Abortion should come out of the Crimes Act


2015 Wellington protest defends abortion rights before the High Court. Image credit: ALRANZ

by Shomi Yoon


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these words in a televised leaders debate in the lead up to the elections. She is the first leader to bring up the issue of decriminalising abortion in a forum so close to an election. It came as a breath of fresh political air. Not because Ardern was taking a lead, but because – finally – she was a politician reflecting the existing sentiment out in wider society. Aotearoa is pro-choice. The number of women who have had terminations over the past thirty years is one measure of this. And yet, in Parliament, conservative views prevail. And – until this campaign – few Labour politicians have had the courage of their commitments to make their pro-choice stance meaningful.

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There are no white people


Bigoted Brash blethers because bothered by bilingual broadcaster

By Dougal McNeill

A pleasing irony to end the year: enrolments by non-Māori in Māori language courses in the Wellington region have surged recently, encouraged in part it seems by the reactionary campaign against the use of Te Reo Māori on Radio New Zealand. It’s a welcome sign.

Socialists support any and all efforts to revitalise, preserve and celebrate te reo Māori. Language and culture are democratic rights. Whānau have the right to have their tamariki educated in the language of their choice, and the state should massively fund Māori language instruction and support – in Kura Kaupapa Māori as well as in schools generally – to make this possible. Genuine open access to university and better student allowances would allow more Māori to reconnect with their language, as would further funding for wānanga and other language providers. We defend any moves to centre the use of Māori as a lived official language. The example of French in Canada shows that, where there is a political will, there is always a linguistic way. The Māori Language Commission, Māori Television, te reo Māori in schools, arts and culture funding: these are all products of the long struggle for Māori rights, and represent democratic advances. And they are a benefit to the whole class, not just Māori themselves. My daughter comes home from primary school proud of the waiata she has learned, and can say a karakia before meals. There is plenty around us to feel good about.

This year has seen a flowering of Māori intellectual, cultural and artistic life. Carwyn Jones’s prize-winning book on legal theory is being reviewed and debated internationally. Tina Makereti’s speech on Māori literature and what is taught (and not taught) set a challenge for literary critics working in New Zealand. Vini Olsen-Reeder graduated with a PhD from Victoria in December for a thesis written entirely in Māori. Rawinia Higgins, Jessica Hutchings and Olsen-Reeder have just published an important book on strategies for language revitalisation. And those are just examples from around where I live – much more is going on elsewhere. It’s an exciting time to be alive and be thinking. [Read more…]

The Expropriators are Expropriated

Tom O'Lincoln‘The Expropriators are Expropriated’ and other writings on Marxism’

By Tom O’Lincoln (Melbourne: Interventions Inc).

Reviewed by Shomi Yoon

Tom O’Lincoln’s The Expropriators are Expropriated is a collection of talks and essays from his political career in socialist organisations in Australia from the early 1980s. Tom’s writing is immensely readable and easy to understand. In this collection, he delivers complex Marxist theory in accessible presentations. Topics range from dialectics, theories of economic crises, the trade unions, and more.

The pieces collected here are insightful, accessible and reflective. Most can be read in one-sitting, so it’s perfect introductory reading. For those wanting to find out more, each chapter contains detailed endnotes and there is a bibliography detailing Tom’s other writing.

Tom’s chapter on ‘Dialectics: the power of negative thinking’ is refreshingly clear: “Dialectics is built up into a big mystical affair, an impressive array of mumbo jumbo to intimidate people. And so it’s no wonder people sometimes come up and ask me: just what the hell is dialectics?” Tom sketches the link between Hegel and Marx’s understanding of the dialectic and draws out four important principles. The idea that everything is in constant flux; that we’re not bound by formal logic; that everything gives rise to its opposite; and that gradual quantitative change can at certain moments lead to qualitative change. He ends the chapter quoting Lenin linking the relevance of dialectics with revolutionary practice. [Read more…]

Union News – Feb 2017


lyttelton-portLyttleton Port Strike

On 28 January this website posted a report on the Lyttleton port dispute. This is a brief update.

The port company’s legal challenge to the Maritime Union’s strike notice for the Waitangi Day long weekend failed clearing the way for the 3–day strike. The Maritime Union has given notice of a strike from 17-19 February, in addition to the notice for 11-12 February previously reported.


Junior Doctors – New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association

Junior doctors staged a national 73 hour strike from 17 to 20 January. This follows a 48 hour strike in October. The issue: fatigue. The doctors are seeking more reasonable hours of work in their negotiations over a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement with the District Health Boards. Currently they can be made to work for seven nights in a row and up to 12 day shifts in a row. The union has been campaigning for a maximum of four nights and 10 day shifts in a row.

