March 10, 2008

The Arena: Mar 05, AU edition

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THE ARENA

JAMES MORROW
Australians should be proud of the role they played bringing democracy to Iraq

From the moment John Howard committed troops to help the United States enforce the slew of U.N. resolutions violated by Saddam Hussein, Australians were told that they should feel badly about it. By focusing narrowly on the question of Saddam’s WMD programs (and by also conveniently forgetting his history of gassing Iranians and Kurds), anti-war groups were able to conveniently ignore the greater promise of ousting Saddam Hussein: not only would the overthrow of his sick and genocidal cult of personality give a measurably better life to Iraq’s citizens, but it would also have the knock-on effect of bringing political freedom to a region sorely in need of it.

This willful ignorance came to an end on the 30th of January, a day which will be remembered as a defining moment of the first decade of the 21st Century. That was the day when ordinary Iraqis went to the polls to elect their own government — and in the process defied armies of Islamists, insurgents, Ba’ath party holdouts, and much of the Western media, all of whom predicted that the exercise of democracy would cause bloodshed from one end of Mesopotamia to the other.
In fact, the turnout was better than anyone could have expected, with early estimates pegging at somewhere around 72 per cent (much better than, say, an American or British national election). Sure, there was some grumbling, but so what if the Sunnis didn’t vote in huge numbers? The fact that a segment of the population which had for decades happily exercised tyranny of the minority got pouty and decided to pick up their ball and go home should be of no consequence to the legitimacy of the overall election. As the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, Afrikaners refusing to vote when blacks were given the franchise in South Africa didn’t cause reporters to heave heavy sighs and complain about the sudden illegitimacy of that country’s democracy.

As Iraqis streamed out of polling places across the country, proudly waving their blue ink-stained index fingers indicating they had voted, it was fascinating to watch the story of their country change in the eyes of the Western media. For months on end, Australians had been subjected to a relentless barrage of stories about how, since the invasion, Iraq had spun wildly out of control and that (for reporters, at least) Baghdad was suddenly a place where leaving one’s hotel room to buy a pack of smokes was about as risky as poking your head above ground level in 1916 Verdun.

Thus the media’s reaction to the election’s overwhelming success was every bit as amusing as the courage of the free Iraqis was touching. Remember that for months every bombing, every setback, and every act of brutality (especially if it was committed by a wayward American soldier) was front-page news, not just in Australia but around the world. And the message was subtle but clear: Iraq and the Iraqis were better off under Saddam, because at least then the state had a monopoly on killing and mayhem. Once the Americans came in, the chaos was privatized – a far worse state of affairs.

But almost as soon as polls opened the story changed. If they didn’t exactly become cheerleaders for Iraqi democracy, the media managed to, if just for a day, agree that the voting was a good thing.
International wire service Reuters, which since 9/11 has been notorious for throwing “scare quotes” around the word “terrorist” – lest anyone think the agency was taking sides – suddenly reported that “millions of Iraqis flocked to vote in a historic election Sunday, defying insurgents who killed 25 people in bloody attacks aimed at wrecking the poll. Iraqis, some ululating with joy, others hiding their faces in fear, voted in much higher-than-expected numbers in their first multi-party election in half a century”.

The New York Times got caught up in the excitement as well, declaring that “if the insurgents wanted to stop people in Baghdad from voting, they failed. If they wanted to cause chaos, they failed. The voters were completely defiant, and there was a feeling that the people of Baghdad, showing a new, positive attitude, had turned
a corner”.

And closer to home, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeough admitted in his first dispatch after the election that “the ballot had prevailed over the bullets and the bombs”, and even conceded that “the provisional figures will be seen as a stunning victory for Washington’s policy of democratising the Middle East and will cause great anxiety among the region’s unelected leaders, who fear such an Iraqi outcome will spur demands for radical reform across the region”.
This was an incredible (if temporary) about-face for McGeough, who has spent the last two years tipping an Iraqi civil war and once went so far as to run a story accusing interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of shooting six terrorist suspects at close range — a bit of unsubstantiated urban myth that allowed the correspondent to think aloud about “a return to the cold-blooded tactics of his predecessor”, i.e., Saddam.

In standing up to the naysayers, and the terrorists, and those who suffer from that peculiar neocolonial racism of the Left which says that some people just aren’t cut out for democracy, ordinary Iraqis took a brave stand for their future. Not only did they send a message to their foes at home and abroad that they were not going to let freedom’s enemies win, but they also told Australians, Americans, and everyone else involved in making 30 January possible that the life and treasure spent in Iraq were not in vain. As Iraqi weblogger Hammorabi put it the night before the election,

Our voting is:
No to the terrorists!
No to the dictatorships!
No to hate and racism!
No to the fascists!
No to the Nazis!
No to the mentally retarded tyrants!
No to the ossified, narrow-minded and intolerant!
The Iraqis are voting in few hours time for the new Iraq.
We are going to create our future by ourselves not by dictators.

We are going to say:
Yes for the freedom and democracy!
Yes for the civilized Iraq!
Yes for peace and prosperity!
Yes for coexistence!
Yes for the New Iraq!
Let them bomb and kill us. It will not deter us!
Let them send their dogs to suck our bones. We care not!
Let them bark. It will not frighten us.
Let them see how civilised to be free and democratic!
Let them die by our vote tomorrow! It is the magic bullet which will
kill them!
Welcome New Iraq.
Welcome freedom and democracy.
Welcome peace and prosperity for all nations with out exception but terrorists!
Amen to that.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2007

Police Minister duped by bent cop: July 07 issue

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KING DUPED BY BENT COP
Major Embarrassment for Police Minister

When Investigate called for a Commission of Inquiry last month, former Dunedin cop Peter Gibbons sprang to the Government’s and Howard Broad’s rescue. But now IAN WISHART reveals damning new information about Gibbons and police corruption, in another special report that now implicates the ACC corporation in Dunedin police misconduct as the shockwaves spread

The political fallout from Investigate’s special report on police corruption is about to get a whole lot worse, with confirmation that Police Minister Annette King and Prime Minister Helen Clark staked their own reputations on the testimony of a man who now turns out to be a corrupt cop.

When Investigate’s major story broke last month, the news media were quickly introduced to former Dunedin police officer Peter Gibbons, who told reporters the Investigate story about widespread corruption was “rubbish”, and that police commissioner Howard Broad had not watched the infamous bestiality movie referred to in the article.
Gibbons – now a Dunedin private investigator – provided information to Police Minister Annette King urging her to name a rival private investigator, Wayne Idour, as the man who brought the bestiality movie to Howard Broad’s party in the 1980s.

Gibbons’ testimony created a media firestorm and was used in a massive political offensive to defame and discredit Idour and, by implication, Investigate magazine’s call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Police.

At the time, Investigate already had Gibbons in its sights as an alleged corrupt officer, but our inquiries had not been completed and cross-checked for accuracy. So, for a month, Investigate has stayed silent.

Now, however, we can reveal that Investigate views Peter James Gibbons as one of the more bent police officers we’ve come across, based on the evidence assembled here, an officer who not only appears to have committed perjury by lying to a judge in a court trial, but who has also been captured on audiotape justifying police corruption and privately endorsing a group of officers who chose to lie to an official inquiry. Gibbons has been accused in affidavits supplied to Investigate of behaviour including tipping off drug dealers in advance of police raids, and corruptly obtaining police search warrants from his police constable son-in-law to help him fulfill lucrative commercial contracts as a private investigator working for a major government organization.

The irony – that the government and Police National Headquarters brushed off the need for a Royal Commission by relying on the word of a bent cop – will become chillingly apparent over the next few pages. But first, a look at the substance of Gibbons’ spin campaign against Idour and Investigate.

The first most people really heard was National Radio’s Morning Report, when host Geoff Robinson interviewed Police Minister Annette King. Although Gibbons had been interviewed the previous day sticking up for Howard Broad, he had not gone as far publicly as the Police Minister was about to.

“Geoff, yesterday you had a man on your show who stood up for Howard Broad, who worked with him. I spoke to that man yesterday,” said King.

“He gave me the name of the person who took the film – it’s actually a film – to Howard Broad’s house. He gave me the name of the person, the same person, who played the film, and the same person is the person who’s been hawking the story around the news media.
“The person, on your show, and I’m quite sure if you were to ring him he would confirm this, is Mr Idour.
“I am told by the same man that was on your show that when Mr Idour played the film that most people walked out of the room in disgust. They didn’t want to see it, leaving Mr Idour with very few people but himself to watch it.”

