the father.

“It is for that reason that I seek an urgent amendment to the present Interim Custody Order to provide that the child reside with the Applicant father until further Order of the Court.
In my view such an amendment to the Order is in the interests and welfare of the child.”

Meanwhile, Sharon’s lawyers at Rotorua firm Dennet Olphert Sandford & Dowthwaite were furiously faxing all and sundry to find out why the existing Court Order was not being followed.

“Included in these proceedings is reference to the grandmother’s and Sharon’s extreme concern over the possibility that the child has been the subject of sexual abuse while in the care of the father…our client urgently requires all steps taken to protect the child from any possible position of danger until the fears of the grandmother in particular as a result of her observations are investigated by appropriate medical professionals. We do not consider that it is at all acceptable or appropriate for Michael to accompany or refer the child for investigation in respect of this complaint…In disobeying the Court Order we take the view that Michael is in contempt of Court.”

Chadwick soon responded.

“I have your letter of 9/12/92…I confirm that I am Counsel for the Child. You should understand that Michael is not in breach of the Court Order. He retained the child on my advice and if anyone is in breach it is perhaps me. However, that is my cross to bear. In the circumstances, I made the decision and I have already filed a full report to the Court on why.

“The grandmother has not made an allegation of sexual abuse against the father. She has had the opportunity to do that to me at least three times in the last 48 hours. At best she has a suspicion. That does not seem to have prevented your client [Sharon] from telephoning me from Sydney to make an allegation. Neither has it prevented your client’s brother Toby from making a blatant allegation and assaulting the father in the process and then telephoning me twice at home to justify his actions which are now a police matter.”

Who, exactly, was Counsel for the Child John Chadwick acting for in this dispute? Teena? Or her father? And Chadwick was clearly being disingenuous in claiming that the grandmother had not made an allegation of sexual abuse. After all, his own report to the Court on December 9 made it clear that sexual abuse was the card on the table:

“Upon returning the child he was confronted by Toby…threatened, assaulted and accused of sexually abusing his daughter…outraged at the allegation of sexual abuse.”

Toby, like the grandmother, was a primary witness to the same evidence that grandmother had seen. Toby was the one who actually confirmed his mother’s suspicions when he told her the substance in the underpants was definitely seminal fluid. Toby’s allegations of sexual abuse were as first-hand as the one Chadwick claimed he lacked from the grandmother to this point. His denial in the letter to Sharon’s lawyers appears to be nothing more than game-playing – a misleading diversion.

In the complaint to the Law Society about Chadwick is an affidavit sworn by Sharon’s mother on December 9. The affidavit details the events of the preceding four days, describes clearly the discovery of semen, the fears of sexual abuse, and Chadwick’s unilateral action to give the child directly to the father regardless. That affidavit was served on Chadwick by Sharon’s lawyers, just to make it abundantly clear: the grandmother feared sexual abuse by the father and had found evidence of it.

Meanwhile the war of the faxes continued. On December 11, Chadwick wrote to Sharon’s lawyers: “There are times when Counsel for the Child has to act decisively. I am comfortable with my decision. I am not going to reverse my decision.”
Chadwick again added that he had “discussed the matter with Sue Henderson and Kay Fordham [at the Social Welfare Department’s CYF unit] who agreed to deal with the matter forthwith and they will be reporting to me. Michael has already been interviewed and while the grandmother is still to be interviewed [our emphasis] I am confident that the suspicion or allegation against Michael has no basis.”

Again, another stunning admission from John Chadwick, Counsel for the Child. Before CYF staff had even interviewed any of the primary witnesses to the semen, Chadwick said the allegation had “no basis”. Little wonder the Sharon and the grandmother came to believe very early on in that they were being jumped all over by a kangaroo court. And don’t forget, John Chadwick is a prominent Labour Party activist, married to a prominent Labour MP whose parliamentary webpage talks of her track record in protecting women and children; the political connections in this case are fascinating.

Sharon’s lawyers hit back. “We do not accept that Counsel for the Child has authority to permit breach of Court orders.”
Chadwick’s next step was intriguing. That same day, Friday December 11, he filed an ex parté application to the Family Court to ratify the action he’d already taken in breaking the Court Order, requesting a new directive: “Until further Order of the Court the child is to reside with the applicant father Michael.” Remember that the mother, Sharon, was arriving in the country the following day.

Nowhere in Chadwick’s six-paragraph application was reference made anywhere to the claims of sexual abuse. Nowhere. John Chadwick is an intelligent man. Presumably his decision to omit any reference to the alleged semen-stained underwear and sexual abuse was deliberate, rather than accidental. He was, after all, the man with the statutory responsibility to look after Teena’s safety and best interests. He could, and probably will, argue that the issue was touched on in previous correspondence to the Court. But for that matter, so were other aspects in the application.

When Sharon arrived in Rotorua she immediately made an appointment to see John Chadwick on Monday December 14. According to Sharon, he assured her he’d informed the appropriate authorities and the sexual abuse allegation was being treated seriously. As we now know from the documents, it wasn’t.

There is also considerable dispute over exactly what Chadwick told CYF psychologist Sue Henderson about the circumstances of the case. Sharon arranged to see Henderson later on that Monday. But Henderson seemed bemused at the idea of a medical examination for Teena.

“Why would we do a medical examination?” she asked. “Bedwetting is not serious enough to be taken as proof of sexual abuse.”
Sharon hit the roof.

“Bedwetting?! My mother found semen stains in my daughter’s panties. Who told you it was only ‘bedwetting’?”

“John Chadwick. Under those circumstances, we didn’t see any reason to interview Teena or get her examined”.

Sharon discovered that Chadwick had told CYF worker Ioli Nathan of a sexual abuse allegation on December 9, but that “seminal fluid” did not appear to have been discussed. Nor had Chadwick provided CYF with a copy of the grandmother’s December 9 affidavit detailing what she’d found. Little wonder that CYF thought they were simply dealing with just another over-reactive mother.

Sharon went back to her lawyers, grabbed a copy of her mother’s affidavit and gave it to Sue Henderson.
There was an immediate change in CYF’s attitude. Henderson told Sharon she wanted to see Teena “as soon as possible” for a diagnostic interview to determine the possibility of sexual abuse.

Chadwick, meanwhile, remained in a state of denial, telling Sharon’s lawyers, “I spoke to Sue Henderson today and she expressed surprise that Teena was to be interviewed by her today. She said she had not made any arrangements for such an interview and she said that she was not intending to interview the child.”
For the first time, the situation began to spin out of Chadwick’s control. The Counsel for the Child was well and truly behind the eight-ball.

As Sharon laid it out to the Law Society, “I firmly believe Mr Chadwick orchestrated an impression with key parties that he had taken the appropriate steps as Counsel for the Child to ensure Teena was examined…he…mislead and minimized the situation and presented a ‘bedwetting’ scenario to Sue Henderson anticipating, correctly, that nothing would proceed by way of a diagnostic interview.

“Over this period, time was of essence and the opportunity to obtain physical evidence was diminishing daily. Once NZCYPS staff were apprised of the situation following presentation of my mother’s affidavit they took immediate action to protect Teena via a Place of Safety Warrant. As a result, Teena was returned to me that day, December 18, 1992.

“Sue Henderson [was the one who] organized for Dr Morreau, Paediatrician, to carry out an examination of Teena, not Mr Chadwick. This was done 17 days after the alleged abuse incident.”

Henderson, despite Chadwick’s intimations, moved rapidly to assess Teena’s case for herself. After reading the affidavit she interviewed both mother and grandmother – digging further for any other signs that may indicate abuse. The grandmother noted inappropriate behaviour by the little girl, such as pulling up her shirt and rubbing her body against other family members when they were lying on the floor watching TV. Toby also mentioned that Teena had often tried to unzip his fly.
Taken together, said Henderson, “these are not typical behaviours for a two-year-old. I consider that this information raises concerns that Teena may have been sexually abused. I don’t think it is at all appropriate and it is possibly unsafe for her to be in her father’s care until these matters can be clarified.”

Henderson’s report was used as the basis to uplift Teena to a place of safety, and seek a full examination.

So there it was. Finally, nearly three weeks after the alleged seminal fluid was found, Teena was properly medically-examined for the first time. She was, as you’ll recall, only two-and-a-half years old.

But by now the evidence of any abuse, if it occurred 17 days earlier, was long gone. Dr Morreau did discover engorged anal veins and could not rule out sexual abuse. But nor could he rule it in. Result: inconclusive. It should be noted that anal injuries in children can heal as quickly as four days after an event.

Although swabs were taken, any semen, if it had been there, had well and truly vanished by this point.

The Place of Safety Warrant meant that CYF effectively took legal custody of Teena for the duration of the Warrant. CYF chose to place the child with her mother, although Family Court judge Philip Evans overturned this ruling only days later. Nonetheless, the safety period was long enough to get the child examined, in defiance of Chadwick’s interference.

Morreau had examined Teena on December 22, but his report was not delivered to John Chadwick until the afternoon of Friday, January 15, 1993. Teena was with her mother that day and, as Sharon records in her Law Society complaint, the little girl had a normal bowel motion on the morning of Saturday, January 16, before her father collected her for his weekend access.

On Monday morning, driving through town, Sharon saw her husband’s car parked outside Chadwick’s office. Her husband subsequently drove Teena to a doctor where he said the child was extremely constipated and needed medicine to loosen her bowels. The doctor also gave the father some cream to apply to the child’s anus. As Sharon remarked later, Michael had only had Teena for 48 hours – not long enough to become aware of “a serious constipation issue”. And why, wondered Sharon, did this sudden visit to a doctor come straight after a meeting with Chadwick?

Chadwick had a copy of the paediatrician’s report in his hands. In fact, he was probably the only one with the report at that stage. In her Law Society complaint Sharon believes – but has absolutely no proof - Chadwick leaked details of the report to the father, which prompted the father to try and set up a “constipation alibi” to explain engorged anal veins. She knew her daughter was not constipated. The anal cream prescription would provide good cover, she said, for claims that “Daddy touched my bottie”.
And there were certainly plenty of those claims surfacing now.

At just on two-and-a-half, and with a limited vocabulary and even shorter attention span, Teena would not have been a good candidate for parental coaching. As most parents know, trying to get a child that age to repeat something consistently quickly turns into a frustrating game of Chinese Whispers. So it was the child’s actions that initially spoke louder than words.

When CYF psychologist Sue Henderson began “play therapy” sessions – in which a child’s play and comments are closely observed – with Teena late in 1993, it quickly became apparent to Henderson that some kind of abuse had taken place. Teena’s play with dolls focused on a game where a man touched the doll’s genitals and “made it sore”. Teena told Henderson she was scared the doll would be killed. She talked of “monsters” that “hurt me”. Although the little girl never named a specific abuser (leading Henderson to note on her file “there is no specific disclosure of sexual abuse”), Henderson felt sufficiently convinced after only four of the scheduled 12 sessions that Teena’s play was “consistent with that of a child who has been sexually abused”, and that the references to “bottie sore” while pointing to the doll’s vagina were indicative of vaginal trauma.

Henderson was sufficiently concerned at the lack of interest by Counsel for the Child in the sexual abuse allegations that she supported efforts to have Chadwick removed from the case.

Here another irregularity in the case surfaces. Henderson was later interviewed by prominent forensic psychologist Gail Ratcliffe. Henderson confirmed to her that, “There have been problems in handling this case from day one. I will never understand what happened in this case. I certainly had concerns from the start. I asked the Court to appoint another Counsel for Child because I did not feel that he was acting in her best interests. That letter should be in the CYPS file. After conducting play therapy with Teena I was extremely concerned for her safety. No name came out but her play is highly consistent with the traumatic play of sexually abused children. I have no doubts about the abuse. I wrote to the Counsel for Child.”

Yet when the case finally came to trial in late 1993, CYF psychologist Sue Henderson was not allowed to testify as a witness. In fact, as Sharon argues it today, she believes John Chadwick and Family Court judge Philip Evans conspired to block her.

Compare the childish language recorded by both Sharon and Henderson, with a bizarre claim from Michael in February 1993, where he testified in evidence that he’d been driving with Teena in his car when the child (still only two and a half at that point) suddenly said “Roger (pseudonym) f***ed me up the ass”.

Apparently working from the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” school, Michael not only corroborated claims that his daughter was making sexualized statements, but in one fell swoop dropped his flatmate in the mix as the potential abuser.

The first hurdle to credibility of his core claim, however, is convincing people that a two- and-a-half year old girl who still says “bottie” would suddenly turn around and use the kind of graphic language normally heard in a pub.

The second hurdle for Michael is even more difficult. If he’s not telling the truth, then he’s lying. But if it’s a lie, it’s a bad one because he can no longer deny Sharon’s claims that the child is using sexualized language. At this point, both parents are reporting evidence of potential abuse, regardless of who they point the finger at.

Sharon herself did not appear to understand the significance of Michael’s admission. Instead of embracing Michael’s statement and using it as a lever to get the sexual abuse issue properly investigated, Sharon’s reaction was more of a standard kneejerk to Michael’s claim that she must have coached her daughter to say “f***ed up the ass”:

“Teena does not use this language when she is in my care. I have never heard her use such words. I have heard her saying ‘bitch’ and ‘bugger off’ upon returning from Roger’s and Michael’s place. She has been reprimanded for this and has not said it again in my presence. I have never heard Teena use the word ‘f***ed’. She has never talked like that to me. Teena only uses words and sentences she understands. I believe Michael has made this up.”

Indeed, nowhere else in the whole case is Teena ever said to have used the word.

Opportunity lost, the custody dispute dragged on.

Sharon was on legal aid, but by October 1993 she’d exceeded her $20,000 legal aid budget. Her lawfirm, Dennet Olphert Sandford & Dowthwaite, walked out on her just before the trial, leaving the 27-year-old solo mother flying blind and up against not just her husband’s legal team but a hostile judge and Counsel for the Child.

Is it ethical for a lawfirm to simply pull the plug before a trial and leave a client to swim? Apparently so, which is perhaps an issue the New Zealand Law Society needs to examine more closely in terms of a revamp of its code of ethics – should lawyers have a legal responsibility to finish a job they start; should lawyers be prevented from charging by the hour and required to charge by the case? After all, the vast bulk of complaints to the media about lawyers involve counsel who charge by the hour at full rate on minutiae – even when it’s a low-paid legal assistant actually licking the stamps or making calls - sucking the client dry of funds so they’re left with no cash to actually go to court.

Meanwhile Sharon says she asked for an adjournment so she could seek new legal counsel, but Judge Evans refused. As lawyer Rob Vigor-Brown later told Investigate: “You can quote me on this – she should never have been left to handle her own case alone for four days. It’s hard enough for us lawyers to cross-examine experts.”
But left alone she was, and the Court had a field-day stitching her up.

The legal battle Sharon was facing was simple: her ex-husband Michael was pushing to gain full custody of Teena – effectively locking Sharon out of the child’s life in a significant way that left her unable to protect the girl from the risk of further sexual abuse, if Michael was indeed the perpetrator.

The custody battle was fought out in two court hearings in late 1993. In the first decision, handed down in August, Judge Evans ruled that sexual abuse had not been proven. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out. But the real question is, would sexual abuse have been proven if Counsel for the Child John Chadwick had done his job differently?

The Judge also made basic fundamental errors in his judgment. For example, he wrote, “The mother today says it was 17 days until the child was examined, but Mr Chadwick elicited in cross examination that in fact the grandmother took the child to a doctor at the hospital within 24 hours and that doctor found no evidence of abuse.”

As readers will already know, the doctor concerned conducted no rectal examination and did not inspect the underwear with the alleged semen stains. Of course the doctor found “no evidence of abuse” – he didn’t conduct a complete examination.

Judge Evans continues: “In the event, the maternal grandmother allegedly then washed the panties and the evidence allegedly was removed. That of course in itself is a surprising action in the circumstances.”

As Sharon sees it, which is more surprising: the actions of a stressed grandmother who felt no-one wanted to know, or the failure of Counsel for the Child to request an immediate medical examination when first presented with the allegation?

Two of Sharon’s friends, both members of a large Christian Church in Rotorua, testified about separate occasions where Teena had talked about her bottom being sore. One woman said she was visiting on June 7 1993, when Teena (still less than three years old at this point) said “Daddy hurt me”. When asked how, Teena replied, “He poked a hole in my bottie”.

The second woman said she was called in by Sharon on July 20 when Teena began complaining about a “sore bottie” and suggesting “Daddy poked his diddle in it”. The second woman prayed for the child to be protected – an action that earnt the scorn of Judge Evans who said that praying in front of the child “must cause the Court considerable concern”.
Judge Evans dropped another clanger, concluding: “Sharon’s allegations are unsupported as to anal penetration by the medical evidence.”

Again, would they have been unsupported if a medical examination had taken place straight away on the instructions of Counsel for the Child John Chadwick?

In hearing number two, in late October 1993, Judge Evans struck out Sharon’s bid to call Sue Henderson as a witness. Evidence from the first official investigation into the sex abuse claims was ruled out of bounds. As we’ve already seen, Henderson was convinced sexual abuse had occurred. The Court was not allowed to hear her say it.
Instead, the first witness was one of Sharon’s two church friends. And practically the first question from Michael’s lawyer, Jan Walker, is directed at the church both women attended.

“Is it fair to say that it is not one of the mainstream denomination churches?” quizzed Miss Walker. The witness explained to the hostile lawyer that Pentecostalism is mainstream Christianity.

Walker, Chadwick and the Judge all directed a considerable number of questions to various witnesses about their links to their church, with one of the lawyers describing it as “chilling”.

And when the lawyers weren’t making sinister implications about Sharon’s faith, they were laying traps for her. In one instance Chadwick was cross-examining Sharon on the semen in the underpants issue for several minutes until Judge Evans interrupted from the bench, eyeballing Sharon: “Can I issue this warning to you: you repeatedly when under pressure in cross-examination start talking as though you were present at things when patently you were not!”

“I’m sorry,” answered Sharon. “Mr Chadwick was asking, I thought I had to answer him.”

As an experienced lawyer, Chadwick knew he was asking the witness about an event she was not privy to.

Judge Evans lashed out at Sharon again just a few minutes later, telling her in effect to drop her case. “Is this battle going to go on indefinitely?...Answer the question, face up to reality!”

“It could go on; I just want her protected from what is going on.”

“Have you any concerns at all about the constant involvement of all sorts of professionals in your child’s life…all the physical exams?”

“She only had one exploratory exam.”

“Are you saying to me that you have no concerns?”

