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August 20, 2007

The Gun Debate


The Firearms Debate Reignites

In the wake of the Virginia Tech killings, fresh questions are being asked about gun control. The answers, however, may surprise you when we put New Zealand’s crime rate up against Virginia’s. IAN WISHART runs the numbers

It’s the names we remember. Not of the people, but the places. Columbine. Dunblane. Port Arthur. Aramoana. Raurimu. Paerata. Virginia Tech. Each synonymous with carnage, terror and emotional trauma. Each with one thing in common: guns...

As news coverage broke of the Virginia Tech massacre last month, it took only hours before the news media worldwide were seeking out the opinions of anti-gun lobbyists like former Fair Go host Philip Alpers, who runs the website GunPolicy.org. Alpers told TV3’s John Campbell that while people would try and blame mental illness, drugs or violent videos, the real issue was guns.

Everywhere you looked, daily media editorials were calling for an end to America’s affinity with guns; the right to bear arms contained in the second amendment. On Newstalk ZB, callers talked of America’s “sick culture of violence”, with many of the hosts nodding in agreement.

“You’ll call me a wussy liberal,” media commentator Deborah Hill-Cone told ZB’s drive host Larry Williams, “but I can’t see why they need guns.”

At one level, you can understand the sentiment. At another, though, it reveals the kneejerk mental conditioning we’ve all been subjected to. America has been awash with guns for more than a hundred years. For the vast majority of that time, school massacres were unheard of. Likewise New Zealand. Apart from Stanley Graham’s rampage 60 years ago, gun massacres were unknown in modern New Zealand until the mentally-deranged David Gray picked up an assault rifle and gunned down 13 people in Aramoana, a remote community on the tip of the Otago Peninsula where few people had guns and critics accused police of letting victims bleed to death over a 24 hour period while they followed a policy of “containment”.

The “wussy liberal” sentiment also overlooks a very fundamental reason for the right to bear arms being enshrined in the US Constitution. In every case in world history, totalitarian regimes have only been able to arise and cement control in the absence of any ability by citizens to fight back. The total disarmament of a civilian population in favour of state police and military may be tolerable in a democratic state today, but it does increase the risk of abuse of power by a future regime.

The question then, is not so much whether a total ban on gun ownership is justified, but whether tighter controls on gun ownership are justified to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to obtain them.

Do guns kill people, or do people kill people? As well as being a bumper sticker, it’s a hot topic of debate right now. Virginia is one of the most liberal states in the US when it comes to gun laws, but the killings actually took place in a gun-free zone, a place where guns are banned. While all Virginians are permitted by law to carry pistols and handguns concealed on their person, Virginia Tech University voted to ban students from bringing their guns to campus several years ago. Administrators told students they wanted people to “feel safe”, and banning all guns would achieve that.

Now, with 32 innocent lives lost during a killer’s two hour slaughterfest, the big question is being asked: if other students had been armed that day, how many people would Cho Seung-Hui have been able to kill?

Ironically, Virginians can point to a similar incident only five years ago, when a gunman burst into a law school and opened fire. He managed to kill three people, but was himself brought to heel by two armed students and an ex-Marine who’d raced to retrieve guns from their cars when the shooting broke out.

The death toll would undoubtedly have been higher, but for their quick intervention. You’d think the trio would be hailed as heroes but, instead, of the 280 news stories about the 2002 shooting, only four mentioned that the gunman had been overpowered by armed students.

Gun advocate John Lott, writing in the New York Post a week after the tragedy, cited “the liberal, anti-gun Washington Post, which reported that the heroes had simply ‘helped subdue’ the killer. The leftist, anti-gun New York Times, not surprisingly, noted only that the attacker was ‘tackled by fellow students’.

"Most in the media who discussed how the attack was stopped said: 'students overpowered a gunman,' 'students ended the rampage by tackling him,' 'the gunman was tackled by four male students before being arrested,' or 'Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, who dropped his weapon’.”

Media coverage in New Zealand has been decidedly “anti-gun” in its tone, so we decided to put the presumption that guns cause an increase in violence to the test.

Investigate surveyed US violent crime rates between the years 1960 to 2005. The figures are taken from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, or UCRs, which are a respected yardstick used by criminologists and researchers the world over. Is it true, we wondered, that states like Virginia with the most liberal gun laws were also the most crime-ridden?

Here’s what we found. Overall, the US violent crime rate in 2005 was 469.2 offences per 100,000 population (469/100,000). That’s the average for violent crime across the entire 50 states. Given that much has been made of the US being a “sick...violent” society, we wondered how that compared with the New Zealand figures.

In contrast, New Zealand’s violent crime rate as measured in the official government publication, Crime in New Zealand: 1996 – 2005, was 1,180/100,000 in 2005.

That’s right. Gun-shy New Zealand has a violent crime rate 250% higher than the US! But the comparison gets even worse when compared to the American state of Vermont, which has the most liberal gun laws in the US.

Vermont’s violent crime rate in 2005, as measured by the FBI’s UCR, was only 119/100,000, just a quarter of the US average. In comparison, New Zealand’s violent crime rate is 1,000% - ten times - higher than Vermont’s, where citizens can own as many handguns as they like and carry them as concealed weapons in public places.

And what about Virginia, scene of America’s worst ever civilian gun massacre? The UCR records a violent crime rate of only 282/100,000, a little over half the US average.

When we put these figures to ex-pat gun control advocate Philip Alpers, he simply refused to believe it:

INVESTIGATE: The states in the US that have the liberal guns laws are the ones that have the lowest crime rates. What’s the response to that?

ALPERS: That’s only the gun lobby that claim that. Those studies have been universally critiqued by much more established outfits like Harvard and so on, and there’s not much credibility to those papers. None of them, or the majority, have not been published in peer reviewed journals.

INVESTIGATE: I’m just looking at some stats on state crime rates from the FBI, and in Vermont for example the FBI lists for 2005 a violent crime rate of 119/100,000, New Zealand’s is 1,180/100,000 – that’s ten times higher.

ALPERS: Well, that’s a statistical anomaly I’m sure nobody can account for. If anybody thinks that NZ has a violent crime rate – what was it, a hundred and ten times higher?

INVESTIGATE: No, ten times higher.

ALPERS: Ten times higher than Vermont. That’s statistically questionable I would say. I haven’t seen those figures.

INVESTIGATE: I’m looking at the violent crime rate for Virginia -

ALPERS: I’ve never seen anything like that published in a reputable journal. Statistics can be wildly exaggerated and distorted by anyone who wants to and I can’t be expected to comment on something I’ve never seen.

But the statistics, of course, are not gun lobby figures but FBI and NZ Police figures. Then there’s the inconvenient truth about Kennesaw, Georgia. In 1982, Kennesaw passed a bylaw requiring all households to maintain and keep a firearm in the house. Since then, reported WorldNetDaily on the back of a Reuters story just after the Virginia Tech massacre, “despite dire predictions of ‘Wild West’ showdowns and increased violence and accidents, not a single resident has been involved in a fatal shooting – as a victim, attacker or defender.

“The crime rate initially plummeted for several years after the passage of the ordinance, with the 2005 per capita crime rate actually significantly lower than it was in 1981, the year before passage of the law.

“Prior to enactment of the law, Kennesaw had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189,” says the WorldNetDaily report.

Now, just to put those overall, total reported crime per capita figures in context, New Zealand’s overall crime rate in 2005 was 9,940/100,000 – admittedly down from its peak of more than 13,200/100,000 in 1992, but still nearly five times higher than gun-toting Kennesaw.

How could it be that New Zealand’s crime rates are much worse than gun-friendly states and cities in the US? Again, we continued to press for an alternative rational explanation from Philip Alpers.

INVESTIGATE: Well you’ve got the case of the town of Kennesaw in Georgia –

ALPERS: Oh, look, that has been so thoroughly rebutted, and completely discredited. Utterly discredited.

INVESTIGATE: Yeah, but Reuters have just done an interview with the local police chief, 2005 stats show the crime rate has halved. In 25 years since the town required homeowners to have a gun in each house, there has not been one single incident where a resident has been involved in a fatal shooting as either a victim, attacker or a defender.

ALPERS: OK, well I think it’s clear where you are going Ian, and I don’t want to buy into this. I’m standing on a cellphone, I’m not in front of the statistics.

INVESTIGATE: But you said it had been debunked, Philip?

ALPERS: I have read the papers that completely discredit that Kennesaw Georgia stuff! It’s one of the oldest myths in the gun industry arsenal and it is completely nutty for you to suggest that Kennesaw Georgia proves that point.

INVESTIGATE: But I’ve just quoted you the statistics –

ALPERS: So thoroughly and completely rebutted by very reputable peer reviewed journal articles, not Reuters, not a police officer who’s trying to justify his tiny little town’s policy, but these have been completely rebutted by very reputable studies.

INVESTIGATE: Well, name one?

ALPERS: OK, Webster and...give me your email and I’ll email it to you.

INVESTIGATE: If I can see some figures that actually show what you are saying is correct I’m more than happy –

ALPERS: No, I know exactly what you’re going to do because I read your magazine. You’re going to take your own point of view and twist everything to that. Now you can accuse me of that as well, and I can accuse the gun lobby of that – but that’s what you’re doing and it’s clear you’re not going to listen to the other side.

INVESTIGATE: Philip, I listened to you on John Campbell and listened to John Campbell not ask you any hard questions at all. All I’m doing is asking some hard questions because having looked at the stats – and I’m happy to be persuaded otherwise, I really am – but having looked at the stats –

ALPERS: OK, well why don’t you ask me, not on the United States, no, OK, look, you can ask me whatever question you like, fire away.

INVESTIGATE: NZ’s violent crime stats are three to ten times higher than the violent crime stats of American states where concealed weapons are allowed to be carried. Why is that?

ALPERS: I am not going to allow comparison between apples and pears. If you start talking about violent crime rate, that includes people poking each other in the eye in pubs with their fingers.

INVESTIGATE: Yeah, but statistically that’s the same everywhere.

ALPERS: But why are you saying that guns have something to do with people poking each other in the eye with their fingers?

INVESTIGATE: You and I both know that most violent crime is not eye poking in pubs.

ALPERS: They’re certainly not, and neither are gun crimes. Gun crimes are a very, very small proportion of violent crime, so when you talk about violent crime you’re not talking about guns.

INVESTIGATE: Yes, but what the gun lobby will say is that in those states where people are allowed to carry guns, the crime rate overall is lower because criminals don’t like to take their chances on whether a victim or potential victim is going to shoot them. So therefore the violent crime rate in those states, on the FBI’s own figures, is showing a huge difference in crime rates between those where guns are banned and those where guns are allowed. And NZ’s violent crime rate far exceeds the crime rate of the US overall, so I’m kind of curious how this is if your logic is correct?

ALPERS: I’m not going to compare violent crime rates with anything that suggests guns affect violent crime rates.


ALPERS: Because it’s like saying that pedestrians somehow affect – no, I’m not going to draw analogies. It’s not logical to say that a tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of crime, in other words, gun crime, affects all violent crime. The gun lobby regularly use this as a tactic, it’s apples and pears. Violent crime is not the same as gun homicide or gun suicide. They are subcategories of each other and if you want me to compare stuff you have to stick to gun related crime and gun related results. There’s no point in saying that the road toll somehow affects the infant mortality rate.

INVESTIGATE: No, but the speed limit might affect the road toll?

ALPERS: What you’re saying is what you are going to print. I’m happy for you to say that, you go ahead and print it. Don’t expect me to jump into and just swallow what you’re saying.

INVESTIGATE: Then rebut it, rebut it with some science.

ALPERS: I’m happy to send you that. For instance, in America all these small studies came out, then the Yales and Harvards and so on brought out their studies, and then all of it went right up the line to the National Academy of Science in the US, and the NAS brought out their report so I’ll send you that and hopefully that’ll bring you down a bit.

INVESTIGATE: I’m not working from any obscure statistics, these are FBI and NZ police figures.

ALPERS: I’m not interested in violent crime, if you’re going to ring up and talk to me about gun deaths, that’s fine.

INVESTIGATE: So you would be suggesting to me there is a difference between criminals having guns, and householders possessing guns for self defence.

ALPERS: There seems to be very little relation between a gun crime rate and a violent crime rate. A good example is Japan where guns are virtually unused, they’re very, very rare. But Japan has much the same VCR as everywhere else, just as NZ has much the same VCR rate as the US.

INVESTIGATE: But on the FBI figures, NZ has a VCR more than double the US overall.

ALPERS: Print that, that’s fine.

INVESTIGATE: But you have no response to it?

ALPERS: I haven’t seen those figures. This is insane. Absurd. I can see now how you get your articles, your technique is pretty, unusual.

INVESTIGATE: Philip, you make your living from being a gun policy advocate. You are a PR person who is putting this case every single day. I am simply asking some hard questions and you can’t answer them.

ALPERS: I’m happy for you to give me questions, and I’ll send you an email.

INVESTIGATE: I will email you, and explain why these figures are relevant. To me it is patently obvious, and it is a simple thing. If there is some rational argument as to why they are not relevant then I’m happy to hear it. If the gun debate is being discussed by media types and being restricted to this narrow little area you’ve got it restricted to, and is not looking at the wider issue – that guns defend people from crime – and you say ‘I’m not willing to look at that because it doesn’t fit my analysis’, then there’s no intelligent debate going on.

ALPERS: I don’t say – you’re putting words in my mouth and I’m not going to accept that.

INVESTIGATE: Fine, then correct me.

ALPERS: I don’t need to. You’re going to print what you want to print, and who cares, really.

INVESTIGATE: A hundred thousand readers, perhaps.

ALPERS: Up to you.

Investigate did email the full statistics across to Alpers, and in return he sent back links to studies that he had suggested would “debunk” our line of questioning. Unfortunately, they didn’t. The reason for that was their focus. Alpers did not want to discuss the proven facts that states with higher gun ownership have lower violent crime rates. As you saw above, he wanted to focus only on gun crimes as the basis for comparison.

In this regard, Alpers and other gun control advocates are entirely correct, the evidence clearly shows that states with higher gun ownership have a higher level of gun-related incidents (not necessarily crimes – we’ll return to that point later). But as Alpers also admits, gun crime actually makes up only “a tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of crime”. Alpers wants people to be sufficiently outraged about “a tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of crime” to the extent that all guns are banned, or at least tightly controlled by the government.
The Webster study he offered to send, for example, found that: “In homes with guns, the homicide of a household member is about 3 times more likely to occur than in homes without guns. The risk of suicide of a household member is increased by approximately 5 times in homes with guns.”

But the gun lobby argues, with some backing based on the FBI figures, that a high level of civilian gun ownership actually deters a much larger proportion of criminals than just the “tiny, tiny, tiny proportion” who specifically misuse guns. If there’s an increased risk that burgling a house will get you shot, will a criminal take that risk? If there’s an increased risk that a potential mugging victim will grab a concealed gun and shoot his or her attackers, will a criminal take that risk? In Vermont, where there are virtually no restrictions on the ownership of Glock semi-automatic pistols and other handguns, the figures appear to speak for themselves: a violent crime rate of 119/100,000 compared to California’s gun-restricted 524/100,000.

The most tightly gun-controlled area in the whole United States is Washington DC, with a virtual total ban. You’d expect its violent crime rate to be low, right? In 2005, it was 1,459/100,000. Remember, New Zealand’s violent crime rate at 1,180/100,000 is only marginally less than the mean streets of Washington DC.

Auckland city’s rate is 1,236/100,000. Counties/Manukau police district’s violent crime rate is 1,621/100,000. In other words, for the vast majority of people in terms of their crime experiences, Manukau city is actually a more dangerous place than Washington DC. Neither Manukau nor Washington DC allows you to carry a concealed handgun, whereas Virginia, where concealed weapons are common – except on the University campus – has a violent crime rate of only 282/100,000, which is roughly only 1/6th the rate of Manukau city.

Expressed another way, you are between six and 14 times more likely to be mugged in Manukau, than you are in gun-happy Virginia or Vermont, USA.

Are New Zealanders inherently more badly behaved than Americans? Is New Zealand society six times sicker than the state that produced America’s worst-ever gun massacre?

Perhaps, we wondered, the prevalence of guns in Vermont might result in a higher number of murders than New Zealand. We checked. For 2005, the most recent year we seem to be able to get comparable figures for, New Zealand’s murder rate was 2.7 per 100,000 people. Vermont’s was only 1.3, less than half NZ’s murder rate.

In Washington DC, where no one is allowed to carry a gun at all except police and criminals, the murder rate was a staggering 35/100,000 that year.

New Zealand’s rate of sexual attacks, at 53/100,000, compares unfavourably with Washington DC on 34/100,000, the US national average of 32/100,000, or gun-happy Virginia and Vermont which are both on 23/100,000.

For robbery, New Zealand’s rate is 54/100,000, while Vermont’s is just 12/100,000. Virginia has a robbery rate of 99/100,000 – very similar to Manukau city’s 95/100,000. It is worth noting however that the just-released figures for 2006 show Manukau’s robbery rate has shot to 149/100,000.

New York, where guns are also banned however, has a robbery rate of 184/100,000. Washington DC’s is – wait for it – 672/100,000.

In the interview with Alpers, he suggested a National Academies of Science overview had taken account of all the gun research to date:

“All of it went right up the line to the National Academies of Science in the US, and the NAS brought out their report so I’ll send you that and hopefully that’ll bring you down a bit.”

So what does the NAS report actually say?

“Research linking firearms to criminal violence and suicide is seriously limited by a lack of credible information on who owns firearms and on individuals’ encounters with violence...Moreover, many studies have methodological flaws or provide contradictory evidence; others do not determine whether gun ownership itself causes certain outcomes.”

Hardly a ringing endorsement of the gun control position.

“Research has found associations between gun availability and suicide with guns,” noted the NAS, “but it does not show whether such associations reveal genuine patterns of cause and effect.”

In other words, did owning the gun cause a suicide or would they have killed themselves by another method anyway? Or did they simply buy a gun, rather than a rope, because they were already suicidal?

Alpers told Investigate that Harvard and other institutions had thoroughly rebutted and debunked the idea that gun ownership reduces violent crime rates, but the National Academies of Science report he sent us doesn’t support his claim at all.

“Current research and data on firearms and violent crime are too weak to support strong conclusions about the effects of various measures to prevent and control gun violence...there is no credible evidence that right-to-carry laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime,” says the NAS.

In other words, the studies specifically cited as “debunking” the idea are not regarded as “credible” by the National Academies of Science, even though they have been carried out by Harvard or Yale.

Despite this, Alpers says:

“I’ve sent you a bunch of studies which were published in peer-reviewed journals. The hypothesis you cite, that “states with liberal gun laws are enjoying much lower crime rates overall,” is by and large not to be found in literature which survived standard academic scrutiny. Instead, your theory is roundly discounted in the scientific literature, including the National Academies of Science report. That’s the peak of US scientific consideration.”

As you’ve seen however, we’ve quoted the NAS report, which says none of the studies to date can be trusted. Which is why Investigate largely ignored the studies and just went straight to the bottom line – comparing raw FBI crime data and ignoring the spin from both the gun lobby and the gun control lobby.

It is often said that higher gun-ownership equates to higher gun related incidents. But that statement doesn’t tell the whole story. When you compare gun homicides (murders committed by gun), you find the states with the highest gun ownership generally have the lowest rates of gun homicides.

STATE % of households w/guns Gun homicide rate
Wyoming 59.7% 1/100,000
Alaska 57.8% 3/100,000
Montana 57.7% 1/100,000
South Dakota 56.6% 0.9/100,000
West Virginia 55.4% 3/100,000

In comparison, the states with the lowest gun ownership:
STATE % of households w/guns Gun homicide rate
Washington DC 3.8% 25/100,000
Hawaii 8.7% 0.7/100,000
New Jersey 12.3% 3/100,000
Massachusetts 12.6% 2/100,000
Rhode Island 12.8% 2/100,000

On those figures, it is impossible to argue that gun ownership is directly related to gun homicide. For the record, the figures were taken from the CDC’s WISQARS data for 2004, used in the anti-gun Miller & Hemenway study published earlier this year by Harvard.
In a stinging critique of Miller & Hemenway, US blogger Jeff Soyer wrote:

“Buried within the study, Miller and Hemenway finally admit at their ‘study’ doesn't prove a causal relationship between homicide and guns in the home but that's not what their press release says and it's not how the liberal media is reporting the study results.