That last comment alone should have been enough to sound warning bells in the ears of intelligent listeners – the idea that boozed-up police at a rugby fundraiser walked out rather than watch a porn film that included a bestiality scene with a chicken.

National Radio’s Robinson asked the Minister how Peter Gibbons had ended up sticking up for Broad.

“Mr Broad spoke with people that he’d known in Dunedin at the time to go over his memory of events,” replied King.

Acknowledging that his question might appear “cynical”, Geoff Robinson queried the sequence of events, saying, “Certainly the names [of police prepared to support Broad] were provided to us by Police HQ, which raises the question of whether there was some concerted campaign by Police –”

“I doubt whether Howard Broad would be involved in some sort of concerted campaign,” interjected King.

Increasingly, however, that’s how it is looking. And if Police National HQ introduced Peter Gibbons to the Minister of Police, then to all practical effect PNHQ set up their own Minister to take an embarrassing fall if the true facts about Gibbons ever emerged.
With Wayne Idour’s name publicly besmirched as a bestiality-purveyor by the Minister of Police on National Radio, the media went wild. Peter Gibbons appeared on radio and TV interviews, telling the same carefully-constructed story. Note how the wording is deliberately strong and rehearsed as if to underline his credibility as a witness:

“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.

Contrast his rock-solid memory, however, with his comments on National Radio’s Checkpoint programme:

“I can’t remember if it was a movie or a video, bearing in mind I can’t even remember which year it was. Wayne put that movie on, or video on, and when people saw what it was, they moved out of the room. What I can tell you Mary is myself and the Vice Captain of the team actually went and spoke to him and asked him to desist. He wanted to continue watching it and we told him he would have to watch it by himself. He watched it by himself. The party continued in another room.”

“Police Minister Annette King stands behind Gibbons,” continued the 3 News report as it led into a video clip of King:

“He told me directly, the person who brought the film to the party was Mr Idour. And Mr Idour played the film.”

It didn’t occur to many journalists that the likelihood of Wayne Idour tipping off the country’s most controversial magazine about the chicken film was nil, if he had in fact been the person who originally brought it along. After all, it was not a private screening but a party attended by about 100 men, many of them police officers.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad himself muddied the waters significantly by revealing that when he found out the movie was playing in his house, that he complained to Peter Gibbons and a fellow detective, Gordon Hunter, about it.

“I moaned about it because I just didn’t want that sort of thing being beamed onto the wall of my lounge,” Broad told the Herald.
According to Broad, and Gibbons, the party was a fundraiser for the police rugby club and the main attraction was movie reels (there were no videos in 1981) of “old Ranfurly Shield rugby games”.

One person who doesn’t buy that explanation for a nanosecond is Howard Broad’s former boss, retired Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis.
Speaking from Australia, Lewis has told Investigate that the idea of 100 police officers and their mates holding a fundraiser in 1981 by screening “old Ranfurly Shield games” on a projector is a fabrication.
Lewis says film footage of old Ranfurly Shield matches did not exist on home movie format in 1981, and the idea that 100 cops had gathered to watch a fellow policeman’s shaky home movie of an entire game is ludicrous.

He’s told Investigate he was aware of a number of similar fundraisers, and the drawcard was usually the latest pornographic movies seized by police. Like Wayne Idour, he says they were not functions normally attended by women.
He recalls on one occasion two of his junior staff, Gordon Hunter and Jim Stacey, discussing the porn movies they’d viewed at a police rugby fundraiser, and he says that may have been the one at Howard Broad’s house.

Lewis also scoffs at former Detective Peter Gibbons’ claim that everyone left the room when the movie came on.

“Is he expecting people to believe that a hundred people suddenly crammed into Howard Broad’s kitchen, and that Broad then asked Gibbons and Gordon Hunter to tell the one person in the lounge to turn the movie off, using his prime authority as the householder, but that the person in the lounge refused and neither Howard Broad nor Peter Gibbons did anything? That’s almost an even bigger indictment on their policing and decision making ability than watching the bestiality movie in the first place!”

It is also, says Lewis, impossible to believe.

The gullible Police Minister Annette King, however, fell for it hook, line and sinker.

“Mr Gibbons is well known in Dunedin, I’m told, highly respected. He is prepared to back what he said. I think it’s now up to who people believe and I personally believe Mr Gibbons.”

King wasted no time upping the ante, either. Under the cloak of Parliamentary privilege she launched a stinging attack on the credibility of Wayne Idour and Investigate magazine:

“The modus operandi of that magazine is to base a story on a half-truth, and from that to build an entire menu of fantasies. There was a party in Dunedin in 1981. There was an objectionable pornographic film shown at it. The basis for the story came from information provided about the party by an unknown person. Mr Wishart said that he did not identify the informant at the time, because the informant had a sick family member. When has Mr Wishart ever given a damn about the family members of his targets?”

For the record, Investigate has withheld information about some political figures from publication because of concern for their families, nor did we conduct a major investigation into how Police Minister Annette King’s daughter crashed a ministerial vehicle containing illegal drugs. Also, for the record, the “sick” family member King refers to was dying, and the Minister knew it when she chose only to call him “sick”. Investigate had issued a news release explaining that the man was terminally ill. For the record, Idour’s close relative died two days after Annette King’s callous attack in parliament.

“His informant was outed,” King continued in parliament, “and subsequently Wayne Idour has had to own up. That man was a former police officer in Dunedin. He is the same man who was employed by the Exclusive Brethren to dig up dirt on the Prime Minister and on Labour MPs and their families. He is a proven liar. Wayne Idour lied to TV3 about working for the Brethren, and I believe he is now lying again. I believe he is lying when he says he did not take the bestiality movie to the party. I believe he lied when he said he did not show the pornographic film. I believe he lied when he said he saw Howard Broad watching it.”

Again, for the record, Wayne Idour is arguably a “proven liar” only in regard to one event – distancing himself from the Exclusive Brethren. As a matter of historical fact, however, Idour was not hired by the Brethren but by an Auckland private investigator who did not disclose the identity of the clients to Idour until well down the path of the investigation. Nor was Idour employed to follow the Prime Minister or Peter Davis – another common error made by politicians and the media.

Peter Gibbons’ dishonesty, however, is far more serious and includes giving false testimony, on oath, to a court, as you will read shortly. The people who ultimately relied on “a proven liar” are the Minister of Police herself, and Prime Minister Helen Clark.
And it’s not as if Gibbons’ motives were not transparent to others.

“In my view Peter Gibbons has a vested interest,” Tom Lewis told Investigate. “He’s a close mate of Broad’s, and he also gets a lot of his private detective work from Dunedin Police. So it’s in Gibbons’ best interests to support the police on this.”

Gibbons’ relationship with Dunedin Police is, in literal fact, incestuous. Although Gibbons had to leave the force 10 years ago and set up in business as a private investigator, his daughter Melissa became a police officer and subsequently married another young cop named Andrew Henderson, who transferred to Dunedin.

Investigate stumbled across this relationship during a thorough search of Gibbons’ property transactions, which included a number of sales and purchases involving the AW and MA Henderson Family Trust, which Peter Gibbons is a trustee on. Recognising it as a family trust for his daughter and son-in-law, Investigate put those documents to one side as irrelevant, until a chance comment from Dunedin man Bruce Van Essen, who’s been battling ACC, suddenly made the Henderson Family Trust centrestage again.

Van Essen had posted comments on the ACCForums website about Peter Gibbons’ work as a private investigator for ACC, and when we contacted him he remarked how Gibbons would execute police search warrants on the homes of ACC claimants, even though he was no longer a police officer.

“We think the warrants are really dodgy,” Van Essen remarked. “He must have a mate inside the police doing it for him. Besides which, it’s always the same cops who turn up to do the searches with Gibbons.”

“Really?” the magazine asked. “Who?”

“It’s a Sergeant Kindly and a young constable named Andrew Henderson. Every time. And sometimes there’s another guy, Graeme Scott, who has now left the police force and is working for Gibbons.”

When Investigate obtained copies of the police search warrants used by Gibbons to raid homes of ACC victims and seize their property, we found a direct match between the signatures of Constable Andrew Henderson on the warrants, and the signatures of Andrew Henderson we already had on a string of property purchases with Peter Gibbons.

The fact that private investigator Peter Gibbons, whose business has a lucrative $172,000 contract with the government ACC agency, is using his son-in-law in the police to draft the search warrants he needs, appears, to Investigate, to be a massive conflict of interest, and further evidence of the need for a full Royal Commission of Inquiry into police corruption. (Read the documents here,10Mb PDF file)
But it gets worse. In an affidavit provided to Investigate for review by an eminent legal entity, Van Essen discloses that the police searches were conducted outside standard police operating procedure. For example, it has been common for the police presenting the warrants to play no part in the actual searches, and instead let civilian Peter Gibbons and his private assistants search through the houses with no police supervision at all.