“I am concerned. I’m concerned for the whole thing, the way the paediatrician didn’t look at her until 17 days after –”

“I don’t want to get onto that topic again,” snapped the Judge. First rule of the courtroom: never ask a question you don’t want the answer to.
And yet, it appears Judge Evans was being deliberately selective. In the earlier hearing he had called for a diagnostic assessment of Teena by the CYF Manuwai unit in Hamilton.

That report was available to the Court and records:

“Teena spontaneously picked up a baby doll and undressed it. She made the comment ‘her bottie’s sore’ as she did this, and said she’s have to take the doll to the doctor. When asked what made the bottie sore she replied ‘Daddy’, but provided no clarification, context or detail for this remark. She named monsters as scary people and then said that this was Daddy, but she did not elaborate on this comment and no conclusions can be made from it.

“During the second part of the interview Teena named ‘diddle’ for penis when looking at a picture about bath time…when leaving the room a little later she was holding a doll and said that Daddy had ‘poked the bottom’ with his diddle. Again, she would not be drawn into elaborating on this comment…making it difficult to draw conclusions.

“In my experience,” analyst Karen Wilson wrote, “the type of language Teena is reported to have used…is consistent with the types of expressions young children do use to describe sexual activity they don’t understand. However, it is difficult at this late stage to interpret Teena’s original comments in isolation from more recent questioning she has had. Unfortunately, Teena is too young developmentally to interview effectively using a diagnostic format, it is therefore not possible to adequately assess her safety through this method and a definitive answer as to whether she has been abused is not possible.

“One option for the Court to consider would be extended play therapy for Teena with a child psychotherapist or psychologist, which could focus on general issues rather than sexual abuse. Further assessment in this way may resolve the issue of whether abuse has occurred.

“In my opinion, unsupervised access would leave all parties vulnerable until such time as Teena is old enough to be fully assessed through a diagnostic process.”

Several things emerged from that report. Firstly, the three year old continued to make sexualized comments in front of independent witnesses. Secondly, far from finding “no abuse” the report said merely “it is too early to tell”. It was the recommendation for extended play therapy that led to those sessions with Sue Henderson following this, but then by the time of the custody hearing in late October, Judge Evans refused to hear what Henderson had discovered in play therapy.

On the strength of exchanges like his interrogation of Sharon above, Judge Evans wrote in his judgment that Sharon was a liar, obsessed and unreliable.
“I am of the firm view that there is no evidence before me to raise even the suspicion of sexual abuse…I am of the view that if she persists with these examinations and cross-examination of Teena with the religious overtones of prayer that have been brought into it, and which I have commented on in my judgment in August, then the child is going to become severely psychologically damaged.”

Quite how the Judge could read the Manuwai unit report and not even find “the suspicion of sexual abuse” is not clear. Nor is it clear why he then ignored its recommendation not to allow “unsupervised access” which, of course, full custody is.

He gave Michael full custody, and restricted Sharon’s access to having Teena every second weekend – and even that arrangement had strings attached: by order of the Court, Teena was never to be questioned, ever again, not even by CYF, about sexual abuse. Unless the mother signed a written undertaking to that effect in front of the Court Registrar, she would not be allowed to see her daughter again.

If her husband was indeed a paedophile, then Counsel for the Child and Judge Evans had just delivered him Teena on a plate.


Although a depressed and almost suicidal Sharon signed the undertaking, she was not prepared to leave events where they stood. The Court, ironically, had ordered her to undergo counseling for her “obsession”, but the counselor soon came to the conclusion that Sharon was indeed telling the truth and suffering post traumatic stress disorder, and that Teena was showing signs of sexual abuse.

Margaret Craig, a Rotorua-based sex abuse counselor and addictions specialist, tried to figure out a way of getting the Family Court’s ruling on investigating sexual abuse overturned. For a start, the ruling was virtually unprecedented given the overarching responsibility of the Court to investigate any matter that may harm the child’s welfare, and secondly in her view there was a real risk to Teena by leaving the custody issue unchallenged.

As Craig said in an affidavit at one point, “I am left with the view that some professional attitudes towards the mother throughout the course of this case, in the final analysis have left this child bereft of an advocate.

“However, my position with Sharon is as a counselor. Only in extreme circumstances would a counselor initiate and be involved in disputing a decision of the Family Court. I further consider that this case is one which warrants my intervention.”

Craig called up a friend, local lawyer Rob Vigor-Brown, and explained the problem. Despite the fact that Sharon had no money, he agreed to work on the case because of the fundamental natural justice breaches he believed had taken place. Fresh proceedings were lodged, and the battle was on again.

There are only a few other key factors to note in this phase of our investigation. One is the decision by CYF to appoint Tauranga psychologist Sarah Calvert to provide a new report on the case. Calvert was one of the original founders of the feminist magazine Broadsheet back in the early 1970s, when colleagues remember “she was massively into ‘wimmin’s issues’, Wicca – lesbianism fascinated her as a way to throw off the shackles of patriarchal society.”

Calvert subsequently gave up heterosexuality and became a leading light in the lesbian wing of the feminist movement. Pertinent to this case, recalls one who knows her well, “she’s very good friends with Jan Walker. She and Sarah have been close mates for years. And for what it’s worth, Sarah and Labour MP Margaret Wilson are next door neighbours in Tauranga. They’ve been very, very good friends for years too.”

The problem with a small town is that everyone knows everyone else. Jan Walker and Claudia Elliott – the lawfirm acting for Michael – are well plugged into the Labour party. John Chadwick, Counsel for the Child, is married to a Labour MP who is active in women’s issues. The Chadwicks socialize with Walker and presumably Elliott. And Sarah Calvert, brought in to objectively report on the custody battle from a psychologist’s point of view, is very “close mates” with Michael’s lawyer, and a close personal friend of the Attorney-General.

Little wonder that Rob Vigor-Brown and Margaret Craig wrote to CYF opposing Calvert’s appointment.

“There is a personal relationship between Sarah Calvert on the one hand, and Jan Walker and Claudia Elliott on the other. I believe that Ms Calvert has not been used by the Family Court for some time…In this case the appearance of independence is especially critical given the history of the lack of independence already shown by other professionals.”
Calvert’s reports, in and of themselves, are inconsequential to our investigation, but they do result in another perceived breach of natural justice. The Calvert report weighs heavily in the father’s favour, and diagnoses the mother in this way: “Sharon, rather than suffering from ‘Battered Woman’s Syndrome’ or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is more likely to have a personality disorder which is of long standing”.

Now, Calvert is entitled to her professional opinion, but she’d actually never met Sharon. She hadn’t even talked to her over the phone! How was it possible for a psychologist to make an assessment of someone like this when they’d never met them?

What is also unusual about this case is the way professionals like Calvert, with a strong radical feminist worldview, managed to find the grace in her report to excuse Michael’s alleged violence in the marriage and sleeping with a knife in the marital bed as merely “post traumatic stress disorder” and “cultural”, when the natural instinct in the women’s movement would be to howl for such a male’s blood. Yet in her report, Calvert doesn’t give Sharon, a white female Christian, the same benefit of the doubt and – without meeting her – diagnoses her as suffering from a “personality disorder” rather than Battered Wife Syndrome.
Yet the Calvert report was used in Court, yet again, to deny Sharon’s custody bid.

Margaret Craig, Rob Vigor-Brown and now forensic psychologist Gail Ratcliffe turned their guns on Calvert, on Chadwick and on the Family Court ruling. Eventually Chadwick’s role ended when proceedings were lodged in a different region, but his replacement as Counsel for the Child was another female lawyer, understood to be “very close” to Calvert.

We are not alleging in this article that merely because lawyers and psychologists are friends or know each other socially that anything wrong has actually taken place. However, like lawyer Rob Vigor-Brown, we are concerned that justice must be seen to be done, and perceived conflicts of interest are as serious to the administration of justice as real ones in terms of eroding public faith in the legal system.

Margaret Craig and Gail Ratcliffe perused handwritten poems and letters penned by Michael, looking for evidence about the man’s state of mind. One little ditty he wrote goes like this, “I want sex/Don’t come on the desk/Where my old man rests/You may shake this sweat off my chest.”

Another, apparently written before Teena’s birth:

“I vomit my own guilt/And flush (flash?) a smile/I transfer my crime/To an unborn child”.

There are other, more explicit writings. He wrote, for instance about the pleasure he got from masturbation, and violence. Slowly but surely, Sharon’s new support team managed to get increasing levels of access for her.


The purpose of this story, however, as we stated right at the beginning, is not to prove that sexual abuse took place. Instead, we hope we have illustrated in this extended
investigation that it was impossible to prove sexual abuse because of what we believe were fundamental errors of judgment by Counsel for the Child John Chadwick, exacerbated by an irascible Family Court judge. It is our opinion that those two men failed in their statutory responsibility to protect the child, by failing to properly ascertain whether the child was actually being harmed or not. While it is a welcome change to see courts supporting fathers, there is a now famous quote which says “Justice should be seen to be blind, not stupid.”
Justice is harmed when pendulums swing too far in either direction. For the record, John Chadwick was cleared of any wrongdoing by the two Law Society (local and national) investigations into Sharon’s complaints.

Hindsight eventually proved, however, that Sharon’s fears about her ex-husband’s background were correct – four years ago Michael became involved in a drug deal that went wrong and disappeared with an AK-47 rifle, leaving a girlfriend behind. The police alerted Sharon, and Michael eventually turned up outside Teena’s school some months later, planning to abduct her. As a result of this, he was forced to sign over full custody to Sharon.

Teena, now 14, suffers what psychologists call “intrusions” in her dreams centering on rape and sexual violence. She has not seen her father for several years. According to Sharon, he is now in the hospitality industry and addicted to methamphetamines.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

AROPAX NATION: A HARD HABIT TO BREAK, APR 2004

Are modern anti-depressants actually making people crazy? CLARE SWINNEY investigates the growing controversy over the side effects and withdrawal sympoms of the SSRIs:

Janet Frame touches on the association between doctors and patients in Faces In The Water, (1980) on page 28. ‘The doctor would pause sometimes to inquire, smiling in a friendly manner, but at the same time glancing hastily at his watch and perhaps wondering how in the hour before lunch he could possibly finish his rounds of all the women’s ward and get back to his office to deal with correspondence and interviews with demanding puzzled alarmed ashamed relatives.’ Although this was set in an asylum in New Zealand in between the First and Second World Wars, it bears a familiar flavour.

Propelled by a need for efficiency, psychiatry’s enthusiasm for symptomatic, push-button remedies, has led to life’s transient ‘symptoms’, such as forms of mild depression, to be clinically diagnosed and, once diagnosed, seemingly quickly alleviated, if not eliminated, by a pharmacological intervention. Many clinicians today consider it more practical, economical and speedier to prescribe medication than psychotherapy. But is dispensing tablets, such as the family of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), the best course of action for treating common ailments, such as mild to moderate depression? Or is it doing damage to those it is supposed to be helping?

Doctors have administered and prescribed a series of addictive drugs as sedatives for psychological distress since the early 1800’s, ascribing to the belief that they wouldn’t lead to dependence, and if they did, their patients were probably accountable in some way. Initially, there was opium and alcohol, then heroin, morphine and cocaine. Then in came the bromides, barbiturates and associated compounds. And an assortment of benzodiazepines ensued – including Librium and the iconic one, Valium, which was deceptively denoted ‘mother’s little helper.’

As a consequence of the relationships between governments, almighty drug companies, the medical profession and patients, it took over two decades of comprehensive use before benzodiazepines were accepted as addictive. When this occurred in the late 1980s, prescriptions for them went into sharp decline, but by then, thousands of addicts had been spawned worldwide, many for whom the sole motivation for continuing to take the drugs was that it was too distressing trying to cease using them. They were dependent upon them - in a similar manner some get hooked on drinking. It wasn’t an obvious addiction. Its effects were, for the most part, respectably concealed behind the white net curtains of suburbia. But the households were haunted.

A few weeks ago, an evening talkback show on Radio Pacific elicited calls from people who’d taken SSRIs, the antidepressants which soared in popularity when benzodiazepines lost favour. SSRI’s affect the brain’s ability to reabsorb serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which is supposed to affect mood, sleep and appetite. That night numerous people phoned the radio station. Said the program’s host: “We were inundated.” People related how difficult it was to come off SSRIs owing to a melange of atrocious withdrawal symptoms. Some divulging that they experienced anger, fierce rage and suicidal thoughts. A number regarded it as too difficult to give up, and regarded their medication as addictive.

Difficulties coming off the SSRIs are well documented. An Internet search of MEDLINEPlus using the search terms ‘SSRI’ and ‘withdrawal’ in combination drew out 278 entries and in Google, 51,900. Some experts stated that many patients, who go off the drugs, mistake their withdrawal symptoms for a return of the original symptoms they were using the drug to treat. They then commonly restart the medication. Other experts said that in many cases there may be a re-emergence of the symptoms people took the drug to alleviate, such as panic attacks for example, and that this was the deciding factor for some patients who restarted their SSRI medication.
Aropax, (paroxetine), which has a relatively intense impact and short duration of action, is associated with the most severe withdrawal reactions. It was approved for introduction into New Zealand in April 1992 and is now the most widely prescribed antidepressant in New Zealand - 209,054 prescriptions were written for it in 2003 alone. And this states Pharmac, the government-sponsored Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand, is in spite of it having come under scrutiny in Europe and North America, owing to reports linking it to an increased incidence of suicide and a heightened risk of dependence.

In 2003, the number of prescriptions for expensive antidepressants rose and cost taxpayers an additional $4.6 million from the year before. Clinicians’ preference for the SSRIs: Aropax, Fluox and Cipramil, over the old style of antidepressants, such as the tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, accounted for most of this unwelcome gain.
One of the reasons for SSRIs popularity is that doctors do not regard SSRIs as addictive. Withdrawal from SSRI’s, such as Fluox and Aropax, can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, such as dizziness, insomnia, virtual reality nightmares and headaches, but this in itself is not indicative of an addiction. According to Associate Prof Doug Sellman, a psychiatrist who specialises in addiction research at Christchurch, there is a crucial difference between a withdrawal syndrome associated with drugs taken for reward and attendant drug-seeking behaviour and a discontinuation syndrome from medications generally. He states: “There is no doubt that there is a discontinuation syndrome from SSRIs, such as Aropax, but not a withdrawal syndrome that will reignite drug-seeking behaviour.”

“Oh yeah?” responds Jane, one Auckland woman who tried to give up Aropax six weeks after starting. “By day five of climbing the walls, fighting the urge to kill yourself, fighting the urge to kill somebody else, feeling nauseous with the most horrific dreams I’ve ever experienced in my life – of course you go crawling back and start taking the drugs again! I suggest these doctors try taking these drugs themselves for a while, then try kicking the habit. Then you’d see their views change.”


Interestingly, a US clinician interviewed by Time magazine dismissed the link between SSRIs and suicides, saying a study of suicides failed to find evidence that an SSRI had been taken in the hours beforehand. But according to Jane and others, he missed the point - the suicidal thoughts come when you try to give up the drug, and you haven’t taken a pill.

Jane had gone to her doctor for exhaustion, and came away carrying a 20mg a day prescription for Aropax. When some of the side effects started to kick in after four weeks, she went back to the medic who decided to double Jane’s dose to 40mg a day. Things went from bad to worse - and the discovery that Aropax is one drug you can’t quit cold turkey.

“Once you’re on you can’t get off,” she says. “And that’s the most terrifying thing of all.”

The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed., (DSM IV), is the clinicians’ bible. Amongst other things it categorises 307 different types of depression, other mental illnesses, the personality disorders, and substance abuse problems. According to this guidebook, ‘addiction’ requires at least 3 of 7 criteria to be met, (p. 181).

Offers Dr Alistair Dunn, a GP, who specialises in the field of addiction: “A withdrawal syndrome is but 1 of those 7 criteria. I don’t think taking an SSRI, such as Aropax, fulfils any of the others. And I don’t regard it as addictive because it may in some cases, require careful tapering off. If medication for blood pressure is stopped abruptly, a rebound rise in blood pressure can result, or in other cases, a return of angina may occur. Therefore, it must be tapered off slowly. But that doesn’t make it addictive. Addiction does not equal withdrawal syndrome. It’s much more complex, involving effects across a wide range of domains in someone’s life.”

A DSM IV diagnosis of addiction requires evidence of outright abuse. One of the 7 criteria assigned is self-destructiveness manifested in drug-seeking behaviour, such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances. Obviously, this would be most unlikely to occur with an SSRI, given that physicians readily prescribe and actively encourage their use. Asserts Dr Dunn: “It can sometimes take a long time for a GP to convince a patient to try a medication, even when the need is obvious to the doctor and the benefits are significant.” Dunn seemed quite annoyed this article was being written. “What about the benefits of the medication and the harm of someone stopping it because they have read an article stating it’s an addictive drug,” he queries.

A review of the medical literature on the SSRI withdrawal syndrome by Tamam and Ozpoyraz, concludes that the best approach for a doctor in dealing with patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms is to educate them, reassuring them that it is a reversible condition, while reinstating the original SSRI, and further slowing the rate of tapering off the drug. (Source: Adv. Ther, 2002).

Anna De Jonge of Hamilton is the Liaison Officer for the Patients’ Rights Advocacy Waikato Inc, (PRAWI), a group of 570, that advocates having will power over pill power. PRAWI’s principal aim is to empower people with information and knowledge. And it, amongst other activities, assists victims of medical misadventure to make formal complaints. Says De Jonge, who is opposed to the use of the SSRI’s because she says they’ve been associated with “suicide, murder, self-harm and mental turmoil,” if in time SSRI’s turn out to be no improvement on latter-day antidepressants, this will be owing to and in spite of the minimisation of the risks of taking them. “If SSRI’s were in some regard, drugs of dependence, but not being categorised as such, it will increase the element of risk of self-harm using them, and their effectiveness will naturally be over-estimated,” maintains De Jonge.

Is their effectiveness being over-estimated? Effectiveness of numerous drugs is. Although it’s seems baffling given the drug industry’s culture of maximum possible sales for maximum possible profit, Dr Allen Roses, an employee of GlaxoSmithKline, (GSK), which is Britain’s largest drugs empire, publicly disclosed that most prescription medicines don’t work on most of those who take them. Amongst those working in the pharmaceutical industry, this was no secret. Seemingly paradoxically, Roses, worldwide Vice-President of genetics at GSK, stated late in 2003 that most drugs only work in 30-50% of people - a substantial proportion prescribed some of the most expensive drugs do not derive any benefit from them at all.