“Naturally, all media need do is compare Massachusetts (2/100,000) and New Hampshire (30% ownership, 0.8/100,000) to see that the percentage of homes with firearms has nothing to do with the rate of homicide by firearms.

“The problem isn't guns. It might be demographics, it might be a failure to lock up criminals or keep them locked up but it isn't households with guns. That dog don't hunt,” says Soyer.

Alpers however insists that we should pay no attention to the lower crime rates in states where guns are allowed, and instead focus on firearms deaths. He quotes firearms death rates for Virginia of 11/100,000, compared with New Zealand’s 1.3/100,000. But when homicides only are counted, the rate drops to 3.9/100,000. Vermont’s overall rate was 9/100,000. Again, when homicides only are selected, Vermont’s rate drops to an incredibly low 0.3/100,000. The vast bulk of Vermont’s gun deaths are suicide.

It is true that a large number of American suicides involve guns, and when lobbyists like Philip Alpers talk about “firearm death rates” in media interviews they are usually including the suicide figures in there. So how do we compare on the suicide front?

In 2003, according to Ministry of Health figures, New Zealand’s suicide rate was 11.5/100,000. In the United States, it was 10.8/100,000. Despite the guns in the US, more New Zealanders are killing themselves than Americans. Virginia’s suicide rate, at 11.1/100,000, is slightly lower than New Zealand’s.

It is true that easy access to guns makes it easier for someone bent on murder-suicide to take a whole lot more people with him. But it is also true, as real incidents have shown, that armed members of the public can and have foiled mass murders in recent years by intervening.

Philip Alpers disagrees, citing the Iraq war zone as proof.

“No such effect seems apparent in the favelas of Rio or in Baghdad. To wish only for escalation, and to always discount prevention, seems to be a hallmark of the gunfight fantasist.”

Perhaps. But 32 American students were gunned down in an area where firearms prevention was already in place. It is likely that many of them, in their dying moments, wished that somebody had been able to shoot back.

Footnote: Because of space limitations caused by our major lead story this month, we could not include all of the material for or against that has been provided to us. Readers interested in hearing the full interview with Philip Alpers on MP3 can find it at www.thebriefingroom.com, along with the studies emailed to us by Philip, and other research links we perused as well.

For the record, Investigate believes there is strong merit in tightening gun ownership laws to restrict undesirables, but that ideology – “guns are always good” or “guns are always bad” has no place in intelligent debate on the issue. The statistics we have quoted here are genuine. They have not been “debunked”, and they require explanation. One final point: we absolutely reject Alpers’ assertion in his interview that he “didn’t have the figures” and we were being unfair. Alpers was not provided with questions in advance by TV3’s CampbellLive, but was perfectly happy with the question line. The figures we quoted from were standard FBI crime rate figures which Alpers, as a paid gun control lobbyist for a decade, should have been familiar with.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2007

Air NZ flying Coalition troops up to the warzone



Air New Zealand has this morning confirmed an Investigate magazine report that its planes have been flying US and Australian combat troops across the Pacific and up to the Iraqi border.

Investigate magazine is reporting in its latest issue, out tomorrow, a number of major allegations against the airline made by its staff, among them claims that the airline has been flying secret missions for the American and Australian military.

According to one staff member, one of the flights up to the Iraqi border recently was escorted in by fighter jets. Investigate understood the airline had chosen to provide troop transport facilities to the Coalition military forces because of the lucrative fees involved.

Now the airline has confirmed this, and confirmed Helen Clark's government was advised, as a courtesy, in advance of the troop flights.

"In answer to your specific questions," says an airline spokeswoman, "Air New Zealand entered into these commercial contracts after a competitive tender process making use of spare aircraft capacity. No authorisation was sought or required from either MFAT or Civil Aviation. Air New Zealand did as a courtesy however advise Government Officials that these flights were being undertaken."

Full details of this and the rest of the allegations are in the latest Investigate magazine, but the confirmation now turns the spotlight on how much the Government knew about its state-owned airline carrying combat troops for the Iraqi war effort, especially after last week's attacks on National leader John Key for his position on Iraq.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2007

To Serve & Protect: June 07



The devastating truth about police corruption in New Zealand

Explosive new allegations of widespread police sexual misconduct reaching as high as current police commissioner Howard Broad have emerged in a major Investigate magazine inquiry into police corruption, along with evidence of a political cover-up by senior Labour politicians including the current Attorney-General Michael Cullen, and CYFS Minister David Benson-Pope. IAN WISHART has this exclusive report

When Investigate magazine broke the story last month of a young court worker allegedly raped by an off duty police officer, many people suspected there was more to our story than met the eye. Although Dunedin police moved swiftly to “investigate” and announce no offence had taken place, they didn’t realise the story wasn’t over – instead, it was the jaws of a trap closing around a police unit whose members have, for at least three decades, been amongst the most corrupt police officers in Australasia.

Last month’s cover story was merely a shot across the bows of Police National Headquarters. Today, Investigate brings you a devastating exposé that’s taken two years to pull together, an exposé linking Dunedin police officers to extortion, bribery, rape, indecent assault, underage sex, drug dealing, bestiality and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. As one former police officer told us, “A large chunk of Dunedin police were effectively the biggest organized crime syndicate in the city – even more powerful than the gangs”.

Some of the Dunedin police officers involved in some of these activities have since graduated to senior positions elsewhere around the country, including Police Commissioner Howard Broad and some of his district commanders.

When Broad apologised “unreservedly and unequivocally” to the women at the centre of the Bazley report on police sexual misconduct last month, he suggested the corruption was confined to “a very few officers who have behaved disgracefully. Their actions were wrong and contrary to their oath of office.”

That’s what Police National Headquarters wanted the public and the news media to believe. It is not, however, the reality.

Howard Broad himself, according to former colleagues, was part of that police culture when he worked in Dunedin in the 1980s.
One colleague approached by Investigate alleges Broad had bestiality videos at his going away party from Dunedin’s CIB in the mid 1980s, a party held at 19 Arawa St, Dunedin.

“There was one particular video being shown, of a naked woman holding a chicken while a man had sex with it. The chicken basically expired, and then the woman immediately performed [a sexual act] on the man. I remember it very clearly, because it’s the only time I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness bestiality.”

Another colleague, former Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis, was Howard Broad’s boss in Dunedin, and recalls incidents of indecent assault.

“He was a bit of a groper...He didn’t take much to get him drunk, and when he got pissed he got a bit of Dutch courage. He was never charged with anything, and I don’t know that he was even investigated properly – it might have just been something that was written off.

“Women had complained about him when he got drunk. But certainly I don’t think they ever initiated any proper investigation into him. He might have had a smack on the hand, but that was about all.”

The future police commissioner’s actions reflect the police culture he tried to distance himself from when he spoke last month at the release of the Bazley report:

“To the women of New Zealand I say: I have been disgusted and sickened, as you will be, by the behaviour put before the Commission of Inquiry in many of the files that covered some 25 years of our recent history.

“To all New Zealanders, I am truly sorry that a very few of our number have undermined the high expectations you rightly have of your police.

“We are encouraging every staff member to have the fortitude to come forward where they perceive things aren’t right. I am personally sponsoring our leadership, management and accountability programme.

“Thankfully, the Commission did not find evidence of any concerted efforts across Police to cover up unacceptable behaviour and I hope the report will provide reassurance that we all take sexual abuse complaints seriously.

“To any victims of sexual abuse who have perhaps been reluctant to make a complaint, please come forward.”

Howard Broad should know. As a member of the Dunedin CIB in the early to mid-eighties he would, or should, have been well aware of the parties that went on inside the CIB offices after hours.

“Let me tell you about Dunedin police in the eighties and nineties,” says one source. “If there is a Royal Commission of Inquiry, it will hear evidence of rookie female police officers being forced to have sex or perform sexual acts on senior officers as part of a ‘rite of passage’ when they joined the force down here.

“Because they were sworn staff, the senior ranks held enormous power over the careers of those girls.”

One Dunedin policewoman was run out of town in the nineties after being sodomised by the police officer son of one of the city’s highest-ranked detectives.

“She was told by National Headquarters staff that making a complaint ‘would not be good’ for her career,” says our source.
Additionally, he says, the CIB had raucous Christmas parties where women were fair game.

“There were a couple of civilian typists on our floor, and I remember at one party seeing both of them naked, legs spread, in two police interview rooms side by side, while a large group of male police officers waited in line to gang-bang these women.”

Former Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis is another who remembers wild behaviour.

“There used to be the early morning shift parties, and they finished at five or seven, they used to allow them the key to the police club. They could help themselves to grog and they worked an honesty system. It was the craziest thing that ever happened. When I was doing internal investigations within the police for [CIB boss Laurie] Dalziel and the CIB, I was attached to him to inquire into police crime and misbehaviour. By God, I reckon at least 60 to 70% evolved from those early morning or party situations. We even had indecent assaults then. In fact even in the book [Cover-ups & Cop-outs] I mention John Kelly [not to be confused with John Kelly from the traffic safety branch of the police] who became a Superintendent in Wellington and would probably have been Commissioner until the book came out. I named him as indecently assaulting policewomen at parties. He didn’t dare sue me because I would be able to name names.

“He actually indecently assaulted the-then police commissioner’s daughter,” exclaims Lewis down the phone from his home in Australia. “Do you know what he got for it? He got put back to uniform branch for seven or eight months. If you were the police commissioner and some jerk had indecently assaulted your daughter, do you think the punishment would fit if you just put him back to uniform branch for six months and transferred him as a detective sergeant to Dunedin?

“From my recollection it was breast grabbing and crotch grabbing. But he had a penchant for indecently assaulting females in social company.”

John Kelly is still attached to Police National Headquarters in a senior role.

But when Police Commissioner Howard Broad said last month there was “no evidence” of any “concerted efforts” to “cover up unacceptable behaviour”, it appears one key incident slipped his mind: an incident that happened while he was based in Dunedin, working under Tom Lewis.

Investigate’s inquiries into this particular incident have uncovered a major political dimension – allegations that senior Labour MPs Michael Cullen (now the Attorney-General) and Minister in charge of CYFS, David Benson-Pope – a schoolteacher at the time – helped police cover-up a major pedophilia, bondage and bestiality ring in the city in the mid-1980s. We’ll have full details of the political angle shortly, but first we’ll take you through the incident itself.

“In June 1984,” writes former Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis in his 1998 book, “I was absent from the office for approximately three weeks. During that time, a number of complaints were received about what appeared to be attempts to recruit young girls for sex shows.

One mother of a 14 year old girl went to the Dunedin CIB office to report that not only had her daughter been approached in the street regarding the sex show, she had also been telephoned at home and propositioned.

“The fourteen year old was able to graphically describe the details of the proposed sex show and describe the young woman she had met in the street who tried to recruit her.

“The mother, Cathy, had also spoken to the woman while she was on the phone. This person, who introduced herself as ‘Audrey’, told Cathy that, for $1,000 a performance, her daughter would be required to dress in a sheer nightie and perform in the private suite of one of the upmarket hotels in the city [The Parkside, now known as The Carisbrook].

“The audience would be mixed, with well-to-do people including members of Parliament, lawyers, doctors, ministers of religion, councilors and businessmen present. She told her that it was essential that confidentiality be maintained at all times even if some of the audience were recognised.

“Audrey then said her daughter would be required to lead a naked man, wearing a dog collar, around a small stage. She would be shown how to whip him and later would masturbate him. If she [the fourteen year old] then had sex with him on stage in front of the audience she could earn a bonus. She would also receive a bonus if she had sex with those members of the audience prepared to pay for the privilege.”

As Detective Sergeant Lewis records in his book, Cathy, although shocked, had sufficient presence of mind to play along with the idea in order to get more information and, if possible, a contact phone number from Audrey [Audrey had rung the 14 year old at home].

Cathy was even more stunned, however, when she took the information to the Dunedin CIB only to be met with a “get lost” attitude. Instead, the CIB clerk suggested Cathy conduct her own inquiries if she was bothered by it.

“To instruct a complainant to take on what was a police function was unethical and unprofessional,” wrote Tom Lewis in 1998. “It could also have put Cathy in danger. The CIB clerk was also aware that this was not an isolated complaint as by that time other complaints had been received.”

Non-plussed, Cathy nonetheless pushed ahead under her own steam, and managed to convince Audrey to put her in touch with Audrey’s boss, a man known only as ‘John’.

When Cathy phoned John, the call went to his answering service. When he rang back, Cathy had a tape recorder rolling, as Tom Lewis writes:

“[John] suggested to Cathy that a mother and daughter act would go down well with the type of clientele he catered for at his sex shows. She expressed her interest in his suggestion and asked exactly what he had in mind.

“John told her that for the sort of money he was proposing – $1,500 for each show – they would be required to indulge in sex and masturbation. He explained that the format of the sex show would be Cathy’s daughter leading a naked man around the stage on a dog lead while clad in a see-through nightie. She would be required to verbally abuse him and to whip him before masturbating him.

“Cathy was told that if she ‘measured up’ she would be required to appear on stage naked and to have intercourse with the ‘slave’ while her daughter whipped and verbally abused him.

“In the latter stages, a dog would be introduced to the act and she would be paid a substantial bonus for having sex with the dog. After the main show was over, male members of the audience might request sex with her on stage. The price would be $150, of which she would receive half.

“John reiterated Audrey’s warning about the need for confidentiality as many prominent people attended these sex shows – lawyers, Members of Parliament and the like – and they could be ruined by loose talk.”

By the time Cathy stumped up to the CIB with her taped conversation with John in hand, it was July 1984, and Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis was back on deck in Vice Squad. For the record, it was against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to be employed in a “parlour” – a euphemism for being involved in commercial sex work. Cathy’s daughter, a student at Otago Girls High School, was only 14.

The girl told Lewis that Audrey had been hanging around the school gates waiting for students to come out each afternoon, and approaching attractive 14 and 15 year olds with an offer of several hundred dollars to appear in a “modeling show”. If a girl expressed interest, Audrey took her phone number and arranged to ring later, which is how Cathy became involved.

Lewis immediately went to check what other complaints police had received.

“What I found was disturbing indeed – pieces of paper recording alleged incidents outside Otago Girls High School, in many cases without even the name or phone number of the complainants. Those that I could contact I did, and I found the approaches that had been made were similar to that made to Cathy’s daughter.”

When Lewis raised the slack attitude of CIB staff to taking complaints with his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Laurie Dalziel, Dalziel told him:

“That’s why I have a uniform branch police officer on the front desk, to sort the wheat from the chaff…It was a victimless crime, they [the schoolgirls] hadn’t been hurt, it’s low priority as far as I am concerned.”

Regardless of his boss, Tom Lewis asked a young policewoman, Judy Devlin, whether she would volunteer to go undercover for ‘Operation Audrey”. Devlin agreed, and responded to a newspaper ad that appeared to have been placed by Audrey seeking “models”.

“Audrey…mentioned the show was an adult show which regularly took place in private suites at top hotels in the city,” writes Lewis. “The audience would comprise men and women, many of whom were well known professional people.

“Audrey then proceeded to ask the constable her age, her measurements, in particular the size of her breasts, and then she told her that they had a show organized for Christchurch that weekend. She asked her if she was prepared to travel to Christchurch to perform.”

Constable Devlin declined, expressing a preference for Dunedin. Further conversations followed over the next three weeks, and by the end of it Devlin had been given the same information Cathy had: she would be leading a naked man wearing a dog collar around the stage while whipping and abusing him. She would perform sexual acts on the man and invite women from the audience to participate, and she was then required to have sex with the bondage slave on stage.

“Audrey also told the constable she could double her fee by having sex with as many of the audience as she could manage. The more she serviced, the more she would be paid. She was, like Cathy, told that if she had sexual intercourse with the dog she would receive a large bonus.”

Audrey and Devlin – using the name ‘Jenny’ – agreed to meet at a city coffee bar, and Devlin was given John’s phone number to call the next morning. Detective Sergeant Lewis traced the phone number – it belonged to the Parkside Hotel, now known as “The Carisbrook”, owned and operated by John Lewis, the father of another Dunedin police officer, Murray Lewis.

John Lewis told Devlin that his sex shows were based on the Marquis de Sade’s book, and that people attending the show “were right into bondage and perversion”. He warned her however that confidentiality was extremely important because “prominent people such as members of Parliament” would be present.

John Lewis, however, wanted to inspect his merchandise, and asked ‘Jenny’ – constable Devlin – to meet him at the hotel the following afternoon. Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis (no relation) tried to put a full surveillance team in place but was lumbered with Detective Sergeant John Scott. Scott had been run out of a small South Island town after being found getting rather too close to the young daughter of a local farmer. The farmer and his sons confronted Scott in a barn where he had the girl with him, and the farmer fired up his Poulan chainsaw – threatening to chop off the policeman’s tender portions.

Scott was subsequently transferred to Dunedin, where his nickname around the office was “Poulan”.

“Even [current police commissioner] Howard Broad used to get in on the act,” one former officer told Investigate. “He would stand outside Scott’s office pretending to pull a chainsaw and making the appropriate noises.”

Scott organised only three detectives for the surveillance, not the required six, so when undercover agent Judy Devlin entered the Parkside to meet sex show boss ‘John’, Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis was not a happy man.

Over the concealed microphone embedded in the policewoman’s bra, they could hear John talking about the bondage and sado-masochism of his sex shows, which included “group and kinky sex”. An alsation dog was a regular peformer at the sex shows, he told the woman, and she would be extremely well paid if she allowed the dog to have sex with her on the stage.

“You look young and pretty good to me,” John could be heard saying lecherously, “but I like to inspect my merchandise more closely...let me see you naked. I want to look over you closely. Take off your clothes.”

Constable Devlin made an excuse that she needed to use the bathroom first – a pre-arranged signal to the surveillance team that she needed back-up.

When police burst in, they found John clutching a bottle of baby oil and whip, while on the bed nearby lay a copy of the Marquis de Sade’s book as well as a dog collar and leash. A videotape was found of one of the previous Dunedin sex shows, and included the type of sexual acts John and Audrey had described to Cathy and Constable Devlin. One local man on the videotape was instantly recognisable to police.

“This film was later placed in the custody of [Detective Sergeant] John Scott,” wrote Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis. “It subsequently disappeared without trace.”

The suspect, John, was panicking meanwhile. As the father of Murray Lewis – now Tauranga’s Area Police Commander – he recognised Tom as a colleague of his son’s. He initially tried to suggest that the policewoman was simply a prostitute he had picked up, but slumped in his chair when Tom Lewis informed him they knew he had been attempting to recruit 14 year old schoolgirls for the sex shows through Audrey.

“Yeah, it’s true she did recruit them for me but it was just for me to screw,” he told the police officer. His hands were shaking and he was described as “sweating profusely”.

“I paid Audrey to get young girls for me as I enjoy sex with young girls. It’s just one of those things, a lot of men do.”
Detective Sergeant Lewis asked him how many young girls Audrey had arranged.

“I can’t remember. Not many. I only remember the name of one, Bonnie. I think she was over sixteen but you can’t be sure these days. I admit I’ve had sex with a few but I honestly can’t remember their names Tom.”

John initially denied knowing that Cathy’s daughter was only 14, but folded when the police officer confronted him with the existence of his taped phone call to Cathy. In it, he had told the mother that the fact her daughter was only 14 “did not bother” him when it came to letting her take part in the sex shows.

“I’ve had nightmares about this,” John confessed. “Yes, I did say that.”

Tom Lewis’ book, based on his copy of the police files, reveals John admitted he was hiring the children to have sex with “people in high places”. He would not, however, reveal specifically who. He did, however, provide contact details for ‘Audrey’ – real name Lynley Deaker.

Tom Lewis immediately instructed Detective Sergeant John “Poulan” Scott to action a search warrant at Audrey’s home and bring her in for questioning. The events that followed are the first evidence of a massive police cover-up operation beginning.

John Scott had instead gone to Dunedin’s police chief, District Commander Ross McLennan, and informed him that they’d just picked up Detective Murray Lewis’ father in the pedophile sex ring investigation.