“The cops actually turn their backs, they don’t watch,” confirms Van Essen to Investigate.

Under New Zealand law private investigators working for anyone, including ACC, have no legal authority to search anyone’s house, as powers of search and seizure are tightly regulated under ancient common law and the Bill of Rights Act, as well as the Police Act itself.

Section 6 of the Police Act specifically forbids any non-sworn (civilian) person carrying out any of the powers and duties of a sworn police officer without explicit written authority from Police Commissioner Howard Broad, and that written authority must be carried by the civilian at all times and presented to householders if requested, Gibbons had no such authority from his friend, Howard Broad.

Three Dunedin residents have sworn affidavits about Gibbons executing search warrants in the company of Graeme Scott and Constable Andrew Henderson, along with irregularities in the search warrants. On one occasion the ACC corporation replied to a complaint by blaming the irregularity – a reference to a false declaration – on a “cut and paste” error by a police typist.

Let’s take a closer look at that “cut and paste” error.
On a search warrant dated 31 August 2006, police are authorized to search premises occupied by Bruce Van Essen at a Dunedin primary school because:

“There is a reasonable ground for believing that there is (are) in any building, aircraft, ship, carriage, vehicle, box, receptacle, premises or place at Abbotsford Primary School, 72 North Taieri Road, Dunedin, the following thing(s), namely:

“…documentary evidence, however, held either manually or electronically stored including computer hard drives, bank statements, invoices [etc]..”

The chances of finding a jumbo jet or a ship in the playground at Abbotsford school were remote, but having identified the kind of things the police were to seek, the warrant had to specify on what grounds, in other words, what law was suspected of being broken that justified a search.

The warrant spelt out that the grounds against Van Essen were:

“…Upon or in respect of which an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain has been or is suspected of having been committed…

“Or which there is reasonable ground to believe will be evidence as to the commission of an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain…

“Or which there is a reasonable ground to believe is intended to be used for the purpose of committing an offence of [blank].”

In other words, the justification for the entire search warrant hinged on an allegation that Van Essen had made a false statutory declaration.

This was the warrant served by Gibbons’ son-in-law, Constable Andrew Henderson, who then allowed Gibbons – a civilian and private investigator working for private financial gain – to ransack Van Essen’s premises and rack-up billable hours to the government owned ACC. If anyone was using a document for pecuniary gain, it was Gibbons.

Documents obtained by Investigate and signed by Constable Henderson show the warrant was executed a week later, on 8 September 2006.
So where was this false statutory declaration to ACC that Van Essen had purportedly made, and which the search warrant was based on? It didn’t exist, and the ACC confirmed this in a series of letters earlier this year.

In a further letter dated 3 May this year, acting ACC CEO, Dr Keith McLea told Van Essen:

“You raise issues about the search warrant. I understand the police typist preparing the affidavit made a ‘cut and paste’ error in good faith and failed to remove a passage from a previous search warrant template. I am satisfied that this kind of minor error would not have affected the validity of the warrant.”

Really? Try removing the clauses about a statutory declaration above, and see what kind of grounds you are left with.

Van Essen also tried to get a copy of the affidavit supposed to have been filed in support of obtaining the search warrant. Such an affidavit would presumably have spelt out in detail the nature of the now non-existent statutory declaration. Within the police, the task of responding to the Official Information Act request seemed to bypass the official channels and land on the desk of Peter Gibbons son-in-law, Andrew Henderson, a mere constable. OIA requests are supposed to be processed by ranking officers.

“In response to your request for a copy of the affidavit supporting the application of a search warrant, this is declined…the matter is an ongoing investigation and the affidavit will not be released.”
Henderson is not the only Dunedin police officer in the frame for alleged misconduct.

Graeme Scott’s involvement may also be a breach of police regulations, and further evidence of the kind of corruption requiring a Commission of Inquiry. It is an absolute breach of police rules for any sworn police officer to be involved in private investigation work. But Investigate has obtained documents showing Detective Sergeant Scott was listed by the ACC as one of its investigators in September 2006. When Investigate called the Dunedin Central Police station and asked when Scott had left the police, the operator told us, “Detective Sergeant Scott left the police earlier this year [2007]”.

If true, that would put Scott, Gibbons, Dunedin Police and the ACC in the gun for a massive breach of police conduct.

But independent of Van Essen and the others, Investigate has discovered another case, where Gibbons allegedly impersonated a police officer, and failed to disclose he was working for the ACC.
“On 6th May 1998 I received a telephone call at my former employer BNZ from my husband, to say that the police were at the house and I had better come home,” Dunedin woman Kathryn Dawe told Investigate.

“On arriving home my [then] husband had been arrested and was being taken to the Dunedin Police station for questioning in relation to a large quantity of cannabis that was located in a room attached to the garage at 159 Ashmore Street.

“The police officers I recall seeing were Detective John Ferguson, Detective Greg Dunne and another unnamed officer. They were in the garage at the property. There was a fourth person (male).

“I was inside the lounge with our then 14 month old son and recall a tall male standing by the sliding door who started asking me questions. I asked him who he was and his words were, ‘My name is Peter Gibbons. I am a police officer and we have found a lot of drugs in your garage.’ He said he was with the Dunedin Police executing a search warrant.

“I asked to see the drugs and was told by the police officer, Peter Gibbons, that I knew what was in the garage. The officer I was speaking to (Gibbons), I describe as a tall, white male, fairly solidly built, about 5’10”-5’11”. He had brown hair and what I remember most was his moustache. It was light brown and curled up at the edges. Hair thinning on top. He was blunt to the point of rudeness,” says Dawe.

“I accepted that he was a member of the NZ police. I never asked for any identification from any of the officers and no identification was presented to me.

“Mr Gibbons asked me questions about our personal finances and was shown details of bank records, hire purchase payments, car payments, to offer him assistance with his inquiry.

“Mr Gibbons also requested the keys to my vehicle and as it was parked in the driveway he conducted a search in my vehicle. Mr Gibbons also searched the lounge and kitchen areas of my home.

“Peter Gibbons gave me the search warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act when I left the property. The warrant was executed under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Social Security Act 1964 and issued to the Dunedin Police Station. Gibbons was fully active in the search of my property while I was at home.”

Kathryn Dawe says she told her husband’s lawyer, Anne Stevens, about the obnoxious police officer but “could only recall his name being Peter”. The lawyer rang police who initially denied that any police officer named Peter was involved in the search and that the man Dawe spoke to was Detective Greg Dunne.

“It was later revealed through the [legal] disclosure process that the person speaking to me was in fact Peter Gibbons who was at the property on the request of ACC to investigate Craig [Harris, Dawe’s then husband] for ACC related matters.”

After being released from prison, Dawe then set about trying to get Gibbons’ private investigator’s licence revoked on the grounds that he had impersonated a police officer to obtain information that she would otherwise not have provided him with.

“I complained twice, possibly three times, 2001, 2002 and possibly 2003. In the end I gave up because Mr Gibbons had the support of two or three members (current and former) of the Dunedin CIB. The matter was not sent to a hearing and I was never able to verbally put my case forward.”

The complaints were made to the Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards in Auckland, but surprisingly no action was taken. Surprising, because the only grounds the Registrar has for avoiding a hearing, under s24 of the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, is “if no notices of objections to the grant of the application have been filed”.

Section 66 of the Act specifically lays out that private investigators are not allowed to “either orally or in writing claim, suggest or imply that, by virtue of his licence, certificate of approval, occupation, or business, he has any power or authority that he does not in law have; or (b) Use or attempt to use his licence…for the purpose of exercising, claiming, suggesting or implying such a power or authority; or (c) Either orally or in writing describe or refer to himself as a detective or by any other expression or term containing the word ‘detective’; or (d) Wear any article of clothing, badge or other article that is likely to cause any member of the public to believe that the holder of the licence or certificate of approval is a member of the Police.”

When Investigate contacted the office of the Registrar of Private Investigators earlier this month, the file on Peter Gibbons was “missing”, according to office staff.

“Is that usual?” we asked.

“No, the file should be there,” the office manager confirmed. She added that a complaint has recently been received about Gibbons.