Could this be a reason why the SSRI, Prozac, which is the most widely prescribed antidepressant drug in history, made a fortune for the company, Eli Lilly, yet couldn’t save the CEO’s own spouse? In May 1994, Mrs Marilyn Tobias, the wife of Randall L Tobias, chief of Eli Lilly, committed suicide. Tobias told a magazine in 1995 that his wife was depressed and had tried Prozac.

Prozac was approved for use in New Zealand in February 1988. Eli Lilly’s www.prozac.com website states: “…since its introduction in 1986, Prozac has helped over 40 million patients worldwide, including those suffering from depression…”. Yet, as Charles Medawar, who has worked in consumer protection in the UK and held appointments with the World Health Organisation, pointed out “there has been no discernible effect on suicide rates, since the start of the new war on depression.” Suicide rates in the USA, where SSRIs have been most used, and in England, provided no evidence of any national dose-response. (Source: ‘The Antidepressant Web - Marketing Depression and Making Medicines Work,’ in International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 1997, p.23).

And now the 24,500 or so anti-depressant prescriptions provided for treating children and adolescents each year in New Zealand are under scrutiny as researchers look for a possible link between SSRIs and suicide. SSRIs are not registered for use here in children, but some doctors prescribe them to youngsters. In Britain, authorities have advised doctors not to prescribe the SSRIs Lustral, Cipramil, Cipralex, and Faverin to young depressed people as clinical trials found a higher rate of insomnia, agitation, weight loss, headache, tremor, loss of appetite, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts in children taking the drugs.


For years, drug manufacturers and regulators in the UK and US maintained that antidepressants would reduce the risk of suicide. Perhaps most notably, Dr David Healy, Director, North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine, a psychiatrist with an international reputation, having authored 12 books and over 120 peer-reviewed articles, strongly disputes this claim. Healy has examined many confidential internal drug company documents, to which he gained access in his capacity as an expert witness in a lawsuit against GSK. These internal documents, Healy states, show the results of the company’s own clinical trials testing the SSRI, paroxetine (Aropax). The evidence, he alleges, shows that rather than reducing the risk of suicide, the drug increases it. He told the BBC that the evidence indicates that roughly 1 in 60 people who go on this drug makes a suicide attempt, whereas only 1 in 550 on a placebo or sugar pill do. Dr Healy says both the drug company and the regulators in the UK and US knew this data for 13 years.

At the heart of the problem, Healy believes is that SSRIs cause akathisia, a syndrome involving motor restlessness, and it is this that causes some patients to commit suicide. GSK’s own studies, and Healy’s, show that SSRIs can cause 1 in 4 healthy volunteers to become agitated. Healy, who is also involved in legal action against Pfizer, following the suicide of the 13-year old American called Matthew Miller, who hanged himself after taking the SSRI sertraline for a week, carried out a trial in healthy human volunteers comparing sertraline with Pharmacia’s Edronax, which does not work on the serotonin system.

The results showed that one third did not respond well to sertraline at all. Of this third, 2 volunteers became acutely and seriously suicidal just being on a normal clinical dose for 2 weeks. They were absolutely normal people. Healy claimed that the archives of the 2 companies contained evidence supporting his own findings.

In excess of 30 studies on sertraline carried out before the drug was licensed, showed that 1 in 4 people taking the drug became agitated. The healthy volunteer studies carried out by the company showed that about 50% of patients suffered withdrawal problems when they came off the drug. Healy claimed this suggested that some patients had become physically dependent on the drug. But instead of warning patients and doctors, he said the company argued that the patients with problems coming off drugs were suffering a recurrence of depression and needed to resume medication.

It can be difficult to conceive of what could be going through someone’s mind when they consider suicide. According to 31-year old, Ashburton mother of two, Diane Blakemore, of how she felt while taking an SSRI: “My life was totally miserable. I wasn’t living - I was surviving. I had horrific nightmares, usually quite satanic. Irrational fears on the drug, were the norm too.

She continues: “I would lie on the couch, too lethargic to move and felt suicidal, as I was highly anxious and depressed. My whole body had inner shakes, I was sweating all over and I had headaches and unbearable muscle tension. My nervous system was overstimulated to the max.

“I felt suicidal because I felt like this and really didn’t like it. I didn’t know how to handle it. The doctor told me to keep taking the tablets, saying that these side effects would go away after 4 weeks. But they didn’t.

“I’d never had any of these symptoms prior to taking the drug. I recently had a bladder and uterine prolapse with terrible backache as a result of giving birth, which made me feel very tired. And as my child had colic, I had to walk the floor, and this walking made my backache worsen. The longer I was on my feet, whether I be sitting or standing later, the worse the pressure and resultant pain would be. And it affected my legs too, as they felt heavy. My backache would ease if I lay down and I took my body weight off my sacrum - so I knew it wasn’t a psychological problem. And I was aware that prolapses might cause this pressure pain. But unfortunately, I just did what the doctor told me and took the medication for the ‘chemical imbalance’ I was told I had.” In this case, the chemical imbalance her doctor referred to was a diagnosis of depression. Blakemore wrote to members of parliament in March 2004 regarding her experiences. In her opinion the medical profession is too ready to categorise behaviour as indicative of depression and far too disposed to prescribe antidepressants.

As with the withdrawal syndrome, problems such as Blakemore’s SSRI experiences have been documented, yet SSRI popularity continues to soar worldwide. For example, in the UK in 1992, 500,000 prescriptions were written for SSRIs. A decade later, the figure was 15 million. Likewise, in 1993 in New Zealand approximately 50,000 scripts were written for SSRI’s and by 2003, this mushroomed to almost 450,000.

Investigate asked GlaxoSmithKline how many packs of Aropax - a drug subsidised by the government - they sold in 2003, in New Zealand. Neil Jarvis, the sales manager responded: “Unfortunately the information you have requested cannot be provided. As you appreciate, sales data is confidential and is not readily available from a majority of pharma [sic] companies.” While GlaxoSmithKline regarded this as classified information, it is in the public arena that in 2003, doctors wrote 203,636 prescriptions for Aropax and that the Ministry of Health paid $19,269,716 for it. Pacific Pharmaceuticals, which supplies the Prozac equivalent, Fluox, a drug which is also subsidised by the government, told Investigate that the company sold 193,000 packs of capsules in New Zealand in 2003. Each pack contains 90 capsules.

In light of the show-stopping number of these drugs being sold each year, it is little wonder the Radio Pacific talkback session on SSRIs became deluged with callers a few weeks ago. When the BBC broadcast a show on SSRIs in the UK in late-2002, it also received a huge response from viewers - 1,374 e-mails and over 5,000 telephone calls. A published medical paper presents an analysis of these e-mails and finds that 17% rated paroxetine as “very positive to worth taking”, 48% rated paroxetine negatively, from not worth taking to severely disabling, and 35% were uncertain, giving no or insufficient evidence of having taken the drug.

Investigate went to a pharmacy to take photos of SSRI packs. The pharmacist, who does not wish to be named, regarded the number of people he knew who were taking it as “sad.” Although not being handed out like sweets by the medical profession, because of restrictions, he knew of people taking it because their friends were.

According to Dr Jay M. Pomerantz of Harvard University, since antidepressants have severe adverse side effects, most patients stop taking them before they might have any positive effect. Investigate found evidence that SSRIs aren’t being swallowed according to doctors’ orders. A near full pack of Aropax was found in a skip outside someone’s apartment. A friend handed me 35 Fluox tablets to take photos of, saying he didn’t ask his doctor for anything for depression, but was prescribed them. He took the medication for 15 days, before deciding it more prudent to address the cause of his unhappiness. In addition, there were packs of Prozac 20 located at a relation’s residence, abandoned in a kitchen drawer.

It is not difficult to fathom that the medical profession is eager to promote these drugs’ use.

The British government is now cracking down on reckless over-prescribing of SSRI drugs, which are depleting public health care budgets. New draft guidelines from the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), the British government agency that decides which drugs should be available through the National Health Service, state that antidepressants are not recommended for the initial treatment of mild depression in adults “because the risk–benefit ratio is poor.” NICE will publish guidelines for the treatment of depression in children in 2005.

Investigate asked Pharmac’s Medical Director, Dr Peter Moodie, if there were any plans to curtail the burgeoning sum being spent on SSRIs here. Moodie advised that a cheaper source of paroxetine was in the process of being sourced, as the patent for the drug had expired. However, he said it would take some time before a cheaper, generic equivalent to Aropax could be obtained, as its producer is fighting tooth and nail to keep its market share. He said it would help reduce costs to taxpayers if doctors were more prepared to look at the basic causes of depression, before reaching for a prescription pad.

Do SSRI’s work? They inhibit serotonin reuptake. They inhibit the action of receptors on cells near neurons, thus making the serotonin stay in the synapse longer and consequently activate the next neuron for a longer duration than would otherwise occur. However, it is merely hypothesised that depression and anxiety are related to abnormal levels of serotonin and altering its effectiveness with an SSRI may alleviate the symptoms.

Depression, which, as mentioned, falls into 307 categories in the DSM IV, is also believed to be associated with abnormal levels of other neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which can, some experts say, be regulated by other drugs. A problem with prescribing the ‘right’ drug to treat depression, is that there is no scientific way to prove that a person has a low or high level of a specific neurotransmitter - so finding the appropriate drug for someone is deemed to be on a trial basis.

Ironically, while doctors continue to give SSRIs the red carpet treatment, numerous studies have demonstrated that drugs are not required to treat depression. Placebos or dummy tablets, such as disguised sugar pills, can do just as good a job. Indeed, numerous reputable studies have found that patients may respond to placebos, in much the same way they respond to antidepressants. One such study, a major government-funded study in the US, found that neither Zoloft, nor St. John’s wort are any more effective than a placebo in patients with major depression. (See: JAMA, Vol. 287, No. 14, April 10, 2002).

Similarly, research by a team led by University of Connecticut psychologist, Irving Kirsch, did an analysis of clinical trial data submitted to the US FDA for the 6 most widely prescribed antidepressants in the US, that were approved between 1987 and 1999. Namely fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, venlafaxine, nefazodone and citalopram.
The group found that 80% of the response to medication was duplicated in placebo control groups. Thus, those who received only the pretend pills felt better to about the same degree than those who took the SSRI drug did. The average difference in improvement was only 2 points on the Hamilton Depression Scale, which produces scores up to 50 or 62 points, depending on the version used. The difference was so small that it was obvious the people got well because they expected to.

Kirsch et al concluded that if the drug affect is as small as it appears when drug-placebo differences are estimated, then there is little justification for the clinical use of SSRIs. (Source: ‘The Emperor’s New Drugs: An Analysis of Antidepressant Medication Data Submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,’ published by American Psychological Association, 2002).

These studies raise very serious questions about whether SSRIs should be the treatment of choice for depression -questions that seem to be falling on deaf ears.
A placebo poses no risk and costs next to nothing, and research findings have demonstrated repeatedly that they work as well as antidepressant medication. So why do psychiatrists prescribe expensive SSRI drugs despite the serious risks and side effects? The risks associated with highly prescribed antidepressants can be severe: in some patients they produce suicidal thoughts.

Investigate asked Pharmac if the many studies that have shown a placebo is as effective in treating depression as an SSRI, have influenced any decisions Pharmac has made? Dr Moodie said: “No. We are aware of those papers. How quickly doctors prescribe SSRIs is up to good medical practice. If Pharmac perceives that there is something obviously going awry in the prescribing of various drugs, then there is a responsibility to promote responsible use.”

Aropax is repeatedly advertised in full-page ads in the New Ethicals Catalogue, a handbook used by GPs to select medications, as ‘more than just an antidepressant.’ Indeed, SSRI antidepressants are advertised and prescribed as safe for a myriad of complaints that have nothing to do with severe, clinical depression for which they were approved.

Dr. Pomerantz notes that “SSRIs in particular, have replaced benzodiazepines as the drugs of choice when the physician is at a loss for what to do to get a patient out of the office.” And: “If what we are seeing is a pattern of widespread antidepressant prescribing for a multitude of subsyndromal, amorphous, patient complaints, it suggests that antidepressants have become the modern-day sugar pill, or placebo. It is quite likely that antidepressants have largely replaced benzodiazepines in this regard.” (Source: Antidepressants Used as Placebos: Is That Good Practice? in Drug Benefit Trends 15 (8), 2003).

If antidepressants are being prescribed as a placebo, New Zealand taxpayers are paying the pharmaceutical companies a ridiculously high price. It is a joke and a telling one. We would be misguided blaming the drug industry for this state of affairs. Effective corporate monsters like GSK and Eli Lilly exist to make a profit for shareholders, not to help provide premium health care for people. Providing good health care is the job of the medical profession.

When Coming Off Antidepressants:
Work closely with your doctor.
Taper the medication. Experts agree that the best way to avoid withdrawal side effects is to wean off the medication. By reducing the dosage in small increments, the brain can adjust to the change in chemical balance and slowly adapt to living without the drug. For some people, experts say, this process may take up to a year.
Get psychotherapy or counselling. While drugs can often mask problems, therapy can help address underlying causes. Psychotherapy is far superior to medication in the long term.
Exercise. Even if you don’t feel like it. Force yourself to. There’s strong evidence exercise plays a major role in lifting one’s mood and reducing stress.
Eat a healthy diet.
Laugh. Laughter is one of the best medicines.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

ISLAM VS THE WEST, PART 4 INVESTIGATE: DEC 02

On the other hand, say Western dissenters, we need to accept responsibility for our cultural imperialism, for the fact that our culture is offensive to many Muslims and that violent protest is sometimes the only way for their voices to be heard. We tasked HAMISH CARNACHAN with exploring the liberal perspective:

It was once a place of boundless beauty that touched those fortunate enough to have felt its tropical embrace. Her people were once regarded as some of the most gracious and hospitable of hosts. For travellers, Bali was once the retreat, a peaceful and idyllic destination, it was the centre of paradise for the millions of foreigners that flocked to her shores each year, the ultimate escape.

But on a balmy night in mid-October a group of terrorists armed with extremist ideology and a vehicle packed with plastic explosives raped Bali of her innocence in the milliseconds it took to tear the buildings and bodies of that congested block to shreds. There was no escape for the unsuspecting innocent, and the lethal talons of terror made a deadly lunge at our sheltered corner of the world.

The final death toll of the ‘Bali bombing’ is still not known. Most of the victims were tourists, visitors from all corners of western society, but it is estimated that about half were Australian citizens - ‘Australia’s own September 11’, was the phrase coined by many commentators and journalists covering the tragedy.

When New York was targeted and hit in an attack even more deadly in its success than the perpetrators had probably envisaged, American society demanded a military front against terrorism. Many of the United States’ allies were quick to rally to the country’s support and a call to arms - among the first to offer support was Australia.

Now, a battered and scarred Australian nation finds itself thicker in the foray than it probably ever intended. Australia too now calls for retribution.

But the terrorist foe is an unconventional enemy who can strike anywhere at anytime with, as we have witnessed, frighteningly little warning. So how do you fight this unseen menace when there is no apparent front, when there are no battle lines drawn?

Some commentators are starting to suggest that the West’s response of retaliatory aggression to counter the terrorist threat is not only futile but it is actually playing into the hands of those who are supposed to be brought to justice.

Bali is a melting pot of racial and ethnic diversity and has traditionally been a centre of religious tolerance. That harmony has since been lost too. It was vaporised along with the hundreds of lives lost at the Sari club that explosive evening in October.

And despite Muslim condemnation of these despicable assaults, the finger of blame has hastily turned upon followers of the Islamic faith. The fallout of the Bali bombing has now blanketed the global Muslim community, not just worshipers in Indonesia, under a shroud of even more intense scrutiny and suspicion.

The Muslim cleric and chief suspect in Indonesia is Abu Bakar Basyir. Described as South East Asia’s version of Osama Bin Laden, certainly he is unapologetic in denouncing America and Israel, and his followers have publicly threatened to call for a jihad against other interests in Indonesia if he was ever arrested.

In the face of mounting pressure from the western world, Indonesia has subsequently been forced to detain him and now faces a nervous wait to see if his followers act on their spoken intimidation.

And yet no matter how or what Muslims throughout the world do to censure these acts and threats of violence, westerners are increasingly starting to arrive at an ill-conceived generalisation that Muslims and Islam are a counterpart to terror and evil.

Certainly those associated with the Taliban and al Qa’ida are practitioners of the Islamic faith. The hand that they, and similar groups, have played in terror attacks around the globe cannot be questioned and are clearly inexcusable.

But should we now heed the warnings of a joint western and Islamic declaration, a voice that is increasing in volume, advising that the West is inadvertently being conscripted into the extremists’ service by focussing solely on these aggressive, retaliatory responses?

It is a proclamation that through the "American oppressors" indiscriminant reprisals the Islamic fundamentalists hope that the Muslim and Arab worlds will unite against their sworn enemy.

The Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and author of Jihad vs. McWorld, Terrorism’s Challenge to Democracy, Benjamin Barber, suggests in his book that the modern response to terror cannot be exclusively military or tactical, as it has been to this point. Rather, he says, it must entail a commitment to democracy and justice even when they are in tension with the commitment to cultural expansionism and global markets.

"Eliminating terrorists will depend on professional military, intelligence, and diplomatic resources whose deployment will leave the greater number of citizens in America and throughout the world sitting on the sidelines, anxious spectators to a battle in which they cannot participate, a battle in which the nausea that accompanies fear will dull their appetite for revenge.

"The second front, however, engages every citizen with a stake in democracy and social justice, both within nation-states and in the relations between them. It transforms anxious and passive spectators into resolute and engaged participants – the perfect antidote to fear," writes Barber.

What he and others suggest, is that the root of terrorism has sprouted to combat what is perceived by those mired in poverty, as many of these militant fundamentalists are, as western imperialism creating injustice, massive social imbalance, and threatening their existence and way of life. They translate it directly as a threat against Islam.

Barber: "This is the free-market institutions and assiduously commercialised and ambitiously secularist materialism…defined by both its virtues (freedom, democracy, tolerance, and diversity) and its vices (inequality, hegemony, cultural imperialism, and materialism)."

Unless these grievances are addressed in an equally aggressive manner, there is mounting concern that there will never be a resolution to this wave of international violence, and the West risks inadvertently drawing more recruits into the ranks of terrorism.

So what are the grievances against the West, in general, and the United States, in particular? Why do these militant fundamentalists feel so disenfranchised from the global community that terror is the only means of making a point?

It seems the answer lies within the complex political nuances of two simple words: Foreign policy.

It is widely recognised that there is, and has been for some time, a growing resentment and spiritual unease by those for whom the West’s trivialisation and mixing of values is an insult to cultural diversity and spiritual seriousness.