McLennan wanted the father released into the custody of his son, and immediately bailed. Detective Sergeant Lewis wasn’t happy with that idea, especially as Audrey had not yet been brought in. The bailed suspect could easily alert other key suspects and evidence could be destroyed. The police officer also knew that some of his colleagues had a very close relationship with John and his hotel.

“I was aware that John Lewis was the ‘host with the most’ among the hierarchy of the Dunedin Police. I had been to his hotel on more than one occasion, with the head of the Dunedin CIB, and partaken of his hospitality as he curried favour with his son’s bosses. I also knew that Scott was a regular visitor to the hotel and I suspected this was the start of a campaign to minimise the seriousness of the charges against Lewis.”

Despite Tom Lewis’ protestations, Scott was adamant that releasing John was the District Commander’s explicit instruction. Although Audrey was subsequently located, John Scott’s team “forgot” to obtain a search warrant, so no evidence was seized and she was now at the police station refusing to answer questions and demanding to be either released or charged.

John Scott had also decided to send undercover agent Judy Devlin home, so nobody was available to run an identification line-up. If they had, Audrey could have been pinged and locked up for attempting to procure schoolgirls for sex. Instead, with events collapsing around him, and Devlin unable to be located, Tom Lewis was forced to release Audrey as well.

The following day, August 9, 1984, an unbowed Tom Lewis organised his own search warrant of Audrey’s house, and arranged for Constable Devlin to accompany him so she could identify Audrey as part of the process. Just as they were about to head out the door, John ‘Poulan’ Scott pulled Lewis aside and told him CIB chief Laurie Dalziel had ordered “the sex inquiry is to be stopped until he gets back tomorrow”.

The wheels of a police cover-up were well and truly spinning by now.
When Dalziel returned, he came to Lewis’ office and allegedly urged him to drop the case.

“He wanted me to report the John Lewis offences along favourable lines,” says Tom Lewis in his book, “even to the extent of changing my report to say there was insufficient evidence to charge him.”

“Don’t you understand?” urged Dalziel, “It’s a victimless crime!”

In a nutshell, that summed up the attitude of Dunedin Police – a sex ring where 14 year old girls were offered huge sums of money to have sex with old men in bondage gear and an alsation dog, was a “victimless crime” – a statement the parents of Dunedin schoolchildren would have been less than happy to hear.
The investigation, however, was quashed.

Tom Lewis responded by trying to file an official complaint about Detective Chief Inspector Dalziel attempting to pervert the course of justice by preventing an active investigation of a pedophile/BDSM/bestiality ring involving prominent Labour government MPs and Dunedin business leaders.

“I went upstairs and reported it to the District Commander that the head of CIB had tried to pervert the course of justice by stopping me with my inquiry. And of course for 9 months they wouldn’t take my complaint, so I can sort of see how these women went when they tried to complain about being raped. Here was I, a detective sergeant, with 20 years experience and I couldn’t get a complaint laid, so you can see the problems they must have had,” Lewis told Investigate.

Audrey had named a high-ranking Labour cabinet minister as one of those attending the shows, but Lewis wasn’t allowed to question him either.

A phony war broke out, with Dalziel trying to convince Lewis to withdraw his complaint and drop charges against the publican, John.

“Eventually I decided to force the issue,” Tom Lewis records in his book. “I obtained a search warrant from the District Court for Audrey’s address. I took Constable Devlin and another police officer and we raided her address in mid-September 1984.

“When I spoke to Audrey at the door, she said, ‘What’s going on? I was told this had all been squared off and all charges dropped. I better not be taking the rap on my own. Are you doing a warrant on John again? If I’ve been set up to take the rap for this then I’ll take him and his mates with me’.”

Constable Devlin made a positive ID, although Audrey denied meeting her, and inside the unit police found an alsation dog, BDSM bondage gear, and handwriting samples that matched copy supplied to the Otago Daily Times newspaper seeking girls for sex shows.

In other words, they had Audrey dead to rights.

It was during one of these conversations that Tom Lewis says Audrey coughed to the identity of the high-ranking Labour cabinet minister visiting the sex shows when he had the chance to get into Dunedin. Investigate has the minister’s name – for the record they are no longer in parliament.

Audrey’s boss, John, had however already talked of Labour MPs in the plural sense, not the singular.

Despite now having enough evidence to charge both Audrey and John, Tom Lewis was still running up against a corruption wall inside the police when it came to getting action on the file.

“A week later, I learned that the Dunedin children’s sex file had been hastily sent to the police legal section in Wellington without the additional evidence. Still later, I learned that the file that was sent had been interfered with and much of the documentary evidence against Lewis removed before being sent.”

Dunedin police perverting the course of justice? Again, dead to rights.

The trail, and the chance to bring a pedophile ring to justice, was going cold.

Simultaneously, Lewis’ colleagues slipped him photocopied pages from Detective Sergeant John ‘Poulan’ Scott’s diary, revealing Scott had apparently been stalking Tom Lewis’ wife and teenage daughter, even though neither had anything to do with the case.

Tom Lewis engaged a lawyer, Bruce Robertson, later to become a Court of Appeal judge, who suggested a complaint was laid directly with Labour’s Police Minister, Ann Hercus. But Labour refused to act. Lewis believes police bosses may have been blackmailing the Labour Government:

“They had a file in CIS [Criminal Intelligence Section] on her [Hercus] which I was aware of because I was in CIS at the time. They had a couple of things on her so she was under quite a bit of pressure, so the Labour government were very keen to cover this up.”

Instead, amid mounting public pressure and increasing media speculation, the government appointed what it called an “independent examiner” to review the allegations. Except the “examiner” wasn’t independent, but instead was closely allied to police bosses.
His report, issued in 1985, whitewashed the claims, stating there was insufficient evidence to lay charges in the sex ring case. Tom Lewis choked on his cornflakes. The only reason there was insufficient evidence, he knew, was because senior police – backed up by the Labour government – had shut down the investigation. Furthermore, when you added back the hard evidence stripped from the file sent to headquarters, there was indeed sufficient evidence. The whole case reeked.

 But it was what happened next that adds a political dimension to this case. Local Labour MP Michael Cullen – now the Attorney-General – and one of his enthusiastic party workers, a schoolteacher by the name of David Benson-Pope, helped quash public concern about a cover-up by circulating copies of the “independent” examiner’s whitewash report to service clubs and high schools, along with a covering letter expressing the hope that it would “dispel unrest in your community”.

Their line: “there’s nothing in it, the claims are unsubstantiated, move on”.

Who were they protecting, and why?

It was not as if Labour was unaware of the central allegations: that the father of a police officer had procured underage schoolgirls for a bondage and discipline sex show that also included bestiality. Why would Michael Cullen, now the Attorney-General and Deputy Prime Minister, want to pour cold water on such a devastating allegation?

Why would David Benson-Pope, a schoolteacher, want to reassure teachers and parents that there was no truth to the allegations?

Lewis firmly believes the whole affair – with the implication that a senior Labour politician was involved in bondage and discipline, underage sex and bestiality – was ultimately shut down for political reasons, not just the fact that the man organising it was the father of a police officer.

It is significant that while Prime Minister Helen Clark was fully prepared to set up a Commission of Inquiry into historic police rape allegations from the Bay of Plenty, equally serious allegations with a political overtone have been strangely ignored – even though two politicians involved in damage-control at the time are now senior figures in Helen Clark’s cabinet.

It is significant that former Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis, now resident in Australia, was unaware that David Benson-Pope had even become an MP himself.

“Did you come across any junior Labour people like David Benson-Pope?” Investigate asked Lewis.

“Yes I did. Now he was a schoolteacher wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” we confirmed, adding that he was now an MP.

“At Bayfield High,” continued Lewis. “That’s right. Now he was one of the ones who would have helped get it into schools. I know that he was very close to Cullen in that St Kilda electorate. Now is he an MP himself now?”

“Yes, he is. Dunedin South.”

“Well that’s where Cullen was, but I think it was called St Kilda. Yes, Benson-Pope was active, his name did come up. That name was definitely prominent around that time. He’s a bald-headed guy isn’t he?”

“He is.”

“Yeah. And he was a teacher, something to do with Bayfield High. I think at that stage he might have even been involved in Cullen’s campaign. His name certainly came up in relation to those schools and I think he was the man who distributed them at Bayfield High.

“The examiner’s report was very widely spread,” Lewis told Investigate. “These MPs took them to those service groups and asked them to distribute them. Detective Murray Gallagher was the head of the Lions in Dunedin, and he came to me pretty disgusted.

“I suppose they worked on the basis that if they got all the service groups, the movers and shakers of Dunedin, and into the headmasters when concerned parents tried to talk about the cover-up, that they could dampen the fires a bit.

“They defended their actions, they said there was so much innuendo going on about the inquiry, and they were sorry the guy they appointed as an independent examiner wasn’t independent at all – he’d been a member of the police tribunal – but they didn’t think that influenced his report...Nobody wore that, and that was the thing that was going on then with regard to that inquiry.

“It was Cullen, the whole lot, carte blanche across the board, all the Dunedin MPs. Cullen I think was the MP for St Kilda. There was another guy, a younger guy, Clive Matthewson as well.”

It is here that the story takes a much more sinister turn. Had Dunedin’s rogue police team been brought under control by the Labour government in 1986 – when Tom Lewis finally gave up the fight and left the country – much of what followed might not have happened.
If, instead of running damage control, the current Attorney-General Michael Cullen had pushed for an open and honest police investigation, and prosecution of any officer found perverting the course of justice, history might have changed. Cullen, even then, had influence in the Labour government in his position as senior government whip.

It didn’t happen, and instead the corruption in Dunedin worsened, setting the scene for even grislier offending, as you’re about to read.

One of the unspoken themes in the 1984 investigation outlined above was the possibility that the audience in the sex shows may have included Dunedin police officers, as well as the aforementioned Labour cabinet minister. Investigate has now been able to document instances of senior police officers visiting the city’s brothels and demanding free sex in return for not busting the joints.

You’ve already seen us quoting one police officer about the fact that rookie policewomen were forced to have sex with higher ranked officers, now we can reveal how police were pulling a similar stunt in at least one major establishment, Reflections, owned and run by Jack Ingersoll and his business partner Winnie.

‘Megan’, a former escort interviewed by Investigate in Dunedin says police had an “arrangement” for free sex in the brothels.

“I worked at a parlour at one stage and there were police that came in there. They never paid. They thought they had every right to come in there and have the services. It was all quite shocking to me and I didn’t know what the procedure was, I was a bit naive about it all and I wasn’t very impressed. But obviously if a person can do that with me, and I had more clues than some of them, then yes, girls could be taken advantage of.

“Definitely it went on, without a doubt, that police took advantage of the girls...This was about 1991, 92, when I worked there.”

There was, she says, a mixture of uniform branch and plainclothes detectives. She also recalls one police officer who had sex with her then tried to get her to smoke a cannabis joint with him.

“He had a big bag of this dope, a huge bag. When he went to the toilet I reached across for an ordinary cigarette and accidentally knocked some of his papers on the side table, and I saw he had an invitation to the police ball.”

In return for enjoying free sex with prostitutes, police officers turned a blind eye to offences such as using underage schoolgirls in the parlours.

Which brings us to yet another twist in this increasingly serious story: in late 1993, perhaps early 1994, Bayfield High School dropout Laniet Bain began working part time at the Reflections massage parlour. She would have been aged just 17. It is extremely likely that part of her “initiation” involved being forced to have sex with Dunedin police officers. And one of those officers was quite likely Detective Sergeant Milton Weir – the man who later controversially spearheaded the Bain family murder investigation and allegedly planted evidence to implicate David Bain.

In a statement dictated to Colin Withnall QC in his presence but left unsigned amid fears for her life, Dunedin woman Susan Sutton recounts a conversation where one of her friends told her about Milton Weir’s behaviour.

“Joyce has also told me about what Milton used to do when he was in the squad that was in charge of the Dunedin massage parlours. She said he would insist on having sex with the new young girls at the parlours as a perk of the job, and that Jack and Winnie Ingersoll would arrange it for him.

“Also, some of the girls who were under age or had a drug conviction and accordingly weren’t allowed to work in the parlour would be allowed to work in parlours provided that they gave Weir free sex, not only for him but for his mates.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Susan Sutton’s statement confirms what Investigate had already heard from Megan. But there’s even more corroboration – Megan doesn’t know either Sutton or her friend Joyce Conwell (aka Joyce Blondell); she’d already quit the parlours to work as a private escort before their time there.

Were senior Dunedin police officers sexual clients of underage prostitute Laniet Bain? Did that have a bearing on how the police conducted their investigation into the Bain homicides of June 20, 1994?

One man who knows something is Dean Cottle, who told police he’d met Laniet in a bar in Dunedin in August 1993.

Cottle’s statement was taken by Detective Malcolm Inglis, who later worked on the David Benson-Pope tennis balls investigation. The statement is intriguing for both its explosive content, and the apparent lack of interest of police in what Cottle was telling them.
For example, he reveals:

“About the family, she told me that her father Robin had been having sex with her and this had been happening for year [sic]. That he was still doing this as I believed it...she didn’t want it coming out what had happened to her, I wasn’t to tell anyone.”

The Bain family had lived in Papua New Guinea for years, in a region where incest and group sex were cultural traditions. One book on the Bain murders alleges the family fell victim to sexual misconduct there and that the practice took hold. Cottle’s statement seems to back that up to an extent:

“The night she told me about what her father had done to her, she also told me before this that something had happened to her in Papua New Guinea. She didn’t say what, but I presumed she meant something sexual. After that she started crying and told me about what her father did to her...She also told me that her sister Arawa had been involved in some prostitution.”

It is well documented that Laniet’s mother, Margaret Bain, was becoming increasingly deranged and obsessed with New Age rituals. It has also been alleged that Margaret Bain had a sexual relationship with her sons. It is no exaggeration to say that the Bain family was seriously dysfunctional.

While author Joe Karam has speculated that Laniet sparked the murders by threatening to reveal how her father had been having sex with her, it seems likely that such a revelation would not be news inside a family with wide incest issues resulting from their Papuan lifestyle. Indeed, Karam asserts that Laniet may have given birth at age 11 to a child resulting from her father’s incest, which was adopted out in Papua New Guinea. Hello! If Laniet was truly pregnant at 11 to her father, how was a revelation of further incest going to add anything to the debate within the house?

A more likely explanation is that Laniet was planning to reveal her involvement in prostitution at the brothel used by Dunedin’s police force, and Cottle’s statement again appears to back this up. He says he saw Laniet just before she was murdered:

“I stopped and spoke to her on the footpath for about 5-10 minutes. She told me that she was going to make a new start of everything, that her parents had been questioning her about what she was doing. She said she was going to tell them everything and make a clean start of things...She had always been very scared of her parents finding out what she was doing. I thought by saying this she was going to tell her parents about prostitution.”

You’d think with dynamite like this in Dean Cottle’s statement that police would be all over him with questions. Apparently not. There appears to have been no major effort to follow up Cottle’s leads, and Laniet’s diary containing her list of clients’ names and phone numbers mysteriously disappeared.

The officer in charge of the scene examination at the Bain murders was Milton Weir.

Susan Sutton and Joyce Blondell were both working in the sex industry in the mid 1990s.

“I first met Milton Weir in 1995,” Sutton told Colin Withnall QC in her statement, “when Joyce Blondell asked me to perform a foursome with her and [Detective Sergeant Jim] Doyle and Weir and myself at the Golden Fleece Hotel, Waikouaiti.

“The main thing I want to talk about is his unstable nature...he had a very short fuse and would fly off the handle over virtually nothing at all, would rant and rave. He would have to take pills to get himself back under control.

“Some particular occasions that I recall was one night he took me to a barbecue at a house in Waverley, the address of which I have not yet been able [to] locate but I remember it because there [are] two ornamental lions at the entrance to the drive.

“There were about 20 people present at this barbecue and in the bathroom in the house was a supply of cocaine there for people to use. During the night we were out by the barbecue and there was a cat which started rubbing up against Milton Weir’s leg – Weir reacting by grabbing a barbecue tool and chopping the cat to death in an absolute frenzy. I was just horrified but other people there just laughed.”

Significantly, a Dunedin lawyer has independently confirmed he was told the Milton Weir Cat-killing story by another police officer who attended the same barbecue. That lawyer has never seen the statements of Susan Sutton or Joyce Blondell and is unaware they even exist. Needless to say, no police officer has ever seen the statements either until now.

Elsewhere in Sutton’s statement there are equally chilling nuggets:

“Weir has told me about an incident at the Police Club one night when a police officer put a bag over the head of a girl (I think another police officer) and then raped her in the Police Station. Weir told me this because he thought it was very funny. I wasn’t told the names of the people involved.

“Joyce also told me that she had some video tapes of Dunedin Police involved in various sexual acts. I told her that I didn’t believe her and challenged her to show me the tapes. She did show me some of the tapes although some of them I wouldn’t look at because they were just too disgusting. However, the ones I did see included a film of Detective Sergeant Doyle having sex with a dog. In another one, a ginger haired girl was tied down while four people had sex with her. She was crying and definitely not looking as if this was willing. I recognised Milton Weir as one of them and also [name withheld].”

According to Sue Sutton, this was standard M/O for Milton Weir when it came to aggressive sexual advances.

“On one occasion he rang me at work and wanted me to go out with him. When I told him that I couldn’t, he got very angry, came up to where I worked and again insisted I go with him...grabbed me by the throat and dragged me out to the car and took me to Allanton.

“On another occasion...he came around [to her work] and brought some blue cord and grabbed my wrists and tied them up, and said I was going with him and I could either get in the front of the car or he would put me in the boot.

“I have been asked by Mr Withnall why I didn’t go to the Police about Weir’s behaviour. My answer is that Milton Weir was the Police, and I was scared of him – I am still scared of him – and I didn’t think that going to the Police would help. My father is a retired policeman and believes that the Police can do no wrong, and I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”

Sutton wrote that Weir knew she’d been talking to the David Bain defence team for several months, “and over that period I have been receiving dead budgies in my letterbox wrapped up in newspaper. I believe Weir is sending me these.”

When she confronted Weir, he claimed to know the bird-breeding habits of the Bain defence team and claimed one in particular had an aviary. He didn’t.

But the police were prepared to fight even dirtier. A file note by Colin Withnall QC reveals:

“On Thursday June 1 I was told by a person who is closely associated with and influential in the Black Power movement in Dunedin that police have been spreading the word to gangs and to ‘lifers’ in prison that [a Bain defence associate] ‘was kicked out of the police for sodomising his son’.”

The clear intent of the police, records Withnall, was to make the associate a marked man in the criminal world where “kiddy-fiddlers” are not tolerated. The man, of course, had done no such thing and the official records show he resigned from Dunedin Police in 1992 honourably. But in the context of dead budgies in the letterbox, rape threats, violence and intimidation, this criminal slander by members of the Dunedin Police was par for the course.

Joyce Blondell’s statement records similar intimidation and slander:

“Milton Weir and other police have gone out of their way to try and stop me from talking to [the Bain defence team] and others...more importantly the threats and violence we have suffered at the hands of certain police to stuff us up and stop us from talking to [them].

“Last year, 1999, Milton Weir visited me at my Mum’s after he had finished in the police and threatened me not to talk to [the Bain team]...or there would be serious repercussions.”

Are you starting to see the pattern? These are police officers, sworn to uphold the law, knowingly lying in order to intimidate witnesses who could testify about police rape, drug use and corruption.

In another report obtained by Investigate, it is alleged that the corruption extends far higher than Milton Weir, and much further than Dunedin:

“It has come to our attention that Weir has been afforded a level of protection from a very high rank within the Police,” says the report, before naming the individual and his position in another major city police force.

The report tracks Weir’s activities at other locations where he has been stationed, including this from Christchurch:

“Whilst in Christchurch we managed to ascertain that Milton Weir was a regular visitor to certain parlours as a client. Information gleaned was that he looked after at least three of the parlours, meaning they were left alone and allowed to break the law openly in the following areas:

1. Running an unlicensed bar
2. Live sex shows which included audience participation
3. Drug dealing
4. Underage sex

“Weir left these places alone on a professional basis on the condition that he and his mates could visit them at any time free of charge and obtain free sexual pleasures for turning a blind eye to any breaches of the law. The establishments where Weir was indulging are the following:

1. Atami Bath House
2. Felicity’s 140
3. Penthouse
4. The Boutique Lounge

“Weir regularly arranged private shows for him and his friends away from the Atami in places such as the Ferrymead Tavern and the Christchurch Police Club. At the Ferrymead Tavern it became public that a uniformed police officer actively took part in indecencies on stage. This was covered up by Weir who conducted the inquiry.