Peter Gibbons has had a long career in the police, entering in the early 70s and perfing in 1997 for reasons we are still investigating. He is well schooled in the fine arts of giving compelling evidence in court, and training younger cops what to say and what not to say.
Gibbons told NZPA last month that he was telling the truth about Wayne Idour being the man who brought the bestiality movie along.

“I wouldn’t have said that if I wasn’t prepared to swear an affidavit or go into any court in the land and say it.”

But there’s strong evidence that Gibbons is a man who is even prepared to lie in court, making his word utterly worthless.
In 1988 an undercover police officer using the name “Brent Stace” testified in the trial of an arrested man that the suspect (who we’ll call ‘John Doe’) had been a “target” for the police operation, codenamed “Sub Rosa”, even before it began in early February 1987.
Doe was a second hand dealer who owned a car wrecking yard in Dunedin. The city was undergoing a bit of a car theft epidemic in the mid 80s, and popular wisdom within some in the police was that John Doe must have had something to do with it. In fact, as the evidence you’ll read suggests, the real mastermind was a man named Bob Wood, who just happened to be a good friend of a popular Dunedin police officer. And it was Wood that police used to help set up John Doe. Wood would offer drugs and other items to targets, and ask them to onsell them to his mate, undercover cop Brent Stace.

“I was made aware of him [John Doe] at the beginning of the operation…the police were interested in him,” Stace told the court, on oath.

“Were you made aware,” asked the suspect’s lawyer, “that he had no previous criminal convictions?”

“No,” said Stace, “because I am sure he has got one.”

“So you have seen a list of his convictions?”

“Yes,” confirmed the undercover cop.

What’s interesting is that the 37 year old suspect, John Doe, had virtually no criminal record at all, just one conviction for a minor theft at the age of 17 – twenty years earlier – for which he received a $30 fine. That offence, in 1968, was the only record listed.

“At the beginning of the operation I saw some people’s criminal history,” Stace told the Court.

“Can you recall who showed you that?” challenged the lawyer.

“Detective Sergeant Peter Gibbons, my operator. He was the operator who briefed me.”

“At that time,” continued Doe’s lawyer, “were you given the accused’s name and address as a target?”

“Yes, I was. He was disclosed to me.”

That’s the sworn testimony of “Brent Stace” – now a Christchurch businessman using his real name – back in the Dunedin District Court in 1988.

But later in the same court transcript, here’s what Gibbons had to say under cross-examination:

“When Constable Stace commenced this operation did you provide him with a list of names?” asked the suspect’s lawyer.

“No.”

“Did you provide him with the accused’s name?”

“No. This accused was not a target at the commencement of the operation,” answered Gibbons on oath.

“When did he become a target?”

“When he offered to sell a firearm [on March 31st].”

Two men, both police officers, both with totally contradictory stories. Both giving evidence on oath. Nor is it a matter where faulty recollection is an issue. The trial was taking place less than a year after the arrest, and both police officers had had plenty of opportunity to get their stories straight. But the younger, less experienced Brent Stace was first up on the witness stand and let slip some crucial information. His recall of seeing the suspect’s prior conviction, and being made aware the man was a target, when Gibbons briefed him right at the start in early February 1987, is in stark contrast to Gibbons’ assertion that he did no such thing.

Why is it important? Because it is one thing to do an undercover operation as a fishing expedition. It is another to carry out what’s known as “entrapment”, where you attempt to set people up.

It also, of course, casts doubt on the credibility of either Peter Gibbons, or Detective Brent Stace. One of them was lying to the court, and therefore may still be prepared to lie on oath today.
If it was Brent Stace who lied on oath, then question marks now arise over his testimony that saw nearly 80 people prosecuted. Based on the evidence you are about to read in this story however, Investigate believes it is Peter Gibbons who lied on oath in the evidence given above.

Detective Gordon Hunter worked under Gibbons and is described in the court transcript as being “friends” with a criminal named Bob Wood.
Witness Pamela Philip was Wood’s de facto partner during this time and told the court they often met Hunter “on numerous occasions socially”.

“It was my understanding Bob Wood and Detective Hunter were friends.”
Philip testified on oath that she had been present in the Dunedin District Court in late 1986 when several criminal charges of receiving stolen property against Bob Wood were suddenly dropped.

“When it came time for [Bob] to take the stand, Gordon Hunter stood up and said the charges had been dropped. Gordon Hunter did this personally, he was in the courtroom.”

It was at that time that the plan for Operation Sub Rosa was being hatched, and Wood would play a substantial role in it. Police introduced Wood to their undercover detective, Brent Stace, although Stace went coy when asked in court to confirm how they met.

“Did you meet with him and any police officers directly?” questioned John Doe’s lawyer.

“I can’t answer that question,” said Stace, as the Crown lawyer stood up to object to the line of questioning.

“Did you ever meet with Detective Hunter and Mr Wood?” continued Doe’s lawyer.

“Objection!!” exclaimed the Crown lawyer again.

Regardless of how they met, it appears Detective Gordon Hunter was involved and that Wood was agreeing to help police set up a group of “targets” by introducing them to Brent Stace.

Wood’s motivation was twofold. Firstly, Gordon Hunter had dropped criminal charges that Wood was facing. And secondly, Stace’s role was to offer to purchase stolen property or drugs.

The fact that Wood was supposed to introduce Stace to targets of Operation Sub Rosa was acknowledged by Detective Sergeant Gibbons, who told the court, “Wood made introductions for Stace”.

Gibbons, as you’ve already seen, is on record as testifying on oath that John Doe was not a target until he offered to sell a gun on March 31st, eight weeks into the operation.

But look at the sworn evidence of Detective Gordon Hunter. Hunter told the court that Brent Stace made contact with Doe right at the start: “I am aware that the undercover officer met your client [John Doe] prior to any involvement with the person you refer to as Wood.”

If Doe was not a target, as Peter Gibbons claimed on oath, why did Stace make a beeline for him, as both Stace and Hunter acknowledged on oath. Gibbons’ evidence now appears to contradict not one, but two other police officers.

Nor was this the only case of lying on oath in that trial.
In a signed statement dated 27 January 1988 and obtained by Investigate, petty criminal Keith Kilner described a meeting at 15 Panmure Ave, Dunedin in August 1987, just after John Doe’s arrest. Kilner was meeting Bob Wood at the home of Wood’s new girlfriend, Sharee.

“This meeting with Bob Wood, which went on for about one hour, he (Bob Wood) offered me money and a way out for my court case. I had been arrested in Christchurch on five charges of receiving stolen goods.

“I asked Bob Wood what I would have to do.

“Bob said, ‘all you have to do is drive a truck load of Holden Commodore parts from Christchurch to Dunedin and deliver them to [John Doe’s] wrecking yard in Hope St and collect the money for the parts’.

“I asked Bob Wood why he had set me up with Bret (sic) Stace, the undercover cop.

“Bob Wood told me that he had to set me up because he was working for the police and that my name (Keith Kilner) was on a hit list of people that the police wanted busted and put behind bars.”
When Kilner asked who, within the police, Wood was working for, the latter responded:

“Detective Gordon Hunter”.

Wood explained he’d been working for Hunter “for a long time” because the Detective had him “cold on a lot of charges” and could have him in jail for a long time if he refused to cooperate.

“Bob Wood stated that Gordon Hunter said he would lose all the paperwork on those charges and all that he (Bob Wood) would have to do is set up these people on this CIB hit list and drive around with an undercover cop and introduce him as his friend Bret Stace from Auckland.

“Bob Wood told me that he had to get these people on this hit list and other people he knew to commit crimes and sell the goods to Bret Stace because that is what Hunter wanted. I asked Bob Wood what the hell’s all this got to do with [John Doe]?

“Bob Wood stated that [John Doe’s] name is on that CIB hit list and Gordon Hunter wants him real bad.”

According to Kilner’s statement, Wood confessed to setting Doe up on several occasions, most recently when he brought Doe a .38 revolver with a broken firing pin and asked him to fix it in his workshop, as well as four bags of cannabis. Wood wanted Doe to sell the lot to Brent Stace for cash.

“I asked Bob Wood who got the cash from the sale of the gun and the drugs,” says Kilner, and “Bob…told me that he (Wood) got all the cash.”

Kilner also asked where the gun and ammunition came from.

“Bob Wood told me that he had been given the gun and ammo by Gordon Hunter.”

In other words, Dunedin Police supplied a handgun to a criminal whose firearms licence had already been revoked, as part of a plan to entrap John Doe.

Kilner began to express some major reservations with Wood’s new plan to have him drive a load of Commodore parts to John Doe’s wrecking yard, saying in his statement, “I wasn’t very happy with the way this is starting to shape up.” Kilner demanded to know the origin of the Holden parts and Wood soon admitted they had come from Commodores stolen in and around Christchurch.