In an interview with RNZ, the NZRDA’s general secretary, Deborah Powell, explained that a compromise agreement had been worked out in negotiations, but the employer side had not been able to make a formal offer without consulting the DHBs’ chief executives. At the time of writing, the union was still waiting to find out whether the employers were willing to sanction the draft agreement. [Read more…]

Making sense of politics in 2016


Key ‘framed his face to all occasions’. Will English be able to do the same?

Andrew Tait gave this presentation to the International Socialist Organisation Hui-a-tau in Auckland last month.


2016, in New Zealand, has not been marked by major struggles or economic disasters or booms. The Key crew, masters anyway of administering sleeping gas, have managed to avoid major scandals or divisions. On the contrary, one of the worst of a bad lot, Judith Collins, has been rehabilitated after the Oravida scandal and retaken her place on the front bench. Bill English and Paula Bennett inherit a remarkably stable and strong government.


Although overshadowed by National, the reformist left have made some interesting moves – promising first to work together to replace National (a position the Greens have long avoided taking before an election) and then cementing that with a double-pronged attack on immigration tailor-made to dovetail with New Zealand First, the likely third party in any post-Key government.

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Blame the bosses – not migrants!


Indian students fight deportation in Auckland. Migrant workers are part of the struggle – not victims to be pitied.

by Dougal McNeill

So this month saw the end of Planet Key. Bill English’s ascension gives us an opportunity to survey political possibilities for our movement. There is plenty for workers to feel angry about, and plenty about which the Government has nothing but the feeble excuses. From the housing situation in Auckland to the recent embarrassing back down in the face of union opposition to further education ‘reforms’, the last year has not gone all the government’s way. What has been missing, as usual, is any sort of concentrated opposition. There is the grounds to organise a credible opposition to National – just look at the inequality, poverty, and job insecurity that is the norm in New Zealand at the moment. But, shamefully, Labour have decided to pursue an anti-immigrant line. This is not helping them electorally, with September registering some of the worst poll results for Labour in a long time, and, more dangerously, it threatens to pull the whole 2017 election in a racist direction. This will be a disaster for working people. Instead of rejecting Labour’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, too many leaders in the trade union movement have accepted its logic.


Immigrants are not to blame for workers’ problems, and that we need to focus our political fire where it belongs – at the capitalist class and the National government.

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Solitary confinement is torture!

npipBy Emma Walker
The UN agrees, anyone with a conscience agrees, even the scum over at the Department of Corrections agree: solitary confine is torture. But change the name, call it “23-hour lockdown” and suddenly Corrections is perfectly fine with it. Well, we’re not. Corrections can pull whatever linguistic stunt they want; the meanings of words are determined by use and what they refer to not, whether those in power prefer to be known as “torturers” or not. Corrections is currently using solitary confinement to torture a trans woman in a men’s prison, her mental health is suffering as a direct result as reported her advocates at No Pride in Prisons. The prison is a violent institution for all it places within its walls. It is rotten to the core. But for trans people this is magnified even further. Systemic transphobia is present at every part of the prison industrial complex.
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War Profiteers Not Welcome Here

Photo Credit: Cathy Casey

Photo Credit: Cathy Casey

“This is not a weapons trading event, this is normal everyday New Zealand businesses that supply goods and services to support the New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence” is what a representative said of yesterday’s Weapons Conference in Auckland’s Viaducts Event Centre, which was sponsored by none other than the world’s largest weapon’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

This quote’s description of the conference as “normal everyday New Zealand businesses” is reminiscent of the phrase “there’s nothing to see here”; which always means that there is something to see. “Normal everyday” is a strange combination of words, one that might be used by someone caught doing something wrong. “No, don’t worry, this is just a normal everyday grenade I always carry around.” Putting the words “normal” and “everyday” in front of a concept doesn’t remove the violence it represents. [Read more…]

Tell Otago to #LoveHumanities

love-humanities-rallyBy Seb Hepburn

Last week between 300-400 people gathered outside the Union building at Otago University to protest proposed cuts to the Humanities division. Up to 20 jobs are at risk across the History, Anthropology and Archaeology, English, Languages, and Music departments, and the TEU has been vocal in its campaign against the cuts. There was a prior protest of similar size in August, and a smaller one outside a lecture theatre where Bill English was speaking in September. The tree next to the Union building had been adorned with knitted and paper hearts, the latter of which bore messages of support for the humanities. Once the crowd has assembled we began marching to the steps opposite the clock tower, led by a bagpiper. [Read more…]

Wellington solidarity with Syria

syria-protestBy Daniel Simpson Beck
Around 60 people gathered outside the Russian embassy in Karori on Saturday afternoon to protest Russia’s military support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The Russian state is helping to maintain the Assad dictatorship by providing crucial air support in the regime’s attempts to crush the Syrian revolution. Since September last year, Russian air strikes have killed 10,000 people. Basher al-Assad’s unrelenting crackdown on the mass popular revolution against his regime has killed 400,000 people. A full half of Syria’s population have left the country to save themselves from bloodshed.

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