“There was an incident on one occasion at the Police Club which involved hookers and Weir bundled one of them into the boot of an unmarked police car after striking her.

“From all the information gleaned whilst in Christchurch the picture which was painted for us was one of police corruption on a large scale. A lot of other information [about] offending by police was obtained but not relevant to your matter or the person you are interested in. For example, we have the names of several police officers who are dealing in illicit substances (drugs) and using.”

The report also reveals that TVNZ’s Holmes show conducted an on-camera interview with a prostitute detailing “very compelling complaints about Milton Weir criminally offending”, but didn’t run the story because other sex workers were too scared to go on tape.
While investigators were talking to the woman concerned, a CIB car pulled up and, as the report notes, “she was visited by members of the local CIB who intimidated her. Colin Withnall QC was contacted immediately – he proceeded to the property where he ordered them to leave. This is documented on a television news broadcast.

“As a result of this ‘lady’ not only talking to [TV reporter] Mike Valintine, but also to Colin Withnall QC and Stephen O’Driscoll, solicitor [now a judge], [it] led to Withnall having a private meeting with the Commissioner of Police and tabling a formal complaint of police corruption. The Commissioner of Police then appointed a police member from outside the district to conduct an inquiry...unfortunately, when this officer interviewed the said lady she then started to recant...the matter then fell over. It could be said the Police obtained the statement they desired.”

It was, of course, simply a matter of police protecting their own by intimidating the witnesses. And the sheer scale of that intimidation is incredible. According to Joyce Blondell, she confessed to two crimes she did not commit – one of them murder – because of Milton Weir’s threats if she didn’t take the rap.

Blondell is now serving a life sentence at Christchurch Women’s Prison for murder. Her first inkling of trouble was when police reopened a case originally determined as death by natural causes.

Nursing home resident Doreen Middlemiss was found dead in June 1998, as elderly rest home patients often are. An autopsy was performed, no foul play was found: death by natural causes was the verdict.

It so happened that Joyce Blondell worked at the rest home, but this was purely coincidental – the rest home had other staff as well. But Milton Weir knew Joyce worked there.

And when he found out later in 1998 that Blondell had been talking to the Bain defence team, he hit the roof, as you’ve already seen. Blondell alleges the pressure hit boiling point in late 1999.

“I went into the Dunedin Police station late last year and made a statement admitting hiding in Doreen Middlemiss’ wardrobe and then attacking her and leaving her for dead,” says Blondell in her statement.

Before we continue, how often do you see people – especially former sex workers – turn themselves in voluntarily on an attempted murder when the death had already been ruled natural 18 months earlier? The correct answer, of course, is that you are more likely to see a herd of pigs fly past in RNZAF colours.

Sure enough, Joyce Blondell alleges it was a forced confession.

“I didn’t kill Doreen Middlemiss, I did not hide in her wardrobe, I did not attack or assault her. I made the statement and pleaded guilty because of threats made to me last year [1999] by Milton Weir, a former detective with the Dunedin CIB.

“Late last year I was walking down the street in Dunedin when Milton Weir came up behind me and said to me to keep walking and not to turn around. He told me that I had to plead guilty and confess to murdering Doreen Middlemiss. Weir further told me what I was to say in my confession and that if I did not, then serious injury or worse, someone I care about a lot could be killed.

“I dwelled on it for a couple of days and then went into the police station and saw Detective Senior Sergeant Kallum Croudis. When I was interviewed regarding Doreen Middlemiss late last year (1999) it was a video interview. I had to do a second video interview because what I had stated to Kallum Croudis in the first one was not what they wanted to hear – it was not what I was told to say.

“Croudis, in my opinion, knew what I was supposed to say because when I said anything he, Croudis, was not happy with my first statement and made me make a second one stating what I had been told to say.

“I have known Milton Weir over a period of four years. Over this period I have been subject to much harrassment, threats and violence by Milton Weir and other police. I live in fear of Milton Weir and some of his friends in the police, even to this day. Milton Weir used to visit me at my address regularly. He would just arrive unannounced. If I was in bed he would hop into bed with me and force me to have sex with him.

“He raped me on a number of occasions and told me that if I did not do what he wanted he would rape [name deleted] who boarded with me. [Name deleted] is the daughter of my friend Sue Sutton.

“I at no stage consented to his advances but I feared for [name deleted’s] safety and believed and still believe to this day that Weir would have abused her had I not allowed him to have sex with me. By allowed, I don’t mean willingly. Intercourse took place on a number of occasions and I can say that he hurt me when this occurred. On these occasions he would also help himself to money after having demanded money from me.

“Over four years, Milton Weir has pinched a number of wallets out of my bag...I would estimate between two to three, maybe four thousand dollars.”

As well as rape, extortion and theft, Blondell alleges Weir enticed one of Blondell’s co-workers at the rest home, Murray Childs, to attack her when he found out Blondell was talking to outsiders.

“When I was beaten up with a baseball bat in 1999...it was Murray Childs who beat me up with the baseball bat which resulted in my having to stay in hospital for a period. As Murray Childs was assaulting me he made the comment to me that I was getting the beating because I had upset Milton Weir.

“The words used were ‘You didn’t listen to Milton – this is from Milton’.”

 Blondell also alleges that on one occasion when she couldn’t pay the head scene detective on the Bain murders $500 in extortion monies, he rang her to say she’d be sorry and there “would be repercussions”. The following day her car was stolen – witnesses reported seeing a CIB car parked nearby at the time – and left in the raging surf at St Clair beach, with the word “murderer” graffitied on the side.

So Blondell’s “confession” to the attempted murder of Doreen Middlemiss, resulting in a four year jail sentence, was the culmination of police bullying and attempts to pervert the course of justice.

Murray Childs, who’d already shown himself as one of Milton Weir’s enforcers, then shot dead Blondell’s former partner Alec Rogers, who Blondell had hired to help protect her. Childs then implicated Blondell, who was jailed as a co-conspirator in the murder and sentenced to life. Another crime she says she didn’t commit.

Blondell’s statement confirms that videotapes of Milton Weir and other police gang raping a woman do exist, and Blondell concludes her statement:

“I was forced into confessing to the murder of Doreen Middlemiss by Milton Weir. I fear for my safety even though I am in prison as Milton Weir and Kallum Croudis and other police can arrange things to happen. I genuinely fear for my safety when they find out I have made this statement to you. I fear for my life and that of Sue Sutton and her daughter.

“You need to be talking to Murray Childs. If you can get him to talk you will get most of your answers and evidence against the police who have been criminally offending, but if Childs speaks he will be killed. That is why I don’t think he will talk to you.

“I have more to tell you but I have had enough for one day. I am exhausted.”

Now here’s the next political twist in this explosive police corruption scandal: Labour MP Tim Barnett was sitting with Joyce Blondell the whole time she was giving her statement. Barnett had been asked as an MP to help facilitate the urgent meeting with the prisoner, and listened to every word.

Labour cabinet minister Pete Hodgson, likewise, was briefed on the explosive nature of the revelations. Police Minister George Hawkins is recorded as telling Hodgson that the allegations are “groundless” and “old news”. For the Minister to make such a statement, he first had to obtain advice, and Hawkins’ advice would have come direct from Police National Headquarters – the same Police National Headquarters now claiming misconduct was limited to “a very few officers” and was nothing for the public to be concerned about.

Hodgson, meanwhile, appears to have been unconvinced. He wrote to Corrections Minister Matt Robson expressing concern about the safety of Joyce Blondell in prison, particularly because:

“Joyce Blondell has information that would be damaging to a number of Dunedin officers. The information has been described to me. If it exists, it is serious indeed.”

In reply to Pete Hodgson’s concerns, Corrections Minister Matt Robson sent in the elephants:

“My private secretary contacted the manager of Christchurch Women’s Prison last week...Prison management interviewed Ms [Blondell] who stated she is not concerned at all for her safety.”

No, she was probably freaking out that suddenly prison bosses knew she’d spoken up.

Robson did acknowledge a key point:

“This inmate has alleged she has knowledge of a videotape which demonstrates serious misconduct by members of Dunedin Police. You may wish to follow up this matter with the Minister of Police directly.”

Indeed. So where was the government-ordered inquiry into police corruption back in 2000? It didn’t happen. Labour has known about these allegations for seven years, but nothing has been done. A woman continues to languish in jail for crimes she probably did not commit, whilst allegations of police corruption far exceeding the Louise Nicholas case go uninvestigated.

Perhaps a clue as to how corrupt the New Zealand Police are can be found in our interview with former Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis.

“Just as an aside to show you how the police work, when I was going around NZ doing the book tour [in 1998], I ended up in Christchurch in a little bar in Merivale, and [Superintendent Paul] Fitzharris who was then the head of the South Island police district asked me to join him at his table. I said no thanks, so then he came over to me and said, ‘Look, I’ll just give you a bit of information. You are not going to have your book reprinted, you will not get any more publicity after this week on your book. It’s virtually sold out now and that’s going to be the end of it. And there will not be a reprint, even though it has sold. You can believe me or not believe me, but that’s what’s going to happen.’

“And that’s exactly what did happen. My book editor at the publishing company resigned in disgust over it. And the funny thing is many of the copies of my book were actually bought by the police department!”

For a book that sold a bestselling 10,000 copies, there are remarkably few copies of Cover-ups & Cop-outs in public circulation. It was never reprinted.

Investigate has been shown the names and specific allegations about a large number of current and former police officers alleged to have been involved in multiple rapes, drug deals, extortion, perversion of the course of justice, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, bringing the police into disrepute, abduction and kidnapping, fraud and a range of other crimes. Multiple police districts and National Headquarters are involved. There is far, far more than we have published in this major investigation.

Investigate understands that the people who compiled the list will only provide it if a fully independent Royal Commission of Inquiry is established into the performance of the New Zealand Police, with wide terms of reference and full powers to subpoena, compel and take evidence on oath. Our contacts do not believe the police have sufficient integrity to investigate these allegations against senior officers, and no other independent law enforcement agency exists capable of investigating the police.

If the matters had been solely historic in nature, we would have chosen not to publish. But we have obtained extensive evidence, not published as part of this report, of alleged serious criminal offending by Dunedin police officers right up to the present moment.
Additionally, some of the people involved historically remain highly placed in the police.

One final point, in court testimony a former police inspector has confirmed that the police bond is “a brotherhood” that transcends the end of the job and continues “your whole life”. Police officers who testify against their mates are said to have broken “the brotherhood”. Therefore, investigators trying to break through this “brotherhood” will be up against officers who may be prepared to lie on oath to support those accused. Investigate has been told that it is common practice amongst “bent officers” to keep a notebook listing any indiscretions of their colleagues they may become aware of, so that if the need ever arises the colleague can be blackmailed into toeing the line. Investigate understands those blackmail lists may include the names of judges and other prominent people who have visited prostitutes – it has been suggested compromised judges deliver the verdicts that their blackmailers require.

Any Royal Commission of Inquiry will need to be able to invite submissions from former police or the public, and should be able to provide immunity from prosecution to those officers willing to testify where it can be shown their own role in criminality or breach of procedure has been minor. This would prevent the criminal element within the police from exercising their blackmail “card”.

Submissions should also be invited from the criminal fraternity and prisoners – especially as the police have had no qualms about using prisoners as secret witnesses in high profile trials for years.

Because of the allegations that the Labour government has been implicated in covering-up the real extent of police corruption, decisions on immunity should not be made by the Attorney-General but by a panel of retired High Court judges untarnished by political links. Any attempt to skew either the Royal Commission or the judges panel with compromised appointees will be uncovered by Investigate magazine, if it happens.

This is not the first time a media organisation has called for a full Royal Commission – back on October 2, 1985, the national Catholic newspaper The Tablet called for just such a Commission in the wake of the Dunedin sex scandal. The Labour government refused.

Investigate has absolutely no doubt that the corruption uncovered here is of a scale similar to that afflicting the New South Wales and Queensland police forces in times past, and that New Zealanders cannot regain confidence in law enforcement until the rot has been cleared out.

For obvious legal reasons, and also because lives have been threatened already, Investigate has chosen not to seek advance comment from any of those police officers named in this article. The magazine has, however, corroborated allegations and assembled similar fact evidence that we have not published.

Finally, some may ask why Investigate has chosen to release the names of the women making the statements about Milton Weir, given the extreme fear they have for their lives.

The answer is very simple: in our experience of extortion and death threats, sunlight is the best disinfectant. For more than a decade, some of these people have lived in fear of retribution if they ever spoke up. Now that they have been named publicly, the entire country is aware of their plight.

Additionally, with the Beehive instituting clumsy inquiries about the women through both Police National Headquarters and the Corrections Department at a political level, their safety was compromised seven years ago. Investigate is, if anything, giving their evidence some much-needed context and ensuring that fresh questions are asked about Joyce Blondell’s convictions in the first instance.

Police National Headquarters, Dunedin police and other police regions need to know that a number of people now have copies of crucial documentation, and if anything happens to a witness – particularly one that documentation exists for but who we haven’t named – there will be, to use Milton Weir’s turn of phrase, “repercussions”.

To briefly recap the main points of this special report, the magazine alleges:

1. That current Police Commissioner Howard Broad had, and was watching, bestiality videos at his going away party from the Dunedin CIB at 19 Arawa St
2. That current Police Commissioner Howard Broad fondled junior staff whilst stationed at the Dunedin CIB
3. That Howard Broad, when he stated that only a “few” officers were involved in sexual misconduct, either knew or should have known of the extensive sexual misconduct in the Dunedin CIB
4. That Police National Headquarters, Dunedin Police and the Labour Government helped quash an investigation into a child sex, bondage and bestiality ring operating in Dunedin in 1984 run by the father of a police officer and attended by at least one Labour cabinet minister
5. That current Attorney-General Michael Cullen and the current Minister responsible for CYFS, David Benson-Pope, helped run damage control over the child sex, bondage and bestiality case in 1985
6. That current Labour coalition MPs Pete Hodgson, Tim Barnett, George Hawkins and Matt Robson were aware of major allegations of police misconduct from 2000 onwards, including the existence of videotapes of police rapes and bestiality involving police officers
7. That by failing to rein in police corruption brought to their attention in the eighties and again in 2000, the Labour government has permitted the culture of corruption to widen in that time, wrecking more lives
8. That former Wellington District Commander and current Police National Headquarters officer, Superintendent John Kelly indecently assaulted a number of women, including the daughter of a previous police commissioner
9. That Dunedin and Christchurch Police had arrangements to turn a blind eye to organised crime – including underage sex and drug dealing – in return for sexual favours from brothels
10. That police have maintained files on key politicians and public figures capable of being used to blackmail the government, judges, lobby groups and even police association members into supporting the status quo
11. That Dunedin police officers, former and current, have been involved in multiple rapes of junior female police staff, prostitutes and civilians, drug deals, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, including falsifying charges
12. That several of the top officers in the David Bain case, including Milton Weir, were allegedly corrupt police officers
13. That the officer involved in the alleged rape of a court worker, detailed in our last issue and cleared by Police National Headquarters last month, is also a corrupt officer
14. That the culture of police corruption, far from being localised to the Bay of Plenty or historic, extends to a large number of jurisdictions because of staff movements, and continues to the present day
15. That the only way to weed the bad cops out of the force is a Royal Commission, because the Old Boys Network within the police is currently looking after its own interests and bringing discredit to the many hardworking honest police who do not have the institutional power to bring change

Posted by Ian Wishart at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2007

The Boy Racer Problem: March 05



Horrific road smashes involving young drivers are increasingly dominating news coverage on both sides of the Tasman. In New Zealand, we’ve introduced ‘boy racer’ laws and extensive restrictions on young drivers, prompting calls for similar tough measures in Australia. But as PAUL HAM explains, the real cause of the problem may actually be the feminization of society.

The nannyish, knee-jerk campaign by the New South Wales government and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph to introduce new laws for P-plate drivers to stop them killing themselves is not only a bleak manifestation of the infantile element in modern Australian political thought, but a sad symptom of a society that fails to grasp the fact that laws will not stop young men from doing blindingly stupid, terrifyingly dangerous, or amazingly heroic things.

The problem is – as the sad case of Emile Dousset (more on this in a moment) and other young drivers’ shows – laws cannot stop the intrinsic anarchy of youth. The experience of history, which we seem to be in the process of rapidly forgetting, teaches that adults need to channel the male instincts, rather than throttle them with laws, if we are to have any hope of generating something worthwhile from our sons.

Strict schooling, parental discipline and national service were once the traditional conduits for controlling the errant young male. None is likely to return. The relentless surge of progressive education, which has destroyed a generation of young people’s minds, marches on. The reintroduction of national service is clearly unlikely – it would be electoral suicide, and too expensive. And there is barely a flicker of life in the old family punishment regime – crushed by the anti-spanking campaign and other lobbies that criminalize or socially stigmatise any form of effective parental child discipline.

So politicians have spotted a vote winning opportunity: we’ll do the job of the parents.

Encouraged by the supine complicity – or, in the weird case of some publications, a cheerleading press – the ruling political class has seen fit to barge into our homes and tell our children how to behave without ever asking us.

“If parents can’t control their kids, we’ll have to do it for them,” runs the thinking; cue the busy bodies in government, who are parking their tanks on the parental patch with bossy impunity.

And yet the politician who demands parental as well as political power is a tiny symptom of a profound delusion in the western body politic: Governments actually think they can play mum or dad in outlawing the oldest, most creative and destructive urge in the human species: a young man’s propensity to behave recklessly.

In this process, parents have become the mere finger-wagging appendages of a society that increasingly relies on the crudest form of dissuasion: the law. The punishment of our kiddies is being appropriated by state legislators who cynically applaud the introduction of laws to control youth because they suppose them to be “voter friendly”.

Hence the proposed shiny new proposals in Oz for curbs on P-Plate drivers, which go hand-in hand with our mania for age limits, anti-spanking laws, anti-drinking laws, anti-smoking laws, bicycle helmet laws, and prohibitions of all kinds of behaviours perceived to be dangerous.

PHOTO: NZ Herald

In this light the tragic case of Emile Dousset is instructive. His father Graeme is, by all accounts, a responsible, decent man who made it very clear to his son that the Nissan Skyline R34 GTR parked in the garage – a machine powered by a 2.6-litre, six-cylinder engine with a top speed of 251km/h - was off limits. Graeme repeatedly warned Emile that the car was not to be driven; he tried to educate his son about the dangers of speeding, and the importance of responsible driving.

Emile listened, but disobeyed his father, and set aside his dad’s reasoned appeal to good sense – the flight of any ordinary young man’s desire for a thrill. One night, while his father was overseas, Emile took the vehicle out for a spin in the town of Wyoming, NSW, where a 50km/h limit applies. The P-plater drove first to a service station and picked up two passengers, Carl Homer, 33, and Natasha Schyf, Homer’s pregnant 15-year old girlfriend. Both were impressed by the gleaming vehicle, and curious to see how young Emile would handle it.

At this point it is worth interceding to remark on the manner in which virtually every commentator chose to ignore the really disturbing story here: in impregnating a child, the 33-year old Homer was manifestly guilty at the very least of carnal knowledge – and possibly child abuse – a more insidious force in society than reckless driving. Few saw fit to remark on this rather unfortunate fact; one report nauseously praised the girl’s courage in rising to the challenge of pregnancy at so young an age. (Even as the Telegraph was studiously ignoring the details of Homer and Schyf’s relationship, it still managed to run – with a straight face – a story about a 37-year-old man accused of bedding a 15-year-old girl he met online. The headline? “Jailed for preying on girl.”)

But back to Emile. Perhaps in an effort to impress his passengers, he sped to a residential street popular amongst rev-heads. He then accelerated to somewhere between 180 and 200 km/h, struck a dip in the road, went airborne for 40m, and smashed into a telegraph pole. Stunned residents emerged from their homes to find the dead bodies of Emile and Carl flung on the nature strip; trapped in the split car was Natasha, who died with her unborn baby (whom she’d named William).