“I then told Bob Wood that know (sic) way am I going to bring those hot car parts into Dunedin, you are just going to set me up again. The cops would just love that.

“Bob Wood said, ‘don’t panic, I will ring Gordon Hunter and get him over here now. That way we can get Hunter to sort out your receiving charges and we can tell Hunter about you bringing those hot Commodore parts down from Christchurch’.”

Kilner told Wood he would “have to think about this”, to which Wood replied:

“Hunter doesn’t give a s**t about what I do or what laws I break as long as I set up who he wants to arrest, and he wants to put [John Doe] out of business and behind bars…so come on, give me a hand to set up [Doe] and Hunter will pull your five receiving charges and earn yourself some real easy money.”

Investigate has spoken to another of Wood’s onetime girlfriends, and she clearly remembers both Peter Gibbons and Gordon Hunter being involved with Bob Wood.

“I had met with Peter Gibbons, yeah. Gordon Hunter mainly. Peter Gibbons was just every now and again. Bob’s and Gordon Hunter’s relationship was close, they were good friends.”

Gibbons was officially Hunter’s boss. He was also running undercover cop Brent Stace. Hunter meanwhile, was running Wood. Wood supplied the bags of dope to John Doe to onsell to Brent Stace.

“The dope was stored in my cupboard until he grabbed it one day and did what he had to do with it,” remembers the former girlfriend.

One of the stories that has constantly come up from former members of the criminal fraternity (after being busted in the 80s most went on to live upwardly mobile respectable lives) is that Bob Wood was stealing cars on the instructions of Gordon Hunter, and splitting the profits.

“Wood had this arrangement where he got his boys to nick cars and store them in various garages around the city, and roughly once a week Hunter would check which cars,” one former associate of Wood’s told Investigate. “Those vehicles that were insured would be ‘found’ by police and returned via a tame insurance agent Hunter had in exchange for a finder’s fee of roughly 10%. Hunter and his insurance mate split the difference, while Bob Wood was then allowed to wreck and strip any of the stolen vehicles that didn’t have insurance company interest. So the cops were happy, the insurance agent was happy, and Bob was happy.”

There is strong speculation that the Operation Sub-Rosa decision to target car wrecker John Doe was part of a stunt to take the heat off the ‘police’ car theft ring run by Wood.
Wood’s former girlfriend agrees.

“They thought that [John] was the big guy, but I was led to believe that Bob was the big guy. Bob was the one with the briefcase with all the master keys for all the cars, he was the one that organized which cars to steal, and he sent the goonies out to get them. They came back laughing about things like, ‘Oh, that guy was sitting in his front room reading his newspaper and we just pushed the car down the street and cranked it up.’

“Then they would just wheel them into the garage, take the dog tags as they were then, and change the number plates, engine plates, sometimes spraypaint it or change a few panels here and there, then out it would go. And it was already basically pre-sold. I think they even drove them up to Christchurch to get rid of them.”
None of which, incidentally, involved John Doe.

“Then of course we were involved with the undercover police,” the girlfriend continues. “Bob initially didn’t want to tell me he was involved in an operation. He was ‘trying’ to tell me, but he wasn’t telling me. This big, big operation. So he told me to watch Scarface with Al Pacino! That’s how he saw himself!

“Anyway, Bob was skiting about that and I wasn’t to say anything to anyone. But the guy that came into our midst was Brent Stace.

“Brent came in, I already knew who he was and I was told just to act normal, that he would be mingling with us, and he would be doing everything that everybody done, like pot smoking. I wasn’t into it and I don’t think a lot of them were, but he had to carry on like that.

“Hunter and Stace took Bob to Christchurch Airport to get him out of there. When they first busted them he had to spend a night in jail, and he was offered immunity at that stage in return for squealing on everybody.”

But the number of people linking Detective Gordon Hunter to Wood and a deliberate campaign to “set up” John Doe doesn’t stop there.
A trailer was stolen from Doe’s premises by a man named Vincent Singh. The trailer was later miraculously found at Singh’s residence by Detective Gordon Hunter, but Singh was never charged. Singh stole the trailer for revenge – Hunter had earlier told him that Doe had stolen Singh’s car (Doe says Hunter was simply playing both men off against each other by lying to Singh, and certainly there’s no record of Doe ever being charged). So Singh had no particular love for John Doe, and even a kind of enmity, which is why this next piece of evidence is relevant.

Hunter left a message in August 1987 for Singh to get hold of him. This fact is not disputed, and was admitted in court. What Hunter didn’t realize is that when Singh went to see the detective, he was carrying a hidden tape recorder which captured their conversation verbatim.

On the tape, Singh asks Hunter, “Why wasn’t I charged with it?”

“Well, that’s something that we have to work out,” says Hunter.

Sensing that the threat of prosecution may still be hanging over his head, Singh asks what Hunter wants, and Hunter begins discussing John Doe.

“He’s the worst, he’d be the worst one of the whole lot…but he just hasn’t got the convictions.”

Ignoring the obvious point – that Doe may not have convictions because he may not be involved – Hunter then starts discussing what police now had on Doe:

“Somehow or another he got a whole lot of bloody grass, cause we got it all in an exhibit and we got a photograph of it, same time he had sold a bloody shooter, plus a whole lot of ammunition, and it’s a real one because I bloody test-fired the bloody thing, it goes, it’s as good as the bloody rod I carry around!”

The last statement is important, because on the tape Hunter has just admitted firing the gun sold by John Doe.

Now contrast what you’ve just read with what Hunter swore on oath in court:

“The subject of that conversation was a comical situation that I treated as a complete nonsense…in the course of that conversation I don’t recall saying to Singh that I had fired the gun…and I certainly have not fired any gun that relates to your client.”

Conflict of evidence? On tape Hunter says he fired it. In court, Hunter denies it.

Peter Gibbons, likewise, testified on oath that Gordon Hunter never fired the gun.

Back on the tape meanwhile, Vincent Singh treats Gordon Hunter’s claims about John Doe dealing drugs very skeptically:

“As you know, most people that get around in that sort of circle know what everybody else is doing. Now, I know that [John] doesn’t deal in drugs. I’m damn sure he doesn’t!” exclaimed Singh.

“Well I’m telling you he does,” retorted Hunter. “Someone who’s running guns and selling dope –”

“[John]’s not, no, [John] doesn’t deal in that stuff,” countered Singh.

“Well, what the hell’s he doing selling it?” said the police officer.

“I don’t know. He, the way I look at it, he’s been set up on that…as I said, I’ve known [John] for a while, even though we haven’t seen eye to eye, we still don’t,” said Singh. “You want to get him behind bars?”

“Yeah.”

“Right, you’re out to get him –”

“He’s got to go,” said Hunter, referring to the need to put Doe’s wrecking yard out of business. “You see, the thing is, well, if you haven’t got somebody into dealing with all the stolen goods or parts of whatever, right, there’s no motive for the thief to bloody go out and do the business, is there? …I know that he’s going to make a mistake…he’s got to go.

“I know he’s, well, he’s the rat in the trap. Like, you [Singh] haven’t been arrested in this operation and all the rest of it.”

“Yeah,” agreed Singh.

“He’s the rat that’s in the trap…and I’ll get him when he does something wrong, that’s the long and the short of it.”

Hunter then refers back to the fact he has not charged Singh with stealing the trailer, and how the “balance sheet” needs adjustment.

“Now, if I do the business [and] whoever I’m doing the business with gets the result I always pay my way. At the moment, the old balance sheet’s a wee bit round the wrong way as far as you and I are concerned,” Hunter warned Singh.

“Because you know that I’ve enough for you to be in Paparoa [prison], but what you don’t know is why.”

Hunter invited Singh to get back in contact the following week with any ideas on how Singh could help nail John Doe.

“I’ll come to wherever you are, and we’ll have a yarn and I’ll write stuff down.”

“Yeah.”

“And at the end of the day you’ll get your reward, then that will be the end of it,” said Hunter.

“Right, and you can see the man behind bars that you want to see behind bars,” replied Singh.

“That’s what the job is, isn’t it,” said Hunter.

The contents of the tape are damning when placed against Hunter’s willingness to lie on oath himself. For example, Hunter tried to tell the court that Singh was volunteering to plant drugs on John Doe:

“The man was making references to having drugs planted on this man [Doe] and I would never have anything to do with that type of conduct.”

“Are you saying Detective that this man Singh approached you and made references as to how he would plant drugs on [Doe] with police connivance?” asked Doe’s lawyer.