For this reason it clearly doesn’t sit well with some sects when the West intervenes in the regions of Islamic and Arab politics. Some say that the world would be infinitely safer from terror if a settlement could be reached in the Middle East and the ‘wealthy’ West showed a serious interest in rectifying the disparity between rich and poor countries.

These are contentious issues but one fact is certain, the ‘War on Terror’ is achieving little as the spate of attacks on random civilian targets by militant fundamentalists has only intensified.

New Zealand peace activist and Indonesian human rights campaigner Maire Leadbeater warned the Government that this would be the case as early as November last year.

In a letter to Prime Minister Helen Clark following the terrorist attacks in New York she wrote: "We appeal to the New Zealand Government to bring the SAS forces home now and to publicly condemn this unjustified war…The toll of civilian casualties will mount to horrific proportions [and] the likelihood of terror attacks world-wide will increase…"

If the events that Leadbeater predicted hadn’t been so tragic, today she would almost be justified in crowing, "I told you so". Instead though, she insists on reiterating the same warning in the hope that someone may still heed the advice to avert any further catastrophes.

"I think the point is that the war on terrorism and the war on Afghanistan and Iraq is actually acting as a catalyst for more acts of terror," says Leadbeater. "It’s creating a huge wave of anger because it’s perceived as being totally unjustified.

"The root causes of terrorism are injustices. Now I would never justify terrorist activity, they must always be condemned, but generally speaking they grow out of absolute desperation.

"There is a perceived sense out there that the United States is determined to go after its own interests and pursue those regardless of the rights or wrongs of the situation, regardless of what happens to the innocent people who get in the way."

Leadbeater highlights the plight of the Iraqi citizens caught in the grip of crippling United States led, United Nations authorised, trade sanctions.

Iraq was penalised with these harsh restrictions, limiting medical aid and food assistance, following the 1990 Gulf War. They were imposed in the hope that the hardships would orchestrate a citizen-controlled regime change.

The United States justified the measures by informing the world, as it continues to do today, that Saddam Hussein was a threat to world peace, a terrorist who has in his possession weapons of mass destruction.

But it is no hidden secret that a matter of months before the war Hussein was still an admired friend of Washington. For years he received food aid and help in developing those very weapons of mass destruction that are now such a problem. Evidently, Hussein is a creature of the West’s own making.

United States intelligence was well aware that he used biological weapons against his own people, tortured nonconformists, and left a bloody trail of corpses in his path to authoritarian control. It was only when he disobeyed his minders and threatened western oil supplies in Kuwait that Hussein was ruled a menace.

Now, more than a decade after the sanctions were imposed, the United States is earnestly trying to gain backing to invade Iraq again. The goal – regime change to suit its own agenda.

The US makes no secret of the fact that it wants to form a beachhead in the strategically important Middle East. Overthrowing Hussein and establishing a democracy in Iraq, favourable to the West, is the aim.

In fact, White House officials even admit funding the man they want in power when Hussein falls.

A former CIA advisor for the Middle East has publicly warned that any American-dictated regime change could be catastrophic. He argues that the United States is making a massive assumption that a democratic system will work in a country that has never had democracy and has a mass of ethnic minorities.

If the plan were to fail the United States would only lose political capital yet Iraq could face an internal power struggle and the associated bloodshed.

Iraq’s neighbour Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations are firm in the belief that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Muslims and Arabs alike see America forcing its agenda in the region as the height of arrogance and the crippling sanctions as entirely unjust.

"Over the last 12 years hundreds of thousands of children have died in Iraq because of those sanctions," says Leadbeater. "John Pilger asked Madeline Albright [former Secretary of State] if that is worth it and she replied, ‘Of course it is’. Now, it is exactly that kind of attitude that obviously creates anger.

"You see it’s a funny bit of the script. In every case in the world it’s all right to look at the underlying causes but somehow when it comes to war on terrorism, if you look for underlying causes, you’re almost accused of condoning the terrorists’ violence.

"You always have to loudly condemn terrorist acts but if you look at cases like Iraq and Afghanistan far more innocent people have died as a result of the war on terrorism than the acts of terror themselves."

So at what point is a war
against terrorism justi-
fied? "I think that’s a
point that Pilger
makes. It’s an oxymo-
ron. It doesn’t make sense. But, yes, when a crime’s committed you must seek out and find who’s responsible and they must be brought to account," she says.

The religious advisor for the International Muslim Association of New Zealand, Sheik Mohammed Amir, is concerned that these extreme groups are tarnishing the Islamic faith, a creed he describes as "peaceful, a religion for humanity". He fervently denounces any form of violence and says there is no place for such acts under the teaching of Islam.

"Of course the things that happened in Bali, no one should accept. I do not know who was responsible or what the purpose was but whatever they think, this is not the way of dealing with it. It was a barbaric act."

Like Leadbeater, Sheik Amir believes that the violent acts are the workings of a desperate people and he remains very cautious of giving an impression of tolerance towards terrorism. Rather than the religious fundamentalism, as it has generally been portrayed, it is more of a political outcry says Amir who also highlights areas of western foreign policy as a problem.

"They might be wanting to send a message that what is happening in Afghanistan or in Bosnia or in Iraq is not just. This might be the only way they feel they can bring other nations to see what is happening. They might want to show the Americans or the Australians, who are heavily involved with this, that it is wrong," says Sheik Amir.

"There’s this policy towards Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine where thousands and thousands of people are being killed – it’s an injustice.

"There is not the same perception for the people being killed in Palestine and Iraq as there is when westerners are killed. If 10 or 20 westerners are killed the whole world starts crying but thousands of Palestinians are killed and not a word is spoken against this crime."

Many others also highlight the oppression of the Palestinian people as the cauldron of Arab and Islamic fundamentalists’ resentment for the West. Years of negotiating tenuous settlement deals and peace agreements have done nothing to ease the Palestinians suffering as the arrangements invariably fail and the factions fall back into conflict.

For more than two decades, in international isolation, the United States has maintained a rejectionist stance on a settlement that would ensure the territorial integrity and security of all states, including Israel, within its internationally recognised boundaries and a Palestine state in the occupied territories.

While the US regularly boasts it is "advancing the peace process", its unwavering stance on Israel has been blamed for undermining peace in the entire Middle East region.

For the Palestinian people, they now exist under an occupation more oppressive than South Africa’s now-abandoned policy of deep Apartheid, and helplessly watch on as Israel consumes vast tracks of the occupied territories’ land and resources in direct violation of United Nations’ resolutions.

"Look at the Palestinians," says Sheik Amir. "They’ve been suffering for 50 years now. They’re living miserable lives in poverty and they’re frustrated. And yet the whole world is silent. Where is the justice?

"The Americans must rethink their foreign policy in the Middle East if they want world peace. They can’t fool everyone forever and hopefully people are starting to realise. The only way for peace is justice. If you act justly then nobody will point the finger."

Peace activist Maire Leadbeater agrees that the United States’ involvement in other nations’ affairs needs to be scrutinised, particularly in Indonesia following the Bali bombing.

As the US push Indonesia to "shore-up their military", Leadbeater can’t help but query this "ill-conceived solution" to the terrorist threat in the area because, she says, "many of the Muslim extremist groups work very closely with the military".

"That is absolutely contradictory, because backing the Indonesian military is increasing support for the extremists."

The American congress had, in a complete reversal in foreign policy, opposed restoring military aid to Indonesia. Assistance was only to resume when the perpetrators of war crimes against the East Timorese, carried out by the Indonesian Army under former president Suharto, had been brought to justice.

Again, it is now well documented that the United States, along with its western allies including Australia and New Zealand, turned a blind eye to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese over more than two decades because it didn’t suit their interests.

"They had a show trial in Jakarta but most of them have since been acquitted," says Leadbeater. "You can’t say there’s been justice but America is starting to restore military aid anyway.

"The West is culpable for a lot of what has happened in Indonesia. It’s well known that the CIA helped Suharto come to power by pointing out the opponents he needed to eliminate.

"When you look at Indonesia, the consequences of that terrorist attack are going to be really felt by the Indonesian people. They’re going to lose the civil liberties that they’re only just starting to get back."

The Green party recently expressed concerns that new anti-terrorism legislation would threaten the civil and democratic rights of New Zealand citizens. Similar sentiments are starting to be expressed by other civil liberty supporters around the world too and surely the pinch is being felt by Muslim people as the moral authority of the powerful West combines to accuse all of their kin – moderate or extreme.

"Islam has been portrayed as a very extreme religion and more or less when people think of Muslims or Islam they think of terror. But as Muslims we totally dissociate ourselves with such activity. The two should not be joined together," says Sheik Amir.

"It is not an Islamic issue – it’s a desperation issue. Just like Christians, if they are desperate then they will do anything. The only difference is that Christian extremists, like the terrorists in Ireland, aren’t labelled by their religion."

Sheik Amir says that until injustices are rectified, or the oppressed are offered an avenue to secure their basic rights, suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism will continue.

The problem is though, that whatever they are fighting for, terrorists are actually doing more harm than good because retaliation invariably inflicts a higher toll on the innocent than those who carried out the acts.

Yet, what other alternative is there when passive resistance falls on deaf ears? For millions of the disenfranchised direct conflict is not an option – they are outgunned by most of the governments with whom they hold a grievance.

So what do we do?

We can condemn and retaliate against these "religious extremists’ atrocities", all the while running the risk of alienating mainstream Muslims into the arms of their fundamentalist brethren.

Alternatively we can condemn the perpetrators of these despicable crimes, bring them to justice, but also consider the root causes of their perceived desperation.

Maybe these are merely callous acts by an evil enemy. But, perhaps theirs is an outcry for justice and if we don’t ask the question, "why?" then more and more young Muslims may start to line the ranks of those we are trying to defeat.

As Independent writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown suggests: "Depressingly, the only time Muslims are seen and heard by the world is when the pitiless among them turn to sickening violence or threaten Armageddon. Until this happens, their grievances or aspirations are ignored or crushed by the powerful...we will not parrot the lies of Bush, Blair, Putin or Sharon. We can see too clearly that these leaders share the responsibility for the terrifyingly unstable world we are all now trying to cope with."


Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

ISLAM VS THE WEST, PART 3 INVESTIGATE: DEC 02

In the west, the word ‘peace’ has a certain meaning, but among militant followers of the Prophet, peace can only be attained once the world has surrendered to Allah and his holy warriors. IAN WISHART backgrounds the rise, fall and rise of extreme Islam


There is a saying that those who don’t learn lessons from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them: it could also be said that those growing up in New Zealand’s education system are doubly condemned – our education curriculum appears to have left out some crucial elements of world history, notably the Sword of Islam, leaving a generation utterly ignorant of the potential fate awaiting them. With the world dancing on the precipice of war, some key perspectives are finally beginning to penetrate an otherwise liberal western media.

One of those is the just released book, The Shade of Swords by Muslim journalist M J Akbar, who argues that the West is about to be enveloped in a fight to the bitter end with Islamic fundamentalists which, if the West isn’t careful, it will ultimately lose.

Traditionally, liberals and the peace movement have blamed the US and western culture generally for "oppressing" Muslims, forcing the Islamic faithful to take extreme action to defend their cultures and beliefs from "Western imperialism". The truth, says Akbar, is much less cut and dried.

Islam’s roots are well documented, originating with a supernatural experience in a cave that left a young Muhammad with the firm belief that the archangel Gabriel had summoned him to be God’s messenger on Earth.

But Islam was born in violence. Not only did the angel allegedly try to choke Muhammad to death at one point, so did his tribe, the Quraysh. From its very inception, Islam (according to Akbar, the best translation is "surrender") has been about a fight to survive. Muhammad called this principle "Jihad", and drew two distinctions. Ultimately the greater jihad, "Jihad al Akbar", was the struggle to perfect oneself, the struggle to be a better person in the eyes of Allah. But of more pressing concern, said the Prophet, was the lesser jihad, "Jihad al Asghar" – the struggle to defeat infidels, non-believers and opponents who threatened the new faith.

It is this kind of jihad that the West confronts today. It is a problem the West has faced for 1,400 years. Yet few New Zealanders have any real knowledge of this fact, and even fewer understand the real root causes of the conflict.

It hasn’t crossed the mind of most Westerners that the world has been without a dominant Muslim empire for only the last 80 years out of that past millennium and a half. The pressures finding vent in the Twin Tower attack and the Bali bombing are not caused by "western imperialism" writes Akbar, but by a regrouping of the old Islamic forces of empire – the desire to rule the world is once again burning in Arabic Muslim hearts.

Osama bin Laden is a university-trained Muslim theologian. He studied the history of Islam at Riyadh University in Saudi Arabia. It is that history that inspired him to take up arms against the West. It is that history that Akbar’s bestselling new book covers in gory detail.

modern impressions of islam in the West have been polluted by myth and misunderstanding, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Perhaps the biggest myth is this one: "Islam is a religion of peace".

"Both sides should acknowledge candidly," said Muslim professor Bassam Tibi of Germany’s Göttingen University recently, "that although they might use identical terms these mean different things to each of them.

"The word ‘peace’, for example, implies to a Muslim the extension of the Dar al-Islam - or ‘House of Islam’ - to the entire world. This is completely different from the Enlightenment concept of eternal peace that dominates Western thought."

Perhaps it is a case of generational collective amnesia. The last Europeans to remember Muslim armies 200,000 strong storming their barricades died in the early 20th century, around the same time that the last Caliph was deposed when the Ottoman empire was crushed at the end of World War I.

WITH THE MUSLIM ‘peril’ beaten for the first time in 1,400 years, the world hardly had time to breathe a sigh of relief before a new threat in the form of Nazi fascism was on the rise, heralding yet another massive war.

From those wars, and the smaller conflicts that followed, a shell-shocked civilian populace in the West begged for peace. When Communism collapsed in the 1980s, it seemed as if the world was finally, after a century of conflict, about to witness calm. But they had forgotten the ambitions of the remains of Empire, Islam’s nascent priesthood who nursed fantasies of their own.

"Perhaps," writes M J Akbar in The Shade Of Swords, "the West became too complacent, and too certain that Arab regimes that owed their survival to Western patronage had ended their last jihad against Israel in 1973.

"They underestimated the Muslim will to martyrdom. They did not recognise the child who would walk with complete calm under the shade of swords."

The phrase, and title of the book, is an allusion to a reputed saying of Muhammad recorded in the Hadith – a collection of alleged quotes and anecdotes that together with the Qu’ran form the backbone of Islamic literature:

"Know that Paradise is under the shade of swords."

It is an invitation to die for God, and thus obtain Paradise. This same message is being drummed into Palestinian schoolchildren today by their teachers, parents, imams and television commentators.

One Palestinian psychologist conducted a survey last year that shows more than 60% of Palestinian children aged between 6 and 11 dream of becoming suicide bombers. He warns that within 10 years an entire generation of pre-programmed killers will be coming of age.

So, is the violence in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Bali and New York typical of Islam or an aberration involving minority extremists? Paradoxically, it is both.

Within only a few years of creating the new faith, the prophet Muhammad found himself and his followers facing sometimes incredible odds on the battlefield. When the Muslims won those battles, they concluded that Allah had willed it so and that it would not matter whether they were 20 strong or 2,000 strong provided Allah was on their side. Muhammad’s Qu’ranic verses contained many passages exalting Muslims to die defending the faith and so attain Paradise, complete with 70 virgins to cater for their every physical desire.

So fixated have some Muslim warriors become on this principle that those left alive are disappointed. "We live, only to die in the service of Allah! That is our destiny and glory."

When Muslim generals ordered their men into certain death against the incredulous Persians, the latter were quoted as exclaiming "Mad! Mad! Mad! We are not fighting against men but against jinns!" (genies)

Almost from the moment they are born, writes Akbar, Muslims true to the faith are taught not to fear death but to welcome it.

Cannon fodder who simply laugh in the face of bullets, bolstered in the certain belief that Allah himself will greet them on the other side, bringing blessed relief and an end to a miserable earthly existence.

"Every muslim child" writes historian John Glubb in The Great Arab Conquests, "is brought up on the accounts of the Prophet’s life and the Arab conquests, and thus the tradition of personal bravery to the neglect of skill has been perpetuated...Islam is essentially a soldier’s religion."

Perhaps to drive home the point, Verse 216 of Al Baqarah in the Qu’ran says:

"Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth and ye know not."

Verse 38 of Surah 9 adds:

"O ye who believe! What is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the Cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter?"

The Qu’ran teaches that Muslims who refuse to go to war for Allah will burn in hell eternally.

In Surah 3, Verses 169 and 170, the Qu’ran promises:

"Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; they rejoice in the Bounty provided by Allah: and with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them [in their bliss], the [martyrs] glory is in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they cause to grieve."

Which is one of the verses that gives sustenance to Palestinian mothers. While New Zealand mothers would do everything possible to dissuade sons from going to war, Muslim mothers are taught to rejoice in it.

While the Qu’ran was dictated from Muhammad’s visions during his lifetime, and initially talks of tolerance towards other religions, the Prophet’s views changed over time.

Surah 3:85 states:

"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him."

Surah 9:5, known as "the verse of the sword", adds:

"Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them in every stratagem."

As if to put the seal on his attitude towards the other two dominant religions in his area, Christianity and Judaism, Muhammad’s last major instruction just before he died, as recorded by his followers, was:

"Let not two religions be left in the Arabian peninsula."

His followers took it well beyond Arabia. At the head of conquering armies they seized Jerusalem, North Africa and swept into Spain, slaughtering, taking slaves and raping women before selling them as concubines.

To be fair, the European crusaders did much the same when they pushed back against Islam later in the Middle Ages, but the West appears to have adopted some collective Liberal guilt for the atrocities of the Crusades, without calling Islam to task for its own aggression. Indeed, for the first 400 years nearly all the pushing was being done by Islam.

in ad 634 muslims conquered Christian Syria. It was Jerusalem in 637, then from 653 wave after wave of Muslim attacks against Constantinople, now Istanbul in modern Turkey, which at the time was the seat of empire for the Christian church in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Briefly, the attacks were mounted in 653, 664, 668, 670, 671, 672, 673, 674, 675, 676, 677, 678, 716, and 717.

In the 717 campaign, a Muslim force of 180,000 Arabs beseiged Constantinople. They lost. It would be another 700 years before Islam’s bloodthirsty troops finally brought down Constantinople, turning 30,000 surviving Christians into slaves and concubines.

In between times, the Catholic church struck back with its Crusades, seizing Jerusalem and slaying every Muslim man, woman and child they found - contemporary reports said rivers of blood flowed as high as chest-deep through some Jerusalem streets.