Emile has become another tragic statistic in the supposed “epidemic” of P-plate road victims. His case fed the portrayal of male youth of today as, at the very least, disobedient and reckless.

At worst, if the government and the media are correct, a spawn of half-formed, testosterone-fuelled yahoos are at this very moment rampaging across our fair land, smashing up their dads’ cars and their lives in brazen high-speed rallies; drinking themselves legless; or drugging themselves to the hilt.

That impression is plain wrong, of course; in the midst of the media hysteria over the epidemic of teen driver deaths came news that, rather than spiking skywards, fatal accidents involving P-plate drivers have fallen to their lowest levels in history, falling 30 percent from 1992 to 2002. And it’s not just young drivers who are getting safer: NSW closed 2004 with the lowest number of road fatalities overall since 1949, with a total of 522 deaths. To put these numbers it in context, NSW Health estimates that roughly a dozen times that figure die in the state every year due to smoking.

But the NSW government is not put off, and is instead trying to legislate against stupidity. For example, young people must now stay on their P-plates three times longer now than their parents were: they must progress from L plates to red beginners’ P plates to a P2 licence (green P plate) before they get their full licence – a three-year process, involving several tough hazard perception tests. No wonder P-plate drivers are in the spotlight for road accidents. If that regime doesn’t work, what will?

But the government wants to extend the regime, and Roads Minister Carl Scully has drawn up a paper of options to reduce P-plate driver fatalities: they include a proposed ban on fast or dangerous cars and raising the age limit for licence-holders. To be fair, even as he pursued this course, he recognized an insurmountable problem: only by banning cars will crashes be avoided, said a helpless Scully spokesman last November.

Never mind that this doomed experiment will be ignored: no self-respecting young larrikin will care much about a distant government bureaucrat droning on about the “P-Plate driver menace”; a curb on young drivers may even encourage speedsters onto the roads.

In earlier times, fathers were proud of the motive, if not the occasionally disastrous consequences, behind any healthy young son’s desire to show-off, or embrace dangerous situations. It is a biological inevitability. That is why young men volunteer for war: they, unlike women or older men, have an idea of themselves as bullet-proof. In a word, many young men reckon they’re unbreakable.

But this fact seems beyond the realm of comprehension of the legions of precious counselors, bossy journalists, government busy-bodies and tut-tutting feminists who are wheeled out with weary inevitability to bemoan the “youth of today” and their predilection to do very dangerous things every time a young person is killed or hurt.

If Lord Byron had lived today, no doubt swimming the Hellespont by “Club-footed Persons” would have been banned soon after he drowned. Sadly for the cosy modern world of health inspectors and safety first, the dashing young man who defies order and authority to express his peculiarly male urge to be the fastest or the strongest or a hero will always be with us – if in a suppressed or warped form.

That’s because we live in an age in which the female is in the ascendant, and manhood is seen as something awkward, smelly, yobbish or plain embarrassing. The male virtues of courage, mateship, loyalty and do-or-die heroism are either dead, or dying, stamped out by a fusillade of laws, restrictions, codes and feminist-driven contempt.

Indeed, this blokish larrikinism is regularly portrayed as a kind of mental illness and something to be ashamed of; the “male” in us is not quite “human”, rather something abnormal, even bestial. Men are inured to being presented as the buffoon or the idiot in endless films and TV shows; they seem to have swallowed the nonsense that they’re less intelligent than women.

Melbourne psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg reckons young males “do not have the neurological wiring that gives girls pause to think,” as he told journalist Kate Legge in the Australian recently. Having accepted this as a self-evident truth, Legge added: “This biological handicap is exacerbated by a lethal mixture of sloppy parenting and unprecedented commercial and peer pressure”.

It is worth weighing the meaning behind this extraordinary statement: young men are no longer merely stupid or loutish; they are actually biologically inferior to girls. “New research” or “experts” say so.

But surely a biological handicap must be qualified in terms of its effect on human behaviour? If the male “biological handicap” only results in rev-heads crashing their cars, or picking fights, then perhaps it is a handicap; if, however the male “handicap” produces young men willing to sacrifice their lives for their country at a time of war; or rush in fearlessly to save the life of someone in danger; or embark on daunting expeditions of discovery, then surely it is a gift?

Today’s society denies young men that accolade. They are simply mentally-challenged louts. One wonders how the nation would respond if we were invaded (as we nearly were in 1942) – perhaps we’d introduce a new law banning war?

Setting aside the absurd claim that the “commercial and peer pressure” on boys of today is “unprecedented” (e.g., how does one calculate this new precedent?), Carr-Gregg’s fundamental concern is that parents seem surprised when their boys misbehave: "I sit in my office gobsmacked at tales not out of place at a Roman orgy," he observes. "Parents don't seem to have a clue. One couple allowed their teenage son free range at home while they went to Noosa. He had a party. The house was trashed and the parents were astonished. These are intelligent professional people.”

Yet Carr-Gregg contradicts this admirable portrait of the modern young man’s party-organising abilities by claiming that today’s generation of boys “is the most vulnerable…we have ever seen”. On the one hand the little darlings are holding Roman orgies, the next they’re the vulnerable victims of a conspiracy of bad parenting, bad schools and ferocious marketing that “short-circuit”, in Legge’s phrase, a boy’s path to manhood.

In response, Carr-Gregg and legions of other psychologists, most of the media, and even feminist-mums are pressing for a return to more authoritarian styles of parenting and schooling. (Though, tellingly, they draw the line at anything possibly effective – like corporal punishment. They want carrots without sticks; they plead for the imposition of discipline without any disciplining force.)

But their plea, however welcome, is a little late. One groans wearily at this belated recognition of the failure of 30 years of progressive “liberal” education, whose seeds lay in the barren soil of the 1960s baby boomer era. It is now awfully clear that a child will not find his or her “inner creativity” without some instruction in the method of expressing it: i.e. lessons in grammar, ordered thinking, reason, logic, the rules of syntax etc.

Another fascinating reversal for these New Authoritarians is that they now acknowledge “gender difference”. “Risk-taking behaviour is unquestionably a gender issue on Australian roads,” writes Kate Legge, for example. “Young men have been found to score significantly higher than females when tested for impulsiveness and sensation-seeking,” she adds.

And research by Peter Palamara of the University of Western Australia's Injury Research Centre has found that young men are more likely to engage in risky driving when carrying a same-aged, same gender passenger. In other words, young men like showing off to their mates…what an extraordinary thing.

This identification of “gender difference” is an intriguing break with the past: throughout the 1970s, feminists were telling us that there is no such thing as gender difference. Men and women were the same, at least psychologically. (No wonder so many women burnt their bras in that wretched era, the high watermark of idiocy, during which the greatest insight of feminism was that “manhood” was a cultural phenomenon imposed on children; a little girl would naturally choose Ken over Barbie if only she was given the chance. Any parent knew – and knows - this to be utter rubbish.)

One consolation from the wreckage of the past – and of poor young Emile - is that at least many people are talking a similar language. Many people seem to have noticed that men and women are, er, different; and most people seem to agree that the progressive education and parenting models of the last 20-30 years have failed to produce well-adjusted young men. This seems an auspicious place to begin finding ways to channel male recklessness, aggression and risk-taking into something constructive.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

Howard's Way, Out: March 05 issue



With John Howard facing plummeting poll ratings and a must-win election campaign, there's growing speculation about who will replace him. Falling government debt, deregulated workplaces, and a reformed tax system are the hallmarks by which most Australians know Commonwealth Treasurer Peter Costello. But what does the man many believe will succeed John Howard think about faith, family, and the role government has to play in people’s lives? This interview between Investigate's James Morrow and Peter Costello ran in our March 05 edition:

ART: Lionel Bradley

INVESTIGATE: Do you think that in general, government plays too big a role in Australian lives today?

Hon. Peter Costello, MP: I think there’s been a long tradition in Australia of looking to government, and you can argue this goes right back to the foundation of Australia. Australia, remember, was founded as a government settlement -- and it’s quite an interesting thing: how many countries were actually founded as government settlements? This one was, by white settlers. And so you can go right back and see government has had quite a large role [in Australian life] ever since the First Fleet.

[But] if we believe that all answers come from government, we’re defeated. That belief in itself, that government can solve all of our social problems is part of the problem rather than part of the answer. And I think we have to look much more to individual responsibility, volunteerism, private initiatives for many of the social answers to the problems.

INVESTIGATE: So you think the state can stand in the way of a lot of institutions that would otherwise do some good?

COSTELLO: Does the state crowd out private initiatives? I think it can…

INVESTIGATE: Crowd it out, or even just make it too hard to get it going, just in the same way the government can get in the way in the private sector?

COSTELLO: Well if the state crowds it out, that is a problem. If the state gives rise to the belief that that it is capable and as a consequence individuals don’t see [social problems] as their responsibility, that is a problem. What I’ve argued, and I will argue very strongly for, is for a limited government. We ought to decide on the things government can do and ask government to do them, and limit it to those things, rather than have the expectation that the state can intervene in every area successfully.

There are some things a state can do: a state can tax, and a state can spend. There are some things a state can’t do. A state can’t make marriages happy. It can’t give you personal contentment or fulfillment. It can’t give you spiritual succor or nourishment. And when you start looking to the state to do things it can’t do, the state fails, and your expectations are defeated. You do better to figure out what a state can do and limit it to those areas.

INVESTIGATE: Can you talk a bit about your evolution as an economic thinker – I’m thinking particularly of your role in the Dollar Sweets case [which in the mid-1980s represented a turning point for Australian industrial relations]?

COSTELLO: When I first got involved in industrial relations, the labour market in Australia was probably the most heavily regulated labour market in the world outside Cuba. And the way in which it used to work was that we had a tribunal which would set all terms and conditions, working hours, rates of pay, holidays, classifications, duties, and union coverage, and this would be obligatory on employers and employees. And in addition to that, because they had this industrial tribunal with such extensive regulation, the ordinary laws of contract weren’t applied. And I was advising a company [Dollar Sweets] that was resisting a union wage claim, and it was subject to picketing. The picket I think went 170 days, and there were bashings, arson, vandalism, and bomb threats. The industrial tribunals failed to solve it, the police were unable to secure the site, and I advised the company to go and get court injunctions, basically to uphold the rule of law.

Now this was very unusual; it had never been done before. It’s funny to think about, but people thought this was a shocking affront to the industrial system at it was then applied in Australia, and we were successful. And it became a great cause celebre of a small company standing up against militant unions.

And from that day to this there’s been a long argument going on in Australia about how much flexibility you should allow in our labour market. Although things have improved light years, I think in Australia today the labor market is still over-regulated, there is still room for improvement, and for me it has been a cause now for twenty years. Some of the things that I would have liked to have done, that I feel we should have done, have been defeated in the Senate, legislatively. There’s still room to move here in Australia.

INVESTIGATE: So with regard to small businesses and medium-sized businesses, over-regulation is still hurting the economy, and the ability to create growth -- and hurting the growth that Australia has been able to maintain for the last decade or so?

COSTELLO: Yeah, I think so. Look, I think one of the things we know not just in Australia but around the world is that employment outcomes are better when there’s flexibility, when there’s ease of entry and ease of exit. It’s a funny thing to say, and people often say to me, “well, how is it that unfair dismissal laws prohibit employment?” They say unfair dismissal laws should help keep people employed.

But the truth of the matter is that if there are barriers to exit they form barriers to entry, and people become employment-averse and employment outcomes are worse. And this is not just in Australia: this is well-known in Continental Europe, where unemployment is high. And one of the reasons is they have rigid labour market laws.

INVESTIGATE: You say that the government can tax, and the government can spend. A lot of people on the right say the government still spends too much, and still taxes too much. Do you think there’s room for more freedom there in terms of cutting taxes?

COSTELLO: Well, look, there are measures of these things. Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio is higher than Japan’s or the US’s, lower than New Zealand’s, and lower than Europe’s. And that’s where we sit. Should we be working at keeping taxes as low as possible? Yes, we should be. And we should be working at keeping expenditures contained.

I’m not one of those people -- I’m not a supply sider -- I’m not one of those people that would say just cut your taxes and keep your spending where it is and run a big deficit and it will all fix itself. I don’t believe in that. I’m an old-fashioned conservative in the sense that I do believe in balanced budgets.

INVESTIGATE: So you don’t believe in George W. Bush economics?

COSTELLO: (laughs) Yes, unlike the current administration in the U.S.

So I would say, yes, we should try and keep our taxes as low as possible, consistent with balancing our budget and meeting our social obligations.

This idea, by the way, that if you gave a tax cut people would start working less, I think that’s thoroughly improbable. I think if you gave a tax cut people would probably keep working the same, and they’d be better off, but this idea that if you gave tax cuts we’d all return to some Rousseauian state of nature … well, in fact, the argument probably goes the other way: if you cut taxes, people might actually increase their efforts. This is the economic argument for lower taxes, they might actually increase their efforts and productivity would rise, not that they would reduce their efforts.

INVESTIGATE: Sure. But there would be more jobs and more money flowing through the economy…

COSTELLO: And even at the same rate or at a higher output the argument is that the economy would so grow as to create jobs.

INVESTIGATE: Let’s shift gears a bit: you’ve talked a lot about “social capital” lately, and I think people have an instinctual understanding of what you mean, but could you give more of a definition of what you mean when you use that phrase?

COSTELLO: I don’t really like the term “social capital” because it’s trying to dress up what I think is a non-economic concept into economic language. People feel comfortable with that language because it has the word “capital” in there, so it gives rise for some to believe that this is something that is measurable.

I’m not talking about something that is measurable. To me, society consists of concentric circles of relationships: it starts with the individual, then the individual to the family, then a family in an extended family, then the family in a social institution, which might be a school, or it might be a church, or it might be a sporting club, and then these voluntary associations in a community, in a community in a city, in a city in a state, in a state in a nation, and these people are all engaging in a whole range of relations with each other which are enriching each others’ lives and providing networks and support. And these networks and support don’t come from the government, they weren’t instituted by the government. They exist outside the government, and they enrich you, your society and your community. And if you don’t nourish and nurture these relationships, your community will be poorer for it, and ultimately your economy will be poorer for it.

[One way to look at is to ask,] what is the basis of contract? If you take the view that the contract is the basis of the free-market economy, what is the basis of the contract? Well, partly it’s enforceability, but if we had to enforce every contract that’s made in society, then society would break down.

Contracts evolve out of trust. You know, I will do for you in return for you doing for me, and there’s this concept of trust there. But where does this concept of trust come from in a society? Trust comes from the social relations and the social institutions that give society its shape and its form. And that’s what I’m arguing for: a rediscovery and a recognition of the importance of those social relations, of trust, of family, of volunteerism, of private capacity, because it gives the social dimension, and I think actually ultimately the economic dimension, to a society.

INVESTIGATE: What role do churches and other faith-based organizations have to play in this regard?

COSTELLO: I think they’re exceptionally important, because one of the great sources of moral teaching in the West is the church. It’s a very interesting question, I think: Could you have moral teaching without the church, without faith? If you disengage from the religious base, can you hold the moral order together? This is why I’m not an atheist.

INVESTIGATE: But aren’t a lot of church organizations -- I’m thinking of the Catholic church, for example -- very political, and have a very strong left-wing bent to them? And in fact wind up as much political organizations as institutions simply trying to do good on this Earth?

COSTELLO: Yeah, I think this is a very interesting question. Let’s take the Catholic church: if you listen to some leaders of the Catholic church, you would think the great moral issues of the day are the war in Iraq, saving the trees, and redistributing income. You could go to another Catholic church where you could be told that the great moral issues of the day are abortion, stem-cell research and homosexual priests.

It’s almost like there are two Catholic churches out there, and never do the twain meet. Now that second church, I think, is the historic Catholic church, and certainly the church of Pope John Paul II. This other Catholic church is the church of the modern Jesuits. And actually I think the churches themselves are confused about what the moral issues of the day are, and I think many of their parishioners can sense this.

That’s one of the reasons why you’ve got the rise of the modern Pentecostal-type movement, because at least the preachers in that movement appear to believe in what they’re saying. If you go to a lot of other churches, established churches, the preacher appears to thoroughly disbelieve everything he’s saying. And if I want to listen to someone preach a sermon, I’d like to feel at least he believes it! How can he expect me to believe it, if I can’t believe he believes it?

INVESTIGATE: How should Australia, a Christian-majority society, deal with other faiths, such as Islam, where there are elements that might want to assert themselves in an intolerant fashion while using our tolerance as cover to do so?

COSTELLO: Well, the way I put it is, I think that Australia is certainly founded in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that is the basis of our society. Having said that, I think it’s a thoroughly secular society, and I suspect that religious belief and observance is quite low in Australia, certainly lower than the U.S…

INVESTIGATE: Something like ten, fifteen percent church attendance?

COSTELLO: I don’t know, but it’s certainly much lower than in the United States. I would say, however, that part of the social contract in our society is that whilst people are free to practice their religious beliefs, they are also obligated to accept the basic preconditions of our society, which is respect for other peoples’ belief, respect for the law, tolerance, respect for individual rights, avoidance of terrorism, and we would expect people of all religious faiths to observe these rights and responsibilities in Australian society, including Islam.

INVESTIGATE: You say we’ve become a very secularized society. Do you think we’ve become too individualized as a society here in Australia?

COSTELLO: I‘m worried by family breakdown. I’d be very worried if, particularly for kids growing up, if they didn’t have the support of parents and brothers and sisters and extended families. That would worry me. I’m not worried by individualism -- it’s got many positives. But I would be worried if what I consider the most basic institution, the family, were to be so under attack that particularly.

I think that at two stages of life family is really important. One is when you’re a child growing up, the second is in your old age. And to be frank with you, I don’t think any society has the capacity to look after people in their old age through state provision. This is where you need families, to care for older relatives and to provide that kind of protective web.

INVESTIGATE: What do you think the big threats to the family are right now?

COSTELLO: Well, I think the problem is relationships in Australia are becoming much more transient. There does seem to be a view in the modern world that everything’s got a shorter and shorter shelf life, including relationships.

You know, we’re an impatient people, aren’t we? We get on the internet, we want information to come to us quickly. We stand in a queue at a coffee counter and we want our coffee to come quickly. We go to entertainment, we want the action to happen fast, and I worry that sometimes we bring this expectation to relationships: We want them to happen fast and successfully, and if they don’t, the view is discard them and form new ones. And I think that attitude can be a great threat to the family.

If people take the view that relationships are disposable, then I think that is a threat to the family, because the essence of family is that it’s a long-term relationship between these people. You would expect a family relationship to survive a whole lifetime, and to survive succeeding lifetimes…

INVESTIGATE: Because without that you can’t get that support in later life?

COSTELLO: Yes, the care of the young, and the care of the old. This is the idea of family as a compact: parents caring for the children, and the children caring for the parents when the parents are old, and we move this institution down through the generations.

INVESTIGATE: Moving overseas a bit, how do you see Australia’s relations with the other big Anglosphere nations progressing, especially with New Zealand, which is our close neighbor but is socially drifting down quite a different path?

COSTELLO: Well I think Australia’s relations with the Anglo countries are as close now as they have ever been. That closeness is with the U.S. and with Britain in particular, and a lot of that comes out of Iraq, defense cooperation, and intelligence sharing.

Concerning New Zealand, I think Australia feels very close with New Zealand. I feel that relations between the countries are good, but New Zealand has taken a bit of a different turn on the defence issue. But trade remains strong, [as do] the people-to-people relationships. The consequence of [the defence issue] is that it altered the nature of the ANZUS relationship because it altered the nature of the relationship between New Zealand and the U.S.

That has changed the nature of the defense relationship a little bit between Australia and New Zealand. Having said that, I think people-to-people relationships are close, and I think there’s a lot of good will between the Australians and the Kiwis.

INVESTIGATE: Again, shifting gears a bit, you’ve come out in support of a republic. Where do you stand on that now?

COSTELLO: Well, look, my view is that the role of the monarchy in our constitutional arrangements is largely symbolical. It’s a symbolism that served Australia well in decades past, but I’m not sure it will serve Australia well in decades to come, and therefore I think Australia will have to move to have stronger symbolic arrangements in place whilst preserving the best of our constitutional system, which is a Westminster parliamentary system. And I think this is an issue that is not a first-order issue, but one that Australia will have to deal with in years to come.