“That is what I say is nonsense,” confirmed Hunter on oath.

“Mr Singh came in and talked about how he would plant drugs on Mr [Doe]?” continued Doe’s lawyer, who of course had heard the secret tape recording and knew there was nothing of the kind on it.

“That is the type of nonsense that was being said,” agreed Detective Gordon Hunter.

So now there appear to be at least two “respected” Dunedin police officers who didn’t bat an eyelid about committing perjury in court.

“Were you aware that Mr Singh had some kind of recording device when he spoke to you?” asked Doe’s lawyer, probably with a wry smile.

“No, certainly not!” exclaimed Hunter.

Hunter was also questioned about the claims that he himself had supplied the cannabis to Bob Wood so that Wood could set up John Doe to sell it on Wood’ behalf to undercover cop Brent Stace.

“What would you do,” asked Doe’s lawyer, “if you heard that a police officer had supplied drugs to a civilian or a criminal person for whatever reason, a brother officer had supplied cannabis to a member of the public?”

“Depending on the amount of the drug would depend on the section [of the Act] I charged the police officer when we went to the charge room after I arrested him.”

“What about a police officer supplying a revolver to a member of the public?”

“The same rule would apply,” confirmed Hunter righteously. Possession of a pistol is an imprisonable offence and to supply that would make that person liable for conviction.”

Yet here are two police officers, Gordon Hunter running Bob Wood, and Peter Gibbons running Brent Stace. Wood miraculously obtains a gun and four bags of cannabis from somewhere, asks John Doe to fix the gun and sell it and the drugs on his behalf to Stace, the agent being run by Peter Gibbons. The court record clearly shows that Wood and Stace were working as a tag team, and the hidden tape recording and witness statements clearly show Gordon Hunter wanted to nail John Doe. Detective Brent Stace confirmed on oath he’d been asked by Peter Gibbons to target John Doe right at the beginning of the operation, while Peter Gibbons – in Investigate’s view – committed the worst form of lying possible: perjury in front of a judge. Forget lying to TV3 about the Exclusive Brethren – Wayne Idour’s supposed crime. Lying on oath in court is the ultimate taboo, the sign of a person whose word can never be trusted on any occasion.

And Peter Gibbons, readers will recall, is the Dunedin private investigator who urged Police Minister Annette King to wrongly name rival Dunedin private investigator Wayne Idour as the man who brought a bestiality movie to Police Commissioner Howard Broad’s party.

Investigate is aware of threats that as many as 40 former and current Dunedin police officers “are prepared to swear affidavits” contradicting what the magazine has published and that Idour was the source of the bestiality movie.

Given what Investigate has now uncovered involving the willingness of police to lie on oath, any affidavits sworn by any current or former Dunedin police are probably worthless in the public eye.

And just to reinforce the lack of police credibility on any of this now, Investigate is releasing portions of a taped conversation between Peter Gibbons and former undercover officer Peter Williamson, whose story later featured in the book Stoned on Duty by Bruce Ansley.

The two men were discussing an internal inquiry into the police undercover programme by senior police officer Bruce Scott in 1993. As the man tasked with training undercover cops in the South Island, Peter Gibbons could be considered an expert on the topic. On the subject of lying to cover your backside, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Gibbons is heard justifying the actions of police officers who lied to an official inquiry:

“What you have to then accept is that when those guys got interviewed, their jobs, or they would have perceived their jobs and so on were at stake, so they would not tell the truth when they got interviewed by Scott.”

On the subject of stealing official documents, Gibbons admits on tape trying to induce a Police National Headquarters worker to send him an advance copy of the Scott report, even though PNHQ had expressly forbidden Gibbons from seeing it:

“I rung Helen, because Helen has done wee jobs for me for years, and I thought I’d slip a copy through the back door and get a look at this thing you see, so I rang Helen and said, ‘Look, don’t tell anyone, just get me this report and send one down to me’. Well, she must have been ferreting around and someone must have seen her and she got the big handsmack and got told, ‘he is not to get that report!’

“So she was told, you do not send that down to Gibbons!”

Further on in the tape, undercover agent Williamson criticizes a senior police figure:

“I suspect he’s not an honest man, I suspect he is manipulating this inquiry in the interests of the department.”

“Well that’s what they’re all going to do,” admits Peter Gibbons, “that’s what you have to accept.”

“I call that corruption, that’s what,” protests Peter Williamson.

“Well,” continues Gibbons, “the bottom line is this, and I would say that no matter who runs it…that’s always going to be the end result: the department will look after the department first.”

“Well I consider people, undercover agents, more important than the department,” counters Williamson. “I’m not so naïve as to think that the department can run without any form of corruption Peter, I’m not so naïve as to think that, but when the casualties of that corruption are directly related to cops f***ing up then, I’m, I cannot sit back and accept it unfortunately.”

Then follows a priceless line from Peter Gibbons:

“…I’m ingrained into the system and can’t see it from an outside perspective, but the bottom line as I see it is the department is always going to whitewash the department.”

Classic. “The department is always going to whitewash the department”. And this from the man who last month told Police Minister Annette King there was no need for an inquiry into Dunedin Police and Investigate’s “laughable” allegations:

“The general public shouldn’t be asked to believe that sort of stuff. The call should not be for an inquiry into police conduct in the Dunedin CIB in the 1980s because you get some [person] saying that.”
So that’s Peter Gibbons’ view.

On the other hand, Investigate has been collecting affidavits of its own on behalf of an eminent legal figure who will review our evidence in favour of a Commission of Inquiry. One of those affidavits is from a contractor who worked on a home belonging to the sister of Peter Gibbons when she lived at 17 Slant Street in Carey’s Bay, just north of Dunedin in the early 1980s. Other residents of the house included Peter Gibbons’ brother.

“I became aware very quickly that drugs were a feature in this house,” says our witness in a sworn affidavit, “as the occupants offered me marijuana and speed called Benzedrine. I declined the offer. I still remember the smell of the house and it stunk of marijuana. They mainly smoked joints. I noticed that their eyes were dilated most of the time.

“There was a flurry of activity and cleaning one day when I went out there in the morning…[Peter Gibbons’ sister] said that her brother, Peter Gibbons, had phoned to say the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. The Police subsequently came and searched the house…the afternoon of the same day that Peter Gibbons phoned, and the Police did not find any of the drugs.

“[Peter Gibbons’ sister] stated to me on several occasions that Peter Gibbons would phone her and pre-warn her if the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. She told me that Peter Gibbons saved their arse on a number of occasions.

“[The siblings] made comments that it was helpful having a brother on the Police force to keep them out of trouble.”
Remember, this is the same Peter Gibbons running Operation Sub Rosa, and the same Peter Gibbons being relied on by Police National Headquarters and Prime Minister Helen Clark to discredit Investigate’s story last month and our call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police.

It is worth noting that Gibbons’ brother Tony was a pro-marijuana reform advocate.

The affidavit continues:

“I saw Peter Gibbons brother on a number of occasions deal drugs to people outside and inside of the house. They would arrive at the house and I saw money and drugs change hands. I also dropped Peter Gibbons’ brother into town one day, he told me that he was going to sell marijuana to people who were attending a function.”

The magazine has confirmed that the house at 17 Slant St was indeed a drug house, and a former associate of the Gibbons family has also noted that on the one occasion police arrested and charged Peter Gibbons’ sister on drugs offences some years later, an error in the paperwork resulted in the charges being withdrawn. The same associate, now a respected citizen, also recalls Tony Gibbons discussing Benzedrine, the early form of speed mentioned by our first informant.

Among others we spoke to was another underworld figure, now a businessman, who is prepared to testify to a Royal Commission of Inquiry that police “shorted” drugs seized as evidence, criminal slang for a procedure where corrupt cops seize drugs and either don’t enter it into the record at all, or otherwise remove a quantity of drugs from the deal bags before they are submitted and weighed as evidential exhibits.

The drugs are then sold by underworld figures like Bob Wood, controlled by police, with profits split between police and the drug dealer.

“I wasn’t any angel myself back then,” the businessman, Michael*, told Investigate, “but there were the likes of people being busted for marijuana, and like I went up to court myself – I got caught with 13 ounces and I got charged with 10. There was a lot of that going on.”

Who was the arresting officer?

“It was a cop called Peter Gibbons,” Michael said.

What happened to the missing three ounces of dope?

“It was put back out for supply,” says Jack*, another former drug dealer turned businessman who saw a large amount of his seized marijuana vanish without trace between arrest and the typing up of the charge sheet. “The cops had their networks, people they used, and they made a fortune from seizing drugs and reselling them.”