It was a brutal conflict. Right into the 1800s Muslim armies would foray into Bosnia, Hungary and the like and kidnap Christian children to be sold as sex slaves or converted to Muslims to serve the Emperor. It is these atrocities, and more committed by Muslims during World War II when they formed a special Islamic division of Hitler’s SS, that continue to stoke the fires of conflict in the Balkan states today. Nothing is ever as simple as it appears at first sight.

Eventually though, after the transfer of power and looting, life settled down. Christians and Jews were allowed to live in the Ottoman empire, but as second and third class citizens respectively.

Muslims were to wear white turbans as a symbol of their purity in Allah’s eyes, Christians consigned to blue and Jews yellow.. There were extra taxes imposed on non Muslims as well.

Only two years ago, while they still existed, the Taliban in Afghanistan were aiming to re-introduce the marks of class, with orders that non Muslims would have to wear different coloured armbands.

Islam has never had a desire to co-exist with any other religion without being the dominant partner, and its repeated attempts to forcibly overpower Christianity by conquest have been motivated less by an overt desire for power and more by the admonition to convert the infidels.

Islam, the Qu’ran teaches, supercedes the Christian Bible and Christians are ordered to rescind their faith in Jesus Christ and submit to Allah.

Yet M J Akbar believes the size and influence of Christen-dom has always been a motivating factor in Islam’s decision to wage war against it.

"Such raw passions have eased in a thousand years, but each age offers its own variation on a confrontation that begins with the birth of Islam. This is not a ‘clash of civilisations’ because both Islam and Christianity embrace more than one civilisation and culture," he writes.

"At the heart of this conflict, often manifest as a political struggle for territory and power, is a basic, even fundamental, theological and ideological difference.

"For Muslims, Muhammad is a man and the last prophet in a sequence that begins with Adam and includes Jesus; for Christians, Jesus is divine and the final redemption of mankind. It is consequently incumbent upon the Church to declare Muham-mad an impostor. To do anything else would be to make Christianity a 611 year old religion and Christ’s mission would not be deemed eternal. The Qu’ran repeatedly tells Christians to return to the monotheism of Abraham, renounce the concept of the Trinity, and accept Muhammad as the Last Messenger. The Qu’ran venerates Jesus; for the Church to return the compliment would be suicide."

Forget oil, forget Palestine, forget about US troops using Saudi airbases. The bottom-line clash has been, and always will be, about religious truth.

While many in the West no longer profess a belief in Christianity as such, militant Islam ignores the subtleties. It assumes you are Christian if you are born in the West.

Nor will pleading that you are not a Christian save you from militant Islam’s plan: Christians and Jews are "people of the book" to Muslims, brothers who are simply misguided. Atheists, agnostics and followers of Eastern religions occupy an even lower tolerance rung in the eyes of Islamic fundamentalists.

You are what you are born into, in Islam. If you are born a Muslim then the penalty proscribed by the Qu’ran for converting to Christianity is death. Which is one reason why in Muslim countries you rarely see an open conversion. Islam cannot take the competition, and has outlawed Christian churches in many of the more hardline Muslim states.

In Saudi Arabia, two westerners recently spent more than a year in jail for being found in possession of Christian music CDs, a la Amy Grant, in their own apartments.

It has often been this way, between East and West. When Constantinople fell in 1453, Sultan Mehmet "rode on a white horse towards the Cathedral of Hagha Sophia, mother of all churches, built in the sixth century by Justinian. He dismounted in front of the cathedral, picked up a handful of dust, poured it over his turban and proclaimed the shahadah: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet’. The cathedral in that instant became a mosque," writes M J Akbar..

While Christianity can and does support religious freedom based on the biblical doctrine of free will, militants argue the Qu’ran says humans have no free will: they must utlimately submit to Islam or die.

This creates another intriguing paradox: while Islam says it can tolerate in principle Christianity at a spiritual level, it cannot tolerate its physical presence. Yet while Christianity can tolerate Islam’s physical presence, it can make no faith connection to Islam’s spiritual side.

This is because if one of the religions is correct the other, by definition, must be a false religion.

Nor do Islamic fundamentalists make a distinction between those in the West who sympathise with them politically - they are, says the Quran, but a means to an end.

But there is an- other twist to the crisis that needs to be understood by the West: Islam itself has been hijacked. Although it has always been strident, a particular strain of Islamic interpretation has become dominant in the Middle East and Central Asia - Wahhabism.

It is the scholar Wahhabi, who died in 1787, who can be directly blamed for the style of Islam now practiced in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Egypt and within Indonesia’s militant groups.

The ultimate goal of Wahhabists is a worldwide Islamic state that governs every country containing Muslims, according to Shariah law. Those who then refuse to bow to Allah and stand in Islam’s way will be killed as the Qu’ran admonishes. The Prophet, according to one Islamic commentator in this magazine, made no distinction between and paid no heed to differing creeds, cultures and customs. They either converted or they paid the price. It actually doesn’t matter whether the Prophet did this or not: hundreds of millions of militant Muslims today believe those claims and have made it a new truth.

It is this battle to take the message of Islam to the world that is now being fought in nightclubs, theatres and office buildings around the world.

The opponents in America’s "War on Terror" do not fear death, they welcome it. They do not recognise the right of other cultures to maintain their beliefs and customs - it is not what the Qu’ran instructs.

And their ambition is the return of the Caliphate, the return of something like the Ottoman empire.

The sun is rising in the East once again, while in the West we have hamburgers, coca-cola and Shirley Maclaine’s New Age workout video.

"It’s not a clash between civilisations," writes Mark Steyn in the Spectator, "but within them - in the Muslim world, between what’s left of moderate traditional Islam and an extreme strain of that faith; and in the West between those who think this culture is worth defending and those who’d rather sleepwalk to national suicide while mumbling bromides about whether Western hedonism is to blame for ‘lack of services for locals’ in Bali.

"To read Robert Fisk is like watching a panto cast on drugs: No matter how often the baddies say, ‘I’m behind you!’, Robert replies, ‘Oh, no, you’re not!’."

Steyn accuses Western peaceniks of going on a "sleepwalk to national suicide" by ignoring the real issue of "Islamofacism", and notes:

"Only when the entire world is a Dar al-Islam will it be a Dar a-Salaam, or ‘House of Peace’. The objective is not a self-governing Palestine but the death of the West."

But although Steyn also talks of traditional moderate Islam, such a concept is hard to define. Mid-East Islam has always been fundamentalist in nature; its relative silence during the past century is more due to licking the wounds from World War I than developing any significant new interpretation of the Qu’ran.

And while it’s true that Asia’s Muslim countries, like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have developed a strand of Islam that borrows culturally from Buddhism, leaders in Asia are noting a big rise in Arab-style fundamentalism among previously moderate Asians.

Steyn’s "Islamofascists" are just as much targeting moderate Muslim regimes, like Indonesia, as they are America, because there is - they say - no Qu’ranic authority for moderates. Islam is all or nothing.

So what, if any, are the answers?

The first and most urgent choice belongs to Muslim communities in the West: do they wish to see Shariah law forcibly established in Western countries and a system of Government that is inextricably intertwined with Islam?

In the West, by and large, governments are democratic, popularly elected - albeit manipulated by multinationals - but nonetheless the societies have legal systems that allow freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom to worship whatever faith you belong to.

Under the proposed Islamic regime favoured by Hizb ut Tahrir, Al Qa’ida, Jemaah Islamiyah and others, democracy and those freedoms go.

Muslims in the West must decide whether they will stand with the West against the move by one religion to become a world government, or whether they wish to join that move. If the decision is the latter, then those Muslims would, under New Zealand law, be exposing themselves to treason charges if they were in any way to assist an outside power or group in an attempt to overthrow our current system of governance.

Having addressed that choice, the focus then returns to whether any viable solution exists to the underlying problem?

Islamic fundamentalists correctly point out that when the Ottoman empire was carved up by the victorious West at the end of World War I, the component Arab nations were placed under the rule of Western puppets, families and leaders effectively in the pay of Western interests whose role was to build the nations as secular states, not rebuild the Ottoman Caliphate.

Arabia, for example, was renamed Saudi Arabia by the ruling family that the West installed, the Sauds - the first time that the origin of the Islamic empire had ever been renamed after one particular family.

Those ruling families in Arabia and elsewhere continued to foster business relationships with the West, in return for which they have repressed the would-be Islamic empire builders, executing them or throwing them in jail as insurgents over the years.

But such repression can only last so long: Islam’s genie wants back out of the bottle. The question for the West, then, is a moral dilemma: we are faced with a particular group of people who are currently oppressed and are not free in a Western understanding of the word. This group attempts to engender sympathy from the liberal West on the basis of that oppression.

Yet (and here’s the rub), were the West to assist in freeing this group from its oppression, that same group would then move heaven and earth to break down the West’s freedom. As Hizb ut Tahrir says, "Islamic conquest is mercy, Western colonisation is punishment." In other words, if Muslims conquer the West, that is good, if the West retaliates, that’s oppression.

The truth is, Islamic militants are evil. Contrary to popular Western opinion, George Bush and Vladimir Putin may well be right: the movement is the biggest threat to world peace in existence.

The closest analogy to the world’s current plight is a variation on the story of the Three Little Pigs. Imagine an ending like this: the Big Bad Wolf is outside Political Liberal Pig’s brick house (he inherited it from his brother Practical) trying to blow it down when a snowstorm strikes, leaving an exhausted wolf huddled and shivering in the icy cold, close to death. Taking pity on the weakened wolf, Political Liberal Pig throws open the door and invites Big Bad Wolf in by the fire where it’s nice and warm...


Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:41 AM | Comments (2)

ISLAM VS THE WEST, PART 2 INVESTIGATE: DEC 02

So just how much of a threat to world peace are the extremists? SHAYKH MUHAMMAD HISHAM KABBANI, leader of america’s islamic supreme council, warns that militants will tear islam, and the world, apart

Today, throughout the world, there has been a wave of radical movements, which sometimes turn militant, whose source can be traced to the Wahhabi movement. What is this movement and how did it spread throughout the Muslim world, and now the Western world? What are its ideological differences with traditional Islam and how are these differences influencing and supporting modern day radical movements? What can be done to diminish the power of these movements?

Traditional Islam views religion as a pact between man and God and therefore the domain of spirituality. In this belief, there can be no compulsion or force used in religion. From the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s), peace and tolerance were practiced between different religious groups, with respect to distinctions in belief. Contrary to this, the "Wahhabi" ideology is built on the concept of political enforcement of religious beliefs, thus permitting no differences in faith whatsoever. In "Wahhabi" belief, faith is not necessarily an option; it is sometimes mandated by force.

The origins of nearly all of the 20th century’s Islamic extremist movements lie in a new Islamic theology and ideology developed in the 18th and 19th centuries in tribal areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The source of this new stream of thought was a Muslim scholar named Muhammad ibn Abd-al Wahhab, hence the name "Wahhabism."

The premise of this new, narrow ideology was to reject traditional scholars, scholarship and practices under the guise of "reviving the true tenets of Islam" and protecting the concept of monotheism. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s brand of "purification" of Islam consisted of prohibiting many traditionally accepted acts of worship, reverence of the person of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and the pious saints, and burning books containing traditional prayers, interpretations of law and commentaries on the Qur’an and Hadith. He encouraged his followers to interpret the holy books for themselves and to act on their interpretations in light of their own understanding, regardless of their understanding of fundamental principles or lack thereof. Anyone who did not profess to this new ideology was considered outside of the realm of Islam - an apostate, disbeliever or idolater, thus making the shedding of their blood and confiscation of their wealth permitted. In this way, he was able to secure a significant following whose legacy continues in one form or another until today.

The traditional schools were immediately supplanted by extremist ideologues and radical centers of education. Africans tell the story of a young man sent to study Shari‘a at great expense by his Sunni parents. Upon his return a few years later, he refused to eat a chicken slaughtered in his honor by his father stating, "my father is an apostate." Scenarios like this one quickly caused a great rift between the generations of peace-loving Muslims and the chaos-driven youth who were their children.

More ugly still is the violence wreaked by ex-tremists on the Muslims of Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan, Daghestan, Chechnya, and within the Indian Subcontinent. Violence and societal upheaval were instilled at the new schools by radical ideologues like Egyptian ex-Communist Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid Qutb declared a Muslim is either a "revolutionist" or an infidel, and went so far as to declare all the Islamic societies of his time apostate and fit to be overthrown. He stated, "Islam is a force that runs to gift freedom to all people on the earth with no regard to the variety of their religious beliefs. When this force meets with aberrant forces, it is the duty of his so-called ‘Islam’ to struggle and annihilate them." Invoking the memory of the original Kharijis, he also wrote, "Islam is a whole: its separated parts should be united and the differences removed."

Their dismissal of the traditional schools of thought, their development of schools as incubators for radical ideology, their attack on the source texts of Islam and generations of recognized scholars, and their financing by ideological counterparts worldwide, have truly enabled the Neo-Kharajite movement to dominate the vision of Islam in the world.

Traditional Muslims, the silent majority, remain numerous and confidant enough to repel the Neo-Kharajite movement from within Islam, given the necessary support. However, backed by the oil-wealth of their ideological counterparts overseas, Neo-Kharajites have a definitive advantage over the majority of Muslims, who have only their own humble resources at their disposal. Only with real financial and political support can classical Muslim scholars and moderate, mainstream Muslims reclaim the banner of Islam from these usurpers, retake the podium they have hijacked, repel these extremists and discredit their heretical ideology. Truly, this is a battle worth fighting. And it is a battle which, with the help of Almighty God, we can and must win.

Unfortunately, many American Muslim organizations lack the courage to stand up and speak forthrightly about this matter. Too often we see leaders of the community, equivocating between implicit support for extremists and general condemnations of terrorism. Broadbrush, vague condemnations are nothing but a show to prove one’s moderation when Muslims sit around the interfaith table with Jews and Christians. This has the community spinning around in confused circles, for the people can’t help reflecting the actions and words of their leaders.

Equivocation on clear moral issues can only lead to perplexity among the common worshippers and loss of confidence in the upright principles of Islam. The cause of these conflicting messages is that on the one hand leaders fear they might divide the community (which in reality is already divided into many factions), and on the other hand they fear for their own positions, due to their connections with extremists around the world through their U.S. offices.

roots of extremism

Bin Laden has issued a fatwa to all his followers stating, "The U.S. is the enemy of Islam and we must fight it. Our order throughout the world is to kill any member of its army and its leaders, and this is a religious duty." This fatwa was issued by bin Laden in retaliation for the U.S. government’s detention of Shaykh Omar Abdur Rahman.

We found a similar fatwa has been issued by one of the highest religious officials of Saudi Arabia, Imam Abdur Rahman al-Hudhayfi, grand imam of Masjid an-Nabawi of Madina al-Munawwara of Saudi Arabia, during Jumah prayer March 13, 1998. In his 29-page fatwa the Imam stated:

"The followers of Judaism and Christianity know for certain that Islam is the true religion, but jealousy towards the Muslims, arrogance, love of wealth and selfish desires are a barrier between them and Islam....We have to be aware that movements that have been initiated to bring together interfaith sessions of different religions are seriously detrimental to Muslims. It is clear that truth and falsehood cannot be compromised. We further disapprove of invitations to such compromises which are being extended by those ‘intellectuals’ who are not even acquainted with the basic and essential doctrines of Islam..."

Al-Hudhayfi—Imam of the 2nd most holy mosque for Muslims—continued,

"How can there be any compromise between Islam and Judaism when Islam is unique in its purity, its light, its brilliance, its justice, its magnanimity and high morality for mankind, while on the other hand Judaism is a collection of materialism, treachery, low and degraded morals, lawlessness, greediness and covetousness.... Similarly there is no relationship between Christianity and Islam. Islam is a pure unitarian religion believing in the unity of God, filled with justice and blessings, whereas Christianity is a collection of misguidedness..."

The similarity of the thinking behind these two fatwas cannot be missed. Instead of a comprehensive approach to solving the problems of the Muslim ummah, these two extremists find it easier and politically expedient to blame America, Russia, or any extraneous power for the current sorry state of the Muslims. In the two edicts one can see the expression of views prompted primarily by the political agendas of the individuals issuing them. Whenever a situation arises where a certain goal is sought, declarations are made to arouse the emotions of the masses. However what is said in no way reflects the traditional Islam and the majority of Muslims. Rather, these ideologues are expressing their own extremist dogma, inherited through their ancestors from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, 18th century founder of the "Salafi"/Wahabi sect. This sect has developed and been promoted very intensely in the last thirty years by a number of regimes, with the disastrous result that the extremism which vaulted them into power has now come full circle and threatens to sweep them away.

Thus we see bin Laden, a Saudi, with his network of militants, working to destroy the government of Saudi Arabia, no doubt strengthened by the fatwa of the Saudi imam, Abdur Rahman al-Hudhayfi. This contradicts the explicit teaching of Prophet Muhammad (saws) not to oppose a ruler as long as he does not prevent the performance of prayer—even if he commits injustice. Thus extremists use Islam when it suits them and likewise contravene it at their convenience.

Spouting verses of Qu’ran and Prophetic traditions, well-financed Wahhabi/Salafi preachers exploit the spiritual yearnings of the people and harness them to adopt their teachings.

While outwardly ‘Islamic’, the main ingredients of traditional Islam are missing: love, compassion, mercy, tolerance, respect and forgiveness. These words are rarely spoken, and if so only in regard to people of the same creed.

All others are rejected as "unbelievers" to be ignored, and, undoubtedly if the Wahhabis were given power, to be eliminated. The actual focus of these preachers is not so much Islam as it is politics. Arguing that Islam is a religion of action in which state and religion are not separated, they reduce Islam to political goals and power-seeking, subjugating its spiritual dimension completely.

The cleverest dimension of the Wahhabi/Salafi ideological onslaught is their ability to earn the sympathy of Western thinkers and analysts by claiming to be "reformers" of Islam. They present innocuous literature of struggling for religious freedom and practice as if to demonstrate their supposed non-violent, ideological goals. Yet, what they deceitfully conceal is those ideological goals are not a matter of choice.

Their desire for an "Islamic state" for example is not just an ideal, it is a duty they will not surrender or relinquish. Therefore, the pursuit of such an ideal will inherently lead to violence as long as there is societal or governmental opposition to its establishment. Their ideological goals do not provide for negotiation, compromise, or mediation with other societal perspectives of the nation-state.