INVESTIGATE: Finally, your name is very often connected with the phrase, “Australia’s next prime minister”. Now I know your boss has said that he intends to be in office for quite some time, but were you to eventually ascend to the Prime Ministership, is there anything we should expect in a Costello government?

COSTELLO: (chuckles) Well, we’ll take the opportunities that arise as they arise, but we won’t speculate on them in the meantime!

Posted by Ian Wishart at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

X in the Suburbs: April 05 issue



Ecstasy and other party drugs used to be an import-only business. But now, home-grown gangs are figuring out the trick to pill-making and flooding the market with their wares. JAMES MORROW in Sydney and SHAUN DAVIES in Melbourne report on the growing drug industry in our own backyards.

March 9, 2005: Federal agents stop a van traveling down the Hume Highway near the Victoria-New South Wales border. After arresting the two men on board – a 39-year-old Sydneysider and a 31-year-old Melburnian – cops find five 44-gallon drums of chemicals that can be used to make MDMA, or ecstasy. That night, armed with search warrants, police sweep through a number of suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne, including Pyrmont – an increasingly trendy and cashed-up inner-city neigbourhood which is also home to Sydney’s Star City Casino – and make several more arrests and seizures.

Amongst the cops’ haul for the evening: “proceeds of crime”: a 4WD Porsche Cayenne and a Lamborghini, as well as five more 44-gallon drums of so-called “precursor chemicals”. According to the Australian Federal Police, “a conservative estimate of the MDMA pills capable of being produced from this amount of precursor is four million tablets, which has an estimated street value of $160 million.”

But while the AFP was quick to trumpet this “largest-ever seizure” of precursor chemicals, the bust only scratched the surface of a growing trade in so-called “party drugs”: MDMA (better known as ecstasy), as well as GHB, methamphetamine, the animal tranquilizer ketamine, and a variety of other chemicals that are increasingly popular with Australian youth. According to figures published in 2001 by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, one in five Australians between ages 20 and 29 had tried ecstasy – a figure that experts agree has only gone up in the four years since.

Fast-forward to Melbourne, the following week. On Sunday night of the Labour Day long weekend in Melbourne, the dance floor at Revolver, one of the city’s best-known clubs, is packed with sweaty bodies. It is well past midnight and you’d expect the pulsing electronic music to be driving the crowd into a frenzy. But the atmosphere is actually quite subdued: most dancers are only swinging their arms in time to the beat, and some of them are barely moving their feet at all.

It may be that the crowd is not enjoying the DJ, but an equally likely explanation is that a batch of “smacky” pills has been doing the rounds. A “smacky” pill generally contains some MDMA, but it's adulterated with another drug, usually ketamine or heroin, which leaves users in a stupor. Contrary to commonly held ideas, not all pills sold as ecstasy drive users to all-night dancing and potentially fatal dehydration.

Some of the drug users in Revolver are easy to spot. One young clubber, dressed in low-slung jeans and a trucker’s cap, has obviously overindulged. He stumbles about the club with a slack jaw and a faraway look in his eyes, disoriented and seemingly unsure of where to put himself. Eventually he collapses on a couch in the corner of the room with his legs splayed out, rolls his head back and stares at the ceiling.

But most of the people who have taken ecstasy are more in control, and to spot them you have to know what to look for. Furious chewing is one clue: ecstasy makes users grind their teeth incessantly, and users chew gum to prevent aching jaw muscles the next morning.

Another sure sign is excited hugging and sloppy smiling – ecstasy’s empathetic qualities give users a seemingly uncontrollable urge to tell anyone within earshot just how amazing it is to be alive.

Ecstasy comes on in a rush. About 40 minutes after swallowing a pill, your body and brain are consumed with overwhelming pleasure: this is the strongest part of the trip and users refer to it as “peaking”.

After about an hour the intensity of the trip will decrease slightly, although the effects won’t really start to wear off until a good three or four hours later. The comedown is difficult and many users will take multiple pills over the course of an evening to prolong the rush and put off the inevitable.

Those who use ecstasy regularly agree that in the past six months the market has been flooded with high-quality ecstasy. The pills are purer now, which means longer and better peaks and easier comedowns. Users have become pickier and local drug manufacturers, it seems, have been rushing to meet this demand.

One Pill, Two Pill, Red Pill, True Blue Pill

Last week’s bust, and several others over the past year (none of which have made a dent in supply on the street, incidentally), lends further credence to the theory that ready-made ecstasy is no longer being imported on the scale it once was, and that instead, domestic gangs are now bringing in just the ingredients and manufacturing it themselves. This was hinted at in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report last year which noted that, “There also have been several large-scale 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), a.k.a. Ecstasy, laboratory seizures in the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan areas. The chemicals seized at these MDMA laboratories originated from locations throughout Southeast Asia. Australian law enforcement and customs officials are also seizing increasing amounts of sassafras oil being smuggled through various ports-of-entry, such as Sydney and Melbourne. Sassafras oil produces safrole, which can be used as a precursor chemical in the manufacture of MDMA”.

Or as an ecstasy user, calling himself Zaki, put it recently, “I think Australia has stepped up to the mark and shown we are not only good at swimming, cricket [and] rugby. We are now among the best in good, clean and therefore harm-minimising MDMA production”.

The amount of harm MDMA does is another question (see below), but the fact remains that no matter how many busts the police make, ecstasy prices remain stable (at around $30 to $40 a hit), and there is never any shortage of supply in the dance clubs of any of the capital cities.

“The market is so big, and we know that there are lots of different ways that pills are getting here”, says Johnboy Davidson. “We’ll see big busts, you know, three million pills or something like that, and still supply won’t be affected.” Davidson is the spokesman for Bluelight, an Australian website that has grown to be the biggest online drugs forum in the world. A public advocate for the principles of harm minimisation, Davidson is careful not to paint himself as a wild-eyed libertarian of the “legalize it” stripe, but rather calls for a more “realistic approach” to drug use in Australia.

According to Davidson the international ecstasy trade began in earnest in the 1990s but, until recently, Australian drug traffickers haven’t had the means to make their own product. “The Golden Triangle states switched over from heroin to methamphetamine production in the ‘90s, and then they switched over to MDMA as well,” he says. “A lot of the supply routes came through Indonesia. There used to be a triangular trade from Europe, across Indonesia, and into Australia, but then it became more smugglers from China or Thailand bringing drugs into Australia via Indonesia. Oddly enough, the trade in Indonesia is run by a lot of African and even Israeli gangsters.”

Today, however, some of the best ecstasy on the market is thought to be home-grown, and in the past six months to eight months, the Australian market has been flooded with high-quality MDMA and other pills. Ecstasy is given street names according to the colour of the pills and the type of logo that is stamped on them: Red and green Mitsubishis (red or green pills with the Mitsubishi automaker’s logo stamped on them), yellow doves, red Rolexes and red Russians have all been popular on the market lately and, according to those who take them, these drugs are more pure than anything they’ve had for years.

But for Australian drug traffickers to make their own ecstasy takes both expertise – about equivalent to that of a third-year university chemistry student – and equipment, including precursor chemicals and a pill-pressing machine. It is this second item that, experts say, is one of the hardest and most dangerous tools of the trade to come up with.

“Pill presses are a monitored thing and you can’t buy one without a very good reason…having one is like printing money, and it’s one of those things that can get ripped off as well”, says Davidson, who makes a gun with his fingers and demonstrates what can happen if a rival crew hears about the existence of a pill machine. “Most of them would be only about the size of a washing machine. There was a bust three or four years ago somewhere in a block of flats in inner-city Melbourne where a neighbour complained about a guy who had his clothes-dryer on all night. So the landlord looked in, realised what it was, and told the cops. Then a full production lab was busted”.

So who was behind the Hume Highway bust? Cops are tight-lipped, not wanting to compromise their investigation. But speculation is that with the bust taking place near Wodonga, a small town that is also home to several motorcycle gangs and a crime rate far higher than similarly-sized Australian communities, one crew may have heard about a rival’s shipment and ratted it out to the police.

More telling, though, is that the amounts involved show a far greater ability of Australian drug peddlers to acquire the chemicals needed to make their own MDMA, rather than purchasing pills or powder from overseas. Says Davidson, “a tonne of precursors is … an astonishing amount. We’d only thought people were making small batches, maybe ten to twenty kilograms at a time, but this really gives you an idea of the market”.

The Sting in the Tail

With demand so high, it is clear that even with a ten-fold increase in resources, the police would be hard-pressed to make much of a dent in the local market for party. The urgent question thus becomes, are there chickens that will come home to roost from an entire generation’s chemical bender, or is a young person’s going out to a dance club and popping a few pills occasionally no more dangerous than him or her having a really big night at the pub? In the short term, that is probably correct: on any given weekend night, far more emergency department admissions will be made as a result of alcohol and the behaviours it inspires than as a result of MDMA or other party drugs.

“Drugs are always going to be a major factor in presentations at emergency departments, both for hyperventilation and dehydration as well as for people who might have had some underlying psychiatric problem”, says Dr. Bob Batey, a clinical advisor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. “With that said, it’s probably a minority of users who show up. At the moment, except for the people who show up with acute medical consequences – which are often a one-off – we don’t have much long-term data.”

While this may seem to give ecstasy a reasonably clean bill of health, or at least place it somewhere in the shouldn’t-have-had-that-last-Bundy area of youthful overindulgence, Batey cautions that it’s still early, so the full effects of the drug are still not yet known. And while he says that ecstasy definitely leads to structural changes in the brain and has problems associated with long-term depression, “we need more information before saying anything dogmatic about the substance”.

Still, “people who say that pure MDMA is harmless are most probably wrong”, says University of Sydney psychpharmacologist Dr. Iain McGregor, who explains that ecstasy works by flooding the brain with the neurotransmitter serotonin – a chemical that not only regulates mood, but is also thought to help memory and thinking skills. (Prozac and other anti-depressants in its class work specifically by preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed into the brain. This is not only why it works as a treatment for depression, but also explains the so-called “Prozac effect”, in which healthy patients who take the drug report not only feelings of euphoria, but also sharper thinking and greater overall efficiency and brain function).

“Ecstasy may cause a surge in serotonin, but there is a sting in the tail: for weeks or months you may have lowered levels, and in the days after a binge, there is a documented depression”, he says – a well-documented phenomenon amongst users, known as “suicide Tuesday”. “Studies we’ve done in our lab here have found that if we give lab rats ecstasy regularly for three months they wind up with anxiety and poorer memory. Furthermore, if you’ve taken a huge amount of ecstasy and really knock down your serotonin levels, they may never recover to where they were before”. Further weight to the ecstasy-depression link was uncovered recently by researchers at Cambridge University in England, who found that in people with certain genetic make-ups, MDMA could cause an increase in depressive symptoms.

But the bigger danger is mixing drugs, or worse, taking unknown substances – a message Davidson has been preaching for ages. If you have to take something, says McGregor, “you’re better off with pure MDMA if you know that’s what it is. It’s certainly a lot better than methamphetamine [which is often sold as ecstasy], which has a different sort of toxicity. We see a lot of real problems when meth and MDMA are combined, especially by accident, because there is a real exaggerated toxicity”.

Perhaps the most sobering words for ecstasy users come from Dr. Batey, who points out that “like cannabis ten years ago, we didn’t think it was going to be a big problem, but anything that is altering the neurotransmitter system causes real concern for long-term potential damage”: a lot of people may be able to go come through their experiences unscathed, but for users prone to depression or other psychological ailments, there could be a lot of agony after the ecstasy.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2007

The Vintner's Luck: March 07 issue



How NZ and Australian wines took on the world, and won

It’s not often we get a chance to celebrate international success these days, but as SELWYN PARKER in London discovered, they are seriously devouring the fruit of our vines, there:

Although it was in the depths of winter - January 15-16 to be precise, there was hardly a spare seat at Lord’s cricket ground in London. The event was under cover and it was at the famed Nursery Pavilion End of the ground. The occasion? The annual tasting of the New Zealand vintage when 120 Kiwi vignerons come over to present their creations in the world’s most important export market.

Every wine-exporting country judges its success by its performance in the British market, more specifically by percentage share and by average retail price per bottle. The tasting is both a proud showcase and a nerve-wracking examination for the New Zealand industry as buyers, wine pundits and oenophiles in general swirl, smell, see, sniff, spit and sometimes swallow their way through 600 wines.

How times have changed. Twenty-six years ago, when the British wine establishment was invited to the inaugural tasting of New Zealand wines, it was held in an upstairs room in New Zealand House. Those journalists and members of the trade who bothered to turn up only did so because they were intrigued to learn we produced something other than lamb, wool, butter, kiwifruit and All Blacks. New Zealand wine!

It was almost a contradiction in terms. In the eighties hardly anybody in Britain who wasn’t a New Zealander drank our beer (and still doesn’t), let alone our wine. “Most people came to laugh”, remembers veteran trade representative Philip Atkinson who organised it all. “I had to work extremely hard to get them there.”

The debut of New Zealand wine on the international stage could hardly be described as a glittering occasion. There were less than fifty wines on the table and they were only there by virtue of a mad dash from the airport in a Ford Cortina with a panicking Atkinson at the wheel. They had been freighted over in an RNZAF Hercules that arrived late. Knees knocking, the few New Zealand wine-growers to brave the pundits and retailers had brought over mainly whites, mostly sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and some reds, mostly cabernet. Their anxiety was understandable. Apart from a few bottles of Cresta Dore and Bakano, labels of the sixties since mercifully buried, no New Zealand wine had ever been brought to Britain.

As it happened, it all worked out surprisingly well. As Margaret Harvey, the former Mt. Roskill girl who has helped pioneer New Zealand wine in Britain, remembers, the message was generally encouraging but blunt. “If you’re going to sell your wine here at all, it will be your whites”, the producers were told. “Your reds are yeech. Don’t show them here again”. The subsequent reviews for the whites were reasonably encouraging and the wine tastings became an annual, if minor, event on the British industry’s calendar. A stake had been put in the ground.

Wine pundits were one thing however, buyers another. Out in the boon docks of the retail trade whose shelves were stacked with European labels, it was hard going. Margaret Harvey had come to Britain as a pharmacist in 1975 but in an act of faith abandoned her profession to establish Fine Wines of New Zealand in 1985 out of her house in Camden Town at a time when the advertising authorities might have taken legal action for the first word in the company’s title. It was a one-woman operation and the owner remembers plodding around the wine clubs, pushing the New Zealand vintage night after night, often not getting home until the early hours.

Others like salesman Richard Goodman were also labouring in this stony vineyard. Representing Cooks and Montana at various times, he took on the supermarkets after the pundits told the growers: “You can’t expect us to write about your wine if we can’t tell readers where to buy it.” He and Atkinson often worked together, knocking on door after door.

“We got thrown out of a few places”, Atkinson remembers.

The message was simple: “You’ve got to stock New Zealand wine. We’ll do anything to get it on your shelves”.

And shelf by shelf, that’s what they did. The breakthrough was a supply contract with nationwide liquor retailer Threshers, which has been a friend of New Zealand wine ever since. The first supermarket to be breached was Waitrose, a chain with a reputation for fine fare, and other retailers gradually followed suit. Today the Kiwi product is found everywhere. Even Berry Bros & Rudd, purveyors of fine wines – French in particular -- for 300 years, started stocking the higher-quality labels a few years back.

Meantime the product was improving all the time. At first more enthusiastic than skilful, winegrowers began to adopt more professional practices under the tutelage of experts such as Australia’s Dr. Richard Smart, a world authority on cold-climate viticulture. They were quick to learn and the result was better trellising, leaf-plucking and spraying among other improvements. In Britain this was noticed as the pundits approved of the more subtle flavours instead of the “aggressive herbaceousness” that characterized the first offerings.

As the High Street came to stock more New Zealand wine, the believers in the government trade office found extra dollars to boost sales. One of the results was the first appearance at the London Wine Trade Fair of 1986, a landmark occasion that was followed by a splendid, celebratory dinner at Methuselah’s in Victoria Street. The dinner was a far cry from the budget tasting of 1981. Instead of a mad dash in a Ford Cortina, all the food and drink as well as the chiefs were flown in by Air New Zealand. Everybody who could be there was: Morton Estate, Delegat’s, Montana among others. One of the best investments ever made for the country, let alone its wine, it woke the industry up to how far the country had come gastronomically and vinously.

“It was a tiny participation at the fair but it was a big dinner”, recalls Atkinson who organised that too. “That made the difference. Suddenly we were real.”

But sales hadn’t taken off. Even a decade ago the Brits hardly deigned to wet their lips with the New Zealand grape. In 1996 the UK grudgingly took NZ$40.6m worth of New Zealand wine, which is barely a drop in this enormous bucket, and much of that was drunk by a hard core of expats and others who had an acquaintance with New Zealand, had tasted our wines and therefore knew better.

However with the groundwork done, the momentum was with New Zealand. From having hardly a foot in the door, sales climbed – rather, rocketed – from that $40.6m to $167m in 2006, an increase of over 400 per cent. Last year overall consumption in the British market fell while the volume of New Zealand wine sold, running against the trend, picked up by four per cent. It’s been an incredible decade envied by all other wine-exporting nations.

At the same time success in the UK market spun off into sales in other markets, like a badge of approval. Last year global volumes topped the magic half billion barrier -- to be precise, $512m -- for the first time. With the help of British distributors, the New Zealand vintage has even cracked the notoriously protectionist European Union. The Dutch drank $10m worth last year ($1.2m ten years ago), Germany $3m (well under a million ten years ago) and Ireland, home of Guinness, over $8m (nowhere near a million). The French, of course, still hardly touch our stuff.

The original pundits were right about the whites. They quickly became the building blocks of this expansion, in particular sauvignon. But nobody ever predicted that New Zealand pinot noir, a difficult wine to produce, would excite the British palate, let alone pinot gris, syrah and the trendy viognier. Sales of pinot noir in particular, the vintage du jour, have almost doubled year on year.

Most galling for rival exporting nations, New Zealand has somehow bagged the high end of the general retail market as consumers fell in love with our diversity of wine-making styles. It became a voyage of discovery for them to sample wines produced over an enormous distance of 1600kms, spanning the latitudes of 36 – 45 degrees. As the official body New Zealand Winegrowers points out, if that 1600kms were in the northern hemisphere it would run from Bordeaux to southern Spain. This huge range of wines is one reason why New Zealand occupies a premium position in the market, one that Australian producers would very much like.

Australia sells a lot more wine into Britain than does New Zealand (over £1bn worth last year). But as one of the bibles of the market, The Drinks Business, pointed out in January, it’s the New Zealand vintage that attracts the higher margins: “Australia’s average bottle price of £4.28 is second in the UK only to New Zealand with a stellar average price of £5.93.” Nobody is exactly sure whether the average price of an Aussie bottle held its own last year, declined or edged up by two pence (as ACNielsen reckons), but it certainly hasn’t done much by comparison with New Zealand wine. In other words, if New Zealand’s wine exporters were cricketers Shane Warne would have been hit all over the park.

The overall strategy is not to let the side down by going for the quick quid. Pioneers and long-time observers of New Zealand wine’s acceptance in Britain and other exports put this down at least partly to the team spirit among producers. “They have a collaborative approach. They want to make the whole New Zealand category,” says Atkinson. He’s watched in amazement as the biggest names in our industry extol the virtues of a rival label whose owner is caught up elsewhere.

Other regions don’t always behave like this. Wine pundits still shudder over the way Californian grower Charles Shaw did nothing for the reputation of his terroir by releasing Two Buck Chuck at giveaway prices to reduce a surplus. And they’re not too sure about one of the big successes of the last two years, the French Red Bicyclette launched by the US giant E&J Gallo, because a. it isn’t French, and b. California has no special claim to cycling. As an advertisement for Californian wine, it likewise did nothing.