“They had their hands out all the time,” Michael confirmed to Investigate. “I know people who were pulled up with heaps and heaps of drugs but they just left them alone if you fixed them up.

“They’d take all your money, or drugs, whatever, then say ‘don’t let us see you out here again’, but you’d never be charged. That happened to me quite a lot. I got picked up a few times with amounts of pot on me and they’d just take the weed and say ‘I won’t see you again tonight’.”

According to Michael, senior Dunedin Police were running a protection racket where drug dealers would be left alone provided they paid substantial money to certain police officers.

“There was people getting paid under the table. [Name deleted] was a bit of a drug dealer back then but the cops never went around to see him. I was working in with him as well and we never got touched hardly, then this Peter Gibbons would come in.

“I was probably making three or four thousand dollars a week selling drugs and stuff like that, and because they weren’t getting anything out of it they were coming around and just ripping people off,” recalls Michael.

Furious at being set up during Operation Sub Rosa, John Doe went to the trouble of doing a little research on Gordon Hunter. He hired his own private investigator, who did an asset search and found the detective owned substantially more property and assets than his meager police salary would appear to support.

“Hunter and Gibbons also had accounts at the same bank in South Dunedin, where I banked. One of the staff members there showed me printouts one day. On the statements I saw, Hunter was taking in thousands of dollars a week. The bank executive made the comment to me that Hunter’s incomings far exceeded an ordinary detective’s wages,” says Doe.

Which tallies with information provided to us by Bob Wood’s former girlfriend, who has also sworn an affidavit.

“I remember I had to go away and drop money off to Gordon Hunter, but I don’t remember why. I had to take money out of an account and give it to Gordon Hunter in cash. It was $1500. I had to meet him, in one of the D cars. He came and met me at Lookout Point, and I was to just park there and sit and wait by the Fire Station, and I can’t remember if I was the one to get out of my car or not. I was given all these instructions, do this, do that, do this, do that. And I had to do it in cash, out of the Westpac branch in South Dunedin. It was a lot of money. It was to be gotten in littler bills, not hundreds. It was a big wad of money.”

To give Hunter the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was an innocent explanation for the city’s top car thief paying a police officer $1,500 in small bills at a remote location. But it’s hard to think what kind of explanation that might be.

Nor is it the only question mark hanging over Hunter’s conduct. When a central city jewelry store was raided in a smash and grab in the late seventies, a friend of the jeweler’s saw Detective Hunter bend down and scoop up rings that had been scattered on the pavement. The raiders made off with around $90,000 worth of jewelry, but although some was later recovered and some of the offenders caught, mysteriously Gordon Hunter did not return the rings he’d picked up.

The jeweler, who’d been advised by his friend of Hunter’s actions, was later stunned when a local criminal offered to “return” the items for a substantial reward.

For the record, standard police procedure at the time was to cordon off crime scenes, impose a police scene guard, and wait for the police photographer to arrive and photograph the rings where they’d fallen on the pavement, for evidential purposes. Additionally, where some of the rings may have been clutched in an offender’s hand, there was always the possibility of fingerprints. Gordon Hunter’s actions precluded that.

But it wasn’t just Hunter.

“They all had their fingers in the pie,” says Michael. “They’re all pretty well off. They were worse than what we were, they were absolute backstabbing pricks.”

Michael also recalls the police earning cash from insurance companies for retrieving stolen vehicles.

“Sometimes they were like bounty hunters. I stole a motorcycle one time and you’d think it was a Rolls Royce I’d actually pinched. They had cops out for it everywhere, and they were looking for the reward.

“Something went missing, the freezing works got their export meat pinched, there was a joker in there doing that, but they ended up getting onto that but the cops ended up taking all the meat home. None of the meat got returned, but they ended up getting something for catching him.”

While admittedly some of these events date back to the eighties and nineties, the evidence and affidavits compiled by Investigate for independent review suggest the corruption was widespread, and part of the overall Dunedin Police culture. Many of the junior staff at the time are in more senior positions nationwide today and, as one ex-Christchurch officer told Investigate, “Leopards don’t change their spots”.

There is one final mystery Investigate has been able to solve – the identity of the police officer who was obtaining hardcore pornographic movies for the police rugby functions. The officer was a good friend of Peter Gibbons and a member of the police rugby club, which may be why Gibbons was prepared to lie about Wayne Idour supplying movies.

“I know that [the police officer] was going up to [a drug dealer]’s place and getting blue movies and stuff like that. Very early 80s.I was working with [a drug dealer] at the time,” says Michael, and [the police officer] used to turn up and I thought, ‘this is a bit odd, this is a bit weird’ because here was some cop dropping off movies and picking up new movies, and they were all banned ones.”

For the sake of the officer’s family and children, Investigate chooses not to name him. He is named, however, in the documents prepared for independent legal review.

Of course, Gibbons’ claim already had credibility running against it. As previously pointed out, if Idour were truly the source of the bestiality movie he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by mentioning the incident to Investigate. Yet Peter Gibbons was insistent to the point of overacting:

“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.

“I personally believe Mr Gibbons,” Police Minister Annette King chimed in, before deliberately vilifying an innocent Wayne Idour.

Like an episode of the cartoon show Roadrunner, however, the ground has fallen away beneath Gibbons with these latest revelations, and with them the credibility of the Government’s opposition to a Commission of Inquiry.

Howard Broad’s chickens have well and truly come home to roost.
Anyone wanting to add further information to our investigation can email our international email address: confidential(at)investigatemagazine.tv


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2007

The Gun Debate

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GUN SHY
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.

INVESTIGATE: Why?

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 03, 2007

The Rise of the Neo-Coms

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RISE OF THE NEO-COMS

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:

Metro
North & South
The Listener
TV3
TVNZ
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)

July 01, 2007

Media intrusion into private lives: Jan 07 issue

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WHEN PRIVATE BECOMES PUBLIC

How far should the media go into the lives of public figures?

A few days ago Investigate Online posted a restricted access story on its website making fresh and serious allegations about Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope. The story was published online because its content is R18 in nature, and by requiring a credit card purchase for a nominal one dollar fee children can be prevented from accessing it.
The decision to publish the story was not taken lightly, nor was it taken because of any prurient interest in the subject matter. Our journalistic colleagues in Washington, London or Sydney would make exactly the same call – on the grounds that a Minister’s private life becomes public when he makes it relevant.
The full reasons are contained in the online edition, but what follows is a summary of the international debate on media ethics, and how far it is appropriate to go when investigating public figures seeking public office. IAN WISHART REPORTS

In a story like the Benson-Pope case, perhaps the biggest question any news organization faces is an ethical one: is this sufficiently relevant to be in the public interest? Contrary to popular misconception, the news media knows far more about most public figures than it ever publishes, because it correctly deems that much of that information has no bearing on how the person does their job.
For example, the fact that a politician may be gay is irrelevant to whether they’re a good Minister of Transport or Minister of Finance. The fact that another politician is a strong Christian is irrelevant to their performance as Minister of Health. It is only where one’s private life intersects with their public one that issues of relevance and/or the voters’ right to know surface.

Take those two previous examples: that same gay politician chooses to champion a bill favouring gay adoption of children, but without disclosing his own sexual preferences. Voters should be able to see whether he has a personal, rather than professional, interest in the subject matter. By choosing to become involved in a political issue dear to his heart and which challenges the normative situation, the politician makes his private life relevant. Likewise, a strong Christian appointed as Minister of Censorship might make decisions that many agree with, but his beliefs are indeed relevant to how he performs in that particular portfolio and should be disclosed. On the flip side of that coin, the same applies to raging social liberals occupying powerful positions.

In the essay, “Can Public Figures Have Private Lives?”, Harvard University’s Frederick Schauer has contributed significantly to the debate.

“In most of the debates about the issue of disclosing facts about the lives of candidates or office holders that those candidates or office holders would wish to keep secret, the issue is framed around the question of the relevance of the fact at issue. “Typically, as with the debates about the extramarital sexual activities of President Clinton or about past drug use or other allegedly “minor” crimes that took place in the distant past, it is alleged that the facts ought not be disclosed because they are irrelevant to the performance of the job. Regardless of whether people want the information, the argument goes, information that is not relevant to job performance has no place in the public electoral discussion.

“Such claims of irrelevance mask a host of deeper and more difficult issues. Chief among these are contestable issues about what the job actually is, and equally contestable empirical issues about the relationship of some fact to that job.”