It is imperative for the foreign observer to critically determine at what point the pursuit of religious ideals is actually an incitement to violence and civil unrest. As nations founded on principles of democracy and freedom, we should not condone the imposition of any ideals— social, political, or religious—by physical force or psychological intimidation.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s a flood of Muslim radicals from Arab Gulf nations, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, North Africa began to cross the borders of Central Asian nations and the Caucasus unimpeded. With the downfall of communism, the newly emerging nations had little or no resources to fight the insurgencies. Fighters, mainly trained in Afghanistan, as it is alleged, with funding from Wahhabi sources and through the sale of opium and other narcotics, were able to penetrate borders, make quick guerilla attacks and then rapidly withdraw. Trained in the crucible of the Russo-Afghan war, these radicals were primarily fighters, with little interest in ideology. However, their backers were radical ideologues: Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Shaykh Umar Abdur Rahman and numerous other Arab ‘reformers’, following the teachings of the strict Wahhabi/Salafi ideology.

Latter-day reformers of Islam, the Salafis like Rashid Reda, Jamaluddin Afghani and other modernist pan-Islamic thinkers, and radicals like Syed Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, Mawlana Mawdoodi, had all drunk deeply at the fount of Wahhabi ideology, and from it came their militant approach. These groups rejected traditional religious understanding and instead focused on the politicization of religion. Though they have since renamed their movements as if to disconnect them from ‘Wahhabism’, the essence of their teachings is the same.

Trained in their home countries in militancy, establishing core cells and building up organizational and financial prowess, these radical leaders were not content with establishing mosques, Islamic schools or social institutions -they sought to build a military movement. Initial goals— overthrow the governments of their home countries or adopted nations and create the "Islamic state", following their version of "pure" Islamic law— adapted to suit their ideology.

These heavily funded operations often posed as relief organizations, but in reality they were working to spread the Wahhabi/Salafi ideology adopted by various radical movements. The massive infiltration of political Islam into a society previously void of political activism laid the foundation for an organizational strategy founded on anti-government pseudo-Islamic rhetoric.

Today the strategy of the Wahhabis in Central Asia is two-pronged: 1) flood the religious ‘market’ with massive quantities of literature from radical Wahhabi/Salafi reformists, which advocates the "Islamic revolution" or ‘Jihad’ against the government, targeting students and intelligentsia who are now free to read and study;

2) encourage militant activism, ranging from public protests and the founding of anti-government mosques and schools, to the actual engagement in acts of terror and military insurgency operations. Such operations are often staged from remote areas of neighbouring countries, creating a ‘natural’ barrier to governmental forces that pursue them.

According to Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, the end justifies the means. Therefore it comes as no surprise to find the ‘scholars’ of militant Islam declaring permissible all that Islam in fact declares prohibited. This includes:

· Declaration of ‘Jihad’, against Muslim governments and their citizens reasoning that the failure to implement Islamic law makes the government enemies of Islam and ‘unbelievers’. This contradicts authentic Islamic law, which states that unless a government prevents Muslims from praying, revolt is not permitted. This ruling is derived from the verse in the Quran, "Obey God, obey your Prophet, and obey those in authority over you."

· Killing any member of the government stating that they are ‘kafir’ or ‘unbelievers’. Though seemingly just a matter of words, such a declaration amongst Muslims subjects them to immediate death since they would be considered "enemies of Islam". Such an accusation of heresy or apostasy is a grave sin in Islam and contradicts traditional Sunni belief.

· Killing citizens who do not revolt against the government, as collaborators with unbelief.

· Selling Islamically forbidden products and materials, i.e. opium, to finance any aspect of their ‘Jihad’.

· Dealing in arms smuggling.

· Kidnapping, buying and selling human beings.

Take Chechnya. Chechens are moderate Muslims who want to follow the Islamic legal standards in rules of worship and civil society, but who see no reason to impose such law on anyone else. When the first war for Chechen independence took place, it was not so much religiously motivated as it was supported by religious enthusiasm.

What took place during the latter phase of the war and after the peace treaty with Russia resulted in today’s disastrous situation in Chechnya.

Using Shamil Basayev (responsible for the Moscow theatre siege) as their kingpin, the Wahhabis were able to establish an independent militant movement operating outside all laws and restrictions.

The Wahhabis poured finances and arms into Basayev’s militia, creating a full-scale army in Chechnya. Their intent on expansion was clearly demonstrated by the insurgency into Daghestan in August 1999. The primary objective is to create an Islamic state, with the expectation that eventually it will stretch from Afghanistan to North Africa, and from Turkey south to Yemen and the Sudan.

It is very well known that cer-tain networks have flourished in many countries throughout the world. Small but well-fi-nanced militant movements arise, coming against their government and the common people, instigating conflict. The danger lies when an outside government supports such extremist movements under the false impression that this constitutes preserving religious freedom.

To understand such movements, one must understand the scope of Islam and the psychology of Muslims, since what we are seeing today is an ideological movement turned militant. It is important to note that the Wahhabi ideology itself is extreme in its interpretation and can turn militant over time. Why is this form of thinking attractive to some Muslims? What are the political agendas behind "religious" movements? How are holy books used to justify illegal actions performed in the name of the religion? Education is a key factor in containing and countering the spread of this type of extremism and its associated movements.

It would be highly beneficial if a think tank or research institute were to be formed in order that government officials, researchers, and media understand Islam on a deeper level, rather than making rash generalizations based on superficial understandings. To truly understand the world Islamist extremist movement, one must realize it is not just a social phenomenon as so many theorists mistakenly assume, but is a full-fledged ideological war of words and weapons alike.



Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

Islam vs The West, Part 1

From riots in Pakistan to demonstrations in Europe, Asia and even Australia, intelligence agencies are keeping a close eye on the rise of HIZB UT TAHRIR, or The Party of Islamic Liberation, an extremist Muslim network that also has links to some New Zealand Muslims. The group is stridently pushing for war between Islam and the West and says there is no room for compromise or negotiation. This is part of its manifesto:

Islam is a universal mes-sage for all human beings whichever race, gender or people they come from. He (swt) said: "And We have not sent you (O Muhammad [saw]) But as a (Messenger) to all Man-kind, giving them glad tidings and warning them" [TMQ 34:28] Islam makes those who believe in it into one Ummah (people). However much the ethnicity, gender, peoples and languages may differ. An Ummah which professes a single Deen and worships only one Lord and faces one Qibla (direction). There is no superiority of a nobleman over the common man, a white over a black, or an Arab over a non-Arab except in Taqwa (God fearing).

Islam is the last Message Allah has revealed to His servants. It abrogates all the messages revealed before as Judaism, Christianity and others. Allah (swt) has obliged the followers of the previous messages to leave their religions and profess belief in Islam. Allah (swt) has obliged man to worship Him until he inherits the earth and those in it. Allah (swt) will not accept from any human being in the world to follow a deen other than Islam. He (swt) said: "And whosoever seeks a deen other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers." [TMQ 3:85]

the aim of hizb ut-tahrir

Its aim is to resume the Is-lamic way of life and to con-vey the Islamic da’wah to the world. This objective means bringing the Muslims back to living an Islamic way of life in Dar al-Islam and in an Islamic society such that all of life’s affairs in society are administered according to the Shari’ah rules, and the viewpoint in it is the halal and the haram under the shade of the Islamic State, which is the Khilafah State. That state is the one in which Muslims appoint a Khaleefah and give him the bay’ah to listen and obey on condition that he rules according to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and on condition that he conveys Islam as a message to the world through da’wah and jihad.

The Party, as well, aims at the correct revival of the Ummah through enlightened thought. It also strives to bring her back to her previous might and glory such that she wrests the reins of initiative away from other states and nations, and returns to her rightful place as the first state in the world, as she was in the past, when she governs the world according to the laws of Islam.

It also aims to bring back the Islamic guidance for mankind and to lead the Ummah into a struggle with Kufr, its systems and its thoughts so that Islam encapsulates the world.

The Party accepts Muslim men and women as its members regardless of whether they are Arab or non-Arab, white or coloured, since it is a party for all Muslims. It invites all Muslims to carry Islam and adopt its systems regardless of their nationalities, colours and madhahib (Schools of Thought), as it looks to all of them according to the viewpoint of Islam.

The method of affiliating the people to the Party is through their embracing of the Islamic ‘aqeedah, their maturity in the Party culture, and by their adoption of the thoughts and opinions of the Party. The person in question imposes himself on the Party, when he melts into it, and when the da’wah interacts with him and he adopts the thoughts and the concepts of the Party. So the affiliation that binds together the members of the Party is the Islamic ‘aqeedah and the Party’s culture which originates from this ‘aqeedah. The women’s circles in the Party are separate from the men’s circles.

Women’s circles are supervised by either their husbands, relatives who they cannot marry or by other women.

hizb ut-tahrir’s work

The work of Hizb ut-Tahrir is to carry the Islamic da’wah in order to change the situation of the corrupt society so that it is transformed into an Islamic society. It aims to do this by firstly changing the society’s existing thoughts to Islamic thoughts so that such thoughts become the public opinion among the people, who are then driven to implement and act upon them. Secondly the Party works to change the emotions in the society until they become Islamic emotions that accept only that which pleases Allah (swt) and rebel against and detest anything which angers Allah (swt). Finally, the Party works to change the relationships in the society until they become Islamic relationships which proceed in accordance with the laws and solutions of Islam. These actions which the Party performs are political actions, since they relate to the affairs of the people in accordance with the Shari’ah rules and solutions, and politics in Islam is looking after the affairs of the people, either in opinion or in execution or both, according to the laws and solutions of Islam.

What is manifested in these political actions is culturing the Ummah with the Islamic culture in order to melt her with Islam and to cleanse her of the corrupt creeds, false thoughts and erroneous concepts including the influence of Kufr thoughts and opinions.

What is also manifested in these political actions is an intellectual and political struggle. The manifestation of an intellectual struggle is through the struggle against the thoughts and systems of Kufr. It is also manifested in the struggle against false thoughts, corrupt creeds and erroneous concepts by demonstrating their corruption, showing their error and presenting clearly the verdict of Islam concerning them.

As for the political struggle, it is manifested in the struggle against the disbelieving imperialists, to deliver the Ummah from their domination and to liberate her from their influence by uprooting their intellectual, cultural, political, economic and military roots from all of the Muslim countries.

The political struggle also appears in challenging the rulers, revealing their treasons and conspiracies against the Ummah, and by taking them to task and changing them if they denied the rights of the Ummah, or refrained from performing their duties towards her, or ignored any matter of her affairs, or violated the laws of Islam.

So all the work of the Party is political, whether it is in office or not. Its work is not educational, as it is not a school, nor is its work concerned with giving sermons and preaching. Rather its work is political, in which the thoughts and laws of Islam are presented in order to act upon them and to carry them so as to establish them in life’s affairs and in the State.

The Party conveys the da’wah for Islam so that it is implemented, and so that its ‘aqeedah becomes the foundation of the State and the foundation of its constitution and canons. This is because the Islamic ‘aqeedah is a rational creed and it is a political doctrine from which originates a system that deals with all of man’s problems, whether they are political, economic, cultural, social or any other issue for that matter.

world domination begins at home

Islam is a universal ideology, but its method does not, how-ever, allow one to work for it universally from the begin-ning. It is necessary, however, to invite to it universally, and make the field of work for it in one country, or a few countries, until it is consolidated there and the Islamic State is established.

The whole world is a suitable location for the Islamic da’wah. But since the people in the Muslim countries have already embraced Islam, it is necessary that the da’wah starts there. The Arab countries are the most suitable location to start carrying the da’wah because these countries, which constitute part of the Muslim world, are inhabited by people who speak the Arabic language, which is the language of the Qur’an and hadith, and is an essential part of Islam and a basic element of the Islamic culture.

The Hizb began and started to carry the da’wah within some of the Arab countries. It then proceeded to expand the delivery of the da’wah naturally until it began to function in many Arab countries and also in non-Arab Muslim countries as well.

step by step, they will submit

The method adopted by Hizb ut-Tahrir to convey the da’wah is Shari’ah Law derived from the seerah of the Messenger of Allah (saw) in his performance during the conveyance of the da’wah. This is so because it is obligatory to follow him, as Allah (swt) says, "Surely, in the Messenger of Allah, is the best example for those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah often." [TMQ 33:21]

"Say if you love Allah follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins." [TMQ 3:31]

"Whatever the Messenger gives you take it, and whatever he forbids you abstain from it." [TMQ 59:7]

There are many other such verses which denote that following the Messenger of Allah (saw), taking him as an example and taking all aspects of the deen from him is obligatory.

Since the Mus-lims nowadays live in Dar al-Kufr, because they are gov-erned with laws other than the rev-elation of Allah (swt), so their land resembles Makkah where the Messenger of Allah (saw) was first sent as a Messenger. Therefore, it is necessary to take the Makkan part of the Messenger of Allah’s seerah as an example in conveying the da’wah.

By studying the life of the Messenger of Allah (saw) in Makkah until he (saw) had managed to establish the Islamic State in Madinah, it is evident that he (saw) went through clearly defined stages, in each of which he (saw) used to perform specific clear actions. So the Party took from that the method of action, the stages of its action and the deeds which it has to perform during these stages in accordance with the deeds which the Messenger of Allah (saw) performed during the stages of his work.

Based on this, the Party defined its method of work into three stages:

The First Stage: The stage of culturing to produce people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party, so that they form the Party group.

The Second Stage: The stage of interaction with the Ummah, to let the Ummah embrace and carry Islam, so that the Ummah takes it up as its issue, and thus works to establish it in the affairs of life.

The Third Stage: The stage of establishing government, implementing Islam generally and comprehensively, and carrying it as a message to the world.

The Party started the first stage in al-Quds in 1372 AH (1953 CE) under the leadership of its founder, the honourable scholar, thinker, able politician, qadi in the Court of Appeals in al-Quds, Taqiuddin al-Nabhani (may Allah’s mercy be upon him). In this stage, the Party used to make contact with the members of the Ummah, presenting to them, on an individual basis, its idea and method. Whoever accepted the basic idea, the Party would organise for him intensive study in the circles of the Party, so that he became purified by the thoughts and rules of Islam adopted by the Party and thus in the process became an Islamic personality. Thus he interacts with Islam and enjoys an Islamic mentality and Islamic emotions leading him to start to carry the da’wah to the people. When a person reaches this stage he impresses himself on the Party and thus becomes a member of it. This is the way in which the Messenger of Allah (saw) had acted in his first stage of the da’wah, which continued for three years, by inviting people individually and presenting to them that which Allah (swt) had revealed to him (saw). He gathered together secretly those who believed in him on the basis of this ideology.

He was concerned to teach them Islam and read to them from what was revealed and was being revealed to him until he had melted them with Islam. He used to meet them secretly and teach them in places hidden from the eyes of the people. They also used to perform their worship in disguise.

Eventually, the da’wah for Islam spread in Makkah, and people started to talk about it and began to enter Islam in groups.

At this stage of the da’wah, the Party focused its attention on building its body, increasing its membership and culturing the individuals in its circles by the concentrated Party culture until it had managed to form a party structure from people who were melted by Islam, and who had adopted the thoughts of the Party and had interacted with these thoughts and conveyed them to the people. After the party had managed to form its structure and society had become aware of it, recognised it and its thoughts and what it was calling for, the Party moved to the second stage.

the second stage

This stage is the inter-action with the Ummah to make her carry Islam and to establish in the Ummah the common awareness and the public opinion over the thoughts and the rules of Islam adopted by the Party, so that she adopts them as her own thoughts and strives to establish them in life, and proceeds with the Party in the work to establish the Khilafah State and to appoint the Khaleefah in order to resume the Islamic way of life and carry the Islamic da’wah to the world.

In this stage the Party developed its activities from only approaching individuals to also talking to the masses collectively. In this stage it used to carry out the following functions:

The concentrated culturing of individuals in circles to build the body of the Party and increase its members, and produce Islamic personalities that are capable of conveying the da’wah and rushing forward into the intellectual and political struggle.

The collective culturing of the masses of the Ummah with the thoughts and the rules of Islam which the Hizb had adopted, through lessons, lectures, and talks in the mosques, centres and common gathering places, and through the press, books and leaflets. This was done in order to create a common awareness within the Ummah and to interact with her.

The intellectual struggle against the Kufr creeds, systems and thoughts, the erroneous ideas and the fraudulent concepts by exposing their falsehood, defects and contradiction with Islam, in order to deliver the Ummah from them and from their effects.

The political struggle, which is represented by the following:

A struggle against the Kufr colonialist states which have domination and influence on the Islamic countries. The challenge against colonialism in all its intellectual, political, economic and military forms, involves exposing its plans, and revealing its conspiracies in order to deliver the Ummah from its control and to liberate it from any effect of its influence.

A struggle against the rulers in the Arab and Muslim countries, by exposing them, taking them to task, acting to change them whenever they denied the rights of the Ummah or neglected to perform their duty towards her, or ignored any of her affairs, and whenever they disagreed with the rules of Islam, and acting also to remove their regimes so as to establish the Islamic rule in its place.

To assume the interests of the Ummah and to adopt its affairs in accordance with the Shari’ah rules.

The Party has carried out all this work following what the Messenger of Allah (saw) did after Allah (swt) had revealed to him,

"Proclaim what you are ordered (to say) and turn away from the idolaters. " [TMQ 15:94]

The Messenger of Allah (saw) proclaimed his message and invited Quraysh to Mount Safa and told them that he was a Messenger sent to them. He asked them to believe in him. He started to make his call to the masses as well as to the individuals. When Quraysh opposed him, he confronted Quraysh, its false gods, creeds and thoughts, explaining their falsehood, corruption and defects. He defamed them and attacked them as he attacked all the existing false creeds and ideas.

The Party was clear, open and challenging in the carrying of its thoughts and in confronting the false thoughts and political parties, both in its struggle against the disbelieving colonialists and in its struggle against the rulers. It does not flatter, coax, act courteously or prefer safety, irrespective of the results or the circumstances of its da’wah. It challenges everybody who disagrees with Islam and its laws, a matter which has exposed it to severe harm committed by the rulers against it; such as imprisonment, torture, deportation, pursuit, attacking members livelihoods, impairment of interests, banning from travelling and murder. The oppressive rulers in Iraq, Syria, Libya and others have killed dozens of its members. The prisons of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are full of its members.

The Party sustained all this through following the example of the Messenger of Allah (saw). It was he (saw) who came with the Message of Islam to the whole world. He challenged it in an open manner, believing in the truth which he (saw) called for. He (saw) challenged the whole world, struggling with all and sundry, without giving any account to their habits, traditions, religions, creeds, rulers or common people. He paid not the slightest attention to anything except the Message of Islam. He took the initiative against Quraysh by defaming its gods. He challenged them about their beliefs and he insulted them whilst he was only one person, without either adequate means or helpers, and having no weapons except his deep Iman in the Message of Islam which he (saw) was sent with.