Although New Zealand’s prices continue to head in the right direction, even the prestige labels are a long way – perhaps half a century – behind the equivalent French ones. For example, one of the top-priced Kiwi wines at the venerable Berry Bros & Rudd is the 2004 Mountford Estate pinot noir from Waipara at £232 [$650] for a 12-bottle case in bond. Although it’s hardly comparing apples with apples with apples -- or grapes with grapes -- that compares with £9,900 [$27,730] for just eight bottles of the 1967 Chateau d’Yquem sauterne. At the top end, French wines still have snob value.

ACROSS the Channel the attitude of old world producers towards our parvenu wine region remained one of rock-solid superiority throughout most of the nineties. This is understandable because they do, after all, have history on their side. “My family has been tending the vines here for 15 generations”, Monsieur Thomann, a vigneron in the tiny Alsatian village of Ammerschwihr in France, told me a few years ago when I was researching a book there. He said it in a matter-of-fact way but I worked out later that his forebears must have tended the grape in that very village from the 1550s.

He showed off his cellars with their cobwebbed, oval barrels that had survived the bombs and shells of two world wars that had almost destroyed the village and he plied me with books about wine -- its spirituality, mysticism, romance and general place in the history of Alsace and France. Monsieur Thomann was much less interested in the technicalities of viticulture than in the tradition. For him wine-making was almost a branch of the priesthood.

The way he went about his business illustrates the enormous gulf between old and new world producers such as New Zealand. M. Thomann had never considered exporting. “Why should I when I sell everything I produce here?” he asked.

He ran a degustation vente business – selling straight from the cellar. Connoisseurs simply walked in off the street, some having driven hundreds of miles from Belgium, Germany or Switzerland. They pressed a buzzer and sat down for a taste (degustation) and a chat with the man himself about the grape and the wine world in general (his son was the sommelier to the president of France). Thereupon he made his sale (vente), generally by the case load.

But now it’s all changed. New Zealand in common with other new world producers have become officially a threat, New Zealand more for what it represents than for how much it sells. “In this high-growth sector, where wine tends to become an increasingly industrialized and technological product, the dynamics unquestionably favour New World producers,” an authority wrote in French in a landmark article last year in the magazine L’Expansion. “By that I mean North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand”. While the “old continent” still dominates the market on the basis of claiming three quarters of total production, “its pedestal was breaking up.”

The statistics illustrate what the writer, a student of global wine markets, means. By the end of the eighties, Europe could still claim 96 per cent of all exports and was absolutely top of the heap. Now it’s down to 84 per cent and, if exports between EU countries are excluded, the losses are much more spectacular. That puts the old continent’s share of global markets at 66 per cent. In short, although New Zealand winegrowers can claim only some of the credit, a complacent Europe has been comprehensively thrashed in the higher-margin, British market where in 2005 new world wine sales exceeded those of the old continent for the first time.

That also happened to be the first year New Zealand sold more wine overseas than at home, an alarming fact duly recorded in France too. Producers there cannot believe that New Zealand not only made all that wine but sold it all as well. “Between 2004 and 2005, exports of New Zealand wine went from 31m litres to 51.4m litres, an increase of 60 per cent!” noted Viti-Net, an influential French wine industry website, in mid-2006. It added that the Kiwis vignerons are “focused on quality and the price of their wines is relatively high”.

Despite the stratospheric prices fetched by labels such as Chateau d’Yquem, that’s exactly what the French and Europeans have not been doing. As the EU’s agriculture czarina, Mariann Fischer-Boel, points out, the vineyards are churning out vin ordinaire. “We spend far too much money disposing of surpluses instead of building our quality and competitiveness”, she warned in mid-2006. Consumption was down, new world exports were making “huge inroads” and Europe was “producing too much wine for which there is no market”.

The result of these massive surpluses is that a lot of wine in France is subsidized and practically given away. At a supermarket it’s quite possible to buy a bottle of excellent local wine in Provence for a few dollars. And the wine that is not sold at all is distilled on payment of still further subsidies into something else. The whole system is blatantly protectionist and unfair to exporting nations like New Zealand, and it’s been going on for a long time.

Consider these amazing numbers. Well over 400m euros [$740m] has been spent on the “restructuring programme” for each of the last six years, but without much restructuring being done. In 2005 alone, 790m euros [$1.46bn] was spent on various “market intervention” measures that included subsidies for public and private storage, plus another 31m euros [$57m] for “grubbing-up” useless vineyards. (And still New Zealand beat the Europeans in the British market!)

The last figure says a lot. Although there have long been generous incentives to grub up loss-making vines, producers have shown a declining interest in doing so while pocketing all kinds of subsidies for making unsaleable wine. Back in 1993 for example, the EU spent 400m euros [$739m] on grubbing up, nearly thirteen times more than now.

And it’s going to get worse. In normal times Fischer-Boel, who is trying to reform all this, disposes of a budget of nearly 1.3bn euros [$2.2bn] a year purely to shore up European wine producers. France, whose vineyards account for 30 per cent of the EU total, collects the lion’s share of that. But any day now the czarina will announce new proposals offering even more generous encouragement to reform this deeply discriminatory system. The new plan is to reactivate the moribund grubbing-up scheme. This time there will be 2.4bn euros [$4.43bn] to flatten up to 400,000 hectares. Cynics of EU agricultural reforms may note that 400,000 hectares is not a lot of vineyard out of a total 3.4m hectares devoted to the grape. Moreover the grubbing-up is voluntary.

“This is a great opportunity to put the EU wine sector back at the top where it belongs,” hopes Mrs. Fischer-Boel. “We must not waste it”.

On past performance however, they probably will.

SO WHERE does New Zealand wine go from here? The British market can only get tougher, especially for the newer and smaller vineyards. The biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, is reportedly dropping ten per cent of its wine list from its shelves. Even to get onto a major chain’s shelves at all can require up-front payments of £50,000 [$140,000], which clearly favours the corporate vineyards. As Margaret Harvey says, “it’s one thing to make wine, another to sell it.”

And Europe is fighting back. French producers are developing their own labels instead just supplying others while relaxing restrictive labeling and other regulations. Italy has mounted a campaign to re-launch in Britain. Other regions are following suit – South Africa has managed to hike its margins in Britain and Australia is belatedly dealing with the surplus that has led to sales of low-cost, bulk wine.

There are risks to New Zealand vineyards. For example, at around $5m a year the R&D budget is pathetic by European standards. And now that Kiwi labels have got above the parapet, they could get shot at. New Zealand Winegrowers is concerned that some markets could play rough by introducing protection by another name, for instance by insisting on zero residues.

But that could also point the way forward in a market that’s turning greener by the month. British consumers have started to agitate for sustainability – the “carbon-free footprint” – in their food and drink. According to veterans of the market like Margaret Harvey, who is the only New Zealand-born woman to hold the Master of Wine qualification, sustainably produced wine would certainly make it easier to sell in Britain and beyond. “It’s very exciting,” she enthused. “Everybody should be on the sustainability programme if we want to keep commanding those high prices.”

That would certainly give Kiwi wine an edge that matches its image, similar to the one Australia had a decade or so ago. Over here New Zealand wine is regarded as new and exciting, the product of young and enthusiastic, even iconoclastic, vignerons who dare to play the game differently.

Like the All Blacks, you could say.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

Teenage pregnancy: March 07 issue


A Brave Story and a Bitter Pill

With teenage pregnancy affecting women since the beginning of time, the choice is ultimately one that is hers to make. But with a new offering of hope and the controversial discussion around the new ‘abortion pill’ RU-486, this is a topic where every angle needs to be discussed. MELODY TOWNS reports

Walking up the corridor, Bernadette moved slowly towards the pink Wendy’s t-shirt that clung to the growing physique of her boyfriend Dave. Dressed in an identical shirt, Bernie and Dave were on their lunchbreak from the ice-cream parlour where they both worked, but there was something different about this break and with each step Bernadette took, she knew that both their lives were about to be changed forever. “I saw him differently”, says Bernadette, “He was a 16 year old boy about to be told he was going to be a father”.

When Bernadette Black was just 16 years old she, like 25,000 other teenage girls in Australia each year, was faced with a decision that would ultimately affect the rest of her life. Raised in a strict middle class Catholic home, Bernadette had always been the ‘good girl’, the girl she describes as “someone that you thought that this could never happen to”. Little did Bernadette realise the consequences of losing her virginity when she slept with her boyfriend for the first time in his bedroom while his parents were out. She says, “I found myself in an emotional pull towards Dave and, as a result, Dave and I had sex. I didn’t think about the repercussions of having sex, like the possibility of falling pregnant. I just assumed it wouldn’t happen to me. So, we had sex and the condom broke…”

Bernadette’s story is not an unusual one. With teenage pregnancy occurring since the beginning of time, this is a story that many women could relate to, despite whatever decision they make regarding their pregnancy. But Bernadette, now 30, has written a book that may surprise many. A story of a teenage mother who decided to have her child and, despite all odds, aim to make a success of her life. While being objective in saying that she is not placing any judgement on any decision that a teenage mother may make, Bernadette says the aim of her story is to present another outcome, one that is positive and has never been offered.

When I meet Bernadette, I am overwhelmed. She bounces up to me, wraps her arms around me and with a big beaming smile welcomes me into the waterfront pavilion where, today, she is getting all the attention for all the right reasons. It is like we are best friends, but we have only just met, the genuineness in her greeting something that seems surreal in the networking world of small smiles and meet-and-greets.

It is her book launch, the day that she has been working towards since she was 16. She is there with her husband, three children, a few politicians and a huge crowd of support. The media flocks around her as she shares her heart with the world and the day that so many thought would never arrive, is unraveling a new story of hope for all to see.

It is just over 12 years since the day that Bernadette made a pact with herself, despite constant criticism, that she would firstly, be a great mum, secondly complete her education and thirdly write a book to offer some hope to other girls who may and who do find themselves in this situation and decide to have their babies.

She was sitting in a mothers’ group when Bernadette conceived her dream that would see her persevere against all odds. “At the group there were many girls that had no support, their parents had disowned them and their partners had left them. These girls literally had no hope. We asked in our mum’s group if there were any books available that would be able to show us that we could be great mums regardless of our age. The nurse who ran this group said that there were no books ever written like this.”

Acknowledging that she did have the support of her family and the stability of a middle class background, Bernadette says she feels most passionate about the girls who may not be so lucky. “The amount of judgemental attitudes that some people displayed to me in society was huge, and I was with my mum and dad, but for these girls all they see is no hope, so thankfully this book and hopefully my website with the collaboration of education and health care will be a resource for them that they haven’t had access to before”.

Despite her success, Bernadette, now a trained nurse, has had to walk the hard road and empathises with other girls in this situation. Endorsing motherhood, but not sugar-coating the reality of it, Bernadette openly shares the way that she had to deal with society’s reactions and their constant disapproval of her. “I was very vulnerable, especially only being 16. I used to keep my head down to avoid people’s prying eyes. I wanted to wear a sign saying that I would be a good mum but it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Leaving room for only the truth, Bernadette describes how she felt at this time in her book. She writes, “I remember shopping at Myers for some foundation, and the shop assistant noticed my growing belly. She looked at me in disgrace saying, “Babies having babies”. I felt so inadequate, so unable, so scared. Who was I kidding?”

Going to a Catholic school and growing up in a Catholic home also proved to be a paradox for Bernadette. Although she had the support of her family, many of her friends couldn’t understand her decision, a decision that she says had a lot to do with her own beliefs. Well-meaning friends told her that she was going to ruin her life and kept asking why she wouldn’t have an abortion? “I fleetingly thought about having an abortion certainly”, says Bernadette, “however after I contemplated it a little longer I thought, “No, I can take this on. I have to take responsibility now to care for this child”, and that’s when I decided I would be a great mother”.

Dave was a great support despite the lack of encouragement he received from his family. Described by Bernadette as being very respectful, Dave supported her choice despite the critics and is still a big part of his son Damien’s life today. She says, “Early on his family had said to him that it would be better if I did have an abortion, and that was a very difficult thing. His mother had said to me that if I made this decision, then both Dave and I would make nothing of our lives and have absolutely nothing to offer our baby. At the time I felt stripped bare, like I had no defence, but I would not compromise my decision”.

Now as a mother, Bernadette says that she understands Dave’s family a little more. As a mother to 13-year-old Damien, Bernadette understands just how frightening it must have been for Dave’s family to have their son come to them and tell them that his girlfriend was going to have a baby. “For them, they’d never seen a girl who had succeeded in having a baby when she was 16; they’d seen a lot of girls that we all see today-their situations around them are often negative and when you only see negative things, then obviously your outlook can also be negative”, explains Bernadette.

“Everyone has their own personal beliefs and stances. To date in Australia, you can find out about pro-life, abortions, adoptions, the mini pill and the ‘abortion pill’ RU-486. One option that has not been presented to young mothers is a story like mine that shows you can be a young mum, continue with your pregnancy, and also have a fantastic, successful life.

With the controversy surrounding RU-486, or the ‘abortion pill’, this is one side of teenage pregnancy that needs to be told. Not political, not religious, just an offering of hope to thousands of girls faced with this life changing decision daily throughout the world. With what seems a relatively “harmless” option to surgical abortion being an issue of continual controversy between Australian politicians, RU-486 is another kind of ‘emergency contraceptive’, that women in the US, Britain, Canada and Sweden have as an option.

While the Australian parliament argues over whether or not this pill should be approved, every mother has a right to know every option that they may choose when faced with the decision of having a baby. While Bernadette’s story is one of the first offerings of hope to teenage mothers who decide to keep their child, the introduction of RU-486, whether you agree with it or not, has side effects that also need to be discussed to mothers in more depth.

An American website, standupgirl.com, offers a resource for young mothers and teenage pregnancies to discuss all aspects of pregnancy from abortion to pro life. In an article posted by one of its members named only as Mary, the ‘abortion pill’ is discussed as being linked with the death of 10 women since it was approved in the year 2000. What many don’t know is that the ‘abortion pill’, is actually two pills. Not as simple as just popping it in your mouth and waiting for it to go away, the first pill, Mifepristone, is taken to kill the tiny foetus and then a few days later, Misoprostol is taken to induce labour and expel the remains. But, as Mary writes, “with two or three visits to the doctor, an ultrasound, and the possible removal of the dead foetus, it’s not private. It’s not just contraception and it’s definitely not harmless”.

A study by Ralph P. Miech MD, PhD, describes the relationship between the drugs and the ten deaths. He states, “The first drug blocks progesterone, the hormone that tells the placenta to provide nutrition and oxygen to the baby. This causes changes to the cervix that allow c. Sordelli to enter the cervical canal. C. Sordelli thrives in the low oxygen environment and derives nutrition from the decaying foetal tissue. Meanwhile, it’s disrupting the immune system, so that even the woman’s body now becomes vulnerable to bacterial attack. Her body cannot fight the bacteria, and c. Sordelli and its toxic wastes spread throughout the body, causing widespread shock and sometimes death”.

Accessible to any woman under seven weeks pregnant in the approved countries, Danco, the leading American distributor of the drug claims that the deaths were not specifically caused by taking these pills. Their argument is that it cannot be proven that the drugs directly cause death, due to the fact that septic shock caused by c. Sordelli is possible in other circumstances including childbirth and menstruation. But the standard of safety still remains a concern, as the cause of death may not be from the pill but from the toxic shock caused by the remaining foetus that is not completely expelled from the uterus.

Describing the abortion pill as a waking nightmare, Mary states that “perhaps worse than all the bodily effects of RU-486 is the psychological effect”. Linked to a higher suicide rate for depressed women, the ‘abortion pill’ leaves no one to clean up the mess except for the mother herself. A horrifying image is presented by abortiontv.com on their website, stating that a “woman may find herself sitting on her bathroom floor at two in the morning cradling her tiny child in her bloody fingers”. While this may be considered extreme, the fact that unlike a surgical abortion where the foetus may be expelled not intact but rather in shreds, is a haunting reminder that this, like any decision regarding teenage pregnancy, or any pregnancy in fact, is something that cannot be taken lightly.

Information regarding all aspects of pregnancy is vital to teenage girls placed in a situation where a decision needs to be made. Without placing judgement on whatever decision they do choose, all information does need to be made aware to them. Whether it is an abortion that they choose to have, an adoption or like Bernadette a decision to have her child, every girl has a right to make an informed choice regarding something that will not only affect her body, but her mind and her life forever.

As Australian celebrity Marcia Hines states in the forward of Bernadette’s book Brave Little Bear, “I do not condone teenage pregnancy, please understand this, but in life things do happen…and it happened to me. Luckily Bernadette and I had support and as with anything in life if you have support and self-belief you’re going to make it. But please don’t make life any harder than it already is, and your teenage life is a gift. (And so is motherhood at the right time). If I could I would not change a thing and I’m sure Bernadette wouldn’t either, but precautionary measures is what it’s all about. However if you do fall pregnant, remember that you are no longer a child, you are taking care of a child.”

In the heat of discussion about RU-486 and the offering of hope from one teenage mum who aims to help others, lets remember that it’s life we are talking about here, and what every girl needs from society is not a judgement but a soft place to fall and the support and self-belief to get back up again, whatever her choice.

Brave Little Bear is being used in the young mothers’ program in Tasmania Australia and is under review by each state’s education department in the school curriculum. With its website, www.bravelittlebear.com.au, a dedicated resource to helping young mothers, Bernadette hopes that the incidence of teenage pregnancy will be reduced, but for now she wants to help the girls who are there walking this journey today. “What I’d like in this country is for these levels, 25,000 teenage pregnancies a year – to decrease. This is like a long term plan, it generations down the future, but what needs to happen to stop that generational cycle is that these girls, as I said before, they might see around them that all there is, is negative feedback, or just their circumstances: if they can grab that light or just that one bit of hope, then their child may not have a child at 16”.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2007

The Rise of the Neo-Coms

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The Socialists Are Back

New Zealand’s new communists wear designer jeans, frequent Ponsonby and Thorndon, are hypocrites-extraordinaire, and have far more influence than Karl Marx ever fantasised. IAN WISHART discovers the links between radical socialism and radical Islam in New Zealand

A major investigative article in this magazine exposing radical Islam’s growing stranglehold on New Zealand mosques has flushed out an unlikely bunch of bedfellows, and the return of some old favourites. As you will have seen in this month’s Letters pages, more than 150 people have now signed a hate-letter to Investigate for daring to delve into visits by Islamic terror-fundraisers to New Zealand...

But the letter is surprising for one big reason: the huge number of socialists and local “moderate” Muslims prepared to condone the most extreme form of Islamofascism: the Wahhabi Salafist strain followed by the al Qa’ida terror group.

Here’s what the signatories wrote in a preface to their letter published on the Scoop website:

“The March 2007 edition of Investigate magazine carried a lengthy article by Ian Wishart which claimed that the New Zealand Muslim community is being infected by ‘Islamic extremism’. Mr Wishart's 18-page rant is New Zealand's first full-on example of Islamophobic gutter journalism,’ said Grant Morgan, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.

"The most basic fact is that nobody in the New Zealand Muslim community has ever been charged with any act of 'terrorism', let alone convicted. That puts the lie to his propaganda of fear, suspicion and hate."

Morgan deliberately overlooks the Saudi men discovered in Hamilton trying to photocopy flight manuals for Boeing 757 jetliners – the same aircraft that were used in the 9/11 attacks just a few months later. Morgan also ignores the discovery that a roommate of the 9/11 hijackers at the time was later found living in New Zealand. Morgan ignores the plans for Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor found in an Auckland house used by former members of the Afghan mujihadeen.

Most of all however, Morgan and the 160 or so “useful idiots” who signed his letter deliberately ignore that the local Muslim community have been inviting Islamic clerics with documented links to terrorism, to come to New Zealand and run youth camps and lectures.

Morgan’s letter talks of “our Muslim community” and “peaceful Muslims”, yet those same people invited guests here whose published literature, DVDs and comments include such gems as:

• “The clash of civilisations is a reality. Western culture ...is an enemy of Islam.” – Bilal Philips • “We know the Prophet Muhammed practiced it [marrying a 9 year old girl], it wasn’t abuse or exploitation” – Bilal Philips • “There is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend” – Khalid Yasin • “This whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness...there’s no such thing” – Khalid Yasin • “If you prefer the clothing of the [infidels] over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that’s on most of those clothings [sic] is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians” – Khalid Yasin • “Tried, convicted...punishable by death” – Khalid Yasin on the penalty for being gay • “Are you ready to die?” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on jihad martyrdom • “The blessing of death” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on the need for jihad • “The easy way to Paradise – how to get there” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on the benefits of becoming an Islamic jihadi • “Kill Jews and worshippers of the Cross...as well as Hindus” – book worked on by Yahya Ibrahim • “Islam is a religion of peace” – Siraj Wahhaj talking to Western reporters

On the strength of those claims, all documented in our March article (now available online) from firebrand Wahhabi fanatics who’ve been teaching New Zealand Muslims for at least seven years, Investigate can only conclude that the list of signatories to Grant Morgan’s letter not only endorse such Islamic hatespeech, they also welcome it in New Zealand and believe local “peaceful” Muslims should bring more of these preachers out here.