Illustrating that point, Schauer raises the example of US judge Douglas Ginsberg whose nomination to the US Supreme Court was spiked in 1987 after reporters, using unnamed sources, disclosed that Ginsberg had been a frequent user of marijuana in the past. Leaving aside the medical argument over whether marijuana would have dulled his wits sufficiently to make him a liability on the Supreme Court bench, Schauer concentrates more on the fact that as a person supposed to uphold the law in one of the supreme positions available under the US constitution, Ginsberg simply couldn’t measure up: “The fact of past disobedience to law was material to Ginsberg’s qualifications”.

Just as it was, of course, in the fall from grace of New Zealand’s Attorney-General David Parker, after he was caught by Investigate filing false returns to the Companies Office.

“My point here,” Schauer continues, “is that a claim of ‘irrelevance’ presupposes some standard of relevance...denials of relevance often mask narrow conceptions of the positions and its responsibilities, conceptions with which others might reasonably disagree.”

This is one of Professor Schauer’s central themes: that even if a majority of voters might believe something is “irrelevant” or out-of-bounds, a functioning democracy requires that the interests of a minority who might want to hear that information be protected.

“When such disagreement does exist, however, the issue becomes more difficult, because there is now the question of when it is appropriate to make widely available a piece of information that some voters might think relevant to their voting decision, under circumstances in which the information is indeed relevant to their voting decision based on criteria that they take to be relevant.”

Schauer draws on the Monica Lewinsky affair to illustrate the tensions at play:

“The claim that marital infidelity is irrelevant to the office of President of the United States presupposes that the role of President should not include the role of being an exemplar of marital fidelity. For many people it should not, but for many others it should, and debates about relevance to the job are commonly smokescreens for debates about just what it is that the job really entails.

“It is widely known that President Clinton cheats at golf. Although it is clear that playing golf is not part of the job description of President…many people believe that maintaining certain high standards of veracity are indeed part of that job description. And if that is the case, then the empirical question is presented whether evidence of cheating at golf is some evidence of (or relevant to) a likely failure to maintain high standards of veracity in public pronouncements.”

And if New Zealand readers are suddenly sensing a merging of Paintergate, Speedogate, Doonegate and Pledgegate, read on:

“It is possible that the answer is no,” continues Schauer, “and that there is neither a causal relationship or even a correlation between the existence of the trait of cheating at golf and the existence of the trait of being abnormally dishonest in one’s public and political dealings. But it is also possible that the answer is yes, and that a cheater at golf, holding everything else constant, is more likely to be dishonest in public statements. And if this latter alternative is in fact the case, then the argument that golf behaviour is ‘private’ or none of the public’s business becomes a somewhat more difficult one to maintain.”

Cheating, however, is a personality trait that many people can agree is relevant. What about the grey areas of sexuality? After all, we all have sex lives.

“No less real is the example of the disclosure, against the presumed wishes of the candidate, of the sexual orientation of a candidate for public office. Although many of us believe that sexual orientation is both immaterial and irrelevant to job performance in all or virtually all public sector and private sector settings, it is unfortunately (from my perspective) the case that not everyone agrees.

“For a not insignificant proportion of the population in most countries in the world, having a gay, lesbian or bisexual orientation is immoral, and having a heterosexual orientation is not only morally commanded, but is also a necessary qualification for holding public office.”

Schauer’s view is that like it or not, you can’t have a meaningful public debate on these issues in a general sense but only on a case by case basis – the circumstances of each politician being different. Voters may decide that sexual behaviour is irrelevant in one case but exceedingly relevant in another, because of the different personalities or responsibilities of the politicians in question.

“It may turn out that disclosure of traits that some deliberators believe to be morally immaterial or empirically irrelevant will nevertheless properly be part of the process by which [the public] decides collectively…what its moral criteria will be.”

And again, the Harvard professor returns to the checks and balances necessary in a democracy. Even if only ten percent of the electorate believe the private life information should be disclosed, he says, and the other 90% believe it shouldn’t be, publication is justified.

“Under these circumstances, it is tempting to conclude that the majority should prevail, and that disclosure should be deemed inappropriate. But given that we are discussing the topic of the information necessary for exercising [the vote]…there is something deeply problematic about majorities deciding that information relevant to the voting decisions of a minority ought in some formal or informal way be made unavailable to that minority.”

Although Schauer hears the argument often used in New Zealand politics – that raking over the coals of politicians’ private lives will discourage good people from standing for election – he disagrees with it.

“There are moral arguments on the other side as well,” he acknowledges. “Chief among those is the argument that control over the information about one’s life is itself a central part of what is sometimes referred to as personal autonomy, and that there is no good reason why a person should be required to relinquish that right simply to enter the public domain.

“Yet if personal autonomy is the basis for the countervailing right of non-disclosure, it may be hard to distinguish this right from all of the other autonomy rights that one must forgo to enter the public arena.

“One has the right to speak or to remain silent, to live where one pleases, sometimes to work where one pleases, and a host of other rights that are commonly and properly thought relinquishable by one’s voluntary decision to stand for public office or to operate in the public domain more generally.”

In other words, what makes a public figure’s right to privacy sacrosanct when they may give up a whole lot of other rights as part of standing for office?

Naturally, Professor Schauer is not alone in his assessments of the reduced right to privacy of public figures. In a major editorial two years ago this month, Britain’s Guardian newspaper tackled the issue in the wake of the David Blunkett affair.

“The awkward truth is that the way people live their private lives does tell us things that can help to make judgments about them as public people…this is not the same as saying that the world will only be put to rights if it is run by certified saints. This country was seen through two world wars by leaders who would certainly not qualify on that score; but whatever the human failings of a Lloyd George or a Churchill, they did not include an inability to get the job done.”

It’s a comment that echoes the earlier ones on relevance. Are the personal failings relevant to the particular job they have?

The San Francisco Chronicle’s test in regard to public figures is this: “Personal conduct may have a bearing on public roles and public responsibilities. The degree to which a public figure voluntarily conducts his or her life in public or the degree to which private conduct bears on the discharge of public responsibility should guide the publication of personal information.”

Journalist turned lawyer Hal Fuson, now the chief legal officer at America’s Copley Newspaper Group, told a panel discussion journalists should not pull back from disclosing facts about elected officials just because of their own worldviews.

“Worry about the facts, folks, and let the truth take care of itself. Truth is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. And facts depend on verifiability. Verifiability depends upon being able to get your hands on lots of information that people don’t want you to have, because they want to shape their stories to suit themselves, not to suit the interests of society, and certainly not to suit your desire to inform your communities.”

The American Press Institute has published an ethics “checklist” for journalists weighing up publishing private information on public figures. They include:

Does this matter affect the person’s ability to do his job?

Does this matter reflect on the person’s conduct in office?

Does this matter reflect on the person’s character?

Does the matter reveal hypocrisy?

“Character matters for public officials,” says the Press Institute. “They publish family pictures on campaign brochures and proudly reveal private matters that reflect positively on their character. Private matters that reflect negatively on their character matter to readers as well.”

The Institute concludes:

“Don’t look for easy answers. Many stories involve consideration of more than one of these questions. However you decide, you can’t ensure that you will please all your readers. If you write the story, some readers will say you are prying into matters that should be private. If you don’t, some readers will say you are covering up for people in power…Sometimes the proper decision is to publish the story along with an explanation of your reasons for publishing and your consideration of various factors. Most readers understand that these are not black and white decisions.

“You might decide that a long-ago consensual affair between adults is no one’s business, and some readers will decide that you’re covering up. Or you might decide that criminal conduct is newsworthy whenever it occurred and some readers will think you are dredging up mud about youthful mistakes because your editorial page opposes the candidate.”

Australian political reporter Peter Cole-Adams was quoted in one ethics discussion this way:

“Elected parliamentarians were, he said, the paradigm of the public figure: each chose to enter politics; was paid by the public; spent public money; lived by publicity; enjoyed perks; and had the right to defame anyone he chose from the sanctity of the parliamentary privilege…in this sense, the public, as the hirer and firer, has a right to know what its representatives are up to. ‘If they are not going to be honest…they should be careful’. The questions the press has to ask are: is it true? Is it interesting? Is it in the public interest to disclose? He noted Lord Northcote’s dictum: ‘News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising.”

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2007

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

IAN WISHART hunts for subtle slants in our daily news coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, across on 3 News they were running this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is NZ television lending itself to Government propaganda?

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

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

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



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

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

IAN WISHART hunts for subtle slants in our daily news coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, across on 3 News they were running this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is NZ television lending itself to Government propaganda?

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

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

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



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