The fact that the Party does not use material power to defend itself or as a weapon against the rulers is of no relevance to the subject of jihad, because jihad has to continue till the Day of Judgement. So whenever the disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. The members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them. Whenever there is a Muslim amir who declares jihad to enhance the Word of Allah (swt) and mobilises the people to do that, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir will respond in their capacity as Muslims in the country where the general call to arms was proclaimed.

When the society became unresponsive to the Party as a result of the loss of the Ummah’s confidence in its leaders and chiefs on whom it had placed its hopes, the difficult circumstances under which the region was placed in order to ease the implementation of the conspiracies, the oppression and despondency which the rulers practised against their peoples and the severe harm which the rulers inflicted on the Party and its members, when the society became unresponsive for these reasons the Party started to seek the support of the influential people with two objectives in mind: For the objective of protection, so that it could manage to continue its da’wah while secure from affliction. To take over the rule in order to establish the Khilafah and apply Islam.

In addition to performing the actions of seeking material support, the Hizb continues to perform all the actions which it used to carry out, like concentrated circles, the collective culturing, focusing on the Ummah to make her carry Islam and establishing the public opinion for Islam within it. It continued to struggle against the colonial disbelieving states by revealing their plans and exposing their conspiracies, as it continued to struggle against the rulers by adopting the interests of the Ummah and taking care of its affairs.

The Party still continues in its work and hopes that Allah (swt) will grant to it and to the Islamic Ummah the help, success and victory, and at that moment the believers will rejoice.

one ring to rule them all...

The ruling system in Islam is a system which defines the structure, descrip-tion, foundations, pil-lars and apparatus of the State. It defines the basis on which the State is established and the thoughts, concepts and criterions according to which the affairs are looked after, and the constitution and canons which it applies. The Islamic ruling system is a special and distinct system, for a State which is special and distinct, fundamentally different from all the existing ruling systems in the world. Whether with regards to the basis on which the State is established, the thoughts, concepts and criterion according to which the people’s affairs are looked after, the structures in which it is represented or the constitution and canons which it applies.

The structure of the Islamic ruling system is the Khilafah system, in which the Muslims pledge to their Khaleefah to hear and obey him so that he rules them with Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw). It is a system established on the basis of the unity of the State and unity of the Khilafah. It is not permitted for the Muslims to have at any one given time more than one State on earth, or have more than one Khaleefah. If a second Khaleefah is given the Bay’a (oath of allegiance) despite the presence of a Khaleefah, the second Khaleefah is fought against till he gives Bay’a to the first Khaleefah or he is killed. He (saw) said: "If a Bay’a has been taken for two Khulafa, kill the latter of them."

one ring to find them...

Muslims of America are American citi-zens. The constitution gives them the same rights as the Christians. And so they think they are free and equal. After that particular Tuesday have the Muslims dared to voice their opinions in freedom? Have the Muslim women dared to go out in their Islamic dress without a sense of fear? Did the Muslims dare to show their emotions regarding the strikes against Afghanistan? Are they able to say in the du’a of nazilah: O our Lord! We have assigned you (to deal with) America and those who ally with them? Can they say on the minbars: O Allah! Help your servants the mujahids? Their bonds, equality and freedoms are lies and false. Their ideology can never melt/mold people. As for our Deen, its brotherhood is real and its molding is complete. We saw an Immigrant (muhajir) from Quraysh drawing closer to Allah by killing his kaafir relative. An American trusts a protestant who has British citizenship more than a Muslim who has American citizenship. So where is this bond?

one ring to bring them all...

Today it is Fard (obligatory) for every Mus-lim to work to establish the Khilafah. The Islamic Khilafah was destroyed in 1924. Ruling by Islam in the state and society ceased from the time the Khilafah state was destroyed. Muslims are forbidden from remaining for more than three days without a pledge to a Khaleefah being on their neck. Muslims are also forbidden to rule by anything other than Islam and to stay silent about the implementation of Kufr laws over them. Due to all of the above, Muslims all over the world are sinful in the sight of Allah, and they deserve His punishment except those who involved themselves in the work to establish the Khilafah and to restore the ruling by that which Allah has revealed. The sin would not be lifted from them until the Khilafah was re-established and the ruling by that which Allah has revealed restored.

and in the darkness bind them

The Islamic Aqeeda being a basis of the State obliges that the Islamic State should not have any thought, concept, rule or crite-rion which has not emanated from the Is-lamic Aqeeda i.e. not taken from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw). Because it is not enough that the basis of the State be the Islamic creed only in name. Rather this basis should be represented in everything related to its existence, and in every one of its issues whether tiny or great. Therefore, it is not permitted that there should be any concept taken from democracy or nationalism because it contradicts with the rules of Islam.

Anyone who rules by other than Islam is either a Fasiq (transgressor) or Kafir (disbeliever).

Islam differs from the previous religions of Judaism, Christianity and others. Allah has made it an ideology built on a rational creed (Aqeeda) from which a system emanates treating all of life’s problems for the whole of mankind. Allah has enjoined and obliged upon Muslims to rule according to it and to make it the judge in every affair of their life.

And He (swt) forbade them to rule by anything other than it in any affair of their life. He has described the one who rules by other than Islam or arbitrates to anything other than Islam as deserving punishment on the Day of Judgement, if he did not believe that the thing other than Islam is better than Islam. However, if he believed in that he will be a Kafir (disbeliever) He (swt) said: "And whoever does not rule by that which Allah has revealed, they are the disbelievers (Kafirun)" [TMQ 5:44]

The Islamic ruling system is not republican. The republican system is based on the democratic system, which is a system of Kufr, based on the creed of separating religion from life. The sovereignty in this system is for the people who enact the laws.

Whereas the Islamic system is established on the basis of the Islamic Aqeeda, and on the rules of the Shari’a. In this system the sovereignty is for the Shari’a and not for the Ummah. Nor does the Ummah or the Khaleefah possess the right to legislate. So the legislator is Allah (swt). The Khaleefah only possesses the right to adopt rules for the constitution and canons from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw).

Therefore, it is not permitted to say that the system of Islam is a republican system or talk of a Islamic republic, due to the great contradiction between the Islamic system and the republican system.

Islam cannot be applied in its entirety without the Islamic State. Ruling by that which Allah has revealed and the forcing of the rules of Islam in all affairs of life cannot be attained without the presence of a state. Allah has made the state a method for the implementation of the laws of the Shari’a. The Messenger (saw) established the state ever since he migrated from Makkah al-mukarrama to Madinah al-munawwara, where the verses of legislation and the solutions for the problems of life began to be revealed one after another. The Prophet (saw) used to implement whatever was revealed to him in terms of the Ahkam (rules) at the very moment they were revealed until the revelation of Islam was made complete, and His (swt) saying was revealed:

"This day, I have perfected your religion for you, and completed My Favour upon you, and chosen for you Islam as Deen" [TMQ 5:3] The Messenger of Allah was a messenger who received the message from his Lord so as to convey it to the people. He was also a ruler and a leader of a state in which he implemented that which Allah had revealed to him.

After the journey of the Messenger (saw) to his Lord, Most Sublime, came the state of the Righteous Caliphs (Khulafa ar-Rashidin). The Khulafa used to implement everything that had been revealed by Allah of the systems and laws. The ruling by that which Allah has revealed continued in the Islamic state after them until it was destroyed after the 1st World War at the hands of the Kafir Mustafa Kamal who was of Jewish origin and a British agent. He did so, by the instruction of Britain, the disbelieving state and the enemy of Islam and the Muslims.

islam protects the honour and the west violates it

Western Capital-ism is a shame-ful and licen-tious civilization for which there is no precedent known in history. Abnormal behavior, mutilation and nudity can be found amongst human beings. But in capitalism these acts are protected by law. And this is unprecedented. We do not hear of mutilation amongst animals but the western civilization guarantees it as a personal freedom. Rather, for them it is a human right or the rights of women.

The westerners and those infatuated by the west feel no embarrassment in saying that Islam deprived women their rights, or that it suppresses and oppresses them. How astonishing it is that such a people would protect her rights? Will it be a people who consider the woman a well-kept jewel or someone who degrades her and considers her a commodity? The one who wants her like a dairy cow working like a slave girl or as a mother and housewife?

Those who oblige her to work or those who allow her to work? The one who gives his life to protect her as an honour or the one who does not know in which brothel she has spent the night? The one who embraces her and builds a family with her or the one who satisfies his desires with her on a sudden impulse and then abandons her to look after the children of fornication or to have an abortion?

islamic attire compulsory for all women

Some people try to say that the (Islamic) attire of women is merely a tradition which is for her to either wear or take off, claim-ing that it has no connection to the Deen. It seems that such people proceed from the capitalist creed of separating religion though the evidence regarding the Islamic attire of women is not unknown to any Muslim who recites the Qur’an. There is no scope to reject it or even disagree with it. Allah (subhana wa ta’allah) says: "O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful" [TMQ Al-Ahzab: 59].

And He ‘azza wajalla says: "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their outer garment over their bosoms" [TMQ An-Nur: 31]. The first ayah obliged the jilbaab which is the loose flowing garment (worn) above the ordinary clothes which starts from the shoulder to the feet. In the second ayah the khimar has been made obligatory, which involves covering the head until it covers the juyub.

islamic conquest is mercy, western colonialism is punishment

The colonized countries without exception have their rights violated, resources plun-dered, and their will taken away. This situa-tion is constant. The colonialists ensured their presence by evil styles known to ev-eryone. It is enough just to indicate how people of backward nations drown at sea and die in containers trying to come to the capitalist countries in order to be servants and labourers for the colonizers. Did this exist in the history of the Islamic conquests? Was anyone prevented from moving about within the state? Was a conquered land deprived of industry, agriculture and trade?

The Ummah should know that she will not be powerful and feared again except by uniting behind an Imaam. Otherwise she will remain in a state of misery and humiliation. He (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam)said: "Unity is mercy (rahmah) and division is punishment (‘azaab)."

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2007

THE SUE BRADFORD INTERVIEW

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THE INVESTIGATE INTERVIEW

RIGHTS TO SUE

The Green MP behind the smacking law change


INTRO: Sue Bradford is a driven woman. Quite happy to give the police a bit of biffo in days of yore, the activist-turned-MP wants a law change removing parental rights to smack. But in an interview with IAN WISHART, Bradford appears to approve of using reasonable force in some situations, and is now willing to look at a compromise position:


INVESTIGATE: When are you expecting the next round in the smacking debate?

A: The report back date to Parliament is at this stage August, but I suspect it might be put back a bit later because we’ve had over 1,700 submissions.

I haven’t done an analysis, but I do know there are a lot of substantive submissions from major organizations that are in favour of my bill. In terms of organizational submissions it’s looking very good for my side of the debate, in favour of repeal of s59, but of course there are hundreds of submissions from both sides of the debate.

Q: What led you to this, when did you first think, ‘I’ve got to do something about this’?

A: Soon after I came to Parliament. I hold the health, social services and children’s portfolios for the Green Party, and I was just getting a really strong message from groups that work with families and children and domestic violence as well, about the problem of violence against children in this country. It became very clear to me that repealing s59 was something that I might be able to do as an MP that might change things for the better for the children of this country.
So from very early on I wanted to do a private members bill, but in the first couple of years I didn’t because Brian Donnelly from NZ First had his bill in and you can’t have more than one bill on the same subject, so I figured that if Brian wanted to do it I’d just support him. But then he withdrew his bill, because he decided he wanted to go down the route of defining what constitutes ‘reasonable force’ against children, and I thought that was really shocking because I just don’t agree with those arguments at all – the more you define what reasonable force is, the more you’re actually legitimizing various forms of assault against children. And at that point once Brian did that, we wrote our own Green Party bill and put it in the ballot.

Q: In terms of background, you’ve got kids, right?

A: Yeah, I’ve had five children.

Q: Presumably along the way you’ve smacked them from time to time?

A: No, I’ve never hit them or smacked them. Not that I can recall, and I’m sure they’d tell me by now if they thought I was telling lies. I’ve asked them, but honestly I can’t remember ever doing it. It was never in my mind.

I didn’t know the psychology of child-rearing, but I just never wanted to because my children were just so precious to me. I just could not conceive of doing that, that there would be any useful point or that I wanted to.

Really to me, from the time you conceive your baby, and from the time it’s born, it’s out and as an adult my role is to nurture that child and look after it and love it. Hitting it? I just don’t get it. But that’s my personal view, I didn’t learn about the theory of it until later.

I had twins when I was 24, and then I had three more children later on. Of the second three, there’s two years between the first two and then five years between the second and the last one. But I was on the DPB with twins for the first three and a half years of their lives, and that’s not the easiest situation to be in. I was very depressed through some of that time and I know how hard it can be to have kids and to be trying to do your best, sometimes without a lot of money. And how you can get frustrated and angry about some of the things they do, from personal experience! But it’s just that there’s other ways of dealing with it than hitting them.

Q: What did you do?

A: There’s lots of different things that you do as a parent. Part of it for me is that if you think of them as your equal, and I still do, if it’s appropriate – and it depends on their age – you try and explain why you’re angry or why they shouldn’t do something. If you’re going into danger, like running into traffic, pull them away from danger.

Some people have made the argument that my bill, if passed, would mean that if someone pulls their kid away from danger that they would be arrested for assault. It’s a really nonsense argument, because no police or court would ever arrest or convict anyone if they were trying to save someone from danger.

Q: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, there’s a section of the Crimes Act that authorizes force in the defence of another or to rescue them, so that’s not an issue, but I do want to get back to your own kids –

A: I can remember putting them in their room, I can remember getting them to help clean stuff up when they’d made a mess. You can get them to do other things. Say they’re causing a scene somewhere in public, you try and get them away from the scene of the disaster so to speak, you’d try to remove them from where the trouble is rather than attacking them.

Q: How did you do it?

A: Well you’d take them physically away from where the problem is.

Q: Did they ever resist you, screech and complain?

A: There’s certainly been times, the one people talk about is the screaming in the supermarket. I’ve certainly had the screaming in the supermarket and the yelling for treats and all the rest of it. I think that must happen to all parents, but it’s how you deal with it, whether you hit them or swear at them cause they’re doing something. I think the best thing is to get them out of there as fast as possible.

Q: I think most mothers would be saying, ‘Yes, exactly,’, but I’m just trying to nut out in terms of your own kids that they were no better nor worse than anyone else’s.

A: No, I’m not saying they were angels at all, and I wasn’t some sort of trained childcare professional or anything like that, I was just trying to bring them up as best I could. The fundamental attitude I had was that from the minute I first knew I was having twins, and later had them, I just loved them so much I felt it was my job to look after and nurture them to the best of my abilities and to protect them from danger and bring them up as well as I could in doing that. The thought of being physically violent towards them in any way at all never crossed my mind.

Q: What about when the twins were scrapping amongst themselves –

A: Which they did a lot of!

Q: What did you do?

A: Well, you ask them to stop or, in a loud voice, tell them to stop, or you can separate them and put them in their room, although often that wouldn’t be a good thing. But mainly I remember trying to tell them ‘this is not a good idea because…’
Once they reach the age when they can have any reason at all – of course when they’re tiny they don’t have that – but kids gradually reach the age of reason and the sooner you start explaining things to them, the better.
To me, you don’t need to hit them or smack them to make the explanation.

Q: But what I’m trying to drill down to here is, when your children hit the terrible twos, and they can’t be reasoned with, they just ‘want, want, want’ now, ‘get out my way’, whatever, what did you do, how did you enforce the point.

A: Well it depends on the situation, you just deal with it at the time. As a parent you’re much physically bigger than they are, so for example if they won’t put their sweater on and you want them to put their sweater on, well you can physically put it on them. And if they won’t go into their bedrooms you can physically put them into their bedrooms. Yeah, when they’re that age you can physically manage them better than when they’re 14, but stages of child-rearing and what you can do are so different depending on age.

You can tell them not to do it. I certainly would have yelled quite often! You can put them in their room or take them away from situations. You can try and distract them.

Q: Let’s say you’re taking little ones into their room, and they’re kicking and screaming while you’re dragging them in, were you comfortable with that?

A: Yes, but, yes, but I mean, but when kids are little you do physically have to look after them and make sure they’re safe, and that’s part of a parent’s job. If safe means putting them in a cot or safe means putting them in their room, but that’s not hitting children, that’s just looking after them.

Q: I’ll come back to it, but I think most parents, like you, have yelped at their kids, but aren’t you worried that if a simple smack disappears as a form of discipline and parents feel they can’t do that, then they will simply take out their frustrations with much more verbal abuse of children in many ways?

A: Well that would be awful, and I think that verbal abuse, psychological abuse, is just as bad in many ways as physical abuse, and it can actually be worse sometimes – the psychological impacts of how parents can freeze out their children, or abuse their children or call them names, or be really denigrating and humiliating to their children verbally – that can actually have a worse effect in some cases than physical violence.

Repeal of s59 is only one small strand of what we need to do. A big part of this is actually putting sufficient resource into support for all the community and church groups and other organizations that help to train parents on different techniques of child-rearing that don’t involve either physical or psychological violence. And also into the organizations that provide support to families in trouble where the parent or parents are really desperate: ‘How can I bring up this kid, what can I do about this kid that’s causing me all these problems?’
At the same time as repealing s59 we have to give a lot more support to parents and families. It’s not something that stands alone.

But why s59 is the key is because it is saying is the State legitimizes a degree of violence unspecified against our children.

Q: Yeah, I understand the legal perspective you have of it. In terms of verbal abuse, I’ve seen kids who are browbeaten without a finger ever having been laid on them –

A: Reduced to a sense of nothingness –

Q: And their spirits are broken. Why can’t the law tackle that then?

A: I don’t know what the law can do about that particularly. It’s certainly something that should be tackled with education and training and support from parents, and I suppose broader public education campaigns as well.

Q: I’m going to play Devil’s advocate with you on the point: if, as I suspect, there are more cases of children being verbally abused and broken-hearted by that sort of thing than probably there are kids where smacking has turned into physical abuse –

A: I don’t know if you can say, I mean the statistics on abuse and neglect of our children are –

Q: Yeah, but I think the difference is, they’re not abused per se because there’s a decent pair of parents who smacked them. They’re abused because there are parents, or a parent, who just doesn’t care. And the parenting skills are just so poor, and the parent probably doesn’t know what the law is nor care.