In their letter, the signatories accuse Investigate of suggesting “that all Muslims adhere to the same ideas, and from this absurd generalisation he attempts to link peaceful Muslims to violent extremists.”

Investigate did not have to “attempt” to link anything: local peaceful Muslims invited the scum of Islam to New Zealand for lecture tours every year, while encouraging followers to read their books and watch their DVDs.

Are the invited guests “violent extremists”? Some were conspirators in terror plots to blow up New York landmarks. Others frequently talk of a coming battle between Islam and the West:

“It is abundantly clear that the big battle is inevitably coming,” said invited guest Yahya Ibrahim, “and that the Word of Tawheed (Islam) will be victorious without a doubt.”

Siraj Wahhaj told journalists that America and the West “will be crushed” unless they “accept the Islamic agenda”.

But no, the fact that men with opinions like these are the star attraction in peaceful New Zealand mosques is merely – according to Morgan in a Three-Wise-Monkeys impersonation – an attempt at “negative transference”.

Morgan wants “all New Zealand communities, including our Muslim sisters and brothers, to unite for peace,” but it seems that could be difficult if local Muslims take the advice of the hate preachers listed above.

According to the signatories, they are ordinary New Zealanders extending the hand of friendship to local Muslims and fighting Islamophobia on their behalf. But as you’re about to discover, many of the signatories are far from ordinary, and the groups they affiliate with are linked to support of extremist Islam in Britain as well. They are, in fact, a 21st century manifestation of an old Western foe – Soviet-style communism.

In a stunning display of dishonest hypocrisy and chutzpah, the Neo-Coms last year shot their mouths off about the Exclusive Brethren failing to list their religion on an election pamphlet, yet as you’ll see from the letter to Investigate, few of the most interesting signatories to us told anywhere near the full truth about who they are and what they represent.

Of the 163 signatures listed randomly in the letter, only two – Vaughan Gunson and Warren Brewer, declared themselves openly to be socialists. But an Investigate inquiry, coupled with revelations posted on Act party member Trevor Loudon’s blog, has shown a full 40 – at minimum, are socialists or communists, with potentially a further 20 falling into those categories as well.

Why would organisations so vocal about the apparent failure of the Brethren to be open, themselves be involved in a much larger covert exercise to disguise the political organisations they represent behind a series of entities with misleading names?

Take Grant Morgan, for instance, who organised the hate-letter. Morgan lists himself merely as “the organiser of RAM, Residents Action Movement”, which gained nearly 10% of the vote at the last Auckland Regional Council election in 2004. RAM portrays itself as standing up for the rights of Auckland residents in fighting rates hikes and the like. It arguably should be forced to stand at this year’s local body elections under its real name: Socialist Worker. RAM, you see, is merely a front organisation for the New Zealand branch of the radical British communist organisation, Socialist Worker.

Robyn Hughes, listed as the second signatory to the hate-letter, is a RAM member elected to the ARC. She just happens to be Grant Morgan’s partner, although this point, like the socialist background of both of them, is deliberately not declared.

But if you think this article is going to be an earnest hunt for “Reds under the Beds”, forget it, this hunt is hilarious in what it discloses about Neo-Coms. Did you know, for instance, that they still talk like party apparatchiks from a bad Cold War spy movie?

“I joined Socialist Worker,” David Colyer told an international socialist paper three years ago, “in 1997, my first year of university. I’d been a Marxist, in theory, for several years before that. The comrades, none of whom were students of the university, encouraged me to help build a movement.”

Did he just use the word “Comrades” in 2004?

“We want to replace the Labour Party with a new mass workers’ party, one in which...Marxists participate fully,” Colyer continued, veering onto his plans for a “broad left” newspaper, “which will include contributions from Socialist Worker [and] may well become the most important vehicle for spreading socialist ideas...We are still going to need some kind of Socialist Worker publication, around which to organise a Marxist current within the workers’ movement.”

And you thought Communism’s wombles had given up the ghost with the collapse of the Berlin Wall? Apparently not. They fever away to this very moment plotting the “revolution”.

“Here in Aotearoa,” notes a recent post on Socialist Worker’s blogsite, unityaotearoa.blogspot.com, “there are a number of events to remobilise the Anti War Movement. This Saturday will be an Anti-Imperialist St Patricks Day.”

Internationally, some members of the socialist groups organising “peace” marches have taken to wearing tinfoil hats in the hope of avoiding CIA “mindscans”. The CIA, however, takes the much simpler route of reading their online posts, some of which will have you rolling on the floor in hoots of laughter.

“If more decisive measures on global warming aren’t taken,” panted communist ARC councilor Robyn Hughes breathlessly during an Auckland protest last November, “Queen St may be under water in a generation...and then we will be swimming, not obeying road rules.”

Oh really? Even in Al Gore’s rib-tickling Inconvenient Truth it isn’t suggested that sea levels will rise by 3 to 4 metres in 25 years. Or even a hundred years. Sixty centimetres, at most, 10 centimetres more likely.

Regardless of how you rate their chances, the tinfoil hat brigade are still intent on world domination, however, with Peter Boyle – the editor of socialist magazine Links - citing “a new climate of collaboration in the international left. This is a project involving the left from the Communist Party, the Trotskyist, Maoist, ex-Social Democratic, independent left and liberation theology (‘Christian’ Marxism) traditions.”

A guest speaker at these international communist gatherings is New Zealand’s own Matt McCarten, the telegenic former advisor to the Alliance and Maori parties who’s now behind Socialist Worker and its plans to introduce a new hard left political party before the next election.

As Trevor Loudon notes:

“He began building a movement called the Workers Charter Movement, as the basis for a new mass-based political movement. The WCM was based around the Socialist Workers Organisation (and its front, the Residents Action Movement), elements of the Greens and Maori Party, the ‘Unite’ trade union, the late Bill Andersen’s Socialist Party of Aotearoa, and John Minto and Mike Treen’s Global Peace and Justice Aotearoa.”

The activities of the “comrades” wouldn’t normally be an issue, except for the fact that they have friends in high places.
Prime Minister Helen Clark, for example, has been a card-carrying member of Socialist International for most of her political career, and was a keynote speaker at Socialist International’s world conference in Wellington seven years ago. The organisation’s website lists the NZ Prime Minister as a member of its ruling “Presidium”, in the capacity as “co-chair, Asia Pacific Committee”.

Clark has appointed other key socialists to commanding positions in New Zealand’s bureaucratic infrastructure. They include Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, and Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

Of de Bres, Trevor Loudon records:

“While studying German at Auckland University (1965-68) de Bres became active in the Student Christian Movement. Like many Marxist groups, the SCM hid it's real emphasis behind an innocuous name. Far from being a bunch of clean cut spiritual seekers, the SCM was and is a "Christian-Marxist" organisation.

“ ‘I studied Marx, Engels and Lenin, Marcuse, Rosa Luxemburg, Frantz Fanon, and modern German writers of the revolutionary left. Students saw their hope for revolutionary change in an alliance with the working classes, through radicalised trade unions. They had nearly pulled it off in Paris in 1968,’ [said de Bres].”

De Bres, among many incarnations, once ran the CORSO ‘charity’, which was a front organisation for the Maoist Chinese brand of communism, and later joined some of his old CORSO colleagues in setting up OXFAM New Zealand.

“OXFAM NZ tends to focus its aid into countries that have active revolutionary movements,” writes Loudon. “This is not surprising as its staff, trustees and patrons include a significant proportion of socialists and Marxist-Leninists.”

It is de Bres’ Human Rights Commission, with Helen Clark, that is ramming through the “National Religious Diversity Statement” in time for a declaration at Waitangi on May 29 that New Zealand is no longer a Christian country, and that New Zealand is adopting as Government policy the highly controversial “Alliance of Civilisations” programme commanded by the United Nations.

Unlike those who value Western civilisation and its traditions based on Judeo-Christian laws and institutions, the “Alliance of Civilisations” project rules that all cultures, from Stone-Age and recently cannibalistic Papua New Guinea through to the US, are equal.

“There is no hierarchy among cultures, as each has contributed to the evolution of humanity.”

The Alliance of Civilisations, incidentally, was the brainchild of Turkey’s Islamic Party Prime Minister – whose party is currently at the centre of riots in Turkey over suspicions of a plot to turn the country into an Islamic state – and also the socialist Prime Minister of Spain, whose Socialist Workers party swept to power after the al Qa’ida Madrid bombings. Under his stewardship, Spain pulled out of Iraq and legalised gay marriage.

Unlikely bedfellows, the socialist and the Islamic conservative? Perhaps, but it reflects a fascinating development worldwide.
As the hate-letter to Investigate magazine reveals, a huge number of Neo-Coms are swinging in behind Muslim groups and individuals in a PR jihad against Investigate. But it is not just New Zealand. Socialist Worker’s sister parties in Britain and Australia are doing exactly the same thing:

“The Australian media, working hand in hand with the Howard government and the opposition Labor Party, has seized upon a sermon delivered last month by a Sydney-based Islamic cleric to escalate its hysterical campaign against Muslims,” begins one report earlier this year in a socialist publication across the ditch.

“Last Thursday, the Australian published translated excerpts from a sermon delivered by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali last month, in which the Muslim cleric appeared to blame rape victims for their plight. ‘She is the one wearing a short dress, lifting it up, lowering it down, then a look, then a smile, then a word, then a greeting, then a chat, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail, then comes a merciless judge who gives you 65 years,’ he said. This was an apparent reference to the extraordinarily harsh sentence imposed on 20-year-old Bilal Skaf for gang rape convictions in Sydney six years ago.”

Pause for just a moment: the Socialist movement in Australia is describing the prison sentences handed down to a group of Lebanese men who gang-raped an Australian girl just because she was an “infidel” as “extraordinarily harsh”?

Nice to know where the tinfoil socialists really stand on women’s rights.

“There is now an inescapable necessity for all those opposed to militarism and war, and committed to the defence of democratic rights, to develop an independent political opposition to the xenophobic campaign being directed against Muslims,” the report continued.

And from Socialist Worker’s New Zealand blog:

“Even amongst revolutionary socialists, there is...Socialist Worker proudly on the side of Muslim people fighting Islamophobia in countries like Aotearoa and Britain.”

In other words, if you think the hate-letter to Investigate is anything more than part of a worldwide political stunt, think again.
NZ Labour list candidate, Anjum Rahmun of the Islamic Women’s Council, told a rally in Auckland two years ago that Muslims need to wage jihad against “those in our society who will use race and religion to divide us.”

This is the same Anjum Rahmun who signed the hate-letter, but left off the bit about being a Labour list candidate. A bigger question though is why Rahmun is not urging her fellow local Muslims to wage jihad against their guests Yahya Ibrahim, Khalid Yasin, Bilal Philips and Siraj Wahhaj for commanding that Muslims cannot be friendly with non-Muslims. If that jihad notice went out from the local “peaceful” mosques, Investigate missed it.

It is hard to work out which group is playing the role of “Useful Idiots” – the puppet of the other. Is radical Wahhabi Islam using atheistic socialists to help get a toehold in New Zealand? Or are the socialists simply taking gullible Muslims for a ride as part of their own schemes? The evidence strongly suggests the latter.

The Alliance of Civilisations document, for example, is 90% socialist ideology, and continues the aim originally spelt out by Karl Marx of abolishing national borders as part of a unified world, and encouraging greater immigration from the third world to the first.

“The solution is not to build walls around nations,” says the report. “Migrants make important contributions...Indeed, Muslim immigrants to the US, on average, have higher levels of education and are more affluent than non-Muslim Americans.

“Political, civil society and religious leadership in the West can help set the tone within which debates regarding immigration take place by speaking forcefully and publicly in defense of the rights of immigrants.

“American and European universities and research centres...should promote publications coming from the Muslim world on a range of subjects related to Islam and the Muslim world.”

The Alliance of Civilisations report, whilst stopping short of recommending outright censorship of the news, nonetheless recommends that sympathetic media outlets be identified to promote the goals of greater immigration and integration, and be encouraged to produce good-news stories about Islam whilst downplaying the negative.

“The Alliance of Civilisations should take advantage of major media, cultural and sports events for the promotion of its objectives.”

The report, due to be adopted by the New Zealand Government later this month, is a public propaganda campaign almost without precedent outside Nazi Germany. David Benson-Pope’s Ministry of Social Development is working on it, and a briefing document released this month explains some of it:

“The Waitangi Dialogue will focus on the broad themes of peace, development, security and education, and aims to develop a plan of action with proposals for practical projects in these areas. The overall emphasis of the Waitangi meeting will be on developing relations – or building bridges – between faith communities.

“High Level Symposium on the Alliance of Civilisations Report: Auckland, New Zealand, 24 May 2007 The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, with co-sponsorship by the government of Norway, will host a high level symposium in Auckland on 24 May 2007 to discuss the report of the Alliance of Civilisations High Level Group.

“Prime Minister Clark wishes to ensure that the report receives full consideration including in the Asia-Pacific region. The symposium, which will be by invitation only, will bring together a small group of leaders, community representatives and experts to discuss the implications of the report for the region. Norway’s involvement will bring to the event the benefit of its considerable expertise as a leader in peace and reconciliation processes.”

As the letter-writer to Investigate put it:

“Basically the Alliance of Civilisations is a UN strategy whereby the secularism of the West can accommodate Islam peacefully - the focus appears to be on reconciliation of secularism with Islam with isolation of evangelicalism. Helen Clark has recently stated that NZ is no longer a Christian country. - meaning that Evangelical Christianity no longer has a place in NZ. It will be interesting to see who attends (‘by invitation only’) the coming meetings in NZ on the AoC, which Helen states she is going to personally facilitate, and who is not going to be invited - this may tell a story in itself.”

Which brings us back to the Socialists and Muslims’ Letter of Hate. Suddenly, with the revelation that die-hard tinfoil-hat wearing communists are using Muslims as “useful idiots”, the socialist-inspired Alliance of Civilisations document starts to make sense, especially with Helen Clark listed as the Asia-Pacific chair of Socialist International on their website, www.socialistinternational.org, in its report of the 2004 Socialist International World Council meeting held in Madrid that February.

“New Zealand is hosting the first symposium on the Alliance of Civilisations’ report in the Asia-Pacific region next month,” Clark said in an April 2007 speech in Valencia attended by the Spanish Prime Minister.

“It will be followed by a meeting in our country of the regional interfaith dialogue which brings together multi- faith delegations from South East Asian and South Pacific nations.

“The Asia Pacific region is at the intersection of many of the world’s great faiths. Peace and security in our region, as throughout the world, are dependent on us breaking down the artificial barriers we human beings have built between ourselves, so that we can celebrate our common humanity.

“We applaud Spain, together with Turkey, co-sponsoring the Alliance of Civilisations initiative at the United Nations. That has led to an important report on how to overcome the distressing polarisation we have seen between the Western and Islamic worlds...I believe that New Zealand’s close involvement in the affairs of the Asia Pacific make us of much greater interest to Spain at this time.”

Little wonder then, that New Zealand socialists are moving swiftly to try and prevent Investigate’s revelations from gaining wider traction or interfering with the implementation of the Alliance of Civilisations here.

Independent media, like Investigate, who dare to expose the arrival of extremist Wahhabism in New Zealand are targeted in the hope we’ll be intimidated into backing away from publishing further details.

But don’t expect other local media to report this. Socialist groups have also managed to buy the silence of most of the New Zealand news media, by offering inducements via the Media Peace Awards. The awards were set up in 1984, at the height of anti-nuclear protests worldwide, with the aim of encouraging reporting favourable to Peace Foundation causes. The Peace Foundation is another socialist front agency (see sidebar story). For the record, Investigate magazine has never entered them, but regular entries are received each year from:

North & South
The Listener
Radio NZ

North & South’s Jenny Chamberlain took the premier award in 2006. A year earlier it was her editor Robyn Langwell. The year before that it was North & South again, with both Metro and the Listener “highly commended”.

This is not to say that winners and finalists have not done good work, but as with any “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” arrangement it is journalistically ethically questionable whether any media should take part in a Media Peace Awards requiring them to give favourable coverage to a particular socio-political view. For example, would Investigate’s expose on Wahhabi Islam win a prize?

Journalism should only be judged on its news value, not its propaganda value. The obvious answer shows how the media can be bought and paid for with a few crumbs and a pat on the head.

The Media Peace Awards encourage slanted reporting. If you see a media outlet crowing about winning a Media Peace Award, you can judge their journalistic credibility for yourself.

Indeed, the close relationship between the Peace Foundation and NZ media may explain why neither TV3 nor TVNZ picked up the rights to the internationally acclaimed Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on radical Islam infiltrating British mosques this year. The documentary features many of the same people in the Investigate article, but it is arguably possible that neither TV channel wants to mess up its chances of winning a “peace” award by screening it.

The Peace Foundation, thanks to its close links with Labour, is also responsible for Ministry of Education policy on “peace studies”:

“From the outset,” records the Foundation’s website, “the Foundation concentrated on providing resources and stimulus for peace education in educational institutions, as well as servicing community groups. It also acted as a catalyst for the formation and/or maintenance of a number of groups including Students and Teachers Educating for Peace (STEP), Media Aware and the World Court Project. It also participated in a series of conferences arranged by Russell Marshall, during his term as Minister of Education from 1987-1990, and made a major contribution to the development of the Peace Studies Guidelines for schools.”

“In collaboration with the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), and in consultation with the Curriculum Development Unit of the former Department of Education, the Foundation published a resource book for teachers at the primary/intermediate level entitled Learning Peaceful Relationships. This has become almost a standard resource and some 12,000 copies have been sold both in New Zealand and overseas.

“In 1989 the Foundation produced a pamphlet to provide all Boards of Trustee members with specific information about the implementation of peace education, when the School Charters were being drawn up. In 2000 the Foundation published Thanks not Spanks, a book designed to give parents and caregivers ideas on how to raise children with out resorting to violence.”

Peace Foundation director Marion Hancock is one of those who signed the letter against Investigate.

But perhaps the final word as to the credibility of Grant Morgan’s list should go to some of the signatories themselves. When we first received the letter via email, we doubted that Morgan had either properly obtained all the signatures or properly set out Investigate’s case when seeking comment.

Morgan refused to provide a copy of the email he had sent to prospective signatories, so we decided to ring a few signatories at random. Rosemary Arnoux, a lecturer in French at Auckland University, admitted in a hilarious phone exchange (www.investigatemagazine.com/rosemary.mp3) that she had not even read the Investigate article she was “complaining” about, until after we’d queried Morgan’s bona fides.

INVESTIGATE: I’m just double checking that you have in fact seen it?
ARNOUX: What, your article? I scanned it rapidly on my computer this morning.
INVESTIGATE: You scanned it rapidly –
ARNOUX: [interrupting] I read it fast, very fast!
INVESTIGATE: You read it –
ARNOUX: [interrupting] Oh look! [click, hangs up]

Another was Mua Strickson-Pua, who told Investigate he actually quite liked the article, but needed to be staunch.

“I had a quick browse through. Ian, I felt it wasn’t too bad, I felt it was middle of the road, but I thought I would get in behind in terms of the people who had their concerns. I said I was happy to be a co-signatory, but at the same time I thought your article wasn’t too bad!”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey, who said he had to take a public stand regardless of what he privately thought.

“If I was you I’d probably do it the same, but I’m not doing that I’m being the mayor of a city and I actually care about some harmony before bloody car bombs start going off in Henderson.”

Quite. But if local Muslims keep mixing with al Qa’ida terror fundraisers and local communists spoiling to “bring on the revolution”, Harvey may not get his wish.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)