A: That’s right, but the fact that we have a defence on our books of reasonable force, it adds to that culture that accepts violence, or that hitting children or smacking children is OK. For some parents, and you’re right – the less equipped a parent is to cope the more likely they are to do it – but for example the fathers or mothers who shake their babies to discipline them because they pissed on the floor, and then the baby is badly injured or died – even though there’s nothing about the law in that parent’s head, it’s an extension of our culture which we’ve had since settlement that says it’s actually a parent’s right to physically hit or beat or smack their child to try and get them to do what you as an adult want them to do.

It’s that thinking – so many kids are brought up in a family that believes that they should be smacked, beaten or hit when they are kids, they grow up with the idea of a parent’s right to beat, and when they have their babies it’s transmitted from generation to generation, and that cycle is what we’ve got to break.

Q: Were you ever smacked as a child?

A: Yeah, but not much.

Q: So it didn’t screw you up?

A: (Bursts out laughing) I have no idea! You’re the first one to ever ask me that question, and I really don’t know the answer!

Q: What I am going to ask you is the one you’ve probably been asked a million times, but it is a fair question and it is this: If we got down to the core of it you’d acknowledge that the real problem is not with the traditional two parent family who take a keen interest in the welfare of their kids, supporting them, loving them. It’s the sort of family you’d see in Once Were Warriors where some of the really nasty abuse is happening. Do you recognize that there is a fundamental difference between a smack on the backside or the hand that doesn’t extend into a full-on beating – and parents who are just criminals and beat the proverbial out of their children? You must, you would acknowledge there is a difference?

A: Of course. I mean there’s a whole spectrum of assault and violence, with murder at one end and a light smack at the other end. That spectrum is there all the time. Trying to repeal reasonable force is driven by the fact that in a number of court cases as you know people have gotten away with actually severely beating their children in my point of view.

Like the case in Timaru last year, and a number of other cases.

Q: Just querying that, did they actually use the s59 defence in that one?

A: Yes, yes, they did. I wasn’t actually in court but that’s my understanding. The woman who used a horse crop and a cane on a number of occasions on a 12 year old boy. That was the Timaru court case last year and it’s my understanding that s59 was used as a defence.

Q: Some of the blog sites have pointed out that it might more have centred on self-defence, that the kid was quite large and quite aggressive.

A: That may, I mean, I wasn’t in the court so I really don’t feel able to speak with authority on it. I know that was an element of the case, that that was part of the mother’s defence, but I’m pretty damn sure s59 was part of her defence as well.

Q: Obviously you are not looking to intentionally outlaw time out, or a parent who has to physically manhandle a child into a room, are you?

A: No, or who physically removes or saves a child from some danger. And just on that, I’m not seeking to outlaw smacking either, which is a myth that’s being driven up by my opponents. All I’m doing with my bill is seeking to repeal one clause of an Act.

If s59 was repealed, and say some mean person dobbed in a mother for lightly smacking her child – say that happened, which is the fear that’s being driven up –

Q: It’s happened overseas, yeah-

A: Yeah, and so the police come and investigate the mother who smacked her five year old child (if they come at all, because we know they’re already overworked) but they’re going to look and say well, how severe was that? What damage was done? What’s happened here? Which is what they’re supposed to do in everything they investigate.

I think, during the process of select committee hearings which we’re about to go into on this Bill, the one thing I really hope that as a select committee, if we want to get this Bill through, is that we can make very clear that it is not the intention of me or Parliament to suddenly have all the parents who lightly smack their children subject to arrest or imprisonment or anything like that. It’s not my intention, it’s not the intention of anyone I know, it’s not the intention of any other MP. It’s a myth.

Q: Did the Greens get any independent legal analysis on what the repeal of s59 would mean?

A: I’ve certainly talked with a number of lawyers over the past year and there will be a number of submissions dealing with this.

Q: Family lawyers, criminal lawyers? Which?

A: Both. I’ve talked to both.

Q: The reason I ask is because we’ve done a survey of top QCs on this point: because s59 is a repeal of a defence, then technically if there’s unwanted touching or a smack, it is technically an assault, just like two people on the street.

A: That’s a very good analogy, because in fact I’m asking for equity for children like what happens to adults now. If an adult is assaulted to the point that it’s a problem, the police always have to make that judgement about how severe that assault was. At the moment if the husband assaults his wife, he has no defence unless it is self-defence, whereas if he assaults his child he has a defence. And that’s inequity.

Q: But surely no normal jury would see the Delcelia Whittaker case as an ordinary smack.

A: No, not at all. It is a spectrum. But it does happen in all parts of society.

Q: Getting back to my question, the general consensus of the QCs is that physically putting a child in time out, or physically grabbing your child, is an assault in the same way as if you grab somebody on the street.

A: Which is a technical assault. That’s true, that’s absolutely true. But all that case law that currently exists would be applied, as it is now.

Q: In court, and I think the Louise Nicholas case proves the point, judges tell juries to consider the letter of the law. And if the letter is simply that it is an assault, the jury may have no option but to convict.

A: Yeah, but juries also make decisions on the facts of the case. To think that police would arrest and prosecute someone for lightly smacking their kid or putting them into a room for timeout, I think that would be ridiculous. But on the other hand if a 14 year old girl went to the police and said ‘Look, my father smacked me and I felt this was inappropriate and was really hurt and offended physically, sexually etc’, I think that would be a case to investigate.

But that’s why I find it so hard. This is the job of the police and the courts every day, to make those kinds of judgements: is this a mother, lightly smacking her child when they screamed in a supermarket, or is it something else going on here that’s worthy of the police attention and often other agencies as well.

Those judgements are what the poor bastards that work on the front lines of police, CYFS and the health services have to face constantly. That’s not going to change.

Q: Whilst one can see the heart behind it, is a simple repeal of s59 too blunt an instrument? Does there need to be some modification about appropriate force?

A: Some members of parliament are very keen to amend my Bill so that reasonable force is defined, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of submissions saying that. But once you start looking at that, what it’s saying is that you can hit a kid between this age and this age, you can beat them about the body, but not about the head, you can beat them with an open hand on the buttocks but not with an implement – to me, it gets really gruesome and it’s like defining methods of torture. If I did anything to a policeman I’d be arrested tomorrow – and that’s happened to me on more than one occasion. I could lightly assault a big beefy cop and go to jail, but if I do it to a child I’ve got every defence in the world.

Q: I’m flying a kite here, but don’t you really need to say somewhere in the Act itself, ‘No force is to be used on a child, except that this is not intended to suggest that a smack, or a session of time out is an offence’?

A: What you’re saying there Ian is where I think we need to go. How we do it…it’s going to be up to 121 MPs. I think it’s very likely going to be necessary to make it clear that that’s not the intention of the Bill.

Q: Perhaps in the introduction to the Act, or the definition of assault?

A: Well in some place. I have talked to lawyers about it, and I’m very supportive of doing it if it means the Bill can go through.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 05:22 PM | Comments (1)

THE SMACKING DEBATE: QC'S OPINIONS

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SUPERNANNY “BUSTED”Top QCs warn s59 repeal would make even ‘time out’ a crime

INTRO: It is now a matter of public record that repealing s59 of the Crimes Act will make parents technically guilty of assault if they smack their children, but Investigate has discovered something even the Bill’s supporters hadn’t considered: it will also open parents to prosecution if they physically put a child into time out. IAN WISHART interviewed leading Queens Counsel about the legal dangers of the anti-smacking Bill:

To say it is shaping up as one of the ‘social engineering’ fights of the Government’s third term would be an understatement. The Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill promoted by Green MP Sue Bradford is pushing for a simple repeal of s59, the clause that gives parents a defence of “reasonable force” for the purposes of disciplining a child’s behaviour.
In a letter to the organization Family Integrity last year, police headquarters not only confirmed that even a simple smack would be an assault, but suggested that because the Crimes Act already has increased penalties for crimes against children, an assault on a child would be more serious than an assault on an adult, in police eyes.
But while commentators on both sides of the divide have discussed whether police would lay charges or not, no one has explored whether other forms of discipline could also run foul of the proposed new law.
To explore that specific issue, we asked a number of top QCs to comment on whether a parent who carried or dragged a resistant child to ‘time out’ would also be breaking the law:


STUART GRIEVE, QC:

I would be opposed to the [repeal of s59] because I think that the provision works entirely adequately as it is. If one puts political correctness to one side, and just deals with these cases on an objective and pragmatic basis, the law has stood the test of time and I would have thought most reasonable people would know full well when the line is crossed between reasonable discipline on the one hand, and crossing that line on the other.

So I would be opposed to it, and as one looks at the test now it is left to a jury to determine reasonableness. And being a fan of jury trials anyway, and being a fan of the commonsense of juries, that’s where I would leave it.


Q: What if a parent forcibly manhandles a 7 year old to another room to enforce time out. In your experience, could that be a prima facie assault?

A: Unquestionably! Not under the present statute of course, but those protections aside any unwanted touching, even threat of touching, can be an assault. It is so defined in the Crimes Act.

Q: What about the act of shutting a child in a bedroom or a garage for ten minutes to calm down. If the protection of reasonable force is removed, could that open a parent up to punishment for forcible detention?

A: Could do, I’d have to look at that more closely because that is a technical question, but it could do. If you remove the protection then you’re left with a child being a normal individual, and it would be no different from doing that to some stranger, I suppose.

Q: What advice would you give to law makers?

A: My advice would be ‘don’t repeal it’. I would be asking for examples where it doesn’t work well, or where it hasn’t worked.

Q: Do you have a fear that it could be used in marital break-ups, or as a reason to get CYFS involved in a family?

A: Well it could do. Although I don’t pretend to be a family lawyer I’m well aware of the fact that in these situations as you describe them, frequently false allegations are leveled, generally by women against males, and allegations of sexual abuse and that sort of thing in order to win custody battles and so forth. This will simply give them more ammunition.

GRANT ILLINGWORTH, QC

The thing that tends to mask the situation in the NZ environment is the fact that questions of assault as far as civil law are concerned have become less prominent because of the accident compensation legislation. As you will be aware, under the ACC legislation you can’t generally sue someone for personal injury caused by accident, and accident is widely defined to include situations in which you’re assaulted by somebody. So in New Zealand, even serious assaults don’t get before the courts except in quite unusual situations as a matter of civil liability.

Now, s59 is dealing only with criminal liability, and I suspect it is a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface, because taking away a criminal law defence doesn’t necessarily change the underlying civil law principles. So there are two layers that must be considered. One is the criminal layer, the other is the civil layer. And in order to sort that situation one would have to give it quite a bit of thought and work through the principles.

But to confine the analysis to the criminal law only, if you simply take away a defence of reasonable force then every touching of another person becomes an assault, and you then open up a vast area of potentially criminal conduct. You criminalize a whole lot of conduct which to normal people would be utterly ridiculous to criminalize in relation to the way you treat your kids.

So I think it is a very important step, and I think it is something that has serious, wide-ranging implications and something that has to be considered very very carefully indeed.

I think you do have to distinguish between civil and criminal. Conduct that is not regarded as criminal, or not pursued and charged as criminal, can be taken into account even now in a Family Court context. It doesn’t really matter to the Family Court whether you characterise something as criminal or not criminal, it’s a question of whether it represents proper treatment of the child. It’s going to the fundamental question of what is for the welfare of the child, what is in the child’s best interests. They’re looking at the situation through a different legal telescope.

I think the real problem is that arguably almost every form of physical contact with your children becomes an assault as a matter of the criminal law. If you take away s59, that’s the issue.

And if the child uses force against you, what force can you use against the child? That’s the real crunch issue. There may be lots of situations in which, very appropriately, a parent should avoid using force because it is unnecessary to do so. But there are some situations in which it is necessary and those situations would not necessarily fall within s48, which is the self defence provision.

That’s one area in which use of force in self defence and defence of another is justified and will remain justified. But if you think about it, children can use force against their parents, and the parents won’t be able to use force against the children, unless it is self defence.

S48 says ‘Everyone is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as in the circumstances he believes them to be it is reasonable to use.’ But it’s got to be in the defence of himself or another. It can’t simply be a child doing something naughty which involves the use of force, and preventing the child – for example – smashing up the living room.

It’s not the defence of yourself or the defence of another. If your child goes beserk and starts smashing the furniture you might not be allowed to touch him. And if that’s the result of revoking s59 – that you’re exposed to a criminal charge of assault if you restrain a child in those circumstances, then that’s completely nuts.

Q: Advice to the legislators as they consider this?

A: Obviously it will go to a select committee and they’ll have the task of going through the various scenarios that could arise if this measure is adopted. That’s the appropriate process, and the normal process when an important change is being considered.

But I think from my own part, having given it only a relatively short period of consideration, that simply to wipe out s59 could create some situations which are completely undesirable.

NICK DAVIDSON, QC

Q: The police are already on record as saying any smack would be a prima facie assault. Presumably that means that any physical contact for the purposes of discipline, such as a mother taking her child by the arm and forcing him into time out, would also be a prima facie assault?

A: Theoretically that must be right. It would come down to an exercise of discretion. But there could be savings in the legislation, such as safety of the child or removing a child from harm’s way. Where it get’s sticky is the very point you mentioned: if someone actually picks up a child and carts them off, because the difference between that and admonishing them, or hitting them, is so marginal as a matter of law I think it can only be dealt with by discretion. I think it’s a very significant point.

Someone who will simply not leave a situation where the parents are sitting outside in the car, waiting for the child to get in the car, and having difficulties because the child is refusing to get in the car, what’s a parent supposed to do? Leave the child on the side of the road, or pick them up and physically put them in the car?

Now if that’s not for their care and protection, what is it? There’s no defence to it.

And I think there’s a failure to recognize the difference between smacking as such, and physically taking, with some force, children – because they can be quite big at 11 or 12 and you might have to deal with them in that way.

To me the question is, if you cannot discipline a child physically, you remove the defence to what is otherwise an assault, the physical handling of a child of itself is not necessarily a discipline and would be treated like any other contact between two people. But in a relationship between parent and child there will often have to be physical interventions.

Now you could not possibly classify an assault as a deliberate application of force to a child, where that is to save the child, or take it to safety. You could not in my view possibly treat that as an assault where the child, for the child’s own sake, should be removed from one place to another. Where a child is out of control, for example.

So I think there must become a series of defences available where what is done is not for the purposes of inflicting force, but is a warrant to apply force for reasons which are for the good of the child.

Now we don’t really have that available to us in law, but if you take assault as an example: you step in to assault someone else to defend someone – that’s defence of another, and that’s a defence. You step in to save someone from committing suicide, that’s a defence. You step in to save someone from any act of self-harm, or the danger of walking across a road against traffic – that’s a defence.

The reason it’s a defence is that it’s not an intentional application of force except by the warrant that you have to do so for the good of that person. Now I think that will become the proper test in law – that where the force is applied for the good of that child, not as a discipline but in order to protect the child in some way, or deal with the child where the child is out of control, but not to inflict force for the sake of that, is the distinction to be drawn as a matter of law.

Q: Grant Illingworth feels that where there are going to be issues is where your child is out of control – not necessarily a danger to themselves or anyone else – but nevertheless –

A: Impossible to control!

Q: …impossible.

A: I think that is exactly the point! The time out situation is the key, because if you narrow down all the examples that you mention, it comes down to this proposition: to protect the child? Absolute defence. To discipline the child? No. To take the child out of a situation where it is causing pandemonium? Questionable, because we don’t have a marked defence on the statute for that purpose. That’s why I think the law will develop a defence that, for the sake of the child as much as for the whole family, the child is removed from a situation where the child for example is just screaming its head off and is just so out of control they’re at a risk of harm.

The example you give, of trashing a house, is much more difficult, because the law in my view must allow a colour of right to prevent anyone doing that. You don’t have to stand by and watch your house being trashed by anybody. I think you’re entitled to protect your property, protect your person. What you can’t do is go beyond the bounds of what the law allows.

I think if you can say that the intentional application of force was warranted, not for the purposes of discipline but for the purposes of restraint, I think the law will have to recognize it as a defence. So what I’m anticipating is that the law will develop a colour of right, it will have to.

Q: What about where a toddler or seven year old is just being outright disobedient, defying boundaries and authority, and in need of discipline, but not in need of restraint for their own safety?

A: Assault has always had various defences of the kind we’ve just been through, and to me it is about marking a boundary about what is effectively a legitimate form of restraint.

I think the law would have to develop a defence, the same way colour of right developed, that what you were doing – a technical assault – was justified because of the circumstances that were presented to the parent.

Q: Courts or parliament?

A: I think the courts will probably be the right place to deal with it. I think a District Court judge familiar with dealing with assault issues generally will see how this fits into a pattern of defences to assault.

I mean, technically there are not many defences to assault. You don’t get charged with assault for taking someone in a headlock who’s threatening someone else, because that’s defence of another, but the trouble is those things don’t generally have application to children. We’re still talking about a form of restraint for a reason to do with the way people live in their homes. And there is the conundrum: how do you take the defences, and they’re well established, that apply outside and say it applies to the relationship between a parent and child inside a house?

I think you’ve hit it on the button. The crucial question is going to be, child hitting another child – grab the child and take it away, that’s not assault. Child causing pandemonium, screaming its head off and threatening its own stability. You couldn’t possibly be charged with assault for taking that child to another room provided it’s reasonable force. That’s not discipline, that’s control.

It’s the point at which it moves to discipline that I think the law has no answer at present. Because if you can’t smack a child, what can you do by way of discipline to say ‘you’re behaving very badly, I do not like your language, you’re going to go and sit in that room there!’

‘I’m not going!’

‘Right, I’m going to pick you up and put you in there’.

That’s technically an assault. What’s the warrant for it? We have no statutory defence to it.

On the other hand there is a tremendous amount of common sense in the police and the courts, so you’re not going to see thousands of parents prosecuted for this. But yes there will be test cases, and the law will evolve.


IN SUMMARY, MAIN LEGAL POINTS:
A simple smack would definitely be a prima facie assault.
Touching a child for any disciplinary purpose, such as forcing them into time out, would definitely be a prima facie assault.

Touching a child for the purposes of his or her own safety, or the safety of others, or the safety of property, would be authorized by s41 and s48 of the Crimes Act, and therefore not an assault

While police would have a ‘discretion’ as to whether to charge, in practice many police stations are already calling in CYF, who take a blanket “no smacking’ approach and would be within their powers to remove children from parents, even if insufficient evidence existed to convict.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2007

We're back!

God willing...we'll start adding stories back in shortly

Posted by Ian Wishart at 09:40 AM